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Living as we do in a world where superhero movies have become the primary currency of the cinematic landscape, you’d be forgiven for assuming that the comic book world reflects the relatively clear nature of the MCU.

But Marvel Comics has a LONG history, and not all of it is nearly as straightforward as the movies make it seem. There’s a lot of obscure weirdness hiding in the various nooks and crannies that come from 60 years of building and expansion.

One of the odder characters in Marveldom is M.O.D.O.K. (an acronym for Mental Organism Designed Only for Killing), created when a man named George Tarleton (born in Bangor, Maine – shout out!) undergoes experiments that turn him into a giant-headed computer-brained supervillain. M.O.D.O.K. would go on to do battle with all the names you know – Captain America, Iron Man, the Hulk – as he led his superscience organization Advanced Idea Mechanics (A.I.M.) toward his overarching goal of world domination.

And now he’s got his own animated TV show coming to Hulu.

“M.O.D.O.K.” – also known as “Marvel’s M.O.D.O.K.” – hits the streaming service on May 21 with a 10-episode season. And it is an altogether different experience than any other Marvel property out there. Created by Patton Oswalt (who also voices the titular villain) and Jordan Blum, the show features a dynamite collection of comedic talent in the voice cast and perhaps the most advanced stop-motion animation we’ve seen yet from Stoopid Buddy Stoodios, best known for Adult Swim’s “Robot Chicken.”

This is a show that embraces the comic book grotesquerie largely ignored by the MCU machine. It is a gross-out comedy that also takes great pleasure in fan service, tossing out deep cut after deep cut from Marvel’s back catalog. All that, plus a family element that allows for skewering of sitcom tropes as well. It is weird and ridiculous and an absolute delight, the sort of show that might not be for you, but if you dig it, well … you will DIG IT.

Published in Buzz

Being out in the world can be difficult. So often, we find ourselves wanting nothing more than to forget about what’s out there and bury ourselves into the insular realms that we have built for ourselves. Some believe that all the connection we need can be found within our own four walls.

But what if the ones we love want more? And what if we’re forced by circumstance to venture forth and engage, even if it’s the last thing we want to do?

“The Outside Story” offers answers to those questions. Written and directed by Casimir Nozkowski – his feature debut in both capacities – and starring Brian Tyree Henry, it’s a quirky and intimate look at urban life reflected through the eyes of an introvert who is forced by circumstance to engage with his immediate surroundings in a way he never has before.

Driven by thoughtful, grounded performances, it’s a story of what it means to be a part of the world. It’s about what can happen – both good and bad – when we are forced out of our comfort zones. We can struggle against it or fully embrace it, but either way, we will be changed by the act of engagement.

Published in Movies

There’s something sacred about the rituals that come with saying goodbye, regardless of the culture from which you hail. No matter who you are or where you’re from, odds are that you or someone close to you has very specific ideas about what will happen when you die (logistical ideas, mind you, not metaphysical ones – we haven’t got all day).

But what happens when circumstances upend those expectations and you’re forced to rely on the kindness of strangers to fulfill them?

That’s the question that Irish filmmaker Aoife Crehan addresses in “The Last Right.” Written and directed by Crehan, it’s the story of a man whose personal journey of grief is thrown into chaos by the actions of the stranger sitting next to him on an airplane – chaos that may eventually lead him to discover the order he was always meant to experience.

It’s one of those movies that brings a lot to the table. You’ve got family secrets and dysfunction. You’ve got a little romance, plenty of situational comedy and even some heist vibes. All in service to telling a small story of what it means to follow through on a promise … even if it’s a promise you never really made.

Published in Movies

We might have passed the point of no return regarding superhero cinema.

Yes, there are plenty of folks who would argue that we long ago reached cultural saturation when it comes to superhero movies. But in the aftermath of the Snyder Cut and with multiple MCU offerings on the immediate horizon – plus the wide swath of recent and forthcoming streaming series drawing from superpowered source material both well-known and obscure – well … it’s a lot, not all of it good.

And this is coming from someone who LOVES this stuff.

Netflix’s latest foray into the realm of the superheroic is “Thunder Force,” a new film written and directed by Ben Falcone and starring Melissa McCarthy and Octavia Spencer. It’s an effort to play the tropes for laughs and have some fun with the foibles inherent to the genre, relying heavily on the talents of its cast to carry the day.

It doesn’t quite work out the way they might have hoped.

What so many of these filmmakers forget is that while spectacle is at the forefront with superhero films, the story still matters. Without an engaging narrative, all we’re left with is a bunch of CGI nonsense that is difficult to invest in. And no matter how hard the actors try, they can’t salvage what ultimately becomes an effort to turn 45 minutes of story into 100-plus minutes of movie.

Published in Movies
Monday, 29 March 2021 16:04

To Paris with love – ‘French Exit’

Most of the time, movies are relatively straightforward. Sure, you have your odd arthouse auteurs and the like, but usually, films work in the way you expect. You go to a drama, you expect emotional impact. You see a comedy, you’re ready to laugh. You walk into a superhero movie, you get superheroes. Horror, scares. Thriller … thrills.

But every once in a while, you find a movie that gleefully upends your understanding of the world in which it operates. It doesn’t actually change anything, yet you’re left with fundamental questions about both what you’ve seen so far and what is yet to come.

That’s the kind of movie that you get with “French Exit,” a smart, engaging film directed by Azazel Jacobs from a screenplay that Patrick deWitt adapted from his own 2018 novel of the same name. It is a dry and witty comedy that takes a surreal turn, introducing strange and unexpected elements that nevertheless only serve to enhance the overall experience of the film.

With an absolutely exceptional cast led by Michelle Pfeiffer, this movie is not necessarily what you might expect it to be, but by subverting your expectations, it gives you an experience that is arguably far better than the one you thought you were getting.

Published in Movies

Sometimes, you just know it’s going to be bad.

You settle in and start watching and within a scant few minutes, you’re made painfully aware that the next hour-and-a-half is not going to be the good time that you expected it to be. You might say that, instead, you’re going to have a bad trip.

Or a “Bad Trip,” as it were.

That’s the title of a new Netflix movie starring Eric Andre, Lil Rel Howery and Tiffany Haddish. It’s a feature-length distillation of the weirdo cringe comedy ethos of Andre, directed by the comedian’s longtime collaborator Kitao Sakurai. Basically, it’s a collection of hidden camera stunts and pranks stitched together through a bare-bones narrative.

It’s … not great.

I’ll concede the very real possibility that this movie simply isn’t for me, that this brand of aggressive absurdism doesn’t push my humor buttons. That being said, “Bad Trip” is less a movie than a deluge of self-harm and personal space invasion that occasionally features some not-particularly good dialogue. Did I laugh? A couple of times, sure, but nearly enough to justify the time spent watching something that, when boiled down, is simply a few comedians dicking around.

Published in Movies

While I wouldn’t consider myself a connoisseur of old person comedies necessarily, I do carry a vague appreciation for them. Or maybe affection is a better word – there’s something about watching old pros just hang out, even if the world they’re in seems built by an AARP focus group. They don’t have to be good to charm me, is what I’m saying.

A perfect case in point is “Senior Moment,” starring William Shatner himself. There’s a lot wrong with this movie – there’s a stiffness to the dialogue, inconsistency and odd choices with the camera and a weird credulousness throughout – but watching Shatner, as well as his co-stars Christopher Lloyd and Jean Smart, just doing what they do in a very low-key, low-stakes manner is fun.

Published in Movies

Those of us of a certain age will remember Friday night strolls through the horror aisle at our local video store. There were the known quantities, of course, but mixed in among the higher-end Hollywood scares was a vast and seemingly unending universe of straight-to-video schlock, sporting lurid, garish box artwork that often had little or no connection to the film that made up its contents.

If you loved those movies then and miss them now, then I might have something for you.

“Hawk & Rev: Vampire Slayers,” written and directed by Ryan Barton-Grimley (he also stars), is an attempt to recapture the energy of those late-night late-80s jaunts through Blockbuster. It is low-budget lunacy, a ludicrous and lively homage to the horror filler of the home video explosion, a story of mismatched buddies devoted to doing whatever it takes to protect their town from the evil lurking all about.

This is a movie that revels in its limitations, celebrating the obstacles to be overcome. This movie winks and nods its way through its brisk 85 minutes; it’s the kind of viewing experience rendered all the more entertaining by the sheer delight being felt by all involved. We’re talking the finest kind of dorky DIY horror filmmaking here, all informed by a love of STV trash masterpieces of the past.

Published in Movies

A huge part of being a parent boils down to one simple word: “No.”

Raising children to be functional members of society requires that the adults responsible for their well-being make clear the simple reality that we can’t always get what we want. It’s the way the world works, like it or not … and many kids lean hard toward the “not” in that equation.

This isn’t because parents and guardians LIKE saying no. The truth is that their lives would likely be easier in the short term if they eschewed the word more often, but it is the long term with which they must concern themselves. Like it or not, “no” is a part of parenting.

But what if, for just one day, it wasn’t?

That’s the central premise of “Yes Day,” a Netflix family film based on the children’s book of the same name by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld. Directed by Miguel Arteta, it’s the story of one family’s adventure that takes place when the parents decide to embrace a recent parenting trend involving a single day in which they must say yes to their kids.

It’s a charming, albeit slight film; an agreeable enough hour-and-a-half that likely won’t stay with you after the credits roll. Still, there’s nothing wrong with a kids’ movie that leans into the sensibility of its target demographic. There are some fun moments and a few laughs and a lesson or two ostensibly learned, resulting in an inoffensive family-friendly offering that will go down smoothly.

Published in Movies
Monday, 08 March 2021 15:58

2 Coming 2 America

Sequels are always hit-or-miss propositions. Even film franchises, where sequels are baked into the equation, can struggle with making sequels work. But what about those sequels to films that clearly were not intended to have sequels? How do you go back and continue a story that already had a satisfactory conclusion?

Well, now you can find out, thanks to Eddie Murphy.

“Coming 2 America” is the direct sequel to 1988’s “Coming to America,” Murphy’s absolute all-timer of a comedy. Directed by Craig Brewer, this new film offers a 33-years-later look at these characters; just about everyone from the cast of the first film is back, along with a few high-profile additions.

It’s an exercise in nostalgia, for sure – one that perhaps isn’t as successful as it hoped to be. I enjoyed myself well enough, but I’ll concede that my own personal affection for the original film likely impacted my experience with this new offering. That said, it has plenty of issues – the narrative loses coherence in spots and gets clunky in others; too often, everyone seems content to say “Hey! Remember this?” (and some of the characters haven’t aged particularly well).

Published in Movies
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