Reel Geek Review: Sausage Party

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By this point I think Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg can just say, we want to do a movie and they give them money to make whatever pot smoke filled ideas come to mind, much like the people in charge of new food items at Burger King and Taco Bell.  I highly doubt marijuana smoking had nothing to do with the creation of a Doritos taco or Cheetos filled with macaroni and cheese.

So in this highly R rated animated movie, Seth Rogen plays a hot dog named Frank, whom along with all his other food friends in the supermarket, longs to go to the ‘Great Beyond’ where people will take them out of the store and they get to fullfill their purpose in life and also get to have sex with hot dog buns as well apparently, as his girlfriend Brenda is a hot dog bun.  Shenangigans ensue and the two are separated from their packaged friends, and also discover the truth about what happens when food leaves the store, i.e. they get eaten.    There’s also a literal douche as the villain of the story played by Nick Kroll (The League, Parks and Rec, where he also played a character called The Douche btw)  and some slight social commentary but this movie is pretty simple,  and that’s okay.

This movie is pretty much Seth Rogen and all his friends doing a raunchy R rated animated comedy because they can, and I had a lot of fun with this movie.  Nothing ground breaking here, but sometimes it is possible for a movie to just be fun and have that be okay.      Four out of Five stars ****

 

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Reel Geek Review: The Tick

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As a teenager/geek in the 90’s I was a huge fan of the Fox Animated series, The Tick, based on the comic by Ben Edlund.  It was a brightly colored, hilarious parody of the superhero genre, with loads of smart humor, and crazy action.    The Tick returned to TV a few years later, as a live action sitcom, also on Fox, wherein the titular superhero was played by Patrick Warburton, who perfectly embodied the live action version of the character, though the costume never looked right to me, so I never really gave that version of the show a chance, and it was quickly cancelled soon anyway, so, I never really had a chance to watch it, really.

Cut to now, or 2016, as people of the future may be reading these words, and there were rumblings of a new version of the series being made for Amazon Prime, and Peter Serafinowicz (Spaced, Parks and Rec, Guardians of the Galaxy) was going to play the titular Tick based terror of crime.  I was admittedly iffy on this casting, but I’m a fan of the man’s work, and I’d heard that Ben Edlund himself, known moreso these days for being a writer on Supernatural was involved in the project, I awaited for hearing more.

This was all not that long ago, so imagine my surprise when I see on Facebook yesterday that the pilot episode is streaming on Amazon in their “Pilot Season” er…season, where you have a few pilots to choose from, and the higher rated one gets a full season order.  So, I of course dropped everything i was doing in order to check out the show.

 

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Arthur (Griffin Newman) meets The Tick (Peter Serafinowicz)

This episode is basically a further detailed origin of The Tick and Arthur (Griffin Newman-Draft Day) than we’ve gotten in previous versions of the series (maybe even the comic as well, but I’m not too familiar with the comic,as they were hard to find back in the 90s.)  We get this world established, that superheroes have existed here since the 20’s, and that the top superhero, Superian (Brendan Hines-Lie To Me) has been fighting The Terror (Jackie Earl Hayley-Preacher, Watchmen) for just as long, but The Terror is now dead.

Arthur doesn’t believe that this villain is gone for good, as he has a personal investment in this, as he was highly traumatized by the villain as a child, and goes to look for proof at the docks, where The Terror’s thugs have a new stolen weapons suit that has the appearance of a moth.

Not too long after, The Tick makes his grand appearance, and the two meet, and get set up for their future roles of superhero and sidekick.

I really loved this episode, it, as I mentioned was a more fleshed out version of these character’s backstories than other tv shows in previous eras could have given us.  Thank God for this new era of great episodic television we live in now, where things don’t have to be wrapped up in 30 minutes or less.    I knew I would like Peter Serafinowicz, but I wasn’t sure, how, as a British man, he was going to do The Tick, and as it turns out, he nails it by giving The Tick a part Adam West meets the narrator of the Superfriends voice which really works for bringing the character to life.   Griffin Newman nails Arthur as well, really the casting is all just spot on, and I liked the appearance of Jackie Earl Hayley, who’s career seems to be 90% comic book based stuff these days, and he’s killing it every time out.

The writing is also top notch, Ben Edlund I don’t think hasn’t written these characters for years, but he knows this world better than anyone, as he created it, so that would explain it.   Also, extra points for writing the line, “Mano y Monomyth”  that’s just some clever wordplay right there, and I’m a huge fan of wordplay.   In a world of superhero movies and shows like we have now, it’s the perfect time for The Tick to make a comeback once more, and tell the world, SPOOOOOONNN!

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Reel Geek Review: Batman from Telltale Games Episode 1

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I’ve been a huge fan of Telltale Games output since they dropped the first episode of their game set in the world of The Walking Dead comic book a few years ago for free, then I went back and played the whole game and was just sucked into that world.    And as far as being a Batman fan, well that goes back years to the time when Scooby Doo and the gang met Batman and Robin, so I’m no Robin come lately to the Dark Knight either, so I know what I’m talking about when I say that this is one of the best explorations of the character in any medium.   Not to discount the Arkham series, which was phenomenal (I even liked the non Rocksteady produced Arkham Origins, mainly for the inclusion of The Joker, and the performance that Troy Baker did there, whom here takes his turn in the opposite side of that coin as Bruce Wayne/Batman.

If you haven’t played one of their games before, it’s not your typical video game.  It’s similar to the old point and click adventure games such as Maniac Mansion or Sam and Max that were popular on PC’s in the 1990s,  it’s story driven, and you choose the dialogue your character says at integral times in the game, and the choices you make affect how the story plays out, who lives, who dies, who tells your story in some cases, to quote the Hamilton soundtrack.

In previous Batman games we’ve felt what it’s like to be Batman as being badass Batman, and we get that here too, but we also get the sense even moreso of being Batman as a person, as the focus is on Bruce Wayne here, both in and out of the suit.    It’s set early on in Batman’s career, like around his second year on the job or so, and Harvey Dent (Travis Willingham) is running for Mayor opposite the corrupt present mayor Hamilton Hill.  And there are also this Batman’s first encounter with Catwoman (Laura Bailey) and perennial early career Batman foe mobster Carmine Falcone (Richard Mcgonagle).  I don’t want to spoil too much of the story as that’s what the game is built up around, but it’s an intriguing take.

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One of the aspects I loved most about the gameplay is with the different dialogue options you can play Batman/Bruce Wayne however you like,  whether you want to be the dark and violent Dark Knight style Batman, or if you want to be the more superheroic Batman, the choice is yours.  I myself like to mix the two up a bit throughout the game, as I’m playing it like he’s still early on in his career, so there’s no Robin yet to lighten his mood up just yet.  And much like Christian Bale’s take on the character in the Nolan movies, you really get the sense of the character that millionaire playboy Bruce Wayne is the real mask, and Batman is his true self.

The graphics are the same cel shaded graphics that we’ve gotten in previous games, that really feel as though you’re playing a comic book come to life, and the game play is fast and fun as well, with a few quick time events in the action scenes which never feel overplayed or distracting from the game itself, which is nice.

It’s only the first episode, but I’m already hooked and waiting to see how the rest of the series plays out.   And if you haven’t played any of the other games yet I highly reccomend you do so, especially The Walking Dead games and The Wolf Among Us (their take on the amazing graphic novel series, Fables) .    Til next time, be sure to keep it Reel.  ***** Five out of five stars.

 

An open letter to Marvel about the state of the Marvel Universe

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Dear Marvel,

You’ve come a long way since the days of near bankruptcy in the late 90’s, you’ve managed to turn things around for the company, and the buyout by Disney has only strengthened the company as a whole, and brought it to many more audiences now than ever before.  Movies, TV shows for adults, kids, the whole family?  Got all those bases covered.  But there is one distinct area where it seems you’re lacking, that I and many other fans have noticed.

It’s called the Marvel Universe, it’s a shared universe where all these stories, all these characters, are all connected, to borrow a marketing line from your Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. series, but a lot of times, in both the comic books and in the movies/tv shows, it doesn’t feel connected at all, not anymore.  It’s a bunch of stories, a bunch of individual writers and artists coming up with these great (and sometimes not so great) stories for these characters to live out and experience and for us fans to enjoy, and characters from one thing will crossover to another from time to time, but that’s it.  Except for the big crossover events, which in the comics seem to be happening at more of a frequency than they used to.

Time was, these big crossover events were maybe a once a year thing growing up in the 80’s-90’s.  An event so big that it needed it’s own limited series, and of course tie in issues with all the books.  And you didn’t need to read every single book to get the whole story, but those tie in books fleshed out certain aspects of the big story, and you could see where each individual story fit into the big story, it really was a Marvel Universe, and it was awesome.

 

One of the moments from my young comic book reading days that still sticks out to me was in the late 90’s, when I was reading an issue of the short lived Green Goblin solo series, and the Human Torch flies by in one panel, seemingly a throwaway bit.   But, if you happened to read the Fantastic Four issue that same month, you see that same panel again but from the Torch’s perspective, and that just blew my mind.      It really was all connected.

At that point I did some research and learned more about the man who was responsible for most of that stuff back in the day, the late Mark Gruenwald.  He was a genius of continuity, he had the whole Marvel Universe’s history seemingly in the back of his head, who could rattle off when things happened in what book, no matter how far back or obscure it was.   And it was with his influence that kept that sense of continuity together.    It’s all connected wasn’t just a marketing line, it was the glue that kept the Marvel Universe a shared universe experience.

 

Cut to the Marvel of today:  I’ve been a huge fan of using your Marvel Unlimited app for over a year now, and I’ve been reading through the history of the Marvel Universe, (just now hitting the mid 70’s stuff, 1974 to be exact) when Marvel was entering it’s “Phase 2” as some of the comic book covers reflected in that era, and continuity was still strong there, even editorial explanations written for why characters are at Point A when they were last seen at Point B in another comic that came out that same month, little touches like that.

I’m also reading the new stuff that hits the app as well, so I’m 6 months behind on my comic book knowledge, but for the price, $9.99 a month for all this, rather than $4-5 for a single issue, I can wait 6 months.  And I noticed something that struck me as odd this past week’s reading.  Three separate comics all have appearances or references to the Mad Thinker.  In the Illuminati series he’s a member of the team, in Uncanny Inhumans he’s playing poker with the Leader in Black Bolt’s resort/casino, and in one of the Avengers books he’s set out a robot to attack people that Ms. Marvel stops.  No mention in any of them how/why/where/when he’s done all this.

This is because you’ve lost that sense of continuity.  It’s not a burden, something that keeps new readers from getting on board, not if you do it right.  If you do it right it’s something that brings the stories to life, that makes them more than just a bunch of individual stories from different writers and creative teams.  It ties them all in together, and you can bring back the old editorial footnotes like Stan and Co. used to do back in the day “last seen in Fantastic Four #350 or whatever) especially now in the days of your app, fans can pull that issue up and read it and get that sense of a shared universe again.  It’s not just for the big events it’s supposed to be that for everything.    And while I’m here, the same goes for your movies and tv shows as well.

It’s not a burden, it’s not something that says,”Hey, you need to watch this and this before you watch this”  I did appreciate the nod to the Daredevil series on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. last season, that was a nice touch.   And I’m not saying that you need to have Chris Hemsworth, Evans, or Pratt on your tv shows, that might put the whole thing over budget, and who has the time really, but just keep all of your productions in the loop of each other is all, a slight nod to events of something else would really make things feel more like a proper shared Universe.

You need a fan on your staff somewhere, someone who knows and loves these characters like family, a continuity expert like Mark Gruenwald was back in the day.  The world, and the comics industry was left a slightly darker place when he passed.   It would really make your long term fans happy, and your new fans, it would get them even more intrigued to read and watch about the other characters in the Universe.   You don’t even need to reboot your series to “All New, All Different” anything cause it’s not All New or All Different, it’s the same stuff, but with a bunch of disjointed events because every writer is writing their book like it’s the only book their characters are appearing in.         I’m not sure if anyone at Marvel will even read this, or even if anyone besides my four readers will read this, but it’s a plea, for the fans, from a fan, bring back the Marvel Universe.

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Reel Geek Origins: 5/25/83

 

I’d written about this before, but I felt it was time to revisit this story, for this site.  The day of my first memory, the one that set me down this path of geeky awesomeness, a seminal day in my life, and I didn’t even know it yet.  5/25/1983, the day Return of the Jedi opened in theaters, and I was there.

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I was three years old at the time, in San Diego, California.  It was a really hot day, and the line for the theater was wrapped around the block.  This was in the days before every theater was a multiplex, so theaters weren’t equipped to handle the large amounts of people that would go see these big movies, the lines wrapped around the block, busting it some would say, hence why these movies became known as blockbuster hits.

I was present also for Empire Strikes Back in the theaters I’m told, but I was only recently born at the time, and therefore don’t recall it, but perhaps I was subliminally influenced by greatness that day as well.  I remember my Mom volunteering to wait in line for us so my Dad could take me into the nearby department store to use the bathroom and get a drink, since it was so hot out that day, and we’d be waiting a while longer yet, before getting into the theater for that sweet, sweet air conditioning.

I remember passing a Star Wars merchandise display,  all sorts of action figures and t-shirts and such, and my Dad telling me I can get one if I wanted.  (I was three, and it’s Star Wars so of course I wanted something, hell same answer you’ll get from me at 36 if I want some Star Wars merch) Yes.  So, looking over everything, three year old me was drawn to this t-shirt, and this action figure of Admiral Ackbar.

My dad asked me if he was a good guy, or a bad guy, to which I replied, he was a good guy.  No clue how I knew that, but I did.   I was a hipster in the making, an Ackbar fan before it was cool to meme his famous catchphrase “It’s a Trap!”

We went back to my mom in line after that, and I was already wearing the shirt, so excited for this movie I was.  Eventually we got in, and while I don’t recall actually seeing the film that day, though I know I did, my life was forever changed that day.   While some people lament the direction the Star Wars franchise has gone over the years, to it’s recent, we’re getting a Star Wars movie every year from now until they stop making money (so…never then, really)  I’m excited for this, because not only do I get to see Star Wars every year for the rest of my life, I can one day pass on to my children the gift that I did that day, of seeing a Star Wars movie opening day, and may the force be with them as it was with me that day.

 

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Reel Geek’s Review: Punk’s Dead:SLC Punk 2

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I first saw James Merendino’s SLC Punk either in college in 1999, or shortly thereafter, it was kind of a hazy time in my life.  But in any case, I loved the movie, as did a lot of other people, where it became a cult classic over the years.  It wasn’t like a mainstream hit though, so I was surprised when I heard rumblings a couple of years ago that a sequel was in the works.   I was kind of excited for the movie, but also I had that voice in the back of my head like, it really didn’t need a sequel, but somebody probably needed money, which is really the worst kind of sequel to make.  I awaited with cautious optimism, as it could be either way, and those are really the only two ways a sequel can go after so long after the original’s release.

And, as it turns out, after watching Punk’s Dead (Now streaming on Netflix) I can tell you it’s more of the latter one.  Which is surprising to me after following the film’s progress from idea to movie on social media, where it was largely in part funded by Kickstarter, so it’s essentially a fan made production, and it’s written/directed by the original creator James Merendino, but even still I couldn’t feel the love in this movie like I could in the original.

If you’re wondering what the movie is about, it’s set 19 years after the events of the first movie, in 2005, where the son of the  late Heroin Bob (Michael Goorijan, reprising his role from the first movie as the ghost narrator here) , Ross (Ben Schnetzer-Warcraft) is an old school Edgar Allen Poe type Goth, whom after getting his heart broken goes on a road trip with his friends Crash (rapper Machine Gun Kelly) and Penny (Hannah Marks-The Real O’Neals)  go on a road trip to a punk concert wherein Ross gets drunk and does mushrooms for the first time and learns about life along the way.

Also intercut with Ross’ story is that of his mom Trish (played here by Sarah Clarke-Twilight) and her worrying about where her son is, and it’s here where we get appearances and supporting roles from returning cast members from the original movie including Devon Sawa, and James Duval.

 

The whole movie really felt disjointed, and atypical indie movie bs to be honest.  At a runtime of only 1 hr 15 minutes, you never really get to know any of the characters enough to really care about them, and the jokes in this comedy drama never really hit home.  There are a few good bits in this movie, as a fan of the original, like finding out what happened to some of the characters from the first movie, and a great scene with Devon Sawa and James Duval debating who would win in a Punjabi death match between Ross, Joey, and Chandler, best watched for their pronunciation of the Friends character Gunther as Gunter.

Also, I liked Machine Gun Kelly in this movie, which was kind of surprising to me, he’s not that bad an actor.  But the rest of the movie felt forced, and awkward, characters have moments that just come out of nowhere at times, and there’s a whole bit at the end with a character making an awkard statement on stage to the audience at a rock concert that was handled better in a Chris Farley movie.  Overall, this movie was just forgettable, and it’s really only worth watching if you’re a fan of the original, and are really bored and/or intoxicated.      I’ll give it a 2.5 stars out of 5.  ** 1/2

So guys, do you think cult classics could merit a sequel, or should they just quit while they’re ahead?  Me personally I’d still like to see a well done Empire Records reunion movie.   Til next time guys be sure to Keep it Reel.

 

Reel Geek’s Review-The Little Prince

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Quite possibly the first time I’d ever experienced the concept of death was having ‘The Little Prince’ read to me as a child.  It was either that, or when Mr. Hooper on Sesame Street died, but for the purposes of this review, we’ll say it was this story.  It’s stuck with me all these years, and has remained one of my favorite stories, not because of the death, but because of the story itself, the adventure and free spirit of the character, which in turn is the spirit of childhood in itself, which this movie aims to capture.    I had actually initially intended to go to sleep about an hour or so ago, but I felt compelled to finish watching the film, and to get this review out to my loyal readers (all 6 of you) , so here we are.

This adaptation is but the latest in a series of adaptations of the classic story by Antoine De Saint-Expury, this time done as a part cgi, part stop motion animated film by Mark Osborne (Kung Fu Panda).  While traditionally the story is merely that of the Aviator (voiced by Jeff Bridges) and the titular Little Prince (voiced by Riley Osborne, the son of director, Mark) and the Prince’s adventures prior to meeting the Aviator in the desert, this movie uses that basic story as the framework of the story of a little girl (voiced by Mackenzie Foy-Interstellar) who’s life is scheduled, every minute, every day, by her mother (voiced by Rachel Mcadams-The Notebook) so much so that she doesn’t know how to be a kid.

The mother is trying to get her daughter into a prestigious private school, and she has to use her summer vacation to do nothing but prepare for the rest of her life.  It’s not until a chance encounter with her neighbor, The Aviator, that she learns of the story of The Little Prince, and begins her own adventure.

The movie itself was released at the Cannes Film Festival last year, and had a French release last year as well, but for whatever reason, Paramount pulled the US release, (which was scheduled to have a 3-D release as well) for some reason, and this film then sat on the shelf until Netflix picked it up to be distributed as a Netflix Original.  Still not sure why, but it is quite a coup for the streaming service, as the movie is phenomenal.

The art style and animation alone in this movie is breathtaking, would have loved to have seen it on the big screen in 3-D, but on a television screen it’s just as lovely.  It also features a stellar voice cast as well, from Jeff Bridges, James Franco, Ricky Gervais, Marion Cotillard, and more.   The script by Irena Brignull and Bob Persichetti expand on the story as is needed to pad the length of the story to feature length, but it doesn’t feel like padded on extra material, it brings more depth to the story, which I loved.

And just like the original novella, there are a lot of feels moments here, so keep your tissues handy when watching this movie.   I really can’t say enough about this movie, it was phenomenal.  For anyone who’s ever been a child, and hasn’t forgotten what that’s like, or even if you have, this movie might remind you.   Easily one of my favorite movies of this year, though it’s technically a 2015 film, it just now got released over here, so it’s on my 2016 Best of List for sure.    ***** 5 out of 5 stars.   Til next time ya’ll, be sure to keep it Reel.

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