Arya Ponto

Contributor

As former Editor of JPP, Arya likes to entertain peeps with his thoughts on pop culture, when he's not busy watching Battle Royale for the 200th time. He lives in Brooklyn with a comic book collection that's always the most daunting thing to move with, and writes for Artboiled.com.

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"Battleship" Sinks Into the Deep Blu Sea Review

If you're anything like the makers of Battleship, then you must have watched Michael Bay's Transformers movies and thought to yourself, "Gee, this is great, but I wish they would cut out Optimus Prime, Bumblebee and all the Autobots out of the movie so I can just watch the evil alien robots fight the US military." If so, then boy, have they got the movie for you! Battleship doesn't have the usual chosen saviors or a key-to-defeating-the-enemy MacGuffin. Its uniformed heroes rely on nothing but real-life American military armaments to defeat its highly advanced extra-terrestrial foes, as implausible as that sounds. It is less a movie based on a children’s game and more accurately military porn.

Aug
29
2012
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In "ParaNorman," the Only Thing to Fear is Ignorance Review

When we are being introduced to the daily life of ParaNorman’s supernaturally blessed boy hero, the film uses the language of gay bullying to portray him as an outcast. Norman’s father just wishes he would be normal like other boys and advises him to hide the thing that makes him different, kids at school write the F word on his locker (freak), and neighbors warn their kids not to get too close to him. At one point, after a particular bout of embarrassment, his mother comforts him with the now familiar mantra of “It gets better.”

It seemed crass at first, to so very casually co-opt a very real issue as just a way to paint your hero as an outsider, but that’s before the film unveils bullying as the important theme that runs throughout the entire story, even figuring heavily into the resolution. More specifically—and impressively—the film sees past bullying as a thing in itself and tries to get into the mindset behind it, which is at its core prejudice and persecution. And just to prove that they take their message of tolerance seriously, the film casually drops in a gay character at the very end, almost like a punctuation mark. As an anti-bullying thesis, ParaNorman might be more effective than the much-praised-yet-problematic documentary Bully from earlier this year.

Aug
17
2012
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Art for Movie Geeks: "Crazy 4 Cult" Opens in New York

Gallery1988, the art gallery dedicated to exhibiting works of art related to pop culture, has opened a pop-up gallery here in New York City for the first time as part of their annual Crazy 4 Cult exhibition. The moderately-sized gallery opened with a packed reception Thursday evening (I stood in line for slightly over an hour waiting to get in) and is now open for public.

With “cult” being an umbrella descriptor of the movies referenced, the inspirations vary. Considering the target audience of pop culture-obsessed collectors, it should not be a surprise that the movies most referenced by numerous artworks are the usual suspects of Twin Peaks, Back to the Future, The Goonies, Shaun of the Dead and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Every once in a while, though, you see a lonely soul, like an illustration that pays tribute to Freddy Got Fingered.

Aug
11
2012
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"The Bourne Legacy" is Really Just a Bourne Side Story Review

From the “Legacy” in the title, you would think that Jeremy Renner would follow the footsteps of Matt Damon’s Jason Bourne somehow, even if it is as this new character Aaron Cross. Instead, he sidesteps and inhabits what is essentially a minor character who could have been in the previous movie, but was unseen, and now we’re finally getting his story. Why? I have no idea, because not only are the events in The Bourne Legacy mostly inconsequential to the series mythology, the movie doesn’t even have a story of its own.

It’s a baffling movie because it piggybacks on The Bourne Ultimatum’s plot. The two movies are supposed to take place simultaneously, with this being the side-story during Jason Bourne’s takedown of the CIA. Essentially, director Tony Gilroy (who wrote the previous movies) thought that the best way to move the series forward is to turn a half-baked subplot into its own movie, five years later. Brilliant.

Aug
08
2012
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"Ruby Sparks" is the Manic Pixie Dream Girl's Nightmare Review

It’s strange to describe a film that starts so earnestly and sells its leads with such twee as vicious, but it seems appropriate here given where the story's headed. The fact that Ruby Sparks viciously tumbles down a dark hole in its second half isn’t exactly out of left field, but the foreshadowing at the beginning does require you to recognize that the premise of a dream woman being created by a man is not a whimsical fantasy as it is inherently creepy. The film reminded me, on more than one occasion, of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer villain Warren, who created his own perfect robot girlfriend and later a Buffy sexbot for Spike, the whole plot being Joss Whedon’s venting of his intense hatred for Weird Science, which he finds deeply sexist and offensive. What saves Ruby Sparks from its own premise is its willingness to address that sexism and actually morally follow it through.

Ruby (Zoe Kazan, who also wrote the screenplay) is not a robot, but the manifestation of a one-hit wonder novelist Calvin (Paul Dano), who through unexplained magic finds the literal dream girl he’s basing his sophomore novel around suddenly alive in his home, is everything he wrote her to be, and believes herself to be his. Not wanting to look a gift horse in the mouth, Calvin sets aside his typewriter and enjoys his new girlfriend.

Aug
03
2012
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20 Batman Stories Most Influential to "The Dark Knight" Trilogy

When Christopher Nolan rebooted the then-inert Batman franchise in 2005, his task was herculean, but his goal was simple: make a Batman movie that's actually informed by the Batman comics that fans love. Previous Batman movies were handled by people who didn't have much affection towards Batman comics, let alone respect (Tim Burton infamously said you'd never catch him reading a comic book, while Joel Schumacher's familiarity seemed to be limited to the Adam West TV show).

Whether or not Nolan was a big Batman reader before he took over the series is hard to say, but it's pretty clear from the movies that he did some meticulous researching. It helped that in plotting the movies, he enlisted the aid of screenwriter David S. Goyer, a comic book geek who has written a few comics for DC himself. The two of them looked at a bundle of Batman comics to inform their take, some heavily and some peripherally. Here are twenty that we think are the most pertinent when it comes to Nolan's end result.

CAUTION: Major spoilers for all three movies and some minor spoilers for the comics ahead. This is your one and only warning!

Jul
25
2012
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Bucking Its Predecessor, "The Dark Knight Rises" Forges Its Own Shape for a Fitting Ending Review

One of the things that I’ve learned to appreciate over the past several years from multiple rewatches is how strikingly different The Dark Knight is from Batman Begins. They had the exact same people working on them, but they feel like individual films visually, tonally—and if you can argue it, philosophically—as opposed to cohesive parts of an obvious series the way other one-man-helmed trilogies like The Lord of the Rings or Transformers are.

Despite the title, The Dark Knight Rises is not going to be the same movie as The Dark Knight, so fans expecting it to match the anarchic energy of the previous film will find themselves wanting. It doesn’t, and it shouldn’t. It is, however, an absolute beast of a movie that forges a completely new look and pace that fit the story it’s telling better. There’s a sense of elegance and heroic romanticism to the movie that was not present in The Dark Knight’s mean streets morality play. Rises is bigger and more sentimental, with a fittingly operatic finish. Batman often refers to Gotham as “my city” in a manner more like a proprietor than a resident, and it’s not until this film that his claim of ownership rings true.

Jul
20
2012
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Ten Lessons Learned at Comic-Con 2012

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Another year at Comic-Con, another set of lessons learned. Once again, I’m recapping the event with the top ten things I’ve learned from the convention during this year’s stay.

Overall, it was a great Con. A big improvement over last year’s. For one thing, Disney and Marvel came crawling back after abandoning San Diego in favor of their own expo last year. There was also some terrific scheduling, with the big TV and movie panels designated to rooms and time of day that felt appropriate, unlike last year. Here are some of the highlights.

Jul
18
2012
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"Batman: The Animated Series" Actors Remake "Dark Knight Rises" Trailer for Batman Marathon

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The Friday, the highly-anticipated The Dark Knight Rises finally hits theaters, but for those of you who will opt to stay at home on release day, cable channel The Hub is doing a Batman: The Animated Series marathon to mark the occasion, with classic episodes that tie into the movie trilogy. Even better? The Hub rounded up the old voice actors from the show to record dialogue from the Dark Knight Rises trailer and set it to clips of the show. The result is pretty awesome.

Jul
18
2012
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COMIC-CON 2012: Saturday Panels Liveblog Archive

thehobbit

Archive of my realtime updates and photos from the liveblog of the San Diego Comic-Con 2012 Saturday panels.

Included on Saturday are heavy hitters like Django Unchained, Pacific Rim, Godzilla, The CampaignMan of Steel, The Hobbit, future Marvel movies and Iron Man 3.

Jul
15
2012
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COMIC-CON 2012: Friday Panels Liveblog Archive

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Archive of my realtime updates and photos from the liveblog of the San Diego Comic-Con 2012 Friday panels.

Included on Friday are mostly TV panels for Community, The Legend of Korra, Firefly, Bones, Arrow, a discussion of Powerful Women in Pop Culture, Joss Whedon spotlight, and Breaking Bad.

Jul
14
2012
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COMIC-CON 2012: Thursday Panels Liveblog Archive

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Archive of my realtime updates and photos from the liveblog of the San Diego Comic-Con 2012 Thursday panels.

Included on Thursday are panels for Tim Burton's Frankenweenie, Sam Raimi's Oz the Great and Powerful, Disney's Wreck-It Ralph, Gore Verbinsky's The Lone Ranger, Jackie Chan's Chinese 12 Zodiac and The Expendables 2.

Jul
13
2012
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COMIC-CON 2012: Liveblog

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It's another year of Comic-Con, and here we are again for the biggest pop culture gathering on the planet, where we'll be reporting from Wednesday to Sunday. I'll be providing running commentary for all the sights and panels I see, which you can follow from this page.

Jul
11
2012
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COMIC-CON 2012: Things to Look Out For

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Another year, another headache in trying to figure out your Comic-Con schedule and making it work (#NerdWorldProblems). I leave for San Diego on Wednesday morning and my head is already half-bald from tearing my hair in frustration over which panels to sacrifice this time. One of these days that cloning technology will be mine.

For those of you on the same boat, I present a guide that might be helpful to consider. Here are some of the more interesting things happening at the Con this year both on and off site that you might want to put on the priority list, if you haven't already.

Jul
09
2012
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For the Cast and Crew of "Beasts of the Southern Wild," Taking Risks Paid Off

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6-year-old Quvenzhané Wallis—or Nazie as she’s usually called by those who know her—has been receiving a lot of attention lately due to her breakout role in the new film Beasts of the Southern Wild. In it, Nazie plays an adventurous girl named Hushpuppy, who undergoes a triumphant coming-of-age during a turbulent period in her life and the Louisiana bayou community she lives in. Hushpuppy is explosive and commanding, with a scowl to crack a grown man’s confidence. Quite a difference from the reserved girl in a dress who was sipping a can of soft drink through a straw in front of me a couple of weeks ago.

“I don’t relate to her but I do relate to her,” Nazie told me during our interview. “[I have] animals but she has more animals. She gets to explore the world, I get to explore the world, but she gets to explore it more.”

“And she doesn’t wear pants. I’m wearing them now. That’s something we don’t have in common.”

Jul
06
2012
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"Beasts of the Southern Wild" is a Contemporary Myth with a Timeless Soul Review

The pre-credits scene of Beasts of the Southern Wild, introducing us to the off-the-grid bayou community it’s set in, is essentially a montage of the exuberant joy and zest for life that for many define the spirit of that part of Louisiana. By the time we see Hushpuppy, the little girl who narrates and headlines the film as played by six-year-old Quvenzhané Wallis, run through a field with fireworks sparking gloriously on each side, the film’s title smashing onto the screen and the uplifting theme song reaching a peak, we already know how specially designed the tone of the film is going to be and what kind of inspirational zeal it’s going to carry.

“They gonna know,” said Hushpuppy, referring to future kind. “Once there was a girl named Hushpuppy, and she lived with her daddy in The Bathtub.” It’s freakishly infectious. No matter how somber the film gets as it progresses, there’s always that promise of the unbeatable spirit on display from the opening.

Jun
27
2012
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Another Year of Great Asian Cinema at the 2012 NYAFF/Japan Cuts

New York’s premiere showcase of Asian films comes back again this week with the annual tandem of Subway Cinema’s New York Asian Film Festival and Japan Society’s Japan Cuts. As with last year, the month-long festivities begin with NYAFF screenings at Lincoln Center this Friday, then goes into crossover days from July 12-15 with films co-presented by both festivals, before finishing up with Japan Cuts screenings at Japan Society in Manhattan that will close on July 28.

Last year’s was one of the best fests I’ve ever attended, and this year promises to be just as amazing, with incredible guests like Donnie Yen and Choi Min-sik in attendance.

Jun
26
2012
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Seeking Something New to Say in This "End of the World" Review

The most surprising thing about Seeking a Friend for the End of the World is that it's darker than you'd expect it to be. Steve Carrell occasionally wanders into dramedy territory whenever the indie bug bites him, but it doesn't seem fit to call this even that. What little funny bits it has seem grafted onto the script when the production snagged all these comedians to do one-minute cameos, whereas the script takes itself and its set ending—the titular end of the world—with more seriousness than it can probably manage to hoist up.

After that initial surprise, the rest of the film is on autopilot, going through the motions of the meet-cute of the boy and the girl ("I won't steal anything if you promise not to rape me" is the obligatory quirky-first-impression line in this case) and the pretension of resistance. In other words, it's another one of those romance films where the audience already knows way before the characters do what they really want, and the length of the film is just spent waiting for them to get a clue and catch up to the rest of us.

Jun
23
2012
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Fatal Pictures' "Familiar" Turns Ill Thoughts into Horror

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John, the lead in Familiar, has a problem that feels, well, familiar. We've all had a nagging voice in our head before, and though they rarely come in persuasive monologues—and hopefully, don't involve harming your own family—the urges that that voice nurtures can sometimes be... questionable. Thankfully, to most of us the voice is fleeting, and we often convince ourselves that those thoughts come from somewhere alien. A fluke. A passing whimsy. Surely they are not our own, good people that we are? Familiar puts that defense to the test: what if it does come from somewhere else? Is it more or less terrifying to know that there's a foreign entity residing in our mind, feeding us bad thoughts?

This short film written and directed by has been making the rounds at various horror festivals and gaining much accolade from those who've seen it (it just won Best Short at this year’s Chicago Fear Fest). Producer Zach Green of Fatal Pictures was kind enough to show me the film, and this little horror movie proves to be every bit as effective as its reputation say it is.

Jun
12
2012
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Getting to Know French Pedophiles and Their Foes in "Polisse" Review

Actress, writer and director Maiwenn delivers in Polisse what is essentially a scripted docudrama about the daily lives of a Parisian police squad specializing in cases where the victims are children (the title isn’t French for “police,” it’s an intentional child-like misspelling of it). They are a unit that’s derisively treated as glorified babysitters by other divisions because they often double as social workers. Lecturing mothers on how to handle their babies and calling shelters to place a homeless kid are just as much a part of their job description as slapping around pedophiles and raiding a pickpocket ring.

Polisse burns through over a dozen cases in its 127 minute running time, providing a full spectrum of what the Child Protection Unit does. To add to the realism, all the ones featured are based on true life cases that Maiwenn compiled during her time embedded with an actual Child Protection Unit, during which she observed their day-to-day, not at all unlike the character she plays in the film.

Jun
07
2012
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