Movie Review – The Man From UNCLE

The Man from UNCLE (2015)
Written by Guy Ritchie and Lionel Wigram
Directed by Guy Ritchie

I have never seen a single episode of The Man from UNCLE, but I understood the basic premise via cultural osmosis. An American spy and a Soviet spy team up to fight the menace of a third party, THRUSH. This group was composed of people so dangerous that even nations that were ideologically opposed would join forces to stop them. When you understand the depth & breadth of red scare propaganda in the United States, then the fact that the seriesThe Man from UNCLE was such a huge hit is pretty extraordinary. The main enemy in the story is the remnants of the Nazis, which given historical context, is sort of funny that the U.S. is fighting against them. My biggest takeaway from the movie adaptation is that this is one of the gayest films I’ve seen in quite a while.

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Movie Review – Queen of Earth

Queen of Earth (2015)
Written & Directed by Alex Ross Perry

Alex Ross Perry has managed to make movies that totally different in genre & tone from each other, which is quite an accomplishment. I don’t think you could say he sticks with one format and does it over and over again. Thematically and regarding his characters, there are some connections, but overall each movie feels very separate and new from the previous one. Queen of Earth is Perry’s attempt at psychological horror, and he ends up doing an outstanding job. I’m not sure I fully understood what was happening by the end, I have some ideas, but he can create a rising paranoia atmosphere and tension. We’re in the head of the protagonist, and we experience her debilitating mental collapse.

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Comic Book Review – The Wicked + The Divine Book 2

The Wicked + The Divine Book 2 (2015)
Reprints The Wicked + The Divine #12-22
Written by Kieron Gillen
Art by Jamie McKelvie, Mat Lopes, Stephanie Harris, Kate Brown, Brandon Graham, Matt Wilson, Leila Del Duca, and Tula Lotay

My big question reading through The Wicked + The Divine is “why?” Why are these gods returning? I assume that will be answered before the series is over, but not having some progress towards this makes it a little frustrating. One thing that does move the reader toward a better understanding of individual characters by giving spotlights and backstories to them. We get to see Tara; finally, a god spoken about but absent in the first collection, and her origins are quite interesting, primarily how she interfaces with her audience and deals with being a goddess.

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Comic Book Review – Jupiter's Circle Volumes 1 & 2

Jupiter’s Circle Volume 1 (2015)
Written by Mark Millar
Art by Wilfredo Torres

Jupiter’s Circle Volume 2 (2016)
Written by Mark Millar
Art by Wilfredo Torres & Chris Sprouse

While the present-day Jupiter’s Legacy is put on pause, Mark Millar takes us back to the glory days of their parents in the pages of Jupiter’s Circle. This mostly serves as a critique of the Golden Age of Superheroes with archetypes standing in for Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, et al. If you have read a postmodern comic in the wake of Alan Moore’s Watchmen, then I can’t imagine anything here will shake you up too much. It’s pretty much as expected, an emphasis on the personal lives and tribulations of the superheroes. This is essentially Mad Men as a story about men and women in capes and tights.

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Comic Book Review – Jupiter’s Legacy Volume One

Jupiter’s Legacy Volume One (2015)
Written by Mark Millar
Art by Frank Quitely

Out of all the comic creators that I’ve written about on this blog, I’ve never talked about Mark Millar. He’s an incredibly prolific writer and very controversial. This particular comic book series is set to be a Netflix original series sometime in 2020, so I thought it would be appropriate to read through Legacy and it’s spin-off Jupiter’s Circle to talk about Millar’s style and what he’s doing in this series. I wouldn’t call this his best work, it’s much tamer than his more infamous books.

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Movie Review – World of Tomorrow

World of Tomorrow (2015)
World of Tomorrow – Episode Two: The Burden of Other People’s Thoughts (2017)
Written & Directed by Don Hertzfeldt

Don Hertzfeldt is a revelation in the world of contemporary animation. I thoroughly enjoyed his film It’s Such a Beautiful Day and wasn’t sure what The World of Tomorrow would be like. I was astonished. This is a fantastic animated piece that goes deeper than most live-action films would be willing to do. Profoundly deep thoughts are uttered during both of these short films that should resonate with an audience. Yet, Hertzfeldet was able to balance this with genuinely hilarious moments of comedy.

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Best of the 2010s: My Favorite Films of 2015

Mustang (Directed by Deniz Gamze Ergüven)
From my review:
Filled with humor and joy, Mustang is a timeless story. It transcends any particular religious or geographic specifics and conveys an experience that is felt by women across the globe at varying levels of intensity. Societies seem to have a preoccupation with controlling the will of their female citizens, based on a fear of loss of control. Director Erguven states firmly that this type of energy is impossible to contain, and through Lale, she tells a story that gives hope to those who may feel like they have no more freedom.

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Movie Review – Birdboy: The Forgotten Children

Birdboy: The Forgotten Children (2015)
Written & Directed by Alberto Vázquez & Pedro Rivero

On an island in a seemingly endless sea, where a factory in the industrial zone exploded, leaving this place a decaying hell, lives Birdboy. Birdboy is a teenager possessed by a demonic force that makes its home in the lighthouse just off the shoreline. Despite his dark nature and dependency on meds to keep this demon at bay, Birdboy is loved by Dinky, a mouse girl from a troubled family. Dinky is a runaway who, with her friends Sandra the rabbit and Little Fox, have pooled their money to try and buy a boat so they can finally escape this place. This animated Spanish-language picture is very dark and most definitely a mature adult-oriented film dealing in themes of mental illness, addiction, and abuse.

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Movie Review – Embrace of the Serpent

Embrace of the Serpent (2015)
Written & Directed by Ciro Guerra

The story feels familiar, well-tread territory. A visitor from the Western world ventures into the dark jungles seeking knowledge, a cure, a remedy, wealth, and fortune. A strange and mystic native guides them through this exotic land, and it either ends in triumph or tragedy, the Westerner at the forefront of the story. Filmmaker Ciro Guerra takes this framework and subverts it, turns this into the account of the native with the Westerner becoming a background supporting figure. Guerra tells of two visitors to the same native Amazonian shaman, thirty years apart, but both men are seeking the same curative plant. Through these dual points in time, the audience can witness the decay of native cultures, ravaged by the effects of interlopers on their land.

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Movie Review – Ixcanul

Ixcanul (2015)
Written & Directed by Jayro Bustamante

It’s a deceptively told and shot tale, much like the camera pushing through the coffee plants, quietly and slowly, revealing secrets about our protagonist. Ixcanul is the story of Maria, a young woman, who is a Kaqchikel Mayan living the volcanic soil hills of Guatemala. She has been promised to Ignacio, the coffee plantation foreman for whom her father works. She secretly meets with Pepe, one of the workers, closer to her age and eventually gives up her virginity to him. Pepe half-heartedly promises to bring Maria along with him when he begins the daunting trek to cross the United States border. Of course, he slips away in the night, leaving Maria with a growing burden that will derail her parents’ plans for her.

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