Friday, November 15, 2019

The Irishman


Director Martin Scorsese assembles several familiar faces in examining the life of Frank "The Irishman" Sheeran (Robert De Niro). While the structure of the film is a tad odd, flashbacks within flashbacks, the story (adapted from Charles Brandt's book) slowly peels the onion of Sheeran's life and his close connection to both Russell Bufalino (Joe Pesci) and Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino).

Scandalous: The True Story of the National Enquirer

Scandalous: The True Story of the National Enquirer examines the creation of and the highs and lows of the National Enquirer over the years starting with the paper's purchase and relaunch under owner Generoso Pope Jr. in 1952. It's a fascinating look at the paper's turn from gore to celebrity-based stories to its more recent entry to politics and how it played a role in public perception of Arnold Schwarzenegger's run for Governor of California to Donald Trump's presidential bid in 2016 (the later being something many are still quite conflicted about).

The documentary contains interviews with several former editors and reporters for the paper who all seem to have a mix of pride and shame for their association with the magazine. Neither they nor the documentary shies away from the stories of the paper pushing limits of good taste and legality in exploring news stories. The film also includes anecdotes of the magazine extorting subjects of their exposées and making deals shelf stories for a profitable ongoing relationship (such as ignoring several reports of Bill Cosby and Bob Hope's behavior towards women in favor of puff pieces with the celebrities).

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Ford v Ferrari

While I'm not much of a fan of racing, I do love a good racing movie. Based on true events, Ford v Ferrari centers around the friendship of a pair of outcasts who went to work for Henry Ford II (Tracy Letts). Looking to liven-up his brand, and after being embarrassed by failing to buy Ferrari, Ford greenlit plans to develop a Ford racing car capable of beating the dominant Ferrari racing team at the 24 Hours of Le Mans (an event which Ferrari had won four out of the previous five years).

Built on the backs of performances by Matt Damon as former racer turned car designer Carroll Shelby and Christian Bale as race car driver and mechanic Ken Miles, Ford v Ferrari is a little different than many racing films as the main characters aren't rivals but friends (who, admittedly, occasionally attack each other in public). Despite their disagreements and spats, the screenplay works by selling the audience fairly early on how similar the two men were in their love of cars and racing. Although it relies on a familiar formula, Ford v Ferrari does offer some unpredictable moments, including an ending those unfamiliar with the story may be surprised by.

Jack Ryan - Orinoco


A couple of storylines converge in "Orinoco" as Jack Ryan (John Krasinski) and Greer (Wendell Pierce) join-up with Matice's (John Hoogenakker) team to investigate the cargo containers transported from the docks to a secret facility in the Venezuelan jungle. Not finding the evidence in the first container, Jack risks the operation to continue looking which leads to a reunion with a familiar face (Arnold Vosloo) and one member (Jovan Adepo) of the expedition getting left behind. His actions in the episode further underline Jack's personal stake in the mission and possibly foreshadow more trouble in his path if his reckless behavior continues.

Young Justice #10


Young Justice #10 concludes the comic's multiverse-jumping arc with our intrepid heroes kicking the butts of the not-so-heroic-heroes of Earth-3 before finally making it home. While I enjoyed the arc, and will miss this version of Stephanie Brown stepping up to take on the role of the main Bat-character in the alternate world as Batwoman, I do have to agree with Impulse that the storyline peaked with the team meeting the Zoo Crew.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Us

Us is a creepy horror flick featuring evil doppelgangers rising up from the sewers hoping to kill off and replace the human race. The film is primarily centered around the Wilson family (Lupita Nyong'o, Winston Duke, Shahadi Wright Joseph, and Evan Alex), but opens the story broader as the scope of the attacks become realized. Writer/director Jordan Peele succeeds in creating a bizarre experience as each member of the family comes face-to-face with more murderous version of themselves (the tie-in to a carnival house of mirrors is a nice touch). While disturbing at times, and at times bordering on unintentionally funny, the film doesn't have the payoff to elevate the film past a good genre film (and the late reveal was far from shocking).

Available on DVD, Blu-ray, and 4K, extras include outtakes, deleted scenes, and short featurettes on the main characters, shooting sequences from different perspectives, the actors, and the movie's dancing scene. Horror fans should enjoy themselves here, although the film began to lose me the moment it tried to explain the existence of the red-jumpsuited evil clones.

Black Cat #6


Black Cat #6 moves away from the previous issues as it doesn't involve Felicia Hardy breaking into a well-known location within the Marvel Universe. However, it does continue to follow-up on various threads introduced in previous issues. One of these includes Odessa Drake and the Thieves Guild going after the Black Fox.

Missing Link

Missing Link is one of two animated films focused on returning a mythical creature home this year. While it lacks the heart of Abominable, the latest movie from LAIKA is a fun romp.

The story centers around self-absorbed adventurer Sir Lionel Frost (Hugh Jackman) who discovers a Sasquatch (Zach Galifianakis) in the Pacific Northwest and agrees to see it to the Himalays, dressed-up as Frost's assistant, where its distant cousins live. The villains of the peace are the members of and exclusive club that has barred Frost from entry for his ridiculous beliefs (which he hasn't been able to prove... until now). Along for the ride is Frost's ex-girlfriend (Zoe Saldana).

Available on Blu-ray and DVD, extras include commentary by writer/director Chris Butler, the film's trailer, a photo gallery, and various short featurettes on the making of the film. You can certainly do better than Missing Link but there's fun to be had on Frost's adventure across the world.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Supergirl - Confidence Women


The Leviathan plot takes a step forward with a flashback episode that delves into the friendship of Lena (Katie McGrath) and Andrea Rojas (Julie Gonzalo). "Confidence Women" is overdue in helping to explain why Kara's (Melissa Benoist) deception hurt Lena so profoundly given what happened with Andrea years before. While the magical medallion (which isn't magical?) is a bit goofy, it's existence helps both Supergirl and Lena separately uncover the existence of Leviathan (although neither yet knows anything more than the name). The flashbacks also offer the return of iZombie's Rahul Kohli as Lena's ex-boyfriend Jack Spheer.

Rick and Morty - Edge of Tomorty: Rick Die Rickpeat


Things get pretty messed up the the season premiere of Rick and Morty as the pair's adventure to retrieve death crystals leaves Rick (Justin Roiland) dead and Morty (Roiland) following the path of the crystal to a death he believes will involve growing old with Jessica (Kari Wahlgren). Meanwhile, after Mortry refuses to listen to Holograph Rick and clone his grandfather, back-up clones of Rick pop-up in other dimensions. "Edge of Tomorty: Rick Die Rickpeat" has fun with the running gag of continually rebooting Rick in various forms, but nearly all of them being fascist realities (with the last, non-fascist reality, being somehow even more terrifying). Meanwhile, Morty takes things a bit too far (killing dozens and even ignoring a tempting offer from Jessica) in order to pursue his elusive best death.

Batwoman - I'll Be Judge, I'll Be Jury


When the Executioner starts targeting city officials both Kate (Ruby Rose) and the Crows will scour the city, but while Jacob Kane's (Dougray Scott) men are more than willing to pin the activities on a recently-paroled convict Kate suspects there is far more going on. "I'll Be Judge, I'll Be Jury" features what we've come to expect from the series with Ruby Rose getting more comfortable in her Bat-gear and continuing to be the one standout of the show. While the Executioner works fine as a one-off baddie, his elaborate death traps (including the opening scene where the victim could have simply run to either the left or the right instead of trying to climb a metal fence to avoid electrocution) still leave something to be desired.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Hawaii Five-0 - Ka 'i'o


"Ka 'i'o" is the obligatory send McGarrett (Alex O'Loughlin) off on an impossible mission episode. This time around it's to Columbia and Mexico in search of Doris (Christine Lahti) who the CIA believes has been turned and is now working against American interest. The episode is a bit odd, with several gaps in the story, making me wonder if a two-part episode got truncated into something that would fit in the show's normal hour-long framework. Other cast members make cameos here, but aside from Junior (Beulah Koale) who goes in with a team to assist Steve when he gets stuck, the rest of Five-0 is mostly here to stand around headquarters and await news. As is usually the case with these episodes, the action is quite good even if the plot struggles to remain credible. The episode marks the final appearance of Lahti's character (except perhaps in flashbacks) as the show does surprise me in allowing Doris to be a traitor and meet her end. It's a nice send off for a recurring character, and I'll be curious to see if the show simply moves on from this or if Doris' death lingers in the coming weeks.

Legacies - Since When Do You Speak Japanese?


"Since When Do You Speak Japanese?" offers more Malivore drama when a samurai with a demon inside him is expelled only to have the demon jump bodies and begin to infect others around town. Eventually it makes its way to Lizzie (Jenny Boyd) forcing a tough choice for Josie (Kaylee Bryant) who saves her sister at the cost of taking another step down a dangerous path where Professor Vardemus (Alexis Denisof) is all-too-happy to lead her. In terms of season-long storylines, the most intriguing piece of the episode is Lizzy regaining her memories of Hope (Danielle Rose Russell) at the end of the episode begging the question just what will she do with that knowledge and how may it affect Hope's eventual return to the Salvatore School?

MCM London Comic Con October 2019

Friday, November 8, 2019

Midway


Roland Emmerich turns his attention from disaster flicks in favor of one of the worst war films in recent memory. Midway makes Pearl Harbor look good. Theoretically, Midway is about decisive WWII naval battle that turned the tide in the Pacific. In reality, only about half the film deals with the battle as it struggles in fits and starts while failing at offering a broader context leading into the Battle of Midway.
Wes Tooke's script is over-brimming with forgettable characters, bad dialogue, and dramatic interludes where history seems to all but stop. The result is a bland film filled with unremarkable actors giving unremarkable performances during what we're told, but not shown, is an important historical event (that is never really properly put in context).

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Knives Out


Rian Johnson delivers a devilishly good time in this fantastically entertaining whodunit set around the apparent suicide of the patriarch (Christopher Plummer) of a wealthy family. Set almost entirely in the Thrombey home, the writer/director makes excellent use of both setting and a talented cast featuring Daniel Craig as private investigator Benoit Blanc who has reason to believe murder has been committed. Part Hercule Poirot and part Columbo, Craig is in good form as the smartest man in the room.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

James Bond 007 #12


James Bond 007 #12 brings the comic series to a close with Bond, Lee, and Agent K taking on Goldfinger in the series finale. Goldfinger's plan is finally revealed. Much like his movie counterpart, the plan involves destabilizing the world economy to increase the wealth of his own considerable gold supply.

The Flash - Kiss Kiss Breach Breach


With Barry (Grant Gustin) and Iris (Candice Patton) heading off on a weekend getaway (likely the last before her husband disappears from all existence), "Kiss Kiss Breach Breach" leaves the other characters free to pursue their own adventures. The main storyline features Cisco (Carlos Valdes) investigating the death of his ex Gypsy by a notorious criminal known only as Echo. All evidence points to Cisco, enough that even Cisco begins to question himself, but in the multiverse there's almost always an alternate explanation. For an episode without the Flash, and really the first of the season not to be strongly influenced by the impending Crisis, it works fairly well as the show continues to prepare the supporting characters for life after the Flash.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Supergirl - Dangerous Liaisons


While there is more family and relationship drama involved, "Dangerous Liaisons" is notable mostly for Lena (Katie McGrath) bartering a partnership with Malefic (Phil LaMarr) in order to move her mind-control work forward and the show finally coming back around to pick up the lose thread of Leviathan. The main threat of the week, the Doctor-Octopusish Rip Roar (Nick Sagar), will pull in both William Day (Staz Nair) and Andrea Rojas (Julie Gonzalo) into the Leviathan plot which has been on the back-burner since being teased in the final scene of Season Four. Although his attempts to flood the world would seem to clear Andrea of any connection to the secret organization, the final scene confirms she is indeed involved.

Batwoman - Mine Is a Long And a Sad Tale


The awkward placement and timing of events, something the show has struggled more with than any of the other super-hero series on The CW, bites Batwoman again in the odd episode of Kate (Ruby Rose) easily capturing Alice (Rachel Skarsten) but not turning her in. Instead we get the beginning of the story of what happened to Beth Kane years ago, halfway through Alice gets the upper-hand and lures her father into yet another trap. Despite the creepy opening, the story turns out to be rather bland (with some questionable plot choices such as Alice returning her sister and father to the house where they could have rescued her years before... but didn't because of Beth's own inaction?). I know she's a sociopath, but blaming her family for these events is crazy, even for a crazy person (who is remarkably sane when the script needs her to be).

Tuesday with Alexis Ren

Monday, November 4, 2019

Hawaii Five-0 - A'ohe pau ka 'ike i ka halau ho'okahi


McGarrett (Alex O'Loughlin) and Danny (Scott Caan) investigate a computer-controlled car involved in a hit-and-run which uncovers the use of the new technology by a savvy drug ring. In the episode's B-story, Tani (Meaghan Rath) and Quinn (Katrina Law) investigate the murder of an apartment complex's most hated tenant which babysitting a pair of YouTubers (Tom Allen and John Parr) who are along for the ride while helping the state with a recruitment video. Other than Danny's Knight Rider references, neither story is all that memorable in this standalone episode. The return of Caan also allows for the return of the Steve-Danny dynamic, but there's not much action in the latest episode (and what little there is, in the opening chase sequence and the technician using the car to save her father at the end, doesn't involve Five-0). The pay-off on the B-story is rather weak as well, as the video made by the stoners (like the rest of the episode) lacks any punch.

Batman in Animation - Super-Villains

Pennywise Card Trader Awesome Pack


Welcome to Derry. They all float down here.

Friday, November 1, 2019

Motherless Brooklyn

With Motherless Brooklyn, Edward Norton stars, directs, and adapted the novel of the same name. It's in his choices, and likely his performance, where you will decide what you think of the film. Moving the events back in time allows the story to be reframed as a noir fitting our detective's narration and the style of a gumshoe tale.

Motherless Brooklyn is shown from the perspective of private detective Lionel Essrog (Norton). Despite being burdened with tics he cannot control, Lionel is the star of Frank Minna's (Bruce Willis) P.I. business (and car service). But when something goes wrong on a case it falls to Lionel to step-up and unravel a web of criminal conspiracy and murder.

If you can accept Norton's showcasing Lionel's tics the film will likely work for you, as it did for me. The character is fascinating and we do see how his nature helps him in other aspects of his job, while admittedly leading to some problems dealing with people. Norton builds on his performance and the strengths of a novel to create a smart and entertaining film (even if it isn't quite as clever as it thinks it is).

Jojo Rabbit

An irreverent comedy centered around a Nazi 10 year-old (Roman Griffin Davis) whose imaginary friend is Adolf Hitler isn't going to appeal to everyone. Writer/director Taika Waititi (who also stars as the Fuhrer) crafts an odd little film about a devout, although not very good, Nazi who completely believes in the propaganda he's been fed since birth about Jews and the military dominance of the father land despite those around him seeing the writing on the wall that the end of the war is vast approaching.

Waititi, who adapted the story from Christine Leunens' novel Caging Skies, gets the most out of his young star while surrounding him with an impressive supporting cast who understand the vibe the director is going for in the film. Scarlett Johansson is terrific as JoJo's mother who is hiding more than a few secrets from her young Nazi son. Sam Rockwell, as a demoted Nazi officer now forced to work with children, sets the tone of the film early on in his presentation to a Hitler Youth training camp. Jojo's misadventures at the camp do nothing to make him question his belief in the Nazi Party but meeting a girl named Elsa (Thomasin McKenzie) leads to several questions.