Now on Blu-Ray: The Newsroom Season Two Continues to Showcase Aaron Sorkin’s Brilliance

Blu-Ray Cover Art for THE NEWSROOM THE COMPLETE SECOND SEASON, courtesy HBO Canada, 2014
Blu-Ray Cover Art for THE NEWSROOM THE COMPLETE SECOND SEASON, courtesy HBO Canada, 2014

 

THE NEWSROOM THE COMPLETE SECOND SEASON, Rated TV-14, Starring Jeff Daniels, Emily Mortimer, Thomas Sadoski, John Gallagher Jr., Alison Pill, Dev Patel, Olivia Munn and Sam Waterston. Contains mature political and satirical content, coarse language and minor use of sexual references. For mature fans and Aaron Sorkin fans.

Blu-Ray Review by Dominic Messier, Founder, Editor and TV Critic

 

With its third and final season underway, Aaron Sorkin’s highly popular ode to the 24-hour news cycle, The Newsroom, continues its trip through recent news events, with the usual melange of interpersonal issues, ethical debates regarding world crises and some great writing and comic timing, of course.

While Season Two had more of a seasonal arc than compartmentalized stories, it still made for good TV, showcasing the importance of journalistic integrity, accuracy and honesty regarding the audience.

 

Emily Mortimer, Jeff Daniels, Thomas Sadoski, Olivia Munn, Dev Patel and John Gallagher Jr. in THE NEWSROOM THE COMPLETE SECOND SEASON, courtesy HBO Canada, 2014
Emily Mortimer, Jeff Daniels, Thomas Sadoski, Olivia Munn, Dev Patel and John Gallagher Jr. in THE NEWSROOM THE COMPLETE SECOND SEASON, courtesy HBO Canada, 2014

 

The bulk of the season is spent on a lead story regarding a military conflict involving American troops, in an engagement codenamed Genoa; an ambitious young producer named Jerry Dantana (Hamish Linklater) who comes in to the New York ACN office from the Washington bureau when Jim (John Gallagher Jr.) is sent out on the Mitt Romney campaign trail. It’s soon discovered that the Genoa story might not be as fascinating as it seems, until Dantana cleverly manipulates the edit of an interview with a high ranking general, so to give the impression of an admission of guilt in the illegal use of sarin gas.

This fraudulent move by the visiting staffer puts Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels) and MacKenzie McHale (Emily Mortimer) in hot water with their boss Charlie (Sam Waterston) and the network owner (Jane Fonda),  putting into question the station’s reputation and integrity, forcing an on-air retraction.

While all this is going on, not all is rosy in the halls of ACN: Will and Mack are still bickering over past dalliances and do the will-they-or-won’t-they dance around the idea of reconciling; the bizarre love triangle of Jim, Don (Thomas Sadoski) and Maggie (Alison Pill) continues, with Maggie running off overseas to an assignment which will traumatize her and cause her to make drastic changes to her appearance; sexy and smart financial analyst Sloan Sabbith (Olivia Munn) deals with a case of sexual humiliation; Neal keeps trying to push some story ideas to his superiors, to no avail.

 

Alison Pill and John Galagher Jr. in THE NEWSROOM THE COMPLETE SECOND SEASON, courtesy HBO Canada, 2014
Alison Pill and John Galagher Jr. in THE NEWSROOM THE COMPLETE SECOND SEASON, courtesy HBO Canada, 2014

 

The brilliance of this show so far has been its use of the recent past to help support character stories within the context of news coverage of events we’re already familiar with. By setting the show back a matter of months to a year, Sorkin is able to create conflict within his setting while still reminding us of important world events like the U.S. Presidential Election, the Cairo uprising and other current events.

There’s not as much of the patented “walk-and-talk” seen on The West Wing, but the rapid fire witty repartee is a must and is ever present in this series of episodes, with much of the banter evolving between Daniels, Mortimer and some staffers.

Thankfully, everyone gets to shine, whether the scene appears emotionally charged or occasionally comical. Therein lies the brilliance of a Sorkin script: the perfect marriage of comedy and drama without loss of quality.

 

 

I highly recommend this show to TV viewers who enjoy great writing, flawless cast chemistry and rapid-fire dialogue which still manages to tackle the big issues. I shall miss this show after its final season airs, another Sorkin product concluded leaving fans in withdrawal until he reveals another high-end concept for mass consumption.

4 out of 5

Dominic Messier is a media veteran who’s written and discussed movies for almost 20 years, from entertainment radio shows to newspaper columns to websites. Follow him on Twitter via @dommessier or join the Pop Culture Landscape with Dominic Messier page on Facebook.

 

Now on Blu-Ray: Angelina Jolie Successfully Embodies Maleficent Role in New Disney Film

Blu-Ray Cover Art for MALEFICENT, courtesy Disney Home Video, 2014
Blu-Ray Cover Art for MALEFICENT, courtesy Disney Home Video, 2014

 

MALEFICENT, Rated PG, Directed by Robert Stromberg, Starring Angelina Jolie, Elle Fanning and Sharlto Copley. Runtime 97 minutes, contains moderate battle scenes, fantastic creatures and no swearing. Relatively safe for family viewing.

Blu-Ray Review by Dominic Messier, Founder, Editor and Film Critic

As a seasoned Disney aficionado, I’d have been the very last person to expect a literal interpretation of the classic 1959 animated film about a bitter fairy witch who curses a beautiful young princess out of petty hatred and jealousy. Imagine my delight upon finding out that the House of Mouse not only chose a different direction, but a creatively pleasant one at that.

Angelina Jolie is perfectly cast as the aptly named titular character, a powerful sprite wronged by an ambitious young king (Sharlto Copley) whose baby blonde daughter ends up on the receiving end of Maleficent’s wicked curse, that of falling into an eternal sleep save for true love’s kiss, upon pricking her finger on a spindle on her sixteenth birthday.

The fun twist this time around occurs when young Aurora (who grows into a lovely teen, as portrayed by Elle Fanning) is so ineptly raised by her three fairy godmothers (Imelda Staunton, Lesley Manville and Juno Temple) that the Dark One has no choice but to laugh at the poor young beastie’s predicament, before watching over her every move for her own safety.

 

Angelina Jolie is MALEFICENT, courtesy Disney Home Entertainment, 2014
Angelina Jolie is MALEFICENT, courtesy Disney Home Entertainment, 2014

 

To call this film villain-centric does it a great injustice. Like all great storytellers, the scriptwriters have found ingenious ways to turn the age old tale on its head, plausibly turning Maleficent into a flawed and reluctant mother figure to young Aurora, whilst presenting King Stephan (Copley) into an obsessive symbol of human greed and pettiness. Quite a refreshing twist on the classic Disney template.

Parents fearing that their children might lose sleep over the film’s more terrifying scenes needn’t worry: the film’s fairly predictable plot can seem a bit scary at the onset, however the tale spins itself into a positive outlook, turning the once vindictive villain into a reluctant hero, so expect the kids to follow along with glee.

 

Elle Fanning and Brenton Thwaites in MALEFICENT, courtesy Disney Home Video, 2014
Elle Fanning and Brenton Thwaites in MALEFICENT, courtesy Disney Home Video, 2014

 

I reluctantly admit that the bonus features on the Blu-Ray combo pack reviewed here, was remarkably light on Jolie herself, a real disappointment. Much is made of the rich history behind the character, as well as the inevitable comparisons with the animated film which inspired it. All the same, when a film is titled after the lead character, it wouldn’t hurt to add a bit more of its star and her thoughts on the process, rather than elaborate ad nauseum about the lavish costumes.

 

 

A surprisingly pleasant early summer hit, Maleficent has turned out to be an excellent fantasy adventure film at par with Labyrinth and Legend, films designed to terrify through amazement and wonder, yet filled with enough story twists to delight even the most discerning critic, including yours truly…

4 out of 5

Dominic Messier is a media veteran who’s written and discussed movies for almost 20 years, from entertainment radio shows to newspaper columns to websites. Follow him on Twitter via @dommessier or join the Pop Culture Landscape with Dominic Messier page on Facebook.

Now on Blu-Ray: Brett Ratner’s Hercules a Step Forward in Heroic Action

Blu-Ray Cover Art for HERCULES, courtesy Paramount Home video, 2014
Blu-Ray Cover Art for HERCULES, courtesy Paramount Home video, 2014

 

Blu-Ray Review by Dominic Messier, Founder, Editor and Film Critic

At the current rate Tinseltown is recycling and reinventing every concept exploited over the last few decades, imagine how refreshing to see a popular fixture re-imagined into a pretty decent action piece that focuses on action precision and cohesiveness, rather than gratuitous visual wizardry and lack of direction.

Much like Christopher Nolan did in revamping the Dark Knight after several terrible versions by previous directors, Brett Ratner offers us a Hercules for the 21st Century, a hero more man that demi-god, helping us absorb the myth behind the man, while adapting to the fact that much of it was probably boastful bullshit to begin with.

 

Rufus Sewell, Aksel Hennie, Dwayne Johnson, Ingrid Bolsø Berdal and Reece Ritchie in HERCULES, courtesy Paramount Home Video, 2014
(From Right to Left) Rufus Sewell, Aksel Hennie, Dwayne Johnson, Ingrid Bolsø Berdal and Reece Ritchie in HERCULES, courtesy Paramount Home Video, 2014

 

Hulking Hollywood star and semi-retired wrestler Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson plays Hercules, fabled Greek hero now turned mercenary muscle, who travels with his group of skilled warriors from region to region, destroying enemies in exchange for gold, hoping to eventually leave civilization behind and retire to a life of solitude and peace away from war.

When a princess comes to Herc asking for help in supporting her father Lord Cotys (John Hurt) in defeating a bloodthirsty enemy named Rhesus (Tobias Santelmann), the alleged son of Zeus travels to Thrace with his companions, knife and blade man Autolycus (Rufus Sewell), seer Amphiaraus (Ian McShane), mute ax wielder Tydeus (Aksel Hennie), lady archer Atalanta (Ingrid Bolsø Berdal) and nephew storyteller Iolaus (Reece Ritchie) in order to defend the innocent…or are they?

Add some political intrigue, treachery and some pretty impressive set designs, and you find yourself with a perfect, action-packed thrill ride for a new generation.

 

 

Dwayne Johnson as the titular hero in HERCULES, courtesy Paramount Home Video, 2014
Dwayne Johnson as the titular hero in HERCULES, courtesy Paramount Home Video, 2014

 

There have been many iterations of this legendary character over the years, from Steve Reeves to a dubbed Lou Ferrigno to a tongue-in-cheek Kevin Sorbo to an abominably bad Kellan Lutz in a previous film this year, The Legend of Hercules.

It took a considerable film budget and a proven action director to truly convey the might and sheer power of a single man turned godlike hero through tall tales, one who turns out to be a hero based on his own values rather than his Olympian parentage.

Dwayne Johnson infuses the title role with the perfect mixture of humility, guile, and righteousness to convincingly portray a mortal man with considerable strength, working a script that depicts him as a likely regular human being whose feats and reputation have helped him become a larger character than reality would allow.

Rather than turn him into an unstoppable superhero, director Brett Ratner turns down the dial and makes Hercules a warrior who can bleed, but who can still demonstrate above-average abilities, allowing the audience to watch him drop kick a cart, flip a horse one handed and punch an opponent ten yards back. Think of Captain America without the Super Soldier formula.

This fallible specimen of a man is assisted by a ragtag group of equally skilled athletes, with fellow actors who provide excellent group chemistry without feeling forced or silly.

See below, an extended scene from the film’s first major battle. It demonstrates Johnson’s prowess, a sample of the sheer strength shown in the film…with help from special effects, but to great results:

 

 

Though the story is fairly predictable in its narrative arc, I still praise the production team for creating as much of the setting using practical effects, until such a time as it becomes unfeasible, especially during the flashbacks regarding the Twelve Labors, a portion of the tale blessedly mentioned only in passing as a means to a prologue.

Any fan of ancient adventures is sure to get a kick out of this feature, a fun sword and spear action piece infused with timely humor and plenty of well choreographed battles, starring a well-worn group of willing actors not above hamming it up without overselling it.

3.75 out of 5

Dominic Messier is a media veteran who’s written and discussed movies for almost 20 years, from entertainment radio shows to newspaper columns to websites. Follow him on Twitter via @dommessier or join the Pop Culture Landscape with Dominic Messier page on Facebook.

Now on Blu-Ray: Tammy Disastrously Aims for Previous McCarthy Success

Blu-Ray Cover Art for TAMMY, courtesy Warner Home Video, 2014
Blu-Ray Cover Art for TAMMY, courtesy Warner Home Video, 2014

 

Blu-Ray Review by Dominic Messier, Founder, Editor and Film Critic

 

Hollywood is a fickle mistress. Chase the dream that one time and you may strike it rich and get critical success. Try repeating that formula and you may very well trick the masses into buying your pabulum a second go around. But fool me thrice? Shame on you twice over.

With Tammy, comedic actress Melissa McCarthy tries as she may to capture the golden standard that was her career changing performance in Bridemaids, paired with the residual popularity of The Heat and tries to carry on with her own script and directorial effort by hubby Ben Falcone, hoping to deliver Tammy as her latest surefire hit.

Well, it made some money, but it’s a damn shameful attempt at worthwhile entertainment.

 

Susan Sarandon and Melissa McCarthy in TAMMY, courtesy Warner Home Video, 2014
Susan Sarandon and Melissa McCarthy in TAMMY, courtesy Warner Home Video, 2014

 

Tammy (McCarthy) is a boorish miser leading a miserable life in smalltown America, with a crappy job, a boring marriage and a lifetime spent complaining about failures and missed opportunities without so much as trying.

When a series of unfortunate events cause her to be late for work for the latest (and as it turns out, last) time, she finds herself jobless, coming home to her hubby having an affair, and her mom (Allison Janney) and crabby grandmother (Susan Sarandon) berating her on her life choices.

Fed up, Tammy decides to leave town on a road trip, reluctantly taking her grandma along, since she has a hefty wad of dough handy to bankroll the trip.

Deciding to head to Niagara Falls, the pair encounter misadventure, danger, sexual conquests and criminal activities as they try to survive out on their own, hopefully learning a few important life lessons in the process.

 

Mark Duplass and Melissa McCarthy in TAMMY, courtesy Warner Home Video, 2014.
Mark Duplass and Melissa McCarthy in TAMMY, courtesy Warner Home Video, 2014.

 

From the get go, the film tries way to hard to elicit laughs, going for the easy crass and the shows of ignorance in the hope we find some giggle-worthy material to keep us interested long enough to make it to the second act, where a soupçon of redemption and possibly love awaits our dour protagonist.

Then again, by the time a decent fellow (Mark Duplass) shows up to remind Tammy that there is still hope out there, the film’s already done all it could to win you over, but the overwhelming amount of bad jokes and aimless subplots have numbed the senses, quickly making you reach for the Blu-Ray box in the hope of figuring out how much running time is left.

 

 

The sad thing is, the supporting cast is so noteworthy (with co-stars like Kathy Bates, Dan Aykroyd, Gary Cole and Sandra Oh, among others) that you’d expect quality material to stick somehow, but it’s all for naught.

In the end, you’re left with a tiring, depressing, rudderless attempt at recapturing lightning in a bottle, confirming that audiences won’t so easily be duped into thinking that a clever movie trailer makes for a good film.

The Blu-Ray extras prove that McCarthy has great comic timing (especially when watching the gag reel), but sadly this quality is lacking in the material at hand, leading one to wonder if the lead star has overextended her reach to win fans over.

Personally, I’ll just go watch Bridesmaids again, a much better example of her comedic capabilities, best used in an ensemble effort.

1.5 out of 5

Dominic Messier is a media veteran who’s written and discussed movies for almost 20 years, from entertainment radio shows to newspaper columns to websites. Follow him on Twitter via @dommessier or join the Pop Culture Landscape with Dominic Messier page on Facebook.

 

Now in Theatres: Interstellar an Ambitious Story That Tries to Reach Orbit

Theatrical Poster for INTERSTELLAR, courtesy Paramount Pictures, 2014
Theatrical Poster for INTERSTELLAR, courtesy Paramount Pictures, 2014

 

Review by Dominic Messier, Founder, Editor and Film Critic

Long has it been since we the film audience have seen a space-based film worthy of our attention, a story which could captivate our minds, our hearts and our social responsibility to better care for the minuscule mudball we have come to call home.

Through the use of eye-popping visual effects, a catchy plot and actors game enough not to let themselves overact in the face of such overwhelming philosophical concepts, Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar becomes a thought-provoking discourse on the future of humanity and whether sustainable life exists out there.

 

Mackenzie Foy and Matthew McConaughey in INTERSTELLAR, courtesy Paramount Pictures, 2014
Mackenzie Foy and Matthew McConaughey in INTERSTELLAR, courtesy Paramount Pictures, 2014

 

Recent Oscar winner for Best Actor Matthew McConaughey plays Cooper, a former NASA pilot turned farmer in a near-future where blights have turned Earth into a slowly scorched world with dwindling resources and an uncertain outlook for the survival of humanity.

With sand and dust storms threatening the population on a frequent basis and little hope remaining for mankind, Cooper starts to notice some strange lines in the dust of his daughter’s bedroom, patterns caused by gravitational waves which could signify a message for a higher intelligence. Is is alien communication? Ghosts with a need to talk? Mysterious beings with hopes to help us survive as a species?

When Coop and his daughter Murph (Mackenzie Foy) decipher the messages and detect coordinates to a secret base, they head to it and encounter a group of scientists, including Cooper’s old mentor (Michael Caine) and his daughter (Anne Hathaway) who are working on a plan to send humanity out into space through a newly formed wormhole near Saturn, one which could help humanity travel to a new, clean planet.

With mankind’s fate in their hands, astronauts Coop, Amelia Brand (Hathaway), Romilly (David Gyasi) and Doyle (Wes Bentley) head out aboard a newly-built long-term spacecraft in search of previous colonists who’ve checked out three potential planets as an eventual home for the rest of us.

 

Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway in INTERSTELLAR, courtesy Paramount Pictures, 2014
Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway in INTERSTELLAR, courtesy Paramount Pictures, 2014

 

As a form of filmed entertainment, Interstellar has a few points going against it. For one thing, the movie is a tad long for such an ambitious story. Despite this, there are enough themes and scientific concepts thrown into the mix, like general relativity, temporal mechanics and physics, to keep your mind occupied long enough not to make you look at your watch.

The other issue I’ve found as a hindrance is the movie’s sound mix. While Hans Zimmer’s emotionally charged musical score feels apt and justified given the scope of this story, it often felt extraneous on top of loud vehicular travel (i.e. ship’s rockets firing, etc…) and made dialogue barely audible in some scenes. Perhaps realistic had we been on board the ship Endurance, but otherwise difficult for an audience slowly growing deaf in the process.

The movie does evoke memories of prior films like 2001: A Space Odyssey and Contact (which also co-starred McConaughey) which also dealt with the possibility of other worlds and other planes of existence. While this film isn’t quite so trippy in its metaphysical approach to life, the universe and everything, it still has that Christopher Nolan touch which grounds the film in some semblance of realism, allowing for over two-and-a-half hours of discovery and adventure, including some nuggets of self-reflection as to our own fate on Earth, what with global change making our future uncertain. Message received.

In the end, Interstellar is an ambitious film with such a large scale design that the interpersonal relationships within the story become somewhat secondary, another notch in the negative column. Lead star McConaughey manages to keep us tethered to the main goal of the film (that of maintaining sight of what’s most important in life) while still steering the story in the right direction so we’re not left in a void of incomprehension.

This film is best seen on a large screen, so if you can save up a bit longer, splurge on an IMAX ticket and see this movie on actual film stock and let the immensity of it all wash over you. You’ll be glad you did.

3.5 out of 5

Dominic Messier is a media veteran who’s written and discussed movies for almost 20 years, from entertainment radio shows to newspaper columns to websites. Follow him on Twitter via @dommessier or join the Pop Culture Landscape with Dominic Messier page on Facebook.

 

Now in Theatres: Horns Uses Best Elements of Joe Hill Novel

Theatrical Poster for HORNS, courtesy VVS Films, 2014
Theatrical Poster for HORNS, courtesy VVS Films, 2014

 

Theatrical Film Review by Dominic Messier, Founder, Editor and Film Critic

As the sacred Jedi Order from Star Wars lore is quick to point out, there could be no greater honor than for the learner to surpass the master. In the case of Joe Hill, aka Joseph Hillstrom King, son of worldwide best selling author Stephen King, this could very well be true.

Having made quite a name for himself (just go buy a copy of N0S4A2, Heart-Shaped Box or the amazing graphic novel series Locke & Key), all it takes is one look at any of his published works and you may realize how gifted the young Gen-X writer really is.

This talent translates quite well into filmmaker Alexandre Aja’s cinematic equivalent of Horns, a clever whodunnit with a twist, in which a frustrated lead suspect suddenly sprouts demonic looking horns, giving him the ability to compel townsfolk into confessing their deepest and darkest desires. Using this cursed gift, the story’s hero seeks the truth in the murder of his beloved.

 

Daniel Radcliffe and Juno Temple in HORNS, courtesy VVS Films, 2014
Daniel Radcliffe and Juno Temple in HORNS, courtesy VVS Films, 2014

 

In the film, former Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe plays Ignatius “Ig” Perrish, a Northwestern small town guy in love with his childhood friend Merrin (Juno Temple) with dreams of marrying her and living happily ever after.

When an argument between them one night results in him getting blind drunk and her being found dead in the woods the next morning, Ig finds himself the lead suspect in her murder and being branded the devil, figuratively speaking, for killing her, something he swears he didn’t do, at least not willingly.

To make matters worse, he discovers within a few days that a pair of horns have sprouted from his forehead, somehow giving him the ability to compel others to divulge their deepest innermost thoughts, desires and secrets.

Using this newly found ability, Ig sets off on a quest to canvas the whole town looking for the real murderer, finding out more about his friends and neighbors than he dared learn, as he struggles to find the culprit before it’s too late.

 

Daniel Radcliffe in HORNS, courtesy VVS Films, 2014
Daniel Radcliffe in HORNS, courtesy VVS Films, 2014

 

I found Horns to be the little movie that could. With its childhood flashbacks and small town atmosphere, it evoked shades of both Stand by Me and Twin Peaks, with a soupçon of the supernatural for taste.

With a premise that everyone can associate with (who hasn’t been that much in love or heartbroken?) and a small enough setting that can envelop such a tight story, the film goes from a surreal whodunnit to a study in sociology, showing how quickly a townspeople can turn on one of its own without a shred of proof while harboring dark secrets of their own that would otherwise never see the light of day, were it not for the lead character’s capacity to have them reveal themselves.

 

 

I’ll admit that any seasoned film viewer will have narrowed down the list of obvious suspects rather drastically by the second half, taking away from the intrigue of the film. Despite this, with great supporting work from the likes of James Remar, Kathleen Quinlan, Joe Anderson and Max Minghella, Horns still makes for great viewing and showcases Daniel Radcliffe as having a healthy and solid life after child stardom, picking roles that help him explode from his once typecast shell.

I recommend this film to anyone who enjoys dark humor, societal decay and the study of the human condition, warts and all. Truly, a devil of a good time.

3.5 out of 5

Dominic Messier is a media veteran who’s written and discussed movies for almost 20 years, from entertainment radio shows to newspaper columns to websites. Follow him on Twitter via @dommessier or join the Pop Culture Landscape with Dominic Messier page on Facebook.

 

 

Now in Stores: Death of Archie a Milestone for Famous Comic Book Series

Cover Art for the Collected Trade Paperback for THE DEATH OF ARCHIE, courtesy Random House, 2014
Cover Art for the Collected Trade Paperback for THE DEATH OF ARCHIE, courtesy Random House, 2014

 

Graphic Novel Review by Dominic Messier, Founder, Editor and Comic Book Critic

After over 70 years of non-stop adventures, good deeds and other life events in the small idyllic town of Riverdale, it goes without saying that we’d probably seen every good side of young red haired Archie Andrews as he selflessly helps his friends, family and town in any way possible while remaining the focal point of one of comics most famous love triangles.

With the release of this new trade paperback, we learn just how far Archie would go to save the life of his fellow man, in this case preventing an assassination to save the life of a friend who is already the target of antagonism.

 

Archie Andrews saves a life after taking a bullet in THE DEATH OF ARCHIE, courtesy Random House, 2014
Archie Andrews saves a life after taking a bullet in THE DEATH OF ARCHIE, courtesy Random House, 2014

 

Designed to examine and merge two different story lines from Life with Archie in which he’d made a life with Betty AND Veronica (though in parallel realities), The Death of Archie focuses on the events leading up to a fundraiser for Senate candidate Kevin Kellar, Archie’s gay friend who is looking to get elected in order to raise awareness of violence against homosexuals, among other campaign goals.

Sadly, not everyone shares in the sentiment, and so the threat level goes up, forcing the Secret Service to protect Kevin against any radicals hoping to send a message in front of the media.

When Jughead (who now runs the Malt Shoppe) hosts the fundraiser and invites all of his friends and neighbors to help support their Senatorial candidate, they don’t realize that the danger might rest within the growing crowd, in a room that’s getting more difficult to manage.

As is evident with the title of this review, Archie discovers the odd element out, but not before it’s too late to properly warn Kevin of his potential assailant, and thus decides to make the ultimate sacrifice, offering himself as a target to save a life.

 

Archie Andrews professes his love with his dying words, in THE DEATH OF ARCHIE, courtesy Random House, 2014
Archie Andrews professes his love with his dying words, in THE DEATH OF ARCHIE, courtesy Random House, 2014

 

It’d be incredibly easy to call this story manipulative, gratuitous or even opportunistic in its use of selfless sacrifice in the face of violence and homophobia, save for the fact that it’s completely in character with Archie Andrews’ personality makeup.

Having been a champion for equality, fairness, justice and decency in his small town (one in which people like to live out the rest of their lives, so we’re told), it’s fair to assume Archie would literally take a bullet, help a friend out, speak out against injustice and stand up for what he believed in. The concept might be considered unrealistic in today’s world, but Archie Comics was never really about mirroring reality but rather to act as a template for the ideals we should strive for, burger gluttony being an exception.

The pivotal event happens fairly early in the story, with the remainder of the book resorting to various flashbacks from past issues from years ago, with each major resident recalling their fondness for Archie and how he changed their lives for the better. A harmless and often bittersweet narrative device, but one which may very well tug at your heartstrings.

So, is Archie really dead? Well, this is a comic book, and so this plot can be explained away as one possible outcome of Archie’s life. Besides, if comics have taught us anything, is that no one is every truly dead. Look at Marvel Comics and how they’ve killed off Wolverine, Professor X, Spider-Man or Johnny Storm, only to bring them back through convoluted plot developments. Even Superman managed to pull it off. Never say never.

The Death of Archie could very well be used as a tool for parents to educate their children about the importance of selflessness, personal beliefs and altruism. It can also prepare young readers for the reality of death, but that of course will be a call to be made by each parent when grabbing a copy of this powerful story.

3.5 out of 5

Dominic Messier is a media veteran who’s written and discussed movies for almost 20 years, from entertainment radio shows to newspaper columns to websites. Follow him on Twitter via @dommessier or join the Pop Culture Landscape with Dominic Messier page on Facebook.

Now on Blu-Ray: Mr. Peabody and Sherman Great, Educational Fun and Laughs

Blu-Ray Cover Art for MR. PEABODY AND SHERMAN, courtesy Fox Home Entertainment, 2014
Blu-Ray Cover Art for MR. PEABODY AND SHERMAN, courtesy Fox Home Entertainment, 2014

Blu-Ray Review by Dominic Messier, Founder, Editor and Home Video Critic

Looking to chase after Disney, Fox and Sony’s successes in leading animated motion pictures, Dreamworks SKG played its hand and dug into our collective pop culture consciousness (well, ours that remember far back enough), reviving a segment of the Rocky and Bullwinkle Show that showcased a genius dog and his young adoptive ward, resulting in a CGI marvel infused with mostly historically educational content, laughter and one-liners that are both terrible and incredibly addictive. Just like the olden days.

 

Sherman (voice of Max Charles) and Adoptive Canine Genius Father Mr. Peabody (voice of Ty Burrell) in MR. PEABODY AND SHERMAN, courtesy Fox Home Entertainment, 2014
Sherman (voice of Max Charles) and Adoptive Canine Genius Father Mr. Peabody (voice of Ty Burrell) in MR. PEABODY AND SHERMAN, courtesy Fox Home Entertainment, 2014

 

In the film, we get a quick glimpse of the history (no pun intended) of the relationship between Nobel laureate, Olympian polymath genius Peabody and his human son Sherman (it’s an adoptive relationship), who tend to utilize an invention called the WABAC Machine in order to visit important moments in history in order to impart Sherman with the importance of major moments in human affairs, both artistic, political and otherwise.

When Sherman heads off to his first day of school and clashes with headstrong preppy girl Penny (voiced by Ariel Winter), Sherman is forced to prove his historical claims by being goaded by his new pint-sized nemesis into using the WABAC and heading to various historical milestones, hoping to make it back to the present without disturbing the timeline too badly.

Yeah, right. Despite the genius level intellect of Mr Peabody’s caliber, the adventure is only beginning for the dynamic father/son duo, as they seek to rectify the space-time continuum and prevent the universe from imploding on itself.

 

Penny (voice of Ariel Winter) and Sherman (voice of Max Charles) test out Da Vinci's 1508 prototype in MR. PEABODY AND SHERMAN, courtesy Fox Home Entertainment, 2014
Penny (voice of Ariel Winter) and Sherman (voice of Max Charles) test out Da Vinci’s 1508 prototype in MR. PEABODY AND SHERMAN, courtesy Fox Home Entertainment, 2014

 

Narratively speaking, this is a brilliantly elegant film, laced with good humor, harmless jokes and a whole lot of lush and valid historical details built into both the foreground and background of each scene/era the pair visits.

Credit Rob Minkoff, half of the creative team behind Disney’s The Lion King, for pooling all that was great about the brief animated skits interspersed as part of the classic Rocky and Bullwinkle series, allowing viewers young and old to discover adventure and learning by way of great historical figures like Benjamin Franklin, Gandhi, Shakespeare and the like.

 

 

TV’s Modern Family actor Ty Burrell infuses the title role with charm, erudition and wit while a cast of great voice actors populate the history books, with talents like Stanley Tucci, Allison Janney, Stephen Colbert, Leslie Mann, Lake Bell, Mel Brooks, Patrick Warburton and Thomas Lennon filling in the big roles.

The movie is as harmless as they come, with visual gags galore, incredibly elaborate set pieces, witty dialogue and wholesome positive values. With much cinematic pabulum force fed down kids’ gullets these days, it’s refreshing to see such a revered property used to its utmost potential.

It’s a pity the film’s original price tag of $145M made it such a difficult project to recover from, but it’s definitely worth a view or two with your loved ones. One of the more pleasant modern animated films I’ve seen of late.

4 out of 5

Dominic Messier is a media veteran who’s written and discussed movies for almost 20 years, from entertainment radio shows to newspaper columns to websites. Follow him on Twitter via @dommessier or join the Pop Culture Landscape with Dominic Messier page on Facebook.

 

Now in Theatres: Dracula Untold Should Have Remained Just That

Theatrical Poster for DRACULA UNTOLD, courtesy Universal, 2014
Theatrical Poster for DRACULA UNTOLD, courtesy Universal, 2014

 

Theatrical Review by Dominic Messier, Founder, Editor and Film Critic

Ohh, what to do with a priceless Hollywood commodity like that of a fanged prince of darkness, doomed to live in eternal anguish over love lost and an insatiable thirst for the blood of man?

Why, revisit all the familiar tropes by way of a watered down script heavy on action but oh so light on actual plot content, of course!

With this first of a planned series of Universal Monsters films crossed over à la Marvel, Dracula Untold opts to focus on the wartime perils of a desperate prince whose deal with the forces of darkness may prove too costly, in order to win the battle against Ottoman legions of soldiers.

 

Luke Evans as Prince Vlad the Impaler, in DRACULA UNTOLD, courtesy Universal, 2014
Luke Evans as Prince Vlad the Impaler, in DRACULA UNTOLD, courtesy Universal, 2014

 

In the film, a wise and just prince of Transylvania, Vlad Dracul aka The Impaler (Luke Evans), sees his hand forced when the Ottoman Turks he pays tribute to in silver coins demand he hand over one thousand young boys of the realm in order to convert them into loyal soldiers of the Empire.

Refusing to hand over his son amongst many others, Vlad seeks out a fanged monster (Charles Dance) from a nearby cavern, who reveals himself to be an ancient vampire who offers Dracul a deal: drink his blood, gain vampiric powers to defeat the enemy, but if any blood is consumed within 3 days, he will lose his humanity and forever become a creature of the night.

Equipped with super speed, agility, reflexes, endurance and the useful ability to transform into a cloud of bats at will, Dracul leads his men into a veritable slaughter against his enemy, led by Mehmed the Second (Dominic Cooper).

 

Charles Dance as the Master Vampire, in DRACULA UNTOLD, courtesy Universal, 2014
Charles Dance as the Master Vampire, in DRACULA UNTOLD, courtesy Universal, 2014

 

The well-worn plot device of untold power and supernatural supremacy over foes is an all-too familiar one in action and fantasy films. Despite casting a dashing actor in the lead, and giving his character purpose in defeating an enemy, the director of Dracula Untold finds little other direction for his hero, resulting in a rudderless quest with very little concern for the important meat of the story, such as Drac’s relationship with his wife and son, nor any other psychological quandary in his becoming a creature of the undead.

Indeed, story elements are so predictably set up that only characters without psychic powers couldn’t see them coming. Forget plausibility (so, an ancient vampire kills countless visitors but just lets in Drac and offers him free powers? Hiss…) and forget logic, when watching this piece. The conflict is so one-sided that by the time Dominic Cooper shows up as the ruthless leader of the Turks, you couldn’t possibly care less.

 

 

The film has plenty of visually impressive set pieces and a denouement that has shades of Interview with the Vampire to it, likely as an easier means to connect it to later Universal movies, though if this first installment is any indication of what is to come, I can only hope that the franchise goes to ground at high noon, leaving little to no trace of its existence, much to our benefit.

1 out of 5

Dominic Messier is a media veteran who’s written and discussed movies for almost 20 years, from entertainment radio shows to newspaper columns to websites. Follow him on Twitter via @dommessier or join the Pop Culture Landscape with Dominic Messier page on Facebook.

Now on Blu-Ray: Edge of Tomorrow a Thoroughly Clever Sci-Fi Action Piece

Blu-Ray Cover Art for EDGE OF TOMORROW, courtesy Warner Home Video, 2014
Blu-Ray Cover Art for EDGE OF TOMORROW, courtesy Warner Home Video, 2014

 

Blu-Ray Review by Dominic Messier, Founder, Editor and Film Critic

An intricately woven sci-fi tale of an alien invasion of Earth with one man trapped in the same repeating day over and over again trying to figure out a means to destroy the enemy, Edge of Tomorrow doesn’t abuse the usual genre tropes and maximizes on its premise, a definite case of trial and error with an all-too-necessary reset button.

In this futuristic action piece, Tom Cruise plays Major Willian Cage, the military’s public relations figurehead during a future global crisis against an extra-terrestrial enemy known as Mimics. When the war’s tide is about to turn in favor of the aliens, a refusal by Cage to cover the action from the beach head results in his arrest and demotion to private as a deserter, getting sent to the slaughter along with many other grunts.

When he accidentally kills an enemy “alpha” who kills him in return, Cage discovers he has inherited the creature’s ability to revisit the previous day after dying or being killed, effectively resetting the day’s events, causing him to relive the entire day leading up to the beach battle….over….and over…..and over….and over again.

Determined to use this temporal loophole to his advantage, Cage learns more from the enemy — as well as the fine art of military close combat warfare — with each subsequent death, until he can use his enemy’s abilities against him, hopefully saving the world in the process.

 

"Okay...so it was Run, then Left, then Duck, then Up, Down, Up, Down, B, A, B, A, Start? That can't be right..." Tom Cruise in EDGE OF TOMORROW, courtesy Warner Brothers, 2014
Tom Cruise in EDGE OF TOMORROW, courtesy Warner Home Video, 2014

 

Time travel movies can be tricky but can also carry a big payoff for the audience if done properly. This is a fine example of such a film, with Cruise starting off as a cowardly PR man whose fate is invariably intertwined with that of a war hero (played by Emily Blunt), who is later revealed to have had a similar time loop experience to Cruise’s character, earlier in the human/alien conflict. Through lessons learned across hundreds and hundreds of painfully brutal demises, Cruise’s once timid, reluctant participant becomes a glorious hero with extensive knowledge of all those around him. As such, the story quickly picks up elements of both Groundhog Day and Starship Troopers.

With the guidance of director Doug Liman and Cruise’s unmistakeable screen charisma, what could be a tedious and repetitive actioner turns into a captivating and often funny summer blockbuster.

On the downside, the script calls for some veteran actors to portray higher ranking officers: Bill Paxton plays a more serious and down-to-Earth variation of his Hudson character from Aliens, while Brendan Gleeson is criminally underused as the general in charge of the human military might. Both of them could have played more significant roles, but this is definitely a Cruise/Blunt piece, so this wasn’t to be.

 

"I believe this mission feels quite...impossible, wouldn't you say?" Emily Blunt and Tom Cruise in EDGE OF TOMORROW, courtesy Warner Brothers, 2014
Emily Blunt and Tom Cruise in EDGE OF TOMORROW, courtesy Warner Home Video, 2014

 

Following in the footsteps of other time-bending action dramas like Source Code and Looper, Edge of Tomorrow is an intelligent, creative and well assembled film. Despite some of Cruise’s less-than-impressive outings of recent years (an example being the pretty but useless Oblivion), this feels like a true return to form for the box office champion. An ambitious story with wit and respect for the viewer, it will figure highly on the list of this year’s best.

Now, to go watch this film again…..and again……and again!

4 out of 5

Dominic Messier is a media veteran who’s written and discussed movies for almost 20 years, from entertainment radio shows to newspaper columns to websites. Follow him on Twitter via @dommessier or join the Pop Culture Landscape with Dominic Messier page on Facebook.