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7 articles


"Houdini" Pulls Off A Not Terribly Ambitious Trick

24 November 2014 9:20 AM, PST

Fear is how I know I'm alive.

The History Channel miniseries Houdini (2014) begins with a F for Fake (1973)-like challenge. Some of this is true, some of this is false and "I defy you" to tell the difference. While this is artistically appealing, it would be nice if a biopic about a very famous person I know very little about was entirely factual where possible. That said, for a History Channel miniseries--an institution that is slowly fading from WWII/Civil War-only self-parody to Anything-But-History-Channel self-parody--this is about as strong as you could hope. It stars Adrien Brody, an actual actor, is visually well-produced, and boasts a mostly unoffensive script while the musical choices are disappointing. The result is something like Chaplin (1992) as directed by Tony Scott.

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- Jason Ratigan

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Cartoon Network Brings You A Pretty Weird, Off-Kilter Christmas

24 November 2014 3:29 AM, PST

Dude, what are we watching?

Cartoon Network has strung together another Ignorant Grandma offering, relying on this poor minority for any semblance of profitability. Who else would spend $9--when this review was written, at least--for 45 minutes of three Christmas (or Christmas-adjacent) episodes from three different oddball cartoons? Perhaps the promise of two utterly random additions in the form of "Bonus Episodes" will bring the value. The best that can be said for the Cartoon Network Holiday Collection--should I call it "Vol. I"?--is that it provides a taster for some of the more popular Cn programs.

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- Jason Ratigan

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"Throwdown" Takes Your Patience To The Mat

23 November 2014 10:32 PM, PST

One could say don’t bother, but you probably weren’t going to anyway. From director Timothy Woodward, Jr, who has five films in post-production, which should tell you something about the care he’s putting into each project he helms, comes the graveyard where subpar actors go to die. Or, get small paychecks to phone it in. Same difference. Someone’s got family money, because Woodward leads the cast, with affordable has-beens Vinnie Jones and Mischa Barton flanking him, which should also tell you a good deal. Supporting duties also fall to prolific schlock star Danny Trejo and Death Race 2 and 3’s superstar, Luke Goss. If your expectations are where they should be by now, then you may be able to stomach Throwdown.

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- Kyle North

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Is There "Life After Beth"?

23 November 2014 8:55 PM, PST

Did you miss me?

Ending a relationship can be very difficult. One way is to say "let's just be friends", never contact them again, and avoid places you know or fear they'll be. A better way is for one party to die in a strange hiking accident when you are elsewhere in the presence of trustworthy characters. The only downside to this plan is that they might come back to life and those problems you used to have keep reappearing while new ones bubble up to the surface like her new-found penchant for eating human flesh. Sure she's cute and you have all that history, but you need to know what's best for you and the rest of humanity. Sometimes things aren't better left undead.

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- Jason Ratigan

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"Happy Christmas" Would Be A Lot Happier With A Decent Budget

23 November 2014 8:07 PM, PST

Can you say trouble?

Happy Christmas (2014), from Joe Swanberg, reminds me that reality television is ill-named. The contestants, freaks, or whatever we choose to name the poorly paid subjects of public ridicule that grace our formerly-decent cable channels fail utterly in delivering their "reality". They know they are being watched and so put up their guard, or what they think is their guard, and portray only a part of their (often broken) personality. One cannot relate to this character because the very nature of the defensive lunatic is to deny affinity with the persecution complex on display. One can only empathize for an actor who feels safe enough--probably using their own denial mechanism to think the play is fictional--to let loose the damaged crazy inside who is hideous and unlikable possibly with an eye towards awards. In Happy Christmas, Anna Kendrick plays a character that we all know in whole or in part. »

- Jason Ratigan

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"Low Winter Sun" Didn't Shine Bright Enough

23 November 2014 6:03 PM, PST

It’s funny to call Low Winter Sun an “AMC original series,” when it was adapted from the British miniseries that ran seven years earlier. Semantics aside, go-to villain Mark Strong returns to his gritty antihero, Detective Frank Agnew. The action now unfolds in the impoverished underbelly of Detroit, ruthlessly depicting a city on its knees and the corruption that has infiltrated every facet of the urban landscape. Tragically, even with a solid cast of known faces, the show never quite found its audience and was canned after the first season. The disappointed fan will have to make due with the scant 10-episode bundle that constitutes “The Complete Series.”

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- Kyle North

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"Whitewash" Leaves Logic In The Cold

23 November 2014 5:14 PM, PST

Come on, what's with all these f***ing branches!

Canada looks cold. Like really cold. Since it's already pretty cold in the apartment, watching Whitewash (2014) made it feel even colder. Bruce (Thomas Haden Church) drives a snowplow in the Great White North and it's a blizzard. For some reason, a man (Vincent Hoss-Desmarais) is in this blizzard without his coat on, walking down the ill-lit streets. The plow comes down the street, but the man doesn't get out of the way and is killed instantly. Bruce picks up the body, puts him on the plow, and buries him under the snow miles from the scene. In fear, Bruce drives the little plow through the woods, drinking himself senseless and wakes up with a disabled plow and a serious hangover. Why didn't he call the police? Who was that guy? Why is Bruce so stupid with his resources? We get answers to some of those questions. »

- Jason Ratigan

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