TV Review – Joe Pera Talks With You

Joe Pera Talks With You Season 1 (Adult Swim)
Written by Joe Pera, Connor O’Malley, Jo Firestone, Amalia Levari, and Dan Licata
Directed by Marty Schousboe

Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is a fascinating cultural anomaly, part of a state yet physically separate. The Yoopers have been shaped by a brutally cold winter landscape. There’s a strong sense of independence because of their geographic isolation. They take pleasure in the sports and activities of winter because it lasts nearly eight months for them in some years. This isn’t a barren wasteland though, Yoopers have a rich culture of arts, food, and even a quirky sense of humor. Joe Pera was born in Ithaca, New York, but is based out of Michigan now.

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Comic Book Review – The Wild Storm Volume 3

The Wild Storm Volume 3
Reprints The Wild Storm #13-18
Written by Warren Ellis
Art by Jon Davis-Hunt

Ever since Len Wein and Dave Cockrum introduced to the all-new all-different X-Men, comic creators had madly searched in vain for a creation that would shake the foundations of comics. Because they use this event as a template, the ideas they present are often teams of young, angsty heroes with as much interpersonal conflict as they have battles with supervillains. Gen13 was an attempt to freshen up the Wildstorm line at Image Comics, their first issue dropping in 1994. The presentation is dripping in both X-Men influences and MTV trends, one member is even named Grunge, a reference that immediately dated itself. The original Gen13 concept and execution is yet another reminder of why it was vital for Warren Ellis to freshen up the Wildstorm line with this sprawling, world-building maxi-series.

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Movie Review – Support the Girls

Support the Girls (2018)
Written & Directed by Andrew Bujalski

Double Whammies is a sports bar modeled so directly after Hooter’s, the once-popular American chain, that most audiences will know right away what world is being explored in this film. Yes, there are twenty-something scantily clad women slinging beers and wings, but this isn’t an exploitative picture. Support the Girls is a story about working-class women, a companion piece in some ways to Soderbergh’s Magic Mike, though not as well-made as that movie. The central character is not one of the waitstaff mentioned above but manager Lisa, who is spending a day dealing with crises of small and earth-shattering potential. The conflict in every instance is deeply grounded, and human and Regina Hall’s performance as Lisa is the strongest element of this film.

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Movie Review – Leave No Trace

Leave No Trace (2018)
Written & Directed by Deborah Granik

PTSD is a quicksand nightmare, especially if the person afflicted by it doesn’t have a support system or rejects the support available. Too often, American culture tells people to tough out mental illness which is entirely unrealistic. The trauma of conditions like PTSD is also infectious, particularly on the children of those with the disease. As a schoolteacher, I often have a heartbreaking front row seat of seeing how the conflicts and challenges of the parents are visited upon their children. Some of the most deeply affected are veterans, returning home to a nation that has no limit to cheering to send off soldiers but is awkwardly silent with receiving them back home. So many of these stories end with suicide because a person is told they must be firm but simply doesn’t possess the ability to push through such a devastating condition.

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Movie Review – The Old Man and The Gun

The Old Man and The Gun (2018)
Written & Directed by David Lowrey

When I discovered the films of Robert Altman while in college, I found myself wanting to consume them all for the mood they created. The atmosphere of these pictures is leisurely with plots that never get overly complicated. What takes up the runtime are the characters, fully textured and realized as humans that don’t fall into the hero/villain tropes. This was a common theme in much of American cinema in the 1970s, slow-paced character-focused stories. David Lowrey and his crew manage to recapture that feeling so perfectly that this is a nostalgic film that could easily be mistaken as a picture from the late 1970s/early 80s.

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Movie Review – Birds of Passage

Birds of Passage (2018)
Written by Maria Camila Arias & Jacques Toulemonde Vidal, Cristina Gallego, and Ciro Guerra
Directed by Cristina Gallego & Ciro Guerra

Colombia is a Central American country that has sadly come to be associated with the cocaine industry of the 1980s. Lost in the greed and violence that came out of the black market drug trade were diverse and vibrant cultures. Birds of Passage follows a family of Wayuu, an indigenous people, who get caught up in the first sprouts of that brutal blight that came to Colombia because of wealthier countries’ desire for drugs. While this story takes place on the dusty plains and humid jungles, the core of the tale is something that is timeless and has been popping up in literature for centuries. Birds of Passage is in many ways Shakespearean, a tragedy fueled by greed with no foresight.

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Movie Review – Ash is Purest White

Ash is Purest White (2018)
Written & Directed by Zhangke Jia

To have a love that is so devoted, you would give up your freedom for your partner to be free is rare. Qiao has that love for Bin, her boyfriend, and the organized crime boss of rural Datong, a small industrial town in northern China. Qiao takes full advantage of her place of power, thoroughly enjoying the nightlife of Datong and making sure people know who her man is. It becomes clear there is another faction making a move, and Qiao tries to persuade Bin to leave this place and start over somewhere with more opportunity. They don’t get a chance as one night their car is surrounded by motorcyclists out to kill Bin.

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