Category: Z-View

“The Tomorrow War” / Z-View

The Tomorrow War (2021)

Director: Chris McKay

Screenplay: Zach Dean

Stars:  Chris Pratt, Yvonne Strahovski, J.K. Simmons, Sam Richardson, Edwin Hodge  and Mary Lynn Rajskub.

The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

Dan Forester (Pratt) is an ex-military high school science teacher who believes he is destined for something bigger.  Forester will get his opportunity when he is drafted to fight in a war being held nearly 3 decades in the future.

Still with me?

Okay.  In the future earth has been invaded by aliens who have killed almost everyone on the planet.  In an effort to turn the tide and save humanity, future soldiers have come back into the past to recruit people to fight in the future.  A worldwide draft is instated and draftees are sent to the future to fight aliens for seven days.  If they survive they are returned to their proper time.  Forester is drafted.

Forester and the others in his group learn there is no training.  They are given weapons and transported to the future to kill aliens.  Less than 30% will survive the seven days.  In Forester’s group we have a nervous college professor, a tough as nails vet who has done three tours and a bunch of others who we learn nothing about (yep, they’re alien fodder).  As soon as they are in the future Forester’s team is given a mission and off we go.  Alien battles come fast and furious and we learn about the plan to save the world.

What I liked:  Chris Pratt was good.  This may be his best performance yet.  Edwin Hodge is a standout as the soldier with 3 tours.  Sam Richardson provides comic relief (although maybe too much in some spots).  I loved seeing Mary Lynn Rajskub and wish she was given more to do.  The action is non-stop once.  I really liked how they explained who could participate in the time travel (coming and going).  I liked the explanation of how the aliens got to earth.  All through the movie I was thinking these creatures don’t have the brains for space travel.

What bothered me:

  • Too many daddy issues.  Forester has them with his dad and Forester’s daughter has them with him.
  • The coincidences to save the day.  We need a solution that will kill the monsters.  Forester’s daughter (now grown) comes up with it.  We need to figure out where the aliens arrive when they come to earth so we can be there to kill them. Forester’s wife brainstorms with him to figure it out.  We need someone to figure out what the alien claw can tell us.  Remember the nervous college professor?  He can do it.  We need a volcano expert.  Hey, Forester has one in his high school class!  We need a way to get into Soviet air space undetected.  Uh, Forester’s dad can do it.
  • Sometimes the aliens are lethal killing machines and sometimes you can go mano y alien and kick their butt (if they have a butt that is).
  • (Most) Everything gets wrapped up too nicely: Forester was indeed destined for something bigger, daddy issues are resolved all the way around.  Everyone (Forester, his wife, his daughter, his dad, nervous college professor, hardcore vet, nerdy high school volcano lover) has a role in saving the world.
  • What I’d like to know: How does what Forester pulled off change the future (other than the obvious, there will be no aliens wiping out the earth)?

Despite the things I didn’t care for, The Tomorrow War has a core cast that is likeable, a script that keeps things moving and a conflict that involves saving the world.  If you’re looking for a fun ride (and don’t give it too much thought) you’ll enjoy The Tomorrow War.

“No Sudden Move” / Z-View

No Sudden Move (2021)

Director: Steven Soderbergh

Screenplay: Ed Solomon.

Stars:  Don Cheadle, Brendan Fraser, Benicio Del Toro, Kieran Culkin, David Harbour, Jon Hamm, Ray Liotta, Bill Duke, Craig muMs Grant, Julia Fox, Amy Seimetz and Matt Damon.

Tagline: Trust is a set-up.

The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

Three low level crooks who don’t know each other are hired for a mysterious, high-paying job.  Curt Goynes (Cheadle) and Ronald Russo (Del Torro) each need the money from the score to get out of town.  Goynes has stolen important papers from one of the major crime players in the area and Russo is sleeping with his crime boss’ wife.  The job seems easy enough.  Goynes and Russo will hold Matt Wertz’s (Harbour) family hostage while the third man (Culkin) takes Wertz to collect something from his boss’ safe.

When things go sideways, Goynes and Russo realize that they’ve been set-up to be murdered with the Wertz family.  Both men are already on the run from their former alliances and now learn that there is a price on their heads.  Having just met, Goynes and Russo form an uneasy alliance and try to figure out their next move.  What follows is an intelligent story full of double-crosses, twists and an ending that is surprising and satisfying.

I have nothing but praise for No Sudden Move.  It has an intelligent screenplay by Ed Solomon which is extremely well directed by Steven Soderbergh.  It is rare to see a film with so many stars that is perfectly cast.  Cheadle, Del Toro, and Liotta are at the top of their game as to be expected.  David Harbor is spot on as the man in over his head with his wife, his job, and his mistress.  It was great seeing Brendan Fraser in a role that will surprise many.  The same is true for Bill Duke!  And don’t forget there is an uncredited role that is pivotal to the entire film!

It isn’t often that we get a film so perfectly written, cast and directed.  No Sudden Move is that rare film made for adults — it assumes the audience isn’t dumb and it doesn’t rely on special effects.  I absolutely loved No Sudden Move.

“The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It” (2021) / Z-View

The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It (2021)

Director: Michael Chaves

Screenplay:  David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick (story: James Wan & David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick; based on characters created by Chad Hayes & Carey W. Hayes)

Stars:  Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga, Ruairi O’Connor, Sarah Catherine Hook and John Noble.

Tagline:  The Demonic Case That Shocked America

The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It is a change of pace in that the Warrens are working to save a man from death row by using the “he was possessed by the devil” defense.  Talk about a Hail, Mary!

So, there’s a lot of courtroom action?  No, just two brief scenes.  But you have to understand this isn’t about that.  It’s about finding out why the man was possessed and curing that.  But, we know why he was possessed, he asked the devil to take him instead of the boy.  Yes, but as we learn, he wasn’t possessed by the devil, he was cursed by a Satanist!  But, the title is “The Devil Made Me Do It”?  Yes, but it wasn’t through the Devil directly.  But, the movie is scary and full of tension like the other “Conjuring” movies, right?  Well… not really.

The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It is all over the place.  There are exorcisms, a cold case murder mystery, a story of young love, old love, a possession, a curse, a demonic/satanic controlled murder, there’s ESP, raising the dead, a hospital drama, and keeping a man off death row.  For me, it was a bit too much.

I like the chemistry between Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga.  The nod to the original Exorcist when the priest arrives for the exorcism of the little boy is a nice touch.  The set-up with the little boy and the waterbed was creepy.  John Noble was a nice addition but needed more to do.

Nits to pick: It wasn’t as scary or filled with tense scenes as past Conjuring films.  The lighting in every indoor scene was as if to remind us “this is a horror movie” and something scary could be in the shadows.

The set-up of Patrick Wilson’s heart problems were well done but then for the rest of the film the threat of a heart attack looms despite his constant running, straining to lift his wife as she goes over a cliff, etc.  I didn’t think that the whole “Here’s Johnny” with a sledge hammer instead of an axe scene worked.  We know he’s not whacking his wife with it.

I didn’t buy at all that a man in jail for murder and who is using the devil made me do it defense would be allowed out of a cell to mop floors in a semi-dark (spooky, huh?) room.  That he would be come possessed, levitate off the floor, windows would be blown out and not a single cop or orderly shows up?

Overall, I found The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It to be an okay viewing experience.  So it gets 2 of 5 stars.

“Army of the Dead” / Z-View

Army of the Dead (2021)

Director: Zack Snyder

Screenplay: Zack Snyder & Shay Hatten and Joby Harold.

Stars:  Dave Bautista, Ella Purnell, Ana de la Reguera, Omari Hardwick, Theo Rossi, Matthias Schweighöfer, Nora Arnezeder, Hiroyuki Sanada, Garret Dillahunt, Tig Notaro, Raúl Castillo, Huma Qureshi and Richard Cetrone.

The Pitch: “Zack Snyder wants to create a zombie movie to be a tent-pole for other movies, animation and who knows what.  The first film will be called Army of the Dead!”

Tagline: Always Bet on Dead.

The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

Las Vegas has been overrun by zombies.  The city has been walled off by the US government and is set for nuclear destruction in 48 hours.  The clock is ticking…

Scott Ward is former military.  Most of his team survived the zombie outbreak in Vegas when they were sent in to save high ranking government officials.  Ward was given a medal for his efforts.  Now he flips burgers in a diner.  So when super-rich Bly Tanaka offers Ward $50 million to put together a team to enter the city and get $200 million from Bly’s casino vault, Ward accepts the offer.

Ward brings together his crew: former members of his military squad plus a helicopter pilot to fly them out, an adrenaline junkie, a safe cracker and a “coyote” who knows how to get into the city. Odds are they will all die, but the team agrees the risk is worth the reward.  Tanaka provides them with schematics of the safe, weapons and his security captain who will go along to make sure that they don’t run off with all the cash should they survive.

As the team moves into the city they learn that not all zombies are created equal.  Some are fast moving, with the ability to think and communicate with the other zombies.  They don’t talk and there is almost a hive mentality about them.  Also, not everyone on Ward’s team has the same outcome in mind.  There are plot twists and betrayals.  Friendships form, relationships are tested and most will not survive.

I really liked Zack Snyder’s Army of the Dead.  The action starts immediately.  The opening scenes hint at how the zombie apocalypse started and how deadly the zombies are.  Snyder uses the credits to creatively show the fall of Vegas.  This is definitely a Zack Snyder movie — if you’re not a fan of his work, you probably won’t like this.  If you are a fan, then there’s a lot to love.

The cast is excellent.  Because there are so many characters, each with a unique personality, it is important to get the right actors for each role.  Several standout: Bautista, Purnell, Hardwick & Schweighöfer, Rossi, Dillahunt and Notaro shine.

Snyder isn’t just making a movie, he’s creating a universe.  There are two Army of the Dead prequels in development (one animated!) and there is the possibility of a sequel.  Snyder doesn’t give us all the answers — instead he provides us with enough information to fill in the blanks. There are nods to other movies (Aliens, Planet of the Apes, etc.).  The soundtrack is excellent.  If you’re just looking for a fun ride, Army of the Dead provides one.  However, if you like to look deeper into the film. there’s a lot there to discuss.  Were those UFOs in the opening credits?  What about the robot zombie?  What was it doing there?  Where did it come from? (And the exposition of the robot is so subtle, I missed it on the first viewing.)  How did the first zombie get created?  And THAT ending!!

Are there nits to pick?  Sure.

There’s a character that does things that are stupid.  Yet, I would argue that they are consistent with what we’ve seen from her.  Also, if the hero did the same thing (which he does), we’re okay with it.

The length of the movie.  It clocks in at 2 hours and 28 minutes.  Some people have complained about the length.  I thought the time flew by.  I was entertained and didn’t think it was too long.  In fact I’m looking forward to more time in that universe.

A character survives something that should have killed him.  There are a couple of explanations to that, but to discuss them here would be to give too much away.

The team doesn’t seem overly concerned with the clock ticking down the the nuke.

I believe that all of these quibbles can be explained.  I loved Army of the Dead.  I’ve seen it twice and liked it even better the second time.

“Black Summer” Season 2: The Poster, 3 Teasers and the Trailer are Here!

That’s the new poster for Black Summer season 2.  If you didn’t see season 1, you missed out.  But don’t just take my word for it.  Take my word AND the word of Stephen King.  Here’s what I posted with my review of the first season of Black Summer

You’d think by now we’d have seen it all when it comes to zombie stories.  Black Summer is proof that just ain’t so.  I really liked this first season and hope that it returns for a second.  Guess who else likes Black Summer?  Stephen King said this today…

“BLACK SUMMER (Netflix): Just when you think there’s no more scare left in zombies, THIS comes along. Existential hell in the suburbs, stripped to the bone.”

Black Summer season 2  premieres on June 17th. Netflix has released three teasers and a trailer to prepare for the ride!   Here’s teaser one…

Teaser 2…

Teaser 3…

And the trailer…

Winter comes with cold-blooded new challenges during the zombie apocalypse as frantic scavengers and violent militias battle the dead and desperate.

If you missed out on season 1, you have plenty of time to catch up before the premiere of season 2!

“Stowaway” (2021) / Z-View

Stowaway (2021)

Director: Joe Penna

Screenplay: Joe Penna, Ryan Morrison

Stars:  Anna Kendrick, Daniel Dae Kim, Shamier Anderson.

The Pitch: “Let’s update Lifeboat, but do it in space!”

Tagline: Millions of miles from home, survival comes with sacrifice.

The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

About 12 hours into (and past the point of no return of) a two year mission to Mars, the three person astronaut team discovers a man unconscious and badly bleeding.  The accidental stowaway is a launch support engineer who was making last minute preflight checks before liftoff when he was injured.  In order to make the journey to Mars, the ship was equipped with just the essentials to ensure the safety of the three astronauts.  Now with four on board, the question of survival of all comes into play.

Shamier Anderson is excellent as Michael Anderson, the accidental stowaway.  His realization that he is the odd man out on a journey he hasn’t been trained for, nor wanted plays out beautifully though his facial expressions and body language.  Toni Collette plays Marina Barnett, the ship’s Captain who will have to make the ultimate decisions about who lives or dies.  Daniel Dae Kim is the team’s biologist, David Kim and most pragmatic/logical of the team.  Anna Kendrick plays Zoe Levenson, the ship’s doctor and medical researcher.

Initially, they believe that by rationing and conservation of supplies, the trip can be made by four instead of three.  Then they discover that their carbon dioxide scrubber isn’t working. They will be pushing it to have enough oxygen for three.  Now, faced with decisions that will effect not only the mission, but the lives of every person on board, the four must come to grips with the reality of the situation.  Not everyone will survive the journey and as things worsen, the question becomes not of who will survive, but will any of them survive.

Stowaway is well acted and contains excellent special effects.  The tension mounts as the movie progresses and presents itself as more of a morality drama then action/adventure.  As for me, I liked it and rate it 3 out of 5 stars.

“Unhinged” (2020) / Z-View

Unhinged (2020)

Director: Derrick Borte

Screenplay: Carl Ellsworth

Stars:  Russell Crowe, Caren Pistorius, Gabriel Bateman.

The Pitch: “It’s Spielberg’s Duel crossed with the scariest monster you can imagine!”

Tagline: He can happen to anyone.

The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

Rachael is having a bad day.  She’s going through a rough divorce.  Her mom has just been moved into an assisted living home that Rachael can’t afford, her out of work brother and his “fiancé” have moved in with her and her teenage son.  To make this bad day even worse, Rachel overslept.  She’s got to drive her son to school, herself to work and both will be late.  Yeah, Rachel is having a bad day.

It’s about to get worse.

At an intersection Rachael finds herself behind a big truck that just sits when the light turns green.  She’s already late and this guy isn’t moving.  So she lays on the horn.  Still no movement.  She lays on the horn again and then pulls around him.  As she passes the truck she gives the driver a gesture letting him know she’s pissed.

As it turns out, the guy in the truck is having a worse day.  His wife was divorcing him, going after his house and all his assets, and having an affair with her attorney.  I say was divorcing him because she (nor her attorney-lover) are now in a position to do anything.  Yeah, this guy is having a real bad day and Rachael’s actions have pushed him to the limit.

He pulls up beside her and gives her a chance to apologize.  This just infuriates her and she says things to make it worse, not realizing that she’s dealing with a man who is about to come unhinged.  And he does.

To tell more would be to tell too much.  Suffice it to say, Unhinged delivers thrills and continues to ratchet up the tension until the very satisfying climax.  Crowe is perfect as the man who is on a mission to destroy Rachael by killing everyone dear to her before he is killed.  What makes Crowe so scary is he knows he’s going to die, probably at the hands of the police, and he is alright with that.  For him it is just a question of how much damage he can do before they get him.

Caren Pistorius is excellent as Rachael.  What I liked about her character is that she creates most of her issues and it is her actions that sets everything in motion.  This is a nice change from the innocent woman in the wrong place at the wrong time.  Pistorius is believable as Rachael.  Kudos also to Gabriel Bateman who plays her son, Kyle.  He comes off as sympathetic and likeable.

Crowe deserves special praise for his portrayal of the nameless man who becomes Unhinged.  He isn’t just a one-dimensional psycho killer, and perhaps that is what makes him scarier than Jason, Michael Myers or any of the other monsters we’re used to seeing.

If you’re looking for a action-thriller, then you should consider Unhinged.  I really liked it!

Tax Collector (2020) / Z-View

Before we get into my review of Tax Collector, let me say that I’m a David Ayer fan and after seeing the poster and trailer for Tax Collector back in July, I posted them both saying that I looked forward to seeing the movie.  recently had a contest for a free DVD of Tax Collector.  I entered and won a copy.  That copy is what I am reviewing.

Tax Collector (2020)

Director: David Ayer

Screenplay: David Ayer

Stars:  Bobby Soto, Cinthya Carmona, Shia LaBeouf, Jose Conejo Martin, Cheyenne Rae Hernandez, George Lopez and Brian Ortega.

The Pitch: “David Ayer is ready to make another movie!”

Tagline: From the Creator of  “Training Day” and “End of Watch”

The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

David Cuevas (Soto) and his crime partner, Creeper (LaBeouf) are tax collectors for a crime lord known as The Wizard.  They collect a 30% tax on all illegal gang activity in the city.  If the money isn’t on time or the count comes up short, Cuevas and Creeper resolve the issue so it doesn’t happen again.

Cuevas is living a double life of sorts.  He has a beautiful wife and two children. He wants to be a good husband and father.  The life Cuevas lives has given him a nice house, lots of money and respect, but the things he does to earn them are hard to justify.  While Cuevas is a religious man, his partner, Creeper has come to terms with who they are and what they do.

Things go smoothly until a Conejo (Martin), a rival gang lord, returns to the city with intent to take over the Wizard’s operation.  Conejo meets with Cuevas and offers him a choice: join Conejo or Cuevas and his family will be killed.

To tell more would be to give away too much.  The movie contains more than a few twists, but it shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone going to see Tax Collector that there are scenes of brutal violence.  If you’re a fan of David Ayer, then you know what to expect.

As a screenwriter, Ayer got my attention with Training Day.  As a director, it was with Street Kings.  Then as a writer/director he brought us Harsh Times, End of Watch, Sabotage (one of Arnold’s best), and Fury just to name a few.  Ayers’ films take us into a world where men are placed in violent situations and there are consequences to their actions.

I’ve never been a big Shia LaBeouf fan, but man, he owns every scene he is in.  His character, Creeper, is a stone cold killer, and LaBeouf was perfect for the part.  Remember No Country for Old Men and the character Anton Chigurh played by Javier Bardem?  Remember the universal praise Bardem rightly received?  I’d rate LaBeaouf’s performance at the same level.

Other standout performances include Cheyenne Rae Hernandez as Gata and  Jose Conejo Martin as Conejo.  It was also cool to see George Lopez playing against character and Brian Ortega from the UFC in a supporting role.

I really liked the Tax Collector.  If you’re a David Ayer fan, you probably will as well.


“The Unholy Wife” / Z-View

The Unholy Wife (1957)

Director: John Farrow

Screenplay:  Jonathan Latimer (based on a story by William Durkee)

Stars:  Diana Dors, Rod Steiger and Tom Tryon.

The Pitch: “We’ve got Diana Dors, let’s star her as a femm fatale in a film noir!”

Tagline: HALF-ANGEL……HALF-DEVIL, she made him HALF-A-MAN! …she flaunted his hopes, taunted his dreams, turned his peaceful valley into a volcano of seething passions that even murder could not stem!

The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

The Unholy Wife is a little known, under-rated film noir released in 1957 staring Diana Dors and Rod Steiger.  Steiger plays Paul, a war vet who runs the gigantic family vineyard.  A chance encounter with a beautiful woman leads Paul to fall in love with her.  And that love sends him down the path to death and ruin.

Sound familiar?  It should because its the outline for all great film noirs.  Double Indemnity?  Check.  The Postman Always Rings Twice?  Check.  Now, I’m not saying that The Unholy Wife meets the gold standard of those two classics, but it’s definitely coming from the same mine.

Dors plays Phyllis a bleach-bottle blonde bombshell (say that three times fast) that steals Paul Hochen’s heart.  Despite the warning signs (some from Phyllis herself), Paul marries her. He then brings Phyllis and her young son home to live on his huge vineyard estate.  It isn’t long before Phyllis is having an affair and plotting to set her husband up for murder.

The Unholy Wife reminds me of a lesser known Gold Medal book you’d find on the paperback racks back in the 50s.  I say that as a good thing.  Even The Unholy Wife movie poster looks like it could have served as a Gold Medal cover!

I like everything about The Unholy Wife.  Dors is excellent as the beautiful, heartless seductress.  Steiger is convincing (and doesn’t overact) as the nice guy led astray.  Tom Tryon doesn’t have much to do, but is just right as Dors’ lover.  The movie was made in Technicolor and the process and colors make it look like a lurid paperback cover come to life.

If you’re a fan of film noir then you should really enjoy The Unholy Wife. I did.


Of Mice and Minestrone: Hap and Leonard: The Early Years by Joe R. Lansdale / Z-View

Of Mice and Minestrone: Hap and Leonard: The Early Years by Joe R. Lansdale

Trade Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: Tachyon Publications

First sentence…

I must have been six or seven at the time, and it was an event that went on for years, this gathering of relatives.

The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

Of Mice and Minestrone: Hap and Leonard: The Early Years contains five short stories about Hap and Leonard during their, you guessed it, early years.  As an added bonus, there’s a section titled Good Eats: The Recipes of Hap and Leonard by Kasey Lansdale (Joe’s daughter).  Let’s take a quick look at each…

The Kitchen is, as Lansdale says in the intro to the book, more of a vignette than short story.   Reading it you get a sense of where Hap got his moral foundation and why family is important to him.  If you’re lucky it will also bring back memories of another time when things moved slower and family get-togethers were special events.

Of Mice and Minestrone is divided into two parts.  In part one, Hap (a 16 year old high school student) has a run-in with a thugish man at a gas station.  Hap apologizes for his part, but the bully wants a fight.  When the thug’s wife tries to calm her husband by saying, “He’s just a kid.  He didn’t mean nothing -” it’s obvious she has overstepped.  The gas station owner comes out and the man and his wife leave.

Later, when Hap unexpectedly sees the woman in town he can tell that she’s been beaten up.  Hap wants to help her, but she’s afraid and Hap is just a kid.  Together they devise a plan to save her.  Part II Of Mice and Minestrone deals with the fallout from their plan and as you can guess things don’t end up all sunshine and roses.

The Watering Shed was a dive bar located a ways from town.  It was a rough place where you could get a drink even if you were under-age, if you had the cash.  Hap and Leonard had some coin and a hankering for a beer.  Had Leonard not been black, there wouldn’t have been a problem.  But he was and there was and it led to two murders.

In The Sparring Partner Hap and Leonard are offered some easy money to assist a promoter in getting his new fighter ready for his next match. Unfortunately the promoter isn’t on the level and his fighter is in waaay over his head.  Hap and Leonard could take their sparring partner money and walk away but we know that won’t happen.

The Sabine was High takes place when Leonard arrives home from Viet Nam and Hap has recently gotten out of prison (for refusing to be drafted). They go on an overnight fishing trip and share stories about the hell each of them has been through.

Good Eats: The Recipes of Hap and Leonard is exactly what you’d imagine, recipes for preparing food from the stories.

Of Mice and Minestrone: Hap and Leonard: The Early Years provides a look at events that shaped Hap and Leonard into the men they would become. You don’t have to be a H&L fan to enjoy the book, but if you are you’ll enjoy it all the more.  My favorite story gave the book it’s title.  Lansdale sets up a classic situation and then throws in twists along the way (doesn’t he always) that will leave you smiling at his storytelling ability and sad at the situations the characters are in.  There’s not a weak story in the book and even though I’m not much of a cook, I think I’ll give a recipe or two a shot.


“Arkansas” / Z-View

Arkansas (2020)

Director: Clark Duke

Screenplay: Clark Duke and Andrew Boonkrong (based on the novel by John Brandon)

Stars:  Liam Hemsworth, Clark Duke, Michael Kenneth Williams, Vivica A. Fox, Eden Brolin, Chandler Duke, John Malkovich and Vince Vaughn.

The Pitch: “Clark Duke wants to turn Arkansas the book into Arkansas the movie!”

Tagline: Kyle and Swin are working their way to the top…but the top has other plans.

The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

Kyle (Hemsworth), a low level drug courier, finds himself working with Swin (Clark) on a delivery.  Neither would have never chosen the other to be a partner, but it’s what the boss wants.  And the boss is a ruthless, mysterious Arkansas drug kingpin known only as Froggy.

Things go smoothly for Kyle and Swin until they don’t… and then the deadly retribution spiral begins.

I loved Arkansas.  Great cast – Hemsworth has never been better – and Duke impressed me with his acting/directorial debut.   Malkovich and Vaughn make everything better and this is no exception.  I also enjoyed seeing Michael Kenneth Williams and Vivica Fox in supporting roles.  Eden Brolin (Josh Brolin’s daughter) is an actress I hadn’t seen before and she was excellent.  Brad William Henke and Jeff Chase have small but impressive, important roles.  Arkansas has the right mix of tension and humor.

Arkansas may be too quirky for some, but I loved it.


Negan Lives! / Z-View

Negan Lives! is a one-shot published by Image Comics.

Writer:  Robert Kirkman
Artist:  Charlie Adlard
Gray Tones:  Cliff Rathburn
Letterer:  Russ Wooton
Cover Artist:  Charlie Adlard

*** Beware – spoilers may be found below ***

Spurned by a slowly rebuilding society, Negan lives a life of desperate isolation… or does he? In the tradition of Here’s Negan, this all-new story in Negan Lives #1 gives readers a glimpse into what has happened to one The Walking Dead’s most popular characters in the time since his last appearance in The Walking Dead #174.

The Walking Dead is one of the few (and easily the longest-running) series that I bought from issue one and went on to buy every single issue published.  I’m a big fan.

When Negan Lives! was announced, I initially thought it was a bad idea.  The tale had been told.  Time to move on.  Then I read that Negan Lives! would be made available to comic shops for free to help store owners recover revenue lost during the Covid pandemic. My opinion changed: it was a cool idea for shops, but not so much for readers.

I was wrong.

Negan Lives! is a fun story that answers some questions from The Walking Dead and actually could pave the way for more Negan stories.

Kirkman creates a situation that is obvious to the reader but in most stories would be oblivious to the main character.  Not so, here.  Negan is right there with us wondering if he is being set up.  I won’t give anything away.  It’s a fun story.

I’ve always enjoyed the team of Adlard and Rathburn and Negan Lives! is a great example of their abilities.  Man, this one-shot reminded me of how much I missed that monthly Kirkman/Adlard/Rathburn fix.

Negan Lives! and we’re better off for it.


Lost Soldiers #1 / Z-View

Lost Soldiers #1 is part of a five-issue mini-series published by Image Comics.

Writer: Alex Kot
Artist: Lucas Casalanguida
Colorist: Heather Marie Lawrence Moore
Letterer: Aditya Sidikar
Cover Artist: Lucas Casalanguida

*** Beware – spoilers may be found below ***

Vietnam, 1969. Juarez, forty years later. Three men tied by the war they left behind—on collision course with a new one.

Lost Soldiers isn’t your typical war comic.  It’s more Sicario than Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos, more Platoon than Our Army At War.  Issue 1 lays the groundwork for the series, alternating between flashbacks of three young soldiers who first met in the jungles of Viet Nam and are now older career vets prepping for a mission into Juarez against a highly armed and motivated cartel.

When talking about Lost Soldiers, Alex Kot said, “The world needs bad men willing to do bad things so the world can stay good. Lost Soldiers is what happens when you buy into that idea so much that it becomes a curse… it is unflinching about the consequences of our actions. It spells them out in blood and pain and loss. And maybe, if you’re lucky, a sliver of hope.”  Kot in this first issue bridged the 40 year gap between Nam and now by choosing scenes that move the story forward and give insight into his characters.

Lucas Casalanguida’s art adds to the gravitas of the story.  Like the best comic artists Casalanguida hits the right blend of realism and exaggeration.  I love his bold art in this issue.  Check out that splash on page 12.

Heather Marie Lawrence Moore’s color choices enhance the mood of the story.  I applaud her choices.  She’s not afraid to back off color, use one bright color on a muted page or let her hues run like a watercolor.  Awesome.

Lost Soldiers #1 is a winner.


That Texas Blood #2 / Z-View

That Texas Blood #2 is part of an on-going series published by Image Comics.

Writer: Chris Condon
Artist: Jacob Phillips
Colorist: Jacob Phillips
Cover Artist: Duncan Fegredo  – Variant Cover (Sean Phillips’ cover not shown)

*** Beware – spoilers may be found below ***

“A BROTHER’S CONSCIENCE,” Part One The first five-part story arc BEGINS HERE! Los Angeles-based writer Randy Terrill returns to his abandoned home of Ambrose County, Texas after the sudden and mysterious death of his brother Travis.

If you missed the sold out first issue of That Texas Blood you’re in luck.  Second printings should be available and issue 2 starts a new story arc.

Randy Terrill has bad memories of Ambrose County, Texas.  He and his brother, Travis, used to drink, party, and well, do other things that Randy wants to put behind him.  He moved to LA and gave up his wild ways.  It wasn’t easy and the bad memories linger.

When Randy receives word that Travis has died Randy knows, despite all misgivings, he has to return home.  Things can’t get any worse.

No one is happy to see Randy back in town or unhappy that his brother died.  And then Sheriff Joe Bob Coates tells Randy something that makes things a lot worse.

That Texas Blood maintains the quality from Condon and Phillips that earned issue 1 universal rave reviews.  That Texas Blood continues to earn my highest recommendation.