I guess with any comic book series, things can’t stay simple for long; not just in terms of plot and character depth which I am absolutely for, but in terms of spin-offs, specials, and the intermixing of continuity between them which I’m more or less totally against. I’ve never gotten into super hero comic books for this reason as the amount of effort to understand any ONE book in its entirety is predicated on an absurd amount of disposable income so that all the issues of every connected series can be purchased. Well I guess I have no choice with this series as we’re gonna be talking its very first Special today and it’s only going to get more unwieldy from here. Strap in folks! Things are gonna get bumpy!
The special starts off with a continuation of the story line from issue 18; namely that Sally’s lifelong mentor who we’ve never heard of has just died and it turns out that she has left everything to her, including this spiffy vest!
Kingsman: The Golden Circle and all the images you see in this review are owned by 20th Century Fox
Directed by Matthew Vaughn
Kingsman kind of came out of nowhere and surprised everyone with just how big of a hit it became, but then again that’s kind of the most notable thing about Matthew Vaugh’s career so far. Kick-Ass, X-Men: First Class, and Kingsman were all movies that no one really expected to become huge hits, but he managed to turn all three into huge money makers and even garnered quite a bit of critical praise in the process! Now he’s attempting the one thing that so few directors have been able to pull off which is to make a successful sequel to one of his own films; something that even the best directors aren’t always able to pull off (*cough* The Lost World *cough*)! Will this be yet another unexpected hit from a director who’s known for making those, or is this a challenge that will prove insurmountable even for someone as talented as Matthew Vaughn!? Let’s find out!!
The movie picks up some time after the ending of the first film where The Kingsman Organization is thriving under new leadership and Eggsy (Taron Egerton) is living the super awesome secret agent life while also dating Princess Tildae (Hanna Alström) who was the princess he saved in his last adventure. Now obviously things can’t stay this way for long (lest this be a rather uneventful movie), as Eggsy’s past comes back to haunt him with the sudden reappearance of Kingsman dropout Charles (Edward Holcroft) who somehow survived the events of the last film and proceeds to set off a chain reaction of events that completely decimates the Kingsman Organization; even managing to kill agent Lancelot in the process (Sophie Cookson). With nothing left and the world facing an imminent threat from an organization known only as The Golden Circle, led up by Poppy Adams (Julianne Moore), the remaining Kingsman members (pretty much just Eggsy and Merlin played by Mark Strong) must turn to their American Counterparts known as The Statesmen in order to fight against whatever nefarious schemes Poppy and Charles have planned. Can Eggsy save the world yet again despite having lost so much already? Can the Statesmen be trusted to work with the remaining Kingsman members, or do they have a secret agenda of their own? Seriously, how the hell do they write themselves out of a bullet to the head in order to bring back Collin Firth!?
The LEGO Ninjago Movie and all the images you see in this review are owned by Warner Bros Pictures
Directed by Charlie Bean, Paul Fisher, and Bob Logan
What, another one of these already? Didn’t we JUST see the one with Batman a few months ago!? Clearly Warner Bros has hit on something big with the success of both The LEGO Movie and The LEGO Batman Movie, and I can only assume it’s what will keep them afloat while this DCCU thing burns itself out. Still, they seem to be moving at quite a quick pace with these and to top it off, this is based off of their Ninjago line of toys which is something that a lot of movie going audiences might not be familiar with. Can The LEGO Formula succeed for a third time in surpassing audiences expectations, or will this be the LEGO straw to break the LEGO camel’s back and shatter it into a million pieces that’ll be really annoying to clean up? Let’s find out!!
The movie is set in the world of Ninjago; a land full of anime nerds who have surrounded themselves in Asian culture; to the point that they have a bad guy named Lord Garmadon (Justin Theroux) with robots who is in constant need of walloping by a bunch of ninjas with robots. Seems simple enough, right? Well you’re WRONG, because this is a LEGO movie and if there’s ONE thing LEGO movies are known for, it’s daddy issues. It turns out the Green Ninja’s secret Identity is Lloyd Garmadon (Dave Franco); the son of the bad guy who’s always wrecking things and is therefore rather unpopular at school despite his alter ego being one of the beloved protectors of the town. With his fellow ninja friends Kai, Jay, Nya, Zane, and Cole (Michael Peña, Kumail Nanjiani, Abbi Jacobson, Zach Woods, and Fred Armisen), they’ve managed to maintain peace in this town despite there being much unrest within Lloyd himself who REALLY doesn’t like his dad, and rightfully so! Still, things can’t go on like this forever and he eventually screws up badly enough that not only has Lord Garmadon taken over the city, but he ALSO unleashed a horrifying monster as well which is wreaking havoc all over the place! His only option now is to go on a Ninja Quest with his Ninja Master Wu (Jackie Chan) and his Ninja Buddies to find the ULTIMATE ULTIMATE weapon that will stop the monster and free the town. Can Lloyd manage to redeem himself for his failure to protect the town while ALSO finding a way to get past his daddy issues? Will Lord Garmadon realize the error of his ways and reconnect with his neglected son? How can they be stealthy when they don’t even have proper articulation!?
American Assassin and all the images you see in this review are owned by Lionsgate Films
Directed by Michael Cuesta
I don’t know about you, but I’m just happy that we’re not gonna be seeing any more trailers for this now that the movie has finally come out as its second only to Flatliners as far as obnoxiously overplayed teasers whenever I go to the cinema. Still, just because they overdid it with the marketing for this (at least for the movies I went to see) doesn’t mean it’ll be a bad film, and if nothing else it at least has the Birdman himself to lend a bit of charm to this! Does this manage to be a decent enough spy thriller that I forget just how annoying it was seeing the trailers over and over again, or are we in for the worst spy film since Cars 2? Let’s find out!!
The movie begins with Mitch Rapp (Dylan O’Brien) and his girlfriend Katrina (charlotte Vega) enjoying a vacation in Spain that is capped off with Mitch proposing to her and Katrina saying yes! Okay, ACTUALLY it gets capped off with a bunch of terrorist dudes start fucking shit up and one of them (Shahid Ahmed) fires a few rounds right through Katrina’s chest. Mitch then spends the next eighteen months training his ass off and embedding himself into the same terrorist cell that launched the beach attack, and this somehow works as he ends up face to face with the man who shot his wife under the guise of joining his cell. Before he can stick a knife in his throat however, AMERICA bursts through the front door and drills FREEDOM right into the heads of each and every terrorist there; luckily sparing Mitch but also taking out his target before he could. Now you’d think this would be the end of Mitch’s story as he’d either go to jail for trying to join terrorists or at the very least be pointed to a decent counselor to help deal with his grief, but that’s not what Deputy CIA Director Irene Kennedy (Sanaa Lathan) has in mind!! She decides to recruit this lone wolf for OFFICIAL assignments and sends him to Stan Hurley (Michael Keaton) to put a bit of discipline in him and see if he can be an effective weapon for the CIA. Well I guess they’ll have to find out sooner than they thought as some nuclear material is stolen out of Russia and seems to be heading to Iran by way of a MYSTERIOUS mercenary known as GHOST, and clearly Mitch, along with Stan, a red shirt (Scott Adkins) and another spy named Annika (Shiva Negar), are the ONLY ONES WHO CAN STOP HIM! Will Dylan find a way to satisfy his bloodlust now that the target of his revenge was prematurely terminated? Who is this MYSTERIOUS Ghost and why does he have the most generic mercenary name imaginable? Was this SERIOUSLY a book first? Someone wrote this shit down!?
We’re back with even MORE Sonic the Hedgehog to talk about because… well I’m on a Sonic the Hedgehog kick again and it’s gonna take a bit more time to burn itself out! We’ll be looking at three issues today because this stretch of issues includes some TRULY fascinating changes for the series and is a turning point in a lot of ways. I’m always fascinated by stuff like this where you can pinpoint an EXACT moment where things are different from what they were before, and while I’m not equipped with the knowledge as to WHY these changes happened in the series, it’s going to be a lot of fun to point them out!
Issue 16 (November 1994)
So the first thing we need to acknowledge is the change in Sally’s design. Based on accounts from Michael Gallagher (the first writer for the comic book including the four initial test issues that I have yet to cover in this recap series) we know that the SatAM series was being developed at the same time as the comic which is why the basic outline of the story is the same, but it seems that some early concepts made it into the comic book before they were finalized for the series. We know this happened already when Boomer was renamed to his cartoon name Rotor in issue 9, and the very first episode of the SatAM series had a design for Sally that is SOMEWHAT close to her appearance in the comics up to this point. The big question I’m still left with is why her design wasn’t changed earlier as the comic was only on its second official issue (not including the four test issues) when the SatAM series premiered. It could have just been a scheduling conflict as I have no idea how far ahead the books were written and illustrated before release, or maybe no one was too concerned about it until much later when it became clear that Sonic was going to be A THING for the foreseeable future. Interesting fact! This is not the first know redesign of the character as one of the earliest known pieces of concept art for the SatAM show portrayed a blonde princess with a dress and crown, and the first issue of the test series had her blonde as well; though it was corrected by the second issue to the design we know now.
So I guess we’re gonna have to talk about this one again, huh? It certainly seems that everyone else is getting in on the action with various think pieces about what the movie actually means and how audiences are reacting to it, which… I guess I can’t criticize because I’m currently doing the exact same thing, but I’m still feeling a bit irksome about how much publicity this movie is getting when what I saw really didn’t merit all the hoopla. Making matters worse is the fact that CinemaScore (a poll of general audience moviegoers) have given the film a rating of F; bringing back the tired argument about how art films are just too GOOD for mainstream audiences to understand. I mean… sure, I’ve certainly held firmly on one side of that debate in the past (I bring up Michael Bay as often as possible), but after seeing the film itself, I just don’t think this is the one for some of the more snobby among us to lord over the undiscerning masses, because… well if you read my review, you’d know that I am rather close to absolutely hating this film; stopping just short of that due to the technical acumen, the finely tuned tension curve that’s constantly raising the stakes, and Aronfosky’s undoubtedly strong command of cinematic storytelling. Make no mistake; this isn’t an amateur hour shit show like God’s Not Dead 2 or Incarnate. This is a phenomenal filmmaker who tried to do something great but I feel has failed in spectacular fashion, and while I do understand the reasoning behind for softening ones opinions about a movie that genuinely tries THAT hard (the story of Icarus is usually seen to be a tragic one), I just… couldn’t. Too much about this movie is misguided for me to want to give it much of a pass, at least as far as my own feelings on it as I think it’s STILL probably a movie worth seeing at some point even if you ultimately hate it the same way I did. So I guess that begs the question, what is it that everyone seems to be getting out of this movie, and why do I feel it was done so poorly?
Mother! and all the images you see in this review are owned by Paramount Pictures
Directed by Darren Aronofsky
I’ve never really been a fan of David Fincher, yet I’ve very much appreciated Aronofsky despite them sharing quite a few similarities; mostly in regards to just how dark and cynical they can be when it comes to their subject matter. I guess Aronofsky still manages to CARE about his characters even when they’re terrible people or getting mercilessly destroyed which is something that feels absent from a lot of Fincher’s work like Fight Club or Gone Girl; both are about terrible people but never seem to get past simply PRESENTING us with their unpleasantness. Aronofsky’s different, especially with movies like The Wrestler and Black Swan which are straight up tragedies about broken people trying desperately to get their lives together and failing miserably in the process. Now we have Mother! which, aside from the gratuitous punctuation, seems to be in the same vein though leaning much more on horror tropes and absurd excess than a more focused psychological horror narrative and seems to be in the same vein as Noah (another one of his movies that I like) at least as far as just how far he’s willing to take the strangeness of it all. Is this another classic to add to his already impressive catalogue, or has he made his biggest misstep since The Fountain? Let’s find out!!
The movie begins with a HUGE spoiler, but AFTER that we follow around a woman (Jennifer Lawrence) who lives with her husband (Javier Bardem) in a REALLY nice house that is in desperate need of repair, but at least it gives Jennifer Lawrence something to do while FAMED POET JAVIER BARDEM putters around not writing anything. Still, she seems perfectly content with her day to day life of fixing the place up and making it look more hospitable… but everything changes once some guy and his wife (Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer) shows up at their doorstep and Bardem is MORE than happy to offer their house, their food, and their personal space to the couple with no consultation from Jennifer Lawrence. Things escalate from there, but in ways I’d rather not spoil as the movie goes place you really couldn’t imagine from the trailers which sell this as a much different film. Does Jennifer Lawrence find a way to assert herself and regain control of what is hers? What is Javier Bardem’s deal with letting these people come in in the first place, and what ulterior motives do they have? No seriously, Aronfosky. What the fuck did you do here?
Tulip Fever and all the images you see in this review are owned by The Weinstein Company
Directed by Justin Chadwick
Now THESE are the movies I live for! What makes a good or bad movie even better is if there’s a good story behind it, and this looks like a disaster waiting to happen; what with its troubled production (it’s earliest incarnation was supposed to be filmed in 2004) and the fact that it’s been sitting on Harvey Weinstein’s shelf for almost three years now. Not only that, the premise itself sounds completely absurd (a steamy period romance AND ALSO the explosion of the Dutch tulip market) and the trailers made it look like a muddled mess; probably due to that whole “sitting around for three years” thing. Sometimes a film can rise above a nightmarish film shoot with films like Apocalypse now and even The Shining being great examples of that (even if Shelly Duvall’s treatment on set was pretty freaking grotesque), but other times we get stuff like Waterworld, The Super Mario Bros Movie, or even Food Fight. Does this film manage to come out of all this turmoil as an intact and extremely entertaining film, or should they have never bothered dusting this off in the first place? Let’s find out!!
The movie follows Sophia (Alicia Vikander) who’s agreed to marry Cornellis Sandvoort (Christoph Waltz) in exchange for her younger sister getting a free trip to American and her getting out of the orphanage. All she has to do is sire him an heir and live a happy domesticated life; provided the dude who more or less bought her doesn’t get bored and throw her out on the streets. Still, even if a baby would have kept him from doing such a thing (at least not right away) she seems completely unable to get pregnant which puts a strain on their “relationship” which I guess you can call it. In walks Jan van Loos (Dane DeHaan) who is painting a portrait for them but manages to fall madly in love with Sophia who eventually reciprocates his feelings. After more than a few bangings behind Sandvoort’s back, trouble starts to brew when Sophia’s maid Maria (Holiday Grainger) gets married and the father (Jack O’Connell) disappears due to some contrived misunderstanding. Now her being pregnant and unmarried is a problem while Sophia being NOT pregnant is a problem as well. I wonder if the two things could somehow come together to come up with a solution! Oh and there’s a Tulip Market bubble that’s going on in the background that I’m sure means something important. Will Sophia be able to give Sandvoort what he wants while also finding a way to escape his clutches? What will happen to their brilliant plan if the REAL father comes back at the WORST POSSIBLE TIME? Are we SURE that Dane Dehaan isn’t just playing Valerian again and this is one of his Time Travel stories?
That’s right! We’re doing another four issue recap! Mostly because there’s little substance to any of the issues we’ll be covering today, but also because I’m kinda anxious to get the real meat of this series and for it to take itself a bit more seriously. Not in the grim dark sort of way (we are SO far from running into Shadow and Tails Doll) but for them to cut back on the puns and for the stories to have the SEMBLANCE of an ongoing arc. Issue sixteen isn’t quite there yet, but that’s certainly a turning point in a lot of ways so I want to get there as soon as possible damn it! Anyway, let’s get started!!
Issue 12 (July 1994)
So right off the bat we have one of the least interesting stories from the books so far; ALMOST as bad as when they tried to do A Christmas Carol. You wouldn’t think it from the initial premise though! Seems like a GREAT idea for a story, but its squandered on, what else? Lame jokes and half-baked ideas! Sonic does his usual Sonic thing of making Doctor Robotnik’s life a living hell, but this latest ass kicking seems to have jogged something in the robo bastard as he comes up with an ingenious plan! He’ll send Sonic back in time! OF COURSE! IT’S SO OBVIOUS, RIGHT!?
IT and all the images you see in this review are owned by Warner Bros Pictures
Directed by Andy Muschietti
MAN this one takes me back! I still have my grandfather’s copy of the book that I read in middle school; torn to shreds naturally considering how much I carried it around. I’ve read a few Stephen King books here and there and I tend to like his style overall, but his movies are some of the most hit and miss films you could imagine; ranging from critically acclaimed masterpieces like The Shining to garbage you’ve never even heard of like Riding the Bullet. IT is one of the weird ones as its one of the most definitive King books out there (not just in popularity but in terms of content as well) but it’s honestly… a little bit… weak. Not saying it’s BAD, but there’ just SO much going on in there that it feels like several novels fighting for control of the narrative. Heck, if The Dark Tower didn’t LITERALLY do this, I’d say it’s almost akin to mashup of everything King had done up to that point only without a single shred of restraint to keep the whole thing manageable; hence why the damn thing is so thick you could beat a man to death with it. Still, we already got one adaptation of this story that everyone seems to like which means that someone EVENTUALLY had to take another crack at it for BRAND NAME RECOGNITION, but they at least had the foresight to make it a hard R movie instead of a PG-13 which works for SOME movies, but not for a story like IT. Will this be the new standard for Stephen King adaptations, or will this be like The Dark Tower where I’m the only one out there who actually enjoyed it? Let’s find out!!
The story of IT is set in the town of Derry (zero points if you can guess what state it’s in) where there’s been an unusual uptick in missing kid reports which has most of the town on edge; especially the kids themselves who fear they’ll be next. We know what’s up though! The first thing we see in the movie is little Georgie (Jackson Robert Scott) falling victim to the supernatural menace that has been picking off kids left and right while taking the form of a really creepy looking clown known simply as Pennywise (Bill Skarsgård). Everyone believes little Georgie to be dead, but his brother Bill (Jaeden Lieberher) is convinced that he’s still out there and plans to find him by any means possible; including going into the spooky sewers that may be full of waste but could ALSO be full of answers! His friends Richie, Stan, and Eddie (Finn Wolfhard, Wyatt Oleff, and Jack Dylan Grazer) are helping him despite their better judgement and this circle of friends increases to include Mike, Ben and Beverly (Chosen Jacobs, Jeremy Ray, and Sophia Lillis); all of whom are outcasts in one way or another and seem to be the only ones even TRYING to figure out what’s going on in their small town. Will they find the answers they seek the further they delve into the town’s cryptic history? What will Pennywise the clown do once he realizes these kids are onto him, and is there more to him than meets the eye? How the heck are they gonna do in two hours what a TV movie couldn’t do in less than three!? AND THEY HAD TIM CURRY TO HELP WITH THAT ONE!!