🎬 A fresh start for this newsletter





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🎬 A fresh start for this newsletter
By Eric Johnson • Issue #108 • View online
Hi everyone! Happy new year! I hope you all are safe and well, and not doomscrolling too much. Oh, who am I kidding, I’ve barely looked away from Twitter since Wednesday.
Before the US Capitol was breached by domestic terrorists emboldened by the Republican Party to attempt a coup (how’s that for a dependent clause?), I was watching a lot of movies. I’ve seen 13 of ‘em since my last “official” newsletter on Dec. 23, and in that time, I’ve also decided that there are a few things I’d like to shake up around here.
TL;DR: Shorter emails, sometimes more frequently, and not always on the same day. They’ll still be free, and you don’t have to do anything!

Why, though?
This newsletter is a side project for me. I haven’t put any time or money into marketing it, apart from the occasional tweet, and I am so grateful to those of you who have been reading for months or years. Some of you have told me you look forward to reading my reviews every week!
But right now, my number one focus is BumbleCast, an independent podcast studio and consultancy I launched in December. Blocking off several hours every Thursday to polish a long email is going to get harder to rationalize as the company grows.
Here's the point
So: In the very near future, I’m going to take this newsletter off of my current email platform, Revue — which charges me a monthly fee — and move it over to the trendy new kid in town, Substack — which is free for writers, and makes money when those writers convince their readers to pay subscription fees.
How does this affect you?
Other than some cosmetic changes, this should not affect you: The newsletter you’ve been getting will continue to be 100% free, and I’m not going to launch a paid subscription … not yet, anyway. In a few months, maybe I’ll revisit that plan, but anything I charge for in the future would be bonus material, not the main email.
OK, what else?
On Substack, I’m still going to try to send something out every week. Sometimes, I might be a little early or a little late, and other times, when my schedule allows, I might send out more than one email in a week.
So, I’m loosening the schedule a bit, and I’m also giving myself permission to experiment with the format. I want to make my emails shorter, and pithier. I’m not necessarily going to force myself to spend as much time on mediocre movies (like Benny & Joon) as I do on great ones (like The Lives Of Others).
If you still want a complete picture of everything I’m watching, please follow me on Letterboxd!
For now, here’s a little preview of what my new newsletter might look like … thank you for reading, and here’s to good things ahead.
🤖 Marvel's Muddled Phase 2
The last three films in “phase 2” of the Marvel Cinematic Universe are a fascinating contrast. You have Captain America: The Winter Soldier, which is my favorite movie in the entire franchise; The Avengers: Age of Ultron, a distractingly overstuffed entry with a promising but ultimately dumb villain; and Ant-Man, a deeply mediocre solo-hero outing in which genuinely talented actors are deployed to paper over some awkward franchise-building.
Only one of these films, Winter Soldier, is actually about something more than punching and explosions. It pits the old-school idealism of Steve Rogers against the post-9/11 military-surveillance apparatus that has used fear to justify violence, oppression, and invasion of privacy.
The others are, alas, moderately important as setup for later films. Ultron has some funny scenes, and Ant-Man has Michael Peña, but at the end of the day, they are the disease of Marvel-sequels-as-homework at its worst. ABF: Always Be Foreshadowing.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier ★★★★½
Avengers: Age of Ultron ★★★½
Ant-Man ★★★
All three films are currently streaming on Disney+.
🥳 How I spent my New Years' Eve
Until 2017, when my friend and former podcast co-host Emily Jones intervened, I had never seen When Harry Met Sally. If you are similarly in the dark and have never seen it, please drop what you’re doing and watch it now.
A couple months ago, when my girlfriend suggested rewatching the movie, I asked if we could wait until New Years’ Eve. And because she is lovely and patient enough to put up with my eccentricities (“Fine. Whatever.”), she said yes.
This is not just one of the best rom-coms ever made, but a perfect movie for the New Year. It’s about how people actually change over time, second (or third) chances, and — when the right time comes — taking a chance on a big, impeccably written romantic speech.
When Harry Met Sally … ★★★★★
Currently streaming on HBO Max.
🤓 Other stuff I've watched recently
Undertale ★★★★★ - Not a movie, just one of the best video games ever made. Watched my girlfriend play this (and helped her with a few of the boss fights). Just an incredible synthesis of music, humor, character, and morality. On PC, PlayStation 4, and Nintendo Switch.
Soul ★★★★★ - Pixar at its best, rivaling the humor and heart of WALL-E and Inside Out. Don’t read up on this one before you watch it, go in as blind as you can. On Disney+.
John Mulaney: The Comeback Kid ★★★★★ - Mulaney’s second stand-up comedy special, and his best one to date. A nearly uninterrupted parade of incredible stories and quotable jokes. “Too old to be a duck, quack quack!” On Netflix.
Boogie Nights ★★★★½ - Glad I finally saw this one. A movie-about-making-movies classic, except it’s about the “golden age of porn.” Despite all-star cast, the script and direction are so good I got lost in the story. Soundtrack rocks, too. On Hulu.
Thor: Ragnarok ★★★★½ - Look, I respect what they were trying to do in Thor 1 and 2, but Chris Hemsworth is funnier than he is Shakesperean. Give Taika Waititi all the franchises, and Korg a spinoff series. On Disney+, DirecTV, TNT, and TBS.
Black Panther ★★★★½ - Not just a barrier-breaking movie, but a very good one, too. The best score, the best production design, the best villain, and drama-wise the best lead actor. RIP Chadwick Boseman, you cannot and should not be replaced. On Disney+, DirecTV, TNT, and TBS.
The Crown Season 3 ★★★★ & Season 4 ★★★★ - Still one of the most beautifully shot TV shows ever made, and the writing and cast are extremely strong. Sometimes hard to watch, especially in Season 4, but always satisfying. On Netflix.
Captain America: Civil War ★★★★ - The best “yes and” in the MCU, another strong and substantive entry from the Russo Brothers, and a great debut for two of my favorite heroes in the Marvel canon. On Disney+, DirecTV, TNT, and TBS.
Spider-Man: Homecoming ★★★★ - Thank goodness some casting director found Tom Holland. A mashup of superhero meta-commentary and a high school movie, with mercifully low stakes! Among the funniest scripts in the MCU. On FXNow and DirecTV.
Doctor Strange ★★★½ - Better than it has any right to be. Excellent special effects in the fight scenes, and I love the fact that the central conflict can’t be solved by blowing something up or shutting down a big sky laser. On Disney+.
Toy Story of Terror! ★★★½ - Made-for-TV special released & set between Toy Stories 3 & 4, but with less charm than either of those entries. Carl Weathers is delightful as Combat Carl, everything else feels like “B team” Pixar. On Disney+.
Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey ★★★½ - Not quite as fun as the first movie, but Keanu Reeves and Alex Winters are as fun & committed to the bit as ever, and William Sadler is incredible as the Grim Reaper. Weird, but I had a pretty good time. Rent/buy online.
Masterpiece: Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns ★★★½ - Watchable mini-documentary about the seminal graphic novel, but I learned little that I didn’t know already. Some weird editing choices. DVD special feature.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 ★★★ - CHARACTERS SHOUTING THEIR FEELINGS. A lackluster, overlong sequel that doesn’t capture the unique mojo of the first Guardians movie. Even the soundtrack isn’t as good. On Disney+.
Did you enjoy this issue?
Eric Johnson

I'm reviewing every movie I watch, and watching every movie I own. Settle in, this is going to take a while.

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