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Review: Penny Dreadful, Season 1, Episode 8

Mina_and_Vanessa_Penny_Dreadful_Season_1_Episode_8Penny Dreadful has shown off some compelling scenarios, highly intriguing characters and award-worthy performances during its eight episode run, but it lost momentum and story structure in the final two installments of its first season.

As was the case with episode 7, ‘Possession,’ the finale, ‘Grand Guignol,’ is still a strong enough hour of television, but when you’ve come from far more powerful places, it’s tough not to be just a little underwhelmed by the conclusion of the first season.

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Review: Earth to Echo

Earth_to_Echo_Poster“Earth to Echo” doesn’t come close to being the next “E.T.,” but it does pack enough spirit and fun to make it a worthwhile knockoff.

Teo Halm, Brian “Astro” Bradley (yes, the kid from “The X Factor”) and Reese Hartwig lead as Alex, Tuck and Munch, three best friends who never really fit in until they found each other. However, with plans to build a highway straight through their Nevada suburb, their families are left with no choice, but to pack up and move away. In an effort to make their very last night together one to remember, Tuck insists they ride their bikes to the middle of the desert to investigate a mysterious signal that pops up on their cellphones.

Elements of that premise are in line with “The Goonies,” but there aren’t many similarities beyond that primarily because “Earth to Echo” is a far more juvenile film. It’s got heart, intrigue and a mild amount of suspense, but a lighter tone that will make older moviegoers well aware of the fact that nothing bad can happen to these characters. However, “Earth to Echo” gets away with it because the film is much more so about experiencing this crazy adventure than it is about the characters.

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Review: Penny Dreadful, Season 1, Episode 7

Ethan_Vanessa_Penny_Dreadful_Episode_7 (1)What Death Can Join Together’ is a remarkable installment of Penny Dreadful because even though most of the characters are off doing their own things, it still manages to tie them all together. ‘Possession,’ however, has the benefit of taking place in a single location with most of the main players fighting for the exact same thing yet the narrative feels more disjointed and plodding than ever.

As per usual, all of the performances are impeccable. Eva Green is disturbingly good at giving way to demonic possession, Timothy Dalton nails expressing both a desperation to save Mina and also regret for how he treated his son in the past, and Josh Hartnett emotes more than ever, convincing you that this isn’t just another mission – he deeply cares for Vanessa. Trouble is, even the best performances don’t amount to much when you’re working with a weak script.

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Review: Transformers: Age of Extinction

Transformers_Age_of_Extinction_PosterAt one point, a “Transformers: Age of Extinction” character delivers this gem – “I also have a saying; I don’t care.” Why isn’t that the tagline of this movie? Or the whole “Transformers” film franchise for that matter?

“Age of Extinction” takes place five years after “Dark of the Moon.” Even though the Autobots helped save mankind in Chicago, the US government classifies all Transformers as dangerous fugitives, forcing the Autobots to go into hiding. Meanwhile, Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg) is desperately trying to earn enough money to keep his home and send his daughter, Tessa (Nicola Peltz), to college. Trouble is, none of his inventions work very well and he doesn’t make much money fixing CD players and other random things. However, a dilapidated truck Cade gets his hands on is another story because it isn’t just a truck in need of fixing; it’s Optimus Prime.

This part of “Age of Extinction” isn’t all that bad. The idea of the government shunning the Autobots for helping us win a battle we never could have won on our own is a little ridiculous, but it’s well worth the fun of getting the chance to discover the Transformers all over again. The human characters involved in that discovery, however, are so devastatingly poorly written, they almost extinguish the thrill of the Autobot reunion.

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Review: Snowpiercer

Snowpiercer_PosterJoon-ho Bong’s unprecedented combination of stunning combat, stylistic eccentricities and dramatic poignancy is so rich and enthralling, there’s no way one viewing of “Snowpiercer” will ever be enough.

In an effort to thwart global warming, a chemical called CW-7 is released into the Earth’s atmosphere in 2014. Soon thereafter, the temperature plummets and the world is consumed by snow and ice. “Snowpiercer” begins in 2031, 17 years after the only survivors entered Wilford’s self-contained safe haven, a train that circles the globe once every calendar year and is sustained by a perpetual-motion engine. On that train, passengers are separated by class. The wealthy indulge in parties, fancy clothing and sushi up front while the rest are secluded to the tail, forced to live in tiny compartments and live off of unappetizing protein blocks. However, the time for change has come and Curtis (Chris Evans) has a plan to take over the front.

“Snowpiercer” is a downright mesmerizing display of hardship, combat and magnificent environments. Bong does an exceptional job developing the world, every member of the cast delivers a wholehearted performance and cinematographer Kyung-pyo Hong churns out one exceptionally picturesque and telling shot after the next. There are some plot holes and believability issues in the mix, but everything else bears such an all-consuming quality that it’s nearly impossible to pull yourself out of the film long enough to assess those issues, keeping them from effecting the overall experience.

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Review: Coherence

Coherence_PosterThere’s more suspense in this low budget dialogue-driven sci-fi thriller than many effect-heavy, $100 million+ blockbuster wannabes.

“Coherence” focuses on Em (Emily), Kevin (Maury Sterling), Mike (Nicholas Brendon), Lee (Lorene Scafaria), Beth (Elizabeth Gracen), Hugh (Hugo Armstrong), Amir (Alex Manugian) and Laurie (Lauren Maher), a group of friends reuniting for a dinner party. It’s all small talk and a little bit of gossip until the lights go out. Power goes out all the time for various reasons, but the strange thing is, the entire neighborhood is without electricity except for just one house about two blocks away. Does this have anything to do with Miller’s comet, which is passing Earth at this very moment? No one knows, but Hugh’s brother might so Hugh and Amir make their way over to get some answers, but their visit only winds up sparking more questions.

The best way to walk into James Ward Byrkit’s first feature is knowing nothing about what you’re getting yourself into, so this assessment of “Coherence” will remain rather vague.

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Review: Penny Dreadful, Season 1, Episode 6

Vanessa_Penny_Dreadful_Episode_6Thus far, Penny Dreadful has delivered all-consuming experiences week after week. Each episode did its part in building a world loaded with fascinating components and further developing the show’s strikingly unique and rich brigade of characters, but episode 6 marks an astounding new achievement. ‘What Death Can Join Together’ lives up to the title and actually manages to take the large majority of what we’ve learned and experienced, and link it all together.

Closer Than Sisters’ and ‘What Death Can Join Together’ make for an exceptional pairing. Dorian says it in this very episode; Vanessa is a very poised person, and so is Sir Malcolm. From the start of the show, the two have flaunted composed demeanors, selling themselves as amicable partners. However, after discovering the truth behind their situation in episode 5, it’s only natural to reassess what we’ve seen of them, come to understand why they’ve put up this façade and then identify the cracks in it, conjuring loads of tension while still maintaining a semblance of that original connection.

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