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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"Wadjda" Measures the Double Standards Faced by Saudi Women Review

Though we would like to think otherwise, gender inequality still exists within the United States and the rest of the world, where it takes on different forms depending on the culture. In Saudi Arabia, behaviors as seemingly insignificant as talking to an unrelated man or riding a bicycle have a stigma if you’re a woman, and the consequences can be dire if the wrong people see it. This world of unequal taboos sets the stage for Director Haifaa Al Mansour’s film Wadjda, the story of a young girl who, more than anything else, just wants a bicycle so she can ride with her best friend. Wadjda touches on a number of examples of gender inequality found in Saudi Arabia, and she ties them together well in a story that might be a bit transparent in its outcome but still remains compelling for its inside look at Saudi Arabian double standards.

Jul
23
2014
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"The Book Thief" Steals Cliches From Countless Better Films Review

If you want an Oscar, an easy route is to write, direct, or star in a film about World War II. Audiences love the sense of triumph derived from a small personal story within the larger context of conflict, and they’ll tend to stick with the story even if its message about the strength of moral character in the face of evil seems stale and clichéd. Moviegoers eat that stuff up – usually. Every now and then a movie gets it wrong though, and at the point the schmaltz just becomes so thick the audience can’t choke it down, and that’s where The Book Thief gets caught. It goes down the checklist and marks everything off, but it does so with such an obvious and mechanical manner that the sentimental moments feel cold and overly calculated.

Jul
23
2014
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There's No Good Reason Not to Keep Watching "The Venture Bros." Review

While integrating nods to pop culture has become an increasingly popular source for jokes in today’s sitcom and animated series culture, few shows do it as effortlessly or completely as the sporadic tales of Adult Swim’s The Venture Bros. Granted, the increasingly long periods between each season means that some jokes don’t always arrive as fresh as they could in relation to what’s being lampooned, but for the most part the show maintains its high caliber of long-form storytelling and classic cartoon sampling by never relying on a piece of satire that’s only a year or so old. Its comedic references often go a ways back in cartoon adventure history and deep into nostalgia for some really obscure but relevant source material. The fifth season was the show’s shortest one yet, and while it might be more hit-or-miss than any that came before, it’s also the season that commits the hardest to stark new directions for many of the characters and for fans of the series that can either be refreshing or alienating.

Jul
23
2014
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These "Wahlburgers" Are Entirely Undercooked Review

Continuing the trend of giving a reality TV show to anyone with a famous face to maximize on low production costs and high audience recognition, Wahlburgers follows the aspiring burger business of Paul Wahlberg, one of the lesser known siblings of actors Donnie Wahlberg and Mark Wahlberg. Much like any other reality TV show out there, Wahlburgers has to do as much as it can with as little substance as possible, and it never really succeeds. Episodes feel like minor happenings that have been stretched and inflated to fill 21 minutes with material that could have been covered in 2. The supposed draw of the series is the interactions between the Wahlberg siblings, their mother, and Mark’s HBO immortalized “entourage”, but even then each episode tries to do too much with far too little and so each of the 9 episodes of the first season feels empty.

Jul
23
2014
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Predictably, "Regular Show" Remains Unpredictably Weird...in a Good Way Review

Cartoon Network has had a new renaissance as of late thanks in large part to its wildly popular shows Adventure Time and Regular Show. And while the former easily gets more attention, it’s the latter that’s far more fascinating from a demographic perspective thanks to a tone, character dynamic, and episodic pattern (like the inevitable encounter with some supernatural force of absurd silliness) that makes it easy to question whether its intended audience really is children or their parents. The best answer, for any animated product, is always ‘both’. If an animated property can simultaneously engage kids and adults, then it’s achieving something that many of its peers aren’t even attempting. And Regular Show does that with each episode. J.G. Quintel’s series about a raccoon and a blue jay has long since transcended its roots as an ambitiously creative show for kids and has become something that both children and adults should try, even if only once, to experience its rather accurate depiction of modern day friendship spiced up with some comedy and weirdness.

Jun
17
2014
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Get Some Fuel For Your Imagination with "Adventure Time" Review

No animated show on television is as creative in 22-minutes as Adventure Time squeezes into each 11-minute episode. That’s a fact. Adventure Time oozes with creative ambition, sometimes in the form of actual animated ooze, and it’s presented in one of the most vivid and colorful shows you’ll likely ever see. It’s a sight to behold. Even when an episode doesn’t quite live up to the bar set by the typically excellent series, there’s usually something special to admire about the story or the detail or the message that comes out of it. This is a show that bucks that idea that watching television will likely rot the imagination of children, because if anything the rampantly strange but wondrous happenings of Adventure Time will get your child thinking of fantastical worlds in their own head and foster desire for interest in some of the random educational subjects the episodes tend to touch on.

Jun
17
2014
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Make 'Em Laugh: Gaffigan's "Obsessed" isn't Jim at his Best

Jim Gaffigan ranks among my favorite comedians, but even I have to confess that I’ve found his comedy specials to be declining in quality as the years have marched on. His early appearances on Comedy Central stand-up shows and his first special Beyond the Pale remain some of my favorite comedy bits of the 00s, but since then there’s a fair argument to be made that he’s been coasting, or worse, repeating himself a bit. Some of that sentiment stems from his transition from his safe zone of all food comedy, all the time. That and his self-condemning audience persona were his two mainstays that made him a terrific stand-up act. Understandably, not wanting to be pigeon-holed as “the food comedy guy”, he’s been branching out since King Baby (which was still pretty food-centric and consistently funny from start to finish), but it hasn’t been working too well for him, especially not with Obsessed.

Jun
16
2014
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"Godzilla" Reclaims His Title as "King of the Monsters" Review

It’s not necessary to trash failed entries in a franchise’s history in order to praise the best of the lot, and so to frame this return of Godzilla to the screen under the guidance of Gareth Edwards all we’ll say about Roland Emmerich’s bombastic mess is that it’s now easier to forget than ever before. The king of the monsters stomps back into the spotlight looking larger and bulkier than ever, but with the plot of his movie rooted in the human perspective, a tactic that made Toho’s 90s and 00s movies quite fun. That human anchor combined with some impressive CGI and a strong cast spouting off some admittedly perfunctory dialogue help to keep the filmic behemoth churning along even as a bunch of smaller problems nip at its heels. It’s a fun time at the movies; moreso if you don’t ask a lot of questions, focus on the film’s bait and switch, or try to make sense of the monster sizing.

May
19
2014
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"Grudge Match": Stallone and De Niro Must Need Money Review

It’s never pleasant to watch a person you once respected lose touch with the skill or talent that made them so great, and that’s what we’ve been witnessing with Robert De Niro and, to a lesser extent (in that our respect for him was considerably less), Sylvester Stallone. As Robert De Niro has been lending his presence to lousy family comedies (Meet the Fockers, Little Fockers, etc.) or failed attempts at reclaiming his once gritty persona (Righteous Kill) with only a few good projects scattered in between, Stallone has been doing the same with revisits to his boxing (Rocky Balboa), soldier (Rambo), and action star (The Expendables, Bullet to the Head) glory days. And so, with their collective dignities besmirched by their refusal to let go of their glory days, they’ve given in to a film like Grudge Match, a film whose very premise plays out like the answer to an internet argument about which actor’s boxer character would win in a fight: Rocky Balboa or Jake La Motta. Spoiler alert: both actors lose by even entertaining the question.

May
12
2014
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You Should Elect to Try Out "Veep" Review

It’s almost unfair the amount of hype that HBO’s Veep has to live up to due to its label as the second attempt of Armand Iannucci to capture the lightning in a bottle that made The Thick of It (and its star Peter Capaldi) critical and pop culture gold. Furthermore, it’s being done with considerably cleaner language and less malice than The Thick of It used to such spectacular comedic results. Maybe it’s because HBO or Iannucci don’t think we can handle a foul-mouthed Vice President, but just as likely it’s Iannucci playing around with a different kind of comedy that’s looking to hook the viewers who once flocked to Curb Your Enthusiasm. It’s wry, knowing look at the ultimately futile power plays of White House politics creates a modern comedy of errors that’s as likely to make you really uncomfortable as it to make you chuckle. In its second season, Veep continues to perfect that blend of awkwardness and comedy, giving us plenty to look forward to down the road.

May
10
2014
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NBC Officially Cancels "Community"

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Despite all the fan love and outcries of support, NBC has finally done what many suspected was inevitable since its second season: cancelled Dan Harmon's Community. Then again, it was really only 4/5 Dan Harmon's thanks to his dismissal from the show for the fourth season that led to many really unfortunate episodes, a handful of decent ones, and the unfortunately poor wrap up of a number of really great ideas in some very unsatisfying ways (see: alternate timeline season 4 finale). The fifth season was only slightly better despite Harmon's return to the writer's chair, but by then the already weak ratings that kept Community on the will they, won't they cancellation bubble had sunk to a low that made this fate all the more certain. At least we got a season 5 finale that felt suitably final.

May
09
2014
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In May, Criterion's Ace in the Hole, Overlord Steve Zissou, goes to Red River Like Someone in Love

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If you're a fan of classic cinema and contemporary filmmaking alike, then chances are you're more than familiar with The Criterion Collection, a DVD and Blu-ray distributor that releases polished editions of cinema masterpieces with a slew of exclusive extras in an effort to preserve some of the most important film achievements, Each month, Criterion releases 4-7 new Blu-ray editions of classics that might otherwise never get such treatment.This month, those films include: Howard Hawks's John Wayne western, Red River; Abbas Kiarostami's Like Someone in Love; Stuart Cooper's WWII drama Overlord; Billy Wilder's newspaper drama Ace in the Hole, starring Kirk Douglas; and an update of the always whimsical Wes Anderson's The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou.

For full details on all these releases and their extras, read on.

May
09
2014
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"The Nut Job" Was Better When It Was "Over the Hedge" Review

As someone who prides themselves on watching a large variety of films regularly, I firmly believe that the more new things a director or writer tries in their films the better off the film and the audience are. Consequently, with a movie like The Nut Job, which represents some of the first efforts of a number of different studios, you can’t help but feel like you’re stifling some of that variety you value when you say that it’s absolutely terrible and advise people against watching it. Though, that’s exactly what the film deserves. Though written, oddly enough, by one of the screenwriters of Dreamworks’ Over the Hedge, The Nut Job feels like poorly crafted imitation of that very film. Even the animation, which in some respects is well-polished, feels jerky and appears like it’s only 2/3 complete, as if it’s the semi-complete rendering and the film was put out before it was ready. Even if the animation had been better though, the painfully bad script and voice acting by Will Arnett, Liam Neeson, and Katherine Heigl that always feels out of place doom it anyway.

May
07
2014
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Old School "Godzilla" Can Hold His Own in HD Review

With Gareth Edwards’s Godzilla looming on the horizon but two weeks away, it’s no wonder that studios are scrambling to push out Blu-ray editions of any big monster movies they have – and believe me, there are a lot of them. In the last 2 weeks, I’ve watched 23 monster movies: 8 Toho Godzilla flicks, 8 Daiei Gamera flicks (more on those in another review), and 5 more recent, random direct-to-DVD monster movies. Oh, and Pacific Rim, because the other 21 whetted my appetite, and then Roland Emmerich’s Godzilla to make it so I wouldn’t want to see any more for another 5 years. Of those, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the Toho Godzilla movies, produced through the 90s and early 00s, actually hold up in a way comparable to some of the classic Star Trek films post Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. You know there’s an inherent silliness to some of it, and the special effects are a bit outdated, but you’re still surprised the film manages to create an engaging story even as it strains the limits of credulity (obviously moreso with a gigantic nuclear-mutated dinosaur).

May
07
2014
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"Key & Peele" Has Become TV's Best Sketch Comedy Review

With the once-acclaimed Saturday Night Live long on the decline and with comic luminaries like Dave Chappelle doing other things, the world of televised sketch comedy shows has seen better days. Perhaps the most celebrated and quotable of the current contenders is Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein’s Portlandia, but if you want the most inventive, creative, and incisive sketch comedy out there, you can’t look anywhere else but Key and Peele. Duo Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele have quietly but surely crept up as the guys to watch if you want to see hilarious bits that often take things further and to places you should have but didn’t anticipate. The show finished its third season last year, with a fourth expected sometime later in 2014, but if you haven’t been watching this latest release of the first two seasons on Blu-ray is a great place to start.

May
07
2014
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Giving a Comedian Their Own Show Isn't Always 'Legit' Review

The concept of giving comedians their own sitcom is nothing new, and both in the past and the modern age it has produced genuine pop culture gems like The Bob Newhart Show, Seinfeld, and most recently Louie. The former two shows listed there kept pretty tightly to the sitcom ideal, never straying too far, but Louie has shown that there’s room for change in the formula, that balancing the comedy with some truly bittersweet dramatic moments can make for brilliant television. And yet, even with that beacon to guide other comedians to potentially innovational shows, we still get absolute garbage like Whitney or recycled mediocrity like Legit, which is really just My Name is Earl rebranded to have some of the darker edgier comedy of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia but without enough to call its own to make it very memorable.

May
05
2014
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Pretty Sure "The Jungle Book" on Blu-ray is a Bare Necessity Review

No matter how popular Frozen’s “Let it Go” gets and no matter how many times it’s remixed, it will never unseat my love for the Disney songs from the older classics, with The Jungle Book as the reigning king. It might not have the Elton John and Tim Rice pedigree of The Lion King or the Academy Award  statues like the former and Beauty and the Beast (though it was nominated), but The Jungle Book’s musical and narrative strength lies in its simplicity, which is fitting considering its best song is none other than “The Bare Necessities”. Adapted from Rudyard Kipling’s book of the same title (though with quite a few liberties), The Jungle Book is the very simple story of a boy raised in the wild and begins to question the rules he lives by as he starts to get a little older and starts to explore further into than the jungle he calls his home.

May
05
2014
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Wolverine's 'Tomorrow Dies Today' Should Have Lived Longer Review

Add time travel to any story and you give it a new level of complexity that will either enrich it or totally screw over the writer as it opens up plothole after plothole with a can of worms of unexpected complications. Wolverine: Weapon X – Tomorrow Dies Today faced just such a potential outcome, but thanks to some solid writing by Jason Aaron that keeps the seemingly epic scope of the story fairly contained, it never spins out control to leave a huge number of unanswered questions. In fact, it’s so well contained that it’s somewhat unsatisfying; leaving very few questions or stories to be pursued at a later time. The artwork by Ron Garney is terrific though, and brought to life by Marvel’s increasingly excellent Motion Comics division, it makes Tomorrow Dies Today one of the better entries in the series.

May
04
2014
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The Death of a Great President Lives on in "Killing Kennedy" Review

Though not a fan of Bill O’Reilly, I can appreciate his examinations of historic events (namely the deaths of some very prominent figures) as a student of history. The filmic adaptations of those examinations, however, have a definite hit or miss quality thus far. With Killing Lincoln, what could have been an interesting retelling of President Lincoln’s assassination was marred by some genuinely awful acting on the part of Jesse Johnson and production values that made it look as cheap as its “made for TV movie” origins would have you expect. With Killing Kennedy, the sins of the previous adaptation are corrected, with the film having a noticeably higher caliber of production behind it and with performances by its two leads (Rob Lowe and Will Rothhaar) easily besting those in Killing Lincoln. And while the examination of Kennedy’s assassination is incredibly shallow and doesn’t dive into any of the conspiracy theories, it’s still a solid retelling that at least touches on all the basic facts.

Mar
05
2014
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"Jewtopia" Survives its Exodus from Stage to Screen Review

If you’ve never heard of the play that inspired the film, no one could blame you for having a little bit of apprehension heading into a film called Jewtopia. The film’s name alone makes you wonder if it’s going to be an incredibly offensive onslaught of anti-semitic one-liners or a comedy created by and knowingly winking at anyone who’s ever lived or observed Jewish life in America. It’s a comedy staple that’s become increasingly common over the years, with the guilt-tripping mothers, a mandatory career path of lawyer, doctor, or media mogul, and many other overly familiar stereotypes. Jewtopia plays them all up, but in a way that’s simultaneously repetitive and fresh. It doesn’t hurt that it’s one of the best performances for Joel David Moore or Ivan Sergei, or that they’re backed by Tom Arnold, Jon Lovitz, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Christine Lakin, Wendie Malick, Peter Stormare, and Jamie-Lynn Sigler.

Mar
04
2014
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