Tag Archives: Movies

The Martian Takes the Top Spot

The MartianThe Martian took the top spot at the box-office, earning $55 million. That’s just shy of the record for October which was $55.7 million. The film also earned an “A” CinemaScore, which means the film should do well for some time.

The Martian also opened in 49 international markets. There it earned $45.2 million, and that brings its total to $100.2 million. The film’s full international schedule doesn’t have it opening up in all markets until February 2016.

The other big opening was The Walk which earned $1.55 million. but that was in IMAX theaters and other premium large screens. This hasn’t really been done before, so… I guess it was good?

Last week’s box-office champ Hotel Transylvania 2 came in second and earned $33 million. Sicario came in third in its third week adding $12.1 million to its domestic total.

In other geeky movie news, Minions came in 17th and added $310,000; Jurassic World added $281,000; Inside Out added $240,000; Ant-Man added $132,000 to their totals.

Here’s the 2015 top five grosses for the year so far:


  1. Jurassic World – $650.82 million
  2. Avengers: Age of Ultron – $458.95 million
  3. Inside Out – $353.85 million
  4. Furious 7 – $351.03 million
  5. Minions – $333.91 million


  1. Jurassic World – $1.6638 billion
  2. Furious 7 – $1.5117 billion
  3. Avengers: Age of Ultron – $1.4028 billion
  4. Minions – $1.1453 billion
  5. Inside Out – $792.3 million

Movie Review: Every Secret Thing

every-secret-thing-posterBased on Laura Lippman’s 2004 bestseller, this Amy Berg directed thriller is inspired by the true events of the Jamie Bulger case, in which two young boys kidnapped and killed a toddler. The ideas underpinning this story are based on controversial ground but the film itself is handled in a very understated manner. It’s partly a police procedural mystery and part psychological drama. In the case of the former, it is perhaps not as intriguing as it could be, although admittedly it does have some twists and turns; of the latter it is perhaps more successful where it looks at why a couple of damaged girls and one mother act the way they do. It’s an efficient film, rather than an especially good one but it did manage to hold my interest from start to finish.

It’s a dark story full of grim characters, most of the which are the type you hope never enter your life. You could call this film predictable (and it is to be fair) but I don’t think that’s where the strength of this film was ever supposed to lie. The strength lies in just how interesting the characters are. The mystery of just how evil each of them potentially is just adds to things. The film gives us two very distinct personalities of the lead characters, and slowly changes our perception of them, and the people in their lives, as it proceeds. The people who initially have our sympathy may not hold it at the end, as more revelations about the past emerge even while the investigation in the present is going on. It raises interesting questions about the justice system, how responsible kids that age are for unspeakable crimes and the accountability of parents in such matters. The ending will split opinion, but I admired the realism of it. Sometimes, the people who should be punished aren’t, and this is something all too common in courtrooms all over the world. Maybe thats what is called karma.

The story follows Alice Manning and Ronnie Fuller, a pair united not by friendship so much as their respective relationships with Alice’s overly permissive mother, Helen (Diane Lane). After getting kicked out of a popular girl’s pool party after Ronnie has a violent outburst. On their way home, they discover an infant left alone in her stroller on her front porch. Cut to the opening titles, which, via images of newspaper clippings, explain that the baby—Olivia Barnes, granddaughter of the first African-American judge in the Hudson River-adjacent Orangetown, New York—was kidnapped and found dead, and Alice and Ronnie were found guilty in her murder. The story resumes years after Olivia’s death, shortly after 18-year-olds Ronnie (Dakota Fanning) and Alice (Danielle Macdonald) have been released from juvenile detention and return to Orangetown, attempting to resume normal lives. Around the same time they come back, a young girl disappears during a shopping trip with her parents, prompting Detective Nancy Porter (Elizabeth Banks), the same cop who found Olivia’s body years before, and her partner Detective Kevin Jones (Nate Parker) to investigate. Naturally, before long, Porter turns her seasoned, crime-solving eyes to Ronnie and Alice. All signs point to Ronnie but she insists she is innocent. It is up to Detective Porter to find the missing girl before it’s too late.

I cannot go into too much detail without exploding several spoilers, but suffice it to say that unlike a legitimate, classical mystery structure there is a key character not introduced in the film properly but only in the myriad flashbacks later in order to to make any sense of what happened. I suppose that 21st Century audiences massaged by hit acronym TV procedural s are used to this.

The film is intelligently scripted, yet unevenly directed, and for the most part held my interest throughout, more for the character revelations than for the plot points. Somehow the film is reminiscent of F. Gary Gray’s 2009 thriller film Law Abiding Citizen where the main character succeeds in mocking the justice system. Unlike the older film, the film has many technical issues and painstakingly struggles to build up the necessary tension for a crime thriller, but then only mildly able to do so. That incident parallels with the present problem and Detective Porter desperately fits the puzzle together. However, as the story is told and the secrets are unraveled, the movie becomes messy and cluttered. It continually slips from focus and the main theme gets lost in the haze. Consider that point in the beginning when the detective’s partner initially suspects the baby’s father as involved in the kidnapping. This misleads the viewers and instead of cementing the tension, it veers from the subject and weakens the premises earlier established. The same rise and fall of thrill and distractions from the central matter can be observed throughout the film. I do also feel that themes and sub-themes were raised but never really developed or dramatized adequately.

EverySecretThing_web_1_CSFor example, the bi-racial character of the community and of the principal characters is prominently presented, but then not really given adequate thematic development in the story. We learn, for example, that the kidnapped baby is the daughter of the first black judge in the county, but not much is done with that fact, or with any of the other bi-racial tropes. Also a quibble, but I think relevant when the filmmakers are striving for realism: when the second young girl has gone missing, only the two detectives seem at all involved in finding her. I believe that anywhere in the world,  if a child goes missing for more than 24 hours or even less, the entire region pours forth a huge response in the form of media attention, volunteers from the community by the dozens, additional law enforcement from nearby communities, etc. None of that was evident, and simply points out a general problem with this story – that it was not well enough thought out as a whole. Yet, the movie does a fantastic job pointing out how sick some people can be for attention. Even more strong of a point considering the movie looks like it took place before social media. Somehow at times it is a well balanced very sad story about two girls who become the suspects in a missing persons case just because they were convicted of the same crime seven years ago.

The film makes up by assembling an astounding cast which worked well in complementing each other. Elizabeth Banks, obviously cherishing a cast-against-type tough (yet still vulnerable) lady role, but hampered by a poor plot gimmick that makes her the same cop who was traumatized by finding the very same dead girl that put Ronnie and Alice in jail seven years earlier (though no one in the cast knows this -only Banks and the audience), she is likeable. Dakota Fanning appears trite and erratic as Ronnie. Common, the famous rapper, gives the one of movie’s best performance as the not-by-blood parent of a missing girl whose disappearance at a furniture store immediately bringing our anti-heroine pair under suspicion. It is Lane and Macdonald who went home run with their performances as Helen and Alice Manning, respectively. Lane’ role here is quite similar to the one  Julianne Moore played in Kimberly Peirce’s version of Carrie. In both films, the overprotective mother whose love blinded her reasons and judgment. Though she only appears a few times in the present movie, her character is significant, marked and unforgettable. Similarly, newcomer Macdonald delivers well with her nuances of tenderness, weakness, insecurity, bitterness and hunger. Director Amy J. Berg is best known for her award-winning documentaries and there are certain moments in the film where there is that certain surrealistic vibe and raw quality. Yet, it may have not worked right this time as the grainy texture, combined with the film’s generally depressing air, can shake the audience’s interest and make everything dull.

On the whole Every Secret Thing is close to exciting, almost mesmerizing and little intriguing film. However, most of the elements of a watchable movie seem to work against it. For its original story material and brilliant cast, it is watchable once.

Overall Rating: 6.1

Director – Amy Berg
Starring – Diane Lane, Elizabeth Banks, Dakota Fanning
Rated – R
Run Time – 93 minutes

Attack on Titan Movie Stills

With Attack on Titan opening September 30 in the US, FUNimation has released a bunch of stills from the movie. Check them out below and the movie opens this coming Wednesday.

Movie Review: The Visit

Screen-shot-2015-04-19-at-3.42.09-PM-620x400In recent years, director M. Night Shyamalan has become kind of a joke, unfortunate but true. After a brilliant start to his career with films like The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, and to some extend Signs and The Village, his films (along with his career) went spiraling down with Lady in the Water, The Happening, The Last Airbender and the final nail in coffin, the Will Smith starrer After Earth. Even for a fan like me, I had to admit he had lost his signature touch. What worked in his favor was his superb work on the small screen in the form of the excellent 2015 mini-series Wayward Pines – which made me believe that deep down inside Shyamlan‘s heart still resides a true artist, and not some lazy hack who tackles big-budget flops just to get paychecks from the studio. His recent talk in interviews about gaining back artistic control of his products was another positive step in Shyamalan‘s long path to cinematic forgiveness. And the good news is, this small film in which he combines found footage horror with comedy is his redemption! Yes, M. Night Shyamalan is back!

This film is the first in a resurgence of great films from the most controversial director in the business. Though there are plenty of laughs and screams to be had, the film is also filled with surprising moments of drama. There are, at the very least, three genuinely beautiful scenes. One of those involves a zoom in of a certain character, and it’s utterly heartbreaking. Of his whole body of work, this might be one of the best showpiece to demonstrate his genre-less eclecticism that includes genuinely hilarious dark laughs, piercingly effective suspense and in-your-face, yet disturbingly suggestive scares and well-deserved drama that is of Shyamalan‘s usual frankness, but also surprisingly true and sincere, and not contrived-feeling.

TheVisit1The heavily-used found footage device seems to suit really well his sense of post-modernism, and the way he seamlessly combines the method with his usual, dream-like way of framing shots anyhow, works a charm. It’s almost like the overused trope was just dying to fall into his hands, because, all I can say, is that it really, really does work for him. Besides the trademark Shyamalan twist, which actually works here and seems reasonable in hindsight, the extremely self-aware script and the very natural and authentic brother-sister relationship between both co-leads, lends further credence to Shyamlan‘s pet project. You can see that he cared for the characters, and you can also easily remember that this is a director who made a reputation for himself because he managed to facilitate such an emotional and iconic performance out of then-11-year-old Haley Joel Osment, so obviously he’s good with kids.

The story follows 15-year-old Rebecca “Becca”(Olivia DeJonge) and 13-year-old Tyler (Ed Oxenbould) who decide to visit their grandparents in Pennsylvania (Deanna Dunagan and Peter McRobbie), in order for their recently divorced mother Paula Jamison (Kathryn Hahn) to spend time with her new boy friend Miguel. Paula is reluctant to let the kids stay with their grandparents while she goes on a cruise with Miguel. Yet, Becca and Tyler want to see the grandparents they never met before. Rebecca decides to document the trip with her camcorder (which ever so conveniently sets the movie up in the popular found footage sub-horror genre – but also opens a wide crack for endless jokes and self-aware nods towards the unsuspecting audience). In addition to her desire to craft a compelling documentary, Rebecca wants to interview her grandparents and extract information from them regarding why they no longer have a relationship with Paula. From the moment they reach, something never seems right.

It’s difficult to say much about the story without revealing too much, because the film is essentially the type of film where it’s better the less you know going in. It’s not to say the film is filled with plot twists left and right, but how cleverly it subverts expectations, especially based on the film’s misleading marketing campaign. It’s downright hilarious (intentionally so) during a majority of the film but also equally scary and creepy, which is what M. Night is known for. I was laughing hysterically and screaming, sometimes at the same time!

11-the-visit-1.w750.h560.2xThe success of the film is how effectively it jumps in between the two genres and frequently on the dime. The third act showcases this in the best possible way and in full Shyamalan fashion. In classic Shyamalanian style, there are a lot of themes explored in the film” regarding– overcoming irrational fears, letting go of anger and pride, and confessing secrets that prevent us from being ourselves. When it comes to Shyamalan, a thriller is never just a thriller. But in every instance, every moment of sincerity is coupled with anti-pretentious bouts of comic relief. The film takes itself precisely as seriously as it should. The failure or success of the film might be entirely dependent on viewers’ capacity to depart from what they’ve already made up in their minds this movie to be. Shyamalan has done much more to progress modern cinema than he has to deface it. Credit must be given to Shyamalan who manages to get great performances from his actors, a welcome change after the stilted and wooden performances in his last few films.

Olivia DeJonge and Ed Oxenbould play the leads, and they’re completely likable in their roles. Oxenbould, in particular, steals every scene he’s in, providing many of the film’s biggest laughs. Seriously, the jokes in here are funnier than most comedies released these days. Deanna Dunagan and Peter McRobbie are also rightfully creepy as the kids’ offbeat grandparents. Last but not least, Kathryn Hahn leaves a great impression, despite the limited screen time she has. She’s truly wonderful here.

Overall, The Visit is ridiculously entertaining and a total crowd pleaser. It’s the film we were all hoping for Shyamalan to make to get him out of the slump. No, it’s not as great as his first four films, but it’s a step towards the right direction. Recently, it’s been revealed that he’ll reunite with producer Jason Blum and Joaquin Phoenix for a new project. If it’s another low budget feature like The Visit, which it most likely will be, we might be witnessing an era of greatness. Shyamalan still has the genius in him to make genuinely engaging films–given that he has complete control of the creative process from start to finish.

Overall Rating: 8.5

Director – M. Night Shyamalan
Starring – Olivia DeJonge, Ed Oxenbould, Deanna Dunagan
Rated – PG13
Run Time – 94 minutes

Movie Review: 99 Homes

99-Homes-Poster99 Homes depicts one of the most recognizable situations faced by various families across the globe due to the recession & the general economic divide, a situation which more or less everyone would feel about. The film portrays the stark reality of not only the housing market, but many economic systems as well – to either play the game or let the game play you, and the unsettling thoughts that greed and wealth can impose on morale. The dramatic impositions in the film are so horrifyingly realistic and relate able that it makes other generic Hollywood themes seem almost irrelevant.

Prolific American independent director Ramin Bahrani‘s film is both powerful and impactful in the way that it evokes emotion that is universally relate able, losing a place with so many personal memories and sentiments. In addition, it elevates the socioeconomic condition of the general society to a new and wider level, making it not only a film of drama and tragedy, but also a topic of conversation. “America doesn’t bail out losers. America bails out winners.” How is that for an American dream motto? This axiom, among many others presented in the film, is the foundation as the blood- splattered frames of Ramin Bahrani‘s latest offering begin to roll. His film focuses on highly secretive and mostly broken individuals, the challenges and obstacles many of his protagonists face, & are mapped out and executed in a unique, but usually tragic ways. His expertise is focused more on the formula of their progression than the final outcome of the whole event. Unlike others, focusing more on the narrative and development of the story, rather than his deep, often slow, evolution of memorable characters. The narrative is paced with the urgency of a thriller while also portraying (indirectly) how the government favored policies to the wealthy big cash people rather than ordinary citizens.

gallery-1440621567-elm090115intel2-3-002The story follows Dennis Nash (Andrew Garfield), a general contractor in the construction industry, who is struggling to support his son Conner (Noah Lomax) & mother Lynn (Laura Dern), while attempting to save his Orlando family home from foreclosure. Unfortunately for him time runs out when manipulative real estate broker Rick Carver (Michael Shannon) shows up reinforced by the sheriff’s department, ordering to evacuate their home. Without a home, the family temporarily settles in a motel alongside other tenants in the same predicament. Life becomes unsettling in this new arrangement, Conner doesn’t adjust well in a new school and Dennis is unable to find work until he coincidentally comes face to face with Rick Carver again. Carver offers Dennis work, and slowly he adopts the corrupt work ethics that put his family out of their home. Dennis soon embraces his new task with his own crew not only forcing evictions but also stealing air conditioners and water pumps from the empty houses and selling them at a profit. Dennis begins to become the very person who kicked him out of his home until he finally realizes the saddest thing in the world is not of poverty, but loss of dignity. Nash’s choices and inner struggle is a sharp and dangerous double-edged sword. Nash is a truly tormented moral character who, through his journey of self-discovery, wealth and pain, always draws on the most basic human elements.

The biggest question Bahrani leaves audiences with is, “what would you do if you were left in the same situation?” The filmmaker, whose adamant cinematic attitude is almost non- apologetic on-screen, chooses to highlight a truly sad time in American history. Set in Florida in 2010, when homes were being repossessed by the bank for every chime of the clock on the wall, the film shows a raw portrait of every family’s worst nightmare; a moment of complete vulnerability and uncertainty–being left on the side of the road, with all you’re worldly possessions sitting on the lawn. As troubling as it sounds, some of the best scenes of the film are when people are being evicted from their homes. Beginning with Nash, his family, and ranging from young, old, non-English speaking, accepting and manic, the film shows the different shades of people, sometimes dangerous and always desperate.

khn;Thankfully, Bahrani put enough focus on the narrative and visual style to keep viewers interested in his main protagonist and antagonist in the film. There were two things about the movie that bothered me enough to pull me out of the tense drama temporarily – There were a couple of big coincidental moments (one of which is directly related to the final scene) that seemed a bit too fate-like. For a movie with the very real backdrop of the US housing market crash, and such believable characters, these unrealistic occurrences seemed out of place. Plus at one point, a montage format is used to quickly show Garfield‘s character go through a bunch of different exchanges with other characters. This quick cutting from scenario to scenario is a missed opportunity to fully immerse us viewers in a couple of heart-wrenching moments. As a result, the mixed emotions which we are about to feel weren’t as strong as they could have been.

Andrew Garfield may be know for his role as afflicted teen Peter Parker or (the now rejected) Spider-Man by many, while audiences may know Michael Shannon best for his villainous turn as General Zod in the recent Superman reboot Man of Steel, but the best part about watching this film is analyzing these men, and seeing them transform before our eyes into the demons that haunt the streets and doorsteps of everyday people. Holding his own against a larger than life acting force that is Shannon (who is excellent as the true monster spiced with malice and charm.), Garfield‘s Nash allows himself to feed off Carver’s greed and sinisterly convincing monologues with scenes of heart-wrench, grit and sensitivity. Laura Dern should clearly do more movies, she is brilliant here. Kudos to those involved with casting as every actor/actress, right down to those who were only in one or two scenes, did a really good job. There were a lot of confrontational emotions in this movie and the actors/actresses did a great job of getting me to empathize with their characters.

On the whole, 99 Homes, is a tragic, vivid, exciting, one of the most complete and appealing films I have seen based on the unfortunate crisis. Founded on concrete performances, sturdy direction and a steady narrative, 99 Homes is a good watch.

Overall Rating: 7.9

Director – Ramin Bahrani
Starring – Andrew Garfield, Michael Shannon, Laura Dern
Rated – R
Run Time – 112 minutes

Movie Review: Cooties

Cooties-movie-poster-latestIn recent times, their have been a lot of zombie comedies otherwise known as zom com or zomedies. Out of the bunch of ludicrous efforts its films like Edgar Wright‘s Shaun of the Dead, Dead Snow (both the films) and Zombie Land which stand out as the best ones. The good news is this film may find itself entering the top 10 list collecting together the sub-genre’s best. You gotta admit, we’ve reached a point in the horror genre, specifically in the realm of zombie cinema, where the only way to inject fresh air into the proceedings is by tweaking established concepts and bringing something slightly new to the table. This film excels in that department right off the bat, as the attention-grabbing set-up promises something we haven’t quite seen before: an entire movie about undead children.

Of course, zombie kids have been terrorizing the screen ever since Night of the Living Dead created the sub-genre as we know it today, but here only the children are susceptible to the virus. A clever spin on the schoolyard legend the film derives its title from, the mythology established here is that immunity comes along with puberty, and the whole thing is different enough to feel fresh. Best of all, the film pulls absolutely no brakes when it comes to the execution of the concept, so admirably going full throttle with the idea that it’s almost hard to believe the parents of the young actors even allowed their children to star in it. There’s nothing PG about this one, as it never shies away from both doing terrible things to kids and making them do terrible things to adults – and it’s armed with an appropriately cynical outlook on today’s youth. Movies that prominently feature children are seldom as gloriously over the top in the gore department and make no mistake: though it’s a movie about kids, it’s certainly not a movie made for kids to watch. There’s one point early on where all hell literally breaks loose in the schoolyard, with pre-teens passing around torn off limbs, jump roping with intestines and playing with severed heads – it’s quite a sight. Once things slow down, there are considerable stretches of downtime here, but the good news is that the characters are so much fun to watch – whether they’re dealing with the per-pubescent monsters or simply interacting with one another. The story follows Clint (Elijah Wood) who has returned in defeat to his small hometown of Chicken Fort after an unsuccessful career as a writer in New York City.

CTS_011403He starts his first day as a substitute teacher at the local elementary school that he once attended as a pupil. Clint quickly encounters his old classmate and crush Lucy (Alison Pill), now a teacher here as well, and her P.E.-teaching jock boyfriend Wade (Rainn Wilson), along with the rest of the neurotic, eccentric staff and in just about a moment, chaos breaks lose in the school yard as Shelly, infected with a virus from the school cafeteria’s chicken nuggets, begins to attack others, spreading the virus to whoever she attacks. Clint and Lucy watch through the teachers- lounge window in horror as the vice now acting principal is eaten alive. The faculty are now trapped in the school and must come up with a plan as the chicken nugget virus spreads throughout the town.

Like I mentioned before more subtly, this is a completely ridiculous horror-comedy. It’s not the funniest film you’ll ever see, nor is it the scariest or most exciting, but if you take it for what it is, effectively a B-rated movie, you can enjoy yourself here. The writing by Leigh Whannell (Saw, Insidious) and Ian Brennan (Glee), from a story they crafted with Josh C. Waller, has the snap and drollery of good TV comedy. This is as opposed to film comedy – even though viewers know they’re settling in for a 88-minute running time rather than the beginning of something that could play out over years, the start of this film feels like we’re meant to settle in with these characters. We could easily see them, their interpersonal issues and their struggles with some of the kids (little horrors even before they become actual monsters) keeping on for many seasons. Directors Jonathan Milott and Cary Murnion use embedded fears of improper food practices to gross us out and while the violence certainly done out of fun, it likely won’t sit well with parents or those actually working in the school systems. Screenwriters can’t resist poking fun of Wood’s height, as Wilson’s redneck character accuses him of sneaking around like a hobbit in one scene (although we see the joke coming a mile away). This isn’t Pill’s first time playing a teacher, you might remember her brandishing a gun in a small scene from Snowpiercer last year, here she is that annoyingly positive person we all hate. The action here is also relatively entertaining. Even though, the whole cooties zombie thing isn’t that funny after a while, once the film descends into a stereotypical zombie movie, but some of the fight sequences and the portrayal of the infected kids is quite cool, making for some degree of excitement in the story.

CTS_003794.CR2Then there’s the gore. So much gore. And sometimes it doesn’t even feel necessary. The opening scene shows a man snap a chicken’s neck, then shows the chicken’s dismembered head and a scene where maggots crawl over a chicken carcass. Then when the kids rip into the adults, a kid plays with entrails like a jumping rope, a dismembered head is used like a barbie doll. Not sure what the point of it all was. And the thing is is that it really doesn’t help the story much all that gore. It’s like, let’s do it because we can. Let’s give the audience something to remember.

It’s the ensemble cast of this film that really makes the whole thing work. As a struggling writer who can’t seem to get his career of the ground, Elijah Wood is his usually likable self, and Rainn Wilson delivers consistent laughs as a brash gym teacher with a particular fondness for actor Jason Patric. The cast also includes Jack McBrayer, Alison Pill, and Jorge Garcia, and they’re all fantastic in their well-written roles. In addition to writing, Whannell co-stars in the film as a socially awkward sex-ed teacher, and his brilliant comedic timing makes for some of the funniest moments and most memorable lines. In many ways, the film feels like a showcase of Whannell’s multitude of talents more than anything else, firmly establishing that he can write comedy as well as horror and deliver lines as well as he can write them.

On the whole, Cooties is hugely bizarre entertaining film, sure it has its problems, but for fans of the genre, it’s mostly good bloody fun. Running a brisk 90 minutes long, Cooties quickly gets in and out without ever spreading its set of charms too thin, and it hits all the right notes in both the humor and gore departments. It delivers pretty much everything you could wish for from a horror-comedy, and also has as much fun with the zombie kid concept as you could possibly ask it to. In short, it’s one of the funniest horror movies this year. ‪

Overall Rating: 7.6

Director – Jonathan Milott, Cary Murnion
Starring – Elijah Wood, Rainn Wilson, Alison Pill
Rated – R
Run Time – 88 minutes

Sunday Roundtable: DC Comics, Should it Be One Cinematic Universe?

JLA Roundtabledc movie and tvWelcome back for our second Sunday Roundtable where the Graphic Policy team take on a topic and discuss it throughout the week. On tap?

Though we’ve only had hints so far, DC Comics has split their television and movie universes (there’s two Flash for example). Should it have all been integrated? Discuss!

Monique: I would have preferred it if everything was integrated as it would feel a lot more real. It’s nice when things are connected and fun when audiences can spot things that link the DC universe together. However it’s nice to have a TV show to look forward to every week.

Alex: I think in many ways splitting them up gives each show more creative freedom (but if rumours are true, then Arrow had to drop Deadshot because of the Suicide Squad movie – not 100% sure on that, though).

batman v s uperman dawn of justiceMr. H: I like it split. We all know Batman V Superman is going to be epic, but I like the feel of shows like Arrow and Flash which have done beyond what I’ve ever expected. DC owns the small screen for sure! I am looking forward to Legends of Tomorrow and Supergirl as well. It like in wrestling, you have the main eventers and the mid carders. The tv shows are the midcarders and let you appreciate it more because they work harder. Personally I want an Aquaman show. It’s well over due and the time is right. I hope they don’t integrate because they give us different flavors. Like on a tv show we might get underutilized characters like Ralph Dibney. Where we wouldn’t on a movie. For everyone that likes chocolate chip. There’s always someone that likes Butter Pecan. Good quote (Identity Crisis)

Brett: But is it really split? DC is all about the multiverse. There’s no reason we can’t see some giant Crisis film and the multiple same characters come together. I actually think DC has an advantage over Marvel due to that.

Alex: You know what? I had never thought of that until you mentioned it, Brett. That being said, will it actually happen? It’d be awesome if it did, but I suspect we are at least five to ten years away from that possibility.

Monique: That is a very interesting point, never thought of it like that Brett.

Alex wouldn’t it be relative to their budget though? If we’re talking about Marvel, Samuel Jackson was in the movies Iron Man, Avengers, Captain America but made an appearance Agents of Shield.

arrowBrett: Yeah, it’s interesting that DC is dominating the small screen too with this strategy and it’s allowed them to do such diverse programming. Agents of Shield had been so hit and miss. It really just feels like I watch the season to get to the movie tie in. DC I watch because it’s good television that also has geeky easter eggs.

And adding to DC too is their web content. They launched the Vixen animated series which is set in the Arrow/Flash universe.

Monique: Yeah, I’ve been watching it, it’s fantastic. I agree, they’re definitely dominating in all aspects and I think they always have done really, in terms of shows movies and cartoons

Alex: I think that’s the advantage to Shield; because it has the movie tie ins, more people are willing to stick it out on the lows. DC’s TV shows have to be consistently good (which is only a good thing for fans).

Elana: The vixen launch was not adequately promoted. I didn’t find out it already started in fact! As for the division I just really resent them turning Green Arrow into Batman. Admittedly I never watch the show because it so obviously had nothing at all to do with the character that I actually love. But it’s just aargh.

Alex: I’m enjoying Arrow so far, but I also agree with you Elana. It feels far too Batman like at times (I know Green Arrow was at one time very imitative of Bats, but I’m pretty sure that was long ago). I’ve never read any Green Arrow, though, so I don’t really have much expectation of what he should be.

Brett: I also find it interesting that DC has really played with the tone of each television series, and wonder if we’ll see that carry over to the movies.

Alex: Do DC have a similar structure governing their television/cinematic output that Marvel had up until recently? I ask because I wonder whether the tonality has been a conscious choice of a group, or simply the creative freedom allowed by DC’s approach.

theflash_full_costumeBrett: As far as how it tv ties to movies? Nope. Everything stands on its own so far. There’s the Arrow/Flash/Vixen/Constantine universe, there’s the Man of Steel/upcoming movies, and there’s Supergirl and Lucifer (not counting iZombie). Each has their own tone/style even within their own grouping.

Shield‘s style mimics the films I think, and that seems to also hamper it a bunch. Agent Carter wasn’t vital to the film narrative and felt a bit free to me.

People give DC a lot of crap, but when it comes to TV they’re knocking out of the park (plus their animated stuff). And the movies are set up, it looks like, for similar freedom.

Alex: It’s true. Last year Constantine was one of the best shows on air before it was cancelled. And whilst I keep hearing great things about Gotham I stopped watching after the first four or five episodes. Why? Because it was competing for my time with Shield (yes, I know they air on different nights, but I DVR most things and watch them later), and Shield has the benefit of being part of the MCU.

If Fox can pull off an X-Men TV show, do you think it’ll be odd essentially having two Marvel TV universes or not?

Brett: No different than it is now, right? The big difference is DC controls all of its output (or parts of their parent company does), unlike Marvel.

Here’s something that’d fit the discussion, is there too much when it comes to television shows. We have to be near saturation in film, but how many shows is too many shows? If there even is such a thing.

Alex: Honestly, for me, we’re dangerously close to over saturation. My wife isn’t as big a comic fan as I am, and really only wants to watch a few shows (Flash, Arrow and maybe Heroes or Supergirl), which leaves me a lot to squeeze at other times; and obviously things fall by the wayside, and I end up not watching half of what I want to watch.

Do any of you have a list of shows you’re willing to drop s the season goes on?

Brett: I review them, hard to drop them! The one good thing is that some won’t be out in the Fall and will be out in the Winter, but there’s still about a half dozen this fall?

Melissa Benoist Supergirl 2Add on top of it, some are going head to head. It’s Gotham vs Supergirl Mondays!

Alex: Yeah, I suppose you’re slightly more obligated to watch them than I am, eh?

Brett: But, beyond splitting the DC universe, do they risk hurting the movies because people love the shows too much? Will people who like the Flash tv show brush off a Flash tv movie? I can’t figure out if folks will let each stand on their own. Hints of reactions may be similar to reactions with the Batman and Spider-Man reboots.

Alex: I think the problem we’re closing in on isn’t that there’s simply not enough time in the day for most people to watch all the comic book TV shows and other TV shows. Laugh all you like, but next week there’s two programs starting up that I’m super excited for; the two hour Heroes Reborn premiere and, uh, Grey’s Anatomy. I’m sure that won’t be the only conflict.

Brett: I’ll admit I watch Grey‘s. I’ve dedicated all this time, I want to see how it ends. Yeah, I haven’t even thought of Heroes as a comic show, but it’s similar in subject.

Alex: To your last comment: I’m more willing to skip the Flash movie because of the TV show. Which I’m sure isn’t their intent at all.

At the end of the day, there is a lot of great TV happening this year, both comic book and not. I think there’s going to be some great shows cancelled that shouldn’t have been (like Constantine last year – I still am not over that).

We Talk About Indie Movie Kooperman With Dylan Miller

kooperposterKooperman is a smart, character-driven comedy bro-mance that blends rich visuals with a driving laugh-out-loud plot-line, while commenting on society’s obsession with superheroes in an age of apathy. Kooperman was shot on beautiful Prince Edward Island, Canada, by first time feature director Harmony Wagner. It was written by Harmony Wagner and Jason Rogerson.

Griffin Kooperman is a small town zero, the owner of a struggling comic book store, and he has a paralyzing fear of confrontation. When he faces eviction from his stores premises, he must snap out of his fantasy world in order to save his comic book store, his friendship, himself, and become his own hero in the process.

Graphic Policy sat down with the man who plays Griffin Kooperman, Dylan Miller, to have a brief chat about the movie, and the character he plays.

Graphic Policy: So, Kooperman; what can you tell us about the movie?

Dylan Miller: It’s a story about fear and friendship and funny stuff.  Basically it focuses on the trials and tribulations of an ‘invisible’ person who is disconnected from real life and has his little oasis of personal reality disrupted and is forced into action.

GP: How did you end up involved with the project? At what point did you come on board?

DM: I was approached by Harmony Wagner and Jason Rogerson to talk about a film project they were in the early stages of writing that was based loosely on myself and a friend of mine Taylor Carver and our unique way of interacting with each other and the rest of the world.  Helped out on some tweaks to early scripts and supplied some anecdotes from my real life as a comic book shop owner.  Then they got Taylor and I to appear in a ‘trailer’ that was to be submitted to Telefilm Canada.  After some hard work Harmony and Jason secured some funding from Telefilm and the project jumped into production!

GP: How did the experience of making the movie differ from your stage work?

DM: I had very little experience in acting for film  Or acting for anything really.  Mostly I was comfortable on stage doing Improv comedy and that is an entirely different skill set than acting for film.  Luckily there were some great talents involved in the film and they helped me fell comfortable and nurtured me along.

GP: How personal (or not) was the role for you?

DM: I mean it’s weird. The character is like the worst version of me in some ways.  But in the same token outside the superficial similarities (Comic Store owner, Frisbee enthusiast, jerk) the character is not close to what my real life is.  Which was good and bad.  It forced me to act more than I initially thought I would have to.  At first I thought it wouldn’t be that hard to be a reflection of myself but I found that finding the truth of the character and reacting from his center was difficult.  Once I surrendered myself to the character and stopped fighting with my own real personality I felt like it became real on it’s own terms.

GP: Even though Kooperman is set, in part, within a (pretty fantastic) comic shop the synopsis on the website sounds like the movie will appeal to more than just comic book fans.  I’m guessing that was intentional?

DM: Not unlike comics themselves the trappings are important and fun but at the heart what is interesting is the people.  I think anyone can identify with the feelings of helplessness and invisibility that are part of Kooperman.  We’ve all had ourselves be our own worst enemy.

GP: Any chance of a sequel, or another collaboration with the creators down the road?

DM: I don’t know if there is much more to tell about Griffin Kooperman but if there is interest I’d be willing to grow out my hair and not wash it again…. I guess.  And certainly I would be interested in working on future film projects.  The family that is formed in the crucible of making a movie is a unique experience and has it’s rewards.

GP: How’s the reception been for the movie so far?

DM: Have only really seen it with friends and families of the cast and crew so the reception was very positive!  My Mom thinks I’m cool!!  But I think that it will surprise the audience with the heart and soul that exist under the skin of this fun and funny film.

Kooperman premiers Saturday September 19th during the Atlantic Film Festival.

Movie Review: Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials

thomas-discovers-how-valuable-he-is-in-new-maze-runner-the-scorch-trials-clip-600004About a year ago, the first film The Maze Runner was released in theaters all over, and in my opinion (a guy who is not into YA novels), the film came out of nowhere, ending up with a global haul of $340 million worldwide against a modest $32 million budget. I personally thought that the action sequences within the maze scenes were all quite exciting and very entertaining to watch. However, after all the excellent suspense and tension built up in the first two-thirds of the film, at the end nothing really gets explained clearly. Yet, the film hit the right notes with both critics and general audiences a like, so naturally the studio quickly moved onto the next chapter of the Maze Runner story, with most of the principal cast returning as well as a few new additions.

Naturally, this sequel seeks to build upon the groundwork of The Maze Runner and expand the world established, whilst also upping the ante. Luckily, if you found the first movie to be a surprisingly entertaining, solid action flick; or if you don’t mind the age of the main characters as long as the story delivers, there’s plenty to like here. Specially because there are some improvements over the flaws of the first film. Oh & by the way did I mention that I freaking loved this movie. I think that out of all of the movies based on a young adult novel that has come out, this sequel stands out as one of my favorites!

Director Wes Ball has certainly grown up on how to film and construct some excellent action sequences that were highly suspenseful and kept the adrenaline flowing like vicious rapids in those 131 minute run time. There was no more maze in this movie anymore for the characters to run through. However, I think the maze is an ironic symbol for the viewer who has to try to absorb this whole labyrinthine dystopian world that James Dashner hatched in his novels. Director Wes Ball does his best to make the complex plot engaging, exciting and entertaining with some pretty well-executed action scenes, in comparison to the first Maze Runner, this sequel was a more satisfying experience for me.

The story follows Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) & his fellow Gladers – Newt (Thomas Brodie Sanger), Minho (Ki Hong Lee), and Teresa (Kaya Scodelario), right after where the last film left off. After being picked up by a military team and brought to a safe haven (or so it seems) where they meet other kids their age from other various other mazes. However, something isn’t right here as a fellow survivor, Aris (Jacob Lofland) tells Thomas this place has a sinister motive and that they need to escape. Sure enough, some diabolical things are happening here as Thomas and his crew along with some newcomers manage to escape into the “Scorch”, which is desert wasteland of what was once Earth. From here, Thomas and his friends come across gangsters, infected zombies, and resistance fighters to try to destroy W.C.K.D. (or as the kids pronounce as “wicked”), which is still led by Ava (Patricia Clarkson) and her right hand man Janson (Aidan Gillen).


Not only do Thomas and his friends have to escape from the evil forces of W.C.K.D., but they have to avoid these infected people who are a mash-up between the zombies in 28 Days Later and the infected in I Am Legend. For people who have no idea about the sequel or haven’t read the novel, director Wes Ball has more or less switched genres on us with this sequel and made this more of a straight horror movie than anything else. The excitement builds up strongly in the first act.

However the second act slows down, well of course the emotional build up was necessary. It was hard to believe the film was still a PG-13 from the moment the Cranks (or Zombies) start showing up, who I must say were effectively creepy. A protracted hallucinatory party scene seemed quite head-scratching. The third act though hikes up the explosive climactic action and revives anticipatory audience excitement for the next installment. This film has everything from sandstorms and lightning to Zombies and evil henchman. It’s as though the writer / director said lets throw everything into the story that we can and see what sticks, and luckily for them – it worked!

The sets are quite outstanding. The scorched Earth is something I would love to see again. The production design of elaborate setup of the W.C.K.D laboratory and the ruins of the huge city looked very good. The journey of this film covers a broad range of sprawling and gorgeous locations; from beautiful but ravaged cities to huge stretches of desert and mountain landscapes, the production design of this movie is incredible and truly breathtaking. The visual effects are great and we are treated to some truly special action set pieces throughout the narrative. The film is beautifully shot, some shaky cam action scenes aside, with a great score that really adds to the tense and eerie atmosphere of the movie. The VFX is extremely well executed. I thought the director was going to get overboard with the CGI usage but he wisely balanced the visual effects with the emotional arc to take the audience to a journey through this devastated lands in which under each nook, each skeleton building lies a new danger, a new story, a new world which I’d love to explore. You do start wondering though – if all these giant mazes are apparently around the place, with green pastures inside. Why would anyone live in the desert when they can live quite happily inside the maze?

The performances led by young lad Dylan O’Brien and his young co-stars, Ki Hong Lee, Kaya Scodelario, Rosa Salazar and Thomas Brodie Sangter are really strong. Dylan O’Brien continues his good portrayal of the ever-doubting Thomas. In this film, his character would need to make a lot of difficult decisions and O’Brien convinces us that he can make those hard choices. Even the supporting cast of Barry Pepper, Alan Tudik, Aidan Gillen, Lily Taylor, Patricia Clarkson and particularly Giancarlo Esposito seemed to be giving it all for their respective roles. They have an amazing chemistry with the very talented young cast and they seem to be screaming “100% commitment to my role”.


It became clear to me through their committed performances that they believed in the project and that they trust the director Wes Ball. There’s plenty of character development opportunities and these mature actors take advantage of them all even if their screen time is limited. Ava Paige as played by Patricia Clarkson started the movie as the archetypal “evil scientist” and by the end of the movie I was somehow rooting for her. She really needs to find a cure to this mysterious disease called “the flare”. Giancarlo Esposito started limited by a role that seemed at first written to fulfill a quota of the typical “evil adult vs. innocent kid” trope. However, as the movie moves on we discover that he is far from being a cartnoonish “evil adult” and that his character is full of humanity. A scene in which he is concerned over his protegé was one of my favorites of a film from which I was only expecting mindless entertainment and non-stopping action. Taking a moment to catch a breath from all of the athletic activity, this film does have one underlying theme that is worth pondering. Thomas and the others must risk their own lives to save the remnant of society. Yet, with their best intentions, they are caught in the cross-fire of forces that seem to be attempting the same goal, saving the lives of the world’s population. In trying to save the earth, is the fate of society worth the sacrifice of a few? Throughout the film, the lines are blurred in answering the question of the sanctity of life. It is not an easy answer, but does beg the questions the value of life and to what lengths must we go to preserve others lives?

Director Wes Ball has managed to deliver a fresh spin on the disquieting young-adult genre with his first installment and developed an intriguing cinematic puzzle, and its a rare thing to see relatively new director to up his game with this sophomore venture. Some people may call this a rehash of The Hunger Games and World War Z, but director Wes Ball manages to spin a beautiful web around this heart pounding action flick, which sure to suck you in.

On the whole, Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials is an intense ride from start to finish! A great action, sci-fi thriller that serves as an excellent sequel to the first film, despite a few pacing problems here and there with some less than desired dialogue, The Scorch Trials is insanely fun and with its signature twist towards the end, as well as a big set up for the third and final film (thank the gods they are not splitting the final movie into two segments), I’m definitely looking forward to the third movie. I’m curious to see if the Blu-ray version will have a rated ‘R’ version of the film, because there are some moments here where things get truly horrific. Definitely worth seeing on the big screen!

Overall Rating: 9

Director – Wes Ball
Starring – Dylan O’Brien, Kaya Scodelario, Thomas Brodie-Sangster
Rated – PG13
Run Time – 131 minutes

Movie Review: Sinister 2

SINISTERWhile the original starring Ethan Hawke released back in 2012 may not have been my favorite horror film at the time, I got to admit, it was a low-key winner. Through assured directing, slow-burn suspense, and a gripping, clearly invested performance by Ethan Hawke, the film was one of the genre’s standouts, proving that film about the paranormal had some discernible life and potential longevity in it. For many horror films, once the possibility of a franchise solidifies itself among bankable names, it takes many blunders for it to lose traction. Yet, quantity usually triumphs over quality and thus leaving many franchises to quickly run out of steam due to lack of interest and just trying to make a quick cash-in. The original written and directed by up-and-coming Scott Derrickson created quite a fan-base for the villain of Bughuul (Nicholas King). Even with the last half of the film’s execution being almost transparent in predictability and protagonists that weren’t the easiest to sympathize with, its first half was exceptionally well crafted in its premise and its mysterious clues that was left behind. It had something (in my opinion) but wasn’t fully realized.

Luckily instead of giving us a straight rehash of the original, the sequel changes the perspective from the parents to the kids and introduces a menacing, ghostly group of children that give the Children of the Corn a run for their money in terms of creepiness. By shifting the perspective, setting and approach to the material by just the right amount, maintaining yet expanding the lore and cleverly retooling key elements set in the original. The family is more prominent and interesting, a writer’s studying is replaced by a protective former cop (Deputy So and So returns from the 1st film) whose fondness for, and bonding with, his charges grow and develop. And the films are shown for a different reason. Bughuul appears in different ways, somewhat more overt, at times more compelling. Even though at times the deaths go too far, ending up as torture porn, they do are genuinely scary rather than just being merely gross. The original focused so heavily on a mystery that was solved by the end, so how do you make another one when we already know what’s going on? C. Robert Cargill and Scott Derrickson pull that off by offering something totally different that still feels familiar. We follow the madness from a child’s perspective this time, and that allows us to explore the rules of this universe in a really interesting way. In the first one we’re begging for the Oswalt family to leave the house, but this time, we’re begging for the family to stay in it. The formula is flipped around a bit, and while still being structured around a collection of film reels, this sequel feels different enough to justify its existence.

8da0d057d1180bff445a9292c437d174The story follows Ex-Deputy So and So (James Ransone), discharged from the force (after the events of the 1st film), continues to make it his mission to keep families from inhabiting the houses that the murderous killings took place. Meanwhile, Courtney (Shannyn Sossamon) a divorced mother and her two sons Dylan (Robert Daniel Sloan) and Zach (Dartanian Sloan) are trying to stay secluded from their abusive husband/father’s radar Clint (Lea Coco). Where are they? Taking refuge in a farm house where the next door Church was were one of Bughuul’s sacrifices took place. Bughuul has taken numerous children, seen only as ghosts by similar-aged children headed by a boy named Milo (Lucas Jade Zumann), and Zach begins to fall prey to Bughuul’s temptation. The direction by Ciarán Foy (Citadel released in 2012) and the writing help greatly in making this viewing a much more significant watch. There’s simply more going on, and contrary to the trailer, the film is not loaded with jump scares. When they occur, which is seldom, the music is more revelatory than “BOO”! This builds solid tension and suspense.

Ideas for what grips us are creative, at times excessively so. This moves nicely along, giving enough time to each major plot point. While this improves on the first in few ways, it takes enough risks and gives us the right amount of the unexpected, that which we didn’t get before. As with the original, the use of sound in this film is an experience in itself, expertly cutting together music and effects to heighten the hallucinatory nature of what’s going on. In a rare occurrence for a horror film, there is actually a second plot line. I mean, this is like a real movie. While some will be annoyed by the extra story because it takes away from the supernatural stuff, it’s a great development that makes the characters real people, so that you actually care what happens to them. It’s also a grim reminder that some things in real life are just as scary as a ghost. The movie quickly but cleverly uses an obscure, but actually real, phenomenon known as “numbers stations” to give a greater scope to Bughuul’s actions. Despite having more pluses, it has its share of negatives as well for examples, it sets up so many elements but really goes over them quickly. Another thing that could be taken either way is this different aspect that the ghost children essentially drive the innocent child to kill their own family and its done willingly. I personally liked this aspect. However, in the original it felt like the Bughuul had more influence over the events that were happening in the film. You also felt that the kid was truly innocent and sort of controlled by Bughuul. It seems a bit different and almost a different film, and I could see how anyone would say there isn’t enough Bughuul in the film.

sinister_2_image_1It still has its continuity errors and is practically scare less, yet it manages to resurface itself above the original by having writing that gives more background information and personality to its villain and a more agreeable set of protagonists. The cinematography is also an improvement while sustaining the disturbing footage and foreboding film score. Among the performances, the standout without any doubt is James Ransone, who’s naturalistic presence is sure to go unnoticed amidst all the chaos and the jump scares embedded in the film’s story. Ransone is incredibly believable, maintaining a composed yet believable character throughout the entire picture. Though my memory is admittedly fuzzy on the original, I can’t remember Ransone commanding the screen in that film like he does here. Shannyn Sossamon and the Sloan brothers bring in performances that are much more interesting to watch. It is kind of surprising though when Lea Coco plays a more frightening antagonist than Bughuul himself. That’s not to say Nicholas King as Bughuul isn’t effective. Bughuul is still an uncomfortable villain and with more information on his background and personality, he’s more than just a spook now.

On the whole, Sinister 2, is a bigger and better film, both aesthetically and tonally, in comparison to its original. Its more striking visually and thematically. Its unfortunate a film like this have been anchored down by negative critical reviews & lukewarm box office performance (in comparison to the original). Well, this maybe another sign of shift in audience taste! Who knows! Yet, Hollywood will not give up its latest “get rich quick” scheme of making supernatural films for little to no cost to all-but-guarantee an opening weekend haul of more than the production and marketing budget combined. Sinister 2 arrives during a year that has seen a good third chapter of the Insidious franchise, the stylishly awesome It Follows, which came out of nowhere and shocked most of its audiences, maybe thats another cause! Nevertheless If you like your horror movies like The Conjuring, if you want your horror movies to mean something, to stick with you, and even make you genuinely uncomfortable, then you owe it to both yourself and the horror genre to watch this film.

Overall Rating: 9.2

Director – Ciarán Foy
Starring – James Ransone, Shannyn Sossamon, Robert Daniel Sloan
Rated – R
Run Time – 97 minutes

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