Locking Down Some Good Movies.

By: Aiden McLean (Reporter ‘21)


It has been over two months since we were last at school, and many of us have found more time on our hands. Some of us have developed new hobbies to pass the time. Others of us now have empty days, full of boredom, searching for anything to alleviate the mundaneness of our lives at home. Thanks to modern technology, one way we can pass the time is by binge-watching movies and TV shows. Thank you, Netflix and Disney Plus. The only problem is, what should I watch? Which movies are worth watching? Which movies aren’t worth the time?

Since I have some time on my hands, I have a few recommendations that might be worth considering if you’re looking for quality entertainment. In this article I will introduce and review a movie that has become relevant in this time, an underrated classic, and even a few movie marathon ideas. Keep an open mind, and take a look at these movies. If you have seen them before, that’s great. These are just some suggestions, so take them as you will. I have also added my own personal rating of the movie at the end of each review, and I graded them by how much I enjoyed them and how good I think they are. When making movies, I think it is better to have a somewhat interesting idea but still be entertained than to have a good idea that’s not entertaining. If I’m going to spend time on something, I should have a positive experience. If you disagree with my reviews or scores then that’s fine; it means you're a unique human being with a different thought process. LET’S GO!

My Rating System: X/10 description (Example)

1/10 - so bad it physically hurt! (e.g., The Cat in The Hat [2003]); 2/10 - could not stand it but did not make me feel sick (e.g., The Emoji Movie;, 3/10 - just plain bad (e.g., Star Wars: Attack of the Clones); 4/10 boring or forgettable (e.g., 1984; 5/10 - half good half bad meh (e.g., Star Wars: The Last Jedi); 6/10 - guilty pleasure (e.g., Venom); 7/10 found to be ok (e.g., Monsters University); 8/10 - enjoyable and good (e.g., Jurassic World); 9/10 - great but has a small issue here or there (e.g., The Dark Knight), 10/10 - had an absolute blast whole way through or I thought was perfectly executed (e.g., The Lego Movie).


Most relevant: Contagion

No one can deny that we are in the middle of the worst epidemic since 1918, and this thriller beautifully portrays the time we are in right now, terrifyingly so. Before I continue, I want to clarify the difference between a thriller and a horror movie. A horror movie’s intent is to try to scare the viewer, while a thriller is meant to play with people’s emotions and promote people’s questions about what they just watched. Think of the two kinds of movies as types of amusement park rides: a horror movie is like a haunted house, and a thriller movie is like a roller coaster. While Contagion can be very disturbing and has a lot of shocking imagery, it never tries to scare people. Its goal is to portray an epidemic in a movie, and it pulls no punches in doing so. It does not try to dumb down or simplify the material for the audience. Instead, it is very blunt with its accurate portrayal about how an epidemic would be, or rather how it is.

The film has a dark, down-right-depressing tone. With dark lighting and faded colors, it conveys an atmosphere of dread and uncertainty. You never know who is safe or where they should go, whether it is to find a place away from the virus or the people. Despite the PG-13 rating, there is a lot of disturbing imagery and ideas. Kidnappings, riots, seizures, and mass graves make you paranoid to even watch. The portrayal of how Americans would deal with an epidemic is dishearteningly plausible. One of the most unlikeable characters is the conspiracy blog writer, played by Jude Law, who writes about how the virus was manufactured, that there is a cure, and that the CDC is hiding it. The film is also accurate in explaining how to deal with a virus of a large magnitude, following procedures that show that the writers did a significant amount of research before writing the movie. What is also good about this movie is that, not only does it show the bleakness of an epidemic, but it also shows that there is hope of finding a vaccine and returning society back to a pseudonormal situation. The movie leaves you with a hope that the COVID-19 pandemic will also reach such a conclusion.

The only real problem I can think of with Contagion is that, despite the accuracy of the movie, it’s still a hollywood movie. They do dramatize details and events, like how deadly the virus is and the fact that the whole epidemic lasts only around 200 days before a cure is found and marketed. There may be a few unneeded arcs of drama in this movie, but it may be okay with you. Give this a watch, and survive another contagion. I give this movie a 9/10. It is a great movie to watch during these tough times.


Writer’s underrated choice: Monty Python and the Holy Grail

1 hour and 32 minutes

In these stressful times, it’s important for us to find joy wherever we can, even if it is in the most ridiculous of scenarios. We have all heard about the legend of King Arthur and the Holy Grail, so the perfect people to make a movie version of this was a group of British comedians who portrayed how deathly boring a board meeting can be. The board members were literally falling asleep. This movie takes the legends of King Arthur and the knights of the round table, and perfectly turns it into a comedic adventure. It is so good that it would be a cardinal sin of comedy if I were to write about any of the jokes or moments that occur in the movie. All I can say is that the British TV show Monty Python’s Flying Circus has a movie, and they do not disappoint. Nonsensical humor- check. Scenes and characters that seem completely random- check. Hilarious and quotable comedy that shall never leave your head and will be your final thoughts as you calmly pass away to that soft abyss- you bet your coconuts that it is here. Darn it! I just wrote about one of the jokes. The comedy is something that cannot be described, only seen. This movie will hurt your cheeks by how often you will smile or laugh. It’s bounce off of the walls insanity, you never know what’s next, and each joke is succeeded by an even funnier one. Everything is random, and yet everything is in a perfect order.

Some of the scenes and jokes are some of the most infamous in cinema history. More people need to see this movie and worship its perfection. If you haven’t watched this movie yet, you are doing more than just a disservice to yourself. Your knowledge of how funny humor can be will never be complete without seeing this movie. It’s not that you should see the Holy Grail, but it’s something you need to see in order for your life to be complete. Now, for giving away one of the jokes, I need to find a certain bridge keeper, a certain orb, and complete my quest. It’s not what you think, I have just committed even more sin. I give this movie a 10/10 after your first viewing, but I have to drop it down to a 9/10 or maybe even a high 8/10 after a couple rewatches because it does get less funny the more times you’ve seen it.

Maybe you have a little more than just one night to spare and you want more fun than just one movie. Maybe you want an entire saga to entertain you. While my parents find joy in marathons, personally, I am not the biggest fan of running more than five miles, so I’ll settle for the movie marathon kind. The fun of going through a movie marathon is that it’s a challenge. Can you make it through all of them? Can you find everything you missed before? It’s like reading a book series, only it’s lazier and takes less time. There are tons of movie marathons you could “run,” and here are some options, with my personal favorite at the end.


Movie Marathon Ideas:

59 hours and 7 minutes 2008

Marvel Cinematic Universe

23 Movies


What can I say about the MCU that hasn’t already been said or that you don’t already know? Everybody knows about the MCU. It’s currently the highest grossing film franchise, having made over 23 billion dollars. There is little doubt that the Marvel movies have been the most culturally influential force for over the past decade. The marvel movies have developed a reputation of quality that, at least most of the time, promises entertainment. It’s likely that you have already watched, or at least know of, one of the 23 movies in the MCU lineup, but have you tried watching all of them back-to-back? Most of the MCU films can somewhat work on their own as stand-alone features, in that you don’t need to know what happened in previous films to understand what is happening in a current one. But why not look back at the previous movies and find all of the little connections between all of the films? For example, in Captain Marvel Nick Fury loses his eye from getting scratched by Goose. In Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Fury tells Cap that the last time he trusted someone he lost an eye. And what did Fury tell Goose a few minutes before he lost his eye: “I’m trusting you to not eat me.”

Little easter eggs, connections, and references like that are just littered across the movies, and it’s an absolute blast to go back and try to find them all. It shows the level of planning that went into developing the Marvel Universe. Many other companies have tried and failed to achieve the coordination and planning that Marvel has achieved. Twelve years ago, with the exception of Blade, comic book and superhero movies were seen as kid stuff, not something that would make a profit. Marvel seemed to be on their last legs, but everything changed when two movies in 2008 attacked. Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight and Marvel Studios’ Iron Man obliterated that stereotype. The Dark Knight proved that superhero movies weren't just for kids with it’s dark tone, disturbing characters, and complicated story. Iron Man showed that accepting a character's heritage from comics could lead to success if done right. With a single post credits scene, it promised the start of an entire cinematic universe, full of superheroes. Interestingly, Marvel did not create the first cinematic universe. One of the earliest ones were the Universal monster movies from the 50s, but it should be noted that Marvel treated their Universe differently than others.

Companies like Universal, Warner Bros, the DCEU, and Sony, have tried to make cinematic universes. However, the idea of bringing different characters together and making a universe was used more like a gimmick than a tool. It was a way to provide fan service by allowing the audience to see all of their favorite characters together, a way to see who would win in a fight between two characters, and a way to sell more merchandise. Marvel, in contrast, used the idea of creating a universe to tell a story. They went beyond getting a bunch of popular heroes onto the big screen. Each Marvel movie acts like a chapter in a book, meant to further a larger story, while at the same time telling it’s own story, with only a few connections or details that tie the film back to the rest of the MCU. Instead of bashing the audience over the head that they are watching a cinematic universe, Marvel movies focus on telling a good story first with only a few subtle hints or teasers for other movies. They prioritize quality writing and quality entertainment over filling up movie theatre seats.

What is also fun about watching the MCU is figuring out how to watch it. Because there are so many movies, with many new heroes coming in at different times, the franchise has jumped around in time periods. Therefore, there are two ways to run this marathon. You could do it in order of release or in the chronological order of how each movie occurs through the timeline of the story. The order of release goes: Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, Thor, Captain America: The First Avenger, The Avengers, Iron Man 3, Thor: The Dark World, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Guardians of The Galaxy, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Ant Man, Captain America: Civil War, Doctor Strange, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Spiderman: Homecoming, Thor Ragnarok, Black Panther, Avengers: Infinity War, Ant Man and The Wasp, Captain Marvel, Avengers: Endgame, Spiderman: Far From Home. My family and I did it in chronological order: Captain America: The First Avenger, Captain Marvel, Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, Thor, The Avengers, Iron Man 3, Thor: The Dark World, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Guardians of The Galaxy, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Ant Man, Captain America: Civil War, Black Panther, Spiderman: Homecoming, Doctor Strange, Thor Ragnarok, Avengers: Infinity War, Ant Man and The Wasp, Avengers: Endgame, Spiderman: Far From Home. That being said, you can watch it however you want. If I’m being honest, you can skip the Incredible Hulk. It adds nothing except introducing the Hulk, which The Avengers did much better. Pop some popcorn, kick back, relax, and watch some awesome action. I give the MCU a 9/10 with two 10/10 movies in the roster, but the rest of the movies all have some little issues here and there, so I’ll settle with a 9 for the entire series.


Harry Potter/ and Fantastic Beasts

8/10 Movies

19 hours 41 minutes / 23 hours 57 minutes 2001-2011, 2016

The 2010s have been the decade for superheroes. Comic book movies are now the most prominent genre in our modern culture. However, in the 2000s, fantasy was arguably the most relevant genre of the decade (that and the decades of many mistakes, lies, and betrayals). Before then, fantasy was seen as box office poison and almost guaranteed flops. Somehow, in the 2000s fantasy stories became a lot more popular and successful. From The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, to Fantasia, to the Percy Jackson series, and to whatever the heck Eragon was supposed to be, fantasy stories and movies were, in the 2000s, what comic book stories are now. Arguably the MCU of that time was J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. Say what you will about how the movies compare to the books, but it’s just a fact that Harry Potter has captured the hearts and imagination of the world like the MCU has, if not at a larger scale. The Harry Potter Franchise is currently the 3rd highest grossing movie franchise ever, behind Star Wars and the MCU. Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows part 2 is currently the 13th highest grossing movie of all time, and was once the 3rd. It was estimated that somewhere in the world, a person starts reading the Harry Potter series every 30 seconds. It cannot be denied that Harry Potter has influenced culture.

Now, do the movies compare to books? No, they absolutely do not even come close to matching the books, but that doesn’t mean the movies are awful - far from it. The Harry Potter movies are legit good movies. They're fun to watch, pretty accurate to the books, have nice visuals, and have an interesting narrative. It’s just that the books are in a league of their own, one the movies could not achieve, unless they split each movie into two parts. It’s like comparing a Prius to a Lamborghini. A Prius is a good car, but a Lambo is just way better. Or a baseball hat to my Newsie cap. Baseball hats are fine, but they are inferior in every way compared to my hat! It’s the same with the Harry Potter movies. They don’t deviate from the source material. Did they make any major changes to the plot or characters? No - at most, Ginny is less prominent in the movies. The story is intact and remains interesting. All of the important twists and turns are there, and all of the important relationships are still strong. For the most part, all of the actors do a good job and are invested. Fun fact: J. K. Rowling invited Emma Watson over for dinner during the filming of The Order of The Phoenix to tell her that she was doing a perfect job of portraying Hermione. The effects now do look a little dated and fake, but for the time, they were amazing and did look real. Therefore, the visuals still hold up. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is also amazing to watch, and it was a good expansion of the Harry Potter lore.

The Harry Potter movies do have valid critiques, however. The noticeable changes between movies can be really distracting: the change of both the location and Fat Lady of Gryffindor Tower, the change of actors playing Flitwick, the change of the location of Hagrid’s hut, and the change from Micheal Gambon to Richard Harris for Albus Dumbledore (to be fair that change was necessary because of Richard Harris’s passing). Another problem is that from The Prisoner of Azkaban onwards there is a grey filter that is put in front of the movie. It’s okay at building the atmosphere of the environments, but it does get tiring to watch after a while. For the most part the acting is alright, but there are a few missteps. It’s a joke now how different Micheal Gambon as Dumbledore was from Richard Harris, and Daniel Radcliffe admitted that he was drunk during most of the filming of The Half-Blood Prince. I’ll say it again: the movies don’t compare to the books. There are a lot of scenes, details, and relationships that the movies either missed or fumbled with. Ginny, for one, was portrayed in the movies to be little more than a love interest of Harry, while in the books she is a lot more prominent as a person who wasn’t to be messed with and had all of the qualities of her elder brothers. The movies miss all of the investigations over who the half-blood prince was. Finally, it hurts how many inaccuracies, contradictions, and even retcons The Crimes of Grindelwald had.

Despite these flaws the Harry Potter movies are still fun movies to just watch and enjoy. If you want to include the Fantastic Beasts movie in your marathon go for it. I think they are fun to watch, and even though, at the moment, The Crimes of Grindelwald hurts by how bad it is, hopefully J.K. Rowling will provide answers in the future that will make sense. I hope. Pull out your wand, grab a broomstick, and return to the wizarding world. I give this marathon an 8/10. Although it has its issues, the movies are still legitimately good and fun to watch.


Writers personal choice: RED VS BLUE

17 Movies/Seasons (soon 18 later this year)

38 hours and 39 minutes. 2003

Have you ever wondered why we are here? It’s one of life’s great mysteries isn’t it? Are we the product of some cosmic coincidence, or is there really a God with a plan? It keeps you up at night, doesn’t it? Well, that was not what I was asking about. I was asking why have we been watching this show for 17 years. It’s about a bunch of red, blue, and a pink, (I mean lightish-red) space troopers bobbing their heads up and down, as they fight over two useless bases in a boxed canyon. Whoopdy-flipping-doo! Seems like the biggest waste of time, ever, of all time. Yet, if you have watched this show, you know that I have just answered my question. This show is one of, if not the most, funny and quotable shows I have ever watched. In this paragraph alone I have just quoted this show five times. RVB may be a show, but each season is about as long as a movie. Many of the episodes are only a few minutes long. Also, shut up! This is my list and my favorite marathon!

Red vs Blue came out in 2003 and is made by the Internet content-creating company Rooster Teeth. The entire series is free on Youtube, and it is currently the longest running internet show that is still running. It is also credited for popularizing machinima on the internet. Machinima animation is done by using actions within a video game (in this case, Halo) to make videos. Therefore, the show consists of a bunch of stock Halo soldiers’ heads nodding up and down as they talk and limited movements of their bodies. Because of the limited animation and budget, all of the quality has to come from the writing and the characters. This is where the show shines the most.

Fair warning: a lot of this show’s comedy does come in the form of lots of profanity and sexual references. From time to time, in the beginning, some offensive language is used. However, it needs to be noted that this is not the entirety of the show’s humor, and a lot of the offensive jokes do die down in later seasons or are never brought up again. Most of the humor is based around the fact that the Reds and the Blues all hate each other because they spend way too much time with each other. They are a bunch of rejects and idiots stuck in a boxed canyon that has no worth. It would be incredible if they never squabled. The humor is precise, well-timed, and witty. The character interactions are incredibly entertaining, and the characters all bring different senses for humor, leading to hilarious and quotable moments and allowing for the show’s favorite pastime: running gags. Hey do you remember what they do all day? They are just standing around talking. What was Sarge’s safeword? It’s Safeword obviously! When Caboose screws up, of course his response is: “Tucker did it!” Because of the running gags, many of the jokes stay funny, and when I come back to rewatch a season, they are still funny to me. RVB’s humor has at times been compared to South Park, in that it’s humor may be considered distasteful and cynical, but is never done out of bad taste. The humor is what allows the characters’ personalities to shine and flourish, and the heart of RVB is in its characters.

Despite all of the main characters looking exactly the same, save for different colors, each character is well-developed, with an entertaining personality, jokes, and flaws, making them all incredibly likable and funny. They are all based off of different stereotypes, but they are never confined to them and break out of their tropes from time to time, with the possible exception of the red soldier, Sarge. Each character is entertaining in their own way and provides different opportunities to make or be the butt of jokes. Take Sarge, for example. He has been described to have been based off of a drill sergeant and mixed with as many stereotypes from the 1950s as possible. This means that his humor comes in the form of arrogance and stubbornness, his delusions of grandeur, loves the shotgun way too much, his favorite pastime is tormenting the orange trooper, Grif, and his nonsensical plans that always include Grif dying as violently as possible in some way. There is always something to make fun of in each character: the pink one, Donut, is very femine; Caboose is an idiot; Grif is lazy and fat; and Simmons is a suck up.

That being said, there is more to them than just stereotypes and jokes. They all have qualities that make them better than just areas to poke humor. Real characteristics and problems make this colorful cast of characters much more interesting and relatable. The aqua trooper, Tucker, is a bit of a pervert, but he is also a BA and struggles in a leadership position he never wanted. The blue one, Caboose, lacks intelligence, which is funny, but he is lovable because he’s childish and innocent. He’s like a human puppy. RVB goes into some legit good character arcs beyond comedy. For example, Freelancer Agents Washington and Carolina’s struggles in changing from, in Carolina’s words, “a dishonorable killing machine into an honorable one”; Grif considers the question of why he does he stay with the Reds and Blues if he hates them; and the story of how the Reds and the Blues ended up in Blood Gulch in the first place are just some of the many stories this show has to offer.

It’s the characters that bring viewers back every year. They want to see how their favorite sim trooper is doing. They are all relatable and offer something that is funny to everyone. This show has top-notch comedy and lovable characters. Not only does it have a good anti-war message, but it also has a good social message about hatred in general that is both dark, but also profound. You shouldn’t hate someone because they’re red or blue. You should hate someone because you know them on a personal level, see them everyday, and you can’t freaking stand them. Of course I’m kidding. Why are we here? Certainly not to hate each other. We are here to find joy in the darkness of space. If you want my opinion for the best season to watch, and you only want to watch one I would suggest Season 13. In my opinion, it has everything you could want: action, comedy, an interesting plot, funny characters, and an awesome ending. Check out this show, and call out “Shotgun!” as a chupa-thingy of comedic-explosion coats your skin in the blood of our ancestors! I give this show a 10/10 - absolutely amazing. The only problem I have is that Season 16 wasn’t all that good, but I still enjoyed it. Overall, I was fully entertained all of the time! Hopefully, you will be, too!






© 1845-2018, Focus, the official newspaper of Friends' Central Upper School

  • Instagram
  • Black Twitter Icon

Web Design by Julian Brenman '20