REVIEW: “American Gods” S03E10 – “Tears of the Wrath-Bearing Tree”

And with that, another season of American Gods comes to a close. Tonight’s episode caps off what’s been the most consistent season of American Gods so far—and what an episode it is. If last week’s episode felt more like a traditional season finale, then this week’s episode acts as a beautiful coda to the season, bringing many of the character arcs to a conclusion while throwing the narrative door wide open for the show to go in any number of directions. It raises more questions than it answers, but that doesn’t make it any less entertaining. It straddles a nice line between faithfulness to the book and faithfulness to what the TV adaptation has become and I feel it works very well—even if there are some developments I’m not entirely sold on just yet. (4.5 out of 5 wands.) 

NOTE: This review features spoilers for episode 3×10 of American Gods. Read at your own risk.

American Gods: Episode 3×10: “Tears of the Wrath-Bearing Tree”
Written by: Laura Pusey and Ryan Spencer
Directed by: Russell Lee Fine

Teetering on the edge of war and peace, the gods gather to mourn a loss. Bilquis’ divine journey brings her to an unexpected revelation, while Shadow finally embraces a destiny that could bring him either greatness or death.

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REVIEW: “Zack Snyder’s Justice League” (The Snyder Cut)

Three and a half years after the release of the maligned theatrical cut of Justice League, Zack Snyder’s original cut of the film is almost here. It’s been a long time coming but thanks to the support of many fans and the desperation of a streaming service in need of new content, the world can finally see Snyder’s full take on the Justice League. The biggest question on everyone’s minds is whether this new cut is better than the theatrical cut. The answer is both simple and complicated. In many, if not most, ways, Zack Snyder’s Justice League is miles better than the theatrical cut. However, even with all the extra content and context, this new cut provides, several of the theatrical cut’s problems remain. And they’re joined by some new problems exclusive to this version. It’s not a bad movie or anything—it often borders on being a good one. But it’s a too-long film that suffers from bad pacing, a lack of focus, and characters that still feel more like archetypes than three-dimensional people. Long story short, it’ll please those who adore Snyder’s movies, annoy those who hate them, and leave the rest of us in a middle ground of partial pleasure and partial displeasure. (3.5 out of 5 wands.) 

NOTE: This review will generally be spoiler free. There may be references to plot points that are shared between both cuts of the film, but most of the newer stuff will be hinted at instead of spoiled.

Zack Snyder’s Justice League
(written by Zack Snyder and Chris Terrio; directed by Zack Snyder)
Batman (Ben Affleck) and Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) enlist a team capable of protecting the world from the impending threat of Steppenwolf (Ciarán Hinds) and his Parademon army, who are scouring the universe for three hidden Mother Boxes that would enable Steppenwolf to transcend worlds, lay waste to all enemies, and restore his good standing with his master, Darkseid (Ray Porter). Though most of Batman and Wonder Woman’s initial efforts are met with resistance, they ultimately recruit Aquaman (Jason Momoa), Cyborg (Ray Fisher), and The Flash (Ezra Miller). But in order to help preserve the future of mankind, first they must each overcome their own demons.

After Steppenwolf secures two of the boxes buried deep within Themyscira and Atlantis, the superheroes are forced to take advantage of Cyborg’s unique connection to the one remaining. Harnessing the box’s capabilities to resurrect a final team member (Henry Cavill), they inadvertently provide Steppenwolf with an opportunity to obtain it – setting him up for imminent domination. With DeSaad and Darkseid waiting in the wings and posing catastrophic threats of their own, can this unique band of heroes dismantle the Mother Boxes before Steppenwolf’s synchronization is complete?

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REVIEW: “American Gods” S03E09 – “The Lake Effect”

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve reviewed an American Gods episode—but that’s not because they’ve been bad. Episode seven felt the victim of quick edits (which were needed to remove Marilyn Manson from the episode) but largely served as setup (albeit good setup) for the rest of the season. Episode eight was extremely beautiful when it focused on Salim’s plotline, but then the stuff with Tyr, Wednesday, and Shadow felt a bit under-baked. The same remains true for this week’s episode. On the surface, it feels a lot like a season finale, wrapping up many of the season’s ongoing plotlines while setting up future ones. But it also reveals one of the season’s biggest problems: in its effort to juggle so many plotlines, it’s forgotten which ones are more important and needed more focus, resulting in a moment that should’ve been a big, explosive reveal landing with more of a thud. Still, most of the episode works very well. (4 out of 5 wands.)

NOTE: This review contains spoilers for episode 3×09. Read at your own risk.

American Gods 3×09: “The Lake Effect”
Written by: Laura Pusey and Damian Kindler
Directed by: Metin Hüseyin

Shadow has to decide the price he’s willing to pay for his idyllic Lakeside life. As Laura and her new ally close in on her target, Wednesday has to persuade Czernobog that it’s time to make peace with their enemies.

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Was the “WandaVision” finale disappointing?

On the whole, I was pleasantly surprised by WandaVision. Of all the Disney+ MCU shows, WandaVision was the one that seemed most interesting. But I never expected to like it as much as I did. Was it perfect? No, but it took a lot longer for it to devolve into the more typical MCU fare than I’d expected. And, underneath all of that guff, was a compelling and moving story about grief—the kind of character-driven narrative that the MCU films aren’t equipped to deliver. For me, the character work balances out any problems I had with the show’s overarching narrative, but others seem to disagree quite heartily. The question of the week appears to be: was the WandaVision finale disappointing? For me, the answer is both yes and no. Allow me to explain.

NOTE: Full spoilers for the entirety of WandaVision’s first season.

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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.

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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?

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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).

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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.)

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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.

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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.

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