Well, it’s finally October, the season of cooler weather, colorful trees and pumpkin spice. It’s also the time to watch scary movies in the lead up to Halloween, and there’s no shortage of choices when it comes to horror. But with all of the Freddys and Jasons and Sammi Currs out there, is there room in a Halloween movie marathon for a film that doesn’t contain buckets of blood? If Good Day is any indication, the answer to that is “yes.”
I first got the chance to see Good Day at the Kew Gardens Festival of Cinema in Queens, NY. I was invited to the screening by the movie’s director, Louie Cortes, and felt compelled to check it out. I’d only seen the trailer for the film and really didn’t know too much about it before I went in. What I saw, however, was much different than I imagined.
Written by Christine Clark and Cortes, Good Day follows the lives of six twenty-somethings in New York City. Much like Pulp Fiction and 2 Days In the Valley, their paths intersect in some meaningful way as they all converge on the same Halloween party. Unlike Pulp Fiction and 2 Days In the Valley, Good Day is a wholesome yet funny look at the gamut of emotions they’re struggling with. Depression, loneliness, loss of a family member, and the fear of a stagnating career. All of these themes are relatable to the audience, which makes the characters feel like real people. They express their emotions and feelings, sometimes in overly verbose ways, but at the end of it, viewers can easily understand their plight.
The film does all of this in a highly engaging and hilarious way. This was probably the most surprising thing about the movie because there isn’t the slightest hint of comedy in the trailer. Watching that, I assumed Good Day was a coming of age melodrama that happened to be set around Halloween. To be fair, though, that trailer was cut well as it didn’t set any expectations for the humor and may have worked in its favor as Good Day was recently nominated for “Best Comedy Feature” at the Alternative Film Festival.
Though the film didn’t win “Best Comedy,” it did walk away with the award for “Best Cast,” which was most deserved. The cast was one of the finer parts of the film. Though Good Day featured no big name stars, most everyone has a great on-screen presence, despite the one or two stilted performances,
The film focuses on Sam M, played by Christopher Poultney. Sam has a strong self confidence which borderlines on arrogance and is forced to reevaluate himself after he meets a girl who doesn’t reciprocate the interest he feels. His storyline comes to a head when he meets Lisa (Kaelin Birkenhead). Lisa displays a hardened exterior to the world despite having a very caring heart. The audience learns this early in the film when Lisa is shaken to hear that her grandfather, whom she’d never had a relationship with, had died.
The film is rounded out with other great characters, such as Lydia, played by Samantha Quintana, a small-town girl who moved to New York for the right reasons but with the wrong motivation and is struggling to find her place. Then there’s Matt (Michael Ryan Assip), Sam’s best friend who dreams of becoming the next great horror movie writer a la George Romero but lacks the focus to finish a screenplay. Though his performance was rocky at first, Matt quickly became one of my favorite characters in the movie, helped along by Assip’s great comedic timing.
Good Day is not a perfect film, however. It is plagued by a number of technical issues, most notably the sound in some areas. A few of the shots feel cramped and claustrophobic, which is likely due to the indie nature of the movie and the need to shoot in any place that feels authentic regardless of size. These things are easy to overlook, though, through the director’s deft cinematography. Cortes has a way of framing his shots that’s simple yet intriguing and makes the movie fun to watch.
As of writing this, Good Day has yet to find a distributor, meaning that it’s unlikely to get a wide release, either in theaters or streaming. There is some good news, though. If you are local to New York, Good Day will be screened for free on October 23rd at the Queen’s Court in Astoria. The film will be shown alongside two surprise short films. The event is BYOB and candy will be supplied so if you’re interested, be sure to check out their Facebook page for more info.
Overall, Good Day is a poignant look at the real issues young people face and the ways in which they cope. It’s the kind of movie that can easily fit into an annual Halloween screening, a welcome break from the horror films and slasher flicks that most people watch every October. Hopefully Good Day will find a distribution deal soon so more people can enjoy it. Given its newly found status as an award winning film, the chances of that seem higher.
Recently, I was asked to write an advance review for a forthcoming science fiction novel from a small press. I jumped at the opportunity to read the book before fully contemplating if it would be worth the time. Smaller presses are always a gamble in terms of quality, both with the writing and the printing, so for all I knew I was in for a terrible reading experience. I decided to plow through with the review anyway and soon found Leech Girl Lives by Rick Claypool and Spaceboy Books in my inbox. So, were my fears justified or was Leech Girl Lives worth the effort of a read through?
Leech Girl Lives takes place in a dystopian future where the majority of humanity has died out and what’s left live in a domed city called the Bublinaplex. While the Bublinaplex is surrounded by a “Fungus Wasteland” filled with large, horrendous and terrifying creatures, the people have managed to build a pretty stable world which is overly concerned with safety. This is where our protagonist comes in.
Margo Chicago is an Art Safety Inspector who investigates all works of art put on display to ensure that the artwork doesn’t hurt anyone. She has a fairly important job because the denizens of the Bublinaplex are all encouraged to work on some sort of “creative pursuit.” Some of these are worthwhile, like painting and singing while others, like Margo’s desire to crochet cats, are a little offbeat. Others still are just asinine, like Margo’s boss and his creativity in stringing nonsense words together in everyday conversations.
Due to a freak accident, Margo gets a pair of giant parasitic leeches attached to her arms. The leeches slowly eat away at her flesh and, through their symbiotic nature, become her new arms. It’s a unique concept. Although it sounded strange at first and had me questioning what kind of book I was reading, eventually the idea settled in and just flowed with the narrative. I wouldn’t have imagined that I’d enjoy a concept like that but I surely did.
Leech Girl Lives is author Rick Claypool’s first novel and that’s fairly evident in the way the book is written. Claypool builds his world and presents his novel using simple prose, which I liked. Lots of science fiction authors use long, flourishing prose and convoluted sentence structure that may sound pretty but can be confusing when trying to build an in-depth world. Claypool shirks that and just lays everything out on the table in easy bits for the layman. Whether this was intentional or just a byproduct of not finding his unique voice yet, I’m not entirely sure but the move worked in this instance.
One move that was intentional was the way Claypool split the chapters for the first third of the book. Each chapter vacillates between “Earlier” and “Later,” clearly delineating two different time periods. It’s an effective strategy that made the story more enticing; each time I finished one section, I wanted to find out what happened next but I had to read through a different section that piqued my interest just as much. Unfortunately, once the two sections converge, the story runs somewhat flat. It managed to remain interesting, but it lacked the oomph of the previous section.
The novel is also split into two distinct books, named Book One and Book Two. While I enjoyed Leech Girl Lives in its entirety, I did start to feel weighed down by the time I got to Book Two. It’s not that the second part wasn’t good; it’s just that I’d become burned out by the time I got there. I’d already gone through an entire adventure with Margo and her leech arms so to be thrown into another one right away was exhausting. I would have preferred if Leech Girl Lives ended at the first ending, with Book Two comprising an actual second book.
Doing so would have also allowed Claypool to expand on some of the themes he brings up in Book Two. While Book One dealt with the idea of stifling expression through the Art Safety’s mission to have artists alter any work they deem unsafe, Book Two explores the idea of a corporate run state as well as the division between the rich and the poor. By day, Rick Claypool is an activist who works with an organization that fights corporate power so if there would be anyone who can successfully integrate the dangers of a corporate state taking power in a silly little sci fi book, it’d be him. The way he breaks down the company’s rise to power makes us believe that the city would accept the corporate power, but everything that happens in Book Two happens so fast that it almost comes off as hokey despite the gravity of the theme. Claypool spends too much time focusing on scenes that don’t have much of an impact while breezing through others that are far more interesting. Characters speak in awkward, unnatural ways and the action doesn’t serve the plot but merely acts to hasten the transition to the next scene. I would have enjoyed it more if he slowed down and delved further into this new world he’s introduced. Allowed us to get to know a few of the newer characters better and see why they do what they do and how the corporation changed them from their previous lives.
The characterization is really the weakest part of Leech Girl Lives. Claypool focuses on Margo and spends a lot of time making sure she’s as fleshed out as possible, which is to be expected of the protagonist. Unfortunately he does this to the detriment of the supporting cast. Margo is surrounded by many unique and interesting people but they never feel whole. For example, Margo has a great relationship with her mentor, Cuthbert. Though we get a peak at Cuthbert’s home life, all we really know about him is he’s a great cook and he cries a lot. Even the book’s main protagonist, Lorcan Warhol, is a two-dimensional foil to Margo. Sure, his character takes an interesting twist during Book Two, but at a certain point he disappears and has no impact on the rest of the book. He had the makings of an interesting character but he’s flung off without a second thought.
I enjoyed Leech Girl Lives. The simple prose aside, the book played with some deep sociological themes and really dived into the darker aspects of society. Even the superficial nature of Margo’s affliction, forming a symbiotic relationship with a pair of parasitic leeches, was handled in a way that felt natural and believable. That’s not to say the book doesn’t have its flaws; in fact, there are quite a few of them, but they’re easily overshadowed by the depth of the symbolism. All in all, I’d recommend Leech Girl Lives if you’re looking for a fun adventure that doesn’t require too much brain power to really understand and enjoy.
Leech Girl Lives by Rick Claypool is available on September 26th from Spaceboy Books.
It’s that time of year again! No, not Halloween (though that is sneaking up on us faster that I realize). I’m talking about New York Comic Con time! Though not as prolific as San Diego Comic Con, NYCC is the East Coast’s biggest comic and media convention, boasting hundreds of exhibitors and tens of thousands of attendees.
Just like its West Coast counterpart, NYCC attracts countless collectors and, as such, has become a haven for exclusive merchandise. This is where Funko comes in. Over the summer we showed you all of Funko’s SDCC exclusives, the Pop!s, Dorbz, Rides and Vnyls that were only available at the con. Luckily, they’re bringing a pretty strong game to New York Comic Con as well.
Since they’re revealing all of their exclusives in waves so make sure to check back often as we update to see everything you can expect to find at NYCC.
Also, as of now, it’s unclear which, if any, of these will be shared exclusives, with Hot Topic, Barnes & Noble and the like. Once news of that breaks, we’ll let you know.
Bonus: Pickle Rick T-Shirt (Announced September 25)
Another shirt from Funko! Like I said earlier, I’ve never watched Rick & Morty so I don’t know much about the show but I do have to say that this shirt is pretty neat. Also, that jar…
Here’s the news from Funko:
Surprise! Here’s one more NYCC Exclusive from Rick & Morty- a t-shirt featuring Pickle Rick in a collectible jar!
Pickle Rick Pop! Tee in Jar
Wave 12: Freddy Funko & Friends (Announced September 20)
Freddy Funko is one of the Funko lines that never appealed to me so most of this wave is beyond me. However, that Lucky the Leprechaun Dorbz is pretty amazing. I missed out on most of the other cereal mascots Funko has offered in the past (and I’ll probably never acquire them given the astronomical prices they fetch on eBay) so the thought of having at least Lucky is pretty tempted. Besides that one, though, I’ll pass on the rest.
Here’s our final reveal for the Funko booth at NYCC!
They’re after his Lucky Charms! Lucky the Leprechaun returns to Funko in Dorbz form!
Pop! Funko: Bone Daddy (4000pc LE)
Dig this! The original hip-bone is back from the grave! This classic Funko Bone Daddy Wacky Wobbler returns as a Pop! ready to socket to you!
Dorbz: Baseball Freddy Funko (750pc LE)
Freddy takes the field in a pinstriped baseball uniform to commemorate New York Comic Con! Play ball!
Wave 11: Rick & Morty’s Krombopolous Michael (Announced September 19)
I’ve never seen Rick & Morty so this one is lost on me but good for fans of the show? I have nothing else here.
Here’s the word from Funko directly.
Krombopolous Michael, a Gromflomite assassin, is another colorful personality from the Rick and Morty universe! Just don’t turn your back on this one – word on the street is he really LOVES his job.
Pop! Animation: Rick & Morty – Krombopolous Michael
Wave 10: Marvel (Announced September 18)
Not too impressed with the Marvel offerings for NYCC, and I’m actually surprised there are so few. Of course Thor: Ragnarok is getting a big push and I do like that Grandmaster Pop!. Of course with Inhumans premiering on ABC soon Marvel would want to push that so Funko is offering that flocked Lockjaw. And Old Man Logan… I guess it’s OK and all but none of these really have me excited.
Anyway, check out the news from Funko’s blog.
Marvel’s lineup for NYCC includes characters from the upcoming film Thor: Ragnarok, a flocked super powered canine, and a couple of gray haired Logans!
And as you saw earlier today… we are also excited to present the beloved director of the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise!
Pop! Movies: James Gunn (500pc LE)
Wave 9: Warner Bros. (Announced September 15)
Naturally, Funko wouldn’t leave Harry Potter fans in the lurch. Snape as Neville’s Boggart is a pretty clever Pop! to add to the line but I’m really looking forward to that Luna Lovegood lion head Rock Candy.
Also part of this wave are some classic Looney Tunes and Hanna Barbera characters. Speedy Gonzales is cool in a Mexican stereotype kind of way. All in all, though, I wasn’t a big fan of those cartoons so all I really care about is the Captain Caveman. Still, there’s some stuff there for the hardcore fans.
Lord of the Rings
Pop!: Lord of the Rings – 6” Glow-in-the-Dark Balrog
Looney Tunes & Hanna-Barbera
More of your favorite Looney Tunes & Hanna-Barbera characters are joining the Funko family!
Pop! Movies: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them – Gellert Grindelwald
Graves was actually Grindelwald! One of the most dangerous Dark Wizards of all time is now a Pop!
Wave 8: 80s & 90s (Announced September 13)
This is the wave I’ve been waiting for and I didn’t even know it. There have been one or two different Pop!s from each of the previous waves that I wanted but this? I want practically every single thing on this list. That 6-inch Dragonzord, the glow in the dark Green Ranger, Sailor V, the Thundercats… There are so many gems in this wave that I am awestruck.
Anyway, enough with my gushing. Take a look at Funko’s blog for more.
Go Go Power Rangers! Both the Green and Black 6-inch Dragonzord Pop!s have entered the fray for New York Comic Con 2017! Complete your Saban’s Power Rangers collection with the glow-in-the-dark Green Ranger Pop!
Bad news for the Dark Kingdom, but good news for Funko collectors: the Sailor V Pop! will be available at New York Comic Con 2017!
Pop! Anime: Sailor Moon – Sailor V
Ickis from Nickelodeon’s classic Aaahh!!! Real Monsters comes in a new mid-scare pose!
Pop! TV: Nickelodeon – Scary Ickis
Masters of the Universe
Beast Man makes his Pop! debut for New York Comic Con! Given his name, and ability to communicate with animals, it’s only right that the Beast Man Pop! is flocked!
Pop! TV: MOTU – Flocked Beast Man
Watch out, G.I. Joe! Destro, the leader of the Iron Grenadiers and M.A.R.S. founder, is coming to Pop!
Pop! TV: G.I. Joe – Destro
ThunderCats™, hooo! Lion-O, Mumm-Ra, and Snarf come in a Dorbz 3-pack for New York Comic Con 2017! Lion-O and Mumm-Ra make their Vynl. debut for the convention, as well!
Vynl.: ThunderCats™ 2-pack – Lion-O & Mumm-Ra
Wave 7: Video Games (Announced September 12)
It looks like this entire wave is similar to that 8-Bit Batman from the DC wave. I suppose this is just a new style Funko is pushing and I dug it with the Batman Pop! but here it just seems overused. Although, I do like that the first big push is 8-Bit Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, even though the turtles themselves are absent. Hopefully they’ll pop up somewhere as non-exclusive.
Here’s the news from Funko:
The 1980s arcade classic DIG DUG™ is joining our 8-Bit Pop! series!
Pop! Games: DIG DUG™ – DUG DUG™ 8-Bit
DIG DUG™&©BANDAI NAMCO Entertainment Inc.
Five Nights at Freddy’s
Calling all Five Nights at Freddy’s fans! The Lolbit Pop! won’t disappear even if you type “L-O-L”! “Please Stand By!”
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Our 8-Bit TMNT Pop! series kicks off with Master Shredder and his Foot Soldiers! Make sure to collect all five colors!
Pop! 8-Bit: TMNT – Shredder
Pop! 8-Bit: TMNT – Blue Foot Soldier (500pc LE)
Pop! 8-Bit: TMNT – Purple Foot Soldier (500pc LE)
Pop! 8-Bit: TMNT – Red Foot Soldier (500pc LE)
Pop! 8-Bit: TMNT – White Foot Soldier (500pc LE)
Pop! 8-Bit: TMNT – Yellow Foot Soldier (500pc LE)
Wave 6: Disney (Announced September 7)
Though not mind blowing, there are a few good things coming out of the Disney release from Funko. Even though I’m not a big Kingdom Hearts fan, or a video game guy in general, I love both the Halloween Donald and the Halloween Goofy. They’ll probably become regular Halloween decorations around my house. (Oh, and look at that; NYCC is just a few weeks before Halloween. How convenient!)
Without a doubt, though, that Scrooge McDuck is probably the one I’ll search the hardest for. Though the Ducktales line of Pop!s is just starting to trickle out into stores, that Scrooge in the pile of money is the definitive Pop! to come out of that line.
Check it out from Funko’s blog:
From 1979’s The Black Hole to DuckTales and from Disney Parks to Kingdom Hearts, Disney fans are sure to be thrilled with this list of NYCC exclusives!
Pop! Disney: DuckTales – Swimsuit Scrooge McDuck
Pop! Disney: The Black Hole– Vincent
Pop! Disney: The Black Hole– Maximillian
Pop! Disney: Kingdom Hearts – Halloween Goofy
Pop! Disney: Kingdom Hearts – Halloween Donald
Pop! Disney: Disney Parks – Flocked Orange Bird (1000pc LE)
Pop! Disney: Disney Parks – Flocked Abominable Snowman (1000pc LE)
Dorbz Ridez: Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride (750pc LE)
Mini Hikari: Mickey Mouse – Red & Yellow 2-pack (3500pc LE)
Wave 5: Television (Announced September 6)
There is so much here that I’m excited for. First of all, that Buffy/Faith 2-pack is an amazing addition to the Buffy line. The fact that fans have gone so long without a Faith Pop! is a little unnerving so at least Funko has finally remedied that.
Then there’s that First Doctor. Another necessary Pop! for Doctor Who fans. I’m glad that Funko is branching out and releasing some of the older Doctors and not just rehashing Ten, Eleven and Twelve. I wonder if we’ll ever get a full line up of Doctors, and even if we’ll get a Nine at all.
But then look at everything else; Westworld, Land of the Lost, Stranger Things. Funko seems to be going all out for their Television line up of Pop!s and figures and I am all in for it.
Check out more on Funko’s blog:
Today’s NYCC reveals include some of your television favorites!
Are you a fan of Westworld? This Robotic Dolores Pop! is essential for any Westworld collectors!
Pop! TV: Westworld – Dolores
Trollhunters fans can now add Jim with his Amulet of Eclipse armor and a special version of AAARRRGGHH!!! to their collections!
Pop! Television: Trollhunters – Stone AAARRRGGHH!!!
Pop! Television: Trollhunters – Jim (Red Armor)
Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Faith makes her Funko debut in this special Buffy the Vampire Slayer Pop! 2-pack!
Pop! Television: Buffy the Vampire Slayer – Buffy & Faith 2-pack
The original Doctor finally joins the Doctor Who Pop! line!
Land of the Lost
It’s a Sleestak from Sid & Marty Krofft’s 1974 television series, along with Enik the Altrusian!
Pop! Television: Land of the Lost – Sleestak
Pop! Television: Land of the Lost – Enik
The Walking Dead
Will he prove to be a friend or foe to the Alexandrians? Watch your back, guys!
Pop! Television: The Walking Dead – Dwight (Burnt Face)
Poor Eleven’s being tested on again with this NYCC exclusive Pop! And grow your Stranger Things Action Figures set with this 3-pack featuring Upside Down Will, Eleven with her wig, and the Demogorgon!
Make sure to watch Season 2 of Stranger Things coming to Netflix this October!!
Pop! Television: Stranger Things – Eleven with Electrodes
Action Figures: Stranger Things – Eleven with Wig, Upside Down Will & Demogorgon 3-pack
Wave 4: Star Wars (Announced September 5)
No surprise here that we’ll be getting Star Wars stuff from Funko. With The Last Jedi just a few months out, this wave was revealed a few days after Force Friday, the huge retail push for brand new Star Wars merch. I’m actually slightly surprised that this reveal didn’t drop on Force Friday, but I’m not in charge of that.
Anyway, here are all the Star Wars offerings from Funko’s blog.
We have great selection of Star Wars offerings for New York Comic Con 2017!
The Rogue One Pop! line continues to grow with the addition of K-2SO in an action pose, young Saw Gerrera, a disguised Jyn Erso, and a chrome Death Star Droid!
Bounty hunter collectors rejoice! Dengar is now part of the Pop! family along with the latest Pop! Deluxe – Boba Fett’s Slave I!
Pop! Star Wars: Rogue One – Action Pose K-2SO
Pop! Star Wars: Rogue One – Saw Gerrera with Hair
Pop! Star Wars: Rogue One – Jyn Disguise with Helmet
Pop! Star Wars: Rogue One – Death Star Droid
Pop! Star Wars: Dengar
Pop! Deluxe: Star Wars – Boba Fett with Slave I
Wave 3: DC (Announced August 30)
Quite a few additions to the Funko DC Comics lineup for NYCC. Unfortunately, none of it is too appealing. The First Appearance Superman looks pretty cool, if not entirely bland. I can see many Superman fans clamoring for that one. And that Batmobile is just a pale imitation of the red Batmobile that debuted at San Diego Comic Con over the summer.
For me, the only real winner from this lineup is the 8-bit Batman, and that’s only on originality alone. While I’m not totally bowled over by the Funko’s DC offerings, I at least give them credit for branching out and trying new things, even if those “new things” are just more Superman and Batman.
According to the Funko blog:
Our 8-Bit Pop! line makes its debut with the iconic Caped Crusader, who also shows up in a shiny black chrome, as well as a new color variant for his 1966 Batmobile in the action figure line!
Batman Classic TV Series Super-Villains come together in a Dorbz 3-pack, and Superman’s first appearance is now immortalized in Pop! form too!
Pop! Heroes: First Appearance Superman
Pop! Heroes: Black Chrome Batman
Pop! 8-Bit: Blue & Grey Batman
Dorbz: Batman Classic TV Series Villains 3-pack (4000pc LE)
Action Figure: Batman with Batmobile (1250pc LE)
Wave 2: Game of Thrones (Announced August 28)
There are two Game of Thrones Pop!s coming to New York Comic Con this year. First up is Lyanna Mormont, the Lady of House Mormont. A fan-favorite from the show ever since she displayed her indomitable will and loyalty to Jon Snow and Winterfell, she’s sure to be a popular choice.
Also up is Jaqen H’Ghar, the disciple of the Many Faced God who helped mold Arya into the ruthless, sociopathic murderess we’ve all grown to love. I’m not sure how popular this Pop! will prove to be but it’s a great addition to anyone’s collection. However, if I had to choose, I’m #TeamLyanna all the way.
From the Funko blog:
We are proud to announce two new figures from the hit HBO® series that will be available at New York Comic Con 2017!
Pop! Game of Thrones: Lyanna Mormont
Head of House Mormont and fiercely loyal to House Stark, Westeros’s most powerful child now has her very own Pop! Vinyl Funko Figure!
Pop! Game of Thrones: Jaqen H’Ghar
A new face has been added to the hall of Funko Faces! Jaqen H’Ghar, one of the Faceless Men of Braavos, has now been reimagined as a Pop! Vinyl Funko Figure!
Wave 1: WWE’s Zack Ryder (Announced August 23)
Big news for any WWE/Zack Ryder fans. This one definitely isn’t for me but I won’t fault anyone for being excited. Besides, it’s an exclusive so that’s news in itself.
We’re kicking off our New York Comic Con reveals with our favorite Funko collecting broski, Zack Ryder!
Pop! WWE: Zack Ryder
We were able to surprise him with his figure at SDCC- watch this video for his reaction!
On Friday, Netflix dropped Death Note, a live-action film adaptation of the popular manga/anime of the same name. Since I was free for most of Sunday afternoon, with no plans besides counting down the hours until the seventh season finale of Game of Thrones, I figured I may as well check it out. After all, it was something I was looking forward to, despite the valid whitewashing criticism.
Before you read through my review, please keep in mind, I haven’t read the manga version of Death Note, nor watched a single episode of the anime series. I’m merely critiquing the Netflix movie on its own merits.
Also, while I’m not going to outright give away the ending, I do make references to certain plot points of the film, which may be spoilers for anyone who hasn’t seen it yet. So proceed with caution.
Death Note focuses on Light Turner, a smart high school kid who doesn’t seem to have any friends. His mother was recently killed, leaving just him and his cop father, a dynamic which causes a rift in their relationship. His mother’s killer walked away from the charges and Light doesn’t feel his father pursued the killer hard enough. One day, during a freak storm, Light finds a notebook, the Death Note, which grants the user the ability to kill anyone whose name is written on its pages. There are a bunch of rules associated with the Death Note but it all boils down to “killer notebook.”
Along with his girlfriend Mia, Light (I can’t believe this is the kid’s name) goes on a killing spree. They target bad guys and people who hurt others in an effort to “better the world.” In the process of their murders, they attribute the killings to a karma god of sorts, whom they name Kira, as a way to strike terror into the hearts of evil-doers.
The murders attract the attention of L, an eccentric detective who is fueled by candy and often forgets to sleep. Being a sugar addict seems like an odd character trait to give a prominent character so I assume that this was a carry-over from the source material, but it really seems out of place. The film tried to explain it with an off-hand remark about the “insulin rush” but the trait doesn’t seem natural. In a long form narrative, like the manga or the anime, a quirk like this can developed and also used as a detriment to the character, such as when he’s in a situation lacking sugar. The movie, however, just shoehorns it in with very little (if any) explanation, so it comes off as silly.
Then there’s Mia, Light’s girlfriend. She’s the guiding force in Light’s usage of the Death Note, a girl with a dark side that she hides from the rest of the world… except the movie makes the audience aware that she is the “bad girl” from the minute we first see her. She’s smoking a cigarette at cheerleading practice, for example, so clearly she’s edgy. The problem is that Mia has no depth. We never get a glimpse at her past, or at her home life to really understand why she’s so messed up. She is 100% gung-ho about using the Death Note, to the point of threatening Light’s life to convince him to give it to her but it’s never clear why. She’s deeply disturbed and would make for a fascinating character study, but unfortunately she’s used as a side note, only meant to push Light further and further to see how far he’ll go.
My main problem with the film is how easily all of the characters accept the idea of the supernatural being involved in the murders. Light’s cop father wastes no time coming to the conclusion that his son is Kira despite the physical impossibility for him to be so. Even L, with all his grand detective skills, fingers Light early on as the culprit, assuming he has some sort of latent telepathic abilities that allow him to control and kill people.
This wouldn’t be a big deal if the movie established itself as part of a world where this sort of this was commonplace. A few references to some of L’s past cases that document criminals with telepathy or whatnot would go a long way here. From everything we’re shown, however, the viewer has to assume that the film takes place in our world where the laws of physics apply. Yes, Light has a magic book that can kill people but that’s the outlier, not the natural order. If L had been shown to be chasing this book for a decade and realized that it found its way into Light’s hands, his deductions would make sense. But L, from what we’re shown, doesn’t know about the book’s existence and still manages to guess almost every rule. It’s implausible and makes the movie hokey.
I also had a really difficult time figuring out who I should be rooting for. We get why Light has a hard time with life: his mother is killed, her killer buys himself out of a prison sentence, and he has to deal with bullies at school. So when he gets the Death Note and he’s able to turn everything around, his first act is to kill a classmate. It’s a little out there and doesn’t do much to establish himself as a “good guy.” When it comes to L, the guy who is trying to find justice and stop these murders, we never really connect with him. He is so quirky and abstract that it’s hard to find common ground, so despite his intentions, we don’t really care if he wins or not. It isn’t until he suffers a major loss do we see him exhibit any kind of emotion, and by then it’s too late into the film for the audience to really connect with the character.
So who do we root for? The down-on-his-luck killer or the eccentric detective?
Death Note was directed by Adam Wingard, who is best known for V/H/S and for surprising everyone in 2016 with a new Blair Witch movie. I like Wingard as a director but he seemed to miss the mark with Death Note. The movie is remarkably directed and looks fantastic but really suffers from all of the logical and character inconsistencies in the script. I feel like there was definitely the possibility of a good movie, especially given the depth of the source material, but lacked the proper execution.
The cast did a great job with what they were given. Nat Wolff, who played Light, really felt like a lost, angry child, mad at the world for everything that happened to him. Wolff brought a lot of energy and emotion to the role and makes the character likeable despite the terrible things he does. Juxtaposed with that, Lakeith Stanfield as L made a great foil. His delivery as the stoic, brilliant detective drew that divide between the character and the audience, which made it so effective when the character hit his emotional breaking point. As a viewer, I felt his sadness and his rage, and enjoyed the way this emotion mirrored Light’s own, making them two sides of the same coin, of sorts.
Even Margaret Qualley was fantastic as Mia. Though the character has the least depth of the cast, she’s a driving force to the story. Qualley plays the role with a certain coolness, almost emotionless. It makes the audience wonder if our opinion of the character is wrong or if she truly is a sociopath. Which is a great take considering how little backstory we get of the character.
One of the highlights of Death Note, though, was Willem Dafoe as the voice of the demon Ryuk. Dafoe never shows up on screen but he brings life, ironically, to the death demon. His performance is reminiscent of his take on the Green Goblin in 2000’s Spider-Man, which I liked. He added a lot to a character that spends most of the movie shrouded in shadows and gives the audience something to grasp.
A Death Note film like this was a huge undertaking, considering it needed to boil down 37 episodes of the source anime into a 100 minute feature. Despite its missteps, the cast and crew did the best they could, unfortunately that didn’t make for a wholly great finished project. It’s the kind of movie to watch on a lazy weekend, or when you’re home sick hopped up on Nyquil. While it captures the dichotomy of doing bad things for good reasons, it doesn’t really explore those themes and just comes off as a superficial revenge story. Though I really did enjoy the final scene and the open-ended finale, I feel like all I really got out of this movie is the desire to watch the anime in the hopes of finding a good, complete story.
The other day I stopped into my local GameStop to see if they had any of the San Diego Comic Con exclusive Funko Pop!s available. What I discovered when I walked in, however, was much more exciting. Recently, Mega Construx released a line of Pokémon-themed building block sets. Being the Pokémon fan that I am I was at first embarrassed that this line had completely flown under my radar when it was announced back in February, but at least stumbling on them the way I did was validating.
There were about twelve sets in total, roughly six larger boxed sets and six little minifigs sort of that come in a Pokéball. I bought a little Eevee Pokéball on the spot. I figured I’d get one of the small ones to dip my toe in a bit, see how I like them. When I got home, it took me about ten minutes to put together (which really only took that long because I kept dropping all the pieces.) Once the figure was complete, I was hooked. At first it looked a little janky with the thick little legs and awkward tuft of fur on its chest but eventually all that became part of its charm.
A couple of days later I went back to the store and pored over which of the larger sets to buy. What I like most about the line is there are a few different themes; besides the smaller figures, a couple of the larger Pokémon are represented, like Charizard and Gyarados. The line also includes the starter mid-evolutions, Charmeleon, Wartortle and Ivysaur as their own stand-alone sets. Each of the starters, Charmander, Squirtle and Bulbasaur, along with Pikachu are paired off for battle scene building sets.
After much, much deliberation, I decided to go with Charizard. I also picked up Abra and Magikarp, a couple of my favorites, from the line of smaller sets so I can display next to little Eevee.
Again, the little ones were quick to assemble; total time for both of those was about fifteen minutes. Charizard, on the other hand, took roughly an hour to build. The build instructions were slightly confusing as the way they’re drawn isn’t as clear as what you’d get from a LEGO manual. I managed, though, and I’m really proud of myself.
I’m also really proud of this Charizard, which turned out to be a nice display piece. A lot of the articulation is really good, especially around the head, legs and tail. I would have liked if there was a bit more articulation, like maybe if the arms moved a little better and get some moveable fingers and jaw in there but I also realize that those features would impact the price, which may turn off a few potential fans.
As far as quality, it’s easy to tell why LEGO is the cream of the crop. That’s not to say Mega Construx are bad; in fact, they’re intricately designed and really capture the likenesses of the Pokémon they’re meant to replicate. However, the building aspect of the set was difficult at times. I found myself struggling to click blocks in place, having to rely on using my teeth to get the amount of pressure that I needed. This could have been due to some microscopic defect in the stud that made it just too big to fit. In fairness, though, it could have just been small parts and sweaty hands (it was a really hot day, you guys.)
If you do manage to get them clicked into place and realize you put the piece in the wrong spot, good luck getting it apart. Unlike LEGO, Construx don’t come with a handy separating tool so, once again, I lucked out that I had a mouthful of teeth to do the job. In fairness, though, I don’t fault Construx for this. It took LEGO years to realize a tool like this was a necessity and since they likely have a patent on it, Construx will need to design their own.
As I mentioned earlier, in addition to the larger sets, the series offers a few single figures, such as Pokémon’s mascot, Pikachu, and a few other fan favorites, like Eevee, Magikarp, and…Zubat. What I like most about these are the packaging; they all come in a plastic Pokéball that can be used as a display base once building is complete. And at around $7 each, they’re a pretty good deal. Considering LEGO minifigure blind bags can retail for right around $5 and only have about 5 pieces each and a substandard display, these Pokémon characters are basically a steal.
Even the larger sets are a good value. At this time, the biggest set was Gyarados, with a total of 352 pieces retailing for $30. Compared to some of LEGO’s franchised sets, that’s an amazing deal. The LEGO Batman Movie Riddler Riddle Racer playset has 254 pieces and is regularly priced at $35 (though was on sale for $24 at the time of this writing, for whatever that’s worth).
Then again, you get what you pay for. With LEGO being the Cadillac of building blocks, the Pokémon Mega Construx don’t size up to quite that level. Sure, the models are well done and really capture the likenesses of the Pokémon, but the builds aren’t as sophisticated as what one would expect from LEGO.
It was a great choice for Mega Construx to jump into the Pokémon arena, especially given the mainstream popularity of Pokémon GO. Building sets like these now appeal to a wider audience since they are familiar with the characters. Even though they aren’t perfect, they are fantastically modelled and offer great playability.
Bottom line: I want more. Not just “I want to buy more sets,” which is definitely true. The low price point and great showcaseability really make these sets a good value despite their shortcomings. When I say I want “more,” I mean more sets. I want this line to do well so that Mega releases additional sets, like maybe the Generation 1 legendaries, Articuno, Zapdos, Moltres, and Mewtwo. Even a tiny little Mew hovering over a Pokéball would be sweet.
Also, I want to see some from the later generations of games: Tyranitar, Hoot Hoot, Lucario. There are so many great Pokémon that would make amazing display pieces that this could go on forever…just like the games!