Friday, November 27, 2020

Zappa

Alex Winter (Bill of Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure fame) helms the new documentary on musician Frank Zappa. The aptly titled Zappa is most notable for Winter's level of access to Zappa's extensive vaults of video and musical recordings (he apparently recorded everything) along with interviews from those who knew him best. A mix of celebration of a genius and portrait of a self-indulgent individual catered to by a small but fiercely supporting base, Zappa explores the musician's driving force to translate and recreate the music heard in his mind into reality.

What Winter delivers is an unapologetic portrait of a man who would likely have been interesting to meet but impossible to live with. While Zappa loved his wife and children, the documentary shows a man who didn't necessarily believe in the idea of friendship while being largely obsessed in using people to manifest his own dreams into existence. The documentary also touches on Zappa's experimental style, his celebrity within the music business, his aversion to making hit records, working as an ambassador for Czechoslovakia, and his growing role against censorship of music.

FBI - Never Trust a Stranger

FBI returns with a new season and a new agent in Special Agent Tiffany Wallace (Katherine Renee Turner) but apparently without Ebonee Noel. "Never Trust a Stranger" returns Special Agent Maggie Bell (Missy Peregrym) from her undercover assignment to investigate a mass shooting at a liberal media company by a White Power group which involved a source (Andrew Yackel) of OA (Zeeko Zaki). The first-half of the episode deals mainly with Scola (John Boyd) and Wallace getting off on the wrong foot as new partners and Maggie wondering if OA is too close to his missing source to face hard truths about a kid he's determined to think the best of (even after he takes seven people hostage to avoid being arrested by the FBI).

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Buffy the Vampire Slayer #19

It's been a bit since I read a Buffy comic. There's an awful lot happening in Buffy the Vampire Slayer #19. First, we get astral Willow checking in on her former best bud turned vampire Xander Harris. The scene has a mix of melancholy mixed in to the pair's usual banter. We also get to see a bit of Kendra (Slayer #2) and Rose (Willow's ex-girlfriend) together. When did this happen? Nice to see Kendra getting a bit more developed in the revamped Buffyverse. And Buffy, no matter what timeline it is, is still struggling with relationships.

Brock Baker - Africa But It's 29 Cartoon Impressions

Monday, November 23, 2020

Happy Birthday Alexis Ren

The Mandalorian - The Siege

The Mandalorian takes a detour on the search for Jedi as the Mandalorian (Pedro Pascal) returns to Nevarro for some much needed repairs to the Razor Crest (which take place off-camera in record time which allows for the fully-repaired ship to fly in and help save the day in an unlikely sequence that concludes events). While there, our bounty hunter helps Karga (Carl Weathers, who also directed the episode) and Dune (Gina Carano) with the destruction of the last Imperial base on the planet still in control by the remnants of the Empire. Although they believe it to be little more than an outpost, the facility hold secrets of Imperial medical experiments which tie back, somehow, to Gideon's (Giancarlo Esposito) interest in Baby Yoda.

Monday Morning Montage - Rocky III "Gonna Fly Now"

Friday, November 20, 2020

The Last Vermeer

Based on true events, and adapted from 2008's The Man Who Made Vermeers by Jonathan Lopez, The Last Vermeer is set in 1945 and centers around Captain Joseph Piller (Claes Bang) of the Allied Forces charged with returning art stolen by the Nazis to its rightful owners. Piller's latest investigation is of art seller Han van Meegeren (Guy Pearce) who is a suspected Nazi collaborator after tracing a sale of one of Johannes Vermeer's paintings back to van Meegeren. Over the course of his investigation, and during van Meegeren's trial, Piller becomes aware of facts which lead him to doubt the suspect's guilt.

The film's biggest problem is how the screenplay by James McGee, Mark Fergus, and Hawk Ostby is framed. We're given the wrong leading man. As a main character, Pillar is your typical bland police officer. The script isn't helped by subplots spending time delving into his troubled marriage and his feelings for his assistant leading in large part to the melodramatic air of the tale. The trial's inevitable big reveal, which takes an amazing amount of Hollywood liberties to show off facts the audience has known for an hour or more, is laughably over-the-top.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Wednesday with Paige Elithe

Paige Elithe is a Florida model and hair/makeup artist. You can follow her on Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, Twitch, and YouTube. You can also check out her official site and support her on Onlyfans.

The LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special

The first official Star Wars Holiday Special in more than four decades offers a time travel tale on Life Day allowing Rey (Helen Sadler) and BB-8 to jump through time and land up in various iconic moments throughout the films. Far less atrocious than the infamous 1978 special, the LEGO-inspired new one never-the-less honors what has come before with its Life Day themes and cameos from as many iconic characters as possible. Taking place after the events of The Rise of Skywalker, Rey's struggles to teach Finn the ways of the Force lead her away from her friends on the festive holiday to a Jedi Temple where a crystal allows her to journey to the past and see glimpses of other Jedi and their apprentices.

Franklin & Bash - The Complete Series

For four seasons Jared Franklin (Breckin Meyer) and Peter Bash (Mark-Paul Gosselaar) starred as best friends in this legal comedy focused on the unorthodox duo going to work for a large firm while still keeping true to their own madcap version of practicing law.

The box set includes all forty episodes from the show's four seasons. Highlights include the pair using puppets and strippers to win a case, bringing a wrongful death suit against the real estate company for killing their client, a bet with Rachel (Heather Locklear) over whose case will garner the most media attention, brining a large stuffed grizzly bear into court, defending Peter's mother (Jane Seymour) from charges of prostitution, and Jared given 50 hours of community service in small claims court.

Reed Diamond, Dana Davis, Malcolm McDowell, Kumail Nanjiani, and Garcelle Beauvais round out the core cast with the likes of Claire Coffee, Nicky Whelan, Seymour, Beau Bridges, and Alexandra Holden given recurring roles.

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Dungeons & Dragons: At the Spine of the World #1

Dungeons & Dragons: At the Spine of the World #1 begins in blood as those transporting a haul from a mining excavation, a large stone of the mystical gem Chardalyn, go into murderous rage leaving only a single survivor for Runa to find. The first issue slowly builds the campaign, adding characters one by one. First we see the injured warlock Amos, the sole survivor, and to his assistance comes the barbarian Runa and ranger Saarvin helping to dispatch an angry Remorhaz. The nearby town, having their own troubles, adds the young druid Belvyre his protector Patience, along with the idea for a quest that might just save the town.

HaneAme - Tifa Lockhart Final Fantasy Cosplay

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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #111

Realizing that Old Hob has begun spying on them, the Turtles set a trap which offers artist Jodi Nishijima the opportunity to provide several fun silent panels including one of my favorite panels of Alopex hiding under the floorboards of the dojo. The Turtles make short work of Hob's minions Stone and Night, leaving the pair as a message for Old Hob to back off.

Monday, November 16, 2020

Bob's Burgers - Fast Time Capsules at Wagstaff School

Playing on the title of Fast Times at Ridgemont High, time capsules are the thing in "Fast Time Capsules at Wagstaff School" as Tina (Dan Mintz) is put in charge of the Wagstaff School time capsule project. Determined to make it better than the capsule the school just dug up, and drunk on her own power, not a single submission is good enough to make the cut. It doesn't take long for Tammy (Jenny Slate) to start a far more inclusive time capsule project. The two other threads of the episode involve Louise (Kristen Schaal) becoming obsessed with getting her hands on tickets to Boyz4Now's One Two Boo Boo My Shoe Tour (which dovetails into Tina's storyline when two tickets make their way into Tammy's capsule), and Bob (H. Jon Benjamin) and Linda (John Roberts) becoming hyper-competitive after Bob teases his wife about her inability to whistle.

Darth Vader #7

Crippled and left to fend for himself on Mustafar, Darth Vader begins putting himself back together again. However, the Emperor has left another surprise in the form of the Sith assassin Ochi who only gives the Dark Lord of the Sith enough time to connect new robotic limbs before beginning his attack.

Monday Morning Montage - Up "Married Life"

The Mandalorian - The Heiress

"The Heiress" introduces our Mandalorian (Pedro Pascal) to other Mandalorians who have made appearances on both Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels. To do this, the show is forced to reconcile one of the largest continuity errors between it and every other version of Star Wars that has ever existed outside of The Mandalorian. This, of course, being the idea that "real" Mandalorians don't remove their helmets in the presence of others. The episode's workaround feels a bit half-assed, but does the necessary work to introduce the idea that our Mandalorian was raised by a cult of fanatics who instilled in him some hardline beliefs others, like those born on Mandalore, don't follow. This allows the show to reintroduce characters with a far different take on "the way" once the battered Razor Crest touches down on Trask.

Friday, November 13, 2020

Operation Christmas Drop

Operation Christmas Drop is your typical schmaltzy holiday fare featuring a character rediscovering the meaning of Christmas. In this case, our leading lady is Kat Graham starring as workaholic Congressional aide Erica who is sent halfway around the world on Christmas by a Grinch of Senator (Virginia Madsen) to find reasons to shut down a military base that dares spread goodwill during the holidays. I half expected Madsen to start looking for Dalmatians to skin as the script by Gregg Rossen and Brian Sawyer requires so many one-note characters to force the plot along.

The military operation that gives the film its title, where U.S. Forces drop crates of humanitarian aid across several isolated islands, has been going strong since 1952 providing the backdrop of the base in Guam and the reason for Erica to be in tropical paradise at Christmas. Alexander Ludwig plays the goodhearted pilot who lives for Christmas and helps the base make the most of the occasion. He's even able to help rekindle a bit of Christmas spirit within Erica despite the entire reason for her arrival being to deliver a report justifying the base's closure.

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Star Wars: The Clone Wars - On the Wings of Keeradaks

After completing their mission and rescuing Echo (Dee Bradley Baker), "On the Wings of Keeradaks" focuses on Anakin (Matt Lanter) and the Clones getting out of the Techno Union facility alive, getting back to the Poletec village, and then fighting off the Techno Union's attempts to reacquire Echo. The episode is noticeably shorter than either of the two previous episodes, but once the escape from the facility begins the action moves a a good clip through the end of the episode. The Bad Batch continue to prove their work, and the Poletecs turn out to be strong allies against the Techno Union.

Red Sonja #21

Red Sonja continues to make her presence known in Shadizar as the cloaked figure stalks the streets killing all the guards the child king Cyril, son of Dragan the Magnificient, sends after her. Hoping to whittle away his forces and make him commit more to the city leaving the palace vulnerable, eventually Sonja turns her attention to the the city's King.

The Evil Dead Honest Trailer

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Once Were Brothers: Robby Robertson and The Band

As the documentary's title suggests, Once Were Brothers: Robby Robertson and The Band focuses on Canadian-American rock group primarily through the lens of guitarist and songwriter Robby Robertson. Filled with terrific music, interviews, and some fun archival footage, the film by director Daniel Roher may not offer much in the way of surprises but does deliver a solid music documentary on how the group came to be.

From their time as a backup band to rockabilly singer Ronnie Hawkins and later Bob Dylan to The Band's mainstream success, we get the story behind the band's inventive nature embracing a wide variety of influences to create their own sound which continues to influence musicians to this day. The film also covers the more common themes of drugs and the fallout of the group. Included here are interviews from Martin Scorsese (who shot the group's 1978 concert film The Last Waltz), Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, Peter Gabriel, Van Morrison, and others.

Slay the Dragon

Gerrymandering, the process of taking advantage of redrawing voting districts to favor one political party's interests, has been around for two centuries. Slay the Dragon takes a hard look at the Republican change in 2010 led by REDMAP which used modern technology to take the practice to extremes to remap states like Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, North Carolina, and Wisconsin in ways that led to the disenfranchisement of voters. Rising to meet the challenge were groups created by private citizens focused on reclaiming their power by fighting the process of gerrymandering on both state and federal levels.

Directors Chris Durrance and Barak Goodman do a fairly good job of explaining both the practice of gerrymandering and its effects. While primarily looking at how private citizens such as Katie Fahey worked to organize against the practice, the documentary details the Tea Party's wins in the 2010 election and the subsequent redrawing of the districts were just the first steps in a conservative agenda that included undercutting unions and suppressing voters prior to the 2016 general election.

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Monday, November 9, 2020

Black Widow #3

Black Widow #3 offers some answers for readers, although not to the concerned Hawkeye and Winter Soldier who are freaked out about what is going on with with Black Widow. Apparently the idyllic life Nat is living (including a biological son) was constructed by a group of super-villains in an attempt to get the super-spy off their radar for good. As comic book explanations go, it's not the most awkward idea Marvel has tried to sell, but that doesn't mean it isn't a bit odd.

Young Justice #20

It's sad to see that Young Justice is folding up shop just as the comic had completed a lengthy process of setting up the team, it's affiliations, and it's place within the DCU. Young Justice #20 honors the original Young Justice cartoon by introducing Mount Justice as the former (and future) base of operations for the team along with Red Tornado as the group's former babysitter (who apparently has no knowledge of them in this version of reality and doesn't take kindly to unannounced visitors).

The Mandalorian - The Passenger

Baby Yoda gets knocked around quite a bit in the second episode of The Mandalorian's Second Season which opens with an attempt by raiders to get the child from the Mandalorian (Pedro Pascal) on Tatooine. Later the little guy takes a bit of tumble when the Razor Crest is forced to crash land on Maldo Kreis when the ship is noticed and pursued by New Republic fighters as the Mandalorian attempts to transport his unnamed passenger across the system. Oh, then there's the race from a swarm of deadly spider monsters.

Thursday, November 5, 2020

National Treasure Honest Trailer

Star Wars: The Clone Wars - A Distant Echo

With tensions running high, Anakin (Matt Lanter) joins Rex (Dee Bradley Baker) and the Bad Batch on the mission to Skako Minor. They do find Echo (Baker) inside the tower hooked up to the machines as the former Clone Trooper does indeed appear to be the source of the Droids' algorithm. A middle episode for the season's opening arc, we get shoot-outs with droids, some odd aliens, and there are plenty of question left to be answered as the team still needs to find a way to get Echo, and themselves, off the planet. Besides the return of a character lost in the original Clone Wars run, "A Distant Echo" is notable for a call between Anakin and Padme (Catherine Taber), one that Obi-Wan (James Arnold Taylor) guesses correctly about suggesting he wasn't as clueless about the pair's relationship as it seemed in The Revenge of the Sith.

Thursday with Katherine McNamara

Star Wars Adventures: Shadow of Vader’s Castle

The oversized one-shot returns to one of IDW's favorite locales for the Star Wars Adventures title - Fortress Vader. The main story that loosely ties together a collection of tales involves two young Mustafarians who get the idea to blow-up Darth Vader's fortress following the Empire's defeat at the Battle of Endor in which the character will apparently play a major role.

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

The Social Dilemma

The Social Dilemma takes a hard look at social media and how it is changing the way we live. With testimony from experts who worked at various social media cornerstones, the film examines how social media takes advantage of its users and distorts the world around them as it delves into social media affecting behavior and how someone can take advantage of the complex algorithms to affect change on a global scale.

Director Jeff Orlowski's documentary is a warning about how social media is changing us in both expected and unexpected ways as greed and capitalism continue to push development forward into even more questionable territories. How social media apps play on emotion to keep you online and play into reinforcing your own beliefs in creating separate clusters of people with their own facts, how social media has raised a generation who tie their own self worth to the likes of strangers online whose suicide rate is astronomically higher than the generation before it, and the idea of how easily these apps can be used to take advantage of the misinformed for nefarious purposes such as changing the outcome of an election are all truly frightening.

Artemis Fowl

In an age where every comic book and young adult novel is scooped up by a studio hoping to build the next big movie franchise, you can see why something like Artemis Fowl would be appealing. Originally planned for the turn of the millennium, the project spent nearly two decades in development hell at various studios before Disney was eventually able to heavily adapt the events from the popular novels to film. Maybe they should have taken a little longer.

Artemis Fowl is a mess. We're introduced to the brilliant teenager Artemis Fowl, Jr. (Ferdia Shaw), we know he's smart as the script continually reminds us, who discovers his father's (Colin Farrell) stories about magic and fairies are all true after Sr. is abducted by a mysterious figure who hopes to trade him for a mystical artifact she hopes Jr. can find (despite the boy having no practical knowledge of his father's secret life). Thrown into the mix are Lara McDonnell as a sort of elvish soldier and a giant dwarf played by Josh Gad who narrates the film by explaining events to authorities (often breaking the fourth wall and talking directly to the audience) in a vain attempt to keep the runaway train on its tracks.

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Star Trek: Discovery - Far From Home

"Far From Home" catches up with the rest of the crew of the USS Discovery who emerge from the wormhole to crash land on an unknown world. The damage to the ship allows for some convenient storytelling by making it impossible for the crew to determine their arrival in either space or time or attempt to contact their missing crewmember. While most of the crew works on repairs, unaware of the time sensitive nature of the parasitic ice the ship has crashed into, Saru (Doug Jones) and Tilly (Mary Wiseman) attempt to barter with the locales whose limited resources is balanced by the amazing advances in technology since Discovery's time. The arrival of the murderous Zareh (Jake Weber) complicates matters. While Weber has fun with the role, Zareh is a rather bland villain of convivence who hints at the kinds of threats Discovery will face in their new time.

Super Dinosaur - The Labyrinth of the Leviathans

Distressed by an artifact shown to him by Derek (Valin Shinyei) and Super Dinosaur (Mac Heywood), Squidious (Brian Drummond) breaks out of Earthcore and returns to the oceans. Concerned with what he may be up to, SD and Derek head after him to discover Squidious is working to prevent a catastrophic event caused by the greed of Minimus (Sean Thomas) whose actions may have awakened a giant sea creature. Despite confusion over Squidious' actions, SD and Derek find the truth inside the large undersea labyrinth that the Hammerhead Sharkmen wish to awaken. "The Labyrinth of the Leviathans" not only solidifies the alliance between Squidious and Earthcore but it also introduces the idea of dangers Minimus may be releasing on the world without ever knowing it. The pre-credit sequence does show Derek and SD getting in trouble by rushing into action yet again (a trait apparently not fixed by Derek learning his lesson in the previous episode).

Carmen Sandiego - The Masks of Venice Caper

Devineaux (Rafael Petardi) gets a new partner in Agent Zari (Sharon Muthu) as A.C.M.E. sends the pair to Venice in search of Carmen Sandiego (Gina Rodriguez) who is in town to steal all the masks at an exhibit before they can fall into the hands of V.I.L.E.. "The Masks of Venice Caper" offers some fun misdirection as the episode leaves larger concerns alone in favor of a heist episode centered around staying one step ahead of both V.I.L.E. and A.C.M.E. A confused Devineaux, for the first time, suspects that there might be more going on with his quarry than he previously considered. The episode offers the return of Hideo (Michael Hagiwara) who gets a better understanding of the life his brother is now leading. Tired of Carmen's interference, V.I.L.E. decides to lay a trap for the thief in the show's season finale.

Monday, November 2, 2020

Angel + Spike #15

The reimagined Buffy/Angel universe continues to chug along as Angel and Spike rely on the help of Oz, who they come to realize isn't the werewolf they are looking for, to track down the real source of several werewolf attacks across Los Angeles. The search entails Spike being uncharacteristically helpful in making a new friend.

Truth Seekers - The Haunting of Connelly's Nook

Horror-Comedy is an odd genre. When it works you get something like Evil Dead 2 or Shaun of the Dead. When it doesn't, you get something... odd. The first episode of Truth Seekers is more the later as it struggles to find the proper tone while introducing the audience to its world. Our main character is cable installer and repairman Gus Roberts (Nick Frost who is also one of the show's creators). In his spare time Gus also investigates the paranormal. The first episode finds Gus saddled with a trainee named Elton John (Samson Kayo) whose attendance in the van and on a couple of calls to Connelly's Nook is propitious to Gus.

Monday Morning Montage - The Karate Kid "You're the Best"


Our look back at famous (and perhaps infamous) movie montages turns its attention to the original Karate Kid as Daniel Russo competes in the All Valley Karate Tournament to Joe Espisito's "You're the Best."

The Mandalorian - The Marshal

The Second Season premiere of The Mandalorian sends the Mandalorian (Pedro Pascal) and Baby Yoda back to the planet farthest from the bright center of the galaxy. The return to Mos Eisley also means the return of Peli Motto (Amy Sedaris) and Tusken Raiders as our protagonist searches for rumors of another Mandalorian somewhere in the deserts of Tatooine. Of course, this is all after the season opening action scene in a din of sin where the Mandalorian's attempt to buy information about the location of others ends in several dead bodies and a rumor sending him back to the desert world. While mostly disconnected from the larger story, other than offering the Mandalorian a starting point on his wild goose chase across the galaxy, it does offer one of two big action sequences for the episode.