Category Archives: Reviews
This year the In Memoriam section of the Oscars is going to be longer than the award ceremony.
I’m writing this shortly after hearing about Carrie Fisher dying. Yeah, I’m a Star Wars fanatic, so of course I dig Carrie Fisher. But to me, she was something more. When I found out that she was a script doctor and wrote screenplays, that was the first time I really considered screenwriting as a cool endeavor. She was sharp and funny.
So that’s why I’m here in Hollywood. I want to write. I want to be like Carrie Fisher and be known for both my writing and my personality. She was amazing, guys. Yeah, she was also bat shit crazy, but aren’t we all?
Here is a more in depth look at my favorite films of 2016. I’ll steer clear of spoilers.
Starting with a cheat…
Tied for #10: Hunt for the Wilderpeople and Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping. Both are super funny comedies, but the two couldn’t be more different. Wilderpeople is Taika Waititi’s follow up to What We Do In the Shadows (possibly the funniest movie of 2014). I think a lot of the New Zealand specific jokes go over our heads in America, but Wilderpeople is still a really touching and funny movie that’s essentially an odd couple road film…a very tried and true formula. Popstar is a modern day Spinal Tap from the Lonely Island guys. Their reign on SNL is a blind spot for me, so I really find their absurdly silly songs fresh and new. This is one that I saw in a screening very early on in the year (Judd Apatow was there) so I don’t know what’s different from the version I saw versus the final release. I’m guessing they trimmed down the final release, but the DVD/Blu-Ray features a lot of deleted material. Like Spinal Tap, the sheer number of jokes is mind blowing.
#9: Don’t Breathe. Again this is another one that I saw an advance screening. From what I understand, a few minutes of the Blind Man explaining his motivations were cut from the final release, but are on the DVD/Blu-Ray as well as a little bit of maybe a redemption moment for Jane Levy’s character. Jane Levy is becoming one hell of a scream queen. She’s great in this and writer/director Fede Alvarez’s previous Evil Dead reimagining. Don’t Breathe features a pretty realistic look at many of the vacant neighborhoods of Detroit too.
#8: 10 Cloverfield Lane. I missed a screening for this when it was still called Valencia. I think maybe the Cloverfield tie in hurt it at the box office. Did enough people see the original Cloverfield to warrant a kind of/not really sequel? The cast of this is phenomenal. I love stories that could work well as plays too. I’d love to see a stage adaptation of this. It’s really a master class in writing plot twists. I’m trying to piece together who is probably ultimately responsible for the great screenplay since there are three writers credited. Since the first two also have “story by” credits, I’m guessing Damian Chazelle, who will pop up again on this list later, is largely responsible.
#7: Sing Street. I’m probably the perfect age to really love this love story/80s musical. I’m the same age as writer/director John Carney. Like Carrie Fisher, Carney is very vocal about his opinions. Unlike Carrie Fisher, his opinions kind of made him sound like a dick. He took down Keira Knightley after making Begin Again with her. I loved Begin Again, as well as his debut Once. Sing Street, like those two films, is also the story about a boy who loves a girl and making art with that girl.
#6. Midnight Special. This is a phenomenal sci-fi allegory about parenthood. Jeff Nichols is just a master story teller. I’m really bummed that I wasn’t able to see his second movie this year, Loving. Midnight Special is wonderfully acted too. Michael Shannon and Adam Driver both play against type. Shannon is the protective dad and Driver, fresh off of The Force Awakens, is the socially awkward and clumsy NSA agent tracking Shannon and his son, played by Jaeden Leiberher, who held his own opposite Bill Murray and Melissa McCarthy in the sweet St. Vincent.
#5. Other People. Nobody has been talking about this movie that has my favorite performance of the year. It opened on 12 screens in September, but is now available to stream on Netflix. This was written by Chris Kelly, who was one of the head writers at Saturday Night Live as well as almost every other funny sketch thing. I’m guessing this is a semi-autobiographic story because it’s about a struggling comedy writer, played by Jesse Plemons, who has to go back home to take care of his dying mom played by Molly Shannon. Molly Shannon is nothing short of amazing in this. The fact that she isn’t even being considered for an Oscar nomination is a real shame and says a lot about the politics of show business. She is by far my best performer of the year. Like films along the lines of Skeleton Twins, Other People is a perfect balance of super funny in one moment and then heart wrenching in the next.
#4. Arrival. I love a movie that makes me look at life differently after seeing it. Arrival did that. I ended up going for a walk before I went to my car just so I could process what I watched. I think time jumps are really difficult to write. Arrival does that in a way that, without spoiling anything, is simultaneously clear and ambiguous at the same time. I can’t think of another film that expertly doles out information as precisely as Arrival. I’m bummed that it was based on a short story, because this is a film that I wish I could visit a more thorough version of in prose.
#3. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Yes, I’m biased. I’ve loved Star Wars my entire life. I’m not only a prequel apologist, but I’ll argue the merits of Jar Jar Binks. With that being said, Rogue One is the prequel we deserved. The last ten minutes of this film, the ten minutes where you know what’s going to happen, still end up being ten of the most edge-of-your-seat tense minutes of the year. I’ve been worried that Disney was going to do to Star Wars what they’ve done to Marvel and just drown us in content both good and so-so. I was cautiously optimistic about a Star Wars movie without the core characters, but Rogue One calmed any reservations I may have had.
#2. Green Room. This was, by far, the scariest movie I’ve seen in a very long time. Mostly because I’ve been in situations that could have easily broken as bad for me as it does for the band in this film. I worked in a punk/metal club that sometimes featured Nazi bands, which drew Nazi crowds. We locked ourselves inside when fights between Nazis and SHARPS (Skinheads Against Racial Prejudice) spilled outside and become near riots that attracted the Detroit Police. And in my later years, comedy has taken me to some really shitty dives in the middle of nowhere. Green Room, like Jeremy Saulnier’s previous film Blue Ruin is an uncomfortably grounded story about real people stuck in unreal situations.
#1. La La Land. I’m a sucker for a musical. I’m a sucker for a Hollywood story. I’m a sucker for a love story. I’m a sucker for a bittersweet story. I’m a sucker for a story about pursuing your dreams. I feels like Damian Chazelle made La La Land specifically for me. This, like Rogue One, ties a perfect bow on a really stellar piece of art in those final moments. The music is so good. I just saw this yesterday, otherwise I’d have already overdosed Allyson (my fiancé) with the soundtrack. I think I caught all of the “hidden” edits in Birdman. If there are hidden edits in the opening number of La La Land, then I didn’t find them…although, as soon as I finish writing this, I am going to dive deep into all the information I can find about how this was made. The cinematography was just amazing. Simply amazing. Linus Sandgren takes places I see every day and shoots them so beautifully.
So that’s the list. I haven’t seen Silence yet, but I really want to. I love stories about people whose faith is pushed to the limit. That’s why Calvary was my favorite film in 2014. I didn’t get to see Edge of Seventeen or the aforementioned Loving either. I think I’ll really like them both when I do catch up with them. One film I did see this year that will definitely make my 2017 list is Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. I saw a preview screening and if it came out this year, it would have easily been in my top three. I think it screened at Sundance or South by Southwest, so I guess technically I could have included it, but we’ll hold off until everyone gets to see it.
Doctor Who is back! It’s a good thing too, since I was starting to go through serious withdraws. The 8000 episodes of Star Trek added to Netflix helped the pain a bit, but it was still a long summer. So did Let’s Kill Hitler deliver? In a word: yes. In two words: F&$* yes! In three words: Yes and No.
Confused? Me too. Although I think this is my second favorite episode this season ( the first being The Doctor’s Wife ) it took several watchings to get me to that conclusion. At first I was just spent by the whole thing emotionally. I bought every red herring hook, line, and sinker, and because of that I couldn’t properly gauge how I felt till at least watch-through number 2.
At any rate, look below for my spoil-filled review.
“You named your Spoilers after your Spoilers.”
* HITLER IN A CUPBOARD – Although many people cheered and giggled at the announced title “Let’s Kill Hitler” when it appeared in epic bravado at the end of Episode 7 I cringed. I held out hope that the follow up to AGMGTW would be more River/Melody focused, and when the first 10 minutes of this episode seemed to be a standard historical romp with robot Nazi justice soldier I cringed even more. Then Hitler got put in a cupboard, Mels was revealed to be Melody (how did I not see that coming?), and the whole episode become beyond what I was looking for.
* Melody/River – I read somewhere that Russel T. Davies, who got the honor of casting River for her first appearance in the 4th season, originally wanted to cash in a favor to cast Kate Winslet in the part. I doubt the Oscar Winning Winslet would have ever returned had she been cast, and I wonder what the show would even look like now had that been the case. Alex Kingston was brilliant in this episode. It sort of reminded me of watching Buffy the Vampire after Angel lost his soul. We are forced to watch one of our favorite characters as evil, but unlike evil Angel, Melody/River has a certain innocence that comes with the sociopathic tenancies. Plus, she has the greatest line I think I’ve ever heard on Doctor Who “Well, I was on my way to this gay Gypsy bar mitzvah for the disabled when I suddenly thought, “Gosh, the Third Reich’s a bit rubbish. I think I’ll kill the Fuhrer.” Who’s with me?”
* TIED UP LIKE A BOW – We get to find out why River didn’t regenerate when she dies in the library. We get to see her first given the diary by the doctor. We get to (I think) see where she hears the Doctor’s name (if that is what he whispers to her as he is dying. We even get the first ever “Hello Sweetie!”
* CONFUSING EMOTIONS – So I am confused, sometimes in a good way, sometimes in a bad way. I still want Rory and Amy to get their baby back. It’s really weird to see Rory and Amy doing so well after there baby was kidnapped so traumatically in AGMGTW, and I hope as we go back into standalone episodes next week that it isn’t just brushed under the rug. At the same time, do I really want them to find the baby? Because if they do then the River Song we know and love might never have existed, Mels wouldn’t have pushed Amy and Rory together, or given them the name to name herself. Again, it is confusing.
It took the Super Justice Robot Squad that long to check there instruments and find out they were in the wrong year? This seems pretty careless seeing as they had already spent a lot of time and resources killing a dude and assuming his identity. I guess I shouldn’t expect much of the group that thought it was a good idea to make a security system that would kill them if they forgot to wear their WWJD bracelets, but someone is paying a lot of dough for this. Transformers can’t be cheap. Otherwise, we’d all have our own Optimus Prime.
* You Accept and Know this to be true? So Silence will fall when the big, bold, first question will be asked. The question is said to be in plain sight. So our big question is what is that question? Moffat likes to mess with mistaken dialogue a lot. It’s not outside the realm of possibility that when Robot Amy confronts River/Melody by saying “You killed the Doctor by order of the Silence, the Academy of the Question. You accept and know this to be true?” That it actually meant “the Academy of the Question: You accept and know this to be true?” As in You accept and know this to be true is the question in question, and the “this” refers to all of life.
This was River’s episode, and after I knew that, I loved it. When the red car came darting through the corn field I expected River to come out. I was surprised when she didn’t, then surprised when I found out that she really did. We had a lot explained, and next week we get to some creepy stand alone romps, which honest-to-science I am kind of glad for. I have some plot fatigue.
I have started listening to an excellent new podcast over the past few weeks. Listeners of Comedy Bang Bang will recognize the character Bob Ducca from his frequent appearances on that podcast. Affirmation Nation with Bob Ducca has turned what I thought might have been a one-note character into a 5-day-a-week 3-5 minute dose of awesome. Seth Morris (the man behind Bob Ducca) is a comedy genius as far as I’m concerned.
Every weekday, Bob shares a story, gives us a health tip, responds to listener e-mails, or reviews a health product on the show. Every episode is funny, often in an unexpected way, like when Bob started recording an episode and got kicked out of the recording studio by the person who had booked it, or when his guided meditation turned into 2 minutes of the sounds of him removing all of his medical devices before he could begin.
I laugh out loud at this podcast more often than I do with any of the other comedy podcasts I listen to.
If you’re not listening to Affirmation Nation, check it out on iTunes or at Earwolf.com.
When I first saw the preview of 30 Minutes or Less, I knew I wanted the movie to be awesome. In fact, I was afraid of how awesome I wanted it to be. The cast looked amazing: Jesse Eisenberg, Aziz Ansari, Danny McBride, and Nick Swardson. And the premise was ridiculous and a little violent: two weird, dumb, criminal, best friends, Dwayne (McBride) and Travis (Swardson) kidnap a pizza delivery guy (Eisenberg), strap a bomb to his chest and force him to rob a bank so they can pay off a hit man to kill Dwayne’s lottery winning father to claim his inheritance.
Nick Swardson plays an unlikely straight man in his role as Travis, whose bomb making expertise is essential to the heist McBride’s Dwayne concocts after a money hungry stripper, Juicy, played by Bianca Kajlich, hints that she knows a guy who could get rid of his problem father and make them both rich. The only problem? Dwayne needs 100 grand to pay off the hit man and chaos ensues. Travis is somehow the voice of reason several times throughout the film, being a good person at heart and not really wanting to hurt anyone, yet still fearful of the strong and dumb minded Dwayne.
Aziz Ansari and Jesse Eisenberg also play a pair of best friends, Chet and Nick, respectively, since high school who are struggling as one has gotten his life together (Chet) and the other (Nick) is content in loserdom, delivering pizza’s and working for a total asshole. Nick (Eisenberg) is also hopelessly in love with his best friend’s twin sister, who just got a job in another state, sending him into a hopeless tailspin of self hatred that he projects onto Chet (Ansari) and after a particularly brutal fight, filled with harsh truths about their friendship, the two part ways. But their separation is brief after Nick is kidnapped, strapped with a bomb and realizes he has no one else to turn to but to Chet.
Both sets of friendships are put to the test in this intense and hilarious comedy, which, while it’s premise is about a dude who gets forced to rob a bank, it’s also about sometimes tumultuous friendships that develop and how in truth, you can tell when you’ve got someone in your corner, because they’re there when shit gets crazy.
The performances in this film are truly what make it work so well. While initially, Jesse Eisenberg delivers his lines with the same cadence and intensity as he did in The Social Network, he ultimately wins you over with the honesty of how his character got to where he is. Aziz Ansari brings the same, sharp tounged, wit that dazzles me to no end on Parks and Recreation, all the while bringing real emotion to the hesitation and liberation he feels as he helps guide his friend through a life or death situation. Nick Swardson and Danny McBride work so amazingly well as team, clearly headed up by McBride’s Dwayne. Their idiocy and uneven friendship work so well as their performances are, while brash and broad characters, still subtle and believable.
I wanted this movie to kick ass. I wanted it to be funny, and violent, and goofy and awesome. And it was. There’s even a little love story that includes Dilshad Vadsaria as Kate, Chet’s twin sister. So there’s a little something in there for everybody. I should also mention, the film was shot and set in Grand Rapids, Michigan, which was fun to spot the scenery I recognized. It also made me love the film even more.
30 Minutes or Less
Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Danny McBride, Aziz Ansari, and Nick Swardson,
My Rating (On a scale of A to F): A
This summer, I loved Harry Potter and I really enjoyed Thor, but Captain America is what I’ve been waiting for since I was 7. I am an unabashed Cap fanboy, and have been for as long as I can remember. This summer has been a countdown to Cap for me, and my wait finally ended this last night. Holy crap did I love this movie. Do not expect a blow-by-blow story breakdown or analysis of the finer points of technique. I am about to geek the fuck out.
This movie made me giddy, like I wish the Star Wars prequels had. Every frame on the screen was my childhood coming to life. The special effects were phenomenal, if I didn’t know better, I’d swear they starved Chris Evans and shrunk him to play skinny Steve Rogers. The shield slinging was so cool, which was important, because without it, this wouldn’t have been a true Captain America movie.
The character were all spot-on. Captain America has always been my favorite because he was just a regular kid who was given the ability to be a hero, and always knew the right thing to do and how to do it. They pulled that off perfectly. Chris Evans was awesome in the role, both as the determined, awkward weakling, and as the great hero. Hugo Weaving as the Red Skull was brilliant, too. He was evil, menacing, and not too over-the top. The Howling Commandos were great, though I wish they had mentioned them by name.
I didn’t mind any of the little changes they made to the original story, everything worked for me, and I think allowed them to tell a cleaner story, rather than having to explain a lot of unnecessary back stories.
There were some cool nods to the comics, too, like the way we first see Arnim Zola. The Stan Lee cameo was quick, but funny and didn’t take away from the story. The use of the comic style Captain America uniform was also a great nod, and made great sense in the context of the movie.
The only complaint I have is that the movie was over too quickly. As it was wrapping up, I suddenly realized it was about to be over, and very much wished it was longer. Also, don’t forget to stay after the credits. The post-credits sequence is awesome.
One final note, I have never been to a movie where I have seen more people wearing T-shirts featuring the character from the movie. There was even a little kid wearing a full Captain America costume, who had his picture taken with me because he liked my Cap costume hoodie so much.
I’m not a fanboy of the Harry Potter persuasion because I’m not a young adult that grew up with the books, a female fantasy fan nor a poser trying to lure a fangirl out of her Hogwart’s uniform. I am a certified fantasy nerd and will not reveal any spoilers for those that are too cool to read the novels, but Harry wins in the end as you should expect. Read a book.
I’ve read none of the books, but I have seen all the Potter movies to see what the fuss was about. Overall, they were decent but not moving. Owing to being a series for kids, I forgave them for not having balls – which for most of the characters hadn’t dropped yet. All the while, I’m waiting for Harry to come into his own and stop being a Harry Sue character – constantly protected from heroic sacrifice by magical creatures, competent adults and ugly red-headed sidekicks written as less important.
I watched Deathly Hallows part two directly after watching part one, I’m a vet of the Lord of the Rings Extended version – yes, my life is that empty.
Part one established a dark high stakes tone in the beginning with so many supporting characters deaths, then it winds down to a magical hide and seek scavenger hunt around the world with Hermione doing research. The cutaways to show the effects of the Death Eater take over where good, but too far in between. It has a slightly more dreadful feel than when the Republicans took the House.
Finally, there’s some magical intervention that gets things moving when they can finally start destroying horcruxes (horcruxi? whores’ crotches? Is that where Bellatrix was hiding them? That’s Lastrange.)
We learn what the Deathly Hollows are, but not why they aren’t the “Deadly Hallows”. These are English speakers, right? The story arch peaks with the death of the cutest character to date, more sadness then a tonal shift to “AW SHITTLEBERRIES! Now, it’s personal!”
Part 2 had the much more quicker pace that a finale should. Action, tension, action, tension – you know, like a movie. Voldemort is made gradually weaker with each destroyed horcrux with the backdrop being a magical war I’ve been much anticipating. Harry and Snapes’ relationship is fully revealed, which satisfyingly transforms our view of the headmaster. Our “hero” fated to save everyone is going to actually have to take one for the team, team being the world – about time.
Potter goes forth to die and is merely knocked out by a loophole in wand etiquette. This bothered me. Voldemort’s entire goal is to kill Harry, yet he doesn’t check the apparent body himself? He could feel whenever a horcrux was destroyed, but not this most important one in the series? That’s as dumb as a Jedi Chosen One taking a Sith Lord at his word.
Dumbledore’s ghost tells Potter he can stay in Heaven’s subway or go back and make sure all those deaths for his sake were’nt in vain. What kind of asshole would stay, especially when there’s a Weasley wet for him?
Harry survives. Neville Longbottom comes through amazingly, then Potter shows Voldemort how to kill an enemy. Flash forward: Harry knocks up Ginny and Ron does the same to Hermione, kids go to Hogwarts, the Circle of Life plays in your heart and the end.
So, again, somebody else makes it possible for Harry to succeed. Neville fills his shoes to destroy the last horcrux with Hermione and Ron serving their usual role as bait. As soon as Voldemort is mortal, it’s a done deal? Wasn’t he a badass before all this? There’s a likely stated reason for this that I missed in previous exposition, the point is I didn’t find Harry’s victory all the heroic, but I guess its par for the course.
These are a good pair of movies, and I’m sure emotional investment in the series will make it awesome, but for me it was worth the price of admission: $5 bootleg.
Since I have no good reason or excuse to explain my month long absence from doing anything productive on the internet, let’s just say I fell through a crack in space and time. (The sad truth was more along the lines of me sitting around in boxer shorts with my wife saying “Hey, don’t you have Doctor Who reviews to write and Podcasts to do” and me saying “I don’t wanna, these swiss cake rolls and Blu Rays won’t eat and watch themselves!” and her saying, “But isn’t this the exact rubbish you’d like to get paid for someday?” and me saying…..well nothing constructive with a mouth full of swiss cake roll.
I’ve had a lot more time than usual to reflect on “A Good Man Goes to War, which I think has been really helpful to the cause of reviewing it fairly.
A lot happened. A lot was revealed. A lot of my predictions were proved dead wrong. (I could have sworn River was going to turn out to be a sensorite ((that’s for sure a joke, sensorites have those awesome stethoscopes and Abe Lincoln beards).
Let us brave on to the spoiler filled review of “A Good Man Goes to War”….better late than never.
“I have gene-spliced myself for all Spoiling duties. I can produce magnificent quantities of lactic Spoilers!”
*Rising Higher – As predictable as it was for it to be the Doctor under that third hood, it was really freaking awesome. And how cool was that recruiting sequence when all we see is silhouettes of the TARDIS and Matt Smith? Plus the idea of the Doctor calling in all his favors is a pretty cool one, as more people owe their lives to the Doctor than that Spikey Haired dude that gives away houses on ABC. I wish we could have gotten even more creatures from the past, but I understand the budget reasons for just using what they had lying around. The whole thing was filled with so much bad-assery, which brings me to the next thing….
* RORY IS SO EFFING AWESOME – It’s hard to even put into words the awesomeness that has become Rory. The initial setup is great too, making you think Amy is talking about the Doctor when she’s talking about “The Last Centurion.” The best bit though was the moment when Rory talked to the dying Sontaran nurse. As the Sontaran dies Rory says, “But you’re a great warrior,” and the Sonataran says, “No, Rory, I’m just a nurse,” echoing Rory’s own identity crisis he was probably feeling.
* LIZARD LEZZIES – Some might see this episode as a return of RTD’s “Gay Agenda”, but the show does it so little now it was nice to see a little rainbow in the galaxy again, especially in the case of the awesomely strange Silurian/Human coupling.
* WHAT’S MY MOTIVATION – Still understand very little about why these people care so much about fighting the doctor, or why they need to steal a baby weapon to fight him. I’m hoping it gets revealed later (in Moffat we trust) but I’ve got to say, I’m nervous that Eye Patch lady will never really get fleshed out like I’d like her too.
*THE WAIT – Seriously…..September? I have to wait until September? *Slits Wrists*
* A GOOD MAN – This whole season has been about identity, and Moffat has made it his mission for us to constantly mix up the Doctor and Rory. We’ve often assumed that River killing “The Greatest man she ever has known” meant the Doctor, but it could also easily mean her father, Rory. What we know with Moffat is that it won’t be simple, but I am predicting that we will see what put River in prison by the end of episode 12, so that 13 can end on a happy note.
BOLD PREDICTIONS PROVED FALSE
*ITTY BITTY TIMELORD- I think that the little girl is Amy’s Baby (still) and that said baby was engineered by the silence to be the first Time Lord (hence all the stuff with the suit, they had do give her second heart a safe environment to grow). Remember this is all wibly wombly timey wimey. The Doctor could easily take part in his own species’ origin story. And then we would finally know why humans look Timelord.
I made this one in Episode 2….I was actually pretty close, but no ballgame.
* The Only Water in the Forest is a River – These foreboding words of the TARDIS are talking about River’s death, which we have already seen (the library in that original Moffat two-parter was originally referred to as a Forest). The Tardis is looking backwards and forwards, but River’s death will have a great deal to do with the events of this season.
I was wrong about the TARDIS’s words in Episode 4, which I’m glad for, since this was a much cooler reveal.
It wasn’t the “HUGE CLIFFHANGER” we were promised (at least it was nothing like last weeks) but it was a great episode to end the summer on. I just wish there wasn’t all this waiting. I’m really excited to see where the series goes on from here, especially in “Let’s Kill Hitler”
This weekend I took my kids (3 and 5 year old boys) to see Kung Fu Panda 2, which, as the TV ads think is very important to remind me, stars Jack Black as the lead character Po.
In this sequel, Po and the Furious Five must defend China against the evil peacock Lord Shen, his secret weapon, and his army of wolves. Po is a kung fu master straight from the beginning of the movie, and while he bumbles through parts of his adventure, his character has changed grown up a little since the first movie. Of course, though, Po must learn a valuable lesson about himself and kung fu in order to save the day. It’s not the most original plot, following the first one’s formula pretty closely, but it’s a fun movie to take the kids to.
The movie delivers on beautiful animation, cool action sequences, including a fun chase scene through the city, and the usual over-the-top kung fu fights, including plenty of Furious Five action. Of course, it’s a comedy, and there are some good laughs in there, too (thankfully, a few less easy fat jokes than the last one). The flashback sequences deliver some handsome stylized 2D animation, which I liked as a device to show kids the difference between present day andPo’s memories.
Several jokes are recycled from the first movie, though not as many as you might expect from a kids’ animated movie trying to stick to a formula. It seems pretty obvious, too, that they’re setting the franchise up for another sequel at the end of this one. It’s also worth sitting through the credits, there is no Skeletor-type post credits moment, but the entire sequence is shown against a pretty cool changing art backdrop.
Overall I enjoyed it, and my boys loved it. I had a hard time keeping my enthusiastic 3 year old in his seat during the fight scenes. If you or your kids liked the original, I recommend seeing the Kung Fu Panda 2.
Bossypants chronicles Fey’s life in show business from her humble beginnings as the night box office manager at a youth theatre to being the creator and star of “30 Rock”. It’s not only a great look at show business and following your dream, but it’s a great look at show business and following your dreams through the eyes of a woman.
I guess how a few weeks ago when I pondered the notion of white privilege, I overlooked until my friend Germaine pointed it out, that there’s also a great deal of male privilege in the world. While I don’t necessarily think of Tina Fey as the funny lady who created a great television show, she and most of entertainment apparently does. I don’t agree with all of the ideas she presents in the book, but then again as a dude, I probably have little evidence to support my disagreement.
There are a lot of great chapters for navigated not just show business, but life. The chapter titled I Don’t Care If You Like It was particularly valuable to me. She used Seasame Street logic to explain how to get ahead in career by going “over, under or through obstacles”. Bossypants has a whole slew of life lessons in between the jokes. Like the show she’s created, the comedy comes at you in pretty quick succession. Fey’s a strong writer of sketch, television and now you can add books to that list.
Whether it be talking about the preparation that goes into shooting magazine covers, breast feeding, or her concerns with portraying Sarah Palin, Fey writes with unabashed candidness that’s so completely endearing.* The book is thoughtful, but never afraid to embrace potty humor like in the way she describes babies. “They’re more than just adorable little creatures on whom you can blame your farts.”
One of my favorite written comedy devices is the use of footnotes. Douglas Adams was a master at them when he wrote the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series. Here, Tina Fey uses them just as effectively and hilariously.** I strongly recommend reading this book to everyone. It doesn’t matter if your a fan of Fey’s work or not, it’s just a really well written book about getting ahead in business, juggling responsibilities and rising above adversity.
* Of course I’m just assuming that because I’m taking Fey at her word. Maybe she’s like a WWE Superstar’s book where later we find out that she wasn’t a well adjusted famous person at all, but a pain pill popping adrenaline junky with a great ghost writer. Fey and Poehler would make a great tag team. Ooh, they could have a match against Wiig and Rudolph!
** I’m not nearly as good at it, but then again this is a first (only) draft and I’m not sweating it.
It’s no secret to anyone who knows me that I’m a Captain America nut. He’s been my favorite super hero since before I could read the comics I picked up every week from my Grandpa’s book store. Imagine my elation when I heard they were finally going to make a proper big budget movie starring my hero, directed geek demigod by Joss Whedon. Of course, big super hero summer movie means dedicated toy line.
The Captain America toy line from Hasbro follows the model Hasbro set up when they made Iron Man 2 toys last year, two separate lines of 3-3/4” action figures, one based on the movie, and one based on the comic book version of Cap. The movie line has yet to hit stores, but last week the comic series started popping up on shelves at retailers everywhere. So far only the first four basic and three deluxe figures are out, along with a few vehicles and role play items.
These figures are nice. Like the Hasbro Marvel Universe and Iron Man lines, they boast excellent articulation and beautiful likenesses of the characters. The toys combine collect-ability and playability very well, with multiple cool accessories.
So far I have picked up the Winter Soldier and Battlefield Captain America figures, and am very please with both. The Winter Soldier comes with three guns, and has holsters for both of his hand guns. He also comes with a winged rocket pack, adding a cool play option for kids. Battlefield Captain America comes with two guns, his old-style triangular shield, and a removable helmet. The shield can easily fit on his arm, or on his back for carrying. Both are lovely figures, with very nice sculpting and detail, making them very true to their comic book likenesses. Some of the other figures have gimmicky shields, which collectors and purists won’t be happy with, but add a playability factor for kids.
The deluxe figures come with accessories for added play value, but aren’t patently goofy like so many other lines can be. There is a Parachute Cap, one with a winged jet pack, and a Fortress Assault Cap. The Fortress Assault version is the goofy one of the bunch, with Cap in red armor and carrying a missile launcher.
Future waves include characters that have been overlooked by Hasbro in the Marvel Universe collection, including Crossbones, U.S. Agent, the Red Skull and Hydra soldiers. One can only assume they were holding them back, knowing they would be making this line for the Captain America movie.
A few minor complaints, though – the paint apps can be a bit spotty, so you need to look the figures over before buying to make sure you get a good one. Also, The gimmicky shields are a bit silly on some of the figures, I would prefer U.S. Agent and Heroic Age Cap with their standard shields to display in my collection.
The role play items or kids are pretty cool, too. They include a shield that shoots little disks, a standard Frisbee-like shield, a mask, and a full costume.
Overall, I love this toy line. Yes, it has its goofy kid stuff in it, but mostly it is very collector friendly. I will be buying many of the figures, and am especially looking forward to Crossbones, who I was never able to get the Marvel Legends version of. My kids will also probably talk me into picking up many of the role play items for them. This is definitely the best movie tie-in line this summer, easily besting the Thor and Green Lantern lines. Hopefully, the line sells well, and we will see more comic characters pop up, like Batroc the Leaper (I can dream, can’t I?).
This weeks part one of a two parter was a romp that hit a checklist of Sci-Fi clichés, took doctor who back toward its roots, and did what it most needed to do, occupy space while using very little of the budget (the cash gained from these two episodes’ limitations is what allowed our heroes to play around in Utah and what not). All that being said, its rather hard to judge the first episode of a two-parter, especially a more traditional one like this. It’s a bit like shutting the movie “12 Monkeys” off at the halfway point and saying, “Well, what do you think?” All that won’t stop me from trying though, so look below for my spoiler filled review.
“Yes spoilers are insane and they’re about to get ‘insanerer.”
*THE ‘GANGERS – The concept, albeit no where near a new one, was pretty cool and fairly well executed. The actors had a difficult job of playing themselves and their bizzaro clayface selfs, but they all did a good job. The effects (except for the snake one, and we’ll get to that later) were simple but freaky. Even though this was a more traditional Who episode, it definitely played well to the creepy of the new series.
* THE DOCTORGANGER – As much as the ending was telegraphed the length the Pretenders would walk away (500 miles, if you don’t get that joke) it was still pretty damn cool way to end the episode. I get to spend all week thinking about how this can be handled, or mishandled. What’s especially great about it is that it flipped everything on its head. The Doctor was all for the Gangers and the Normies to kiss and make up, but how will he feel about another Doctor calling the shots, or another Doctor that feels he has just as much right to the Tardis? This puts his own morals under fire, or rather, under acid, and it will be interesting and fun to watch next week.
* Why Can’t We All Just Get Along – It’s petty, but I’m growing kind of sick of the didactic “why does war have to happen” episodes when it all goes to hell because one psycho-lady can’t handle the concept of talking before filling the objects-that-are-supposed-to-represent-the-middle-east-or-some-such-nonsense full of lead. We get it. We humans; we stupid, we fight each other. I guess I’m only so mad because its so similar to last years hungry earth saga. Couldn’t we just watch Rory fake die again (please, no, Stephen Moffat, that was a joke).
The Snake-Ganger thing looked horrible. Find whoever made that CGI and sack him!
* GANGERS WON’T FEEL SO H.G. WELL – They spent a lot of needless time having the one normie sneeze a lot. I’m guessing in the end all the gangers will die from the common cold. I don’t want this to happen, again, it’s horribly cliché, but such is life. Clearly they have to have them all die in some sort of inevitable way anyways, otherwise the presence of the gangers (especially the one that looks like Matt Smith) presents to many problems.
Like I said, it’s hard to review part one, but thus far I’m along for the ride.
Summer movie season is fast approaching, and with it comes the inevitable movie tie-in toy lines. With typically lackluster offerings over the years (refer to the Playmates 3-¾” Star Trek line from a couple of years ago), the major toy companies have successfully lowered my expectations of what we will see for movie tie-in merchandise, particularly in the action figure department. This year’s Green Lantern movie toys from Mattel stick to the long-standing “Throw anything on the shelves, kids will buy it!” tradition.
We had all had seen pictures of the line from Toy Fair earlier this year, and I was under whelmed to say the least. The toys looked kind of cheap, and the likenesses didn’t look right. Today, however, I got to see the 3-¾” toys in person at a Toys ‘R’ Us store.
Holy crap, what steaming piles of dog turds these are. As fake-y as the CGI characters look in the trailers and TV ads we’ve seen so far, they look even goofier in plastic form. Kilowog looks like a cartoon dog. Hal Jordan looks like a stiff-armed Jerry Seinfeld. Also, the line boasts a whopping 6 points of articulation – shoulders, hips, head and waist, at least on the figures I saw (Sinestro, Hal and Kilowog). It does appear that some of the figures have ball joints at the shoulders, which provide some range of motion, but most of the Hal Jordan figures are simple up-down swivels. So, the only action poses you can do with them are waving, pointing, and goose-stepping. At $8.99 MSRP per figure, are we really supposed to get excited about toys like that?
As toy collectors, we have come to expect better, even in a 3-¾” line. In a hobby where Hasbro is putting out super-articulated G.I. Joes, Jedis and Marvel Superheroes, we demand better. Mattel has really dropped the ball on this line, in my opinion. They can say it’s aimed at kids and not collectors all they want, but it’s no excuse for poor quality. Hasbro has been making beautiful figures at that scale for years, Mattel just can’t seem to get it right. They should have learned from their ill-fated DC Infinite Heroes line a couple of years ago. You need to please the kids and the collectors with a line like this to be successful, and you do that by offering a combination of cool sculpts, reasonably good articulation, and a high level of playability. You don’t achieve that by giving us cheap-looking, stiff-armed junk.
To be fair, the 6” line doesn’t look terrible, but those figures are fifteen dollars each. I’m already stretched thin trying to collect toys I really want, like the great 6” DC Universe and comic-book themed Green Lantern lines Mattel is putting out, which does prove Mattel can make great toys when they try. Too bad they didn’t put in any of that effort here.
In short, I will not be buying these, not for me or my kids, not even when they inevitably end up in the clearance aisle at Wal-mart. Am I completely off-base? Does anybody want any of these? What movie toy are you looking forward to Thor? Captain America? Let me know.
Dennis Burdziak is a toy enthusiast, comic book reader, and friend to people more talented than himself. Follow him on twitter @dburdziak.
Bret Harrison is one of my favorite television actors. I first became aware of Bret when he briefly guest starred on That 70’s Show when Topher Grace left the show. His part was funny, sending up the typical replacement characters sitcoms had seen over the years. Unfortunately, all of the terrific shows he has starred in since then have been short-lived. In all 3 of the shows we have seen him star in, he has basically been the charming straight man to a cast of oddball characters, trying to make sense of a situation he was thrust into. Bret is easy to identify with in each role, and manages to be funny and charming, and the underdog we root for in each series.
The Loop – In this short-lived Series, Bret played Sam Sullivan, a young airline executive, struggling to fit in at work with his older co-workers, and to satisfy his boss. He also tried to fit in a social life with his friends, who were still living the care-free life of the typical early twenty-something. The show was hysterical and charming, typically finding Sam’s personal and professional lives at odds, and him struggling to make both work. TheLoop unfortunately ran for only two abbreviated seasons on FOX from 2006 to 2007, being cancelled before episodes of season 2 ever began airing.
Reaper – Lasting three seasons, reaper focused on Bret’s Character Sam Oliver, whose parents had sold his soul to the devil, resulting in his life of servitude to the Devil, expertly played by Ray Wise. Sam, along with his friends, was tasked with capturing souls escaped from hell and returning them through a drop-off in the DMV. The best part of the show was the interaction between Sam and his friends, Sock and Ben, played by Tyler Labine and Rick Gonzalez as they chased escaped souls while working at the Work Bench, a home improvement store that inexplicably carried every item they could ever need to aid them in their task. The series also built up a pretty impressive mythology in its short run, introducing the devil’s slick son, a demon girlfriend for Ben, and Sam’s dad turned into a zombie, living in a chest freezer in the garage. Reaper ran from 2007 to 2009 on the CW network, and was dropped after the third season ended on a cliffhanger, seeing Sam lose his girlfriend’s soul to the devil.
V – Bret played a scientist drafted into the human resistance by the series’ main characters. The role was small, and the show’s ratings were already low when he joined late in the second season.
Breaking In – A new show this season on FOX, Breaking In followed Bret’s character Cameron Price, a computer expert who is recruited by a security firm that specializes in breaking in to secure locations to test their existing security systems. In its brief run, the series sawCam pine over his beautiful co-worker Melanie, played by Odette Annable. The cast also included cash, a nerdy fanboy gadget expert, who was constantly dropping references to pop culture, including re-making the entire Star Wars trilogy starring him in every role. Christian Slater played Oz, the owner of Contra Security, the eccentric boss who was constantly manipulating the staff into doing whatever he needed. The show was full of funny and nerdy moments, including an office-wide Nerf gun fight that ends with Oz firing a very real arrow through the water cooler to break it up. Or cash having to face off against a Ninja Turtle at Comicon to retrieve a copy of Goonies 2, a movie they had been hired to protect. Apparently a victim of low ratings, the show only lasted a brief 7 episodes on FOX this season.
Three times now, (four if you count V) I have been burned by shows starring Bret Harrison, but I will keep tuning in whenever I see him in the cast of a new program. I hope the next one sticks, and America sees just how brilliant and funny a comedic actor Bret is.
I checked, all episodes of Reaper are available on Netflix instant watch, and the Loop is available on DVD from them as well. Do yourself a favor and check them both out.
As a parent, if you’re like me, you want to share things from your own childhood with your kids. As a child of the 80’s, I naturally wanted to share some of my favorite Saturday morning and after school cartoons with my boys. Unfortunately, many of the shows I remember fondly do not hold up well at all. My most glaring example of this was Voltron, which now I realize is terribly cheesy and badly written.
Imagine my surprise, then, when one of the shows I remember as pretty cheesy turned out to be much better than I remember. My wife started the boys watching the Littles, a show about a group of mouse-sized people who live in the walls of regular-sized people’s homes.
The Littles ran for three seasons on ABC on Saturday Mornings from 1983 – 1985, and had a movie, Titles Here Come the Littles in 1985. The main characters are a family of Littles, Including the young Tom and Lucy, their parents Frank and Helen, their older cousin Dinky and their Grandpa, imaginatively named Grandpa Little. They all live in the walls of the house of Henry Bigg, a human who accidentally discovered their existence, and has come to be a friend to them.
The show follows the Littles as they get into and out of all sorts of trouble. The real surprise to me, though, is the mature themes the series deals with fairly regularly. The Littles are often in danger of capture by a scientist named Dr. Hunter who is obsessed with proving their existence to the world. In one episode, the Littles help a little girl whose mother has a problem with prescription drugs by tricking her into thinking she’s hallucinating. In another, they are run out of their homes by giant evil-looking rats. They also deal with drinking, and in a later episode, a couple of guys who would be called terrorists today, who try to gas an entire art museum full of people. Later episodes see the Littles following the Bigg family (Henry’s parents are archeologists) on trips around the world.
The show is still aimed at children, of course, and more often deals with lighter themes, but it is refreshing to watch a show that doesn’t write for children as if they are all stupid, as so many of its contemporary shows did. Yes, it’s almost thirty years old, but I you have kids and want to share a bit of the 80s with them, check out the Littles on Netflix, the movie and all 29 episodes of the show are available to view instantly. My 3 and 5 year old boys can’t get enough of it.
From We’re Back! the opening track, to the No Homo Outro, Turtleneck & Chain is both an amazing hip hop album and an amazing satire of hip hop albums. Pulling off either one is a tall order on its own; that Lonely Island manages to do both is proof that they’re not just a great comedy group, they’re a great hip hop group too.