Jason Ratigan

Staff Writer

A lawyer-turned-something-else with a strong appreciation for film and television.  He knows he can't read every great book ever written, but seeing every good movie ever made is absolutely doable.  Check out his other stuff on Wordpress.

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Life Inside the Animated "Superjail!" is Pretty Messed Up Review

“You’re late.”  “For?”  “For role-playing fetish night.”

Superjail! (2007-) has somehow made itself to a third season and humanity continues to suffer.  If Christy Karacas’s endless montage of stupid violence has an audience, it is almost certainly heavily medicated.  In fact, illicit drug use may go some way to explain both the audience and the content of the show.  The many and varied ways in which the inmates of Superjail are slaughtered would be impressive if the boundless imagination weren’t spent on mayhem.  Fever dream is an overused term, but if it ever applies, it applies to Superjail!  The tiniest thread of a story ties an episode together less so than the last image of any sequence (which is usually an inmate’s face being ripped off).

Aug
11
2013
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"The Bronte Sisters" Have Never Been Frencher Review

You must publish that poem. You must!

Representing the writing process is notoriously difficult. Writing is an internal event that takes time and, to an outside observer, is quite boring. That is the kind of thing you’d find in a "how-to" book on screenwriting. After seeing Les soeurs Brontë (1979) (The Brontë Sisters), one might have a small pause before agreeing. Director André Téchiné (with Pascal Bonitzer and Jean Gruault) approached the task by performing scenes from the authors’ lives that find their way into the famous novels (much like Shakespeare In Love (1998)). Emily (Isabelle Adjani), Charlotte (Marie-France Pisier), and Anne (Isabelle Huppert) all wrote about brooding, quiet lives in the cold, hard north of England.

Aug
06
2013
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"Peggy Sue Got Married" but Never Lost Her Appeal Review

I’m pushing away from this bourgeois table. ‘No more Jell-O for me Mom!’

The back cover of Peggy Sue Got Married (1986) describes the film as a “romantic comedy”.  That’s a bit of a stretch. There’s some comedy, certainly, but romance?  Perhaps it’s indoctrination, but I’ve always understood romantic comedies to glorify romance.  Peggy Sue Got Married tests romance for a hundred minutes and then gives it three minutes of grudging approval.  I’d say romance got a ‘gentleman’s C’ out of the trial.  That goes for most of the larger ambitions of Peggy Sue Got Married.  The attempt to capture the dilemma of a modern woman, the mores of the early 60’s, and the broad sweep of a small community through time using only two small data points are almost entirely successful when you give it the gimme.  Close enough.  The key and lock imagery from the cover is still a mystery, though.

Jul
29
2013
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A Lack of Detail Sabotages the Efforts of "Rebel" Review

There are times I forget who I’m supposed to be.

Rebel (2013) is a documentary through PBS recounting the story of Loreta Velazquez (Romi Dias), a woman who dressed as a man and fought in the Civil War.  Velazquez was a Cuban immigrant to New Orleans where she was raised to be a woman of high-ish society.  But, against her father’s wishes, she marries a white American soldier and has a family.  When that family dies one by one, Velazquez takes up her dead husband’s uniform—a Confederate uniform—and joins the war as an officer.  Various academics in history and Women’s Studies provide the historical context to the occasionally reenacted tale as provided in Velazquez’s memoir The Woman in Battle (1876).

Jul
29
2013
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"The Life After Death Project" Will Re-Affirm Your Beliefs, Whatever They Might Be Review

There are aspects that are unexplained.

Sometimes, things happen that seem inexplicable. The bell chimes for the first time in years, a feather appears as though from nowhere, and computers act strangely. The scientific method is at least 400 years old and yet people still fall foul of classic logical fallacies. Post hoc ergo propter hoc, “after this, therefore because of this,” is on full display in The Life After Death Project as well as conflating correlation with causation. Writer/director/producer/star Paul Davids correlates his friendship with Forrest J Ackerman with all kinds of odd goings on in his life and that of some mutual acquaintances.

Jul
24
2013
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The New "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" Appeals to Fans Young and Old Review

What happened?  Donny got beat up by a lab monkey.

The cover of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Enter Shredder (2012) does not inspire confidence.  The art looks like something off of an authorized game for a bad sci-fi movie.  Go on IGN.com or something and search the titles of your favorite sci-fi films and you’ll see what I mean.  It just looks really cheap.  That’s understandable since it’s a sometimes weekly Nickelodeon program—the air dates have been erratic this year—which is clearly banking on the power of the TMNT property.  Perhaps that’s unfair since the show is voiced by Sean Astin (Raphael) and Jason Biggs (Leonardo) and that must have cost something.

Jul
16
2013
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The Reverential Satire of "Portlandia" Continues in Season 3 Review

Theirs works, but ours… is natural.

Portlandia (2011-), for those of you unfortunate enough to be a day more ignorant than me, is a sketch comedy show set in Portland about Portland.  Portlandia is in the vein of Little Britain (2003) and Kroll Show (2013) where there’s a universe of regular characters and couples (Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein) that can, sometimes, interact with the other characters and couples.  This stretches the definition of “sketch comedy” to some degree, but that’s not really a constructive semantic discussion.  The only important questions are ‘Is it funny?’ and ‘Is it funny?’  The answer is often yes to the first question and sometimes no to the second question. 

Jul
12
2013
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Abbie Cornish's "Girl" has Many Redeeming Qualities Review

It ain’t my fault your momma didn’t hold onto you.

In 1961, after the success of the film Psycho (1960), Alfred Hitchcock needed a new leading lady that could match the sophistication of Grace Kelly, and he saw Abbie Cornish, a poor Texas woman making money as a coyote …wait.  Abbie Cornish? I’m sorry, I was confusing the 2012 TV movie The Girl with the 2012 indie drama The Girl.  Strangely enough, and this is without sarcasm, the Hitchcock story starring Sienna Miller and Toby Jones completely overshadowed the indie award-baiting story about redemption. Perhaps it’s because the latter Girl feels so much like something the couple dozen viewers had already seen before.  A bit like Safe (2012) and Man on Fire (2004) without the gunplay—actually the only movies that come to mind are thrillers and this is definitely not a thriller.  Big Daddy (1999)? It certainly isn’t a comedy.  There’s definitely a movie or a dozen movies where the hero almost leaves the kid behind, but turns back just before it’s too late.  It’ll come to me.

Jul
12
2013
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Halle Berry Hits All the Right Buttons for "The Call" Review

It’s already done.

How many of us saw Halle Berry’s hair in the trailer for The Call (2013) and thought, “Is this a period piece?”  Berry’s had a tough career since Monster's Ball (2001), when Catwoman (2004) showed itself to be a punch line, just about destroying the idea of her as a leading lady.  So, when those curly locks showed themselves, it looked like one more riff on a bad joke.  But the box office was more forgiving than I and The Call made back its budget and then some on the opening weekend.  After watching The Call on Blu-ray, I’d say that audiences were right.  The Call is a thrilling tale of kidnap and high-speed investigation.  Yes, the tagline can be paraphrased to unironically proclaim “This time, it’s personal”, but at least no one calls for Berry to give up her badge and her gun.  Maybe that’s because she doesn’t have one.

Jun
24
2013
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The Living Corpse's "Amazing Adventures" Are Anything But Review

Dad, please don’t let them eat me.

So, this guy kills his wife and his daughter, but when his son is surrounded by other zombies, John Romero (Michael Villar), the undead guy, grows a conscience.  Soon after, Asteroth (Marshal Hilton), a guide for the undead, explains that he has a conscience, brings him to the underworld where John looks for answers.  They aren’t there, they’re somewhere else, so he has to go there.  Oh, and he needs to eat some delicious brains.  Meanwhile, Taylor (Emrys Wright), the boy, has been placed in a weird boarding school for no apparent reason—oh, but there are reasons—where he’s terrorized by a few bullies and faculty.  And then there’s the mad scientist (C.J. Baker).

Jun
24
2013
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Political Drama "No" Both Informs and Entertains Review

We’re going to get rid of Pinochet.

In 1988, fifteen years after a western-backed coup-d’état of September 11, 1973, those same western powers put pressure on the Pinochet government to hold a plebiscite.  [Wikipedia tells a slightly different story.]  No (2012), directed by Pablo Larraín, covers the campaign-side of this plebiscite, with an emphasis on the No campaign. In the intervening years, the right-wing dictatorship was responsible for massive human rights violations for disappearances, assassinations, torture, political imprisonment, harassment, and, of course, censorship. To give the opposition a fighting chance, and themselves a veil of legitimacy, each side was given fifteen minutes of airtime a day for twenty-seven days before the vote.  That doesn’t include the remaining 23.5 hours for state-run (aka Pinochet-run) television news to frame the story how they’d like.  Then there’s the justifiable belief that the whole thing might be rigged. The plebiscite had a single question on the ballot: Will Pinochet remain in office for a further eight years, Yes or No? 

Jun
23
2013
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Revel in the Oddity and Visuals of "American Mary" Review

Do you want to make five grand?

Seeing a movie win Best Picture at Screamfest doesn’t really raise the expectations of a movie.  If anything, the opposite is the case.  There are two kinds of people in the world for the purposes of this sentence, people who love horror and people who don’t.  I live firmly in the latter category.  I don’t understand how they get made.  The dialogue in these movies is painfully juvenile most of the time, the acting no better, and the technical work put together as if at random.  How oddly satisfying to find American Mary (2012), which, though flawed at many times in many ways, actually resembles a movie that a genre cable channel would be proud to promote.  Then again, I’m a sucker for classical music in soundtracks.

Jun
22
2013
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"Chandelier Status" Is Still More Than Sommore Can Hope For Review

“We are living in a celebrity obsessed society.”

There isn’t a lot of stuff I can quote from this show.  A chandelier, according to Sommore, is a permanent fixture. It doesn’t chase the fame like a celebrity, she doesn’t shine like a star. She just hangs there and people wonder how much electricity they burn by having her around. Also she’s gaudy, but ultimately useless. I think that’s what she means. She’s a gold-digger, she does a lot of things like a mother****r, and I think she might have Parkinsons. On the flip side, she isn’t tasteful, she isn’t insightful, and she definitely isn’t funny. I’ll give her one or two jokes, but the rest of it was a catalog of stupidity and insensitivity. 

Jun
18
2013
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"Hansel & Gretel" Better Keep Hunting Review

"One, never walk into a house made of candy.  Two, if you’re gunna kill a witch, set her ass on fire."

Mo witches, mo problems.  Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters (2013) was announced right around the time that the two Seth Grahame-Smith novels, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies began its development process and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (2012) was in trailers.  Then the latter adaptation was completely destroyed by critics and soured expectations for Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters (though completely unrelated to the Grahame-Smith adaptations).  I was intrigued by the trailer but was only able to catch it just recently with the recently released Blu-ray/3D/DVD set.  Was this a grand new take on the classic tale we all kind of know and tolerate or was it as silly as Dusk 'til Dawn (1997) with a Grimm veneer.

Jun
18
2013
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"The Philadelphia Experiment" Fails and Not Even Spectacularly Enough to be Entertaining Review

I have redefined the battlefield for the 21st century.

Of all the mysteries in this universe, bad actors cast in low-budget movies is one that never loses its depth or variety. Here’s a completely unsubstantiated hypothesis on the subject.  In the United States, the center of theater is in New York while the movie industry is in Los Angeles. In the UK, the center for both theater and movies is in London. The same is probably true in every western European country. Thus, in those countries, whatever acting talent the country holds can be found where the movies are being made.  It’s either that or American casting directors are nepotistic hacks who don’t know talent when it walks up and slaps them in the face. The Philadelphia Experiment (2012), a science fiction film of decent premise and technical design, couldn’t find a single diamond in the rough of starving actors and is left with the script and CGI bearing the weight of the film. Sufficed to say, it collapsed. I know this is from the SyFy channel, but that's no excuse.

Jun
13
2013
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"Just Like Being There" Forgets to Make Any Real Point Review

A gig poster has turned into something more than a gig poster.

What is a gig poster?  It’s an advertisement for a gig. After the show, you have this poster as a memory of the show, the band, and a historical artifact. You’ve probably seen posters in a Hard Rock Café or similarly themed restaurant for Stones or Hendrix gigs. Those are usually pretty functional, but in the early 1990’s a group of awkward rock nerds used their artistic proclivities to make a different kind of gig poster. Using screen printing, they could design and reproduce stylized posters that would, they hoped, reflect the band and their music. Just Like Being There (2012) is a documentary interviewing these craftsmen/artists and their place in the rock scene (backed by a number of alternative bands like Spoon, Mogwai, Nada Surf, Ted Leo, and others).

Jun
08
2013
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"Monsuno" Is A Mystery Wrapped Up Inside A Riddle Wrapped Up Inside A Backstory Review

Charger, ram it!

In this series of Monsuno (2012), Chase (Cam Clarke) is in the mountains after something dramatic happened in the prior series and he’s still after his dad. The agency S.T.O.R.M. is still after him and they don’t seem to mind shooting at these kids. Now he’s got Beyal (Kirk Thornton), a kind of mystic, helping him along with Bren (Christopher Smith) and Jinja (Karen Strassman) and of course Chase’s giant bear Monsuno monster DNA thing Lock. In fact, everyone has a Monsuno monster with varying skills. Chase has to deal with Klipse an evil Monsuno scientist who used to work with Chase’s father. Add to that, a new teenage Monsuno owner, Dax (Keith Silverstein), is a Han Solo, chaotic good sort. And for some reason, Monsuno battles decide something. 

Jun
03
2013
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Step Into "The Bletchley Circle"-You Won't Be Sorry Review

When this is over won’t we have to be ordinary?

The history of women in wartime espionage is an interesting one. Women of extreme competence were brought into MI:5, British internal security and counterespionage department, for clerical positions or other areas of need that couldn’t be filled by men needed on the battlefield during the World Wars. This was true of Bletchley Park, the headquarters for British code-breaking of communication intercepts in World War II. After the war, men came back from the front looking for work and most women were quickly pushed out of service. What happens next? Motherhood, menial work, and a taste for service and relevance. The Bletchley Circle (2012), a series from iTV (competitor to the BBC), takes a fictitious look at a group of these women who use their skills to solve a crime. [Also, you may like to take a look at this Daily Telegraph article that takes a deeper look at these women.]

Jun
02
2013
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"After Earth" is Nothing but By-The-Numbers Sci-Fi Schlock Review

They literally smell our fear.

Smear is the buzz killer.  Preconceived notions about a director combined with a relatively uninspired premise made for low expectations for After Earth (2013) from M. Night Shyamalan.  The young gentleman beside me was present only to bear free witness to calamity so that he might regale his fellows at the comic book store with accounts of contrivance and inconsistency.  But I am an optimist so far as film and directorial redemption are concerned with a strong memory of The Sixth Sense (1999), Unbreakable (2000), and Signs (2002).  The trailer for After Earth did bespeak a feral Earth over which a young Jaden Smith rides this Hollywood vehicle on the bumpy road to come of age and take up his father’s mantle while things jump out from behind other things to scare us and Smith.  So, could our hero (Shyamalan) slay the beast of predictability with a his sword of intrigue and defend against the studio beast with his shield of Hollywood royalty?  No, apparently not.  This may have had something to do with the following credit:  “Story by Will Smith.”

May
31
2013
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With Any Luck, It'll Be "The Last Stand" Review

"This is getting boring, get the big gun!"

International drug lord Gabriel Cortez (Eduardo Noriega) is being transferred by the FBI to “federal death row”. But in an elaborate escape plan, headed by Burrell (Peter Stormare), Cortez gets away with Agent John Bannister (Forest Whitaker) in hot pursuit. Meanwhile, in Sommerton Junction, AZ, Sheriff Owens (Arnold Schwarzenegger) has a dead farmer on his hands. And, in light of the fact that there were some suspicious characters in the diner the day before, that can mean only one thing. That’s right, the evil cartel mercenaries intend to bring Cortez through Sommerton, leaving Owens and his ragtag crew of Figgy (Luis Guzmán), gun nut Dinkum (Johnny Knoxville), Deputy Sarah (Jaimie Alexander), and local bad boy Frank (Rodrigo Santoro) to stop them.

May
29
2013
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