The Problems with "Ray Donovan" Are Solved By Season's End Review

I’m not ashamed to admit that after watching the first two episodes of Ray Donovan when the series initially premiered on Showtime that I tuned out and never looked back. Despite being a Liev Schreiber fan, the show’s premise—a fixer who can fix everyone’s problems but his own—seemed a little too cutesie, and the writing and characterization felt like it was trying a bit too hard to be the next The Sopranos. So when Showtime sent us the first season for review, I decided that I’d give the show a second chance instead of trying to pawn it off. I’m glad I did. Ray Donovan, like a few other notable shows, takes a while to find its footing as it walks a delicate line with a number of social topics (not the least of which is pedophilia by Catholic priests) and starts off with a few broad characterizations before finally deciding to settle in and flesh out some of the key supporting characters. At which point, Ray Donovan becomes Showtime’s best series, hands down.

Oct
30
2014
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Just Ignore What The "Ouija" Board Tells You Review

Hasbro’s Hollywood wing, the machine founded (and thriving) on the principle that people would pay them to watch three hour commercials for its products, has likely heard the adage that there’s nothing new under the sun; indeed, they seem to keep it that way. With Ouija, they respond with one of their own: if I haven’t seen it, it’s new to me. It may not be possible to measure or detail the degree to which Ouija marauds its horror predecessors, and anyone in a position to do so would likely get too disheartened to finish. But that person would also develop a grudging, cynical respect for this film’s producers, and the way that they pitch this amalgamation of clichés at people who are likely not familiar with them in the first place.

Oct
28
2014
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"Birdman," "Once Upon a Time," and More Highlights From NYCC - Friday

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Friday at New York Comic Con is over, and wow, it was a busy day! On the main stage, there was ABC’s Once Upon a Time, as well as Michael Keaton and Edward Norton’s new film Birdman. Meanwhile, “Women of Color in Comics: Race, Gender and the Comic Book Medium” was at full capacity (and then some!), and it definitely did not disappoint with a wide variety of artists, writers, and creators. Here are the highlights from Friday, including a preview of Michael Keaton and Edward Norton's new film Birdman, social justice superheroes, and great cosplay from New York Comic Con!

Oct
23
2014
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A Good Cast Can't Get "Cuban Fury" Back on the Beat Review

Of the trio who gave us Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, and The World’s End, only Nick Frost has really had a hard time creating a name for himself on his own. Simon Pegg has appeared in the Star Trek and Mission Impossible series, while Edgar Wright has given us Scott Pilgrim vs. The World and was attached to Marvel’s Ant Man until he wasn't. By contrast, Nick Frost hasn’t had much opportunity to create a name for himself stateside, though he’s had a fair bit of success as the lead in the rather funny Sky TV series Mr. Sloane. For Frost, Cuban Fury was supposed to be his chance to prove his leading man chops. He succeeds, but unfortunately it’s in a rather predictable dance comedy that’s oddly light on both dance and comedy. Nick Frost could easily become a big name for comedy lovers in America, but if it’s ever going to happen, he’s going to need something better than James Griffith’s lukewarm Cuban Fury.

Oct
23
2014
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"On My Way" To Nowhere Special Review

As the Cohen Media Group continues to roll out every French film (ever made) on Blu-ray, we are presented with the charming “road” film On My Way. Starring iconic French actress Catherine Deneuve, the film follows her late-life crisis road trip as she pursues a change. Still an incredible beauty, Deneuve is the perfect actress to bring aging Bettie to life.

A lot in Bettie’s life is not going quite right. Her restaurant is under threat from the bank. She is estranged from her daughter Muriel (Camille) and her grandson Charly (Nemo Schiffman). And her longtime affair with a married man has imploded when he finally files for divorce so he can be with his much younger lover. (In a highly amusing scene we learn that Bettie met her lover when he performed surgery on her own husband who had a heart attack while having an affair with the doctor’s wife—the man she tells the story to is not as amused as I was, however.) Facing all these difficulties, she hops in her car and drives away.

Oct
22
2014
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"Star Trek" Goes Stylishly Where Some Men Have Been Already Review

Star Trek: The Compendium is a snazzy little box set presenting the JJ Abrams Star Trek films on Blu-ray. This an extensive dive into the films with hours upon hours of special features and audio commentaries to give you the fullest possible picture of what went into the making of these films and how. With the third installment not due until 2016, this Compendium shall suffice to abate your hunger for more Star Trek.

JJ Abrams’ reboot of Star Trek in 2009 brought the franchise into 21st century in the biggest way possible. He re-establishes the beloved world of Starfleet while still paying due homage to the original series (going so far as to include the original Spock, or “Spock Prime,” Leonard Nimoy—whose incorporation into the film actually allows for the original series to exist in an alternate universe in true Abrams fashion). It’s an engaging, fast-paced, beautiful film that succinctly tells the origin stories of our two Trek heroes Kirk (Chris Pine) and Spock (Zachary Quinto). Never having seen anything Star Trek beforehand, the film is full of familiar names (Vulcan) and terms (The Kobayashi Maru) that everyone has been exposed to from their consumption of pop culture in general (specifically via sitcoms).

Oct
22
2014
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You Didn't Remember Incorrectly, the Best Thing About "Denver" is Its Theme Song Review

Sometimes nostalgia blinds us and prevents us from seeing substandard things from our childhood for what they are, but sometimes we remember things correctly. For example, as a kid, I had my parents rent (what was apparently just) the pilot episode of Denver, the Last Dinosaur over and over again, mostly because I liked the theme song. The cartoon was pretty bland, even by cheap 80s and 90s cartoon standards, with incredibly stereotypical characters delivering after-school special-style lessons under the pretext of having a dinosaur for a best friend. Denver, the Last Dinosaur can never really be considered good, it’s just silly and predictably safe, but for most parents that’s exactly what they want for their kids.

Oct
22
2014
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'Arrow' Sets a High Bar for Superhero TV Shows Review

While Smallville still holds the record for the longest TV show based on a DC character, it was surpassed in about every other way by Arrow in just two seasons. If the series’ first season did a pretty good job of introducing the character of Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) and his arrow-slinging alter ego while balancing simultaneous storylines of his survival on a remote island with his return from the dead in Starling City. It established some long-term and short-term villains, looked at the difficulty arising from living two lives, and it started the slow build of the second season’s primary villain: Deathstroke. With that setup courtesy of the first season, the second season starts off sprinting and rarely ever lets up despite the introduction of a number of important characters and backdoor spin-off pilot for CW’s new DC show, The Flash. Arrow is a perfect example of just how good junk food television can be.

Oct
22
2014
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Thrilling Adventure Hour, Cary Elwes, and More Highlights from NYCC – Sunday

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Sunday is the last day of New York Comic Con, and in the past, it has been a more leisurely day without many big panels or events. 2014 has been a year for defying expectations, however, as Sunday morning started with John Hodgman, Paget Brewster, Mac Evan Jackson, and the rest of the cast of the Thrilling Adventure Hour making a major announcement about the future of the show, and it ended with Cary Elwes telling stories about the making of The Princess Bride. Read on for all the highlights, quotes, and best cosplay outfits from Sunday!

Oct
22
2014
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"Spartacus" Leads A Slave Revolt Against Good Taste Review

If anyone tries to sell you on the exquisite performances or stellar craftsmanship of Spartacus: The Complete Series, don’t trust their judgment on anything. If, however, they pitch it as one of the greatest guilty pleasures of recent years, rife with ample gore, relentless male and female nudity and sex, juicy soap opera plotlines, and the guarantee of pure brain candy enjoyment, then take their word for it. Spartacus is exactly that; an addictive four-season CGI-laden period epic following one of the greatest slave rebellion’s in man’s history. It also isn’t inaccurate to say that while other shows and creators slowly warm up to tackling some of the hot button issues of our times, namely homosexual relationships, Spartacus brazenly and uncompromisingly leaves it all on the table. Don’t be fooled; hidden behind the skimpy loin clothes and relentless carnage, there is one of the most mischievously progressive shows TV has ever seen.

Oct
21
2014
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