Film Review: THE FEMALE BRAIN Is A Great Sci-Rom-Com (LAFF 2017)

The Female Brain (2017)
Written by Neal Brennan, Louann Brizendine and Whitney Cummings
Directed by Whitney Cummings
Produced by Erika Olde and Michael Roiff
98 min, rated R

The Female Brain debuted at the Los Angeles Film Festival and star Whitney Cummings pulls triple duty. Not only does she star in it as Julia Brizendine (aka Louann Brizendine), the doctor with a heart of glass, she also serves as co-writer and director. This is a major feat in an industry dominated by men. The result is a brainy and romantic story about how women and men affect one another.

From the start, Cummings makes it clear this is a different kind of rom-com from the moment Julia looks over brain scans to find that women’s brains aren’t as complex as she wants them to be as she profiles three different couples whose brains she has examined. When they act on their impulses, there’s always a scientific explanation given by narrator Julia and this device works very well for the film.

As for the couples, there are three of them and Cecily Strong plays one half of my favorite one. She plays aspiring entrepreneur Zoe, and Blake Griffin plays Greg, an NBA player (sound familiar?) who suffers a leg injury, giving his “trophy wife” a chance to pursue a career of her own. The storyline could’ve been stereotypical and boring, but thanks to Griffin and Strong it stays fresh and entertaining. Whether it’s Zoe trying to fit in at her new crappy job or Greg trying to adjust to life without basketball, there’s never a dull moment.

Now, let’s talk about Blake Griffin. I’m not into sports and only vaguely knew his name before watching this. That said, he’s a good actor and has excellent comedic skills. He kills it with his improv and even throws in physical comedy when necessary. His scene with Will Sasso (as his personal trainer) has some unsubtle homoerotic undertones and is one of the funniest scenes in the film. He also manages not to chew too much scenery but when he does, it’s just the right amount. If you liked John Cena in Trainwreck, you’ll love Blake in this.

As for Julia and her love interest Kevin (whose brain she reads), it’s another example of a woman trying not to be a woman until the right man comes along to change her mind. The thing that sets this one apart from the other rom-coms is the chemistry between Cummings and Toby Kebbell and how they interact. He says he loves her after they meet cute in the MRI room at her school. She says she doesn’t do dating. He thinks she’s full of crap. They date and she learns to open up her heart as easily as she does minds.

In addition to these couples, Lucy Punch plays the typical nagging girlfriend Lexi to James Marsden’s scruffy Adam. She wants to change him. He wants her to let him be. They have ups and downs but the journey ends with a truthful and improvisational moment of clarity. Deon Cole and Sofia Vergara play Steven and Lisa, an old married couple on the brink of divorce. When the writers aren’t making fun of Vergara’s accent, they portray the ending of a long marriage in a realistic and simple way.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HLuzM2wbnR4

In the end, The Female Brain doesn’t set out to placate feminists but rather paints a picture of flawed humans with insecurities. Highly recommended for people that like comedies with heart and a brain. Bonus points for the awesome Ben Platt (2017 Tony Award winner) cameo. Rumor is there’s a “Male Brain” sequel in the works too. That should be brief.

 




Film Review: THE SONG OF SWAY LAKE is A Disappointment (LAFF 2017)

The Song of Sway Lake
Written by Elizabeth Bull and Ari Gold
Directed by Ari Gold
Produced by Michael Bederman, Allison Rose Carter, Ari Gold and Zak Kilberg
1 hr 40 min, rated R

**SOME SPOILERS AHEAD**

Out of the 5 total films I viewed at the Los Angeles Film Festival, The Song of Sway Lake is the most baffling. When I first screened the film, I was excited to see Mary Beth Peil (2017 Tony Award nominee whom I adore) and Rory Culkin (a personal favorite of mine) star in a sweet independent film about music, family and romance. What I got when I sat down to view it was a well-intentioned mess of a movie with great acting, great cinematography, great production design and a very poor script that served almost no one.

To start, the film opens with a song called “Sway Lake” playing along with the image of Charlie and Hal Sway getting married in a time long past. For some unknown reason, a voice over (in letter form) of Charlie explaining how important that time was with her precious husband commences. It inexplicably goes on to her son’s suicide (he jumps into the lake and dies in 1992), then flashes to the present (5 months later, she says) where we meet her grandson Ollie (played by a game if a little bored Rory Culkin) and his Russian comrade Nikolai (played by a charming Robert Sheehan). Not only are they introduced visually but the voice over goes on to explain the plot to us (why????!) again in letter form.

The plot: Ollie is planning to steal the original “Sway Lake” 78 record from her house because he’s a music collector and he believes his dad (the one who committed suicide for whatever reason) would want him to have it.

When the film eventually lets go of the tired voice over device, it is a lot smoother but still devoid of the cinematic magic it longs to tap into from yesteryear. The boys go to the grandmother’s house and help out with the grounds-keeping so that Charlie can get closer to the Russian Casanova Nikolai. This was a feeble attempt to add some sexual tension to a film that was so not that kind of film in any way, shape or form.

I’ve seen many a romance between unlikely duos, but this one takes the cake. Not only is the love story wrongheaded but it’s creepy. Not creepy in a good way like a forbidden romance. No, this romance (if you can even call it that) is based on the fact that Nikolai wants to be Ollie’s grandfather. The whole affair (you can’t even call it that) ends in one of the most awkward and unsatisfying scenes I’ve ever seen.

In fact, I would say that for the film itself. It’s so frustrating to watch something that you like in every other way but the most important part is a big disappointment. I think this film could’ve been a fun time to be had by all if a few things happened. If the story about the lake being made public had been more detailed, if Peil was given anything to do other than reminiscing and being kind of a bitch (for no discernible reason), if the romantic arc between Nikolai and Charlie had been scrapped, if the lake was shown to have magical properties as advertised and if the whole thing was better realized and the script reflected real life, this could’ve been a great film. As it stands, the unfinished product is a shell of what could’ve been.

Those of you who love Jack Falahee from How To Get Away With Murder will be pretty disappointed with his role here. He plays a young guy that wants to be able to jet ski on the lake and hang out with his friends there. There’s not much more to his story but he still does a decent job with the awful lines he’s given. Still, in no way does he fill enough screen time to warrant his name being on the poster.

As for Rory and Robert, their chemistry is one of the few reasons I’d consider watching the film again. They actually seem like friends. I wanted more scenes with the two of them hanging out near the dock meeting girls. Instead of focusing on the relationship between the boys and Charlie, the film focuses on Nikolai’s obsession with Ollie’s family. No reason is ever given for this obsession and it’s one of the weakest parts of the story. It’s a shame breakout star Robert Sheehan isn’t given the proper motivation for his character’s actions.

The same can unfortunately be said for the magnificent Mary Beth Peil, who recently dazzled me in “Anastasia” on Broadway. Here, she plays Charlie as one-dimensional as instructed and has no real motivation for her actions either. That’s a problem. She’s made out to be prickly but she doesn’t exhibit that quality until the illogical ending. One of her best moments here (and there are a few) is when she listens to old records with the boys and opens up about her past with Hal. It’s one of the few natural scenes in a wholly unnatural film.

All in all, The Song of Sway Lake means well but comes off as an odd little trifle that I believe is best viewed in the privacy of one’s own home. It’s not really bad but it’s not really good either. Watch it in the theater if you dare, but I recommend waiting for it to come to Netflix or Amazon.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oR6PhWYz_9Q&feature=youtu.be

For more information about the film, visit https://www.facebook.com/swaylake/

Keep track of updates at http://arigoldfilms.com/the-song-of-sway-lake

 




ZOMBPOCALYPSE NOW: FEAR THE WALKING DEAD Is Actually Good. Huh.

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Is this the best episode yet of Fear the Walking Dead? Rubén Blades returns and Team Zombie has thoughts. It’s Zombpocalypse Now!

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Season 3, Episode 4 “100”
Written by Alan Page
Directed by Alex Garcia Lopez

Ruben Blades as Daniel Salazar (Richard Foreman, Jr/AMC)

Timothy: So here’s what concerns me…

Dustin: That Fear the Walking Dead has actually become a well-written show that we’re enjoying, and it’s going to get our hopes up and then crush them beneath a return to the awfulness that we have endured lo these previous two seasons?

Curtis: “Lo”? Really?

Dustin: I am waxing poetic.

Mindy: This is a legitimate concern, at least based on what you two have been saying. Of course, I have just started watching this show, so I haven’t had to suffer the way you two have. Or at least the way you two say you have. Repeatedly.

Dustin: It’s been a terrible burden to bear. 

Mindy: Mmm hmmm.

Dustin: IT IS A TERRIBLE BURDEN, MINDY.

Curtis: So what’s this concern, Tim?

Timothy: Well, I’ve been looking at the viewing numbers. When the show debuted, it had about 10 million viewers, which fell to a little less than 7 million by the end of the first season.

Dustin: This does not surprise me. At all.

Timothy: The second season started with about 6.5 million viewers, and ended with about 3 million.

Curtis: Ouch. 

Dustin: At all surprised, I am not.

Mindy: And this season?

Timothy: This season kicked off with just over 5 million, which became 4.8 million by the second episode. We don’t have the +3 and +7 numbers for the 3rd and 4th episode yet, but their live numbers have fallen every episode. 

Dustin: Wait, we’ve only had three Fear the Walking Dead nights… oh. 

Curtis: They were losing viewers on the first night the show came back, between the first and second episodes. That aired back to back.

Timothy: Yeah. Fear the Walking Dead has had four well-written, well-acted, actually good episodes this season…

Mindy: And fewer and fewer viewers.

Timothy: Exactly.

Dustin: I’m not sure how I feel about being in the position of defending this show, but we are, and we do, and here is the podcast thing we do. Listen while we say nice things about a show we’ve hated while it’s good and we’re hoping it stays that way. LISTEN!

 

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MST3K Recap: 1110, WIZARDS OF THE LOST KINGDOM

Mystery Science Theater 3000: Experiment 1110

Written by Joel Hodgson et al
Directed by Joel Hodgson and Robert Cohen
Copyright 2017

1985 was a watershed year for genre movies. It saw the introduction of the Back to the Future trilogy, and The Goonies, Terry Gilliam’s amazing Brazil, Weird Science, Real Genius, and Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome. Almost all were new properties, and fondly remembered to this day. With such an imposing lineup, it’s no surprise that this week’s experiment got lost in the shuffle. But then, that really would have happened anyway.

Cold open in Moon 13. Max is crushing hard on Kinga, and discovers a giant key. Also, a giant keyhole. Inserting part A into part B reveals a giant, armature-like robot who emerges from the ceiling. Unfortunately, it’s show time, so he sends it back whence it came. We’ll have to see where that goes.

Invention exchange: Jonah has invented “Verbal Smoke Bombs”: flash cards with guaranteed conversation-killers like “Got to go. Can’t feel my arm.” and “Oh look, a hurricane!” I need this. The Mads have sold the naming rights to every hour on the clock, which I’m kind of amazed nobody has actually done yet.

Movie sign, and we follow a boy prince who is also a magician who is teleported out of the castle when his father the king is overthrown by the queen and their “trusted” advisor. He tromps through the woods with his…pet? walking shag rug Gulfax until they come up on washed-up drunk and ex-hero Kor the Conqueror, who basically Rowsdowers (episode #910, The Final Sacrifice if you don’t get the reference) the kid around the movie until it’s time to go back, defeat the bad guys, and gain the throne. Shot on the cheap with poor monster costumes and sets that scream “off-season ren faire”, you would think something like this would sink without trace. Surprisingly, it did enough to warrant a sequel, about which more later.

The first host segment has Jonah & the ‘bots pondering just how Kor the Conqueror got his title. He’s…well, he’s not the most conquer-y of persons, to put it mildly. The general consensus is he got it on some sort of technicality (incidentally, Kor is played by Bo Svenson, a very highly thought of actor, director & latterly author with over a hundred credits. He’s one of the few bright spots in this silly mess).

The second host segment features Tom as Magic Prince Boy recreating a scene in the movie where the boy raises warriors from the dead for…well, for teh lulz, as far as anyone can tell. Jonah/Kor steps in, and explains what a terrible idea that is in the form of a 50’s doo-wop coming-of-age-song.  Also, we get a quartet of undead warrior Crows, which is the coolest sentence I’ve ever typed. Bonus: the phrase “Pump your brakes there, Verruca Salt,” which is my new go-to phrase any time someone’s being impatient.

In the third segment, we get (finally!) back to the fan mail! Hooray! I’ve missed the mail, particularly the pictures from kids. Couple of cute ones this time around. I guess that’s kind of a less-good side effect of doing an entire season in batch like they’re doing now, that you don’t have the same kind of feedback loop throughout the season like in the old days. Well, things changed: maybe they’ll set up some kind of internet site where fan mail can be submitted and worked into the next season, assuming there is one.

After the movie, they recreate the seriously underwhelming Suicide Cave scene from later on in the movie, while the Mads gloat over bringing forth the sequel. Which we will bring to you next week.

Well. This is a pretty rough film, to be sure. You can easily spot the places where it is trying desperately to harness the charms of better-made movies that came before it, and likewise spot where it fell short in doing so. It puts longtime MiSTies in mind of such “classics” as Deathstalker and the Warriors from Hell, Quest of the Delta Knights, and Cave Dwellers. There is something inherently charming about low-budget fantasy: some combination of rubber monsters, cheap video FX “magic” and Medieval Miscellaneous Chic outfits transcends the awfulness and becomes genuinely entertaining, through still terribly bad. And just think, we get to do it again next week.

What do you think, sirs?

Kelly Luck would have thought the queen dressing as a Freaking Lizard would have been a bit of a giveaway. Her other SciFi4Me work can be read here.

 




The Longbox Hunter: GREEN ARROW (Volume 3) #1

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In the back of my house, I keep my most prized possessions. My long boxes.  Filled with issue after issue after issue (Guess you could say I have issues) of comic books dating back thirty years or longer.

This is just one of them.

Green Arrow #1 (3rd series)
Written by Kevin Smith
Pencils: Phil Hester
Inks: Ande Parks
Color: Guy Major
Letters: Sean Konot

Rebirth. Something that is so common in comic books these days that it’s become a trope. Original character dies. Only to be brought back months or years later because they MUST come back.

The subject of this rebirth in this case is Oliver Queen, the original Green Arrow.

Green Arrow was created in 1941 by Mortimer Weisinger and designed by George Papp in More Fun Comics #73.

In 2001, the character was turning 60 years old. Not that anyone would notice; the character had died in issue #100 (second series), preventing a group of eco-terrorists from destroying Metropolis with a bomb. He was replaced by his son, Connor Hawke, as the Green Arrow. During the last issue of the second series, #137 (October 1998), Hal Jordan, who had gone crazy and had become the villain Parallax, resurrected Oliver.

Not the best place to take a nap.

Years later, we got a new number one issue, written by writer/director/producer/fanboy Kevin Smith with pencils by Phill Hester and inking by Ande Parks.

The issue starts during the Final Night with Batman and Superman (Damn, I miss when Batman and Superman used to be “super-friends”) talking about the seeming cold apocalypse when Supes feels something leave him, but with his weakened powers he can’t tell what.

We then visit the grave of Oliver Queen where we see Parallax visit before he leaves to kill the Sun-Eater and resurrects the sun. As he fades out, another pair of green boots show up. We see Green Arrow, Connor Hawke, sprawled out at Ollie’s grave.

Roy remembers when…

We spend the rest of the issue revisiting Ollie’s other friends and associates, the former Speedy — now Aresnal — Roy Harper. He recounts his time with Oliver.

We then visit Dinah Lance, the Black Canary, she recounts a time when she and Ollie made love.

Next on the wheel of former Oliver Queen friends and family, we visit Connor Hawke, who is now in the ashram where he came from trying to find inner peace, as well as himself.

We then find ourselves on the last two pages where a mysterious trick arrow wielding  vigilante emerges…

Artwork: Phill Hester and Ande Parks’ art style is pretty good, if a bit squared off. I’m still not a huge fan of this kind of art style. But Hester and Parks make it look pretty good. Some other artists who do this style, make it look kind of undone or exaggerated.

The classic returns.

Story: This is the opening to a story arc, so it reads more like a preamble then an actual story. It serves as a sort of introduction to the Emerald Archer’s return. (“Hey remember the guy who used to be in this title?” He’s back and a bit rebooted.”) This arc brought Oliver Queen back without the memories or scars he received during “The Longbow Hunters” storyline. He got some of the grim-dark removed that was weighing the character down. After all, he shouldn’t be just Batman with arrows. We have a Batman. He should be a bit more Robin Hood. Daring and Dashing.

That put aside, the real value here is Kevin Smith’s words. If there is one thing Kevin Smith can do (other then talk) is write. Kevin Smith is a wordsmith extraordinaire.

I’ll admit it, I’m a bit biased toward old “Silent Bob”.  He took a character that had been shoved so far aside, he didn’t even have a title (or a life) and brought him back and put him on a strong foundation. The third series of Green Arrow lasted for 75 issues and ended in 2007.

There are plenty of Green Arrow stories availiable. You can find Green Arrow in your local comic book store and on Comixology.

So start reading today!

 

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ZOMBPOCALYPSE NOW: FEAR THE WALKING DEAD Still Isn’t Entirely Awful

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Mr. Smith and the Intern From the Future join Mssrs. Adair and Harvey for more Fear the Walking Dead on Zombpocalypse Now!

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Season 3, Episode 3 “TEOTWAWKI”
Written by Ryan Scott
Directed by Deborah Chow

Kim Dickens as Madison Clark, Daniel Sharman as Troy Otto – Fear the Walking Dead _ Season 3, Episode 3 – Photo Credit: Michael Desmond/AMC

Dustin: Curtis is back!

Curtis: Hi guys.

Dustin: Mindy is back!

Mindy: Hi guys.

Dustin: Tim is… still here!

Timothy: Wow. That was enthusiastic.

Dustin: I see you every week. We don’t see Curtis as much as we used to, so it’s special when he’s here. And Mindy still laughs at my jokes.

Curtis: Thanks, Dustin. It’s good to be here. Although I came here more to hang out with my friends than watch whatever this show is.

Mindy: I’ve never watched Fear the Walking Dead before, and to be honest, watching you two watch the show is as entertaining as the show is, if not more. You make the most interesting faces.

Timothy: This show does inspire reactions. Although, we aren’t hating it as much as we thought we would, based on the previous seasons.

Dustin: All twelve thousand seasons of this show. 

Timothy: Two seasons. This is season three.

Dustin: TWELVE THOUSAND SEASONS, TIM.

Mindy: You can kind of see Dustin aging in real-time as he watches it.

Dustin: And that’s with me not hating everything that happens.

Timothy: Heh. Yeah, it says something that not hating the show is the baseline we’re going with here. Anyway, sit back and listen as we talk about all the things happening on the third episode of Fear the Walking Dead’s third season…

Curtis: Sit back and listen to us laugh a lot.

Mindy: Sit back and listen to Tim bleep out all the swearing a lot.

Dustin: AND check out our other podcasts, and our new Twitch channel, and do that YouTube thing that gets us more cool YouTube things.

Timothy: Follow us on YouTube! We’re aiming to get over 1000 followers on YouTube. It would be cool if you could help us do that.

 

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MST3K Recap: 1109, YONGARY

Mystery Science Theater 3000: Experiment 1107

Written by Joel Hodgson et al
Directed by Joel Hodgson and Robert Cohen
Copyright 2017

Korea has never really been a big kaiju kind of place. About the only even remotely recent effort has been a remake of this week’s experiment from 1999, and 1985’s notorious Pulgasari, which is chiefly remembered for being a North Korean effort to impress the world with their cultural prowess. Since this chiefly consisted of kidnapping the director and his wife for eight years and forcing them to make movies, this went about as well as you’d expect (2016’s documentary The Lovers and the Despot gives the lowdown, but how has this not been made into a movie already?). Anyway, point is, Yongary is pretty much Korea’s “official” kaiju by default. This week’s experiment brings us the original from 1967, and it is very much in the classic mold for giant monster movies of that era.

We open on the SOL, where Jonah & the ‘bots are discussing their dreams. Are there electric sheep? You bet there are. Jonah has created a miniature desk designed specifically for flipping in moments of anger. The Mads have decided to go into advertising for a new brand of coffee. It’s good coffee, but…let’s say the name could use some work.

Movie sign: a newlywed couple’s honeymoon goes down the drain when the groom has to blast off in a rocket to do recon on a sudden earthquake. Why this requires a rocket is left as an exercise to the viewer. Anyway, it turns out the “earthquake” is moving in a beeline straight for Seoul. No fair guessing what’s causing it. Anyway, there’s the usual stomping around in a cardboard city, then our heroes discover that it doesn’t like ammonia. The day is saved, and the honeymoon is back on.

In the first host segment, the gang discuss famous astronauts and their playlists. Apparently Sally Ride was into Spandau Ballet. That, I did not see coming. Also, Crow seems to be developing a sycophantic streak. They didn’t mention Chris Hadfield, which is a bit of a pity. Turns out he’s something of a Barenaked Ladies fan (seriously, give it a listen).

In the second segment, Tom pitches his new theme club: “Yongary Nights”. Based on a scene from the movie, it gives the youth of today somewhere to cavort and have one last hurrah before being trampled by a giant horned Godzilla ripoff. A perfect night out, for some people.

In the third segment, the issue of children and giant monsters is brought up–seriously, what is that? You get a giant monster, you get a little kid. It’s like it’s a law or something. Anyway, the gang speculate about who their dream monsters would be. Crow has poor taste in role models.

After the movie, the ‘bots are upset over the monster’s prolonged death scene. Seems the only way to cope is with a song. It’s not a bad one, a tad brief. Enough to get the Mads to reconsider their evil ways…for about five seconds.

Yongary is somewhat unusual as these movies go, as the English dub (by our old friends at American International) is the only version known to be in existence. It seems when they sold the movie to AIP, the production company sent everything they had, including the original negatives(!). Thus, the original Korean version joins 1933’s Wasei Kingu Kongu (a sort-of parody), 1938’s King Kong Appears in Edo, and 1962’s Bulgasari (the original of which the North Korean film mentioned above was a remake) on the honor roll of  monster movies that are considered lost. Much as we laugh at them, it’s sad when a film disappears forever. Even the not-so-good ones deserve better.

What do you think, sirs?

Kelly Luck will light a candle tonight in memory of all the heroic cardboard buildings and toy tanks that have perished in the service of cheesy movies. Her other SciFi4Me work can be read here.




12 MONKEYS Keeps Going Strong Through Episodes 5, 6, and 7

This review contains spoilers for the first seven episodes of season three, but is reviewing episodes 5, 6, and 7, which aired on the second night of the binge-a-thon on Syfy.

Season 3, Episode 5 ”Causality”
Written by Kristen Reidel
Directed by David Greene

This is a fun, bouncy episode but we can’t have the good without the bad so there are a few painful moments for us.

Cassie (Amanda Schull) and Cole (Aaron Stanford) decide to keep the Witness’s identity secret. Cassie because she wants to protect him, Cole more probably because he wants to protect her. This is such a bad mistake. We have been down this road before and secrets are a bad idea. They should let everyone know and deal with the consequences, but they are afraid. I blame Ramse (Kirk Acevedo) for this, and Olivia (Alisen Down) for putting him up to hunting Cassie. It’s possible that if they hashed it out they could come up with a plan that rescued their child AND prevented the apocalypse. Instead they have chosen to sneak around and work counter to the purposes of everyone else.

In this episode, they already have to work against the others. Everyone is worried about the facility lasting less than a year, but Jennifer (Emily Hampshire) made plans to steal the word of the Witness. It was hidden in a painting that Olivia purchased in 1989. The plan is to steal and copy it before Olivia buys it so as not to upset causality. Jennifer has planned everything, even the costumes. This must be a result of her writing plays in 1921 France. Cassie and Cole are going to get the word and destroy the part that explains the Witness’s parentage before anyone sees it.

By the way, the painting was painted of a crew member whose name is, indeed, Constance.

Hilarity ensues. Alisen Down does Jennifer recounting the information she got from Olivia, and it’s hysterical. I think this is something all the actors on 12 Monkeys should get to do. Everyone gets to be Jennifer once. They will have to do a lot of body swapping.

The clothes are fun. Deacon (Todd Stashwick) looks like he stepped out of Miami Vice. It suits him. Cole looks like Marty McFly, and I know everyone might not think this, but I like it. There’s a kind of innocence involved that suits him, although Cole wouldn’t believe it.

This is a wild eighties outfit. I’m wearing three pins at the SAME TIME. (Photo by: Brooke Palmer/Syfy)

Jennifer pretends to be her own mother. She’s only four in this timeline, before the time her mother tried to kill her. Cassie is her assistant, and she screws up immediately. She says that they are interested in the painting, Constance, so that the auction house manager puts it up for auction. Originally Olivia bought it without it going to auction. This makes it more likely they will run into Olivia. Jennifer wants to abort the mission but Cassie tells her she’s over-reacting.

Cole is a mess. Deacon needles him about Ramse and he explodes. They are about to go after each other with bottles but Cassie comes in and they take a swig and pretend nothing’s happening.

Jennifer comes up with a plan that involves auctioning off one of her father’s cars and sneaking Cassie and Cole into the auction house. We get some lovely moments between Cassie and Cole in the warehouse. He explains why he didn’t tell her when he reset their past together. I am a bit surprised that he defends his actions, since he told Jennifer he was wrong, but it’s obvious he was trying to protect her. Cole also says that if there’s something bad inside the Witness that makes him evil, it came from him. Cassie says that if he wasn’t a good man, she wouldn’t have fallen in love with him.

Deacon is so laid back in this episode. He treats the whole thing as a lark. Jennifer gets performance anxiety and buys everything that’s up for auction. Not the way to lay low. When Olivia walks in, Deacon gives the best line of the episode. “Holy s—, it’s Gozer.”Jennifer’s buying attracts the attention of her father, Leland Goines (Zeljko Ivanek), who shows up with four year old Jennifer (Rosemay Lefebvre) in tow. She’s adorable, and it gives Jennifer the chance to confront her father and me another chance to cry. Despite Cole and Cassie’s efforts, Jennifer ends up with the parchment in a room with a copy machine. She realizes what she’s looking at and covers the information about the Witness’s parentage with her hand. Oops. Olivia gets her prize without ever knowing they have the information as well.

Cassie and Cole bury the injections and paint the butterfly that brought Cassie and Deacon home. This makes it a closed circle, with no causality. Maybe they don’t have to worry as much about breaking causality. Or maybe Cassie’s longing to get back and faith that there would be something there for her is the cause. Cassie gives Cole her watch and tells him that he will always find his way back to her as long as he wears it. It’s very romantic.

Could you take my place for a moment so I can go to the bathroom?(Photo by: Ben Mark Holzberg/Syfy)

At the end, we see the Witness as a child being presented to a tent revival meeting by Christopher Lloyd. The Witness is played by the same child who played young Cole in several episodes, so we should be sure of the Witness’s parentage.

Deacon really likes Jennifer. I think she relaxes him, which is not the effect she has on anyone else. I wonder if his mom was like her at all. Deacon seems a lot more reasonable since he was incarcerated by the Monkeys, even if he did give Cole a hard time.

Cole is still suffering from having killed Ramse. If we thought he had the world on his shoulders before, he is feeling massive guilt now. All the best things in his life have been destroyed. His closest friend is dead by his hand, and the happiest moment of his life has produced everyone’s worst nightmare. Talk about low self-esteem.

Another interesting note-child Jennifer is as afraid of Olivia as adult Jennifer is, even though they hadn’t met before. Rosemay did a great job, besides being adorable. I’m not at all surprised in the good casting choices in the children when they’ve done so well with the adults.

I don’t have much more to say about this episode. It was crazy and busy and great. I don’t know how many Back to the Future references there were, or for that matter, how many other movie references there were. And could Jennifer’s poofy sleeves be any bigger?

 

Season 3, Episode 6 “Nature”
Written by Ian Sobel and Matt Morgan
Directed by Kat Candler

Detective Gale (Jay Karnes) shows up again in this episode. I love this guy. The first thing he says when Cole asks for help is “Okay.” Cole (Aaron Stanford) and Cassie (Amanda Schull) are overcome with guilt because the last time they saw him they got him killed. So we not only have the question of whether you kill Hitler as a child, but whether you tell someone of their future death, especially when it might risk your own life. Whew. No wonder these two look so miserable. And that is how Gale knows that they are together and not brother and sister, as they claimed the last time he saw them, because they are sitting side by side on the couch being miserable together.

He turns out to be a big help. They are chasing a notation on the Word of the Witness that says “a time of blood and ash”. They figure out that the Monkeys are building their army. Gale says there has to be a salesman. The salesman turns out to be Christopher Lloyd, in the creepiest role I’ve ever seen him in. The Army isn’t causing disasters, they’re chasing them. There are disappearances of the disaster victim’s loved ones at every disaster.

Meanwhile, back at the facility, Jennifer (Emily Hampshire) has made a trip in the past to collect her turtle. I don’t know why she did that since the turtle is alive now. Maybe it’s to make sure the turtle survives to become the old turtle. She’s still being haunted by time, and she becomes literally haunted when a ghostly figure appears. It looks a lot like the Witness, but it’s a female figure and the mask is different and white. At one point, we see that the figure has a slit throat. Jennifer can’t figure out what it wants.

Deacon (Todd Stashwick), on the other hand, is dismayed that he is not on the map. Any mention of him is completely missing. He goes to Olivia and demands to know his place in all of this. She says some parts are interchangeable. He says, “I am not a red shirt!” That made me laugh out loud. As upset as Deacon is to find that out that he’s a non-player character, it seems to me that this could be an opportunity. If the Monkeys don’t know about him, he could be a stealth character.

Couldn’t you draw me something nice once in a while? Like a pony? (Photo by: Ben Mark Holzberg/Syfy)

Deacon is sweet to Jennifer. He promises that no one will lock her up, and he tries to help her through her primary problems.

Cassie gets an invitation to a wake thrown by the Missionary (Christopher Lloyd). She wrangles it by pretending to be a widow but she tells her own story, which Cole hears because she has a wire on her. Amanda Schull does an amazing job in this scene.

Hearing this prompts Cole to tell Cassie later on that being told he was going to be a father was the happiest moment in his life. Cassie says that she wanted to name the baby Athan.

You’re standing on an ancient burial ground…oh, right, it’s a cemetery. (Photo by: Brooke Palmer/Syfy)

In a private moment, Gale asks if he really had that other problem that Cassie talked about. She and Cole weren’t getting along when they first met Gale and she told the detective that Cole had a war injury in his private parts. Cole says if that were true, they wouldn’t be in the fix they were now. The delivery of that line is so nuanced that I can’t describe it all.

They finally warn Gale about what happens when they see him in 1961. He still sounds like he’s going to help them regardless of the consequences. He pushes Cole into going into the tent with Cassie.

And this is where they first see their son. He is played by the child (Jack Fulton) who played the young Cole, only with darker hair, so you know he’s the spitting image of his dad. He is on a stage with the Messenger (Scottie Thompson), the Missionary, and the child (Nicholas Fry) who will grow up to be the Pallid Man. He’s primary. He draws, the way Jennifer does, the things he sees. When he does this we see him communicating with Jennifer. He picks one person out of the crowd to join their cult. Then he puts on a gas mask, that’s long, like a plague mask, and lets loose a poisonous gas in the tent.

Pandemonium ensues. Cole and Cassie get away by holding on to a suit that one of the guardians was wearing when Cassie shot her. It takes them to the same night and they watch the missionary and his family go into a house. They now have the time and place to raid the place and kill their son. They also have a time coat, which is more like a vest.

At about this point I really want to see them quit torturing Cole. I think I may have said this last season. He is suffering so much and yet quietly going about the mission. I’m sure that he still feels it’s his duty to stop the future/past by killing his child, but he doesn’t want to any more than Cassie does.

The town, Hope Valley, is lovely. It looks like Bedford Falls at Christmas.The tent meeting and the house almost look like they’re in different climates. The graveyard scene in the snow is particularly beautiful in stark black and white,

Detective Gale is not only smart, he’s people smart. He reads Cassie and Cole very well. He’s a much better friend for Cole than Ramse was. I don’t know if he’s going to take their advice and try to save his own life. Maybe he will pull a Doc Brown and wear a bulletproof vest.

Jennifer’s visions are mystifying at the moment, unless she’s connecting to Doctor Who. Was that a weeping angel I saw?

Cassie makes a good argument for nurture in this episode. Cole doesn’t believe it, of course. I wonder why the Army leaves no witnesses behind. It seems like they would get more converts if they let their marks live and spread the tale of people appearing and disappearing and a child that could tell the future.

 

Season 3, Episode 7 “Nurture”
Written by Adam Sussman
Directed by Stephen A. Adelson

This entire episode addresses the old moral dilemma of whether or not to kill Hitler as a child, before he has become Hitler. It’s a particularly difficult decision when Hitler is your own child.

We see the child Witness drawing a picture of Cole (Aaron Stanford) pointing a gun at him. The young male tutor (Dylan Colton) takes the drawing and hides it. It’s obvious that he cares about the boy. I’m glad to see that someone cares about him as a person.

Dr. Jones (Barbara Sukowa) gives a speech about what they are going to do-kill a child before he destroys the world. It’s impressive. I’ve seen her as a mother. I’ve seen her as a scientist. But in this scene, she’s a general. She sounds like Churchill. She uses the word “sin” to describe what they are about to do. She says that their only hope is that the sin will never happen once they change the past. That makes for another interesting question. Can you escape responsibility by undoing the past? Cole and Cassie couldn’t. Their child was born even though the past that he was conceived in was undone.

Cole and Cassie (Amanda Schull) discuss killing the Witness privately. Cassie says she can’t: Cole says he can. There’s something honorable and yet terrible about both positions. Cole can kill his own child to save the world, even though it will break his heart. Cassie can’t kill her child, even though it causes the death of everyone else. Somewhere in her is hope that he can be saved. There is no hope in Cole.

Deacon (Todd Stashwick) is suspicious of the two, and passes that on to Jones.

They have built something that temporarily blacks out time travel, something like an EMP machine. They take a detour in time to pick up the prototype. I’m not sure why they need to do that. Maybe to,make sure that the Monkeys don’t get to it first. This results in Cole and Jennifer (Emily Hampshire) traveling to the fifties where Jennifer has the most extraordinarily awkward seduction scene ever. Awkward is what’s needed, though, and the scientist invites her back to his lab to see the prototype, which they take. During the adventure she tells him that you can always see someone’s soul in their eyes, which is why she is so afraid of Olivia’s (Alisen Down) eyes.

Wearing her battle ponytail and seductive poodle skirt. (Photo by: Ben Mark Holzberg/Syfy)

While they are gone Cassie pleads with Jones to allow her to see her mother and her wish is granted. She asks her mother (Kristin Booth) for a consultation shortly before her mother’s death, when Cassie was young. She brings the photocopies of the Word of the Witness and her mom analyzes the Witness and declares him to be intelligent, creative and troubled but not evil or crazy. Cassie’s mom is warm, intelligent and intuitive. She knows she has an aneurysm that is a ticking time bomb. They have some nice bonding time together, and Cassie tells her that she should take her daughter (Cassie) to the museum whether she wants to go or not. This is because Cassie always regretted not going with her mom before she died. Cassie gets a nosebleed, indicating that she has changed things, and we see her and her mom at the museum. I assume that means that Cassie gets the new memory.

Jones uses the machine while they are all gone and sees Cole kill Ramse in the past. When Cassie comes home, Jones sics what’s left of the guard on her. Cassie runs and grabs the time vest from the lab and disappears.

The boy tells the tutor that both father and mother are coming after him. There’s a terrific battle.

You need to go save the people we just put in harm’s way, ‘kay? (Photo by: Brooke Palmer/Syfy)

Hannah (Brooke Williams) is severely injured. Cole makes his way to the Witness. Deacon shoots up a whole room of newly made converts in front of Jennifer, who is horrified. So for those who think Deacon has been too soft this season, take note. He does not care.

Cassie arrives and gets to kill the guardian (Hannah Waddingham) who took her baby. They shouldn’t have put self-destruct buttons on those suits.

The tutor tries to tell Cole that the child doesn’t want to grow up to be the Witness, but Cole just shoots him. He then turns the gun on his son. He has the worst, most painful look on his face that I’ve ever seen. It’s a look of ultimate suffering. The child looks back, and you can see that he has empathy for his father’s pain. Cole stops, and drops to his knees,and tells him his name is Athan. It’s a good name. It means immortal.

I’m thinking that maybe the guardian who loves Athan is the man that Jennifer is supposed to save. It could make a lot of difference if he lives and interferes between Athan and the monkey army.

Deacon comes in and Cole stands between him and the child and tells Deacon the child is his son. Deacon takes a moment for his mind to be blown and raises his gun again. Cassie shoots him from behind.

I realize my theory about Athan’s tutor is wrong because the tutor grabs the kid and hits the button on his time vest and they are both gone.

Cassie tells Cole that Jones knows and they can’t go back. They encounter Jennifer with the wounded Hannah and Cole gives her the injection to send her back. They then tell Jennifer to take care of Deacon, who Cassie just shot. Jennifer asks Cole how it went and he says, “I looked into his eyes.”

Cassie and Cole leave alone together, with a time vest for each of them.

Jones and Deacon are back at the facility, bitter and wounded. Jones can’t believe that it’s been about them all along. I guess she thought she was in a time travel story, with herself as the mad scientist,and is terribly surprised to find out that she is in a romance and is only a secondary character. So she and Deacon will be going after the Witness themselves and have to go through Cassie and Cole to get to him.

This is the answer about whether you kill Hitler as a youth. It is the right answer. You can’t kill someone for things they haven’t done yet. Besides, there is always the alternate theory, that is that the times make the man and not the man who makes the times. The theory is that if fate has a need for Hitler, it will produce one. Taking him out of the equation will not stop history.

The last two episodes may not have been as interesting as the first five. They do take us where we need to go.There is also an arc in these three episodes. In the beginning, Cassie and Cole are keeping secrets and the conflict is tearing them apart. By the end, the secret is out and they are united in purpose.

What I mostly feel at the end of this episode is an enormous relief that Cole did not shoot his own kid, which I am sure Cole could not have lived with, even if it worked and time was saved and the plague never happened.

Jones and Deacon are easily the two most ruthless characters now that Ramse is dead, and they are miffed and going after Cole and Cassie with only Hannah as a moderating influence. But what of Jennifer? She helped get both Deacon and Hannah back, but she knew that the Witness was Cole and Cassie’s child and didn’t tell Jones either. It won’t be long before they figure that out. I think it’s a little ironic that she found out in a mundane way, by seeing the word of the Witness, and not by some premonition.

Jones is making plans in the eventuality of the facility’s destruction, but we don’t know what they are. I hope it doesn’t bring about the result she’s trying to avoid.

Gotta go get the kid. (Photo by: Brooke Palmer/Syfy)

How cool that Cassie and Cole are now free-traveling without the machine. It was a great moment when they said that they were going to do this on their own and synchronized their time vests. They looked heroic and bigger than life, but really, they are just parents and for the first time acting like parents together.

 

 




Review: DC SUPER HERO GIRLS: INTERGALACTIC GAMES Wins the Day

[Featured Image & Poster: Warner Bros.]

Cover artDC Super Hero Girls: Intergalactic Games (2017)
Written by Shea Fontana 
Directed by Cecilia Aranovich 
Produced by Jennifer Coyle
76 minutes, rated TV Y7

I have to be as honest as I can from the start: the first time I caught wind of this newfangled ‘DC Super Hero Girls’ stuff, my inner monologue ticked rapidly over to “resistant to change” mode. Geez, I thought to myself, Warner and DC will go to any length at all to waste parents’ money on watered down dreck.

I was not enthused when my daughter’s eyes brightened at the sight of Batgirl in a Toys ‘R Us around her birthday.

Noting that, take it in all confidence when I admit that I was wrong. I sat down to this movie alongside my daughter and the daughter of fellow SciFi4Me contributor William Tramp, and got downright into it.

For those unfamiliar with DC Super Hero Girls, the series premise places many of our familiar DC characters in Super Hero High School in Metropolis. In Intergalactic Games, the school is hosting the appropriately named Intergalactic Games. This is a friendly competition against Sinestro’s Korugar Academy and Granny Goodness’ Furies, to encourage intergalactic peace and coordination.

As a baseline story, Intergalactic Games pits the quintessential good guys against the quintessential bad guys. If I’m being honest, though, the side stories held my attention more than the main plot. While the three groups are tensely preparing for the games, there are four additional story lines to track. Wonder Woman attempts to maintain dignity, decorum, and leadership while vying for a position as an intergalactic ambassador. Big Barda faces an internal conflict when faced with Granny Goodness and the Furies, a team to which she used to belong. Starfire is elated to reconnect with her knifster (“Girls who have the bond of the eternity”, according to Starfire).  There are nefarious goings-on surrounding the tech specialist. And what exactly are the Furies going to do if they manage to steal what they came for?

It all sounds complicated, I know. I had initial doubts that the kids would be able to follow all these strings. I definitely doubted they would pick up the hints about the power behind all this trouble (no spoilers!).

These are not the faces of girls who are struggling with plot hooks.

Maybe it’s just because the Hanna-Barbera cartoons I loved so much didn’t have all this intrigue. It could be that I just forget how clever five year-olds can be. Or perhaps both of these girls are unparalleled geniuses and can track complex drama patterns and subtle indications (nope). Whatever the source, DC tapped into some magic with this one.

As for the stickiness of the content, I think it’ll be a favorite for awhile. Evey and Claire both liked elements of the climactic battle, though Claire preferred image over story. It was also refreshing to see both girls pick favorite characters outside of what I had expected.

As an adult viewer it was delightful to hear some of the familiar voices – Tara Strong, Phil LaMarr, Hynden Walch, Greg Cipes – even if they were in unexpected roles. As a parent, it was great to see my daughter sit relatively still for over an hour without constant reminder. But as someone who can recite older animated DC properties along with the show – especially Justice League Unlimited – I was profoundly disappointed with the ultimate aim of the primary antagonist.

One complaint out of all those stories, though? Really not so bad, in the long run. If your kids like anything that kids generally like, be it cartoons, action, superheroes, or movie night with the family, pop some popcorn and grab a cape. This one is a win on all counts.

 

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ZOMBPOCALYPSE NOW: FEAR THE WALKING DEAD Returns And Team Zombie Actually Enjoyed It

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Fear the Walking Dead is back on Sunday night, and #TeamZombie find themselves in the odd position of actually enjoying it. It’s Zombpocalypse Now!

Fear_The_Walking_Dead_title_card1
Season 3, Episode 1 “Eye of the Beholder”
Written by Dave Erickson
Directed by Adam Bernstein

Season 3, Episode 2 “The New Frontier”
Written by Mark Richard
Directed by Stefan Schwartz

The decision to change the format to all singing/all dancing was, oddly enough, surprisingly successful.

Dustin: Ross McCall is the actor who played Steven.

Timothy: Aaaaaand who is Steven?

Dustin: The soldier guy you thought was the crazy soldier guy from the Fear the Walking Dead webisodes. I told you it wasn’t him.

Timothy: So you did. You do have to admit though, he did kinda look like the crazy guy.

Dustin: The crazy guy was Colton, played by Michael Mosley. They only kind of look alike, but considering both of them are buried under dirt and scruff, I suppose if you squint real hard.

Timothy: I just figured it was the the crossover bit for the two. Like the 30 seconds between the second season and the kids from the airplane webisodes.

Dustin: That was pretty stupid. Surprisingly, these episodes weren’t. They were actually good. I was engaged. I WAS ENGAGED.

Timothy: I know, it’s… confusing. We’ve been so used to hating this show, that having two episodes back to back that we liked was pretty unexpected. There’s still the chance they could screw it up, but I’m not actually complaining that we enjoyed the premiere.

Dustin: There were a few moments of the stupid, but overall, we did.

Timothy: Weird.

Dustin: Weird and scary.

Timothy: But we do weird and scary here, so that’s OK too. And for more weird and scary, and also fun and informative, check out all our other podcasts on SciFi4MeRadio…

Dustin: AND our YouTube videos! We have lots of YouTube videos!

Timothy: We do. And you, gentle listeners, can help us get to YouTube 1000 subscribers, which helps us do more on the video side of things, which would be cool.

Dustin: SUBSCRIBE TO EVERYTHING WE DO!

 

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Image Comics You Should Be Reading in 2017 Vol 2

Alright folks, not that much time has passed, but Image has been publishing new titles at an amazing rate.  I felt it was time for a second article telling you all about some of the amazing new comics that recently launched. I’ve been reading a lot and trying to get a wider coverage of the different genres, so I hope that is represented here. Let’s get to it!

Regression

What it is: Hypnosis/regression therapy horror story about waking nightmares, perception of reality, and it’s FILLED with bugs.  Like, loads of creepy bugs.  Think Candyman’s bees all over his face.  Regression may be one of my new favorite horror comics.  The premise is quite interesting, the art is excellent, and I’m a fan of Cullen Bunn’s work.

Synopsis: Adrian is plagued by ghastly waking nightmares. To understand and possibly treat these awful visions, Adrian reluctantly agrees to past life regression hypnotherapy. As his consciousness is cast back through time, Adrian witnesses a scene of horrific debauchery and diabolism. Waking, he is more unsettled than before, and with good reason—something has followed him back. Adrian descends into a world of occult conspiracy, mystery, reincarnation, and insanity from which there is no escape.

For fans of:  Candyman, Harrow County, In the Mouth of Madness

The Dying and the Dead

What it is: Jonathan Hickman and Ryan Bodenheim craft a spectacular story that revolves around death.  How the choices we make define us.  In making a choice, we can condemn ourselves.  A decision you make can end you, not right away, but years down the line.  You really died when you made the choice, it just took a while for dying to catch up to you.

Synopsis: A murder at a wedding reveals a fifty year-old secret. At great cost, a man with a dying wife is given the opportunity to save her. A lost tribe is reborn in another time. All seemingly disparate events which force relics from the Greatest Generation to come together for one last mission.

For fans of: East of West, The Manhattan Projects, The Sixth Sense, The Fountain

Plastic

What it is: Think Norman Bates from Psycho crossed with Liam Neeson’s character from Taken.  Edwyn is a crazed psychopath with a very special set of skills.  This book is quite dark and a little twisted.

Synopsis: Retired serial killer Edwyn Stoffgruppen is in love with Virginia, a girl he “met online.” Her affection quiets his vile urges. Together, they tour the back roads of America in their LTD, eating doughnuts and enjoying their healthy appetites for each other. Life is good…until a Louisiana billionaire kidnaps Virginia, forcing Edwyn to kill again in exchange for her freedom. Oh, and did we mention that Virginia is a sex doll?

For fans of: Psycho, Taken, Transporter

The Old Guard

What it is: People from different eras in history who discover they are inexplicably granted immortality struggle to remain human and keep their secret hidden.  They can sense when another of their kind awakens and seek them out.  All of them seem to be warriors/soldiers as none introduced so far have died of natural causes and returned to life.  They are all killed by the hands of another and awaken healed and horrified, as the last thing they remember is dying.  Someone though, has found them out and is building evidence of their powers.  How long can you remain hidden when you are immortal?

Synopsis: The story of old soldiers who never die…and yet cannot seem to fade away. Trapped in an immortality without explanation, Andromache of Scythia—“Andy”—and her comrades ply their trade for those who can find—and afford—their services. But in the 21st century, immortality is a hard secret to keep, and when you live long enough, you learn that there are many fates worse than death.

For fans of: Highlander 2, Death Becomes Her, Cocoon (but with Seal Team 6 instead of Don Ameche, Wilford Brimley, Hume Cronyn and Brian Dennehy!)  I make it sound silly, but it’s actually quite serious!

Renato Jones: Season 2

What it is: MORE RENATO!  I mean, come on, you read Renato Jones: The One%, right?!  It’s a societal satire.  Imagine Batman, but he just murders all the bad guys.  Plus the art is CRAZY phenomenal.  No other book looks like this one.  The variant covers for the first run were amazing enough.  Really, check them out.  They get more shot, burned, and bashed as the additional printings went on.

Synopsis: Mysterious vigilante Renato Jones showed the One% that, for all their money, for all their power, they are not untouchable. But now they’re pushing back, and the resulting class warfare may be more than even Renato can handle. When full-time villains control the whole world, the only hero who can take on the job is self-employed…a Freelancer.

For fans of:  Renato Jones Season 1, Batman, Crank, Guy Ritchie movies

Paklis

What it is: A super cool sci-fi anthology comic!  It’s rather weird and a bit intense.  Nudity too.  I like the way the art style seems to switch between stories even though it’s the same artist.

Synopsis: Do you accept the life you’ve been handed, or do you step into the unknown, even as it leads you into the shadows? In this new anthology series from writer/artist Dustin Weaver, the characters in three mind-bending stories find themselves faced with this question. In “Mushroom Bodies,” Greg struggles with knowing what’s real and fears becoming complacent in a world of human insects. The first installment of “Sagittarius A*,” is about war hero Linus Rad who is on a mission to the center of the galaxy to learn the dark secrets of his dead father’s scientific experiments. In the first chapter of “Amnia Cycle,” Tara, a young Jet-Wing pilot, goes AWOL in the war against the Nuriel in order to help Amnia, a mysterious alien with no memory of where she came from and a desperate need to stop a terrible disaster! When Amnia disappears, it sends Tara on an adventure into the Shadow Zone. Step into the unknown. Journey into the shadows. There you’ll find PAKLIS.

For fans of:  Jodorowsky, Event Horizon, Metropolis (for stylings), old sci-fi art from the 30’s?, Black Science

 




Take a Facehugger Home with ALIEN: COVENANT The Official Collector’s Edition

[Featured image courtesy Titanmagazines.com]

[Image courtesy Titan Magazines]
Your desire to buy the Alien: Covenant Official Collector’s Edition – just released by Titan Magazines – depends on two things.

First – your reaction to the movie itself. The opinions here at SciFi4Me have been trending negative. Timothy Harvey’s review and the most recent Zombpocalypse Now podcast illustrated many of the not-so-positive reactions to Ridley Scott’s latest entry in his Alien prequel series.

For myself, Alien: Covenant delivered two things I wanted after the disappointment of 2012’s Prometheus. Covenant delivered a bit more of an actual plot, along with a LOT more Xeomorphs, Neomorphs, Facehuggers, and general horror movie gross-out action.

Seeing it through my horror movie lens, I take characters making insanely stupid decisions to keep the plot moving as part of the deal. Since I just watched Covenant as a Horror Movie (IN SPACE), my expectations may have been lower and my verdict a bit brighter.

Second – does the Alien: Covenant Official Collector’s Edition deliver value for the $19.99 list price? While you can find this for less (Titanmagazines.com has it listed for $13.00 including shipping and handling), would this be worth it at full price?

The illustrations, concept art, and photography are all top notch.  Titan souvenir publications usually do an exceptional job in these areas; this Collector’s Edition is no exception. In particular, the pages illustrating the mix of digital and puppetry Visual Effects Supervisor Charley Henley used bring the Neomorph, Xenomorphs and Facehuggers to life are both gross and informative.

The Official Collector’s Edition features some impressing concept art. Image courtesy Alien Official Facebook page.

But if the visual side is everything an Alien fan could hope for while also wishing there were pages more of it, the interview features are too much of a good thing. From behind the camera, the Collector’s Edition features interviews with Director Ridley Scott, Production Designer Chris Seagers, Costume Designer Janty Yates, and Cinematographer Dariusz Wolski. All are interesting and informative for the genre or movie nerd.

It is in the cast interview sections where a little editing/condensing of content would’ve been helpful.  Actor interviews start with Michael Fassbender (David/Walter), and don’t stop until Callie Hernandez (Upworth).

The actors in Covenant are all first rate, even if their roles are stock tropes like Disposable Crewmember 1. It’s not a knock on the talent of the actors involved that I remembered Nathaniel Dean (Hallett) not by his character’s name but as “Guy Who Dies Outside the Ship” and Benjamin Rigby (Ledward) as “Guy Who Dies Inside the Medbay.”

Director Ridley Scott on the bridge of the colony ship Covenant. Image courtesy Alien Official Facebook page.

Reading through these interviews, it seemed that having some of the less prominent roles featured in a condensed “round robin” style article would’ve allowed space for more photographs, concept art of important elements of the story such as David’s Laboratory of Horrors, his destruction of the Engineer’s civilization, or what actually happened to Dr. Elizabeth Shaw.

So this review of the Alien: Covenant Official Collector’s Edition is much like the reviews of the movie it promotes; really good in some parts, but maybe a bit less than I was hoping for.

BUT WAIT! There’s more!

Thanks to the Official Collector’s Edition, I do very much want to get a copy of The Art and Making of Alien: Covenant – published by Titan Books! Titan, you’ve mastered the art of the upsell!




Film Review: WONDER WOMAN is Almost Flawless (No Spoilers)

Wonder Woman (2017)
Written by Allan Heinberg (based on the DC character created by William Moulton Marston)
Directed by Patty Jenkins
Produced by Charles Roven, Deborah Snyder, Zack Snyder, Richard Suckle
2h 21min, rated PG-13

For the past month (probably much longer, but that’s when I started to notice) it’s been nothing but Wonder Woman everywhere I looked. From Snapchat filters (yes, I had tons of fun with those) to reviews, posters, events (Women-only viewings caused quite a stir!), and just everything has been about Wonder Woman. Her long-awaited appearance on the big screen has been a long time coming. If there were any thoughts that a female superhero movie “just wouldn’t work”, the trailer and anticipation of this movie crushed those thoughts.

And then the movie came out and the critics agreed, Wonder Woman definitely works. It’s expecting to earn 100 million dollars this weekend, but I’m sure it will surpass that amount. Patty Jenkins has made a DC movie with a female superhero as the lead that not only works, but is spectacular to watch.

It’s an origin story, and the movie begins where Diana (Gal Gadot) began her life; the island of Themyscira. The island is gorgeous and you get a glimpse of Diana in her youth, which I really enjoyed. Knowing and seeing her passion to fight evil and wrong-doing from childhood makes you root for her even more. Of course, any good warrior needs training and who better to train you than your aunt.  Antiope (Robin Wright) is that one bad ass aunt we girls have, or wished we had. The one that teaches you the stuff your mom just can’t — or won’t, in this case. Robin Wright did a very convincing job as Antiope. I almost didn’t recognize her when she made her appearance on screen. She’s incredibly fierce and her fight scene is one of my favorite scenes, but I’m jumping ahead.

Diana’s mother, Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen), doesn’t want her to train or fight. Like any mother, she wants to keep her daughter safe. Diana makes it to adulthood to realize she has become more powerful than any woman on the island. Enter Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) via plane, crashing into the waters off Themyscira. Diana saves Steve from the sinking plane and brings him to the beach, along with the German navy that was chasing him. Thus ensue an epic battle scene that I can only describe as a beautiful warrior ballet. I’ll just leave it at that.

Diana’s focus is on one thing, and for this purpose she must leave the island with Steve Trevor. The contrast from the island of Themyscira to WWI Europe is so evident, I wanted to pull out my phone and look up who the cinematographer was at that moment. Matthew Jensen did an amazing job capturing the bleakness of that time. Diana’s story quickly becomes the “fish out of water” story and Gal Gadot was mesmerizing. Now, this is where the good stuff starts happening.

Gadot’s portrayal of Wonder Woman is flawless. It’s been a long time coming, and I thought I would never be able to accept anyone but Lynda Carter in the role, but Gal Gadot’s performance is what makes this movie work. Diana’s awkwardness reminded me of Christopher Reeve’s Superman. Like most women, she gushes over babies and loves ice cream. Like any good superhero, you fight the bad guys…all the time. When she races across No Man’s Land with sword and shield, I got tears in my eyes. Finally, Wonder Woman is here! Diana is naive about war and her character development is what pushes the movie forward. I felt it worked, since it was her origin story. Steve Trevor plays an important role in this development and Gadot and Pine’s on-screen chemistry did not disappoint.

My only criticism for the film would be the convoluted story around the god Ares and the amount of CGI used for the movie’s climactic scene. It seemed like a basic principle at first and I loved the Amazonians’ story and mythology, but it seemed to just get lost there towards the end for me. Maybe for my 2nd viewing, I’ll pay closer attention. Yes, there will be a 2nd, 3rd…and you get the picture.

Go see this movie. It’s a wonderful flick and we waited too long, so don’t wait any longer. Wonder Woman is here!

Wonder Woman opens June 2, 2017

The Rogues Gallery podcast will drop on June 10th with a wave of everything Wonder Woman. Plenty of discussion, opinion, and tons of spoilers; you’ll definitely want to listen to that.

 




Film Review: CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS Will Not Disappoint

[Images: Dreamworks]

Captain Underpants (2017)
Written by Nicholas Stroller (based on the global sensation and bestselling book series by Dav Pilkey)
Directed by David Soren
Produced by Mark Swift and Mireilla Soria
89 minutes, rated PG

review by guest contributor Megan Christopher

Captain Underpants: An Epic Novel (in later editions of the book, it was changed to The First Epic Novel) was released in September 1997. Set in Piqua, Ohio, it told the story of fourth-grade best friends Harold Hutchins and George Beard, their nemesis Melvin Sneedly, their cruel principal Mr. Krupp, and his fun-but-rather-dumb alter ego Captain Underpants. Writer Dav Pilkey later added eleven more books to the series, as well as spin-off novels.

Harold and George are known pranksters in their school. They place whoopee cushions on their teachers’ seats, cause science projects to malfunction, and rig the school intercom system to play Weird Al Yankovic songs on full volume. Their true passion, though, is their comic book company, Treehouse Comix Inc. Many heroes and villains star in their comics, but their favorite is the toilet-humor-wrought ‘Amazing Captain Underpants’. Principal Krupp tries to catch the boys amid their pranks, but instead is unwittingly hypnotized. Thus the child-hating principle strips down to his skivvies, dons a red window curtain as his cape, and becomes the boys’ most beloved hero: Captain Underpants. However, as Mr. Krupp/Captain Underpants doesn’t actually have any superpowers, his heist-busting abilities are initially a little underwhelming.

But what about the movie? Pilkey’s characters beautifully came to life in the film version, using Pilkey’s original illustration style to keep it familiar for the book readers. Most of the story is told by Harold (Thomas Middleditch) and George (Kevin Hart), the imaginative and lovable mischief-makers that want to make their classmates laugh in the otherwise dreary, prison-like Jerome Horowitz Elementary School. Mr. Krupp (Ed Helms) establishes his bad-guy cred early on, threatening to send them to different classrooms if he catches them in one of their notorious pranks. The boys decide that maybe they need to hang it up for a while so they don’t have to suffer separation.

Jump to Melvin (Jordan Peele) giving a full-day presentation of inventions that he designed. Harold and George, seeing Mr. Krupp sleeping through the presentation, sneak on stage and force Melvin’s Turbo Toilet 2000 to malfunction, shooting toilet paper rolls and confetti into the auditorium. Their classmates cheer, waking Mr. Krupp. They soon find that one of Melvin’s inventions, a little toy turtle that disguised a nanny cam, caught them in the act. As Mr. Krupp goes to sign the papers to move them into different classrooms, George jumps up on the desk with his 3D Hypno-Ring and out comes Captain Underpants. “TRA-LA-LAAA!” The boys are so excited to have their super hero standing before them — until he jumps out the window to go fight crime.

The toilet humor continues when mad scientist Professor Pippy Pee-Pee Diarrheastein Poopypants (yes, really) (Nick Kroll) – also known as Professor P – comes to fill the school’s opening for a science teacher. George and Harold are suspicious of him because he openly states how much he hates children and laughter. Later on, it’s revealed that he was constantly laughed at because of his ridiculous name. After starring in the boys’ latest comic, Professor P recruits Melvin and his Turbo Toilet 2000 to destroy the children’s laughter once and for all.

I’ll state for the record that Ed Helms was a perfect casting move for Mr. Krupp/Captain Underpants. Mr. Krupp’s almost gravelly sounding groans and violent screaming were as terrifying as I imagined, reading the books as a kid. As Captain Underpants, his consistent overly dramatic hero voice was hilarious, making his inaccurate observations and incredibly dimwitted comments sound as authentic as you’d expect.

I won’t tell you the ending, but here’s what I will say this much: definitely take your kids to see this one. I usually protest movies when the main expectation is poop and fart jokes for an hour and a half, but this was great. As an avid book reader, I was prepared to be disappointed, but was remarkably pleased. My eight-year old, who normally gets bored halfway through movies, was engaged the entire time. The plot is consistent, the toilet-jokes are surprisingly low-key compared to most other kids’ movies (even if they are more literal), and the characters are wonderful. Did they stick to the exact plot from the book? No. However, I think that readers – whether you’re an adult who read it as a kid or kids that are reading the books now – will be thrilled with this movie.

Captain Underpants opens June 2, 2017.

Megan Christopher is based in the Kansas City Metro and enjoys reading, anime, Harry Potter, and anything else that will get her imagination fired up. Megan is a frequent sounding board for another SciFi4Me.com contributor, Jennifer Wise, and was delighted to have this opportunity with SciFi4Me.

 




ROGUES GALLERY #55: Tis the Season for Finales

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For a lot of the shows, it’s season finale time, and for some of the shows, it couldn’t come at a better time. Because more than a few of these story lines are drifting into “oh, please” territory, and we have concerns that if they continue on their present trajectory…. well, maybe one more season for some.

Arrow ended with another burning, because it’s the season finale and something has to burn. Supergirl ended with a big thud named Mon-El, and The Flash ends … without the Flash?

 

The panel: Ann Laabs, Jeff Hackworth, Thomas Townley, Tim Harvey, Jason Hunt

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