There's a familiar comedy trope where an ordinary person discovers that someone close to them who seems normal is actually a spy: a spouse (Killers), both spouses (Mr. and Mrs. Smith), an old friend (Central Intelligence), a sibling (The Brothers Grimsby).  Keeping Up with the Joneses is the latest entry in this formula.

Jeff and Karen Gaffney (Zack Galifiakanis and Isla Fisher) are a happy, perfectly ordinary suburban married couple.  He works at human resources for an aerospace company, is friendly with everyone, knows everyone's name, and can't get anyone to join him for "indoors skydiving."  She's an interior designer working from home.  They live in a cul-de-sac where everyone's friendly, and when their two sons leave for camp Jeff and Karen feel a bit of empty nest syndrome.
Things pick up when the house next door is purchases by Tim and Natalie Jones (Jon Hamm and Gal Godot), a couple who seem almost too perfect.  They're both beautiful, talented, and live amazing lives: He's a travel writer, she writes a food blog and helps starving orphans overseas, and they both speak multiple languages.  Jeff wants to be Tim's best friend, while Karen thinks they're too perfect and starts snooping around.  Of course Tim and Natalie are spies, and soon Jeff and Karen are drawn into a world of shootouts, car chases, and international espionage.

There's not anything new in Keeping Up with the Joneses -- and not a whole lot done well.  The actors do as much as they can with the material they have, but many of the jokes fall flat and both the action scenes and physical comedy are uninspired.  There are a few chuckles here and there, but Keeping Up with the Joneses generally settles for mediocrity.

Overall grade: C-
Reviewed by James Lynch



It's time for some film noir with The Square, an Australian film where bad plans go very, very badly for all involved.

Ray Yale (David Roberts) is the foreman for a leisure resort (the movie's title square), working hard (and taking kickbacks for influence in his work).  He's also having a passionate affair with Carla Smith (Claire van de Boom), his neighbor across the river.  However, they both have commitments to other people: Ray is in a mundane middle-class marriage, while Carla is involved with Greg "Smithy" Smith (Anthony Hayes), a criminal who hangs around with a rough crowd.  Carla wants Ray to leave his wife and have them run away together, but Ray is concerned about the money they'd need to start a new life together.

When Carla finds a bag full of cash, she and Ray come up with what they think is a perfect plan: Carla will take the money, then Ray will have arsonist Billy (Joel Edgerton) set fire to Smithy's house, Smithy will think the money burned up in the fire, Ray and Carla will be beyond suspicion, and the lovers can run away together, flush with money -- and no one will get hurt.
Of course the plan goes awry, from Ray's failed attempt to cancel the plan to several unexpected consequences.  Before you can say "bad idea" Ray is receiving blackmail cards, Carla starts getting paranoid about who knows about her affair and their plan, and Billy is pissed off that he's in far deeper than he planned.  Then Smithy finds the bag his money was in...
The Square is simple and effective.  While there's not a lot of character development here, the actors are effective and the story spirals nicely out of control.  The Square works nicely as a suspenseful drama where absolutely nothing is as simple as it seems.  (There are plenty of dvd extras, from behind-the-scenes and making-of features to the short black comedy film "The Spider.")

Overall grade: B
Reviewed by James Lynch


GIRLS ON GAMES by Elisa Teague

So, what's it like being a woman in the world of gaming?  What progress has been made towards gender equality, and what horror stories do women have?  What great stories do women have from gaming, and what do they experience in the workplace and at conventions?  Girls on Games: A Look at the Fairer Side of the Tabletop Industry by Elisa Teague is a collection of essays by women is various professional positions in the gaming industry (including several essays by Elisa Teague herself).

Girls on Games has a very diverse number of perspectives on what gaming means for women.  Some essays deal with sexism and feminism head-on, as in "What Army Does Your Boyfriend Play?" "Pitching (a Game) like a Girl" and "Being 'Girly' and a Gamer.  Yes, You Can Be Both."  Other times gender barely enters into the discussion.  There are inspiring stories about the love of and experiences in gaming, and awful stories of seixst treatment professionally, at game stores with assumptions that women are there for their boyfriends or don't know anything about the games, or at conventions where, no matter their experience or role there, women are assumed to be "booth babes."  (And one actual "booth babe" has an essay here as well.)  There is even discussion of sexuality, from one company owner who's polyamorous (and a hippie) to the woman who wrote the first transexual character in Pathfinder.  And the "fake geek girl" stereotype comes up an awful lot.

Girls on Games is a very informative and useful book about what it can be like for women in the world of gaming.  There are as many looks at game design and professional advancement as playing Magic: The Gathering at a local store or attending gaming conventions.   And despite the many examples of sexism, the book resists the urge to bash the male gender: There's plenty of praise for good guys in the gaming world, plus the introduction is by Mike Selinker and there are several relevant cartoons from John Kovalic.

There were a few distracting typos in the book, but overall Girls on Games is a very good take on a side of gaming that often doesn't get enough attention.  The tales and experiences here are informative, funny, scary, intelligent, show a love of gaming and offer solutions on how its problems can be solved or improved.  Girls on Games should be a must-read book for anyone interested, personally or professionally, in the world of tabletop games.

Overall grade: A
Reviewed by James Lynch
(who, thanks to Kickstarter, has an autographed copy of the book)



Saddle up, pardners!  While the characters in Knights of the Dinner Table usually play in the sword & sorcery world of Hackmaster, they've occasionally delved into the Wild West.  The Cattlepunk Chronicles -- Outlaw Trail collects many of those adventures, along with dozens of pages of new material.

The Cattlepunk Chronicles starts with B.A. being talked into buying the new Hard Eight game Cattlepunk by Weird Pete.  B.A. sees it as a chance for the players to be less reliant on magic and more creative.  But for players Bob, Dave, Johnny Kizinski and Brian, it turns into massive numbers of characters being rolled up, in-game player kills and grudges, and an almost instinctive impulsive to rob any bank the characters see.  B.A. abandons the game after the players' antics; but when his cousin Sara later joins the group (replacing Johnny), she talks B.A. into returning to Cattlepunk.  But Sara and B.A.'s desire to play lawful characters is continually overrun by the other players' outlaw characters...

The Cattlepunk Chronicles is a nice collection showing what happens when horrible fantasy players become, well, horrible Western players.  We have not only the Knights engaging in some of their worst behavior, but also B.A. being talked into buying more and more product and Sara trying and failing to get the Knights to role-play.  There are players slaughtering each other (and rolling up new characters whose sole purpose is revenge), the introduction of recurring "villain" Red Gurdy Pickens, and campaigns and towns getting destroyed.
Fortunately, all of this bad behavior and trainwrecks of campaigns is pretty damn funny.  The Knights' antics are just as funny with six-shooters as with magic swords, and having these strips together instead of scattered through the KODT run gives a better sense of unity.  There are plenty of laugh-out-loud moments, from the characters loading up on quirks and flaws to get building points ("Inappropriate sense of humor, male pattern baldness, speech impediment, lemur-phobia") to the continual grudges and betrayals.  And even when B.A. gets what he thought he wanted, it still blows up in his face.  The Cattlepunk Chronicles -- Outlaw Trail is terrific fun for fans of KODT, bad gaming, or Westerns gone wrong.

Overall grade: A-
Reviewed by James Lynch



Years before The Big Bang Theory brought us four lovable geeks, comic book writer and artist Evan Dorkin lampooned the worst of geek culture with his quartet of pathetic and antisocial geeks.  The Eltingville Club collects Dorkin's comics and strips of this club, plus a new strip wrapping things up and essays.

The Eltingville Club (full name: the Eltingville Comic Book, Science-Fiction, Fantasy, Horror, and Role-Playing Club) is made up of four high school guys.  Bill Dickey is most interested in comic books and science fiction; he's also the most likely to lash out -- verbally and physically -- at anything he dislikes or anyone who disagrees with him.  Josh Levy is focused on science fiction and television shows; as the overweight member of the group, he suffers through constant fat jokes.  Pete DiNunzio is most interested in horror and is a bit pretentious in his views.  And Jerry Stokes is the group's gamer; he's the quietest and nicest member of the group, and also annoys the others with his frequent impersonation of Twiki from Buck Rogers.
The four guys meet in one of their parents' basement, where they rant and curse about everything they don't like about fandom, make trades, and often wind up with their hands on each others' throats.  They have no social life (in the middle of one meeting someone yells "Hey!  Holy shit!  Guys!  Do you realize our prom was tonight?!")   They have no jobs (and no skills or interests beyond the groups') and get money for their hobbies by yelling at their mothers.  When they go out, it's usually to shoplift whatever they want, or to stuff rare toys out of sight at Toys "R" Us so no one else can get them.  Their "adventures" include engaging in an hour-long trivia contest for a rare action figure, trying to stay awake for a 36-hour Twilight Zone marathon, making costumes for Wizard magazine's contest, going on a zombie walk, enduring an intervention, or getting their ideal job at a comic book store.  Their escapades usually turn into disasters, often ending with riots, trampling, fires, or arrests. And their final meeting happens at Comic Con, of course.

The Eltingville Club illustrates the worst of fandom -- and pretty bad humanity in general.  The memers of the club are misanthropic, selfish, sexist (the only women in their world are in porn or x-rated comic books), angry, and overall pathetic.  They're as likely to turn on each other as the things they hate; near the end someone meeting the group for the first time asks, "So, like, were you guys ever actually friends?" -- and the answer seems to be "no."  But it's amazingly funny to watch this group of horrible geeks self-destructing, whether tossing around constant geek references, battling with comic book replicas, or continually getting busted and yelled at by their parents.  There are some digs at geek culture in general -- the owner of Joe's Fantasy World comic book store makes The Simpsons' Comic Book Guy look handsome, polite, and professional --  but Dorkin's sights are mostly focused on the four Club members.  And after the strips about the Eltingville Club, Dorkin discusses the comic's origin, making the one-episode animated series, and provides another comic -- this time about pretentious geeks.

The Eltingville Club is full of cursing, grossness, and horrible behavior.  It's also laugh-out-loud funny; and, in the world of the Internet, disturbingly accurate.  It's savagely funny.

Overall grade: A
Reviewed by James Lynch



Back to Burkittsville!  Blair Witch is a found-footage sequel to what could be the most successful found footage horror movie of all time, The Blair Witch Project.  This movie follows very closely in the original movie's footsteps (ignoring Blair Witch 2: Book of Shadows), sometimes to its detriment.

The movie opens by saying it's put together from found footage.  James (James Allen McCune) is the brother of the Heather who vanished in the original film, and some recently discovered footage makes him think she could still be alive.  Lisa (Callie Hernandez) is working on a documentary project for school, so she decides to accompany James back to the Black Hills Woods in Burkittsville, Maryland to try and find Heather -- or the building where she vanished.  And their friends Peter (Brandon Scott) and Ashley (Corbin Reid) tag along, for reasons never made clear.
The friends apparently raided Best Buy, because they're fully stocked with gear: all sorts of flashlights, walkie talkies with GPS tracking, earpieces that film, personal flashlights, and even a drone.  They meet up with Lane (Wes Robinson) and Talia (Valorie Curry), two weird locals who insist on camping with the friend in the woods and who share stories about the Blair Witch.  It's then into the woods, for camping and searching.  Before long night falls, those familiar stick figures show up, and we get a whole lot of first-person shots of people running at night.
The original movie was a masterpiece of economy, creating its own mythology and giving scares with no stars, special effects, or soundtrack.  Blair Witch has a similar format but doesn't deliver nearly as well.  Having numerous cameras means we get lots of different shots from different angles, which feels like a "regular" movie.  The mysterious sounds in the woods sound like the Blair Witch has a bulldozer instead of just trying to spook the hapless campers.  The characters are all paper thin.  And while there's some creepy claustrophobia near the end, the finale feels far too much like it's taken from the original film (with "characters constantly running in the woods" replaced with "characters constantly running in a decrepit building").  I'd pass on Blair Witch.

Overall grade: C-
Reviewed by James Lynch


Britney Spears, GLORY (deluxe edition)

Britney Spears has made her career largely by combining radio-friendly big hits and barely-concealed sexuality.  Glory (deluxe edition) continues this tradition, playing up both elements of Spears' music.

Glory seems designed to create more hits for the radio.  There are no slow ballads or songs for her children.  Instead there are songs about sex ("Make Me..." "Private Show"), playful romance ("Clumsy," "Man on the Moon") or just having a good time partying ("When I'm Dancing").

This album relies heavily on electronics and synthesizers, giving the music a fairly artificial feel (and making the song "Liar" a mild surprise for featuring a harmonica).  Britney Spears' voice is okay,varying a bit to be almost a whisper, an erotic come-on or radio-friendly pop singer (even recognizable when she sings in French for "Coupure Electrique").

Unfortunately, the lyrics on Glory are trite, going for simple rhymes instead of anything interesting or really original.  (I also wasn't thrilled with the needless misspelling for "Just Luv Me.")  The songs didn't really stand out, either as guilty pleasure or surprising tender song.  Whether the regular album or the five bonus tracks on the deluxe edition, Glory just isn't that memorable.

Overall grade: C
Reviewed by James Lynch



Long before CGI was common in movies, puppetry was one way of bringing fantasy creatures to life -- and few were as famous when it came to puppets than Jim Henson.  While his attempt at fantasy with The Dark Crystal fizzled, Henson more than redeemed himself with Labyrinth, a fantasy film where everything came together almost perfectly.  Labyrinth: 30 Years, from Fathom Events, celebrates the movie's anniversary with a big-screen showing and a few new details about the movie and what happened after.

Sarah (Jennifer Connelly) is a 15-year-old girl with a rich fantasy life -- and some pretty typical teenage melodrama.  She's not happy that her fantasy playing is cut short so her father and "wicked" stepmother can go out and Sarah can babysit her baby brother Toby.  And when Toby won't stop crying, Sarah tells her a story about goblins that ends with her wishing the goblins would take him away.

Unfortunately, Sarah's wish is a spell of sorts, and she's immediately visited by Jareth the Goblin King (David Bowie), who comes to take Toby away and turn him into a goblin.  When Sarah protests, Jareth makes her a deal: She had thirteen hours to traverse his labyrinth and find Toby at his castle.  If she does, she gets Toby back; if not, Toby becomes another goblin minion of Jareth.
Sarah's dropped into a fantasy world where almost nothing is as it seems.  There are shifting walls, a wide variety of creatures, puzzles, traps, temptations, and the interference of Jareth.  Sarah also finds some oddball allies: Hoggle, a self-proclaimed coward whose allegiance is always varying between Sarah and Jareth; Ludo, a gentle giant beast who can summon rocks and boulders with his cry; and Sir Didymus, a small dog-like knight who uses a dog as his steed.
Just about everything in Labyrinth works.  The young Jennifer Connelly does very well, as her Sarah starts off fairly bratty and selfish but grows along her journey.  David Bowie is absolutely terrific as Jateth: part rock start (there are indeed musical numbers), part seducer, part menace.  And the numerous creatures and entities that populate the labyrinth and very detailed and lifelike -- even if they're speaking walls or critters whose limbs and heads keep bouncing off as they dance.  There are some scares, lots of laughs, and a nice semi-epic journey.  Labyrinth is a delight for both little kids and adults.
Before the movie, the 30 Years special had a documentary about Labyrinth.  This included the surviving folks who worked on the movie fondly remembering Jim Henson and David Bowie, as well as discussing how the movie was made.  They also reveal what happened to most of the puppets used in the movie.

Overall grade: A-
Reviewed by James Lynch



Bad things happen when scientists experiment with nature.  This is a very common trope of several science fiction movies, and now Morgan joins them.

Risk management consultant Lee Weathers (Kate Mara) has been hired to evaluate by an unnamed but slightly sinister company to evaluate and possibly terminate the L-9 project.  This takes her to the middle of nowhere, where outside are beautiful woods and cold, sterile concrete rooms are underground.
A handful of scientists have been working in seclusion on a genetic project.  They seem to have success with Morgan (Anya Taylor-Joy), who is five years old but looks like a teenage girl.  Morgan has great intellectual and emotional development; she also may have superhuman abilities, as she seems to know quite a bit about people she just met.  And when one of the scientists tells Morgan she can't go outside anymore, Morgan attacked her and blinded her in one eye.  Is Morgan a danger?  Will Lee end the project and have Morgan killed?  Or will everything spiral out of control?
Morgan is a dreary and surprisingly flat movie.  The story arc is predictable, and the characters are all one-dimensional; even the appearance of Paul Giamatti as a dour psychiatrist doesn't add much to the movie.  There aren't many scares or thoughtful scenes, and the images of the free person and imprisoned person reflected in the glass dividing them gets overdone quickly.  Morgan tries to be suspenseful but is actually boring.

Overall grade: D
Reviewed by James Lynch



With so many summer movies being franchises, fluff, or bogged down with special effects, it's a nice change of pace to see a movie that's quieter, self-contained, and quite beautiful.  Kubo and the Two Strings is a Japanese folktale from the stop-motion experts from Laika Studios that's both touching and harsh.

The movie opens during a storm, as Sariatu (Charlize Theron) is traveling in a small boat with her baby Kubo.  The journey isn't easy -- Sariatu is thrown out of the boat and hits her head on the ocean floor, while the baby is missing an eye -- but they make it to a cave in a giant mountain.

Years later, Kubo (Art Parkinson) is a young boy who supports by his mother by going into town, telling stories, and playing a guitar that brings sheets of paper to life.  Sariatu has memory lapses and periods of catatonia, but she still tells Kubo stories about his past.  His father, Hanzo, was a samurai whose love was an insult to Saraitu's father the Moon King and Sariatu's evil Sisters.  They killed Hanzo and the Moon King stole Kubo's eye -- and he wants the other one, which is why Kubo must always return home before night.

Of course Kubo winds up in town after dark, which brings the creepy Sisters (voiced by Rooney Mara).  Sariatu sacrifices herself to save Kubo, telling him to find a magic armor, sword, and helmet to protect himself.  Kubo's little figure of a monkey has come to life, and Monkey (also voiced by Charlize Theron) is a humorless guardian of Kubo.  A paper samurai acts as a guide for the pair, and they're joined on their quest by Beetle (Matthew McConaughey), a samurai turned into a human-insect hybrid with amnesia but a certainly he served Hanzo.  Together they face a giant skeleton, hypnotic sea monsters, Kubo's truly scary relatives, and revelations (including a twist I saw coming) and loss.
Kubo and the Two Strings is a very impressive movie.  The animation is stunning, from the largest stop-motion puppet ever to the emotional expressions of the characters (and the creepy still faces of the Sisters).  Unlike many other animated movies, this one has genuine loss and tragedy, and it's not magically reversed or changed at the end.  The voice talent is very good, and kids and adults alike will enjoy the bickering between Monkey and Beetle.  Kubo and the Two Strings may be a little scary for really young kids, but it's a delight for fans of both animation and originality.
Overall grade: A-
Reviewed by James Lynch



What happens when the American Western meets the decline of the American dream?  Hell of High Water puts a contemporary spin on the outlaw tale.

Brothers Toby Howard (Chris Pine) and Tanner Howard (Ben Foster) rob banks.  Specifically, they wait for branches of the Texas Midland bank in West Texas to open, then they pull down ski masks and have the employees give them all the money from the cash drawers, $20s or smaller, no packets.  Toby and Tanner drive off, ditch their stolen car, get another one, and plan on hitting the next Texas Midland bank.

It's no coincidence that the Texas Midland bank is being targeted: It's about to foreclose on the Howards' property, following the death of their mother, and the brothers are laundering the bank's own money to pay off the mortgage.  Toby wants the land for his kids -- who he can't see because he owes his ex-wife child support.  And Tanner is an ex-con, recently out of prison and far more of a loose cannon.

Meanwhile, the two are being pursued by a pair of Texas Rangers.  Marcus Hamilton (Jeff Bridges) is on the verge of retirement and has an almost languid approach to catching the robbers.  Alberto Parker (Gil Birmingham) barely tolerates Marcus' jokes about his Mexican and Indian heritage.   Together they find towns suffering from depression and poverty, and people who are fine with folks robbing the banks that seem determined to rob them,

Hell or High Water proceeds along its two paths -- the robbers out to get enough money, and the police focused on stopping them -- at a slow, deliberate pace.  The actors all do fine jobs, and among the numerous locations there's a feel of desperation as the economic downturn has hit all these small towns, and their occupants, hard.  Hell or High Water is far from a feel-good movie, but it's a modern Western with something to say about what happens to people in a downturn.

Overall grade: B+
Reviewed by James Lynch



Well, that's one way to show that people with handicaps can be quite capable: Don't Breathe is a suspense movie where the presumed-helpless man turns out to be as dangerous and twisted as just about any horror killer.

In Detroit, Michigan, a trio of young people make their living by robbing homes.  Rocky (Jane Levy) wants to make enough money for her, her daughter, and her boyfriend Money (Daniel Zovatto) to move to California.  Alex (Dylan Minnette) plans the robberies by getting the alarm codes for homes from his security-working father; he's also cautious about what they steal (to avoid potentially longer jail times) and has a crush on Rocky.  And Money fences the stolen goods, which doesn't pay as much as he'd like.

Money gets a seemingly perfect tip: Rob the Blind Man (Stephen Lang).  He's a former Gulf War vet who got a six-figure settlement when his daughter was killed.  The robbers hope some or all of his money is kept in his house.  The house is almost the only occupied home in the neighborhood, which means no police patrols.  And since he's blind, they can walk around the house with impunity.
Naturally, the plan goes south pretty quickly.  While things start off well -- they drug the Blind Man's rottweiler and set off a chloroform bomb in his room -- the Blind Man quickly disarms one of the crooks (getting a gun) and barricading the robbers inside the home.  He's a hulking, well-trained soldier who knows the layout of the house perfectly and seems to hear every squeak and movement the robbers make.  And he has several surprises in his home...
Don't Breathe is a solid horror movie.  While there are times where the Blind Man sometimes seems as indestructible as Jason or Michael Meyers (and seems to pop up places almost at will), there's a pervasive feeling of claustrophobia as the robbers quickly find an "easy" score has them trapped with a killer.  There are several surprises and gross moments and very little character development (mostly Jane Levy screaming or trying not to scream), but there is plenty of tension and numerous scares (especially when the lights go out and everyone's blind -- but the Blind Man knows the layout and his victims don't).  Don't Breathe isn't the start of a horror franchise, but is does have plenty of scares on its own.

Overall grade: B
Reviewed by James Lynch



Japanese kaiju movies, featuring giant (and fake-looking) monsters, are ripe for both joking and mockery.   So it's natural that the Rifftrax folks (Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy, Bill Corbett) would take on this genre.  They joked about Godzilla and Gamera back on Mystery Science Theater 3000, and they take on what should be the least-threatening giant monster in Rifftrax Live: Mothra.

After the opening fake humorous slides ("Please.  Call me Larry." -- Lawrence of Arabia) and riffing on the short "Soapy the Germ Fighter," the host trio tackle Mothra.  And this movie has plenty of kaiju elements that make good fodder for jokes: a radioactive island, tiny singing women, a bumbling reporter, and the destruction of obviously fake sets an towns.  ("If you're a matchbox collector, this is like a snuff film.")  It also doesn't help that moths aren't inherently scary, the title monster doesn't appear until after 1/3 of the film is done, and when she finally appears she's a giant grub.
While there were a few slight lulls of joking during the movie, Rifftrax Live: Mothra was a lot of fun.   There were plenty of laugh-out-loud moments, and anyone who thought moths were scary would be hard pressed to defend that position after seeing this.  I'm not a fan of kaiju, but I remain a strong fan of Rifftrax!
 Overall grade: B+
Reviewed by James Lynch



"There's something out there..."  This line from Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn may be one of horror cinema's biggest understatements.  This movie -- possibly the greatest B-movie of all time -- throws everything it can imagine into the setting of the abandoned cabin deep in the woods.

At the start of the movie, Ashley "Ash" Williams (Bruce Campbell) and his girlfriend Linda (Denise Bixler) crash a seemingly abandoned cabin deep in the woods for a romantic weekend.  Unfortunately, Ash finds a tape recorder that has a professor reading from the Necronomicon Ex-Mortis (the Book of the Dead).  The words summon an unseen creature, Linda gets possessed, and Ash's nightmare (sometimes literal) begins.
On the outskirts of the forest, Annie (Sarah Berry) has just arrived with her -- research partner?  boyfriend?  fiancee? -- Ed (Richard Dormeier) and several pages from the Necronomicon Ex-Mortis to translate.  With the help of redneck couple Jake (Dan Hicks) and Bobby Joe (Kassie Wesley DePaiva), they all make their way to the cabin.

Writer-director Sam Raimi throws everything he has into Evil Dead 2,   There are Deadites, Candarian demons, assorted characters getting possessed, an animated hand, something in the fruit cellar, one of the most fun arming sequences around, and so, so much blood and fluids spewing all over the place.  In the middle of this is also plenty of comedy: It's not hard to see the influence of the Three Stooges throughout the movie, and there are numerous quotable lines spread through the movie.  There's also the transformation of Ash from egotistical Romeo to somewhat insane action hero.
There are some flaws in the movie -- shooting inconsistencies, the stop-motion animation -- but they wind up adding to the feel that this could be a fun-but-flawed movie that could have been enjoyed at a drive-in movie theater.  Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn is a tremendously fun roller coaster ride of a horror movie.  (Extras on this DVD include a making-of feature ("The Gore the Merrier"), commentaries by Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell, movie stills, and a few assorted other items.

Overall grade: A-
Reviewed by James Lynch



With several decades of superhero shows, movies, and novelty songs, The Music of DC Comics: 75th Anniversary Edition barely scratched the surface of what's out there.  So now there's The Music of DC Comics: Volume 2, a 29-track collection that both covers new material not on the first volume and sometimes feels like it's going for secondary choices.

The Music of DC Comics: Volume 2 has music from a wide variety of times.  There are samples from new live shows (Gotham, Supergirl, The Flash), cartoons (the Superman and Batman cartoons, DC Comics Supergirls), movies (Man of Steel, Batman V Superman) and even video games.  There are funky novelty songs from the 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s.  And yes, the theme from Challenge of the Superfriends made it onto this collection.  Several of the songs are quite silly (The Adventures of Superpup, The Theme of the Justice League of America) but even they represent a more bombastic, often groovy time.  And the instrumentals are almost all pretty exciting and very effective.
The weakness of Volume 2 comes from the times when it tries to follow the "good" stuff on Volume 1.  Since Volume 1 has John Williams' iconic theme from Superman, Volume 2 settles for "The Flying Sequence" and "Lex Luthor's Lair" from the movie.  Volume 1 has the theme from the Batman TV show; Volume 2 has a cover of the theme.  Volume 1 got the original theme song from Wonder Woman; Volume 2 had the theme song from its last season.

Even with the limits from following the first collection, The Music of DC Comics: Volume 2 is still pretty good.  The songs here are a nice mix through the decades, and several songs will be new to even the most devoted superhero fan.

Overall grade: B+
Reviewed by James Lynch