Archive for the 'Reviews' Category

Oct 28 2014

Why the Star Wars Rebels Pilot is Basically a Swedish Fan Massage

Published by under Reviews,Television

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Rightly or wrongly, I sorta feel a responsibility to weigh in on significant pieces of Star Wars news. Probably because my taste in those movies is all wrong but so, so right. Star Wars Rebels is kind of the big story happening between whatever crazy scoops people have landed on Episode VII. The story takes place between the Prequel and Original trilogies, following a group of characters on the fringes of the infant Galactic Empire. Superficially, its semi-well put-together, with a brisk approach to action and dialogue weighed down by animation that’s honestly just kinda fug.

But that’s not what bothers me. I can deal with (or at least ignore) mediocre Star Wars television. The real issue I take here is that the Rebels pilot is really just fan service — likable fan service, sure, but fanservice all the same. In fact, by the end of its pilot, REBELS has clearly established itself as the most fan-wanky piece of Star Wars cinematic history to date.

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3 responses so far


Oct 24 2014

There’s a Creepy Doll that Always Follows You…

Published by under Movies,Reviews

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I still can’t believe it.  They did it; they actually pulled it off.  Against all odds, Blumhouse Productions actually managed to turn Annabelle into a legitimately good movie.  The film had everything going against it – a historically terrible director, a largely untested screenwriter, a cast consisting completely of unknowns and non-entities and a subject that could most readily be described as a more confusing version of Chucky – and yet that somehow proved to be more than enough to churn out a surprisingly high-quality horror film.

When John Form buys a rare, vintage doll for his pregnant wife Mia, it’s supposed to be a celebration of their new life together.  But when Annabelle Wallis, their neighbor’s estranged daughter, murders her parents in the middle of the night as part of a satanic ritual, everything changes for them.  Before the police can stop her, Annabelle attacks the Forms, slits her own throat, paints a satanic symbol into their nursery wall with her own blood and dies cradling the cherubic doll.

But that is only the beginning of the Forms’ troubles.  Annabelle’s ritual bound a demon to Mia’s doll, and it will not abate until it collects its due: a human soul.  The dark presence within the doll relentlessly stalks the Forms, and especially Mia: burning down their house, chasing Mia through her new apartment complex and abducting the Forms’ newborn child.  Not even the Catholic Church proves capable of saving the new family from their demonic tormentor.  Their only potential salvation lies within Evelyn – a kindly bookstore owner who believes that she was saved by God for a higher purpose. Continue Reading »

2 responses so far


Oct 17 2014

Days of Future Awesome

Published by under Movies,Reviews

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There are some things that you just can’t help but give second chances to.  Despite the innumerable ways that they have disappointed you in the past, you know that somehow, if given enough time, they will prove that you were right to trust them all along.  This is how I have felt about the X-Men films since X2.  Despite a strong start to the series, it quickly spiraled into a miasma of false starts, tangled continuity and disappointing Wolverine spin-offs.  And just when First Class offered a fresh new start to a stagnant series, Days of Future Past loomed ominously in the distance – an impossibly complicated film that would attempt to merge the franchise’s parallel timelines into a streamlined retcon.  I had never been so worried about the direction of the franchise, nor have I ever been so pleased to give a struggling series a second chance.

The future is a bleak and desolate wasteland.  In their blind desperation to secure their survival as a species, mankind developed Sentinels – robotic drones that can adaptively incorporate the powers of any mutant that they come into contact with.  Not only have they brought mutants to near extinction, but have even succeeded at eradicating humans whose genetics would eventually produce mutant descendants.  Faced with the inevitability of their own destruction, Charles Xavier and Erik Lehnsherr have made common cause against a titanic mutual enemy.

Even at the brink of extinction, however, there is still hope.  Kitty Pryde’s ability to phase through solid matter has developed to the point where she can phase a person’s consciousness into their younger body: allowing them to travel backwards through time and change the course of future events.  She succeeds at sending Wolverine back to 1973, where he must unite a misanthropic Xavier and an incarcerated Magneto, at a time when the two men couldn’t be further apart, in order to prevent Mystique from assassinating Sentinel inventor Bolivar Trask and setting into motion the events that would convince humanity of the need for Trask’s weapons. Continue Reading »

2 responses so far


Oct 10 2014

Flash! Aaa-ahhh!

Published by under Reviews,Television

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Since 2012, Arrow has remained the gold-standard in live-action superhero television.  Between its dynamic cast of characters, Shakespearian narrative and gripping action, there’s no real question as to why that is.  In light of that series’ success and in conjunction with DC’s other small screen debuts, the CW launched its long anticipated Flash spin-off series on Tuesday night.  The only real question going into its first episode was whether or not Barry Allen, the fastest man alive, could hold pace with Arrow‘s high quality output.

As a child, Barry Allen watched his mother’s mysterious murder before his very eyes: a crime that his father was wrongly convicted of.  As an adult, he channeled his need for answers into a career as a forensic scientist for the Central City Police Department.  But after a particle accelerator at S.T.A.R. Labs explodes, feeding unknown energies into a thunderstorm, Barry is struck by a bolt of lightning that leaves him in a coma for nine months.  When he awakens, however, he discovers that he can now run at supersonic speeds and heal at an accelerated rate.  With the help of a team of disgraced scientists with everything to prove, he becomes the Flash: a masked vigilante who fights other metahumans that were created by the same storm of cosmic energies that gave him his powers.

At its core, difference between Arrow and the Flash is difference between Batman and Superman.  Arrow is the Dark Knight of television: dark, brooding and intense.  Oliver Queen is an urban commando, stalking white collar criminals who have fundamentally failed the city and pin-cushioning them with arrows.  His actions are fueled by redemption: cleansing himself of the vapid playboy that he used to be through selfless dedication to the common good.  Like Tony Stark, he realizes what his narcissistic inaction has done to both his home and to the people he cares most for, and dedicates himself to reversing the moral entropy that has gripped Starling City. Continue Reading »

2 responses so far


Oct 03 2014

Before Annabelle, There Was The Conjuring

Published by under Movies,Reviews

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Like Marvel Studios, Blumhouse Productions seems almost incapable of making a box office bomb.   Between the Paranormal ActivityInsidious and Purge franchises and stand-alone films like SinisterOculus and The Conjuring, the company has consistently shown why they are the only real name in horror these days.  They’ve even managed to turn Annabelle – a Chucky rip-off introduced in The Conjuring – into the most anticipated horror movie of the fall.  Even though the trailer looks terrible, the director’s most notable accomplishment was helming the Mortal Kombat sequel and the writer’s nascent career has been devoted to dreck like Blood Monkey, its narrative connection to The Conjuring is at least enough to warrant watching it with an open mind.

Although a bit of a fixer-upper, the Perron family couldn’t be happier with their new country home.  But when a malevolent supernatural entity begins terrorizing them each night, they turn to renowned demonologists Ed and Lorraine Warren.  Now it is up to the Warrens to cleanse the spirits tormenting the Perrons before it claims not just their lives, but their very souls as well.

The reason why The Conjuring is as frightening as it is has nothing to do with its ability to actually scare us.  We don’t love the film because of Bathsheba’s midnight antics nor because of her victims’ phantasmal warnings, but because of the film’s human characters.  Understanding that a greater investment in the Perrons’ lives causes us to assume a greater stake in their ultimate fate, The Conjuring slowly introduce the family through pizza dinners and games of hide-and-clap.  Only after a quarter of the movie is over do the Perrons experience their first definitively supernatural event and only after half of its runtime has elapsed do the Warrens even begin their investigation.  By then, we are not just sympathetic observers to the troubles of strangers, but coconspirators in their survival. Continue Reading »

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Sep 26 2014

The Good, the Bad and the Gotham

Published by under Reviews,Television

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Everyone knows who Batman is.  Everyone knows how he watched his parents gunned down as a child on the streets of Gotham.  Everyone knows how he dedicated his life and fortune to becoming a modern-day cross between Hector and Sherlock Holmes.  Everyone knows how he took his one-man war on crime to the heart of Gotham, taking on the mob and an increasingly psychotic menagerie of super villains.

But this is not his story.  It’s Gotham’s.

When Thomas and Martha Wayne are killed, hot-headed police rookie James Gordan promises their traumatized son that he will find the killer.  But with the police in the mob’s pocket and an organized crime war on the horizon, justice is in short supply in Gotham.  Paired with a corrupt partner and pressured by their superiors to close the case quickly, his investigation leads to an innocent man’s death.  When he starts asking the wrong questions, however, he draws the attention of mob boss Fish Mooney, who refuses to allow one idealistic detective to derail her carefully laid plans.

Gotham understands that the real appeal of the Batman franchise is not its heroes, but its villains.  Bruce Wayne is little more than an Easter egg: a supporting character that only exists to provide context to a cop drama with an especially flamboyant roster of criminals.  Before we ever see the Waynes – who any other Batman series would have paraded out as its first order of business – we see a juvenile Selena Kyle pickpocket her way through a crowded street.  When the Waynes do die, the focus is not on them – not even on their inconsolable son – but on her: the solemn witness to the crime.  Rather than delve into Bruce’s grief, the series rapidly cuts to an investigation that introduces the Penguin, the Riddler, Poison Ivy and quite possibly the Joker in rapid succession.  More time is devoted to even mundane mob bosses like Fish Mooney and Carmine Falcone than in the young Batman-to-be. Continue Reading »

8 responses so far


Sep 23 2014

Mel Gibson’s Apocalypto: A Masterpiece in Need of a Revival

Published by under Movies,Reviews

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I always forget that most people think of Mel Gibson as an actor. Not that I don’t understand why. That’s how we first found him; he’s been in several classics and even more not-classics. I mean… he played Hamlet. He’s an actor.

Still, for me he will always be a director first. Despite only directing four movies as of this writing, his work ranges from iconic to challenging to overrated to underrated.

And the best of them is Apocalypto.

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8 responses so far


Sep 19 2014

Looking Forward with Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Published by under Reviews,Television

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by Brian Hadsell

To hear everybody tell it a year ago, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. was a terrible show.  Clark Gregg – a balding, middle-aged bit-player from Marvel’s Phase 1 – was too old to headline his own action-packed weekly series.  The premise of following around S.H.I.E.L.D. – a spy organization that did little more than post-credit cameos with Nick Fury – was something that nobody would really care about.  The Marvel Cinematic Universe was built from blockbusters and A-listers, not Tuesday nights and weekly syndication.

I never really understood the reasoning of this argument.  Nobody complained when fifty-two-year-old Bryan Cranston began cooking Meth and single-handedly eliminating the competition in Breaking Bad.  Nobody seems to be complaining now that the Flash is getting his own spinoff from Arrow.  For whatever reason, people simply overlooked that the show easily one of the best things to watch on television.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. begins in the wake of the Battle of New York.  The world has become a far more interesting place than it used to be.  Instead of going to bed thinking that the weirdest thing in the world was a Batman wanna-be in a robotic suit, people know for a fact that their world is populated with gods, monsters and super-powered legends from the past.  Agent Phil Coulson, who survived his supposed death in The Avengers, has assembled a mobile response team to investigate and contain technology that the world simply isn’t ready to deal with yet.  Routine missions and by-the-books protocol are quickly set aside, however, as a mysterious villain known only as The Clairvoyant begins unraveling everything that Coulson has lived – and died – to defend. Continue Reading »

6 responses so far


Sep 18 2014

Batman: Assault on Arkham Reminds Us that Villains Can Be Cooler than Heroes

Published by under Comics,Movies,Reviews

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I’m sure everyone’s aware by now that DC puts out excellent animated straight-to-DVD films on the regular, and I’m assuming you’ve watched every last one. Why wouldn’t you? They’re awesome. Go do that if you haven’t. Wikipedia’s count is twenty one of these gems –twenty five if you count the Batman: The Animated Series features- without a genuine stinker among them. That’s an exceptional accomplishment any way you look at it.

So by now the big question is which one is your favorite? I was noticing a slight downturn in quality in the recent films. Justice League: War kicked off DC’s New 52 in the animated realm and left a bad taste in my mouth with its meatheaded Superman, comedically naïve Wonder Woman, and Michael Bay take on Darkseid. Son of Batman wasn’t really my cup of tea either. Neither film were terrible, but I just am not a fan of those storylines or the way they were handled.

I wasn’t expecting too much from Batman: Assault on Arkham, but any trip to the fictional sanitarium is one worth taking and who doesn’t love the concept of the Suicide Squad? Not only did this film -which takes place in the universe of the beloved Arkham video game series and follows the exploits of a team of villains- kick every kind of ass, but it may actually be my favorite out of all of DC’s current run of animated films. Score one for the bad guys. Continue Reading »

6 responses so far


Sep 12 2014

The Implications of Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Published by under Editorials,Movies,Reviews

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by Brian Hadsell

 

I’ll admit it.  I was completely blindsided by this, too focused on the September 9th release date to see what was really going on with it.  Before I knew what was happening, I had bought it, watched it and reviewed it.  Then came Thursday, and I realized that this was no coincidence.  You don’t release a movie whose hero literally wears the American flag as a uniform this close to September 11th without making a political statement.  But when you stop and think about it – and I mean really think about it – it’s probably not the statement that you’d expect it to be.

Captain Rogers has been busy since the Avengers saved New York from the Chitauri invasion.  He’s been working as a covert S.H.I.E.L.D. operative with Black Widow, leading the agency’s counter-terrorism strike force and making the world a safer place for democracy.  But when Nick Fury stumbles upon a secret that could shake the world to its foundations, he’s assassinated for it.  Now Steve and Natasha are on the run from both S.H.I.E.L.D. and a cybernetic assassin known only as The Winter Soldier as they attempt to solve a mystery that’s sixty-eight years in the making. Continue Reading »

4 responses so far


Sep 11 2014

Berserk: Still the Dark Fantasy Anime of Choice

Published by under Movies,Reviews,Television

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Have the Game of Thrones off-season blues got you down? Do you love your sex, violence, political intrigue, deception, seduction, and tales of comradery, ambition, and brotherhood with horror elements all trussed up in an epic medieval fantasy story about mercenaries making their own destinies in a hostile world where they can’t trust anything but their own blade? If so, consider going Berserk.

This series and I go a long way back. The original anime adaptation of the popular manga aired in 1997 and inevitably found its way to my DVD player. At the time, there was nothing else like it. It was like the fantasy series I always wanted but had never found; something that treated the genre as adult entertainment, taking place in a world that is corrupt at its very core and never shying away from the horrors of violence or the deceitfulness of human nature. Berserk was almost like a more linear and action-oriented anime equivalent of George R.R. Martin’s work years before it ever found its way to television.

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