comedy

REVIEW: “The Last Halloween: Children” by Abby Howard

Halloween is right around the corner, which means now is the perfect time to find some new and interesting spooky tales. Some of my favorite spooky stories are those aimed at younger audiences. I love a good horror movie or novel, but so often those stories aimed at adults go into such extreme corners of horror that they just aren’t fun. This isn’t the case with horror stories aimed at younger audiences. These stories rely on creating scary atmospheres and balance their spooks with clever ideas and a sense of fun. This is exactly what the first book of Abby Howard’s webcomic, The Last Halloween, does. The Last Halloween is in the same vein as many classic spooky stories. It balances interesting and unique characters, scares, and a sense of adventure, spinning an atmospheric tale that is as addicting as it is fun. (4.5 out of 5 wands.)

(NOTE: I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher and Edelweiss in exchange for a fair review. All thoughts are my own. Additionally, there may be mild spoilers ahead.)

The Last Halloween: Children by Abby Howard
It’s a lonely Halloween night for ten-year-old Mona. While everyone else is out having a ghoulishly good time, she’s stuck inside without so much as a scary movie to watch. Just when she figures this evening can’t get much worse, a giant monster appears in her living room, proving her very, very wrong. Running for her life, Mona quickly sees that she’s not alone; trick-or-treating’s been canceled due to monster invasion! A barrier keeping billions of monsters at bay has broken and the horrific hordes have descended upon humanity, wreaking bloody havoc everywhere they stomp, slither, or squish. She may not be equipped for it, but it’s up to Mona to save the world with a team of fellow weirdos by her side. Perhaps they will succeed. Or perhaps this will be . . . The Last Halloween.

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REVIEW: “CODE 404” (Peacock Original)

I love a good sci-fi comedy. The melding of sci-fi concepts and comedy is often endlessly entertaining. However, there seems to be a general lack of sci-fi comedies on TV – especially in America. There are the occasional horror comedies and fantasy comedies but you don’t see many sci-fi comedies. This is where Peacock’s newest show, CODE 404 enters. A blend of traditional buddy cop comedies and entertaining sci-fi concepts, CODE 404 is an enjoyable, dryly funny show. Plus there’s a pretty fun mystery at the heart of the series. (4 out of 5 wands.)

(NOTE: There may be mild spoilers for Code 404 ahead. You have been warned.)

CODE 404 (created by Daniel Peak, Tom Miller, and Sam Myer)
DI John Major (Daniel Mays) and DI Roy Carver (Stephen Graham) are the best of the best at an elite undercover police team. When Major’s cover is blown and he is met with his untimely death, he is brought back to life with some glitchy AI technology. Now, he’s better than ever – or so he thinks.

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REVIEW: “An Act of God” (Play & Audio Drama) by David Javerbaum

an act of godI read this play, and the “memoir” it was based on, a few years ago, when the Sean Hayes production was making its way (back) to Broadway. It was a delightfully charming play; short, effective, hilarious. As is often the case when I read a good play, I found myself longing for it to be filmed and released in some manner – just so I could see and hear Sean Hayes reading this engaging dialogue. Imagine my surprise when, three years later, I heard Audible was going to turn it into one of their Audible Originals, bringing Sean Hayes back into the fold and finally recording this fantastic play so those who couldn’t make it to Broadway (or LA, where Hayes had previously done the show) could hear his take on it. And, I gotta say, it’s so nice getting to hear these words read aloud. (This review will cover both the script itself and the Audible adaptation.)

An Act of God (by David Javerbaum)
The One with the first and last word on everything has finally arrived to set the record straight. After many millennia, and in just 90 minutes, God (assisted by his devoted angels) answers some of the deepest questions that have plagued mankind since Creation.

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REVIEW: “Cryptofauna” by Patrick Canning

cryptofaunaWhile lots of great science fiction takes lots of effort to tell stories that take a magnifying glass to the worse parts of humanity, sometimes it’s just really nice to take a break from that and luxuriate in a really fun science fiction story. After all, who doesn’t love a good semi-comedic, super entertaining sci-fi romp? The correct answer is: no-one. All of the other reviews suggesting this book is a hybrid of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland are right on the money. Patrick Canning’s Cryptofauna proves to be a book that’s every bit as interesting as its cryptic title – and the cryptic game of the same name played by the novel’s characters. (Thanks to the author for providing a copy of the book in exchange for a fair review.)

Cryptofauna by Patrick Canning
Working as a janitor at an insane asylum in rural Idaho has Jim in the dumps. One night, his attempted suicide is rudely interrupted by one of the residents, and he’s recruited to play a game called Cryptofauna. The bizarre contest of worldwide mischief and meddling might actually help the blue custodian discover a reason to life, if he can survive the deadly trials that await…

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REVIEW: “Zombieland: Double Tap”

zombieland 2To say the first Zombieland film was a pretty solid horror-comedy feels like an understatement, but that’s what it was. At the time of its release, it felt groundbreaking as hell. Sure, it wasn’t the first comedic horror film (or even the first comedic zombie film), but it was one of the first films of its ilk to be as scary as it was funny. Audiences hadn’t really seen such a well-executed horror/meta-comedy since the days of the first Scream film and it hit pop culture with a splash before fading into obscurity. A sequel has long been requested, with the writers and director all saying they were working on one but didn’t want to make it until they felt they’d cracked the story. Well, it’s a full ten years after the release of the first film, and I guess they’ve cracked the story as Zombieland: Double Tap releases in theaters today. The two questions on everyone’s mind are: “is it good?” and “how does it compare to the first film?” Unfortunately, the answers to those questions aren’t too positive. (This review will be as spoiler-free as possible, but any elements that have been shown in trailers may be discussed.)

Zombieland: Double Tap (written by Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick, Dave Callaham; directed by Ruben Fleischer) 
A decade after Zombieland became a hit film and a cult classic, the lead cast (Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Abigail Breslin, and Emma Stone) have reunited with director Ruben Fleischer (Venom) and the original writers Rhett Reese & Paul Wernick (Deadpool) for Zombieland: Double Tap. In the sequel, written by Rhett Reese & Paul Wernick and Dave Callaham, through comic mayhem that stretches from the White House and through the heartland, these four slayers must face off against the many new kinds of zombies that have evolved since the first movie, as well as some new human survivors. But most of all, they have to face the growing pains of their own snarky, makeshift family.

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REVIEW: “Men in Black: International”

mib posterHere’s the thing about the Men in Black movies: none of them are really that good. None of them are bad, either, but they’re nothing particularly special. They’ve always been harmless summer blockbusters that were more concerned with being a comedic, visual treat than telling a particularly compelling story. The first three films always succeeded based on the chemistry of their stars – Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones. And that was okay. Men in Black never needed to be some pinnacle of storytelling; they were just these enjoyable action movies. All of that remains true for Men in Black: International, the latest sequel/reboot in the Men in Black franchise. The film features a pretty basic, predictable plot, some enjoyable jokes, some serviceable action, and largely succeeds based on the chemistry of its two stars – Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson. (Mild spoilers ahead.)

Men in Black: International (written by Art Macrum and Matt Holloway, directed by F. Gary Gray)
The Men in Black have always protected the Earth from the scum of the universe. In this new adventure, they tackle their biggest, most global threat to date: a mole in the Men in Black organization.

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REVIEW: “Dumbo” 2019

dumbo posterDisney just keeps remaking their animated movies, huh? It all could be traced back to 2010’s Alice in Wonderland – fittingly directed by Tim Burton, the same director helming this latest live-action remake. From there, Disney just kept on going down the proverbial rabbit hole with remakes. Their latest trip down said rabbit hole – one of no less than three live-action remakes due to be released theatrically this year (with a fourth expected to premiere on the Disney + streaming service by the end of the year), Dumbo is a live-action remake of the classic 1941 Disney cartoon of the same name. This time, helmed by director Tim Burton and screenwriter Ehren Kruger, Dumbo expands that fairly short animated film into a nearly two-hour long Tim Burton extravaganza. The problem is: nobody was really asking for a Dumbo remake. So, is it actually any good, or is it just another mediocre film from Disney, a company that seems to specialize in releasing mediocre films all throughout their various film studios? Answer: it’s the latter.

From Disney and visionary director Tim Burton, the all-new grand live-action adventure “Dumbo” expands on the beloved classic story where differences are celebrated, family is cherished and dreams take flight. Circus owner Max Medici (Danny DeVito) enlists former star Holt Farrier (Colin Farrell) and his children Milly (Nico Parker) and Joe (Finley Hobbins) to care for a newborn elephant whose oversized ears make him a laughingstock in an already struggling circus. But when they discover that Dumbo can fly, the circus makes an incredible comeback, attracting persuasive entrepreneur V.A. Vandevere (Michael Keaton), who recruits the peculiar pachyderm for his newest, larger-than-life entertainment venture, Dreamland. Dumbo soars to new heights alongside a charming and spectacular aerial artist, Colette Marchant (Eva Green), until Holt learns that beneath its shiny veneer, Dreamland is full of dark secrets.

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REVIEW: NBC’s “Abby’s”

Abby's - Season PilotI really enjoy the shows that Michael Schur produces. All of them manage to do this thing where the jokes aren’t coming at the expense of any of the characters, but rather comes at the expensive of whatever ridiculous thing they’ve just done. Any time I watch a Michael Schur show, I always leave the episode feeling happier – even if something sad has happened. That’s the joy of Michael Schur’s shows. So, when NBC announced that another show, produced by Schur, would be premiering, I was over the moon. Add in a starring role for Natalie Morales and I’m even more sold. Created by Josh Malmuth and executive produced by Michael Schur, Abby’s is a delightful throwback sitcom, filmed in front of a live audience on (mainly) a single set, that features great writing, even better characters, and a whole lot of laughs.

From Michael Schur and Josh Malmuth comes a hilarious new comedy about the best neighborhood bar in San Diego –– home to low prices, good company and, of course, Abby (Natalie Morales). This unlicensed, makeshift establishment in Abby’s backyard is the perfect gathering place for locals to find camaraderie and sanctuary. To maintain the perfect bar ecosystem, all patrons must abide by a specific set of rules. This includes no cell phones (not even to look something up), understanding that earning a seat at the bar takes time to rise through the hierarchy and knowing that losing a challenge may have some unpleasant and unpalatable drink-related repercussions.

As bar owner, Abby has found her true calling, hosting friends and newcomers alike. No nonsense, Abby is ex-military, having served two tours as a Staff Sergeant in the Marines. Her world is shaken when new landlord Bill (Nelson Franklin), who recently inherited the house from his deceased aunt, unexpectedly shows up citing all kinds of reasons why the whole venture is illegal. Newly divorced, he is a cautious worrier and definite non-risk-taker who eventually warms to the place and agrees to let the bar remain open, provided Abby makes some changes.

The cast of regulars also includes Fred (Neil Flynn), a fixture at the bar who is grateful for a place to enjoy a beer and conversation – and refuses to allow some bureaucratic busybody to disrupt his perfect refuge; Beth (Jessica Chaffin), a harried mom living next door who can escape the madness of her home life while still keeping an eye on things from her perch atop a bar stool; Rosie (Kimia Behpoornia), the bar manager who prides herself on having memorized all 162 rules and regulations; and James (Leonard Ouzts), the gentle scaredy-cat of a bouncer who crumbles in the face of confrontation.

As any regular patron of Abby’s will attest to, hanging out there is a coveted honor. And once you’re in, you’re family.

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REVIEW: “You Might Be The Killer”

You Might Be The KillerWho doesn’t love a good scary movie around Halloween? I’m a bit of a wuss, so I like my scary movies to not be too scary. I enjoy being spooked but not being scared so far out of my wits that it’s unpleasant. Because of that, it’s often hard for me to find good, new scary movies to watch since so many modern horror movies rely on jump scares that just make me anxious to a degree that’s entirely unenjoyable. Then along comes You Might Be The Killer, written by Brett Simmons, Thomas P. Vitale, and Covis Berzoyne and directed by Brett Simmons. Based on a viral twitter thread from authors Chuck Wendig and Sam SykesYou Might Be the Killer is a horror-comedy where Sam (Fran Kranz) finds himself trapped at a summer camp, being hunted by a masked killer, and calls his friend Chuck (Alyson Hannigan) for help.

A camp counselor suffering from blackouts finds himself surrounded by murder victims. He turns to his horror movie enthusiast friend for advice, and to contend with the idea he may be the killer.

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The Season Finale of “Trial & Error: Lady, Killer” is a Delightful Hour of TV Filled With Twists and Satisfying Answers (SPOILERS!)

Trial & Error: Lady, Killer - Season 2All good things must come to an end, and it’s a shame that it’s looking like this might be more than a season finale for Trial & Error. If this is the final ending for this great show, at least it’s a stellar one. Trial & Error: Lady, Killer is the second season of Trial & Error, a comedy mockumentary created by Jeff Astrof and Matt Miller, and follows lawyer Josh Segal (Nicholas D’Agosto) and his associates, Dwayne Reed (Steven Boyer) and Anne Flatch (Sherri Shepherd), as they defend someone from murder charges being brought about by Carol-Anne Keane (Jayma Mays). In these episodes, Josh is trying to prove that Jesse-Ray Beaumont (Michael Hitchcock) wasn’t responsible for the murder of Lavinia Peck-Foster’s (Kristen Chenoweth) brother, Chet, and that it was really Lavinia who was his murderer.

“A Big Break”: Josh and his team continue to find themselves at literal dead ends in their casework until they unearth game-changing evidence with the help of Jesse Ray Beaumont. Meanwhile, in court, Carol Anne tries to finish the case before she has the baby. (Written by Jeff Astrof and directed by Jeffrey Blitz)

“Barcelona”: As Jesse Ray Beaumont’s trial begins, the team struggles to keep him under control while they discover more of Lavinia’s secrets. Now that the baby is born and awaiting the DA election results, Carol Anne discovers who is the baby’s father. (Written by Jeff Astrof and directed by Jeffrey Blitz)

This review will contain spoilers for the season finale of Trial & Error. Read at your own risk…  (more…)