Monday, June 26, 2017

Review: ‘Oh, Hello: on Broadway’

How the two characters that John Mulaney and Nick Kroll inhabit in Oh, Hello came to be is a twisted history of guest spots. As far as I can remember, the first time I’d heard Gil Faizon and George St. Geegland was on an episode of the podcast Comedy, Bang! Bang! Mulaney and Kroll’s hilarious characters were too good to just be guest characters on a podcast maybe twice a year so they spun the characters out to a webseries entitled Too Much Tuna. Hilarious as it is, there is only so much you can do with a low budget semi-talk show webseries. It made sense they would branch out even further from there, with their now cult-followed characters, but I didn’t think Broadway would be their next stop.

Clearly these Mulaney and Kroll love New York and have a specific nostalgia for Broadway culture. But Oh, Hello on Broadway becomes to insular by having a lot jokes which are so specific about Broadway culture. What saves many of these jokes is how naturally funny these guys are simply speaking. Sometimes the joke isn’t even what they say but rather how they are saying it. I even get the feeling that making these extremely specific Broadway refrences and having the majority of the audience not understand them might actually be the joke. But maybe that’s just me trying to stay in the cool kids club.maxresdefault-300x169 Review: 'Oh, Hello: on Broadway' TV

 The show outlines Faizon and St. Geegland’s personal history, how they meet eachother and how they each are trying to make an impact in the New York cultural scene. Clearly they haven’t made a dent as they are in their old age and still living with eachother. It’s fun to see the backstory Mulaney and Kroll have crafted for these characters but where the show really shines is in their small moments of improve.

Oh, Hello on Broadway is a live performance, so inevitably things will go wrong. There were no major snafus but one actor will find the others delivery of a joke particularly funny and break character for a second or they will interact with an audience member here and there. These two guys are improve geniuses and it shows. Even more interesting is the short interview segment (I won’t spoil the guest star) but I wonder how much of that was rehearsed and how that segment works from night to night in the live show.

When you take a step back and look at where these characters spawned from, what they were meant to be and how they have morphed into something so much bigger, it’s really amazing that this live special even exists. As long as Netflix is willing to throw money at these weird odd-ball projects, I’ll keep watching.

The post Review: ‘Oh, Hello: on Broadway’ appeared first on ScreeningClub | Insight Into the Media You Love.


by Christopher Moore
This post first appeared on http://screeningclub.com/2017/06/26/review-oh-hello-on-broadway/ on ScreeningClub.com.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Review: ‘The Mummy’

I feel like the news that Alex Kurtzman’s The Mummy reboot was actually the kickoff for an entire planned cinematic universe wasn’t known for a long time. It was certainly noteworthy when the news broke, but when I heard the news it seemed like they were projecting a success with The Mummy and decided a shared universe could work for them. After seeing the film, it is apparent that this film was always meant to introduce viewers to a “world of monsters.”

I’m not sure if Tom Cruise is meant to act as a through line for this new “Dark Universe”, but it certainly sets his character up for an important role going forward. Beyond good old TC, the film is dripping with potential connections to the other planned films. Nothing is too in your face, if you forget about Russel Crowe’s portrayal of Dr. Henry Jekyll that is.

This film tries to do some interesting things, like portraying TC as your run of the mill action star in every promo, but then having him be a total tool throughout the film. (don’t worry, he comes around) Where it stumbles is in its horrendous script. It takes a lot for Jake Johnson not to be charming and he was set up well as TC’s wise crackin’ buddy but it just doesn’t work. He certainly tried his best with what he was given, but the script is just so painfully plain. Nothing memorable happens and the action becomes a CG mess about half way through.

As a side note I’d like to bring up a personal pet peeve with movies that deal with Ancient Egypt. The fact of the matter is that nobody knows what the Egyptian language sounded like when spoken aloud. That knowledge is lost to the sands of time. The only reason we even know how to translate hieroglyphics is because of the discovery of the Rosetta Stone. So when films have to portray ancient Egyptians speaking it can get a little dicey. I believe whoever was responsible for the Egyptian language used by a few characters throughout this film, probably a contracted linguist, didn’t do that good of a job. I believe they tried to pull from a few know ancient languages to get that sort of feeling and pronunciation, but it just rings hollow and (at least to me) was a bit of a distraction.

I’d say The Mummy is best described as a movie that you might watch one night when nothing else is on TV and you catch it on HBO. It’s certainly not as bad as people are saying, but it’s close enough to not recommend that anyone go see it in theaters.

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


by Christopher Moore
This post first appeared on http://screeningclub.com/2017/06/19/review-the-mummy/ on ScreeningClub.com.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Season Review: ‘Master of None’ Season 2

The first season of Master of None ends on a revelation that would drastically change the show if they chose to go in that direction. The idea that Dev, disillusioned with life in New York, is heading to Italy to change things up. The show doesn’t shy away from that news, in fact they go further than I would have ever thought they could. Three entire episodes take place in Italy, the fantastic premier shot in black and white and almost completely in Italian. But more importantly, the inevitable move back to New York doesn’t feel forced or hollow, and Dev takes knowledge and character development back with him. His romp in Italy actually means something to the character and the show. It doesn’t hurt that it was beautifully shot as well.

What I liked about this season is that while Dev is absolutely not a perfect person. He’s a great guy but he has flaws. He can be self-centered, as we see in how he eats around his family or how he deals with his cousin. More impactfully for me, and maybe where it crosses the line is in Dev openly pursuing an engaged woman. Sure, we see Dev and Francesca connect intimately, but it’s a pretty big leap for him to go beyond friendship. But the show never shies away from this or tries to show it in an artificially positive light. It looks like people really dealing with these complex emotions. Ansari and his astounding supporting cast all truthfully portray these emotion with the proper weight they deserve.

What is really impressive about Master of None is how it can flip flop between really upbeat, authentically joyous moments like eating world-class pasta and taking cute selfies to  displaying raw human emotions between two human beings that just want the same thing but don’t know how to express it. This is highlighted by the century-spanning bottle episode, Thanksgiving, in which Dev is relegated to a side character. In the episode we see the fantastic Lena Waithe as Denise reveal the evolution of her relationship with her family through the years. Culminating in her emotional coming out and the fallout afterwards. Master of None is able to straddle that line masterfully (pun intended) and creates a show as real and important and Louie or Maron.

The post Season Review: ‘Master of None’ Season 2 appeared first on ScreeningClub | Insight Into the Media You Love.


by Christopher Moore
This post first appeared on http://screeningclub.com/2017/06/12/season-review-master-of-none-season-2/ on ScreeningClub.com.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Season Review: ‘House of Cards’ Season Five

Spoilers for all five seasons of House of Cards ahead.

Ugh, this damn show. Through so many of its up and down seasons, I’ve reluctantly held on probably past the point of justification often because by the end of a sagging hour or frustrating arc of episodes something would occur to remind me of why, when this show hits its mark, it can be so damn fun. Frank pushes Zoe Barnes in front of a moving train; Frank, Claire and Meechum share in a three-way; Lucas Goodwin makes an attempt on Frank’s life; Tom Hammerschmidt publishes a scathing expose detailing the Underwoods’ suspected crimes. That through all the unearned bloviating bullshit and evil puppet-mastery, moments such as those can still exist enough in this show to keep me from completely losing my mind over how far up its own ass it is. But then season five dropped, and any redeeming qualities the show once desperately clung onto were all but vanquished in the face of doubling down on the side of itself that I hate the most.

This show has always had a problem with effectively portraying the simultaneous rise and fall of the Underwood empire. Frank ascends to the Presidency by illegally maneuvering President Walker into committing a crime, so he resigns, no questions asked; Frank and Claire throw the country into literal chaos to sabotage the election in their favor, and everyone just kind of shrugs it off. Kathy Durand might share information unbeneficial to Frank at her sworn testimony, so he shoves her down a fucking flight of stairs, and no one thinks anything of it. How the show has been able to justify away many of these lazy narrative crutches throughout much of its run is because in the background of all the Underwood scheming has been a Kate Baldwin, a Lucas Goodwin, or now a Tom Hammerschmidt passing along the baton of holding these liars and murderers to account. The idea that one day the past will finally catch up to them by way of a person or institution out of their orbit of control.

I had all my hope in the world resting on the beefy shoulders of reporter extraordinaire Tom Hammerschmidt and his two-season long investigation into this crime family, and that by season’s end we’d have at the very least an inkling of an idea as to how and when he’d (pun very intended) drop the hammer on them. But no; as Frank casually informs us and Claire in the season finale, he’d been the one feeding Hammerschmidt misleading information regarding the nature of Zoe’s death as yet another exercise in his omnipresent reach, and he was successful, of course! Doug takes the fall; Franks walks away unscathed; rinse and repeat. To be fair, Hammerschmidt appeared vaguely doubtful as to how much of that he was buying, but that’s the best we get? After two seasons worth of time spent with this really solid character doing smart, investigative journalism into the show’s main character and his series-worth of crimes: yet another Frank con-job with shades of vague doubt? How demoralizing.

This kind of undermining of character agency outside the Holy Trinity of Frank, Claire, and Doug speaks so clearly to House of Cards’ greatest problem: that the people around this trio aren’t people at all, but little worker bees flying around in circles at the whims of whatever the fuck they want at any given time. I know the Underwoods callously steamrolling their way through every seeming obstacle in their path has been the show’s calling card from the beginning, and to many people likely its most entertaining facet. But at this point in its run, watching these people mow down all those opposed them through lying, blackmailing, bullying and murdering without a single lasting consequence not only feels like unacceptable writing, but a borderline offense on the intelligence of its audience. This show has always presented itself as a “rise and fall” narrative – we know this because there’s barely been a single episode through all five seasons in which a supporting character hasn’t been digging into the Underwoods and their associates’ past illegal actions – but to this point it’s essentially only been about their rise, with an occasional easily dispatched hiccup along the way. Every time we near their inevitable fall they overcome it only to become more powerful in the process. It’s finally left me asking: without the fall, or the hint of an eventual fall, what’s the damn point?

Quick Thoughts:

  • Of course Frank was pulling all the strings of his impeachment process from the very beginning! Why wouldn’t he have been? You see in this Universe, it’s the President who’s the smart one and everyone else around him that’s incredibly, deeply stupid.
  • Ever since Frank and Claire stole Kathy Durand’s VP nomination right out from under her, she’s been free-falling her way into becoming the show’s most pathetic sucker. Which is a shame, because when she’s not busy being Frank’s #1 patsy, she feels like a reasonably decent and intelligent person. And we just know when she regains the capacity to speak she’s gonna keep her lips sealed as to how she conveniently tumbled down that flight of stairs, right?  
  • It’s so typical of this show to first introduce Will Conway as an ultra-competent challenger to Frank in the season four episodes where he needed to be, and then do the complete inverse of that in the season five episodes where he needed to become unhinged in order to sell Frank’s victory over him. And as soon as Frank was done with him we never heard from him again. He only mattered so far as the show needed him to get Frank from point A to point B in as prolonged fashion as possible; once he served his plot purpose, away he went.
  • So Claire is now the President, an outcome I predicted would happen from the beginning of the season, although my money was on her more blatantly sabotaging Frank to get the job. Putting the preposterousness of this development aside (she goes from estranged First Lady, to backdoor VP nominee, to Acting President, to VP, to President in the span of a year or so?), I don’t hate it. If she holds her ground on not pardoning Frank, I’ll like it even more, but what are the chances of that happening?
  • The big theme of this season was elevating Claire to the level of Frank as a narrative and spiritual equal. In getting to that point, we first see her flirt with directly addressing the audience before outright doing so a few episodes later. That was cool. She also murders her lover Tom Yates to keep him from publishing a manuscript that apparently details less-than-flattering material about her and Frank? Not so cool. I always liked the idea of Claire as an analog of Frank who’s as ruthless and ambitious as he is but also doesn’t need to stoop to his petty violence simply because she’s better at than him. I guess not.
  • And the Gavin “Guinea Pig-loving Ruler of the Dark Internet” Orsay Award for Lamest, Never-Ending Character Spotlight of the Season nominees are: Aidan Macallan, Jane Davis, LeAnn Harvey, Tom Yates. The winner is… Jane Davis! I love Patricia Clarkson, but this character was so stupid.
  • Yeah, I’ll be back for Season Six. I hate myself that much.

The post Season Review: ‘House of Cards’ Season Five appeared first on ScreeningClub | Insight Into the Media You Love.


by Michael Lang
This post first appeared on http://screeningclub.com/2017/06/06/season-review-house-of-cards-season-five/ on ScreeningClub.com.

Review: ‘The Leftovers’ 3.08 – ‘The Book of Nora’

It’s hard to review The Book of Nora and not reflect on the entire season or even the full series as a whole. Partly because it is natural to reflect back when a series ends but also because this episode does a great job encapsulating the issues the show initially wanted discuss and analyze. The first season was about how people deal with grief and the existential dread of massive problems you are powerless to fix. The second and third season shifted to discussing how people work towards moving past their grief and try to find some sort of solace or contentment in life.

People are flawed and what we feel will bring us comfort might not, and that’s why the story that Nora tells Kevin in her dusty Australian house works so well as a final note for the show. What you think you need might just be what you want. Many of us aren’t lucky enough to get what we think we need, whether it is financial stability, that new car or a new house. These things might be Band-Aids on top of the real problem and what you need is to fix something deeper. Nora thought she needed to see her family to get closure but upon realizing that she literally wasn’t a part of their world anymore she was able to move on. She was able to put them to rest knowing that somewhere and in some timeline; they are content with their life. She got what she wanted, but what she realized she needed was slightly different.

Kevin on the other hand, possibly reflecting on his constant messiah status, is the rare person who finally gets what he wants and is able to find comfort. He is able to die one last time and destroy that world he visits in his suicidal visions. To me this puts to rest any future chance of visions or hallucinations. Kevin replaces his need to get to that world and find answers with the search for Nora. Leaving the door open to supernatural elements, even with Nora gone, Kevin knows she isn’t really gone. He searches tirelessly, 2 weeks a year, for what he thinks he needs. With Kevin always being the exception that proves to rule, Nora is what he wants and needs. As Kevin and Nora say in that final scene, they are here and that’s ok. More than ok, being there together is enough.

 

Quick Thoughts:

  • Laurie is alive! With her being alive and Kevin not seeming to know who Nora was, I thought this might be the afterlife. Maybe in the afterlife you forget some parts of you and finding those that affected you in life helps you regain that knowledge. Wait, was this LOST all along?
  • Carrie Coon national treasure status confirmed? CONFIRMED
  • If you are not on Instagram, and love this show, go check out the cast a crew accounts. Some great behind the scenes shots and a lot of great reflection on the show.
  • This show will go down as one of the best in the history of the medium. It didn’t last long, but its star shone so bright in the darkness that is ocean of vacuous television.

The post Review: ‘The Leftovers’ 3.08 – ‘The Book of Nora’ appeared first on ScreeningClub | Insight Into the Media You Love.


by Christopher Moore
This post first appeared on http://screeningclub.com/2017/06/05/523/ on ScreeningClub.com.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Review: ‘The Leftovers’ 3.07 – ‘The Most Powerful Man in the World (and His Identical Twin Brother)’

In The Most Powerful Man in the World (and His Identical Twin Brother) Kevin literally grapples with himself. It amazes me how little Kevin dealt with the tasks he was given when he went to the other side. Shortly after looking into the mirror shard and becoming The President, he asks the kids where their shoes went and delivers John’s message to Evie. The rest of the episode is about Kevin dealing with the destructive parts within himself that drive him away from his family and loved ones. The parts of himself that are never at rest and never feel satisfied. These parts of himself are physically manifested in the form of a key embedded below his heart. Kevin literally pulls that part out of himself and uses it to destroy the place where he has sought refuge from his self-destructive life.

In last week’s episode Kevin tells Laurie that he knows he was dead when he visited the hotel, but he had never felt more alive. That’s because when he is on the other side, he always finds a clear purpose and there is always someone there to tell him what he should be doing. Kill Patty, sing to get home, take the girl to the well. That purpose is what he doesn’t feel in real life and it is what drives him to these suicidal visions. What this episode did is move Kevin beyond that. He knows he screwed up with Nora, but he also knows that if somehow he gets back to Nora he can finally find comfort and serenity with her. Together.

 

Quick Thoughts:

  • Man, I was searching every scene for Laurie. Maybe she isn’t dead after all?
  • I loved the final scene with Kevin and his father, it felt like someone leaving a cult for the first time. After you put all that restrictive dogma behind you all you can really think is “what now?”
  • Where is ya boy Holy Wayne at? Let him reprise his role as Presidential Body Guard.

The post Review: ‘The Leftovers’ 3.07 – ‘The Most Powerful Man in the World (and His Identical Twin Brother)’ appeared first on ScreeningClub | Insight Into the Media You Love.


by Christopher Moore
This post first appeared on http://screeningclub.com/2017/05/29/review-the-leftovers-3-07-the-most-powerful-man-in-the-world-and-his-identical-twin-brother/ on ScreeningClub.com.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Review: ‘The Leftovers’ 3.06 – ‘Certified’

Certified acts as a spotlight on the character of Laurie while at the same time moving our overall story forward. A lot of what has been shrouded in mystery, i.e. what is this new cult’s plan for Kevin, has been cleared up. Kevin Sr., allowing his son to take on the Jesus role, is planning on using Kevin’s ability to go to the afterlife to get the final rain from Christopher Sunday. Once Kevin Sr. is able to complete is final ritual, the world is saved from a second flood of biblical proportions.

But when you hear tell of someone speaking to the dead, everyone wants in the action. Grace wants answers from her kids and John wants to know why Evie left. Yet again finality and closure is being used as a driving force in the Leftovers. You could even say that what happens (or did it?) to Laurie in this episode is her finding closure within herself. As the storm that was foretold moves in, Laurie finds contentment in her life. So much so, she might have chose to end it right there. Laurie has had one of the most fascinating arcs on the show. From a character who was seemingly devoid of emotion and empathy to one of the emotional cores of this season. She’s taken up the mantle of the respectful skeptic, sort of a more reasonable version of John from last season. But in a world that has seemed to move beyond reason, it can be extremely hard to remain a skeptic.

 

Quick Thoughts:

  • I think it’s a given that Kevin will make it to the afterlife, but I’m not sure it’ll be as easy as last time.
  • I also don’t think we’ll see everyone Kevin was asked to speak with while he’s there. We might not even see Laurie.

The post Review: ‘The Leftovers’ 3.06 – ‘Certified’ appeared first on ScreeningClub | Insight Into the Media You Love.


by Christopher Moore
This post first appeared on http://screeningclub.com/2017/05/22/review-leftovers-3-06-certified/ on ScreeningClub.com.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Review: ‘Alien: Covenant’

However many entries within the expansive saga of the Alien universe the 79-year-old Ridley Scott winds up making, Alien: Covenant will no doubt signal a most essential turning point in the series’ canon. Having been an enormous fan of the flawed but engrossing Prometheus, I was elated by the news of Scott’s plans to continue down his existential rabbit hole complete with the nefarious “engineers”, Weyland Industries, the all-consuming questions of life and creationism, and to chart the paths of our hero Elizabeth Shaw and her synthetic android sidekick David along their renewed journey to finding those answers. So I was a bit angry to learn early in the film’s development that Shaw (and her portrayer, Noomi Rapace) would not be returning to the follow-up, and that the new film would be all but detaching itself from the core events of Prometheus with a new set of characters and locations and mysterious connective ties to its predecessor. She was this franchise’s Ellen Ripley, and this series of films were to be her story; how could it possibly continue on without her? Or so I so wrongly bemoaned.

As the opening scene of Covenant makes abundantly clear, a series this grand in scope that asks questions as profound as to what it means to create life could never be about one feeble mortal being. But a rogue synthetic android obsessed with the very nature of his own existence and that of his makers, one who simultaneously detests the lifeforms responsible for creating him while also unwaveringly devoted to the idea of creating life of his own, and one who’s cold, calculated and lacking in any semblance of humanity enough to see these exponential ideas to their next phase? That’s a character worth centering a franchise such as this around, and that’s what Covenant does to itself and future entries in the series, but also retroactively Prometheus. It turns out we were only secondarily following the story of Elizabeth Shaw and her team’s mission to discovering the origins of Earth; what really mattered were the underpinnings of one immortal being’s quest to understanding the worthlessness of humankind along his path to creating life worthy of his own unrelenting standards. It’s in that sense that Covenant picks up right where Prometheus left off.

And on the execution of those aforementioned ideas, some really ambitious narrative swings and particularly the character of David as played amazingly by Michael Fassbender, Covenant is a tour de force. It’s the rest of the film around those things that occasionally lacks. Similarly to its predecessor, outside of maybe three or four characters (everyone not played by Fassbender, Katherine Waterston and Danny McBride, essentially), the entire cast mainly exists to function as useful idiots there only to purge exposition and drive the plot forward through strings of awful decision-making. Oh and also to become gruesomely murdered by the various iterations of the iconic xenomorph creature. As has been justifiably championed by the critical community, Covenant returns the saga back to its original 1979 Alien horror roots, and to mostly terrifying effect the film is not shy about playing up the suspense and subsequent savagery of the abundance of xenomorph-related deaths. There are so, so many.

The action-horror elements are acceptable but more-or-less unremarkable and unimaginative. The occasionally flimsy CGI attributed to the xenomorphs doesn’t help those scenes feel any less plain. I’d argue from a visionary and technical level Covenant takes a noticeable step back from Prometheus, for reasons that aren’t quite clear to me yet. That being said, from a narrative perspective coupled with the sheer complexity of its own ideas, Covenant takes a definitive step forward above any film in the Alien saga to date. Watching as it fades to black on a cliffhanger more terrifying than anything else in the entire film preceding it with the series’ most irreversible act to date, my anticipation for Ridley Scott’s next chapter only surmounts. This time I’ll have a better idea of what to expect.

Rating: **** out of five

Starring: Michael Fassbender, Katherine Waterston, Danny McBride, Billy Crudup, Damien Bichir

Runtime: 122 minutes

 

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


by Michael Lang
This post first appeared on http://screeningclub.com/2017/05/21/review-alien-covenant/ on ScreeningClub.com.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Review: ‘The Leftovers’ 3.05 – ‘It’s a Matt, Matt, Matt, Matt World’

In what will most certainly be our last Matt-centric episode of The Leftovers, It’s a Matt, Matt, Matt, Matt World lets us in on Matt’s world view one last time. This entire episode is a trial of faith for Matt. He’s is literally trapped in a lion’s den for almost the entire episode. Forced to face his inner demons, we learn that Matt views his life as a devotion to God. Even sacrificing his relationship with his wife to follow what he believes is God’s plan. Matt and his group of disciples endure the Lion’s den, but not without working out their differences with each other on the best way to deal with Kevin once they get to Australia.

Meanwhile, in true Leftovers fashion, we get a cold open and hints from the periphery of this episode about the tensions that are growing all over the world as people brace for the 7-year anniversary of The Great Departure. A nuke went off, but luckily no one was hurt. But a nuke going off anywhere in the world is enough to start a war between nations. Global war and great fireballs descending from the sky are prerequisites to the end times. But how much of this is a self-fulfilling prophecy? If you are crazy and think the end of the world is coming, you might launch of nuke to kick things off. Then other delusional people may see that launch as a sign that their own end-times beliefs are coming true.

I think that all that macro-level stuff with most likely stay on the periphery for the rest of the season. What this season, and maybe even the entire series was about is whether or not Kevin is the second coming of Christ. Beyond that, whether he is or not might be secondary to his struggle to accept it either way and take on a role that is needed.

 

Quick Thoughts:

  • Anyone know if that Frasier the Lion story is true?
  • I loved the scene between “God” and Matt. He doesn’t think that was God, but he was talking to God either way.

The post Review: ‘The Leftovers’ 3.05 – ‘It’s a Matt, Matt, Matt, Matt World’ appeared first on ScreeningClub | Insight Into the Media You Love.


by Christopher Moore
This post first appeared on http://screeningclub.com/2017/05/15/review-the-leftovers-3-05-its-a-matt-matt-matt-matt-world/ on ScreeningClub.com.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Review: ‘The Leftovers Season’ 3.4 ‘G’Day Melbourne’

The first two seasons of The Leftovers are dramatically different, taking place in a completely different setting and focusing on many completely different characters. In my mind, it was safe to assume that the formula would hold true for this third and final season, but that hasn’t been the case. As we move deeper into season 3, we are finally getting the change in scenery but we are getting a diminished focus on new characters. Last season it seemed all roads led to Jarden, now it is seeming like all roads lead to Australia. Maybe it has always been about Australia in some way. Even going back to season 1.

In G’Day Melbourne we see Nora work her way deeper into, and get cut off by, this new research team. They certainly are more serious than your average con-job, which leads me to believe that they are legitimately trying to do research but have severely crossed the line in the ethics division. Speaking of ethics, it seems they even have their own sense of moral superiority after turning down Nora’s money when they hear the wrong answer to their question. It’s odd, they have most likely condemned over 100 people to death in the pursuit of knowledge but Nora’s answer went too far for them.

On the other side of this episode we see Kevin going down the hallucination rabbit hole again. It was interesting to hear Nora refer to his hallucinations (sarcastically) as visions. Everyone always thinks the prophet is crazy until he’s proven right. We’ve seen Kevin have a lot of visions on this show but if he is Jesus Chris Superstar, he might not have been crazy all along. I just wonder what the event will be that proves (even to himself) that Kevin is chosen.

 

Quick Thoughts:

  • I loved the airport scenes and specifically when Kevin made Nora. He is a cop after all.
  • I wonder if Justin Theroux was told whether these visions were real or not. You would think it would have an impact on the way he portrays Kevin’s grief and anguish.

The post Review: ‘The Leftovers Season’ 3.4 ‘G’Day Melbourne’ appeared first on ScreeningClub | Insight Into the Media You Love.


by Christopher Moore
This post first appeared on http://screeningclub.com/2017/05/08/review-the-leftovers-season-3-4-gday-melbourne/ on ScreeningClub.com.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Review: ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2’

All I can ask from a Marvel movie, especially a sequel, at this point in the studio’s dominant reign is that it aspires to deliver a film beyond expected plot convention with some degree of thoughtfulness and creativity (unlike, say, The Avengers: Age of Ultron), and as was the case with Civil War last summer, I’d say Guardians Vol. 2 definitely does that. This is a film that takes some pretty hefty swings – the film’s reintroduction of the Guardians to the tune of “Mr. Blue Sky” from the POV of Baby Groot immediately springs to mind – most of which all coalesce around a final product worthy of the time spent investing in this mostly unremarkable but emotionally impactful story.

What I appreciated most about this film is that underneath the generic adversarial banter and obligatory Vol. 1 callbacks and last-ditch third-act world saving is the story of one man’s journey to connect with the father figure he thought long abandoned him. That’s really all this film is about and it’s through that core simplicity and universal relatability that Vol. 2 earns its place among the better superhero sequels in recent memory. Kurt Russel, initially given the convincing Robert Downy, Jr. de-ageify treatment in the film’s opening flashback sequence, is great here in that father role playing opposite Chris Pratt.

I understand that they are “Guardians of the Galaxy” and that Galaxy guarding is what most people are likely paying their money to see, but I really could’ve done without the Third-Act Rush to Save the World Team-up that dominates the film’s back half. We’ve seen it dozens of times before, and while it isn’t as irredeemable as the identical scene type in Vol. 1, the sequence felt more tacked on than it needed to be. It doesn’t completely torpedo the film as it’s able to rebound shortly afterward, but I still would’ve liked seeing it go, similarly to the film’s first two-thirds, a more unconventional, introspective route.

But even with a sloppy final act there’s no taking away what Guardians Vol. 2 is able to accomplish before and quickly following its few missteps. Even if I could do without the space raccoon in mostly every scene he appears, the movie is still very funny. And the chemistry and comradery among the Guardians is as weird and delightful and gushy as ever. These people are a lot of fun to be around. That plus genuine, earned emotion and aspirations of interesting, original moviemaking typically go a long way for me, and there’s no shortage of any of that in this one.

Rating: ***1/2

Starring: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper, Kurt Russell

Runtime: 137 mins

The post Review: ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2’ appeared first on ScreeningClub | Insight Into the Media You Love.


by Michael Lang
This post first appeared on http://screeningclub.com/2017/05/06/review-guardians-of-the-galaxy-vol-2/ on ScreeningClub.com.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Weekly Round-up: April 30-May 4

Another amazing week, and with a new Netflix show ready to drop for what feels like the next 10 straight weeks, it doesn’t look to be slowing down any time soon. I hope to check in with Sense8 and the new Starz series American Gods for next week’s write-up.

Sunday

The Leftovers – “Crazy Whitefella Thinking”

Kevin Garvey, Sr. has been this show’s secret hidden weapon since its inception – always uniquely memorable in his brief appearances and always pushing the story forward, either on his own or in how he rubs off on his son, Kevin, Jr. But this was the all-Kevin, Sr. power-hour we’ve desperately needed since he popped up last season to casually announce he was heading down to Australia to start the world back up again, and it did not disappoint. His journey throughout the episode is so wildly, endearingly The Leftovers, with one preposterous moment or interaction after another that only remotely makes sense in the context of this broken world and broken man. His mission leading through his rendezvous with Christopher Sunday (what a great name) and what quickly followed was so perfect, the takeaway from both parts obviously being the two separate conversations he shares with Sunday (moments before he accidently kills him, of course) and Grace, the not-Kevin murdering old woman we met last week. Those two scenes blew me away, but for different reasons: the former being the long, near-incoherent (hilarious, perfectly delivered) ramblings of a man in search of a communion with God from within, the latter a tragic, paralyzing confession of a remorseful woman in search of a connection with her deceased children through a God-like figure. With Kevin, Jr. now enroute to Australia, I think the two might just find what they’re looking for, just not in how they were expecting.

Episode grade: A

Veep – “Georgia”

The Meyer-Doyle power-struggle has always been one of my favorite tiny details of the entire run of Veep so I was especially pleased to see it front and center in this episode. He was her after-thought Veep, now she’s the after-thought representative of his State Department overseeing the first ever democratic election in Georgia. Their back and forth over who exactly puts whom on hold was delightful. This episode worked a bit better for me than the previous two just by virtue of so much of the cast finally appearing in the same geographical setting. Something about seeing Ben and Kent huddled around Selina advising her on which deeply unethical financial and political quid pro quo she should consider felt right to me. And any time Minna H√§kkinen is also around badgering the shit out of Selina (whether intentional or not) is always gonna elevate any given episode as well.

Episode grade: B+

American Crime – “Episode Eight”

I’ve always admired this show for its bold, form-breaking content matter and artistic sensibilities, even when the actual show itself falls short of its ambitions through various kinks in its writing or portrayal of characters. That said, I found those issues to be less glaring this season, as the show settled into a fairly gripping account of the crippling financial anxieties beholden to all areas of our culture and class system, and the tragedy of the systemic, trickling affects that has on the most powerless and vulnerable among us. That alone wouldn’t have been enough to sell this season as its best for me if not for the all-consuming performances of its two heavy-hitters, Regina King and Felicity Huffman. It’s not a coincidence that their finest performances on this show to date arrived when they were each given the chance to play the season’s most root-worthy and sympathetic characters. The eight-episode order (as opposed to the usual ten) worked to the show’s advantage in enabling it to focus more acutely on its themes and core characters, but there were a few underserved characters and story beats that likely fell victim to it as well. I’m thinking of the Shea character or the character played by Benito Martinez. I didn’t love the final episode as I found much of it to be resolved a tad too hastily, but I admired the hell out of this season probably enough to call it my favorite of the three we’ve seen. I really hope we get a fourth.

Episode grade: B

Season grade: A-

Monday

Better Call Saul – “Sabrosito”

The first half of this episode played like a Breaking Bad prequel in the truest sense of the word, as we finally delve deeper into the politics of the same drug cartel Walter White will one day inadvertently challenge to upend. It was so exciting to be back in the good graces of the likes of Don Eladio and Juan Bolsa during the early rise of Gus’s meth empire, and to witness even more of the corrosive blood-feud between Gus and Hector Salamanca that we know many years from now will end in a blaze of bell-ringing glory. And the Jimmy/Kim/Chuck stuff so was great, too! There’s so much going for this show right now it’s almost embarrassing. I’m so pumped to see how this showdown between brothers will play out in court and not if, but how Jimmy and Kim will take down Chuck once and for all. It can’t go any other way.

Episode grade: A

Tuesday

The Americans – “IHOP”

Another week, another really solid episode of The Americans. Even when there isn’t a whole lot going on (as has been the case for several straight episodes, it feels like), there’s still plenty of good stuff to appreciate at the very least. Two characters I wouldn’t have held my breath over ever seeing again – Martha and Gabriel – reunited at last, although I’m not sure what Gabriel was hoping to get out of it. The scene paints a bleak picture of what Martha’s post-American life has become: lonely, completely isolated from society, struggling to learn a challenging new language that would enable her to live a somewhat fruitful existence. And nothing from this chat with Gabriel brings her closer to any of this; just more pain and anger towards the man she thought she loved and could trust. That man isn’t doing too great either, but has he ever been, really? He and his wife have a lot on their plate; too much to realize just how thoughtful and successful their biological son has become almost in spite of them, or just how lonely and homesick their “adopted” son has been as a result of their absence. With Gabriel no longer by their side to sooth them through tough times like these, I can’t help but think trouble likely looms in the near future of Philip and Elizabeth Jennings.

Episode grade: B

Wednesday

Fargo – “The Yanagita Effect”

This season’s been criticized (too heavily, I’d argue) for how closely it’s resembled its past seasons – I say too heavily because if the characters and story continue to be fun and engaging in the face of familiarity (ahem, The Force Awakens), isn’t that what ultimately matters? But damn if this episode wasn’t as radical a departure from anything this show has ever done before. And it was a lot of fun seeing the world of this show travel to LA in the spirit of murder-mystery noir from the point-of-you of a character as fish-out-of-water as Gloria Burgle. Fun, yes, but purposeful? I’m still not sure. The story was advanced if not zero percent, hardly at all, and the mystery she was investigating, while compelling in its own right, ties very little back to the core crux of the actual murder itself. I liked the episode a lot, but whether or not I grow to love it will depend on just how much relevance it has to the rest of the story; it may be some time before we find out.

Episode grade: B

The Handmaid’s Tale – “Birth Day”

The blank, apathetic, almost smirking stare on the face of Offred as she’s casually, routinely raped by her Commander is among the most unsettling things I’ve ever seen on a TV show. There were a lot of moments like that in this episode, as we see the handmaids chant and coo at a fellow handmaid into delivering a baby she will never get to call her own, a baby whose life she will only exist in to serve as a designated milk provider. Seeing that entire process play out coupled with the flashbacks to Offred’s past pre-dystopian birthing experience helped to illuminate the role mass infertility likely played in bringing the world to its current state. As the history and order of this horrifying new world slowly begins to rear itself, I become more and more invested in its main character’s plight and hopeful resurgence. Though I can’t help but feel it’s gonna get a lot worse for her before it gets better, unfortunately.

Episode grade: A

Thursday

Grey’s Anatomy – “Leave It Inside” 

Every episode of this show is magic from start to finish.

Episode grade: A++++

The post Weekly Round-up: April 30-May 4 appeared first on ScreeningClub | Insight Into the Media You Love.


by Michael Lang
This post first appeared on http://screeningclub.com/2017/05/05/weekly-round-up-april-30-may-4/ on ScreeningClub.com.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Review: ‘The Leftovers’ 3.3 ‘Crazy Whitefella Thinking’

If there is a one specialty that The Leftovers has carved out for itself it is taking a supporting character and letting them grow organically in their own episode. In the past we’ve gotten a few Nora episodes and a few Matt episodes but now we get to delve deeper into Kevin Garvey Senior. Kevin Sr. has been on of the most crucial supporting characters and clearly influential on Kevin Jr’s life both attitude wise as well as genetically. His character’s thought process and what is truly going on within him has been shrouded in mystery for the past two seasons.

In Crazy Whitefella Thinking we see behind the curtain a bit and learn why Kevin Sr. left for Australia while at the same time tying in Matt’s Book of Kevin. We even learn that there is a little contention as to which Kevin the title references. To me this episode feels like connective tissue between the first third of the season and the coming middle third. We’re setting the scenery for Australia and seeing that the world is just as messed up down under as it is state-side.

What The Leftovers does well is analyze grief, struggle and how people try to move beyond trauma. This episode is a character study on finding purpose to move beyond suffering. The world went crazy after the sudden departure and when something so shockingly out of the realm of possibilities happens people lose a sense of direction in life. How are you supposed to work towards goals in your life when at any moment reality could come crashing in on you and render all your work for nothing. Finding purpose in making sure that doesn’t happen again can bring comfort.

The post Review: ‘The Leftovers’ 3.3 ‘Crazy Whitefella Thinking’ appeared first on ScreeningClub | Insight Into the Media You Love.


by Christopher Moore
This post first appeared on http://screeningclub.com/2017/05/01/review-the-leftovers-3-3-crazy-whitefella-thinking/ on ScreeningClub.com.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Weekly Round-up: April 23-27

There’s not enough time in the week to write feature reviews for all 70 of the airing shows that I force myself to watch, so I’m testing out this Weekly Round-up format, with hopefully new posts every Friday. However, for great weekly coverage of The Leftovers, be sure to check out reviews like this one every Monday from the stoic Chris Moore. It’s a show so nice we have to review it twice! Sorry, that was terrible.

Sunday

The Leftovers – “Don’t Be Ridiculous”

Last week’s season premiere provided a wondrous and fatal (that fucking domestic drone strike) return to this bleak, off-kilter, immersive world through the eyes of its profoundly fucked up male lead, Kevin Garvey, and this week, now through the eyes of its adjacently fucked up female lead, Nora Durst, the barrel keeps on rolling. Nora has long been the show’s most complex and sympathetic character (thanks to both Carrie Coon’s amazing acting abilities and the incredibly tragic past she’s been dealt by show creators Tom Perrotta and Damon Lindelof) and it’s no coincidence that every Nora showcase episode – “Guest” in season one, “Lens” in season two, and now “Don’t Be Ridiculous” in season three – always winds up as a season highmark. This episode was as much as ever about (as all Nora episodes are and really every episode of this show but rarely as much as this one) the extreme ways in which people cope with loss, grief and insurmountable pain, and in Nora’s case, in the face of both the unexplainable (the loss of her departed children) and now as we learn the explainable (the loss of Lilly at the hands of her aggrieved biological mother, Christine). With Nora and Kevin and whoever else that follows about to set sail for whatever the hell crazy shit that awaits them in Australia, it would appear things are about to get even more preposterous and exciting and sad. Definitely sad.

Episode grade: A

Veep – “Library”

What an emotional rollercoaster to turn from the tragedy and bleakness of The Leftovers to the relentless wit and hilarity of Veep; although it could be argued that in the tragedy department the two shows have never had as much in common. As the premiere made very clear, this season is going to be a rough ride for former (never elected) President Selina Meyer, and this episode continues hitting home that very point through her exhaustive efforts to construct a Presidential Library as prestigious and glorified as her predecessor’s. But of course that can’t be; she stumbled upwards into the job and then had it embarrassingly torn away by a younger, elected fellow woman a year later. As Selina tries desperately to reclaim some form of relevance in the public sphere, most of her former team continues scattered across the country. The Jon H. Ryan/Kent/Ben trio shows the most promise, but I’m not sure what to make yet of what’s going on with Dan and Amy’s respective storylines. Those two are at their best when together, as is much of the rest of the team. I hope we’re nearing a (permanent?) reunion of sorts in the next couple episodes.

Episode grade: B

Monday

Better Call Saul – “Sunk Costs”

It’s been five long years since Mike Ehrmantrout and Gustavo Fring occupied the screen together on Breaking Bad, and their long awaited reunion on season three, episode three of Better Call Saul did not disappoint. These two men are titans of their respective crafts and it was such a joy just sitting back and watching these grisled professionals size each other up and unite, however reluctantly, towards bringing down a common enemy. And the Jimmy/Chuck/Kim half of the episode was equally compelling, too, just in an entirely different way. The Jimmy/Chuck relationship is the axis on which the world of this show rotates and that conversation the two share in the episode’s first act, and the conversation Jimmy and Kim share in its final scene, cemented a significant turning point. Chuck wants Jimmy out of law practice, and Jimmy (with Kim’s help) isn’t going down without a fight.

Episode grade: A-

Bates Motel – “The Cord”

Bates Motel capped off its psychologically daring, often-frustratingly plotted five-season run this past week in I’d say appropriate, albeit similar fashion. As a deep-dive through the mind of a criminally disturbed and unstable “psycho”-path, this show and this season and episode in particular thrived. But arriving gracefully at those various points of emotional and psychological exploration was never easy for this show and this final stretch of episodes were no different. Romera had to clumsily bust Norman out of jail just like he had to stupidly turn his back to Norman for a prolonged period of time with his gun sticking out of his back pocket because… it’s what the plot required. And the White Pine Bay sheriff’s department had to be incompetent enough to leave the Bates residence and motel unmonitored for a half a day long enough for Norman to recreate the timeline of the show’s pilot in his mind and for Dylan to intervene in the final moments because… you get the point. But that final scene between the two brothers and especially that final image of the two deceased Bates side by side in their graves was perfect, as was so much of this final season when it opted to lean into that emotional well. It wasn’t always pretty, but when it was, it was pretty great.

Episode grade: B+

Tuesday

The Americans – “Immersion”

The lives of Philip and Elizabeth Jennings are spiraling, however slowly and painstakingly. Their fatherly spy handler has abandoned them, their daughter is emotionally destroyed as a result of all they’ve shared with her, and their commitment to the Cause is… waning. At least in how far they’re willing to make secondary their family and marriage in service to their spycraft. They do not like participating in the wheat crop operation, and in this episode they, subconsciously even, appear willing to destroy their involvement in it because of the wedge they perceive it to drive in their relationship. There hasn’t been a whole lot of forward momentum flowing from episode to episode in the way that other, better seasons have had, but as long as Philip and Elizabeth and their familial struggles continue to remain the heavy focus (which of course it will, that is The Americans), my commitment to this show will remain firm.

Episode grade: B

Wednesday

Fargo – “The Principle of Restricted Choice”

The plot is kicking into high gear in this second episode and I’m just genuinely thrilled to be along for the ride. Yes, the characters and story (at least to this point) feel a tad on the thin side but those weaknesses are overwhelmed by the first-class performances from literally every actor involved and the unique, familiar aesthetic sensibilities of this world. The Stussy brother feud is obviously the driving force behind all we’ve seen to this point and it’s certainly been ratcheted up to ten with Ray and Nikki’s latest move – I love that pairing by the way, Ewen McGregor is great in both brother roles but so far Mary Elizabeth Winstead is the season MVP. I’m pumped to see where that goes along with Gloria’s investigation of the murder of her step-father. That both her step-father and the Stussy brothers share a last name cannot just be a coincidence.

Episode grade: B+

The Handmaid’s Tale – “Offred”

Wow. This premiere blew me away in 30 more ways than one. From Elizabeth Moss’s intimate, bare-bones performance, the masterful world building, the tense, artful pacing and direction – it’s all there and it’s all great. Even though you still walk away with far more questions than answers, the shadings of answers you do get are enough to paint the picture of this bleak, dystopian version of an imagined future in which women exist on this earth to serve men and bear their babies. Or most women at least; there are some in the premiere that remain in positions of power (chief among them, the goddess Ann Dowd who’s amazing here) that I’m really curious about the how of it all. But damn. So good, so haunting; I’m as excited for more as I am dreadful.

Episode grade: A

Thursday

Grey’s Anatomy – “Don’t Stop Me Now”

I still watch every episode of this damn show and I ain’t never stoppin’!

Episode grade: A++++

 

Fin

 

The post Weekly Round-up: April 23-27 appeared first on ScreeningClub | Insight Into the Media You Love.


by Michael Lang
This post first appeared on http://screeningclub.com/2017/04/28/weekly-round-up-april-23-27/ on ScreeningClub.com.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Review: ‘The Leftovers’ 3.2 – ‘Don’t Be Ridiculous “

Don’t Be Ridiculous has a sense of forward momentum and revelation that I think we are going to be seeing a lot more of in the final few episodes of The Leftovers. This makes sense, in order to have a satisfying ending to the show the viewers need some answers. The answers might not be what we want or to the specific questions we want resolved, but something needs to give. We see a glimpse of that in this episode. We’re clearly building to something. I don’t think it’s the 14th (or the 15th in Australia), rather we’ll either see our characters be content in life or die trying.

That is what this episode was really about, Nora trying to find closure. She thought she found closure about her departed children through Lilly and her family but as we come to find out that family dynamic was blown up as well. Now she’s flailing in the wind trying to move past her heartbreak while at the same time never wanting to forget her departed family. It’s an intricate and extremely deep form of heartbreak that Carrie Coon plays fantastically. Her performance highlighted by her heart to heart with Erika. That scene encapsulates what makes Nora’s wounds so hard to heal. When mourning those that have departed, there is no closure. You can grieve as long as you want and accept the loss but deep down in the back of your mind you know there is a chance they could come back. They left without any explanation or meaning, who’s to say they couldn’t come back in the same fashion? I’m thinking this radiation device is a not what it claims to be, but at this point all bets are off. One thing is for sure, I cannot wait to find out.

The post Review: ‘The Leftovers’ 3.2 – ‘Don’t Be Ridiculous “ appeared first on ScreeningClub | Insight Into the Media You Love.


by Christopher Moore
This post first appeared on http://screeningclub.com/2017/04/24/review-the-leftovers-3-2-dont-be-ridiculous/ on ScreeningClub.com.

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.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Review: ‘The Walking Dead’ 7.12 – ‘Say Yes’

Welcome back to my weekly review of The Walking Dead! I took a week off due to the horrific ending of The Academy Awards which took place at the same time as The Walking Dead last week. If you want to know more about how we here at Screening Club feel about that whole fiasco go listen to our weekly podcast!

Let’s just say last week was a good episode to miss because it was as filler as filler gets. Guys, we know Negan is a bad dude that also has layers. We get that. Eugene is the least interesting person to have an episode centered around and aside from him pledging his allegiance (supposedly) to the Saviors the episode didn’t deliver much in terms of story progression.

Last night’s episode Say Yes was as much of a bottle episode as you can get on this show. Rick and Michonne scavenging for guns. It’s a TV show so of course they find them, but the battle they have with the walkers to get them was surprisingly well shot and fun to see. It is great how the show can reflect on how much these characters have grown by just showing you a certain fighting style or a tone of voice. Their plan was never said verbally but the cinematography and camera movement conveyed that info to the viewer well.

Of course, it wouldn’t be The Walking Dead without some out of place crappy CGI. One of the most popular shows in television history doesn’t have it in the budget to get an actual deer on set. A tiger interacting with humans I get, but a DEER!?

Say Yes proved your able to have fun while at the same time reflecting on the darker aspects of this show. I’m able to believe the arc that Rick has taken this season more because of the time he’s had to reflect on his decisions. Even if that reflection comes in the form of wanting to kill more walkers. Only four more episodes this season. Do you guys think the war will start somewhere in those four eps?

The post Review: ‘The Walking Dead’ 7.12 – ‘Say Yes’ appeared first on ScreeningClub | Insight Into the Media You Love.


by Christopher Moore
This post first appeared on http://screeningclub.com/2017/03/06/review-the-walking-dead-7-12-say-yes/ on ScreeningClub.com.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Review: ‘Get Out’

What Get Out may lack in surface-level originality it surpasses in striking command of tone and point-of-view. We’ve seen the “creepy strangers aren’t who they first seem” horror trope countless times before, but rarely has a film conveyed it as tensely and purposefully as we see here. This is a bold, cunning, satirical, very funny and very scary debut feature film by writer/director Jordan Peele, a timely, thought-provoking subversion of genre and expectation that projects all the confidence and craft of a far more seasoned filmmaker.

The film’s mission statement is obvious from its opening scene in which we’re first introduced to Atlanta’s own LaKeith Stanfield, tremendous as always, wandering the streets of an upscale suburb. Sporting “urban” attire and a general aura of displacement, it’s clear, even before the tension ratchets up (both to himself and the audience), that he doesn’t belong. Whether you agree or disagree with Peele’s politics or world-view, there’s no denying the hypersensitive nature of topics as taboo as race and class; that each is explored as personally and specifically here through the prism of horror-satire, at this high of a level, is wickedly impressive.

Actors and screen-partners Daniel Kaluuya and Allison Williams bring so much to their respective roles; Kaluuya the good-natured skeptic and Williams the head-in-the-clouds liberal rich girl each do their part in both subverting and reinforcing the “type” they’re asked to play. Other key performances from Bradley Whitford, Catherine Keener, and Stephen Root each contribute so much to the tense, eerie atmosphere present in every scene, and LilRel Howry’s equally outstanding as the film’s lone overtly comedic character.

But the true star here is Peele, who’s comprised a film that’s both beautifully photographed and decisively prescient, with each side amounting to a captivating, provocative overall experience. I mentioned earlier that the film’s surface-level originality may be lacking, but that’s only if you’re unwilling to see past the outward mechanics of its plot. This is a densely layered thrill-ride full of numerous scenes worthy of in-depth analysis and discussion, and one that’ll be occupying the space in my brain for some time.

Rating: **** 1/2 out of five

Starring: Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, Bradley Whitford, Catherine Keener, Stephen Root, LilRel Howry

Runtime: 103 minutes

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


by Michael Lang
This post first appeared on http://screeningclub.com/2017/03/05/review-get-out/ on ScreeningClub.com.

Monday, February 27, 2017

‘For Honor’ Quick Thoughts

I feel like it’s been a while since Ubisoft has launched a new triple-A IP, but that isn’t true. Sure, last year they released The Division but that game is a Tom Clancy game and to be honest, the gameplay is painfully like other open world shooters. For Honor, on the other hand, is bringing some truly unique gameplay mechanics to the table.

The main unique aspect of the game is the combat system. At first you see larger than life characters mowing through small grunts and it just looks like a gritty reboot of Dynasty Warriors. It’s not until you meet up with another hero character that things change for the better. A duel begins and you have three stances to attack and defend from. If your opponent attacks from the left, flick for-honor-duel-2-300x169 'For Honor' Quick Thoughts Games the right stick to the left and you block their attack. If you see your opponent defending from the right, you can change your stance to attack from above in the hopes that they won’t be able to change stances in time. Tense standoffs arise out of this rock-paper-scissors-esque mechanic. Minute movement and specific timing of weapon swings become important because every move you make could open you up to a punishing counter-attack.

What Ubisoft does well is take this tense core-mechanic and add fighting game elements on top of it. Each of the three factions (Knights, Vikings and Samurai) have four different characters to play as each with their own move sets. Each character class comes at this dueling mechanic in a slightly different way by boosting or lowering certain stats or changing how a character can attack or defend in certain scenarios. This means that when you enter into combat with another person you are raking you mind for any information you know about how that character plays in order to give yourself the best chance to attack them. It’s in this way that For Honor feels like a fighting game in disguise.

Ubisoft didn’t stop there – in many ways For Honor is a MOBA in disguise. The game’s main mode, Dominion, pits teams of four against each other on a large battlefield filled with AI grunts. The battlefield is split into three lanes with a control point in each. Help your grunts attack the opposing grunts to further your domination of the map until you win the match. It nearly blew my mind that Ubisoft basically tricked my friends into buying this MOBA and they didn’t even know it. I found myself strategizing in the same way I did while playing Heroes of the Storm with friends that I usually play Madden with. Bizarre to say the least.

Where the game falters is in its overbearing meta-game. Before you can play online you are inundated with tutorials explaining their over-world map, and after every match you earn War Assets to help your faction in the meta-game. Beyond that there is virtual currency called “steel” which canFactionWar-300x165 'For Honor' Quick Thoughts Games be used to buy different levels of loot boxes as well as experience buffs. The loot you get is hero-specific and it can be dismantled to get a secondary faction-specific currency that can be used to buy loot within that faction. Systems on top of systems on top of systems.

Luckily you can mostly ignore all this stuff and just have fun swinging swords at fools online but I think down the line it could become a problem. All the loot you earn has stats attached to it that boost your character’s abilities. So, if you don’t engage with this meta-game your characters are simply not going to cut it online at some point. To fix this they need to do a better job explaining these systems to people, or simplify them.

To me it feels like someone at Ubisoft Montreal created this fun, unique dueling mechanic and then the businessmen from corporate tried their best to monetize the fuck out of the entire experience. I’m sure this happens with a lot of games and that push and pull is surely something that developers must deal with often. It just seems like this time the business men might have gone a little too far.

The post ‘For Honor’ Quick Thoughts appeared first on ScreeningClub | Insight Into the Media You Love.


by Christopher Moore
This post first appeared on http://screeningclub.com/2017/02/27/for-honor-quick-thoughts/ on ScreeningClub.com.