Monday, January 17, 2022

The Cleaning Lady - The Lion's Den

The second episode of The Cleaning Lady cements Thony's (Elodie Yung) lifestyle when Arman (Adan Canto) steps in to get the urgent medical care her son needs and she proves her worth to Arman's boss by leading them to a thief whose actions caused a gun fight with a disappointed buyer. Two episodes in, it's obvious the health of Luca (Valentino LaSalle) is going to be the show's go-to plot device whenever Thony even thinks about trying to leave her new friends. For better or worse, this is the cleaning lady's life now.

The Batman & Scooby-Doo Mysteries #10

When a number of resorts are terrorized by a series of creatures all resembling a sasquatch, Batman enlists the help of Mystery, Inc. and the Question to solve the case. The reason for the attack comes from the land each of the resorts were built on, as General Eiling was making use of the Shaggy Man for his own devious ends in order to put each of the resorts out of business so he could then plunder an old military cache buried deep underground.

Superman & Lois - What Lies Beneath

Superman & Lois returns for its Second Season with characters trying to get back to normal after the summer. Lois (Elizabeth Tulloch) is in uber-bitch mode while still not dealing with the emotions that a daughter from a different reality is walking around Smallville. Most of the episode deals with teens as Natalie (Tayler Buck) struggles with fitting in to a new world (and apparently will become part of the family), Sarah (Inde Navarrette) begins pulling back from Jordan (Alex Garfin) after returning from her summer trip, and Jonathan (Jordan Elsass) continues to struggle with the team while also getting a little frisky with his girlfriend sending an already tense Lois over the edge. Although less featured, Lana's (Emmanuelle Chriqui) role in the political campaign seems to set the stage for a larger arc which will play out over the season.

Sunday, January 16, 2022

KCFCC 56th Annual James Loutzenhiser Awards

The Kansas City Film Critics Circle met for the 56th time for our annual James Loutzenhiser Awards on Sunday, January 16th. Winners awarded included Drive My Car, The Tragedy of Macbeth, Mass, Licorice Pizza, Summer of Soul, West Side Story, Flee, and The Power of the Dog which took home awards for film, director, and lead actor Benedict Cumberbatch.

Friday, January 14, 2022

Drive My Car

Movies find you in interesting ways. Drive My Car is the film I'd been searching for through all of 2021, a true cinematic experience that enveloped me, taking me on a completely unexpected journey built on strong storytelling and great performances.

Thursday, January 13, 2022

Suicide Squad #11

The big throwdown between teams assembled by Amanda Waller and Rick Flag is put off for one more issue (which does kill some of the momentum of the ongoing arc) as Flag waits for Peacemaker to try and convince Bloodsport to join their side and Waller sends her team to Earth-8 to fight a variety of odd-ball characters like the Retaliators as some form of audition to prove they have what it takes to be part of her team going forward (but with Flag's team now assembled and hitting her secret base, it doesn't look like she has much of a choice).

Naomi - Don't Believe Everything You Think

Based on the six-issue mini-series by Brian Michael Bendis and David Walker, the opening episode of The CW's latest super-hero series introduces us to adopted teenager, and Superman mega-fan, Naomi McDuffie (Kaci Walfall). There are some differences to the original comic as Superman is more myth than fact in this reality (making you wonder which world in the Arrowverse Naomi takes place in) adding a different take on Naomi missing the Man of Steel's appearance in the out-of-way town of Port Oswego when even several witnesses are willing to believe was some kind of stunt.

Batman #119

Batman's investigation in Badhnisia continues as he has a run in with Lex Luthor but as Batman and Bruce Wayne. After buying up Batman, Inc., now incarcerated for the murder of the villain Abyss (who it turns out is far from dead), Luthor has a preposition for Batman. One our hero doesn't exactly take all that well.

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Hellboy: The Bones of Giants #3

Hellboy: The Bones of Giants #3 offers the first face-off between Hellboy and the restricted Frost King Thrym which results in a draw when the Frost Giant retreated to build up his strength setting up a final confrontation in next issues' series conclusion.

NCIS: Los Angeles - A Land of Wolves

With the help of Hanna's (LL Cool J) visiting friend (Briana Marin), a short-staffed NCIS team searches for a missing Kensi (Daniela Ruah) who disappeared near the Mexican border while working undercover investigating a smuggling operation. It takes some time to make sense of a crime scene involving five dead who weren't killed by the cartel but by a local militia group led by a cultish whackjob (Jolene Andersen) out to protect America from those seeking the American dream by gunning down unarmed refugees in the woods.

Mass

Written and directed by Fran Kranz, Mass offers an intimate setting to delve into two families' pain. Six years after a school shooting, the parents of two children involved agree to meet in the basement of a local church. On one side we have Jason Isaacs and Martha Plimpton as the parents of one of the victims and on the other Reed Birney and Ann Dowd as the parents of the shooter who also took his own life. Both couples are still wracked with pain and seeking answers to a brutal event that changed both families forever.

Mass is a film designed to put its four characters, and the audience, through the wringer as both sides work through their pain attempting to make sense of a senseless crime as the family of the victim and that of the perpetrator discover a shared pain.

Asuka (Evangelion) Cosplay by Jessakidding

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Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Black Widow #13

Taking an opportunity to offer context to the final panel of the previous issue, Black Widow #13 offers a flashback issue to Black Widow's time in Madripoor and her first meeting with the Living Blade, featuring limited dialogue (but plenty of narration from Natasha) we watch our heroine do her best to survive someone who appears more force of nature than man.

It's Holiday Matsuri 2021 Cosplay Christmas Part 2

The Card Counter

Writer/director Paul Schrader examines the worlds of gambling and torture, which turn out to not be as mutually exclusive as you may think. In terms of gambling, The Card Counter doesn't offer any new information or insight we haven't seen presented before by movies like Rounders and 21.

What makes the movie unique is William Tell's (Oscar Isaac) past as a disgraced MP who served 1o years in federal prison for torture in Abu Ghraib. His past causes him to befriend a troubled young man (Tye Sheridan), hoping to dissuade him from taking vengeance out on a man (Willem Dafoe) both characters have reason to hate. The relationship between the pair is a peculiar one as Will takes accepts a job on the poker tour to help his new friend who wants a completely different kind of assistance from him.

Monday, January 10, 2022

MacGruber - The Hungry Lion

With everyone believing he is dead, MacGruber (Will Forte) struggles to stay alive as old frenemy Constantine Bach (Timothy V. Murphy) attempts to torture him and Enos Queeth (Billy Zane) moves forward with his plans involving Brimstone. Forte is naked for the entire episode, strapped down, in a plexiglass prison, or running around like an idiot in some kind of industrial facility the bad guys had just laying around. The blind Constantine turns out to be harder to outwit than he should be, but then again MacGruber is pretty fucking stupid. The episode's title comes from a bastardized version of "The Lady, or the Tiger?" which makes absolutely no sense with how it is used here since our protagonist is neither given two choices nor ever comes across two literal doors.

Elektra: Black, White & Blood #1

Elektra becomes the latest comic character to get her own black-and-white mini-series featuring separate tales of the comic character, and, like both Red Sonja and Deadpool, hers will have a splash of red.

This is Colossalcon 2021 Swimsuit Cosplay Music Video

Alex Rider - Heist

After travelling to Amsterdam, Alex (Otto Farrant), Kyra (Marli Siu), and Tom (Brenock O’Connor) work on a plan to how to sneak Alex and Kyra into Damian Cray's (Toby Stephens) company to download the full code of The Feathered Serpent video game in hopes of learning what it is for. The episode works well with the pair smuggling themselves into the company through a delivery truck and then working their way to the upper offices. They also come across a shipment of gas masks and hazmat suits foreshadowing the evil that Cray has planned. 

Friday, January 7, 2022

The 355

There's a fun, if not bright, story in The 355 once things get going and the female operatives from various spy agencies around the globe decide to work together. I don't know that the movie is going to do well enough to earn a sequel, but I would suspect a second film, without the need for such lengthy set-up, would be superior. The main takeaway from The 355 seems to be that a female-led action movie can be just as dumb as any with an all-male cast.

The plot, so to speak, involves a technological super-drive (the kind of device you only find in these types of movies) that can crack anything (planes, financial records, power plants, your Spotify account, etc.). Discovered by accident on a drug raid, an agent (Edgar Ramírez) in Columbia attempts to sell it only to see it fall into the hands of a black market auctioneer who plans to sell it to the highest bidder giving them the power to destabilize the world with the press of a few buttons.

The Tender Bar

Adapted from the memoir of J. R. Moehringer, The Tender Bar is a comfortable warm sweater wrapping up the childhood and college life of JR (played by Tye Sheridan and Daniel Ranieri) and his colorful family, most notably his Uncle Charlie (Ben Affleck) in whose bar he learned as much about life as four years at Yale.

Directed by George Clooney, The Tender Bar isn't great drama, nor outrageous comedy, but it's a light and breezy look at a young man's life who would be raised by his mother (Lily Rabe), in the often-overflowing home of his grandfather (Christopher Lloyd), and his uncle who would instill in him a love of books leading to his eventual profession. With solid performances and some witty narration by Ron Livingston as an older, and perhaps wiser, version of JR, The Tender Bar doesn't ask much of the audience other than to enjoy a good story.

Thursday, January 6, 2022

Hit Monkey - Run Monkey Run

Tired of dealing with Hit-Monkey, the Yakuza put a price on the monkey's head that even makes his ghost sidekick blush. He's also got to deal with the undead ghost assassin Yuki (Reiko Aylesworth) who arises to restore order to the streets of Tokyo and targets both Hit-Monkey and Bryce (Jason Sudeikis). With a ghost (who can harm them both) and host of assassins after them, there's plenty of action in "Run Monkey Run." Although Yuki comes to an understanding with the monkey, our protagonist has plenty of threats still coming after him as the Yakuza raise the price on the contract even higher.

The Nowhere Inn

The Nowhere Inn has one of my favorite opening scenes of the year as American musician Annie "St. Vincent" Clark, playing herself, is being driven by a confused limousine driver (Ezra Buzzington) with no idea who his latest passenger is, or why she's famous, only to stop in the middle of a desolate highway and disappear. Seeds of the larger themes of the film are planted here, even if it never reaches the same heights.

The film's plot involves Annie hiring her friend Carrie, also playing herself, to make a documentary about the band which the pair hope will help both of them reach wider audiences. What Carrie soon discovers, however, is life on the road isn't all that interesting off-stage for the band. Carrie's attempts to find an interesting hook for the story and Annie drastically changing her behavior slowly devolve into a situation where neither Carrie nor Annie can differentiate what is actually real.

It's Holiday Matsuri 2021 Cosplay Christmas Part 1

NCIS: Hawai'i - Lost

While the team searches for military ordinance smuggled onto the island in a cargo container, Tennant (Vanessa Lachey) struggles with a personal decision after discovering an issue involving the father of one of her son's friends. The search for the missing guns brings back Sharif Atkins as Boom-Boom and offers a few twists and turns including an even more valuable item hidden in the cargo container that was worth a thief cutting off two of his own fingers to avoid suspicion.

Wednesday, January 5, 2022

Seven Secrets: Volume One

Volume One collects the first six issues of Seven Secrets about a secret order of Keepers and Holders who are charged with protecting the seven most dangerous secrets from being released upon the world by a different secret sect known as Seekers.

The Cleaning Lady - TNT

Adapting the 2017 Argentinian television series La Chica Que Limpia for American audiences, the opening episode of The Cleaning Lady introduces Elodie Yung as Cambodian medical doctor Thony De La Rosa who, after witnessing a murder, gets pulled into a job as a cleaner by local mobster Arman Morales (Adan Canto) removing all evidence from a crime scene. "TNT" introduces multiple subplots such as Thony's son struggling with a life-threatening immunodeficiency disorder, the antics of her less-reliable Filipino sister-in-law Fiona (Martha Millan), a teasing a possible relationship between Thony and Arman (who risks his life to save his cleaner). 

Josie and the Pussycats

I'm still waiting for a Du Jour spinoff. Even 20 years after its release, 2001's adaptation of the Archie Comics series and the Hanna-Barbera cartoon is simply a delight. A satirical take on pop culture and consumerism underneath a tale of a band's meteoric rise to the top of the pop charts, Josie and the Pussycats was well before its time carving out a cult status in the years since its lukewarm reception in theaters.

Following the plane crash of the delightful boy band Du Jour (Donald Faison, Seth Green, Breckin Meyer, and Alexander Martin), who discover something unexpected when listening to their latest mix tracks, their manipulative promoter (Alan Cumming) seeks another band to hide subliminal messages within their music and so we meet the Pussycats: Josie (Rachael Leigh Cook), Melody (Tara Reid), and Val (Rosario Dawson).

Tuesday, January 4, 2022

Devil’s Reign #2

Devil's Reign continues with the heroes on the run (and others already in prison), Spider-Man being lured into a trap at The Daily Bugle to get the crap kicked out of him by Taskmaster, and the Kingpin making threats against Elektra. While Dr. Octopus engineers a way for the Mayor of New York to make use of the Purple Man to win the election, the heroes throw a swerve and decide it's Luke Cage (instead of Tony Stark) who should run against him for control of the city.

The Djinn

Written and directed by the team of David Charbonier and Justin Powell, The Djinn plays on several classic horror tropes including children and monsters and the unforeseen price of asking for wishes from a demonic source (Hint: it's never a good idea).

The film takes place entirely within the apartment of the mute pre-teen Dylan (Ezra Dewey). On night when his father (Rob Brownstein) is at work, Dylan makes use of a satanic book of spells left over from the apartment's previous tenant and makes a wish. To see his wish granted, he'll need to survive an hour of being hunted by a malevolent creature known as the Djinn (a mix of CGI and performances from multiple actors including John Erickson, Donald Pitts, and Tevy Poe).

Monday, January 3, 2022

Once and Future #23

Most of Once and Future #23 involves the armed standoff between Bridgette and her daughter hoping something in the secret armory of William Shakespeare can help her other son who is now being hunted by another Galahad. Eventually mother and daughter come to an understanding, Nimue decides not to shoot her mother and Duncan, Bridgette, and Rose leave her whatever they aren't taking to help summon a water god as an ally in the increasingly out-of-control conflict. Despite the tension, no one dies and both sides go their separate ways.

The Book of Boba Fett - Stranger in a Strange Land

The opening chapter of The Book of Boba Fett sets the stage for the season with two storylines. The first takes place in the present with Boba Fett (Temuera Morrison) taking over the role as head of Jabba the Hutt's criminal empire on Tatooine. The other, taking place in flashbacks when Fett takes a dip in the Bacta tank, begins to fill in the gaps of what happened to the character between his apparent death in The Return of the Jedi and his reappearance last year on The Mandalorian. In the opening chapter of both these tales, things don't exactly go Fett's way. While having the same feel as The Mandalorian, it lacks a funny little co-star, and the dual storylines often trip over each other while trying to decide which is the main story The Book of Fett wishes to tell.

The Last Duel

The Last Duel offers a medieval he-said/she-said/he-said tale based on the true events involving Jean de Carrouges (Matt Damon), his wife Marguerite (Jodie Comer), and Jacques Le Gris (Adam Driver) who is accused of raping her. Events leading up to and after the rape are shown from each of the three characters' perspectives including the trial of Marguerite and the eventual duel between the two men who may or may not have been friends at one point depending on whose account you believe.

Each reciting covers many of the same events, offering more context to their character's actions and the perspective of themselves and Marguerite who under the laws of the time was Jean's property damaged by Jacques. Let's just say it wasn't the best time to be a woman. Nor does the script look fondly on nobility (Ben Affleck) or royalty (Alex Lawther). It's as much an indictment of the time period as on the events that occurred.