D&D And Me: A Nostalgic Perspective

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I’ve only talked briefly of my love of all things D&D in a couple of reviews, but have never really spoken at length about it, never thought I’d really feel the need to since at 45 I’m not into the game anymore, haven’t been for decades, but just a few weeks ago while on Amazon I bumped into what appeared to me to be a new Monster Manual. The release date confirmed it was indeed new. What?! Without hesitation I hit up google, did some detective work and learned the makers of the game created a 5th Edition that started it’s official roll out this past summer.

Whaaaaaaaaat?!

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Unethical Practices: The Critical Assassination of The Counselor

The Counselor (2013)

It only takes one weak link to break a chain, and when The Counselor debuted in theaters in November, a once highly buzzed awards contender was reduced to entertainment rag cannon fodder rather unjustly thanks to the weak link of Cameron Diaz’s misguided performance in the film. Critics were divided, audiences were discouraged, and haters were ravenous — but to this author, much of the criticism is quite confusing in their points. If critics were to consider the tone of the film off-kilter, why not apply the same criticism to award-worthy oddities like Nebraska? If the film’s content was truly the issue, then why did audiences embrace downers such as Prisoners or Blue Jasmine?

Of course, the predictable pool of Oscar nominations is surely attributed to that of safety and necessity. While out-of-the-box candidates such as Gravity and Her will receive obligatory nominations, they’ll never be truly embraced by the Academy, allowing instead for the routine mix of charming character pieces, heart-wrenching melodramas, and zeitgeist-penetrating biopics to scoop up nominations all around. Meanwhile, as the horror genre is continually ignored for their incredible work in SFX, the Academy can sleep soundly knowing that legitimately unique cinema will not be given the satisfaction of critical embrace, at least not during its initial release.

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Dissecting Oliver Stone’s JFK: Getting Stoned on JFK and Loving It

Oliver Stone's JFK

Even today, Kennedy assassination conspiracy theories show up so often in film, it’s really an Oliver-Stonish disservice to pick it out for criticism. Still, the myth of the Warren Commission remains a potent subject. If one has to name the film best known for taking it on, then it still must be Stone’s JFK.

The official story of the lone gunman certainly deserved a healthy bit of skepticism from its inception. Yet did even the most corrupt right-wing ideologist deserve the assault-of-the-senses that Stone created? One has to admit to a lot of ambivalence; the film gives us theory after theory, but no resolution. Cinematically, JFK is a truly reckless drive. It’s joyfully deconstructive and self referential (unless one is crazy enough to think Stone magically found footage of Jack Ruby confessing to being a part of THE CONSPIRACY). The film turns the murder of Kennedy into nothing less than a parable about the rise and fall of the United States and its empire. Strangely, the problem of the film – its cartoon history of corrupt officials, assassinations, phony wars, and bureaucratic deceit – transforms JFK into one of the most entertainingly misleading movies of all time.

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I Blame Hollywood (Mostly): Why Goodfellas Needed More Deconstruction

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“But, I’m funny how? Funny like a clown? I amuse you? I make you laugh?”
                     – Tommy DeVito

I know Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas remains something of a sacred cow even among those not completely enamored with Scorsese, so some remarks are needed to save me from the inevitable pitchforks. Like many classics it seems invincible, and like some unkillable zombie, it is critic-proof. Let me concede from the start, there is a lot to admire in parts of the film. But as a cohesive piece, Goodfellas has fatal problems.

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Bringing the 80s Back: The Tenuous Cult Status of American Psycho

Bringing the Eighties Back: The Tenuous Cult Status of American Psycho

Patrick Bateman is into murders and executioners mostly, but he is also into designer clothes, business cards, alcoholic drinks, facial masks, and classic horror movies. Ostensibly, he is a wealthy investment banker at Pierce & Pierce living in Manhattan in the late-1980s engaged to high-class fiancé Evelyn Williams (Reese Witherspoon). But he is also Patrick Bateman, a serial killer obsessed with killing his victims as he gives extemporaneous and amusing commentaries on his taste for Phil Collins, Huey Lewis and The News, and Whitney Houston.

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Just When Things Were Getting Interesting: The Premature Death of the Superhero Genre

The Premature Death of The Superhero Movie

One of the pains, or sometimes a benefit of film criticism is keeping up with other critics and taking in their suggestions. Not wishing to ruffle feathers (at least at this point), I have noticed more than a few film critics saying enough is enough regarding the “superhero” movie genre. The often meaningless aesthetics of these big budget monsters is blamed on being based too strongly on comic books. But does this complaint stand up?

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Explain That One More Time: Why Some Kids are So Nuts Over Donnie Darko and The Rest of Us Could Care Less

Donnie Darko

I admit it. I’m a fan of Donnie Darko. When Donnie Darko was released in 2001, Richard Kelly had done some previous work, but as far as feature debuts go the film was an impressive first attempt. Yet despite the phenomenal attention paid to the film, I could only locate one academic study.

Is Donnie Darko really worth all this attention? Probably not. It has some interesting paradoxes and puzzles. Some good performances from Jake Gyllenhaal, Drew Barrymore, and Patrick Swayze and a genuinely touching (if derivative) story to tell. Certainly, I’m objective enough to realize the howling, heroic assumptions a viewer has to make seeing the film.

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Life And Death In Game Of Thrones

Game Of Thrones - the rains of castamere shows us why to value characters

Strife and death are essential parts of storytelling. Yet with the exceptions of books, movies, and television shows based on true events, they rarely feel as tangible as they should. Characters live and die, and with a plot twist here and there, we are always thrown for a loop. Regardless of what struggles they face or pain they must endure, the characters we learn to love are cloaked in a sort of unspoken protection. Even though we fear for them, we secretly know nothing bad will happen. In the end, they will overcome their obstacles, kill the bad guy, and ‘get the girl,’ so to speak. The consequences of their actions seem to matter less, and I’ve found simple scenes which should draw empathy, fear, and revulsion require so much more than necessary to achieve the same reaction. Just think of all the CGI and cheap scares put into scenes to create stress, where in reality, the situation itself should be more than enough. It’s numbing and dull, and in my opinion disservices our capacity to empathize with fiction as if it were real.

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I Hate Freddy Got Fingered.

Freddy Got Fingered

I normally don’t seek out bad films. I want to enjoy the company of great movies, I really do. But these films are like Mrs. Robinson from The Graduate, and I am Dustin Hoffman, seduced by the allure of bad cinema. It’s a curse, and sometimes this curse takes me to dark places. This curse, coupled with my morbid curiosity, has taken to me the darkest place imaginable, the 2001 film known as Freddy Got Fingered.

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A Retro Shock Theater Review, Mosquito (1995, Dir. Gary Jones)

Mosquito 1995 Gary Jones

As I write this, I’ve just heard news that stop motion special effects artist Ray Harryhausen has just passed away at the age of 93. His death reminds me that his monsters and those “Big Bug” movies from the 50s were the first flicks I latched onto when I was kid. It helped that me and my brother were extremely fascinated by insects and spiders growing up, but to see them in a science fiction film in which they grow to an enormous size and wreak havoc upon mankind was a whole new experience for me.

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