"Earth" Might Not Be Doomed After All (Maybe) Review

PBS has a nature documentary virtually on lock at this point. A few cute animals, some slow motion, and a few helicopter shots of vast, unspoiled terra firma and you’ve basically got 6 hours of programming. Earth: A New Wild yields to this formula almost entirely (they don’t mess around: this thing has baby pandas in it. Pandas), but distinguishes itself by virtue of the potentially incurable optimism of its host Sanjayan Muttulingam, whose amazement with the outdoors and the things in it appears inexhaustible. It’s unlikely that he’ll change the way you look at the world, but he may provide some welcome respite from its dourness.

Sep
30
2015
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"Pioneer" Goes Boldly Where The 70s Went Before Review

Any film maker looking to revive the conspiracy thriller has their work cut out for them. The genre hit its peak after Watergate, when the idea that the powers that be were little more than crooks (at best) was both novel and shocking, but it's a little harder to rouse a nation in which a full 25% of the population believes that 9/11 was an inside job. It would, frankly, be far more shocking if the government weren't up to no good. Such a problem befalls Pioneer, a competently produced and acted thriller that nonetheless never quite thrills in the way you’d like for it to.

Sep
30
2015
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There's a Little Something For Everyone "Where Hope Grows" Review

Calvin Campbell (Kristoffer Polaha) was a big baseball talent in his small Kentucky town growing up, but when he got his big break playing for the Detroit Tigers, he blew it. Now he floats around his hometown like a bourbon-soaked ghost, spending too much time drinking with his old buddies and not enough time being a father to his teenage daughter, who has gotten herself mixed up with an older bad boy. However, when Calvin meets a cheerful and inspirational young man with Down Syndrome called Produce (David DeSanctis), he is inspired to put down the bottle and get his life back on track. However, because this film is more than twenty minutes long, one knows it won’t be easy.

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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"Time Lapse": Sometimes Good Time Travel Twists Happen to Bad Characters Review

What if you had a camera that took pictures that showed what would happen in that exact spot 24 hours in the future? Except, you couldn’t move the camera, so it only took pictures of the same living room occupied by a hipster painter-slash-apartment building manager, his wannabe writer girlfriend and his loser best friend, who does absolutely nothing but gamble on dog racing? Such is the premise of Time Lapse, a low-budget sci-fi thriller that has plenty of potential--not to mention some legitimately chilling moments--but doesn't quite live up to its promise. 

Sep
16
2015
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"Singles" Keeps Giving Reasons To Stay That Way Review

There was a time, surely, when Singles must have felt pretty fresh. It was keyed into a time and place that has all but been enshrined as one the late twentieth century's great creative meccas (early 90s Seattle), and its young creative talent (most notably Cameron Crowe, who was between Say Anything and Jerry Maguire) was working in a form that had not yet ripened into insufferable cliché. Just how well that will translate to the present will vary from viewer to viewer, but on the whole, Singles retains its virtues, if more so as a time capsule than as a romantic comedy.

Sep
12
2015
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Apparently The First "Pact" Didn't Keep Review

It's hard to know what kind of reaction The Pact II was going for. The moody lighting and gruesome subject matter suggest that at some point during its hour and a half run time, the film hopes that you will be scared, but it's clear pretty early on that writers/directors Dallas Richard Hallam and Patrick Horvath aren't clear on just how to evoke such a feeling. They have all the ornaments down (serial killers, weird dreams), but when you put it all together, it doesn't feel like much.

Sep
12
2015
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They Should Have Looked Up "Salvation" In The Dictionary Review

I guess killin' all those Indians for us must have addled his mind.

The title of The Salvation (2014) is inapt. There is no salvation here. Danish filmmaker Kristian Levring has, instead, created another entry in the how-living-in-the-west-really-sucked-probably subgenre of Westerns. Things get so grim, in fact, that one questions the plausibility of the exact brand of misery Levring and co-writer Anders Thomas Jensen establish here. The story begins with Jon Jensen (Mads Mikkelsen) waiting at the (implausibly busy) train station for the arrival of his wife and child from Denmark. Jon and his brother left Denmark after the Second Schleswig War and set up as hunters in the new West. Before nightfall, Jon's wife and son have been murdered and Jon has taken his revenge on the culprits. Little did he know, one of the perpetrators was the brother of the local psycho-land grabber, Delarue (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), who then exacts his own interpretation of biblical justice that begins a cycle of extreme violence.

Sep
09
2015
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They Probably Won't Be "The Last Survivors" Review

Imagine a world where it hasn’t rained in a decade. The once lush, green lands of the Oregon valley now resemble a wasteland, empty and parched. Formerly the site of an orphanage, all that is left are some scattered ruins of farms that remain the last refuges of a few desperate, dying people. Among them are seventeen-year-old Kendal (Haley Lu Richardson) and her boyfriend, Dean (Booboo Stewart), who is so weak from kidney failure that he can barely get out of bed, let alone leave the valley. Fortunately, Kendal knows where an old Cessna is hidden, and spends her days hunting for the missing part she needs to get it up and running when she’s not busy keeping an eye out for a young child, Alby (Max Charles), or giving Dean her share of the last droplets of water that remain in their nearly dried-up well. However, a greedy and heartless water baron, Carson (Napoleon Dynamite’s Uncle Rico, Jon Gries), is making the rounds of the farms and killing any remaining people who might be drinking his water; the longer Kendal, Dean and Alby remain in the valley, the more likely they are to die.

Sep
09
2015
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