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December 2018 Digest

Best of 2018 Lists

Movie Reviews
*** = PopCult’s Choice

Comic Book Reviews

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Movie Review – Glass

Glass (2019)
Written & Directed by M. Night Shyamalan

Without even realizing it, writer-director M. Night Shyamalan has been every present in my adult life. Twenty years ago, this August, I saw The Sixth Sense on one of my first weekends at college, and it messed with my head. Many years later, having seen much darker and more horrific cinema, I don’t think it could affect me as profoundly, but it remains a good film. A year later I was in the theater seeing Unbreakable, a film that was everything I ever wanted in a superhero movie. I remember seeing Signs while I was staying with a friend for a month in Montgomery, Alabama. My first viewing of The Village was at the now shut down Springfield Cinema here in my hometown. I was living in Washington state when I went to the theater on my own the summer of 2006 and saw Lady in the Water. My last Shyamalan cinematic experience was watching The Happening at a theater in Puerto Rico with my then girlfriend (now wife). She yelled at the screen at one point due to how genuinely terrible that movie is. From then on I’ve only ever watched his films outside of theaters and entirely skipped After Earth due to The Last Airbender being so damn bad. Shyamalan is a filmmaker who continually has me wondering how everything went so wrong, how he could go from making something like Unbreakable which still holds up to giving us The Visit, a film that is so flawed and broken. So now, nineteen years after Unbreakable he finally gives us the closing chapter in that story.

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Best of the 2010s – Youtubers

YouTube is arguably the most significant media phenomenon of the last decade. While the website went live thirteen years ago, it wasn’t until the 2010s that it became the powerhouse that it is today. There have dramatic changes to the interface and (much the chagrin of creators) the fair use and copyright policies. People have made fortunes as YouTube creators but will tell you success on the platform takes an incredibly nuanced hand. Here are the YouTubers that have been entertaining me for the last decade.

SadWorld

This absurdist comedy channel is the creation of Noah Munck, who to people a couple of years younger than I, is best known as “Gibby” from the Nickelodeon series iCarly. Inspired by the work of anti-comedy artists Tim & Eric, Munck creates skits without any real plot, mainly focused around characters who quickly devolve into spasming balls of chaos. The videos are vulgar and full of foul language, but also deeply critical of a material-obsessed American culture. His characters are loud, unappealing men who swing their privilege around to the point of becoming dehumanized.

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Movie Review – Moneyball

Moneyball (2011)
Written by Steve Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin
Directed by Bennett Miller

The Oakland As general manager Billy Beane has just watched his team suffer a brutal defeat in the playoffs which leads to the departure of the team’s “superstar” players. With 2002 looming on the horizon, Beane has got to assemble a team who stands a chance in the division. On a trip to make trades with the Cleveland Indians, Beane meets Peter Brand, a statistician who sees the key to baseball as not finding stars but cultivating the guys who get hits and get on base. Beane and Brand present their potential players to the scouts and the team’s coach only to be met with stiff resistance. As the new team comes together, everyone must work to overcome the conflict, with Beane’s primary goal being an outcome that shows the Major League teams that baseball is more than a game of spending millions.

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Movie Review – Bumblebee

Bumblebee (2018)
Written by Christina Hodson
Directed by Travis Knight

The planet Cybertron is in chaos due to a civil war between the noble Autobots and the malicious Decepticons. Optimus Prime sends his Autobots out amongst the galaxy while secretly ensuring B-127 makes his way to Earth as an advance party for his people. However, when B-127 arrives, he runs afoul of both the U.S. military and a Decepticon who was tracking him. The battle ends with the Autobot’s vocal cords, and his memory wiped, leaving him stuck as a Volkswagen Beetle. He’s eventually discovered in a junkyard by teenager Charlie Watson. Charlie is mourning the passing of her dad who was a gearhead and trying to fix up an old car. Something draws her to B-127, whom she nicknames Bumblebee because of the small hive she finds under the vehicle. Once she learns the true nature of her new car, Charlie is quickly pulled into the battle between machines and sets out on a big adventure.

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Comic Book Review – Justice League International Volume 2

Justice League International Volume 2
Reprints Justice League International #8 – 13, Annual 1, Suicide Squad #13
Written by Keith Giffen & J.M. DeMatteis (with John Ostrander)
Art by Kevin Maguire, Keith Giffen, and Bill Willingham (with Luke McDonnell)

The League has just gone International, giving them embassies across the globe in locales including New York City, Moscow, London, and Paris. Captain Atom and Rocket Red have been added to the ranks, giving the U.S. and Soviet governments a direct connection to the superhero team. This expansion has subsequently led to the dissolution of the Global Guardians, the former premier organization of multicultural heroes. Understandably, there are some bruised egos (Jack O’Lantern) as well as some eager to join up with the JLI (Green Flame and Ice Maiden). As would become traditional in the post-Crisis universe our story must be interrupted by a company-wide event, this time in the form of the dreaded Millennium. We get back on track quickly which leads to a significant revelation about Max Lord and his decision to form this new League, a crossover with the Suicide Squad, and a one-off annual story that shines a spotlight on the Martian Manhunter.

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Movie Review – Killing Them Softly

Killing Them Softly (2012)
Written & Directed by Andrew Dominik

In the fall of 2008, with the presidential election and the financial crisis playing out in the background, Frankie and Russell carry out the robbery of a Mafia-run poker game. Planned by their friend Johnny “The Squirrel” they target a competition run by Markie, a man who once held up his own game and so now suspicion surrounds him. They figure everyone will think Markie did it again and he’ll feel the brunt of the mob. However, the Mafia calls in Jackie, a well-known hitman who immediately knows Markie isn’t this stupid. It’s only a matter of time until all parties involved in the heist are found and Jackie has to deliver his revenge. From there, things get dodgy as the film meanders off, focusing on side characters and slowing the momentum of the story way down.

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Movie Review – Another Year

Another Year (2010)
Written & Directed by Mike Leigh

Tom and Gerrie (yes, that is their names) are a couple nearing retirement. He’s a geological engineer, and she’s a counselor, but both of them have a great passion for nature and working in their garden allotment. Over the course of a single year, we follow them as they spend time with friends and family. We’re introduced to Mary, a receptionist at the health center where Gerri works. Mary is divorced, and her last meaningful relationship turned out to be with a married man. Tom’s childhood friend Ken is overweight and eats & drinks non-stop. Ken complains about how he’s being aged out of his position at work and that he hadn’t stopped to realize he was old now. Tom and Gerrie’s son Joe is in his thirties and still single which becomes a point of conversation during many dinners. There’s no mystery or deep conflict here; this is just life played out over another year.

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