mv5bnzczmdgzodytyji4os00ytlklwe1mdqtztewotrmmduyywq3xkeyxkfqcgdeqxvyndg2mjuxnjm-_v1_sx1777_cr001777975_al_

I like Underpants…

I never grew up reading the Captain Underpants book series by Dave Pilkey; they were as us old-folks say “before my time.” Still, something about the trailer spoke to me, and I found myself watching the film Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie (2017).

Spoilers throughout.

In the film, best friends Harold and George, a storyteller-artist tandem obsessed with creating comic books, find themselves at odds with their fascist Principal Krupp. The Principal is obsessed with order, structure, and efficiency; all of which come at the expense of his student’s creativity, and innovation. With the use of a cereal-box hypno-ring, the two hypnotize Principal Krupp into believing he is the embodiment of their comic book magnum opus, Captain Underpants. With Captain Underpants as their principal, their harmless pranks become a welcomed addition to school, and art and music are returned to the school curriculum. They spend their day helping the Captain blend in as a convincing principal, and making sure he does not accidentally return to his natural Krupp state.

(more…)

mv5bndy1odi3mjy0ml5bml5banbnxkftztgwmjqxntawmji

At least one reviewer liked “The Circle”

What would happen if everyone was connected via social media? What if all their information was public? What if there were cameras literally everywhere to make sure that any and every experience was accessible to all? What if people voluntarily agreed to this world because a slick talking ceo convinced them it was better? These are just some of the questions raised by “The Circle.”

While many critics didn’t like “The Circle,” I actually thoroughly enjoyed it. I think some of those issues came from the marketing of this movie, as the film isn’t really worthy of the title “gripping thriller” that it claimed. “Thought-provoking drama” is more appropriate. The story starts when Mae (Emma Watson) gets a job at “The Circle,” which is like the love child of Apple and Facebook.

(more…)

maura-klavan-novels

Essential Authors #1: Andrew Klavan

Two years ago, I joined Liberty Island Media, a start-up book publishing company focusing on genre fiction, as their West Coast Editor and began acquiring and editing novels. I also started writing my own novels and helping other writers develop their stories. Now, in this ongoing series at Smash Cut Culture I’m going to start highlighting the authors who I’ve returned to most often in working with writers. As I’ve studied and met both fiction and non-fiction writers over the years these are the ones with the most depth, originality, and humanity. Reading their books and understanding the ideas that matter to them has helped change my life for the better and I hope it can do the same for you.

Andrew Klavan has worn many writer’s hats over the years: hard-boiled thriller novelist, Hollywood screenwriter, essayist for The Wall Street Journal and contributing editor for City Journal, longtime new media innovator in blogging, hilarious YouTube videos, podcasting at the Daily Wire, and now celebrated memoirist with The Great Good Thing: A Secular Jew Comes to Faith in Christ.

(more…)

mv5bmtkymzuxmdqwnf5bml5banbnxkftztgwmzeyotyzmji-_v1_sy1000_cr0014991000_al_

Wonder Woman: Everything We Could Hope For… And More

I don’t know about you, but I have been anxiously awaiting a “Wonder Woman” feature film since rumors circulated in the late ’90s of one starring Sandra Bullock. For me, the films near twenty-years in pre-production hell was well worth the wait.

For starters, “Wonder Woman” is the film that we needed to finally prove the Exec’s wrong. The belief that female superhero films cannot be successful is farce! You may remember leaked emails from 2015 revealing their suspicions that female characters were not a draw in the box-office. The failure of female comic book movies – or any comic book movies for that matter – has nothing to do with the sex, gender, or ability of the character. No instead, as fans have always maintained, the failure of comic book films is the result of shoddy film making at the hands of filmmakers who do not understand the properties they are working with. “Wonder Woman” is a film seeming created by those who seem to understand, and love, the character. And what a difference it makes.

(more…)

mv5byzm2mzy2mzqtnddhmi00zgq1lwe1mzgtzdy0yznlzjfkztg3xkeyxkfqcgdeqxvymte2nza0ng-_v1_sy1000_cr0015031000_al_

“The Handmaids Tale” from a Muslim Feminist Perspective

I first watched the trailer on the same day the first episode aired and was instantly intrigued. The history buff inside me initially took it as a historical series due to Elizabeth Moss’s hood and petticoat. As the video went on I realized that the plot was much more complicated than meets the eye.

Of course, this was all happening in the middle of finals week, so I decided to postpone watching the series until after my exams were done; until then I did a reasonable amount of research. To be brutally honest: prior to watching the promo, I had never heard of  Margaret Atwood’s feminist novel. The plot immediately blew me away—set in New England, a Christian fundamentalist group overthrows the U.S. government, replacing the Constitution with a very strict, Puritan-esqe version of the Bible.  Bit by bit modern working women are stripped of their jobs, bank accounts, and identities. They are reduced to their fertility and levels of obedience. The fertile ones become “handmaids” forced to bear children for the new society’s elite and their barren wives.

(more…)

b7b340ff682d7ac5e212e5c3a1e3cd24372827ca

Judah and the Lion Rocket Off to Another Adventure in new video for “Suit and Jacket”

Judah and the Lion’s latest music video, “Suit and Jacket” continues the folk-hop band’s 7-year conversation with youth, adulthood, death and meaning within the context of a new outer-space theme. The video, off their new Folk Hop and Roll Deluxe album, features an opening scene with band members Judah Lee Akers, Nate Zuercher, Brian Macdonald and Spencer Cross sitting in a small blue-lit bedroom. Akers sings, “I ain’t trading my youth for no suit and jacket.” His is a common refrain within the lyricism of the band.  He continues, “I ain’t giving my freedom for your money and status,” folding imaginary bills in his left hand.

(more…)

mv5bmtg4mzu3otcymv5bml5banbnxkftztgwndqzmtiymji-_v1_sx1777_cr001777937_al_

Forming, Storming, and Norming – A(nother) Guardians of the Galaxy 2 Review

I like to laugh. I like action. I like smart-ass characters and clever dialogue. Needless to say, I loved the “Guardians of the Galaxy 1” Like so many others, I waited with joyful anticipation for “Guardians of the Galaxy 2.”

I’ve read other reviews that weren’t very positive and all I have to say is, It’s based on a comic-book and it’s only a 2-hour 18-minute movie. It’s longer than the average movie but there is only so much character development you are going to be able to cram into 138 minutes, but for what it is, the writers did a hell of a job. The story reveals more well-rounded characters and yes, I felt the attraction between Quill and Gamora even though it was just one of many character relationships forming. As far as pacing, there is a lot of story going on in this movie. The writers are trying to tell an important back-story about Quill and his origin, bring us to the major conflict in this film and set up for the next movie all the while giving us more character development than you would expect in a movie based on a comic-book starring a variety of alien creatures.

(more…)

download

Sara Barielles Sweetens the Deal on Broadway

Sara Barielles is in the midst of a ten-week run as Jenna, a Southern pie-maker stuck in a loveless marriage in the popular Broadway musical, “Waitress.” What’s more daunting than the play itself is that Barielles is a Broadway novice taking over the lead role previously held by Tony winner Jessie Mueller. Despite previous nervous energy, Barielles, who wrote the play’s music and lyrics, seems to be thriving.

(more…)

dallas-buyers-club

Dallas Buyers Club Review

The film “Dallas Buyers Club”, starring Matthew McConauhey in his Academy Award winning role, is about Ron Woodroof, a man exposed to the AIDS virus who starts a buyers club – a network of infected individuals that help each other get life-saving medication.

The homophobic, free wheeling cowboy Ron contracts the HIV virus through the casual sex he has on a regular basis. The disease, stigmatized at the time as a “gay man’s” ailment, forces Ron into personal hiding, as he’s affronted with homophobic slurs despite his heterosexual lifestyle.

(more…)

bcs-cover

Tea and Tape: A Review of Better Call Saul’s “Mabel” and “Witness”

Jimmy McGill is my favorite character on television.

There. I said it.

But throughout season one and two of Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould’s wildly successful Better Call Saul, I couldn’t exactly put my finger on why.

Was it the fact that I used to work at a law firm as a legal assistant and had the satisfaction of stumbling through the legal world with Jimmy, fully able to agree that yes, Interstate Commerce is a bitch? Perhaps. Was it the fact that he’s loveable, despite his centrifugally flawed nature? Also possible. Hell, maybe it was that nose thing I mentioned earlier. Either way, I comfortably went along, aware of my not-so-specific reasoning. I mean, I could always divert by talking about how brilliant the show was in other aspects.

(more…)

film-70638_960_720

Literature (and Movie) You Should Know: The Hiding Place

Monday, April 24, was this year’s Yom HaShoah–Holocaust Remembrance Day. There are a great many books on the subject, from The Diary of Anne Frank to MAUS and beyond. But one of my long-time favorites is the story of a family recognized by Yad Vashem as “Righteous among the Nations” for their work in saving Dutch Jews: The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom, with John and Elizabeth Sherrill.

(more…)

screen-shot-2017-04-22-at-3

There is Nothing Not to “Love” About Lana Del Rey’s New Single

Not often do fans of the infamously melancholy Lana Del Rey get to hear a song that is genuinely happy. Yet this is precisely the kind of song that the singer’s new single “Love” is. For the girl known for penning songs like “Sad Girl” and “Pretty When You Cry”, “Love” couldn’t be more pleasantly opposite.

Del Rey, who released the song as a lead single for her upcoming album Lust for Life, has made a notable departure from her typically depressive, sultry style to create something blissful: an unadulterated love song. “Love,” a tribute to young romance, speaks straight from the mouth of enamored youth itself, as the chorus goes: “You get ready, you get all dressed up / to go nowhere in particular/ Back to work or the coffee shop / Doesn’t matter because it’s enough to be young and in love.”

(more…)

josey-wales

“The Outlaw Josey Wales” Movie Review

The Outlaw Josey Wales is arguably one of the best Western films of all times.  The film is a spaghetti Western directed by and starring the face of Westerns, Clint Eastwood.  The Outlaw Josey Wales follows a Josey, played by Clint Eastwood, a Missouri farmer.  The Union Army kills Josey’s family so he joins up with the Confederates to exact revenge.  His unit is a guerilla Confederate group that is coerced into surrendering at the end of the Civil War. 

However, the Union soldiers execute them anyway.  Josey escapes the massacre.  He’s now on the run from the entire Union militia and bounty hunters seeking the $5,000 on his head—no small amount back then. Josey’s travels accumulate his own posse of misfits.  They settle down at a ranch near Santo Rio but the sanctuary doesn’t stay safe long.  The Union finds them.  An all out assault on the ranch ends with Josey and his crew victorious.  More bounty hunters come by the local town but everyone comes to an unspoken agreement that the war is over.  They are done killing.

(more…)

"Give up your freedom so we can get ours back!"

Bureaucracy and the Beast

(B&B is in the public domain of everyone’s childhood so Boblius refuses to acknowledge plot details as “spoilers.”)

Before he’s THE BEAST, Beast is a tax-and-spend Prince. He vacuums income from the subjects of his French village to throw lavish parties where he prances around like Agador from The Birdcage (but somehow isn’t the gay character people are up in arms about?). The villagers are happy to RSVP in the affirmative for pre-Beast’s parties as long as he doesn’t mock them.

That's more like it.
That’s more like it.

When a disheveled and smelly (one assumes) crone stumbles into pre-Beast’s latest party offering a single rose in exchange for shelter during a horrific storm, he laughs her offer away. Only pre-Beast gives out the roses in this edition of Bizarro Bachelor. For his haughtiness, the crone reveals herself to be an Enchantress (we wouldn’t want to call her a witch in a movie starring Hermione) then transforms pre-Beast into THE (CGI) BEAST. Finally. Now he looks like the Beast from our childhood. Whew. (more…)

"This isn't the casual weekend I agreed to."

Get Out… Before You Meet the GF’s Parents

(Get Out of this page if you don’t want any spoilers.)

Yes, the Armitage family is cool. So hip! Rose (Allison Williams) is a knockout AND willing to stick up for her black boyfriend, Chris (Daniel Kaluuya), when a white cop gives him a hard time. They arrive at her parents’ estate where her parents don’t disappoint. They have created an environment where their kids are comfortable swearing in front of them. And talking about sex! Hell, Dean (Bradley Whitford) and Missy (Catherine Keener) even let them stay in the same bedroom. So chill! Despite Dean’s clumsy (but genuine) praise of Obama as opening conversation with a black man, their coolness is still intact by nightfall. Should we be worried yet?

No.

(Note: Boblius is rarely invited to studios’ critic screenings therefore at Get Out he found himself seated near an older couple with a 4 year old girl. Yes, these grandparents brought their granddaughter to Get Out. More on this later.)
(more…)

enemy-of-the-state-1

“Enemy of the State” Movie Review

This film is about a lawyer who gets trapped up in a government conspiracy. The director of the NSA is involved in killing a man and he was caught on camera. The man who filmed it is found out through NSA spying and runs the video over to his friend who is a lawyer before jumping into traffic. The lawyer now is on the run from the NSA hit-man and cleverly gets the mob involved to “kill two birds with one stone.”

(more…)

logan

Logan’s Travels with Charley (and Wolver-tween): Yes, No, Maybe

(Spoilers? Just some mild ones, bub.)

Yes, it’s good to see Wolverine in action again. Pairing him with a mini-me (or mini-him… er, actually a female mini-him) smelled like a big fat gimmick upon first glance (or whiff) but Wolver-tween is interesting, entertaining… and jarring. Seeing her decapitate an enemy was oddly refreshing. Why?

(more…)

batgirl

The LEGO Batman Movie: Death of a Police Commissioner, Birth of a Batgirl

(Spoilers below? Oh yeah.)

A few years back there was a Lego movie. It’s name escapes me right now. Anyway, the Lego movie was thought to promote collectivism and criticize capitalism. The makers of the Lego movie (whatever it was called) denied an anti-business agenda BUT… the bad guy in the film was named “Lord Business.”

Well, a few years have passed and now we have The Lego Batman Movie on our hands. Perhaps to bring a Ra’s al Ghul-ish balance to the cinematic Lego-verse, this film asserts a strong critique of police policies largely revealed through the Barbara Gordon character. Her shedding of the commissioner’s uniform (Don’t get excited, it’s a PG film) in favor of her Batgirl costume formalizes her abandonment of supposedly enlightened law enforcement policies.

In the first reel Police Commissioner Jim Gordon finds himself in a crisis: The Joker has assembled a huge bomb to blow the literal floor out from under Gotham City. Gordon does what the G.C.P.D. does best: Call BATMAN!

(more…)

Stasi-Hauptmann Gerd Wiesler (Ulrich M¸he) sitzt in dem Kinofilm "Das Leben der Anderen" auf dem Dachboden eines Hauses und belauscht die Vorg‰nge in der Wohnung die er beschattet. (undatierte Filmszene). "Das Leben der Anderen" ist am Dienstag (23.01.2007) in Los Angeles f¸r einen Oscar nominiert worden. Der Film ist einer von f¸nf Anw‰rtern in der Sparte nicht englischsprachiger Film. Die begehrtesten Filmpreise der Welt werden von der amerikanischen Filmkunst-Akademie in diesem Jahr am 25. Februar vergeben. Foto:  Buena Vista (ACHTUNG: Verwendung nur f¸r redaktionelle Zwecke im Zusammenhang mit der Berichterstattung ¸ber diesen Film!) +++(c) dpa - Report+++

“The Lives of Others” : A Warning Veiled in a Thriller

In the movie “The Lives of Others,” the STASI and oppression of the East German regime are revealed to the viewer through authoritarian techniques of surveillance and control prior to the fall of the Berlin Wall, the reunification of Germany and the collapse of communism in the region. Throughout this film, characters and scenes depict, in vivid detail, the attempts of the authoritarian East German government to instill unquestioning obedience and devotion to the state to ensure complete control. At face value, the baseline of the story seems heavy handed, but what the film truly draws is a tense thriller entwined with a morality play.

One especially powerful and telling scene is the planting of bugs at Dreyman’s house. After orders come from Minister Hempf to have continuous surveillance of Dreyman, Weisler and a team of STASI agents break into his house, plant equipment, and set up shop just upstairs in the loft of the building in order to watch, monitor, and record his every action.

(more…)

unforgiven

Unforgiven

By Stevie Wang

In 1880 in Big Whiskey, a small town in Wyoming, the local sheriff enforces a firearms ban, obtaining ruthless autonomy for himself and his associates across town. Having no serious threats to their authority, the sheriff and his associates are free to manipulate the law to their own self interests. The film starts off with such a case; a prostitute gets disfigured by two cowboys. The sheriff however, lets them off by having the cowboys compensate the brothel owner with horses much to the objection of the rest of the prostitutes. The prostitutes then hire outlaws from out of town to extract vengeful justice but they later clash with the sheriff when they come to Big Whiskey armed with revolvers and rifles.

The concept of having the ability to bear firearms and therefore owning the ultimate legitimacy in the law and order of a small community rings throughout “Unforgiven.” In a small town in the rural Western frontier where population is scarce, authority belongs to those who posses the means to defend themselves. In the case of Big Whiskey, only a select few in town have firearms which means they have authority by force. This would not be the case if at least a clear majority of town were armed. (more…)

hhw

Hell or High Water: a bank robbery film for those who’ve been screwed by the system (so all of us)

David Mackenzie’s Hell or High Water isn’t only a standout for great crime dramas to have come out this summer, but one with a message.

Set in West Texas, the movie follows two brothers, Tanner (Ben Foster) and Toby (Chris Pine), who conduct a slew of robberies in order to repay a family debt, all while being pursued by Texas Ranger Marcus Hamilton (Jeff Bridges).  What makes the brothers’ story so interesting is that they’re nowhere near the caliber of professional that Robert De Niro was in Heat.  They target smaller branch banks, located in rural towns, aiming for the loose cash behind the desks.  Their heists may be sloppy, but they brilliantly cover their tracks, burying the crappy getaway vehicles in the desert and laundering their cash at a nearby casino.

hell-or-high-water-posterSicario writer, Taylor Sheridan, has once again crafted a phenomenal script full of shootouts, getaways, and a cast of characters so likable; you’ll have trouble deciding whom to root for.  Toby is the cautious, more calculated of the two brothers, while Toby is more brash and unpredictable.  Their dynamic creates a dangerous, yet sometimes comedic duo.  On the other side of things, we have Jeff Bridges’ Marcus Hamilton, an aging, politically incorrect Texas Ranger who refuses to retire.

Following the death of their mother, Tanner and Toby’s family ranch faces foreclosure from the Texas Midland Bank.  After it’s discovered that there’s untapped oil on the property, the bank seemingly becomes more eager to acquire the property and gives the brothers a very tight deadline to deliver the cash.  As a result, the brothers target Texas Midland Banks during their crime spree to basically feed the snake its own tail.

(more…)

springboard

Review: Springboard: Launching Your Personal Search for Success by G. Richard Shell

51QIQGsKSCL._SX324_BO1,204,203,200_ 

Before he was an award-winning Wharton professor, Richard Shell was a lost young man. He had defied his father, a U.S. Marine Corps General, by deciding that a life in the military wasn’t for him. It was the Vietnam era and Shell turned in his draft card to become a pacifist. But now he was lost. His life was no longer narrated for him. After a few years wandering from job-to-job, he set out to travel the world with his life savings of $3,000. Traveling from monastery to hostel, in country after country, reading philosophy, doing drugs, and trying to “find himself,” he succeeded only in finding rock bottom. Not everyone can clearly identify the exact moment they hit the bottom, but professor Shell can. It was the day he contracted hepatitis and passed out on the side of a road in Kabul. He says, “Something shifted in my life. I had pushed myself to my psychological and physical limits and had ended up alone, filthy, sick, and no closer to finding my direction than I was a year earlier” (p. 5).

It would take Shell many years to finally find his true productive purpose: teaching. As a senior faculty member at Wharton School of Business, he created the popular course “The Literature of Success: Ethical and Historical Perspectives.” His book, Springboard: Launching Your Personal Search for Success, is a wonderful condensation of this course. It takes the reader through thousands of years of “success literature” (as he identifies the genre) from Plato and Aristotle down to Covey and Gladwell.

Springboard is broken into two parts, both designed to be a guide for the reader. The goal is to answer for oneself two big questions: What is success? How will I achieve it?

(more…)

amityville

From Page to Screen: The Amityville Horror

The Amityville Horror is a classic in the world of horror, both on the page and on the screen. After the ordeal the Lutz family went through their story made national headlines. It drew the attention of paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren, now famous because of the Conjuring and Conjuring 2, also based on cases they investigated. Within a year a book had been written (Jay Anson, 1977) that was an instant national best seller, and two years later the film (dir. Stuart Rosenberg, 1979) was released which quickly became the biggest indie hit to date. James Brolin was reading the book when some clothes that were hung on his closet door and scared him witless for a moment; at that point he said he knew there was something to this story. Clearly, it is a story worth the time to both read and watch, assuming you enjoy both claustrophobia and dread.

When is the house warming?
When is the house warming?

The movie is a very faithful adaptation of the book. From the grand incidents, like Jody, to the little incidents or details, like the missing money or the mirrors in the bedroom, the movie knows and respects the source material.

(more…)

maxresdefault

“Eye in the Sky” is Drone Warfare Movie You’ve Been Waiting For

Eye in the Sky PosterWhen I first saw the trailers for Gavin Hibbert’s Eye in the Sky I almost expected to be disappointed. A movie exploring the intricate ethics of drone warfare with enough big names that people might actually see it? Surely that was too good to be true.

I’m pleased to report Eye in the Sky actually lived up to its outstanding trailer. It had the drama and suspense that one expects from a war movie without relying on unoriginal tropes of the genre. It also shows how you don’t have to shove libertarian messages down your audience’s throats to still have a libertarian movie.

(more…)

superman-01

Despite Some Cool Moments, Batman v Superman a Disjointed Mess

First, the good news… Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice isn’t a total disaster.

Even as a moderate fan of Man of Steel, every new bit of overshare for this movie cranked out by the Warner Bros. marketing team over the last year caused my expectations to drop lower and lower to the point that even a passable film would be considered a success.

It’s an ambitious movie and there are a number of good parts, but to be perfectly blunt, I’m not sure it even met that bar.

batfleck-02
Good Batman. Better Bruce Wayne.

Some positives: Ben Affleck is an excellent Bruce Wayne and a pretty good Batman, and I think his character is (mostly) handled pretty well. He has the most fleshed-out motivation of any character in the film, though that isn’t saying much. The first scene in the film – which of course, you’ve already seen in the trailers – immerses us in Bruce Wayne’s perspective during Superman’s battle with Zod from the end of Man of Steel, and it is that point of view which shapes most of the film. It’s clear why he doesn’t like Superman, and when it comes down to their titular fight, Batman’s ability to hold his own and even defeat Superman is plausible, if largely cribbed from Frank Miller’s “The Dark Knight Returns, Pt II”. This film also contains one of the best Batman fight sequences ever made, so that’s a pretty big win.

wonderwoman-01
Wonder Woman ex machina.

Jeremy Irons is also excellent as Alfred Pennyworth, Gal Gadot is a strong choice as Wonder Woman, and Amy Adams continues to make a ballsy Lois Lane. Overall I think the performances and casting in this film are pretty solid. The problems with this film, much like with Man of Steel, really don’t come down to casting and I can genuinely say that I’m interested to see the upcoming solo films featuring Batman & Wonder Woman.

I’m probably in the minority here, but I even like Jesse Eisenberg’s largely unhinged take on Lex Luthor. Apart from the complete mystery that is his motivation for a lot of his specific actions, he is at the very least really good at being a villain.

(more…)