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Monday, March 19, 2018

Best Covers of the Week, Vol. 219

 Ice Cream Man #3
by Mike Shea

Punks Not Dead #2
by Caspar Wijngaard

 Thanos #17
by Christian Ward

 Cave Carson Has An Interstellar Eye #1
by Michael Avon Oeming

Descender #28
by Dustin Nguyen

That's it for this week. What did I miss? Let us know on Twitter or Facebook!
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Monday, March 12, 2018

Best Covers of the Week, Vol. 218

 Vampironica #1
by Greg Smallwood

 Secret Weapons Owen’s Story #0
by Sija Hong

 Dry County #1
by Rich Tommaso

 VS #2
by Esad Ribic

 The New Mutants: Dead Souls #1
by Marcos Martin

Eternity Girl #1
by Paulina Ganacheau

That's it for this week. What did I miss? Let us know on Twitter or Facebook!
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Friday, March 9, 2018

Review: Gorgeous visuals aren’t enough to make A WRINKLE IN TIME shine

I’ll preface this review by saying that I haven’t read this film’s source material, A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle. I actually view that as a potential advantage when it comes to reviewing book-to-movie adaptations. It’s hard to turn our favorite novels and comics into big screen adventures without feeling like you’ve lost something along the way. Though in this case, I wonder if reading the book would have helped give me a better sense of what the movie was working with.
Director Ava DuVernay’s A Wrinkle in Time is, on the surface, the story of Meg Murray (Storm Reid), a middle schooler who struggles to fit in or move on after her father’s mysterious disappearance 4 years ago. Meg’s genius younger brother, Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe), introduces Meg to a trio of other-worldly women, Mrs. Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon), Mrs. Who (Mindy Kaling), and Mrs. Which (Oprah Winfrey), who help Meg and her brother search for their father across space and time. Meg must learn to trust her skills and overcome her self-doubt in order to find and save her father.
A Wrinkle in Time packs a visual punch, and this is where the film excels. Most of the film’s creative energy is spent world-building – not just one world, but one after another after another, almost like levels of a video game, each slightly more difficult than the last for its characters to navigate. These visual flourishes are as engaging (at one point, Reese Witherspoon turns into a giant leaf) as they are fast-paced. The drawback to this is that they come so quickly and consume so much of the story’s oxygen that it’s hard to focus on the core mechanics of the plot, which largely feel something like: Meg doubts herself, the ladies tell her to believe in herself and love herself, they go somewhere strange, repeat.
Ultimately, the emotional core of A Wrinkle in Time is simple and free of cynicism: Love conquers hate. As far as messages go, it’s hard to argue with that one, though keep in mind that the delivery of the message feels aimed at younger audiences. This is a PG movie and it feels like one, so audiences expecting something aimed at the YA or adult market may be disappointed, particularly given the marketing of the film, which felt more mature. I’ve seen a few questions about whether the movie might be too scary for children but I strongly disagree – it seems tailor-made for them.
The lead performance from Reid’s Meg is the other highlight of A Wrinkle in Time. Meg is the audience’s anchor, and she keeps the film grounded in the moments when it feels too saccharine or ethereal to hold on to. She’s a character who is unsure of herself but she’s also incredibly smart, really interested in physics, and knows how to apply that knowledge to save the lives of the people around her. Her insecurities are palpable, and they lead to one of the most interesting scenes in the film, when Meg meets a hypothetical version of herself she thinks she wants to be in order to fit in at school.
On the other hand, it’s difficult to get a true sense of Kaling, Winfrey, and Witherspoon’s performances in A Wrinkle in Time because they bear the brunt of the script and dialogue issues. Kaling’s character suffers the most because she only speaks in quotes, which I’m sure came from the book, but in the movie’s context feels like a device that just doesn’t work. Across the board the dialogue from all three characters felt incredibly stiff and awkward when it came to the adults in this film.
It’s strange to say that A Wrinkle in Time is overcooked and undercooked at the same time, but that’s largely the case: the maximum amount of settings, stunning visuals, colorful costumes, vivid scenery, and warmth, but a lack of natural dialogue, character development, and story pacing. It’s a film that has great messages, visual concepts, and sincerity, but lacks the balance in plot and character development to pull them off completely. As far as these Disney adaptations go, it’s nowhere near the bottom (here’s looking at you, Alice in Wonderland), but Reid’s stellar performance and the film’s gorgeous visuals aren’t enough to elevate it beyond the ranks of many other fine-but-forgettable adventure films that came before it.
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Thursday, March 8, 2018


The Buzz: Playwright Cory Finley, who had never stepped onto the set of a film production before, makes his directorial debut here with a film that plays pretty close to his stage roots in much of the way it's staged. Thoroughbreds, which many critics have hailed as one of the best debuts in years, took the Sundance Film Festival by storm last year with how it tackles empathy and the line where it meets sociopathy among the wealthy. It's funny how we return to that fertile ground every so often, but there's probably something to be said about socio-economic inequities and consumer culture that continually drives narratives towards this direction. The rich will eat the poor and even their fellow rich and all that. I was excited to get my eyes on this one, mostly because I'm pretty much down for any film Anya Taylor-Joy happens to be in, for better or worse.

What's Great About This Movie: ...And she's quite good in it. Playing Lily, a hired tutor for Olivia Cooke's Amanda. Amanda is your classic budding sociopath, Lily leans the other way, and their friendship starts to give and take until new layers are revealed with each character. Lily isn't as wholly impenetrable as she might seem, and Lily hides a much darker side. Both Taylor-Joy and Cooke are quite compelling throughout, and they'd need to be in what is basically a two-hander requiring them to fill a lot of empty space within the narrative. Additionally, Finley does just enough to make the film breakaway from any tendency he might have to make this not much more than a filmed play (see: Roman Polanski's Carnage for what not to do in this arena), the rookie has a nice sense of how to handle the camera and navigate the larger set pieces required to breath just enough life into the surroundings to keep me from wondering why I wasn't watching this off-Broadway instead.

What's Not-So-Great About this Movie: Truth be told, Thoroughbreds doesn't really offer much more than that, it's two finely tuned performances that are chained to a somewhat asphyxiating screenplay. These two characters talk a lot, and I mean a lot...and while it gives the audience a great insight into their own inner workings, at some point it just becomes a drone. And sadly, Anton Yelchin gives little more than a phoned-in appearance in what turns out to be his final performance. It's a film filled with good ideas, and with just a little more judicious work, could have had something special and memorable. Instead, I'm struggling to even think of any impression it left on me at all.
Final Verdict: Thoroughbreds, the kind of movie you go see to get out the rain and generally don't hate yourself for spending the money on it. Otherwise if you're looking for a better take on this sort of thing, just pop in American Psycho or Heathers again.
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Monday, March 5, 2018

The GeekRex Podcast Episode 153: February 2018 Movies

For the first of our monthly movie installments, we discuss the interesting movies that came out last month–Netflix releases like The Cloverfield Paradox, The Ritual, and Mute along with the theatrical releases of Black Panther and Annihilation. There's some big hits and some big misses here to start off the year of 2018 in film!

Music used in this episode:
Annihilation I by Dysrhythmia

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

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Best Covers of the Week, Vol. 217

 Rasputin: Voice of the Dragon #5
by Michael William Kaluta

 The Shadow Batman #6
by Jorge Fornes

 The Highest House #1
by Yuko Shimizu

 Deathstroke #29
by Ryan Sook

Harley and Ivy Meet Betty and Veronica #6
by Jae Lee

That's it for this week. What did I miss? Let us know on Twitter or Facebook!
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Thursday, March 1, 2018

Review: RED SPARROW produces evaporative, paper-thin entertainment

There's something about the spy genre that just feels utterly beggared beyond belief, which is a pretty unbelievable statement given how saturated we are with superhero films in the currently cinematic landscape. Perhaps that's something in error to say...it may be more accurate to say that I just don't really see the appeal of these kinds of efforts, often the subject of pharmacy bookracks written by the likes of Tom Clancy and Brad Thor. 

Frankly, the spy thriller works in one of two ways, when it's presented through the larger than life, and cartoonish glee of the Bond franchise (and sometimes not even then) or when it's a grittily composed study like the current wonderful FX series, The Americans. Everything in between tends to fall through the cracks and feels like relics of the early 90's. It's the Joe Weisberg showrun series that's of particular interest to me as I ponder the new collaboration between Francis Lawrence and Jennifer Lawrence (no relation), which reunites this Hunger Games team for a spy-game that shares some DNA with one of tv's premiere dramas.

Red Sparrow targets most of its interest in the current Russia vs USA zeitgeist that has captured the airwaves over the past year or more. Regardless of the level of Russian cyberwarfare and plotting that may or may not be occurring in real life, Red Sparrow firmly plants itself right into that renewed real-world antagonism that hasn't felt this abjectly solid since mid-80's and the final throes of the Cold War. In the Russia of Red Sparrow's universe, it's a conflict that has never truly ended, as former ballerina - thanks to a seemingly tragic on-stage mishap - turned "Red Sparrow" - thanks to a high-ranking uncle in KGB, Dominika (Lawrence) comes to understand. She is immediately thrust into an undercover mission that sacrifices not only her safety, but also a piece of the self she once was after being violently assaulted by her uncle's intended target.

As she no longer has the ability to dance, and must find a way to keep her mother with special needs in the security of a home, she agrees to attend a training camp that puts these Sparrows through literal hell. She eventually graduates, gets assigned to a detail, which is of course a handsome CIA operative (Joel Edgerton), she's conflicted, blah blah blah...you see where this is going, right? Red Sparrow, despite moving a pretty effusive pace for most of (MOST) its running time thanks to (Francis) Lawrence's adept hand behind the camera, really doesn't provide a whole lot that you probably haven't seen before. And once the credits roll, its twists and turns will fade from your memory just as quickly as it came to you. An hour after I left the theater I couldn't remember one character's name, and various motivations completely left me behind.

The only two times Red Sparrow really comes to life is during Dominika's stretches of training and coming to the understanding that her body, much like her loyalty belongs to Mother Russia. It's a weird feeling watching these scenes unfold, as a sense of discomfort rolls over you the first time she's raped, and then stripped bare in front of her classmates, and then almost raped again...but the script does an adequate job of turning those heinous moments on their head, and in turn our protagonist utilizes what was once an area of vulnerability into a honed weapon. No man is ever going to touch again unless she wills it, and usually when she does it's with the purpose of the mission in mind. It's a really tough line to skate, and I've seen a number of other critics (women particularly) who have absolutely hated everything about how this film treats sexual assault. It's really up to the tolerance of the viewer to know where their limits are.

The other truly sublime stretch of the film is when Mary Louise Parker makes a surprise appearance as a Chief of Staff for a U.S. Senator, a CoS who also happens to be on the take and deeply under the influence of the KGB. Parker is funny, pretty boozy, and almost seems like she's in a completely different film than the rest of the cast, but injects some deeply needed energy in the slowly growing lethargic second half just before the film totally gets away from Lawrence and crew.

Everything in between and after those two points of interest are fine at best, a total drag at worst. Red Sparrow is 100% not the film the trailers are selling you on, go ahead and put all these Black Widow comparisons out of your mind, but it's also worth noting that the film's moments of deeper introspection are really just all gloss. The shifting of Dominika's personality doesn't really land with any of the same weight that poor Phillip and Elizabeth have experienced on that aforementioned FX masterpiece, and other than trying to play with some current policy chess pieces, it doesn't really have much to say about Russian-US relations either. It's just a movie that exists in a fairly bland...yet also not inoffensive fashion. It's a strange effort and one that isn't really worth your movie ticket dollar.

Also, if I see a couple less believable than Lawrence and Edgerton this year, I'll be stunned.

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