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Nick Valdez

Review: Creed

Nov 29 // Nick Valdez
[embed]220168:42717:0[/embed] CreedDirector: Ryan CooglerRated: PG-13Release Date: November 25th, 2015 Rocky started out as a humble film where the titular character was in search of his prime. Themes of resurrection, Jesus imagery, and bouts between mythical legends blew the series into the huge proportions its known by today. But just like how the sixth film, Rocky Balboa, saw to end the series, Creed chooses to bring it back down to Earth. Adonis (Michael B. Jordan), is Apollo's illegitimate son and after years of self-taught boxing and fighting underground in Mexico, he's ready to take on the sport full time in order to break out of the shadow of his famous father. After heading to Philadelphia, he convinces his father's old rival and friend, Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone), to train him through some of the biggest fights of his life.  Creed manages to accomplish something I've never seen before. It's only something a series seven films in can do, really. Although it can technically be the start of a whole new set of films, it feels like an appropriate epilogue to Balboa's saga. Stallone may not have written this film, but lots of the film's lines and themes fit right in with the other six films. Everything from the little story touches (Balboa knows every person in town, and people still call him "Champ"), to Balboa's dialogue sounding exactly like how he should (he's a big dumb lug, but he's got heart), and to little homages folks can miss completely. It's a film informed by history so fans of the series will absolutely love all the shout outs, but newer viewers won't feel lost without that knowledge. The homage is all in the background (other than two scenes, and only one of those is a major setpiece); stuff you'd pick up if you're paying attention. Like its major theme of trying to break out and create its own legacy, Creed isn't weighed down by the past but is made that much better for acknowledging it a little.  Creed is also a technical marvel. It's running time (two hours and 14 minutes) gave me pause at first because while the Rocky saga was always great, it tended to run long. And while Creed does indeed have some scenes that could be skimmed down, it's edited kind of perfectly. The story has the time it needs to breathe, and it allows the audience to get used to this new perspective of this old world. We have enough story bits to move the film forward, but there's still plenty time to develop the characters. The story isn't perfect as there are a few threads that get lost as there's an entire secondary group of characters that get shoved aside for an odd feeling title match we're not really invested in (so Wood Harris is ultimately wasted as a result but I don't want to talk about it too much because it'll spoil the film), Phylicia Rashad isn't really needed, the love interest seems tacked on (but Tessa Thompson acts great), and unfortunately we don't get to the root of why Adonis wants to be a boxer other than the fact that his father once was. But it's hard to mind because everything works so well. Especially watching the fights happen.  The film strives for a realistic take on boxing. Unlike the grandiose nature the sport takes in the later films of the Rocky saga, director Ryan Coogler brings the sport back down to its gritty appeal. Fights are visceral, we're reminded on a few occasions of the damage boxing can do as Apollo's death in the ring comes up a few times (and feels real each time), and watching Stallone as a older, weaker Balboa's who's been ravaged by the sport is very compelling. And the matches themselves are some of the most engrossing fights I've ever seen in boxing films. One of the weaker aspects of the Rocky saga has always been the boxing matches themselves. That's why there was always care to develop the personalities of the fighters themselves because we're more likely to get invested in an admittedly goofy fight regardless. But in Creed it's the other way around. While there's some attention to fighter detail, it's more about what happens in the ring. And it's definitely something I'd like to see more of should there be more films (of which I'd gladly see). It's a cool way to modernize the typically old fashioned saga for sure. Adonis' first official match is a huge stand out, and I want to talk about how marvelous it is here but I want you to experience it for yourself. It's quite a sight.  Now for the part I've wanted to talk about the most. As mentioned before, Sylvester Stallone may not have written the film this time around, but it definitely feels like it. As the new school props up the legends of old, every scene with Stallone is absolutely enthralling. Stallone wears Balboa's iconic image like a glove, and it's like the saga never ended. It's kind of amazing how he nails each bit of dialogue, humor, and physicality. His arc in the film is fantastic, and it's quite emotional given our history with the character. If you've watched any of the films in the past, expect to cry a little. It's a staunch reminder of the kind of actor Stallone can be in case you've forgotten after watching him in films like The Expendables. Creed subdues his image a bit, but as much as the film tries, it doesn't dim Balboa completely. Michael B. Jordan turns in quite a performance here, adding the necessary believable edge and charisma, but he's pretty much outclassed by Stallone in their scenes together. It's to be expected since Stallone has many years of the role under his belt, but it doesn't even matter too much since this is a bridge film that serves to pass the torch along. So even this slight negative feels like another positive.  My only major concern is whether or not someone unfamiliar with the Rocky series will be able to enjoy Creed to its full potential. Since I'm far removed from that position, I can only offer a few key points: Creed is an entertaining boxing film in its own right, so you're likely to get invested without knowing the history, there are a few iconic Rocky images that float around in the pop culture space and they're paid homage to here so you'll at least recognize those, and it's just a fantastic film all around. Creed isn't a perfect film, but it's as close to perfect as you can get.  Folks, let me let you in on some behind the scenes stuff for a bit. The first thing I've ever written for this site was, in fact, a post about Rocky's training montage.  I started writing community posts here and there before being brought on to the staff full time, eventually working my way up to the guy who gets to review stuff every now and then. So three years later, it's surreal to take on Creed for my 100th review. Creed hit me hard, folks. I've been writing, re-writing, and completely erased a draft to write it all over again just to get it right. It's a film I liked so much that it was hard to put in words. It's the best film I've seen all year, and there's a good chance nothing will top it for some time. Whether there are more or whether this is the last Rocky universe thing I'll ever see, I'm perfectly happy.  Hollywood, if you want to reboot everything, give every old property sequels, spin-off into cinematic universes, take note of Ryan Googler's Creed. This is how you do it. 
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Gonna fly now, gonna fly forever
Twenty years ago, my father had a bout with lymphoma. In the following years of recovery, I searched for any means to get closer to him. One of the first things we did together was watch a bunch of his favorite films. Godzill...

Review: The Night Before

Nov 26 // Nick Valdez
[embed]220167:42716:0[/embed] The Night BeforeDirector: Johnathan LevineRated: RRelease Date: November 20th, 2015 When Ethan's (Joseph Godon-Levitt) parents pass away, his friends Isaac (Seth Rogen) and Chris Roberts (Anthony Mackie) decide to start a new holiday tradition where they combine all of their usual traditions and party. 14 years later, that tradition is coming to an end as Isaac's becoming a father and Chris is now too famous an athlete to hang out. As their lives drift apart and Ethan's seems to be going nowhere, he clings to the last hope for their tradition: The Nutcracker Ball, a secret super party which the three have been trying to go to for years. As they look for the party, drug laced Christmas shenanigans ensue.  Night Before is incredibly nostalgic. From the outset you'll notice plenty of shout outs to films of Christmas past (like Home Alone and It's a Wonderful Life), but your enjoyment of these references and gags only really work if you remember them well enough. These gags don't have much at face value, but utilize that nostalgic work around to get a pleasant chuckle every now and then. Thankfully the film doesn't do this too much, but the gags that don't work because of this stick out even more so when the original jokes land much better. These little references feel too much like an afterthought, so I'm just left trying to figure why'd they'd even include these in the first place. It brings the film down a notch since this noticeable roughness often comes paired with bouts of awkward silence rather than laughs.  We could debate taste in humor all day, but the main core of the film is decidedly within its three main characters. Each one having their own little adventure, with only two getting true resolution, Ethan, Isaac, and Chris are crafted well. Thanks to the writing, and how comfortable the trio of actors is with one another, these guys feel lived in. Each character has a strong emotional, and most importantly human, center that helps anchor the film when it goes off the rails. Unfortunately, there are points when they get a bit cartoonish (especially during most of Isaac's drug binge or Chris' encounter with a strange thief) and the story goes through these weird non-sequitors which only serve to diminish the film's actual plot. It just seems weird to, at one point, focus on cocaine shenanigans and then try and remind us there's a Christmas story being told. Rogen and Goldberg's films do this all the time, but I guess there's just a more noticeable juxtaposition when the main story is all about holiday niceties.  Johnathan Levine, who's directed Rogen and Gordon-Levitt before in 50/50, captures the spirit of the holiday film quite well. The little details sprinkled throughout the film like the trio's holiday sweaters, the entrance to the Nutcracker Ball feeling appropriately magical, or even not including any holiday music to keep it all inclusive, help to make it timeless, but there are some odd cameos that really date the film and will set it back. And I know the trio have to separate to serve the story, but I wish we were able to enjoy Rogen, Gordon-Levitt, and Mackie in the same room more. Each of their scenes together is an absolute highlight as they bounce jokes off one another and generally charm up the place. Even some of the film's occasional wonky dialogue comes across natural for them. It's pretty neat to see in action. I hope they find themselves all together in another project someday. Also, if they could somehow get another appearance from the actor that plays Mr. Green, I'd be there day one.  In the end, there's not really much else to say about The Night Before. I had a good time watching, even if there were a couple of times I found myself scratching my head over their comedic choices. If you've seen Rogen and Goldberg's films in the past, you already know what to expect and have decided whether or not to see this already. The addition of Anthony Mackie and Joseph Gordon-Levitt to the mix helps take the film to a more emotional place than usual, but you're constantly reminded that this is another film in a long line of others like it. It's like that one Christmas where you got a cool Nintendo 64, and you're older cousin keeps telling you he got one first. You're going to have a good time, but it's a little less fun than it should be. 
Night Before Review photo
A partridge in a burning tree
When Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg produce a film, you pretty much know what you're going to get. As the duo have made their way through the romantic comedy, high school buddy film, stoner comedy, old Hollywood existential, su...

Civil War Trailer photo
Fanfic brought to life
We've been anticipating the first trailer for Marvel's next big sequel for some time, which will most likely also be attached to Star Wars: The Force Awakens, so there's probably not a lot I need to say about it. You know the...

Review: The Peanuts Movie

Nov 06 // Nick Valdez
[embed]220109:42688:0[/embed] The Peanuts Movie Director: Steve MartinoRated: GRelease Date: November 6th, 2015 The Peanuts Movie is all about Charlie Brown (Noah Schnapp), an awkward kid with a debilitating self-esteem issue thanks to years and years of being teased by the other neighborhood kids. Just as he was wishing for a blank slate, a mysterious new, red-haired girl moves into town. After falling hard for her, Charlie's got to muster up the courage and do some crazy things in order to impress her and get her to notice him. While he's doin all of that, his dog Snoopy (thanks to Bill Melendez's archived voice work) finds a typewriter and begins writing about the WWI Flying Ace and his rivalry with the infamous Red Baron.  First things first, Peanuts is absolutely stunning. I honestly have no idea how Blue Sky Studios managed to pull this off. Just like the film's content, Peanuts' visuals are both heartily nostalgic (thanks to a few 2D flourishes like little hearts and backgrounds every now and then) and groundbreaking in its effort. Characters move as smoothly as they would in 2D while avoiding CG's blurring motions thanks to an adept use of choppy movement. I guess the closest thing I can compare it to is Blue Sky's mascot Scrat (from the Ice Age series). Just as his movement is broken, yet fluid so it captures the essence of old Looney Tunes shorts, Peanuts' animation captures the essence of the TV specials. And then there are all the little details therein like Snoopy's fur, the whiskers in Charlie's lone curl of hair, and the Flying Ace sequences look pretty good in 3D. But once you get beyond how great it looks, you'll soon realize that it may be too comfortable taking yet another trip down memory lane.  Because it's both a reinvention and a reintroduction to the Peanuts series, the film is almost required to make the necessary homages to its classic jokes and settings. Every classic Peanuts joke is here, quite literally, and you'll be hard pressed to find them funny again in this new setting. These jokes have already been made available through the specials replayed through the holidays each year, so it's really a matter of whether or not you'll appreciate them again through this new filter. It's a celebration unfortunately caught in the past, and while these jokes are definitely delightful and may mean more to new audiences, it's just a shame that this new film didn't take the chance to create new memories for Charlie Brown. It's even more glaring when the newer bits work very well. There's this scene where Charlie is getting "Psychiatric Help" from Lucy that's absolutely fabulous in how dark the writing duo of Bryan and Craig Schulz take it. At one point, she shoves a mirror in his face and asks Charlie what he sees, and all he can say in response is "A loser." While it sounds wonky on paper, it's a sequence that actually utilizes our knowledge of the characters in the past rather than be hindered by it.  In fact, that's one of the boldest choices The Peanuts Movie makes. While the humor and most of the content is stuck in the past (thus making sequences featuring new pop music from Meghan Trainor feel even more out of place), Charlie Brown has actually become a mix of his many identities. The film only works because the writing, actor Noah Schnapp, and visuals have mastered this newest iteration of Charlie Brown. He's a mix of many of his past incarnations: The outright loser from Schulz's original comic strips. the awkward kid from the holiday specials, and the more positive Charlie from later direct to video specials. Yet with all of those influences, he's still got his own new layer in the film. They've added this crippling self-doubt that's so current, it clashes with the rest of the film's nostalgic tone. As the kids exist in a world with rotary phones, Charlie's pondering existential crises in love.  While the humor can be a bit clunky, and Charlie Brown is fantastic, the film does take some getting used to. Since it is so stuck in the past, it's taking on a format we haven't seen in quite a while. Broken into vignettes fueling a central arc, each major sequence in Peanuts feels like it could be a stand-alone special of its own. Each major scene has a beginning middle and end, so it doesn't really flow like a traditional film, per se. It's an odd pacing that, while not entirely bad, does detract from the enjoyment overall. Going in you've got to realize that you're taking the good with the bad, but the "bad" isn't the worst thing in the world. The Peanuts Movie's biggest flaw is that it's too celebratory and nostalgic, but that's also such a non-problem to have.  I certainly have enjoyed myself, but I also don't feel compelled to watch this over and over again like every other Peanuts thing I've revisited in the past. It's a delightful and breezy film, but I'm not sure if everyone will have the same reaction to it that I did. It's fun to walk down memory lane every once in a while, but you can't expect everyone to stick around.
Peanuts Review photo
Good grief?
Thanks to my mom, I've been following Charlie Brown and the Peanuts gang for as long as I can remember. Like Charlie, I too am a sad sack who's life the universe sees fit to ruin at all cost. So when I first heard 20th Centur...

Warcraft Trailer photo
Uncanny valley to the max
I don't have a lot of experience with the World of Warcraft videogames, so I'm not sure (although I have seen friends swallowed up by Blizzard's behemoth), but has it always looked like a generic fantasy property? While this ...

The Witcher photo
The Witcher

The Witcher is getting a movie for some reason

Nov 06
// Nick Valdez
You folks like movies? You folks like books? You folks like videogames? What if I told you that you could have everything all the time? Because it's not like having everything you want is bad, right? Anyway, like most major b...
MMPR Reboot photo
Waiting for Power Rangers movie news has been excruciating. Because the film isn't releasing until 2017, we've got all sorts of sites releasing news from the rumor mill and none of them will have any bearing on the final prod...

FlixList: The Ten Worst Simpsons' Treehouse of Horror Stories

Oct 30 // Nick Valdez
Dis-Honorable Mentions: Wanted: Dead, Then Alive, Heck House, Oh the Places You'll D'Oh, Tweenlight, There's No Business Like Moe Business, Mr & Mrs. Simpson, Wiz Kids, Easy-Bake Coven, and The Fright to Creep and Scare Harms 10. Homer's Nightmare ("If I Only Had a Brain") (Treehouse of Horror II) That's right, the bad ones were actually off to an early start. In the same episode that brought us the great Lisa's Nightmare and the so-so Bart's Nightmare, we have the clunky Homer's Nightmare. In this short, Mr. Burns is attempting to create a super worker but ends up putting Homer's brain in that super worker so the end result is what you'd expect. I'll chalk this one's badness to growing pains as it was the first true sequel in the series. The show was still trying to figure out what to do with their Halloween specials and I'm sure every idea seemed viable.  9. Terror at 5 1/2 Feet (Treehouse of Horror IV)  As you'll find out later in this list, The Simspsons doesn't nail every spoof it tries. Taking on the Twilight Zone classic "Terror at 20,000 Feet," this short gives Bart a little Gremlin problem. Sure there's a good joke involving Hans Moleman, but the rest of the story is particularly rote. And in the same episode as The Devil and Homer Simpson and Bart Simpson's Dracula, it's egregious awfulness sticks out even more so. Maybe it's just an average story caught in between two particularly great ones, but that's just how the cookie crumbles. But at least it's not as bad as everything else here.  8. The Thing and I (Treehouse of Horror VII)  Okay, now we're getting into it. When Bart finds out he's got a long lost, potentially evil twin named Hugo chained up in the basement, everything falls apart both literally and figuratively. I distinctly remember realizing these weren't going to be that great anymore. The short's so haphazardly thrown together that it's obvious no one involved really cares about what's going on in it. The jokes aren't there, the premise isn't strong, and it screams laziness. Yet, it isn't the laziest story on this by far.  7. In the Na'Vi (Treehouse of Horror XXII) You know how I mentioned that The Simpsons doesn't nail all of its spoofs? This is what I was referring to. Several years after Avatar hit theaters (which made this short seem all the more depressing), Treehouse featured a terribly conceived Simpsons version with Bart in the lead role. Reading this list you're probably thinking that Bart's involvement has a lot to do with the poor quality of these stories and you'd be right for the most part. The show never really knows what to do with him outside of his normal parameters. That's why Bart's always in the background of others' stories or is paired with Lisa so the writers have someone to bounce him off of. Without that, you realize how poorly Bart's been written in the post 20s. 6.Master and Cadaver (Treehouse of Horror XXI) While the post-20 Treehouse stories have been pretty bad all around, they're more average and bland than outright terrible. But one story manages to tip over that line into a story that's so bad it brings the rest of the special down. Sitting right in the middle of the pretty entertaining War and Pieces and regrettable Tweenlight, this short is based off the film Dead Calm (and guest stars Hugh Laurie) as Homer and Marge save this guy who may or may not have killed a ship full of people. In traditional Simpsons, but non-traditional Treehouse, fashion the man poised no real threat and it's all a series of explainable coincidences. It's just so darn boring. More so than season 20 era Simpsons, more so than weak Lisa episodes, I'm glad this story's so short. The reason it's not higher on the list is because it's thankfully over before it's begun.  5. Untitled Robot Parody (Treehouse of Horror XIX) So here we have the laziest Treehouse of Horror short in series history. It's so lethargic, they didn't even think to give it a name. A terribly conceived Transformers spoof that's neither funny (complete with a rote sex toy transformer joke) nor even has a reason to exist. This blurb is more attention that this short even deserves.  4. You Gotta Know When to Golem (Treehouse of Horror XVIII) Introducing a little used movie monster to the Treehouse format seems fit for a good time but, like the 1915 film it's based on, this story's stuck entirely in the past. A story with jokes rooted in dated Jewish sterotypes ever further aggravated by casting Richard Lewis and Fran Drescher as caricatures of themselves, Golem is just a bad idea that somehow made it to air. I don't even know who this short was for, but this kind of insular comedy is what deters fans from the series. Then again, thanks to bottom three stories, fans have walked away years ago.  3. Frinkenstein (Treehouse of Horror XIV) Ugh. 2. Hex and the City (Treehouse of Horror XII)  It took me years to see this one all the way through because I hated this special so much. In fact, I never saw how XII ended until about six years ago when I decided to run through a good chunk of the Treehouse specials. In Hex and the City, Homer angers a gypsy and is cursed for life (resulting in Marge's beard, Bart's long neck, and Lisa's horse legs). His response is to sick a lepraechaun on her resulting in their wholly gross union. It's entirely asinine and coupled with the episode's other bland shorts like Wiz Kids and this seemed even worse overall. It has to be the worst opening story in Treehouse history. 1. Starship Poopers (Treehouse of Horror IX)  Okay, so I've got quite the problem with Starship Poopers. First of all, it's a terrible final story for a special that wasn't bad so the nosedive is even more noticeable. Secondly, it was incredibly dated then (yes even more so than Citizen Kang, which was rooted in 90s politics) and even more so now. I mean, the short ends with an entirely too long Jerry Springer riff. By the time the short aired, Springer was already on his way out so it seemed even more desperate than I'm sure was intended. Thirdly, even after watching season 26's frustrating "The Man Who Came to be Dinner" (which brought Kang and Kodos into the series proper, rather than just feature them in the non-canon Halloween specials) this is still the worst Kang and Kodos appearance by far. There's so much more I want to say, but I just can't do it anymore. 
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It was the blurst of times
You know, it's always great to reminisce about The Simpsons in their heyday but in order to truly celebrate the Halloween holiday, we need to talk about some truly horrific things: The awful Treehouse of Horror specials. Sure...

Review: Attack on Titan

Oct 29 // Nick Valdez
[embed]220069:42671:0[/embed] Attack on Titan: Parts 1 & 2Director: Shinji HiguchiRated: NRRelease Date: October 20, 22, and 27th, 2015 (limited) Attack on Titan (split into two 90 minute parts released a few months from one another) is the story of a small walled off city that's constantly being attacked by giant, grotesque man eating monsters known as the Titans. After a surprise attack leaves their city devastated, two boys, named Eren (Hamura Miura) and Armin (Kanata Hongo), join the military in order to fight them. Also, their friend Mikasa (Kiko Mizuhara), who was once thought to be eaten before being saved by super soldier Shikishima (Hiroki Hasegawa), is also there and very angsty. Then follows are soldier on titan fights, titan on titan fights, and lots of poorly conceived military conspiracy intrigue. I don't have a lot of experience with the original comics, but that's okay since the two films are their own entity and venture into different paths than the stories fans may be familiar with. The stories of the films have to end, after all, and who knows when the comics will do the same.  The first thing you'll notice about Attack on Titan is how great it all looks. Part 1 opens spectacularly as the initial titan attack is well storyboarded and the action flows well from scene to scene. It gives the titans an appropriate horrific weight despite how ridiculous some of them look. Rather than choose to go CG (the terrible green screen actions scenes later in the films notwithstanding), the titans are all people in body skin suits akin to Toho's Godzilla or a very gloomy episode of the Power Rangers. You'd figure it was a low budget shortcut, but it works. Thanks to using actual actors, we're given a chance to sink in to the titans' emotions rather than be distracted by the film's spotty CG. It's just that nothing in these films ever looks as good as the opening scene again.  I'd be willing to forgive the wonky effects had the rest of the film worked, but sadly that's also a problem. I'm not sure what's to blame here. Whether the two films are victims of adaptation, translation, or even the property's fandom, but nothing in the two films makes any sense. Although the film chooses to create its own narrative, it still bases some of the films' bigger scenes on scenes from the comics. But the problem with cherry picking key scenes in order to please its fans, is that without adapting the rest of the story those scenes won't make sense. It's also thanks to the films' short runtimes that everything moves at too brisk a pace to keep up with or even care about in the slightest. Like Eren, for instance. First he's got this plot about wanting to escape from the walls, to suddenly pulling an Ultraman and becoming a giant himself, to suddenly hatching a plot to blow up the walls with a discarded H-bomb. And within all of that, he's still got Mikasa's random angst to deal with. No character is developed well enough, and there're so many that none of them have any chance to leave a lasting impression.  The biggest flaw with either of these films was I couldn't really separate the two from one another. I initially wanted to review each part much akin to Hollywood films like The Hunger Games or Harry Potter, but neither part was substantial enough to warrant its own discussion. It only seemed fair to the film to just take it all in as one entity since the majority of the plot and backstory waits in part two, while the visual budget was clearly all exhausted back in part one. I'm not sure how these films were shot, but it's clear that by the end of part two, they had pretty much used all the money at their disposal. The film's big finale looked absolutely ridiculous. And since there isn't any real narrative reason to stay invested, it's all just a wash. At least the acting was good. I didn't personally note any bad performances, and even if an actor was chewing the scenery, they all tried their best. Bringing it back around to my Titanic metaphor earlier, it's like the cast was the string quartet composing a soundtrack for their imminent doom.  But at the end of the day, I understand the film isn't for me. But it really isn't for fans of the Attack on Titan series either. In fact, it may even be more of a detriment to the fandom itself. It's a hollow adaptation that only chooses particular moments from the story in order to manipulate the fans. They want the fans to go out and see the film, talk about seeing their favorite anime/comic scene in live action and hope those same fans ignore everything else.  A fan's worst nightmare is to see their favorite stories and characters wrung through an unrecognizable filter, and that's exactly what Attack on Titan is. I don't think that's the kind of horror the film wanted to embody. 
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Sinking ship
Much like how you'll see films based on comics like Marvel's Avengers or DC's Dark Knight Trilogy, manga comics get a huge following back in Japan they don't get here domestically. One of the biggest releases from the last fe...

FlixList: The Ten Best Simpsons' Treehouse of Horror Stories

Oct 28 // Nick Valdez
Honorable Mentions: Desperately Xeeking Xena, Reaper Madness, Lisa's Nightmare (The Monkey's Paw), The Terror of Tiny Toon, Attack of the 50ft Eyesores, Life's a Glitch, Then You Die, The Others, Clown Without Pity 10. The Day the Earth Looked Stupid (Treehouse of Horror XVII) "Oh yeah? Why don't I punch you in the nose, bud?" "...Nosebud..." Folks may have counted out much of the later seasons, and while I'd be inclined to agree for the most part, a few good episodes always manage to go unnoticed. XVII was one of the last good Treehouse specials before they took a dive in the 20s, and it went out on a high. The show's film spoofs don't always work, but I absolutely loved this one. Maurice LaMarche put on his best Orson Welles again as the classic play ended up duping Springfield into wallowing in the dirt like animals. It doesn't make any sense, it looks great, and it's so perfectly Simpsons. Mostly because it actually nails the ending, which is something these specials always struggle with, as the episode ends with the bleak and soft The Ink Spots' "I Don't Want to Set the World on Fire."  9. Send in the Clones (Treehouse of Horror XIII)  "Homer I must say, you've had the energy of twenty men lately!" "Twenty three!"  I don't what it is, but seeing a group of Homers play off each other is incredibly satisfying. A natural progression of Homer's self-deprecating humor, laziness, and superiority complex creates an army of clones that only want donuts and for Lenny to pick up the tab at Moe's ("Anything for Homers!"). This segment's also jam packed with jokes from the randomness of killing Flanders and "Paul Newman's gonna have my legs broke!," sights gags like Season One Homer and Peter Griffin, to the fact it all started because of a magic hammock. It's stupid Homer x 1000 and it turned out pretty well.  8. Homer3 (Treehouse of Horror VI) "It's like something outta that twilighty show about that zone..." VI was fantastic all around. Attack of the 50ft Eyesores and Nightmare on Evergreen Terrace were both pretty good, but I've got to hand it to the segment that blew my mind as a kid. Of course it earns its place on the list because it holds up beyond its 3D gimmick because it's pretty funny ("May I take your coat?" "Uh, can I also take your coat?"), but it's hard to gush about its visuals. CG pretty much unheard of in 1995, so the show was able to mine the relatively new technology for comedy. It may not exactly be like Tron (which no one has seen, apparently), but it's close enough. Also, the bit where Homer shows up in our world still blows my mind. I don't know how they pulled it off back then, but I'm glad they spent all of that money on an erotic cake joke.  7.  Citizen Kang (Treehouse of Horror VII) "Abortions for some, miniature American flags for all of us!"  You would hope the political jokes in Citizen Kang wouldn't ring as true 19 years later, but like most things, the Simpsons predicted a lot of things. A parody of major elections sees the Halloween special stalwarts Kang and Kodos vying for American votes with nonsensical speeches and explicit pandering (which leads to one of the best lines in series history, which I had to highlight above) it's crazy how timeless this special really is. Although the candidates are dated, you can replace them with pretty much anyone and it'll still work. So go ahead, throw your vote away! 6. The Homega Man (Treehouse of Horror VIII) "I'm the last man alive and I can do everything I've always wanted!" Treehouse segments are full of movie parodies, but one of the stories that absolutely nails it is this one. Parodying 1971's The Omega Man, which itself was adapted from Richard Matthenson's novel I Am Legend, this short stars Homer as the last man alive in Springfield after the French ("Stupid frogs.") bomb them for their remarks. After Homer enjoys the time alone, he realizes he's not truly alone and every second is so funny. There's a hidden joy in noting how long it takes Homer to realize everyone's dead. In fact I love this segment so much, I'm thinking of getting a tattoo on my arm of "the rest."  5. Night of the Dolphin (Treehouse of Horror XI) "" What? A segment from the double digits in the top five? Absolutely! Written by Carolyn Omine (who also wrote Halloween of Horror, which turned out to be the best Simpsons episode in seven-eight years), after Lisa frees Snorky the dolphin, Springfield finds out he's actually king of the dolphins and they want to claim the land the humans have stolen from them. On top of the great send ups to random monster horror films (think films like Black Sheep), there are plenty of laughs. Especially when the end of the story sees the town in a big fight with the dolphins before their hilarious loss. It's always in my annual rotation each year.  4. The Devil and Homer Simpson (Treehouse of Horror IV)  "Mmm...forbidden donut..." These next few stories definitely fall into the line of "classic" Simpsons episodes that folks like to reference over and over again. It's for good reason as The Devil and Homer Simpsons absolutely holds up to this day. A tight story where Homer makes a deal with the devil that manages to squeeze in a lot within its short run time. Random John Wayne gags ("I'm already up"), a great showing from Lionel Hutz, Blackbeard in a high chair, and of course, "But I'm so sweet and tasty!" 3. Dial 'Z' for Zombies (Treehouse of Horror III) "Dad, you killed the zombie Flanders!" "He was a zombie?" I feel like the only way I can fully appreciate this is by quoting it endlessly:  "To the book depository!"  "Is this the end of zombie Shakespeare?" "John Smith 1882?" "My mistake!" The zombies that plagued our town are now just corpses rotting in the streets." "Yay!" So good.  2. The Raven (The Simpsons Halloween Special/Treehouse of Horror)  "Quoth the Raven... 'Nevermore.'" The Simpsons first began their Halloween special tradition back in season two, and it made sure to leave a lasting impression. Despite the many years gone by, this short sticks with me far more than anything else. Although it's not the best one (since it's hard to give the episode total credit for its success), it's definitely the most distinct. Putting visuals (and Simpson personality thanks entirely through Dan Castellaneta's performance) to Poe's famous poem vigorously read by the magnanimous James Earl Jones, this short was actually how I was introduced to Poe's work. That's something a lot of these better stories have done too. Inspired by how much I enjoyed the parody, I often sought out the original works. That's especially true of the final entry on this list.  1. Treehouse of Horror V "This is indeed a disturbing universe." So this is a bit of a cheat considering I said that I'd limit my choices to one story per episode, but after deciding on my favorite Treehouse of Horror I couldn't really decide on my favorite of the three stories. As each special usually has a weak story or two, it's incredibly rare to have three incredibly strong segments. Couple that with a running joke of Willie getting axed in the back and you've even got a unified special to boot. From its highly quotable Shining parody, The Shinning "No TV and no beer make Homer something something." "Go crazy?" "Don't mind if I do!," to the well written Time and Punishment ("Oh I wish I wish I hadn't killed that fish." "That's right Mr. Peabody!" "Quiet you!" "What the hell are you smiling at?," and the one story that managed to give me nightmares as a kid, Nightmare Cafeteria ("Now you march into that school, look your teacher straight in the eye and say 'Don't eat me!'"). It's definitely the best Halloween special Simpsons has to offer, and suffice to say, it's also one of the best episodes of the series.  Then again, regardless of which The Simpsons' Treehouse of Horror specials you decide to revisit this Halloween you'll have a good time...unless you pick one of the blurst ones. 
Treehouse of Horror photo
It was the best of times...
I've invested the greater part of my life into The Simpsons, and while there may have been more downs than ups lately, it's still consistently bringing me laughs with each offering. Most of them happen to come with their annu...

FlixList: The Ten Best Horror Films on Netflix Instant (2015 Edition)

Oct 26 // Nick Valdez
Honorable Mentions: Let the Right One In, American Mary, Children of the Corn, The Lazarus Effect, The Sacrament, the V/H/S series, Teeth, Starry Eyes, Stage Fright, Vampire in Brooklyn, Odd Thomas, We Are What We Are [embed]218490:41925:0[/embed] Tucker and Dale vs. Evil Although Tucker and Dale is more of a parody of the horror genre (as teens find themselves in precarious violent situations while the two try to save them), that doesn't mean it isn't full of the same suspense or gore you'd expect. If gruesome deaths are your horror bag, then this film's for you. If not, there are quite a lot of laughs mined from those gross moments.  [embed]218490:42673:0[/embed] The Babadook Not all horror monsters are the same. While some are in your face and some are barely noticed at all, Babadook somehow creates a truly terrifying monster without showing up at all. This magnetic thriller all takes place within a fever dream of a mother who's pushed too far and just wants to punch her annoying child in the mouth. It's not perfect, but it's too different to ignore.  [embed]218490:41928:0[/embed] All Cheerleaders Die With a name like All Cheerleaders Die, you'd be forgiven for writting off this neat little flick. It's not as overtly sexual as the name implies, and is fact a nice twist on that pulpy horror "sexy beast" gimmick. It's not until the finale kicks in that you really see what kind of horror film it is, but it's worth it.  [embed]218490:41930:0[/embed] Scream Out of all the slasher films on Netflix Instant, I'd have to pick Scream as my favorite. Maybe it's because this one stars Neve Campbell too, but it's the first film I remember utilizing the meta narrative that's exploited so much today. It was a hipster horror film before hipster horror was even a thing. A film you can ironically and un-ironically enjoy. Also let me just mention Neve Campbell one more time. So good. [embed]218490:42674:0[/embed] Monster Squad It's certainly not the best, or the funniest, or even a horror film, but I just like it so much I had to put it here. Plus Monster Squad reminds me of Space Jam because it sounds like the result of smashing the Monstars and the Tune Squad together.  [embed]218490:42675:0[/embed] A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night The most intriguing entry on this list by far, A Girl Walks is incredibly chilling. It's superbly put together with its black and white tone creating a stark eerineess that never once lets up. Despite its horror premise, it's a film that can be seen throughout the year with no problems. It's a work of art, and it's a brilliant debut from writer/director Ana Lily Amirpour. Blending new age with a sort of vintage style, yet still rotted in her Iranian culture, A Girl Walks is just something that needs to be experienced.  [embed]218490:41933:0[/embed] Battle Royale In Battle Royale, a group of Japanese schoolmates are randomly chosen each year to kill each other in order to appease the adults. Although I'm no longer at the age where this premise has a direct effect on me, it's still chilling. I guess if you're not into foreign films, just watch The Hunger Games for a lighter take on this idea. As long as the horrific themes sink in, you're golden.  [embed]218490:42676:0[/embed] Creep I love me some Mark Duplass, but I had no idea what to think when Creep was first revealed during SXSW. It's a found footage thriller where one man is hired to film Duplass' character Josef as he plans as series of events for his unborn son. But as the film progresses, you realize Josef's a bit more unhinged than he lets on (putting an ad on Craigslist should've been the tipoff, really). This film's only really horror thanks to the icky feeling you get while you watch, but isn't that just the best? [embed]218490:41931:0[/embed] Rosemary's Baby This film continues to give me nightmares to this day. Whether it's a fear of children, of women, of punishment for sexual desires, a paranoia of those around me, or the Devil itself, Baby taps into all of them and cripples me each time I see it. In fact, I'm getting goosebumps right now just thinking about it. And it's not just the horror aspects, Baby is just a damn good film. With an outstanding performance from Mia Farrow, excellent set design, and pulsing score, it's a film I'd recommend to everyone above all else.  [embed]218490:42677:0[/embed] The Guest From the awesome duo who brought you You're Next (which is on Netflix too!) comes The Guest, a film so good I couldn't stop talking about it for weeks after its release. A thriller with a killer soundtrack, great acting, a fantastic finale, and with its tongue planted firmly in cheek. Few horror films, or films in general, will bring a bigger smile to your face this season. 
Horror Films on Netflix photo
Do you like scary movies?
The tradition of watching scary movies during the Halloween season is now easier to keep up with than ever thanks to Netflix Instant. But with all the content available on the service, how do you know which ones are truly wor...

The Walking Dead Season 6 Recap: "Thank You"

Oct 26 // Nick Valdez
TWD has been through quite a few shake ups the last few seasons, but it's never quite changed enough to warrant the huge audience it's got. It's got a loyal audience to do with whatever they like, but despite many fake outs, there never really has been any big change to the core of the series. As such is the case with most long form storytelling, the stories from episode to episode don't really matter as they all still boil down to the same core formula. Despite all of the writing problems the show has, it's managed to build a good foundation of questionable morals. Thematically, each season will always be about the struggle between humanity, the ever present need to devolve into violence to save yourself, and the acceptance or non-acceptance of what you've become. That's why characters like Rick, Morgan, Carol, or even Merle from a few seasons back are interesting figures in the dog eat dog world that TWD has created. They've manged to stand out from the bowels of the story because they've distinctly chose between humanity and inhumanity and thus strengthen the show's theme overall. But six seasons in, and TWD is still afraid of taking risks.  Through watching these seasons, I've realized that while death can come to technically any character, it's still a TV show hindered by its fans and future plans. There are four tiers to any program like this, and once you identify which characters land in those tiers you'll understand the course of the series' deaths. Though the events of the show may still surprise (especially if it's sweeps week), no television show will ever make a decision that'll potentially cripple it and potentially deter its viewers. In those tiers you have:  Main Characters: One to three characters so integral to the show's overreaching arc, they'll never be in actual danger. Stuff may happen to them, but they'll never be removed.  Secondary Characters: Characters related in some way to a main character that can be removed the show without damaging the overall arc. Their removal may beef up a secondary or main's plot, and their removal will still get a big reaction, but ultimately don't illicit any major changes.  Tertiary Characters: Ancillary additions that can be removed without any real issue. They've been developed enough (or have visual quirks) so we know who they are before they're removed. Their removal may even illicit a response from the audience.  Quartenary Characters: Commonly referred to as "Red Shirts" thanks to Star Trek, these characters are removed all the time to establish a harsh environment and build tension.  That brings us to this episode's big event. Glenn's dead, but it's not as big a deal as you would think. Although Glenn was one of the remaining original characters, he's been a secondary character from the beginning. And Glenn's archetype was even more egregious since he's been the designated "blank slate" for the audience to project themselves onto since Rick's been devolving after season two. The episode made it out to be a big deal, sure. And after reading online reactions yesterday, it definitely feels like a huge event, but his death doesn't really change the plot in any real way, so it's not as important as we're meant to believe. Just think, what was Glenn doing before now? His plot the last two seasons has really been leading to his death, and his way of death, while infuriating, serves to end his plot well enough thematically. It's a death in service of the show's theme of humanity, and for the first time, the show has actually reached the grey area it's been attempting for a long time.  Thinking on his death he was essentially punished for wanting to do the right thing, which the show's been saying for some time, but as Rick slowly drifts away from that mentality (showing in this episode that he's willing to sacrifice Alexandrians in order to save his real family and to survive) he might finally realize that it's not so black and white. It's a neat dichotomy between the two as Rick's simultaneously punished for his "survival of the fittest" mentality. While the writing is still terrible and TWD will never truly take a huge risk and kill off one of the main characters (who've been established through the seasons as Rick, Carol, and Darryl), the fact that it's finally playing with its theme means the showrunners know where to take the show going forward. Besides, Glenn's death may be the opposite of what we normally get in the comics and Maggie may finally get something to do. In the comic, Maggie became a badass as his death served to give her more purpose.  Final Thoughts:  Kudos to The Walking Dead for not killing a single black character this episode. I hate that I need to point that out, but it's been a real problem lately. The fact that this seems miraculous is one of the major flaws this show's been carrying since the beginning.  Knowing that Glenn died going in made the series' penchant for heavy foreshadowing all the more insufferable. They really don't know how to surprise anymore.  I like Heath as a character, but his design does not translate well from the comics. Corey Hawkins has been pretty great so far as the group's true foil, but his hairpiece is super distracting.  Next week is dealing with Morgan's origin story, so I'm pretty curious as to how he becomes the super judgmental monk he is today. Lennie James has been great, so I'm sure he can anchor an episode just fine.  Want to see more of our TV coverage? Check out our TV Recaps and Reviews! 
Walking Dead Recap photo
The trouble with The Walking Dead is that when I can't watch it on time, everyone on the Internet sees fit to spoil literally every single event of every episode. You can argue that I should just stay off the Internet when th...

Review: Knock Knock

Oct 23 // Nick Valdez
[embed]220064:42670:0[/embed] Knock KnockDirectors: Eli RothRated: RRelease Date: October 9th, 2015 (in theaters and VOD) Knock Knock stars Keanu Reeves as Evan Webber, a family man with a loving wife and two kids. When his family goes away for the weekend, two girls Genesis (Lorenza Izzo) and Bel (Ana de Armas) suddenly show up in the middle of the night asking for help. After seducing Evan, he ends up sleeping with them. But after he wakes up the next day, Evan realizes the two girls have some sinister motives. And that's pretty much it. The best thrillers can mine even the thinnest premises for good character work or story material, but that all hinges on whether or not the film has a strong written frame to build on. Unfortunately for all of us, Knock Knock is basically written like a film student's first draft hastily put together two hours before the assignment was due.  Don't get me wrong, I can accept bad dialogue in a horror/thriller because it's usually in service of a greater goal. Maybe the film's intentionally bad or its wackier elements help bring levity to the potentially gruesome nature of the genre, but there isn't just bad dialogue here. The entire package is crafted terribly. From how long it takes to actually get the story moving as the girls don't show up until a third into the film (thus making the terribly written and acted family scenes feel much longer and awkward), to the fact that Evan literally has to sleep with the girls to get to the core of the drama, to how many times it resorts to "crazy bitch!" whenever characters are under duress, to the girls' nonsensical motivations (half revenge, half complete banality), to Evan being a former DJ for some reason, and finally for weirdly off putting lines like "Bitch, you're barking up the wrong f**king tree! I'm from Oakland, hoe! I know two ghetto ass hoes when I see them!" Yeah, that's definitely a thing someone says in the movie. That line somehow made it through numerous edits, drafts, and cuts into the final product. I bet whoever wrote this line did one of those fist pumps to celebrate how clever he was.  I could write about how terribly everything was put together all day, but to get to the core of my issues with Knock Knock I need to do something I've never done in one of my reviews before. I have to outright spoil one of the key plot points of the film because it's something I desperately want to tell you about. I'm sorry if you were still somehow interested in the film after reading thus far, but I promise I'll keep the spoilers limited to this chunk of the review. Okay, so you know why the girls are invading houses and having sex with men in order to humiliate them and ruin their lives? Because men are monsters. There's a hint at some child abuse (which also compounds yet another horribly conceived "idea" on top of this garbage heap), but we're just supposed to believe that these two girls are going around messing with dudes as some kind of misappropriation of the "femme fatale" concept. Sex as a weapon can be fine in media, but if the justification for its use is just so that same character can "trap" a man, it's completely backwards thinking and singlehandedly sets back all of the good work women have done in media I would've accepted these extremely thin motivations had there been actual depth with the two girls, but their actions far exceed the range of their revenge. And Knock Knock goes out of its way multiple times to remove any sense of sympathy or even desire to exist from the characters entirely.  When Evan threatens to call the police, the two girls threaten to send him to prison with cries of not just rape, but statutory rape. Thus adding yet another mysogynistic reason this film is really just for older dudes unhappy with their marriages. In fact, Knock Knock's death knell is a speech Reeves gives that somehow sets his own career back a few years. You could hear his soul dying a little bit when he says, I kid you not, "You f**ked me! You came to me! You wanted it, you came on to me!...It was free pizza! Free f**king pizza! What was I supposed to do?!?"  Sure Knock Knock has one or two moments where all of its badness coalesces into a surprisingly humorous bit, as every film gets one regardless of how bad it truly is, but nothing is good enough to warrant wading through the rest of it. Knock Knock isn't just an embarrassment for all involved, but for the first time, Keanu Reeves looked like he was genuinely phoning it in. I know that sounds like an oxymoron, but I was almost enamored by how much Reeves was trying to distance himself from the character. He gets bad dialogue and weird movies all the time, but he usually can transcend the material thanks to his effort. And the saddest thing is this is coming after one of his biggest triumphs in the last few years, John Wick, which was also a film caught in this very situation. It was too a film full of cheesy dialogue and clunky writing work, but he made it something special.  Knock Knock is such a worthless heap of garbage, not even Keanu Reeves wanted to try to save it. If Keanu Reeves didn't deem this worthy, why should we? This review is more attention than this film deserves, and I can't wait until this fades from memory. 
Knock Knock Review photo
Who's there? Garbage
Keanu Reeves is a treasure. Thanks to his genuine love of the craft, I'm always willing to see whatever he decides to be a part of. No matter the project he always gives as much effort as possible, sometimes even elevating th...

Star Wars: Episode VII photo
I've made the decision to avoid other trailers for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, so not only does that make my job much harder here, it also means I'll have to avoid all media for the next few months to keep from spoiling mys...

The Simpsons "Halloween of Horror" Review: The Best Episode in Years

Oct 19 // Nick Valdez
When Fox first announced The Simpsons was branching into two Halloween specials this season, I groaned so loudly I bothered my neighbors. It sounded like yet another cheap stunt I was complaining about before (then again, that sounds more like another episode this season that's supposedly going to deal with Smithers coming out to Burns), and after two surprisingly successful episodes ("Cue Detective" and "Puffless"), I figured the show was going to ruin its little streak. But little did I know that "Halloween" was going to continue what those two episodes understood. This season has been in a nice trend lately where it's been digging into its past for character motivations (and for obscure characters we haven't seen in a long while like Uter, confirmed alive finally not counting his appearance in Treehouse of Horror XX, and Dr. Nick, who wasn't killed in The Simpsons Movie thank Jebus) and finally capitalizing on the years of trust it's built with its audience. The show knows kids like me were raised on it, so there's no real reason to try so hard every time. Like most successful shows, it can just add little things to what we know already.  "Halloween of Horror" (credited to Carolyn Omine, who's written one of the best Treehouse of Horror segments, "Night of the Dolphin," and "Little Big Mom") is a Homer and Lisa story through and through, and like in the past, the Homer and Lisa stories are some of the strongest in terms of more emotional storytelling. Since we've never actually seen them celebrate the holiday, it turns out that it's a big deal at The Simpson house as Homer and Marge go all out with their decorations (so far as to shame anyone skipping the holiday). During a trip to Apu's pop up Halloween shop, Homer runs afoul of the employees ("Don't tell Old Man Squishee"), some skeezy guys voiced by Nick Kroll and Blake Anderson, and ends up on their revenge list. Meanwhile, Lisa is excited that she's finally old enough to visit Krustyland's horror event ("I'll tell my friends that it wasn't a big deal, but it's a really big deal!") but is unfortunately too frightened by the actual thing. It's a pretty sad, and wonderfully directed sequence thanks to its use of shading and it didn't even cut to commercial on a joke. As Lisa cries in Homer's arms, it cuts away and it's the most affecting the show's been in several seasons. I can count how many times its reached this peak in the last seven seasons on one hand. The rest of the episode delves into a home invasion plot, much like The Strangers, and Marge trying to comfort Bart after deciding to remove all of their Halloween decorations because Lisa's been traumatized ("Your sister has a tummy ache in her courage"), and to say more would be spoiling the story. That's also something I'd never thought I'd type about a Simpsons episode, either. There's actually an honest to goodness story here, and if this is what's been missing thanks to the Treehouse of Horror episodes, I'd like more of these please. But getting to the nitty gritty of the episode, it's near perfect with its joke delivery. Other than an odd "Time Warp" parody, which sort of works anyway thanks to seeing Springfield in drunken Halloween attire (the best being Rainier Wolfcastle as Jessica Rabbit) and self-referential Treehouse gag (I hate these later season's reliance on world breaking humor, it always feels tired) I haven't laughed this much in a long time. The most important thing about these jokes, which a lot of these later seasons fail to understand, is that they come from character work. This humor is based on what we know about these characters. Like Homer for instance. Instead of relying on "Jerkass" Homer's malleability and shoving him into random situations, as these later season episodes have done, "Halloween" boils him back down to a man who truly cares for his daughter.  In fact, the best exchange of the episode hearkens back to "classic" Simpsons by giving us the rawest conversation in some time. When Lisa's freaking out in the attic, withdrawing into herself with "This isn't real," Homer comforts her in the most loving, and more importantly, Homer way possible:  Honey, I’m your dad. I’ve lied to you more times than there are stars in the sky, but I gotta be straight - this is real. But you can’t let fear shut down your brain, because, between the two of us you’ve got the only good one. This one statement capitalizes on years and years of development between the two. Although they never age, they've grown in other ways and this episode is a nice reminder of that fact. This season is finally showing what a show in its twilight is truly capable of. Years of experience, years of writing, and years of history can be both a bad and good thing. But as "Halloween of Horror" has shown, it's leaning more toward the latter.  Final Thoughts:  To comfort himself, Homer sings the Halloween theme.  "I'm the Mozart of Halloween decorations and tonight is the Super Bowl!" "Hello, Scrotum." "Are you heading up to Treehouse to tell some tales?" "We're doing it next week. It's gonna be Psycho with Skinner's mom, Muppet Wizard of Oz, and one where furniture gets smart and takes over the world or something."  "Skippers! How can you reject a holiday where you can serve candy from a salad bowl!" "Nothing says you love a pet more than letting them be a part of the human fun. Who wants to be a Yoda? You want to be a Yoda!" "Look I don't want to be rude, but you losers should go suck somewhere else." "Ay, yi yi yi, Halloween is so bueno!"  "Ahh, they took my cell phone! And they forgot to pay my phone bill!"  "Get em, Zardoz!" Want to see more of our TV coverage? Check out our TV Recaps and Reviews! 
The Simpsons photo
Who would've guessed?
When I last wrote about The Simpsons a few weeks ago, I was ready to give up. Season 27's premiere was the latest in a long line of poorly thought out stunt episodes that were only conceived to bring in its lost audience. The...

The Walking Dead Season 6 Recap: "JSS"

Oct 19 // Nick Valdez
So last week we found out what was keeping Alexandria safe this entire time. Zombies have been gradually pouring into a nearby quarry, and after Rick stumbles on it, he recruits some of the gang and Alexandria folk to help corral them out of there. It's a pretty stupid idea in general since it would've made much more sense to try and thin out the mass as much as they could've before letting them escape, but that's beyond the point. It just means that most of Rick's crew (save for Carol, Carl, Morgan, Rosita, Eugene, and whatshername) are out of the town for the moment. There was also this side plot where Nick Papageorgio was trying to conspire against Rick for taking over their town, but Rick shut that down pretty quickly before Papageorgio got his face bitten off. It's pretty stupid all around. All potential plots brought up in that episode are quickly pushed aside in favor of more violence. Speaking of violence, this episode was full of it. But what makes it stand out more so than the general stuff we see on the show is how gruesome it really is when you stop to soak it in (which happens a few time in this episode).  As mentioned before, this episode is basically the season premiere's second half (and merging the two stories would've fixed the premiere's bloating problem). Carol gets to be a badass in more ways than one as she first shuts down some lady for complaining about her cooking skills (as Rick has given her the task of blending in with the townsfolk to figure them out), but these small moments don't last long before the season's big bads show up as the Wolves (folks with 'W' carved into their foreheads) run in and start slaughtering folks talking of freeing them from their way of living. It's a pretty violent struggle between the two groups, but Carol and Morgan are really the only ones holding their own. Carol goes incognito (complete with "W" etched in blood) and slays a bunch of the invaders, and Morgan is still struggling with the fact that he doesn't want to kill any living being despite the fact that these new enemies clearly pose a violent threat. It's not like past enemies like The Governor's folks (as those were just scared people), so these new bads are striving to kill. And not only kill, but mutilate, as we get glimpses of. As their name suggests, these guys are almost savages as their attacks don't stop when someone is dead.  Beyond all of the action of the episode, there's not really much else. So unfortunately, this episode feels incomplete as well. It's great to look at as the well directed action is both fun and gruesome, but no one of consequence is ever in danger. At one point, Rick's new love interest lady is in trouble and savages her way to safety, but I don't care enough about her to care. Still, there are themes present that are more interesting than the usual creeping mortality the show drapes itself in. See the Wolves aren't an interesting baddie because of their overt violence, but because Alexandira represents the first time the group's ever been close to forming an actual society. They've had safe havens before, but Alexandria's the closest to complete. But with nearly every townsperson dead, it's pretty much a reminder of how there's no such thing as civilization anymore. And the loss of that hope is much more gripping than "people are bad, Coral." Anyway, none of this will matter if the show can't get us to care about anyone other than the big three characters. This episode had a B-plot introducing Alexandria's new "doctor" Diane, but the dialogue during all of those scenes was so bad it held the rest of the episode down. The faux love triangle between Coral, Enid, and that abusive guy's kid isn't entertaining yet, so right now it's just annoying that Coral's probably crushing on someone who's gonna die soon anyway. Now the big thing I have a problem with is Morgan. What is going on with Morgan's character right now? I know the show's trying to turn him into the focal point of the show's morality, but this stupid wounded warrior schtick is grating. He magically shows up every time someone needs to be judged (like with Rick in the finale, when Rick killed Papageorgio before he turned into a zombie, and when Carol was killing Wolves) and it's made him more annoying than not. The show's trying its hardest to make him seem cooler with his dialogue ("Leave. Please."), but it's being underminded by his actions.  There are nuggets of good plot here, and seeing as how Alexandria is technically in tact before the giant mass of zombies make its way to the town, I'm sure that plot'll be thrown out the window in favor of more wandering zombie action. If The Walking Dead gets better at balancing the zombie action with its character work attempts, we could be in for a good season.  Final Thoughts:  Enid gets a little more background in the episode's cold open, and it's fantastic. Quick cuts, the titular "JSS" (which ends up meaning "Just Survive Somehow"), and quite brutal choices make for an interesting look into her unknown character. Too bad she's probably one of the Wolves. We all heard the little "We" she threw in when talking to Carl.  Speaking of Carl, he needs a damn haircut already.  Seriously, if you combined the two episodes it would've been a great episode. Tension built would've mattered, we could've eliminated all of the boring planning talks, and we would've just seen the plans in action rather than have to resort to black and white flashbacks (which didn't even work as a storytelling device anyway as none of the flashbacks actually revealed things of use). But really, shut up Morgan.  Want to see more of our TV coverage? Check out our TV Recaps and Reviews! 
Walking Dead Recap photo
Seriously Morgan, what the hell man?
I missed the start of Walking Dead's sixth season due to familial complications, but after finally getting to watch it sometime later, I didn't regret the missing coverage. You see despite being an hour and a half premiere (a...

The Flash Season 2 Recap: "Flash of Two Worlds"

Oct 14 // Nick Valdez
After like three minutes of recap, the mysterious man who busted into Star Labs at the end of the previous episode reveals himself to be Jay Garrick, a Flash from another world. He claim's Barry's world is in danger thanks to rifts in the dimension that allow the otherworlders through. It's why Atom Smasher and this episode's metahuman Sand Demon have twins in this world. Apparently, the season's new villain, "Zoom," has been dragging these metahumans through in an attempt to kill Flash. His motive seems a little dumb at this point since all Jay Garrick says is the villain wants to be the best speedster. When the singularity opened last season, Garrick ended falling into it, losing his powers in the process. He's apparently been spending the last six months following the Star Labs crew around and figuring out their stories, which made him seem less trustworthy than he'd like. But Barry's not quick to trust his story since he's still carrying around all from the Harrison Wells/Eobard Thawne debacle. Thus he submits Garrick take tests in order to prove his Flash-dom.  During all of this, we're introduced to this season's other new addition, Patty Spivot. She's a cop relatively new to the force and wants to join Joe's metahuman task force since her father was murdered by last season's Weather Wizard. She's Barry's new love interest supposedly, and in case you somehow forgot, she practically worships the ground Barry walks on. There's not enough to her character yet, so right now she just seems like someone added so Barry can fall in love again. She's got Barry's personality, love of science, and is basically girl Barry. It's a little stupid. Anyway, she gets kidnapped by Sand Demon and Barry is forced to accept help from Garrick. As Garrick has learned some speed force tricks, he teaches Barry how to throw his built up lightning energy. Barry save Patty, Sand Demon is lightning'd to death/glass, and it looks like Garrick is going to around for the long haul to teach Barry some new tricks.  This plot arc apes the first season in general with the season baddie being another speedster and Barry having someone who's aware of the speed force guide him along. But I'm hoping the writer's know their characters enough not to repeat the mistakes of the past. With Barry already acting cautious around Garrick, it seems like he's learned his lesson. But I never thought a story with multiple worlds and times would seem so generic. I'm still waiting for the show to hit its stride, and all the pieces are there, but it's going to take a bit for all of them to fall in place.  Final Thoughts:  Cisco's slowly becoming his Vibe comic persona as he's starting to use his powers more and more. It's also given he and Dr. Stein an interesting reason to team up in future episodes as Stein's the only who figures out something's wrong.  Speaking of Dr. Stein, I'm loving his giddy science energy. It's hilarious seeing him figure out the multiverse's faux science.  Since Caitlin's always gotta be attracted to somebody, she makes several dumb comments about Garrick's body.  Joe's ex-wife and Iris' mother shows up for some reason. Also is a terrible actress.  We hear a bit of Tony Todd as Zoom, who's costume is a cool black, and I can't wait for him to show up in full.  So, that ending tag. That's certainly something, isn't it?  Want to see more of our TV coverage? Check out our TV Recaps and Reviews! 
The Flash Recap photo

After hitting the reset button and establishing a new status quo during the season premiere last week, The Flash had a lot of new ground to cover. After seeing how well it managed to incorporate wacky comic book ideas like ti...

Snaxist NYCC Edition: Nestle's Star Wars Coffee-mate Creamer

Oct 09 // Nick Valdez
Since there's no point in drawing this out (because I've only got a few hours of life left), I'll give you some mini-reactions with each flavor. There are five in total, and for each flavor I drank a new cup of coffee. In order to get the most out of the creamer, I did half coffee, half creamer for each cup. At the time it seemed like a good idea to drink all of these in one sitting, but retrospection makes fools of us all. I have no idea why I did this. Was I worried they were going somewhere? I knew they'd be around all weekend, but for some awful, awful reason I felt compelled to keep drinking. It's all for you I guess.  C-3PO's Hazelnut First of all, I don't like what this flavor's insinuating. The less coming out of C-3PO, the better. Other than that, it's a very generic flavor. Not too pungent, but not too inviting either. It's just too bland to register a taste. Good thing it went first.  R2-D2's French Vanilla With how generic hazelnut turned out to be, I had no hopes for vanilla. When you think bland, you think "vanilla," so what were the chances it'd be good? Surprisingly, it's my favorite of the creamers. It's super sweet, but very tasty. It's what I needed to wash the Hazelnut out of my mouth.  Boba Fett's Italian Sweet Creme At this point, I've already had way more caffeine than I'm used to so I'm going to blame what happened here on all of that. I don't really remember this registering any of kind of flavor. I just couldn't stop laughing at how weird "Boba Fett's sweet creme" sounded when spoken aloud. I don't remember how loud I actually was, but it garnered a few worried looks. That's a memory I'll certainly carry to my early grave.  Darth Vader's Espresso Chocolate (New Limited Edition Flavor) At this point my palms were sweaty, knees weak, arms were heavy, vomit on my sweater already. I think it was mom's spaghetti. I had double vision. So much caffeine, so many random thoughts. Like do you think Vader had enough time to create this chocolate blend? You think there's an coffee based laboratory in the Empire? Is that why they blew up the Death Star? For its chocolate recipes? Either way, this was once again way too sweet. It tasted like I shoved a chocolate bar down my throat before a coffee chaser. Just hook it to my veins if you want to drown me in it. But it's the better of the two new flavors.  Chewbacca's Spiced Latte (New Limited Edition Flavor)  I'd hesitate to actually say this is a "flavor." But since I was more coffee than man at this point. I had to forge ahead. I was too far in to give up, and I one more cup wasn't going to give me double vision. Well, that's pretty much what happened. This one was the only time I physically wretched after drinking, and boy was it bad. It's got this over-confident cinnamon on the way down and hits you with something completely different in the after taste. I'd had enough. As soon as I started walking away, it's like all five cups hit me at once. I don't know how I got home, but I feel as I've come closer to death. I just, just know that's what happened. I did all for you, so come visit my grave. Then pour creamer on it. 
NYCC Snaxist photo
It's basically terrible
I'm not a huge coffee drinker. I don't drink the stuff daily, nor do I even drink it on occasion, but I've recently found that as I get older, it's harder and harder to wake up. Seeing as how I actually needed coffee for once...

NYCC: Nickelodeon's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles panel and Season 4 Premiere Recap

Oct 08 // Nick Valdez
Most of the voice cast was present with the absence of Mae Whitman and Sean Astin being the only loss (but he called in through Facetime) as well as showrunner Ciro Nieli and writer Brandon Auman. Wasting no time they started discussing the show's major shake up at the end of season three (once again, major spoilers), as the Tricertons set off a black hole bomb resulting in both Splinter's death and the destruction of the Earth. Splinter's VO Hoon Lee expressed some concern over it, but he also argued that it showed how dangerous the Turtles' life really is as they "live by the sword and die by the sword." Nieli stated that they wanted to try something big like that because they have all sorts of different directions for the show, and by the sounds of some of the news it's going to go to some crazy places.  Here are some of the major plans for season 4: David Tennant's Fugitoid is playing a huge role in the series going forward.  Keith David joins the show voicing a Salamander commander who may or may not truly be a bad guy (from a race based on The Newtralizer) The A-Team's Dwight Schultz is joining the cast as Wyrm, who's no longer a mutated trashman but now an all powerful alien genie with reality bending powers (think Bat-Mite) who fights the turtles by shapeshifting and wrapping them up in a big ball, hilariously. Also Casey's glowing blue and super smart for some reason.  The biggest thing? The Krang suit from the original 80s cartoon is returning as part of a 2D animatedspecial crossover with the original voice cast in tow, including Pat Fraley returning to voice the original villainous Krang. We were shown an in progress cinematic, and for anyone worried that the show's two tones would clash, don't worry. It's funny, has lots of action, and it'll warm your heart. As for the season four premiere, the show's getting an entirely new title cinematic. With a bit of summary of season three's finale, the turtles are shown in all sorts of new space situations. After that, the Turtles are trying to get used to their new situation as Fugitoid lays out the goal for the season. They need to collect shards of a special time macguffin in order to save the Earth (which is now stuck in a weird stasis of both existence and non-existence), but if the Triceratons get them first it's all over. With a new goal and some cool looking, color coordinated space suits (April's looks very familiar to those who've followed the 80s cartoon) the Turtles have a new lease on life. Which means we don't have to worry too much about angst or anything like that. Considering how heavy three's finale was, it's refreshing that season four giddily jumped into the new status quo. Anyway, after an asteroid belt leaves their ship damaged, the Turtles land on a planet of rogues, pirates and thieves (Raphael naturally likes it while Fugitoid notes he's never been but says it looks great in the Spring).  On the new planet, the Turtles make all sorts of space puns (a few of them land, most don't but the kids'll love it) and are introduced to a bunch of new technologies (which will most likely make their ninjutsu much better as the season roles on). After some exploring and each turtle finding their own troubling situation, we're introduced to season four's major addition, Peter Stormare's Lord Dregg. I have no clue how they landed Stormare, but he's fantastic. He's chewing up the scenery immensely and you can tell he absolutely loved playing the bad guy. Lord Dregg majorly outclasses the Turtles while throwing them around like ragdolls and has technologically superior, super tough henchmen. After the Turtles flee the planet and have a space battle with Dregg, the episode ends with the Turtles hyperspacing into the unknown.  After having so much fun with the premiere, I'm totally confident that the writing staff knew what it was doing when it literally blew itself up. I've never been more excited for a TMNT season, especially after last season felt like such a retread. It's definitely a good shot in the arm, and besides all the blatant need for new toys, the show's going to very enjoyable. I can't wait to see the rest of TMNT's universe.  Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles' fourth season premieres October 25th on Nickelodeon. 
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Turtles in space!
Since this is my second year at a big convention like this, I'm still pretty inexperienced with panels. My first big one was Disney's Tomorrowland panel, but I didn't stay the entire way through. So this year I made it my mis...

NYCC photo
NYCC 2015 is upon us and we're here to bring you all sorts of weird things. Not sure exactly yet what kind of news or tidbits we'll find out since there aren't any major panels other than MArvel and DC's TV stuff this year, b...

Moana photo

Disney casts its next princess, Moana

Oct 07
// Nick Valdez
I've been pretty excited for Disney's Moana since it was announced. After hearing their next project was about a Polynesian princess, and after Frozen, Big Hero 6, Wreck-It Ralph and Tangled turned out pretty good, they've ea...

The Flash Season 2 Premiere Recap: "The Man Who Saved Central City"

Oct 07 // Nick Valdez
Six months after a black hole (dubbed "The Singularity") opened over Central City in last season's finale, Barry's (Grant Gustin) going through the typical superhero angst. He blames himself for the whole debacle (and Eddie's death) and can't stop insisting that he "didn't save anyone." Regardless, Central City is honoring their hero with "Flash Day" (which sounds like an awful day out of context), and it's a pretty sensible way to integrate more of the comics' lore with the series. Anyhoo, the rest of the episode is dedicated to setting up and demolishing a new status quo. That's what I mean about everything and nothing. So much happens in this episode, but it's all brushed to the side so quickly that it all feels inconsequential. Through poorly implemented dream and flashback sequences we learn a few things: Ronnie has died again as he seemingly disappeared into the singularity when he and Dr. Stein Firestorm'd it, Cisco is working closer with the police's new meta-human task force, and the Star Labs crew split up (but are back together by the end of the episode).  During all of this a new monster of the week is introduced with Atom Smasher, a guy who looks like someone killed at the beginning of the episode and absorbs radiation in order to become big and strong. Like most of the show's villain of the week episodes, he neither gets a lot of development nor is he beaten in an interesting way. But the one interesting nugget is that he's being manipulated by some other villain named "Zoom," who wants to kill Flash for some reason (though folks familiar with the comics will probably be super confused by this new info). Oh and by the way, Harrison Wells/Eobard Thawne left a video confessing to Barry's mom's murder and setting his dad free. Then his dad, for some inane reason, decided to skip town to keep from distracting Barry or something? It's asinine, and it's the kind of writing the show's manged to avoid to this point. I want to believe there's a better reason for this, and the showrunner has a big picture idea for Barry's dad but this seems like they no longer had a reason to keep Shipp in the show. Then, Barry lets him leave off screen and we'll supposedly never hear from him again. Seriously. Despite all the time the episode devoted to Barry's angst, you'd figured a huge development like this would get more than five minutes of screen time.  Because so much of this premiere is dedicated to setting up the rest of the season, it forgets to become an entertaining episode itself. We're given no time to linger or develop on the finale's fallout, and we're expected to quickly move forward. I mean, we couldn't even end the episode without a tease of what's to come with the new character, Jay Garrick introducing himself at the end. I'll give the writers the benefit of the doubt here and assume they've got a plan to make all of this make sense retroactively. I'm sure they're holding off on all of the wacky stuff they have planned in order to ease new viewers into the show without overwhelming them with these high concept (for a superhero show, anyway) ideas. But nothing in the premiere is going to draw new viewers in, It's relying too much on the good will it's built with the first season and hopes that its quirks will keep people long enough to show off what it wants to do. I guess we'll find out for sure next week.  Final Thoughts:  Cisco provides so much of the episode's better moments. The Flash signal he found in a comic book, hugging Dr. Stein after Stein nicknamed the new villain, and his "For real?" after Garrick breaks into Star Labs' fancy new security system. Maybe Ronnie did actually die since he's not included in CW's Legends of Tomorrow line up, but Dr. Stein is. Robbie Amell can't catch a break, can he? Dying all over the place.  Flash's new suit includes the white around his lightning bolt like his future self. Looks much better, but after the build up to the suit reveal, I was hoping for a bigger overhaul.  I won't be covering CW's other superhero show, but I hope you'll stick with me through this!  Want to see more of our TV coverage? Check out our TV Recaps and Reviews! 
The Flash Recap photo
Two worlds, one Flash
I didn't realize how much I'd missed The Flash until seeing it again last night. It's the first superhero show that I've been strongly attached to, and it's with good reason. DC Comics have been killing the TV game for years,...

Fear the Walking Dead Season Finale Recap: "The Good Man"

Oct 05 // Nick Valdez
With the encroaching danger of the arena filled with thousands of zombies (which I'm glad we didn't know about until the last episode, it could've been stupidly teased through all six episodes and became more annoying than not) and the military abandoning El Serreno, the gang makes plans to break into the military compound in order to rescue Nick and (the now dead) Griselda. It's generic stuff to be sure, but it's interesting how we get to that point. First, Travis decides to spare The Faculty military guy since he says he knows where everyone is. Then Daniel decides to weaponize the arena full of zombies and lets them loose on the military compound. It's pretty goofy how a horde would walk up without anyone realizing, but it gives Daniel a bonafide badass moment ("You should save your ammunition.") as he strolls away. Then we finally get the action people have been clamoring for. A nicely laid out kitchen fight, several tense moments (one of which comes into play during the finale's final scene), and several nice character bits.  There are too many good bits to talk about, but here are a few of my favorites. These scenes managed to squeeze in genuine emotion in between all of the action, something that the parent series hasn't been able to do for some time: The doctor gives up and presumably kills herself with her cattle gun as she loses hope in the military, an infected soldier runs head first into a helicopter blade, Nick nearly gets a heroic death with his silent "Go" through the door before being saved at the last minute (and made me think there might be something else to his character after all), Daniel and Ofelia see the piles of ash and bodies that Griselda is now a part of (that's one of the most striking images I've seen in either of the shows. It's far more upsetting than seeing characters do it themselves), after The Faculty soldier shoots Ofeila Travis beats him to death, regretting his decision to let him go, Strand gets his cuff links back, and the military shows that the characters can't rely on anyone other than themselves.  But the best part of the finale? Oddly the one I hate the most due to increasingly stupid peaceful nature, Travis begins to change as the world changes. Becoming more like Daniel (and thus capitalizing on the duality set up in previous episodes), Travis begins making these violent choices for the benefit of his family. For one, he doesn't tell any of his former neighbors that the military has abandoned them, and two, he basically kills everybody without hesitation. Like Rick, Travis is slowly changing, but unlike Rick, it's much more interesting to watch Travis' hope be crushed. Leading to the episode biggest moment, Liza's unfortunate demise. As the group makes it to Strand's beach side residence, as he details his plans to get to his ship Abigail, you'd think all of the main characters would be in the clear. But unfortunately, after being attacked in that kitchen scene, Liza reveals she's been infected. After giving Madison and Travis all of the knowledge she gained from the military (that it's pretty much hopeless as everyone comes back after they die), she decides she doesn't want her son to see her in that state. Rodriguez absolutely kills it here, and this scene hits harder than you'd expect thanks to her acting.  It sucks since I was getting attached to her, but I'm guessing no one really knew what to do with her character anymore. Although her death provides a more hopeless situation (changing Travis and Chris, losing the only one with any kind of medical knowledge), it sort of reeks of that "kill the woman to make the man more interesting" thing. They're losing a great actress, but I'm confident the show knows what it's doing. The major death of this episode is an intimate moment, and it's reflective of how this show's been handled. It's also something I can't say of the parent series, that for the first time, I actually cared that someone was dying off in one of these shows. It's genuinely unexpected, it's quiet, and then it's over but its lingering effects will be felt as the series rolls on. It's potential that the parent series failed to capitalize on, and as long as Fear avoids those same trappings, it can be a much better show. It's already had a much better first season.  Final Thoughts:  "You can keep the watch." Strand is so f**king cool.  Speaking of Strand, his character is pushing this into comic book-y territory, but he's so interesting I won't be bothered to care. His strict self-preservation's going to clash with the main cast soon, and it'll be fun to see which side of the new world folks will stand on.  You can argue that no one in this show is likable or interesting, and it'd be hard to argue, but later episodes will hopefully utilize all of the nuance laid out early on.  Nick's "everyone's catching up to me" speech was pretty dumb. Reminds me too much of this PSA. Fear's miniseries Flight 462, which will introduce a character for season two, premieres during each episode of the Walking Dead but I'll probably wait until it's all over to talk about it. No point in discussing a minute long episode each week.  So that's it! Thanks for sticking with me, folks. I'll be back next week with the series proper. Stay tuned!  Want to see more of our TV coverage? Check out our TV Recaps and Reviews! 
FTWD Recap photo
Can't wait for season two
Just like with its parent series, Fear the Walking Dead has been experiencing some growing pains within its very short, six episode first season. As the biggest draw, the zombies, took a backseat to a more intimate story of f...

The Simpsons Season 27 Premiere Review: Stunt Gone Wrong

Sep 28 // Nick Valdez
If you've followed any kind of entertainment news, you've probably heard of how Fox was promoting Homer and Marge's separation (along with Lena Dunham's cameo) as the next big thing to happen to the family. In recent years (more so in the upper 20s than not), the series has relied on these big events to draw in viewers. It kind of sucks since these kinds of events are usually saved for shows on the brink of cancellation as they gasp for air, and this show has never been starved for viewers. It's more telling that the event was advertised like a big deal, forgoing all of Homer and Marge's history (they were technically not married between Season 8's "A Milhouse Divided" and Season 16's "There's Something About Marrying") and not focusing on the why it happens. I guess when I finally sat down to watch this, I had hoped we'd get a well written story out of all of this nonsense. I mean, we're looking at a couple that's withstood an entire town riot, multiple opportunities to cheat, and several failed mortgages. So what finally rips them apart? Narcolepsy.  When Homer is diagnosed with narcolepsy (featuring the only funny segment in the episode as Dr. Hibbert notes the family's been on way too many wacky vacations), he uses the prescription to avoid all sorts of responsibilities. Marge's finally had enough, and after visiting a marriage counselor, decides to legally separate. Homer then ends up dating the kooky pharmacist Candace (Lena Dunham) and it leads to cheating on Marge, Marge quickly marrying Candace's dad, and the Simpsons kids welcoming their new predicament. The thing is, I can totally see this premise working in an earlier season. It's all just badly handled. I don't see Homer's laziness finally breaking Marge down since she's been through so much, and it's a shame that we don't get any other point of views. It's yet another formulaic "Homer is a dope" episode that doesn't treat any of its happenings with any weight. You know why? Because it's all a dream sequence. That's right, the big separation Fox has been pushing has been one of Homer's narcoleptic dreams. And when I thought for a second that the series wouldn't return to the status quo by episode end (since most of the series' future episodes laid out Homer and Marge's divorce as canon), the rug's pulled out several times. A "dream within a dream within a dream" bit would've been enjoyable had it been funny, or at least well written, but this wasn't the case.  This premiere has just been the latest in a long line of examples (the big "death" promoted last season, big guest stars in bit parts) why the show ain't what she used to be. I've stuck it out through these later seasons out of loyalty and the occasional nuggets ("500 Keys," "Holidays of Future Passed," "Eternal Moonshine of the Spotless Mind"), but this premiere feels more like a spit in my face than ever. I don't care if it's all a dream, but it's just so lazy. It neglects years of character work in favor of the "now." In an episode that references obscure oddities like the Springfield Atom, the Space Coyote, Fatov, or the one time Germans owned the power plant, it's hard to believe that they'd forget that Homer would never cheat on Marge. Every time they've been separated, he's always been a pitiable recluse full of blind love, and that's always been one of the reasons Marge finally takes him back. To see him do such a 180 is ridiculous, even for a supposed dream. Not to mention, there's no real reason Candace should go out with Homer. He's completely negative, washed out, and bashes her friends.  To do a premise like this properly, we'd have to take time and look at both and Homer and Marge. I would've welcomed them actually separating since it would've opened up all sorts of story potential. We've seen so much of this family as a unit, it would've been a good late season shake up to have them be apart for longer than an episode. But it feels like we're going in terrible circles. If the rest of the season is like this, I don't know if I can hang on anymore.  Final Thoughts:  Good to hear the rest of the Girls cast came along as Candace's friends, but their roles are wasted. Maybe a full on millenial episode like the Portlandia tribute "The Day the Earth Stood Cool" would've been a better idea.  Seriously, the opening bit at the hospital had some good meta jokes. Lots of Dr. Hibbert means that Harry Shearer definitely would've been missed.  My roommate's got a Space Coyote tattoo, so I'm sure he would've enjoyed that visual. That whole fantasy sequence wasn't too bad either.  Want to see more of our TV coverage? Check out our TV Recaps and Reviews! 
The Simpsons photo
No more cheap stunts please
I've been a big supporter of The Simpsons for as long as I can remember. Literally, one of my first memories was asking to watch the show. And if you ask my mother, she'd tell you I'd move around in my high chair in order to ...

Fear the Walking Dead Season 1 Recap: "Cobalt"

Sep 28 // Nick Valdez
All season long, Fear has been struggling to find its voice, i.e. what's going to set it apart from its parent series and other zombie media. Rather than tackle the endless feelings of depression and creeping mortality, Fear is once again making this an intimate apocalypse. As society begins breaking down, it's also leading to the dissolution of the intimacy of relationships. As evidenced by the series' newest, and coolest, character strand (Colman Domingo) in an opening monologue (given for the explicit purpose of driving weaker individuals out), society is crumbling and only those who can evolve along with the new world will survive. This also leads to the episode's central focus: the duality of Daniel and Travis. One's been bred through war and struggle in El Salvador, and the other's a guy who'd rather not incite violence. For the first time, Travis isn't annoying. I've discussed in length about how much his blind ignorance has bothered me seeing as how the rest of the family has accepted the new situation, but seeing him slowly come around has been oddly entertaining.  As the military force becomes way more political, seeing as how heavy patriotism and dehumanization of the zombies has become a coping mechanism for their strenuous mission, their cracks are starting to show. We're also learning how the world ended up the way it is in TWD as even the military forces fall apart due to sheer number of infected and soldiers wanting to return home to their families. It took even more "I'm a bad guy nyaaah" from the general to get Travis to snap out of whatever the hell he was thinking (and them trying to get Travis to shoot the gun was a very bad idea. He seriously could've hurt himself. His eye on the scope would've given him a black eye), but it works. That brings us back to Daniel Salazar and his torture. In order to get information from the kid from The Faculty his daughter was using, he begins torturing him. But I'm impressed with how Fear handled it. It didn't linger on any violence, but instead chose to enforce why Daniel thought it was a good idea. The series has been giving Daniel more and more darkness as it goes on, and this was just icing on the cake. Since he's experienced societal breakdown before (as he and Griselda fled to the US during Salvadorian civil war), he's figured out torture was one of the only ways to survive. Compare that to Travis and his inability to evolve, and Daniel's pretty much one end of the spectrum. His torture brings us to the crux of the episode as it leads to the season finale. As Liza steps into the military medical facility (and as Nick is trapped within), she's witnessing how they're handling things. We don't see the big picture, but that's not really important because there's a sense of imminent danger from all of it. The military's been using the facility to figure out the disease and pretty much puts down anyone who seems like a viable threat. It also meant that at one point, 2000 or so people were locked into an arena once infection broke. And that also brings the title of the episode as "Cobalt" refers to them abandoning the encampment and "humanely" terminating the people there less they become zombies later.  So after a slow buildup, we're finally going to see society crumble. The military's struggling as communication breaks down and human nature takes over, that arena's going to burst open and force our characters out of LA, and as the coolest character Strand notes, the only thing that's going to push folks forward is their "obligation" to other people and their relationships. Fear's made the most out of its personal apocalypse and the characters have become a bit more interesting than Rick's gang of comic book characters.  Final Thoughts:  Alycia and Chris still are the worst characters, but their combined storyline of discussing class issues while wrecking a rich person's home led to some interesting areas. That's more than I can say for previous episodes which gave them nothing to do.  Seeing as how Strand is super interesting, I see Fear holding off on killing another Black character for a bit. Good for them! Teaming up with the annoying Nick (going through withdrawals) is more evidence in Fear's confident long game.  "I'm an addict." "No, you're a heroin addict. That's the gold standard. Don't sell yourself short."  Just like the parent series, Fear's first season has been all set up for the second season. Let's hope it ends better than Walking Dead did.  Want to see more of our TV coverage? Check out our TV Recaps and Reviews! 
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Whoa, what show is this?
The show's been very confident in its long game. After immediately getting picked up for a second season, I'm sure the showrunners knew they'd have time to build up to a satisfying story. It may have been rough before the Lab...

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Prometheus 2

Prometheus sequel gets new, Alien friendly title

Sep 25
// Nick Valdez
Despite the two hour confusing slog it was, Prometheus was divisive here at Flixist. We even pulled in Jim Sterling at one point to talk about it because it was so crazy. I'm sure Ridley Scott was interested in pursuing a seq...
The Splat photo
The Splat

Nickelodeon reviving 90's programming with The Splat

Olmec now, Olmec forever
Sep 25
// Nick Valdez
Remember the Nicktoons channel? It was this channel dedicated to past Nickelodeon cartoons like Rugrats or As Told By Ginger that was phased out in favor another outlet for their live programming. But with the 90s nostalgia b...
Spectre photo

Listen to Sam Smith's Spectre theme, "Writing's on the Wall"

Sep 25
// Nick Valdez
"Skyfall" > "You Know My Name" > "Another Way to Die" > "Writing's On the Wall" 

The Muppets Pilot Review: Not Really for Kids, But That's Okay

Sep 23 // Nick Valdez
There's a bit of a jarring transition going into this new status quo. The show follows the Muppets backstage as they work on a late night talk show starring Miss Piggy (think The Late Show with Stephen Colbert or The Tonight Show and you've gotten the idea). There's also traditional bits of character work for the show moving forward: Fozzie's in a relationship where his girlfriend's parents don't approve of their daughter dating a bear, The Electric Mayhem may have substance abuse problems (but that's in side jokes, don't worry), and the afortmentioned Kermit and Miss Piggy have split up but maintain a working relationship the best they can. The biggest change has to be Kermit's new personality. Maybe it's due to being walked on over the years, or stress from his managerial gig, but this new Kermit's kind of a jerk. A funny jerk, mind you, but a jerk nonetheless. At least he's got all sorts of new facial expressions to toss around. The folks at work have made some great renovations to Kermit's puppetry. He's also got a new girlfriend, Denise.  That's the kind of stuff I'm referring to when I say The Muppets aren't really for kids anymore. They've been all ages for years, so there are probably tons of examples you could point to of when the Muppets had adult-oriented humor. But this is the first time I noticed a clear barrier of entry. By the time Kermit refers Miss Piggy as "sexy," it's already put all the nails in the coffin for kids. But while the whole family can't enjoy, I'm sure the Muppets can draw a lot from this new level of sophisticated humor. I laughed quite a few times during this pilot, and they weren't due to the same kind of slapstick gags or easy jokes you'd expect. Drawing from the more successful aspects of the two films, there's a greater emphasis on joke writing and staging. So there's a better balance of the classic Muppets charm without an over-reliance of some of the cornier jokes. Then again, this could all just be too early to tell if the strength of the writing can hold out for the following weeks.  At the end of the day, it's The Muppets in a brand new package. You don't know exactly what you're getting anymore, but it's the most interesting The Muppets have been in some time.  Final Thoughts:  Imagine Dragons: "Why won't you come on tour with us?" Animal: "Too many cities. Too many women." "You went into a room full of dancing stars and came back with Tom Bergeron?"  "What can I say? I have a thing for pigs." Elizabeth Banks totally kills her guest spot.  Riki Lindhome showed up in both this and Fresh Off the Boat last night, and the world clearly needs more of her. Her presence is always welcome.  Want to see more of our TV coverage? Check out our TV Recaps and Reviews! 
The Muppets TV photo
Tom Bergeron can't catch a break
The Muppets have made quite a comeback the last few years. After two successful films, the latest Muppet project brings them to ABC in a mockumentary style format similar to shows like Parks and Recreation or The Office (henc...

Scream Queens Series Premiere Recap: "Pilot/Hell Week"

Sep 23 // Nick Valdez
I'm not sure if Fox's plan to premiere two episodes in a row was a good thing. When succumbed to that much of Murphy's work at once, the cracks always show. It's one of the rare cases where the pilot fared much better than the first episode of the series proper. For example, the show opens in a particularly interesting way as a girl (in 1995, no less) gives birth to a baby in a bathtub during a sorority (Kappa Kappa Tau) party. The other girls ignore her when TLC's "Waterfalls" comes on, thus leading to her death and a mysterious cover up that's sure to be one of the running threads throughout the series. It's a pretty impressive hook for any pilot and perfectly captures the tone the Glee trio of Murphy/Falchuk/Brennan is looking for. It's darkly humorous, creepy, informative of the show's universe, and there's a splash of pop culture reference. But other than one other scene which I'll get to in a bit, it never quite reaches that height again.  There's always been something that bothered me with Murphy's work. Because he's a marginalized individual, he's always been okay with exploiting other margins in the sake of comedy. The same problems that have plagued his shows appear here as well. There are racial stereotypes (though I'm sure Keke Palmer is just playing Keke Palmer despite arguments otherwise), thickly laid homoeroticism that borders on the homophobic, and a "Queen Bee" character in Emma Roberts the trio uses as a funnel for every terrible (ultimately non-humorous) thing they could think of. But what separates Queens from a show like, let's say, Scream, is that it doesn't dwell on these characters and takes them seriously. It's a show full of dumb caricatures making terrible choices, and we're going to want to watch them get murdered week to week. From the looks of how much humor it can mine from gleefully killing its characters, I'm sure they're be style in spades. Just by watching these first two episodes, I've figured the modus operandi of Scream Queens is to revel in its quirk so much it won't be bothered to actually develop any of its characters. There's some surprising level of depth to Emma Roberts' Chanel (which make the other Chanels look lacking in comparison), but if she's expected to lead the series instead of the final girl archetype Grace (Skyler Samuels), I don't know how much of her I can take. There are definite narrative nuggets to her character, so I hope I can chalk it up to growing pains. As for everyone else, Jamie Lee Curtis and Nick Jonas are definitely the standouts. Curtis is basically playing Coach Sue Sylvester with a dark twist, and Jonas' secretly gay-but-not-secretly gay Boone is full on cheese and it's the best. But you know who gets the biggest scene? Ariana Grande. Not because of her acting or her character, but because a well crafted and staged scene that perfectly encapsulates the show's potential.  Since Scream Queens is an homage to B-grade films, but still wants to poke fun at the current state of horror, we get this awesome scene where Chanel No. 2 is murdered by the series' killer, the Red Devil, through text messages. It nets the biggest laugh and is oddly proactive as Chanel tries her best to tweet out her death. She isn't just silently killed off into the night, but does her best to prevent it even when locked into a goofy sequence. The same can't be said for the series' next two deaths, but so far, each death sequence has been unique and pretty damn funny. Once you get past the show's awkward writing, the rest of the package is great. It's interesting enough that I've decided to talk about it for the next few weeks.  Final Thoughts:  Chad Radwell, the stereotypical rich jerk who's cool with his best friend being gay, is by far my favorite character in the show thus far. I'm sure his death scene is going to be fantastic.  Lea Michele's Hester takes a maniacal turn in episode two and I'm not sure I like it yet.  Abigail Breslin as Chanel No 5 hasn't really made a name for herself yet. I thought she was the good girl who was just stuck in her terrible sorority, but her turn in the second episode proved that wrong.  I'm also not sure what to think of Niecy Nash and Nasim Pedrad's characters. They're the wackiest characters in the show by far, but it's too early to tell if that's a good thing or not.  At least this isn't as bad as The New Normal was.  Remember that VH1 reality show Scream Queens, where 8 actresses went through challenges in order to land a role in one of the Saw movies? That was a good time. They should do that again.  Want to see more of our TV coverage? Check out our TV Recaps and Reviews! 
Scream Queens Recap photo
Glee and AHS had an awkward baby
You folks don't know this, because we'd only recently begun covering television in earnest, but I was a huge fan of Glee. I bought the soundtracks, I bought the seasons on DVD (this was before Netflix took over and ruined EVE...

Limitless Pilot Review: Limited in Scope

Sep 23 // Nick Valdez
Taking place sometime after the events of 2011's Limitless, a drug known as NZT taps into the brain's potential and removes a set of limiters which hold our thought processes back. As Brian Finch (Jake McDorman) feels like a failure (his dad's sick, his band isn't getting anywhere, and he's yet to hold a steady job), he's introduced to NZT and suddenly gets framed for murder when his best friend is killed. In order to prove himself innocent, he starts hunting down and taking more NZT in order to stay ahead of the police and lead Detective Rebecca (Jennifer Carpenter, who always gets stuck looking after a dude with major problems in these shows). After all of the shenanigans, and finding out Brian's immune to the drugs' physical toll, Rebecca chooses to work with Brian in order to use his super brain as a police resource.  I try my best not to compare a piece of media to other things, but it's much harder to do with television. This time of season we'll get a lot of shows with the same core formula, but only the ones with the strongest hook or writing manage to last into the winter. As Limitless becomes yet another cop procedural, it's hard not to compare with shows that use its tropes better. A female cop teams up with a guy outside of the force? It's done better in Castle. A guy who's super smart and has all the answers? Check any of the leading network shows for white men who solve problems. Heck, it's even in CBS's own Elementary right now. Unfortunately, the only thing that could've made this show interesting (having Brian slowly degenerate through the series due to the drug's effects) is brushed away by a Bradley Cooper cameo. I'm not sure why the show refused to follow a broken lead, but broken characters always make for better TV. Just imagine if later in the series Brian became a wild and reckless junkie doing whatever he needed to for his next fix in order to stop other crimes. But with the police providing his drugs and with the narrative mistake of never showing what it does to his brain, there's a lack of tension. Even when's he's scrambling around for it in the pilot, it never once feels like he's in any kind of trouble. All we're left with is a super successful man successfully succeeding.  Seeing the film's lead character (who's now running for Senator) adds legitimacy, but it only reminded me of how much I was willing to brush off the film due to Cooper's charismatic nature. I was okay with Motta's rampant success because Cooper is a guy you want to see work things out. I'm not sure if the show will lead to the violent places the film did, but I don't think I care. Unfortunately for Jake McDorman, he doesn't have any kind of personality yet. I hope he can build it through the series, but he's sort of a brick wall. His scenes with Carpenter are a travesty. It's like she's talking to air as McDorman gives her nothing to bounce off of. As for the show's direction, the less said the better. There's nothing distinguishing this from CBS's other cop procedurals. It's the same drab looks, the same weird CG, and lacks any kind of distinct characteristics. It's entirely relying on the fact it's based off a film and hopes we'll enjoy the hook of the super drug enough to stick around.  But seeing as how much Limitless is limiting its own storytelling potential, feel free to pass on this show.  Final Thoughts:  This guy feels like a failure at 28? F**k this guy.  It really is nice of Bradley Cooper to do things like this. He really didn't have to show up and be the mysterious guy who knows everything (even if he's the executive producer), but it makes sense for the world building. Cooper should really consider more villainous roles.  Speaking of Cooper's cameo, he's a talking CG baby at one point. Yeah, I don't know what happened there.  I wished the pilot made more time for Brian to have fun with his new abilities. The montage where he experiments with his new brainpower is the best scene of the episode. McDorman actually has some personality here, and I hope there'll be time for that later. The serious tone the show takes later in the episode completely snuffs out this Brian. 
Limitless photo
Could use some of that super brain drug
If you haven't been paying attention to the TV scene lately, it's been getting more and more impressive. Shows are getting better budgets, a higher class of actors, and their getting all sorts of social media attention. It's ...

Minority Report Pilot Review: It's Basically Already Canceled

Sep 22 // Nick Valdez
Taking place ten years after the events of Steven Spielberg's Minority Report (which the pilot has to remind folks existed) and the end of the PreCrime Unit (where the police arrested folks based on murders that hadn't yet happened), one of the "Precognitives" Dash (Stark Sands) has grown tired of hiding as his murder visions grew worse and worse. He eventually teams up with Detective Lara Vega (Meagan Good of Cousin Skeeter fame)  and their adventures in policing begin or something like that.  Pilots are under an extreme amount of pressure. They've got to hook their respective viewers within the first fifteen minutes or so while showing why the world they inhabit is worth investing in. Report actually accomplishes this pretty well. The opener follows Dash as he frantically dashes toward the scene of a crime while showing off the pilot's impressive budget (which I don't expect to hold weight through the rest of the series, much like Almost Human). It's a subtle and intelligent sequence as Dash struggles knowing the entire time he'll fail. But there's never any hand holding during this, and we're left to infer it from his actions. And when he does indeed fail to stop the murder, it's as simple as watching him turn away from the scene since he's witnessed so much of it already. Unfortunately, that same light touch doesn't extend past that point. After the first ten or some minutes, Report basically becomes every cop show ever. I don't really understand why, but for some reason Report constantly exposits story details. Lines like "They remind you of having no parents, that's why you came to me." or along those lines. It loses that subtlety in favor in overtly stating how other characters relate to other ones, and it's not like those relationships are particularly inventive either. You'd figure with a world 50 years in the future, the future police would have better conversations than "I'm a future police." That's not really what they say, but I hope you get my point. I guess I'm still sour about Almost Human. That show had a much better handled premise. It's not all bad as there are a few nuggets that might prove interesting later, but this pilot had a ton of rough edges. Normally I'd say to forgive a pilot's bad writing if the cast or premise were gripping enough, but I don't feel that way here. I'd love for Meagan Good to have a great starring vehicle, but since she yet again plays second fiddle to some white guy, I'm over it.  Either way you fall on this, Fox will cancel this after the first season...if it even gets to that point.  Final Thoughts:  Meagan Good is great, but I wish the pilot exploited her body less. It really undermines how good of a detective she is when we're all ogling a picture of her in a bikini.  We're all lucky I didn't use "Meagan Bad"  Wilmer Valderama is here. That's all I have to say about that.  "When I was your age, we used this thing called Tinder. It's how I met your father." I don't care what year it is, no one ever will refer to Iggy Azalea's "Trouble" as an "oldie."  I totally believe The Simpsons will still be on the air 50 years from now. 
Minority Report photo
I miss Almost Human
As television grows more and more influential thanks to its ready availability through streaming services, networks have been putting more and more money and effort into their offerings. One of the weird consequences of this ...

Fall 2015 TV Premieres: What to Watch and When

Sep 21 // Nick Valdez
September Tuesday, September 8th The Late Show with Stephen Colbert (CBS, 1035PM) Wednesday, September 9th The League (FXX, 9PM) You're the Worst (FXX, 930PM) Thursday, September 10 Longmire (Netflix) Friday, September 11 Z Nation (SyFy, 9PM) Continuum (SyFy, 10PM) Tuesday, September 15 The Mindy Project (Hulu) Best Time Ever with Neil Patrick Harris (NBC, 9PM) The Bastard Executioner (FX, 9PM) Wednesday, September 16 South Park (Comedy Central, 9PM) Moonbeam City (Comedy Central, 930PM) Saturday, September 19 Doctor Who (BBC, 8PM) Monday, September 21 Gotham (FOX, 7PM) Minority Report (FOX, 8PM) The Big Bang Theory (CBS, 7PM) Life in Pieces (CBS, 730PM) Scorpion (CBS, 8PM) Castle (ABC, 9PM) Blindspot (NBC, 9PM) Tuesday, September 22 The Muppets (ABC, 7PM) Fresh Off the Boat (ABC, 730PM) Scream Queens (FOX, 8PM) Limitless (CBS, 9PM) Wednesday, September 23 The Middle (ABC, 7PM) The Goldbergs (ABC, 730PM) Modern Family (ABC, 8PM) Black-ish (ABC, 830PM) Rosewood (FOX, 7PM) Empire (FOX, 8PM) The Mysteries of Laura (NBC, 7PM) TripTank (Comedy Central, 10PM) Thursday, September 24 Grey's Anatomy (ABC, 7PM) Scandal (ABC, 8PM) How to Get Away with Murder (ABC, 9PM) Heroes Reborn (NBC, 7PM) The Player (NBC, 9PM) Friday, September 25 Hawaii Five-O (CBS, 8PM) Blue Bloods (CBS, 9PM) Saturday, September 26 Guardians of the Galaxy (Disney XD, 9PM) Sunday, September 27 Bob's Burgers (FOX, 630PM) The Simpsons (FOX, 7PM) Brooklyn Nine-Nine (FOX, 730PM) Family Guy (FOX, 8PM) Last Man on Earth (FOX, 830PM) Once Upon a Time (ABC, 7PM) Blood & Oil (ABC, 8PM) Quantico (ABC, 9PM) CSI Two Hour Series Finale (CBS, 8PM) Monday, September 28 The Daily Show with Trevor Noah (Comedy Central, 10PM) Tuesday, September 29 Grandfathered (FOX, 7PM) The Grinder (FOX, 730PM) Agents of SHIELD (ABC, 8PM) Wednesday, September 30 Criminal Minds (CBS, 8PM) Code Black (CBS, 9PM) October Thursday, October 1 Bones (FOX, 7PM) Sleepy Hollow (FOX, 8PM) The Blacklist (NBC, 8PM) Saturday, October 3 Saturday Night Live (NBC, 1030PM)0 Sunday, October 4 Madam Secretary (CBS, 7PM) The Good Wife (CBS, 8PM) Homeland (Showtime, 8PM) The Affair (Showtime, 9PM) The Leftovers (HBO, 8PM) Tuesday, October 6 The Flash (The CW, 7PM) iZombie (The CW, 8PM) Finding Carter (MTV, 9PM) Wednesday, October 7 Casual (Hulu) Arrow (The CW, 7PM) Supernatural (The CW, 8PM) American Horror Story: Hotel (FX, 9PM) Thursday, October 8 The Vampire Diaries (The CW, 7PM) The Originals (The CW, 8PM) Haven (SyFy, 9PM) Friday, October 9 Undateable (NBC, 7PM) Reign (The CW, 7PM) Sunday, October 11 The Walking Dead (AMC, 9PM) Monday, October 12 Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (The CW, 7PM) Jane the Virgin (The CW, 8PM) Fargo (FX, 9PM) Thursday, October 15 Nathan For You (Comedy Central, 9PM) Friday, October 23 Hemlock Grove (Netflix) Saturday, October 24 Da Vinci's Demons (Starz, 7PM) Monday, October 26 Supergirl (CBS, 730PM) Tuesday, October 27 Wicked City (ABC, 9PM) Friday, October 30 Grimm (NBC, 8PM) Saturday October 31 Ash vs. Evil Dead (Starz, 8PM) November Friday, November 5 Mom (CBS, 8PM) Angel From Hell (CBS, 830PM) Elementary (CBS, 9PM) Saturday, November 6 Master of None (Netflix) Sunday, November 15 Into the Badlands (AMC, 9PM) Friday, November 20 The Man in the High Castle (Amazon Prime) December Thursday, December 3 The Wiz Live (NBC, 7PM) Friday, December 4 Transparent (Amazon Prime) Monday, December 14 Childhood's End (SyFy, 7PM) The Expanse (SyFy, 9PM) January Sunday, January 3 Downton Abbey (PBS, 8PM) Sunday, January 10 The 73rd Annual Golden Globe Awards (NBC, 7PM) Sunday, January 17 Shameless (Showtime, 8PM) Billions (Showtime, 9PM) Sunday, January 24 The X-Files (FOX, 6PM) - Special Premiere Event Monday, January 25 The X-Files (FOX, 7PM) - Regular Spot 
Fall TV Preview photo
Fall TV is best TV
I have a pretty outstanding relationship with television. More so than movies (it's so weird that I work here, right?), TV practically raised me from the mean streets of Sesame to the well adjusted adult that I am now. This f...

Fear the Walking Dead Season 1 Recap: "Not Fade Away"

Sep 21 // Nick Valdez
We're two episodes away from the season finale (and before the season six premiere of the parent series), so whatever the seeds the show has been planting had to emerge now more than ever. It's a shame to took something major like the US military (or whatever this is a semblance of, actually) to shake stuff up. But whatever. At the end of last week's episode, a military convoy showed up and bordered off the suburb. In this episode, it's been nine days since the military took over (coupled with a stupidly ironic cover of Lou Reed's "Perfect Day") and characters have settled into new rhythms that'll carry through the season finale: Travis grows accustomed to the military and becomes the middle man between them and the citizens (because of course he would), his son Chris discovers people asking for help outside of the fence, his ex-wife Liza fakes being a nurse in order to give people peace of mind, Madison and Daniel are suspicious of the military, Ofelia is working a military dude for drugs, and Nick is going through MacGuyver-esque lengths for a new fix.  And like the previous episode, this one comes down to activity vs. inactivity. As a way to enhance the series' focus on intimacy (as evident through the copious close up shots), the familial drama and the apocalypse finally combine into a legitimate threat. Rather than follow its parent series' focus on how each individual decides to survive (as we watched Rick slowly evolve into a shadow of his former self through six seasons), Fear seems to focus on how the family wants to survive together. And that's become the show's greatest strength. Rather than fall onto water cooler zombie attacks to keep itself going, one of "Not Fade Away" biggest moments comes from a mother and son. As Madison literally (and more importantly, lovingly) tries to knock some sense into her junky twerp of a son, it's the closest I've ever felt to her. For once, Madison felt human instead of just being the show's main character. The military's lack of info forces Madison out of her pragmatic nature and causes her to make some pretty reckless situations as she escapes from the fence and sees the chaos outside.  Although this stuff seems minimal, it's still very exciting. The military finally reveals their ugly (but strangely logical) motive and starts removing slighted damaged people from the safe zone. I could've done without all of mustache twirling from the army general (as he plays golf and says things like "don't make me take him down"), but the end result is worth it. Fear actually had a tense moment as the military comes into Madison's home and takes her son away along with Daniel's wife Griselda under the guise of medical help. This was set up wonderfully too as Fear takes advantage of its ethnic characters as Daniel tells a horrific story of the government taking people away in El Salvador. There's a brewing distrust and all of it seems like its leading to a season finale where Madison, Daniel (and Travis now that his innocence and trusting nature has been crushed) break into a compound to bust them out. Walking Dead seems to love ending in military compounds.  Final Thoughts:  We need more scenes of Madison and Daniel together. Clearly there's a major benefit in letting the series' two best actors work off each other.  Shawn Hatosy (who I remember from The Faculty) was cast as the military guy who Ofelia is trying to work over for her mother's medicine. He'll surely take a sinister turn later when the military folks decide to take care of themselves rather than the citizens.   "Free medical, care of the United States of America" "Not a lot of traffic these days." I'm kind of impressed with how Nick gets a drug fix in this episode. Hopefully that all comes to a stop. He's become rather annoying. 
FTWD Recap photo
It's better to burn out than fade away
I've been one of the many people decrying Fear the Walking Dead's lack of anything interesting to latch on to. It's a slow burn of a show, but was poorly handling why we needed to stick around to see the result. But surprisin...

Last Witch Diesel photo
Last Witch Diesel

Newest Last Witch Hunter trailer wakes me up inside

Sep 18
// Nick Valdez
I wasn't a big fan of Furious 7 as I should've been, but I'll always love Vin Diesel. He's one of the few actors in Hollywood who unabashedly loves what he's doing and it always comes through on screen. Even if he gives the s...
Tran5mers photo

Michael Bay and Mark Wahlberg probably returning for Transformers 5

Sep 18
// Nick Valdez
Along with news of an animated Transformers spin-off, some other news sprouted out of Paramount's weird writer's workshop which Paramount paid somewhere along seven figures to construct. The writers included (Zak Penn (T...

Review: Cooties

Sep 18 // Nick Valdez
[embed]219880:42604:0[/embed] CootiesDirectors: Jonathan Milott and Cary MurnionRated: RRelease Date: September 18, 2015 At the center of Cooties is Clint, a guy who moved to the bright lights of New York City after graduation to become a big shot writer. But after a few failed attempts has moved back home and is forced to take a substitute teaching gig at his old elementary school. There he meets his old school crush Lucy (Alison Pill), her meathead boyfriend Wade (Rainn Wilson), and a bevy of other weird faculty members like the evolution debunker Rebekkah (Nasim Pedrad) and the socially inept bio teacher Doug (Leigh Whannell). When a contaminated shipment of chicken nuggets (as seen through such a grossly awesome intro, you won't eat chicken nuggets again) turns the kids of the school into flesh eating monsters, Clint and the other teachers have to escape the school to survive.  The biggest draw, or warning sign depending on your humor, is the writing duo of Saw's Leigh Whannell and Glee's Ian Brennan. The two have crafted a wonderfully twisted horror premise, but the dialogue is distinctly Brennan's. As someone who religiously followed Glee through its six seasons (including, but not limited to, buying the Glee karaoke games and soundtrack CDs and watching the short lived Glee Project reality show on Oxygen), I can safely attribute the brunt of the film's humor to him. That's probably going to shy folks away, however. Just like Glee, Cooties' idea of parody is to come of with jokes that are a few years too old. A post 9/11 kid who wants to join the army named Patriot? A closeted gay teacher making innuendos? The vice principal (Brennan himself) saying "Stop it, kids!" before getting ripped apart? Yeah, those jokes are as tired as they seem. As the film's humor gets sidetracked with these weird jokes, it never quite takes the premise as far as it could. But the cast's ability to complete gel with what they're saying is fantastic.  In Cooties, it's the cast that makes it work. They're completely game with the film's wacky tone, and their performances elevate the film to awesomely cartoonish levels. Since you can't get too overtly violent with children and still try and be a comedy, the action has to be more humorous than not to succeed. Since directors Milott and Murnion can't seem to handle action scenes (as most of the action involves the teachers moving from one room to the other and staying there for a few scenes), the cast should be commended for their ability to command attention. As the film itself strays and lingers on a few scenes, the cast is delivering the dialogue with the quickness it needs to make it work and helps make the hokey bits a little more digestible. As Elijah Wood has shown in the past with films like The Faculty, he's perfectly capable of leading a horror comedy. He's still charming as ever even when he starts, literally, pooping himself. The scene stealer, however, is Leigh Whannell. His stunted delivery finally works for his awkward bio teacher as he delivers the film's hilarious science.  While the directors may not handle action scenes too well (leading to a ending scene that feels convoluted and tacked on while completely undermining the film's bittersweet climax), the duo have got a good grasp on imagery. Cooties looks fantastic. Insidious reds, taut greens and shading, and you definitely get the most out of zombie kids. The kids are covered in gross puss and blood (instead of becoming too gruesome, it goes for the comedic route) and aren't too horrendously attacked, there's a girl playing jump rope with an intestine, a kid riding a tricycle covered in blood, zombie kids playing blood hopscotch, and so on. It's pretty much the embodiment of the "kids are terrifying" mantra. The film never quite reaches the level of visual you'd hope with a premise like this, but what is here is well crafted. There's definitely an attention to detail in the visuals even if there's a lack of it elsewhere.  Cooties has its share of faults, but none of them are completely damaging to the overall package. There'll be stuff within the film that bothers you here and there, but when watching the cast and the kids enjoy themselves it's hard not to follow in their footsteps. For every hokey joke, there's one that works. For every clunky action scene, there's a hilarious conversation between two characters.  By the time it makes the egregious mistake of going on past its natural ending, you won't even care too much. You'll have a big smile on your face. 
Cooties Review photo
Might not need that cootie shot
Zombies are everywhere. Name an object and add zombie or "of the dead" to it, and I guarantee there's a film out there with that title. Bong of the Dead? Exists. Toilet of the Dead? Surprisingly a thing. Redneck or stripper z...

Transformers  photo

Transformers is getting an animated yeah

Sep 18
// Nick Valdez
Remember when we told you about Paramount's Transformers think tank of writers (which included the likes of Robert Kirkman, Akiva Goldsman, and Iron Man writers Art Marcum and Matt Holloway among several others)? Well, here's...
Allegiant Trailer photo
Allegiant Trailer

First trailer for The Divergent Series: Allegiant exists

Sep 16
// Nick Valdez
The worst criticism I can give a film (which my roommate hates) is when I say a film just "exists." By that, I usually mean the film isn't good or bad enough to warrant an actual opinion. Through my tenure here I've been expo...
Mockingjay Part 2 Trailer photo
Mockingjay Part 2 Trailer

Newest Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 trailer is astoundingly bad

Sep 16
// Nick Valdez
I've been looking forward to the final Hunger Games film since I liked Mockingjay - Part 1 more so than everyone else, apparently. The second half of Mockingjay (before its terrible ending) is much better than the first, but ...

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