The Wild Pear Tree (2018)
Written by Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Ebru Ceylan, & Akın Aksu
Directed by Nuri Bilge Ceylan
The word “epic” is often associated with films & stories that span the globe and put the character up against a cosmic conflict. However, I argue that writer-director Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s The Wild Pear Tree is an epic, but one about humanity and specifically finding meaning in one’s life. The film is just over three hours long, and it does feel lengthy while watching it. But what happens on screen is not some dour contemplative proceeding, but a genuinely funny while emotionally charged experience. The cinematography is glorious, the director knowing how to frame mundane details with profundity.
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The Mandalorian (Disney+)
Season One, Episode Two – “Chapter Two: The Child”
Written by Jon Favreau
Directed by Rick Famuyiwa
The reveal in the final scene of episode one changed my perceptions of what this would be a show about. Now in this episode, we get a better sense that this is a Star Wars on the Japanese classic Lone Wolf and Cub. Dyn Jarren is facing a moral dilemma about the bounty he acquired, questioning what the deposed Imperials plan to do with this very vulnerable person. He quickly gets sidetracked when he comes upon a group of Jawas stripping his ship. This leads to Jarren seeking aid from Kuiil, the Ughnaught from the last episode, and Jarren learning a powerful secret about his bounty.
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Planetary Book Two (2018)
Reprints Planetary #15-27, Planetary/JLA, and Planetary/Batman
Written by Warren Ellis
Art by John Cassaday (with Jerry Ordway)
While Planetary Book One was all about building & cultivating the mystery, this second volume hits the ground running with revelations. By the end of this collection, we’ll have the origins for all three main characters plus the full explanation for what The Four are up to. The best thing about the vast scope of the story being told here is that writer Warren Ellis can bring it to a very personal focus. Elijah Snow’s primary goal is not to defeat the Four but to bring back his friend Ambrose Chase. Defeating happens to be part of his quest, but his goal is to save a friend. Ellis grounds this by having Snow visit the home of Pierce’s widow, and he meets their child.
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Written & Directed by Matthew Holness
Horror is not a monster wanting to eat you or a masked killer wielding a knife. Horror is the inability to trust your own mind, the lines between reality and subconscious terror blending so that your waking hours are swallowed up by fear. What adds to that is the inability to express what is happening inside your mind so that these traumatic experiences become a mire, in which you drown alone, unheard & unseen. This is the horror writer-director Matthew Holness brings us in Possum. Holness is best known for his comedy series Garth Merenghi which offered a silly take on retro-horror. Here there is no humor to cut through the darkness, we must bear witness to it.
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Dragonball Evolution (2009)
Written by Ben Ramsey
Directed by James Wong
There are some signs a movie is going to be bad. When it comes to properties being adapted to the screen, one of the biggest red flags is when the picture opens with long-winded narration explaining something that happened two thousand years prior. Dragonball Evolution spends its opening moments moving us through a digital mural of images of our villains and explaining what happened back then. The narration only serves to create more confusion and talks about characters in a way that assumes the whole audience is familiar.
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The Mandalorian (Disney+)
Season One, Episode One – “Chapter One”
Written by Jon Favreau
Directed by Dave Filoni
So…what’s a Mandalorian? It all began with Ralph McQuarrie, and Joe Johnston’s production art during The Empire Strikes Back. The sketches of armored, hyper-weaponed soldiers were thought to be super commandoes from the planet Mandalore, specialized in hunting down and killing Jedi. Boba Fett was the first character to wear the gear, but the name “Mandalorian” wouldn’t be used until the Star Wars comic book in 1983. As the decades wore on, these people were expanded in the comics, particularly in the Dark Horse published material. These ideas were tweaked and some instances overhauled by the Clone Wars animated series.
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American Horror Story: 1984 (FX)
Written by Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk, Tim Minear, James Wong, Jay Beattie, Dan Dworkin, John J. Gray, Adam Penn, and Crystal Lieu
Directed by Bradley Buecker, John J. Gray, Mary Wigmore, Jennifer Lynch, Gwyenth Horder-Payton, Loni Peristere, and Liz Friedlander
Every year I brace myself for the new season of American Horror Story. These days the feelings associated with this event are annoyance and disappointment. 1984 proved to be no exception to the norm. Once again, Ryan Murphy gave us a mercifully shortened season (nine episodes) that felt so ill-planned and sloppy it made me question why he still even makes this show. Apparently, his preferred method for AHS is to throw a bunch of crap at the wall, pull in actors who he can get for a couple of days without thought to their actual characters, and see if anything works. Regardless of the quality, he releases it on television to the public.
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