MOVIE REVIEW: ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ – Cool Turtles, Faltering Script

- 08-08-14Featured, Film, reviews Posted by Jason McAnelly

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I go into the argument of the old Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles vs. the new movie as a neutral party. Yes, I grew up on the late-80s/early-90s television series and yes, I enjoyed watching it. I also remember the movie from 1990 and the rather unfortunate sequel that followed in 1991. Looking back upon these, however, I find little redeeming value other than the vague tickling of my childhood memories. I’m an original TMNT comic book kinda guy and will remain so forever. Imagine my surprise when I walked into the Michael Bay-produced and Jonathan Liebsman-directed 2014 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie and actually found myself having a good time. Wonder why? Read on for the review. (more…)

REVIEW: Steven Soderbergh’s ‘The Knick’ is 2014’s Second Triumph of Auteurist Television

- 08-08-14reviews, TV Posted by Jacob Knight

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The Knick premieres tonight August 8th at 10 pm EST on Cinemax and follows Dr. John Thackery (Clive Owen), the pretentious, brilliant, drug-addicted head of surgery at New York’s Knickerbocker Hospital, as he and the rest of the staff (surgeons, nurses, and administration) navigate the challenges of healthcare in the early 1900’s. As the tagline says “Modern Medicine Had to Start Somewhere”.

It’ll be interesting to see how modern television critics respond to The Knick, Steven Soderbergh’s triumphant ten-hour return to the tube. Not easily lending itself to the Recap Industrial Complex that drives hits to its respective cogs, The Knick is a work which demands you deconstruct it from a place of mordant post-formalism and stagnancy. Yes, there is a plot that drives forward, but the constantly chameleonic director is more content with noticing how Dr. John W. Thackery (Clive Owen, reminding us all what a talent he is when challenged) remains a stoic, dilated disciple of science in the face of unending disease and death. Taking more cues from the equally clinical David Cronenberg and cribbing from the digitally anachronistic aesthetics of Michael Mann (whose Public Enemies feels like an improved upon touchstone), the retired auteur proves yet again that he’s a better artist than almost all of us, even when saddled to his rocking chair.  (more…)

MOVIE REVIEW: ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ Or ‘How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Gunn’

- 08-01-14Featured, Film, reviews Posted by Jacob Knight

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I have to admit to being completely on the fence since Guardians of the Galaxy was first announced.

For starters — I’ve never been a hardcore comics kid, nor am I particularly a fan of Marvel’s brand of popcorn plasticity. The MCU pictures are only slightly interesting from a filmic outlook, while Guardians as a property is a complete unknown entity to me. A talking raccoon and a tree in locked in cosmic battle with a horde of spaced invaders? Sounds like something more fit for the side of an 80s metal band’s tour van than a multiplex silver screen. Then James Gunn was announced as director/co-writer and my interest level was raised (though I still can’t cop to being completely conned). Slither is a damn good rehash of Fred Dekker’s Night of the Creeps and Super is so dark and personal that it’s hard to dismiss (though I still don’t know if I’ll ever be able to say I’m a “fan” of the film). Could Gunn actually retain his Troma roots? Or would the somewhat boardroom-authored MCU Universe excise what made his previous output special in favor of their factory-line assembly process. Thankfully, the answer is the former, as Guardians of the Galaxy is 110% a James Gunn joint to, to the point that it might be the only Marvel movie to retain its author’s somewhat auteurist voice, marking the first time the filmmaker was valued over the brand. (more…)

RETRO REVIEW: “Ginger Snaps” and the Thrilling Complexity of Female Fronted Horror

- 07-28-14Featured, Film, reviews Posted by Jacob Knight

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Welcome back to our newly revamped “Retro Reviews” column, where we explore both the movies you know and love, as well as the oft overlooked gems you should be spending more time with. Our ninth entry is the coming-of-age Canadian werewolf nightmare, Ginger Snaps (2000)…

There’s a simple fact that needs to be stated at the front of this article: horror movies revolving around women are certainly more engaging than those centered around men. From the earliest days of my film-watching “career”, hidden beneath my parents’ bed while Halloween blared on basic cable*, I was always infinitely more interested in movies that focused on the horrors of femininity. Whether it was Michael Myers stalking Laurie Strode through the streets of Haddonfield or young mother Rosemary finding out that her baby was sold to her Satan worshipping neighbors, the tribulations women faced in my favorite genre always seemed to represent more complex societal issues (the pervasive invasion of evil, the possession and control of a woman’s body) than those of their male counterparts. Add on the fact that women are simply much more emotionally complex creatures (thus making for drama almost equal to their psychological complexity), and you have a perfectly logical argument for my favoring of female-starring terror pictures.

Unfortunately, many of the lesser cinematic shock jocks throughout history extracted the wrong lessons from their superiors. Many took John Carpenter pitting three beautiful best friends against a Shatner-masked maniac at mere face value, thinking that it was the boobs and violence that solely led to the picture becoming “the most successful independent film of all time”. At its worst, horror descends into misogynistic mayhem, utilizing female leads as nothing more than titillation lightning rods, whether they were being bedded by a jock or beheaded by some dime-store Myers knock-off (or his slow witted cousin, Jason Voorhees). However, one of the true under-seen gems of the genre not only molds two of the best female characters horror has ever seen, it uses them as universal icons for a girl’s ascension into full-blown womanhood. Nearly fifteen years after it first hit Canadian theaters, Ginger Snaps is still not only the best werewolf movie since Joe Dante’s The Howling, but also a testament to the power strong female characters bring to any cinematic endeavor, genre or otherwise.  (more…)

MOVIE REVIEW – ‘Hercules’ Isn’t Perfect, but Dwayne Johnson Gets the Job Done

- 07-25-14Featured, Film, reviews Posted by Adam A. Donaldson

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Like a lot of Canadian kids, my first encounter with Hercules was with Adventure Cartoon Productions animated series The Mighty Hercules, which Global ran ad nauseam Saturday mornings well into my high school years. They were simple enough, with Hercules as basically the Ancient Greece Batman, beating up bad guys and taking them to prison on Mount Olympus, which, as it turned out, was as pitifully easy to break out of as Arkham Asylum.

Every couple of years or so, the myth of Hercules gets re-interpreted for a new audience, and in a new way. So far, there’s been two Hercules movies in 2014, the first one came out in January and starred some Twilight beefcake as the son of Zeus, but in the case of Brett Ratner’s Hercules it has the immediate ace in the hole of having Dwayne Johnson as the titular hero. Johnson’s charm and magnetism is a definite advantage to the film, and if the movie he was in was tighter it might actually equal the assets brought by its star. Ratner’s Hercules is a solid B-effort, but it had the potential to be an A. (more…)

MOVIE REVIEW: ‘The Purge 2: Anarchy’ Runs Short on Originality But Offers Thrills to Spare

- 07-18-14Featured, reviews Posted by Mel Valentin

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When it comes to the horror genre, a hit isn’t a hit unless said hit spawns a lucrative series or franchise (see, e.g., Halloween, Friday the 13th, Saw). With that in mind, Blumhouse Productions (Paranormal Activity) couldn’t help but rush The Purge: Anarchy (a/k/a The Purge: Night of the Juggalos) a sequel to last year’s surprise box-office hit, The Purge, a sci-fi-inflected, home-invasion thriller written and directed by James DeMonaco. Casting well known names with indie and/or cable cred in Ethan Hawke and Lena Headly helped to elevate an otherwise promising, if ultimately rote, thriller – disappointing given a compelling premise (inspired by an episode, “The Return of the Archons,” from Star Trek: The Original Series, no less), but recognizing the errors and missteps of his ways, DeMonaco swapped out sub-genres – from home invasion to survival horror – to significantly improved results.  (more…)

MOVIE REVIEW: ‘Dawn of the Planet of the Apes’ is the Spectacular Summer Movie 2014 Needed

- 07-10-14Featured, Film, reviews Posted by Jacob Knight

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Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is something of a miracle.

Ostensibly a remake of J. Lee Thompson’s Battles For the Planet of the Apes (the fifth film in the original series), Matt Reeves’ refashioning of that picture is nothing less than a stirring marvel of a movie, brimming with emotion and style in equal measure. Daring in ways many modern big budget franchise films would never dare, Dawn is the result of putting cinema and character first, a rarity in an age where commitment to brand is usually priority number one for studios when expanding upon previous summer cash cows. But beyond showcasing Reeves as being one of the most exciting directorial talents in mainstream American filmmaking, the second installment in this new series of Apes films yet again proves that Andy Serkis is a God working amongst mere mortals, pushing the craft of performance capture acting into uncharted qualitative territories. In short, it’s the movie of the summer and will easily end up being one of 2014’s best. (more…)

RETRO REVIEW: ‘In the Mouth of Madness’ and the Value of ‘Late Period’ John Carpenter

- 07-09-14Featured, Film, reviews Posted by Jacob Knight

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Welcome back to our newly revamped “Retro Reviews” column, where we explore both the movies you know and love, as well as the oft overlooked gems you should be spending more time with. Our eighth entry is John Carpenter’s final masterwork, In the Mouth of Madness (1994)…

“Do you read Sutter Cane?” 

The 90s were a woeful decade for many a 70s horror filmmaker. Wes Craven may have changed the slasher game forever with his self-reflexive Scream series, but hasn’t made a picture worthy of his (truthfully already spotty) legacy since (unless you count the aughts’ My Soul to Keep – a film so inept it almost feels like an avant garde experiment). Dario Argento’s 90s output ranges from decent (TraumaThe Stendhal Syndrome) to unwatchable (The Phantom of the Opera). Meanwhile, George A. Romero’s sole solo directorial credit (The Dark Half) is definitely one of the more entertaining Stephen King adaptations, but that’s using both dreck like The Tommyknockers and Golden Years as well as Kubrick’s The Shining or Rob Reiner’s Misery as ends of the qualitative spectrum (meaning Romero’s movie is still hanging somewhere around Pet Sematary). Outside of Joe Dante*, whose feature track record went completely unblemished with Gremlins 2Matinee and Small Soldiers, the decade was somewhat of a nightmare for those who found their start in the gritty 70s, resulting in many horror fans closing the book on what’s viewed by some as the genre’s most auteur-driven period.

Which brings us to John Carpenter, a filmmaker whose ten year run (from 1978’s Halloween all the way up to They Live in 1988) could be considered one of the most impressive in the history of ALL cinema. Carpenter fizzled out in 1992, with the Chevy Chase-starring Memoirs of an Invisible Man marking the end of his marvelous winning streak. His anthology picture, Body Bags, was originally supposed to be a full series on Showtime (comprable to HBO’s Tales From the Crypt), until network executives suffered from cold feet and turned it into a one-off (admittedly mediocre) cable TV movie. It wouldn’t be until 1994 that Carpenter finally brushed the dust off his shoulder and produced what seemed to be, at the time, a comeback of sorts with In the Mouth of Madness, a film that could be viewed as the last true Carpenter masterpiece, as well as the beginning of the widescreen artist’s oft-decried “late period”. (more…)

REVIEW: ‘Knuckleheads: First Contact’ – IDW’s Best New Indie Comic

- 07-08-14Cool Stuff, reviews Posted by Leo Johnson

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Superhero comics are often a bit too serious these days. All these people with powers beyond imagine, and they can’t even muster a smile or enjoy all the cool things they can do with their flight, super strength, super cool gadgets, or whatever else they may have in their powerset. It’s so rare to see a super who doesn’t even worry about fighting evil, but just revels in the awesome situation they’ve been placed in. That’s where Brian Winkeler and Robert Wilson IV do something a little different with Knuckleheads(more…)

‘The Leftovers': The Worthless Quest for Answers, Chaos and Wild Dogs

- 06-30-14Featured, reviews, TV Posted by Jason Tabrys

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“Sam!” She cries out. Once, twice, three times before the screen goes black and we hear the clutter of confused 9-1-1 calls. A moment before, this frazzled mother was bemoaning the evolution of the coin-op laundry to a child that is now nothing more than gone.

I like how the tragedy splinters out like a pebble in a windshield. The mother, a child crying out, a car crash and then a scream. 2% of the population gone in an instant as the camera almost seems to spin till we’re dizzy on this small space of land. They’re the only ones in the world that have just lost everything, but they’re not. 140 million dead.

A blue ribbon and a blurred jogger fill the screen next. The names of the “missing” or the “gone” or the “dead” or the whatever are read off one by one over the radio in a way that is instantly familiar to anyone who pays attention on the 11th of September as all the TV networks broadcast the ceremonies from Ground Zero. There are multiple moments where you feel like Tom Perrotta and Damon Lindelof are talking about 9/11 in The Leftovers. (more…)