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…)

MOVIE REVIEW: ‘Transformers: Age of Extinction’ – The Same Old, Same Old, Just More of It

- 06-27-14Featured, Film, reviews Posted by Adam A. Donaldson

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This far into the Transformer series of films by Michael Bay you know exactly what you’re going to get, so you’re either going to see Transformers: Age of Extinction and enjoy it, see it and hate watch it, or just ignore its passing and seeing something more engaging to your personal taste at the multiplex. If I could describe Age of Extinction in two words, they would be “too much,” too much exposition, too much action, too much plot, too much Bay-hem… And although it’s not as noticeable, too much silliness mixed in with all the hardcore action. In other words, it’s everything you like, or hate, already about Transformers films, just more of it. (more…)

RETRO REVIEW: ‘Face/Off’ is John Woo’s Ultimate Action Masterpiece

- 06-17-14Featured, Film, reviews Posted by Jacob Knight

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Welcome back to our “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 seventh entry is John Woo’s operatic Hollywood bullet ballet, Face/Off (1997)…

When John Woo was five years old, his family fled from the civil war occurring in Guangzhou, opting to put down roots in a rough Hong Kong neighborhood. As he grew, Woo was recruited by the local gangs, his refusal of their invitations to join earning him numerous beat downs in the alleys of the Shek Kimp Mei slums. Hoping for escape, Woo often found refuge from the violence in two different arenas: the Christian church and the local movie houses. Both helped him develop an unshakable moral code, as the director is quick to cite the unflinching spirit of brotherhood found in Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid as easily as any passage in the Bible.

Throughout his career, spiritual and secular imagery amalgamated as he crafted numerous staples of Hong Kong action cinema (A Better Tomorrow I & II, The Killer, Hard Boiled), in which he often pitted two brothers-in-arms against the world, guns drawn and blazing (just like Butch & Sundance). All the while, he set his stories in the underworld he rejected as a boy, often seemingly attempting to understand the souls of the bad men who endeavored to corrupt his ethical fabric. But it wouldn’t be until he reached American soil and helmed his third Hollywood feature that he’d perfectly combine his fully ingrained interests with his search for identification in a childhood enemy. In many ways, Face/Off not only acts as the perfect culmination of Woo’s career up until that point, but also as the final masterwork in a long, celebrated filmography. (more…)

RECAP/REVIEW – Game of Thrones – Season 4, Episode 10: “The Children”

- 06-16-14Featured, reviews, TV Posted by Jacob Knight

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“Happy fucking Father’s Day.” — The Season Four Finale of Game of Thrones

The TV adaptation of George R.R. Martin’s A Storm of Swords has now come to a close and, at the end of it all, what is the overall lesson this tale has taught us? Really, it’s the same overarching message that the climax of nearly every slasher film ever made has attempted to hand down: don’t count your opponent as being out of the fight until you are setting fire to his breathless corpse. Though Joffrey may have fallen, Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage, whose work this year has been damn near transcendent) found himself at the mercy of the cruelest members of his family. For a moment, Tyrion believed he may have discovered a sliver of hope in his trial-by-combat “champion”, until Prince Oberyn of Dorne wasted one too many seconds taunting his downed foe before he found himself on his back, Ser Gregor Clegane’s thumbs deep in his eye sockets. But tonight, Tyrion got to dole out a few teachings of his own to his tyrannical father, as the imp was once again underestimated by those who look down their nose at him. The resulting patricide is one of the most heart-wrenchingly sad moments in Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire saga, and show-runners D.B. Weiss and David Benioff have translated it into the perfect capper for what may be the series’ strongest season. (more…)

TOY REVIEW: Sideshow Collectibles ‘G.I. Joe’ Destro 1/6th Scale Figure

- 06-07-14Cool Stuff, Featured, reviews Posted by Luke Gallagher

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If I learned anything from G.I. Joe, it’s that heroes and villains should almost always be named in direct correlation to their stereotype (let’s call the karate guy “Quick Kick” and the sailor dude “Ship Wreck”) and that – say it with me now –  “knowing is half the battle” (Yo Joe!). 

One thing that you should know (if you don’t already) is that in the battle for collectible manufacturer superiority Sideshow Collectibles reigns supreme. Reminding us of their skill in producing super detailed and top capita statues and figurines, Sideshow was nice enough to send NerdBastards.com a sample of one of the latest additions to their 1/6th scale figure G.I. Joe line. You may know him as a Cobra’s weapons supplier. Or, as I like to refer to him, the chrome domed evil twin of Mr. Clean. I am, of course, referring to none other than the death dealer himself, head of M.A.R.S Industries (Military Armaments Research Syndicate, not the candy bar), leader of the Iron Brigadiers and Baroness’s beau – Destro.

Head on down past the break, as we have a few laughs and experience this (curiouser than expected) figure together. Big Joe/Cobra fan or not, you’ll come to want him. Badly. His shiny head is so irresistible.  (more…)

RETRO REVIEW: ‘Ravenous’ is an Even Better Western Than it is a Horror Film

- 06-03-14Featured, Film 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 sixth entry is Antonia Bird’s underrated cannibal Western, Ravenous (1999)…

Ravenous is an extremely potent horror picture.

Yet to only view the film through the narrow prism of a single genre ignores what truly makes it special. Like Alex Cox before her, Antonia Bird has cobbled together a singular Western whose deepest roots reach back to its “spaghetti” precursors from Spain and Italy in the 1960s and 70s. It’s an amalgamation of particular influence; pulling from deep cut directors like Joaquin Romero Marchent while also tipping its Calvary cap toward Sergio Corbucci. So while the viscera may remain in the cave of the viewer’s mind much more vividly than the vistas, Bird has undoubtedly crafted an examination of manifest destiny that ranks with Major Dundee and Heaven’s Gate as a touchstone of widescreen Western filmmaking. (more…)

MOVIE REVIEW: ‘Maleficent’ Soars, Then Stumbles

- 05-29-14Featured, Film, reviews Posted by Sarah Moran

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The recent string of live-action fairy tales – usually twists on classic stories in an attempt to provide extra depth – hasn’t been all that critically successful. Films like Alice in Wonderland and Oz the Great and Powerful earned Disney piles of cash, but neither surpassed or even equaled the quality of their source material or the more well-known adaptations. In theatres this weekend is Maleficent, Disney’s twist on Sleeping Beauty in where focus is put on the tale’s dark villainess instead of the young, cursed princess. (more…)

VIDEO GAME REVIEW: ‘Watch Dogs’ – Breaths New Life Into “Open World” Style Adventure

- 05-29-14Featured, reviews, Videogames Posted by Luke Gallagher

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Since its unveiling at E3 2012, Ubisoft’s Watch Dogs has been one of the most anticipated games for any console, particularly this new generation of systems. The spawn of what seems to be a three-way between Assassin’s Creed, Grand Theft Auto and Infamous, Watch Dogs puts you in control of Aiden Pearce, a hacker-cum-vigilante in search of bloody retribution for the death of his niece. Delayed several times, this once launch title has finally graced American shelves. Did the delay produce a better game or simply postpone the inevitable disappointment which often accompanies a hype-beast such as this? It’s 696 miles to Chicago, we’ve got $60, a quarter tank of gas, a six pack of Red Bull, it’s night, and we’re wearing sunglasses…let’s punch it.  (more…)

RECAP/REVIEW: ‘Arrow’ – S02E23 – “Unthinkable”

- 05-15-14Comics, Featured, reviews, TV Posted by Sarah Moran

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As a whole, Arrowhas grown by leaps and bounds since its first season. The series has come to rely less on annoying “villain of the week” devices in favor of a stronger season-long arc and has surrounded its hero with a diverse and interesting cast of friends and foes. Last night’s season finale, “Unthinkable“, needed to send Season 2 out on a bang. Which it did, thanks to a solid season’s worth of build up. (more…)