Archive for the 'Reviews' Category

Jul 15 2014

Yeah, True Detective is a Masterpiece

Published by under Reviews,Television

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Yes, I’m late to the party. I don’t have cable, okay? I’ve spent the last several months dodging spoilers, which is like the exact opposite of an easy task. Worth it in the end, though. A few weeks ago, my hard work paid off and I started digging into one of the most talked-about television shows of recent years. My verdict? Holy moly, what a freakin’ show. Like, we’re talking “instant classic” material.

So imagine my disappointment when I started digging through backlogs of what people were writing a few months ago and discovered way too much off-topic debate over stuff that the show really just isn’t about. Complaints of a disappointing finale, of unresolved mystery, of lame character turns.

Well, better late than never. Let’s dive into spoiler-infested waters and suss out what it was that launched True Detective high into the ranks of my favorite shows of all time.

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Jul 10 2014

Knights of Sidonia is Another Win for Netflix

Published by under Reviews,Television

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Netflix original programming is quickly becoming a premiere go-to source for quality television. HBO may have a hefty head start as the reigning champion, but it may not be very long before the diversity of programming the DVD rental/streaming service starts to eclipse even their titanic credentials.

In a couple years, we’ve already received the charged political drama of House of Cards, the irresistible Orange is the New Black, the horror-themed Hemlock Grove, the return of fan-favorite comedy Arrested Development and Star Wars: The Clone Wars, and a lot more including an ambitious upcoming collaboration with Marvel Comics to bring several of their characters to the small screen.

Surely this bounty of awesome entertainment is missing something, though. Perhaps high-concept science fiction or (dare I suggest) anime? Don’t worry, friends. Netflix has geeks covered on both counts. Knights of Sidonia became available for our viewing pleasure last weekend as their latest serving of original programming and it did not disappoint.

Science fiction means a lot of things to a lot of people. To some, anything that takes place in space or has aliens or robots in it is sci-fi. To some, the genre is defined by high-concept social commentary, and to others it’s all about the science and future possibilities of technological advances. My favorites are the ones that can combine all of these different aspects into a single cohesive story with great characters and amazing visuals.  This is one of those.

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Jun 26 2014

Netflix It: Madoka Magica

Published by under Reviews,Television

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Every so often you get a story that not only transcends beyond the limitations of its chosen genre, but deconstructs it; devastating the tropes that define it in a way that resounds indefinitely. Watchmen did it for superhero comics, Scream did it to a lesser extent for slasher films (before becoming a joke itself with unnecessary sequels), Neon Genesis Evangelion did it for mecha, the Grand Theft Auto series routinely does it for third-person shooter video games, and for magical girl anime there’s Puella Magi Madoka Magica.

Part of what made this show so brilliant was the way it was presented and marketed in a way to catch the audience completely off-guard. For those not into anime, let me explain. Magical girls are invariably upbeat, saccharine girl-power heroines with powers fueled by love and kittens who spread joy to the world by beating cartoonish baddies with extra-sparkly magical powers while navigating the social perils of high school like supercharged Hannah Montanas. Surely you’ve at least heard of Sailor Moon. So when you go for a magical girl anime, you aren’t expecting something that’s going to challenge you intellectually. You’re looking for something like this: Continue Reading »

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Jun 24 2014

Unreal Television Review: Sherlock Season Three

Published by under Reviews,Television

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It’s quite the mystery how I ever got into Sherlock.

When I first heard about the series I was immediately turned off. I sighed and couldn’t believe that even the BBC, a network known for its uniqueness and quality would stoop to the rehash retread trend that every other entertainment avenue seemed to be following. Sherlock Holmes? Again? Would I be watching? Elementary, Watson, freaking of course not.

But one lonely Netflix night nothing sounded good and disposable mystery was a meal I wouldn’t mind consuming. And now here I am, Sherlock megafan, still refusing to throw out a ratty old coat of mine because it kind of looks like Benny’s—er, Mr. Cumberbatch’s. Moffat and Co. found a way to reinvent the wheel, adapting century-old stories into sleek, chic, modern television masterpieces.

A show with better replay value than most modern video games, I devoured the first two seasons of Sherlock many times over, picking up something new every time. I couldn’t wait for the promised third season, and when that glorious day came and PBS posted “The Empty Hearse” I couldn’t believe it when the video was loading on my computer. Continue Reading »

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Jun 17 2014

How To Train Your Dragon 2: A Surprising, Messy Disappointment

Published by under Movies,Reviews

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Not that this is what makes me special, but I was a big fan of the first How to Train Your Dragon movie. Personally, I’d put it neck-and-neck with Shrek in the limited lineup of great Dreamworks movies. It even stands tall amongst the larger competition — at one point you might have caught me making semi-outrageous claims like “This should have beaten out Toy Story 3 for the Best Animated Oscar.”

Given all that, hopefully I don’t have to prove that was rooting for How to Train Your Dragon 2 to be good. It started out strong, with some great flying footage and a promising sense of newness, but then the seams started to show. As we rolled through the first act, it seemed to be having a hard time getting off the ground. Still there were several places places where I thought, “Oh, okay, now it’s gonna start going somewhere.”

Then, at a certain point, I realized that I was just kinda wrong about that.

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7 responses so far


Jun 16 2014

Game of Thrones Season Finale Review: “The Children”

Published by under Reviews,Television

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At last, Game of Thrones closed out what is perhaps George RR Martin’s best book, A Storm of Swords in fitting fashion. It gave us the Red Wedding, The Viper vs. The Mountain, and now all the crazy events of this finale (with the show adding in one or two of its own).

Nearly every character was paid a visit in the ~65ish minute finale, where HBO finally let them go over time considering they didn’t have Veep or Silicon Valley attached to the tail end. We left Westeros in a dramatically different state than when we found it, and it’s clear everything will be heavily changed going forward.

We got the cap on the Night’s Watch battle that we probably should have seen last week, if we’d had more time. Jon goes to negotiate/try to assassinate Mance Rayder (really great to see him back on the show), but is interrupted by the thundering host of Stannis, riding in to save the day which would have totally been a wicked cool surprise had the goddamn “previously on” scenes not directly spelled it out for everyone ahead of time. Now the question becomes what Stannis will do with the Wall once he has it. If he’s truly after the Iron Throne, it’s probably not the best idea to waste men fighting Wildlings, giants and White Walkers, though Melisandre will probably convince him otherwise as it’s the Lord of Light’s mission to thaw the tundra, or something like that. I’m kind of sad that nearly all of Jon’s Night’s Watch friends are dead, which didn’t happen in the books, but I suppose Stannis, Davos and the Red Woman will keep him busy next season.

Speaking of show changes, we got an absolutely awesome Brienne/Hound fight that never happened in the books. Rather, the Hound just succumbs to his bite wound and is too sick to continue, so Arya leaves him. This was way better set up, not just because of the swordfight (which was brutal and fantastic), but how the Hound transforms in his final moment, essentially begging for death. I’m not sure if Arya spares him as a mercy, or a punishment. It’s hard to imagine given his current health status he survives, but this is Game of Thrones, and unless you see someone’s head on a pike, they may yet live to fight another day. The episode concludes with Arya calling in her iron coin favor to hitch a ride to Braavos, where hopefully she’ll become even better at killing people who deserve it.

Dany has one more throne scene that obviously requires five minutes of Missandi saying all her titles, but she discovers not only that some of her freed slaves want to be un-freed, but that her biggest dragon is starting to snack on local children. As punishment, she chains up the other two smaller dragons because she can’t find and/or control Drogon, though he’s the only one that’s causing mayhem. It’s like punishing your two younger kids because their older brother misbehaved; they’re probably going to resent you for it. Still, I grow a bit tired of Khaleesi the queen who is in way over her head, especially now that Jorah Mormont is gone. And, where is he, anyway?

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Things got a little weird where Bran finally reached the giant Weirwood tree, only throw the show into full-on fantasy mode with warrior skeletons and fireball throwing mage children. That was a whole lot of crazy magic and insanity for a show that’s usually light on its fantasy aspects, and it almost felt a little awkward given how grounded in reality the show usually is (outside of exceptions like dragons, smoke assassins, etc). Now Bran has met an ancient being in a tree and the mythical Children of the Forest, and will enter some sort of super-warg training, I imagine. Oh, also Jojen died, which is sad, but on a show that kills people off all the time, I suppose it’s not a bad way to go to get stabbed by a magic skeleton. Can’t really do anything about that.

Obviously the biggest event of the night was near the end, with Jamie freeing Tyrion the way many predicted, because brotherly love trumps sisterly love (in some ways, at least). But rather than Tyrion leaving straight away, he climbs the Tower of the Hand to find Shae serving as Tywin’s new whore (whoops, probably shouldn’t say that word). What follows are two harrowing scenes where Tyrion strangle Shae, and then puts two crossbow bolts into Tywin as he sits on the crapper (insert joke about Lannister’s shitting gold). Tywin tries to convince Tyrion his execution was all a ruse, but Tyrion knows better, and the bolts start flying as soon as Tywin says the “w-word” too many times for his liking. You’ll recall the sad, sad story of how Tyrion lost his virginity two seasons ago, which explains why it’s a bit of a sore spot for him. Now he’s on one of Varys’ ships to…somewhere. It’s great that he’s alive and George RR Martin didn’t end up executing his most beloved character of all (which very well could have happened, knowing him), but I will miss him interacting with his batshit family all the same.

What did you think of the finale? Was Shae/Tywin’s death everything you hoped it could be and more?

Book Stuff (spoilers ahead, tag comments as such)

- I will miss The Hound, even its implied (very subtly) in the books that he lives. Regardless, he won’t have a major role again, at least not for a long while, if ever.

- It really was a great way to intersect plotlines by inventing that Brienne/Hound encounter. That was handled much better than the books, as was Arya’s departure. Well done, showrunners. Once again your edits improve on the source material.

- We didn’t see Sansa or Littlefinger today, and probably for good reason. They’re practically at the end of their book plotline already, so I’m really wondering how that will be handled next season. The same goes for Bran, as if I recall, he’s in that tree cave for a long damn time. And Brienne only has one interesting thing left to do, which to meet a certain someone…

- No Stoneheart?!? I was waiting for that to be the final scene before the credits, considering it’s the BEST FREAKING CLIFFHANGER/MINDF*** OF THE ENTIRE SERIES. I guess they want to have one hell of a season five premiere, maybe? Still, that seems like a pretty big missed opportunity.

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- Let’s just kill Jojen then, I guess. I forgot he’s supposed to still be alive in the books. Is that the first time the show has killed someone outright before the books?

- Tyrion’s murder of Shae and Tywin was handled perfectly, and pretty much identical to the books, but what was different was that he and Jaime didn’t have a falling out beforehand. In Storm of Swords, an angry Tyrion actually tells Jaime he did murder Joffrey, which seems like a pretty significant thing to leave out. That said, I actually hated that he did that in the books, and this version went down better in my eyes.

- I guess this means that Coldhands is officially not showing up in the show, as if there was ever a perfect time to introduce him late, it would have been during the skeleton battle. This strikes me as exceedingly weird given what a big mystery that character is in the books, and how Bran’s plotline is boring enough where it certainly doesn’t need what little interesting aspects it has stripped out of it.

- So, will we see the Iron Islands/Dorne plotlines next year? I have to imagine we will, given the fact that the show needs all the material it can get to stall for time in order for Martin to get The Winds of Winter out. And I can’t imagine the show will do anything crazy like split the next two seasons up by character, which is what the books do. Now things get really interesting when it comes to the eternal show/book divide, as one has almost caught the other.

 

6 responses so far


Jun 09 2014

Game of Thrones Review: “The Watchers on the Wall”

Published by under Reviews,Television

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For anyone who has been following Game of Thrones since the beginning, it’s obvious that last night’s episode was meant to be a sequel of sorts of season two’s famous “Blackwater,” the massive battle at King’s Landing where the Lannisters held off the invasion of Stannis Baratheon, mostly due to Tyrion’s genius.

That was one of the series’ best episodes, but I can’t say the same for “The Watchers on the Wall,” despite all the similarities. In fact, I think it could be argued it was one of the lesser episodes of the season.

Yes, it’s extremely impressive that Game of Thrones can manufacture these LOTR-style sieges on a TV budget (granted, a big TV budget), but Game of Thrones is at its best when interesting things are happening to its characters, not necessarily when there’s simply loads of action going on. Though the episode was well directed, it felt rather empty compared to what the show usually contains. Continue Reading »

5 responses so far


Jun 04 2014

Six Lessons the 2014 Robocop Should Have Learned from the Original

Published by under Editorials,Movies,Reviews

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The 2014 Robocop remake sucked. Wow, I bet you didn’t see that one coming!

Picking on a corporate-driven remake is like picking on the kid in school with chronic gas; they can’t help it if they stink.

When a studio attaches a director to a project they don’t care about, it always spells bad news. Worse, the studio will constantly meddle to squeeze as much cash out of the branding as possible. Like it or not, the world must come to grips with an endless stream of exploitative remakes confusingly branded with the exact same title as their predecessor.

Even so, what irritates me about Robocop 2014 is that MGM stood to learn a lot from their source material. I’m not saying that they should have copied the first film outright, but because they failed so abysmally at understanding why the 1987 Paul Verhoeven Robocop worked in the first place, maybe they shouldn’t have bothered.

Here’s a couple of things the studio and director should have picked up on before cobbling together their bland, desperate, and unnecessary cash grab… Continue Reading »

3 responses so far


Jun 02 2014

Game of Thrones Review: “The Mountain and the Viper”

Published by under Reviews,Television

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It almost felt like a PPV match, tuning in to Game of Thrones this weekend. Yes, there was other stuff going on, but it was all leading up to the grand title fight of the evening. The prize? More valuable than money. The life or death of the most beloved character on TV, Tyrion Lannister.

The Red Viper of Dorne has proven himself a pro in the bedroom all throughout this season, but has yet to actually fight anyone other than a pair of seated Lannister lackeys. The Mountain has been butchering his way through the show for almost four years now (with three different actors playing him). Who will prevail? Continue Reading »

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May 27 2014

Hannibal Season Finale Review: “Mizumono”

Published by under Reviews,Television

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Hannibal’s theme this week was forgiveness, which I can only assume is a pre-emptive strike from Bryan Fuller against fans who will have trouble ever trusting this guy with their hearts again. Good grief; that was a hell of a way to close out the season.

As Bella and Hannibal discuss in one of the early conversations in “Mizumono,” endings grant meaning to all that came before them.* On that note, thank heaven this show got renewed. Can you imagine if that was the last we saw of this universe? Since the show gladly DID get renewed, however, we can comfortably talk about how massive it season finale wound up being.

Which, was pretty effing massive. Obviously, we finally return to the kitchen brawl that kicked us off thirteen weeks ago, but there’s so much other stuff going on in this episode it isn’t even funny. It’s really, really NOT funny, come to think of it. Hannibal’s iconic slow-burn style pays off as “Mizumono” comes out so hot it practically burns the show to the ground.

“Here’s to the truth… and all its consequences.”

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May 22 2014

Why Big Man Japan is the Ultimate Kaiju Film

Published by under Editorials,Movies,Reviews

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While Pacific Rim failed to make much of a splash last summer, Godzilla has been stomping its box office competition this weekend. Proving that kaiju still have a place on the silver screen, the film’s smart marketing campaign successfully avoided being lumped in with its nauseating cousin, the 1998 Roland Emmerich version.

Renewed interest in kaiju, coupled with Godzilla‘s extremely lucrative opening weekend means we’re probably going to see a lot more monsters stomping cities in the near future. Michael Bay has evidently preemptively cashed in, and many more studios are guaranteed to follow suit.

This buzz seems like the perfect time to stick up for what is easily my favorite kaiju movie of all time, Big Man Japan. The film is an interesting look from the inside-out about what it means to fight giant monsters as a career choice. Written, directed, and starring Japanese filmmaker Hitoshi Matsumoto, the movie explores the nitty-gritty of giant monster fighting, such as how a giant puts on his fabulous and enormous purple underpants. Continue Reading »

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