Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Tabletopia is out today

I have no idea if I'll have the time to try it out this week, but if I do, I'll post my thoughts on it soon. In the meantime, here's what rahdo has to say about it:

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Batman v Superman marks the return of the lazy superhero film

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice Review


When I reviewed Man of Steel a few years ago, I felt it necessary to get all of my complaints out of the way first because there was a decent movie beneath the generous helping of crap. This time around I want to switch it up and get all the good stuff out of the way.

So here's what I liked about Batman v Superman:

Wonder Woman is awesome

Gal Gadot absolutely nails it as Wonder Woman. I know the internet can bitch and moan about anything, but I don't foresee many people getting upset about this casting decision. I was convinced her character wouldn't translate well to a movie like this, but now I can't wait to see her standalone picture. She is, hands down, the most believable hero in the entire movie.

Lex Luther

The internet is probably going to hate his performance, but I think Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luther is surprisingly good at times. His theme music is even better. Unfortunately, this version of Luther is better suited for a campier Superman film. It draws heavily on what Hackman and Spacey did with the part in better movies (much, much better movies), but I'm okay with that.

The music

I loved Hans Zimmer's soundtrack from the first movie. This is more of the same, but very enjoyable.

Jeremy Irons and Diane Lane

The movie doesn't put its supporting characters to very good use, but Irons is solid and Lane brings exactly what you want from her in the little amount of time the movie's short attention span allows her.

That's it. That's all I liked about the movie. I hated every mind-numbing second of everything else. The pacing stinks, the acting sucks, the action is routine, and I'm embarrassed I ever suggested Ben Affleck would make an okay Batman. Oh, and a lot of that cool shit you saw in the trailer is just a dream sequence, by the way.

Batman v. Superman is slightly better than Fantastic Four and much worse than Amazing Spider-Man 2. Even if the trailers hadn't spoiled everything—and let me emphasize everything—this movie isn't even worth the price of a rental. The title bout is so brief you'll wonder why they even bothered to film the scene in IMAX format.

I was disappointed in Man of Steel, but it's leagues above Batman v Superman. I wouldn't be a bit surprised if there's a reboot in the foreseeable future. It takes unspeakable incompetence to get together three of the greatest superheroes and make such a stinker.

Look, I purposely forgot everything I know about Superman and my preconceptions of what a Superman movie "ought to be," but even that couldn't save this turd. I'm still looking forward to Suicide Squad and Wonder Woman, but holy shit, what a disappointing night at the movies.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

10 Cloverfield Lane is awesome... as long as you're not expecting Cloverfield 2

10 Cloverfield Lane Review (Extremely Spoiler-Free)

I kind of dislike going to the movie theater and sitting through the trailers I've already seen on my computer. Yeah, I know the obvious solution is to refrain from watching trailers online, but I don't know which trailers will show before the movies I actually see in theaters. In fact, I'd rather not know. The biggest reason I dislike internet trailers is I already know what movie it's advertising by the time I've clicked the link. Sometimes even the thumbnail on YouTube spoils the best part of the trailer.

Maybe it's just nostalgia, but there's something magical about watching a trailer for the first time in a theater, especially when it takes an unexpected turn. The 10 Cloverfield Lane trailer sucked me in immediately. My heart swelled and I got giddy as the previously cheery "I Think We're Alone Now" slowed down and deepened in pitch, confirming our suspicions that something sinister was afoot. Not only had I never heard of this movie, I couldn't wait to get home and watch the trailer again. (It's worth noting the two least spoilery trailers of recent memory both involved J.J. Abrams: this movie and The Force Awakens. I can only hope he starts a trend in which Hollywood no longer shows off its best moments for free.)

one of the best trailers I've seen in years

I've usually filled you in on the basic plot details by now, but I want to discuss anything but that. As with the original Cloverfield, it's best to go into it without having any idea what it's really about. When you know you're getting Mary Elizabeth Winstead and John Goodman—two of the most likable actors alive—what more do you need? I'll tell you this: I loved 10 Cloverfield Lane. If you're expecting a "normal" movie, there are moments when you'll say, "Come on!" but the filmmakers know exactly what they're doing. What they're doing is eschewing everything they learned about routine filmmaking.

Instead of discussing the plot, I'll just tell you what I was expecting: you remember that wonderful Twilight Zone episode in which Larry Gates builds a bomb shelter and everyone laughs at him until they find out the bombs are actually coming? And then how quickly the shroud of suburban life came crashing down at the worst possible time? That's what I was expecting, only with monsters.

"If we survive, what are we surviving for?"

The similarities between that episode (#68 in case you're interested) and 10 Cloverfield Lane are there, but more in spirit than plot. There are times I thought my other expectations were right. There are times I thought they were wrong. Beyond that, I ain't saying anything else until you've seen the picture. 

To be clear, 10 Cloverfield Lane is a popcorn movie, but it's a great one. 

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Southbound (2016) is available on VOD

Southbound Review


A couple of men, covered in blood, are driving down an old desert highway. The passenger looks out the window and spots something demonic hovering above the plains in the distance. When the driver asks him what's wrong, the man brushes away his friend's concern. Whatever it is that's after these two guys isn't natural, but they've been dealing with it long enough that they've become inured to its presence.

See the first seven minutes below:


Following the conclusion of that opening sequence, another group of travelers attract the camera's attention. Over the course of the next hour or so, we'll be drifting from one character's point of view to another, on or about the same desolate highway. Although these are some of the same people who brought us the V/H/S films, to call Southbound an anthology movie is misleading. I think it's just protagonistically challenged.

What a time to be alive. After a decade or so of mostly terrible horror, 2015 has been the best year for the genre since the eighties. We Are Still Here paid homage to Fulci, It Follows to Carpenter, Deathgasm to Raimi and Jackson, and now Southbound seems to be influenced by everyone in between including Lovecraft and Craven. The kids raised on Video Nasties are the ones making movies now. Thanks to them, the genre is successfully making up for the late 90s and early 2000s, when all the films either looked too shitty or too slick. Southbound is the latest missionary in the revolution.

minor spoilers in this trailer

A lot of horror movies don't make a lot of sense because they don't have to. There are times Southbound feels like it doesn't make sense, but it's not to the film's detriment. You get the feeling early on that its madness is intentional, while the jarring nature of its focus-shifts gives it the qualities of a terrible nightmare. A few seconds short of ninety minutes, the film's brevity also feels dreamlike. Most horror films drag on a little too long while this one gets in, gets out, and leaves you wanting more.

If you're wondering if it's better than V/H/S, it is. This time the tone remains uniform throughout. It doesn't feel like a bunch of short stories with only superficial connections. This is a bonafide movie and a pretty good one at that.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

I'm beginning to like the idea of a Blade Runner sequel


To say I love Blade Runner would be an understatement. The Final Cut is my second favorite movie of all time. I love the look of the film, the music, and the casting is perfect. Not only do the special effects hold up, they're better than damn near anything that came out in the last few years. I can read about the production (particularly the set design) for hours at a time. "I've seen things... you people wouldn't believe," is one of the most insightful lines ever spoken in a movie—something I think about almost everyday. It's also why I thought Ex Machina was the best movie of 2015. That movie, in turn, made me realize a Blade Runner sequel could still have a lot left to say.

If you've never seen Blade Runner, the inferior theatrical cut is currently on Netflix. I suggest skipping that version. Pay money to see The Final Cut, preferably on Blu-Ray.

Spoilers below.


For anyone who's seen the proper version, the "vague" question posed at the end gets a lot of attention. I would argue there's nothing vague about it at all—Deckard is a replicant. Period. With that in mind, my initial reaction to news of a sequel was, "Why?"

I've been slowly coming around. Ridley Scott isn't directing it, which I think is a wise idea. The disappointment of Prometheus aside, I just don't think he's in the same head space he was in three decades ago. I'm not saying he's a lousier filmmaker now (you could make that argument, but I loved The Martian), just that he's no longer suited for the job. People grow as they get older. Nothing wrong with that, especially when you have the sense to stop clinging to the way things used to be. 

The choice of director, Denis Villeneuve, shows the producers are at least attempting to treat this project with respect. I was expecting someone a little more showy and a little less mature to get the job. (The long list of names which have been attached to the Neuromancer movie has been downright horrifying at times, so I tend to expect the worst from these projects.) I have faith in this guy. In an interview on CraveOnline he said:

"Totally, the thing I must say is that I love mystery. I love shadows. I love doubts. I would just want to say to the fans that we will take care of that mystery. I will take care of it."

All we have is his word, but at least we get that. Any director who took this on as just another job probably wouldn't bother to assuage our worries. I'm taking this as a good sign until I hear otherwise.


Then there's Ryan Gossling's involvement, the news of which reached me when I was still very much against the film. Even then I thought "that doesn't sound too bad." To be sure, it's just a matter of opinion, but I really like Gossling. He's an actor first and a movie star second, along the lines of 90s Johnny Depp, George Clooney, and Harrison Ford himself. Had they cast someone a lot more box office friendly, I would have been a worried. In fact, it was probably Gossling himself who made me question whether or not a Blade Runner sequel was automatically a terrible idea.

As for Harrison Ford's casting, which could potentially break the original film... I just don't know. I have no idea how they plan to use him yet so I can't get too upset about it. Ridley Scott has said it's going to be more like a cameo than anything. That can change, so we just don't know yet.

The only movie I like more than I like Blade Runner is Fargo. A television series based on the film seemed silly to me, too, until I actually saw it. I almost screamed at the screen when the series started messing with what was left buried at the end of the film. (Let's just say I thought a lot of that movie's fun was wondering what happened to the ice scraper landmark). The producers of the series, however, handled it with care. I think it's arguably the best thing on television right now. Today I'm glad I have a Fargo movie and a Fargo television series. One actually enhances the other.

I can only hope Blade Runner 2 is approached in the same way. At least there's hope, of which I currently have none for the American version of Ghost in the Shell which is coming out soon. I'm ecstatic the Blade Runner 2 producers seem to be doing the opposite of what they're doing.

My biggest reason for not being worried about a sequel to Blade Runner? By now I've seen enough lousy sequels, prequels, and reboots to know that even if they cram something dumb into the official canon, it still doesn't detract from what came before it.