Comic Book Review – Deadly Class Book Two

Deadly Class Book Two: The Funeral Party (2018)
Reprints Deadly Class #17-31
Written by Rick Remender
Art by Wes Craig and Jordan Boyd

Deadly Class: The Funeral Party feels like a much-needed upgrade from the previous entry as we finally get beyond just Marcus’s specific perspective. The action kicks off right away with the freshman class forced into a brutal massacre to determine who moves on to a sophomore year. This is a moment where we really get to know some of the previously marginal players in the story. Shabnam rises to the occasion as a major villain in the series though still having to engage in a tug of war with Viktor and other cliques. 

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Movie Review – To Live and Die in L.A.

To Live and Die in L.A. (1985)
Written by William Friedkin & Gerald Petievich
Directed by William Friedkin

Director William Friedkin made his name in the 1970s with films like The French Connection and the phenomenal success of The Exorcist. Then his following pictures didn’t quite click with audiences, and he slid into less big-budget work. That’s where Friedkin works best, though, and in 1985 he gave us a movie that might out Eighties De Palma’s Scarface. To Live and Die in L.A. is a movie dripping with neon fluorescents, cocaine, and just all-around sleaze. The soundtrack was by pop group Wang Chung and the visuals are full of non sequitur 80s pop art images.

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Comic Book Review – Deadly Class Book One: Noise Noise Noise

Deadly Class Book One: Noise, Noise, Noise (2016)
Reprints Deadly Class #1-16
Written by Rick Remender
Art by Wes Craig

It’s no secret that I am a fan of Rick Remender, I spent half a year reading through and reviewing his entire body of work at Marvel Comics in 2018. As part of my look at Image Comics this year, I decided to check out his Deadly Class series, which had been turned into a now-canceled series on SyFy. I literally went in blind, not knowing the names of any characters or the premise of the series. I was surprised by what I read, enjoyed quite a bit of it but also had some moments that I didn’t care for. 

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Movie Review – The Grifters

The Grifters (1990)
Written by Donald E. Westlake
Directed by Stephen Frears

The Grifters by Jim Thompson was published in 1963, and while the film adaptation takes place in contemporary 1990s Los Angeles, director Stephen Frears chooses to treat some aspects as anachronistic. The story features a character archetype that seems to fascinate moviegoers indefinitely, the conman or, in this case, the conman and the conwomen in his life. We love to see how duplicitous tricksters trick each other, often leading to tragic outcomes, where even the “winner” feels broken and lost because they’ve played their grift on someone important in their lives.

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Movie Review – Reversal of Fortune

Reversal of Fortune (1990)
Written by Nicholas Kazan
Directed by Barbet Schroeder

I have faint memories of the names of Klaus & Sunny von Bulow in the late 1980s/early 1990s likely from episodes of A Current Affair or Inside Edition. I was a child, so I didn’t really know who these people were or what the reporters were talking about. As time has passed, it seems the von Bulows are becoming a forgotten piece of pop culture, fading from the collective memory as our 24-hour news cycle floods us with new information. So who are these people that they would devote a whole movie about them based on a book by Claus’s lawyer, Alan Dershowitz?

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Movie Review – Miller’s Crossing

Miller’s Crossing (1990)
Written Joel and Ethan Coen
Directed by Joel Coen

Miller’s Crossing is not often cited these days when people talk about the Coen Brothers’ body of work, but I think it deserves a higher spot. The film is such a cleverly constructed story, moving at a brisk pace and never feeling it’s two-hour runtime. The world of the film is so rich and layered with a back story, and the Coens reveal only as much as we need to know to understand the story. The rest is left up the viewer to infer and ponder, which is something about the Coen Brothers that I absolutely love.

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Movie Review – Oldboy

Oldboy (2003)
Written by Hwang Jo-yun, Lim Jun-hyung, and Park Chan-wook
Directed by Park Chan-wook

It’s hard to pinpoint just when exactly American audiences got turned on to South Korean cinema. This year’s Parasite did wonders in spotlighting the great working coming out of that country. But back in the early 2000s, Oldboy was a film that seemed to grab the attention of audiences and not let go. Seventeen years later, it is still a harrowing experience, a combination of fantastic fight choreography and a nightmarish baroque plot of betrayal and other terrible things.

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Movie Review – Sunset Boulevard

Sunset Boulevard (1950)
Written by Charles Brackett, Billy Wilder, and D. M. Marshman Jr.
Directed by Billy Wilder

Movies about making movies was not a new thing when Sunset Boulevard came along. What was novel about this film was that it wasn’t a story of rags to riches, a reflection on the dream of fame. This is a film noir version of those Hollywood tales. Our protagonist is a screenwriter who fails to make it big. The antagonist is a movie star who fell from great heights and never recovers. Much like in Day of the Locust, we have an examination of the effects of a system that promises wealth & fame that rarely delivers those dreams.

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Movie Review – Lookin’ to Get Out

Lookin’ To Get Out (1982)
Written by Jon Voight
Directed by Hal Ashby

For some reason, in the 1980s, Hal Ashby made three crime films and a pilot for a failed crime series. I have no idea why he was given this material or why he would be attracted to it. Throughout his 1970s work Ashby reflected a deeply anti-authoritarian theme, particularly toward law enforcement. That’s not to say these movies a pro-police, they traffic in annoying criminal cliches and don’t necessarily give their roguish protagonists anything interesting or unique to do.

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Movie Review – Uncut Gems

Uncut Gems (2019)
Written by Ronald Bronstein, Josh Safdie, & Bennie Safdie
Directed by Josh & Bennie Safdie

Josh & Bennie Safdie first came to my attention with Good Time, which presented its seemingly simple story with such stylish confidence that it left me stunned. They have a much deeper film career than I realized, and I have also seen Heaven Knows What, which does a similar job of telling a naturalistic story with an evident personal aesthetic. I plan on delving deeper into their filmography in 2020, but for now, I want to look at their latest release, Uncut Gems.

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