Comic Book Review – Descender Deluxe Edition Volume 1

Descender Deluxe Edition Volume 1 (2017)
Reprints Descender #1-16
Written by Jeff Lemire
Art by Dustin Nguyen

Jeff Lemire is one of the most prolific comic writers of the current era, having penned some of the most memorable books of the last few years. He broke out with titles like Sweet Tooth and The Essex County trilogy and now authors superhero, science fiction, horror books, and more. I’ve been following his fantastic Black Hammer universe at Dark Horse comics for a few years and am close to wrapping up Twin Peaks-like Gideon Falls. So I decided to look at his other work at Image Comics, starting with this space opera epic clearly inspired by Astro Boy. 

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Movie Review – The Matrix Resurrections

The Matrix Resurrections (2021)
Written by Lana Wachowski, David Mitchell, and Aleksandar Hemon
Directed by Lana Wachowski

It came as a surprise when I saw a new Matrix film in production. It seemed like a film series that, while successful, was done. Yet, Lana Wachowski decided to make a stand-alone film that revisits this world. I would argue that this doesn’t work as a coherent, cohesive movie but is a fantastic piece of therapy put on the screen. What I mean by that is that Lana has stated in interviews that the idea for Resurrections came out of her grief following the death of her parents. She expressed that she felt such an aching loss from their passing and found herself drawn to two of her favorite characters: Neo and Trinity. In this way, Resurrections is part of Lana’s healing process, and thus I enjoyed it more than most big-budget movies I’ve seen in a while.

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Movie Review – The Matrix Revolutions

The Matrix Revolutions (2003)
Written & Directed by Lana and Lily Wachowski

And so the Matrix films came to a close (for a time) with this third picture. Revolutions was filmed back to back with Reloaded, taking a cue from Peter Jackson’s recent Lord of the Rings marathon shoot. However, there’s a distinct split in the feel of the two movies. Reloaded was packed to the brim with spectacle inside the Matrix, while Revolutions spends very little time in that world compared to the other two movies. Revolutions rushes towards its climax, leaving some questions left hanging. It also chooses to spend a lot of time with characters we don’t know that well. In the end, it took the wind out of the sails that the first movie had built up so well and would leave the series a semi-cult classic.

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Movie Review – The Matrix Reloaded

The Matrix Reloaded (2002)
Written & Directed by Lana and Lily Wachowski

After the unexpected success of The Matrix, it was clear to all parties involved they were going to make more. The Wachowskis had initially toyed with the idea of expanding the story but didn’t necessarily have every detail hammered out. To say The Matrix Reloaded builds on the first movie would be an understatement. It is chock full of everything from the first picture ratcheted up a thousand percent. That means more ambitious action set pieces and also more philosophical talking, both showcasing a level of indulgence that is incredibly satisfying but also a tad disappointing. As is the case with almost all media, there’s something to be said for budget constraints and creators being forced to be creative. When you get access to high-end special effects tools, that can lead to movies that get lost in themselves.

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Movie Review – The Matrix

The Matrix (1999)
Written & Directed by Lana and Lily Wachowski

There are likely few other films in the last 25 years to have had such a profound effect on the culture. While The Matrix trilogy is met with mixed feelings in the years that have ensued, its powerfully iconic look was immediately reflected back by the media at the time of its release. In the early 2000s, it was pretty common to see some aspect of the film’s “bullet time” effect parodied in film and television. Even 2021’s Space Jam: A New Legacy includes a moment referencing the opening sequence of The Matrix. It had been a very long time since I’d watched these films; I fell into the camp of people who don’t hate them but just weren’t amazed like others were. My personal Wachowksi favorite is Speed Racer which I thought of while watching these three movies.

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Movie Review – Tron: Legacy

Tron: Legacy (2012)
Written by Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz
Directed by Joseph Kosinski

In 2012 it was evident that director Christopher Nolan was having a massive influence on Hollywood and moviemaking. You could see this in the trailer released post-Inception with their Hans Zimmer-inspired “bwaaaaa” sounds. It was also seen in the cinematography that had become popular, very sterile, clean framing. The scope of a setting was essential, and the camera often paused to take in mind-bending landscapes, which sometimes superseded character development or plot. Tron: Legacy is clearly a film not just inspired by the 1982 original but shaped in the popular aesthetics of the time. On paper, this sounds like something that could work but could also fall completely flat.

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Movie Review – Tron

Tron (1982)
Written & Directed by Steven Lisberger

I never grew up aware of this movie, but around 2000, it suddenly became an old Disney film thrust back in the spotlight. Possibly due to a lack of cable, thus an absence of access to the Disney Channel (Tron was shown on the channel’s first day on the air), I just passed it by. I had seen bits and pieces of the movie and wasn’t too terribly impressed, but I am always fascinated with this period of Disney’s output, a weird dark territory where they were taking risks and on the verge of bankruptcy. It’s a much more interesting time for the company than now, where they churn out processed formulaic drivel. So I decided to give the two films in the Tron series a shot and finally see what drew a cult following to them.

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TV Review – Squid Game Season 1

Squid Game Season 1 (Netflix)
Written & Directed by Hwang Dong-hyuk

I was skeptical when I first heard about the viral Netflix hit Squid Game. Anytime a show is that popular and popping up in so many corners of the internet, I can’t help but think it’s some shallow meme-ish nonsense. However, the fact that it was a Korean series caught my interest. Over the last twenty years, I’ve enjoyed almost every film I’ve seen from that country. Their filmmakers have a fantastic eye and are telling stories that are relevant beyond their own culture. So when I heard Squid Game was addressing issues of economic class, I was sold that I needed to see it, spurred on by the hilarious right-wing media tripping over their feet to argue it wasn’t a critique of capitalism (even though that is what the creator said) and that it was “really about communism.”

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Movie Review – Come True

Come True (2021)
Written & Directed by Anthony Scott Burns

Certain movies hit my personal aesthetics so perfectly I love them immediately. Beyond the Black Rainbow and It Follows are two films that sit in that dreamlike 80s-ish wheelhouse. They don’t spam cultural references to get across their implied eras; they just exude the vibe. When you watch them, it feels like that movie you saw when you were up way too late, half asleep, not sure if you remember it quite right. They are movies where you don’t need concrete logic; you just need them to feel a certain way. Come True is another picture I can add to that list. Its blend of visuals and music made me immediately love it.

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Movie Review – Psycho Goreman

Psycho Goreman (2020)
Written & Directed by Steven Kostanski

1980s/90s nostalgia is running rampant in popular culture. Whether its new streaming series that evoke the mood of the period or new versions of classic action figures released into the wild or reboots of franchises that are beloved, America just cannot get enough of crawling into a cocoon of childhood memories instead of confronting that ever-present horror of this moment in time. Psycho Goreman is a violent beating from the past, refusing to allow things to be so fuzzy and friendly. Instead, we get the bloody horrifying Saturday morning cartoon we all sort of really dreamt about, a hilarious and absurdist take on the Power Rangers, E.T., and many other corporate childhood darlings.

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