Rachel Kolb

Staff Writer

I love movies, writing, and breaking into song in public. You can follow me on Twitter @rachelekolb or check out more of my work at http://rachelekolb.wordpress.com.

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NYCC 2015: Cosplay Costume Highlights

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Every year at New York Comic Con, cosplayers find a new way to up their game and open it up to new fandoms. Once a parade of Batmans, Iron Mans, Harley Quinns, and Black Widows, the crowd is now much less homogeneous.

Not that there is anything wrong with dressing up as Batman (and many people did), but this year, it was gratifying to see a wider variety of characters walking around the show floor. There were more women, more people of color, and more LGBTQ characters. For every Power Ranger or Spiderman, there was an Effie Trinket, a Kamala Khan, or Frank N. Furter.

Young fandoms, like Agent Carter, Rick and Morty, and Mad Max: Fury Road, were well-represented. Peggy Carter’s red fedora and Furiosa’s mechanical arm were everywhere, and it was nearly impossible to go anywhere without seeing a white lab coat and a shock of bright blue hair. Many nostalgic properties for millennials also made a comeback, like The Magic School Bus and Hook, while others opted for a fresh take on old favorites, like Team StarKid’s Hipster Harry Potter or Bodybuilder Umbridge.

The variety of characters and fandoms represented by cosplayers at New York Comic Con is a reflection of the convention broadening itself as a whole. It is an encouraging development, and while there is still work to be done, it means that the geek community is becoming more inclusive as a whole to people of all ages, races, gender identities, and sexualities. Check out the gallery below for some cosplay highlights from New York Comic Con.

Oct
22
2015
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Despite Expanding from a Mere "Park", "Jurassic World" Still Feels Overstuffed Review

Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) is the manager of Jurassic World, a theme park featuring live dinosaurs. At the start of Jurassic World, she is juggling three major crises. First, her boss Masrani (Irrfan Khan) is pushing for bigger, scarier dinosaurs to feature in the park, and the new genetically enhanced dinosaur, the Indominous Rex, is proving difficult to handle, even in containment. Second, outside forces have more nefarious purposes for genetically-enhanced dinosaurs than entertaining tourists. Thirdly, the resort and park are packed with guests, including Claire’s visiting nephews Gray (Ty Simpkins) and Zach (Nick Robinson), who Claire has not seen in years. When the Indominous Rex gets loose and starts killing everything in sight, including other dinosaurs, Claire has to team up with Owen (Chris Pratt), a raptor wrangler and her ex-boyfriend, to take down the Indominous Rex and save her nephews as well as the other 21,000 tourists on the island.

Jun
16
2015
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Just Go Ahead And "Jump Street" Review

After the events of 21 Jump Street, Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum) are back on the force and busting drug dealers, or at least trying to. When a trafficking bust goes bad, however, Deputy Chief Hardy (Nick Offerman) decides that they should just go back to their old formula from 21 Jump Street and see if magic happens twice, with a much bigger budget. Captain Dickson (Ice Cube) finds a drug case that looks just like their high school case from before, except that this time, Schmidt and Jenko are going to college. As Dickson and Hardy say to stick to the formula, though, Schmidt and Jenko discover that this case won’t be solved by retreading their first case, and their friendship might not survive fraternity life.

Jun
12
2015
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Tribeca Film Festival 2015: Home Improvement

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Home Improvement is one of nine collections of short films presented at the Tribeca Film Festival. These six documentary short films are centered on the saying, “Home is where the heart is,” and all of the subjects in their own way are finding ways to improve and contribute to their respective homes. In Body Team 12 and The Trials of Constance Baker Motley, home is country, and it is worth putting one’s life on the line to make that country better for future generations. In The Gnomist, The Lights, and The House is Innocent, home is smaller communities like cities or neighborhoods, and art and humor can transform a forest into a magical place, a house into a Christmas spectacle, or a notorious murder house into a real home. Even Interview with a Free Man asks whether these men can meaningfully contribute and find their place in society after incarceration. Read on for a rundown of Home Improvement.

May
26
2015
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Tribeca Film Festival 2015: The Wolfpack

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On the Lower East Side of Manhattan lives the Angulo family, six brothers ages 16 to 23, one daughter, the diminutive mother Susanne, and the overbearing father Oscar. When they moved into the apartment in 1995, Oscar decided the city was not safe, and he would not allow his children to leave the apartment without his permission. Sometimes they would leave the apartment once or twice a year, as some of the older brothers remember, and one year, they never left the apartment at all. Homeschooled by their mother, the children had almost no contact with the outside world, and their only means to learn about the outside world was through their father’s extensive movie collection.

May
26
2015
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Tribeca Film Festival 2015: Thank You For Playing

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From the moment his baby son Joel was diagnosed with terminal cancer, game developer Ryan Green struggled to wrap his head around why this was happening and how his family would live with it. As time went on, he and his wife Amy got used to the hospital visits, the treatments, and seeing their tiny child hooked up to all those machines. Their other sons adjusted to the idea that their brother was fighting to stay alive, and the odds weren’t in his favor. How did Ryan cope in the face of such a devastating, unexplainable tragedy? To borrow the words of Neil Gaiman, he made good art, specifically a video game titled That Dragon, Cancer.

May
26
2015
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Tribeca Film Festival 2015: Be Yourself

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Be Yourself is one of nine collections of short films presented at the Tribeca Film Festival, focusing on personal stories about self-identity. Out of the six films in the collection, four of the films are reviewed below. All-American Family, a documentary about an all-deaf high school football team, and Eternal Princess, a portrait of gymnast Nadia Comaneci, were also part of the collection. The subject matter ranges from faith and love to art and passion for an era long gone. All of them are unique and personal, and all of them are part of the human experience. Read on for a rundown of Be Yourself.

American RenaissanceAmerican Renaissance is a look into the New York Renaissance Faire in Tuxedo, New York and a profile of some of the performers, including jugglers, fairies, and a Queen Elizabeth. For people who are already familiar with these kinds of events, American Renaissance only scratches the surface of the subject matter. The interviews are entertaining, particularly the Queen Elizabeth actress, and the film has some good cinematography with some great shots of the jousting. Overall, though, the filmmakers could have gone deeper with the material, gotten more into this subculture and why someone dedicates so much time or their career to celebrating this era in history. I have family members who work a lot of these festivals, and there is plenty more to explore.

ElderElder is a true life love story about Tom Clark, a gay Mormon youth who fell in love for the first time during his mission in Italy. The story is recounted by Tom Clark with pictures and video taken by Clark during that time. He talks about how he was treated for his homosexuality with medication and so-called reparative therapy, and even as he was in love, he was praying to God and struggling with reconciling his faith and his sexuality. Elder is incredibly moving film. In its short runtime, it captures the elation and butterflies of first love and the aching heartbreak when it ends. It also shows why staying in the closet or seeking reparative therapy is so damaging, how it deprives people of love and affection while also forcing them to lie on a regular basis.

Live Fast Draw YungLive Fast Draw Yung follows the career of Yung Lenox, a six-year-old artist who specializes in illustrated hip-hop album covers. His work first got noticed after his father shared his drawings on Instagram, and since then, he has done portraits of Biggie Smalls, 2 Live Crew, and Tupac. Like Yung’s work, Live Fast Draw Yung is colorful, loose, and a little rough around the edges, and Yung is a charming kid and the perfect kind of subject for a short-form documentary.

In the short running time, the interviews delve into whether it is appropriate for a kid Yung’s age to be listening to music by artists like Biggie, and on a similar note, whether it is appropriate for him to be drawing some of these album covers. The 2 Live Crew cover, a popular one, prominently features women in bikinis with their butts taking up most of the cover. Also, Yung’s father talks about the allegations made by critics that he is pushing his son into it and that he is using his son to gain fame or a quick buck. It doesn’t necessarily resolve all of these questions that it brings up, but as a portrait of a six-year-old who loves drawing hip-hop artists, Live Fast Draw Yung is worth a watch.

My Enemy, My BrotherMy Enemy, My Brother tells the true story of Zahed and Najah, two soldiers who were on opposite sides during the Iran-Iraq war. During a battle, Najah was the only soldier still alive in his bunker, and Zahed was sent in to kill any survivors. Instead, Zahed decided to spare him and hid Najah, saving his life. Against all odds, the two were reunited years later when they both visited the same veteran’s hospital in Toronto. Their story is incredible, almost unbelievable if it was not true, and seeing these men brought back together all these years later is an emotional experience of itself. The reenacted flashbacks are also acted and filmed expertly. I am not usually a fan of these kinds of re-enactments in documentaries, but they are done well and used sparingly. This is a story that has stuck with me, and My Enemy, My Brother is one of the few films from the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival that I have recommended whole-heartedly without reservation to anyone. It is a powerful film, and its message of shared humanity is universal.

Apr
30
2015

Believe It Or Not, You Shouldn't Trust A "Gnome" Review

Kind-hearted Zoe (Kerry Knuppe) is having a tough time. Her mother is heavily medicated. Her step-father is a molester. She works at a convenience store to put herself through college, where she is receiving unwanted attention from a professor, and one of the store’s regulars, a homeless woman nicknamed Ms. Mae (Willow Hae), is killed in a hit-and-run accident. Before Ms. Mae dies, she passes along a curse to Zoe which gives her a witch’s mark on her skin and the unwanted protection of a murderous gnome (Verne Troyer).

Apr
20
2015
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"Kink" Puts Your Inhibitions Under The Whip Review

Kink is a documentary about daily life and work at Kink.com, a BDSM erotica site, from the perspective of performers, directors, casting directors, and crew members. Director Christina Voros follows a wide variety of porn film shoots and allow these performers and directors explains the different aspects of BDSM in their own words. They also get into the trickier aspects of consent when money is involved and why feminists are so divided when it comes to pornography in general.

Apr
15
2015
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"Big History" Gets It Right Review

The History Channel’s Big History is an exploration of how things like gold, salt, and horses have changed the course of history, narrated by Breaking Bad’s Bryan Cranston. Rather than looking at individual events or specific eras of human history, Big History aims to make connections throughout all of human history, discover how these factors shaped human history, and examine how the human race is still affected today. The DVD collection includes all 17 episodes of the mini-series, plus 30 minutes of footage that was not included when the series aired on the History Channel.

Feb
04
2015
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"Belle" Gets Coal In Its Stocking Review

Glenn Barrows (Dean Cain) is a father preparing his son Elliot (Jet Jurgensmeyer) and Phoebe (Meyrick Murphy) for the first Christmas without their mother. His new girlfriend Dani (Kristy Swanson), however, is more interested in Glenn’s money and his dead wife’s jewelry than Glenn or his kids. Their holidays take a turn for the better when Elliot and Phoebe fall in love with a sweet rescue puppy named Belle, and Glenn meets Kate (Haylie Duff), a pretty dog shelter volunteer.

Feb
04
2015
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"Jack's" Heart Beats A Little Too Long Review

On the coldest night in the history of the world, a baby Jack (Orlando Seale) is born and abandoned by his mother, and Madeleine (Barbara Scaff), the midwife/witch who delivered him, adopts him as her own. Unfortunately, the winter chill freezes his young heart solid, and she is forced to replace his heart with a mechanical cuckoo-clock heart. As he grows up, Madeleine protects him from the outside world, and she constantly warns him that his mechanical heart will break and he will die if he ever falls in love. His curiosity for the outside world prevails, however, and he falls for Miss Acaia (Samantha Barks), an enchanting young singer.

Feb
04
2015
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"The Exes" Still Have A Little Chemistry Review

Newly divorced Stuart (David Alan Basche) is moving in across the hall from his divorce lawyer and now landlord Holly (Kristen Johnston). His new roommates Phil (Donald Faison) and Haskell (Wayne Knight) are also divorcees and Holly’s clients, but that is where their similarities end. Phil is a sports agent with a string of one-night stands. Haskell is a schemer with a million plans to get rich quick. Stuart is a neat freak with a love for cooking and sensible khakis. It is the perfect set-up for an old-fashioned sitcom.

Jan
27
2015
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"Teen Wolf" Can Still Howl Review

Teen Wolf has been a runaway hit for MTV, but it is a phenomenon that I missed out on almost entirely. When I got the second half of Teen Wolf’s third season to review, I decided to conduct an experiment. I would watch the second half of the third season cold, without reading any background on the characters or synopses of previous seasons. This experiment lasted exactly one episode before I threw in the towel and consulted a Teen Wolf expert. There might be a lot of issues with Teen Wolf, but the writers have created their own mythology and a large cast of characters with complicated relationships. It is not friendly to newcomers wanting to jump in late to the game. The show expects more from its fans and does not waste time catching its audience up.

Jan
27
2015
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"Bible Quiz" Scores Review

Bible Quiz is a documentary film following Mikayla, a Christian teenager who competes in Bible Quiz competitions. Bible Quiz rewards competitors for memorizing facts and obscure details from the Bible and then remembering them under intense pressure. The coaches and organizers claim that Bible Quiz encourages a better understanding of the Bible and its teachings, though the participants often rattle off these facts and figures in a dispassionate manner and seem more interested in strategy and winning than theology.

Jan
27
2015
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You Can "Drive Hard", But You Won't Like It When You Get There Review

Former race car driver Peter Roberts (Thomas Jane) is having a terrible day. His wife isn’t supporting his dream to open a racing school, the bills are piling up, and he is bored with his job as a driving instructor. To make matters worse, his latest student Simon Keller (John Cusack) is a bank robber in search of a getaway driver, and Keller has decided that Roberts is the man for the job. Together, they have to escape the cops and the former gangsters running the bank, and if they succeed, they will split the take of $9 million.

Dec
26
2014
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NYCC 2014: Amber Benson Talks Witches, Writing, and Passing the Bechdel Test

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The multi-talented Amber Benson is best recognized as Tara Maclay from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but recently, she is starring in Geek & Sundry’s new show Morganville: The Series and wrote the Calliope Reaper-Jones series for Penguin. Her newest book The Witches of Echo Park is coming out in January 2015. She sat down with me at New York Comic Con to discuss her life-long fascination with magic and how to make it through the saddest moments of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

 

Nov
04
2014
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NYCC 2014: Helvetika Bold – A Super Woman with a Message for Good

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On Friday afternoon, I was standing in line for “Women of Color in Comics: Race, Gender and the Comic Book Medium.” It was one of my most anticipated panel of the convention, and clearly, I wasn’t alone in that opinion as the line stretched on in front and behind me. Next to me in line, however, was a superhero Helvetika Bold, an activist who gained her superpowers after an underground printing press exploded with her inside. With her new-found abilities, she can transform lies and fear into uniting truths and universal principles. Unexpectedly, my meeting with this incredible lady became one of my highlights of the entire convention. Check out her origin story comic book for free here, and read on for highlights from our conversation.

Oct
23
2014
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"Birdman," "Once Upon a Time," and More Highlights From NYCC - Friday

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Friday at New York Comic Con is over, and wow, it was a busy day! On the main stage, there was ABC’s Once Upon a Time, as well as Michael Keaton and Edward Norton’s new film Birdman. Meanwhile, “Women of Color in Comics: Race, Gender and the Comic Book Medium” was at full capacity (and then some!), and it definitely did not disappoint with a wide variety of artists, writers, and creators. Here are the highlights from Friday, including a preview of Michael Keaton and Edward Norton's new film Birdman, social justice superheroes, and great cosplay from New York Comic Con!

Oct
23
2014
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Thrilling Adventure Hour, Cary Elwes, and More Highlights from NYCC – Sunday

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Sunday is the last day of New York Comic Con, and in the past, it has been a more leisurely day without many big panels or events. 2014 has been a year for defying expectations, however, as Sunday morning started with John Hodgman, Paget Brewster, Mac Evan Jackson, and the rest of the cast of the Thrilling Adventure Hour making a major announcement about the future of the show, and it ended with Cary Elwes telling stories about the making of The Princess Bride. Read on for all the highlights, quotes, and best cosplay outfits from Sunday!

Oct
22
2014
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