“A screaming woman running down the street with her throat cut.” That’s the image Nina (Rene Russo) evokes when describing her news program in director Dan Gilroy’s tremendous thriller Nightcrawler. It’s tempting to adopt that as a metaphor for the entire film—Gilroy’s first, by the way, which makes his achievement doubly impressive—but while that is definitely part of the equation, what drives this movie forward is the menace that lurks just below the surface, beneath a calm exterior personified by Jake Gyllenhaal’s Louis Bloom.
Thursday, October 30, 2014
It took a couple of issues to really find a groove, but Titan Comics’ Doctor Who: The Eleventh Doctor has found a nice groove over the two installments of the continuing adventures of Matt Smith’s incarnation of the venerable Time Lord and his new companion, former library assistant Alice Obiefune. Each new book still functions very much like a standalone episode, but in issue #4, writer Al Ewing has struck a solid balance between that and the larger narrative arc that gives these tales a more substantial texture.
Wednesday, October 29, 2014
Halloween is coming, and while there’s always a lot of talk about potentially awesome costume designs, every year people don and assortment of truly questionable outfits. To help steer your holiday in the right direction, we’ve compiled a list of sci-fi themes you may want to steer away from to ensure a smooth, hassle free night of handing out candy and getting wasted.
Tuesday, October 28, 2014
Clive Barker’s Nightbreed is the very definition of a cult movie. The 1990 horror fantasy has legions of rabid fans, a swirling mythology both inside the film and without, and is one of those films intended to be the start of a franchise, but is destined to forever remain as is. At least it was. Stories of studio interference, and censors demanding that somewhere in the neighborhood of 17 scenes be cut before the film could screen theatrically, make it readily apparent that the Nightbreed we’ve been watching all these years is not the version of the film Barker initially intended. Now Scream Factory has delivered the definitive director’s cut of the film on Blu-ray, and put together one hell of a package. This is an absolute must for every Nightbreed fan lurking out there in the darkness.
Sunday, October 26, 2014
As we approached the premiere of season 5 of TheWalking Dead, AMC’s mega-popular zombie drama, my biggest question was whether or not they could maintain the progress and momentum created over the second half of season 4. By far the best run in the entire series, I wasn’t a huge fan of the season finale, but here we are, three episodes into the young season 5, and they not only kept it going, they’ve started building even more. The season started out with a tense, action heavy debut, and followed that up with a more introspective episode, which brings us to tonight’s installment, “Four Walls and a Roof. And this is the episode fans of the comics have been waiting for.
It should go without saying, don’t read this unless you’ve already watched the episode, or you just don’t give a damn, because we’re going wade through some deep ass spoilers.
Thursday, October 23, 2014
Keanu Reeves may not be the greatest thespian of his generation, but you have to give the man points for doing the unexpected. After hits like Speed and The Matrix trilogy, he could easily have coasted by on name recognition, collecting big paydays and headlining spectacle level action tentpoles (okay, he tried on occasion, with films like Constantine and The Day the Earth Stood Still, but those are relatively few and far between). Instead, however, he’s chosen offbeat projects, like A Scanner Darky, and made his directorial debut with an old school martial arts film, Man of Tai Chi, where he plays against type as a villain. He’s even taking a turn on TV with the upcoming miniseries Rain. John Wick, a gritty, throwback revenge actioner, helmed by two stuntmen making their own directorial debut, is another unusual choice, and it may be my favorite movie of the year thus far. It’s definitely up there.
Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Birdman: or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) is a big, bold movie, the kind that takes aesthetic and thematic risks, and that grabs you from frame one and practically screams at you to pay attention. It’s also very convinced of its own cleverness. The film made the rounds at all the prestigious fall festivals, garnering praise and adulation at every stop, and it’s become impossible for anyone to mention it without discussing awards possibilities. Surely this will figure into those races, in many respects justifiably so, but while Birdman is a very good film, even coming near greatness, it’s not necessarily the paradigm shifting, perception altering feature that some have made it out to be. There’s a fine line between genius and pretension, and Birdman walks on both sides. As much as there is to praise, there’s always a ‘but’ looming.
Like many of you, my introduction to Richard Linklater came in high school with his first feature, Slacker, which, to this day, is one of the first images that pops into my mind when I hear the phrase “independent film.” Made on the cheap, using non-professional actors, and told in an unusually structured, seemingly plotless way, it’s the kind of movie that, especially at the time, when the new wave of American independent cinema was quietly building steam on the down low, a 15- or 16-year-old kid might spend weekends getting high on a couch in a buddy’s basement and watching, dissecting the philosophical ramifications of each individual segment, as well as the movie as a whole. Linklater’s follow-up feature, Dazed and Confused, served a similar purpose, though in a very different way.
Wednesday, October 22, 2014
Initially, I wasn’t going to write about this because it was a leak, and while I won’t get into the legal or ethical explanations, I would have just felt like a dick doing it, so I didn’t. But now it’s official, so what the hell. Marvel was going to unveil your first look at Avengers: Age of Ultron next week during their regularly scheduled episode of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., but since it got out, they decided to release it in an official capacity. So here it is.
Sunday, October 19, 2014
Despite having drastic ups and downs over the course of the series, the last half of season 4 of AMC’s The Walking Dead was, by far, the best run in the series, giving me hope, guarded as it was, going into season 5. And thus far the young season hasn’t let me down. After starting with last week’s high-paced, action-centric season premiere, “No Sanctuary,” the massively popular zombie drama returns with “Strangers,” a quiet, moody, contemplative episode that continues to ratchet up the tension and build towards something even bigger.
If you haven’t watched the episode, stop reading now, because we’re going to talk about it, in depth, and this will include a great many SPOILERS.
When I was a kid I absolutely loved Leviathan. And just to be clear, we’re talking about the 1989 Alien knock off, not the Leviathan from this year, also known as Russia’s official entry into the foreign language Oscar race. They’re two very, very different movies.
Thursday, October 16, 2014
As far as animated kid’s movies go, Jorge R. Gutierrez’ The Book of Life is simultaneously wildly inventive and totally familiar, which are the film’s greatest strengths and weaknesses, respectively. Fortunately for the viewer, one totally supersedes the other, and the end result is a stunningly beautiful movie with a story that, while not particularly original, could be much, much worse, and has enough going on at the periphery that it is still interesting. And to be honest, there aren’t enough children’s movies about death, let alone ones that deal with it as positively as this one.
Wednesday, October 15, 2014
As Doctors Ten and Eleven continue to live on in the pages of new comic books, one series for each Time Lord, Peter Capaldi’s twelfth incarnation has been bringing layer of dark grittiness to the airwaves every week for the last few months. But that’s not enough for him, oh no, the newest Man from Gallifrey is also getting his very own monthly title from Titan Comics. Clara is along for the ride, too, though she’s still having some issues coming to terms with the Doctor’s new face, and personality. It’s also getting increasingly difficult to juggle her teaching duties with adventures through space and time—she’s one of the cool teachers, even though the kids call her Ms. Oddwald or Ms. Oddbod.
Sunday, October 12, 2014
Well that’s one way to start off a season. A couple of years ago, if I told you the biggest show on television would kick off its fifth season with cannibals, blood spurting from sliced open throats, and one group of people preparing to gouge out the eyeballs of another group of people, you might not have believed me. But we live in a world where AMC’s The Walking Dead is more popular than we ever could have imagined, and that, and more, all happened within the first few minutes.
It should go without saying that if you haven’t watched the season 5 premiere, “No Sanctuary,” you might want to stop reading right now, as we’re going to get into all manner of spoiler type things, like spoilers.
Friday, October 10, 2014
Season 4 of AMC’s hit zombie drama The WalkingDead is easily the best in the show’s history, especially the eight episodes that comprise the second half (okay, the first seven of those, I wasn’t super impressed by season finale, at least not until the very end). I give a lot of this credit, rightly or wrongly, to new showrunner Scott Gimple—these episodes in particular, and their narrative approach, bear the trademarks of those he wrote before landing this gig—and I’m more excited and interested in seeing what happens to these characters than I’ve ever been.
Thursday, October 9, 2014
Gabe Ibanez’ new sci-fi feature Automata is not a terrible movie by any means, but it is very, very familiar, to the point where little, if anything, comes across as original. If you were to break it down, you could damn near name the movie where each individual scene originates. You can’t help but notice direct lifts from Blade Runner, I, Robot, Dredd, Mad Max, District 9/Elysium, and countless others. Not to mention a variety literary allusions—Asimov and Philip K. Dick especially. This is like a hodgepodge of genre influences all thrown together, and all of this combined adds up to a movie that is wildly okay.
Sunday, October 5, 2014
Fringe is gone, that’s just a hard fact of life that I’m going to have to accept. Luckily, I’ve had a couple of years to get used to this, which is more than enough time to marathon the entire series, a couple of times, just in case you’re wondering. And if you’re also a fan, it’s good to resign yourself to this, because these Fringe novelizations—they’re really tie in novels, full of cursory stories from the lives of the main characters—just aren’t cutting it.
In this line of work, I’ve become fairly immune to spoilers, partly out of necessity, partly because, as long as the story is structured well, the reveal can still have the appropriate impact. One example is that, going into season three of Game of Thrones, I already knew all about the events of the “Red Wedding.” It’s a hazard of the trade, and since I don’t have HBO and had to wait until it hit Blu-ray months after the fact, there’s only so much you can ask out of the internet. But it is told in such a way that I was still floored when it went down, even though I knew what was going to happen. That’s the sign of a strong story, I knew what was going to happen from a mechanical standpoint, but that didn’t dilute the ultimate impact.
Thursday, October 2, 2014
When David Fincher’s “Gone Girl” starts out, Ben Affleck’s Nick Dunne is just a normal guy, taking out the trash on what looks like just another normal morning. But this day is anything but normal. First, it’s his fifth wedding anniversary, and you know from word one that it’s not a happy marriage. It’s also the day that his wife, Amy (Rosamund Pike), goes missing and Nick becomes the most notorious man in the media-hungry world. What follows is part mystery, part thriller, and part razor sharp indictment of our news-as-entertainment society, all wrapped up with constantly shifting ground and a wicked sense of humor you don’t see coming.
Remember that evil doll from “The Conjuring”? It’s the kind of hellish looking children’s toy that you think no one would ever possibly give to a real child because just looking at that nasty smile would give it nightmares. Obviously, the first thing you thought walking out of James Wan’s film was, “that creepy doll needs its own movie,” right? Didn’t everyone think that? It sure seems that way, because that’s exactly what we now have with the prequel “Annabelle.” And if you think making a feature-length movie out of the backstory of a sinister doll—from the director of “The Butterfly Effect 2” no less—might be stretching the concept a bit thin, you are correct.
Wednesday, October 1, 2014
By now we’re well into the reign of Time Lord number twelve on Doctor Who, played with swagger and an edge of dickishness by Peter Capaldi. Still, there are likely some, possibly many, of you out there who miss the human cartoon that was Matt Smith’s eleventh incarnation of the character. But fear not, that version of the long-lived, beloved character is still alive and well, albeit in a drastically different form, that of comic books. It does actually seem like a fitting medium for a rendering of Smith, and the newly minted continuing series is back with issue #3, “What He Wants…” and it has what you need.
It’s that time. We finally have our first addition to the Star Wars canon in the Disney-owned Lucasfilm era, with the animated series Star Wars Rebels. The premiere episode, “Spark of Rebellion,” recently debuted, and it’s a damn good time, setting the stage for a series that looks to be a ton of fun. Definitely aimed at kids, but never in the cheap, cloying way that George Lucas’ prequels were, kids are absolutely going to flip their wigs over this, but at the same time there’s more than enough here to keep you interested and watching right along with them. It isn’t the movies we’ve been waiting for, but it just might tide you over until Episode VII drops next December.