Thumbs Up!

March 2020

Siskel & Ebert. Leonard Maltin. Gene Shalit. Ryan Mackett: TBay Movie Guy?

With the rise of fan-driven sites like Rotten Tomatoes and Reddit, traditional movie reviews are often thought of as critical essays that crown cinematic works of art or condescend to pop culture movie trends. But a local man is changing that opinion with his fresh and unpatronizing take on film.

“I grew up reading “professional” movie reviews in the local paper,” says artist Ryan Mackett, aka the TBay Movie Guy. “After reading pretentious, patronizing and condescending reviews from famous film critics, I decided to try and approach it from the angle of simply trying to determine if something is worth someone’s time to go and see.”

Mackett is something of a Renaissance man, who combines his love of art and writing with a passion for science and nature. This well-rounded aspect of his personality is reflected in his reviews, which, unlike the modern trend to cynicism and criticism, are very balanced, with pros, cons and a fresh, open-minded approach to the value of entertainment.

“I try to be as fair and balanced as possible when I review a film,” says Mackett. “I have no interest in “trashing” a movie unless it is actually worthy of being trashed. There are so many talented people that work on a film that, as an artist myself, I always find ways to look at what works and what doesn’t.

I also think it is extremely important to recognize that not all movies can be compared to one another. I don’t review a movie like Transformers the same way I would review The Godfather. It’s extremely important to recognize when a movie has been made to exist solely as entertainment, versus movies that are trying to be art. My favourite movies tend to combine a balance of artistic merit and entertainment value.”

That’s a timely perspective in light of Martin Scorsese’s ‘Marvel movies are not cinema’ debate.

“I try and show people that it is perfectly possible to recognize something as a valid work of art without actually liking it; conversely, there is nothing wrong with enjoying something trashy and flashy. People need to stop and think about their opinions before saying things like “This sucks!” or “That’s stupid!” People should also open themselves up to as many different moviegoing experiences as possible. If you are someone who refuses to watch comic book movies, you’re missing out on some fun movies! The same way someone who only watches tentpole blockbusters is missing out on some incredible films.”

Perhaps, this is the thing that appeals to me most about TBay Movie Guy’s reviews. Like most of us, Mackett grew up watching movies as a kid, but got interested in writing reviews when he was a fine arts major in university.

“My original career goal out of high school was to become a movie director,” he says. “I wanted to make movies like Tim Burton and James Cameron, both of whom have fine arts backgrounds, so
I went to art school. Part of my training included how to write about art, critical analysis, etc., so when I look at film as another art form, writing about movies came naturally. I would post my write-ups on Facebook and my cousin encouraged me to try and write for the newspaper. I sent in samples of my work to The Chronicle Journal and one day back in 2010 they asked me to write a review for them. I’ve been doing it ever since!”

I asked Mackett about how being relatively isolated in Thunder Bay affects what movies we are exposed to, and therefore, how that shapes or influences our views on entertainment.

“Being based out of Thunder Bay severely limits our access to a lot of the smaller, art house films that see wide release in larger cities,” he says. “Thankfully North of Superior Film Association (NOSFA) and their North West Film Fest typically bring a lot of those films to the theatre here. More rural and remote areas may be even more limited with what films can be consumed; libraries and streaming services like Netflix are vital in bringing smaller movies (and movies in general) to our northern communities.”

Naturally, I asked Mackett what his favourite movie was. “Saving Private Ryan,” he says enthusiastically. “Steven Spielberg is my filmmaking idol and to me, that film ticks every single box for what I personally believe makes a great film. A movie that absolutely blew me away was Blade Runner 2049. I can’t believe that film didn’t do too well at the box office.”

And conversely, which film he hated! “This is a tough question. I’ve had to review some awful films. Off the top of my head, one of the entries in the Saw franchise comes to mind, as well as one of the Twilight movies.

I also really, really did not like mother! (lowercase “m” and exclamation point intentional) which may be a bit of a controversial opinion to some people.”

Next time you’re debating on whether or not a film will be worth your time and money, take a quick look for Mackett’s take in the Chronicle Journal, or on Facebook at tbaymovieguy. See you at the movies, Thunder Bay!

Heather L. Dickson is a photoshop guru, zoologist and author of 6 novels.

Visit her website at

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