All the top 10 lists Nick has scripted for WatchMojo.com, the 7th largest YouTube channel in the world throughout 2014.
Nick's film review column at Filmfestivaltoday.com.
A comic strip sadly inspired by the real life of Nick Spake.
At the age of fifteen, I launched NickPicksFlicks.com, a website dedicated to the art of film. Since then, I have worked as a published film critic for Arizona State Press, Ahwatukee Foothills News, Nerd Repository, Film Festival Today, Arizona Filmmaker Magazine, and East Valley Tribune. Entertainment writing has also given me the opportunity to interview several big name celebrities, including Emma Stone, Chris Evans, J.J. Abrams, Emma Roberts, and various others. My life hit a roadblock in 2013 when I was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma, but I refused to let having cancer prevent me from writing film reviews and finishing college with a 4.0 GPA. In May 2013, I graduated from Arizona State University, achieving a BA in Theatre and a minor in communications. Teaching me just how precious life is, my disease further influenced me to reach out to others through my writing. Today, I'm happy to say that I am currently cancer free. As of September 2014, I have worked as a freelancer writer for WatchMojo.com, which recently surpassed 6 million subscribers on YouTube. This video content site has acted as a creative outlet for me to write top ten lists about movies, television, video games, and pretty much everything else. Out of the hundred scripts I've contributed to them so far, I'm primarily proud of the Top 10 Sci-Fi Movies of All Time, Another Top 10 Super Bowl Commercials, and Top 10 Worst Movies of 2014. In 2015, I joined the Flickreel family as a a critic and columnist. I'm overjoyed to be on the team and can't wait to bring you all more movie reviews.
5 Stars= It's Simply the Best
4 Stars= Totally Rocks
3 Stars= Rad
2 Stars= Bad
1 Star= Terrible
Zero= Totally Sucks
Earlier this year, Disney broke all kinds of box office records with their live-action adaptation of “Beauty and the Beast.” While certainly enjoyable, I’d be lying if I said the remake didn’t leave me longing for a fresher take on the tale as old as time. Guillermo del Toro has answered my wish with “The Shape of Water.” Like “Pan's Labyrinth,” this is an original fairy tale that feels like it’s been passed down from generation to generation. It also has the distinction of being a fairy tale exclusively for older audiences. Of course when you think about it, a lot of classic stories intended for kids go to some pretty sadistic places. In that sense, del Toro is perhaps the closest any modern filmmaker has come to replicating the voices of the Brothers Grimm.
Sally Hawkins has yet to hit a false note throughout her career. As the mute Elisa, Hawkins breathes magical charisma into a performance that’s almost exclusively reliant on facial expressions and body language. Elisa works as a cleaning lady at the Occam Aerospace Research Center, which calls the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense to mind. Speaking of “Hellboy,” Doug Jones once again plays an amphibious humanoid creature that’s held captive in the center. Never given a name, the creature finds himself at the mercy of a cruel colonel, played by a chilling Michael Shannon. When Elisa opens her heart to the creature, it marks the beginning of a romance that transcends language, species, and every conceivable obstacle.
In lesser hands, “The Shape of Water” easily could’ve veered into satirical territory. Just as the love between Elisa and the creature defies all logic, though, del Toro has made a fantasy that’s as strange as it is lovely. Both Hawkins and Jones have such genuine chemistry that we not only come to care about this romance, but we actually take it seriously. Even when Elisa and the creature consummate their odd relationship, it’s surprisingly intimate and elegant. Wonderful supporting performances from Richard Jenkins, Octavia Spencer, and Michael Stuhlbarg only add to the heart of this touching story.
Visually speaking, this might be del Toro’s finest achievement, which is saying a lot. The steampunk production design is cleverly draped in green, making this whole world feel like a kingdom constructed from algae. The artists behind the makeup effects help mold the creature into an emotive character that Jones simply escapes into. Perhaps the greatest achievement of all is Alexandre Desplat’s enchanting score, which gives the film the essence of a silent picture from France. Since “The Shape of Water” is full of dialog-free moments, Desplat’s music plays a key role in shaping the many emotions on display.
2017 has been a strong year for mature fantasies, between “The Shape of Water” and to a lesser extent “Okja.” Both of these movies take setups that risk coming off as cliché or silly, but somehow work as gripping entertainment that adult viewers can get wrapped up in. Just as love comes in many different shapes and sizes, they truly challenge what movies can be and make us see the medium in a new way. “The Shape of Water” in particular might be the best gothic love story since “Edward Scissorhands.” It's bizarre, beautiful, and could only come from a brilliant mind.
How did you first learn about Tommy Wiseau’s “The Room?” Chances are a friend dragged you to a screening one night or lent you a copy of the DVD. Perhaps you stumbled upon the Nostalgia Critic’s review on YouTube. Maybe you just so happened to pick up a copy of Greg Sestero and Tom Bissell’s award winning book, “The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside The Room, the Greatest Bad Film Ever Made.” However you came across it, “The Room” has worked its way into the hearts of many, even becoming one of the most quotable movies of the 21st century. Considering how much joy it’s brought audiences, should it technically be classified as a “bad film?” In any case, “The Disaster Artist” is undoubtedly one of the best films of 2017.
Even after over a decade of being in the public eye, Tommy Wiseau remains a walking question mark. There’s still debate over where he came from, how he made his personal fortune, and how old he is. As far as we know, he’s an alien that crash-landed on earth and decided to pursue an acting career. James Franco masterfully captures that bizarre sentiment with his performance as Wiseau. From his dazed appearance to his indistinguishable accent, it’s eerie just how well Franco mimics this one of a kind individual. The same can be said about Franco’s feat behind the camera, as he recreates several scenes from “The Room” to near perfection.
While Franco’s performance is well worthy of a Best Actor nomination, he’s not the only one who deserves recognition. Seeing how Greg Sestero has been like a brother to Wiseau, it’s fitting that James Franco’s own brother would play him here. Dave Franco portrays Sestero as a naïve, yet ultimately kind-hearted, aspiring actor that just wants to perform. While his decision to follow Wiseau to Los Angeles is certainly questionable, if not crazy, we can also see how somebody in his position would be eager to go along for the ride. After Sestero fails to get anywhere with his talent agency and Wiseau is repeatedly told he’s only qualified to play a monster, the two decide to make a movie of their own. What emanates from Wiseau’s mind is a rollercoaster of confusion and unintentional hilarity.
The acting ensemble that Wiseau assembles includes Josh Hutcherson as Denny, Jacki Weaver as Claudette, and Zac Efron as Chris-R. Seth Rogen is especially good as script supervisor Sandy Schklair, who was arguably the closest thing this production had to a competent filmmaker. The cast and crew ask all the questions audiences have when they watch “The Room.” Is this story supposed to be autobiographical? Why use a green screen for certain exterior shots when shooting outside would’ve been easier? Why doesn’t the cancer subplot ever come back into play? Since their checks clear, everyone tends to indulge Wiseau’s insanity, but even they have their limits.
“The Disaster Artist” doesn’t shy away from Wiseau’s shadier moments, as he deprives his employees of water, humiliates a young actress, and costs his best friend a potentially game-changing gig. Even when he’s at his most unlikable, though, Franco manages to paint Wiseau as a believable human being. That might sound contradictory, as I previously described Wiseau as an alien. While we may never understand Wiseau’s mindset, any artist can understand his obsession and determination.
The best movie to compare “The Disaster Artist” to is Tim Burton’s “Ed Wood.” Like Wood, Wiseau is far from perfect, especially when it comes to storytelling. Their ideas are so out-there and their passion for filmmaking is so unyielding, though, that you can’t help but root for them. It’s clear that they’re never going to succeed in a conventional sense, but you want to see their visions brought to life regardless. Both give hope to artists that refuse to give up on their dreams… even if they probably should.
“Last Flag Flying” is kind of like “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” meets “The Best Years of Our Lives.” That’s definitely an odd combination and there are times when Richard Linklater’s film runs the risk of being uneven. Thanks to his capable direction, a sharp script co-written by author Darryl Ponicsan, and three strong leads, though, everything balances out. Well, maybe not everything. We do get a few scenes that drag on for too long. Given how this movie could’ve misfired in so many different ways, however, it’s impressive that it manages to juggle comedy, drama, and patriotism at all.
film is actually based on a novel by Ponicsan, which was actually a
sequel to “The Last Detail,” which was actually adapted to the screen in
1973 with Jack Nicholson, Randy Quaid, and Otis Young. The
aforementioned trio of actors is nowhere to be in this unofficial
follow-up of sorts, but their replacements light up the screen with
chemistry. Steve Carell gives his most subdued performance since
“Foxcatcher” as Larry “Doc” Shepherd. Bryan Cranston steals the film’s
best lines as Sal Nealon while Laurence Fishburne is a pitch perfect
straight man as Richard Mueller.
These men served together
during Vietnam, but haven’t seen each other since then. In 2003, Doc
looks up his unit after his son dies in Iraq. Sal and Richard agree to
help their old friend through the ordeal, but sign on for more than they
bargained for. Upon learning exactly how his son was killed, Doc
decides that he doesn’t want him to have a military funeral. He’d rather
burry him at home, meaning Sal and Richard must come along for the long
At the beginning of “Last Flag Flying,” the
characters might be complete strangers to the audience. As the narrative
unfolds, though, the film starts to feel like reuniting with some good
buddies. We really come to like each of these men, as if we’ve known
them for years. This has a lot to do with the impeccable rapport between
the actors, who work off each other wonderfully. Their dynamic ranges
from hilarious to poignant and there’s never a second when you doubt
their bond. Even if the story is light on plot, just listening to Doc,
Sal, and Richard for two hours is interesting enough.
What prevents “Last Flag Flying” from being a truly great film about veterans is a killjoy colonel played by Yul Vazquez. This character is determined to give Doc’s son a military funeral, as if he’s property of the U.S. government. While not everyone in the military is perfect, this guy just sends the wrong message in a picture that otherwise avoids cheap shots and caricatures. His character arc doesn’t even have a real payoff and could’ve been removed altogether. Nevertheless, that’s just one bump in the road for a film that mostly does our troops justice.
When it was announced that Kenneth Branagh was adapting “Murder on the Orient Express” for modern audiences, it was hard not to think of when Gus Van Sant remade Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho.” Outside of their craft and performances, both of these murder mysteries stand out thanks to their killer twist endings. So if you’ve already seen the 1974 version of “Murder on the Orient Express,” this new one isn’t exactly going to take you by surprise. Of course with “Psycho,” virtually everyone has seen it and even those who hadn’t knew how the film ends. “Murder on the Orient Express,” on the other hand, has perhaps slipped through the cracks for some, especially younger viewers. On that basis, Branagh’s interpretation is a worthy remake and a solid introduction for those unfamiliar with the classic Agatha Christie tale.
The title alone pretty much spells out the setup. Branagh plays Hercule Poirot, who you can tell is a master detective based on his mustache alone. While traveling on the Orient Express, Poirot crosses paths with a fellow passenger named Edward Ratchett (Johnny Depp), who believes his life is on the line. Ratchett is right, as he winds up dead the next morning with twelve stab wounds. When an avalanche literally stops the train dead in its tracks, Poirot conducts an investigation in which every passenger is a suspect.
The original film featured an all-star cast that included Sean Connery, Anthony Perkins, and Ingrid Bergman in her Oscar-winning role. This version brings together an equally impressive ensemble with the likes of Penélope Cruz, Willem Dafoe, Daisy Ridley, Josh Gad, and Michelle Pfeiffer, just to name a few. They all fit comfortably into their parts and never feel out of place in the film’s 1930s setting. Branagh in particular manages to be as dignified as Sherlock Holmes while also being as over-the-top as Adrian Monk. It might sound blasphemous, but I actually prefer his portrayal over Albert Finney’s, which always felt a little too close to Inspector Clouseau.
Branagh deserves just as much credit for his work behind the camera. Although much of the film is limited to a confined area, Branagh keeps things interesting with inventive camera angles. The cinematography never becomes gimmicky or distracting like in a Guy Ritchie movie, though. The art direction, costumes, and musical score additionally make for an extremely well crafted picture. Even some of the CGI imagery and green screen effects, while sometimes obvious, are still executed with a fair deal of class.
All in all, everything that worked about 1974’s “Murder on the Orient Express” works here. That being said, not everything about the original film was perfect. Both versions suffer from pacing issues, especially in the sluggish middle. There’s also one too many characters to keep track of, even for a film that almost runs for two hours. You could argue that these problems stem from the 1934 novel that started it all. As far as Agatha Christie’s works go, I’d personally take “And Then There Were None” over “Murder on the Orient Express” any day. Nevertheless, the story does have its merits and Branagh’s take more than does them justice.