Movie Review – Thumbsucker

Thumbsucker (2005)
Written & Directed by Mike Mills

Mike Mills has been a director that has intrigued me since my college days. I don’t know how to describe his particular aesthetic, and it has undoubtedly changed from his first feature to the present. With his newest film, C’mon C’mon, being released this weekend, I thought I should revisit that debut film and see how it holds up sixteen years later. I have enjoyed all of his output (Beginners, 21st Century Women) and think those earlier music videos and short films haven’t aged with the times very well. Mills certainly isn’t offensive, but he is very twee in how he tells his stories.

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Movie Review – Halloween (2007)

Halloween (2007)
Written & Directed by Rob Zombie

For a minute, we almost had a Michael Myers vs. Pinhead (from Hellraiser) movie. With the success of Freddy vs. Jason, Dimension Pictures seriously looked at pitting those movie monsters against each other. I don’t think that would have been a great idea. An idea was pitched to bring back Jamie Lloyd. That didn’t go anywhere. This was around a time when reboots and reimaginings were becoming a hot thing. Texas Chainsaw Massacre had a moderately successful reboot based on its budget, and telling the characters’ backstory was the thing to do (see the Star Wars prequels, Batman Begins). Setting a standard that would be followed by Freddy and Jason a few years later, Rob Zombie was brought on board to flesh out the origin of Michael Myers.

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Movie Review – Halloween: Resurrection

Halloween: Resurrection (2002)
Written by Larry Brand & Sean Hood
Directed by Rick Rosenthal

Jamie Lee Curtis said she was done. So at the end of H2O, she beheads Michael, and the movie ends. But the producers wanted to keep milking the franchise. Moustapha Akkad, the producer who owned the Halloween film rights, provided a clause in his agreement with Dimension Pictures that Michael could never be killed. So when the inevitable sequel was announced, they went to Curtis and asked if she would play Laurie Strode again. Exasperated, the actress told them that if they couldn’t kill off Michael, they would have to kill Laurie in this next movie. So they did. The result is the worst entry in the entire franchise. It’s disjointed, with the first twenty minutes feeling like a short film with Laurie. Then the rest of the film is a poorly aged god-awful mess that completely misunderstands the entire series.

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TV Review – The Sopranos Season Six

The Sopranos Season Six (HBO)
Written by Terence Winter, David Chase, Matthew Weiner, Diane Frolov & Andrew Schneider, Robin Green & Mitchell Burgess
Directed by Tim Van Patten, David Nutter, Jack Bender, Alan Taylor, Steve Buscemi, Danny Leiner, Steve Shill, Phil Abraham

From day one, The Sopranos was compared to the work of Martin Scorsese. At a surface level view, that was inevitable as they both dealt in the world of Italian-American life and organized crime. However, Scorsese is concerned more with the intermingling of the sacred & the profane. Harvey Keitel kneels before a statue of Christ and prays for forgiveness throughout Mean Streets. Catholicism is highly prevalent throughout Scorsese’s work, and there are common elements of this religion in the Sopranos. However, I never once believed that Tony’s arc was a spiritual one. He does not believe in God, and it’s clear the world of the Sopranos is not governed by a deity. Instead, Tony’s journey is one of the inner mind; his dreams navigate him through the landscape of his existence. He does not speak to God; he listens to himself, for all the good & ill that leads to.

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TV Review – The Sopranos Season 5

The Sopranos Season 5 (HBO)
Written by Terence Winter, David Chase, Matthew Weiner, Michael Caleo, Toni Kale, Robin Green, Mitchell Burgess, Michael Imperioli
Directed by Tim Van Patten, Alan Taylor, John Patterson, Rodrigo Garcia, Allen Coulter, Peter Bogdonavich, Steve Buscemi, Mike Figgis

Season five of The Sopranos begins with what might be seen as some retconning or lore building. A group of convicted New Jersey & New York family members are all released around the same time after serving their sentences and prove to be an injection into the current system that threatens to spin things out of control. Tension has been building between Tony and New York’s liaison Johnny Sac since the last season, and now it appears as though their friendship will be shattered by these new arrivals and some shake-ups in New York’s leadership. In some ways, the new arrivals are taking threads of new versus old ways of operating seen between Tony & Ritchie in season two and allowing them to be explored and developed even further.

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TV Review – The Sopranos Season Four

The Sopranos Season 4 (HBO)
Written by David Chase, Terence Winter, Michael Imperioli, Maria Laurino, Robin Greene, Mitchell Burgess, Nick Santora, Lawrence Konner, David Flebotte
Directed by Allen Coulter, John Patterson, Tim Van Patten, Jack Bender, Henry J. Bronchtien, Steve Buscemi, Dan Attias, Alan Taylor, James Hayman

Season Four of The Sopranos is one of those brilliant artistic constructions that begins with such nuance and then dazzles in the finale. The season close has one of the best scenes between Tony & Carmela the show has ever presented, more on that a little later. So many of the plot threads here were seeded in season three and very carefully cultivated and developed over that season and this one. Once again, Ralph is an ever-present pest and a reminder of what Tony is/could become.

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TV Review – The Sopranos Season Three

The Sopranos Season 3 (HBO Max)
Written by David Chase, Todd A. Kessler, Henry J. Bronchtein, Robin Green, Mitchell Burgess, Terence Winter, Salvatore J. Stabile, Lawrence Konner, Michael Imperioli, Frank Renzulli
Directed by Allen Coulter, Tim Van Patten, John Patterson, Jack Bender, Dan Attias, Steve Buscemi

The first thing I immediately noticed watching this season’s premiere was that the look & tone had changed. In my review of season one, I noted that I had a sort of confusion when seeing promos for the series about whether it was a dramedy or a mob show. I think in season three, David Chase has become very comfortable with the creativity afforded to him by being on HBO and starts leaning into the darker moments even more. That doesn’t mean the show’s sense of humor goes out the drain; it’s just that the show really starts to show us how bad Tony’s world can get. The shadows and darker lighting also serve as a metaphor for how Tony is sinking further into his habits, chained to his position of the boss and actually less free now.

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Comic Book Review – Teen Titans by Geoff Johns Part 4 (of 4)

Teen Titans by Geoff Johns Part 4 (of 4)
Reviewing stories found in Teen Titans v3 #32-46
Written by Geoff Johns and Adam Beechen
Art by Todd Nauck, Tony S. Daniel, Carlos Ferreira, Peter Snejbjerg, Al Barrionuevo

This is around the point that Johns was spread pretty thin at DC. He wrote The Flash, JSA, Hawkman, Action Comics, Infinite Crisis, and was part of the collective that penned the weekly series 52. Even though he’s one of my favorite writers of the pre-New 52 era, I have to admit this Titans work feels very rushed. I get the sense he had some big stories he wanted to tell and was trying to get them all out but possibly got burnt out on the book. Significant changes were happening with DC on the multimedia front, so I think his attention was shifting to other things.

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Comic Book Review – Teen Titans by Geoff Johns Part 3 (of 4)

Teen Titans by Geoff Johns Part 3
Reviewing stories found in Teen Titans v3 #20-26, 29-31 & Outsiders #24-25
Written by Geoff Johns (with Judd Winick)
Art by Mike McKone, Marlo Alquiza, Tom Grummett, Matthew Clark, Art Thibert, Tony S. Daniel, Carlos D’Anda, Scott Shaw, Scott Roberts, Nelson, Richard Bonk, and Todd Nauck

Johns jumps into these issues, which serve as the bridge between the Identity Crisis & Infinite Crisis periods in the DC Universe. The company had gone all-in on centering its shared universe around the fallout of the former and the lead-in to the latter in a way that didn’t always flow. Johns was the chief architect of the whole thing, and I’ve always found it interesting how his writing during this time can feel very in sync with the larger picture but then have moments where he appears to be overwhelmed with how many plates to keep spinning. The opening issue here is a direct tie-in to the events of Identity Crisis and is one of the few epilogues to that event that seamlessly transitions into new stories.

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TV Review – The Sopranos Season Two

The Sopranos Season Two (HBO)
Written by Jason Cahill, Robin Green, Mitchell Burgess, Frank Renzulli, David Chase, Terence Winter, Todd A. Kessler, Michael Imperioli
Directed by Allen Coulter, Martin Bruestle, Lee Tamahori, Tim Van Patten, John Patterson, Henry J. Bronchtein

In the wake of season one’s success, it becomes clear that David Chase is pumping the brakes. While he adds new characters and explores the backstories of his characters, thematically, he stays put, preferring to mine deeper into these ideas. The result is one of the best seasons of television I have ever watched, my investment in the characters at some of the highest levels I’ve ever experienced. Chase has expressed a strong disdain for television grown out of his experiences working with networks in the 1980s & 90s. The constant focus on surface-level content like sex & violence worked prohibitively against exploring human existence. Free from those restraints, he was able to produce something as remarkable as The Sopranos, a show which has been copied again & again by showrunners across the spectrum.

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