George Romero Closes A Chapter — And Leaves Plenty Of Threads Hanging — In “Empire Of The Dead : Act Two” #5


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And so we find ourselves at the close of another act of what is proving to the longest-form epic to ever come from the mind and pen of the father of the modern zombie genre with George Romero’s Empire Of The Dead Act Two #5, and underneath Alexander Lozano’s absolutely superb pulp-inspired cover painting we find that the guy who started it all is ending this one on a decidedly more small-scale — and downbeat — note than the “looming disaster” finale he gave us in his first act.

Not that disaster isn’t still looming — it certainly is, and it’s more mystery-shrouded than ever, but just when everything — and I do mean everything — seems to be boiling over in this issue, Romero takes a side-step, dials back on the danger, and gives us a genuinely personal and frankly tragic cliffhanger to send this five-issue arc out on.I won’t say much more about the finale beyond that since the book just came out today and the few of you out there who are, like myself, following this comic in singles every month may not have had a chance to read it yet, but you may want to prepare yourself to get a little bit choked up come the last page.

What’s most surprising to me about the contrasting tones between the finales of the premier and secondary acts of this developing story, though, is how much more free-flowing, naturalistic, and dare I say even nochalant the fifth issue of Empire Act Two is in comparison to the fifth issue of Empire Act One. There was a sense during the in the concluding chapter of the first arc that Romero was rushing to fit a number of pieces into place and making up for lost time due to some early floundering he engaged in, script-wise, in issues two (especially) and three, whereas here his approach has been a lot more calm and methodical. He’s trusting his characters to take us along with them rather than shoe-horning them into place, and while that may result in a somewhat less “stupendous” conclusion this time around, it means that the entirety of the second act has played out much more evenly than the first. In short, he’s getting a little bit better at this as he goes.

Yeah, okay, the “big revelation” Paul Barnum finally clues Dr. Penny Jones in on is something that we all saw coming from a mile off, but there are still a few surprises to be had here, most notably in the discslosure of a prior relationship between Barnum and somebody extremely close to Mayor Chandrake , and Chandrake proves himself to be an even bigger bastard than we already thought in one scene, so it’s not like everything here is cut-and-dried predictable up until those final few panels. Chandrake’s entire world seems to be in serious danger of crumbling down around him, in fact, as his inability to deal with rival candidate “Chilly” Dobbs calls into question how much efficacy he really has left in him while the investigations of Detective “Bucky” Perez are getting closer and closer to unraveling the thread that might undo the whole ball. The main question our dogged cop is now pursuing :  why are kids being loaded up onto buses when there are no more public schools (guess Chandrake’s a Republican) — and why are they never coming back?

Getting back to those aforementioned final few panels for a moment — one thing that does reduce their impact somewhat is the inking. While I’ve just about gotten used to Dalibor Talajic’s pencil art on this series, and have generally welcomed the addition of inker Rick Magyar, apparently Magyar ran into some deadline trouble with this issue (hey, it happens) and the last four pages are inked by Goran Sudzuka, who employs a mush heavier and less detailed approach with his brush that results in a more blocky, “cartoonish” style. For a few pages here and there I wouldn’t gripe much, but Sudzuka’s work seriously detracts from the impact of the heart-wrenching cliffhanger here, and that’s a real shame.

So — I guess we’ll see where this book goes, art-wise, when it returns for Act Three in April, but I’m feeling more confident than ever in Romero’s storytelling. There are big things ahead, folks, and if you haven’t been following along, catching up with this series by way of trade paperback —the second of which comes out next month — is definitely a smart move, as the next arc promises to be out-and-out explosive.

Marvel’s “Star Wars” #1 Is An Exercise In Mediocrity


I take a look at the much-anticipated first issue of Marvel’s new monthly “Star Wars” comic series.

Trash Film Guru

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So this is it. After months of relentless hype and build-up, the opening salvo of Dis/Mar’s full-spectrum Star Wars dominance has arrived in the form of the new Star Wars #1 from Marvel Comics. Get ready for more, of course — the year-long lead-up to the new SW flick, The Force Awakens, is going to get positively deafening. We’ve only just begun.

And the four-color page seems a natural enough place to start things off, given that the second Disney purchased Lucasfilm lock, stock, and barrel it was obvious where the Star Wars license was going to go once Dark Horse’s deal for the property expired at the end of 2014. Marvel is using “back home” as their motto not only for this series, but the solo series featuring Darth Vader, Princess Leia, Han Solo, Luke Skywalker, et. al. to come, and while it’s true that they were the…

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What if Lisa Marie Picked The Oscar Nominees!


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With the Oscar nominations due to be announced tomorrow, now is the time that the Shattered Lens indulges in a little something called, “What if Lisa had all the power.” Listed below are my personal Oscar nominations.  Please note that these are not the films that I necessarily think will be nominated.  The fact of the matter is that the many of them will not.  Instead, these are the films that would be nominated if I was solely responsible for deciding the nominees this year.  Winners are listed in bold.

(You’ll also note that I’ve added four categories, all of which I believe the Academy should adopt — Best Voice-Over Performance, Best Casting, Best Stunt Work, and Best Overall Use Of Music In A Film.)

(Click on the links to see my nominations for 2013, 2012, 2011, and 2010!)

2015 Best Picture Nominees

Best Picture

Boyhood

The Fault In Our Stars

Foxcatcher

The Grand Budapest Hotel

*Guardians of the Galaxy*

The LEGO Movie

Nightcrawler

Palo Alto

Under the Skin

Wild

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Best Director

Wes Anderson for The Grand Budapest Hotel

Dan Gilroy for Nightcrawler

Jonathan Glazer for Under the Skin

James Gunn for Guardians of the Galaxy

*Richard Linklater for Boyhood*

Jean-Marc Vallee for Wild

Nightcrawler

Best Actor

Macon Blair in Blue Ruin

Nicholas Cage in Joe

Ralph Fiennes in The Grand Budapest Hotel

*Jake Gyllenhaal in Nightcrawler*

Tom Hardy in Locke

Michael Keaton in Birdman

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Best Actress

Scarlett Johansson in Under the Skin

Angelina Jolie in Maleficent

Rosamund Pike in Gone Girl

Emmanuelle Seigner in Venus In Fur

Shailene Woodley in The Fault In Our Stars

*Reese Witherspoon in Wild*

Gary Poulter in Joe

Best Supporting Actor

Josh Brolin in Inherent Vice

Steve Carell in Foxcatcher

Ethan Hawke in Boyhood

*Gary Poulter in Joe*

Mark Ruffalo in Foxcatcher

J.K. Simmons in Whiplash

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Best Supporting Actress

Patrica Arquette in Boyhood

Laura Dern in Wild

Emma Roberts in Palo Alto

Rene Russo in Nightcrawler

Emma Stone in Birdman

*Mia Wasikowska in Only Lovers Left Alive*

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Best Voice Over Performance

Scott Adsit in Big Hero 6

Bradley Cooper in Guardians of the Galaxy

Kate del Castillo in The Book of Life

*Vin Diesel in Guardians of the Galaxy*

Morgan Freeman in The LEGO Movie

Chris Pratt in The LEGO Movie

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Best Original Screenplay

*Boyhood*

Chef

The Grand Budapest Hotel

The LEGO Movie

Nightcrawler

The One I Love

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Best Adapted Screenplay

The Fault In Our Stars

Gone Girl

Guardians of the Galaxy

Palo Alto

Venus in Fur

*Wild*

Lego Movie

Best Animated Feature

Big Hero 6

The Book of Life

The Boxtrolls

How To Train Your Dragon 2

*The LEGO Movie*

JodorowskysDune

Best Documentary Feature

Art and Craft

*Jodorowsky’s Dune*

The Last Patrol

Life Itself

Private Violence

Under the Electric Sky

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Best Foreign Language Film

Borgman

Ida

Illiterate

The Raid 2

*Venus In Fur*

We Are The Best!

Boyhood Image

Best Casting

*Boyhood*

Foxcatcher

Joe

Snowpiercer

Under the Skin

Wild

Palo Alto

Best Cinematography

California Scheming

A Field In England

Foxcatcher

If I Stay

Nightcrawler

*Palo Alto*

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Best Costume Design

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Guardians of the Galaxy

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part One

In Secret

*Into the Woods*

Pompeii

Film Review Under the Skin

Best Editing

Birdman

Boyhood

Guardians of the Galaxy

Nightcrawler

*Under the Skin*

Wild

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Best Makeup and Hairstyling

Foxcatcher

*Guardians of the Galaxy*

The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies

Inherent Vice

Into the Woods

Maleficent

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Best Original Score

California Scheming

A Field in England

Gone Girl

Guardians of the Galaxy

Nightcrawler

*Under the Skin*

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Best Original Song

“Lost Stars” from Begin Again

“The Apology Song” from The Book of Life

“Split the Difference” from Boyhood

“Yellow Flicker Beats” from The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part One

*”Everything is Awesome” from The LEGO Movie*

“Sister Rust” from Lucy

“Mercy” from Noah

“Hal” from Only Lovers Left Alive

“Rock Star” from Palo Alto

“Summer Nights” from Under the Electric Sky

GuardiandoftheGalaxy

Best Overall Use Of Music

Begin Again

Boyhood

A Field in England

*Guardians of the Galaxy*

Only Lovers Left Alive

Whiplash

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Best Production Design

*The Grand Budapest Hotel*

Guardians of the Galaxy

Inherent Vice

Into the Woods

Snowpiercer

Winter’s Tale

Fury

Best Sound Editing

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

A Field in England

*Fury*

Guardians of the Galaxy

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

X-Men: Days of Future Past

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Best Sound Mixing

*Captain America: The Winter Soldier*

A Field in England

Fury

Guardians of the Galaxy

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

X-Men: Days of Future Past

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Best Stunt Work

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

*Dawn of the Planet of the Apes*

Divergent

In the Blood

Raze

X-Men: Days of Future Past

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Best Visual Effects

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Edge of Tomorrow

Godzilla

*Guardians of the Galaxy*

Interstellar

X-Men: Days of Future Past

Number of Nominations by Film

14 Nominations — Guardians of the Galaxy

9 Nominations — Boyhood

8 Nominations — Nightcrawler

7 Nominations — Wild

6 Nominations — Foxcatcher, The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Lego Movie, Under the Skin

5 Nominations —  A Field in England, Palo Alto

4 Nominations — X-Men: Days of Future Past

3 Nominations — Birdman, The Book of LifeCapt. America: The Winter Soldier, The Fault In Our Stars, Gone Girl, Inherent Vice, Into the WoodsJoe, Only Lovers Left AliveVenus in Fur

2 Nominations — Begin AgainBig Hero 6, California SchemingDawn of the Planet of Apes, Fury, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five ArmiesThe Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part OneMaleficent, SnowpiercerUnder the Electric SkyWhiplash

1 Nomination — Art and CraftBlue Ruin, BorgmanThe Box Trolls, ChefDivergent, Edge of Tomorrow, Godzilla, How To Train Your Dragon 2, Ida, If I StayIlliterate, In SecretIn the Blood, Interstellar, Jodorowsky’s Dune, The Last Patrol, Life ItselfLocke, Lucy, NoahThe One I Love, Pompeii, Private ViolenceThe Raid 2Raze, We Are The Best!, Winter’s Tale

Numbers of Oscars By Film

5 Oscars — Guardians of the Galaxy

3 Oscars — Boyhood

2 Oscars — The LEGO Movie, Under the Skin, Wild

1 Oscar — Capt. America: The Winter Soldier, Dawn of the Plaent of the Apes, Jodorowsky’s Dune, Fury, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Into the Woods, Joe, Nightcrawler, Only Lovers Left Alive, Palo Alto, Venus In Fur

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