Movie Review – Backstabbing for Beginners

Backstabbing for Beginners (2018)
Written by Per Fly & Daniel Pyne
Directed by Per Fly

As I’ve watched my way through A24’s catalog of films, there is one thing that always seems to signify you’re in for a bad time: The DirectTV logo. The co-productions with DirectTV are almost always a guarantee you’re in for a bad to mediocre time. Backstabbing for Beginners is no exception. The film adapts the memoir of Michael Soussan, a journalist who worked for the United Nations’ Food for Oil program. His fictional avatar in the film, Michael Sullivan holds the same job under Cypriot diplomat Costa Passaris. Sullivan quickly discovers that the system to trade Iraqi oil for food and medicine to benefit the struggling people of that nation is deeply corrupted. Sadaam’s people have allowed a black market for medicine to build up while delivering expired meds to ailing children. It’s as obvious as a sledgehammer to the face that Costa is in on the scam and so Sullivan has to gather enough evidence to take his boss down.

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Comic Book Review – Uncanny Avengers Volumes 3 & 4

Uncanny Avengers Volume 4: Ragnarok Now
Written by Rick Remender
Art by Steve McNiven, Salvador Larocca, and Daniel Acuna
Uncanny Avengers Volume 5: Avenge the Earth
Written by Rick Remender
Art by Daniel Acuna

The Apocalypse Twins hold Earth in a massive crisis. They have slaughtered a Celestial using a weapon Thor was tricked into forging centuries earlier. They have resurrected fallen heroes and villains to create their Horsemen of Death. They are holding Scarlet Witch hostage to use in their effort to destroy the Earth and create a new world for mutantkind. Havok, the brother of the mutant terrorist Cyclops, uses his role as team leader to try and redeem the family name as well as stop the impending end of the world. Kang the Conqueror, the man who shaped the Apocalypse Twins into the beings of evil they became, is now a target of their wrath and uses his time travel abilities to visit and recruit various figures from possible futures.

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Movie Review – Thunder Road

Thunder Road (2018)
Written & Directed by Jim Cummings

“It’s a town full of losers, I’m pulling out of here to win” – Bruce Springsteen, “Thunder Road.”

We meet officer Jim Arnaud at his mother’s funeral. He’s the only one of her three adult children in attendance and is not processing this loss well. He stands with no remarks prepared and sobs his way through the story of how she anonymously donated a thousand dollars, so a mentally challenged girl at his school had a place to play during recess. This story meanders down narrative side streets, sharing that this same girl bit him once, how his mother recorded herself reading all his textbooks in college to help him with his dyslexia, and how she was a non-believer. Then Jim attempts to play Springsteen’s “Thunder Road,” one of her favorite tracks. His daughter’s pink and purple boombox won’t work so he’s forced to silently act out the dance he had planned to accompany the song. Throughout this entire affair, he goes from barely under control to manically sob. Jim is a man in an awful place.

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Movie Review – The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018)
Written & Directed by Joel & Ethan Coen

Our movie opens on a simple song of the Old West warbled by the ever cheerful Buster Scruggs. Scruggs is an outlaw in a very peculiar vein, notorious and feared while exuding a Will Rogers type persona. This is one of six short stories told over the course of the movie, using the framing device of a book being acted out for the audience. Other stories focus on a bank robber experiencing a series of bad luck deals, traveling entertainers coming to the end of the line, a lone prospector’s discovery of the motherlode, a young woman in a wagon train headed westward for marriage, and a spooky stagecoach ride to Fort Morgan.

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TV Review – American Horror Story: Apocalypse

American Horror Story: Apocalypse (2018)
Written by Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk, James Wong, Manny Coto, Tim Minear, John J. Gray, Crystal Liu, Adam Penn, Josh Green, and Asha Michelle Wilson
Directed by Bradley Buecker, Jennifer Lynch, Loni Peristere, Sheree Folkson, Gwenyth Hordor-Payton, Sarah Paulson, and Jennifer Arnold

The season opens with the destruction of the world. Bombs fall. Humanity is depleted with only the wealthy and their servants surviving in secret bunker sprinkled around the world. The survivors of Outpost 3 while away the days doing nothing and being tortured with adult contemporary music from the 1970s. Then Michael Langdon arrives, an agent of the Collective, the secret society behind the bunkers and possibly the end of the world. Langdon interviews the survivors one by one, searching for some factor unrevealed to the audience. One lowly unassuming servant seems to possess a spark beyond her station, and this intrigues him. However, things go south, and a series of deaths lead to the surprise arrival of some familiar faces of a season gone by. Also, then most of the season is a flashback taking place before all this happens.

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Movie Review – Widows

Widows (2018)
Written by Gillian Flynn & Steve McQueen
Directed by Steve McQueen

Veronica Rawlings is alone in the world. Her husband Harry, a famous thief in the Chicago area, was killed in a heist gone wrong. Harry always knew which authorities to butter up and how to stay ahead of the law, so Veronica has become accustomed to a very luxurious lifestyle. The men Harry stole from turn up a couple of weeks after the funeral with demands for the money. They give her two weeks to come up with it, or they will return to make her life the repayment. Veronica reaches out to the widows of the men that were killed alongside Harry and shares his notebook with them, a leather-bound journal detailing a series of future robberies he was planning. Veronica plans to pull off one of these crimes to pay back the men looming over her and escape to start a new life.

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TV Review – Kidding

Kidding (2018)
Written by Dave Holstein, Hally Feiffer, Michael Vukdaniovich, Cody Heller, Noah Haidle, Jas Waters, Roberto Benabib, and Joey Mazzarino
Directed by Michel Gondry, Jake Schreier, and Minkie Spiro

Mr. Pickles is the biggest children’s television star in the world. His show Puppet Time is the surrogate parent for millions of ignored children, and he wants to be as honest and real with these trusting viewers as possible. A year ago tragedy struck when Jeff Piccirillo’s (Mr. Pickles’ real name) son Phillip was killed in a car accident. Jeff, his estranged wife Jill and surviving twin son Will feel Jeff hasn’t been honest in dealing with the death. Jeff’s father and producer Seb wants the show to go on and the darkness of the real world to be kept out of Puppet Time. However, there is boiling anger growing in Jeff, a force of nature that can’t be avoided and the longer he goes without really processing Phil’s death and his failure in listening to the people he loves the worse it will be when things explode.

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