Author: Michael Cook

A theatre kid dabbling in the art of reviewing the things he reads, watches, listens to, and sees.

REVIEW: “Pokémon: Detective Pikachu”

detective pikachu - posterI’ll be totally honest – when I first heard that Warner Bros was making a live-action Pokémon movie based on some game that featured a talking Pikachu that moonlit as a detective, I was pretty skeptical. The subsequent announcement that Ryan Reynolds would be voicing the titular Detective Pikachu did intrigue me a bit, at least, but I still wasn’t sure such a thing could work. Then the first trailer hit and the CGI actually looked really good and the tone seemed to be a softer version of Reynolds’ Deadpool humor, so I was a lot closer to being sold on the idea. Having now seen the film, I can safely say that it’s exactly what you think a film with a talking Pikachu moonlighting as a detective and voiced by Ryan Reynolds would be: devilishly funny. But it’s also a pretty solid mystery and a really fun movie. (Mild spoilers follow)

Pokémon: Detective Pikachu (written and directed by Rob Letterman) 
The story begins when ace detective Harry Goodman goes mysteriously missing, prompting his 21-year-old son Tim (Justice Smith) to find out what happened. Aiding in the investigation is Harry’s former Pokémon partner, Detective Pikachu (Ryan Reynolds): a hilariously wise-cracking, adorable super-sleuth who is a puzzlement even to himself. Finding that they are uniquely equipped to communicate with one another, Tim and Pikachu join forces on a thrilling adventure to unravel the tangled mystery. Chasing clues together through the neon-lit streets of Ryme City – a sprawling, modern metropolis where humans and Pokémon live side by side in a hyper-realistic live-action world – they encounter a diverse cast of Pokémon characters and uncover a shocking plot that could destroy this peaceful co-existence and threaten the whole Pokémon universe.

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REVIEW: “The Dreaming, Volume 1: Pathways and Emanations” (The Sandman Universe)

the dreaming vol 1One of the most appealing parts of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series was that it was one of those rare long-running comic books that had a definitive end. It ran for a total of 75 issues and, for a while, that was it. Over the years, Gaiman had returned a few times to the universe in order to pen a short spin-off here or a short prequel comic there, but there had never really been anything major that expanded on the world of The Sandman – aside from Mike Carey’s equally long-running Lucifer series, spun off from the character’s few appearances in the main Sandman run. So, when it was announced that Gaiman would be teaming up with Vertigo to launch The Sandman Universe, a collection of four series inspired by and expanding upon the original Sandman run, I was a bit skeptical. Of the four titles that were revealed, there were two that interested me the most: Simon Spurrier’s The Dreaming and Dan Watters’ Lucifer. As The Dreaming was the first of the four books to launch, it’ll be the first of the four that I’ll cover here. In volume one of The Dreaming, Spurrier takes us back into the realm of the Dreaming where Daniel, the current Lord of Dreams, has disappeared just as things are going wrong. And it only gets crazier from there.

The Sandman Universe – The Dreaming, Volume 1: Pathways and Emanations 
Written by: Simon Spurrier, illustrated by: Bilquis Evely, colors by: Mat Lopes 
Lord Daniel’s absence triggers a series of crimes and calamities that consume the lives of those already tangled in his fate. Until he is found, his realm’s residents must protect its broken borders alone. But the most senior storytellers are tormented by invasive secrets, the warden Lucien is doubting his own mind, and beyond the gates, something horrific awaits with tooth and talon. Only Dora, the monstrous, finds opportunity in madness, stealing dreams for the highest bidder. But she has no idea how deep the danger lies. Meanwhile, in Daniel’s gallery, something new is growing…

Written by fan-favorite author Si Spurrier (Motherlands, Suicide Squad) with breathtaking art by standout artist Bilquis Evely (Batman, Wonder Woman). The first book in The Sandman Universe kicks off with fireworks as The Dreaming literally tears itself apart!

The Sandman Universe is a new series of books curated by Neil Gaiman for DC Vertigo. Conjuring epic storytelling and immersing readers into the evolving world of the Dreaming, The Sandman Universe begins anew with four new ongoing series, existing in a shared universe, building upon Gaiman’s New York Times best-selling series that lyrically weaved together stories of dreams and magic.

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REVIEW: “Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile”

EWSEAV_Vertical-Main_RGB_POSTMovies that dramatize the events of real crimes are always forced to walk a narrow tight-rope. They have to be careful not to gratuitously show too much of the real violence and potentially glorify real murders while also not focusing too much on the wrong aspects and showing too little of the crimes and accidentally make the real murderer too sympathetic/unfrightening. It’s a tight-rope that Netflix’s newest film, Extremely Wicked, Shocking Evil and Vile, is forced to walk – and it doesn’t do a great job. It’s admirable at how little Ted Bundy’s (Zac Efron) real violence is shown, but it also does a poor job at really showing how terrible he was, instead choosing to ostensibly focus on his relationship with Liz Kendall (Lily Collins). However, it doesn’t do a particularly good job at establishing their relationship and actually developing either of them as characters within the narrative of a film. Instead of feeling like an actual movie, Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile feels more like a Wikipedia article covering Bundy’s crimes and his various relationships. (Spoilers for the film follow!)

Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile (written by Michael Werwie and directed by Joe Berlinger)
Single mother Liz (Lily Collins) thinks she’s found the man of her dreams in Ted (Zac Efron). But their seemingly perfect life is turned upside down when Ted is arrested on suspected kidnapping charges, then linked to murders in multiple states. Adamant that he’s being framed, the former law student theatrically defends himself in America’s first nationally televised trial while Liz struggles to come to terms with the truth. Adapted from the nonfiction memoir by Elizabeth Kendall, EXTREMELY WICKED, SHOCKINGLY EVIL AND VILE recounts how she was manipulated for years by a seemingly adoring boyfriend, yet future death row inmate, Ted Bundy. Directed and produced by Oscar-nominated and Emmy-winning Joe Berlinger.

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REVIEW: “American Gods” S02E08 – Moon Shadow

American Gods Season 2 2019I honestly don’t know what I was expecting from this second season finale of American Gods but I can pretty confidently say it wasn’t this. And I mean that in the absolute best way humanly possible. The summary provided for the episode was just vague enough that all anybody really knew when going into this episode was that many of our characters would be reeling from the events that happened at the end of the previous episode and that Mr. World and New Media would launch some kind of attack on the nation at large. Aside from that, it was really anybody’s guess. There were certain things that could be inferred based on a basic knowledge of the novel and from events from earlier in the show’s history, but much of this finale was genuinely surprising and very satisfying. (Spoilers for the season 2 finale of American Gods, as well as the novel, follow!)

Episode 2×08: Moon Shadow (Written by Aditi Brennan Kapil and Jim Danger Gray, directed by Christopher J. Byrne)
In the aftermath of Sweeney’s (Pablo Schreiber) death, Wednesday (Ian McShane) has disappeared, and Shadow (Ricky Whittle) is tormented by the night’s events. Those that remain witness the power of New Media (Kahyun Kim) as she is unleashed, and the nation is enveloped in a state of panic brought on by Mr. World (Crispin Glover), who cunningly illustrates the power of fear and belief.

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REVIEW: “Avengers: Endgame” (Spoilers!)

avengers endgameI’m actually impressed at how much of a narrative mess this film is. Maybe I’m not the target audience for it. Maybe you have to really, really love the Marvel movies in order for this film to feel even a little bit satisfying on a narrative level. Or, maybe it’s just bad writing. This film is filled with so many out of character moments, lazy writing, and flagrant disregard for the twenty-some films that came before it. It’s convoluted, way too long, and ultimately disappointing, even if there are a few good moments. This review is going live on Saturday because it’s impossible to talk about this film without spoiling elements of it, so I wanted to give people a chance to see it first. With that said: WARNING: THERE WILL BE MAJOR SPOILERS FOR THE ENTIRETY OF THE FILM AHEAD. – because I’ve got some major problems with all of the movie.

Avengers: Endgame (written by: Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely; directed by: Anthony Russo and Joe Russo)
The grave course of events set in motion by Thanos that wiped out half the universe and fractured the Avengers ranks compels the remaining Avengers to take one final stand in Marvel Studios’ grand conclusion to twenty-two films, “Avengers: Endgame.”

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REVIEW: “American Gods” S02E07 – Treasure of the Sun

American Gods Season 2 2019I’m on record as not loving last season’s A Prayer for Mad Sweeney. It’s not that it was a bad episode or anything, but it was the penultimate episode of the season and, instead of focusing on setting up the finale in any meaningful way, it spent all of its time on a flashback sequence that was only tangentially connected to one of the characters. It was the story about how Mad Sweeney came to America – but the character didn’t actually appear in the flashbacks until the very end of the episode. Instead, it was basically thirty minutes of the story of Essie McGowan – an interesting story but the definition of padding out an episode. Had this not been the penultimate episode of the season, I might not have been as disappointed by it, but since it was, I really didn’t dig it. So, hearing that the penultimate episode of season two was going to be another one that primarily focused on Mad Sweeney’s backstory, I was a bit skeptical about it. I went in expecting it to be another episode full of padding that didn’t really set up the finale at all. Boy, I was wrong. This episode perfectly balances the flashbacks and the present-day scenes, making sure the flashbacks actually seem related to what’s happening in the present day scenes – and then using those present-day scenes to raise the stakes for the finale in surprising and exciting ways. (MAJOR spoilers follow)

Episode 2×07: Treasure of the Sun (Written by Heather Bellson, directed by Paco Cabezas)
In Cairo, Mr. Wednesday (Ian McShane) entrusts Shadow (Ricky Whittle) with the Gungnir spear. Mad Sweeney (Pablo Schreiber), plagued by the cries of Banshees, recalls his journey through the ages as he awaits his promised battle. Once again, he warns Shadow about Wednesday. Meanwhile, Laura (Emily Browning) receives sage advice from Mama-Ji (Sakina Jaffrey), and Bilquis (Yetide Badaki) finds an audience.

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REVIEW: “Hellboy” (2019)

HellboyI love the Guillermo del Toro Hellboy movies. Like, really love them. They’re so damn stylish and well made and well-acted. So, with that in mind, it was always gonna be hard for any Hellboy film not made by del Toro (or starring Ron Perlman as Hellboy) to truly succeed for me. That being said, I really didn’t except this remake of Hellboy to be so unenjoyable. It can’t seem to figure out what it is – it’s not really a new take on the character as it’s basically the same tone and look as the del Toro films but it’s not a continuation of those films, either. It’s not an origin story, but it kind of is one at the same time. It’s just a really big mess of a movie – and it’s a shame because there were some really good moments in the film.

Hellboy is back, and he’s on fire. From the pages of Mike Mignola’s seminal work, this action packed story sees the legendary half-demon superhero (David Harbour, “Stranger Things”) called to the English countryside to battle a trio of rampaging giants. There he discovers The Blood Queen, Nimue (Milla Jovovich, Resident Evil series), a resurrected ancient sorceress thirsting to avenge a past betrayal. Suddenly caught in a clash between the supernatural and the human, Hellboy is now hell-bent on stopping Nimue without triggering the end of the world.
(Written by Christopher Golden, Andrew Cosby, Mike Mignola; directed by Neil Marshall)

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REVIEW: “Pet Sematary” (2019)

pet semetaryStephen King adaptations are notoriously hit or miss. For every decent one (the It miniseries from the ’90s or the It movie from 2017), there are at least two bad ones (nearly every other Stephen King miniseries, The Dark Tower, and the Carrie remake from a few years ago). It seems that what often works for King in his prose work doesn’t work very well in visual mediums. And that, unfortunately, is the case for this remake of Pet Sematary. Based on his original novel, and the 1989 film of the same name, Pet Sematary is a perfect example of all the reasons a lot of Stephen King stories don’t work in film. The first half of the movie is dreadfully boring, filled with characters who go undeveloped and are uninteresting, leading to a climax that, while often scary, isn’t particularly dramatically satisfying because the film has never made you care for the characters. King’s novels do a better job at establishing the characters and making them likable as he threads the spookier elements into the story. This film tries to do that but ultimately fails. (Spoilers ahead!)

Pet Sematary (written by Jeff Buhler and Matt Greenberg; directed by Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer)
Based on the seminal horror novel by Stephen King, Pet Sematary follows Dr. Louis Creed (Jason Clarke), who, after relocating with his wife Rachel (Amy Seimetz) and their two young children from Boston to rural Maine, discovers a mysterious burial ground hidden deep in the woods near the family’s new home. When tragedy strikes, Louis turns to his unusual neighbor, Jud Crandall (John Lithgow), setting off a perilous chain reaction that unleashes an unfathomable evil with horrific consequences.

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REVIEW: “American Gods” S02E06 – Donar the Great

American Gods Season 2 2019The moment I heard that Rachel Talalay would be directing an episode of the second season of American Gods, I grew really excited. I loved Talalay’s work on Doctor Who during the Peter Capaldi years, so I was extremely excited to see how her style would be applied to the world of American Gods. I’m happy to report that this episode totally feels like an episode that’s directed by Rachel Talalay – and I mean that in the best possible way. She has a distinct style and it’s very much on display here – while still staying true to the style of American Gods as a series. Add to all of that the fact that much of this episode takes place in a 1930s burlesque run by Mr. Wednesday, himself, and you have an episode that’s equal parts delightful, deeply emotional, and visually sumptuous. (This review features spoilers!)

Episode 2×06: Donar the Great (Written by Adria Lang, Directed by Rachel Talalay)
Shadow (Ricky Whittle) and Mr. Wednesday (Ian McShane) seek out Dvalin (Jeremy Raymond) to repair the Gungnir spear. But before the dwarf is able to etch the runes of war, he requires a powerful artifact in exchange. On the journey, Wednesday tells Shadow the story of Donar the Great (Derek Theler). Meanwhile, Mr. World (Crispin Glover) and New Media (Kahyun Kim) harness the power of her worshippers to prepare for the coming storm.

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“Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” – Episode IX Teaser Trailer Review

rise of skywalker rey

After what feels like ages of anticipation, the title of Star Wars: Episode IX has been revealed as The Rise of Skywalker. Today was the first day of panels at this year’s Star Wars: Celebration and, naturally, the whole shindig kicked off with a panel for Episode IX, complete with J.J. Abrams, Kathleen Kennedy, Anthony Daniels, Billy Dee Williams, Oscar Isaac, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Joonas Suotamo, and Naomi Ackie, where Stephen Colbert asked the cast and crew a bunch of questions about the film that none of them could really answer. The closest thing to any real information we got is that 1) some time passes between the ending of The Last Jedi and the beginning of The Rise of Skywalker, 2) Naomi Ackie plays a character named Jannah, and 3) The whole gang would be going on an adventure together. The really good reveals didn’t come until the last few minutes of the panel when the teaser trailer was finally shown, revealing the title of the film at the end of the trailer.

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