Kyle North

Staff Writer



"Terminator: Genisys" Improves Over the Last Two Installments, For Whatever That's Worth Review

Terminator: Genisys is the best of the franchise since the original two. Now, before you diehards out there go all bananas, let’s agree that, initially at least, that’s not saying very much. Jonathan Mostow’s 2003 Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines was an instantly regrettable follow-up to James Cameron’s two masterworks (The Terminator and Terminator 2: Judgment Day). The ham-fisted humor and grossly ineffective CGI took the pitch-perfect source material, which gained international acclaim because it took itself seriously and operated with the gravitas and power of an emotional science-fiction opera, and diluted it with studio schlock. Fans didn’t want a parody of their beloved, and hard R-Rated, romantic sci-fi actioneer. Six years later, director McG was given the reins with Terminator Salvation, convoluting the mythology and tone with his typical crassness. It was better than Rise, but the franchise just couldn’t rediscover Cameron’s brilliance. Genisys gives Terminator junkies exactly the kind of fan fiction that Hollywood is cashing in big on these days, but, in doing so, it gets back to some of the franchise basics that made the first two work.

Jan
16
2016
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"Do I Sound Gay?" is Certain to Get People Talking Review

“’I didn’t know you were gay,’ and I’m like, ‘Why did that make me feel good?’” So sayeth the great comedian David Sedaris in one part of the simple, but compelling documentary from Sundance Selects and IFC, Do I Sound Gay? A festival success from a Kickstarter campaign, the film follows Brooklyn journalist and activist David Thorpe after a break-up with his most recent boyfriend that sends him off on an investigation of the “gay voice” he hears from his own mouth, but feels increasingly disconnected from. With famous interviewees including Tom Gunn, Margaret Cho, and George Takei, the film thankfully relies more heavily on the filmmaker’s friends and family, giving the film a strong personal touch that isn’t lost in celebrity appearances.

Jan
16
2016
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The Breezy Content of "Survivor's Remorse" Doesn't Fit its Somber Title Review

With Straight Outta Compton fresh on everybody’s minds and further stuffing Hollywood’s happily filled wallets, it will be interesting to see what becomes of Survivor’s Remorse’s growing fanbase when it returns for a recently announced third season on Starz. An unapologetic mashup of HBO’s Ballers and Entourage (someone at Starz really wants Starz to be HBO), the show from Executive Producer LeBron James, doesn’t offer anything fresh, but the viewing audience seems to like the repackaging.

Cam Calloway (Jessie T. Usher) is a young baller from the tough part of Boston who signs a lucrative contract to play for Atlanta. The show picks up as he relocates his *ahem* entourage to a swanky new penthouse, sharing his meteoric rise with his crass mother, Cassie (Tichina Arnold), his wheeling-and-dealing manager/cousin Reggie (RonReaco Lee), his groupie uncle Julius (Mike Epps), and his manipulative sister Mary Charles (Erica Ash). With the same pornographic depiction of wealth customary to Vince, Drama, E, and Turtle, the show makes no effort to live up to its title, which seems to suggest a more dramatic undertone, instead reveling in the debauchery and misdeeds of a family from modest beginnings thrust into the extravagant spotlight.

Oct
15
2015
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Have You Saved Any "Pandas" Today? For Shame Review

National Geographic has phenomenal composers. In a mere 36-minutes (the box rounds the runtime up to a full 40), the swelling orchestral crescendos of Pandas: The Journey Home bring a tear to the eye as a desperate, emotional battle is waged to save a species that has dwindled to a mere 1,600 worldwide in the wild. The furry fluffballs are adorable and the scientists inventive as a collaborative struggle takes the fragile population from birth in captivity to self-reliance in the jungle, with laughs and sorrows along the way.

The doc centers on the resilient team working out of the Wolong Panda Center in China. Resilient in that the Wolong Nature Reserve, where the pandas are taken for wildlife training in larger jungle enclosures before final release into the wild, was largely devastated in the 2008 Sichuan earthquake. Countless pandas died, heartbreakingly engulfed by collapsing mountains encircling the now ruined buildings. The pandas of Wolong Panda Center are survivors; some of the last of their kind and some of the last hopes to save their kind.

Sep
01
2015
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"If You Build It" Doesn't Quite Construct the Story it Intended Review

“Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.” So spoke the great Vermonter and philosopher, Professor and Doctor John Dewey. At its core, If You Build It is about that universal truth.

The story does not lack for authentic human drama. The school superintendent, Dr. Chip Zullinger, of bitterly impoverished Bertie County, North Carolina, takes a chance in a failing area and brings two innovative, untraditional new educators to his high school. Designer Emily Pilloton and architect Matt Miller arrive with heady dreams of revitalizing an area on its knees and set up a shop class, entitled “Studio H,” for ten high school juniors, with the objective of teaching design, and then actually building the students’ project – a Farmer’s Market for the town. Not long after, Zullinger is fired by a frustratingly inept school board stuck in old, broken ways, and Matt and Emily lose their funding. Staying on and living lean thanks to limited grants and maxed out credit cards, they keep stepping forward, never giving ground as they break ground on a build that changes everyone’s lives and an entire town.

Aug
20
2015
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The Charming "Danny Collins" Deserved More Time in the Spotlight Review

Charming. That’s the one word to describe Dan Fogelman’s brand of filmmaking. With a background that includes penning Cars, Fred Claus, and Tangled, his more recent, and perhaps breakthrough turn was as scribe of the, yes, charming Crazy, Stupid, Love. With a career altering performance from Steve Carell and a supporting cast that toted great turns by Ryan Gosling, Julianne Moore, and Emma Stone, with a little Kevin Bacon tossed in the starpower salad, Crazy, Stupid, Love deftly mixed midlife drama with heart-melting sincerity, all overpowered by good laughs throughout. Charming.

With Danny Collins, Fogelman makes his directorial debut with a cast fit for awards season and a project that is, well, you get it.

Aug
20
2015
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Beautiful Scenery and Evolution Abound on "Mutant Planet" Review

Creationists beware, there’s a phenomenal show about our planet out there, and it’s all about evolution! Mutant Planet launched in 2010 and returned in 2014 with a second stunning season of mesmerizing visuals and mind-blowing discoveries. Forget about farm tours with goats and cows, and, if you can, ignore that squirrel on the park bench and all the cats and dogs in our domestic lives. Sure they’re fun and miracles of evolution as well, but this show focuses on the critters and creatures that are uncommon and largely unknown to us in our isolated daily lives.

Aug
20
2015
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"Tooken" is a Missed Opportunity for a "Taken" Spoof Review

Young Hollywood royalty Josh Asher directs Tooken, a generic gross-out, pun-filled, raunchy romp of a spoof of the surprisingly successful, slam-bang action-driven, albeit formulaic Taken movies. Asher’s dad was the creator of the highly beloved 8-season ‘60s comedy series Betwitched, but to assume that the father’s wholesome humor and hijinks have passed down to the son would be an error.

Aug
20
2015
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"Memory Lane" Makes for an Impressive Start for a New Filmmaker Review

There are few movies that immediately spring to mind as being directly influenced by William Hurt’s exquisite and unsettling turn in 1980’s Altered States, and yet, Memory Lane seems like one of them. In its irregular tone and surreal atmosphere, director Shawn Holmes makes a no-budget debut that shoots for Christopher Nolan and David Cronenberg, and is perhaps more admirable for its ambition than execution. With audio that sounds like it’s from the onboard mic and the all-telling limited locations of a small flick, the film never elevates beyond a promising student thesis from a kid who took Post-Modernist film courses and stayed up late at the library exorcising the demons of David Lynch’s psyche.

Aug
19
2015
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Spare Yourself From the Horrifyingly Awful "Maggie" Review

[SPOILER ALERT - Highlight to see spoiler]

Maggie kills herself at the end. You’re welcome. I just did you a huge favor. Please take the 95-minutes you have been saved and spend them elsewhere. Learn to ride a bike, spin a hula-hoop, or just play solitaire. Really anything to not stare dumbly at the screen at Maggie, the hobbling, inept directorial debut of Henry Hobson, previously only known for opening title design work. Yes, he designed opening titles, and was trusted by the powers that be in Hollywood with a film that had the town buzzing over the Black List script that every assistant and agent thought was a masterpiece. One can only assume, the smog was particularly thick that year in LA and perhaps laced with hallucinogens.

Aug
19
2015
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