TV Review: The Gifted (2017- )

Original Run: October 2nd, 2017 – current
Created by: Matt Nix
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Based on: characters by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby
Music by: John Ottman, David Buckley
Cast: Stephen Moyer, Amy Acker, Sean Teale, Natalie Alyn Lind, Percy Hynes White, Coby Bell, Jamie Chung, Blair Redford, Emma Dumont, Skyler Samuels, Grace Byers, Garret Dillahunt

Flying Glass of Milk Productions, The Donners’ Company, Bad Hat Harry Productions, Kinberg Genre, Marvel Television, 20th Century Fox Television, 13 Episodes (so far), 45-47 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

I’m way behind on a lot of shows, especially the superhero stuff but I finally got around to checking out the first season of The Gifted.

This takes place in the X-Men cinematic universe but at the same time it doesn’t. What I mean by that is that this all happens in a different timeline, where the X-Men have essentially vanished and left some young mutants in charge of a group called the Mutant Underground.

The show centers around Stephen Moyer a.k.a. Vampire Bill from True Blood and his family. His two teenage kids are mutants and they are on the run from the Sentinel Services agency and later, Trask Industries.

The only really well known X-Men characters in this are Polaris, Thunderbird and Blink. Other than that, there are some minor comic book characters that show up but the majority of the main cast is comprised of new mutants and thus, this show has more creative freedom.

While this show does do a good job of filling out it’s pocket universe, it doesn’t necessarily feel like the X-Men films that most of us know and love. But it also doesn’t feel like other comic book television shows that are currently on the air. This definitely has a different vibe than the CW DC programs or the Netflix Marvel ones. This is also more family friendly than the harder stuff out there like Gotham.

The first season told a really good story that came to a satisfying conclusion that actually made me want to jump right in to season two, as it leaves off on a bit of a cliffhanger due to the non-heroic actions of one of the main heroes.

This started out a bit shaky for me though. But being that it was only thirteen episodes, I stuck with it and I’m glad I did. It found it’s footing faster than most other comic book TV series and it got really solid over the back half of the season.

I especially loved Garret Dillahunt in this and as his character’s motivations become more clear, the threat gets a lot more serious for the heroes.

All in all, I was pretty happy with season one and gladly anticipate what season two has to offer.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: Other recent Marvel shows: LegionThe Runaways and Cloak & Dagger.

Film Review: Batman Vs. Two-Face (2017)

Also known as: Batman and the Face of Crime (working title)
Release Date: October 8th, 2017 (New York Comic Con)
Directed by: Rick Morales
Written by: Michael Jelenic, James Tucker
Based on: Batman (the ’60s TV show) by William Dozier, Batman by Bob Kane, Bill Finger
Music by: Kristopher Carter, Michael McCuistion, Lolita Ritmanis
Cast: Adam West, Burt Ward, William Shatner, Julie Newmar, Lee Meriwether, Steven Weber, Thomas Lennon, Jeff Bergman, William Salyers, Wally Wingert

Warner Bros. Animation, DC Entertainment, Warner Bros., 72 Minutes

Review:

“I always knew you’d make an asp of yourself, Batboob.” – King Tut

I was really happy with the first film in this duology of animated features that have resurrected the Batman ’66 universe. So when I saw that there was a second film, that it introduced Two-Face and that William Shatner would be providing the voice, I was pretty stoked.

If you are a fan of the first film, Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders, then this one shouldn’t disappoint. Plus, you don’t just get the addition of Two-Face, you also get Bat-villains Harley Quinn and Dr. Hugo Strange.

I love that the voice cast is comprised of the original actors. Sadly, Adam West passed away before this was released and that probably put the kibosh on a third film getting made, but this was a great final outing for him.

They also brought in Lee Meriwether, who was the original film version of Catwoman. She shares a few scenes here with the original TV Catowman, Julie Newmar. While Meriwhether doesn’t play her best known Batman character, there is a nice in-joke in the film where her character gets put into the cat suit and likes it.

One thing that is always fun about these modern versions of the Batman ’66 universe, whether in these films or the comics, is that they are able to dip really deep into the villain well and have a myriad of them in scenes together.

I was really excited to see Bookworm get his own sequence in the film, as he was my favorite villain created just for the classic television show. You also get King Tut, Egghead, the Clock King and a bunch of others.

William Shatner did a fine job as Harvey Dent a.k.a. Two-Face and I liked how they handled the character in this universe and I thought his big evil scheme was pretty good and entertaining, even though it wasn’t something wholly original.

These are just fun movies and much more family friendly than the other animated DC Comics features.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: The film before this one: Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders, as well as the 1960s Batman TV show and movie, the Batman ’66 comic and other DC Comics animated films of the last decade.

Film Review: Justice League Dark (2017)

Release Date: January 24th, 2017
Directed by: Jay Oliva
Written by: Ernie Altbacker
Based on: Justice League Dark by Peter Milligan, Mikel Janin
Music by: Robert J. Kral
Cast: Matt Ryan, Jason O’Mara, Camilla Luddington, Nicholas Turturro, Ray Chase, Jerry O’Connell, Rosario Dawson, Alfred Molina

Warner Bros. Animation, DC Entertainment, 75 Minutes

Review:

“I expect the worst, so I prepare for the worst, and when the worst happens, I’m ready. But my outlook doesn’t alter the reality of the world.”- John Constantine

I started reading the current run on Justice League Dark and I really love it, at least one issue into it. I figured that I’d give this a watch because of how much I was into the comic and because I’ve liked a lot of the modern DC Comics animated features.

This was a pretty cool film.

I loved the tone, I liked the choice of characters for the JLD team and is it possible that someone was cooler than Batman? Why, yes! His name is John Constantine.

It was neat seeing Constantine take center stage, where he outshines Batman and shows how cool of a character he actually is.

It mostly made me upset that the live action Constantine TV show was cancelled after a measly thirteen episodes because it could have kept growing and got as epic and awesome as this animated feature. Hell, had it gone on into multiple seasons, it could have expanded like the other DC Comics TV shows on the CW and Constantine probably would have had a whole squad, thus making that show a live action version of this film sans Batman.

Anyway, this had solid animation, a great voice cast and I liked how the regular Justice League characters were used in this.

This is one of the better DC animated features that I have seen.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: Other recent DC Comics animated features.

Film Review: Call Me by Your Name (2017)

Release Date: January 22nd, 2017 (Sundance)
Directed by: Luca Guadagnino
Written by: James Ivory
Based on: Call Me by Your Name by André Aciman
Music by: various
Cast: Armie Hammer, Timothée Chalamet, Michael Stuhlbarg, Amira Casar, Esther Garrel, Victoire Du Bois

Frenesy Film Company, La Cinéfacture, RT Features, M.Y.R.A. Entertainment, Water’s End Productions, Sony Pictures Classics, Warner Bros., 132 Minutes

Review:

“We rip out so much of ourselves to be cured of things faster than we should that we go bankrupt by the age of thirty and have less to offer each time we start with someone new. But to make yourself feel nothing so as not to feel anything – what a waste!” – Mr. Perlman

I didn’t get to see this in the theater, where I intended to check it out. It wasn’t the highest on my list of “awards worthy” films last year and I had a big list to work through. Plus, I’m not in an area where “awards worthy” films are looked at as all that important. But hey, everyone around here is really excited for that Bumblebee movie.

Anyway, I finally caught this on the Starz app, it’s still there, if you’ve been wanting to see this highly lauded motion picture.

The film is about an American named Oliver (Armie Hammer) that comes to live with an Italian family for the summer. The son, Elio (Timothée Chalamet), quickly develops a crush on Oliver. As the film progresses, Elio’s feelings towards Oliver are found to be mutual and we go along with him on his journey of self-discovery: trying to understand what attracts him, what love is and how to deal with the overwhelming emotions of being a passionate young man.

The film is heartbreaking at its lowest emotional moments and not just for Elio but for a few characters. At the same time, there’s hope and positivity in Elio learning to accept and find comfort in who he is. Luckily for him, he has loving and understanding parents. And while this does end on a sad note, I guess there’s a sequel in the works for some reason, even though it really isn’t necessary and sort of takes the impact away from the ending, knowing that these two characters will meet again.

The framework of an uncertain future is pretty much what makes the final moments work. And yeah, I guess the future is still uncertain but this takes some of the story magic away. Besides, I had incredibly strong feeling for the first few people I had sex with but at 39 years-old, I’ve moved on a half dozen times. That’s what life does, it moves on, you meet new people and what was once intense emotional pain was just something that happened lifetimes ago. Elio should never forget the experience but he also shouldn’t be crippled by it as life moves forward.

I thought that both Armie Hammer and Timothée Chalamet did a fantastic job. However, I thought their physical age differences, at least how they appeared in the film, were pretty drastic. Oliver is supposed to be 24 in the story but Hammer looks over 30. Elio is 17, which is well over the age of consent in Italy, but he looks 15. 7 years isn’t a big deal and Elio being 17 probably only seems weird in the U.S., where some states have the age of consent set at 18 and where the media is pedo crazy and we obsess over sex offenders. But in the film, the age difference looks greater than the original story intends. And I don’t think that their ages are actually mentioned in the film. It’s really not a big deal but Hammer looked much older than just being some college student living abroad for a few months.

The film moves kind of slow but it’s still well put together and it at least looks beautiful. Luca Guadagnino certainly has an eye for style and understands how to make his visuals a true accent to the narrative and the emotion unfolding on screen. While I was vehemently against anyone remaking Suspiria, I’m kind of intrigued by his vision for it after seeing this film and seeing the trailer for that film. I’m hoping that Guadagnino uses the same key crew members for that film, as this picture is so rich, visually.

In the end, I enjoyed this but it isn’t something I think I’d ever watch again. It looks beautiful, it told a good story but I feel it is also overblown due to its subject matter, which is the type of thing Hollywood snobs love because their progressive nature means that they have to push those politics and ideas into the mainstream. Which honestly, distracts from this just being a really good movie and just makes it one of many films that Hollywood has to prop up to prove that they’re not bigots anymore. But a lot of them are pedos and this doesn’t help that image, just sayin’.

Again, this is a good film. Picture of the Year nominee? Not really. But then again, most of the films that get that distinction aren’t worthy. Now if Timothée Chalamet fucked a fish man, this would have won all the big ones. Bestiality trumped gay sex this past year but gay bestiality would’ve broke the Academy.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: In recent years, Moonlight and Lady Bird.

Film Review: Hairat (2017)

Release Date: January 20th, 2017 (Sundance)
Directed by: Jessica Beshir
Music by: Tom Efinger (sound engineer)
Cast: Yussuf Mume Saleh

6 Minutes

Review:

If you love nature, animals and people not giving a crap about how much danger they are in, then this short film might be your cup of joe.

This is simple and really straightforward. The film follows an Ethiopian man named Yussuf who goes out every night to spend time with the wild hyenas near his village. He mostly just feeds them, teases them and tries to smooch them.

If you know anything about hyenas, it’s utter insanity to do this but Yussuf putting himself in mortal danger on a nightly basis is what makes this so interesting. Really, I would like to know more about Yussuf and why he feels compelled to spend time with these animals. I just feel like this sort of trust in dangerous wild animals will always eventually lead to tragedy. Watch the 2005 Werner Herzog documentary Grizzly Man for an example of this.

Regardless, seeing these animals so close is really cool. They are beautiful creatures even if they are savage carnivores always looking for unsuspecting prey.

The camera work and cinematography in this was great. It had a very high chiaroscuro effect to it but it served to highlight just Yussuf and his hyena friends, pushing everything else out of view, except for a few lights in the distance.

This is short, sweet but certainly quite compelling to look at.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: I paired this with a string of shorts from the last 3-4 years. It’s probably best to watch most shorts in a mini marathon or festival style.

Film Review: Call of Cuteness (2017)

Release Date: February 10th, 2017 (Berlin International Film Festival)
Directed by: Brenda Lien
Written by: Brenda Lien
Music by: Oliver Rossol (sound department)

4 Minutes

Review:

This was a quick and bizarre animated short that I watched in a string of other shorts while having a mini festival with some friends that wanted to see how cool my FilmStruck subscription is. I shill for FilmStruck (with the Criterion add-on) hard. Well, I also shill for Noir Alley and TCM pretty hard, so TCM should put me on the payroll, just sayin’. Or at least send me some wines from their wine club.

Anyway, this German animated short had really cool art and a neat vibe to it.

While it’s title suggests that it is going to display cuteness, it has a dark twist to it and adds in some ugly and not too cute things.

I really liked the music and sound, which made the tone of the film more effective.

But really, this is so short that it is hard to really let yourself sink into it.

The gist of the film is about cats and kittens brought to life with a sort of chaotic illustrated style. While a lot of the film is comprised static images, there is always some subtle part within the art that channels the chaos into action.

Ultimately, I like the style and the vibe of this short but there just isn’t enough to really make it stand out as anything other than a cool animation experiment.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: I paired this with a string of shorts from the last 3-4 years. It’s probably best to watch most shorts in a mini marathon or festival style.

TV Review: Californication (2007-2014)

Original Run: August 13th, 2007 – June 29th, 2014
Created by: Tom Kapinos
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Music by: Tree Adams, Tyler Bates
Cast: David Duchovny, Natascha McElhone, Madeleine Martin, Evan Handler, Pamela Adlon, Madeline Zima, Stephen Tobolowsky, Bill Lewis, Judy Greer, Tim Minchin, Mädchen Amick, Ezra Miller, Justine Bateman, Peter Gallagher, Kathleen Turner, James Frain, Carla Gugino, Rob Lowe, Zoë Kravitz, Meagan Good, Rza, Maggie Grace, Michael Imperioli, Heather Graham

Totally Commercial Films, Aggressive Mediocrity, Twilight Time Films, And Then…, Showtime, 84 Episodes, 29 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

I heard a lot of good things while Californication was on the air. I held off on checking it out until it was over, recently binge watching it on Netflix.

The story follows novelist Hank Moody (David Duchovny) as he tries to win back his long time baby mama Karen (Natascha McElhone) and balance a life of sex addiction, drugs, booze and his daughter (Madeleine Martin). Also, early in the series, he gets caught up in having sex with the underage daughter (Madeline Zima) of his baby mama’s new fiance. The show is accented by Hank’s manager and best friend, Charlie (Evan Handler) and his wife, Marcy (Pamela Adlon).

The show starts out really strong and each season is actually pretty good before it runs off the rails in the final season of its seven season run.

Duchovny is lovable as the childish and womanizing novelist but ultimately, he constantly does questionable things and always finds himself in trouble or making situations much worse. Sometimes, it is just the result of unforeseen circumstances but typically it is the result of a myriad of bad or careless decisions.

The constant back and forth between Hank and Karen is enjoyable for the first few seasons but it eventually grows tiresome about midway through the series’ run. Maybe that is because I binge watched it and didn’t see their relationship grow, evolve and fall apart over the course of several years time.

Hank’s daughter started out as a decent enough character but after a season or two, she becomes completely unlikable and doesn’t recognize that her father isn’t really all that bad and that despite his pitfalls has genuinely tried to put her first.

The best overall story during the run of the show was the up and down relationship of secondary characters Charlie and Marcy. They go through more real world problems and drama than Hank and Karen do and in the end, they reconnect and find each other, ending off better than they ever were throughout their tumultuous relationship. And Stu, who becomes Marcy’s husband over a season or two, was hysterical. The love triangle between Charlie, Marcy and Stu was the highlight of this entire show. And honestly, this relationship makes Hank and Karen’s look like bullshit high school level drama.

By the time I got to the end, I really didn’t care about where Hank and Karen ended up because based off of their track record, I knew it had the possibility to go in the opposite direction five minutes after the final credits rolled.

The show was pretty solid for most of its run but the final goodbye was long overdue by the time I got to the end.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: Shameless, Weeds, Entourage and Aquarius.