TV Review: Legion (2017- )

Original Run: February 8th, 2017 – current
Created by: Noah Hawley
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Based on: Legion by Chris Claremont, Bill Sienkiewicz
Music by: Jeff Russo
Cast: Dan Stevens, Rachel Keller, Aubrey Plaza, Bill Irwin, Jeremie Harris, Amber Midthunder, Katie Aselton, Jean Smart, Navid Negahban, Jemaine Clement, Hamish Linklater

26 Keys Productions, The Donners’ Company, Bad Hat Harry Productions, Kinberg Genre, Marvel Television, FX Productions, 20th Television, 19 Episodes (so far), 44-68 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

With two seasons in the bag, that bag is a mixed one.

Legion is a mindfuck of biblical proportions. And while that works for the show, it also works against it.

The problem with Legion is that if you zone out or miss something for five minutes, you’re totally lost and it’s hard to reel yourself back in.

This show has some very strong positives, however. The cast, for the most part, is f’n stellar. Dan Stevens and Aubrey Plaza are exceptionally fantastic in this. But I can’t dismiss the work of Rachel Keller, Jean Smart and the always entertaining Jemaine Clement. All the other players deliver as well.

Legion also has great cinematography, set design and sort of exists in a very vivid world that is one part fantastical and one part realistic. There is a balance in the show in storytelling, style and overall tone between the fantastical and the real. It works quite well, as long as you don’t get lost in the details and the weirdness of what’s unfolding on screen.

But with all those positives, the show is also hard to watch at times. For me, it gets too strange at certain parts and the narrative gets lost in the weirdness, just as the viewer might.

Point being, this can be a very confusing show and sometimes details come so fast that you might not grasp them all. What may look profound on paper, in this case the script, might not translate well to screen. It doesn’t matter that the screen is littered with a visual smorgasbord of incredible and creative images. It almost feels like all that stuff distracts from the most important thing that this show needs: story. And not just story but a coherent story that flows at a proper pace and doesn’t come across as some dreamlike clusterfuck.

I wish that this show would find a way to tighten up it’s superficial bullshit and be a bit more accessible because ultimately, it can continue to be a total mindfuck but it won’t maintain an audience and generate the ratings it would need to continue.

Legion isn’t beyond fixing but after two seasons, I kind of don’t care about it anymore. With season one, I was able to look past the flaws because it was so nice to look at but season two was tough to get through and every time a new episode popped up, it felt like a chore I had to push through.

This should be better and it can be better but it almost feels pretentious in a lot of ways and I hate saying that but it’s definitely putting art over substance and that doesn’t work too well in television, where people have to be enticed to keep coming back.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: Other recent Marvel shows: The GiftedThe Runaways and Cloak & Dagger.

Film Review: Killing Gunther (2017)

Also known as: Why We’re Killing Gunther (working title)
Release Date: September 22nd, 2017 (Internet)
Directed by: Taran Killam
Written by: Taran Killam
Music by: Dino Meneghin
Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Taran Killam, Bobby Moynihan, Hannah Simone, Cobie Smulders

MadRiver Pictures, StarStream Media, Saban Films, 93 Minutes

Review:

“[after Gunther escapes on a chopper] He got to the chopper.” – Blake

This could have been a really awesome action comedy, as the premise was great and it had Schwarzenegger in it. Sadly, it was duller than a half melted plastic knife trying to cut through a Huddle House steak.

The story follows a group of assassins that band together in an effort to kill super assassin Gunther (Schwarzenegger). The group of assassins are all bumbling asshats that continually screw up and it’s supposed to be funny, I guess. It isn’t and none of the jokes are very effective or even that original. The girl assassin is fairly badass but she’s just bogged down by the male idiots around her because in 2018, women are tough heroes and men are morons… yawn.

Anyway, Schwarzenegger is by far, the only good thing about this movie and he’s why I don’t rate this a 4 out of 10. However, he doesn’t even show up until the last fifteen minutes. It’s a lot of fun once he’s there but chances are, most people will fall asleep or give up on this unfunny dud before they even get that deep into the movie.

I will say that the set up of this film was pretty ok. It did a decent job of showcasing the characters and what they’re about. But once you get into the team’s formation, it just drags and drags until you get to see Schwarzenegger at the end.

It also has a lot of technical issues.

Mainly, the special effects are worse than something my adolescent niece can do with Adobe After Effects. The CGI blood splatter is laughably bad, as are a lot of the explosions and gun fire. What is really hilarious, is how these people run around pretending to shoot guns, as the gun fire effect is added in post-production, but they don’t even act out the fact that firearms have actual recoil. I’ve seen more realistic firefights in a PlayStation 2 game. We’re up to PlayStation 4, for those of you who aren’t video game savvy.

Unless you are a serious, hardcore fan of Arnie, this is a total waste of time. Or just fast-forward to the point where they raid his home at the end.

Rating: 5/10
Pairs well with: I guess other Schwarzenegger comedies but this won’t be better than or equal to any of them.

TV Review: Runaways (2017- )

Original Run: November 21st, 2017 – current
Created by: John Schwartz, Stephanie Savage
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Based on: Runaways by Brian K. Vaughn, Adrian Alphona
Music by: Siddhartha Khosla
Cast: Rhenzy Feliz, Lyrica Okano, Virginia Gardner, Ariela Barer, Gregg Sulkin, Allegra Acosta, Angel Parker, Ryan Sands, Annie Wersching, Kip Pardue, Ever Carradine, James Marsters, Brigid Brannagh, Kevin Weisman, Brittany Ishibashi, James Yaegashi, Julian McMahon

ABC Signature Studios, Marvel Television, Fake Empire Productions, Hulu, 10 Episodes (so far), 46-53 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

Well, the day has come. I finally found a Marvel television show that doesn’t cut the mustard. In fact, I made it five or six episodes in and I had to walk away. I just couldn’t go on.

The first two episodes were the same story told from different perspectives and both were an absolute fucking bore.

The third episode started to get more interesting but every single character in this show was unlikable. Not only that, no one did anything that seemed to make a lick of fucking sense.

Then Julian McMahon shows up as the villain and he plays his role exactly like he played Doctor Doom in those terrible Fantastic Four movies from the ’00s.

Then this show got preachy, the hipster feminist was annoying as fuck, all the other kids were terrible, the parents were just as terrible and I found myself banging my head against my coffee table.

That’s when I realized that I could just hit “back” on Hulu and exit out of this rabbit hole I was falling down.

The premise of the whole Runaways comic (and TV show) is (and I’m paraphrasing here because I don’t want to look it up again), “Every kid thinks their parents are evil. Well, what if they really were?” Yeah, sorry… I never thought of my parents as “evil”. I’m sure most normal, well adjusted kids also don’t think this. So what kind of sociopath came up with this idea? Most parents aren’t the dad from Varsity Blues. Grow the fuck up.

Anyway, fuck this show. Good job, Hulu.

Rating: 4/10
Pairs well with: Other recent Marvel shows: LegionThe Gifted and Cloak & Dagger.

Film Review: Gemini (2017)

Release Date: March 12th, 2017 (SXSW)
Directed by: Aaron Katz
Written by: Aaron Katz
Music by: Keegan DeWitt
Cast: Lola Kirke, Zoë Kravitz, Greta Lee, Michelle Forbes, Nelson Franklin, Reeve Carney, Jessica Parker Kennedy, James Ransone, Ricki Lake, John Cho

Film Science, Rough House Pictures, Syncopated Films, Pastel Productions, Neon, 92 Minutes

Review:

“You know how you said you don’t feel safe? I feel like that all the time.” – Heather Anderson

Have you ever heard the saying “style over substance”? Well, this is a perfect example of that.

This is a film that looks really damn good with top notch cinematography, a strong understanding of mise-en-scène and stellar lighting. It also has better than decent acting but that’s about it for the positives.

This tries to be a modern film-noir but it fails in most ways. Just jumping right into the deep end of the pool, the ending of this movie is fucking terrible and it makes it so that the film doesn’t really have much of a point or a point within the framework that it seemed to be building. Like a noir, it had a twist. The twist, however, is that this movie was a waste of your time. It exists more as a critique of fame than a solid mystery crime thriller.

Zoë Kravitz’s character is killed in her home with the gun of her personal assistant. The assistant discovers her body, she becomes the prime suspect but like a typical noir, she goes on the run from the law, trying to figure out who murdered her boss. Spoiler alert: her boss is alive and the body belonged to a crazy fan that looked a lot like her.

That being said, the title of the film pretty much gives away the fucking ending! But even then, I figured this mystery out in one regard. I knew that the title would obviously be important. So when you meet the psycho fan and see that she looks an awful lot like the starlet, it was a dead giveaway that she would be the murderer or that she would be tied into the sorry excuse for this film’s twist. And when I saw the dead body, which is just shown from behind while on the floor, I thought it might be the psycho fan. Boy, was I right! But I hoped that this film was smarter than that and I kept watching, waiting for something profound that never came.

When you get to the end, the assistant finds the starlet hiding out in her other house. Then it’s like “Yeah, I’m alive. Sorry you went through all that shit with the cops. Let’s go talk to the press now and clear things up.” And that’s the end. Seriously, that’t the fucking end.

This is a film that was made with a lot of technical prowess but tried so hard to be artsy and a critique on fame that it just looked like every other self-obsessed Hollywood schlock that gets pumped out on a regular basis. I’m just sick of these type of films where Hollywood thinks its the most interesting thing in the world and where famous people are sick of being famous. Hollywood takes itself way too fucking seriously. This movie also took itself way too fucking seriously, which is laughable, considering that it was devoid of soul or real purpose.

Rating: 3.75/10
Pairs well with: Vodka and Valley girl pills.

Documentary Review: Power of Grayskull: The Definitive History of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (2017)

Release Date: September 9th, 2017 (Power-Con premiere)
Directed by: Randall Lobb, Robert McCallum
Written by: Randall Lobb, Robert McCallum
Cast: Dolph Lundgren, Frank Langella, various others

Definitive Films,FauxPop Media,Pyre Productions USA, 95 Minutes

Review:

This documentary recently dropped on Netflix, so being that Masters of the Universe was one of my first loves as a kid, I definitely wanted to check this out.

Power of Grayskull does a nice job of telling the He-Man and Masters of the Universe story from before its conception up to modern times. It even spends a good amount of time on the motion picture, which I still love, even if it took tremendous liberties and wasn’t quite the Masters of the Universe that I knew.

The first part of this is very similar to the Masters of the Universe episode of the Netflix show The Toys That Made Us. It talks about where Mattel was at, going into the early ’80s, and all the events leading up to them needing to develop a solid toy property for young boys.

This gets into more detail than that TV episode though, as this isn’t whittled down to television length. It spends more time discussing the key players involved and the steps taken as the franchise expanded into new toys, a second show called She-Ra: Princess of Power, the 1987 live action movie, what happened when the property started to cool off and how it still finds a way to circle back around and have some success.

The highlight of this whole thing was the portion that was devoted to the live action movie. At least, it’s what I found most interesting. Especially, since Dolph Lundgren and Frank Langella did interviews and both stated their love of working on the motion picture.

If you are a fan of Masters of the Universe, this is a cool documentary to check out. It brought me down memory lane and even reminded me of characters I had forgotten.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: Other documentaries on specific fandoms: Turtle Power, Ghostheads and the Netlfix TV series The Toys That Made Us.

 

Film Review: Revenge (2017)

Also known as: Vendeta (Portugal)
Release Date: September 10th, 2017 (Toronto International Film Festival)
Directed by: Coralie Fargeat
Written by: Coralie Fargeat
Music by: Robin Coudert
Cast: Matilda Lutz, Kevin Janssens, Vincent Colombe, Guillaume Bouchède, Jean-Louis Tribes

MES Productions, Monkey Pack Films, Charades, Nexus Factory, Umedia, Rézo Films, Neon, 108 Minutes

Review:

This is a film that critics loved. The audience score for the film has been much lower, however. But Hollywood insiders like these type of movies and tend to look past whatever issues it might have because the film carries some sort of political or social message that is long overdue. Of course, that just makes them look ignorant, as this is hardly the first film of its kind. It’s just the first that is “artistic” enough and with the right kind of polish for them to want to put their stamp on it. Because they certainly didn’t feel that way about I Spit On Your Grave in 1978. But when you scroll through the top reviewers on Rotten Tomatoes, it’s almost completely made up of white men. White men feeling the guilt of their peers for whatever social justice code they all have to live by for fear of being called a “misogynist” or a “bigot” and being ousted from their insider community.

Anyway, sociopolitical rant aside, looking at this as a body of work it isn’t as great as the professional critics want you to think it is. It’s also not bad and it’s mostly well made.

The story is simple, a mistress and the married guy she’s fucking go to Morocco where he meets up with two of his buddies for their annual hunting trip. The girl turns the sex appeal up really high and gets all the men sexually worked up because it’s three dudes, one sexy girl and a desolate location. So it’s obvious where this is going, right?

Anyway, when her married boyfriend leaves for a few hours, one of his friends rapes her while the other guy seems pretty damn indifferent to it. The married boyfriend gets back, finds out, shit hits the fan, the girl runs away but then the married boyfriend shoves her off of a cliff where she is impaled by a tree, dozens of feet below.

Somehow she survives though, with a branch stuck through her. She then painfully traverses the desert picking off the three men with no sort of real survival skills in her repertoire.

This type of film has existed for a very long time and there are dozens of movies like this. Hell, look at Kill Bill. There wasn’t a rape in that one but she was murdered by her lover and friends and had her baby stolen from her. Kill Bill, Vol. 1 and 2 are much better movies than this. But those didn’t come out at the height of all the #MeToo stuff. That’s why this film has gotten the admiration it’s received. It’s all timing and politics.

Now the film is well acted, the cinematography is pretty great and this does an incredible job of building tension. However, it also overdoes it with the tension by the time you get to the end. The final scene where the girl and the last guy are running around in circles was so drawn out that I wanted to hit fast-forward. This turned from a suspense revenge thriller to a Looney Tunes cartoon in the last five minutes.

A lot of the critics also talked about how gory this was. It isn’t gory in the way that gore films are gory. There is a lot of blood and a few cringe-worthy scenes like one guy pulling glass out of his foot but if you’ve gotten through Blood Feast or something like Hostel, then you’ll be fine. I’ve seen more blood in an episode of True Blood, honestly.

Anyway, I only have two actual complaints.

One, the editing was strange in some sequences. When the girl is sexy dancing and grinding on her future rapist, they keep cutting to a professional wrestling match on the television. I don’t know, is this some artistic way of implying “toxic masculinity” or something? When a girl grinds on a dude’s dick, he suddenly wants to slap her into a figure four leglock?

Two, the film could have been more effective at 80 minutes instead of 108. Big portions of this film are too stretched out. There were chunks of the movie where I was bored. It generally did a good job building tension but it felt as if it was trying too hard to do that and it brought that build to a screeching halt too many times. The sequence of the girl writhing in a cave should have been trimmed down.

Realistically, this has the same problem that a lot of modern movies do. Everyone in it is a shitty person. It’s hard for me to care about a character when there isn’t something pure in their spirit. I wanted the victim to get her revenge but when she’s just some mistress that only cares about going to Hollywood to be a star, I’ve already started the film not liking her. Obviously rape is fucking terrible and that guy should have his dick cut off but it’s hard to get invested in an unlikable, one-dimensional character no matter where the story takes her. She really had no story and just represented an archetype. An archetype that most people look down their nose at.

Revenge is a film that had a lot working for it but it doesn’t deliver in the ways that it should have. It’s not all that original and it doesn’t live up to some of the films with a similar theme and plot. However, it’s still nice to look at and it shows promise for the director, as this was her first feature film. Had the pacing been fine tuned more, this could’ve been much better.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: What it borrows heavily from, the original I Spit On Your Grave and its remake, as well as Thoroughbreds, Unsane and Under the Skin.

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.