Salt Lake City Comicon 2014: The World Premiere of SyFy’s “Z Nation”


Z Nation LogoLast week, during Salt Lake City’s 2nd annual comicon, one of the last panels of the show premiered SyFy’s newest television show, “Z Nation.”  One of the presenter’s had been featured in numerous SyFy feature length films and as she put it, “I’ve been killed, and often.”  The second presenter, Michael Welch, is actually apart of the ensemble cast and hosted the ‘Q&A’ format after the credits had rolled on the pilot episode of “Z Nation.”

For those of you that don’t know “Z Nation” is set in upstate New York (at least on the onset of the pilot), but was primarily shot right here in good ol’ Spokane, WA.  Even though, they never call attention to the fact that it isn’t Spokane, native Spokanites can spot the thicket of pines, sleepy city locales, and myriad of lakes that make this region famous and unique to the rest of the country.

“Z Nation” is an interesting beast though.  It harkens back to old school zombies flicks like any of Romera’s cannon and it does so with gusto.  It doesn’t pull the punches in that quirky, dark sense of humor kind of a way.  It shouts “campy” at you, but for an old school zombie lover like myself…I loved it.  It was catchy and effectively paid homage to the genre.  Not every moment has to be gritty and realistic, sometimes you can let go and have fun with it like filmmakers used to, back in the day.

MILD SPOILER

In particular, there is a great scene involving the group cast, the discovery of an alive, intact baby, and the decision making and consequences that ensue.  To be warned, it is not for the faint of heart.

END OF SPOILER

Z NationHowever, like a well-worn and bloodied coin, “Z Nation” does a hold a flame to AMC’s famed “The Walking Dead”—  And, it does so quite cleverly.  It takes the situations that the characters are dealt and the consequences of a zombie invasion and pits them in a real world context, much like “The Walking Dead.”  How the characters’ behave, proceed, and deal with one another is fairly realistic considering the circumstances.

The pilot does an excellent job introducing the main cast, the time frame, setting, and overall goal.  As an audience member, you could see the logical line of progression and how several seasons worth of episodes could be produced without breaking away from the plot line (e.g. think Star Trek’s “The Voyager”).

Ultimately, I think “Z Nation” has good odds of striking a dent in “The Walking Dead” market share.  “Z Nation” does a little bit of both—  It’s campy like the old shuffle and blood zombie flicks and it tackles supernatural problems with real world engagement.

I recommend at least checking out the pilot for the deciding vote.  At the very least, I see a strong cult following for this television show, and as for me I’ll be buckled in for the native Spokane scenery and strong allure of the zombie.

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Gary Oldman’s reaction to Conan O’Brien’s scene in “Sharktopus vs. Pteracuda”


Following up on my post of the SyFy channel’s “Sharktopus” sequel, “Sharktopus vs. Pteracuda,” Idiosyncratic Wit has obtained an ‘exclusive’ clip featuring Gary Oldman watching Conan O’Brien’s scene in the ‘soon to-be classic,’ “Sharktopus vs Pteracuda.”

Merely, click the link or image below to catch the video on the official Team Coco website, sit back, and enjoy the awesomeness!

 

Gary Oldman Reacts To Conan In “Sharktopus Vs. Pteracuda”

Conan O'Brien Sharktopus vs. Pteracuda

A SyFy Original, “Sharktopus vs Pteracuda.”


I am sucker for really, really bad movies, especially the ones that premier on the SyFy channel.  I desperately remember trying to find the sit down room to watch “Frankenfish,” “Bats: Human Harvest,” and “Carny.”  However, that being said, I somehow missed 2013’s “Sharknado”… 😦

But, have no fear!  The much anticipated follow-up to 2010’s “Sharktopus,” “Sharktopus vs. Pteracuda,” will be arriving on the SyFy channel this August and will surely raise the bar for awesome-ness.

Check out this killer promo for “Sharktopus vs Pteracuda” and the accompanying trailer below:

Sharktopus vs. Pteracuda

Film review: Snowpiercer (2013)


“Snowpiercer” with Chris Evans, Kang-ho Song, Ed Harris, John Hurt, Tilda Swinton, and Jamie Bell

Directed by Joon-ho Bong, Written by Joon-ho Bong (screenplay), Kelly Masterson (screenplay), Jacques Lob (based on Le Transperceneige by), Benjamin Legrand (based on Le Transperceneige by), Jean-Marc Rochette (based on Le Transperceneige by)

Snowpiercer PosterScience-fiction films and television have made quite the re-emergence into pop culture over the past several years.  After decades of relative mediocrity (with only a sprinkling of gems to break the lull), blockbuster franchises like Star Trek, Planet of the Apes, and the superhero movie have once again revitalized the genre whilst paving the way for smaller, independent science fiction films that normally would not have made the cut, otherwise.

“Snowpiercer” is one such film— Heralded as the best sci-fi film since “Children of Men,” this international contender had a lot to live up to.  Besides touching upon similar themes of the human condition, global warming and classism, it manages to create a wonderful balancing act between the three that keeps all of the aforementioned heavy topics spinning in perfect harmony.

“Snowpiercer” takes place in the near future where global warming has run rampant and begun heating the Earth’s service to disastrous results.  Humans (in their infinite wisdom) decide to create a chemical compound to counteract this phenomenon.  Inevitably, the humans create a chemical workaround and release it into the atmosphere, which counteracts the induced global warming.  The solution is short-lived, instead of leveling off at ‘a normal’ global temperate the Earth continues to cool…plummeting it into a new ice age.

Before the great freeze, a select few are herded onto a perpetual, everlasting train that serves as the last bastion of humanity— Shielding them from the cold and providing food and comforts for the coming years, all seems well upon the Snowpiercer.  However, the people who live at the front of the train closest to the engine live a life of wealth and luxury, while the individuals who live in the tail live in near starvation and blatant poverty.

This leads to conflict.

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The film takes place 18-years after the initial boarding of the train and follows a group of the ‘tail section-ers,’ led by Curtis (Chris Evans) and Gilliam (John Hurt), as they try to change society’s rules in order preserve their people.

“Snowpiercer” is a whirlwind of action and intrigue, the plot is less about the cause of the train’s inception but rather the plight of its passengers.  It focuses upon the struggle of the impoverished as well as the decadence of the affluent.  The film is rich with symbolism—  Specifically concerning synergy.  All parts affect the greater whole, especially in reference to the human body.  The head cannot exist without the feet and humans cannot exist solely, without humanity.  Numerous facets of the human condition and the aforementioned extended analogy permeate “Snowpiercer,” resulting in a complex film that keeps audiences thinking long after the credits roll.  Coupled with excellent acting “Snowpiercer” stacks up to be one of the best sci-fi films of the decade.

00Chris Evans leads this star studded cast as the young leader (Curtis), hellbent on leading his people to a better future, John Hurt plays the aged leader (Gilliam) who is effectively passing the baton to Curtis, Jamie Bell plays Curtis’ lieutenant, Edgar, and the villains are rounded out by Tilda Swinton and Ed Harris.  Kang-ho Song and Ah-sung Ho round-out the cast as unlikely allies to the film’s protagonist.  All of the acting is in finest form, however, Kang-ho Song’s acting stands out in particular because of his overall screen presence and difficult scenes.  Many of his lines are delivered in Korean, however this does not diminish any of the emotion or conveyance to the audience.

As an aside, “Snowpiercer” is a South Korean directed, written, and funded film and was expected to see a wide release United States via The Weinstein Company.  However, company head, Harvey Weinstein refused to distribute the film unless 20-minutes of the film were cut and introductory and closing monologues were added.  Director Bong Joon-ho politely declined, and the film only saw a limited release in art house theaters on June 27, 2014.  Due to the high amount of critical acclaim and buzz that “Snowpiercer” has received since its limited run, it was announced on July 2 that it would be run as a wide release in the near future.

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This controversy is unfortunate, not because of the fact that it is a South Korean film, but rather the hoops that international films have to jump through to be seen—  US film companies have such a monopoly and controlling stake in the market that quality films (such as “Snowpiercer”) get shoved to the bottom shelf, solely being shown in art house cinemas or digital streaming service.  In the case, it seems as-if the quality of the film out trumped the big film companies, so tip of the hat to critics who urged film-goers to give “Snowpiercer” a watch.

If you get a chance, I urge any science-fiction fan to watch “Snowpiercer.”  If you enjoyed “Children of Men,” you’ll love “Snowpiercer.”  The acting is superb, the plot is captivating and poignant, and to top it all off director Bong Joon-ho throws in enough bits of color, flair, and quirkiness to give the film a unique flavor without taking it to obscurity.

 

Film review: Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)


“Captain America: The Winter Soldier” with Chris Evans, Samuel L. Jackson, Scarlett Johansson, Robert Redford, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, and Cobie Smulders

Directed by Anthony Russo, Joe Russo, Written by Christopher Markus (Screenplay), Stephen McFeely (Screenplay), Ed Brubaker (concept and story), Joe Simon (comic book), and Jack Kirby (comic book)

PosterThe Marvel Cinematic Universe, otherwise dubbed as “MCU,” continues to expand and impress with each new film introduced into the respective universe and the newest Captain America film, “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” exceeds expectations more than ever.  Marvel Studios seems to now uncover pieces of a puzzle to us one at a time, letting audiences dive into the action and lore of the current generation.  Some pieces have several adjacent pieces already exposed in prior releases, while on other sides we have only film titles, future release dates, and a handful of factoids.  Regardless, the amount of cohesion that is the MCU puzzle is impressive and never before been done; Marvel Studios’ Kevin Feige have pioneered the film industry and what it means to be a franchise.

“Captain America: The Winter Soldier” fits into the puzzle so well, its quality is on par with or even exceeds Joss Whedon’s 2012, “The Avengers.”  Gone are the days of the cheesy Marvel films, audiences now get to enjoy comic book films that are deeply entrenched in nerdery but so well-crafted it is as-if we are watching the newest high-caliber thriller, espionage film akin to the likes of Ludlum’s Bourne or the grittiness of a Ridley Scott drama.  “Captain America: Winter Soldier” is no exception, and while uncovering a new piece of the Marvel puzzle to us, it also pulls from the rich genre well of the great conspiracy films from the 1970s— Bits and pieces elegantly placed together to create a modern retelling of some of the great genre films of the past.

If curious check out this great article by IGN’s Daniel Krupa, “5 Films You Should See After Captain America: Winter Soldier.”  Krupa details out specifics references of Winter Soldier’s obvious respect to cinema history and recommends some of the best espionage films of the era that “Captain America: Winter Soldier” most-likely pulls from.

05Picking up after the events of the first Captain America as well as “The Avengers,” the newest entry into the Marvel series places Captain Steve Rogers in a new world, specifically a new world order.  The inside jokes and technological marvels of the second modern millennium are not as confounding to the Captain as they were in “The Avengers (2012),” but he still lives as a man out of time.  He is conflicted, but at an ideological level.

He pulls upon the threads of a lost life by finding lovers and compatriots of the old.  However, more important than his lust for a forgotten time, he is torn between the ideologies of the time.  Forcing good and evil into a black and white spectrum, just doesn’t seem as easy as it was back in the day, and the idea of secrecy and espionage being the mainstay in a constant struggle tears at Captain America, which is essentially the driving force behind the film.

Captain America is in a brave new world and he knows nothing else than being a soldier.  He is at service to his country, and is trying to find his footing in a different type of war.  The film opens with Cap making a connection with a fellow soldier as they run laps around the mall in front of the Washington Monument.  This seemingly small connection expands throughout the film because it provides Cap a connection to the era; war is eternal and the two can relate even across the decades.

10Captain America’s newfound running mate is later introduced as Falcon (aka Sam Wilson) played by the talented Anthony Mackie.  Alongside Captain America and Falcon, Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson); Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders); and Nick Fury (Sam Jackson) round out the primary protagonists, subsequently pitting them against a villain from Cap’s past and present in a sweeping plot that will have long lasting consequences upon S.H.I.E.L.D., the Avengers, and the entirety of the MCU.

The action scenes are tightly shot and fluid.  Captain America is finally given the chance to prove his dynamism in “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.”  He is agile and more gymnastic than he has ever been— Obviously refining his skills and training in order to adapt to Norse Gods, men in Iron suits, and, well…Hulk, along with a new world paradigm.  Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), who stands by Cap throughout the narrative, is just as fluid and badass as she has been in the prior Marvel films.  This time around we get to see Natasha more in the raw— A little bit of backstory and vulnerability are exposed along with a dash of flirtatiousness thrown in for good measure.  Nick Fury remains stoic and secretive as always, but his role within the MCU also is called into question similarly to that of Captain America’s place.

09The cinematography and art style is at its best in this film.  Not only does Marvel Studios manage to keep an atmospheric cohesion between two films set seventy-years apart, they also manage to tie the two plot lines to one of Caps greatest villains as well as the massive juggernaut of “The Avengers.” This is an incredible filmmaking feat and a tricky endeavor on multiple fronts— “Finesse” is the word that comes to mind.  Continuity is tricky, especially when dealing with comics and an expanded film universe that now encompasses nine films and counting, but like aforementioned “Captain America: Winter Soldier” is merely a new puzzle piece being revealed to audiences.  It fits perfectly in the overall scope of things, and doesn’t deviant anyway from the big picture.

The acting is superb in “Captain America: Winter Soldier.”  Chris Evans is excellent as always and is a more believable Captain America than he ever was a Johnny Storm.  Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow seems to improve every time she stars in a new Marvel film, and the vulnerability and rawness that Johansson brings to the character was particularly believable and refreshing.  It is honestly coming to the point where she could probably handle her own, standalone “Black Widow” film and Marvel would see the return that they would need to film another.  Anthony Mackie is a standout actor that brings a certain modernity to his role as Falcon and ultimately one of Captain America’s closest friends.  The Winter Soldier was excellently cast and written; the presence, shock and awe, and gravitas that Sebastian Stan brings is impressive.  Villains have always been a comics mainstay, and (as Loki has proven) can be incredibly popular and successful in their own right, and with further backstory and films the Winter Soldier can perhaps reach the lofty height of Hiddleston’s portrayal as Loki.  Watching Robert Redford on screen was fantastic.  He played Alexander Pierce wonderfully and his inclusion added another layer of sophistication that rounded out an already stellar cast and well-constructed plot.  Redford’s inclusion was very much akin to Tommy Lee Jones’ portrayal of Colonel Chester Phillips in “Captain America: The First Avenger.”

The film was impressive to say the least.  The plot line was impressive for its continuity and level of construction; the castings and overall acting were topnotch and more than a couple of decades ago would have been unheard of for a comic book film; the atmosphere, art direction, and cinematography managed to tie in numerous elements of prior films while remaining cohesive is the film’s high point among many highs.  At the moment, it is difficult to imagine a film franchise reaching such heights, except for maybe Star Wars.

Fan Art

As an aside, I had the pleasure of seeing two different showing of “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.”  One was opening evening (but was a standard theater showing), however the second viewing was an IMAX 3D one.  I usually don’t prefer IMAX 3D presentations due to issues with my contact lenses, but this time around I preferred the experience because it was more enveloping.  The IMAX presentation showed quite a bit more peripheral action in the extended sequences and the 3D was not harsh upon the eyes, actually translating quite well to the viewer.  It was visually stunning and added to an already great cinematic experience.

To cap off such a film, movies goers were shown a brief glimpse into the franchises with not one but two after the credit scenes, so make sure to check out the post-credits before leaving the theater.  The first scene gives audiences as glimpse into “The Avengers: Age of Ultron,” while the second is little more specific to Captain America.  Nevertheless, they’re both worth checking out, so if you plan on seeing “The Avengers 2” and/or “Captain America 3” stay seated till film stops rollin’.