12/09/2015

It's Your 50th, Charlie Brown!

IT’S YOUR 50th, CHARLIE BROWN!
Why is it something that proved a half a century ago that television doesn’t have to pander has inspired decades of insipid, overblown and overly saccharine tributes, both on TV and (especially) musically? The definitive ode to one of pop culture’s most lasting legacies has yet to be crafted.

Supergirl

SUPERGIRL
While I applaud the notion of a female superhero show, this series suffers from more sap than a forest of pine trees and showrunner Greg Berlanti’s annoying penchant for barely-secret identities. Calista Flockhart’s Cat Grant is teeth-grating, but a perfectly cast Melissa Benoist as Kara makes the show worth watching.

Space Dumplins

SPACE DUMPLINS by Craig Thompson (Scholastic)
Craig Thompson’s preternatural cartooning skills (abetted by Dave Stewart’s stunning colors) are at full-blast in this sci-fi adventure that’s equally satisfying for kids and adults. Every page positively drips with incredible concepts for spaceships, aliens, and even futuristic fashion. Another triumph from one of today’s most outstanding comic book talents.

Spectre

SPECTRE
Maybe it was foolish to expect subsequent James Bond movies to live up to the bar-setting CASINO ROYALE. Daniel Craig remains perfection, and there are certainly thrills onscreen, but the movie feels tired and checklisted, like they felt obligated to use every 007 trope Craig had yet to exploit.

10/15/2015

The Jim Gaffigan Show

THE JIM GAFFIGAN SHOW
Another good stand-up comic suffers another painful, watered down sitcom interpretation of his material, as this clich├ęd and mostly unfunny montage of tropes and stereotypes (the bitchy gay friend! The horny misanthrope pal! The shrill, haranguing wife!) serves only to send one back to (still hilarious) SEINFELD reruns.

American Sniper

AMERICAN SNIPER
Never in all my years of consuming pop culture have I been so fearful that a movie was going to leap off of the screen and punch me in the face. At times as racist as any WWII propaganda, this chunk of one-sided jingoism’s critical accolades are a conundrum.

Hannibal, Season 3

HANNIBAL Season 3
My once-favorite show loses much of its balance, starting with an overly hallucinogenic and credibility straining cap to Seasons 1 and 2, segueing into a surprisingly uninspired adaptation of RED DRAGON. The last two episodes regained the greatness of the series, but alas, its demise may have been timely.

9/17/2015

The Death of Superman Lives: What Happened?

THE DEATH OF SUPERMAN LIVES: WHAT HAPPENED?
Jon Schnepp’s in-depth autopsy of Tim Burton’s aborted 1990s Superman film actually plumbs some merit (mostly visual) from the fanboy-maligned project. Burton seems typically adrift, while producer Jon Peters’ illiterate douchebag rep remains intact and Kevin Smith gets more mileage from oft-told tales. A well-crafted, thoroughly entertaining (if softball-lobbing) effort.

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7/28/2015

Creepy Presents Alex Toth

CREEPY PRESENTS ALEX TOTH (Dark Horse)
While the stories are frequently perfunctory and predictable, Toth’s art (both solo and in collaboration), storytelling, and experimentation are in peak form in this comprehensive 1960s-‘70s Warren collection. One complaint: the stark black and white work would’ve been better served on matte paper instead of the glaringly incongruous glossy stock.

Ant-Man

ANT-MAN
As the Marvel formula becomes entrenched and its cinematic Universe bloats, the films need to either break the mold or be so entertaining that fatigue doesn’t have time to settle. ANT-MAN mostly succeeds, thanks largely to Paul Rudd’s appeal, but one wishes we’d have seen Edgar Wright’s unfiltered vision onscreen.

Wayward Pines

WAYWARD PINES
A bizarrely half-baked premise (I’m unfamiliar with the source material) loaded with dozens of credulity-straining plot holes (where do they get pharmaceuticals and gas?), underdeveloped characters, and some pretty bad acting. Ten wasted hours I’ll never get back (even if I am put in stasis for thousands of years).

6/29/2015

Mad Max: Fury Road

MAD MAX: FURY ROAD
George Miller’s post-apocalypse redux is mostly a staggering triumph of mesmerizing imagery and jaw-dropping stunts. But Max himself is basically a supporting character, and the distracting model casting of Immortan Joe’s brides dilutes the wonderfully grotesque milieu (and undermines any feminist message). Ultimately, a fun ride that could’ve been more.

Aquarius

AQUARIUS
Lacking the period verisimilitude of MAD MEN (maybe two characters feel of the time and anachronistic props abound), the creepy tenor of HANNIBAL, and the edgy hard boil of TRUE DETECTIVE, NBC’s HELTER SKELTER prequel feels more like a product of the 1960s than a period piece set there.

John Wick

JOHN WICK
 A retired, bereaved hitman (Keanu Reeves) loses his dog and classic Mustang to douchey Russian mobsters. Then Keanu kills all the people. Shoot-and-stab action abounds, but there’s zero heft, and a typically stoic Reeves is so charmless he can’t even elicit sympathy when his fucking dog is killed.

Interstellar

INTERSTELLAR
Christopher Nolan’s sci-fi epic is heavy on the metaphysics and faux-techspeak, but even heavier on the gooey sentiment. Visually spectacular, well-acted, and at times riveting, it’s still a tad overlong and incredibly self-indulgent, the main takeaway being that Nolan really, really wishes he had made 2001 or SOLARIS.

6/21/2015

The League of Regrettable Superheroes

THE LEAGUE OF REGRETTABLE SUPERHEROES by Jon Morris (Quirkbooks)
A riotous, beautifully-designed catalogue of ridiculous comic book heroes from the Golden Age thru the 1990s (Doctor Hormone! Zippo! Skateman!). Morris’ tone strikes the perfect balance between mockery and celebration, appealing to both fanboys and non. I only wish Morris had included his own fantastic artistic interpretations in the sidebars.

6/17/2015

Transformers: Age of Extinction

TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION
Even in the context of big, stupid blockbusters, this overacted, underwritten (the Autobots are more fleshed out than the human characters), Oreo-bot-placed slab of mindless mayhem may be the shrillest, dumbest, most pandering piece of product I’ve ever seen. Calling this shit is an insult to excrement. An Oreo-bot. Seriously.

6/09/2015

The Babadook

THE BABADOOK
The best horror makes a boogeyman out of our deepest fears and greatest tragedies. This visually mesmerizing, spectacularly creepy and disturbing film from writer / director Jennifer Kent is not an easy watch (both leads are hard to root for), but if you’re looking for genuine chills, make the effort.

Inside Amy Schumer Season 3

INSIDE AMY SCHUMER Season 3
So, if I were to say that I find Amy Schumer to be a one-note comic whose “schlubby slut” shtick is mostly just tiresome, and whose show is almost as reflexively unfunny as Louis C.K.’s has become, does that make me a sexist pig? Oh, 2015. I hate you.

Last Week Tonight

LAST WEEK TONIGHT WITH JOHN OLIVER Season 2
By going deep on selected stories, LAST WEEK crafts a fresh, whip-smart reinvention of a staid but worthy format. The gloriously uncensored Oliver is the true heir to Jon Stewart. The only complaint is that it’s not on five nights a week (and the giant mascots can stop, too).

Sinatra: All or Nothing At All

SINATRA: ALL OR NOTHING AT ALL
Considering how much time is spent on Frank’s youth, the sudden stop after his comeback in 1973 makes an otherwise exhaustive documentary feel incomplete (there’s 25 years left). I wish more time had been spent on the music than the tabloid fodder, but it’s still a riveting, remarkably even-handed portrait.

Daredevil

DAREDEVIL
The gritty tone seems an ill fit to the cinematic Marvel Universe, but Charlie Cox makes a sturdy Murdock, and Vincent D’Onofrio simmers as the Kingpin (despite an ill-advised sympathetic backstory). A clunky costume and a super-whiny Foggy Nelson somewhat mar a noble effort, but I’m eager for Season 2.

The Disaster Artist

THE DISASTER ARTIST: MY LIFE INSIDE THE ROOM, THE GREATEST BAD MOVIE EVER MADE by Greg Sestero and Tom Bissell (Simon & Schuster)
The promise of behind the scenes juice on Tommy Wiseau’s magnificent trainwreck is left mostly unfulfilled in favor of stories about what a great guy / terrific actor the (ahem) author is. I get not wanting to hurt the feelings of friends, but it makes for sadly tepid reading.

5/31/2015

Mad Men, Season 7, Part 2

MAD MEN Season 7, Part 2
A deft balance of happy, sad, and ambiguous endings, MAD MEN’s final arc defied most expectations by putting Don On the Road, not ending up as Dick Whitman, but, brilliantly, finding his 70s mojo. Peggy’s rom-com climax felt off (if inevitable), but overall, an eminently satisfying end to an era.

Super Boys

SUPER BOYS: THE AMAZING ADVENTURES OF JERRY SIEGEL AND JOE SHUSTER – THE CREATORS OF SUPERMAN by Brad Ricca (St. Martin’s Griffin)
A staggering amount of research gives new insight to the oft-told tale of the Depression-era teens who created Superman (and thus an entire genre), but reaped little reward. The blame is spread around, but the ultimate, tragic lesson is that in real life, villains often beat the good guys.