Nick Picks Flicks

Click here to edit subtitle

Home

Also Check Out Nick On...

Featuring Nick's film reviews, Flickreel is an online movie magazine specializing in video-based articles. It covers all the latest film news, reviews, previews and trailers, alongside features which take a deeper look into the world of film.

All the top 10 lists Nick has scripted for WatchMojo.com, the 7th largest YouTube channel in the world throughout 2014.

Story Monsters Ink is a free, subscription-based magazine that gives parents and educators the latest news about award-winning and debut books, profiles on both renowned and newly published authors, upcoming book events, author presentations and more.
The Nerd Repository: providing the latest movie, TV and pop culture news and reviews.
Featuring Nick's film reviews, the East Valley Tribune serves the east suburbs of Phoenix, Ariz.
Phoenix Film Critics Society: Representing Arizona's Premier Film Critics

Nick's film review column at Filmfestivaltoday.com.

A comic strip sadly inspired by the real life of Nick Spake.

Phoenix Children's Hospital's Camp Rainbow is for children who have, or have had cancer or a chronic blood disorder. Nick has acted as the camp's social media coordinator since 2014.
Thank you for contacting us. We will get back to you as soon as possible
Oops. An error occurred.
Click here to try again.

About 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.

Rating Scale

5 Stars= It's Simply the Best

4 Stars= Totally Rocks

3 Stars= Rad

2 Stars= Bad

1 Star= Terrible 

Zero= Totally Sucks

Recent Blog Entries

Manchester by the Sea

The depressed man and the sea ****1/2

The film comes from writer/director Kenneth Lonergan, who previously worked on "You Can Count on Me," "Analyze This," and "Gangs of New York." "Manchester by the Sea" is perhaps his magnum opus, turning in one of the most authentic representations of grief in modern cinema.

Read more at The Nerd Repository:

http://nerdrepository.com/movie-review-manchester-sea/

Bad Santa 2

Bad, but not in a good way *1/2

Like its predecessor, "Bad Santa 2" is vulgar, insensitive, and at times even heartless. Where the first film was naughty in all the right ways, though, this sequel is naughty in all the wrong ways.

Read more at Flickreel:

https://www.flickreel.com/bad-santa-2-review/

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Gotta find em all! ****

Is "Fantastic Beasts" as magical as "Harry Potter?" Not quite. It doesn’t have the same emotional impact or sense of mystery. However, it does expand upon the wizarding world with fresh ideas, characters, and locations.

Read more at Flickreel:

https://www.flickreel.com/fantastic-beasts-and-where-to-find-them-review/

Edge of Seventeen

Edge of your seat high school drama! ****

Steinfeld had a strong supporting role as Mark Ruffalo’s daughter in "Begin Again" and charmed everyone’s socks off as Emily in "Pitch Perfect 2." In "Edge of Seventeen," she pulls off a truly remarkable feat. She takes a whiny, self-absorbed, pretentious, anti-social teenager and makes her 100% lovable.

Read more at Flickreel:

https://www.flickreel.com/edge-of-seventeen-review/

Doctor Strange

What doesn't kill you makes you stranger ****
Just as "Doctor Strange" has unlimited potential, the same can be said about this  series itself.

http://www.fivestarpublications.net/storymonsters_dir/pdf/smi-december-2016.pdf

Arrival

Oscar season has arrived ****1/2

Denis Villeneuve’s “Arrival” would make a superb double feature with Jeff Nichols’s “Midnight Special,” which hit theaters earlier this year. Both movies have phenomenal buildup, calling to mind Steven Spielberg’s “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.” “Arrival” in particular is perhaps the closest any contemporary film has come to capturing the wonder of a classic “Twilight Zone” episode. Like Rod Serling’s best works, “Arrival” is a poignant and clever piece of science fiction with provocative themes that parallel our own society. Above all else, this is a challenging mystery that keeps you guessing until the final act, which fortunately doesn’t disappoint.

 

Amy Adams, who’s still overdue for an Oscar, gives one of her finest performances as Dr. Louise Banks. This linguist becomes the government’s go-to girl when several UFOs arrive on earth. Upon making first contact, the military quickly finds that the aliens are unfamiliar with the human language. These extraterrestrials primarily communicate through visuals that kind of look like inkblots. Banks is tasked with not only interpreting their language, but also teaching the aliens how to converse with humans.

 

“Arrival” features great supporting performances from Forest Whitaker as a US military colonel and Jeremy Renner as a hunky mathematician. However, the film belongs to Adams, who creates a strong, smart, and driven protagonist at the center of the biggest event in human history. Banks is already coping with the loss of her daughter, who died for a terminal illness. Yet, this doesn’t stop her from pushing forward with the weight of the world on her shoulders. Adams brings a genuine sense of awe to her role and keeps us invested every step of the way.

 

The aliens are also unique creations with some of the most distinctive designs since “District 9.” Their spaceships in particular are highly inventive, looking like eclipsed moons on the outside. On this inside, though, they’re reminiscent of the Star Gate from “2001: A Space Odyssey.” With a budget of only $50 million, Villeneuve accomplishes so much on a visual level than Michael Bay, Roland Emmerich, or Zach Snyder could with $200 million. While the effects here are extraordinary, they really aren’t the focus here. This is a movie about communication, which is especially significant in an era where so many cultures seem divided and disconnected. If we could all learn to speak a universal language, though, we might just move towards a brighter future.

 

There’s an unwavering sense of uncertainty throughout much of “Arrival,” as Banks attempts to uncover why these aliens are here. Have they come to enrich humankind or cause our downfall? Eric Heisserer’s screenplay brings everything full circle in the end with a twist that surprisingly doesn’t feel forced. Villeneuve, who previously gave us “Prisoners” and “Sicario,” continues to prove that he’s among our most impressive up-and-coming directors. One can only hope he’ll bring the same passion and intelligence to the upcoming “Blade Runner 2049.” Until then, “Arrival” is a modern sci-fi classic that’ll make audiences think while also influencing them to keep watching the stars.

Loving

I'm lovin' it! ****

"Loving" is a dramatization of arguably the most significant interracial marriage in American history. It’s actually surprising that Hollywood has taken almost fifty years to produce a major motion picture about the Loving v. Virginia case. Of course there was a 1996 made for television movie starring Timothy Hutton and Lela Rochon. Even in today’s supposedly progressive world, the themes depicted in "Loving" remain as relevant as ever. Sure, interracial marriage might not be prohibited in the US anymore, but audiences can still draw parallels to same-sex marriage, which only just became legal in all fifty states. Racial tensions also continue to run high in our country with many people taking sides. In that sense, "Loving" couldn’t have come at a better time, especially now that Donald Trump is president.

 

Joel Edgerton turns in some of his finest work as Richard Loving, a white man from Virginia. Richard is deeply in love with an African American woman named Mildred Jeter, beautifully played by Ruth Negga. When Mildred becomes pregnant, Richard doesn’t think twice about asking her to marry him. Since it’s 1958, though, interracial marriage is still outlawed in their home state. The couple tries to beat the system by getting hitched in Washington, D.C. After returning to Virginia, however, they’re both quickly incarcerated.

 

Richard and Mildred are given two options. They can either remain in jail or find a new home in Washington. The two naturally choose the latter, but the adjustment isn’t easy. As much as Mildred loves Richard, it pains her to be so far away from her family in Virginia. It appears that the couple might be able to finally get some justice when a politician named Bernie Cohen (Nick Kroll) catches wind of their situation. He believes that the case could go all the way to the Supreme Court, abolishing the interracial marriage ban for good.

 

Mildred is willing to get in front of the cameras and voice her opinion. Richard is much more reluctant to put himself out there, fearing that his family will be harassed and killed. He’s willing to take a risk, though, if it will make his wife happy and lead to a brighter future. This is largely what makes "Loving" such a great film. Even when Richard and Mildred aren’t speaking to each other, they’re always on the same page. Life might not always be simple for them, but the audience never doubts for a second that these two adore one another and will overcome any obstacle together. The bond they share is truly powerful and poignant, reminding us that love should be the only factor when it comes marriage.

 

Writer/Director Jeff Nichols is known for making very understated films that manage to say a lot with minimal dialog or action. His signature subtlety is present throughout the entirety of "Loving." Nichols is given numerous opportunities to take a more straightforward or obvious route, but he avoids melodrama around every corner. Instead, he gets the film’s messages across through low-key direction and multi-layered performances. The result is a gripping, thrilling, and inspiring experience audiences everywhere should take to heart.

Almost Christmas

A Madea Christmas without Madea **1/2

If that’s all you’re looking for, the film will get the job done. If you’re looking for a Christmas movie that’s consistently funny, original, and keeps the audience emotionally invested, though, there are far superior options available.

Read more at Flickreel:

https://www.flickreel.com/almost-christmas-review/

Rules Don't Apply

Me, you, and Howard Hughes ***1/2

While not without its drawbacks, "Rules Don’t Apply" is still thoroughly entertaining with a sensational central performance from Beatty.

Read more at Flickreel:

https://www.flickreel.com/rules-dont-apply-review/

Moonlight

In a whole new light ****1/2

“Moonlight” is a stunning cinematic achievement that has a fair deal in common with Richard Linklater's “Boyhood.” Both films are extraordinary coming-of-age stories. “Boyhood” was primarily about capturing the experience of growing up, however, painting a picture that could speak to anybody. “Moonlight,” meanwhile, is arguably a more personal outing, depicting a young man’s search for an identity in a ruthless environment. Barry Jenkins’ film is tragic, gritty, and occasionally flat-out brutal. At the same time, though, it catches you off guard with its moments of sheer hope.


The movie is broken into three acts, following an African American named Chiron throughout childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. Newcomer Alex R. Hibbert plays Chiron as a young boy. Bullied by the other kids his age, Chiron is branded with the nickname “Little.” Chiron’s home life isn’t much better, as his dad is absent and his mom is an abusive drug addict. In a Best Supporting Actress caliber performance, Naomie Harris dominates the screen as Chiron’s mother. Creating a cruel and unpredictable character, her portrayal is right up there with Mo'Nique’s Oscar-winning work in “Precious,” although Harris’ character arguably has more humanity.


Chiron finds two parental figures in a drug dealer named Juan (Mahershala Ali) and his girlfriend Teresa (Janelle Monáe). While Juan seems like a threatening individual at first, he becomes the first person to show Chiron love and support. It quickly becomes clear that Juan puts up a tough front, having a heart of gold underneath. With that said, Juan is still forced to do things he’s not proud of in order to survive. Guess who sold those drugs to Chiron’s mother in the first place?


Ashton Sanders plays Chiron as a teenager, leading to the darkest act in “Moonlight.” Chiron is tormented at school, as thugs beat him relentlessly while shouting homophobic slurs. The closest thing Chiron has to a friend is Kevin (Jharrel Jerome). The closer they get, Chiron and Kevin find that their feelings for each other might run deeper than friendship. Like Juan, though, Kevin also needs to preserve his image to get by. This ultimately influences Chiron to make a decision that will forever change the course of his life.


Two-thirds into “Moonlight,” some audience members might wonder why they’re watching such a bleak, difficult film. However, they’ll begin to understand why in the third act where Trevante Rhodes plays an adult Chiron. Without giving too much away, the film’s final destination is a lot different than what audiences will likely expect. Let’s just saw that it brings Chiron’s life full circle in a smart, poignant, and beautiful manner.


Barry Jenkins has delivered a truly profound film about labels, society, and the masks we wear. “Moonlight” also provides an insightful looks at the phenomenon of nature vs. nurture, demonstrating what it means to product of your environment. It accomplishes this with superb acting, a gripping score, and subtle direction. Most importantly, it encourages us to see other people in multiple lights, as the world isn’t always black and white.

Hacksaw Ridge

Directed by He Must Who Not Be Named ****1/2

Much like Nate Parker’s "The Birth of a Nation," "Hacksaw Ridge" is a great movie from a controversial man.

Read more at Flickreel:

https://www.flickreel.com/hacksaw-ridge-review/

Jack Reacher: Never Go Back

Jack Reacher 2: Jack Reachier ***

Compared to the last couple "Mission: Impossible" movies, "Jack Reacher: Never Go Back" isn’t one of Cruise’s best action flicks. Nevertheless, the film is still exciting, witty, and occasionally even kind of kickass.

Read more at Flickreel:

https://www.flickreel.com/jack-reacher-never-go-back-review/

Keeping Up with the Jones

At least they aren't the Kardashians **

There are so many inspired ideas here that should hit bull’s-eyes. Every time a joke is perfectly set up, though, the film somehow fires a blank.

Read more at Flickreel:

https://www.flickreel.com/keeping-up-with-the-joneses-review/