Jun 27 2016

Film Review: THE SHALLOWS: Buoy Meets Girl, and Gull

The tide is high but I’m holdin’ on / I’m gonna be your number one / I’m not the kind-a girl who gives up just like that, oh no 
-Opening Lyrics to “The Tide is High”, Blondie (1980)

In “The Shallows,” Blake Lively takes to the screen as Nancy, a down and out med student in need of some beach R&R in Mexico. But just when she thought it was safe to go into the water, her island paradise turns to an aquatic hell with a shark set on seeing her blood in the water. While this (wo)man vs. nature theme treads familiar territory, “The Shallows” still manages to keep you holding your breath in suspense as Lively struggles to keep her analytical head above water and strokes ahead of the killer shark.   **3.25 Cosmic Afros**

The start of “The Shallows” begins as you would expect–in “all fun and games” mode, taking its time to set up a trouble-free paradise. We find blonde and blithe Nancy chatting with Carlos, a local with a heart of gold, as he drives her to a secluded beach. (Carlos is played earnestly by Spanish actor Óscar Jaenada–if you want to see what he can really do with more screen time, check him out alongside Marcia Gay Harden in 2015’s indie “After Words“). Director Jaume Collet-Serra (who, by the way, has directed Liam Neeson in 3 films) gives requisite beach aerials and surfing close-ups. Collet-Serra makes some interesting technical choices that work well (kudos for integrating FaceTime in a way that seemed natural–after all, our phones are as much a part of the narratives of our lives as the people in them) and some that don’t quite hit the mark (lingering shots and cutaways of Lively on the beach skew voyeuristic than wistful). But once the first shark chomp happens, the action flows more than it ebbs. I actually found myself cheering for the shark and Nancy simultaneously–the more the shark did its worst, the more I was looking forward to Nancy strategizing at her best.

The Shallows

“The Shallows” hits that summer popcorn movie sweet spot for me: thrills, chills, and an element of surprise in just under 90 minutes. And what was that surprise, you ask? An ornithic co-star named Sully “Steven” Seagull. Yes, a seagull! Let’s face it: since Tom Hanks starred alongside Wilson in 2000’s “Cast Away”, the bar was set high for “best companion of a marooned lead” (and set high by a volleyball, no less). As soon as Sully the Seagull came into the frame–I knew he was beyond your basic bird. Kudos to animal trainers Katie Brock-Medland and John Medland for their work with Sully in perfecting that wingman chemistry. He’s a natural and I hope his movie career takes flight in a big way!

 

"The Shallows" actress Blake Lively on the set with her wingman co-star Sully "Steven" Seagull.

“The Shallows” actress Blake Lively on the set with her wingman co-star Sully “Steven” Seagull.

I have to admit, I really didn’t follow much of the press around the release of “The Shallows.” Actually it wasn’t on my radar until my fellow GSBpodcast co-host MDawg mentioned it in our movie trailer talk segment a few shows ago. Like many moviegoers, I expected this box office weekend would be dominated by “Independence Day: Resurgence” buzz, whether or not it lived up to expectations. I also remember not being particularly impressed by the first “Shallows” trailer I viewed.

It wasn’t until I saw a second trailer where Lively was timing her swim escape like an augmented reality math word problem, that “The Shallows” hooked my interest. There are not enough actioners out there showing women who can–as Matt Damon said with gusto in 2015’s “The Martian”–science the sh*t out of their situation. [Dear Readers, try this exercise at home: Create a Top 10 survival movie list of films featuring a female lead going against the odds using her scientific or tech savvy “The Martian”-style. Oh, and you can only use one movie from the “Alien” franchise. If that list was too easy create, try creating another Top 10 with women of color in the leading role. Ready? OK? GO!]

Nancy is certainly no Ripley–her brief characterizations only touch the potential of how a female lead in this type of action movie can be portrayed, particularly given the film’s buoyant denouement. But given the “surprisingly strong” opening box office of “The Shallows”, bubbling to the surface again is the question if Hollywood will be intentional in supporting more action films featuring female leads with depth of character, and be, you know, less shallow? The tide is nigh!

3.25-Cosmic-Afros

 

Jun 22 2016

Interview With JOSEPH MALLOZZI – Syfy’s DARK MATTER

Joseph Mallozzi Listening

Joseph Mallozzi – his standard pose for listening to writers pitch ideas.

In this episode we talk to Joseph Mallozzi, one of the creators and Showrunner of the hit Syfy TV series Dark Matter, and writer / Exec. Producer of Stargate SG1, Atlantis and Stargate Universe.  We talked about his work on season 1 of Dark Matter and how he came up with the story, characters, and his process. He also dropped some advice for new writers and how starting in animation might be the way to go. With his stories and views as an accomplished writer of science fiction TV, plus his 3000 DVD Anime collection, Joe was an excellent guest. Enjoy.

 

Here are some questions we asked Mr. Mallozzi:

Was Stargate your Muse?

Where would you have taken Stargate Universe?

Did the Dark Matter comic come first?

How did you meet your writing partner Paul Mullie?

You seem to gravitate towards ensemble casts, is it the more the better?

You can also listen to Joe’s interview and all of the other Geek Soul Brother and the Nerdy Venoms podcast episodes in iTunes and Stitcher.

 

 

Jun 20 2016

Interview With NATALIE CHAIDEZ Of Syfy’s HUNTERS

Natalie Chaidez

NATALIE CHAIDEZ – SHOWRUNNER FOR HUNTERS

In this special episode (GSBPodcast Ep.282) Geek Soul Brother had the honor of talking with Natalie Chaidez – the Showrunner for the new series on the Syfy network – Hunters. We talked about the diversity of the show, how Natalie got into the business, and time travel shows. Natalie’s career includes – 12 Monkeys, V (2010), Terminator: Sarah Connor Chronicles and Heroes. We even talked about a cool detective show from back in the day with a young urban vibe – New York Undercover.

Here are some questions I asked Ms. Chaidez

What drew you to the project of Hunters?

What has been the best aspect of joining the SciFi network?

The story has unfolded beautifully with each episode. Does it reveal itself in the book in the same way?

I’m looking forward to having Natalie Chaidez on the podcast again, if nothing else just to talk about more science fiction we love. We had a great time. You can also find the podcast in iTunes and Stitcher.

 

Jun 20 2016

HBO Westworld Trailer! Creepy Androids And Cowboys

When I first heard that HBO was doing a series version remake of Westworld I was excited.  Not only because it’s up there with my other favorite classic science fictions, but the network should be able to do the 1973 film justice and take the Micheal Crichton story to a new level.

Suddenly androids are the new black.  AMC Humans, Syfy’s Dark Matter, a slew of films the past few years have been supplying us with human looking machines of every type.  But from this trailer, we seem to be in for the kind of android we haven’t seen on TV since Lore from Star Trek: TNG.  I guess we will have to wait until this fall to draw both guns and a processor and tune to see the android apocalypse start.

 

 

Jun 02 2016

Film Review: X-MEN: APOCALYPSE

apocalypse

I went to the theater with low expectations because of early reviews. Still, I reserved my judgement because I just can’t get into premature Nerd Hate. Okay, let me start with the good stuff first because word on the streets is this latest film is trash.

Oscar Isaac did a decent job as Apocalypse, but with some good writing, he could have brought it to another level. Fassbender kills once again in his more personal scenes. And the one and only part I was looking forward to was seeing Quicksilver do his thing again, and I was not disappointed in the least. Now for the bad stuff, and there was plenty. Maybe not enough to rate the film less than 5 out of 10 like Tomato critics are giving it, but enough to make me rant for a bit. The story was too elementary and the writing could have been much better. I have to ask a question – Why would you let the writer of the most hated X-Men film ever even touch the script of Apocalypse? Kinberg wrote Last Stand and his X-Men days should have been over after that. The second thing to mention was the special effects. Some were good, like Arch Angel’s wings or Quicksilver saving people, but other effects were atrocious. I know this story was set in the 80s, but that didn’t mean they had to make the green screen effects look like they were from the 80s too.
Many of you blerds out there wanted to know if Storm was decent. Yes, and no. Ororo, the pickpocketing girl in
Cairo was decent. Shipp played the young rainmaker with a mischievousness from Storm’s early days in the
comics. But once she became the Storm that we know, the acting was dialed down to smirky grins and a whole lot of hand waving to make lightning bolts. The same happened to Olivia Munn as Psylocke. I don’t think she had 3 sentences to say in the whole film. And that was the problem, no one in the film stood out and made you connect with them except Evan Peters as Quicksilver. and maybe Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee) because he got some laughs. And then there was Apocalypse himself.
This was not the Apocalypse I knew from the comics. No transforming hands into weapons. No growing huge, though they did throw in a cheat scene. This was just another example of a superhero franchise featuring a villain that they didn’t do justice to. Truthfully, Apocalypse was just a fashion and hairstylist student trapped in a bad guy’s 5000 year old body. If you see the film, you will know what I mean. I don’t want to complain about the one other thing that didn’t work because I would be spoiling it. Let’s just say they needed to wait and let the story and new characters build in the franchise before revealing this and that. But even with all those bad aspects to the film,
I still think non-nerd critics are giving it too low a score. Geek Soul Brother gives X-MEN: APOCALYPSE 3..25 OUT OF 5 COSMIC AFROS.
3.25-Cosmic-Afros

May 12 2016

Trailer Jive: ASSASSIN’S CREED

 

AssassinCreedShot

I’m not a gamer, but I love the concepts of many games that are out there. I don’t really know much about Assassin’s Creed, but all my game buddies seem to love the series.  And now we have the first trailer of the film that Michael Fassbender is starring in.  It looks pretty good, though I don’t know how it comes off to you gameheads out there.  I do like the Sci-fi element of traveling back in the ancestor’s memories.  I also hope the film keeps the music from the trailer because that would give a nice feel to the film with the old and new.  Look for ASSASSIN’S CREED in theaters this December.

 

May 05 2016

Interview With MICHELLE LOVRETTA – Creator of KILLJOYS

moZ6b9Fz

In this episode we were overjoyed to have Michelle Lovretta stop by the show. She is the creator of Lost Girl and the current Syfy show Killjoys. Michelle talked about her writing process and how she comes up with her characters and the worlds they live in.  She also talked about creating female leads like Bo and Dutch, and writing what interests you rather than writing what you think will sell.  You can watch the first season of Killjoys on Syfy.com and look for the second season coming soon.

May 01 2016

Frisky Business: The Cool Cats of Cinema

The premiere of Key and Peele’s Keanu has started a global dialogue on the dearth of kitten-centered films. As a self-professed ‘cat person’ I couldn’t be more thrilled! Okay–maybe ‘global dialogue’ borders on hyperbole but Keanu certainly should give us cause for paws (see what I did there?) to reflect on the moments furry thespians worked that old cat magic on the big screen.

Here is a Top 9 List (see what I did there…again!) of “picture purrfect” cats in movies:

9. Keanu (2016)

keanu1

The newest kitty on the Hollywood block is the titular Keanu. Gangstas, stoners, and cops all love Keanu in this buddy comedy. He’s just Adorable with a capital Awww. According to professional animal trainer April Mackin, it took seven kittens to portray this LOLcat. Who wouldn’t want to run lines of yarn with these furry cuties on set?

8. April and the Extraordinary World (2015)

april-and-the-extraordinary-world

In this steampunk animated actioner, Darwin the Talking Cat not only had your back, but would have been the ideal book club bestie. A literary soul, Darwin was the delightful combination of wit and whiskers.

7. Pet Sematary (1989)

pet-sematary-4

Before there was Grumpy Cat, there was Church the Cat! In Stephen King’s horror story, Church got even friskier after he was resurrected.

6. Cat’s Eye (1985)

03_EverettCollection_CatsEye

Remember this: Stray tabby > Breath-sucking troll. After seeing this film as a kid, I really wanted to trade my night light for a watch cat!

5. The Uncanny (1977)

uncanny

This 1970s British anthology film had everything, from cats eating people to cats witnessing murders and refusing to report the crimes. It was true ‘catsploitation’. But just like Hitchcock’s “The Birds,” “The Uncanny”  made you think twice the next time you saw a cluster of cats glaring back at you!

4. Walt Disney’s Alice in Wonderland (1951)

cheshire-cat-5

The Cheshire Cat perfectly embodies what every cat owner knows about their feline’s outlook on life: it’s their world, we are merely living in it for them to play with us!

3. Puss in Boots (2011)

puss in boots

Antonio Banderas flexed feline fierceness in the Shrek spin-off we were all hoping for! But more than anything this film put on blast that super power all cats have…you know, that thing they do when they get super cute, melt your heart, and never end up in the dog house!

2. Milo and Otis (1986)

milo-and-otis

A pug (Otis) and a tabby (Milo) walk into a barn and end up becoming fast friends! This movie endures and endears with the unlikely animal friendships trope.

1. Alien (1979) and Aliens (1981)

sigourney_weaver_alien_ellen_ripley_jonesy_desktop_2008x3010_wallpaper-1101983

Remember this: Jonesy the Cat > Some Random Xenomorph. The feline companion of Ripley, Jonesy was no scaredy cat! After all drama on the ship ensued, the fate of Jonesy is somewhat of a mystery. I’d like to believe this tough tabby is still holding its own out there for independent cats everywhere in deep space!

 

That’s my list, but it’s certainly not the whole kitten caboodle! So don’t get your dander up–just reach out and let us know which furry and fierce creatures would make your cool cats of cinema list using  #PicturePurrfect #GSBPodcast

The Shadow Scout

 

 

 

Apr 27 2016

The Huntsman: Winter’s War Film Review: Wintry Mix Up

The-Huntsman-banner-poster

“The Huntsman: Winter’s War” picks up seven years after the events of the first movie while providing backstory on the Evil Queen Ravenna (Charlize Theron) and her sister Freya, the Ice Queen (Emily Blunt). It is neither sequel, nor prequel, but something awkwardly in between (a post-midquel?). A movie in story arc limbo, “Winter’s War” is more of a winter wonderland, leaving you to wonder not only if a follow-up to the 2012 movie was even necessary but if this was indeed the movie you thought you were going to see in the first place (Spoiler Alert: It’s not!).

 

By now, moviegoers are pretty well-versed in the “3 Rs” of Hollywood–Remake, Reboot, Reimagine. We might look upon these efforts with a jaundiced eye, but we understand these things happen. Indeed, the studios are banking on our ability to forgive and forget (hello, 2013’s “The Wolverine”…goodbye, 2009’s “X-Men Origins: Wolverine”). In “Winter’s War” there are cutaways and flashforwards to a “present-day” Snow White to explain away Kristen Stewart’s absence from the film, as well as the omniscient POV and voiceover to introduce Freya the Ice Queen and her legions of child warriors, who eventually grow up to include The Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth) and Sara (Jessica Chastain). It is all very convenient!

I was willing to put up with convenience as long as it ultimately connected to why I was motivated to see the movie: to witness an engrossing battle fueled by sorcery and strategy between two powerful women. Finally, a “versus movie” that made sense and didn’t negate the agency of its female leads…unlike that other versus movie I saw in March! A girl can dream, can’t she? Sadly, “Winter’s War” had more in common with the loosely constructed world building of “Batman v Superman” than it did with the taut political and familial drama of Queen Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots. No time was given to explore the complexity in Ravenna and Freya’s relationship as sisters and as rulers. And certainly no time was given to their final showdown–if anything, the showdown did more to display Hemsworth’s “Thor” fighting skills.

the-huntsman-winters-war Emily Blunt

On a positive note, the film is visually appealing. Like the tundra, the cinematic landscape is bitter cold and painfully beautiful. Charlize Theron looks every bit the part of the Evil Queen and literally oozes wickedness even as she smolders. Hemsworth hunks it up per usual and soldiers through sequences despite an uneven accent. Jessica Chastain takes to the physicality of her role–reminding me of an adulting Disney Princess Merida if she had a less stable home life. And as the Ice Queen, Emily Blunt displays her patented ‘vulnerable strength’ (which she carried to perfection in last year’s “Sicario”); in one eye-catching scene Blunt rides in triumphant on a fantastic polar bear-like beast that would make even Peter Jackson cower and blush.

Alas, a good movie is only script-deep and looks alone cannot save “The Huntsman: Winter’s War” from being an icy hot mess! 1.75 out of 5 Cosmic Afros

1.75-Cosmic-Afros

Apr 24 2016

ComiGamAni Interview: Russ Emanuel, A Curious Creative

For April’s episode of ComiGamAni, The Nerdy Venoms interviewed filmmaker Russ Emanuel.

Occupants Russ Director

I first met Russ at 2016 FarpointCon in Baltimore where I saw his genre-blending film Occupants. This scifi/horror story of parallel worlds kept me on the edge of my seat (and for all of you familiar with my film reviews, you know this is quite the feat!). I was also impressed with Russ’s take on the found footage aesthetic and his world building around one…well…two strong female characters!

After the Q & A, I took a moment to talk with Russ about the big ‘what next’ for Occupants. When Russ shared that he was working on a comic book tie in for the film, my blerdy sense alerted me that Russ was not only a filmmaker, but also a ‘curious creative.’

Real Vs Comic Final

The ‘curious’ of curious creative signifies not only the intellectual curiosity of an artist, but just how intriguing it is for that artist to break into a new medium. In previous ComiGamAni shows, we discussed curious creatives like Erika Alexander (acting to comics), Christy Marx (animation to game development), and Ta-Nehesi Coates (journalism to Black Panther!). In fact, the very first interview on ComiGamAni was with Legend of the Mantamaji‘s Eric Dean Seaton, who is best known for his work as a writer and director in television.

So check out Episode 273–our interview with Russ Emanuel and get inside the mind of a curious creative. Hear Russ describe his creative process and collaboration with comics artist Dave Beaty in a different type of visual storytelling. And while you’re at it check out the details of Russ’s very successful IndieGoGo for the Occupants comic book tie in.

Stay curious!

The Shadow Scout

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