Results for category "Kraken Reviews"

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Ah Said No Peekin – Robots Root 30 May 2017

Last night we completed another session of the Robot-Kraken Podcast recordings for inclusion in the June episode. Special guests! Special liquors! Hot messes!

In the meantime, however, this is Robot’s Root for 30 May 2017:

  • I was talking with One Lung this morning (or typing) about films we’re looking forward to, beyond all the obvious marquee stuff coming out, and that led me back to trailers. So here, have some, for science:  Trailer 1: Baby Driver
  • Trailer 2: Logan Lucky. “ah said no PEEKIN!”
  • Trailer 3: Hitman’s Bodyguard
  • BONUS: Shimmer Lake on Netflix. IN!
  • This supposed brief on the new Silver and Black disaster-in-waiting Sony is cooking up for their Spider-Man Universe Without Marvel or Spider-Man or Something sounds sketchy. Like fanfic stuff.
  • Surprising precisely no one, SW VIII has been postponed while they violently rewrite the entire thing.
  • First look at Lockjaw from Inhumans: yep, giant bulldog. Missing the signature tuning fork and collar though, which is weird. So many weird choices on this project. I still haven’t recovered from the wig.
  • A little less than a month to go and we’ll have new Preacher. YASS.
  • In another (rather odd) example of studios remaking instead of building anew, Amazon just bought a series based on the film Hannah which (I haven’t seen, actually) I hear is based on every other young teen orphan assassin trope. Not that I don’t want to see the film. But I’d rather see original content greenlit.
  • The thicken plots… possibly… now they are admitting Joss Whedon has been quietly working on JL for awhile. This could be a sign that they knew and were planning to transition Snyder stepping down on a schedule, OR that he was already on board for script/shooting corrections. I do think it’s no coincidence that he was randomly announced as the writer/director of Batgirl this spring…
  • I’m half-way through the current glorious season of Silicon Valley, and I can’t conceive of the next season moving forward without TJ Miller. Dammit.
  • Really odd one here: Rosario Dawson is supposedly being courted for the role of Dr. Ceclia Reyes in the New Mutants film. It feels… fan speculationish… given that she’s already in the Marvel Universe (one of them) as a nurse… but hey, +1 always works for me.

And with that, I’m off to see if I can scrape some of this rum off of the inside of my cranial cavity…

The Robot-Kraken Podcast – Episode 29: (March 2017)


The Robot-Kraken Podcast – Episode 29: (March 2017)

It’s March… or has been for two weeks now… In this episode of Robot-Kraken, Kris and Thom review Powerless on NBC, Legion on FX, and wax nostalgic, during our Shipyard segment, about how digital technology changed how we produce our art.

As always, you can stream the episode by clicking the button above or HERE and subscribe, listen and rate us on iTunes too!

0:00 – Introduction

2:00 – Milking Otters and the Pens That Hold Them

4:20 – Surviving the Existential Art Crisis
6:15 – Rogue One Round Two
11:00 – SUCKING THE MONKEY:  Back in piratey days, often rum and alcohol was forbidden on the ship, so buccaneers and sailors would smuggle alcohol aboard hidden in coconuts. Drinking from this undoubtedly delicious contraband was called Sucking The Monkey!
Kris: Leinenkugal Bavarian Dunkel
Thom: Olmeca Altos Agave Tequila (ruined with Mr. & Mrs. T)
16:20 a BB-8 Intervention
19:40 POWERLESS REVIEW (Spoilers)
39:30 In Which Thom Insists Ron Funches Was Replaced… But he Wasn’t. FAKE NEWS
41:30 [Wilted] Red Tentacle – the in-show parody commercial
48:45 THE SHIPYARD – Digital tools and how they changed our methods of making art
Kris: Traditional tools, lightboxing, inking rudiments, Wacom
Thom: Hypertext, MacPaint, Wacom and Cintiq in photoshop, now Ipad Pro/Apple Pencil/Procreate
Joao: Surface Pro and Manga Studio
1:34:00 Thom Attempts to Ascribe Kris’ Art to Another Cooler Tattoo Artist
1:35:00 Brush Pens but also Kris Proves it’s His Design; Foam Tips; Pentel Pocket Brushes; Kuretake
1:44:00 Thom has NO MORE NUMBER THREES
1:48:00 The TRDL ART JAM: Want to participate in the TRDL Art Jam? The TRDL Jam runs weekly but remains open indefinitely. The complete list of jam topics by date can be found here:
This month’s Jam: WEAPONS, all 4 weeks
1:49:20 MICRO-REVIEWS: VICTORIA on PBS and CROWN on Netflix
1:51:00 Can you Draw to it?
1:54:00 Dodgy Commission Art and Nude Layers
1:55:25  He-Man is Everything
2:00:30 Black Licorice Tea / Brew Free or Die IPA to Stave Off Consumption
2:05:00 LEGION REVIEW, but also Suicide Squad, the Oscars, and Things
2:07:00  Kris Scares Thom’s Children
Kris: Get Out
Thom: Peaky Blinders
This podcast may also be enjoyed on Youtube: Please subscribe!


ROBOT KRAKEN is a MONTHLY podcast by two indie artists, Kristopher McClanahan of Deeply Dapper and Thom Chiaramonte of the Third Rail Design Lab. We get together and talk about comics, movies, working the table at comic cons, life in this nerdy wonderland, and whatever mumblings from the deep we come across. You can find out more about us, contact us or follow along our journey at iTunes – Stream & Download –

Review: The Tick [2016]


Review: The Tick [2016]

The Tick is one of those properties that comes with heavy baggage. It’s a fringe show that’s primarily aimed at the superfans, with hopes of breaching mainstream enough to gain eyeballs, yet those same superfans are rabid about what does and doesn’t constitute true Tick material: the comic? The animated series? The Patrick Warburton series?

When I sat down to watch this new pilot, I came in wary: not because I had expectations, really, but because we’ve seen a few projects over the last few years of this seemingly golden era of comic adaptations that fell apart: Powers, which i’m still slogging through despite it’s peculiar missteps, being the best example for me. Many superfans have cried foul over everything from Preacher on AMC to the Watchmen movie. It’s too different from the material! It’s too similar to the material! But I’m one of those guys that couldn’t care less, as long as its good. I mean, I watch a lot of mediocre genre television, due to circumstance. My lovely wife is addicted to Once Upon a Time, which is a hot mess. I follow Gotham, which is a garbage fire. Somehow these projects seem so mainstream and carefree about their source material that I don’t feel offended by it. But when you get a true comic adaptation that claims to be an inspired project, it can get frustrating, looking at the missed opportunities. I’ll talk about Powers later, probably in the Robot Kraken podcast first, but watching something like this, and even considering limited budgets, you can see where it isn’t the plot or the actors or even the budget that bothers you: it’s a lack of vision and style in the storytelling, and a sense that the train is hurtling along with the engineer dead at the controls.

Which is all to say that what gives me hope about the new Tick series is that it seems purposeful. It’s flawed and awkward thus far, at pilot stage, but using the pilot as a gauge for the tone of the show, I’m going to give it a go.

This version is darker than the madcappery of the Warburton era (he remains a producer)… which I think perfectly captured the tone of the source material. i have a warm spot for that show, despite not having seen all of the episodes. I loved the characters I DID see, and the performances. It felt very Tick. Spoons and hammery everywhere. This Tick, however, feels like a cross between Donnie Darko, Super, and some indie film featuring Paul Dano (think Little Miss Sunshine)… and that’s a very good thing. This Arthur, played by Griffin Newman, is not justa nebbish accountant or whatever, but a dude holed up in an apartment, with serious mental health issues. He was (SPOILERS FROM HERE) as it happens, the famous child whose father was killed when the evil Terror, played brilliantly as usual by Jackie Earl Haley, murdered the entire Fantastic Four analog, the Flag Five. He was the kid on the cover of the magazines with the tragic look on his face that captured a million hearts and never outlived the experience. Despite the world being told that the Terror was killed by the Superman analog, Superian, played by Brendan Hines, Arthur continues to believe the villain lives and has been building a power base in the underworld. We have maps and the classic obsessive detective or serial killer wall of interconnected clues, we have the protagonist venturing out in the middle of the night alone to prove his theory that no one will take seriously, and we have the sudden appearance of a new, magnanimous and manic superhero, The Tick (played earnestly by Peter Serafinowicz, who stole Guardians of the Galaxy, at least in the trailers)/… despite having no previous established record of existence, having impossible powers, and conveniently appearing and disappearing randomly… all as experienced by a character who may be schizophrenic. What better way to explain a character like the Tick, in all of his random lunacy, then establishing as a premise that he may not exist? We’ve seen this many times before, but it’s a great mechanism.

I like the casting so far, and while the pilot is completely stolen by Haley, I like the darker tone and strange cadence of Serafinowicz’ take on the titular hero. One hurtle for me, I have to admit, is that my brain wants this to be Will Arnett. Maybe it’s his vocal work on Lego Batman, or his generally excellent straight delivery of lunatic characters, but every time Serafinowicz appears, I’m disrupted. I want Arnett. I confess he is doing an excellent job, and I’m intrigued by his delivery, which is actually more complex and weird than either Warburton or Arnett. I just need more adjustment time.

What I like about it is that it takes it’s supers stuff seriously. As much as the fate of the Flag Five in the pilot, or the interview of Superian on a talk show, feels like vintage Garth Ennis, it doesn’t have that cheesy 1990’s-era cosplay feel for the supers characters. They feel fairly ‘realistic’. Superian’s costume is once again strangely low on the dynamism for a Superman analog, but the Terror, the Tick, and Arthur in costume at the end of the pilot, are wearing uniforms that are movie quality. The presentation feels fairly legit. I’m not sure about the weird, scaly appearance of the Tick’s suit, particularly from the rear, but I can dig it just as much as the smooth cartoony vibe of Warburton’s version.

Anyway, it’s a free viewing if you have Amazon Prime, and I encourage you to check it out!

Chief of Ninja Group


Review: Deadpool


I have a heavy heart. I broke my own rules, and left my LONG AS HELL review of Deadpool (among 5 other films being reviewed at the time) in my browser only to lose them to an unplanned reboot. Thus, all my thoughts, as well as my researched tidbits, are gone gone gone. That said, I think the media has done a good job of carpet bombing the mainstream reader with factoids and takeaways from this film, almost more so about what comes next than what happened in the cut. Will we see a glut of R-Rated, 4th wall supers films banally copying Deadpool but missing the reason why it was so successful? (YES) Will we have a prequel? (YES) and were there awesome deleted scenes (YES)…

All you really need to know is that this was, in my opinion, a successful film specifically because it was it’s own animal. It had a pure vision, from the script by Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick to the fearless commitment of neophyte director Tim Miller. It had an actor so completely perfect for the part and so committed to the production and marketing of the film that it felt, going in, like a labor of love that the cast and crew shared, and that the suits allowed somehow to slip through, almost like those grindhouse ‘the unrated horror they don’t want you to see!’ projects. The backstory of the film’s birth was legendary even before it was released (a script languishing, a proof of concept short leaked to the public by the production crew and/or actor involved, and early and often statements from all parties that this was going to knock some bloody socks off some bloody decapitated legs. And finally, this is the new standard for viral marketing: the ever-changing 4th wall billboards, the curious cross-marketing across other campaigns, the seemingly irreverent way the character thumbed its nose at the film it was promoting… everything about it. Now, all this led to a record for first weekend R-rating sales, and at the time of this writing, Deadpool is the highest grossing X-Men film ever… two weeks in.

I thought, when I saw it, that perhaps the viral marketing would get butts in seats beyond the rabid genre fanbase (as I saw it in advance and didn’t know what the weekend would bring) and after that weekend had passed, I wondered if the sales were largely due to that same brilliant marketing, such that the second weekend totals would drop off a cliff. And they didn’t. That an R-rated, profane, seriously post-modern, 4th wall superhero film would do this well in a general audiences environment is stunning. We’ve seen genre pictures somehow hit the zeitgeist and kill it at the box office before (Avatar, Transformers, Jurassic World) but at the expense of critical reviews… films like Avatar, for example, became perpetual motion machines… bringing people in weekend after weekend for repeat viewings, much like Titanic before it, due to the spectacle, the social nature of it, the rush of enthusiasm for an ‘event… but over time, films like this have not made a lasting impression regarding quality or impact. Other films that did far less well at the box office were similar to Deadpool in that they were immediately copied, soullessly, by a host of other projects that missed what made the original compelling: witness Pulp Fiction, Bourne Identity, and Guardians of the Galaxy (not a good example of a poor performer, admittedly) and their host of clones to follow. What we have here, though, is that magic film that manages to be different, to break conventions, to appeal to a wide variety of mainstream viewers seemingly impossibly, and with staying power.

But is it good? Is it GREAT?

Not really. I mean, I loved it. I REALLY enjoyed myself, despite my preconceived notions dueling each other (I strongly dislike the character and their place in comics history as a symbol of the decline of storytelling in the 90s; on the other hand, I strongly favored a mature-audiences irreverent supers film and wanted it to succeed) and can’t wait to see it again at home. But it wasn’t a brilliant script that blew me away with class and twists. It was what it wanted to be, and was wisely very simple in its structure: introduce Deadpool, show his origin as a flashback, watch his revenge play out, end credits, Ferris Bueller stingers. As some have noted once the novelty wore off, the script had Deadpool hurling jokes at such a clip that it was like an area affect weapon… if a few landed, it did its job. But really, not every film has to be a legendary piece of celluloid. I love so-so films that push all of my buttons. I will never tire of worshipping Michael Mann’s HEAT, and that was no thespian exercise, despite its strengths. Lung adores Hudson Hawk, but he’s on blueberries all the time. Who knows? What I CAN say is that you’ll either love it or hate it, and I don’t think there’s a medium setting. I recently listened to a close friend just rake Force Awakens over the coals… and largely from the perspective of being frustrated by missed opportunities. I can appreciate that sentiment, though I didn’t share it on that film. But one thing I don’t hear from people that saw Deadpool is that it didn’t live up to its potential. It exceeded it.

I didn’t realize some of the pedigree going in. These are the writers that once brought us Zombieland, my favorite horror-ish film ever. Tim Miller had extensive experience in FX work, and did some awesome animatronics and visual shorts we’ve featured here but were unaware of the source talent. But while we’ve subsequently heard about how the project was once lowered to PG-13 to increase studio interest, how this and that character was cut and how it had two major action sequences cut, etc the final version is immensely satisfying, and feels like it came from a unified vision, much the way certain singular directors ‘own’ the vision for their films in history, even though they owe them, in many cases, to the script or the cinematographer. This felt like Tim Miller just squatted in an office at Fox and said ‘make it, this way, and I’ll leave.’

Ryan Reynolds owns this film, as you can obviously tell from all the marketing. The actor is intensely proud of it, and its personal for him, not just because he’s played other supers that failed due to a lack of vision or well-structured execution (Green Lantern, Deadpool in Wolverine, both parodied in this film) but in the way certain actors have developed an ownership over a character or project so much so that you can’t separate them from it. Schwarzenegger is a great example: sure, Bond actors have become synonymous with their roles, and you can’t have Austin Powers without Mike Myers… but this is an example where the actor doesn’t just seem to claim the character out of ego, desperation, or financial interest, but because they invested themselves in it completely. He IS Wade Wilson. I really enjoyed Brianna Hildebrand as Negasonic Teenage Warhead, a composite of several X-Men who stole all of her scenes. TJ Miller and Monica Baccarin were known quantities that were as you expected them to be (and I really like them both)… and the rest of the small cast was EH, but that was just fine. Colossus was easily, EASILY, the best the character has been presented on screen, a fusion of three different actors (mocap body, mocap face, and dialog) and finally felt true to the potential for him: from the moral histrionics to the patience to the slowness of his movement and apparent weight. I loved it.

The 4th wall stuff was really interesting. it went well beyond the character talking to the audience, which he clearly does, and often. It was also a perfect companion to the silly lunacy of the Deadpool’s actions and mannerisms. Think about his banter while killing bad guys, or swinging his feet and studying his crayon sketch of Stuart… his love of hello Kitty… all this stuff that sort of works in a comic specifically written to be witty and comical, but JUST SHOULD NOT WORK ON FILM. Yet it does, when combined with Deadpool talking to you, and talking about how random and irrational his behavior is, or how random and irrational the MOVIE is. The project makes many references to Reynolds’ career: his hearthrob status, his terrible prior roles, the status of X-Men films and the studios that make them, both Wolverine and Hugh Jackman, and so on. It’s a lot like reading a comic while following the creators’ annotations in the margins. Yet it doesn’t pull you out of the film. Somehow you become MORE invested. I also enjoyed all the nods to things that they couldn’t directly reference: the final battle on a scuttled Helicarrier, as an example, or the use of HYDRA Bob. And something else struck me about the way Deadpool was portrayed: so much talk in the last week has been about how the studios will clearly ape the project on a superficial level.. but what struck me was that this was the, finally, successful application of the sarcastic, maddening jokester concept that I’ve always begrudged in Spider-Man, especially on film. I thought the way Andrew Garfield carried his Spidey with confidence and swagger allowed him to pull off that sort of dialog better than others… but Deadpool was the first time mocking the bad guys while killing them actually WORKED.

I guess what surprised me most, in the days after I saw it, was that it was doing so well not only with STANDARD NERDS like myself, but with mainstream audiences. We sat with a woman and her teenage daughter, and they were both laughing. And yet, here I was, perfect example: a comic dork, yes, but one that hates Deadpool, hates that kind of comic project, and yet came out of the theater exhausted from laughing so hard. I wasn’t just amused. I was FIRED UP. So, in that sense, I guess I get it.

Anyway, you can listen to our even longer discussion about the film on the Robot-Kraken podcast, here: … s-r-rated/

Your mileage may vary, but I sure as hell am happy Deadpool exists… despite my own self. I should note, I saw it as a free pre-screening at the Alamo Drafthouse, which meant that I didn’t get to put my money down to support the film directly, but I certainly DID burn through a lot of food and drinks, which indirectly helps… and also assisted with my enjoyment, certainly.

Chief of Ninja Group


Review: Hail, Caesar!

Hail, Caesar!Hail Caesar is an interesting problem. The Coen Brothers are certainly no strangers to the disconnect between what THEY find interesting, and what the audience might be able to tolerate. In fact, I’ve always felt that their mainstream successes have seemed almost like the unseen machinations of some curiously sarcastic time traveler, engineering this material to be out in the world when, if unmolested, mainstream viewers shouldn’t, and wouldn’t, have the palate for it. The fact is, while I concede that Big Lebowski, Oh Brother and No Country each had good pacing and slightly less obtuse narrative flow than their normal fare, I’ve never looked at any of these films and thought ‘mainstream’… which is not to suggest I’m a coffeeshop film snob. I have just generally found myself the only one in the theater with whatever shooting out of my nose. I recall, during The Man Who Wasn’t There, losing my breath and gasping and wheezing from laughter, and coming to my senses and the theater was dark, still, and silent.

Caesar is a typical Coen Brothers project in that it is many things at once, and not afraid to play with dichotomy. It IS, as the critics declare, a love letter to Hollywood’s golden age. But it is also a biting satire of that same system. They slavishly recreated the look and feel of some incredible numbers from the song and dance era, and in typical fashion for them, built a world that is stylistically notional to true history: much like the Capitol Pictures of Barton Fink (again, featured in this film) the Hollywood of the Coen Brothers is sunny, perfect, and artificial. The characters breeze in and out of the affected narrative of the Coen Brothers script, equally parts of the madcap, almost frenetic interaction and at the same time, troubled observers of cracks in the dyke, the way many of the Coen’s creations are both critical of, and necessary to, the context of the story. This love letter paints some wonderful scenes, but the edge is there. Witness the initially perfunctory but quickly mind-numbing pre-meeting with various religious representatives, or the earnestness in which the Communists spout ideology while at the same time lust for revenge and a payout. Everything is a target here: the blacklist, celebrities who profess to be philosophical, the Studio System, actors as commodities, journalists, corporate types, the French… and as usual, the Coens make each character compelling, even when they’re fodder for the joke.

This was one of their best comedies, I think. It didn’t strike the same chord as Hudsucker or Lebowski, but it was a worthy addition to their ‘Period’ series of films, and felt like a Yin-Yang parallel to Barton Fink, which spoke to some of the same absurdities of the Hollywood system of the day, but from a depressed, lonely, screenwriter’s perspective with a nod to noir intrigue. However, this was their worst opening to date. Part of me wonders if its a product of the timing of its release: the box office is dominated by an earnest, fantastic piece of cinematic nostalgia, and the Oscars are being lampooned for their insular focus on white, safe industry darlings. Perhaps the viewing public was neither in the mood for this sort of film, or its subject matter. Perhaps its loose plot and slow pace was too droll for most people to enjoy. Not sure. But the film earned critical acclaim (surprising, in a way, given that the press, and film buffs, are notoriously sensitive about work critical of their world) and mediocre at best fan ratings. It will be interesting to see how it is viewed in the years to come. Recall many of the Coen Brothers’ most interesting works barely made a blip on the big screen.

A few additional notes:
– Clancy Brown and Christopher Lambert together again? Highlander flashbacks!
– Busby Berkeley is well represented here, with the flawless aquatic sequence, cut short by the actor (Scarlett Johansson) breaking character at the last minute
– Gene Kelly’s work was present here as well, in the imagery from Anchors Aweigh and the general cocksure confidence (and tight pants) of the actor’s work in general (as seen in Channing Tatum’s character)
– Donald O Conner is here too, as Channing Tatum’s bar table tap sequence owes much to Applied Mathematics:
-While Manix is based on a real fixer from the Studio days (See Hollywoodland) I thought it was particularly interesting that the character was unnecessary. He fixed nothing. Clooney’s character, Baird Whitlock, was discovered by Hobie Doyle; Scarlett’s character, DeeAnna Moran, is ultimately married to the director, Laurence Laurentz (excellent wordplay in the script on this name) who knocked her up (Ralph Fiennes again killing it) as Manix had suggested, but without his involvement; The Thacker twins pursued their stories regardless of his excuses; the ransom paid for Clooney’s character’s return was lost; Hobie’s dialog problems were resolved through a screenwriting change… Manix, supposedly so pivotal to the studio’s security and branding that he hand-wrung over his headhunter recruitment temptations, in the end spun around in circles.

I’m looking forward to seeing this movie 333 times, as per the usual process with Coen Brothers films…

EDIT: I forgot to mention one critical point: Manix WAS important, and did accomplish something major: he saved the life of the film editor, who seemed to me to be a nod to Anne V. Coates… when he pulled the safety switch and turned off the rollers that were pulling her scarf and strangling her. What I found interesting here was that his value was towards a back of house, invisible employee, not the executives and celebs he was tasked with handling.

Image above from:

here’s another…

Chief of Ninja Group


Review: The Monster Squad

RETRO ROUS REVIEW: Originally posted HERE
For the month of October, we’re going to be revisiting some classic and not so classic genre films as well as trying to catch up on all of the new stuff – lots of monsters, gore, suspense and horror coming our way! Instead of writing a full review of each, We’ll post five things we learned while watching the movies. 

Number seven – a childhood classic from the eighties…that would never have been made today without parental outrage.

5 Things I learned while watching….


1- Wolfman does indeed have nards, and a silver bullet is the way to go.

2- When finding oneself under attack by monsters, wait until they are within a few feet shoot three times, then attack with the billy club!
3-  Dracula may not be the most refined demolitions expert, but he does love blowing shit up.
4- The late eighties were a pervy time – creepy pedophiles, voyeurism, little girl virgins, all sorts of inappropriate innuendo, blackmail, mummies lurking in small children’s closets…
5- No one cares if the black cop partner gets blown to smithereens by dracula.

Kristopher McClanahan

—-Something Rises—-


Review: The Misenchanted Sword by Lawrence Watt-Evans

Legends Of Ethshar, Book One

By Lawrence Watt-Evans
1985, 228pgs, fantasy, Paperback


Re: Valder, a scout trapped behind enemy lines, stumbles across an old hermit living in the marshlands. The hermit, annoyed by his unexpected arrival, enchants his sword to get him safely back home. But the sword, though magical and valuable now, has a bit of a catch attached as well…

Outstanding: This book is a delight. There are a lot of original ideas, all taking place in a beautifully realized fantasy world with dragons, magicians, battle, castles, etc. The main character is very likeable and realistic and the misenchanted sword itself is totally clever. A great read.

Unacceptable: Nothing really.

Summary: Confession – this was one of the first “Adult” books I read in my youth, picking it up on a librarian’s recommendation when I was in second or third grade, so I may have an unusually high amount of love for this book, but I’ve given copies to many people over the years and they too fall in love. Watt-Evans has created a great world starting with this novel and it may be one of the best light fantasy novels around. Period.

by Salty Kris
For more archived reviews from ROUS visit:

Review: Mad Max – Fury Road

I am finally writing again and with this, my first review since 2012 on my blog – MAD MAX – Goddamn Awesome.


Directed by George Miller
Starring Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron
2015 – [R] – Post-Apocalyptic Adventure

Re: Max, still wandering the post apocalyptic wasteland, gets mixed up in a plan to assist a cyborg in the escape of five winsome lasses from their mutant husband. There are two car chases.

Outstanding: Pretty much anything and everything. I wanted to enjoy this flick and ended up loving it. The world is fully realized, with unique little details I would never have expected. The chase scenes, which encompass the bulk of the movie are unrelenting, nearly all practical effects and stunning. I seriously can’t say enough good about this movie. There is enough eye candy amongst the various cars, tribes of mutants and set pieces that I could watch it a dozen times and still spot cool little details.

Unacceptable: If you are expecting the slow burn sax lounge scene from the first Mad Max, or the Feral Boomerang child that spoke in animal sound clips from Road Warrior, Or Tina Turner in a glam wig, or if you are just generally a curmudgeonly hipster that refuses to believe a sequel to a classic can ever be good, you may be disappointed.

Summary: Seriously one of the most enjoyably batshit insane and beautiful movies I have ever seen.


Notes: My brother and I saw this in 3D and I can honestly say it was one of the better 3D movies I’ve seen. In a lot of movies, the 3D effect comes off as a little fake – like there’s a 2D person here, a 2D person three feet beyond and a flat background, with some cool stuff floating between. The 3D in Fury Road was subtle and added a real sense of depth to the landscape and chases and during the more intense sequences, of which there were many, I actually found myself jumping as things came towards me.

The original review – … -road.html

By Salty Kris

“Oh, we’re all about to get wet!”

Something Rises.

Review: Ex Machina


I watched this film the other night, late, and it was the perfect environment I was waiting for: my lovely wife asleep, the kids in bed, earphones on, whiskey sours in hand. It was everything I hoped for from this project, and actually, much more. I was focused on all the visual stuff during production: Jock’s design work for Eva, the visual style that seemed equal parts Kubrick* and Nolan, and so much of the minimal tech merged with beautiful ‘tension architecture’**… but the themes, and the way it unfolded with such clean, unsettling certainty in the script and performances, reminded me of good SF from the 60s… you know, REAL SF, not pulp adventure SF we all enjoy. What a counterpoint to Asimov. I really enjoyed the levels of it: the surface level, in which I definitely related to Caleb and was titellated in this weirdly surreal way (I loved the mannerisms and eyes and tone of Eva, so I was the target market right there with him, not necessarily getting sexually aroused but not finding her robotic body ASEXUAL either,) was super into Kyoko*** on a physical level, but also super-tense from the danger, the duplicity, the blind box nature of the experiment and surveillance, sort of a ‘doing it in public’ crossed with ‘if her father hears us i’m dead’ vibe that makes such things so electric. I kind of laughed, thinking that this could have been marketed as an ‘erotic thriller’ and I would have agreed more than I would normally, since films labeled that way rarely work for me. Anyway, I’m weird. But then, on another level, I was really turned on, so to speak, by the thematic material, the faults and strange deviance turned deadly missteps of Nathan’s character, the interesting reactions and choices of Nathan, and then on another level, the perspective from Eva’s viewpoint, both what she, and the narrative, led us to believe she was wrestling with, vs. ultimately what she appeared to be processing, as witnessed in her final choices. My boss said it well: “Eva was created in Nathan’s image” and that resonated with me. The flaws of man, etc. But it hung with me for days. I’ve found myself, even this morning on the way to work, internally debating the free will vs. coded protections (Asimov again, but how it relates to slavery and the question of true sentience…); how could an AI be truly sentient if limited in coding to have specific emotional responses to humans, to have blocks against violence or dissent… and in a similar way, how the coding in of gender and heterosexuality and the pleasure centers, etc linked to a very immature (in terms of physical time, not necessarily emotional maturity) developing sense of self. It was super dark. I loved it. I also started thinking about nature-nurture, which as a parent is always on my mind. The big classic questions, at least in the atheist worldview: inherent moral structures vs. learned rules… would an AI coded and trained by a human, say a western human, adopt a western human ethical and moral compass? Even those concepts are shaky at best when you see what people do to each other in the world.

Final note: I’m often fond of films were the setting is a character, and this was no exception. The Juvet hotel just had me glued to it, from beginning to end. I was pre-hooked, ever since I read about the production and looked it up, and yes, I’m an architect so I’m going to lean a certain way in my focus, but it really spoke to me. I love mid-century modern/international style glass and raw material residential architecture, and I love the juxtaposition with the natural landscape beyond it (I may be wrong, but isn’t it true there were no organic living materials in that house other than Nathan? The tree courtyard slash divider was separated by glass from the rest of the interior, and all the foresty landscape was on the exterior. The house itself was beautiful and cold… like the AI projects.) but also the tension architecture I mentioned.

*I’ve read that Oscar Isaac used Kubrick as one of his inspirations for Nathan. I was picking up more of a literal Jobs slash Page/Brinn slash Musk vibe (I used slashes and the word slash in the same reference, interrobang)

**tension architecture really interests me, and you see a lot of it in Scandinavian retreats. Such as the smooth face of the raw stone wall that comprised a good chunk of the main residential living space, where a portion of it was left naturally shaped and textured.

***I was trying to figure out, as it went, why I was so charged by Kyoko, and then I sort of figured it out before I even googled her. Beyond my well-documented interest in mixed-ethnicity brunettes, it was her physical mannerisms, not really the walking around rigidly and quietly, but some of how she was moving in one of my favorite scenes (the dance) and how she acted in the hallway: I dated an ex-ballet dancer and it was the same sort of movement: this thing where the body is in a constant fluid motion, yet controlled. I think it gets hardwired into them. So to speak, so to speak. I know she was moving deliberately, but I’m saying just spending a year with an ex-ballet dancer, you see how they stand and walk and pivot on regular mundane things. They don’t know how NOT to. At least that was my experience. I didn’t realize she was literally a ballet dancer while watching it, though she seemed like she had a solid dance foundation based on that scene… but to read the combination of background that actress has, it became clearer why it was so gut-level familiar to me. So that was a thing.

SO DOPE. One of my favorite films now, easily.

Chief of Ninja Group


Review: Alamo Drafthouse Theater, San Francisco

Ubiquitous non-spoilery SW7 image above, specifically for the TRDL/R3 brand-awareness of it.

The Alamo Drafthouse SF opened this past weekend, with SW7 being the official hard launch debut film. They actually opened for a soft launch the weekend prior, but I wasn’t able to attend. The Drafthouse series of theaters is like Sundance on crack. You have a bar, you have full food and drink service with a pretty awesome menu, tables at the seats, and less publicized but equally entertaining: curated pre-show content and integrated viewing experience. The short review is: loved it.

I had heard from friends that went on opening night that its best to arrive early, in order to make the dining orders and possibly have them arrive prior to show start. Our tickets were for the fifth day of the theater’s grand opening. So, they had had some time to start smoothing out some of the kinks. When you think about it, training staff in one week (they started hiring the week before last) to basically spend their entire shift bent over (not metaphorically, even) is a tough nut. The whole operation depends on them being subtle and unobtrusive, lest they be distracting during the film. Anyway, we arrived at 2:30pm for a 3:30pm show, and had time to kill.

We grabbed seats at the in-house bar, Vs., which were BTW super comfy leather… we were waiting for my lovely wife to arrive separately via Lyft and the crew were cleaning the auditorium from the previous showing. The access controls are basically like the train… you waltz right in, go to the theater, find your seats, and then your server comes to you to introduce themselves and go over the process of ordering and such, and then casually checks your tickets ‘to make sure you are in the right seats’… so, I really like the smoothness of this operation. Though, admittedly, it depends on people arriving early enough to get all that sorted prior to film start.

At the Vs. I ordered a Boulevardian, which was not surprisingly bourbon, campari, orange and lemon bitters, and zest. DELICIOUS.

At 3pm, we decided to head over to the main auditorium (across the hall) and get seated. Each pair of seats share a little table between/in front of them. Menus are in slots below, and the order slips are in a stack with pens. You write your order out, and then put the sheet upright in the thing. My lovely wife arrived at about 3:30pm so we weren’t able to get our order in and on the table prior to start, but my sister-in-law and her husband had ordered right at 3pm and their stuff began arriving right around 3:30pm. If you extrapolate this to a restaurant environment, you’re looking at a few hundred unique orders all needing to arrive around the same time, as well as follow up orders throughout the film. Frankly, I thought there would be more delay than there was. Having ordered shortly before start, I think everything came by about 20 min into the film. Note, they bring things one or two at a time, so they can logistically stay bent over and not spill stuff. Our sever said she isn’t ‘seeing the effects’ of the position in the mirror yet, but sure as hell is feeling it, abs and glutes. Our server was also extremely ebullient and charming, which added to the experience.

We ordered a shaved brussells sprouts salad (big bowl), a fungi personal pizza, an order of the famous chips and ‘queso’ which is essentially a green chili white cheese dip (and amazing indeed); she had two whites, and I had a second Boulevardian and a 750ml red rye ale.

The food is half the battle here. It’s not your typical ‘special cinema’ menu (Sundance’s offerings are already great, but here, the eccentricity of the menu is a point of pride. I basically wanted one of everything. Being middle of the afternoon, we kept it reasonably light.

Note: you can customize off the secret menu…

Another fun thing is the pre-show content, curated to match the film you are going to see. This time, it was a melange of awkward musical numbers from 70s and 80s SW TV specials and Disneyland shows, youtube videos of the dancing Stromtroopers etc, Cat Star Wars and so on. Very cool. Even old Kenner TV commercials.

I hadn’t had a lot of sleep, much water, or really much to eat, so about 25% in to my beer, I was starting to feel the burn, so I laid off the beer and just rode out the last act of the film, which I admit I resorted to one-eye viewing (hahahahha) but not too badly, fully present, just a little more of a heat on than intended or expected off of 2.5 drinks in 3 hours. Just a metabolic misfire.

Anyway, I gave my server my card at the start to streamline closing out the bill, which was great, since I didn’t have to fish around for it during the intense last 20 minutes of a film, right. It’s by no means cheap, but I thought very well worth it and very entertaining as a filmgoing experience.

Definitely doing so again! I think I will stick with the AMC 1000 Van Ness IMAX awesomeness for the big MMM days, but for date nights or more eccentric films like Coen Brothers or Wes Anderson or the like.

Chief of Ninja Group