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SXSW Movie Review: Number 37

NUMBER 37 PosterA low-level criminal, Randall (Irshaad Ally), owes money to a loan shark. His legs broken and with a ticking clock to pay back his debt, his only connection to the outside world is his window facing out over his slum neighborhood of Cape Flats, South Africa and a pair of binoculars that let him see too much of what is going on.

A series of desperate and poor decisions suck in his girlfriend Pam (Monique Rockman), his friend Warren (Ephraim Gordon), the local pastor, and the police as director and writer Nosipho Dumisa rachets up the tension. “Number 37 might look like a gritty, South African street gangster movie, but it’s a lot more than that… It’s about everything that could go wrong for a couple when ambition, curiosity, greed, fear and horrific bad decision-making collide,” said Dumisa.

The very obvious immediate comparison is to Hitchcock’s Rear Window, but that almost does this film a disservice. Dumisa revealed that this was her sort-of love letter to Rear Window, which is one of her favorite films, but also her influences for the film were as based on David Fincher’s Se7en, as well as the more recent Green Room and Don’t Breathe– and that really feels more like the pedigree of the film despite the obvious homage to Rear Window. Hitchcock relied on a sense of voyeurism and mystery, but Number 37 straight up shows us the domestic abuse, threats, people being killed, and so on. We never wonder about the mystery, because there is none. What it does by showing us the action through Randall’s binoculars is contribute to the tension by making us feel as helpless as he does as events unfold.

Number 37 Film Still 2

The acting here is nuanced and powerful. Randall has to remain stoic despite his world collapsing around him. Meanwhile Pam is a voice of reason who is too often ignored, and they both face the consequences of their failures. She has to do so much more of the outward emoting, while Randall tries to fold everything together.

The filmmaking behind this is also spectacular, with excellent camerawork helping us feel the small, confined spaces the film takes place in. It has such a perfect sense of place by taking us into these slums, which become a metaphor for the tension of the film and feeling “trapped.” According to Dumisa, “These areas were constructed in the times of apartheid and people of different racial groups were forcibly removed from their homes to these areas, with the idea that the people in there would not be allowed to leave without permission. This was legal back then but over two decades after apartheid, these areas still exist, although nobody is “forced” to live there anymore…legally. Economically and psychologically these suburbs can often feel like a prison even now. Once you’re inside, it’s difficult to imagine the beautiful tourist Cape Town could exist.”

Dumisa also revealed she wrote the film originally in English, then working with her actors– most of whom were locals — and some translators, they translated the film into an Afrikaans dialect that is specific to the Cape Flats area she was trying to emulate.

This is a great film, especially for a first feature from a young 29-year old director. If Marvel is looking for someone to take the helm of a Shuri-centric spinoff of Black Panther, they should check out Number 37.

4 out of 5 stars

Number 37 had its premiere at SXSW March 10, 2018, and will have two additional showings:

Monday, March 12, 2:30pm, Alamo Lamar C
Wednesday, March 14, 7:30pm, Alamo Lamar C

For more information and for additional “buzz” screenings, check out their official schedule at SXSW here.

TV Review: Marvel’s The Punisher S2E2 Fight or Flight

Punisher S2E2 Fight or Flight

Frank and a reluctant Rachel go on the run as a menacing adversary gives chase. Meanwhile, Madani pays Russo an unwelcome visit.

On the run and being pursued by bad guys, the episode is a typical one that we’ve seen so many times before. The victim doesn’t want to cooperate with the hero thinking he’s a bad guy. The hero makes a stand in a hotel and uses a second room (we’ve seen this one multiple times alone). It’s a very paint by numbers episode but not necessarily bad.

There’s still a lot of amusing things here. For instance, Castle was hit by a bullet in the previous episode and that has to be dug out… of his ass. There’s some slight humor to that as Rachel must help. There’s also an emphasis that Frank is really banged up and hurting. He wasn’t exactly in the best shape to begin with but here he’s really jacked up. Unlike so many other heroes, we’re reminded that he’s human multiple times. He’s also an ass towards Rachel. Yes, we’ve seen that in other stories but again, it’s emphasized we’re not really supposed to like Frank.

There’s some bad as well and that mainly revolves around Russo who’s recovering from last season and may or may not be faking memory loss. With flashes of what happened in dreams, this entire plotline feels dragged out. It’d be so much easier and to the point to have him have nightmares of the Punisher and escape while pursuing revenge. We know it’s going to happen, speed things up, get to the point, and cut a few episodes.

Much like the first episode there’s a lot to like here and some things that are rather slow and dragged out. Much like other Marvel Netflix shows, Marvel’s The Punisher has issues getting to the point and find a steady pacing to really make it engaging. Two episodes in and it’s clear like so many of those shows before it, a shorter season would benefit it overall.

Overall Rating: 7.0

Review: Fallen World #4

Fallen World #4

In Fallen World #4, Rai’s greatest enemy has returned in a whole new form, and he’s got an army with him!

Can the cyborg samurai save innocent people from the powerful foe?

What roles will fan-favorite characters Eternal Warrior, Geomancer, and War Mother play in the battle?

Fallen World #4, written by Dan Abnett, featuring art by Adam Polina, colors by Ulises Arreola and letters by Jeff Powell is the penultimate issue in the series that follows the events of 4001 A.D. and War Mother. It also serves as the first time we see War Mother interact with another character from New Japan, the new Geomancer, and the Eternal Warrior.

Unfortunately, it’s also the weakest book so far in the series.

Gone are the allegories to the present day and our current struggles, replaced by an issue of combat and action that does little to provide any real excitement (which feels odd to say).

Regarding those allegories…

My love for this series is, in part, due to the analogs to our current world. There are clear problems between humans and their former slaves, the artificially intelligent positrons. This leads to some powerfully haunting moments in the first issue. The second issue introduced us to a religious sect that worship Father – or rather their idea of Father, crafted to suit their needs. It’s a series of undertones that add what all great science fiction has. That’s a powerful modern relevance despite the book being set two thousand years in the future. The third issue has added an interesting commentary on a foreign body trying to impose its will on the existent population. It’s a population that is less than thrilled with the proposition being offered by the foreign body.

From the review of Fallen World #3 I wrote last month.

Whereas the fourth issue has a throwaway line that infers people are willing to surrender far too much for the easy way out. It is a powerful line, but it’s lost amidst the rest of the issue and isn’t really revisited in any great detail, which is a shame.

Once again, the comic is split between two different plotlines; following Rai and the Eternal Warrior, the Geomancer and War Mother. Rai’s story is mostly focused on his impending confrontation with Father, and how the supporting characters try to help make such a thing a possibility in the finale of the miniseries. I’d love to say that the action of screen and the story itself are exciting, but it feels almost routine. Fallen World #4 is a by the numbers comic that is entirely at odds with the first two issues in the series – and as a person who was deeply enjoying the direction of the story, that’s a disappointing thing to say.

At this point, it would be nice to say that the diverging tale brings enough to the comic to save it, but there’s something a flatness in the way the Eternal Warrior, the Geomancer and War Mother interact; any of the emotion and humour from the previous issue seems to have drained away to be replaced with mostly forgettable dialogue (though there are highlights – for the most part it’s just “okay”).

I am aware that art is subjective, which makes talking about it tricky at times because this series has once again fallen below expectations for me. There are some wonderfully descriptive pages, and then you look at Gilad’s face and you wonder if it’s the same character that we saw last issue because he seems to have had an impromptu hair cut (which he seems to keep refreshing after every page or so), and the scars across his face have pretty much all but disappeared. Now while some of my misgivings can be attributed to the review pdf, there’s more than I can reasonably sweep under the rug.

That said, this series is still buoyed by two remarkable issues at the outset of the series, and another pretty good one right in the middle. While there has been a downward trend appearing, we’ve still got an issue left that will allow Abnett, Pollina and co to course correct for a much better finale than the fourth issue implies we’ll get. But, after a disappointing fourth issue, I’m still cautiously optimistic about the fifth.

Story: Dan Abnett Art: Adam Pollina
Colors: Ulises Arreola Letters: Jeff Powell
Story: 6.8 Art: 7.1 Overall: 7.0
Recommendation: Buy if you’ve come this far

Valiant provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review.

Movie Review: Christopher Robin

christopher robin poster“Oh Pooh. You’re not a bear of very little brain. You’re a bear of humongous heart.”

Ewan McGregor as a middle-aged, overworked Christopher Robin says this to his former childhood toy, but he may as well have been describing this movie.  Heavy on sentiment and nonsense, light on plot or fresh character takes this isn’t a bad movie. It’s quite literally the cinematic equivalent of hugging your childhood stuffed animal or security blanket, remembering when times were simpler and having a twinge of midlife crisis.

The original Disney The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh begins with a narrator telling us “This could be the room of any small boy. But it just so happens to belong to a boy named Christopher Robin.” This movie — a live action sequel to the previous Pooh catalog — could be about the lost childhood of any middle aged man, but it just so happens to belong to a man named Christopher Robin. In post-war England, he finds himself under the thumb of a lazy and unscrupulous boss (Mark Gatiss) who forces him to work long hours and weekends — forgoing a planned holiday with his wife (the always lovely Hayley Atwell) and precocious daughter. This is familiar Disney material– father loses his way, and needs some magical element to help him reclaim his childhood wonder and imagination.

Meanwhile, deep in the Hundred Acre Wood of Christopher Robin’s childhood imagination, Pooh awakens after a long rest and can’t find his friends. Instead, he travels to London to fetch Christopher Robin from the tedium of planning an important meeting and off they go to find ‘Tigger, Kanga, Roo, Piglet, Eeyore, Owl, and Rabbit. And of course, wackiness ensues, and they have t fight nasty heffalumps and woozles and learn to have childlike wonder again.

A lot of praise needs to go to Ewan McGregor for his work here, as the entire film rests on his shoulders. In much of the movie, it’s just him acting against an imaginary stuffed animal. He’s really charming and delightful, and the supporting cast are almost equally as god. The voice cast here playing the stuffed animals are also great. Legendary voice artist Jim Cummings basically is Pooh and Tigger, having inhabited these roles for decades now.  There’s also some brilliant casting of Brad Garrett as Eeyore and Peter Capaldi as Rabbit, but they are sadly underused as most of the film concentrates only on Christopher Robin and Pooh.

As stated previously, this is a script of very little brain, and very much predictability. But it’s pure, uncut Disney nostalgia straight from the source. For those who grew up with Pooh and are bringing their children or grandchildren to see this, you will enjoy this in direct relation to how much nostalgia you have for this particular property or classic Disney in general. It will generally feel like this movie was almost made more for adults than children– the message almost certainly is. And for true Disney superfans, stay through the credits to see and hear Richard Sherman (who co-write the original Pooh songs and half of the classic Disney songbook) perform a new song he wrote specifically for this film. He’ still got it.

Someone needed to remind these folks they were making a children’s movie, as the moral center seems more focused on shaming workaholic middle aged people. And the tone of the film for its first act is extremely dour. It finally picks up in predictable fashion and ends strong with a lot of heart. But with Paddington 2 having hit earlier this year, it’s unfortunate that Disney’s return to this familiar territory didn’t land better as it can’t stack up to the more charming sequel. There are also several Disney movies with this same basic idea, and this compares even less favorably against those.

3.5 out of 5 stars

TV Review: Jessica Jones S1E12 AKA Take a Bloody Number

737135-jessica-jones_828x1104The hunt for Kilgrave reunites Jessica with Luke. Trish receives some unexpected information about Simpson and Jessica.

Is it weird that I thought it was cool that we got to see Luke in his somewhat iconic yellowish shirt? The beginning of the episode has him feel the most “Luke Cage” like we’ve seen.

The show gets back on track focusing on Luke and Jessica as they attempt to track down Kilgrave. The chemistry is there and their focus on their relationship is when the show is really strong.

Speaking of relationships, the episode also focuses back on Robyn, a character who interestingly has been so unlikeable, but I know I can’t help but feel sorry for her after the loss of her brother. Again, the human aspect is some of the best parts of the show. As completely batshit crazy as she is, it is nice to see some closure for her.

It’s hard to describe the rest of the episode without giving away spoilers, which I’m trying to avoid, but, there’s some lazy tropes thrown in, and once again Jessica isn’t willing to do what needs to be done, dragging things out.

But, just one more episode to go!

Overall Rating: 7.2

Review: Sisco Vol. 2: Shut her up!

Sisco Vol. 2: Shut her up!

When it comes to politics, opposition research is part of what comes with the territory. The latest season of Ray Donovan has shown politics definitely does get dirty. In this season he ends up working for both sides of the city’ mayoral race, first because he was hired, the second because he was threatened. When he worked for the aspiring mayoral candidate he went after the Mayor. He created a several manufactured storylines to put the sitting mayor in a bad light.

Through a series of unfortunate events his family gets entangled into his dealings and vice versa. Along the way a certain videotape catching the Mayoral candidate in a compromising position leads Ray to do some despicable deeds. As we eventually find out, the videotape was only the beginning. In the second volume of Sisco one such damaging “sabo” is part of a bigger nest of troubles for the current administration.

The volume opens on Sisco and his team tracking a person of interest, a reporter, one that may be at the center of the French President’s current predicament. As Sisco apprehends the woman in question he soon is double crossed by someone on his team. That person seems to be taking orders from someone else. We soon find out that the corruption is higher than Sisco and the reporter expected leaving both of them on the run and making Sisco public enemy number one. By book’s end, not everyone makes it out alive but Sisco revails and uncovers the one person behind all his trouble.

Overall, an engaging potboiler of a story which employs action tropes in entertaining ways. The story by Benec is smart and action packed. The art by Thomas Legrain is simply gorgeous. Altogether, an excellent story that proves this team are expert storytellers.

Story: Benec Art: Thomas Legrain
Story: 10 Art: 9.0 Overall: 9.4 Recommendation: Buy

Review: Robyn Hood: Outlaw #1

Robyn Hood: Outlaw #1

When it comes to “friends,” everyone’s definition is different. People tend to think of friends as people they have known since childhood. Some people regard family members as friends just based on shared experiences and general likeability. In this age of social media the definition has become blurred as the connections we make on sites like Facebook and Instagram can be misconstrued as vehicles for empty adoration.

The measure of true kinship, is what you would do for one another. The bonds I made in the military have lasted this long not only because of shared experiences but the implicit trust we have in each other from our training. It is even more difficult, to have each other’s back, when it comes at your own detriment. In the first issue of Robyn Hood Outlaw our titular hero finds out what happens when helping a friend makes you public enemy number one.

We find Robyn Locksley returning home to New York City in her cozy manor situated in Manhattan, when she notices a broken door. Who she finds is her friend, Gengrich, the NYPD Commissioner who walked into an ambush, one that leaves her close to dead and the rest of the NYPD looking at Robyn as the main suspect for her death? Soon a fugitive hunt ensues, which leads to every police officer looking for Robyn ad a bloody firefight between her and the police.

Overall, an action-packed debut issue which mashes on the gas and leaves the reader almost breathless. The story by Howard Mackie is fun, tense, and densely written. The art by Babisu Kourtis and Juan M. Rodriguez is beautiful and vivid. Altogether, a story that feels like a cinematic action thriller, one that will keep readers coming back.

Story: Howard Mackie Art: Babisu Kourtis Color: Juan M. Rodriguez
Story: 10 Art: 9.5 Overall: 9.7 Recommendation: Buy

Advance Review: Robyn Hood: Outlaw #1

Robyn Hood: Outlaw #1

When it comes to “friends,” everyone’s definition is different. People tend to think of friends as people they have known since childhood. Some people regard family members as friends just based on shared experiences and general likeability. In this age of social media the definition has become blurred as the connections we make on sites like Facebook and Instagram can be misconstrued as vehicles for empty adoration.

The measure of true kinship, is what you would do for one another. The bonds I made in the military have lasted this long not only because of shared experiences but the implicit trust we have in each other from our training. It is even more difficult, to have each other’s back, when it comes at your own detriment. In the first issue of Robyn Hood Outlaw our titular hero finds out what happens when helping a friend makes you public enemy number one.

We find Robyn Locksley returning home to New York City in her cozy manor situated in Manhattan, when she notices a broken door. Who she finds is her friend, Gengrich, the NYPD Commissioner who walked into an ambush, one that leaves her close to dead and the rest of the NYPD looking at Robyn as the main suspect for her death? Soon a fugitive hunt ensues, which leads to every police officer looking for Robyn ad a bloody firefight between her and the police.

Overall, an action-packed debut issue which mashes on the gas and leaves the reader almost breathless. The story by Howard Mackie is fun, tense, and densely written. The art by Babisu Kourtis and Juan M. Rodriguez is beautiful and vivid. Altogether, a story that feels like a cinematic action thriller, one that will keep readers coming back.

Story: Howard Mackie Art: Babisu Kourtis Color: Juan M. Rodriguez
Story: 10 Art: 9.5 Overall: 9.7 Recommendation: Buy

Review: A Knight in Kansas City #2

A Knight in Kansas City #2

When we think of a cult, we’re used to situations mostly revolving around ones that sprouted up around an ideal, a person, or a religion. Many of them are harmless and a good number of them have become a circus, both good and bad, in some ways.

After watching Surviving R.Kelly over the past few nights, it has given me a different view of what a cult is. The show itself, started off as an examination of the many rumors about Kelly’s sexual proclivities and his “harem”. What became apparent throughout the series is that it was more than rumors,and what happened in his inner circle,was both disgusting and should be considered “sex slavery”. The rules, conditions, and power dynamics that were imposed on these women shined a light on the devaluation of black women that were not seen in the public eye as it should have been.  The reality is who knows what disgusting details could have been left.

In the second issue of A Knight In Kansas City, Kay’s investigation into a cult gets deeper and fatal for some.

As Kay searches for answers, she stumbles upon a boy whose mother was deep into the cult and may lead her to the answers she is looking for. What she finds in her search is a mysterious videotape, which exposes the dirty secrets the Knights have been hiding and what it could mean to the city. Kay gets motivated by the venom of the propaganda to confront Brother Willem and the rest of hierarchy at the Knights headquarters.

Overall, it’s an engaging second issue that gives the story a bit of a jolt that keeps reader interested. The story by
Daniel Gargallo and Sam Kramer is full of pulp, action packed and scintillating. The art by Luana Vecchio and Mike Stock is intense and elegant. Altogether, it’s a fine sophomore episode of this story, one that adds even more mystery to this pot boiler.

Story: Daniel Gargallo and Sam Kramer
Art: Luana Vecchio and Mike Stock
Story: 9.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 9.0 Recommendation: Buy

Review: Aztec Empire #1

Aztec Empire #1

As Columbus Day just passed, we’re reminded of the atrocities he brought with him. The facts of his exploits have been muddied by a fantasy of America being discovered by a man who wanted to explore the world and then he found America. The truth is America was not found in 1492 but at least 15,000 years prior, when the Clovis peoples crossed. They’re who most indigenous peoples across the Americas were direct descendants of.

A good number of people now call this very holiday, Indigenous Peoples Day. Not only due to Columbus’ atrocities but also for what it led other explorers to do against the native peoples who inhabited these lands, they supposedly discovered. The history of each of these native peoples are rich and immensely powerful. In the debut issue of Aztec Empire, we get the history of one of the world’s most epic kingdoms.

We are taken to 1519 in Tenochtitlan, the hub of Mexica Triple Alliance, and the royal capital, where a messenger is hurrying to the palace to deliver an urgent message. He looks for the Master Of Darts, Tepehua, who is convening a meeting with Motelhuih, Speaker Of Words, and Atlixca, Cutter Of Men, all military commanders of the alliance.   The royal messenger delivers the message of the arrival of outsiders looking to gain the trust of the people of Cozumel, news that they wait to deliver to the Great Speaker. We also meet Gonzalo, a man enslaved by the Aztecs for eight years, but has assimilated to Aztec culture, whose brother sent a message to Spain about their enslavement. This leads to an expedition ordered by the governor of Cuba, Diego Velazquez, under the command of Hernando Cortes, Gonzalo Sandoval, and Alonzo Avila, to plunder the land and the free the enslaved Spaniards. We meet King Tabscoob, who readies his people for war against the Spaniards, who looks to convert the Mayan people to Christianity. By the issue’s end, the Alliance jolts their battle against the Spaniards by land and sea.

Overall, an exciting debut issue which both entertains and educates the reader, showing how history is told by more than one point of view. The story by Paul Guinan is exciting and well researched. The art by David Hahn is breathtaking. Altogether, a story that feels contemporary and will also give readers a feel of Allan Quartermain, but from the indigenous perspective.

Story: Paul Guinan Art: David Hahn
Story: 10 Art: 9.7 Overall: 9.8 Recommendation: Buy

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