Well you blew it! Summer is over and it's all your fault. Thankfully we have some embers of the dying ages to keep us warm as the pall of fall descends upon us. Enjoy some seasonal reviews from Cyano Crits!
DC casts a twink instead of a chin in this emo take on the origins of the caped crusader.
Most of The Batman’s heavy lifting is already done once you’ve seen the trailer. Nirvana’s “Something In The Way” has cooked up a moody gothic roast and we just need to sit and chow down. Director Matt Reeves completes his Felicity to Batman hero’s journey with this film, with the clear intention to humanize Batman by using the more vulnerable beginnings of his vigilante career. The public’s weariness of actual origin stories necessitates that we skip the first few nights (or movie, as it were), but we arrive while The Batman is still figuring out how to do the job.
The bat themed equipment and combat style still follows the blueprint laid out by Nolan (now coming up on decades ago), but the casting of Pattison is a remarkable difference. The first time he takes off that mask we see the dark shadows of his concealing makeup still scarring his face. Rather than slipping on his deceptive Bruce Wayne skin as Bale did, or making Bruce Wayne an aloof sarcastic observer like Conroy and Keaton, Pattison’s Bruce Wayne is an actual person who exists and is connected to the man who dresses up and runs around at night. The fact that Pattison’s Wayne is so obviously and intimately carrying the rage and sorrow that makes him put on the costume is enough to power the entire movie, even keeping momentum up through somewhat pedestrian antagonists and a mostly pointless romantic dalliance. Pattison is game for this too. I’m not sure I like most of the casting, but Batman gets motivations and internal conflicts here at the largest scale we’ve seen yet for the character. The character warrants it, as the kind of person that runs straight into the burning building is probably a little damaged. The Batman shows how the need for vengeance and control has cavitated even a man with every advantage, and how only genuine connection can start to heal such a wound.
Riddler is basically Joker-Light, down to the crowd funded ending set piece; nothing he did actually required Batman to solve anything, a probable casualty of the Nolanverse realism aesthetic
Why even use Colin Farrell if you put monster makeup on to make him look like a completely different person?
Catwoman is not convincingly embroidered into this story, even though the actress does a fine job of that government mandated sexy boss bitch mixture her plot is mostly superfluous.
Interesting melding of Hush, Year 1, and the Nolanverse, from the writing side
Pattinson does work as a more unstable, damaged Batman…the other Waynes were never convincing as people and this one seems vulnerable even in the suit
Feels weirdly small scale for a Batman film, but is more complex thematically then most of them are, down to the transition from punisher to rescuer
If they keep stripping down Batman he might seem like a real person one day
Army of Darkness
Sam Raimi gets a budget for the first time and uses it to cap his zany Evil Dead trilogy with whatever he can imagine
Raimi’s first, the horror film Evil Dead, remains one of the most shocking visions of what is possible on film despite being made with a budget of one ham sandwich in some random cabin in the woods. The series is still rippling through the media landscape to this day, with Ash joining video games left and right and Raimi just finishing up another comic/horror Marvel film. But the rise of Raimi by the Evil Dead trilogy is not as straightforward as it seems - Evil Dead was a no nonsense misery horror film, hard to watch with screams that go on for literal minutes. The guy who made this was never getting into Hollywood. Suddenly,Raimi switched gears. Evil Dead 2 was a kind of monied remake (2 ham sandwiches) but Raimi decided to go wild with it, retelling some of the story of the first one but also throwing in chainsaw hands and a massive tonal shift with quips aplenty. Turning the dial to camp made it a very different movie despite the same things happening in the same location. The third film, Army of Darkness, is the logical extension of that camp switch being turned ever higher. Finally leaving the cabin, Ash is thrown backward in time into a medieval Harryhausen film, with undead monsters, evil books, and skeletons out the yin yang. If it wasn’t for Bruce Campbell’s giant chin, there would really be no way to know these films were all related, although those who were following would instantly recognize the chainsaw and the Necronomicon book.
It is difficult to overstate how important this film was to nerd culture. It was filled with secret passwords (“THIS IS MY BOOMSTICK”) and defined the attitude of cult cool for decades. Which is kind of funny because this movie is mostly slapstick, with the dramatic juxtaposition of a quipping jerkoff asshole against a horror-tinged special effects army. Does this sound familiar? Raimi got this formula off the ground, got it flying to 100 million dollar altitude with Spiderman, and then Marvel built it into a factory and turns out 5 versions a year to rake in a couple billion. Watching from the present, it’s amazing how tired this mixture has gotten. The effects based monsters, the dour but nothing much villains, the reluctant protagonists, the rampant sarcasm, and the whole world/history itself/universe always at stake. It’s wrong to hold that against Army of Darkness, the first to walk this path. It got the formula right and even now is inventive and surprising. Ash’s battle with the mirror, the buckets of blood out of the pit, the gnarly trial of the biting books, all stand the test of time. It’s just the tired climax, a given in any action film now, which has become weathered and stripped by misuse.
This feels way worse now than it did as a kid, when the action quips and horror had a special synergy - this is no fault of Raimi’s but instead the effect of his work being thoroughly co-opted by the blockbuster machine
We’ve gone full circle from Evil Dead, one of the most intense horror films ever made, to a skeleton yelling out like in vaudeville before getting crushed by a pile of rocks. Maybe it’s my taste but I think the film ranking is 1 -2 - Army.
Raimi brought such a fresh energy to the mythos with Evil Dead 2 going bananas on itself, but his medieval times feels more like showmanship, like he’s practicing for the blockbusters to come
Bruce Campbell is great, no complaints there. The perfect mix of dumb and cocky
All of the Harryhausen-like stop motion work is as great as its inspiration
Probably the king of quotable movies. Hail to the king, baby.
Ray Bradbury is in this movie
The strikingly imaginative predecessor of most wise cracking action horror fantasies, and frankly most blockbusters today
The sequel to the Italian Stallion’s incredibly resonant underdog story in which they once again Rocky
Rocky is the story of a Philly neighborhood tough who makes good by accepting a challenge from Apollo Creed and going the distance against a pro boxer. Rocky 2 is the story of a Philly neighborhood tough who makes good by accepting a challenge from Apollo Creed and going the distance against a pro boxer. Now there are some differences of course. This one was directed by Stallone himself, and certain details of the film arose out of production difficulties; he goes Southpaw due to an injury and Adrian watches the fight from home due to scheduling conflicts, etc. Another change is Stallone futzs with the (perfect, resonant) ending of the first film, creating a more mythological story for himself. There’s a little extra spice thrown in with a baby on the way, an eye nerve that might tear and leave Rocky blind, and a first half that is more about his reluctance to fight than his training. Despite these slight differences though, we pretty much get Rocky Again except worse in every way. A crowd excitedly runs up the stairs with Rocky this time, a parade of self love, the amusement park version of the real story.
Wow this feels unnecessary…it's literally a retread except with a new context
His wife faints from the pressure and stress of having to manage this household and if her dumb husband cashes in again he might go blind, but she finally just fucking gives up trying to stop him from a hospital bed…is this heartwarming?
The fight itself is a messy affair, lots of punches traded with hands down, not a very cinematic or interesting climax
His eye problem is forgotten after hanging over the movie for the middle
Apollo is just dumped on in this movie - a childish loser, he gets his comeuppance like this is a Grimm’s fairy tale story.
Okay okay, Stallone and the motley crew of supporters are fun to hang around again, just to hear the weird way they phrase things in that Philly dialect
Competently made and short, if the idea is just to have another fun boxing movie then they did okay. Feels almost like a TV episode in some ways.
You can’t have Rocky 4 without Rocky 2 so here we are.
Double Dragon 1 NES
One of the first hugely successful side scrolling beat-em-ups that defined almost 3 generations of video games
Double Dragon’s successful NES port loomed large in the minds of gamers, despite a successful playthrough taking only about 20 minutes. That’s because there was really no way to beat it without training for hours and hours first. It is the exemplar of quarter eater design (itself a port of the arcade quarter eater), with 2 lives, basically non refillable health, and cheap hits galore via unavoidable attrition. The final level even has randolym patterned wall tiles that strike you as you walk, almost like the developer is trying to shove you backwards. Still, the meat of the gameplay is fun, a two button brawler in 2.5d where certain movement and button combinations give you new moves. There’s even a form of experience points which unlock new devastating moves, culminating in a very small weird back elbow that kills everything. You often are punching and kicking your way while trading blow for blow,, as your opponents often have the same moveset and measly range as you. Over time you learn how to bait the enemy thugs into your strikes and preserve your measly 2 lives as long as you can. The flow of precise positioning, long range pokes, and then diving for the devastating combo strongly reminds me of fighting games, with these mechanics appearing here 3 years before they are finally formalized in Street Fighter 2. Double Dragon’s lust for quarters (or, on the NES, artificial playtime extension) keeps it from being as iconic as SF2 or other famous NES games, but it’s a prototype with interesting ideas that still is pretty fun to play.
Story is that unique kind of nonsense where it’s clear they thought about it exactly as long as it took to write the manual blurb…Why is the bad guy your brother?
The last few levels are just filled with nonsense fuck you instakill traps in a game with no way to gain lives…you just are supposed to learn by replaying the entire game 100 times
Evolutionarily speaking, it’s kind of an interesting twist on zelda; super well modeled 2.5 environments and they even adds in combos and special moves prototypical of fighting games
Cute colorful little munchkin sprites
While hugely important in the evolution of sidescrollers, they didn’t quite captured something timeless here
A gravity puzzler take on Contra, Rochard is another of those low fi indie games from the first boom but with a fully voice acted story
Game engine and Unity were two dev software packages that defined much of the 2010’s indie boom. In some cases, sublime art made the engine unrecognizable. In other cases, we got a flood of untextured Pixar-adjacent looking sidescrollers like Rochard. This is a game very much lost to time, like the developer itself - as a result of its bankruptcy you can’t even buy it anymore. Given that there’s no chance of you playing it (or remembering it if you did) what do I say about this funny little game and its genuine but limited effort at a good time? Here’s one thing about Rochard - it’s free wheeling approach to gravity puzzles and Contra blasting is very much crafted by devs in a discovery mode, kind of like how FPS games on PS2 had so many crazy control schemes. Now the indie field has become completely overrun with genre conventions, and if you don’t look as good as Shovel Knight you might as well file bankruptcy week 1.
Rochard memorializes a time in the indie explosion when anyone and anything could enter into the conversation. This game has surprisingly good voice acting and its space trucker cum xenobiologist plot has an interesting Native American twist, a rarity in games, and the gravity mechanic puzzles have occasional flashes of creativity. What ideas did we take forward from the boom and what ideas did we leave behind? Rochard truly seems like it was a labor of love, with impressively large levels built by a small amount of people, but it’s eventually too sparse and awkward to transcend its limitations. The game itself is not really worth remembering but the moment of the populist indie explosion is.
The gravity puzzling is very much of the fiddle until it works variety. I don’t recall a single aha moment
The Contra combat is decent but does not evolve at all
Like many Unity games from the era, Rochard looks flat and ugly
The voice acting is actually quite good, I found it engaging
Moves along swiftly and doesn’t outstay its welcome
There’s entertainment to be had but Rochard is wall to wall mediocrity and its moment has aged out
The second sequel to the most famous anime ever made, except no one ever talks about it for some reason…
Dragon Ball itself is a reimagining of one of the most famous Asian stories of all time, the 16th century fantasy novel Journey to the West. Most of the fantastical whimsy of Toriyama’s first outing with the young preternaturally strong Goku can be traced back to those roots. Goku grows up eventually though and finds out in the Dragon Ball sequel series he’s an alien, a cast member in some galactic drama that will eventually require him to be the vanguard of the entire universe a few times. It gets pretty dramatic. Afterwards, in 1996, the author Toriyama takes a break and someone gets the idea that they want to return things back to Dragon Ball’s formula.
Now you could come up with new characters and dynamically evolve the show, but instead these lazy bastards just get about de-aging Goku to a kid in the first episode of GT and sending him on a galactic Dragon Ball hunt “Adventure” with some other whiny children. In tow, his granddaughter Pan who somehow slides for 60 episodes with no character development, and godson Trunks, a computer genius and world warrior who will mostly be defined in GT by his ascot and his version of “I have a bad feeling about this”. Even if there is merit to the idea that the original series was better than the Z sequel, the writing to get us there is crass and stupid. For the entire opening of the series you’re exposed to Saturday Morning Cartoon style hijinks, cheap as hell frame cutting, and some of the ugliest barron settings and background characters you’ve ever seen. Literally the only reason you would keep watching this is a connection to the prior, better series; nothing about GT is intrinsically good, none of the decisions it makes are interesting. Even the finale is almost a beat for beat retread of the prior Z Buu saga, as if the writers were copying their homework and just changing bits here and there. That being said, it does honor its connection to greatness, for a brief stretch of episodes in the middle where there is finally a clear villain and actual stakes. For that little oasis, in which an alien nanobot parasite works his way through the power ranks and takes over Earth, Dragon Ball GT is actually interesting, actually using its characters and history. Near the climax of that though, the defenders of Earth get ready to back up Goku as he takes a beating. Goku stops them, telling them they can’t make the situation better, nothing they do will matter, don’t get involved. Sage advice.
Bottom line - trying to walk back the show’s tone to Dragon Ball’s comedic irreverence but keeping the stakes/action pegged near DBZ’s deadly seriousness just doesn’t work. It’s an atrocious mix
This show is plain insulting to the entire non-Goku cast. Multiple times it makes them say how worthless they are.
The co-stars Trunks and Pam are given nothing to do but be in danger. Literally princess Peach levels of constant peril throughout the series.
The beginning and ending arcs are astoundingly boring and thoughtless. The final villains feel like knockoffs from a thrift store.
The Baby arc is actually entertaining with reasonable twists and developments
The climactic transformations of the Baby arc are actually exciting and make nice use of DBZ’s history (too bad the series climaxes with half its run left to go…)
As stupid as the kid Goku plot mechinations are, adult Goku really had no character traits at all near the end of DBZ. I do think kid Goku is more fun to hang with and the creators are conscious of the long relationship we’ve had with him by now
If you like complaining about things, GT is kind of an amazing hate watch
There’s a decent 20 episode stretch sandwiched by 40 actively painful episodes (watch from about ep 19).
An Image comic about an unusual subject matter; a small Southern town is controlled by a football coach, who uses the clout of that position to become a gangster or sorts, opposed only by a single family
There’s not a lot of stories about small towns. People leave them in a lot of stories, sure, but they’re usually either shown as bucolic paradises or rough trade tough luck depots. In reality though small towns have their heroes and villains just like everywhere else, maybe even more so. Southern Bastards zooms in one small Alabama town where life revolves around the BBQ joint everyone congregates at and the high school football team which represents both the ceiling of accomplishment possible in the city limits and also the only possible way out for most of the youth growing up there. Vibrant red and oak color palettes bring the story of rebellion and punishment to life here, with a cast made up of almost every loser that stayed home when you moved away and has since become a violent offender of some type. Hey, you can’t make a meth omelet if you don’t break a few noggins. Writers Jason Aaron and Latour clearly do not have much love for the setting, but they understand its workings, especially the way social pressure keeps everyone going out to the games, rooting for the local coach, and turning the other way when someone gets murdered. They shed light on some southern bastards you may or may not know about.
Doesn’t take much time to make the football based hierarchy compelling. Everyone seems miserable under the coach which usually isn’t how power structures survive.
The pivot to the daughter is a bit strange and never quite lands right
Really vivid, uniquely American artwork that perfectly captures the small town pride vibe
The weird almost perverse worship of small town sports in America is an idea that needed the exploration
The behavior of everyone in the town, including during the shocking mid-series climax, is a well-observed retelling of the bystander effect, or why evil is allowed to prosper
A gangster story uniquely populated with good ole heart of the country football lovin townfolk
Mark Millar’s edgification of the Marvel Universe and the Avengers exploded and then was buried in just a few years, but if you look closely nearly all the modernization updates they brought in here were stolen for the movies.
In the early 2000’s, Marvel let three big writers have the keys to the candy store. Bendis, Millar, and Warren Ellis got to run separate continuities of the biggest Marvel books, starting from scratch and going in whatever direction they wanted. I’m reading through all of them (including Ultimate X-men, Spiderman, and FF4) but things really kicked off with an Ultimate Avengers book, so ultimately they simply (stupidly, confusingly) called it The Ultimates. Moving at an even brisker pace than the movies, the Ultimates team is simply formed a priori. This splinter of the universe paid a lot of careful attention to how people would actually react to a proliferation of superbeings, and many of those strands of modernization were picked up by the movies and later comics, including a general wariness and increased governmental oversight, culminating in super power registration. The brisk approach to Ultimate Plotting doesn’t leave much room for characters of course, or even plot really. It’s just one turn in the river after another in an outsized and fairly mean universe. Case in point, the Hulk occasionally eats innocent people now. It’s not quite a deconstruction either which is probably why it fails; we still get the team united in time to punch some random super villain’s face in and save the day. The Ultimate timeline eventually self-destructed, blowing itself up without leaving much of a trace, a quick clean Marvel exit. But remnants of this modernization experiment made it into the DNA of almost every current Marvel book and film.
Super brisk story telling, I don’t even remember who the villains were in any of this to be honest
Kind of a stupid name, difficult to google and who would call themselves that
The Ultimates is actually a great case against interconnected story universes - everything is constantly intersecting with other comics and it never gets time to tell a cohesive story with a rise and fall, instead just hitting setup and punchlines.
The updates are smart - Hulk as an abusive monster, Pym as an abusive monster, Captain as an abusive asshole, Iron Man as a verbally abusive-….well it works better in the text trust me.
Grand 90’s style Marvel illustration, everyone has muscles on their muscles and panels are super high contrast
Some hot shit writers injected some nastiness into the Avengers and templated the modern MCU
Til next season!