Ann Wilson, IMMORTAL

Cover albums often have a common theme, and Ann Wilson (lead singer of Heart) has a common thread on her new album Immortal: performers who have passed away but who left a deep impact on the musical landscape.  Her voice and their music prove to be a strong combination.

Immortal is composed of mostly deep cuts (except for "You Don't Own Me" and "Baker Street"), from artists who have passed away fairly recently and left an impact on the musical landscape.  Songs vary from the poetic (Leonard Cohen's "A Thousand Kisses Deep") to the extremely suggestive (Cream's "Politician") to the inspirational (Lesley Gore's "You Don't Own Me").

Ann Wilson's vocals are powerful and subtle, adapting themselves to the soft rhythms of "Luna" or the tough commentary of "I'm Afraid of Americans."  The songs aim for originality rather than copying the originals, and while this doesn't always work, it's a mostly successful formula.  The result makes Immortal a very good listen -- and a nice tribute to some of those who have passed on.

Overall grade: A-
Reviewed by James Lynch



Fame has its ups and downs, its rewards and pitfalls, its appeals and stresses.  This is covered in A Star Is Born -- and the movie does very well, thanks to some impressive star power in its two leads.

Jackson Maine (Bradley Cooper, who co-wrote and directed the movie) is a famous classic rocker, someone everyone seems to know and want their picture with.  Looking for booze after a concert, he winds up at a drag club -- and is entranced by the performance of Ally (Lady Gaga), singing a French song.  She says her looks have kept her from being taken seriously as a professional singer.
Jackson is as entranced by Ally's singing, songwriting, and piano playing as his desire to get her into bed.  Soon he has her joining him on stage at the concerts, where she becomes a viral hit.  In almost no time at all, Allie is being represented as a singer and transformed into a famous pop star, losing the piano and gaining backup dancers.  Meanwhile, Jackson is haunted by either jealousy or disappointment with Allie's career; and his demons of liquor, drugs, and hearing problems come calling.
While the themes of A Star Is Born are familiar (and the movie is a remake), the two stars really make the movie shine.  Bradley Cooper shows both sides of Jackson: the charmer who's easy to like and the self-destructive artist for whom music isn't enough.  Lady Gaga is a revelation as Allie, making her both talented and vulnerable, someone ready to lose what she loved in music as fame seems more and more alluring.  Their musical numbers together are impressive, as is their chemistry.  The result is a beautiful, powerful movie.

Overall grade: A
Reviewed by James Lynch



The movie The Room may be the worst modern movie ever made, becoming famous and infamous, inspiring a "so bad it's good" attitude and having midnight showings.  But what about Tommy Wiseau, the writer-director-star of the movie?  The Disaster Artist is a look at the man behind this movie -- and his best friend and co-star.

Greg (Dave Franco) is a struggling artist who meets Tommy (James Franco) at an acting class.  Greg is impressed with Tommy's uninhibited emotional acting, and the two quickly become good friends (despite Tommy being quite secretive about everything from his age to where he's from to his seemingly unlimited supply of money).  Tommy is quite volatile, rejecting every suggestion and overacting every chance he gets,

The two move to Los Angeles together, but acting gigs are scarce.  Greg gives Tommy the idea to make his own movie, which would become The Room.  Tommy spares no expense (and incurs many unnecessary ones) making the movie, and soon even Greg can't ignore the poor choices and terrible writing of the movie.  But Greg is in the movie too, worried about how it will affect his career and his friendship with Tommy.
The Disaster Artist is both entertaining and superficial.  James Franco does a dead-on impersonation of Tommy Wiseau, from his looks to his bizarre European accent.  But we never learn what really makes Wiseau tick (apart from his conviction that he must be the hero when acting) and the result in an amazing recreation of The Room and its star without getting into more about it.
Overall grade: B-
Reviewed by James Lynch



Based on true events, Operation Finale is about the discovery and capture of Adolph Eichmann, considered the architect of the Nazis' final solution and the highest-ranking Nazi to escape alive after World War Two.  The movie tells a compelling story, though with some forced elements.

The movie begins in 1960, when Israel's Mossad intelligence agency gets a lead that Eichmann (Ben Kingsley) is living in Buenos Aires, Argentina.  Unfortunately, Argentina has a strict anti-extradition policy; the country also has a large group of Nazi sympathizers.  So the Mossad hatch a plan: send a small team of operatives to Buenos Aires, identify Eichmann, then capture him and bring him back to Israel for trial.
Israel's team is headed by Peter Malkin (Oscar Isaac), a soldier who'd just as soon kill Eichmann as bring him home.  He leads the team in Eichmann's capture.  However, they need Eichmann to sign a paper authorizing his extradition to Israel to stand trial.  There's also a delay in the flight to get him home -- and the authorities and Nazis searching for the captures Nazi.

Operation Finale is good, with some flaws.  The story it tells is an important one, and it underscores the need for the trial and the horrors of the war: Malkin's flashbacks are of his sister, killed by the Nazis; Eichmann's are of his getting blue ink on white shirt cuffs.  But the movie also has some plot devices that are a bit clumsy: Malkin's ex romantic partner as a reluctant member of the team, clues left behind at the abduction, a seemingly minutes-close escape from an airport.  These feel heavy handed in a movie that already had plenty of drama in it.

Overall grade: B-
Reviewed by James Lynch



Cooperative games have the players working together towards a common goal -- while other events distract them and can cost them the game.  The Captain Is Dead from Alderac Entertainment Games uses this mechanic well, as 2-7 players encounter all sorts of obstacles on their spaceship while trying to win by repairing the Jump Drive.

Each player has a character, which has several traits: rank, which determines who goes first; number of actions to spend per round; often, skill discounts to use or repair the rooms aboard the ship; a hand size, for keeping skill cards, tools, and battle plans; and a special ability.  Characters roam the ship, collecting skills (Command, Engineering, Tactical, Science) from the Computers or Internal Sensors, using the Teleporter to beam from room to room (or walking when it's Offline or Destroyed), launching torpedoes at hovering alien ships, and spending lots of Engineering skills to fix the Jump Drive by one space.  The game's difficulty is based on how many spaces on the Jump Drive need to be repaired.

Unfortunately for the players, the end of each turn has an alert happening.  Yellow alerts are harmful: Systems can be knocked offline, making them inactive until repaired; aliens can board the ship, injuring any players in the room they beam into, and players can only do certain actions if injured or in the same room as aliens, and an injured player has to go to the Trauma Center to heal.  If an alien would need to be places on the ship and there are no available aliens, the players lose.  Systems can take damage, and the Shields also take 10% damage; if the Shields reach zero and then take more damage, the players lose.  Alien ships can appear on the side of your ship, doing more damage to the Shields.  And anomalies affect the whole crew until solved with several science skills.
Not surprisingly, further alerts are worse.  Orange alerts add more aliens to the invasions, do more damage to the Shields, have worse anomalies, and destroy systems so they need a lot more skills to repair.  And red alters are far more disastrous, doing everything from reducing the Shields by 50% to destroying the Jump Core, ending the game.  Players can skip an alert by spending three Command skills at the end of their turn.

The Captain Is Dead is a very fun game.  The characters are all familiar characters to anyone who enjoys science fiction, and they all have different uses in the game -- even the Janitor, who's great at repairing destroyed systems.  The more players take part, the more alerts hit them, and even at the easiest level (Coward) the game can seize defeat from the jaws of victory.  There's a nice angular feel to the artwork, and players have to balance fixing the Jump Core to win with dealing with the other assorted crises that keep popping up.  The result is very challenging and very enjoyable.

Overall grade: A-
Reviewed by James Lynch



The movie Krull is a mix of science fiction and sword and sorcery from 1983 that never really took off.  Looking back at it, there are plenty of reasons this was a commercial and critical flop.  However, that makes it perfect for riffing on, and Rifftrax Live: Krull does just that.

With this slightly long movie to take on, hosts Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett skip their usual opening shorts or previews of upcoming shows to tackle the feature.  It's probably a warning that when Mike asks the audience who's seen Krull and lots of people cheer, he follows it up by asking if they remember it through nostalgia.

The movie itself features slow-moving Slayers, a big rocky teleporting castle, painful comedy from an inept wizard ("If he's the comic relief, why do I feel tense every time he shows up?") and the Glaive, a magical spinning five-bladed weapon descriped as "like Excalibur but with a far stupider name."  The movie's big claim to fame is having Liam Neeson and Robbie Coltrane in small roles as the bandits before they (the actors) became famous.

I liked seeing Rifftrax Live: Krull a lot. This is the first time I've seen the actual movie, and it was painful to endure.  But the comedy trip had a lot of fun with it -- from wondering who or what "Krull" actually is to the casual forgetting of the movie's early slaughter of the main characters' family and friends -- that brought the audience along for the ride.  More material would have been good, but Rifftrax Live: Krull was still very fun to watch.

Overall grade: B+
Reviewed by James Lynch



Loosely based on a bizarre true story, BlacKkKlansman is the latest Spike Lee movie.  This time around he's drawing heavy parallels between the past and present, to mixed results.

In 1972, Ron Stallworth (John David Washington) is the first black police officer in Colorado Springs.  Initially stuck in the records room, Ron soon finds himself doing undercover work.  A unique opportunity presents itself when Ron calls a number in the paper from the Ku Klux Klan and finds himself being recruited by them,

The police set up a task force to infiltrate the Klan, with officer Flip Zimmerman (Adam Driver) appearing in person as Ron while Ron keeps taking the phone calls.  The real Ron also winds up talking a lot with David Duke (Topher Grace), the grand wizard of the Klan who wants to put a respectable face on "the organization."  And there's a romantic subplot where Ron has a romantic relationship with Patrice Dumas (Laura Harrier), a college activist who thinks all cops are pigs -- and who wouldn't be happy to know that Ron was undercover to look at a black activist speaker she brought to the college.
BlacKkKlansman is an impressive film.  Spike Lee does a fine job of portraying the 1970s, from the celebration of black culture to the racism that's almost everywhere, from  the Klan's open activities to the institutional racism of the police.  Where the film may overreach is linking the racism of the past with Donald Trump now.  It's one thing to have Klansman talk about "making America great" and explaining how racist policies seem palatable if not mentioning race.  But the movie ends with numerous clips from today, making the point with the subtlety of a sledgehammer.  Despite that, this movie makes some important points and is definitely worth seeing.
Overall grade: A-
Reviewed by James Lynch



Lots of games involve racing, but Camel Up from Z-Man Games focuses on betting on different parts of the race to earn the most pounds and win the game.  It also has a goofy game mechanic that makes the race pretty unpredictable.

Accommodating between 2 and 8 players, Camel Up players (who start with three pounds each) are betting on a race among five camels (blue, yellow, green, orange, and white) on a sixteen-space course around a pyramid.  An interesting mechanic is how the camels interact: If a camel moves forward and ends its move on the same space as another camel, the moving camel goes on top of the camel that was there.  If a camel with other camels on top of it moves, it carries all camels on top of it with it when it moves.  And in terms of race ranking, the highest camel in a stack is in the lead, then the next-highest camel, and so on.

On each turn, players can take one of four actions.  They can place an Desert tile (Oasis or Mirage side) on the race track, an an empty space that isn't adjacent to another tile.  If a camel lands on an Oasis, the player who owns it gets a pound and the camel moves forward one space.  If a camel lands on a Mirage, the owning player gets a pound and the camel moves backwards; if the move back puts the camel on the same space as another camel, the moving camel goes on the bottom of the stack.
Players can bet on the Leg of the race (when all five dice have been rolled) or the race's ultimate winner or loser.  To bet on a Leg, a player takes the top available Leg betting tile from the board.  The highest tile gives five pounds if that colored camel comes in first on the Leg, one pound if it comes in second, and loses a pound if the camel comes in third or worse.  The next tile gives three pounds for winning, and the last one gives two pounds for victory.  Players can also use one of their five colored cards to bet on the winner or loser of the race.  These are placed face-down on the board and rewarded when the race ends. 
And since camels have to move, players can take one of the five pyramid tiles.  When this is selected,  the player takes the pyramid, shakes it, and releases one die (numbered from 1 to 3).  The camel matching the die color moves ahead that many spaces, and the die goes on the board.  When all five dice have been rolled, the Leg scoring round happens. Players get or lose pounds bases on their Leg betting tiles; players also earn a pound for each pyramid tile they had.  After these are all resolved, the Leg betting tiles are returned to the board and all the dice go back in the pyramid.

When a camel or stack of camels passes the finish line, two things happen.  There's a final Leg scoring round, then the bets for the overall winner and overall loser are resolved.  Awarded in the order of correct bets, the correct bets get eight, five, three, two, and one pounds, for both the first-place and last-place bets; incorrect bets lose the player a pound for each bet.  After that, the player with the most pounds is the victor!

Camel Up is a very simple, fun, and unpredictable game.  Since the camels all move between 1 and 3 spaces, it's rare for a camel to be so far ahead it can never be caught by the others; and it's easy for a camel in the lead to find itself on the bottom of a stack of camels, almost certainly ruining its chances for victory.  The betting system rewards those who bet first, but penalizes those whose bets are incorrect.  And earning pounds through the Desert or pyramid tiles are slow and steady, but not as rewarding as correct bets.  Plus who wouldn't like large piles of multi-colored camels standing on top of each other?  Camel Up is a whole lot of fun for pretty much all ages.

Overall grade: A-
Reviewed by James Lynch



Nothing can be as annoying as telemarketers -- or as lucrative.  Sorry to Bother You is a comedic satire of the search for the American Dream, racism, and consumerism.

Cassius "Cash" Green (Lakeith Stanfield) is struggling.  While he ponders what his life means, he's unemployed and living in his uncle's garage.  His chance for change comes when he gets a job as a telemarketer, pushing a lifestyle called Worryfree that seems to offer people contracts for food and shelter -- as well as controversy that they're being used as slave labor for large companies.
When elderly co-worker Langston (Danny Glover) recommends that Cash use a relaxed, confident white person's voice (provided by David Cross), Cash is a huge success and promoted to power caller -- where he's pushing even more morally dubious, lucrative proposals to big businesses.  Meanwhile Cash's girlfriend Detroit (Tessa Thompson), a performance artist and sign spinner, also works as a telemarketer.  And Squeeze (Steven Yeun) is trying to get the telemarketers to unionize.  Oh, and the big boss Steve Lift (Armie Hammer) has a truly bizarre plan to make money -- one that directly involves Cash.
Sorry to Bother You is a strange, funny, and thoughtful satire of modern life.  The question of selling out to make money is nothing new, but the movie takes that to bizarre lengths.  There's a not-so-subtle theme of racism through the movie, from Cash's success once he starts sounding white to when he's forced to rap for an party of all-white people.  Lakeith Stanfield is solid as the hapless success, and the rest of the cast delivers as well.  Sorry to Bother You isn't a classic, but it is original and thoughtful.
Overall grade: A-
Reviewed by James Lynch



While some Marvel movies can be pretty intense, the last Ant-Man movie was a lighter caper film.  Ant-Man and the Wasp continues that tradition, as assorted characters race and battle to get hold of the same item.

Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) is just a few days from finishing his house arrest, he's got a new security business going, and he's ready to stay out of trouble.  Unfortunately, his dreams about Janet Van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer) lead Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and his daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly) to conclude that Janet is still alive in the quantum realm -- and they need Scott's help to bring her back to this world.  So they break Scott out of his home, covering for him and telling him it'll be taken care of quickly.
Of course, it's not nearly that simple.  Hank and Hope's plan revolves around their lab, which is in a building that can br shrunk to the size of carry-on luggage.  This is hunted by Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen), a woman who can become intangible and needs the lab to cure herself by extracting the energy from Janet -- which could kill Janet.  The lab is also pursued by Sonny (Walter Goggins), a businessman who's promised to sell the lab to some disreputable people.  So soon Scott has become Ant-Man, Hope is the new Wasp, and they're shrinking and enlarging things while fighting the enemies and working together.
Ant-Man and the Wasp is fun.  The movie is more comedy than action, but the action sequences still work pretty well.  There's some nice romantic chemistry between Scott and Hope, and the Ghost is one of the more sympathetic villains of the Marvel universe.  This works well as summer escapism -- and fits in nicely with the Marvel universe.

Overall grade: B+
Reviewed by James Lynch



Rhett Miller, lead singer for the Old 97's, has a distinctive voice that would make me listen to him is he read names out of the phone book.  He's also a terrific guitarist who can shift from exciting riffs to melodic, emotional sounds from song to song.  The Interpreter has Rhett covering some of his favorite songs.

Recorded live at the Largo club in Florida before its closing, The Interpreter has a wide variety of songs done by Rhett and his guitar (with occasional piano support).  This near-acoustic approach fits in very well with songs like Simon and Garfunkel's "Homeward Bound" or Bob Dylan's "You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome when You Go."  But it also works for songs that are hardly folk-sounding, whether it's David Bowie ("Queen Bitch"), the Beatles ("I'll Cry Instead") or a Pixies-Ramones mash-up.

Rhett Miller's vocals are terrific through the album, and his guitar works keeps up with his voice perfectly.  The end result is that The Interpreter is an impressive and varied album.

Overall grade: A
Reviewed by James Lynch


R.I.P. Harlan Ellison 1934-2018

Harlan Ellison, one of the greats of speculative fiction ("Call me a 'science-fiction' writer and I'll come to your house and nail your pet's head to the table"), activism, columns, film criticism, and countless other areas of literature, cinema, television, and entertainment, passed away today.

Harlan Ellison may be best known for his writing.  He has written novels, short stories, and television scripts (including the original script for the Star Trek episode "City on the Edge of Forever") and has won countless awards for his work.  His short story "I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream" is one of the most-translated stories in English.  And he's responsible for innumerable great quotes; possibly his most famous is "The two most common elements in the universe are hydrogen and stupidity."

Ellison was also a passionate and prolific critic.  When he hated a work, he'd trash it endlessly.  When he loved a work (or person), his praise was limitless.  He was an outspoken activist as well, weighing in on all sorts of political and cultural issues.  He was also an advocate for the creative, and his "pay the writer!" rant is famous for standing up to those who see writers as less.  And he engaged in (and usually won) several lawsuits to protect his creations and intellectual property.
I was fortunate enough to have heard Harlan Ellison speak several times at the I-CON convention in Long Island, New York.  He was a brilliant, energetic, and thoroughly engaging speaker.  I also got to meet with him as well, and several books that he signed for me are among my most prized possessions.

Rest in peace, Harlan Ellison.  You will be missed.

James Lynch


Steven Soderbergh directed the classic modern heist movie with the remake of Ocean's Eleven, so it's oddly appropriate that years he'd direct a heist movie with a redneck spin.  Logan Lucky takes the planned heist to a different level, appropriate for its West Virginia-Charlotte, NC setting.

The Logan family has infamously bad luck, and that's certainly true for Jimmy Logan (Channing Tatum).  He just got fired from a construction job for not revealing his limp.  His ex-wife Bobbie Jo (Katie Holmes) is considering moving out of West Virginia with their young daughter Sadie (Farrah Mackenzie).  And Sadie wants her dad to attend her performance at a child beauty pageant.  And it looks like Jimmy has no money.
What Jimmy does have is a plan.  At his last job he worked on fixing sinkholes at a North Carolina racetrack, he knows how the money is moved to the vault, and he puts together a crew to steal it.  There's Clyde Logan (Adam Driver), Jimmy's bartender brother who lost much of his left arm in the Gulf War.  There's Joe Bang (Daniel Craig), the explosives expert who's unfortunately incarcerated.  There are Joe's brothers Fish and Sam Bang (Jack Quaid, Brian Gleeson) who can provide computer support.  ("All the Twitters, I know 'em.")  And there's Mellie Logan (Riley Keough), Jimmy and Clyde's sister, who can provide speedy driving.  When the plan has to be moved up a week, the gang finds themselves working during a NASCAR race -- with far more security than normal.
Logan Lucky is both different and familiar at the same time.  The movie skips the usual Hollywood beauties and casual upper middle class wealth of most movies (and television shows, for that matter) for a look at a far more Southern lower-class lifestyle.  This is played for laughs sometimes, but there's also a bit of pride there: One of the most moving moments is a sing-along of Bob Denver's "Take Me Home, Country Roads."  Besides that, though, the heist itself is something we've seen numerous times before (including from Soderbergh), with perfect timing, incompetent authorities and security, and a good deal of suspension of disbelief.  The cast has fun, and the end result is enjoyable enough.

Overall grade: B-
Reviewed by James Lynch



What happens when grown men obsessively play a kid's game well into their adulthood?  This is the basis for Tag.  Based on a true story (as the film reminds us at its beginning and end), this movie is silly, goofy, and often funny.

Five friends have been playing the same game of tag since they were nine.  As adults, every May even though they live in separate cities the group can use disguises, surprise, and whatever they can think of to tag each other.  At the end of the month, the last person tagged has to live with the "shame" of being it until they play again.
 This year Hogan "Hoagie" Malloy (Ed Helms) tracks down and gets together with his friends Bob Callahan (John Hamm), Randy "Chilli" Cillaino (Jake Johnson) and Kevin Sable (Hannibal Burress) with a mission: They all team up to tag Jerry Pierce (Jeremy Renner), the friend who's never been tagged and is retiring from the game after this year.  Hoagie thinks they have an edge: knowing when Jerry is getting married and using that knowledge to tag him.  But Jerry is insanely focused on winning (his encounters with his friends are slow-motion strategic battles) and seems ready for whatever the others come at him with.
While the five friends have a "no girls allowed" amendment for their game, most of the supporting cast is female.  Susan Rollins (Leslie Bibb) is Jerry's fiancee who supports the game but declares the wedding and related events off-limits for tagging each other.  Anna Malloy (Isla Fisher) is Hoagie's wife who's ultra-intense in helping her husband win the game.  Rebecca Crosby (Annabelle Wallis) is a reporter whose business article about Bob quickly turns into an article about this game of tag.  And Cheryl Deakins (Rashida Jones) is the former crush of both Bob and Chill, brought in by Jerry to distract them.

Tag is fun, if pretty light.  The movie doesn't delve into how a kid's game is so important to grown-ups, apart from a few scenes showing how the game intersects with big moments in their lives.  The movie also gets more serious and sentimental near the end, with a slightly-telegraphed twist.  But the comedic action scenes are pretty funny, and the cast's enthusiasm carries into pretty consistently funny scenes.  Tag is goofy -- and it's amusing too.

Overall grade: B
Reviewed by James Lynch



The original Incredibles is considered by many to be the best superhero movie ever made.  Fortunately Pixar had 14 years to work on the sequel, and Incredibles 2 manages to live up to the entertaining legacy of the original.

Set immediately after the original movie, Incredibles 2 finds the Parr family (the Incredibles)  family pretty low.  "Supers" are still illegal.  A battle with the villainous Underminer left the city with massive property damage, which the Incredibles are blamed for.  And the government agency which had helped the Parrs has been disbanded, leaving the family with two weeks in a motel before they face homelessness.
 Relief comes from the brother-sister duo of Winston and Evelyn Deavor (Bob Odenkirk and Catherine Keener).  He's great at sales and persuading people, she's great with technology, and together they have a giant, successful company -- and a plan to make Supers legal again.  They want to make Elastigirl/Helen Parr (Holly Hunter) the new face of superheroes, by recording and broadcasting her crime-fighting.  This leaves Mr. Incredible/Bob Parr (Craig T. Nelson) feeling left out of the action.  While Elastigirl is battling the mysterious villain Screenslaver, who hypnotizes people through TV screens and monitors, Bob is run ragged as a stay-at-home dad.  He has to deal with speedy Dash (Huck Milner) dealing with new math in school, daughter Violet (Sarah Powell) deal with a boy who she was supposed to date until he literally forgot she exists, and baby Jack-Jack manifesting all sorts of powers.
Incredibles 2 is another excellent movie from Pixar.  There's plenty of humor, from Jack-Jack's uncontrollable powers to director Brad Bird's return as fashion designer Edna Mode.  There are exciting action sequences, surprises with the plot, and several new supers who add to the action.  Incredibles 2 is smart, funny, and thoroughly entertaining.
Overall grade: A
Reviewed by James Lynch



One of the most beloved episodes of Mystery Science Theater 3000 was their making of the 1980s sci-fi disaster Space Mutiny.  So it's no surprise that the movie got a redoing with Rifftrax Live: Space Mutiny.  This comedy feature had all-new jokes, several scenes not shown in the MST3K episode, and lots and lots of humor.

Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett, and Kevin Murphy (the latter dressed as Alex Jansen) began by riffing "The Magic Shop," a short feature based on a story by H.G. Wells.  Next came a preview of their next Rifftrax Live feature, Krull.  And from there, it was on to Space Mutiny!

For better or worse, seeing extra scenes of Space Mutiny doesn't improve that movie in the slightest.  However, that just gave the three hosts even more material to make fun of.  There are lots of new nicknames for the muscular, dim hero Dave Ryder.  (Max Roidrage!  Bacon von Meatwich!)  There's the heroine who seems as old as her father, the dead character who shows up alive back at her post, and the scenery-chewing villain Calgon.  There also the "spaceship" full of brick walls and pipes, footage shamelessly taken from Battlestar Galactica, and lots of propane tanks lying around.  None of it is spared by the comedy trio.
Rifftrax Live: Space Mutiny is a very funny take on a very bad "classic" movie.  We get everything from jokes about the awful combat ("Why'd you have to kick and shoot me in the crotch?") to how Bill will cover up some nudity without a gorilla-gram.  The humor is consistent from start to finish, and the new jokes made it fresh even for those of us very familiar with the original MST3K episode.  This was a lot of fun!
Overall grade: A-
Reviewed by James Lynch



Family issues and haunting concerns are featured in Hereditary.  This movie is sometimes effective, sometimes wandering in the tone it wants to set.

The movie seems to begin as a ghost movie.  Ellen Graham has passed away from cancer in her 70s, and her family deals with her death in different ways.  Daughter Annie (Toni Collette) has conflicted feelings about her late mother and throws herself into her art: making miniature scenes from her life.  Her teenage son Peter (Alex Wolff) seems concerned with teen interests, like getting high and women in his class.  Quiet younger daughter Charlie (Milly Shapiro) makes clicking noises and has a disturbing reaction to finding a dead bird outside her classroom.  And father Steve (Gabriel Byrne) just wants to hold his family together.
The movie also enters into ghostly territory: figures appear in the shadows and vanish when lights are turned on, a blob of light seems to flow along the walls or follow people.  But when a horrible tragedy strikes the Grahams, the movie shifts into a different mode: family drama, where the amily members deal with a new horror, often in destructive and vindictive ways.  Then the movie shifts a final time into near-gonzo horror, where things really go insane.
This shift in tones weakens Hereditary, but there's plenty that does work here.  Toni Collette is very good as the mother dealing with both her issues with her late mother and concerns about her family.  Milly Shapiro is nicely creepy as the kid who may have something sinister going on in her own little world.  The miniatures add to the disturbing atmosphere, and while the end phase is crazy it also builds suspense and horror.  I just wish there was more consistency here.

Overall grade: B-
Reviewed by James Lynch



The merc with a mouth is back.  Deadpool 2 brings Marvel;s wise-cracking, r-rated, third wall-breaking anti-hero to the big screen -- though this time there's a lot of drama and angst mixed in as well.  How do the comedy and tragedy blend together?  Well...

The movie starts with Deadpool/Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds) facing a devastating loss: His girlfriend Vanessa (Morena Baccarin) is killed by thugs out to get Deadpool.  This leads Deadpool to try and kill himself (doesn't work, even with lots of explosives), become an X-Man ("in training") get locked up in a jail for mutants, and form his own super team (with early, disastrous results).  And then there's Deadpool's stated new purpose in life.
There's an angry teenager named Russell (Julian Dennison), a mutant calling himself Fire Fists who can create and throw fire.  For reasons we learn later, Cable (John Brolin)m a cyborg from the future, is on a mission to kill Russell, and Deadpool decides that he needs to save Russell to find meaning in his life.  We also meet some new allies -- notably Domino (Zazie Beetz), an amazingly lucky mutant -- familiar faces from the first movie, a surprise super villain; and there are plenty of killings, cursing, and pop culture commentary right up until the post-credits scenes.
So how does it all work?  Ryan Reynolds has the Deadpool banter down pat, making him easily recognizable in a costume that shows nothing of his face.  The mix of drama and comedy is a bit iffy, as we're supposed to accept the snarky jokes about everything with Deadpool's angst about having lost his love and being unable to join her in the next world.  John Brolin plays Cable as a completely humorless near-Terminator, and the rest of the folks in the movie are enjoyable, if not memorable.  There's still plenty of like in Deadpool 2 -- lots of laughs along the way -- but it could have been more consistent.

Overall grade: B
Reviewed by James Lynch