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Monday, April 24, 2017

Best Covers of the Week, Vol. 175

 Aliens: Dead Orbit #1
by James Stokoe

Stokoe doing Aliens is the kind of pairing that you can't believe has never happened before. His monster illustrations and signature color palette are a perfect match for the franchise, and I love the figure echo on this cover.

Batgirl #10
by Chris Wildgoose

I love the colors and the minimalist background. It contrasts nicely with the dynamic action in the foreground, and the physicality of the figures is fantastic.

Batman / The Shadow #1
by Cliff Chiang

It's rare for a cover to be both classic and clever, much less on a crossover mini-series such as this. Chiang nails it 100% here!

Doom Patrol #6
by Nick Derington

The glowing title is bold, but I love that it is an actual object that the characters are lit by and staring in awe at. It's an interesting and unique meta cover that perfectly fits the tone of the series.

 The Rift #4
by Leno Carvalho

Once again, Carvalho managed to come up with an engaging concept that fits with the design of the rest of the series' covers. I particularly like the angles created by the shadows and the title on this one.

Ultimates 2 #6
by Christian Ward

This is what Ward does best, the kind of abstract, cosmic illustrations that beg for you to fall into their kaleidoscopic depths examining them.

That's it for this week. What did I miss? Let us know on Twitter or Facebook!
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Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Review: FREE FIRE has great concept, but execution is lacking

There are a lot of things that can push a good movie into great movie territory: a fantastic performance, a memorable score, or a unique look all can turn a so-so film into somebody's all-time favorite. Some even subtler things can elevate a movie to a classic worthy of study, such as the editing, the blocking, or the sound. It is rare, I would say, for some of these subtle things to affect a movie negatively, but unfortunately I think that is the case for Ben Wheatley's Free Fire.

Free Fire tells the very tight story of a gun deal in 1978 that goes horribly (and comedically) awry. Between the macho dealers, the deadly serious buyers from the IRA, and the mediators in the middle, everything that can go wrong does go wrong. The film's timeline is essentially in live time, as the 90-minute run time exclusively covers the deal and ensuing shootout in an abandoned factory warehouse.

The things that work in Free Fire work fantastically. The biggest advantage it has is its cast; Sharlto Copley, as always, does a phenomenal job as the sleazy gun runner Vern, who can't help but run his mouth, spouting one-liners ("Watch and Vern!") that elicit eye rolls from the other characters. Armie Hammer is charming and confident as Ord, the mercenary mediator. It's becoming clear that he could potentially have a strong career with these kind of stylish period piece roles.

Brie Larson, ostensibly the star of the film, is unfortunately critically underused. Her character takes a backseat on screen time once the shooting starts, and outside of a few good moments towards the end, isn't really in on the action as much as I would have liked.

The soundtrack and look of the film are great, and Wheatley does an excellent job crafting a very funny and unique story within very particular confines. However, it's the subtle things that knock Free Fire down a peg: the sense of space and the editing are quite poor throughout the shootout that lasts for the bulk of the film.

Creating a strong sense of geography is difficult in the span of a 90-minute movie, but for one like this that takes place all in one location and involves a myriad of characters in one extended action sequence, it is absolutely essential. Think about the house in the Simpsons–if you've watched the show, you could probably walk in a model of that house and know your way around. Similarly, the best action films create a real sense of space so that the action is intelligible and meaningful: think of the House of Blue Leaves swordfight in Kill Bill and you know that despite the dozens upon dozens of characters, it's always clear what is going on.

The factory setting of Free Fire only has a few defining locations, such as the brightly colored van that the guns themselves come out of. It is made up largely of broken concrete blocks that are difficult to tell from one another. Because of this, coupled with editing that doesn't allow the camera to move from one space to another without cutting, it is extremely difficult to get a firm grasp on what is happening. I remember thinking at one point that one scene was just a bunch of cuts of people firing guns, and I had no idea where they were or who they were shooting at.

Now, there is a caveat to this complaint: the movie is supposed to be confusing. Part of the comedy of the film is that it's nearly impossible to track who is on what side or who is shooting at who, even for the characters. That said, to me it felt more than confusing, it felt unknowable at times. Adding to the chaos of the story through the technical arts of cinematography and editing would be a viable path, but when the story is so narrow and so laser focused on one location and set of characters, I need to actually have an idea of what is going on amidst that chaos.

Free Fire is an incredibly brilliant and fun concept. If you go into it expecting nothing more than a bunch of gun fire and witty wordplay from a great cast of actors, you'll walk out satisfied. For a unique action film that pushes boundaries, it's painfully close to being something really special, but loses hope of being truly memorable because of the vagueness of the details.

Free Fire is directed by Ben Wheatley and stars Brie Larson, Sharlto Copley, Armie Hammer, Cillian Murphy, and Michael Smiley. It opens in theaters this Friday, April 21st. 
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Monday, April 17, 2017

Best Covers of the Week, Vol. 174

Curse Words #4
by Tradd Moore

I absolutely love the colors in this one, and while it is quite dense with characters, the color work makes the main one really stand out and have some depth.

Daredevil #19
by Dan Panosian

Great color contrast here, but what really impressed me on this one is the way the characters stand out even though they are so tiny in scale.

 Injection #12
by Declan Shalvey and Jordie Bellaire

Again, excellent color work! I really love the concept and perspective here as well.

Shaolin Cowboy: Who'll Stop the Reign #1
by Geoff Darrow

How could I turn down the opportunity to feature a Darrow cover? As always, brilliantly detailed and the color and depth just pop off the image.

Wild Storm #3
by Jamie McKelvie

The comics world loves these kind of panel divided portraits, but this one is particularly lovely. The detail on what technology each of the panels is comprised of is fantastic, and McKelvie's cartooning is as always spectacular!

That's it for this week. What did I miss? Let us know on Twitter or Facebook!
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Thursday, April 13, 2017

The GeekRex Podcast Episode 144: Breath of the Wild and Mass Effect: Andromeda

This week we talk video games! First up, Cal and Harper talk about the newest entry in the Zelda franchise, Breath of the Wild in all it's surprising beauty. In the second half, Kyle and Hannah chat about the newest BioWare outing, Mass Effect: Andromeda. 

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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Monday, April 10, 2017

Best Covers of the Week, vol. 173

Babybel Wax Bodysuit #1
by Eric Kostiuk Williams

This cover is super unique and does a lot of really interesting experimentation with perspective, and I love how the title is folded into the image as well.

 Gotham Academy: Second Semester #8
by Karl Kerschl

The bold color contrast, angular shading, and subtle bat symbol really push this one onto a higher level.

 Once and Future Queen #2
by Nick Brokenshire

Excellent cartooning, superb color work, and a striking design that makes use of every inch of the cover. Nicely done!

 Skydoll Sudra #2
by Alessandro Barbucci

I like this one for how unique this style is to the comics world. It looks like it belongs in an issue of Juxtapoz.

The Wicked + The Divine #28
by Elsa Charretier

Charretier continues to be one of my current favorites, and this cover really pushes her style to the next stage. I love the messy color outlines and the mythic highlighting of the martini, and the dense background provides depth and something to study over. Excellent!

That's it for this week. What did I miss? Let us know on Twitter or Facebook!
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The first teaser trailer for THOR: RAGNAROK absolutely, utterly rules

The Thor movies have been kinda the runt of the Marvel Studios litter, and while the years, I think, have proven kind to the initial Kenneth Branagh-directed entry, they still pale in comparison to the Captain America films or any of the flashier character kick-offs within that same canon. But Thor: Ragnarok is looking to change all that, and they start, like any good viking god movie should...with Led Zeppelin:

That may be just the movie we've been looking for. From exploding Mjolnir to Cate Blanchett looking fierce as Hela to that last battle set-up, I'm all in.
Imprisoned on the other side of the universe, the mighty Thor (Chris Hemsworth) finds himself in a deadly gladiatorial contest that pits him against the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), his former ally and fellow Avenger. Thor's quest for survival leads him in a race against time to prevent the all-powerful Hela (Cate Blanchett) from destroying his home world and the Asgardian civilization.
Thor: Ragnarok, directed by the brilliant Taika Waititi, opens on November 3rd.
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Thursday, April 6, 2017

John Simm to return to DOCTOR WHO

I haven't dwelled on Doctor Who much these past few months, and a lot of that has to do with the fact that there's been so little of it!

Back when Series 9 aired, our team was pretty much on-board with it as among the best outings of the entire new series era, fully defining the Twelfth Doctor as a rock and roll dad, along with some serious homages to Gaiman-esque storytelling tropes.

And then we had a big gap, with only two pretty subpar Christmas Specials (aren't they all? Except for that one with Michael Gambon). And let me tell you, nothing takes the wind out of your Whovian sails quicker than awful Christmas episodes.

So, here we are, just a week away from the premiere of Series 10. What do we know so far? There's probably a lot, but I haven't paid much attention. We have a new companion in Bill, played by Pearl Mackie, and Hannah informed me that this new addition will be openly gay, so that's awesome. Missy is coming back, and Michelle Gomez is always a delight. And it's the final run of episodes for both Steven Moffat and Peter Capaldi.

Today, we learned something else. John Simm is also coming back! Say wha??

Simm, for those who don't remember, was the previous actor to play the Master ahead of Gomez. He was vanquished at the end of the final David Tennant episode, which was so long ago, its story hinged on how Barack Obama was going to save the worldwide economy.

After that, the Master returned in the form of Missy and we never really got an explanation as to how that occurred. So perhaps, just maybe, that's where this is headed. Steven Moffat sure does love him some twisty time-travel shenanigans. Always nice to have something to look forward to, and close out, here's a quote from the man himself:

"Nothing stays secret for long on Doctor Who," said showrunner Steven Moffat. "But you'll have to wait a little bit longer to see exactly what The Master is up to and how he makes his return to face the Doctor.
"It's been a huge pleasure to have fan favourites John Simm and Michelle Gomez face to face in the same role! It's not often you get to see a solo personality clash."

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