review

Oct. 10, 2013 | 5:00 a.m.

‘Rain’ review: To master game, players face the unseen and the unknown

A scene from the video game "Rain." (Sony)
“Rain,” Sony’s download-only PlayStation 3 title released last week, plays with an idea central to many fairy tales. What monsters come out to play when the lights are turned off? But ultimately, it ends up dealing with a far darker question — is there any monster quite so scary as loneliness? “Rain” puts players in control of an average young boy whom we know little about other than he was denied his wish of attending the circus and went off to bed in a sullen mood. When he awakes, he is invisible to the world and to the game player. His silhouette is noticeable only when he is led into the rain or into the mud. The boy’s shouts for help go unheard and not a grown-up is to be found on the streets of this European-inspired town. It’s never […]
April 27, 2013 | 11:00 a.m.

Fantagraphics’ ’50 Girls 50′ pays tribute to EC Comics sci-fi legacy

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REVIEW Golden-age publisher EC Comics’ rise and fall was tied to its horror titles “Tales From the Crypt” and “The Vault of Horror,” which were so sharply written and beautifully drawn that they quickly became fan-favorites in the early ’50s — while also freaking out some authority figures, who were bothered that these stories were so gory, so irreverent, so effective. When comics fans sum up the EC saga, the focus is usually on how the company excelled at twisty tales of murder, then had to tone that down in the wake of congressional investigations into the link between comics and juvenile delinquency. Eventually, EC survived the furor by turning to humor, becoming a success again thanks to Mad magazine. Yet EC in its heyday was about more than just violent criminals and the shambling undead. The company was also […]
Sept. 17, 2012 | 9:00 p.m.

‘Borderlands 2’ survives on Pandora with a sense of humor

Borderlands 2 (featured image)
VIDEO GAME REVIEW “Borderlands 2” puts a happy face on the apocalypse. What makes the barren rocky terrain and endless sand dunes of the future worth exploring here is not the stress-relieving pleasure of destroying tiny, psychotic mutant humanoids. No, what drives this shoot-and-loot space western is far simpler: humor. For starters, the game’s ultimate villain is not an alien life form but a far more familiar manifestation of evil: the power-crazed CEO. Handsome Jack of the Hyperion Corporation has taken over planet Pandora to harvest its natural resources and kill off its would-be colonists. That’s you. Your mission is to stop him, although his ultimate nefarious goals are unknown. You do have a sidekick though. Claptrap is a chirpy robot who cheers on the carnage — but admits that under his perky programmed facade he’s in fact severely depressed. […]
July 15, 2011 | 5:02 p.m.

‘Harry Potter’ review: A fitting end to a once-in-a-lifetime series

The end is here — but we’re not done yet. No one has covered the eighth and final “Harry Potter” the way we have here at Hero Complex, but we’re not going to slow down now that the film has reached theaters. The movie is on its way to a massive opening weekend and the reviews are overwhelmingly positive as well. One of the best takes is by our very own Kenneth Turan, the senior film critic for the Los Angeles Times. Here’s an excerpt from his review: The Harry Potter films, like the boy wizard himself, have had their creative ups and downs, so it’s especially satisfying that this final film, ungainly title and all, has been worth the wait. Though no expense has been spared in its production, it succeeds because it brings us back to the combination of magic, […]
June 17, 2011 | 8:27 a.m.

‘Green Lantern’ review: ‘More ‘science-fiction space opera than superhero epic’

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Overall, Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times goes against the early critical opinion of Warner Bros.’ “Green Lantern,” saying “it works in fits and starts as its disparate parts go in and out of effectiveness, but the professionalism of the production” makes it watchable in a “comic book kind of way.” Far from high praise, it’s not as scathing as the New York Times’ review or that Rotten Tomatoes’ score. Starting with Hal Jordan himself, Turan’s take on Ryan Reynolds seems positive; he says that “Reynolds can handle most of what the script by Greg Berlanti and Michael Green and Marc Guggenheim and Michael Goldenberg throws at him. The problem is, not all of that stuff is worth doing.” Turan goes on to point out that the visual depiction of the planet Oa, “home base of the Lanterns and their […]
May 22, 2011 | 6:10 a.m.

‘Pirates’ review: Johnny Depp keeps the ship afloat — barely

PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: ON STRANGER TIDES
Is it time for Jack Sparrow to sail off into the sunset? After seeing the fourth installment in Disney‘s “Pirates of the Caribbean” mega-franchise, Los Angeles Times film critic Betsy Sharkey writes in her review that Johnny Depp‘s kooky pirate charm keeps “On Stranger Tides” afloat, but the film is “not seaworthy, nor Sparrow worthy, for that matter.” Sharkey gives props to a few sparkling moments, including creepy mermaids and a cameo by the Rolling Stone‘s Keith Richards, but said that despite Oscar-nominated director Rob Marshall‘s efforts at the helm, overall, the movie lacks fun. Sharkey blames a bloated, overly complicated plot and bizarre production design. “Now if all that sounds like a promising place to work a lot of 3-D magic, then boy are you in for a major letdown,” Sharkey writes. “The Ds in this instance stand for dark and dismal and disastrously claustrophobic.” Here’s […]
May 06, 2011 | 1:43 p.m.

‘Thor’ review: Marvel meets Shakespeare with mixed results

DAYS OF THUNDER: We’ve been counting down to the release of “Thor” with a month of on-the-set reports, exclusive photos and interviews with the cast and crew of the first truly cosmic Marvel Studios film. Today: Kenneth Turan’s review.  Kenneth Turan is celebrating his 20th anniversary as a film critic for the Los Angeles Times and he’s watched as super-hero films have moved to new heights at the box office. After seeing “Thor,” Turan writes in his review that the film is a “smackdown” between two opposing forces — Kenneth Branagh,  “a director still best known for superior Shakespearean productions,” and Marvel Entertainment, a “well-oiled mass entertainment machine boasting ownership of more than 8,000 comic book characters and more than $6.1 billion in worldwide box office grosses.” In Turan’s view, the contest was a draw, judging by the new film that is expected to dominate at theaters […]
April 15, 2011 | 3:36 p.m.

‘Scream 4′: Critics divided — is the film fun, stupid fun or just stupid?

Neve Campbell stars in Wes Craven's "Scream 4." (MCT)
Wondering whether you should answer the call and take a chance on “Scream 4” this weekend? Critic Peter Travers writes in Rolling Stone that despite the “diabolically funny start and a surprise climax” the movie isn’t worth your time, and Michael O’Sullivan’s review in the Washington Post offers one of the stranger metaphors in recent cinema criticism by calling the Wes Craven film “a 17-year-old bulimic girl … alternately bingeing on cheesy slasher-flick cliches, purging, by pointing out, over and over, just how gag-me-with-a spoon cheesy they are.” Roger Ebert just seemed weary after seeing the movie, reflecting on “one victim after another being slashed, skewered, stabbed, gutted and sliced, with everyone in on the joke” before shaking his head at the reader with this closing line: “Maybe that’s your idea of a good time.” The “good-start-but-slow-middle” assessment popped up […]
March 28, 2011 | 10:15 a.m.

‘America’s Greatest Otaku': Japanese pop culture hits the road in U.S.

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REVIEW In Japanese, otaku simply means “you,” but in America, it’s used to describe a fan of Japanese pop culture: anime, manga, video games, J-pop and/or cosplay. American otaku range from casual enthusiasts to hard-core fanatics; the latter are the subject of the eight-part reality series/documentary “America’s Greatest Otaku,” which premiered on Hulu on Feb. 24. Stu Levy, the founder of TokyoPop, a major publisher of manga in the U.S., serves as host, assisted by six college students who are self-proclaimed otaku. Over eight weeks, they visit 20 U.S. cities, observing various aspects of Japanese fandom and interviewing candidates for the title of America’s Greatest Otaku. It’s an uneven series, veering from interesting to just plain silly and superficial. In one of the better sequences, the apprentice reporters visit the Texas headquarters of Funimation, the largest U.S. distributor of anime. After […]
March 24, 2011 | 11:08 a.m.

‘Beyonders’ review: Brandon Mull delivers elevated fantasy novel

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Susan Carpenter recently reviewed “Beyonders: A World Without Heroes” for the Los Angeles Times and said it tapped into a long legacy of dimensional escapades on the printed page. “For decades, kids have been inadvertently stumbling into alternate realities through children’s literature. In ‘The Chronicles of Narnia,’ it was a wardrobe that served as the portal. With ‘Beyonders: A World Without Heroes,’ it’s the yawning jaws of a hippo. This intriguing beginning leads to an even more imaginative quest in the kickoff to a new fantasy trilogy from Brandon Mull, bestselling author of the young-adult series “Fablehaven.” Jason Walker is just an average American teenager — studying for tests, practicing baseball and prepping to be a future dentist in the suburban idyll of Vista, Colo.”  Read Carpenter’s full review. – Geoff Boucher RECENT AND RELATED Collins: Lawrence is “beautiful, unforgiving […]
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