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Monday, June 19, 2017

Best Covers of the Week, Vol. 183

 Cave Carson Has a Cybernetic Eye #9
by Michael Cho

I love ALL of the design work on this one, from the fantastic type design to the shadowy silhouette, to the way the cybernetic eyebeam distorts the background. Awesome!

 Grrl Scouts: Magic Socks #2
by Bill Sienkiewicz

Sienkiewicz's style has a weird kind of symbiosis with Mahfood's, and I think they work really well together. Great color and shading!

 Lumberjanes Special: Faire and Square #1
by Ru Xu

This one tells a story in a single image in such a fantastic way! It's also super fun and playful.

 Nick Fury #3
by Fernando Blanco

This one's got a really fun retro design, but I especially love how the variations of the characters are exploring the abstract environment.

X-Files Origins II: Dog Days of Summer #1
by Cat Staggs

Sometimes double-sided covers seem unnecessary, but this one really takes advantage of the wider format in a fun way. Great likenesses without it feeling like a photocopy, and the sparse details really sell the scenes.

That's it for this week. What did I miss? Let us know on Twitter or Facebook!
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Monday, June 12, 2017

Best Covers of the Week, Vol. 182

Black Cloud #3
by Greg Hinkle

I still think the unique title design (including the weird separated spacing on the price and issue number) on this book is super cool, but I dig the interesting framing and depth on this particular cover.

Bug! The Adventures of Forager #2
by Doc Shaner

Shaner gets this all the time, I know, but he really is the absolute best at nailing this sort of classic look, and it's really fun to see him do a war comics cover.

Dirk Gently: The Salmon of Doubt #8
by Robert Hack

Ugh, Robert Hack is so good! I love the painterly background texture, the Nancy Drew novel cover design, and the excellent cartooning on the central characters.

The Flash #24
by Carmine Di Giandomenico

I love the bonkers illustration on this one, as well as the weird blue adversaries that blend in with the background. It's colorful and really stands out!

Red Hood and the Outlaws #11
by Guillem March

This is a surprising new style for March, and I love it! It's got a very indie comics feel between the illustrated sound effects and the 100% filled frame.

There's Nothing There #2
by Maria Llovet

This one is very interesting–equal parts weird and sensual, with loads of character and great color contrast.

That's it for this week. What did I miss? Let us know on Twitter or Facebook!
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Friday, June 9, 2017

The GeekRex Podcast Episode 146: Wonder Woman

This week we talk (what else?!) WONDER WOMAN! We dig into what works about the film, how despite some issues it unquestionably ups the ante for DC's movie output, and what it means for the future Justice League film.

You can listen below, or subscribe on iTunes to never miss an episode! If you like the show, or have any comments or ideas, we'd love to hear them! Check us out on Facebook or Twitter. See you next week!

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The Buzz: It Comes At Night is the follow-up feature by Trey Edward Shults, who preceding film, Krisha, made a number of "best of" lists last year. This new effort is his first feature-length film utilizing actors that he's not related to, along with one headlining star in Joel Edgerton. This is also Shults' first foray into horror, delving into the psychological terrors of a mysterious post-apocalyptic scenario combined with a eerie forest setting surrounding a desolate home. Within a family is facing a threat to their tenuous domestic arrangement due to a mysterious force, and the arrival of another family. While at first, both families are able to coexist happily and in an friendly fashion, eventually mistrust and tensions boil over, all the while, something else waits just past their front door.
What's Great About the Movie: To quote a friend, this is probably the closest we'll ever get to a filmed version of The Last of Us, with its focus on family, paranoia, and keeping its mysterious cataclysmic event fairly close to the chest. It also is a very tense film, basically never letting up, even when it hits its quietest moments. Its jump scares are rare, but are effective for how sparingly they are used and it utterly bleeds atmosphere. Thankfully, it also never overstays its welcome, wrapping up in a solid 91 minutes and it makes the most of that time.
What's Not-So-Great About the Movie: It might be a little slow for those expecting a traditional horror film, or the gory, puddle-deep moralizations of something like The Walking Dead. Additionally, the film ends in a way that some viewers may find unsatisfying. This isn't a tidy conclusion to say the least.
Final Verdict: It Comes At Night is absolutely worth seeing, and given the relative cinematic wasteland we've been facing through April and May, a few superhero bright spots like Wonder Woman aside, these kinds of efforts should be seen in a darkened theater where it will grab you by the throat.
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Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Review: Dark Universe is dead on arrival with THE MUMMY

You get a shared universe, and YOU get a shared universe, everybody gets a shared universe!
In the wake of Marvel’s outrageous financial and mostly critically friendly success with their set of interconnected films, every major studio wants in on the action. That includes the linked films of their once crosstown rivals, DC Comics; a series of movies that bring the Knights of the Roundtable to the big screen; and even the one time Eastern cinematic giant Godzilla, with a showdown with King Kong, who made his own return to cinemas this year. But Universal, which came out swinging two years ago with a trifecta of box office hits in Furious 7Minions, and Jurassic World, saw their fortunes fade a bit in 2016, with The Secret Life of Pets being their lone breakout hit.
As such, the studio had been hard at work trying to resuscitate the one existing shared universe property they own, in their catalog of monsters. Once the originators of the concept, with creatures like The Wolfman going toe to toe with Frankenstein’s monster, and Dracula eventually tagging along in a usually unrelated fashion (seriously, have you ever seen House of Frankenstein? It’s like two pretty bad movies fused together), the big wigs behind scenes have spent decades trying to recreate that spark that once thrilled audiences of the pre-Cold War era. They had their best go at it with the Brendan Fraser starring The Mummy franchise, but after that saw embarrassing attempts like Van HelsingThe Wolfman remake, and an actual shared universe false start in Dracula Untold (think Green Lantern to this new Mummy’s Man of Steel and you’d about have the score of it).
And so, here comes the Dark Universe, which is initially blazoned across the screen like a bad parody of the Marvel and DC logos that pop up before their respective efforts. I’m sad to say, a bad parody just about sums it up where this new take on our favorite wrapped-up creature is concerned.
Brought to you by one-half of the duo that spearheaded such cinematic classics as Star Trek: Into Darkness and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, Alex Kurtzman turns one of the more haunting Boris Karloff originals into a painstakingly dumb action film that veers all too often into a territory resembling one of those fake bad movies that would show up in Tropic Thunder or Extras. You can practically see the look on Tom Cruise face that screams, “who writes this shit?” as he warbles off another piece of awful 90’s one-liner dialogue.
As this entire project seems to be designed to get Cruise, Johnny Depp, Javier Bardem and Russell Crowe in on the same sort of backend style money that made Robert Downey Jr. a fortune, you can imagine that this first go with what was once one of Hollywood’s most bankable stars is built to center all around him in the most savior-like way imaginable. And boy does it ever: Cruise plays a Nathan Drake-style protagonist named Nick Morton, a long-range specialist in the military whose flexible morality leads he and his pal Sgt. Chris Vail (Jake Johnson) into all kinds of monkeyshines. Of course, when a mission they’re involved with over in Iraq uncovers a hidden burial chamber, they and archaeologist Jenny Halsey (Annabelle Wallis, whose initial presence in the film is to act as an exposition device) accidentally let loose the ancient Princess Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella). This princess, whose whole shtick is to stab a fellow with a ceremonial rubied dagger in order to summon the Egyptian deity Set, takes a shine to Morton. And from there begins what is basically a two hour film where an increasingly beautiful woman cannot stop pursuing Tom Cruise, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg on the ego stroke of its star.
I knew from the outset that we’d run into trouble, as The Mummy begins with not one, but two flashbacks, one of which is narrated by Dr. Henry Jekyll (Crowe). The filmmakers, having no actual faith in their audience, return to that second flashback sequence at least two more times, maybe even three…I lost count after awhile. Even worse is that other than Morton, every other character – and I used that term loosely for the ciphers that populate this one’s running time – exists to explain either the Mummy herself, what’s happening to Nick, or the wider consequences of the all too quickly growing Dark Universe. The script, which was clearly the victim of multiple rewrites by the six credited scribes involved, including Kurtzman, never gives you an opportunity to understand anything about its cast. Not even Cruise gets more than a moment to breathe before he’s being thrust back into gear-turning moments that scream “set up for future installments” by way of the Jekyll-led Prodigium, a secret monster hunting organization that gets plopped right into the middle of the second act and never goes away. The few times we aren’t dealing with orations about the “new world of evil”, we’re treated to awful, cringe inducing romantic overtures between Morton and Halsey, and let me tell you, Wallis has romantic chemistry with Cruise that registers somewhere around unfamiliar coworker. This is supposed to be the central emotional hook of the story.
It also shamelessly rips off An American Werewolf in London, and in my neck of the woods, that’s an unfathomable sin.
The monsters themselves fare a tad bit better, but it’s real hard to polish a turd this smelly. Boutella, usually a nice standout in the two recent blockbusters in which she graces, works hard to establish Ahmanet as a fearsome presence, but is constantly undone by the shoddy happenings surrounding her. And while he’s emblematic of all the problems with the film and its intentions, Crowe gets one scene that is probably the only actual fun I had the entire time watching it. I left thinking that I’d be somewhat interested in a whole Dr. Jekyll film, if written and directed by someone else, of course.
I had some awfully low expectations going into this, but holy cow did they blow right past them and into the gutter with this production. This coming weekend, if you get the urge to go see this, do yourself a favor and purchase someone in your life a ticket for Wonder Woman instead. That will be a far more enriching experience.
It’s 9 am, on Wednesday June 7th, and I’m calling it on the Dark Universe, dear readers.

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Monday, June 5, 2017

Best Covers of the Week, Vol. 181

Darth Vader #1
by Phil Noto

I always love Noto's work, but I thought this one was particularly interesting as it shows the literal last moments of Anakin's humanity before becoming the monstrous Vader. Well done!

Ever After #10
by Tula Lotay

Lotay is also a perennial favorite here, and this one is really nice–I love the gentle but strong pose and just how full the circular frame is that it's bursting out into the plain outer edge.

 James Bond #4
by Jason Masters

Masters has a fantastic sense not only of the look of Bond, but the feel. This one nails the feeling of a great Bond action sequence.

 Magnus #1
by Daniel Warren Johnson

I liked the other covers for this issue a lot, too, but I really love how this one conveys a sense of casual boredom with the body language and cartooning despite the dark and futuristic surroundings.

Outcast #28
by Paul Azaceta

I love the color and depth on this one, how it looks from a distance to be very brightly colored and happy, but takes on a sinister tone when the image comes fully into view.

That's it for this week. What did I miss? Let us know on Twitter or Facebook!
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Tuesday, May 30, 2017

REVIEW: WONDER WOMAN soars but doesn't stick the landing

In the critical world, it's not exactly high praise to say Wonder Woman is Warner Bros. and DC's best film in the recent line-up, given the poor reactions to both Batman v. Superman and Suicide Squad. So to get the obvious out of the way first: yes, Wonder Woman is the best of the three, by far. DC's best bet for this film was to stick to a simpler, more logical story and focus on developing Diana's character, and it readily met both of those goals, crafting one of the best on-screen superheroes in years.

Whether it's a great film? I'd say: close.

Wonder Woman has amazing character development and my hands-down favorite action scene in any superhero movie during a second act piece where Diana inserts herself into the front lines of the war. But, like so many superhero films before it, Wonder Woman stumbles in the third act, where it reverts to a CGI-laden showdown with a big bad we can barely see or understand, bumping the overall feeling of the film down a notch.

Opening with a framing device that calls back to BvS, Wonder Woman is an origin story set during World War I. At the start of the film, Diana (Gal Gadot) lives with the Amazons on Themyscira in peace, largely oblivious to mankind, but bracing for the god of war, Ares, to bring chaos into their lives. When Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) crash lands on the island while escaping from German soldiers, Diana learns about humanity and the ongoing war happening across the world. Certain the war marks Ares' return to Earth, Diana decides to leave Themyscira and bring the god of war to an end.

While Diana's backstory isn't the same, the plot beats and strengths of Wonder Woman remind me of Captain America: The First Avenger. Gadot and Pine have amazing chemistry and banter, and I loved every bit of the film that featured them working together to leave Themyscira, visit London, and fight through enemy lines. In these first two acts, the movie managed to deliver intense action sequences and easily moved between serious and lighter fish-out-of-water moments. Lucy Davis was also perfect as Etta Candy.

Days later, I'm still thinking about one of the action sequences in this film's second act, where Wonder Woman climbs above the trenches and pushes through enemy lines. If you see this movie for no other reason, see it for this one. The entire crowd was cheering, and the action looked great, even managing to incorporate the guitar-riffy Woman Woman theme from BvS in a way that felt natural in this movie. What's most impressive about this sequence is the way Diana uses defense as a strength: her shield draws away fire, and then she goes on to rip apart weapons rather than people.
Unfortunately, as the film trudges into the third act, the stakes get higher and the battle between super-powered characters falls flat, recalling some of the messier CGI action with Darkseid in BvS. If you had issues with some of the violence in BvS, this third act will also likely leave you disappointed. 

I think Wonder Woman is a huge step in the right direction for DC's new slate of movies. Patty Jenkins' directorial efforts really shine through, and though the script's broad arc had problems, Diana's character development was top notch. If you came out of Batman v. Superman feeling like Wonder Woman was the best part, you'll likely love this film, but it hasn't managed to cure DC of its messy third act woes.
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