"Gem Glow" Is Only So Bright Review

Cartoon Network's Adult Swim has come to define its programming so much that it's hard to know where something like Steven Universe fits in. Though clearly meant for a different age group, it's still consistent with the channel's well-defined ironic nostalgia for the 1980s and affinity for Japanese animation, if not its anarchic spirit. The fact that its meant for children, however, puts Universe in kind of an odd position, forcing its characters into plotlines that cry out for some kind of subversion, without ever being able to deliver.

Mar
28
2015
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Take A Swing At The "Mystery Pinata" Review

Clarence sure is a positive guy. The titular star of Clarence: Mystery Pinata, a new DVD set including 12-episodes of said show’s first season from Cartoon Network in addition to the short that launched the series, the plump little cartoon boy is a happy, friendly fellow looking to make friends and live in a world where everyone likes each other. There are no action explosions or fist-fights. Superman and the Justice League don’t make an appearance; it’s just innocent, albeit occasionally infantile, silly fun. Call it a throwback to a better time when kids thought “streaming” meant going to the creek out back.

Mar
24
2015
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"Summer Of Blood" Has Some Bite Review

Let’s be forthright, here: Onur Tukel does not look like your typical Hollywood leading man. No wonder, then, that Summer of Blood is not your typical Hollywood vampire movie (though, now that vampires are sparkly and drive Volvos, who knows what is typical anymore). The fortysomething, pudgy, graying Turkish-American is repeatedly compared to Jerry Garcia throughout this indie horror-comedy, which he wrote, directed and stars in as hapless slacker Erik Sparrow.

Sparrow is, to put it mildly, not a winner. He spends most of his dead-end sales job hitting on his coworker Penelope (Dakota Goldhor) and masturbating in the bathroom, and he turns down a marriage proposal from his beautiful, ambitious girlfriend Jody (Anna Margaret Hollyman) because he is a commitmentphobe. When Jody gets fed up and finally leaves him, it looks like Erik’s lazy, lackluster life has finally dwindled to a standstill. That is, until he becomes a vampire. Once bitten, Erik becomes a fanged sex maniac, whose thirst for women’s bodies is only equaled by his thirst for blood. Yet, despite his newfound abilities in the sack--not to mention, you know, his immortality--Erik still longs for Jody. He is also still a foul-mouthed, fast-talking and frequently offensive human being.

Mar
24
2015
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"Heartbreak Hotel" Neither Rocks Nor Rolls Review

Heartbreak Hotel advertises itself as a “rock and roll fantasy”; had it truly been that, it might have been something special. Most everything that happens in Hotel defies belief to some degree, but little of it truly feels fantastic. One can hardly blame Chris Columbus (in only his second film as director) for becoming enamored by the mythos of Elvis Presley, but his approach to king of rock and roll, like so many of them, feels minor compared to the man himself, and his legacy reduced to little more than a drawl and some cheesy catchphrases.

Mar
24
2015
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"ABCs Of Death 2" No More Appropriate To Show A Classroom Than Its Predecessor Review

Those of you who have been waiting for indie horror’s response to Edward Gorey’s The Gashlycrumb Tinies can rejoice with the release of The ABCs of Deathsequel. Just like the first, this one is a series of 26 short films, each suggested by a letter of the alphabet, and depicting at least one (you guessed it) death. Each of the segments had a different director at the helm, with a number of countries and forms represented.

Mar
20
2015
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You'll Get "Starry Eyes" For Essoe Review

Making it in show business is often portrayed as a task so difficult, one has to embrace one’s demons and throw away one’s inhibitions in order to succeed. It’s a good thing I’m not planning on getting famous any time soon, because apparently that is only possible via some sort of freaky Faustian bargain. One memorable example is Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan, in which Natalie Portman’s wannabe prima ballerina has to hallucinate and stab herself with glass before reaching the pinnacle of her talent. From what I can gather, being a great artist must be a living nightmare.

Mar
17
2015
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"Regular Show" Lives Up To Its Ambitious Title Review

There once was a student at CalArts who, it would seem, liked the louder, grating Nickelodeon shows of his ‘90s youth, favoring the hyperactive soundscape of the likes of Rocko’s Modern Life and Angry Beavers over more plot-driven, dare we say, “serious” fare for the age group like WB’s Batman and Superman cartoons. Applying to Cartoon Network’s Cartoonstitute, he won a production deal and launched Regular Show, now in its sixth season with some 180-episodes. And the show is…loud. For all the kids who stayed up late throwing Halo parties in their parents’ basements, watching Aqua Teen Hunger Force, this is another entry into the late-night, delirium cartoon, just smart enough to make adults think they’re not watching addle-minded idiocy, and definitely dumb enough to make teens think they’re not learning anything.

Mar
17
2015
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If Only Cusack Could "Reclaim" His Career Review

From the director of…an early Hugh Jackman Aussie pic entitled Erskineville Kings, and the writer of…actually, the novel and screenplay of Heath Ledger’s 2006 romantic drama, Candy, comes…this. Reclaim pairs he-must-be-so-affordable-he’s-in-every-B-action-film-now John Cusack with Aussie actress with terrifying Animal Kingdom matriarch Jacki Weaver as the initially friendly faces behind a relatively simplistic adoption scam that Americans Steven (is that Ryan Phillippe?) and Shannon (Rachel Lefevre, doing her best to bring a modicum of freshness to the film) fall for while trying to adopt a Haitian girl. The real scam, however, is thinking Hollywood is using John Cusack’s considerable talent for anything but trash these days.

Mar
17
2015
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"May" Never Finds A Home Review

Coming up on six years ago, writer/director Cherien Dabis charted the convoluted waters of her own mixed cultural heritage in festival darling Amreeka. The film followed a West Bank mother, specifically a Palestinian Christian, and her struggles to adjust after transplanting to Indiana, USA. With a win at Cannes and nominations around the world, including at Sundance and the Spirit Awards, Dabis announced to the cinematic world that she had a little-shared story to tell. And then nothing. Six years and only one short film later, she has reappeared with May in the Summer, a less effective portrait of the other half of her identity.

Mar
15
2015
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The "Boardwalk" Ends In Blood Review

After five seasons and eleven years of history, it's probably appropriate the Nucky Thompson's empire on the boardwalk vanishes as quickly as it does, but that doesn't make it any more satisfying. Hardly any talk of behind the scenes power struggles preceded this final season, but this truncated conclusion (this run is 8 episodes instead of the usual 12) still feels like a compromise. It's a shame, because what makes it to the screen is as strong as anything Boardwalk Empire has shown us before; cinematic, sad, and just the tiniest bit wistful for a brief, odd period in our past. But more than that, it marshalls its numerous storylines and characters back around to where we first began, suggesting that a show that was frequently accused of being little more than an opportunity to hang out in TV's most beautiful dollhouse actually knew what it was doing all this time.

Mar
11
2015
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