Review: Star Trek: Discovery Gets Trippy

Full spoilers follow for this episode.

Dr. Hugh Culber is alive!

We’ve known Wilson Cruz would be returning to Star Trek: Discovery in some capacity -- beyond just as a helpful mycelial network phantom -- pretty much since his character was killed off in Season 1. That death was met with a bit of an uproar, as many viewers were not happy with the fact that the show’s producers had made such a big deal about featuring the first same-sex couple as regulars on a Star Trek series, only to then promptly end the relationship in tragedy. In the aftermath, the CBS All Access team immediately trotted out Cruz and Anthony Rapp, who plays Hugh’s lover Paul Stamets, who promised that the pair’s story was far from over.

Continue reading…

Happy Death Day 2U Review

Writer/director Christopher Landon's Happy Death Day 2U seems to relish in all its little incongruities. It's over-the-top slapstick slasher absurdity manages to land just about 80% of the time but when the third act rolls around it begins to feel like it's stuck in a time loop just like its cast of plucky college protagonists. Still, welcome overstaying and clunkiness aside, it manages to be a fun, funny genre-bender great for some solid laughs and clever gimmicks.

Picking up almost exactly where the original, Happy Death Day (2017) left off, 2U once again focuses on Tree Gelbman (Jessica Rothe) as she's forced to relive a day in her life over and over again, each time ending with her brutal death. Only this time, we're clued in as to why it's all happening.

Continue reading…

Review: Star Trek Discovery’s Latest Episode Misses the Mark

Full spoilers follow for this episode.

This week’s Star Trek: Discovery episode, “An Obol for Charon,” indulges in not one but two classic Star Trek style plotlines -- the trapped starship and the mysteriously sick crewmember -- and while it all starts off with a bang, the segment unfortunately soon peters out to become a talky, somewhat unsatisfying installment.

Things kick off with Rebecca Romijn finally debuting as Number One, Pike’s executive officer from the Enterprise who of course was originally played by Majel Barrett all the way back in “The Cage.” The character has always been a figure of some interest for many Trekkies, and in her brief appearance here Romijn and the writers do a good enough job of expanding on Number One and her dynamic with Pike. She’s got a bit of a witty edge to her, and she likes cheeseburgers! She also, apparently, fully avails herself of the Discovery’s mess hall during a mere five-minute meeting with her superior officer. (More on that below.) It would be nice to see more of her in future episodes, and indeed of the original Enterprise crew too -- where are you, Doctor Boyce?!

Continue reading…

Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile Review

This is an advance review out of the Sundance Film Festival. The movie will debut on Netflix later in 2019.

In the lore of serial killer movies, none have tried so hard to make us feel sympathetic about a man who murdered 30 women as Joe Berlinger’s Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile. The performances are great, and the film tries to do something new with the serial killer genre, but its misguided tone and an abrupt change of focus halfway through the film are hard to overlook, even if it’s somehow also one hell of a courtroom comedy.

Continue reading…

I Want to Eat Your Pancreas Review

Contrary to its title (no, it’s not some strange story about cannibalism), I Want to Eat Your Pancreas is a beautiful and moving exploration of what it means to truly live, told through the perspective of an emotionally distant boy whose life is changed by a terminally ill girl. While director Shin'ichirō Ushijima’s film adaptation of Yoru Sumino’s web novel could have been a bit more subtle in its delivery, the strength of its heartwarming central relationship and the satisfying way in which it all concludes makes for a powerful coming-of-age story that celebrates life in the face of death.

Sakura, a teenage girl suffering from a pancreatic disease, befriends a boy from her school after he discovers she’s ill, which she has kept secret from her close friends. The boy, whose name is purposefully kept a mystery for the majority of the film, is withdrawn at school, avoiding relationships with anyone outside his family. While its “sick girl helps emotionally-distant boy see the beauty in life” premise isn’t the most original concept (see Your Lie in April), I Want to Eat Your Pancreas makes excellent use of it as a springboard for significant character growth. Additionally, the lifeless personality of the male lead serves as a fantastic foil to Sakura, who, despite her circumstances, is full of life.

Continue reading…

The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then The Bigfoot Review

The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then The Bigfoot will be in theaters, on Digital and On Demand, February 8.

A big, outlandish concept makes for a very fine small film in The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then The Bigfoot, which stars Sam Elliott as a very lonely, regretful man, Calvin Barr, who harbors a shocking secret.

Not giving away too much here, except to say the title is played literally (and not for indie film pretension), the melancholy miracle of this movie is that it takes a very heightened Grindhouse-style idea and transforms it into a very intimate story about a man who once, long ago, gave away his happiness.

It's still an extremely bizarre tale, regardless of how unexpectedly dramatic and moving it is. We witness Calvin in two eras, played by Aidan Turner in flashbacks and Elliott in the present (early '80s it would seem), stalk two very different types of prey at the behest of his government.

Continue reading…

Disco Review: The Klingons Are Back – With a Big Secret!

Full spoilers follow for this episode.

And finally… the Klingons return! Not only are L’Rell (Mary Chieffo) and Tyler/Voq (Shazad Latif) back for the third episode of Disco Season 2, answering some long-lingering post-war questions while also teeing up a bunch of new ones, but there are also B and C storylines this week that keep “Point of Light” jam-packed and pumping speedily along… even while setting up that Section 31 spin-off series we’ve been hearing about lately.

The Chancellor and her torchbearer have been missed since last season’s finale, so catching up on all the intrigue going on in the Klingon High Council chambers -- the Klingons are always good for palace intrigue -- is long overdue. L’Rell, who ascended to the leadership of the Empire in that finale, is under siege from various political enemies, who are suspicious of not just a woman leader, but one who keeps the counsel of a human. Of course, Tyler/Voq isn’t really human -- he’s some kind of human/Klingon hybrid. But still, try explaining that to your average angry, human-hating Klingon.

Continue reading…

Alita: Battle Angel Review

The iconic manga Battle Angel Alita tells a story about the distant future, when a teenaged cyborg is found on a giant scrap heap, and discovers who she is - and who she wants to be - through one amazing action sequence after another. It’s an astounding work of fiction, and it’s now an astounding-looking motion picture, which crams so much plot into one film that there’s practically no room for the actual point.

The film, renamed Alita: Battle Angel, stars Rosa Salazar (Bird Box) as Alita, the amnesiac cyborg who views this dystopian world with wide-eyed wonder. Christoph Waltz co-stars as Ido, the kindly cyborg repairman who repairs Alita and becomes her surrogate father. Ido wants Alita to find her own destiny, free of the baggage that comes with her high-tech body. Nobody seems to know where she came from, why she’s so advanced, and why she’s an expert in a long-lost cyborg martial art.

Continue reading…

Miss Bala Review

Miss Bala's biggest problem comes before the film even begins. The strange choice to promote it as some kind of female empowerment flick immediately sets the Catherine Hardwicke-directed action film up to fail, as while it's a passable genre distraction it treats the woman at its core like an uninteresting MacGuffin to push forward an unoriginal and often problematic narrative.

Miss Bala is based on a Mexican film of the same name that was loosely inspired by a true life story about a beauty queen who was arrested alongside a gang. This version changes the original premise, introducing Gina Rodriguez's Gloria as a makeup artist -- she's only given as much interior life as that, she does makeup as a job -- who travels to Tijuana to help her friend Suzu compete in a beauty pageant. After a visit to a club to network with some powerful people involved in the contest, Gloria and Suzu are separated during a shootout and Gloria begins her bafflingly convoluted attempt to find her friend.

Continue reading…