What I’m Reading : GRAPHIC NOVEL TPB Round Up : PROPHET, EARTH 2, REVIVAL

revival2REVIVAL – Two volumes in and this graphic novel series by Tim Seeley and Mike Norton continues to be a fresh and interesting take on the typically overused ‘zombie’ motif. In a small town in Wisconsin the dead are returning to life, and that is the least of the mysteries that this series explores. RATING: B+. OWN – This is a series worth adding to your collection.

prophetvol2PROPHET VOL 2 : BROTHERS – Not a fan of the art in this volume, and I find myself unable to get into the stories collected in this tome. Issues collected are #27-31, originally published in single magazine form. Issue # 29, sports a different artist, and that is the only part of this volume I find compelling. So unable to recommend this Graphic Novel, instead buy issue #29 by itself. RATING: BORROW – If you liked the first volume and can read this for free go for it, otherwise AVOID.

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earth2vol1EARTH 2 VOL 1 and VOL 2 – The art is hit and miss, some good character redesigns of the big 3, however the other characters redesigns are pretty 1990s image bad. And the story/writing is likewise pedestrian and uninteresting, and very 90s feeling, in a bad way. RATING: AVOID.

Keoni Waxman’s MAXIMUM CONVICTION Netflix Movie Review

The first 30 minutes of MAXIMUM CONVICTION, another Keoni Waxman Steven Seagal vehicle, are interminable. As a rule I give a movie 20 minutes, if a filmmaker doesn’t care enough, or is incapable of making the first 20 minutes of his movie interesting, then I don’t care enough to finish the movie.

MAXIMUM CONVICTION falls into this category, which makes me actually finishing it, more happenstance than quality. After I had written it off, and was about to remove it from my Netflix rotation, some quirk, on a slow movie morning, spurred me to fast forward it past that boring first half hour, and doing so I found myself in a decent, engaging film.

Michael Pare is always a solid screen presence, and the other actors sell their various roles. And the procedural aspects, the detail paid to how soldiers move and soldier in the 21st century, also make this film better than its initial 30 minutes would lead you to believe. This story of an attempt by trained forces to extract a prisoner from a blackops prison, becomes by the end, a journey worth taking. Grade: Fast Forward the first 30 minutes and it is worth a watch.

Movie Review : Kevin Smith’s RED STATE

Today’s FAVORITE Direct on Demand Movie!

RED STATE – Who would believe that the director who brought us the justifiably derided COP OUT could make something as surprisingly masterful and powerful and thought provoking and challenging as RED STATE. The premise of high-school kids and internet sex and cults, seemingly sounds like expoitation in all the cringeworthy ways or sophomoric humor ways that most of us would choose to avoid. The Kevin Smith slacker humor/films… not my cup of tea.

However the hope of RED STATE being Kevin Smith trying something a bit different and darker inticed me to give this film a try. Glad I did. From an easy beginning it goes to places that are surprisingly and jaw droppingly harrowing and inexplicable.

It is not a highschool, or slacker, or juvenile film. It is primarily a film about messed up adults, faith, anger, and the places dire and dark that belief in our own rightousness, can take us. The dialog and performances, the writing and direction, the feast and the famine… marks this film as something… new under the sun.

It is a fantastic film all the way to that great ending. Grade : Excellent. Not just a must watch, a must own. Highly Recommended!

Roku On-Demand Watching Guide NETFLIX Edition

This Week’s (Sunday 19 Jan 2014 to Saturday 25 Jan 2014) On-Demand Recommended watching Guide for NetFlix!

You’ll need ideally a Roku device Roku 3 Streaming Media Player
and a Netflix account: NETFLIX

For the young and young at heart I recommend the following cartoons:

DEXTER’S LABORATORY
BATMAN THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD
THE SUPERHERO SQUAD

For the action fans:

ip_man_ver3_xlgIP MAN (all three movies are available, I’ve seen the first two so far and they are great. Director Wilson Yip and star Donnie Yen crafting a dramatic biopic anchored with brutal and impressive martial arts scenes. That one man could have lived such an influential and pivotal life is truly inspiring)

SOLOMON KANE – this disappeared out of the theaters quickly, but once you get past the weak opening, it is an enjoyable fantasy, action film, led by the always solid James Purefoy.

arrow_ver11 arrow_ver7 arrow_ver10ARROW- probably my favorite television show discovery in a while, nearly every episode of the ARROW has been outstanding (I tend to like my heroes, to not be killers, so the later episodes, are getting a bit bloody and hypocritical for my liking. I’m starting to root for anyone except the titular hero. The series creators will need to watch that) .

Who knew the CW could make a show I actually like. The first season is on NetFlix, and sports fun stories, a strong lead, and perhaps a particular selling point for me, a large and diverse cast with multiple actors and actresses of color. I personally just can’t be bothered with shows that sport no characters of color or only the one token character of color. ARROW is a well acted, directed, and written show and provides lots of diverse actors in non-stereotypical roles. It’s a gem in a sea of sameness. Loving that first season enough to pick up the Bluray.

For the SciFi and Horror Fans out there I recommend:

EUROPA REPORT, THE FRANKENSTEIN THEORY and TROLL HUNTER are all three, enjoyable examples of the found footage film.
RIPPER STREET
THE WALKING DEAD – I’m not a Darabont fan, typically because he doesn’t have a subtle bone in his body, and his usage of characters of color shows a pattern of being unflattering at best. I understand the Walking Dead TV show is going to be a different animal from the Walking Dead book, that said changes when they happen should improve upon the source material, not diminish it. And I feel the first few episodes of THE WALKING DEAD unnecessarily takes a dumbed down approach, to very innovative material.

On the Drama/Thriller side I recommend:

hummingbird_ver7_xlrgREDEMPTION (aka by the less intriguing title HUMMINGBIRD)- starring Jason Statham, is a surprisingly well acted film from the typically taciturn action star. Along with SAFE and THE EXPENDABLES it is one of his best films.

LIE TO ME- Based on an Israeli TV show, this is one of the few police procedurals I enjoy.  Incredibly engrossing and informative.

BURN NOTICE- is another enjoyable series. I like to describe it as, Macgyver if it was good. :).

For the gastronomically inclined among you I recommend:

MARCEL’S QUANTUM KITCHEN
KITCHEN NIGHTMARES US Version

Those are the ones to seek out, some to avoid on Netflix are:

KILL ‘EM ALL
TACTICAL FORCE- interesting cast, but the directing, writing is subpar
THE FROZEN – couple stranded in the cold and hunted, sounds like an intriguing premise. But is a recipe for boredom in this film.
THE INNKEEPERS- I was and am a huge fan of Ti West’s HOUSE OF THE DEVIL, so was very much looking forward to watching THE INNKEEPERS, but unfortunately while it sports the wonderful Ti West use of Framing and Camera angles, the movie has no real substance or interest. The writing, plot is a major failing, with dumb and annoying characters choosing to do dumb things which immediately takes me out of a movie. Plus the scare scenes are poorly done and edited, the movie lacks any real power, and end of day is both predictable and empty. Rating is: Avoid.

As far as the ones to own:

Arrow: The Complete First Season [Blu-ray]

Ip Man [Blu-ray]

Review : Keifer Sutherland’s 24 Seasons 2-5

Courtesy of Amazon Prime and Roku I’ve been able to catchup on a series that I was indifferent to when it first aired, namely Keifer Sutherland’s 24.

Season 1 was reviewed a few years back on this blog and I said of that season “sporadic and haphazard’, and that description extends to these recent seasons that for the most part suffer from those same failings.

Seasons 2 through 4 suffering from the same contrived writing and illogical (stepping over into idiotic) character decisions/choices and quite a few cliches/stereotypes. Add to that a general formula, every season sporting a traitor in CTU, and Jack Bauher distrusted and hunted by a belligerant boss and it is a recipe for annoying, ‘must miss’ television. Grade : Not worth finishing.

Season 5 I am happy to say is much tighter and better paced than previous seasons, and keeps to a minimum the soap opera family asides and diversions that is always the weakest part of any season. Each episode has a satisfying, cinematic action scope and feel, and is well directed by a rotating group of directors, to include Brad Turner.

All in all season 5 Of 24, 11 episodes in is far more entertaining than previous seasons and sofar I’m sticking with it. However with 13 episodes to go there is a lot of room there for the ball to get dropped.

Will update as I move further through the season. View the season for yourself via Amazon Prime or Dvd (I can already tell this is a season worth having and rewatching on Dvd, the commentaries alone makes it a deal).

24: Season Five

GRAPHIC NOVEL Round-Up : Bendis’ UNCANNY X-MEN

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ALL NEW X-MEN VOL 2 HERE TO STAY – Collecting issues 6 to 10 of the series this is an interesting and fun premise for a miniseries, namely have the X-men of the past interact with the present. However for a series, it is a gimmick, an in-joke, that runs the risk of staying around too long, and outliving its sell by date. For the moment Marquez and Immonen art keeps it interesting, but already the premise is getting to feel belabored.

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UNCANNY X-MEN VOL 1 REVOLUTION – Collecting issues 1 to 5 of the series the pluses are a strong, witty and fun script by Brian Michael Bendis, and some gorgeous art by Chris Bacchalo. The weaknesses are the layouts can be lost under muddy finishing/coloring, and a tendency, unsatisfying tendency, to end the very slight collections on a cliffhanger. It is a weakness that both volumes share.

Add to that the outrageous price of $24.99 for only 5 issues ($5 an issue!!!), a hundred thirty plus pages of story and the absence of a complete, standalone story becomes even more insulting.

It is a very petty and miserly and obscene ‘bleed your audience’ policy that Marvel has undertaken here, that does not deserve to be rewarded by purchasing these overpriced volumes. That said, I do feel the writing in these volumes is fun and entertaining and action-packed and worthy of a read if not a buy.

Just be aware that the cliffhanger ending, appropriate for a $3 monthly serialized comic, is wholly inappropriate for an overpriced $25 collected edition ; that you should be able to enjoy on its own without waiting months for the next volume.

GRADE : B-. Until the ending I was enjoying both volumes, but without an ending the volumes are very much like a great parallel bar routine where the athlete fails to stick the landing. Pretty, but ultimately disappointing and forgettable.

And add that exorbitant price point of $25 for 5 issues of material (and yes I realize the trade can be had for a little bit cheaper, but that is still overpriced as well) and it becomes a case of look, do not buy.

Borrow or rent these puppies for a quick read, then move onto something else, that you would not have any problems paying retail for; something you would not mind proudly adding to your bookshelf such as BATWOMAN VOL 1 HYDROLOGY. A book that I have also recently read.

batwomanhydology

DC publishing (the other big comic book company besides Marvel) has their own problems, however producing satisfying collections is generally not one of them.

DC hardcover collections, offer an issue more and two dollars less retail, and offer a contained story, something that Marvel’s new publishing initiative MARVEL NOW may want to take note of.

Marvel writers generally are currently doing good work (far better than their esteemed competition that with few exceptions is self-destructing due to editorial hubris), so to have that sabotaged by ghetto collections… possibly not the route Marvel wants to go.

To try the books and decide for yourself or to hunt them down for less than retail use the below links and this blog earns a couple pennies. If I’ve helped turn you on to something you would have otherwise missed (BATWOMAN HYDROLOGY is a must have for any art lover’s collection. It is exquisite), then please use the links below. Thanks:

All-New X-Men, Vol. 2: Here to Stay

Uncanny X-Men, Vol. 1: Revolution

Batwoman Vol. 1: Hydrology (The New 52)

Batwoman: Elegy

GRAPHIC NOVEL Round-Up! Mark Waid’s THE INDESTRUCTIBLE HULK!

GRAPHIC NOVEL Round-Up! Mark Waid’s THE INDESTRUCTIBLE HULK Vol 1 and Vol 2

hulkwaid1
THE INDESTRUCTIBLE HULK Vol 1 – Collects issues 1 to 5, written by Mark Waid. The first three issues do a nice job of introducing Waid’s status quo of a Banner utilizing SHIELD to help him achieve the scientific greatness that being the Hulk has denied. The cost? Making the Hulk into an agent of SHIELD. So lots of interesting ideas in the first three issues, unfortunately the last two issues stumble. The art by Leinil Francis Yu is exotic, intriguing, chaotic and all this combines to be sometimes impressive, sometimes muddy and confusing. Grade : The hardcover at a retail of $24.99 for 5 issues, translates to $5 per issue. So grossly overpriced even if the book was great, and great it isn’t. So worth renting or reading it from your local library, but not worth buying. C+.

hulkwaid2
THE INDESTRUCTIBLE HULK Vol 2 – Collects issues 6 to 10, and suffers from the opposite issue of Vol 1, here the first three issues, drawn by Walter Simonson I found uninteresting, and the artwork a far cry from Simonson at his best. Completely forgettable. The final 2 part story stars Daredevil and sports far better art by Matteo Scalera and a far more intriguing story. GRADE : C-. Worth reading for the last two issues, if you can borrow it for free, otherwise just pass.

If you disagree with my assessment and want to try or buy it yourself, especially to find options to buy it well below retail go here:

Indestructible Hulk, Vol. 1: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Indestructible Hulk, Vol. 2: Gods and Monster

Director Spotlight : The Films of Kasi Lemmons

evesbayou

cavemansvalentine

With the perhaps unnecessarily color titled BLACK NATIVITY headed to theaters this November, I thought now was the perfect time to take a pictorial gander at the films of its director Kasi Lemmons; a director who unfortunately like too many directors, particularly directors of color, does not get a chance to work enough.

Her 1997 debut film EVE’S BAYOU remains a personal and perennial favorite, being equal parts coming of age story and southern gothic tinged horror and magical realism. In the nearly 20 years since that film’s debut she has managed to make 4 feature films and one short, which is good to have at least that much work from a unique and talented director, and is also a tragedy to only have had that much work from a talented and unique director.

I do think the economics of making a theatrically viable film in Hollywood has kept her from truly exploring the promise of her first film; as I would have loved to see a dozen movies from Kasi Lemmon’s in her unique and dangerous southern gothic magic realism vibe. In the directorial genes of Kasi Lemmons, you had the promise of a director with the unique output of a David Fincher or Nicolas Winding Refn.

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However the films we do get from her, even hampered by the constraints of producing more accessible and conventional movies, still are never completely… conventional. There are stylistic choices and decisions that in places, take your breath away. Particularly she has never shied away from strong Black protagonists, and Black male protagonists as heroes, leading men, rather than comedy relief or the sexless partner.

Kasi Lemmon’s cinematic viewpoint of Black Masculinity, even when that masculinity is dangerous or flawed, is never less than riveting and dignified and hopeful, and as such is a viewpoint that is virtually forbidden/extinct in Hollywood films. I doubt BLACK NATIVITY will be likewise blessed, but I will still support the film and go see it, in the hopes a respectable opening gets Lemmons back to making films, that transcend… convention.

blacknativity

Eve’s Bayou

The Caveman’s Valentine

Talk to Me

Recommended On-Demand/Roku Channel : POPCORNFLIX

The Roku on-demand channel POPCORNFLIX currently offers 29 sci-fi films for your free viewing pleasure. That’s the good news, the bad news is most of those movies aren’t worth watching. Movies like DAY IN THE LIFE OF DOE that are poor and inept, and insults to the term film.

However the channel has two films in its sci-fi rotation that are worth your time. They are:

SHUFFLE – From the description it sounds like a poor man’s GROUND HOG’S DAY, but from the first frame announces itself as something inventive and unique. Recommended.

GHOST FROM THE MACHINE- This undeniably low budget film is surprising in its delicacy, more intimate drama about people living in the aftermath of loss. And what happens when things lost can in some semblance… be found. Recommended.

Now don’t expect Amazon Prime quality, the video quality of films on PopcornFlix is marginal, but still watchable. The plus being that unlike the travesty that is the CRACKLE channel, where the amount and frequency of ads makes watching films an awful experience, you can actually have a complete, relatively uninterrupted viewing experience on POPCORNFLIX

Try it for yourself here!