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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"Pom Poko" Reminds Us Not All Studio Ghibli Features Are Winners Review

Through his films Princess Mononoke, My Neighbor Totoro, Spirited Away, and more, Hayao Miyazaki has constantly placed humanity at odds with nature, sometimes making us an outright antagonist and other times placing us at its mercy. It’s a theme common to his work, and none exemplify the message quite as literally as Pom Poko, which he created the story for but didn’t direct or write. Instead, the directorial and screenwriting duties went to Isao Takahata who took Miyazaki’s theme and ran with it to tell the story of a clan of tanukis (also known as Japanese raccoon dogs – not actual raccoons despite what the English dub would have you believe) who wage a fantastical war against the humans seeking to turn their beloved Tama Hills forest into a housing development. Though Pom Poko bursts with humor and the fantastical elements that Miyazaki loves, the pacing of its story stops and starts, plot points come and go with seemingly no regard for their placement in the larger story, and, as mentioned earlier, the English dub is somewhat lazy even if it does have a great cast.

Looking back, Pom Poko was easily the first and biggest misstep in Studio Ghibli’s history.

Feb
11
2015
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Sex Toy Maker Produces an Actual Non-Porn Film, Because if Hasbro Can...

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Chalk it up to Valentine's Day looming on the horizon or the lowered standard for toy-to-movie adaptations set by Transformers and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, but soon we'll be getting a feature film produced by a company [once] solely known for producing sex toys. Why would someone in the lucrative business of sex toys want to try their hand at filmmaking, where profits are decidedly less guaranteed? Are they just annoyed they weren't asked for product placement in 50 Shades of Grey? According to the company, LELO, the film (called Beyond the Wave starring Casper Van Dien of Starship Troopers) will serve as "a creative intervention to show couples how important it is to physically be with each other and understand each other’s perspective, both inside and outside of the bedroom."

Yes, it's weird, and no it's apparently not a 90-minute long infomercial set in a dystopian future where men and women have chosen to live apart from one another after a history of war and bloodshed (that's the actual premise). In fact, the company's products don't feature in the film at all.

Feb
10
2015
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"Porco Rosso" Doesn't Achieve the Same Heights as Hayao Miyazaki's Masterpieces, But It's Still Glorious Review

Though Hayao Miyazaki made a graceful retirement from the world of hand-drawn animated features in 2013 with The Wind Rises, eschewing many of the fantastical elements that had become his signature in favor of a more realistic approach to the life and legacy of Jiro Horikoshi, many of his films are just now finding their way to Blu-ray, both in Japan and the United States. One of the recent high-definition upgrades is Porco Rosso, the film that first gave us some insight into Hayao’s love of aeronautical engineering and which, like The Wind Rises, plays down the fantastic in favor of highlighting the majesty air travel used to embody in a bygone era. Throw in some sky pirates, a protagonist cursed with the face of a pig, and some beautiful animation and you have a film worthy of addition to any Blu-ray collection.

Feb
09
2015
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'Don't Look Now' as Criterion Takes 'A Day in the Country' One 'Autumn Afternoon' & more in February

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Every month, the Criterion Collection selects a number of cinematically and culturally important films and makes an effort to preserve them with specialized DVD and Blu-ray releases. For February 2015, the Criterion Collection brings a new mix of classic films into the modern era with new restorations that mark the first time they've ever been available in high-definition (usually). In the mix we have Nicolas Roeg's Don't Look Now, Martin Rosen's animated adaptation of Richard Adams's Watership Down, Jean-Luc Godard's Every Man for Himself, Jean Renoir's A Day in the Country, Federico Fellini's Satyricon, and Yasujiro Ozu's An Autumn Afternoon.

For full details on all six releases, read on.

Feb
08
2015
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"Archer Vice" Proves Its Cast Can Do Anything, But at What Cost? Review

It sucks to condemn a show when it attempts to break the mold and do something that most shows can’t do due to their premise or won’t do due to a fear of losing viewers, but the sad fact is that Archer Vice, the fifth season of Archer, didn’t have enough compelling material to fuel its break away from the format that served it so well for four seasons. If nothing else, the season stands as a fascinating experiment of who all the characters of the show could be without the day-in and day-out reinforcement of their personalities from their co-workers in the same boat. Breaking free of that shackle, Archer Vice went a little nuts and made a lot of distance from its starting point, but unfortunately the comedy paid the price more than anything, especially since the sixth season effectively restores them to their starting point with only a few things really changed (or “replaced” in the case of one character).

Feb
06
2015
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Tharr Be Promising Things on the Horizon for "Black Sails" Review

Long before Disney proved their modern blockbuster viability with its Johnny Depp franchise, pirates rose to prominence as popular cinematic characters in both heroic and villainous roles. There’s just something about a character archetype that’s willing to save the girl one moment only to toss her aside the next if it means he gets more gold that makes for interesting storytelling. When a driving characteristic of your character is that they’re opportunistic to a fault, any story you want to tell about them can lead to some very interesting places (geographically and politically), and that facet is only enhanced when you start drawing in historical references like Black Sails has. For that reason, Starz’s Black Sails bursts with potential and just might enjoy the same longevity that similar recent shows about anti-heroes have (see Sons of Anarchy, Dexter, etc.).

Feb
06
2015
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HBO's "True Blood" was Enjoyable but Incredibly Uneven Review

Despite seven seasons of very uneven television, you can’t really accuse HBO’s True Blood of getting lazy, losing focus, or even jumping the shark, because it basically had all three of those qualities coming right out of its pilot episode. The writing for True Blood immediately established a tone of pulpy, over-the-top, sloppy harlequin romance and then, to fit with the vampire-crazed times, it added in any and every supernatural element it could think of whenever possible. That was all True Blood ever aspired to be. That it also managed to be fun and entertaining and drew you into caring about one or two characters (even if they weren’t Anna Paquin’s Sookie Stackhouse, Stephen Moyer’s Bill Compton, or Alexander Skarsgard’s Eric Northman), just serves as proof that True Blood was right at home in HBO’s stable of inconsistent but always engrossing serials.

Feb
06
2015
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"Tammy" Takes Us on a Dead-End Roadtrip Review

After becoming the break-out star of Bridesmaids with her puppy hoarding and sink stools, Melissa McCarthy likely had her pick of comedy projects to choose from in the years that followed. Based on the 50/50 track record of those choices, however, it’s unclear whether she squandered or took full advantage of the boost Bridesmaids offered. For every decent follow-up flick (The Heat and St. Vincent), we get a dud like Identity Thief or Tammy, and the shortcomings of the failures tend to outweigh the highlights of the successes. Case in point: Tammy, the roadtrip comedy co-written by Melissa McCarthy and her husband Ben Falcone (who also directed), which fails to generate laughs at every stop and which seems to be nothing more than a bunch of poorly executed and written jokes strung together by a very loose premise.

Dec
10
2014
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The Gambler Remake Slated for December Release

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James Toback’s The Gambler has been remade by film director Rupert Wyatt this year and will hit the cinemas globally on December 19. The film, which will star Mark Wahlberg as Jim Bennett a failing English professor who is struggling to hold down a respectable job while engaging frequently in high stakes gambling is joined by the enigmatic John Goodman in what promises to be a great end to a year of amazing movies.

Dec
10
2014
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The Problems with "Ray Donovan" Are Solved By Season's End Review

I’m not ashamed to admit that after watching the first two episodes of Ray Donovan when the series initially premiered on Showtime that I tuned out and never looked back. Despite being a Liev Schreiber fan, the show’s premise—a fixer who can fix everyone’s problems but his own—seemed a little too cutesie, and the writing and characterization felt like it was trying a bit too hard to be the next The Sopranos. So when Showtime sent us the first season for review, I decided that I’d give the show a second chance instead of trying to pawn it off. I’m glad I did. Ray Donovan, like a few other notable shows, takes a while to find its footing as it walks a delicate line with a number of social topics (not the least of which is pedophilia by Catholic priests) and starts off with a few broad characterizations before finally deciding to settle in and flesh out some of the key supporting characters. At which point, Ray Donovan becomes Showtime’s best series, hands down.

Oct
30
2014
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A Good Cast Can't Get "Cuban Fury" Back on the Beat Review

Of the trio who gave us Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, and The World’s End, only Nick Frost has really had a hard time creating a name for himself on his own. Simon Pegg has appeared in the Star Trek and Mission Impossible series, while Edgar Wright has given us Scott Pilgrim vs. The World and was attached to Marvel’s Ant Man until he wasn't. By contrast, Nick Frost hasn’t had much opportunity to create a name for himself stateside, though he’s had a fair bit of success as the lead in the rather funny Sky TV series Mr. Sloane. For Frost, Cuban Fury was supposed to be his chance to prove his leading man chops. He succeeds, but unfortunately it’s in a rather predictable dance comedy that’s oddly light on both dance and comedy. Nick Frost could easily become a big name for comedy lovers in America, but if it’s ever going to happen, he’s going to need something better than James Griffith’s lukewarm Cuban Fury.

Oct
23
2014
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You Didn't Remember Incorrectly, the Best Thing About "Denver" is Its Theme Song Review

Sometimes nostalgia blinds us and prevents us from seeing substandard things from our childhood for what they are, but sometimes we remember things correctly. For example, as a kid, I had my parents rent (what was apparently just) the pilot episode of Denver, the Last Dinosaur over and over again, mostly because I liked the theme song. The cartoon was pretty bland, even by cheap 80s and 90s cartoon standards, with incredibly stereotypical characters delivering after-school special-style lessons under the pretext of having a dinosaur for a best friend. Denver, the Last Dinosaur can never really be considered good, it’s just silly and predictably safe, but for most parents that’s exactly what they want for their kids.

Oct
22
2014
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'Arrow' Sets a High Bar for Superhero TV Shows Review

While Smallville still holds the record for the longest TV show based on a DC character, it was surpassed in about every other way by Arrow in just two seasons. If the series’ first season did a pretty good job of introducing the character of Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) and his arrow-slinging alter ego while balancing simultaneous storylines of his survival on a remote island with his return from the dead in Starling City. It established some long-term and short-term villains, looked at the difficulty arising from living two lives, and it started the slow build of the second season’s primary villain: Deathstroke. With that setup courtesy of the first season, the second season starts off sprinting and rarely ever lets up despite the introduction of a number of important characters and backdoor spin-off pilot for CW’s new DC show, The Flash. Arrow is a perfect example of just how good junk food television can be.

Oct
22
2014
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"Guardians of the Galaxy" Is the Delicious Gateway Drug to a Larger Marvel Universe Review

To put it simply, Guardians of the Galaxy is Marvel Studios betting that it’s built up enough of a reputation for crowd-pleasing romps of heroism that they can cash in their chips and take a risk on a franchise that doesn’t boast Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man, Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow, Chris Hemsworth as Thor, or Chris Evans as Captain America. They’re willing to wager that you’ve come to trust the Marvel brand just enough that a space opera about a 70s hits grooving space pirate (played by first-time leading man Chris Pratt), a green-skinned assassin (Zoe Saldana), a blue-skinned maniac (Dave Bautista), a walking tree thing (Vin Diesel), and a gun-toting talking raccoon (Bradley Cooper) will be just within the limits of plausibility for audiences who can’t claim to have ever heard of the Guardians of the Galaxy to still give it a shot. If audiences do, they’ll more than likely be wildly entertained and probably a little surprised that they ever doubted a talking raccoon could make an endearing hero.

Guardians of the Galaxy shines from start to finish visually and comically, even if a few hiccups bubble up here and there as it leans heavily on its undeniable crutch of its soundtrack. When the credits roll, Guardians of the Galaxy will have accomplished its goal to entertain you and give you a taste of what's to come.

Jul
31
2014
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"Workaholics" is Really Only Funny Part-Time Review

While I can’t claim that I hold a deep love for Comedy Central’s Workaholics, I can’t deny that every now and then the series hits enough of the right notes that I laugh out loud. At the same time, there are just as many episodes in a given season that leave me disappointed and remind me why I don’t tune in on a regular basis. Workaholics clearly has talent in its main trio of Blake Anderson, Adam DeVine, and Anders Holm, but it’s unevenly applied from one episode to the next, and consequently we get seasons of Workaholics that have you laughing until it hurts one second and then wondering where the sharp writing went the next. When Workaholics is on-target, however, it’s dead-on, and so moments like an absurdly bloody rat hunt or an over-the-top frat guy actually succeed in making you wince even as you bust a gut.

Jul
30
2014
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"The Americans" Reminds Us How Good Cold War Spy Thrillers Can Be Review

The Americans hearkens back to an era of political thrillers that have long since died out in favor of more action and less paranoia-laced cloak and dagger antics. That it works as a period piece set during the height of the Cold War only makes each episode of its first season that much sweeter as it has to jump through fewer technological hoops and can instead just focus on the skill of the Russian sleeper agents (played here by Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys) at fooling everyone around them, including their neighbor (Noah Emmerich), an FBI Agent slowly growing wise to the presence of spies living among the average Americans. The Americans takes great pains to create high dramatic stakes even as it never goes after anything as lofty as presidential assassinations or a major terrorism plot. It’s all about infiltration and data gathering, an agenda that sounds boring compared to those found in 24 or Homeland, but which provides the basis for a riveting first season of near misses and intrigue.

Jul
28
2014
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Marvel Should Have Kept These "Avengers Confidential" Review

While Marvel might be trouncing DC in the live-action blockbuster arena, thanks in large part to Marvel’s multi-film universe that succeeds even when it’s not at its best and DC’s seeming inability to create a live-action film that doesn’t botch more than it gets right, when it comes to the animated feature department, Marvel just can’t get it right. Maybe that’s because they’re stuck in a mindset that the anime style is the way to go or they just don’t take that division of their film department seriously, but whatever the case, Avengers Confidential: Black Widow & Punisher is just another bungled animated feature that will only make you more grateful for the live-action films hitting theaters twice a year. At this point, if you’re really hankering for animated Marvel features, you’re better off picking up the older Hulk vs., Planet Hulk, or any of the outstanding motion comics they’ve been churning out.

Jul
28
2014
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"In the Blood" is Another Action Film Failing to Make Good Use of Gina Carano Review

Even though there are more now than ever before, there’s still a shortage of female action stars working today. Chalk that up to an unfortunately low number of films that require women in physical roles and perhaps even more at fault are the quality of those films. Sure, every now and then we get a Kill Bill, Hanna, or The Hunger Games, but more often than not it’s something like an Underworld sequel, Resident Evil, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, Charlie’s Angels, or Catwoman. The latest chapter in poorly utilized action starlets comes in the form of In the Blood, which stars Gina Carano as a newlywed hell-bent discovering the truth of her husband’s disappearance even if that requires breaking a few bones to do it.

Jul
24
2014
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You'd Like to Think Half as Much "Bad Grandpa" Would Be Half as Bad Review

There’s a reason Paramount has labeled this continuation of Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa as .5 instead of 1.5 (as other special edition releases of films usually do), and that’s because unlike 1.5 editions, this isn’t the original film with new footage added in to make it longer or better, it’s just 80-some minutes of deleted scenes and production footage. It’s not an improvement over the painfully unfunny original but nor is it any worse. If anything, it could be said to actually have a little merit in that you get a sense of the effort that went into the film’s production, which is more merit than the film itself had as just a string of obvious and contrived pranks that were funnier when done by other movies or the guys of Jackass themselves in their TV show. That said, there’s still no good reason to subject yourself to this.

Jul
24
2014
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Wes Anderson's Beautifully Filmed "Life Aquatic" Drifts Aimlessly Review

Wes Anderson has made a name for himself writing and directing a number of creatively off-kilter comedies that often give actors a chance to shine in unusually nuanced roles. His eye for the idiosyncratic lends authenticity to every feature he’s ever made, but it can just as easily cheapen the overall product by creating an air of pretention or a sense of being quirky for the sole sake of being quirky. How much of that he pours into each film and how high the audience’s tolerance for that tendency is have a heavy bearing on the overall enjoyment of Anderson’s work, which is a shame because the final product often has an incredible cast like Bill Murray, Willem Dafoe, and Cate Blanchett (as we do in The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou) and elements that give film a very identifiable stamp of artistry even as it weaves a rather unconventional tale. Unfortunately, Steve Zissou’s tale is one of Anderson’s most scattershot works that relies far too heavily on its incredible cast to prop it up (but they do, and they even elevate it to something grand).

Jul
23
2014
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