Documentary Review: So Much Damage: How Image Comics Changed the World (2017)

Original Run: November 20th, 2017
Directed by: Jon Erwin
Written by: Michael Avila
Music by: Paul Terry

Syfy, 5 Episodes, 15 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

This is the second documentary I have seen on Image Comics but this isn’t just a rehash of what was already covered in the slightly superior The Image Revolution.

This one was broken out into five 15 minute web episodes and put out by Syfy, who used to be the much cooler Sci-Fi Channel before they changed their channel’s spelling into something stupid.

Anyway, like The Image Revolution this documentary interviews all the key players and gets their stories. But what I like most about this is how it spends a good deal of time talking more about modern Image Comics and not just the revolution of 1991. As cool as that revolt was, modern Image has grown into something that I don’t feel any of the founding members could have fathomed back then.

It’s always fun to hear these guys talk about themselves, their experiences and the creation of Image, as it was a really exciting thing for me to experience as a fan in 1991. It was and still is the coolest thing that happened in the comic book industry in my lifetime.

So this certainly stirs up nostalgia but that doesn’t mean that this survives on that alone. It’s informative, has a good pace and is well organized and presented.

Younger comic book fans today will probably find some value in this, even though it’s made to attract the older fans who remember all of this like it was yesterday.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: The Image Revolution and Chris Claremont’s X-Men.

 

Film Review: Kaiju Bunraku (2017)

Release Date: March, 2017 (Glasgow Short Film Festival)
Directed by: Lucas Leyva, Jillian Mayer
Written by: Lucas Leyva

Borscht, 13 Minutes

Review:

A short film made in America about two cool things from Japanese culture coming together? Count me in!

This short was a great homage to the art of bunraku, which are Japanese puppets usually used on the stage to act out historical dramas. It’s also a good homage to old school kaiju films, especially those put out by Toho, as this actually features Mothra and includes the sound effects of Godzilla’s iconic roar.

The story is about a husband and wife in the era of feudal Japan. They are trying to reach shelter, as a kaiju attack is happening near their village. The big finale sees the husband come face to face with the larva form of Mothra.

There’s not much else to say about it, as it is really short. I almost would have liked to have seen this concept in a broader sense but it was probably a difficult endeavor in trying to create the 13 minutes that we got here.

I did enjoy it nonetheless. The puppetry was well done, the puppets, especially the Mothra one, were beautiful and the story was interesting.

All in all, this was a great concept but this film feels more like an experiment and a light exploration of that experiment. I’d like to see the filmmakers do something bigger with the idea because I think it deserves further exploration.

But if you like kaiju, bunraku or just Japanese culture in general, this is a cool way to spend 13 minutes.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: the kaiju film that inspired it, 1964’s Mothra vs. Godzilla, as well as the short films of Niki Lindroth von Bahr.

Film Review: You Were Never Really Here (2017)

Also known as: A Beautiful Day (Germany, France, Italy)
Release Date: May 27th, 2017 (Cannes)
Directed by: Lynne Ramsay
Written by: Lynne Ramsay
Based on: You Were Never Really Here by Jonathan Ames
Music by: Jonny Greenwood
Cast: Joaquin Phoenix, Ekaterina Samsonov, Alex Manette, John Doman, Judith Roberts

Film4 Productions, British Film Institute, Why Not Productions, Page 114, Amazon Studios, 90 Minutes

Review:

“Where you spend your time? What do you do?” – Joe’s Mother

I heard a lot of exceptional things about this film and it sort of came and went without much fanfare, even though it premiered last year at Cannes. It’s an Amazon Studios film and they’ve been putting out a lot of great indie pictures, as of late.

While I enjoyed this, it didn’t blow me away like it seems to have for so many others.

To start, Joaquin Phoenix is damn good in this. He plays this character almost in monotone and it’s an understated performance but it works so well that it gives the character more depth and meaning than being overly emotional or rampaging against the vile scum in the film.

Phoenix is almost sweet even though he becomes a one man killing machine in his effort to save a very young girl from high profile sexual predators. The film is similar in a lot of ways to Taxi Driver but the main character is almost the antithesis of Robert De Niro’s Travis Bickle. Granted, both men are damaged but Phoenix’s Joe is a lot less outwardly emotional.

Young actress, Ekaterina Samsonov, was also pretty stellar and her performance was understated, as well. It makes me wonder if things naturally flowed this way or if it was the director’s choice to have her two leads perform in a more subtle style. Whatever the case, it works for both characters and the tone of the film, as it feels more organic and natural than what’s typical in these types of pictures.

I thought that the cinematography and mise-en-scène had an enchanting quality from shot to shot. There was a lot of detail to absorb but the stylistic choices really supported the narrative and the overall tone.

All the parts came together quite nicely but if I had to nitpick, I’d say that this did lack some excitement. It’s hard to see a picture like this and not expect some good action. There almost is none, really. This is more about the emotional journey of the characters within the story than being an uber violent revenge flick.

I’m all for artistic license but I really wanted to see Pheonix actually go ape shit on the evil bastards in the film. But I’m also a child of the ’80s and devoured ’80s action films like an old lady at a bon bon buffet.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other modern vigilante films: the Death Wish remake, the Taken films, Death Sentence.

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.