Monday, April 17, 2017

Review: ‘The Leftovers’ 3.1 – ‘The Book of Kevin’

I come to The Leftovers after finishing up the 7th season of one of the most inconsistent shows on television today (The Walking Dead). The exact opposite of The Leftovers, which has had two phenomenal seasons. Of course, you can’t forget to mention that during its short run, the show had one of the best episodes of television to date with season 2’s International Assassin.

What I’m trying to get at is that there aren’t many things harder for a television show than to try and match the quality of a second season which was better than the first. While at the same time trying to bring a satisfying conclusion to one of the most open ended premises for a show ever. Luckily, I trust the show-runners and The Book of Kevin didn’t disappoint.

I know a large chunk, if not the majority of this season will take place in Australia. It was smart to have at least the first episode pick up in the same place. Albeit three years after a DOMESTIC DRONE STRIKE. I couldn’t believe that strike, but they pulled it off realistically and it was treated with the right amount of conspiracy that would be needed to pull off something so crazy within the United States. It also served as a sign that we are moving forward, to hopefully bigger things. The past, and many of our old antagonists are literally rubble.

What I really liked about this episode is the through line of the “confirmation bias”. From the fantastic opening flashback, to the return of Dean, and even John’s psychic scam. We as humans want to believe the lies we tell ourselves that make us feel better. We are attracted to others that allow us and encourage us to indulge in those delusions. But when we go too far into our own biases we lose sight of reality and can lose what is really important in life. We see this when Matt’s wife explains why she is leaving him as well as the flashback cold open. Then again, it wouldn’t be all for nothing if the delusions are true… right?

 

Quick Thoughts:

  • I liked the flashbacks to International Assassins it gives that episode even more importance than it already had. It wasn’t just a vision to Kevin.
  • “He thinks the New Testament is getting a little too old.”
  • Gotta love Kevin back in uniform.
  • That ending!!!!!!!!

The post Review: ‘The Leftovers’ 3.1 – ‘The Book of Kevin’ appeared first on ScreeningClub | Insight Into the Media You Love.


by Christopher Moore
This post first appeared on http://screeningclub.com/2017/04/18/review-the-leftovers-3-1-the-book-of-kevin/ on ScreeningClub.com.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Review: ‘Ghost in the Shell’

I came upon Mamoru Oshii’s Ghost in the Shell in college like it seems a lot of people did. I almost never watched anime growing up, save for a few episodes of Dragon Ball Z at my friend’s house in the late 90’s. What the 1995 Ghost in the Shell did was open up the idea of anime as serious art for me. Seriously cool stories set in seriously cool worlds could be told in this medium. If nothing else, Oshii’s version of this story is dripping with style. The 2017 version accurately translates that hyper-real (almost) Neo-Tokyo style into live action. The set design and CGI all add up to a phenomenally technicolor “cyber-punk” world.

Beyond nailing the style, this remake doesn’t bring much else to the table. It is simply a watered-down version of the 1995 original. In almost every conceivable way. I was shocked when I looked down at my ticket stub to see that the film was rated PG-13. I knew what I was in for from that moment on. A movie full of fights scenes pulling their punches and people getting “shot” off screen who seem to not have any blood in their body. Major moments from the original play out, and it is certainly fun to see them in live action, but it only made me want to watch the original again.

I will say Scarlett Johansson is great as Major and I really enjoyed her stilted take on the character. Michael Pitt did an admirable job as the villain. (who I guess is from the spin-off series?) They did some work with his voice that gave him a sinister timbre that I really enjoyed. There is a good movie to be made in this world, and hopefully they’ll get a shot at a sequel. But if those opening weekend numbers are any indication, we might have seen the last of ScarJo as Major.

Rating: *** out of five

Starring: Scarlett Johansson, Pilou Asbaek, Takeshi Kitano

Runtime: 107 minutes

The post Review: ‘Ghost in the Shell’ appeared first on ScreeningClub | Insight Into the Media You Love.


by Christopher Moore
This post first appeared on http://screeningclub.com/2017/04/10/review-ghost-in-the-shell/ on ScreeningClub.com.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Review: ‘The Walking Dead’ 7.16 – ‘The First Day of the Rest of Your Life’

On this week’s episode of The Screening Club Podcast I refer to The Walking Dead as a roller coaster of quality. Through the years, the show has gone from some of the finest stuff on TV to some of the most inane filler in recent memory. Right now we are in a small plateau of quality. The fun is still there, the characters are charming, but it isn’t shot or written particularly well.

This episode should have been a triumphant show of force for what this show can do when it has a budget. The battle for Alexandria should have been something akin to The Watchers on the Wall. Instead, it was a mediocre gun battle punctuated by some fun moments. For every cool lion attack, we got a handful of shots of people shooting at things off-screen and missing. Boring.

The main string through this episode was Sasha. Being in the coffin, having those flashbacks, dying, then starting the war with her zombified body. Those flashbacks with Abraham were the emotion core of the finale, but they fell completely flat because the writers clearly made up the scene to fit perfectly with the arc of the episode. It would have been so much more impactful if that scene was a real scene that happened last season. I would have marveled at how well they did with foreshadowing. This ended up feeling lazy.

Despite the laziness, the show has done a good job giving The Saviors the time they need to really become vilified. Negan is so likable and so fun to watch on screen that at times you can kind of see where he is coming from. (In some very limited cases) I’m glad this season finale started the war, it was time. I just wish it was done in a more well thought out fashion.

Quick Thoughts:

  • The Scavengers “twist” this episode was so stupid and just a way to turn the tables on our characters without doing and storytelling legwork. Lazy.
  • Some people think King Ezekiel is cheesy, but I think Khary Payton plays him pitch perfect. I loved his speech when he charged in to save Alexandria. Let’s get some more of him next season.

The post Review: ‘The Walking Dead’ 7.16 – ‘The First Day of the Rest of Your Life’ appeared first on ScreeningClub | Insight Into the Media You Love.


by Christopher Moore
This post first appeared on http://screeningclub.com/2017/04/04/review-the-walking-dead-7-16-the-first-day-of-the-rest-of-your-life/ on ScreeningClub.com.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Review: ‘The Walking Dead’ 7.14 – ‘The Other Side’

The Other Side was an episode of The Walking Dead that needed to happen. I guess you could view it as maintenance or upkeep. That doesn’t mean we have to like it. The “Rosita/Sasha going rogue” has been set up for some time and it was nice to finally see some forward momentum with the characters. The conversations that were had between Rosita and Sasha were fantastically written and acted pitch perfect. It’s just a shame that these scenes took place inside a nonsensical story arch.

The show lays out their reasoning for going rogue, but it doesn’t make their plan any less stupid. The only thing that Rick and the gang have going for them right now in the fight against The Saviors is the element of surprise. Two fighters from Alexandria popping things off inside The Saviors Compound is the exact opposite of a surprise. Jesus’ half-ass plea to get them to stay made me even more annoyed. It’s as if the writers saw these plot holes and felt having one minor character be a voice of concern would be enough. Let’s hope these shenanigans get wrapped up next week and Sasha doesn’t die in vain.

Quick Thoughts:

  • The Walking Dead is a show that usually forgets about dead characters fast. That’s clearly not a problem anymore.
  • I was holding out hope the Eugene was just playing along until he found an opportune moment to strike, but I guess he really is just a giant piece of shit.
  • Of course, this is The Walking Dead so he will redeem himself as some point because the fans like him. I’m betting it will be saving someone’s life at the last second.

The post Review: ‘The Walking Dead’ 7.14 – ‘The Other Side’ appeared first on ScreeningClub | Insight Into the Media You Love.


by Christopher Moore
This post first appeared on http://screeningclub.com/2017/03/22/review-the-walking-dead-7-14-the-other-side/ on ScreeningClub.com.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Review: ‘Logan’

Logan is a great movie. It is a perfect sendoff to the character of Wolverine as well as the actor who has played him for almost two decades. Sadly, this movie also serves as a cold reminder of all the great films we could have had in this universe if they cared as much about them as they seemed to have with Logan.

I’m certainly not a big X-Men fan, even in the comics. I can confidently say that there are two good X-Men movies, X-Men: First Class and now Logan. Part of why both of those movies work is due to them not caring about the twisted and broken story lines set up in the previous movies. This film barely touches upon anything from the earlier films, including those from Wolverine’s own trilogy. Imagine how much better this movie would have been if they didn’t have to make you forget about everything in the past to let you enjoy it. I want to live in a world where all those previous films give weight and importance to the last time we see Hugh Jackman as Wolverine on screen. Instead we must live in this period of cognitive dissonance about all those shitty movies that this actor was in playing this same role.

It’s probably telling that as soon as Logan branches out of its bare-bones story and adds in more characters the movie starts to feel a little strained. If it wanted to, Logan could act as a jumping off point for a whole other series of films. I hope to god it doesn’t. Let the legend of Logan rest in peace.

The post Review: ‘Logan’ appeared first on ScreeningClub | Insight Into the Media You Love.


by Christopher Moore
This post first appeared on http://screeningclub.com/2017/03/19/review-logan/ on ScreeningClub.com.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Review: ‘The Walking Dead’ 7.13 – ‘Bury Me Here’

Let me just start off with saying that I loved this episode. It is rare that we get an episode that pushes the story forward in a huge way that isn’t a season finale. Bury Me Here didn’t even leave off on an annoying cliff-hanger. It was a satisfying episode arc from beginning to end that also has massive implications on the overall story of the show.

It was a given that at some point The Kingdom would join up with our heroes in Alexandria, it was just a matter of when. More than that, this episode tied up all of the potential loose ends in The Kingdom’s plot that could have fallen to the wayside once the real fighting started. Even better it tied them up in a way that was positive for the overall story of the show.

Someone had to die from The Kingdom to start this war and Richard’s plan was a good one… if it worked. Killing Benjamin instead allowed so many other actions to be set in motion. Morgan realizes killing can be a brutal necessity at times, Carol knows the truth about who the saviors killed and The Kingdom has a martyr to rally around against The Saviors. Plus a lot of potentially interesting but ultimately useless characters are now dead and don’t have to soak up screen time.

 

Quick Thoughts:

  • I find it funny how everyone forgets how ridiculous Morgan’s story to get back with the group was. He had to get so lucky in the Terminus arc to find his way to Rick.
  • But the reason why nobody cares is because Lennie James does such a good job portraying the conflicted nature of that character that you just want him to be around.
  • King Ezekiel is a good dude, I like how not every group we meet are bloodthirsty psychopaths.
  • I don’t think the melon stuff at the beginning of the episode hit the mark like they thoughts it was going to.

The post Review: ‘The Walking Dead’ 7.13 – ‘Bury Me Here’ appeared first on ScreeningClub | Insight Into the Media You Love.


by Christopher Moore
This post first appeared on http://screeningclub.com/2017/03/13/review-the-walking-dead-7-13-bury-me-here/ on ScreeningClub.com.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Review: ‘Kong: Skull Island’

There are two obvious comparisons to draw from Jordan Vogt-Robert’s Kong: Skull Island, the latest reimagining of the monster movie icon, and that’s Gareth Edward’s Godzilla (2014) and Peter Jackson’s King Kong (2005). The former film being the first of likely many entries in an expanded Marvel-esque universe of which Skull Island now occupies, the latter being the other most recent remake of the 1933 classic original. Having now just seen Skull Island, I must admit to having difficulty sitting through it without reminding myself of the two aforementioned films and how vastly superior they are to this one. Those were films with a distinct creative and artistic vision, with a strong devotion to celebrating the genre and legacy of films that inspired them, and that were big and loud and destructive, yes, but had more to say about their featured star and the nature of the world they inhabit. Whether the comparison between Skull Island and those films is fair or not, it’s impossible to avoid; in lieu of that distinct vision is little more than camp and empty spectacle.

Which isn’t to say that there isn’t plenty of fun to be had here. Unlike Godzilla, the beast himself occupies the screen for what felt like 50% of the movie’s runtime, a decision made likely in response to the hefty criticism waged against Godzilla’s peculiar lack of lizard giant. I’ve always been partial to the “Spielberg school” of suspense and build-up when it comes to the introduction of these breathing arbiters of chaos and destruction, but King Kong is without question the most interesting component of this film, and that he’s in a lot of it isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The action is rampant and mostly engaging, and once the cast actually arrives on Skull Island a dull moment is rarely to be had. The cast of supporting players – chief among them Samuel L. Jackson, John Goodman, and John C. Reilly – do exactly what’s expected of them and are a welcomed presence throughout much of the hysterics. Save for maybe Reilly, there isn’t an actual character any actor attempts to play, but their natural charisma and screen-presence is enough to carry their scenes through some really bland dialogue.

Speaking of nothing characters, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the lifeless cardboard cutouts of human beings “leads” Tom Hiddleston and Oscar-winner Brie Larson halfheartedly attempt to play. That they’re beautiful, beloved movie-stars should’ve been enough to sell them as interesting people at the very least, but the combination of a limited relevance to the story, unconvincing chemistry, and zero worthwhile motive or backstory can’t even amount to that. It’s the lack of work put into developing an interesting story or fresh insight into the world of Kong where Skull Island falls short of being little more than an average creature-feature, which is disappointing considering how many iterations of the iconic primate we’ve now seen. Much like the film itself, King Kong is cool to look at and fun to watch destroy things, but there’s little more to grasp beyond that; in an era in which other, better versions of this character and his adjacent foes exist, that isn’t good enough.

Rating: **1/2 out of five

Starring: Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, John Goodman, John C. Reilly

Runtime: 118 minutes

The post Review: ‘Kong: Skull Island’ appeared first on ScreeningClub | Insight Into the Media You Love.


by Michael Lang
This post first appeared on http://screeningclub.com/2017/03/11/review-kong-skull-island-2/ on ScreeningClub.com.