Friday, April 28, 2023

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3

The unlikeliest hit of any Marvel Studios movie was 2014's Guardians of the Galaxy. After a so-so sequel, and appearances in Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame, the gang reunites one last time for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. Jumping between stories involving a nightmarish version of Halfworld and exploration of Rocket's (Bradley Cooper) past, the return of the most unlikable version of Gamora (Zoe Saldana) we've seen on film, the bug-eyed machinations of the High Evolutionary (Chukwudi Iwuji), and the (completely unnecessary) addition of Adam Warlock (Will Poulter), Guardians 3 is a mess. Don't get me wrong, at times it's an entertaining mess, but it's a mess nonetheless.

Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret.

The award-winning, and often banned for its frank discussion of puberty and religion, Judy Blume 1970 young adult novel Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret. is adapted for film by writer/director Kelly Fremon Craig. Smartly choosing to keep the film in the 70s, and avoid having to deal with modern day technology that would certainly alter the story, we are introduced to sixth-grade student Margaret (Abby Ryder Fortson) facing a number of challenges as she and her parents move from New York City to New Jersey and she navigates a new grade, new friends, the arrival of puberty, and struggles with the ideas of her family's two different religions.

Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret. is what you want in a coming-of-age story with its frank acceptance and discussion of the subject matter that adults may have trouble dealing with but kids need to hear. Far from toothless, as films of this genre can often be, it has something to say about a specific time in a young girl's life.

The title from the story comes from the lead character's questions to God about life, family, friends, and her yearning not to be left behind when her classmates begin physcially developing and getting their period. Over the course of the film Margaret will offer several prayers to God in increasingly desperate pleas while the story takes care not to offer any judgement on Margaret or her choices, allowing the character to navigate the uncertainty of burgeoning adolescence as we root for her to come out unscathed (or as unscathed as any preteen in her situation could).

Thursday, April 27, 2023

Citadel - The Human Enigma

This show is going to make conspiracy theorists so fucking horny. Citadel opens with the fall of the greatest spy organization the world never knew existed. Believed only a myth by the few who had ever heard of it, Citadel was a collective of spies from different nations creating their own organization in attempt to save the world from the evils of everyone, including the likes of governmental agencies and their choices to play god across the globe. Starting aboard a bullet train in the Italian Alps, we see a mission go horribly wrong for Citadel's top to agents whan a trap is sprung by an equally secret organization of evildoers calling themselves Manticore coordinating the deaths of other agents of Citadel across the globe.

Adele - The Final Carpool Karaoke

The Belle Starr Story

Over the years several films and TV series have made use of female American outlaw Belle Starr, most highly fictionalized. The 1968 spaghetti western The Belle Starr Story with Elsa Martinelli is problematic for multiple reasons not the least of which is Belle's response to fall in love with attempted rapists not once but twice in the film.

The oddly structured film has Belle being beaten at poker by fellow outlaw, and all-around scumbag, Larry Blackie (George Eastman). It follows the contentious relationship that develops until it is interrupted for a large stretch of the film to showcase Belle's backstory, showcasing another attempted rapist (Robert Woods) she refers to as the only man she ever loved, before retuning to the ongoing feud between the outlaws attempting to one-up each other rather than working together on a score which would set them both up for life.

Wednesday, April 26, 2023

Darkwing Duck #4

The opening arc of Dynamite Entertainment's new Darkwing Duck series comes to a close with Bushroot threatening the city and a Drake Mallard pinning for the good old days of crime-fighting being lured out of retirement. It's the return of Darkwing Duck! Well, you didn't think Dynamite would launch a new series just to keep he retired, did you? 

Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur - Check Yourself

"Check Yourself" centers around Lunella (Diamond White) obsession with needing to when which turns a potential friend in a supercomputer against her as LOS-307 (Asia Kate Dillon) overheats from constant use in the pair's chess game that will not end eventually turning it evil sending all kinds of electric gadgets and appliances after her in the school. While I think pointing out this facet of Lunella's personality earlier in the show, before centering an entire episode on it, would have gone a long way to better sell the premise, there's much to enjoy here including the computer easily deducing her as Moon Girl and a conclusion that not only offers Lunella growth, and a new friend who knows her secret, but also cleverly finds a way to keep the computer around as a supporting character.

Moon Knight #22

Moon Knight #22 offers a Tigra-centric issue (which I'm totally onboard for, even if she answers an important question incorrectly), with a supporting appearance by her son (whose true paternity is revealed), as she works through a new version of one of Moon Knight's old enemies hitting rich gangsters around town. Although we get plenty of Tigra as mother, hunter, and detective, it's her role as friend and her relationship to Marc Spector that is central to the issue.

Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania Honest Trailer

Tuesday, April 25, 2023

007: For King and Country #1

Kicking off 70 years of James Bond, the first issue of 007: For King and Country picks up from the events of the last series and begins with a firefight on the freeway as Bond and the former 003 who he believed dead narrowly make it out alive. Things don't get any easier for Bond when he awakes to discover Myrmidon has succeeded in not only their coup but framing the pair of them as being part of their organization as well leading the pair into hiding where an unlikely source will attempt to pull them back into the fight.

The Blacklist - The Troll Farmer: Part 3

The Wujing (Chin Han) storyline concludes with Reddington (James Spader) outthinking both Wujing and the FBI and forces events to a head enabling him to lure his enemy into the post office and kill him while the task force were waiting at the alternate location they were sure the Troll Farmer (Aaron Yoo) would lead Wujing to. Although the episode tipped its hand a little early in the deception, Reddington's twist on the game (rather than another small win for Wujing) works well enough and ratchets up the animosity between Red and the task force and returning to the show's old standby of how much the two sides can trust each other moving forward over the remainder of the show's final season.

Guardians of the Galaxy #1

Putting off some heavy western vibes (maybe for this issue we should refer to them as the Guardians with No Name?), the Guardians of the Galaxy's new comic begins here with the team attempting to save the lives of those in a small town on a crappy little world on the far side of the galaxy. And what they are saving it from, it turns out, is their former friend... or whatever he has become.

Rogue Agent

Based on true events, James Norton stars as charming conman Robert Hendy-Freegard who ruined several lives over the years while pretending to be an agent of MI5. While alluding to several of his victims, the film focuses on a lawyer (Gemma Arterton) he seduced and stole from who worked to find and bring him to justice. Not only did the conman steal from several of his victims, to many he applied psychological stress while introducing them to the spy life or inspiring fear that others were after them.

While Arterton and Norton are both fine in the roles, the biggest problem with Rogue Agent is the condensed account of Freegard's crimes shown isn't nearly as fascinating as a simple look over his Wikipedia page. As an introduction to the subject manner, it's of interest but barely scratches the surface of the damage the conman left in his wake. While Freegard is real, Arterton's character (who gets the most screentime) appears to be fictional to humanize the victimization and provide a hero to root for in a quest for justice.

Monday, April 24, 2023

The Batman & Scooby-Doo Mysteries #7

With Daphne winning her way into a Gotham City talent show, where Bruce Wayne just happens to be one of the celebrity judges, our gang of young detectives is around to investigate when contestants begin disappearing. There's some fun to be had here with the comic continuing to show off Daphne's skills, in a call-back to earlier issues. While I don't understand either Velma's act or that of Shaggy and Scooby, it does get them into the proceedings for an issue that doesn't find Mystery, Inc. running from a ghost or attempting to set up a trap.

Will Trent - Bill Black

As "Bill Black" opens, Will (Ramón Rodríguez) is on his fifth week undercover attempting to work his way up to a mysterious drug kingpin known only as CK. While initially he seems an odd choice for an undercover agent, the episode showcases how well Will works out as as Bill, weaving much of his own backstory into the character, eventually uncovering the head of the drug gang, even if it isn't the person he hoped it would be. The twist of CK's identity is handled well, with the choices being limited either to the missing cop or the woman who has caught Will's eye. Will's storyline ends in some fast and furious action as he has to fight his way out of the apartment building and get the drug dealer's hostage to safety.

Monday Morning Mashup - Ice Ice Matrix

What happens when you mix The Matrix and "Ice Ice Baby" you ask? Auralnauts provides the answer.

Batman: The Adventures Continue Season Three #4

I must admit, I'm not enjoying this latest season of Batman: The Adventures Continue as much as the earlier runs. Don't get me wrong, the stories aren't bad, but as the comic has gotten a bit darker in tone the comic has lost some of the all-ages magic of the series which spawned it. Batman: The Adventures Continue Season Three #4 is most notable for working the idea of the Batman Beyond suit into the earlier adventures of Batman and Robin during the Batman: The Animated Series run as the Dynamic Duo fight someone in possession of the prototype armor (which, I guess, just took a really, really long time for Batman to get working).

Friday, April 21, 2023

Dead Hot: Season of the Witch

The unscripted drama Dead Hot: Season of the Witch follows Vanessa Hudgens and Georgia Magree on their journey into the mystical involving learning more about ghosts and witchcraft. While you can tell the subject is important to both Hudgens and her real-life friend, the results are mixed. In the end you can't help but wonder if a bit more scripting or a more traditional documentary style would have served the pair better in the personal interests they want to explore.

In the film, which appears to have originally been more of a ghost hunting series for the two, we get a series of ghost hunts interspersed with the pair's travel to Salem to talk to experts on witchcraft, mediums, and spiritual advisors, their own discussions on the subject, and sequences of Hudgens directly talking to the camera in an unsuccessful attempt to tie the various aspects of the project together.

It's WonderCon 2023 Cosplayers Invade California (Part 2)

Dave - Wisconsin

Okay, the middle of a show's third season may seem a weird place to jump in for the first time but you announce Chloe Bennett as a guest-star and my attention is piqued. Bennett guest-stars as a local photographer who Dave (Dave Burd) immediately falls for when the tour hits Wisconsin. And the attraction is mutual, despite Dave's various neuroses. The other storyline involves Ally (Taylor Misiak) joining the tour fresh out of her failed relationship and looking for some revenge sex with an old friend that's had a crush on her for more than a decade.

Wednesday, April 19, 2023

The Mandalorians - The Return

The Third Season of The Mandalorian comes to a close with the battle over Mandalore, and, as I correctly called, not a single hero met their deaths in the action-packed but pretty predictable final episode. Even the most minor of the Mandalorian clan make it out of the battle without a scratch. There's plenty of action here involving the Mandalorians fighting the Imperial Commandos of Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito) and destroying the Imperial Remnant facility which I'm assuming must have had a greater purpose than just feed Gideon's ego and secret experiments.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles/Usagi Yojimbo: WhereWhen #1

Ever since Usagi moved to IDW, here's the crossover fans have been waiting for. Although the first issue of the new five-issue crossover mini-series doesn't offer much in the way of interactions between characters of the two brands, it does set up an interesting situation with multiple time-displaced characters. With Lord Noriyuki leading an army against Lord Hikiju, Miyamoto Usagi's heartstrings are pulled by villagers in need of aid. And so Usagi, Tomoe, Jotaro, and Yukichi go in search of an evil Kappa.

The Blacklist - The Troll Farmer: Part 2

The final season of The Blacklist continues to play back its hits with the return of the Troll Farmer (Aaron Yoo) from Season 3 now working for Wujing (Chin Han) to steal a cutting-edge cyber-weapon from the NSA. The theft goes off without a hitch, althought the task force is able to capture him somewhat easily afterwards. While getting their hands on the Blacklister, and another couple familiar faces, Wujing continues to illude the task force's grasp and the exact target he had for the malware remains a mystery.

Rogue & Gambit #2

Rogue & Gambit #2 features a short respite for both Rogue and Gambit who find themselves in the middle of nowhere with their powers malfunctioning allowing them a rare opportunity to give into their desires (at least on a PG-rated level) before Black Panther shows up leading to a fight between the three characters in a sleepy town over the location of a common ally.

Monday, April 17, 2023

Abominable and the Invisible City - Chinese Nian Year

The two-part First Season finale centers around Chinese New Year. While "Part 1" teases magical creatures being kidnapped around the city, ending with the abduction of Everest, the first-half of the story is more about the various characters perusing their own interests. Yi (Chloe Bennet) obsesses with an upcoming musical performance and Jin (Tenzing Norgay Trainor) is distracted by a minor role in the parade. With no one else to join them, and believing the festival will hide the look of yeti, Peng (Ethan Loh) takes Everest on an eating tour through the city which eventually leads to the others searching for the pair only to find them as they are taken by Nian.

Rick and Morty - The Complete Sixth Season

The Sixth Season of Rick and Morty offered more wacky adventures for Rick (Justin Roiland) and Morty (Justin Roiland). While there are several good episodes in the ten episode run, for me the highlight has to be the the completely insane "Full Meta Jackrick" which offers the return of Story Lord (Paul Giamatti) in one of the most Rick and Morty episodes of Rick and Morty.

True Lies - Independent Dependents

In an episode centered around the team attempting to save hostages from terrorists who have taken control of a weapons manufacturing plant, the focus of both the A & B plots involves characters resistant to asking for help needing help. Of course the framework is more than a bit forced when neither situation were setup prior to this episode as suddenly Harry (Steve Howey) apparently doesn't ask for help and the other pairing involves Gib (Omar Benson Miller) and a character created solely for this episode. Despite the hostage situation, the late twist involving deadly nerve gas secretly created by the company, and Harry being temporarily blinded, nothing about the episode is at all memorable.

Friday, April 14, 2023

R(eally).M(eh). Renfield

Renfield, which puts Dracula's (Nicolas Cage) long-suffering familiar R. M. Renfield (Nicholas Hoult) in the starring role, is a clever concept and about half a good movie. Playing on themes of codependency, unhealthy relationships, and being stuck with the worst boss ever, the film gives us Renfield in a support group, struggling with Dracula's demands, and beginning to find the courage to stick up for himself after meeting a local cop (Awkwafina) in a police force so corrupt it makes the GCPD look respectable.

When the plot stays focused on Hoult or a Cage so over-the-top you wonder how he avoids constantly hitting his head on the boom mic, there's enjoyment to be had. Cage is certainly having fun here, and Hoult gives Renfield enough heart to allow us to root for his tortured soul. And director Chris McKay provides plenty of bloody action sequences involving both characters. However, the other half of the film involving the good cop in the corrupt police force attempting to take down a local crime syndicate falls flat.

Thursday, April 13, 2023

The Mandalorians - Guns for Hire / The Spies

The two episode building to the season finale focus on bringing the Mandalorian tribes back together and the return to their homeworld. Well, that is except for another side quest that takes up 90% of "Guns for Hire," but at least this one involves our main character. Feeling like a mix of world building and rehash of previously defeated villains, with some odd Asimov-ish droid plot thrown in, neither episode is bad but neither really focuses on either the characters or the plot offering something new. That's not to say there aren't enjoyable moments, such as Grogu thoroughly enjoying his new murderous mode of transportation (which also allows him to more easily communicate to the other characters).

Wednesday, April 12, 2023

NCIS: Hawai'i - Bread Crumbs

NCIS: Hawai'i offers a well-worn story trope for the action/cop show when Tennant (Vanessa Lachey) goes missing when the helicopter transferring a prisoner (Dylan Kenin) across the island goes down in the jungle. While her team begins the search to find her, Tennant and the only other agent (Nick Creegan) not hurt in the crash go after the prisoner only to find themselves wounded themselves and trapped in a cave deep in the wilderness and far from the eyes of those who will come looking for them. 

Fables #158

Events are beginning to pick up. the overconfident Peter Pan has begun cutting a swath through the Black Forest killing anything remotely magical he comes across, up until he runs into a certain pack of wolves that is. While Bigby's younglings are enough to turn Pan away, he does escape likely to return with even darker designs for those who humiliated him.

Tuesday, April 11, 2023

Sexual Impulse & Sexual Roulette

This Skinmax Double Feature collects two 1997 low-budget erotic thrillers starring Tané McClure each offering barebones storylines structured more around opportunities for characters to get naked and have sex at the drop of the hat rather than coherent plot or anything resembling good acting.

Gabriella Hall and Tim Abell star in Sexual Roulette as a nearly broke couple attempt to change their luck on a sure bet with the last of their savings leading to the pair owing big money to local casino owners (McClure and Peter Spellos). At this point the story turns into an indecent proposal with Kali (McClure) offering to forgive all debts if Jed (Abell) performs a series of sexual favors for her which he is ultimately unable to keep from his wife, ruining their lives. Roulette is the better of the two films, even with the amount of Las Vegas footage shoehorned in and an ending that fizzles out.

The Blacklist - The Freelancer: Part 2

The Tenth, and final, Season of The Blacklist continues to revisit former Blacklisters with the return of Alban Veseli (Daniel Sauli) who makes an attacks on a New York ferry and high-scale hotel. Believing someone onboard was targeted by Veseli for Wujing (Chin Han), the team investigates but Reddington (James Spader) comes to believe there was no specific target in either instance but rather an attempt to confirm Reddington's connection to the FBI through a photographer (Kristopher Kling) capturing the FBI's response to each attack.

Hellboy in Love #4

Finding themselves somehow transported to Mediaeval Turkey, Hellboy and Anastacia look into the history of the shadow puppet theater and the characters of Karagöz and Hacivat, who, if the legends are true, were wrongly executed and cursed. The comic takes some bizarre turns, including both Hellboy and Anastacia getting transformed into puppets for several panels. While the adventure is hit-and-miss, but does show how strong a character Anastacia can be helping to convince the cursed to break their pattern.

Monday, April 10, 2023

The Company You Keep - Company Man

Now knowing who Charlie (Milo Ventimiglia) really is, Emma (Catherine Haena Kim) sends him in undercover to take down Daphne Finch (Felisha Terrell) by getting the would-be mob boss into an exclusive gathering of the most elite of the elite. While Charlie works various angles to get Daphne the guns she wants, Emma gets a bit jealous how easily the pair work together while running into a colleague (Sachin Bhatt) running security for the event who she has to prevent from blowing her authorized investigation on the grounds.

Daredevil #9

Daredevil #9 works as an aftermath issues set between the Fist's battle against the Hand and their upcoming fight against the Avengers (who believe Elektra is responsible for murdering the President). After their battle against the Hand, Matt Murdock and his followers limp back home to their secret base to lick their wounds. It's hardly a calm time as there are those who decide to abandon Daredevil's quest, and sad revelations for both Elektra and Matt that two of their inner circle aren't who they believe them to be, just as a new threat lands on their doorstep.

The Flash - Partners in Time

"Partners in Time" offers a time-loop episode. Well, sort of. The characters involved in the loop are aware of events, and time does seem to pass, but neither Barry (Grant Gustin), Iris (Candice Patton), nor the inspectors checking on S.T.A.R. Labs can leave the speed lab. There's plenty to nitpick about this episode such as why Barry and Iris remember events from the loop but no one else does (conveniently forgetting Barry is the Flash), the extremely early clue as to which inspector (Diana Bang) was the super-villain from the future, or how a time magnet turns people into random objects from history.

It's IKKiCON 2023 Winter Cosplay Resort Adventure (Part 2)

Saturday, April 8, 2023

Safe Word

To be successful, at minimum, an erotic thriller needs to be both erotic and thrilling. The Tubi original Safe Word is neither. The film from director Sara Seligman and screenwriter Dana Verde is boring, often unbearably so. Moriah Brown and Gavin Houston star as a couple who quickly marry only for her to discover a more controlling and sadistic side to her husband as they begin their married life together and as they begin some rather tame sexual exploration.

Wednesday, April 5, 2023

The Adequate Mario Bros. Movie

The 8-bit plumber who launched a franchise gets his own big budget animated movie in Illumination's The Super Mario Bros. Movie. You can tell Aaron Horvath and Michael Jelenic, the team that gave us the more successful Teen Titans GO! To the Movies, have genuine affection for the Super Mario franchise and the script finds some clever ways to work various gameplay elements into the story. It's the story, however, that falls a bit short. Even at only 92 minutes, the film runs out of gas, noticeably dragging in spots. You could easily trim 20 minutes off its runtime.

That's not to say there isn't plenty to enjoy. The renderings of the characters and world is terrific. And, when the story is moving at high-speed there are plenty of enjoyable moments for fans of all ages inspired by several of the various Mario properties over the years from the original game to Super Mario Kart. And, in a twist from the original game, Princess Peach (Anya Taylor-Joy) gets an upgrade as hero while recasting Luigi (Charlie Day) as the damsel in distress, so to speak, this time around.


I have to say, I'm really enjoying the last few years of Matt Damon's career. You could easily slot Air into an entertaining double-feature with either The Martian or Ford v Ferrari. Using a well-worn Hollywood trope of an underdog fighting the odds, Air stars Damon as Nike salesman Sonny Vaccaro who in the mid-1980s pushed the running shoe company into an unlikely deal by signing rookie basketball star Michael Jordan to an industry-changing contract.

With Vaccaro as the driving force, we also get Ben Affleck (who also directs), Jason Bateman, Chris Tucker, and Matthew Maher as key contributors to creating what would become the Air Jordan brand and turn a third-place shoe company thinking of getting out of basketball altogether into the industry leader. And that this epic quest is over something as innocuous as a shoe contract of all things makes it all the more joyous. Also of note are Chris Messina as Jordan's agent and Viola Davis and Julius Tennon as the college basketball star's parents.

Tuesday, April 4, 2023

Star Wars: The Bad Batch - The Summit / Plan 99

After spending an inordinate amount of time in the safe embrace of Pabu, the two episode arc that ends Star Wars: The Bad Batch's Second Season has the squad seek for answers about the missing clones. The mission's disastrous end is tipped off almost immediately in an awkward conversation at the start of "The Summit" between Phee Genoa (Wanda Sykes) and Tech (Dee Bradley Baker) which is only shoehorned in here because Tech won't be returning. Sorry, Tech. But, hey, turns out Omega (Michelle Ang) has a sister (but not the blue one).

Jessica Nigri - Resident Evil Village Photoshoot

The Lost Symbol - The Complete Series

Adapted from Dan Brown's 2009 novel, The Lost Symbol provided a single season with Ashley Zukerman taking over the role of Professor Robert Langdon and getting involved in a convoluted mystery involving riddles, historical mysteries, conspiracy, secret crypts, and a cult seeking God-like power they believe was hidden from the world by the Freemasons. Over 10 (mediocre to downright bad) episodes, Langdon will attempt to solve a mystery that involves his former mentor (Eddie Izzard), a tattooed man, and the woman who got away (Valorie Curry).

Originally slated to be another Hanks film adaption, the project languished for several years until it was reworked to be prequel series to the movies. Despite larger plans, the show was was cancelled after the mixed reaction from both critics and fans. Now released on both Blu-ray and DVD, the show is also still available for viewing on Peacock (but none of those options is really worth either your time or money).

Monday, April 3, 2023

The Mandalorians - The Pirate

"The Pirate" pulls a couple of threads together when Din Djarin (Pedro Pascal) rallies the Mandalorians together to save Nevarro from the pirates he dealt with earlier in the season. The trouble alone, and the promise of a land for the Mandalorians on the planet, would have been more than enough to get the soldiers to Nevarro. And, since the pirates are little more than canon fodder for the Mandalorians, neither the characters nor the events needed to be set up in an earlier episode.

Dungeons & Dragons: Saturday Morning Adventures #1

In line with other Saturday Morning Adventures titles IDW has put out over the past year comes Dungeons & Dragons: Saturday Morning Adventures #1 offering a new adventure with the characters from the 80s cartoon who are still trapped in the realm of Dungeons & Dragons. While the characters haven't visibly aged, conversation among the group in which all but Hank have given up hope of ever getting home suggests they've been through several campaigns at this point.

Samurai Jack's Most Terrifying Moments

Adult Swim offers this look at Samurai Jack's Most Terrifying Moments.

Will Trent - Pterodactyls Can Fly

Will Faith (Iantha Richardson) stuck on desk duty after the shooting, and unexpectedly hosting her mother (LisaGay Hamilton), Will (Ramón Rodríguez) works a trailer park killing of a family that left a single witness in a traumatized boy. There's some nice moments between Will and the boy, and a twist to the case the detective doesn't see coming. Past events play big roles in both the main storyline, as Will takes the kid in to keep him out of Foster care, and in the B-story in which Angie (Savannah Hutson) continues to be obsessed with her childhood rapist (French Stewart) while finding no evidence that the podophile is up to his old ways.