American Gods, Episode 1: A Show In Which You Can Believe

Viewers of the first episode of American Gods (Saturdays 9ET, STARZ) likely find themselves in the position of one of the two primaries: Shadow Moon (Ricky Whittle), the laconic ex-con who is first being introduced to the strange world of American Gods, or Mr. Wednesday (Ian McShane), the man who has been living in this surreal universe for a long time. There is plenty in the premiere episode to entice both sets of viewers, who will likely make the leap of faith necessary to return for the second episode and beyond.

I am firmly in the Wednesday camp. My first-edition copy of American Gods, the Hugo and Nebula winning novel by Neil Gaiman upon which the series is based, was read for the first time when the book was released in 2001, and most recently over the past few weeks in preparation for watching the show and writing this review. As such, my standards for any adaptation, much less a big-budget, well-hyped premium cable adaptation, were high. The premiere episode more than lived up to my expectations, as I have seldom seen an adaptation as true to the book as this one.

Every important scene from the opening chapters of the novel, from Shadow’s release from prison, to Wednesday’s introduction on the airplane, to Shadow’s fight with Mad Sweeney (Pablo Shrieber) is there, as is much of the dialogue from the original novel. Even the Bilquis (Yetide Badaki) scene, which had the potential to be disastrous in this medium, was done, and done well. Long-time Gaiman fans will likely be satisfied with the fidelity of the story to the original.

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The casting, likewise, is masterful. McShane is compelling as Wednesday, and it is his charm and range that largely carries this episode. He is able to make the viewer believe in his con, even when said viewer knows the outcome. He is clearly having fun with the role, and his performance did more to sell me on the program than anything else that happened in the first episode.

Whittle seems born to play Shadow, and his laconic intelligence, moral compass, and gritty toughness form the perfect counterpoints to McShane’s Wednesday.

Even the minor characters are near dead ringers for the way I imagined them when reading the novel.

The show is far from just a nostalgia fest for long-time Gaiman-readers, however. There is plenty here that is new and interesting even to the most seasoned of Gaiman’s fans.

The episode is visually interesting, which is no surprise coming from something associated with Gaiman. Anyone who has seen even one of the pre-released teasers got a feel for the surreal atmosphere created by the show’s visual and audio aspects. But beyond the Dave McKean-esque credits and the cinematography of the dream sequences, there are a number of visual motifs which run throughout the episode that only those viewers already familiar with the source material will understand. For example, the imagery of gallows and hangings that run throughout the episode reflect as much on Wednesday’s true identity as the they do on the racial issues from America’s past that comprised a portion of the discussion about the show on social media during episodes airing Saturday night. One can only hope that writer/creators Bryan Fuller and Michael Green continue to utilize this type of dramatic irony to communicate with those familiar with the source material.

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Additionally, there are a number of scenes that have been updated to fit the times. As Gaiman, who is an executive producer of the TV program, discussed during a release event for his book Norse Mythology at Town Hall back in February, many of the deviations from the show’s source material were necessitated by the long gap between the book’s publication in 2001 and the show’s release in 2017. The scene when Shadow is kidnapped by Technical Boy (Bruce Langley) is a perfect example. Technical Boy needs to convey a cutting-edge image of the newest technology available, and the descriptions of him found in the book would not work in today’s environment. The scene, however, retains the spirit of the original (Technical Boy 2.0, if you will), as do most of the updates that are not letter-perfect adaptations of the novel.

Most of the adaptations are either of this nature, or, as Gaiman discussed at the same event, were necessitated by the switch in medium from novel to television. There are, however, a small number of deviations from the original that felt wrong. Chief among these is the portrayal of Audrey (Betty Gilpin), Shadow’s ex-wife’s friend. The scene between Audrey and Shadow at the graveyard deviates wildly from the corresponding scene, which takes place at the funeral, and completely changes Audrey’s character. While, according to an article published by the A/V club (http://www.avclub.com/article/neil-gaiman-why-he-asked-american-gods-cut-blowjob-254491) Gaiman was able to intercede with the show runners to keep Shadow’s reaction to changed Audrey true to his original character, the change seems out of place with the spirit of the show, and is an unnecessary distraction during an important character-building scene for Shadow.

There are other minor deviations that bothered me, including the opening “Coming to America” sequence—and I wish there could have been some acknowledgement of Shadow’s desire to take a bath–but overall, the adaptation is as true to the book as one could hope. Let’s hope that future episodes continue that fidelity, unlike, for example, Game of Thrones, which started out true to the source material, but quickly deviated from it in many of the key storylines.

Viewers in the Shadow camp—those who are coming to the show for the time— are likely intrigued, but confused, which is exactly where they should be after the first episode. The decision not to reveal the major conflict in the series (who is Mr. Wednesday preparing to fight; who are the “we” of whom Technical Boy speaks) does create mystery and suspense, but I wonder if there is enough grounding to hold viewers who do not possess the background knowledge of those in the Wednesday camp. Hooking these viewers is essential if the show is to become, as many have already predicted, the next big thing on TV.

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Still, I imagine that the quality of the acting described above will be enough to hold these viewers for a couple of more episodes, at least. The characters are intriguing, and these viewers will likely want to find out what happens to them.

Whittle’s portrayal of Shadow is tailored well for this purpose. As the show’s moral compass—ironic as he is an ex-con—he is the character in whom we are supposed to invest. He is believable enough, and charismatic enough to carry viewers through the delayed exposition as they, along with him, learn this new reality.

It is McShane, however, who is likely to carry the program, and through his dazzling performance is likely to be enough to make viewers forget what they don’t know until it is time for them to know it. By that time, they’ll be invested, drawn into his world, like Shadow, unable to leave.

The first episode of American Gods hints at the possibility of greatness. All of the elements are there, from spot-on-performances by the cast, to the spectacular visual effects and cinematography, to the perfect source material. Will the show deliver on the promise of the first episode? It’s impossible to prove for sure after just one episode, but it’s something in which viewers can surely believe.


Ari Rubin lurks in the shadows. You may have thought you saw him in the back of the bar, or going into the subway station, but when you looked back, he was gone. His fiction has appeared in Pif Magazine, Scrivener’s Pen, and The Hopper Review. His short story “White Collar Blues,” which originally appeared in Skyline, was nominated for The Carve Magazine/Mild Horse Press Online Short Story Anthology Award by the editor. He can be reached at: birdman33@gmail.com and on twitter as @thesurrealari .

Doctor Who Series 10 Premiere: The Pilot—Just What the Doctor Ordered

Doctor Who took off Saturday with The Pilot, the premiere episode of the show’s tenth season. The episode effectively introduces a new companion, Bill Potts (Pearl Mackie), whose character’s development dominates the episode, and returns the long-running program to the type of smaller-scale personal stories that marked Matt Smith’s early episodes, tinted with the signature darkness of Peter Capaldi’s Doctor.

Much of the episode is told from Bill’s perspective, as the viewer is re-introduced to the Whoniverse through her eyes. This choice by writer Steven Moffat and director Lawrence Gough allows long-time viewers to reset their relationship with Capaldi’s doctor (like they would have with a new character in a “pilot” episode for a new show—get it?), experiencing both the joy and terror involved with meeting The Doctor for the first time. Those who already loved Capaldi get to see him from a different angle, while those who never really connected with him over the past two years get to reset their relationship with him as he begins his final season.

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Pearl Mackie is excellent as Bill, playing the role with a wide-eyed quirkiness that belies an incisive mind. She comes off innocent and vulnerable at first, but she soon shows the qualities which have caused The Doctor to take an interest in her even before the episode’s monster appears. She raises some interesting questions—ranging from The Doctor’s obsession with Earth, to the location of the bathroom on the TARDIS—many of which The Doctor is uncomfortable answering. She also banters well with Capaldi, a fact noted by Nardole (Matt Lucas), reinforcing that she won’t accept The Doctor’s BS at face value, as well as adding levity to the dialogue that has been largely missing from the past two seasons of the show.

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Bill is also the Doctor’s first openly gay companion, and this aspect is handled very well in this episode. Her sexuality features prominently in the episode’s plot and is an essential part of her character, but, like previous portrayals of homosexual relationships in the show’s long history – from Vastra and Jenny, to Captain Jack Harkness distracting male guards—Bill’s orientation fits seamlessly into the diverse Doctor Who universe.

Speaking of The Doctor, Capaldi is excellent in this episode, which opens with him as a university professor who gives lectures about whatever he wants. Playing the professor is a good role for Capaldi’s Doctor. The university lectures give him a platform for the grand speeches that have characterized his tenure as The Doctor, and this job seems a natural progression from the little lectures he has given the audience using the blackboard in his TARDIS over the last two seasons. Capaldi seems to relish his role in the mentor/student relationship with Bill, and the fresh start with the new companion, along with the aforementioned banter, makes him seem funnier and warmer than he has in past seasons.

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Perhaps the most welcome aspect of The Pilot was its return to the paradigm of the Doctor saving a single person, rather than saving the entire world or universe. The poignancy of Bill’s personal relationship with this particular monster is reminiscent of early Matt Smith episodes, and reveals a compassion and empathy in Capaldi’s Doctor that reminds the viewer of Christopher Eccleston’s run, as well. Yes, Capaldi still displays his signature darkness, but that darkness is balanced by his human-like emotions. His empathy allows the viewer to empathize with him.

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While there is much new about The Pilot, there are also plenty of allusions to seasons past. From the pictures on the Doctor’s desk in his office at the university (spoilers!), to the variety of sonics used throughout the episode, there are plenty of nods to the past to satisfy long-time fans.

The new monster in this episode also seems to look backwards, as it clearly has been influenced by the Tennant-era episode Waters of Mars. It is, as the Doctor explains, more hungry than evil, is scary nonetheless, but, thanks to its personal connection to Bill, it evokes a sympathy not commonly found in a mindless predator.

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Not everything in the show, however, was integrated as smoothly as the references to the past episodes. Nardole’s presence—while seemingly necessary to set up plot lines that will be explored in future episodes—seems largely superfluous to this particular story, as do the Daleks, who don’t contribute much during their brief time onscreen.

Overall, The Pilot is an effective re-introduction both to the Doctor, after a long hiatus, and to his new companion. The chemistry between Capaldi and Mackie, as well the return to smaller-scale storytelling, both bode well for the rest of the series. Hopefully, Moffat has finally found his stride writing for Capaldi, and this season, which is the final one for both the lead actor and the long-time show runner—will prove to be as strong as its first episode.


Ari Rubin lurks in the shadows. You may have thought you saw him in the back of the bar, or going into the subway station, but when you looked back, he was gone. His fiction has appeared in Pif Magazine, Scrivener’s Pen, and The Hopper Review. His short story “White Collar Blues,” which originally appeared in Skyline, was nominated for The Carve Magazine/Mild Horse Press Online Short Story Anthology Award by the editor. He can be reached at: birdman33@gmail.com and on twitter as @thesurrealari .

POWER RANGERS Review

Warning: Spoilers Inside.

What if the Goonies ended up in the movie Chronicle, gained superpowers that included Iron Man Armor and giant Transformer-esque robots based on prehistoric creatures that in the end form a Voltron?

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This is what you get.

And a Movie Adaption of this show:

has no business being as GOOD as 2017’s POWER RANGERS is.

We start the film introduced to the Ranger(s) during the The Mesozoic Era, as they make their last stand against a villainous Green Ranger who has brought the team to the brink of decimation.  We meet Zordon, an alien warrior and leader who is on his literal last leg as this villainous Ranger stands over him, ready to deliver a deathblow.

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Then, a meteor hits.  I am not quite sure if they insinuate that a intergalactic battle between Rangers brought forth the end of the dinosaurs, but as a continuing trend throughout the film, these details don’t really matter.  This story is about teamwork and the characters that populate that framework. So logic obviously takes  back seat to heart and character development.

Fast forward to the modern age and we meet Jason Scott (played by Dacre Montgomery), the inevitable and eventual team leader destined to wear Red, who is in the midst of a prank with what I believe to be the movie version of Bulk & Skull from the original series.

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I can’t confirm this one way or another, but here I am aiming to believe and stand by this theory.  Won’t matter, because these two aren’t seen or heard from again, not even during the detention scene where Jason ends up, swiftly after botching his get away from the police after said prank so awry.  And it doesn’t matter, it’s not their story either.

Here in detention Jason immediately makes friends with an ultra focused, socially awkward (‘On the Spectrum’ as he self proclaims) kid getting picked on.  Jason full on PIMP-slaps this bully before proclaiming ‘That’s weird Right’?  Which makes for a nice call back moment by the film’s end battle scene.  This is Billy Cranston (played by RJ Cyler), boy genius and eventual Blue Ranger.

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While Jason may be the leader and our eyes into this story, Billy is the HEART.  I can’t stress that enough.  Without the charm that RJ Cyler brings to the role and the movie overall, Saban’s POWER RANGERS would seriously be lacking.

In this detention, we also meet Kimberly Hart (Played by Naomi Scott), the popular one minute, brooding loner the next, female lead that unfortunately isn’t very well developed as a character, aside from very typical tropes for a teenage girl in a high school setting, see Exhibit A below:

Exhibit A:  tumblr_oeqigt7baw1thcic4o3_r3_1280

An agreement between new found friends Jason & Billy find them in  Angel Grove’s Gold Mine. powerrangers-1024x576

Through a series of events, run-ins and some mild stalking, our 3 already established teens meet Zack Taylor & and Trini Kwan (played by Ludi Lin & Becky G.) , Zack creeping on a spelunking Trini, both wandering the mines to clear their minds.  There may be some deeper meaning at play here, but you’re probably not watching this movie for deep meanings, when the stuff on the surface suffice.

Together they discover mystical glowing colored coins while Billy is inexplicably (they may have addressed it in some reference to making his late father proud, but it could have been a little more clear cut, overall forgiven) blasting at the mine.  One car chase and and train accident later;

our rag tag gang of mischievous teenagers are on their way to becoming superheros, experimenting with their new found powers and invoking sequences not unlike that in ‘CHRONICLE’.  Jumping gorges that would make Bart Simpson jealous.

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It’s in these sequences where I noticed how beautifully filmed this movie can be, at times in this mountainous landscape, the lense catches the sun just right and I think I’m in a Terrence Malick film and forget that Aliens, Space Witches and Robots and Dino Robots are not far off.

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In exploring these mountains the kids find  a spaceship buried underground and awaken a pudgy, yet versatile Alien Android named Alpha-5, voiced annoyingly but serviceably by Bill Hader.

rangers Alpha then awakens Zordon, who’s essence has been trapped in this sunken vessel and is portrayed very neatly now as a giant Bryan Cranston face that’s been pushed through a Classic Pin Art Grid.power-rangers8

After becoming formally acquainted, the teens are introduced to the impending doom they must face through a forced dream sequence that introduces them to Rita Repulsa, the aforementioned villainous Green Ranger and now seemingly Space Witch played rightfully and deliciously over the top by Elizabeth Banks.  She is seeking her Green Crystal coin, that helped make her the Green Ranger and gave her all of the Bryan Cranston smashing power she needs.

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But first, after being discovered coincidentally by Jason’s father on a fishing boat at the bottom of the sea, she sets out on a crusade for Pure Gold, not only to rejuvenate herself but also to build a giant monster named Goldar, which fans of the show will remember as being this guy:

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Who get’s an upgrade to look like this: giphy2

Good thing Angel Grove was built around a Gold Mine!

Meanwhile, the Rangers struggle to work together in their training and must find the missing component to allow them to Morph into their new Iron Man-seque armor.  They are put to the test fighting living rock creatures that are known to be Rita’s minions.

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After numerous failed attempts, Billy finally morphs during a heated argument between Jason and Zack.

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The rest of the gang turns to him to find out how,

and HERE is where the movie’s true message ends up shining through during this scene; becoming friends.  This movie forces our teens to ACTUALLY & Genuinely become friends and to care about one another to succeed, not just for the sake of their new found abilities and duties in saving the world.

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These kids EARN the power that is bestowed upon them and it shows, just as much as these ACTORS earn their roles and hopefully continued success as they’ve masterfully embodied these characters wholeheartedly.  No one is phoning it in here in this movie and that’s pretty awesome for what some may consider to be just a reboot of a silly old kids show from TV.  The bar is raised a bit and you won’t even notice because at this point you are too involved and having too much fun.

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In the last third of the movie, things pick up the pace and much like this review rushes to the end, so we can get to piloted Prehistorically Based Robot creatures

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and it all moves rather quickly leading up to a giant battle in the downtown streets of Angel Grove that will invoke more from VOLTRON

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or Sym-Bionic Titan

*Required Viewing

We’re then treated to a Giant Robot Kaiju smackdown that TOHO PICTURES or Guillermo del Toro would be proud of.

Bottom Line: If you don’t have a stick in your butt, go to the theater this weekend, and have some fun and embrace the nostalgia filtered through a ‘Dark Knight’ lense.

LOGAN REVIEW: Means to an End

BEWARE, SPOILERS AHEAD!
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The year is 2029 (a post Trump era), and the U.S of A that once was, is now controlled by international superpowers that have created divisions within our homeland, a new American way.  We open to what writer James Mangold has envisioned Logan to be, best described in a quote from Christopher Nolan’s ‘INCEPTION’ – “an old man filled with regret waiting to die alone.”  Who’s masking his dark and violent past as a personal limo driver.  Logan, conceived by Hugh Jackman, and written by James Mangold with assistance from Scott Frank and Michael Green, presents us with a film that tackles today’s issues within policies and politics along with what is considered to be humane and inhumane.  Like the X-Men comics of the past, certain issues such as immigration, animal rights (P.E.T.A), racial violence, make a small appearance that continues to progress into our thoughts far after the film ends, but more importantly Logan’s true message is about belief, hope, family, overcoming division, and most importantly confronting one’s self.

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Hunted, and nearing extinction, mutants are virtually “no more” and due to “The Westchester Incident” neither are The X-Men, it’s lightly teased and never seen, so only those who really think on it will comprehend.  The last known survivors (a trio of familiar faces) have found refuge at an abandoned refinery, a wasteland-esque home that borders a southern state near Mexico. Something only ‘MAD MAX’ would be proud of. Logan, Professor X, and Caliban, with their limited resources have learned to cherish the different elements of life, whether its caring for plants, being a caregiver, or even serving as a blue collar worker that brings home money to provide for his family.  After all, Professor X and Caliban have become through moral responsibility the family that Logan never truly had. Logan played by Hugh Jackman reprises the famous role that he has embodied for the past 17 years in what will be his final film as the iconic character.  He delivers without question the “G.O.A.T” interpretation of Logan.  We are presented with a Logan who is broken and no longer the engine that once could.  His abilities are drying out.  He’s rusty, limping,  and rife with sickness that has taken control of his body that once could heal from anything, but never a broken heart.

Given his state of depression and methods of coping with it, Logan carries an adamantium bullet, the same material he’s made out of, that is also believed to be killing him through poisoning.  The bullet itself has always served a purpose, far before the opening moments of this film.  It was a reminder to what Logan’s life truly is, expendable.  Accompanying the masterful performance, long time mentor and fatherly friend Charles Xavier/Professor X (Sir. Patrick Stewart) has once again delivered what I believe is the most realistic performance in this film, one that constantly strikes us in the heart at all times, especially the level of comedic timing and leadership you could expect from your elderly family members.  At this point Charles Xavier, at the age of 90 is suffering from an illness of his own.

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Given his telepathic powers, he is deteriorating mentally, spiraling into dementia and suffering from seizures that’s now classified by the government as a weapon of mass destruction. Think of the most powerful and advanced brain in human existence, now unstable.  Imagine the guy who could do this:

Going Nuclear.

The last of the trio, we are introduced to the tracking mutant Caliban (Stephen Merchant) who is Professor X’s reluctant caregiver and eyes.   With Merchant’s acting background, we are gifted with a more serious role and at times refreshed with Merchant’s flawless comedic range.  Caliban essentially in short, is what bridged Charles and Logan’s father and son relationship in their last film together at 20th Century Fox.

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“Just when I thought I was out, they pulled me back in” – (The Godfather 3) and that’s exactly what happened to one of Marvel’s most groundbreaking characters, Logan.  An idea very similar to the “Transporter” this movie takes us on a road trip worth remembering all the way to North Dakota.  Accepting one last job in order to purchase a dream that Charles and Logan had envisioned together, we are introduced to Gabriella (Elizabeth Rodriguez) a nurse who mothered X-23.  With a brief but important introduction, we’re brought inside a manufacturing plant, that Gabriella had captured guerrilla style, provoking the idea of animal rights activism, along the lines of P.E.T.A (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals).

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Transigen, the facility that’s experimenting with former mutant DNA, producing “New Mutants” (not quoted as such in the film, but it’s pretty on the nose set up for the upcoming future X-Men property) not unlike the way that majority of our livestock is created today, scientifically enhanced and not organic. Living in cages like animals, these “New Mutants” are genetically created and enhanced by Dr. Xander Rice (Richard E. Grant) whose sole purpose is to create and control, for warfare purposes.

His character is similar to the scientist that’s seen in Stranger Things, with very similar agendas.  Shortly after becoming Logan’s responsibility, Laura Kinney, aka X-23 (Dafne Keen) whose character comes off as adorably brash,

until she gets angry,

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delivers a mostly silent but emotional role, and is essentially the centerpiece to what may come in future X-Men movies. After all, the future of the world is instilled into our children.

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The second act is pretty much Mangold’s resurrection of what I believe happens to be everyone’s favorite childhood game, “Oregon’s Trail.”  In the game, the inevitable happens and harsh realities surface.  Here that’s exactly what we expected to happen along their journey to North Dakota, where coordinates from an old X-Men comic book

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become a central point that Laura, and the surviving “New Mutants” have secretly discussed among themselves to meet and act as a safe haven.  In the X-Men comic, it was known as Eden.  Along the way, the Munson family, take in the trio, Charles, Logan, and Laura for the night.  It’s here we get the sense of family and the values that bind them.  For the first time in a LONG time they’re provided with respectable rooms, beds and a roof, unlike before where Charles had been confined within a water tower on a hospital bed, which at a certain point reminded me of a counter-part to cerebro from past X-Men films, meant to suppress Xavier’s power.  Having dinner with the Munsons is this film’s nod to da Vinci’s “The Last supper” painting where dinner, wine, laughter, smiles, love, engulfed the surrounding disciples around the table and their teacher.  We revisit an issue, where race once again strikes an innocent family just trying to live a peaceful and honorable life among the owners (Canewood International Beverage) of not only the corn field but possibly the state that they are in.  In my opinion, Mark Millar’s “venom symbiote-infused dinosaur” (Old Man Logan) is seen and represented by two self farming machines, harvesting corn, which is left for interpretation for comic book enthusiast to decipher. Returning to the Munson’s home we encounter Reavers (mercenaries) lead by Donald Pierce (Boyd Holbrook) whose character is a vicious southern hillbilly cyborg.  It would’ve been great to see more of his character’s past, and I theorize that his bionic arm is of Trask Industries (X-Men: Days of Future Past).  It’s here where the film slightly derails, where we’re introduced to Dr. Rice’s perfect creation, X-24, the direct clone of Logan.

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Considering this was Hugh Jackman’s last film as Logan, I was expecting more than a clone of himself as the great adversary, leaving me unimpressed.  The end of the second part crossed us with emotional loss accumulated after 17 years of wheeling adventure, the message was clear and precise, this movie was all about family relationships, from struggles to restful peace aboard the sun seeker.

The third and final act, at certain points, felt as if scenes where roughly stitched together, almost ice like when it should be water.  On the contrary, the once father and son relationship that we saw between Logan and Charles, has been reinvented with a father and daughter relationship.  Laura, not just any ordinary mutant, is Logan’s daughter.  This gave the film a new meaning, that connected us once again to our everyday lives.  As much as we work everyday for ourselves, it’s always in favor for the younger generation that carry our blood, for their continued success. Finally we arrive, North Dakota, Eden, where these “New Mutants”have taken refuge.  Preparing for the cross into Canada where Logan’s story all began, these wounds he’s suffering from are far too deep to carry on, but with salvaged resources from Transigen, and a lot of hope, the journey continues.  As the kids are ambushed by Dr. Rice, Donald, the Reavers and more importantly X-24, we are re-ignited with the screams of the Wolverine, berserker rage, with the added help of a mutant medication, severing Reavers limbs on his way to saving the children and his daughter.  For some odd reason, the scenes in the woods reminded me of Hook, an R rated version where the children came together to aid Pan, and defeat the dreadful Hook.  As I mentioned previously about the villain, I just wasn’t sold on a Wolverine clone for Hugh Jackman’s final outing.  In the least I had hoped that they could’ve dressed X-24 in the classic iconic costume as a nod,

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and for a moment I truly believed the writers and 20th Century Fox had let me, us, comic book fans down.  But soon enough I found myself bowing down to Mangold, seeing that this indeed is the perfect send off villain for Hugh Jackman, which is Wolverine, Logan, James Howlett, Weapon X, ultimately himself.  It was a direct reflection of the character, from all the previous films.  This was the battle he had been fighting everyday, and X-24 does the job the bullet was meant to do.  This closure would give meaning to Logan, his battle against all of his fears.  When your child calls you “Daddy” your life, it’s meaning, there is no need for anything more.

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All in all,  after an action packed blood bath, and no longer restricted by a PG-13 rating, we are gifted with an R rated film that in fact brings the blood, the violence, and the true grit of the character. It’s just a pity that it has taken this long, considering how good and different the movie is.

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We end on what the film ends on, a quote from 1953’s western, “SHANE” which perfectly encapsulates Logan as Shane.

Joey, there’s no living with… with a killing. There’s no going back from one. Right or wrong, it’s a brand. A brand sticks. There’s no going back. Now you run on home to your mother, and tell her… tell her everything’s all right. And there aren’t any more guns in the valley.”

No B.S. Top 10 of 2016

Here we are facing 2017 after the Bizarre & Grim realities of 2016 have passed us by.

rip-2016 *

Rife with Celebrities Deaths,

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Traumatizing Elections,

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with some of the best political satire EVER,

 

Olympic Celebrations wrapped in Highs & Lows.

But one thing for certain is that we had one of the most entertaining years at the cinema, and coming from that perspective it makes 2016 overall bittersweet.

So here is our Basic, No B.S., Gif Laden, countdown of the best of 2016 from your friends at Movie (P)Review.  We’re not going to waste your time telling you WHY these are the top 10 best of the year, we only implore that you see them as we have and trust that we enjoyed them, in this particularly ranked order.

10.

10 Cloverfield Ln (How numerically appropriate)

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9.

The Accountant

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8.

Kubo & the Two Strings

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7.

The Magnificent 7 (7 for 7, we did it again)

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6.

Star Trek Beyond

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5.

Doctor Strange

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4.

Captain America: Civil War

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3.

Arrival

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2.

Deadpool

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1.

Rogue One

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(*Courtesy of Jared Brown of Darkstream Studios)

(**via Oregon Live)

(All GIFs courtesy of Giphy)

Doctor Who: The Return of Doctor Mysterio—Good, But Not Quite Super

Look up in the sky! It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s a Tardis? Doctor Who returned, after a full-year absence, with its annual Christmas special, a rollicking superhero-themed romp through the streets of—and skies above—New York. The episode is fun, and is one of the stronger in 12th doctor Peter Capaldi’s run, although it is not quite “super” enough to be considered an all-time classic.

The episode opens with The Doctor hanging outside the window of a young boy who is obsessed with superhero comics. Through the usual Doctor Who hijinks—escalated by the comic book-y idiom of this particular episode—that young boy eventually becomes “The Ghost,” a masked vigilante who protects New York City. Many years later, the two cross paths again, as The Doctor and The Ghost battle brain-swapping aliens intent on taking over the world.

The episode is replete with superhero references, both subtle and overt, and these allusions reflect both the strengths and weaknesses of this particular Christmas special. The story is essentially a Superman parody, and some of the Superman references, both in the dialogue and visually, are extremely clever, but some of the other allusions—especially to Spider-Man and other well-known comics that really have nothing do to with the comic-book source material that directly influenced this particular story—stick out. It’s almost as if writer Steven Moffat doesn’t entirely trust his audience and wants to make sure his viewers know how clever he is.

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The episode is strongest when it deals with what Moffat calls the “superhero love triangle for two,” between The Ghost, Grant (his secret identity), and Lucy Fletcher, a reporter for The Daily Chronicle. Justin Chatwin, who plays The Ghost, and Charity Wakefield, who plays Lucy, have excellent chemistry in both halves of their relationships, and the scenes between them crackle with the perfect amount of romantic tension and dramatic irony.

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Peter Capaldi’s performance is, predictably, strong. He excels as the “older mentor” and “third wheel” in this episode, and the script is perfect for this version of The Doctor who plays better as the crazy old guy than he does as the brooding old man who has been featured in the majority of his tenure as Doctor. Now freed of the darkness of Clara’s denouement, Capaldi is able to fully embrace The Doctor’s alien nature. Unlike his two immediate predecessors, who, although eccentric, were passable, relatable humans, Capaldi’s Doctor’s maniacal otherness allows for a resolution that none of the other “new Who” doctors would have even considered. The most significant development of this year’s Christmas special may be Capaldi finally finding his Doctor’s true personality.

The extreme alien nature of The Doctor makes the companion’s role even more important than usual, and in this role, a new star has been born. Matt Lucas reprises the role of Nardole, who has, in the year since last year’s Christmas episode, been “reassembled” by The Doctor. Lucas plays the role with the perfect blend of humor and psychological insight into The Doctor’s character. He shines as the humanizing element, and his very presence foreshadows the episode’s resolution. I won’t say anymore because, well, spoilers.

The new monsters, however, are a bit disappointing. While they do possess a certain creepiness, they don’t have the screen presence of either the Tennant era Weeping Angels or the Smith era Silence. While the episode forebodes a role for them in the upcoming season, it is unlikely that they become the 12th Doctor’s signature addition to the program’s rogue gallery.

Similarly, the episode’s resolution is a bit underwhelming. Everything turns out about how it should to tie up the superhero story and prepare the viewers for the next phase of the Doctor’s journey, but this feels predictable for The Ghost and Lucy, and the big reveal for The Doctor relies heavily on prior knowledge from past episodes rather than being contained within the universe of this Christmas special. The necessity to call in UNIT to clean up the mess at the end of the episode reflects some major plot holes beyond those one would except in a typical Doctor Who episode, even one which lampoons the superhero genre.

Overall, this was a strong episode, even if it is not quite super. The excellent performances from the principal actors, along its full embrace of the superhero oeuvre, make it a lot of fun to watch. Fans will likely remember it fondly, and look forward to “The Return of  Doctor Mysterio” each year as it re-airs as part of the marathon leading up to the year’s Christmas episode.


Ari Rubin lurks in the shadows. You may have thought you saw him in the back of the bar, or going into the subway station, but when you looked back, he was gone. His fiction has appeared in Pif Magazine, Scrivener’s Pen, and The Hopper Review. His short story “White Collar Blues,” which originally appeared in Skyline, was nominated for The Carve Magazine/Mild Horse Press Online Short Story Anthology Award by the editor. He can be reached at: birdman33@gmail.com and on twitter as @thesurrealari .

The Power of the Daleks Animated: A Lost Classic Regenerated

It’s too bad that there isn’t a real TARDIS lying around some vault at the BBC. If there was, someone (a doctor perhaps) could go back in time and save the now-destroyed 60s and 70s episodes of Doctor Who, many of which are considered lost classics.

Among those episodes stranded in the void are the six that comprise the 1966 series’ fourth season serial, The Power of the Daleks. This serial has been reconstructed (regenerated?) using the original 1966 audio and newly commissioned animation. The recreated animated episodes air Saturday nights, (8:25 PM Eastern Time/7:25 Central) on BBC America.

The Power of the Daleks has long been considered one of the most important of the lost serials, as it features the first “regeneration” (called “renewal” in this serial), from the first Doctor, played by William Hartnell, to the second Doctor, played by Patrick Troughton, along with an early appearance of the titular monsters, the most famous in the show’s history.

Any attempt to reconstruct a seminal lost serial would be a big deal in The Whoniverse, bound to cause both excitement and controversy amongst the show’s fans – and there is plenty in the new animation, produced and directed by Charles Norton, to do both.

The very fact that the show exists in any watchable format is amazing, and makes the serial compulsory viewing for all Doctor Who fans. Not only does it contain the aforementioned original regeneration scene, it also gives fans a complete story featuring Troughton’s Doctor. The destruction of the 60s and 70s BBC tapes (one pictures a bunch of trashcan like monsters gliding around the BBC offices screaming, “exterminate”) hit the second Doctor particularly hard, as none of his complete serials have survived. Fans should jump at the chance to watch a complete story arc featuring this influential Doctor, who established the premise that has allowed the show to survive and adapt for over 50 years. He has also been cited by Peter Davidson, Colin Baker, Sylvester McCoy, and Matt Smith as their favorite version of the iconic character.

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The reconstruction uses the original sound recording, which survived even though the video was destroyed, so the viewer listens to Troughton’s acting, along with his companions, Polly and Ben (Anneke Wills and Michael Craze, respectively). The music and soundscapes are original, as well. What the viewer sees, however, is entirely new, and it is from there that most of the discussion—and controversy—about the reconstruction will most likely arise.

The animation, which is a combination of computer generated and hand-made elements, is decidedly low-budget. The character designs and 3D renderings, designed by Martin Geraghty and Adrian Salmon, are beautiful, and the black-and-white-retro aesthetic perfectly matches the vibe of the surviving Classic Who episodes (through a color version is available for download at the BBC store website). It is when the characters start moving, however, that the issues caused by the small budget manifest. The stop-motion-style of the character’s movement, along with certain basic animation errors that should have been caught in editing, initially takes viewers out of the experience, and provides a barrier they must overcome to fully immerse themselves in the story. For a program like Doctor Who, which already heavily relies on the willing suspension of disbelief, anything that takes its watchers out of the experience, and reinforces the idea that what they are watching is not real, is an even more serious problem than it would be for another, more realistic program, and a segment of the viewers will likely reject the recreated series right off the bat because of these flaws.

For another group of viewers, however, the simple, quirky animation will be an endearing call-back to the original, low-budget, live-action, classic Doctor Who episodes of the 60s and 70s. Let’s face it, Doctor Who—especially in the early years—was never about fancy visual effects; rather, it was about character and story. The lack of bells and whistles, slick modern animation, and anything that can remotely be considered fancy, is, in its way, true to the source material, and fans of the original program may appreciate the quirks in the animation as an authentic nostalgic throwback (whether the producers intended it that way or not).

I tend to lean toward the second reaction. After the first 10 minutes of the first episode, I stopped noticing the animation, and was able to focus on the acting and the plot. The animation did, however, hinder my focus for the first 10 minutes, and I sympathize with people who see it the other way.

The story itself is a strong one. It begins with the above-mentioned regeneration scene. The companions’ reaction to the “new” Doctor is one of mistrust and confusion. They do not know exactly what has happened (remember that this is the first regeneration in the history of the show), and the new Doctor’s propensity to refer to the old Doctor as “the Doctor” and speak of him in the third person as if he was someone else does not help their comfort level. Fans of the “New Who” shows will find much familiar here, as every regeneration in the new program echoes this original regeneration in some way. Polly and Ben’s confusion and inability to initially accept a Doctor with such different physical and personality traits reminded me particularly of Clara Oswald’s initial reaction to Peter Capaldi’s Doctor in the show’s most recent regeneration.

In the midst of this discomfort, the TARDIS has landed on Planet Vulcan (no pointy ears: apparently, Doctor Who and Star Trek both had the idea of naming a planet after the Roman fire god independently), where the new Doctor assumes the role of a recently murdered inspector from Earth. He discovers that the residents of Vulcan have found a very old space pod, and are unsure about whether to open it. Eventually, they do, and it contains—spoiler alert, but not really, since it’s in the title of the serial—Daleks. The story makes brilliant use of dramatic irony as the Doctor and the viewers know the true intent of the Daleks, while the human colonists of Vulcan do not.

The script, by David Whittaker (with an un-credited assist from Dennis Spooner) is strong, especially considering the age of the program. It is considered to be one of the strongest—if not the strongest—Classic Who serial by many fans, and it is easy to see why. It is well-plotted, suspenseful, and speaks to universal themes about human nature. Troughton is excellent as the Doctor, and the ensemble cast holds up its end of the bargain well. Of course, some of the nuances of the performance are necessarily lost both because of the animation and because there is little surviving footage on which the animators could base the lead character’s facial expressions and movements.

The pacing, however, is much slower than a typical modern television program, let alone a “new” Doctor Who episode, where the storytelling style is “don’t blink” or you’ll miss something. For fans coming to the classic material for the first time, this will necessitate some adjustment. The excellent score and soundscape helps, and, by the end of the first episode in the serial, viewers will likely get used to the “dramatic” pauses in between the dialogue.

Overall, there is a lot to like about the animated reconstruction of The Power of the Daleks. While it isn’t perfect, it is a welcome addition to the Doctor Who Canon, especially during a lean year in The Whoniverse.


Ari Rubin lurks in the shadows. You may have thought you saw him in the back of the bar, or going into the subway station, but when you looked back, he was gone. His fiction has appeared in Pif Magazine,Scrivener’s Pen, and The Hopper Review. His short story “White Collar Blues,” which originally appeared in Skyline, was nominated for The Carve Magazine/Mild Horse Press Online Short Story Anthology Award by the editor. He can be reached at: birdman33@gmail.comand on twitter as @thesurrealari .