Obsessed with Pop Culture: Best of the Week



Departure Day: When it comes to TV, is closure important?

If you happen to follow a decent number of TV critics on Twitter, you may have noticed a minor eruption of late. A schism has emerged, prompted by accounts like The Cancellation Bear, which concerns itself solely with the topic of whether or not series are likely to survive based on current ratings patterns. That may sound perfectly innocent on its own, but quite a few admirers have expressed the notion that they refuse to dive into a series if they get the sense that it will come to a premature end, thereby robbing them of closure. This idea has, naturally, left many critics incensed: isn’t TV a medium founded on chaos, on the thrill of working within limitations and at the whims of fickle audiences? Moreover, isn’t it silly to always want tidy resolution in the context of such an inherently complicated medium?… read the full article.

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Sound On Sight begins a journey to ‘Twin Peaks’

Last week, the television world received one of its most memorable pieces of news in some time, with the announcement that Twin Peaks would return to television in 2016 with a nine-episode limited series run on Showtime. Long hoped for and speculated about by fans, the news is about as promising as could be hoped for: All nine episodes will be written by show creators David Lynch and Mark Frost, and directed by Lynch (his first time directing for television in over two decades). In multiple interviews since, Frost has been coy about any specifics, but the general tone of the conversation is that the two feel the time is right and that they genuinely want to tell a story in this world again… read the full article.

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What we know about Telltale’s ‘Game of Thrones’ so far

Telltale Games has managed to make a pretty big name for itself over the last few years. By focusing heavily on plot and character development in an industry that too often leaves these factors at the wayside, Telltale has brought storytelling back to the forefront of the medium. Now, with two Walking Dead titles, and the Fables-inspired series, The Wolf Among Us, under its belt, Telltale has turned it’s focus to the Game of Thrones universe… read the full article.


The Knick, Ep. 1.10 “Crutchfield”: The Circus Burns Down in Season Finale

The Knick is the rare case of a show that arrived precisely at the perfect time for it. Some shows arrive too far ahead of their time, and are thus canceled prematurely. Some shows arrive on the back of a trend, far too late to really make an impact. But The Knick? It arrived precisely when it should have. The trend of filmmakers making their mark on TV is still in an exciting growth stage, and the medical drama has been in need of someone like Soderbergh to come in and tear up the sutures… read the full article.


American Horror Story, Ep. 4.02: “Massacres and Matinees” proves the fun of camp

Despite the somewhat stately pace of the season premiere “Monsters Among Us,” the sheer inanity of the action happening onscreen created an off-the-wall vibe. Whether it was the special talents afforded by Jimmy’s syndactyly, Ethel’s beard and bizarre accent, or Elsa singing a song that wasn’t released until 20 years after the show’s setting, Murphy and Falchuk made it clear that, in true “freak show” fashion, spectacle would be given precedent over logic. In this week’s “Massacres and Matinees,” the bonkers factor is raised a notch, as is the fun… read the full article 

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Arrow Ep. 3.02 “Sara” is one of the series’ most emotionally-charged hours

Identity has always been a major theme of Arrow, particularly with its lead character, who has spent the better part of the first two seasons figuring out who he was. As everyone on Team Arrow (which it really is at this point, especially if Laurel’s on board) reflects on Sara’s death throughout the episode named after her, this idea of searching for one’s true identity comes to forefront and frames an otherwise melancholy episode with a few philosophic brush strokes, trying to dig beneath everyone’s pain about Sara’s death for deeper self-revelations… read the full article 


LFF 2014: ‘The Tribe’ is an original, provocative, brutal, and discombobulating work

Once every few years a film comes along which immediately feels so original, vital and provocative that your preconceived expectations of the art-form are challenged. Whilst that inspiring instinct is invoked by The Tribe, it is also suppressed by the film’s unrelenting brutality, on both a physical and metaphorical level. The film charts the devastating experience of a serious minded youth, Sergey (Grigoriy Fesenko) ,who is assigned to a chilly and dilapidated boarding school. Falling under the sway of the institution’s gang, Sergey experiences a brutal hazing exercise and then becomes enmeshed with the school’s alpha delinquents, meddling in a mugging here and some narcotic abuse there, whilst the crew also conduct their own brutal protection racket and, rather more seriously, pimp out two young girls, Anna (Yana Novikova) and her friend (Rosa Babiy) to sexually service the nearby trucker community. This may sound like a somewhat conventional pathway for a serious and dour minded example of contemporary world cinema, butThe Tribe has one fascinating ace up its sleeve – the boarding house is a school for the deaf and all the non-professional actors communicate only in sign language, the film yielding no consideration for audience comfort with no voiceover, no subtitles, and (quite frankly, as the plot gains traction) no mercy… read the full article.

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The Past, Present, and Future of Real-Time Films

What do film directors Alfred Hitchcock, Stanley Kubrick, Agnès Varda, Robert Wise, Fred Zinnemann, Luis Buñuel, Alain Resnais, Roman Polanski, Sidney Lumet, Robert Altman, Louis Malle, Richard Linklater, Tom Tykwer, Alexander Sokurov, Paul Greengrass, Song Il-Gon, Alfonso Cuarón, and Alejandro Iñárritu have in common? More specifically, what type of film have they directed, setting them apart from fewer than 50 of their filmmaking peers? Sorry, “comedy” or “drama” isn’t right. If you’ve looked at this article’s headline, you’ve probably already guessed that the answer is that they’ve all made “real-time” films, or films that seemed to take about as long as their running time… read the full article 

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Anime ‘Giovanni’s Island’ is a great wartime drama

In its frequently sorrowful tale of young Japanese siblings struggling through the tail end or immediate aftermath of World War II, animeGiovanni’s Island faces seemingly inevitable comparisons to bothGrave of the Fireflies and the Barefoot Gen features. Mizuho Nishikubo’s film, however, has a spirit all of its own, even if you can trace in it bits of those other films’ DNA, as well as notorious British anti-war animation When the Wind Blows, whose art style it resembles more than the likes of Studio Ghibli. It stands apart in offering a look at an aspect of Japanese history rarely explored in any art form to date, that of the Russian occupation of the island of Shikotan after Japan’s defeat in 1945, as seen through the eyes of two Japanese children among the residents whose lives are upended by the new rule… read the full article.


31 Days of Horror: Foreign Horror Fridays: ‘Perfect Blue’ pushes horrific Hitchcockian mind-games

Teen-sensations-turned-adult-starlets crop up even more often these days, thanks in large part to teen-content-machines Disney and Nickelodeon. As a result, identity crisis has seemingly crept into these hard-working young women’s contracts as they’re forced to switch between singing and acting or Christian-audience innocence and sex appeal. There exists a third job for them: herding the public eye to become accepting of the new adult careers they’ve trailblazed for themselves. Though equally applied to today’s Ariana Grande, Miley Cyrus, or Lindsay Lohan, Perfect Blue investigated the horrors of this celebrity identity crisis, both personal and public, through a lens as chilling as Hitchcock’s, though as free as animation can allow.

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The 50 Definitive Scary Scenes from Non-Horror Films

In the spirit of October, this list will look at scary scenes, but not from the horror classics directed by Craven or Carpenter or even Hitchcock (I’m excluding him, though I argue most of his work isn’t exactly horror). These are from the films that aren’t really meant to scare you. At least, not at the visceral level that horror films do. These are the fifty definitive moments from non-horror films that still made an impact on the “frightening front.” From shocking to creepy to unsettlingly hair raising, these are moments that will stick in your mind long after watching the films, even if they are part of a very different narrative… read the full article.

‘Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley’s Island of Dr. Moreau’ + Interview with director David Gregory

Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley’s Island of Dr. Moreau (2014) is a documentary that tells the secret story behind Richard Stanley’s involvement, as the uncredited director and extra, in the cult movie The Island of Dr. Moreau (1996). After his cult successes Hardware (1990) and Dust Devil (1992), director Richard Stanley was given an $8 million dollar budget along with the stars Marlon Brando and Val Kilmer to make his dream project based on the H. G. Wells science fiction novel,The Island of Dr. Moreau (1896). Stanley pre-produced and developed the script for 4 years only to end up getting fired 4 days into the shoot. It’s a “what might have been movie” in the vein of films like Jodorowsky’s Dune(2013) or Lost in La Mancha (2002)… read the full article.


The Sounds of Revolution: Godard’s ‘Sympathy for the Devil’ and ‘British Sounds’

There was something in the air when Jean-Luc Godard took up the political banner of the late 1960s and shifted his filmmaking focus in terms of storytelling style and stories told, and in a general sense of formal reevaluation and reinvention. Always considered something of the enfant terrible of the French Nouvelle Vague, Godard was keen from the start to experiment with the conventional norms of cinematic aesthetics, from the jarring jump cuts of Breathless (1960), to the self-conscious playfulness of A Woman is a Woman (1961), to the genre deviations of Band of Outsiders (1964) and Made in USA (1966). But Godard was still, at a most basic level, operating along a fairly conventional plane of fictional cinema, one with relatively typical characters and generally progressive narratives of beginnings, middles, and ends (“but not necessarily in that order,” as he would clarify)… read the full article.

‘Birdman’ soars high with stellar performances and brazen cinematography

The cast and crew, fly high in Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), directed by visionary Alejandro González Iñárritu. Michael Keaton stars as Riggan Thomson, a washed-up actor who never bounced back from his peak stardom days as part of a 1990s superhero franchise, and who is desperate to gain back some spark for his faded career. Riggan attempts to jolt himself back into the limelight through the triple threat of writing, directing and starring in a Broadway adaptation of Raymond Carver’s What We Talk About When We Talk About Loveread the full article.


Our Eyes On You: Voyeurism in ‘Gone Girl’ and ‘Maps to the Stars’

At least outwardly, David Fincher’s Gone Girl is a film defined by its knife-edge turnabouts, orchestrated with an elaborate tangle of dread brought upon by a thrilling script, masterful direction, as well as an equally noteworthy score. If not for David Fincher’s sway, however, Gillian Flynn’s tale of passionate, domestic misanthropy could have easily atrophied to pulp. Is a film so gravely reliant on its many twists and turns worthy of ubiquity in praise, or is there simply more to Fincher’s Gone Girl, perchance subtler but more sizable than gender roles and suspense?… read the full article 

‘Silent Hill’ takes horror gaming to the next level

Resident Evil was the first horror game I ever played. I still remember going into town and picking it up at a video game shop. It was rated as a “15″ over here in the UK, and at the time I was 14. My dad bought it for me regardless because that’s how he rolled, and it was the most excited I’d been in a long time to play a game. I read the manual from cover to cover on the drive home, and I barely had time to chew my lunch before retreating to my bedroom. I popped the disc into my Playstation, and the fun began; a comically hammy live-action opening, awkward controls, unconvincing arterial spray and Barry Burton’s legitimitately ridiculous delivery of the line “you were almost a Jill sandwich”. I was hooked… read the full article.


‘Spring’ is a horror rom-com with horns on

Following their mildly acclaimed 2012 effort Resolution, directing duo Justin Benson and Aaron Moorehead further establish themselves as some of the most promising gruesome genre mechanics to be observed – if from a safe and secure distance. In their new film Spring they turn their gaze to a beloved titan of the macabre, channeling an eternal struggle of the ancient ones that H.P Lovecraft would enjoy, with creatures most cryptic dwelling among an unsuspecting population… read the full article.


Death of Wolverine #4 is a noble end for a legendary character

In Death of Wolverine, Charles Soule, Steve McNiven, Jay Leisten, and Justin Ponsor had the tough job of killing off one Marvel’s most popular characters in a way consistent with his legacy of his character. Death of Wolverine #4 contains the actual “death”, and Soule, McNiven, and company stick the landing. Except for Doctor Cornelius’ supervillainous monologues, Soule’s script is terse and minimalist. Wolverine doesn’t say much, but he does a lot in keeping with his early characterization in Chris Claremont and John Byrne’s Uncanny X-Men where he would be the one still scrapping and fighting even after the Hellfire Club had taken out the other X-Men. In this last story, Soule examines all the different sides of Wolverine from lab experiment and animal to soldier, superhero, and samurai. And Steve McNiven’s art continues to be a treat from his landscape portraits of the Nevada desert to Wolverine’s last, visceral hand to hand battles. Inker Jay Leisten tightens his lines and elucidates the details of Cornelius’ lab as well as the lines on Wolverine’s determined faces. Colorist Justin Ponsor continues to be one of my personal favorites as he sets a different mood for each scene from a washed out brown for one final flashback of Weapon X to the sterile environment of Cornelius’ lab and one last walk in the sunlight… read the full article.

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The Flash, Ep. 1.02, “The Fastest Man Alive” is just so fun

The Flash is two for two. In the second episode, ‘The Fastest Man Alive’, Barry and Joe West’s relationship takes center stage while Barry does battle with the multiplying Multiplex. The character work in the show is what makes it standout and the father son dynamic between Joe and Barry feels like a fleshed out and very sweet one. Jesse L. Martin truly looks hurt when Barry angrily screams that he isn’t really his father (not the most original line, but it works in the context of the episode). They’re not related by blood, but they really do feel like a father and his son and you can’t help but smile when they’ve made peace in the end. Grant Gustin is also just insanely likable, so that show really has that going for it… read the full article.


‘Wytches’ #1 Absolutely Stunning, A Most Inventive Departure from Standard Horror Fare

Of the many comics set to make their debut this year, few are as hotly anticipated as Wytches. As Hollywood continues to hoard the comic book industry for inspiration, Image Comics’ newest horror series from writer Scott Snyder (American Vampire) and artist Jock (Batman: The Black Mirror) has been optioned by New Regency, with Plan B set to produce a feature film adaptation – and that’s only after one issue has hit the shelves. Yes it is that good! Snyder and Jock breathe new life into the horror mythos – from the first two pages which consists solely of the definition of the word “witch” written in a gothic font, to fiery finish, Wytches is a stylish, compelling, phantasmagoric new series that will leave you both bewildered and eager for more. Snyder and Jock manage to create a visceral experience with a stunning combination of menacing Grand Guignol atmosphere, dazzling colours, gory violence and an interesting set up that goes beyond the typical feel of a first issue… read the full article.


The Walking Dead Podcast Episode 54: “No Sanctuary”

The highest-rated scripted show on television returned tonight, as The Walking Dead Season 5 kicked off with “No Sanctuary,” written by showrunner Scott Gimple and directed by special effects guru Greg Nicotero. Season 4′s finale left us on a cliffhanger, and “Sanctuary” picks up right where it left off. Joining us is SOS contributor Les Chappell to discuss Carol’s badassary and more!

Review: The Walking Dead, Season Five Premiere: “No Sanctuary”

The highest-rated scripted show on television returned tonight, as The Walking Dead Season 5 kicked off with “No Sanctuary,” written by showrunner Scott Gimple and directed by special effects guru Greg Nicotero. Season 4′s finale left us on a cliffhanger, and “Sanctuary” picks up right where it left off. Rick’s last words from the season 4 finale (They don’t know whom they are messing with.) echo heavily throughout tonights premiere. “No Sanctuary” is chock full of suspense and complete badassary on the part of Carol. What’s most surprising about the episode, is how quickly Terminus is resolved. Like a roundhouse kick to the head, “No Sanctuary rushes through the conclusion of the Terminus plotline with satisfactory results. “The Walking Dead” doesn’t always deliver satisfying episodes but it always does well with premieres. The first six minutes are among the most intense minutes of the series yet, and the next 30 or so minutes are fast, bloody, overblown, explosive and crazy good… read the full review.


Boardwalk Empire, Ep. 5.06: “Devil You Know” gut-punches heavy and hard

Two of Boardwalk Empire‘s most longstanding veterans waved the long goodbye tonight in one of the hardest, heaviest, and most integral episodes the series has ever delivered.

First up was Van Alden, who went out in a way that perfectly belied the arc which his character has been building toward since S3. That he should go down screaming the law in the face of a man he’s hated for almost a decade is a natural bookend for him, and even if it’s telegraphed a few seconds before it happens, it only makes the the brutal hit more effective when it comes…. read the full review. 

‘Star Wars Rebel Heist’ TP sheds light on the Rebellions success

Taking place sometime between A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back, Star Wars Rebel Heist reveals the fate of the Alliance was tied to this famous quartet.

Over the course of four issues, readers sprint along with four of the newest rebel allies as they witness the galaxies greatest heroes carry out a cleverly planned heist. To our narrators however, this hardly seems to be the case…. read the full article.

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