Lex Walker

Editor

He's a TV junkie with a penchant for watching the same movie six times in one sitting. If you really want to understand him you need to have grown up on Sgt. Bilko, Alien, Jurassic Park and Five Easy Pieces playing in an infinite loop. Recommend something to him - he'll watch it.

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Adam Sandler Wastes the Potential of "Pixels" Review

Writing off Adam Sandler movies as probable train wrecks before you even see them isn’t just a common practice, it’s also a wise one. For a star who seems to be fully entrenched in that phase of his career where he’ll sign on to any project as long as there’s a paycheck, Adam Sandler has shown he’s still capable of doing more than his usual underdog hero schtick, he just doesn’t want to. Films outside his comfort zone like Punch Drunk Love, Reign Over Me, and Funny People now happen with increasing rarity, and instead we’re now getting a non-stop parade of formulaic garbage like The Cobbler, Blended, Grown Ups, That’s My Boy, and so on. Pixels is now the latest atrocity on that list, and though it gets a couple laughs, the rest of the film is a wasteland of duds in a story based on a short film from 2010 (which deserved a better feature film adaptation than Sandler has given it).

Oct
22
2015
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"Empire" Feels Like a Mini-Series Stretched Into a Series Review

Empire caused quite a stir when it debuted on Fox as the more mature, hip-hop-centric, older sibling to Glee. It still had a lot of the melodrama that drew crowds to Glee, but it also boasted a far more mature outlook on the state of music in our modern age and it had Terrence Howard and Taraji P. Henson headlining its cast. Right from the start it had a lot of promise in its corner, and from there it managed to make the most of it in many ways, while still managing to underwhelm expectations in others by taking the easy way out on a number of plotpoints. As such, Empire truly was the spiritual successor to Glee: so much raw potential that the writing didn’t quite know how to handle it. That indecision makes the first season feel like a mini-series that got picked up for a second run, forcing the writers to reverse some of the bolder decisions from the pilot in favor of choices that would add to the premise’s longevity.

Oct
22
2015
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"Fresh Off the Boat" Disembarks Onto Shaky Ground Review

Family sitcoms have been around since the earliest days of television and will likely outlive us all, especially since they benefit from the post-mortem gift of syndication. Television has had roughly 60 years to fine tune the format with classics like I Love Lucy, The Dick Van Dyke Show, Home Improvement, The Simpsons, and so forth, but even today contemporary entries are still finding ways to freshen the genre. One such improvement being an increase in the role of the kids and how much they contribute to the comedy, and not just with cutesie one-liners. Unfortunately, that’s where Fresh Off the Boat falls short in its comparison to other contemporary hits like Modern Family or The Goldbergs: the child actors (Hudson Yang, Forrest Wheeler, and Ian Chen) just aren’t up to snuff and don’t have the comedic timing to really make the most of their material. By contrast, as the parents, Randall Park and Constance Wu seem to nail every line and have amazing chemistry. It’s a combination that makes the show feel lopsided at best, and cliched at its worst.

Oct
22
2015
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"Jane the Virgin" Births Some Sharp Melodrama Satire Review

Though US soap operas like Days of Our Lives and General Hospital have been running for fifty years or longer, they don’t hold nearly the same level of attention in the US popular culture consciousness as telenovelas do in countless other countries in the world, perhaps most notably in Latin America. Whereas American pop culture treats soap operas with a heaping load of derision or mockery (even using comparisons to them as a way to demean a film or TV show relies too much on melodrama), other cultures have massive followings for their telenovelas, and it looks like American pop culture is finally ready to stop purely lampooning it and emulating it as well. CW’s Jane the Virgin takes the telenovela format mainstream with an absurd premise that features all the usual staples: love, affairs, love affairs, murder, schemes, amnesia, unexpected pregnancy, betrayal, and, of course, amnesia.

Unlike US soap operas, however, it uses these devices with loads of wit and in such a way that skewers their melodramatic nature so that Jane the Virgin is fun to watch from start to finish.

Oct
15
2015
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As Good as "Avatar" Is, It'd Be Even Better in HD Review

People can debate all they want about whether or not Avatar: The Last Airbender is technically an “Anime” in the strictest sense or if M. Night Shyamalan’s horrific adaptation should have taken three films instead of trying to cram the show into a single movie, but as far as the animated series is concerned, its legacy remains rather untarnished as the best American-made series to come out of American pop culture’s fascination with Asian animation and themes. However, while the series is stellar and any set like this one that brings together all three seasons equally so, it’s hard to get too excited about a complete series set when it’s still being released on DVD and not remastered for an HD release on Blu-ray. Avatar: The Last Airbenderdeserves a Blu-ray release, so here’s hoping this set isn't the final iteration of this series that fans can expect for home video and rather just the last attempt at soaking up sales for an SD set before an HD set is released sometime in the near future.

Oct
13
2015
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"The Walking Dead" Slows Its Pace But Ups Its Impact Review

Not many genre series have their best moments five seasons in, but that’s how long it’s taken AMC’s The Walking Dead to accrue the history required to deliver an impact more meaningful than just the loss of a fan-favorite character or the letdown when a destination inevitably fails to be what our core group of protagonists had hoped. With four seasons’ worth of character development informing character interactions and decisions, Walking Dead has molded its characters into a fiercely loyal family that’s at once both a force of savage brutality and civility. Having imbued them with such a distrust of outsiders and forced them to adapt to a dangerous world, we now see them face the series’ hardest question: can they ever really assimilate back into a society? Or will any society that attempts to assimilate them be forced to change to accommodate the mindsets Grimes and company learned out in the wilderness?

Oct
12
2015
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Rob Thomas Puts an Undead Spin on "Veronica Mars" with "iZombie" Review

In the world of television writing, there’s a collection of names which, besides being known as creators of various series, are renowned for having pretty awful luck when it comes to how their shows get treated by the networks they end up on. For some, like Aaron Sorkin it’s somewhat self-imposed (he walked away after three seasons of West Wing, got shut down on Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, and gave up on The Newsroom), while for others like Bryan Fuller (Dead Like Me, Pushing Daisies, Hannibal,Mockingbird Lane), Joss Whedon (Firefly, Dollhouse), and Rob Thomas (Veronica Mars, Party Down, iZombie), it’s more of a case of studios not knowing quite how to handle the shows as they tend to fall between easily definable genres. If iZombie is any indication, however, for at least Rob Thomas the curse of studio mismanagement might finally be over.

Oct
12
2015
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"Entourage: The Movie" Continues the Series' Habit of Repeating Itself Review

Typically, HBO knows when to push for another season and when to let a show die, but every now and then we get exceptions to that rule. With Deadwood, HBO cut bait on a fan-favorite series a bit too soon, and with Entourage, HBO let a concept with little to no substance run for about four seasons too long. What makes HBO’s investment in Entourage all the more obnoxious is that along with those unnecessary final four seasons (in which the characters didn’t really grow or accomplish anything different from the first four), they’ve now seen fit to give Entourage a movie to top it all off. Does the movie cover new ground? No, it doesn’t. Instead, it’s essentially a mash-up of Entourage’s first four seasons with Vincent Chase’s (Adrian Grenier) directorial debut Hyde being thrust into production hell after it goes over budget and leaves newly crowned studio head Ari Gold (Jeremy Piven) and its financiers (Billy Bob Thornton, Haley Joel Osment) nervous about whether they have another Aquaman or Medellin on their hands.

Oct
12
2015
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In October, Criterion Has "A Special Day" on "Mulholland Dr." in its "Own Private Idaho", and More

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Like any studio, with the invention of each new, better iteration of physical home video mediums, the Criterion Collection begins anew the process of making its massive library of culturally significant classic and contemporary films available on the new format. Ever since Blu-ray made its mark, Crtierion Collection has been releasing 4-6 of its films a month in the HD form, and in October, we get a couple of titles that fans have been clamoring for including: David Lynch's twisting mystery, Mulholland Dr.; David Cronenberg's tale of psychotherapy gone mad, The Brood; Masaki Kobayashi's ghost story anthology, Kwaidan; Ettore Scola's World War II drama, A Special Day; and Gus Van Sant's lauded tale of hustlers and sexuality, My Own Private Idaho.

It's one of Criterion Collection's best monthly slates of contemporary films in a while, and for a full-run-down of what each release has to offer, read on.

Oct
12
2015
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"The Flash" Quickly Upstages Its "Arrow" Origins Review

If you look at the shows airing right now, not only are we in the oft-lauded “Golden Age” of television, but we’re also witnessing the “Golden Age” of the spin-off. Right now, we have Fear the Walking Dead (born of The Walking Dead), Better Call Saul (born of Breaking Bad), Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., among others, but the king of them all might just be DC’s The Flash, which got a back-door pilot courtesy of Arrow’s stellar second season. The Flash might not have the same superb writing as Better Call Saul, and it may indeed be a little bit cheesy, but only because that’s exactly what it needs to be. It manages to balance a classic comic book era ‘gee whiz’ mentality, pulpy teenage drama, and fairly faithful recreations of the hero’s classic villains, and it does so while maintaining surprisingly high production values and a top-notch cast (especially Grant Gustin and Tom Cavanagh).

Oct
12
2015
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Win the First Season of "Jane the Virgin" on DVD

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Last fall, one of the most refreshing little comedies to make its debut was the CW's Jane the Virgin, a telenovela for English-speaking audiences that's just good enough to make people consider giving soap operas another try (but don't, none of them are this funny). The show's excellence hinges on some solid writing, a saucy Latino narrator (think Ron Howard in Arrested Development, but with a swarthy accent), and the breakout performance of Gina Rodriguez as the virginal Jane who is impregnated via a medical mishap. The show's first season goes all over the place in the lead-up to the birth of the child, and it's consistently entertaining from start to finish.

If you want to find out how you can win a copy of the first season of Jane the Virgin, read on.

Sep
22
2015
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Season 3 of "Arrow" Loses Track of What Made Prior Seasons Great Review

After the surprisingly good freshman season and the superb second season, fans of DC’s Arrow could understandably check themselves into the hospital with a nasty case of whiplash thanks to a third season that seemingly undid much of the goodwill the first two had garnered. It’s as if, with DC finalizing that their movie and TV series would never cross over, and with Batman stuck as a teenager in Fox’s Gotham, that the writers of Arrow decided they may as well start cribbing from Batman’s greatest hits. And so, gone are the steady build-up of a villain over two seasons (as with Manu Bennett’s Deathstroke) and the group dynamic that made even the darkest moments of Arrow fun to watch.  Left in their place is a villain (Ra’s Al Ghul) pursuing a storyline that belongs firmly in the Batman mythos and many of the fan favorite characters turned into dour, angsty versions of themselves.

It was a disappointing season to say the least, and the only real bright spots to speak of are the addition of Brandon Routh as would-be superhero Ray Palmer and the crossover episodes with spin-off series The Flash, which quickly overtook Arrow as the best superhero series on television.

Sep
21
2015
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DC Wants to Have Its Batcake and Eat It Too with "Gotham" Review

We’ve all been told at one point in our lives that ‘You can’t have your cake and eat it too’, but it seems that no one ever told that to the folks over at DC who decided they wanted to create a series about Gotham, the home of Batman, but without Batman. It’s both a confounding and intriguing approach to a DC series because the most interesting part of Gotham is its masked vigilante detective and by setting the show during Bruce Wayne’s childhood, the writers are also forced to mostly make do without the very thing that arguably makes Batman great: his stellar rogues gallery. In some part, the writers try to make it work by focusing the story on the young, incorruptible Jim Gordon (Ben McKenzie), his slightly tainted partner Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue), and a recently bereaved, adolescent Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz) as they navigate the increasingly volatile underworld of Gotham.

Sep
21
2015
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You Owe it to Yourself to Check Out the Superb Sci-Fi Flick "Ex Machina" Review

A lot of noise has been made this year over how fans of Science Fiction should go see some of the larger studio-produced Sci-Fi flicks like Jupiter Ascending and Chappie if they want to see more "original" science fiction films in theaters in the future. The idea was that it didn’t matter if Jupiter Ascending and Chappie were quite disappointing efforts, and they were, they deserved your money if you ever wanted more films like them. It’s an argument equivalent to a hostage situation, and it was ridiculous. You shouldn’t support bad films in the hopes that the studio will throw some good ones your way down the road. Instead, you should pay to see excellent movies like Alex Garland’s Ex Machina, because doing so will be rewarding for you - and it will be. Plus, you get to see one of the more beautifully filmed sci-fi movies in a while that boasts both great acting (by Alicia Vikander, Domhnall Gleeson, and Oscar Isaac), and a stimulating take on the classic premise of the inherent unknowns of artificial intelligence.

Aug
19
2015
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Cinemax Cuts Itself a Piece of Prestige Series Pie with "The Knick" Review

Any show that falls under the description of “period piece” has a considerably harder time getting made due to the high expense involved in reproducing a bygone era combined with the seemingly increasing likelihood that the show won’t make it past its first season and, ultimately, make its broadcast network a profit. That probably explains why shows fitting that description, like Deadwood, Rome, and now The Knick, tend to pop up more on premium networks where recouping expenses through advertising isn’t a concern: they just need to produce compelling drama and see if their audience, who’ve already paid, will bite. The Knick boasts production values that beautifully recreate early 1900s New York and boasts a cast led by Clive Owen that seizes your attention in the first 10 minutes of the pilot and keeps you entranced—unless you’re a bit squeamish at the sight of fake blood and body parts—through the season’s end.

Aug
19
2015
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Forget "Chappie", "Ex Machina" is the Film About Artificial Intelligence You Wanted Review

A lot of noise has been made this year over how fans of Science Fiction should go see some of the larger studio-produced Sci-Fi flicks like Jupiter Ascending and Chappie if they want to see more "original" science fiction films in theaters in the future. The idea was that it didn’t matter if Jupiter Ascending and Chappie were quite disappointing efforts, and they were, they deserved your money if you ever wanted more films like them. It’s an argument equivalent to a hostage situation, and it was ridiculous. You shouldn’t support bad films in the hopes that the studio will throw some good ones your way down the road. Instead, you should pay to see excellent movies like Alex Garland’s Ex Machina, because doing so will be rewarding for you - and it will be. Plus, you get to see one of the more beautifully filmed sci-fi movies in a while that boasts both great acting (by Alicia Vikander, Domhnall Gleeson, and Oscar Isaac), and a stimulating take on the classic premise of the inherent unknowns of artificial intelligence.

Apr
26
2015
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"Dear White People" Reaches But Never Preaches Review

Dear White People is a film I wish didn’t need to exist, but once you take into account the true-life examples of white folks throwing blackface or black culture parties without fully understanding the racist implications involved along with the rather excellent point made by the film’s strongest character (Tess Thompson) in its final minutes, you realize just how badly its point of view is needed. However, the pigheaded antics of some frat boys and the indifference of a student body who said nothing aren’t the only reasons for the film to exist; Dear White People bursts at the seams with examples of how every racial and ethnic segment of our society has a real problem with recognizing how deep the problems go. From reality television to Tyler Perry, both sides of the racial gap are doing their part to make things worse and exploit a culture for profit, and writer/director Justin Simien does a stupendous job of pointing out the hypocrisy flowing in either direction.

Mar
01
2015
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Win a Blu-ray, DVD & Digital HD Copy of "Dumb and Dumber To"

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Nothing says "I Love You" quite like a copy of a movie you won online, and so it is with that sentiment that we here at JustPressPlay want to give you our readers (and/or the general internet public), the chance to win Dumb and Dumber To. It's the sequel to Dumb and Dumber that was 20 years in the making, and now it's yours to own. All you have to do to get your hands on this Jeff Daniels, Jim Carrey, Peter Farrelly, and Bobby Farelly reunion is email us and give us some social media love.

Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels reprise their signature roles as Lloyd and Harry in the sequel to the smash hit that took the physical comedy and kicked it in the nuts. Own DUMB AND DUMBER TO on Digital HD, Blu-ray & DVD now. From Universal Studios Home Entertainment.

To find out how you can win, read on!

Feb
14
2015
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Bobcat Goldthwait Does a Lot with a Little at "Willow Creek" Review

If you know who Bobcat Goldthwait is, chances are you’re keenly aware that comedy tends to have a strong pull on basically everything he’s ever done. His feature film career includes dark comedies like Shakes the Clown, World’s Greatest Dad, and God Bless America, and between those ventures he’s a driving force behind stand-up comedy specials or series for well-known jokers like Patton Oswalt, Demetri Martin, Marc Maron, and even Dave Chappelle back when he had his own show. With that strong trend of comedy, Goldthwait’s sudden venture into the lands of horror with Willow Creek, a film about sasquatches in the Pacific Northwest, will catch any fan off-guard. It’s easy to find the traces of Goldthwait’s sense of humor amidst the horror, but it’s just also quite clear that Goldthwait has a firm grasp of what creates and fuels the undercurrent of dread that encroaches on the human mind as the sun sets and leaves them blind and uncertain in a forest they felt they knew just hours earlier.

Feb
13
2015
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"101 Dalmatians" is Disney's Darkest Animated Feature Ever Review

Has any kid ever really understood how dark 101 Dalmatians really is in the grand scheme of Disney movies? When you really stop and think about the stakes in the average Disney animated feature, you start to realize just how low the stakes usually are. Rarely, is the princess’s life in danger, and in fact most of the time, the worst fate set to befall the heroes is either a coma (Sleeping Beauty or Snow White and the Seven Dwarves), imprisonment in some powerless form (The Little Mermaid), exile from a kingdom now ruled by some horrible person (Aladdin, Mulan, or The Lion King), kidnapping (Oliver & Company or The Rescuers), or something even tamer. Death is rarely on the table, and when it is, like with Mufasa in The Lion King, it’s because it’s cribbing from Shakespeare. Credit that to these being movies targeted at children, but if you do that, then you’re still left with having to answer how it is that, by comparison, the plot for 101 Dalmatians is about a vainglorious madwoman who wants to slaughter puppies for a coat.

That’s not to put human lives and puppies live on an equal level, but if you can find another Disney animated movie where the villain’s intent is to slaughter 99 characters who are of the same species as the film’s primary protagonists and then wear them as clothing—or do worse--I’d like to hear it.

Feb
12
2015
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