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
Back when M. Night Shyamalan was on top of the world, seeing one of his movies felt like an eagerly awaited event. Between “Lady and the Water” and “After Earth,” however, Shyamalan became a walking punch line. So when “The Visit” came along a couple years ago, film fans went into the theater anticipating another cringe-fest. To the surprise of many, though, Shyamalan turned in an eerie, humorous, and well-acted thriller. It wasn’t anything groundbreaking, but it was the first time in years that people actually had fun at a Shyamalan movie.
If “Split” proves anything, it’s that “The Visit” wasn’t a fluke. This is another effective work of horror from Shyamalan, who’s officially back on the right track. Like his previous outing, “Split” doesn’t take itself too seriously. If anything, it’s incredibly self-aware. At the same time, Shyamalan and his performers create a genuinely haunting, uncomfortable atmosphere. It’s a film that constantly catches the audience off guard, reminding us why Shyamalan was once considered the next Alfred Hitchcock.
The film follows three high school girls named Claire (Haley Lu Richardson), Marcia (Jessica Sula), and Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy). In the middle of the day, these unsuspecting teenagers find themselves at the mercy of a creepy kidnapper, played by James McAvoy. They wake up in a mysterious room where escape appears futile. Their captor is eventually revealed to be Kevin Wendell Crumb, but he’s not alone. Kevn is living with dissociative identity disorder and has over 20 alternate personalities.
In “The Sixth Sense,” Shyamalan delivered quite possibly the greatest twist since “Psycho.” “Split” is kind of like Shyamalan’s love letter to “Psycho.” Where Norman Bates only had one alternate personality, though, Kevin has enough alters to fill an asylum. This includes a woman named Patricia, a nine-year-old boy named Hedwig, and a Beast that supposedly possesses supernatural powers. The film is a remarkable acting showcase for McAvoy, who easily could have come off as too over-the-top in this role. Yet, he finds the perfect balance with each of these personalities and is consistently menacing.
Aside from Anthony Perkins in “Psycho,” McAvoy also earns comparison to John Goodman’s character in “10 Cloverfield Lane.” Like Goodman, McAvoy delivers a portrayal that’s truly worthy of serious award recognition. Of course the Academy will probably never go for a performance like this. We additionally get strong work from Taylor-Joy, who broke out into stardom last year in “The Witch.” Taylor-Joy plays her part with just the right amount of strength and restraint, as if she’s Alice trying to survive an even more twisted version of Wonderland. Betty Buckley also deserves a shout out for her work as Kevin’s psychologist, who’ s starting to suspect her patient might be going off the deep end.
All the while, Shyamalan supplies thrills, chills, and even an applaud-worthy twist, which I won’t spoil here. With that said, “Split” isn’t perfect. It’s about twenty minutes too long and occasionally some of Shyamalan’s more annoying tendencies surface. The dialog can get pretentious at times and there are a couple deaths that come off as a little too silly. Every time the film begins to drag, however, Shyamalan hooks us right back in. It’s often believed that all artists go through peaks and valleys. In Shyamalan’s case, he’s experienced the highest of highest and the lowest of lows. For now, he’s at a solid middle ground that’ll do just fine.
Will Affleck's career live another night? **1/2
Although Ben is back on top of the world right now, "Live by Night" is something of a step backwards for the A-lister.
Don't think it, don't say it, and don't see it *1/2
Well it’s January, which means we’re bound to get at least one lackluster horror flick that wasn’t good enough for an October release. And wouldn’t you know it, "The Bye Bye Man" perfectly fits the bill.
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Welcome to the 20th century ****
Mike Mills’ "20th Century Women" couldn’t have come out at a better time. This film is a celebration of females everywhere, demonstrating that a woman can do virtually anything that a man can do. At the same time, it’s also full of warmth, humor, and beautiful performances.
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Lion 3: Straight to Video ****1/2
“Lion” is kind of like “Slumdog Millionaire” meets “Finding Dory.” That might sound an odd combination, but it’s the perfect way to describe Garth Davis’ powerful movie. With such a rich, remarkable story, “Lion” has the essence of a modern fable or an animated feature. You could especially see a director like Don Bluth tackling this material, although the human characters would probably be substituted with mice, dinosaurs, or well… lions. Believe it or not, this film is based on a non-fiction novel from Saroo Brierley. Of course even if “Lion” were a pure work of fantasy, it would still be a gripping, moving, and inspiring experience about never giving up.
This fantastic tale begins with young Sunny Pawar as Saroo, a five-year-old Indian boy who gets separated from his older brother at a train station. Falling asleep on a train, he wakes up in another country miles away from his family. Saroo attempts to navigate his way back home, but isn’t entirely sure where he’s from. After a series of misadventures, Saroo is eventually taken in by an adoption agency. He finds a loving home with two Australian parents, played by Nicole Kidman and David Wenham in wonderful supporting performances. He also gets an adopted brother (Divian Ladwa), who goes on to become black sheep of the family.
Another twenty-five years down the line, Saroo is an educated college student with a caring girlfriend (Rooney Mara). He additionally maintains a meaningful relationship with his adopted parents, always acting as their rock. Although everything seems to be working out for Saroo, part of him feels empty inside nonetheless. He becomes determined to find his birth parents in hopes of getting closure. Even with Google Earth at his disposal, however, the chances of a reunion appear slim.
Dev Patel continues to mature nicely as an actor, taking on the role of adult Saroo. He molds him into a likable, charming young man with great sorrow underneath the surface. As Saroo searches for his roots, he begins to dig himself into a pit of disappear. As all hope dwindles away, he begins to alienate his loved ones. Even when Saroo is at his worst, though, the audience identifies with his pain every step of the way. Kidman is particularly strong as Saroo’s adopted mother, who unconditionally loves her children and wants nothing more than to see them happy. Without an ounce of jealousy or cynicism, she completely supports Saroo’s endeavor to find his long-lost family.
This is a key example of why “Lion” is so uplifting. It’s a sincere film that doesn’t try to shove inspiration down your throat like “Collateral Beauty.” While there are certainly romanticized moments, the film truly earns those scenes through fleshed out writing, effective imagery, and characters that overflow with humanity. Director Garth Davis has primarily work in television, notably the “Top of the Lake” miniseries. “Lion” marks his first feature film and it’s a damn impressive directorial debut. He fully delivers in the emotional department with a film that understands the bonds of family. It may be familiar territory, but “Lion” reminds us why the universal theme of family seems to be at the center of every movie.
The movie musical has made a major comeback over the past decade and a half. On the whole, though, every film has either been a Broadway adaptation like “Chicago” or a jukebox musical like “Moulin Rogue.” The only original movie musicals have been animated features, such as “Frozen” and “Moana.” Damien Chazelle’s “La La Land” is a true treasure: a modern movie musical with unique songs, distinctive characters, and an inspired love story. Although the film is set in contemporary Los Angeles, it has the look and feel of a musical from cinema’s Golden Age. What we’re left with is a miraculous film that has one foot in the past and one foot in the present, finding a pitch perfect balance.
From the opening number, “La La Land” is an enchanting experience that never lets up. As the music builds, a seemingly mundane California freeway is suddenly transformed into a blissful celebration with over 100 dancers. Chazelle’s film is full of scenes like this, draping everyday settings with eye-popping colors and kinetic energy. He gives LA an otherworldly presence, turning the City of Flowers and Sunshine into the City of Dreams. At the heart of this spectacular backdrop are two fools with the audacity to dream big.
Emma Stone deserves to take home this year’s Best Actress Oscar for her stunning performance as Mia. Reminiscent of Stone’s own life story, Mia is an enormously gifted actress who rolled the dice and moved to LA. In a city full of aspiring artists, however, it’s almost impossible to get noticed. She pours her heart and soul into every audition, but the casting directors never give their undivided attention. In addition to being an exquisite singer and dancer, Stone captures all the heartache and struggle of being a performer while also maintaining the passion that drives people to keep going. She most notably nails it in a captivating musical number entitled “Audition (The Fools Who Dream),” which is sure to be a frontrunner for Best Original Song.
Starring opposite Stone is Ryan Gosling as Sebastian. He’s a serious musician who wants nothing more to open his own jazz club. Alas, he finds himself playing Christmas carols for a demanding restaurant owner, played by J. K. Simmons. The jazz pianist eventually sets his pride aside and takes a steady gig with John Legend’s Keith. While the money is good, Seb fears that he’ll never get to play the kind of music he cherishes so much. This begs the age-old question, can an artist be happy with their work and be a success as well?
Stone and Gosling previously appeared side by side in “Crazy, Stupid, Love” and “Gangster Squad.” In “La La Land,” they solidify their place as one of cinema’s greatest onscreen pairings. Every time these two are together, they unleash a wave of chemistry that practically drowns the audience in the sentiment of romance. They share a particularly wonderful dance sequence against the LA night sky, calling Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers to mind. Another number literally defies gravity, elevating our lovers above the stars so they can dance on air.
With flamboyant production design, lively lighting, and an infectious musical score from composer Justin Hurwitz, “La La Land” appropriately feels like a daydream. At the same time, though, it doesn’t shy away from harsh reality. The film acknowledges all the hardships and sacrifices that come with pursuing your dream. Even if your dream does come true, it might not play out exactly how you envisioned. No matter what road you take, however, you’re always going to look back and wonder what might have been.
This leads to the film’s superb finale, which I won’t dare spoil here. Let’s just say it encompasses everything that makes movies magical. Chazelle’s last picture, “Whiplash,” was a remarkable feat, especially for such a young filmmaker. His follow-up outing is somehow even better, standing out as the best film of his career, the best film of the year, and maybe even the best film of the decade.