Kyle North

Staff Writer



Even Sondheim Fans Might Choose to Avoid Venturing "Into the Woods" Review

Behold! A great smorgasbord of genre-specific characters packed into a single narrative! No, not the ABC (i.e. Disney) fairy tale mashup show Once Upon A Time. And not the Gothic mosaic that is Penny Dreadful. Or the superhero ensembles of the Justice League and Avengers. Nor even the upcoming villainous cadre of Suicide Squad. This is “art:” Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s 1986 Broadway triumph, Into the Woods, that managed to eek out three Tony Awards in a year mostly ruined for all other contenders by the arrival of Broadway’s now longest running show, The Phantom of the Opera. Ever since that first Broadway run, and every subsequent tour, restaging, and revival, Into the Woods has been a favorite of Drama Departments in liberal arts schools across the country. Sondheim aficionados can’t stop singing his praises, but, unfortunately, very few of them sang anything other than, “Get me out of these woods,” when Rob Marshall’s film adaptation arrived over Christmas 2014.

Apr
26
2015
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"Nightbreed" Emerges From The Grave Review

Clive Barker ranted and raved; then he hoped and prayed. Finally, some enterprising horror devotees hunted and found, giving him the chance to deliver on a promise 25-years in the making. In 1990, Morgan Creek slashed Clive Barker’s adaptation of his own novella, Cabal, into a flimsy pseudo-slasher, in that there was almost no violence in the actual movie but they wanted to cut a trailer catering to the least common denominator schlock fan. The marketing completely avoided the monster elements and more nuanced dark romantic fairy tale. The result was a box office misfire and one really unhappy Mr. Barker. For over two decades, he spoke at conventions and in interviews about the real Nightbreed, a monster mash love story, lost on the cutting room floor. Finally, it has arrived, but its story to final release is as surreal as the fantastical creature world of Midian.

Apr
20
2015
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Stop! "Adventure Time" Review

With a spoonful of Dungeons & Dragons, a pinch of Game of Thrones, and a whole lot of hand-drawn escapades, Cartoon Network’s prolific Adventure Time returns to DVD, picking up in the post-apocalyptic Land of Ooo with Episode 30 of Season 5: Frost & Fire. Young Finn wakes from a pleasurable dream wherein Flame Princess and Ice King, voiced by Jeremy Shada, Jessica DiCicco, and Tom Kenny respectively, do battle. Waking before the resolution, Finn orchestrates an epic confrontation of fireballs and ice lighting, until Flame Princess realizes Finn has betrayed her trust to antagonize the fight and leaves him to learn an important lesson about friendship and betrayal. So begins the 16-episode collection that juggles puberty with comedy.

Apr
20
2015
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"Nazi Mega Weapons" Makes Learning Go Kapow! Review

Our insatiable fascination with World War II shows no signs of abating, nor should it. Never again will such a clear-cut conflict of good and evil start a global war of continents in pitched combat behind leaders who stood among titans; all for the preservation of mankind in the face of fiery annihilation. In an era of guerrilla wars and ever-increasing reliance on the surgical precision of Special Operations over the heavy footprint of Big Army, it’s almost inconceivable to fathom a time when armies of millions were deciding the fate of the humanity in open fields and muddy trenches. PBS feeds the hobbyist historian’s curiosity with its second season of the shocking show Nazi Mega Weapons. Out of the horrors of Nazi fascism, came the seeds of some of the most radical discoveries of the 20th century.

Apr
15
2015
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"Aaliyah": Don't, Just Don't Review

Woof. As Mel Brooks would say, ‘This movie is revolting!’ ‘You’re telling me, it stinks on ice!’ To call this movie garbage is to do a disservice to the artistry of landfills. Starring relative newcomer Alexandra Shipp, perhaps known by Nickelodeon fans who follow the British import House of Anubis and who will be more known when she takes over as Ororo Munroe/Storm in the upcoming X-Men: Apocalypse, Aaliyah: The Princes of R&B certainly does not herald the birth of a new starlet. Made-for-TV by those connoisseurs of crud over at Lifetime, the film went into production with the adamant disapproval of Aaliyah’s family and, laughably, did not even get rights to any of her hit music. The result, therefore, is a mismanaged, cumbersome exercise in flatfooted biopic film-making without any real connection to the life, times, and work of the titular subject. Good luck getting through 88-minutes. Finding 88 words to write about this failure is hard enough.

Apr
14
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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"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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With "Rosewater", Jon Stewart Highlights an Important Piece of History (...That He Helped Make) Review

Rosewater, literally pressed from the folds of the flowers and combined with sweat to make an evocative fragrance popular in Iranian culture, and showered on the devout in holy places. The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart makes his feature writing and directorial debut with a small, powerful film taking its namesake from the holy liquid and perverting it as the fragrance worn by the protagonist’s interrogator over the course of a 118-day solitary confinement in Tehran. Based on actual events, and inspired by the protagonist’s chance encounter with the actual The Daily Show in 2009 and, in a moment of life being stranger than fiction, the role The Daily Show played in his incarceration, Stewart departs from a career of comedy to tell an important story of fellow journalist Maziar Bahari and humanity’s global and eternal quest for freedom.

Mar
01
2015
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