Saturday, July 30, 2011

"Doctor Who" Flashback Reviews: "The Impossible Astronaut" and "Day of the Moon" (Series Six Episodes 1 and 2)


As I announced on Monday, I’m reposting a bunch of my old TV reviews from YourHub here on this site; yesterday, we began with reviews of NBC’s Chuck, and today, we start revisiting the sixth series of BBC America’s Doctor Who.  Over the next few Saturdays, I’ll be reposting reviews of all seven episodes, mostly in sets of two, in anticipation of the second half of series six, premiering on August 27th.  Small alterations to the reviews have been made, but please keep in mind these were all written the night the episodes aired, without knowledge of future episodes, so they may read as somewhat out of date, especially when my crazier predictions are proven wrong.  We start with the opening two-parter, The Impossible Astronaut and Day of the Moon. 

Spoilers for both episodes after the jump…

Friday, July 29, 2011

Review: "Cowboys and Aliens" discards its fun title in favor of an excruciating experience

Film Rating: D+

There are multiple films warring for supremacy inside of Cowboys and Aliens, and while all of them have the potential to be satisfying interpretations of the wacky title on their own, together they make a film that is loud, soulless, and above all, stupid.  Insultingly, incoherently stupid.

If one pays attention to the opening credits, it may not come as much of a surprise; there are five credited writers with a screenplay credit, two of which share a story credit with another man whose name isn’t on the script, and that’s before we reach the author of the graphic novel that provides the source material.  As such, the script appropriately feels like it’s been haphazardly cobbled together from multiple, drastically different drafts, all thrown inside a blender and inexplicably put in front of the cameras.  The results are not pretty.

Read the rest after the jump...

"Chuck Versus the Anniversary" and "Chuck Versus the Suitcase" Flashback Reviews - Season 4 Episodes 1 and 2

As I announced on Monday, I’m reposting a bunch of my old TV reviews from YourHub here on this site, starting with reviews from the fourth season of NBC’s Chuck.  Over the next twelve Fridays, I’ll be republishing these old reviews in sets of two, all in anticipation of the fifth (and final) season premiere on October 21stSmall alterations to the reviews have been made, but please keep in mind these were all written the night the episodes aired, so they may read as somewhat out of date (especially when I worry about the show getting cancelled, which didn’t happen).  Still, it’s fun to look back on the season as it was originally experienced, seeing which predictions I got right and wrong, and how my opinions on certain characters or stories changed as the season went along.  We start with the first two episodes, Chuck Versus the Anniversary and Chuck Versus the Suitcase.       

Spoilers for both episodes after the jump…

Monday, July 25, 2011

Site Updates: “Chuck” and “Doctor Who” TV Reviews Returning This Week

When I wrote for YourHub, one of my most prominent features was TV Blogging.  This is where I review a TV series week-to-week, posting an in-depth analysis shortly after episodes air.  I am happy to announce that TV Blogging is about to become a regular part of the rotation here on www.jonathanlack.com, starting with archival reviews of two shows I had been following at YourHub.  At Comic Con this weekend, the cast of BBC America’s Doctor Who announced that the perennial sci-fi classic will return for the second half of its sixth season on Saturday, August 27th, while NBC announced a few weeks ago that spy-comedy Chuck will debut its fifth and final season on Friday, October 21stSince all my reviews for these shows have now vanished from the internet thanks to YourHub’s recent redesign, I’ll be re-posting many of those articles here on the blog in the weeks leading up to the premieres, and it all starts this Friday and Saturday. 

More information on TV Blogging, cool updates to the site, and Twitter (@JonathanLack) after the jump…

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Review: "Friends with Benefits" is a flawed but fun romantic comedy

Film Rating: B

If you like Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis, you’ll enjoy Friends With Benefits – it’s as simple as that.  The film is an excellent showcase for the pair of them, both as comedic and, occasionally, dramatic performers, and their chemistry is simply amazing.  The film isn’t riotously funny, but it’s hard not to smile when Kunis and Timberlake share the screen, so natural is their rapport.  The film fares best when it puts the two front and center and lets their relationship develop organically; when it takes a detour for the titular “sex sans emotions” story, which is really only a subplot, the film doesn’t work as well, and it’s very disappointing to see the third act eschew much of the freshness of the first two thirds in order to service a handful of terrible romantic comedy clichés. 

But when the film does work, it works quite well; all the major flaws stem from clichés, but at its heart, Friends With Benefits does something most romantic comedies never come close to achieving – it makes real characters out of the two leads, and in so doing gets the audience invested in their lives, struggles, and relationship.  With strongly developed leads, the clichés and questionable narrative decisions are easier to swallow, and overall, the film is a very pleasant experience. 

Continue Reading After the Jump...

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Review: "Captain America" is the Most Entertaining Adventure of the Summer

Film Rating: A+

One of my favorite films of all time is Steven Spielberg’s Raiders of the Lost Ark; I have never seen a film more delightfully, unabashedly fun than Indiana Jones’ first adventure.  The endlessly inventive action is a major part of that, of course, but Raiders is a masterpiece because the fantastic set-pieces are performed by characters we love the moment they appear, inhabiting a world that is so close to our own yet so fantastically foreign at the same time, a world where magical things can happen and good and evil are defined with gleeful enthusiasm.  Raiders is the cinematic definition of fun, and while many have tried to imitate its success – Spielberg and Lucas included, on at least three occasions – no one has ever really come close to matching it.

Until now.

Joe Johnston’s Captain America took all of about thirty seconds to put a huge, goofy grin on my face, a smile as wide and enthusiastic as any I’ve ever worn in a movie theatre, and kept that grin there for two straight hours.  Harry Potter, I love you, but I have to confess…Captain America may just be my favorite movie of the year…Read why after the jump...

Game Review: "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2" is a Fun Blast of Nostalgia

I don’t review video games much, mostly because despite my love of gaming, I’m always months (or years) behind the current game trends (I just picked up Red Dead Redemption in May, for instance, long after it was topical).  In the midst of Potter-mania earlier this month, however, I did pick up a new game - Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 for Xbox 360.  Anyone who grew up on Potter and owned a game console, or even a PC, has probably played one or more Harry Potter games, and I was eager to see what EA Games had in store for their final entry in the series.  Thankfully - or not so thankfully, depending on how one looks at it - the game is fairly short, and despite my busy schedule, I was able to finish it and pump out a review in a (relatively) timely manner. 

Read the full video game review (based on the Xbox 360 Version of the game) after the jump...

Monday, July 18, 2011

Music Review: Red Hot Chili Peppers Return with “The Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie”

How time flies.  Last time the Red Hot Chili Peppers released new music, it was 2006, and I was in seventh grade.  “Dani California” was the first Chili Peppers song I heard, and I loved it so much that I got my mom to buy me the album Stadium Arcadium, which I listened to so much I wore out both CDs (remember those?).  I got into music kind of late, and Arcadium is the album that really got me interested in Rock; in fact, most of what’s on my iPod wouldn’t be there if it weren’t for the Chili Peppers.  Since 2006, however, the Peppers have been mostly MIA - now it’s 2011, I’ve graduated High School, expanded my own musical horizons, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers are finally back with some new music, and a new guitarist, with Josh Klinghoffer taking over for the great John Frusciante.  Their new album, I’m With You, is expected for an August 30th release, but today, they’ve released the first single from the project – “The Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie.”

As you can tell, the title has an appropriate amount of Peppers wackiness, and listening to the track, it doesn’t feel like much time has passed at all.  Continue reading after the jump…

Friday, July 15, 2011

Review: "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2" closes the series with thrills and grace

Film Rating: A+

I feel such a strange mixture of emotions right now; the Harry Potter journey, which I embarked on as one of the very first readers way back when I was seven, is over.  Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 is a fantastic conclusion, like the book it’s based on, but one can’t help feeling overwhelmed once it’s all over.  So overwhelmed, in fact, that you are now reading my fourth attempt at starting this review, and one of those attempts reached two pages before I scrapped it all and started over from scratch.  It’s difficult to write about Hallows 2 because there’s never been a film quite like it, just as there’s never been a series like Harry Potter.  No film series has ever had ambitions this high, attempting to tell one sprawling story over a decade’s worth of films using the same set of growing actors throughout, and that means that no film series has ever had a conclusion quite like this.  There is so much for the filmmakers to play with in this final chapter, so many character arcs and story threads to bring to a close, and from start to finish, Hallows capitalizes on everything that has come before, crafting a finale that sends the universe, the story, and most importantly, the characters out on a high note. 

Continue the Review after the jump...

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Ranking the "Harry Potter" Books and Movies

We’re only a few hours away from the midnight premiere of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, signaling the end of a franchise that has defined so much of my childhood and adolescence.  I’ve tried not to get to sentimental this past week, publishing a ridiculous fan-fiction about Potter dominating Twilight rather than my usual reminiscence on the Potter phenomenon; the tears will come tonight at midnight, as the series draws to a close, and I’m sure tomorrow’s review of the film will say all the things I’ve left unsaid over the past four days.

But before it’s all over, I want to quickly take one last look back at the standing of the series, both the books and films.  I’ve read these books so many times, and enjoyed the movies for so many years that I’ve lots and lots of time to decide how they all stack up against each other.  Today, it seems, is as good a time as any to crystallize those thoughts in article form.  So I’m quickly going to share my rankings of the seven books, from least to most favorite, and the seven movies.  Where will the eighth film fall?  We’ll find out tonight.

Read More After the Jump…


"Harry Potter and the Children of the Night" - Part 4 (Conclusion)

In celebration of the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, I’m debuting a brand-new Harry Potter story throughout this week, one that pits our favorite Hogwarts characters against the creatures of Twilight.  Presented in four parts, one chapter has been going up every day this week, and today is the final installment!  Read part one by clicking here, part two here, and part three here.

Today, the story comes to its dramatic and epic conclusion with Chapter Four, in which the trio enter the final battle with the Cullens.  Both sides are unprepared, however, because each has brought some very powerful reinforcements.  It’s the final battle between good and evil!  Finish the story by reading Harry Potter and the Children of the Night – Part Four after the jump…

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

First Impressions of Alexandre Desplat's "Deathly Hallows Part 2" Soundtrack

We’re less than 48 hours away from the midnight release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, and as with many major film releases, the soundtrack has hit stores (and, more importantly, online mp3 distributors like iTunes and Amazon) a few days early.  I really enjoyed composer Alexandre Desplat’s work on Hallows Part 1, so I eagerly snatched up this new soundtrack as soon as it came out.  Normally, I would spend more time with a soundtrack and do a full review, but this is a score of such sweeping emotional magnitude that I felt compelled to write up some quick first impressions of the score.  Keep in mind, I haven’t seen the film yet, so I’m discussing the music largely out of context of the movie.  And, of course, it’s impossible to discuss the score with spoiling many details of the film’s plot, by virtue of the track titles and what happens in the book.  I assume that won’t be a problem for many of you (I hear the books are popular). 

First Impressions of the Score after the jump…


"Harry Potter and the Children of the Night" - Part Three

In celebration of the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, I’m debuting a brand-new Harry Potter story throughout this week, one that pits our favorite Hogwarts characters against the creatures of Twilight.  Presented in four parts, one chapter will go up every day, Monday thru Thursday.  Read part one by clicking here, and part two here.

Today, we continue with Chapter Three, in which Harry, Ron, and Hermione get help from some old friends while battling a group of wolves, and Hermione has a poignant chat with Bella Swan.  Read Harry Potter and the Children of the Night – Part Three after the jump…

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

"Harry Potter and the Children of the Night" - Part Two

In celebration of the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, I’m debuting a brand-new Harry Potter story throughout this week, one that pits our favorite Hogwarts characters against the creatures of Twilight.  Presented in four parts, one chapter will go up every day, Monday thru Thursday.  If you missed Part One, click here to read it before continuing with the story.

Today, we continue with Chapter Two, in which our heroes come face-to-face with the Cullen family.  Read Harry Potter and the Children of the Night – Part Two after the jump…



Monday, July 11, 2011

"Harry Potter and the Children of the Night" - Part One

In celebration of the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, I’m debuting a brand-new Harry Potter story throughout this week, one that pits our favorite Hogwarts characters against the creatures of Twilight.  Presented in four parts, one chapter will go up every day, Monday thru Thursday. 

Today, we start with Chapter One.  Read Harry Potter and the Children of the Night – Part One after the jump…

Sunday, July 10, 2011

PREVIEW: Harry Potter Week, including brand-new story "Children of the Night"

If you’ve ever read my work before, you know I’m a huge Harry Potter fan; last year, to celebrate the release of Deathly Hallows Part 1, I published a seven-part article over the course of one week detailing all my favorite Potter memories – and on the eighth day, published my review of the new film. 

For the final Harry Potter film, I’ve decided to do something different.  Last year’s “memories” article will actually reappear here on the blog very soon, but for now, I’m celebrating “Harry Potter Week,” July 11-15, with a brand new, 4-part story set in the Harry Potter universe (and another, far less cool universe), a story that is a celebration of everything I love about Harry Potter and hate about another popular series.  Some might call it fan-fiction.

I call it Harry Potter and the Children of the Night and the fun begins tomorrow morning, right here on www.jonathanlack.com

More details after the jump…

The Monthly Ten Podcast #9 - Harry Potter Extravaganza! Links and Announcements

I’m very excited to announce the release of the latest episode of The Monthly Ten Podcast.  For those new to the blog – I host this monthly podcast wherein I and a guest star count down the top ten somethings in a given month.  This month, in honor of Harry Potter and the Dealthly Hallows Part 2, my good friend and fellow Potter nerd Lexie Campbell count down the best Harry Potter characters.  You can subscribe on iTunes, and if you already have, it should automatically download on your ‘podcasts’ page when you open the program.  If you haven’t subscribed yet, it’s easy, free, and can be done at any time!  Or….


Read More After the Jump...

Friday, July 8, 2011

"Bad Teacher" is effectively mean-spirited, but comedically flat


Film Rating: C–

Bad Teacher isn’t necessarily a good comedy, but it may just be a wonderful practical joke.

I’m serious.  By the time the third act rolled around, I felt like looking over my shoulder to search for whoever was going to pop up and yell “Fooled You!” at the audience before loading the actual movie in the projector.  To say Bad Teacher is surreal would be an understatement.  It is a very mean comedy, one that asks the viewer to sympathize with terrible people while laughing at both good, heartfelt teachers and sweet, innocent kids.  That’s not even the weird part.  I’m totally game for mean humor – I loved Hangover II, for instance, because it was mean and nasty to the extreme, displaying an unflinching audacity that I found hilarious.  Bad Teacher certainly takes the right direction with the humor – it’s the detours that I found baffling.  Broad comedy is dangerous, and when a comedy becomes as broad as Teacher, many jokes are bound to fall flat.  Indeed, the crickets-to-chuckles ratio is an even fifty/fifty, and as broad as the jokes are, some of the characters are even more wildly inconsistent.  The same goes for the tone and the pacing, two crucial elements fumbled so dreadfully that even when the jokes connect, there’s no energy to back them up.  It’s an utterly flat comedy, one whose flaws are, in many ways, more amusing than any of the actual jokes.

Read the rest after the jump...

"Transformers 3" is one of Summer's Biggest Surprises

Film Rating: B+

Sometimes, fate has a way of intervening in my writing.  I first saw Transformers 3 (I’m not going to use the real title, for reasons I’ll explain later) on opening night last Wednesday, and had my review ready the next evening.  That review was seven pages long – the one you read today is significantly shorter.  The film inspired a lot of conflicted thoughts in my mind, ones I found impossible to relate concisely.  I went to post the review, and found that YourHub.com was undergoing a redesign, so I had to hold off as I planned for the future (i.e. creating this shiny new blog).  Before I was able to get the review published, I ended up seeing the movie again, and found it to be a completely different experience.  There are a lot of things I loved about Transformers 3 the first time, and I loved those things even more re-watching it.  There were also plenty of elements I flat out despised, and when I saw the film again, I didn’t mind most of them, and even embraced a few moments or characters I initially dismissed as egregious flaws.  Once I stepped out of the theater, the first thing I thought was “thank God I didn’t publish that review, because I don’t agree with most of it anymore.”

More after the jump...

Welcome to the Blog!

Hello and welcome to Jonathan Lack at the Movies, the new home of film and television critic Jonathan R. Lack.  I've been writing reviews for nearly ten years now, first for the Denver Post's Colorado Kids section, then for the Denver Post's YourHub.Com website and print edition.  For many years now, all of my content, including film review, TV blogging, stories, opinions, etc. has been posted on the YourHub website, and the film reviews have been published in the Post on Thursdays.  Due to a recent redesign of the website over at YourHub, I've decided to change how I release and manage my content.

From now on, www.jonathanlack.com will be the central location to find ALL of the content - including film and TV reviews - that I write and release.


More after the jump...