Danielle Reviews Things!

this time:  Lazarus vol. 1
Written by: Greg Rucka
Artist: Michael Lark
Colorist: Santi Arcas
Publisher: Image Comics

Splash Page Comic Art & Comic Asylum Retailer Variant of Lazarus Issue 1Image Comics is seriously an unstoppable force in the comics industry. They are constantly putting out new and exciting indie titles in all kinds of genres–fantasy, western, spy thriller, horror, comedy, etc., etc.  They are a force to be reckoned with.

I picked up Lazarus from our fine sponsor Dr. Volts Comic Connection not knowing what to expect from the story. Every review I had seen was positive so I decided it was time to nab it.  It did not disappoint.

The comic is set in the future where there are a handful of families who completely control the wealth, power, and resources.  There are people allowed to work for the families and everyone else are Waste, left to be exploited and fighting for survival in the territories.

Each family has one member who serves as their protector. This protector has received all kinds of training and scientific and technological advantages. They are faster, stronger, and are able to regenerate after being injured. They are called Lazarus. Forever is the Lazarus for the Family Carlyle and she is amazing. The story begins after Forever is attacked on her family compound and things begin to escalate from there.

The story is an incredibly intense and action-packed sci-fi thriller. The inclusion of the “Family: Prelude”, which was a 4-page short that was originally only available online, was really good and gave some more background to the Forever and her place in the Carlyle Family. My only problem with this first volume was that it wasn’t long enough–the trade only includes the first 4 issues of the series. I’m really looking forward to picking up the second trade and continuing this story.

4.5 stars out of 5

Review: What If?

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What If, starring Daniel “Pocket Prince” Radcliffe is not unlike most indie romantic comedies. It takes one man and forces him to conquer some obstacle to get his whimsical lady. Critics are calling it this year’s (500) Days of Summer, which I totally get. (500) Days of Summer was one of those movies that you either loved or hated, and it depends upon which character you related to most. I hated that movie, so I was hesitant to consider the possibility that I might enjoy What If.

Surprisingly, it’s adorable. Radcliffe plays Wallace (another indicator of indie-ness, weird names), a med school dropout who meets Chantry (played by Zoe Kazan, seriously with these names) and is immediately smitten with her. Unfortunately, she has a long-term boyfriend that she lives with. They agree to be “just friends” and the rest of the film is a tale of how one man battles against the dreaded “friendzone”. It’s a frustrating concept to put into film, and depending on where you sit on the subject of the “friendzone” will determine how you feel about What If. I, as the journalist I am, was able to set aside my bias and enjoy the movie for what it was–a romantic comedy. It’s charming. Radcliffe is charming and definitely coming into his own as a post-franchise actor. The characters are unrealistic, with their witty spitfire inspirationalisms and brashness, but the relationships make the movie whole. It’s a film about relationships, why not make all of them, friends and lovers alike, believable and relatable? The refreshing aspect to their unbelievability is how honest and straightforward each character is with one another. The one instance in the film where no one is straightforward leads to the climax of the film, and actually fits well into the overall plot and character theme. It’s a cute movie, just don’t expect it to be realistic.

If you’re on the side of “these bitches and their friendzone bullshit” you maybe won’t enjoy this movie. But isn’t that what all romantic comedies are? Movies about people who make terrible life choices and somehow find love in the middle of it all? Actually, I’m pretty sure that’s what life is too.

Rebecca Frost

Review: Wish I Was Here

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When I was in high school, Garden State was my everything. The soundtrack to my life, the theme to my moods, the dream I aspired to achieve. I lived my life as an indie flick, staring blankly at an invisible camera and taking long, dramatic pauses in my thought patterns. I idolized Zach Braff and everything he did. Cut to nine years later and I was still giddy with excitement when I heard Braff was writing, directing, and starring in a new film. I avidly watched his Kickstarter video and waited patiently for this new release. I am acutely aware of Braff’s style and the attitude that surrounds him. He is painfully artistic and self-aware and aims to be the filmmaker of his time. Some people dig it, some people hate it. I happen to adore it.

Wish I Was Here stars Braff as a middle-aged father who lacks direction. He is an out of work actor, an alright father, an alright husband, an alright son and brother. Supremely average. His wife, played by Kate Hudson, does wife-things and works. Her character is difficult, she is cursed with the “hot wife” role and doesn’t contribute much else. She is, unfortunately, misused. His children (one played by the creepy kid from Looper) attend Hebrew school and struggle with differences most siblings face. The daughter, so passionate about her heritage and faith and the son, rambunctious and playful. They steal the show. Josh Gad, who plays Braff’s brother, is extremely underused and is given the most poignant parts of the film. Braff’s father, played by Mandy Patinkin, becomes the central plot as the family deals with his cancer and how it will soon kill him.

Going in, I was expecting the usual Braff-flair. Deep, moody, long shots set to an incredible indie soundtrack. The soundtrack doesn’t disappoint (So. Much. Indie.), and his direction and script turns your predisposed belief on its head. The film overall, much like the lead character, lacks direction. For each moving and serious moment, there is an equal and opposite wacky one. A rabbi on a segway, comic con cosplays and colorful wigs. Wish I Was Here takes a common, daily struggle most of us face (impending demise of a family member, financial and marital struggles) and tries to remove the mundane aspects of it and help you realize to appreciate even the mundane. We often forget about simple filmmaking and storytelling. There are no outlandish plots or incredible characters or miraculous outcomes in this movie. Everyone has a struggle, let Braff show you this particular one and help you sort out your own.

-Rebecca

Danielle Reviews Things!!!: The Purge: Anarchy

The Purge series aren’t the first horror films to mix politics and terror.  The best examples are George A. Romero’s films.  They’re chock full of underlying political commentary on different things, such as capitalism (Dawn of the Dead), racism (Night of the Living Dead), or chemical warfare (The Crazies).  Unlike George A. Romero, James DeMonaco–the writer/director of The Purge films–has never heard of subtlety.

Anarchy begins the same as it’s predecessor.  It is the near future and the US is run by the New Founding Fathers.  The NFF have enacted a 12 hour period once a year called the Purge where citizens are allowed to do anything they want without any repercussions.  Citizens use this time period to “release the beast” and break any laws they want, including murder.  There are some basic rules about weapons that aren’t allowed and stuff, but really, anything goes.  Since this was put in place, the country is stronger than ever before.  Crime has basically been eradicated, the middle class is strong and thriving, the unemployment rates and the poverty line are exceptionally low.  But the real reason that the NFF enacted this is far more diabolical.  The Purge is an easy way to control the lower class and homeless population.

The film differs from the first in ways that actually make it better.  Unlike the original, there are now three main storylines that are brought together by the annual Purge:  a skinny version of Manu Bennett who is hellbent on revenge; a single mother and her teenage anti-Purge activist daughter; and a young couple on the verge of separation.  (There is also a group of militant activists, lead by the incredible Michael K. Williams, who are beginning a war against the NFF and the 1% purgers–disgustingly rich folks who can afford to BUY poor people so that they can purge from the comfort and safety of their homes.)

The message of the film is very heavy-handed but it is an interesting one.  There are plenty of stomach-churning moments.  There are also a couple of laughs (probably unintentional, but what can you do?).  The ending is very open-ended, there will totally be a sequel.  I do feel like this movie did more for the actual Purge law storyline than its predecessor.

2 3/4 stars, because I did really enjoy myself for the most part but it was still insanely dumb and cheesy.

Review: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

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This week I had the opportunity to screen Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. Despite my opinion that the previous film would have been better suited to that title (shouldn’t the planet dawn before it rises?) DotPotA was for all intents and purposes a perfect sequel, albeit a little long. I should start off by saying that I “really liked” the first film in the franchise. The performances were heartfelt and the effects were beautiful. You really got to see that Ceasar was dealing with some complicated emotions, and you got to see his ascent into a higher level of intelligence… in other words, you got to see him discovering his sense of self. In DotPotA, those principles are taken to their farthest logical conclusions, as we see Ceaser ten years later and what his world has become. I “loved” this movie.

I would like to begin by saying that without Weta and Andy Serkis, this movie would not be half as compelling as it is. Serkis gives a flawless performance as Ceaser, now grown up with a family of his own, in the overgrown forests surrounding San Francisco’s all-but-empty ruins. I loved that this film centered more around the apes than the humans. The ape characters were compelling, expressive, and well fleshed out. I felt myself drawing parallels between the ape families and my own family experiences, which is what, I believe, the film makers were hoping we would do. The creation of CGI characters so believable and so emotive that I could feel myself relating to them more than the human characters is a feat worth celebrating.

Now… lets get to monkeys on horses with guns.

There are certainly no shortage of hold-your-breath moments in this film. The danger feels real, and the audience is heavily invested in the outcome. The drama unfolds, nail biting and heart rending, as you see what might have been come crashing down in a blaze of fire and ammunition. There are explosions, fire fights, hand to hand combat, and all manner of violence to keep the “action film” feel alive, but its never without a reason. Another huge nod to Weta for showing the ape action in a very real way… seeing the “monkey fights” really makes you appreciate that these are still animals in every sense of the word… its a brutal dichotomy that becomes heartbreaking at times, especially when you get to those parts of the movie designed to show you that their families may in fact be just like yours.

Finally, I would like to give the writers and directors a huge nod for utilizing the first movie in just the right way. They did not overstate the connections to the first film, nor did they ignore them. I haven’t seen a sequel nod so brilliantly to its predecessor in a very long time… maybe ever. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is a great summer film, full of excitement and brilliant effects, but with enough relatable material that it *should* leave you questioning if your definition of what is “normal” and what is “human” is as accurate as you previously believed. I give it 4.5 sonic screwdrivers, knocking off half for the fact that it felt really long at times, and my glowing recommendation.

-Cherri

 

 

 

 

Kristal gives you Four Reasons Why you shouldn’t go see 22 Jump Street

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22 Jump Street has now been at the top of the box office for two weeks straight. And if you haven’t seen it yet and are still unsure if you want to, I am going to give you a few reasons why you shouldn’t run out and see this movie.

Resaon #1: Dennis Booker is your spirit animal.
You’re an original 21 Jump Street, 1987 television series, fan. You loved the melodrama and lived for the action of the teen detectives investigating teen crimes, that was dished out weekly back in the 80s. You might not be okay with them turning the original idea into a comedy, making fun of the detective show and the cop partner relationships. However, you figured that out with the first movie, and have no interest in seeing the original or it’s sequel.

Reason #2: You hated 21 Jump Street.
You gave the first one a chance and really didn’t like it. 22 Jump Street is just like the first one, and it knows it, and it knows you know it, and in case you didn’t know it, it tells you. In case you’re worried you won’t know what’s going on because you DIDN’T see the first one, don’t worry, they start the movie with a “previously on 21 Jump Street” montage, and if you arrive late and miss that, still do not fret, it’s not a psychological thriller, you can catch on.

Reason #3: You want a smart movie.
Don’t go see this movie if you can’t accept it for what it is. It’s a turn your big brain off, comedy/action picture. If you’re going to the movies because you want a solid plot or mind blowing twists, this is not the movie for you. While this movie isn’t completely brainless, (there are a few witty remarks and a couple little Easter eggs for the bigger brains.) it’s definitely not a movie to go into looking for plot holes, this movie knows it’s cliche, knows it has plot holes and makes them part of the humor.

Reason #4: You hate to laugh.
This movie is senselessly silly, and is a running gag on sequels and the entire idea of the venture of Jump Street. It had me laughing from the start to the finish, (be sure to stay for the credits, and if you really want to, stay for after the credits, there is a little something there too.)

Don’t go see 22 Jump Street unless you’re in the mood to laugh and are willing to turn off that big brain and just enjoy some good satire.

A (spoilery) X-Men: Days of Future Past review by Rebecca

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X-Men: Days of Future Past had a lot of buzz leading up to it’s release. The follow up to 2011’s X-Men: First Class was burdened with enormous expectation to deliver not only a good sequel but a good X-Men movie period. Matched with Bryan Singer replacing Matthew Vaughn in the director’s chair, the idea of a terrible X-Men movie loomed on the horizon. The question of continuity hovered in the air like a bad odor, everyone noticing it and everyone commenting on it. And even though Bryan Singer had not dealt it, he certainly had to somehow sort it out.

And boy does he.

Days of Future Past does it’s predecessor justice. The sequel pays amazing homage to it’s era, never straying from the previous design book. You’ll read it in a thousand other reviews: Days of Future Past utilizes the old “what if we could go back in time and kill Hitler?” plot. Sentinels, machines created to eliminate mutants, threaten the extinction of mutants and present day X-Men send one of their own back in time to try to prevent the machines from ever coming to fruition. Time travel plots are tricky, altering-time plots are trickier. This film brings the two franchises together seamlessly. With First Class fresh in my memory, the sequel starts to feel like a Saturday Night Live sketch with alum cast members making clever and endearing cameos. However, once sending Wolverine’s (Hugh Jackman) present day conscious into his 1973 self, everything starts to blend together in an exciting crossover film.

Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) runs rampant, Magneto (Michael Fassbender) remains locked away in a cement prison (the brief viral marketing the movie tried to use makes it’s appearance with his imprisonment, claiming he is the one who assassinated JFK), and Charles (James McAvoy) is hidden away in his former school, relying on treatments that Beast (Nicholas Hoult) concocts that trade his powers for the ability to walk. The 1970’s drug addiction/Little Mermaid metaphor is strong, but makes for a necessary character development. We have all had moments of doubt and would rather take the easy route rather than suffer to meet our full potential. McAvoy makes you feel the struggle, makes you look within yourself and consider those obstacles we all must face but if we accept help from those who support us, your full awesomeness can be reached. His transformation from groovy and skeptical Chuck X to the Proper Charles Xavier develops through the film, and damn if it isn’t beautiful.

If I was caught off guard by anything, it was the introduction of Peter Maximoff (Evan Peters), the mutant known as Quicksilver. The comedic relief is over too soon (one would say…too fast? Ugh, sorry), but a surprising moment of entertainment. Mystique’s past is quickly touched upon, and her character is left with not much to do but follow a rigid path to assassination.

A friend of mine jokingly asked if this was the best superhero movie of the year. I reacted a little too quickly, but I think accurately: this is not a superhero movie. There are no heroes in this movie. Yes, there is teamwork. Yes, there are superhuman abilities. But no one is a hero in this film. And it is wonderful.

Finally: duh, stay after the credits.

-Rebecca Frost

Godzilla: Not so spoilery review By: Kristal Starr

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For many of us who enjoy monster movies, the announcement of the reboot of the “god” of monsters, Godzilla, left us anxious with anticipation. Anxious and hoping for a glorious rebirth and worried that possibly the movie might be something we wished would have stayed resting at the bottom of the sea.

One of the longest running film series in history, began with Ishiro Honda’s 1954, B&W film of a 400 foot tall mutant dinosaur called Gojira. This movie previewed after the atomic bomb devastation in Japan. The immediate effect of a nuclear attack and also fear of the aftereffects of radiation, created a fear, an epic, monstrous fear. Gojira, awakened from the depths of the sea as a rampaging nuclear nightmare, complete with glowing dorsal fins and fiery, radioactive breath. Crushing ships, villages and buildings in his wake. With all of the Godzilla movies out there (some good, some bad and some so bad they are good) Gareth Edwards faced a challenge to bring back a monster created from epic devastation and fear.

When talking about Godzilla movies, especially with any monster movie devotees, it’s easy to forget, and rarely ever mentioned, that most monster movies are boring. Yes, even with multiple monsters, alien visitors, and monster battles. The movies are generally full of flimsy characters, questionable plots and plenty of laughable effects and costumes. However, like a bowl of mashed potatoes, Godzilla movies are comfort food.

That being said there are a number of things that really make this Godzilla a good monster movie.
First, there is a clear emotional through line, and a few characters you can get behind, and stay behind for the duration of the movie.
The characters are solid and more fully developed than in most Godzilla movies (which, let’s face it isn’t a hard thing to do). But, if you are going to see Godzilla because you are excited for a Bryan Cranston film, don’t waste your time. The trailers for Godzilla are Bryan Cranston heavy making it seem like he has a leading role in this film, his appearance is strong but not as prominent as one might expect.

Hands down, my favorite character in this movie is Dr. Ichiro Serizawa (Ken Watanabe),
the iconic scientist. Dr. Serizawa who has studied this monster, understands and respects the creature more than any other character in the movie. The moment when he first utters a reverend whisper, “Godzilla” it sent chills through me and warmed my soul. This was the moment where I believed Godzilla had been brought back from his glorious, monstrous and iconic existence.

Gareth Edwards’ long takes and aesthetic compositions, do most of the talking, making this film pleasing on the eyes and manna to the monster movie soul. A monster’s presence shouldn’t have to be explained. A good successful monster mover will make you feel the creature’s presence, and Edwards’ Godzilla movie does exactly that. The monster is viewed from a perspective which provides a sense of scale while simultaneously a real sense of terror.

See Godzilla purely for the monster mayhem, not because you want nuanced characters or blood-drenched reflections on the eventual end of mankind. I think you will be pleasantly surprised by what the film has to offer. The creature effects are spectacular and the film beautiful overall, the cinematography by Seamus McGarvey is splendid.

It goes without saying that Godzilla should be seen on the tallest IMAX screen you can find, so what I am saying is to see Godzilla find the tallest, largest IMAX screen you can find, sit back and enjoy the rebirth of the god of monsters, Godzilla.