Let There Be Light (2017) Written by Dan Gordon and Sam Sorbo Directed by Kevin Sorbo
When I was a youth, I fondly remember an hour block of syndicated television on Saturday featuring the adventures of Hercules & Xena. Little did I know over twenty years later, Kevin Sorbo, the man playing Hercules, would be revealed to be such a sanctimonious douchebag, grifting on the current fasci-corporate brand of American Christianity. It shouldn’t surprise me as the “top stars” of the American conservatism movement are washed-up actors (Scott Baio, Dean Cain, anyone?). I guess there’s some resentment about not succeeding in the business, but this isn’t some conspiracy theory about Sorbo’s religious belief; he’s not a good actor, so a cheesy show like Hercules was a terminal point for him. Sam Sorbo, his wife, was a recurring character on the show and is also a mediocre performer. I guess that makes them perfect performers for the Jesus film circuit.
Robocop (1987, directed by Paul Verhoeven) As a kid, I thought movies like Robocop and Total Recall were cool for the special effects. As an adult, I’ve learned how subversive the pictures were on so many levels. There’s the over plot about OCP and its take over of the Detroit PD turning them into a private army. But there are some more nuanced points being presented in the film. Robocop represents the changes in industrialization. Once you have humans doing jobs like building cars in factories. Now robots do them more efficiently and at a faster pace. Robocop’s existence is a threat to the human police. However, he is also prophetic in his representation of the police’s militarization, and his counterpart ED-209 shows how this goes even more extreme. The world of Verhoeven’s future Detroit is chock full of commercials that represent different ideas that were present in 1980s America. There’s an advertisement for Nukem, a family board game where everyone engages in playing a nuclear war scenario and has a blast. The energy of these spots is so manic that it reflects the anxiety that comes with mass consumerism and a society moving inhumanely fast.
Paddington 2 (2017) Written by Paul King & Simon Farnaby Directed by Paul King
I strongly dislike most contemporary children’s movies. Now I will concede this could simply be a case of the grumpy old man saying, “They were better when I was a kid.” When the final week of school rolls around, my grade level team will typically have a Movie Day where students can pick which of the seven 3rd grade classrooms they want to visit based on the movie that the teacher is showing. You’ll often see films like The Secret Life of Pets, Minions, Trolls, Sing!, or whatever wide release pablum is the only thing being offered to kids these days. I try to present something off the beaten path, which usually results in a smaller number of students. Last year, I chose My Neighbor Totoro, and the children who chose my room all seemed to enjoy the picture. I have a feeling that, if the school is back in session this year, I will select Paddington 2 as my offering. It is about as perfect as you can get for a movie aimed at kids.
Jupiter’s Legacy Volume 2 (2017) Reprints Jupiter’s Legacy v2 #1-5 Written by Mark Millar Art by Frank Quitely
Decompressed storytelling in comic books rose to prominence in the 1990s and basically ended the “done in one” style of narratives that had dominated the medium since its inception. The original idea was that you could pick up issues of Superman or Batman and get a complete story, only needing to know the basic concept of the characters. Decompression took those stories and broke them into multi-issue arcs much the same way serialized television popped up in the 2000s with a move away from procedurals.
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.
Seven to Eternity Volume 1 Reprints Seven to Eternity #1-4 Written by Rick Remender Art by Jerome Opena
Seven to Eternity Volume 2 Reprints Seven to Eternity #5-9 Written by Rick Remender Art by Jerome Opena and James Harren
After my year-long read through of Rick Remender’s tenure at Marvel, I was excited to get back to his work. This time it’s his Image work, specifically this fantasy-adventure series Seven to Eternity. Remender reunites with his Uncanny X-Force collaborator Jerome Opena, and the material is just as gorgeous and epic. They don’t hesitate to throw the audience into the deep end of a richly developed world with tons of back history. You might find yourself a little disoriented at first, but once you get your bearings, understand who’s who, the story becomes deeply engrossing.
Doomsday Clock (2017 – 2019) Reprints Doomsday Clock #1-12 Written by Geoff Johns Art by Gary Frank
In 2016, when DC Rebirth hit the stands, it became clear that DC Comics was working towards some crossover between their universe of characters and the Watchmen reality. For the next year, the event was teased in smaller stories, but the details remained obscure. What we knew was that Doctor Manhattan has some role in the New 52 reboot of the DCU, a 2011 line-wide decision to try and revitalize the characters. It appeared to be an in-universe way to explain why such drastic changes happened and why certain characters vanished.
The Dark Tower (2017) Written by Akiva Goldsman, Jeff Pinkner, Anders Thomas Jensen, and Nikolaj Arcel Directed by Nikolaj Arcel
The Dark Tower is based on a series of novels by Stephen King and existed in development hell for a decade before finally being made. The three phases of development are the JJ Abrams phase, the Ron Howard phase, and the “we give up, just make the damn movie” phase. Because the script went through so many rewrites, it has ended up a continuation of the books instead of an adaptation. Thus the story is incomprehensible to someone who hasn’t read the books. This is one of the strangest decisions I’ve ever seen a studio make when adapting a book.
Hagazussa (2017) Written & Directed by Lukas Feigelfeld
The first film most viewers will compare Hagazussa to is Robert Eggers’ The Witch. While both pictures do tell period stories about witches, they are very different when it comes to their tone & pacing. The Witch is a tightly structured film with clear character development and themes about family. Hagasuzza is more akin to the work of Panos Cosmatos (Beyond the Black Rainbow, Mandy) with its creeping crawl and slow psychedelic horror burn. Ultimately, I found myself often frustrated with Hagazussa because its narrative is so fluid and ill-defined. It’s all mood without a compelling main character with a clear arc.
The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) (2017) Written & Directed by Noah Baumbach
In the same way, Woody Allen made his career focused on movies about intellectual types in New York, Noah Baumbach has taken that motif and added a genuine examination of family. Allen’s characters were always nebbish & neurotic but always seemed to be swinging singles. Baumbach’s characters are caught up in familial dysfunction. The Meyerowitz Stories delivers its narrative at a fast pace and will remind viewers of one of Baumbach’s contemporaries and sometimes collaborator, Wes Anderson. The picture is a more grounded take on the near fairytale-like world of The Royal Tenenbaums, complete with Ben Stiller as one of the siblings. Though this may sound incredibly derivative, the film has a familiar & seemingly forgotten tone you don’t find in movies these days.