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Review: The Interview

In your lifetime, eventually you will face “a crisis of conscience “, where it appears whatever you do, you fail. It can affect many facets of your life. In your personal life, a relationship with a loved one, may not be as good as you would like it to be. In your professional life, you may not be in the where you expected to be and may be years behind you goal.

What these facets of our life, have in common other than you are your association to people and events. People come into your life all the time, how you interact with them, determine how long they will be there. Events occur, and they much like people, can stay with you for a while. In Manuele Fior’s The Interview, an existential science fiction story, which challenges how one reacts in their professional life when their personal life falls apart.

We meet a psychologist, Raniero, living in the year 2049, in Italy who a few things going in his life which includes a marriage which is trouble, a car accident and being a victim in a crime when most people fall apart he buries himself in his work. He starts to treat a patient, Dora, who claims to have been communicating extraterrestrials in the sky, the same ones Raniero has been getting slivers of light from. As his encounters with Dora become more frequent, so does his bond with her, and he starts to realize that there may be some truth between what he sees and what she hears. By book’s end, a decision must be made and everything clings on Raniero’s belief in what is the truth.

Overall, an endearing novel that captures the reader in the most alluring ride of a story. The story by Fior will grip the reader instantly. The art by Fior, is straightforward and abstract simultaneously. Altogether, a beautiful book that will leave you wondering what the future holds.

Story: Manuele Fior Art: Manuele Fior
Story: 10 Art: 10 Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy

Around the Tubes

It’s new comic book day! What’s everyone excited for? What do you plan on getting? Sound off in the comments below. While you wait for shops to open, here’s some comic news and reviews from around the web in our morning roundup.

Around the Tubes

The Beat – A Year of Free Comics: Rebecca Roher’s comics take on tough subjects – Free comics!

Kotaku – Injustice 2’s Facial Animation Is So Good It’s Uncanny – Anyone played this game? How is it?

Kotaku – Injustice 2: The Kotaku Review – See above.

 

Around the Tubes Reviews

Comic Mix – The Adventures of John Blake: Mystery of the Ghost Ship

The Beat – The Interview

Matt’s Favorite Films of 2014

I love looking back at a year and formulating lists of my favorite video games and comic books and movies. It’s a lot of fun to look back on focus on the most joy I felt doing what I enjoy most: absorbing media. Art and entertainment is bound to affect all of us in different ways, which I think is fascinating. Whenever I do these lists, I like to make it clear that these are my personal favorites for this year; I’m not attempting to claim these are the best. Wholly subjective reasons form the backbone of this list. How could I, a lone dude, tell you what the best movies or comics or games were the best in a whole year, anyway? That’s a lot to cover!

There’s a certain warmness to talking about media in a more personal way. I hope you enjoy my list of my top ten favorite films of 2014.

10. The Interview

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At the bottom of my list of favorites is an alright movie, plagued by writing severely lacking in intelligence, especially needed due to the film’s sensitive subject matter. It still managed to make me laugh with its great comedy, though, and seeing this movie was an undeniably special experience. This film is a part of history! A couple of American film-makers ticked an off evil dictator so much that we almost didn’t get to see the movie. The president commented. Eventually, on Christmas Day, the masses could go out to select theaters or stream the movie. December 26th, my family gathered around our living room television and watched a pretty okay movie, and it was great.

Read my review here!

9. The Hunger Games: Mocking Jay – Part 1

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I have an endless appreciation for what these Hunger Games movies are doing for contemporary young adult fiction. These films come with lots of smart themes and ideas, all wrapped up with great aesthetics and solid acting. The most fascinating aspect of Hunger Games is what it says about the media, and the latest film, Mocking Jay Part 1, takes this commentary a step forward. Our heroes realize that they too must make use of propaganda to fight against the propaganda-fueled government they’re up against, but their wholesome approach fights off any ugliness. Also, I’ve always been a big detractor of the dumb trend of turning one book into multiple films, but this one makes it work, delivering a movie with an organic start, middle and end.

8. X-Men: Days of Future Past

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I saw all of the X-Men movies is in the original trilogy in theaters when they came out, and I’m not so sure I even enjoyed them when I was at that young age. After X3, I started to hit that point in my life when I was growing up; in fact, the last toy I remember playing with was a jet-pack-equipped Wolverine X3-branded. With the franchise splitting in all different directions, with two Wolverine movies as well as First Class, I felt overwhelmed and didn’t really bother with any of them. After hearing so much good about Days of Future Past, however, I decided to see the movie with friends at midnight, and loved it. It’s a great movie that’s easy enough to enjoy as its own thing, despite loads of connections to the other movies.

7. Lucy

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This movie didn’t do all that well critically, but I figured it was worth seeing, what with its high concepts and casting of Scarlett Johansson and Morgon Freeman. What I came out with was a pretty fascinating and fun thriller, despite issues. Johansson’s performance was remarkable, playing a cold badass. Bits of silly pretentiousness aside, Lucy succeeds in championing science amid common perception that it’s emotionless. The best scene is when the protagonist, given amazing powers that make her wildly intelligent, uses her brain to realize just how much she loves her mother. She cries.

6. 22 Jump Street

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I saw this movie simply as something to do with the person I was with that day, not expecting much out of it. However, what I got was a fantastic movie, easily the best straight-comedy of 2014 for my money. What I especially appreciated about this movie was its loyalty to sticking solely to comedy, refusing to force any drama or action that didn’t ultimately lead to a gag. It was just hit after hit after hit of solid bits in a solid comedy. I went back and watched the first movie after I saw this sequel, and was disappointed in it; it’s fine, but pales in comparison to its successor.

5. Boxtrolls

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With Pixar taking a break in 2014 before its promising Inside Out film in 2015, it will be interesting to see what wins “Best Animated Feature” at the Oscars. My vote absolutely goes to Boxtrolls, a stunningly gorgeous 3D stop motion film filled to the brim with themes and symbolism that I saw during a visit from my parents during my first semester of college. The story is simple and therefor easy for anyone to enjoy, but anyone willing to look deeper will find commentary on class, greed, xenophobia and probably more that I can’t remember or didn’t pick up on.

4. Captain America: The Winter Soldier

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The first superhero movie of the year embodies exactly why I think superhero fiction is so special. The Winter Soldier takes a stand against state surveillance in the wake of the NSA spying revelations, forming a thrilling, thoroughly political ride. Despite that, however, there’s also a talking nazi-computer in this movie, serving as the best example of the dumb ridiculousness that can be found. Superhero fiction has a uniquely compelling way of making a point through downright nutty stories, and the folks who made this movie get that.

3. Boyhood

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Out of everything I saw this year, I’d say Boyhood is the best film of the year. Filmed over the course of 12 years, Boyhood eschews standard plot structure in favor of simply showing a little boy grow up to be a young man. It’s an absolutely fascinating movie that takes viewers through over a decade of constantly evolving pop culture and current events, focusing on the development of a single boy along with his family. I even saw it when the end of the movie depicted what was just about to happen in my life: saying goodbye to my parents as I went off to school.

2. Guardians of the Galaxy

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My expectations were high for this movie from the start, and they were hit, point for point. Guardians of the Galaxy is a hilarious, cool, and downright awesome movie. I saw it right when it came out with a bunch of buddies and howled embarrassingly loud; a certain bit at the start of the movie particularly affected me and one of my friends, so much so that we laughed about that one isolated joke for the duration of the whole night. I’m so entrenched in comic book fandom that I find myself more attached to this movie than something like Boyhood that I think is actually better. The truth is, Guardians excited me so much that I just can’t wait to collect toys based off of the characters and follow future comic book storylines that will inevitably be influenced by this movie.

1. Interstellar

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My friends and I were so disappointed when, during our Thanksgiving break from school, Big Hero 6 was sold out. Expecting a short and easy-to-enjoy animated film, we instead were left with Interstellar, a hugely long movie with mixed reviews from a director known to dwell on philosophical points at the expense of characters. Whenever I sat down in my seat and the film began, I was dreading the next couple hours. I hate long movies, and I’d heard enough that this one should’ve been a whole lot shorter. Once the movie really got going, I knew I was seeing something I really, really like.

Interstellar is an incredibly powerful movie, helped so much by an amazing, moody soundtrack. There are a lot of really heady ideas and themes in this movie, but it nails delivering them with characters that don’t fail to be authentic and captivating. As cheesy as it may sounds, Interstellar uses a doomsday plot and the grandeur of space to communicate to the viewer the power of love. It works.

One thing I absolutely love is Interstellar, my adoration only aided by my really low expectations.

***

I also saw Big Hero 6 (good stuff!), The Lego Movie (better stuff! [review]) Dumb and Dumber To (mediocre stuff!), The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (very good stuff! [review]), and A Million Ways to Die in the West (pretty good stuff!). I missed out on Neighbors, Annabelle, Gone Girl, Birdman, Nightcrawler, The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies, and probably more notable stuff.

***

Check out Matt’s online portfolio here

Review: The Interview

Believe it or not, Seth Rogan and James Franco managed to create a real conflict, however minor, between North Korea and the United States, with a movie absolutely seething with unbridled, loud America-brand stupidity. Filled with rather easy pop culture references steeped in celebrity culture, and a knowledge of social justice neither particularly intelligent nor carefully done despite dealing with immensely heavy subject matter, Sony’s The Interview does not exactly impress with its writing. With all that being said, it is hard to deny how technically well-made the film is, and how many genuinely strong laughs it manages to find itself worthy of. It has its troubles, but it’s a technically great and generally decent flick that finds some joy in a lot of ridiculousness as well as in a little bit of nuance in its commentary on celebrity-gossip journalism.

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The opening scenes of The Interview actually serve as a pretty apt summation of the movie’s quality. A young Asian girl sings a song with ghastly lyrics that wishes ill upon the United States, going from as tame as accusing Americans of being fat, to wishing beasts rape American women for American children to watch. It’s here that the movie’s troublesome portrayal of social justice begins, exploiting a serious women’s issue like rape for a plot device in a dumbass movie with no shortage of shocking things that could have been said by a fictionalized version of the real-life North Korea. After, viewers are treated to a juxtaposition between how the more serious media outlets cover this performance (and the military action from North Korea that followed) and the goofy, trivial kind of journalism Aaron Rapaport (played by Rogan) and Dave Skylark (played by Franco) beam across the country at the same time. Funny cameos from Eminem and Rob Lowe characterize the film’s main characters in an enjoyable fashion while simultaneously satirizing the real, embarrassing side of contemporary journalism.

It’s easy to view the rest of the film’s content similarly. Whenever the two dopes score an interview with evil dictator Kim Jong Un (played by Randall Park) on their joke of a television show, Skylark buddies around with Un and hits it off almost immediately. Un is a huge fan of the idiotic Skylark, and the two enjoy playing basketball and taking a tank for a spin whilst jamming with some Katy Perry and margaritas, the latter activity totally not gay, says the two heterosexuals, amusingly insecure in their sexual orientation. Unfortunately, they also sleep with a ton of beautiful women in North Korea like the dunderheaded men they are; this ultimately comes off as more than a little uncomfortable, considering the context of how the actual North Korea under Un treats women.

The majority of the content in The Interview is harmless, filled with comedy like slapstick and exaggerated expression. The butt off these jokes are the stupid main characters and the evil dictator, who is more than worthy of the piss being taken out of him. The acting is great, Rogen playing an effective straight-man to Franco’s positively bonkers, over-the-top performance. Park’s Un is particularly hilarious, acting like a spoiled, bratty and weak child, cutting into the literal man in a satisfying fashion. When it comes to even more technical aspects of movie-making, like cinematography, The Interview continues to impress with stunning wide-angle shots that accompany the rest of the always dynamic and cool visuals.

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It’s just hard to ignore that this movie isn’t done as carefully as should have been, especially considering the sensitive subject matter. Django Unchained is a good example of this done right, with its wacky comedy and action served alongside an honest and genuine portrayal of slavery. Currently, North Korea is horrifically torturing and denying civil rights of its citizens, all the while propping up a disgusting fascist as a literal god. It would have been nice if, in between solid comedy appealing to average, globally-privileged Americans, some light was shone wholesomely on the injustice in North Korea. There are much more substantial problems in North Korea than fake grocery stores and planted “fat kids,” which serves as the shock to Skylark’s system that illuminates the amoral nature of that country’s government.

The USA’s guarantee of freedom of speech saved this movie, and it’s an alright piece of cinema that is enjoyable to watch. It even manages to do some okay satire of an issue relevant more or less only to Americans. Unfortunately, there isn’t enough intelligence on display to save this movie from its discomforting habit of prancing around, ignorantly telling its jokes. At the end of the day, though, how can one not laugh at Kim Jong Un crumbling to tears over the lyrical content of Katy Perry’s “Firework”? It’s funny, gosh-darn it.

Check out Matt’s online portfolio here

Theaters, Sony, and Paramount Cave to Terrorists and Cyberbullies & Why that’s Bad

interview_xlgIn what can only be described as stupidity and cowardice, national theater chains including AMC, Regal, Cinemark, and Cineplex, and eventually Sony Pictures Entertainment have pulled the December 25th release of The Interview. For those who might not know, The Interview is a film starring Seth Rogen and James Franco that has them traveling to North Korea to interview Kim Jong Un, and are tasked to kill the leader. The country didn’t take the comedy too lightly, and instead North Korea (likely, it’s hard to verify) waged a cyber-war against Sony in retaliation.

That cyber attack proved an embarrassment for the American subsidiary of the Japanese conglomerate. Sensitive documents were released, and have been fodder for sites over the past week. That coverage of leaked documents, and the subsequent reaction (which we’ll get to), played right into the hackers hands. Really, the hack showed the continued ineptness of Sony to protect itself in a digital age. They’ve had numerous hacks, dozens of times, that have exposed user accounts, and more.

In the end, the hackers threatened a physical attacked reminiscent of 9/11 if The Interview wasn’t pulled from release. This led to major theaters to cancel the release of the movie. Those theaters account for 18,000 screens of the roughly 40,000 screens in North America. Other theaters stood strong and would have still released the film. Sony eventually completely caved, and as of this post they were unsure if they’ll ever release the film, even on demand (I’d expect a torrent any day now).

The hacks, and even threat, are an example of cyberbullying taken to extreme, and by caving to demands, that bullying has shown to work. It’s akin to attacks on female creators (which include physical and death threats) in the video game industry, and have gotten some women to quit the industry. Its happened to comic creators and critics by those who disagree with what they have to say. It continues because it’s perceived to work.

What the pulling of the film does is encourage more of the behavior in the future, especially from the North Korean regime. The country has been building a cyber force that supposedly comprises 1,800 individuals. The cancellation of the film by theaters wasn’t likely out of safety concerns for movie goers (North Korea doesn’t likely have the ability to act on their physical threats), it’s more likely theaters are looking out for their own necks, and fear a cyberattack on their own systems, and what would come to light if it happened and documents were released. Documents that have been released showed Sony (and other film companies) conspiring against Google, and really consumers, in the battle over piracy. A battle ironically where Sony, the MPAA, RIAA, and other content producers use similar bullying tactics as were just used against Sony. They’ve also bad mouthed their own films, actors, and the direction of the subsidiary. Imagine what would be revealed about movie theater chains if a similar event would occur?

2014-12-18_1602The caving to the threats, and the embarrassment, have already had a chilling effect.

A planned adaptation of Guy DeLisle‘s Pyongyang by New Regency has been pulled. That film was to star Steve Carrell and be directed by Gore Verbinski with a script by Steve Conrad. The film has been described as a “paranoid thriller,” which has me a bit worried about what it might have been, when in reality DeLisle’s story is more like Lost in Translation. Luckily you can still purchase the brilliant graphic novel. What’s to say a threat and attack isn’t in Amazon’s future to stop the sale of the book though?

Paramount has barred theaters from showing Team America in protest of the cancellation of The Interview.

12 people were killed and more shot, plus numerous other incidences, during the opening week of The Dark Knight Rises, that film was kept in theaters. The Warriors opened in 1979, and lead to vandalism and killings, and only had security added to theaters, and continued to show.

Cyber threats which couldn’t be corroborated, and experts have dismissed the capabilities, are more than enough to stop this film, and more. Where actual physical proof of probable violence existed, a film wasn’t pulled. Think this is about our “safety” or that of protecting the theaters’ digital secrets?

In the coming weeks, and months, this most likely will increase the call for needed cyber legislation, most of which will be draconian, hurt civil liberties, and punish the consumer. Legislation like CISPA, SOPA, or PIPA, will be rammed through like undead zombies infecting and destroying the world before we notice and it’s too late. The attacks also have done more to promote a film which likely have done just ok in a theater (and built up a buzz that it’d be crazy to not release it digitally and capitalize on the hoopla).

This isn’t the first time a hack has led to company secrets being stolen. This isn’t the first time intellectual property has been stolen. The difference here is, that demands were met, and corporations caved to threats. They’ve shown this sort of bullying works, is easy, and effective. It encourages it to be done in the future, creating a chilling censoring effect.

This isn’t the first time issues over a movie and North Korea have come up. In 2002, Bond film Die Another Day depicted a North Korean villain which resulted in the country going on a PR offensive (instead of a cyber one). With these latest threats, the country moves closer to being a real life Bond villain.

Similar issues arose in 2004 of Team America: World Police, and in 2012 and 2013 things changed up a bit with the release of Red Dawn and Olympus Has Fallen. Both of those films featured North Korean terrorists. Those two films, the country used footage for their own propaganda to show off their military prowess.

It’s all ironic since former North Korean leader Kim Jong Il was an avid fan of the James Bond franchise (and movies in general). Jong Il was so obsessed with films he kidnapped Japanese and South Korean actors and directors to star in movies he some times wrote himself.