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 2013: Fans Demand Diversity from Creators

In Part 2 of this 3-part series, fans used New York Comic Con to confront companies and creators failing to offer diversity in their books, TV shows, films, and video games. Which creators made excuses, and which ones are making changes? Read on to find out.

At the “All Things YA” panel Saturday afternoon, the biggest names in publishing had just finished presenting their new releases for 2013 and titles to look forward to in 2014. Harper Teen, Disney Hyperion, Simon & Schuster, MacKids, Penguin Young Readers, and Little, Brown Books for Young Readers were all on hand, hoping that the crowd would respond to their line-ups and ignore the lack of “insider scoop” that the panel had promised. Having sat through a parade of Hunger Games meets X-Men meets The Scarlett Letter meets Downton Abbey “with teenagers,” people were anxious to get some real answers about what is going on today in young adult literature.

Oct
27
2013
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NYCC 2013: Jane Espenson Talks "Husbands," Complex Gay Characters on TV

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How did a linguistics and computer science major from Ames, IA become one of the most well-known and beloved TV writers working today? I sat down with Jane Espenson Sunday afternoon at New York Comic Con to talk about her rise to prominence in television, how she chose her projects from Buffy the Vampire Slayer to Once Upon a Time, and how her work on Husbands is changing how TV portrays gender dynamics in gay couples.

Oct
27
2013
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NYCC 2013: Convention Bullying in an Age of Social Media

“At what age do you tell a girl that she can't be Wonder Woman because she is black?”

Jay Justice, one of the featured speakers at this year's New York Comic Con, asked this painful hypothetical question after recounting stories of strangers telling her she was being “disrespectful” when she chose to cosplay as characters like Scarlet Witch, Batgirl, or the aforementioned Wonder Woman. At the “Geeks of Color Assemble! : Minorities in Fandom” panel, Jay's story was all too familiar to other panelists and attendees, which is probably why the room was packed to overflowing with people getting turned away at the door. Celebrities like William Shatner, Gillian Anderson, and Sylvester Stallone might have dominated the headlines for New York Comic Con 2013, but the real story this year was fans challenging sexism/racism/homophobia within their own community, the lack of diversity in geek entertainment, and the media's continued portrayal of geeks as white and heterosexual.

Oct
17
2013
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Top 10 “Once Upon a Time” Surprises from NYCC 2013

This year, the fan presence of Once Upon a Time exploded at New York Comic Con with meet-ups, Regina cosplayers walking the show floor, and a high-profile panel on Saturday afternoon. Show creators Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz were at Saturday's panel to present a new clip for Sunday's episode “Quite a Common Fairy” as well as a clip from the new spin-off Once Upon a Time in Wonderland. Surprise special guest Jennifer Morrison also answered questions from moderator Matt Mitovich, and as a Once Upon a Time fan, the panel exceeded my expectations. Questions and conversation ranged from season 3 and Wonderland plot line to fan shipping and the potential for queer characters on the show, so read on for the top 10 Once Upon a Time surprises and revelations from New York Comic Con 2013. 

Oct
16
2013
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"Floating City" Is Well Worth A Visit Review

Floating City is the journey of Bo Wah Chuen (Aaron Kwok), an adopted biracial child growing up on a fishing boat in British colonized Hong Kong in the 1940s. It was a time when people were clearly divided by their race and British citizenship, and anyone who didn't fit inside a neat box was ostracized. He is called “Mixed” by his own family and barred from attending the local school because parents did not want their children associating with him. When his family falls on hard times, his life becomes even harder, and he has to take on odd jobs and save every penny to provide for his mother and younger siblings. Against all odds, however, he learns to read and speak English, and he rises through the ranks of the Imperial East India to achieve success beyond his wildest dreams. Despite his success, however, one question still lingers. Who is Bo Wah Chuen, and what kind of man does he want to be?

Sep
26
2013
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The "Wild Kratts" Have Very Tame Imaginations Review

Martin and Chris Kratt, otherwise known as the “Wild Kratts,” are brothers who love nature. In their new collection Wild Kratts Wildest Animal Adventures, the Kratt brothers explore and learn about animals from all around the world from great white sharks to platypus and birds of paradise. At the start of each episode, the real-life brothers introduce the animal they will be following in the episode, and then they transform into cartoon versions of themselves before setting off on their adventure. They also have a team of sidekicks to supply them with whatever they might need, including power discs that grant them powers based on whatever animal they are tracking, and they all together travel around in a giant flying turtle-like laboratory/flying machine.

Sep
23
2013
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"Savages Crossing" is a Trip Worth Taking Review

At a roadside diner, a torrential rain storm is raging outside and another storm is brewing inside. Phil (John Jarratt) a man recently released from prison, is trying to track down his wife Sue (Angela Punch McGregor) and his son Damien (Charlie Jarratt). He claims that they have money that rightfully belongs to him, and they claim he is psychotic and means them both harm. A livestock trucker Mory (Craig McLachlan), the diner's owner Kate (Jessica Napier), and the other patrons of the diner are caught in the middle as the drama escalates and Sue's paid protector ends up dead.

Sep
23
2013
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Fantasy Lovers Will Want to Watch the Second Season of "Once Upon a Time" Twice Review

The first season of Once Upon a Time set up a world where fairy tale characters come to life, but their real stories aren't exactly like the storybooks. Snow White (Ginnifer Goodwin in a pixie cut and my ModCloth wishlist) is more like Robin Hood, a skilled archer and hero of the people who lives in the woods and fights an evil ruler. Prince Charming (Josh Dallas) is handsome and brave just like in the stories, but in the real world of Storybrooke, he is a bit of a homemaker. Rumpelstiltskin (Robert Carlyle) is the man who spins straw into gold, but he also a good man trapped inside a beast and the “crocodile” for another famed villain. Dr. Frankenstein (David Anders) is a tortured soul trying to bring the dead back to life, but he is also the local doctor and most eligible bachelor in town.

Sep
15
2013
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"Fear The Forest", And The Direction, And The Acting, And... Review

What is there to be said about Fear the Forest? According to the back cover synopsis, this film is about a local government offering a reward for any information on a beast believed to be Bigfoot and a group of teenagers on a camping trip who are attacked by the mysterious creature. I had no idea what it was about until I read the back cover because frankly, this is the most incompetently produced movie I have ever seen in my life.

Watching this movie, I felt as though I was slowly going insane. For the first 15 minutes of the movie, the editor cuts from scene to scene, every scene with completely different characters than the scene before. None of these characters are named. Their relationships to each other are not defined. Forget about character motivations, I had no idea what was going on.

Sep
10
2013
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"Adele" Was Worth The Wait Review

Adele Blanc-Sec (Louise Bourgoin) is an extraordinary woman. World explorer, master of disguise, and a stylish dresser to boot, her daily life is an adventure, but a personal tragedy has put her on a mission to discover the key to life itself. Along the way, she will have to uncover the secrets of the pharaohs hidden within Egypt's pyramids, tame a pterodactyl that is terrorizing Paris, and stage a prison break before the one man who can help her solve this mystery is executed.

Luc Besson's The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec was released in 2010 in France but has taken until 2013 to be released in the United States. Having seen it, I have to ask what took so damn long. I absolutely adore this movie. It is my favorite movie of 2013 so far. Adele Blanc-Sec is a heroine that I wish I had grown up seeing on screen. She is Indiana Jones meets Anne Shirley, sharp and funny with a gorgeous wardrobe. She is sexy without being objectified, and Louise Bourgoin's performance combined with Besson's script sets a new standard for cinematic heroines.

Sep
10
2013
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The Creative and Clever "The Sword in the Stone" Still has Some Lessons to Teach Review

Classic Disney animated films usually bring to mind epic fairy tale romances like Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and Sleeping Beauty with brave princes, beautiful princesses, and animation that is still breathtaking today. The Sword in the Stone does not fall into the typical model of the classic Disney film. There are no princesses and only the most fleeting of romances between a boy and a squirrel, and while the animation is fun and fits the material well, it is more whimsical than epic. In my opinion, though, this doesn't make The Sword in the Stone any less of a classic, but I believe it is helpful to go into The Sword in the Stone with the proper expectations so the viewer can appreciate it for what it is rather than comparing it to other Disney animated films from that same era.

Sep
01
2013
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Ironically Titled "Magic Magic" has None Whatsoever Review

Magic Magic opens with Alicia (Juno Temple) traveling to Chile to vacation with her cousin Sarah (Emily Browning), Sarah's boyfriend Agustin (Agustin Silva), and Sarah's friends Brink (Michael Cera) and Barbara (Catalina Sandino Moreno). Alicia has never met Agustin, Brink, and Barbara before, and they don't exactly get off to a great start together. The awkward dynamic of the group is exacerbated when Sarah suddenly has to return to school for a few days to take a final exam, and Alicia is left alone with Sarah's friends whose behavior is at best disinterested and at worst sociopathic. As the days go on, Alicia can't sleep and slowly loses her grip on reality, isolating herself further and further from Sarah's friends.

Aug
28
2013
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"G.I. Joe: Retaliation" Explodes with Big, Dumb Summer Fun Review

Back when I first started writing for JustPressPlay, I reviewed the 80s animated G.I. Joe movie. Three years later, I am returning to the lovably cheesy world of G.I. Joe with G.I. Joe: Retaliation, and going in, I wondered if I would be as kind to the franchise hundreds of reviews later. As it turns out, I still have a soft spot for the Joes, and the addition of Dwayne Johnson to the cast made G.I. Joe: Retaliation a fun, dumb summer movie.

Despite being a sequel, there is very little that the audience needs to know from G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra to understand Retaliation. The film picks up with the Joes out on a mission which goes off without a hitch. They get in and out without a single man lost, but as they are waiting to get picked up, they are ambushed by Cobra which has infiltrated the White House.

Aug
20
2013
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"Detention of the Dead" Detains Pieces of "Breakfast Club" and "Dawn of the Dead" Review

First-time writer/director Alex Craig Mann has combined The Breakfast Club with Dawn of the Dead for a different kind of zombie movie. Detention of the Dead is a high school zombie horror-comedy which follows a group of teenagers stuck in detention who are forced to work together when zombies invade their school. All the typical high school archetypes are present including Eddie (Jacob Zachar), a nerd in love with the head cheerleader Janet (Christa B. Allen); Brad (Jayson Blair), Janet's boyfriend and the most popular guy in school; Jimmy (Max Adler), a meathead and Brad's best friend; Willow (Alexa Nikolas), the goth girl in love with Eddie; and Ash (Justin Chon), the school stoner and local drug dealer. After barricading themselves inside the library, they start to talk about why they were in detention, confess their true feelings about each other, and bond while smoking a blunt together.

Aug
19
2013
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"War on Whistleblowers" Muddles its Important Message with a Bombastic Delivery Review

Robert Greenwald, the filmmaker and political activist behind Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism and Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price, has a new target in his documentary War on Whistleblowers. The first part of the film covers a brief history of whistleblowers in America and how they positively changed the course of history. In the second part, he delves into modern day whistleblowers in the NSA and military contractors and documenting the difficulties they face after coming forward.

Aug
19
2013
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Rooster Teeth Branches Out from "Red vs. Blue" with Some Random, Funny Shorts Review

Rooster Teeth are best known for their Halo-themed comedy series Red vs. Blue, but they produce a whole slew of other series including a podcast about their lives and both animated and live-action shorts. Best of Rooster Teeth Shorts and Animated Adventures is a two-disc collection of their live-action shorts and animated “adventures” based on their podcast. Their live-action shorts can either be watched individually or as part of a loosely tied together story of the rise and fall of Rooster Teeth Studios, and the animated shorts are just showed back-to-back as a kind of clips show with occasional commentary by the Rooster Teeth creators.

Aug
14
2013
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"Planes" Proves Pixar Isn't Above Cynical Cash-Grabs Review

7 years ago, Pixar's seventh feature-length film Cars hit theaters. While it was not quite the critical success of its Pixar predecessors, the film was still reviewed fairly well and spawned a sequel as well as a massive amount of merchandise. (To quote Homestar Runner's Cheat Commandos, "Buy all our playsets and toys!") A spin-off, Planes, was produced by Disneytoon Studios, the animators behind Disney's direct-to-DVD titles including Pocahontas II and Cinderella II: Dreams Come True. Disney announced Planes with the intention of releasing it directly to DVD and Blu-ray, but in late 2012, they suddenly announced that Planes would be a theatrical release and available in 3D. Interestingly enough, Pixar similarly decided to scrap a direct-to-DVD sequel to Toy Story and ended up creating a fantastic sequel which was released in theaters. Disney and Pixar fans like myself wondered, though, whether Planes was so shockingly good that Disney executives insisted that it should be released in theaters, or whether this was a cynical money-grab by the studio. Unfortunately, I walked out of Planes with the sinking feeling that this was about cashing in on ridiculous 3D ticket prices and Cars/Planes toy sets.

Aug
10
2013
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"Aroused" Raises Hard Questions About the Adult Film Industry Review

Aroused is the directorial debut of photographer Deborah Anderson, and for her first film, she created a documentary about women working in the adult film industry. Anderson invited a wide range of adult film actresses to talk about their life and careers and then later participate in an intimate photo shoot. Instead of defining these women solely by their profession, Anderson sought to give a fuller picture of these women and their lives. What kind of family life did they have growing up? Did they have a lot of siblings? Are they close to their parents?

Aug
08
2013
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"Oz the Great and Powerful" Really Isn't Review

The road to Oz for Disney has been a long journey with many false starts and missteps along the way. Walt Disney himself announced an Oz film with the Mouseketeers, but he eventually abandoned the project. The idea of a Disney Oz franchise nearly died completely after the bizarre and frightening Return to Oz. For awhile, it seemed that a big-budget Oz film franchise would never happen. Now that the dream of the Oz movie has finally happened for Disney with Oz The Great and Powerful, the question is whether it was worth the wait. While Sam Raimi brings some genuine charm and magic to the world of Oz, the film falls short of true greatness.

Jul
24
2013
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There Are Fewer "Secrets Of The Dead" Than You'd Expect Review

Secrets of the Dead is a collection of three documentaries from PBS including “Death on the Railroad,” “Caveman Cold Case,” and “Bugging Hitler's Soldiers.” Each documentary was produced by a different team of writers and filmmakers with the only common thread through each film being narration by Jay O. Sanders and a ridiculous opening credits sequence that inspires more laughter than fear.

The first segment follows a cold case from 1832 of Irish immigrants who were assumed killed by a cholera outbreak but might have actually been murdered. The second segment explores the possibility of cannibal Neanderthals and examines a tomb full of Neanderthal remains. The third and best segment features shockingly frank conversations between some of Hitler's top officers who were held as POWs by the British. The British government covertly recorded their conversations, some of which had not been made public until this documentary.

Jul
19
2013
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