REVIEW: “Release the Snyder Cut: The Crazy True Story Behind the Fight That Saved Zack Snyder’s Justice League” by Sean O’Connell

I’m a fan of creators having control over the things they create. Yes, to a degree, all art is a process of collaboration, whether it’s written or visual. But there’s nothing worse than seeing a creator either forced down an avenue they don’t want to explore or having their entire project taken out of their hands. The latter, it seems, is what happened with 2017’s Justice League movie. Full disclosure: I’m pretty neutral on Zack Snyder as a filmmaker—I’ve liked some of his films, and I’ve disliked some of his films. I’m also pretty neutral on the fandom that surrounds him—every fandom has positive and negative elements, and I think it’s disingenuous to paint any fandom based on its worst aspects. So, I don’t have any skin in the discourse that surrounds the Snyder Cut. What I do have, however, is an interest in the behind-the-scenes stories of films like Justice League. This interest is what brought me to Sean O’Connell’s Release the Snyder Cut. Going into it, I was hoping for a well-sourced examination into the making of the Justice League movie—what went wrong, how it went wrong, and how we got to a point where Snyder’s original cut could be made. Unfortunately, that’s not what the book is. Instead, O’Connell’s book reads as more of an extended blog post, briskly chronicling the history of the DCEU—from its earliest days with Man of Steel up until the disastrous theatrical release of Justice League and the subsequent fan-driven campaign to restore Snyder’s original cut. It’s fine, but there’s not much here that isn’t available elsewhere. (3 out of 5 wands.)

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book from Edelweiss. All thoughts are my own.

Release the Snyder Cut: The Crazy True Story Behind the Fight That Saved Zack Snyder’s Justice League by Sean O’Connell
Release the Snyder Cut is an entertaining, investigative, and emotional recap of 2017’s failed Justice League movie, followed closely by a breakdown of the exhaustive efforts by a dedicated fan base to unearth director Zack Snyder’s unfinished version. We’re currently in the golden age of superhero blockbusters. Movies like Black Panther, Wonder Woman, Joker, and Avengers: Endgame routinely break box office records and compete for Oscars. Yet, Zack Snyder’s 2017 behemoth Justice League—a veritable sure bet at the Hollywood casino—tanked miserably, and the behind-the-scenes reasons for the movie’s demise are fascinating. The true story behind Justice League’s failure is only half of the juicy narrative, though. Snyder—who left the project months before filming concluded—still fans the flames that surround the rumor of a “Snyder Cut” of the film. This allegedly is the version of the story he wanted to tell before the studio, Warner Bros., pulled him off of the project. Hence, the “Snyder Cut.” Pop-culture fans love a meaty mystery, and the controversy swirling around the lost Snyder Cut of Justice League has been captivating comic-book movie fans for years. Additionally, an army of passionate DC and Snyder fans are committed to getting the “Cut” released. They already have gone to incredible lengths to fight for the movie’s opening, and have found strength, support, and charitable goals in their global “family” of Snyder Cut supporters. Their stories are remarkable, and the book is just as much about the dedicated fans who make up the Snyder Cut movement as it is about the unreleased film. Their efforts finally paid off with the recent announcement that Snyder’s cut will be released in 2021 by Warner Bros. and HBO Max. Release the Snyder Cut tells the entire story.

(more…)

REVIEW: “The Department of Truth” Volume 1 – “The End of the World”

I love a good conspiracy theory. I’m not someone who believes in them, though. I just find them endlessly fascinating—especially as a storytelling device. With how often they’re used in serialized TV, it’s amazing that more comics don’t embrace conspiracies, given how serialized modern comics are. The Department of Truth, a new series from James Tynion IV and Martin Simmonds, dives headfirst into conspiracy territory, weaving a tale that is as captivating as it is surprising. The writing is a masterclass in world-building, character development, and mystery storytelling. The artwork is superb, being beautifully atmospheric without hindering the storytelling. All in all, it’s a must read. (4.5 out of 5 wands.)

(NOTE: This review features mild spoilers for the first five issues of The Department of Truth. Read at your own risk.)

The Department of Truth, volume 1: The End of the World
(written by James Tynion IV, illustrated by Martin Simmonds)
COLE TURNER has studied conspiracy theories all his life, but he isn’t prepared for what happens when he discovers that all of them are true, from the JFK Assassination to Flat Earth Theory and Reptilian Shapeshifters. One organization has been covering them up for generations. What is the deep, dark secret behind the Department of Truth?

(more…)

REVIEW: “American Gods” S03E06 – “Conscience of the King”

While last week’s episode of American Gods saw quite a lot of stuff happen, things slowed down some this week. In “Conscience of the King,” we finally get some answers about Wednesday (Ian McShane) and Demeter’s (Blythe Danner) past, Technical Boy (Bruce Langley) confronts Mr. World (Danny Trejo) about his endless glitching, Laura (Emily Browning) and Salim (Omid Abtahi) struggle to find Wednesday, and Shadow (Ricky Whittle) spends some quality time in Lakeside with Marguerite (Lela Loren) and her family. It’s a quieter episode, but one with a focus on the characters and their future. As usual, though, the show may have tried to cram a few too many things into its fifty-minute runtime. It’s a great episode, but some parts feel woefully underexplored. (4 out of 5 wands.)

(NOTE: This review contains spoilers for episode 3×06 of American Gods. Read at your own risk.)

American Gods S03E06: “Conscience of the King”
Written by: Aric Avelino
Directed by: Mark Tinker
Despite his past following him to Lakeside, Shadow (Ricky Whittle) makes himself at home and builds relationships with the town’s residents. Laura (Emily Browning) and Salim (Omid Abtahi) continue to hunt for Wednesday (Ian McShane), who attempts one final gambit to win over Demeter (Blythe Danner).

(more…)

Some Thoughts on the Godzilla/Kong “MonsterVerse” Thus Far

Godzilla and King Kong were two characters I knew of growing up but whose films I’d never seen. Everything I knew of them had been gleaned through cultural osmosis—I knew Godzilla was inspired by/related to the droppings of the atomic bombs in Japan, I knew that King Kong regularly climbed tall buildings with damsels in distress in hand, and I knew that both creatures tended to be defenders of humanity, fighting against other monsters. But that’s about it. Until recently, I’d never seen even a minute of any film that featured them—outside of the Mystery Science Theater 3000 episodes that riffed a couple of Godzilla films from the 1960s/1970s. So, with the imminent release of Godzilla vs Kong on HBO Max, I thought it might be time to look into Hollywood’s latest attempt to resurrect both of these franchises—this time, in a shared universe called the “MonsterVerse.” I didn’t really know what to expect or how good the movies would be, but I was excited to watch them. And, having seen the three that have been released, they’re as much of a mixed bag as I suspected. Some of them are very good, some of them are less good. But there’s clearly a lot of fun to be had in this universe. So, in that spirit, I’d like to share some brief thoughts on the three MonsterVerse films that have been released, followed by my hopes for Godzilla vs Kong.

(NOTE: There are full spoilers for Godzilla, Kong: Skull Island, and Godzilla: King of the Monsters. Read at your own risk.)

(more…)

REVIEW: “American Gods” S03E05 – “Sister Rising”

A lot happens in this week’s episode of American Gods. So much, in fact, that it feels like the episode is comprised of two different episodes that have been forced together. The first is the conclusion to the previous episode’s Bilquis (Yetide Basaki) arc; the second is a heist-themed episode seeing Shadow (Ricky Whittle) and Cordelia (Ashley Reyes) finding dirt on Hutchinson (Sebastian Spence), Demeter’s (Blythe Danner) conservator. The combination of these two storylines creates a tonally weird experience, with the first half of the episode being emotional and philosophical and the second half being more comedic. This doesn’t result in a bad episode, though, just a somewhat uneven one. Still, there’s a lot of exciting highs to be found here. (4 out of 5 wands.)

(NOTE: This review contains spoilers for episode 3×05 of American Gods. Read at your own risk.)

American Gods S03E05 – “Sister Rising”
Written by: Damian Kindler
Directed by: Nick Copus

Shadow (Ricky Whittle) explores notions of purpose, destiny and identity with a newly enlightened Bilquis (Yetide Badaki). Elsewhere, Technical Boy (Bruce Langley) struggles with an identity crisis of his own. In his efforts to free Demeter (Blythe Danner), Wednesday (Ian McShane) asks a reluctant Shadow to assist in a new con.

(more…)

REVIEW: “The Future is Yours” by Dan Frey

Have you ever read one of those books that immediately envelops your interest? One that just grabs your attention and holds it like a vice, daring you to put the book down? There’s nothing quite like reading a book like that. It’s a high that all readers chase as often as they can. Reading Dan Frey’s newest sci-fi techno-thriller, The Future is Yours, created just that experience for me. The Future is Yours is an epistolary novel and tells its story through writing found within the novel’s world (like emails, text messages, blog posts, transcripts of congressional hearings). As a result, it creates a reading experience unlike those found in prose-based novels. The Future is Yours is a face-paced, thrilling read that asks what might happen if humans could access information from the future and then thoroughly unpacks all the reasons why humans shouldn’t be allowed to do that. It’s a nuanced page-turner with fully-fleshed characters and a well-executed premise that’s well worth a read for all sci-fi fans. (4.5 out of 5 wands.)

NOTE: I received an ARC of this novel from NetGalley. All thoughts are my own. Additionally, this review is spoiler free.

For Ben Boyce and Adhi Chaudry, the answer is unequivocally yes. And they’re betting everything that you’ll say yes, too. Welcome to The Future: a computer that connects to the internet one year from now, so you can see who you’ll be dating, where you’ll be working, even whether or not you’ll be alive in the year to come. By forming a startup to deliver this revolutionary technology to the world, Ben and Adhi have made their wildest, most impossible dream a reality. Once Silicon Valley outsiders, they’re now its hottest commodity. 

The device can predict everything perfectly—from stock market spikes and sports scores to political scandals and corporate takeovers—allowing them to chase down success and fame while staying one step ahead of the competition. But the future their device foretells is not the bright one they imagined. Ambition. Greed. Jealousy. And, perhaps, an apocalypse. The question is . . . can they stop it?

Told through emails, texts, transcripts, and blog posts, this bleeding-edge tech thriller chronicles the costs of innovation and asks how far you’d go to protect the ones you love—even from themselves.

(more…)

REVIEW: “Street Gang: How We Got to Sesame Street” (Sundance Festival 2021)

Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

Like most Americans born after the 1960s, I grew up on Sesame Street. It was hugely influential on my early childhood development and I still have fond memories of it. It’s one of those shows that seems like it’s always been on. Obviously, there was a time before Sesame Street, but I can’t imagine what that was like. This is why Street Gang: How We Got to Sesame Street, a new documentary that premiered at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival, interested me so. How did this monumental show become what it is? Who was behind its creation and how did they pull it off? That’s exactly what Street Gang seeks to answer and it does so both informatively and stylistically. Street Gang: How We Got to Sesame Street is a beautiful, heartwarming documentary. While it doesn’t contain a whole lot of new information, it’s well worth a watch for all who grew up on Sesame Street. (4 out of 5 wands)

Street Gang: How We Got to Sesame Street
Directed by Marilyn Agrelo
“Can you tell me how to get, how to get to Sesame Street?” Based on Michael Davis’s best-selling book of the same name, Marilyn Agrelo’s film Street Gang explores how creator Joan Ganz Cooney, original series director Jon Stone, and legendary Muppets creator Jim Henson—among other key talents—joined forces to create a children’s television show that would become a groundbreaking cultural phenomenon. Recognizing that kids were utterly captivated by television, these visionaries set out to harness the power of the medium for good—to offer learning rather than products to children. More than 50 years later, the show reaches over 150 countries around the world, continuing to entertain while it educates.

Drawing on fantastic and funny behind-the-scenes footage and interviews with beloved cast members and crew, the film goes beyond the considerable nostalgic appeal of Sesame Street to tap into the enduring emotional resonance of the program’s core message of affirmation and inclusion—and the promise of preparing the next generation to imagine a better world for us all.

(more…)

REVIEW – “Star Wars: Into the Dark” by Claudia Gray (The High Republic)

It’s great that Disney is finally starting to expand the Star Wars universe past the confines of The Skywalker Saga and the time frame it’s set in. I’ve always believed the Star Wars universe was one rife for exploration, and what better way of exploring new aspects of it than with a big, multimedia event? That’s exactly what Disney and Lucasfilm are doing with The High Republic, a multi-media publishing event spanning novels and comics. Set some 200 years before The Phantom Menace, The High Republic looks to explore a new corner of the galaxy’s history—and that’s exhilarating. While the first few titles of this event came out last month, I haven’t read any of them. Instead, I wanted to start my High Republic journey with Claudia Gray’s entry—the YA novel, Into the Dark. Gray is one of my favorite Star Wars authors and the book’s synopsis had a very claustrophobic Alien vibe. So, I was pretty excited to read it. And, having read it, it lives up to my expectations. Star Wars: Into the Dark is an exhilarating, character-driven story that deftly explores this new era. It’s a quick-paced, satisfying read, and I’m eager for more. (4.5 out of 5 wands.)

NOTE: I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are mine. Additionally, this review will be as spoiler free as possible.

Star Wars: Into the Dark (The High Republic) by Claudia Gray
Padawan Reath Silas is being sent from the cosmopolitan galactic capital of Coruscant to the undeveloped frontier—and he couldn’t be less happy about it. He’d rather stay at the Jedi Temple, studying the archives. But when the ship he’s traveling on is knocked out of hyperspace in a galactic-wide disaster, Reath finds himself at the center of the action. The Jedi and their traveling companions find refuge on what appears to be an abandoned space station. But then strange things start happening, leading the Jedi to investigate the truth behind the mysterious station, a truth that could end in tragedy…

(more…)

REVIEW: “American Gods” S03E04 – “The Unseen”

Last week’s episode may not have been my favorite episodes of American Gods, but this week’s episode is a marked improvement. “The Unseen” shows American Gods firing on all cylinders. The plot continues to progress, most of the characters are given something meaty and entertaining to play with, and, best of all, the episode manages to balance all of these elements perfectly. Almost every complaint I’ve had for the past few episodes is addressed here, and I can’t say enough positive things about this week’s episode. With any luck, there’ll be more episodes like this one in the future. (4.5 out of 5 wands.)

NOTE: This review contains spoilers for American Gods S03E04. Read at your own risk.

American Gods S03E04 – “The Unseen”
Written by: Nick Gillie, directed by: Eva Sørhaug
Shadow (Ricky Whittle) and Technical Boy (Bruce Langley) team up to search for Bilquis (Yetide Badaki), who finds herself captive and in the midst of a crisis of identity. While visiting the local chapter of notorious biker gang Lords of Valhalla, Wednesday (Ian McShane) runs into a familiar face, which puts him in great peril. In purgatory, Laura (Emily Browning) learns about her own destiny and the powerful enemies determined to prevent her from fulfilling it.

(more…)

REVIEW: SyFy’s “Resident Alien” Never Manages to Take Off

Who doesn’t love a good fish out of water comedy? There’s just so much joy to be mined out of watching a character from one environment have to navigate the ins and the outs of a totally new and alien environment. This trope is especially successful in sci-fi settings, where either a human has to adapt to an alien culture or vice versa. It’s this trope that first attracted me to SyFy’s Resident Alien, a TV adaptation of the Dark Horse Comics series of the same name. Here, Alan Tudyk plays an alien who’s crash-landed in a small Colorado town and is forced to blend in with the local townsfolk as a quirky doctor, Harry Vanderspeigle, while searching for the remnants of his ship and the device he intends to use to destroy the world. It’s one of those premises that seems destined to become a classic sci-fi fish out of water story. Unfortunately, Resident Alien never quite manages to take off in its first seven episodes. It’s not a bad show, just a wildly uneven one. Its plot is unfocused, it struggles to balance its comedy with its drama, and many of the characters feel underdeveloped, at best, and paper thin and annoying, at worst. There’s plenty of potential here, but there’s a lot of work to be done before this show is as good as its premise is. (3 out of 5 wands.)

NOTE: This review is based off of the first seven episodes. It will be as spoiler free as possible.

Resident Alien (created by Chris Sheridan)
Based on the Dark Horse comic, SYFY’s RESIDENT ALIEN follows Harry, an alien played by Alan Tudyk that crash lands on Earth and passes himself off as a small-town human doctor. Arriving with a secret mission to kill all humans, Harry starts off living a simple life… but things get a bit rocky when he’s roped into solving a local murder and realizes he needs to assimilate into his new world. As he does so, he begins to wrestle with the moral dilemma of his mission and asking the big life questions like: “Are human beings worth saving?” and “Why do they fold their pizza before eating it?”

(more…)