About Robert Cortez

Robert is a design and publishing professional, serving as art director/creative director for Newtype USA and PiQ magazines covering anime and genre entertainment. He enjoys good movies (and even some bad ones), muscle cars, video games, rock and roll and talking about all of the above with friends over a burger and soda.
Sodapop Journal Movie Club presents On Any Sunday

Ep. 26: Heaven on Two Wheels

This episode we discuss Bruce Brown’s 1971 feature documentary On Any Sunday, its enduring impact on motorcycle enthusiasts around the world and how documentaries have changed over the years. Afterwards, we deliberate on House of Cards, Netflix, Django Unchained and then reveal our next Movie Club pick!

Have your say in the comments below, send us an e-mail or give us a call at 657-444-SODA. If you haven’t already, subscribe to the podcast in iTunes. We’ll be your best friends.

Follow us on Twitter: @SodapopJournal | @pts | @MrHoward

Amazon bringing exclusive Harry Potter to your Kindle for free…sort of

The online retail giant has announced an exclusive deal with Pottermore to include all the Harry Potter novels as e-books in their Kindle Owners’ Lending Library program starting June 19. That means all Amazon Prime subscribers can now check out the Hogwarts saga in e-book form—in addition to tons of other e-books, streaming movies and TV shows and free shipping—at no additional charge. For those keeping score, that’s a lot of stuff for free, with your $79 a year subscription, of course. A pretty good deal, I’d say, except for one thing.

Ever since I bought my iPad late last year, I’ve found myself picking up e-books more and more, and while I’m enjoying the selection that Amazon has in their catalog, non-Kindle owners like me (which I suspect far outnumber Kindle owners) will be locked out of the Harry Potter action. It’s understandable that the company is trying to bolster its Amazon Prime and Kindle efforts, and at some point, I imagine it’ll be “subscribe to Amazon Prime and read/watch/listen to anything for free” for Kindle owners, but I wonder how a move like this might sit with the Department of Justice considering their recent antitrust suit against several major book publishers and Apple in which Amazon was clearly painted as a victim of collusion and price-fixing.

Then again, maybe this is akin to when the Beatles finally allowed their music to be sold digitally through iTunes a couple of years ago. It was a nice thought, but for most fans it was a non-event. Anyone who’s into the books probably bought them from Pottermore already, right? And besides, it’s Harry Potter. That’s sooo last year.

Oscars

Ep. 21: It’s Like Jazz

Paul, Robert and Scott talk about this year’s Oscar nominees and other favorites from 2011, including The Descendants, Moneyball and Warrior. Then we go a level deeper with SSX Modern Warfare and Mass Effect 3. Then another level deeper with a tale about LARPing and trip-hop artist Tricky. Then another level deeper with mobile gaming during jury duty. Then we ride the kicks all the way back up through Young Adult and Tree of Life before ultimately ending up at the failings of the Oscars over the years. BRRWWOONNGG.

Have your say in the comments below, send us an e-mail or give us a call at 657-444-SODA.

Listen now

If you haven’t already, subscribe to the Sodapop Journal podcast in iTunes.

Follow us on Twitter: @SodapopJournal | @pts | @robertcortez | @MrHoward

Red State

  • SModcast Pictures
  • DVD/Blu-ray October 18
  • Download from iTunes | Amazon

Three teenage friends looking for sex get more than they bargained for when they get kidnapped by an ultra-conservative religious group, which then results in a bloody standoff with the ATF. Although billed as a straight horror film, Red State does something that others in the genre rarely do. From the first shot, the film begins building into a gritty, violent look at the underside of radical beliefs and broken ideals. That’s a lot of ground to cover, and for a simple horror flick, Red State aims higher than it probably has any right to, but there’s clearly more going on below the surface. Instead of settling for traditional horror tropes, the film deals in the real world evils of disaffected youth, wild-eyed religious discontent and corrupt government agencies, and it doesn’t pull punches once the bloodletting starts. (While writer/director Kevin Smith has often deflected any sort of political connotations of the film’s title, it’s not hard to connect those dots. To be clear, it’s an indictment of everything and everyone, but right-wingers seem to get it the worst.)

That Kevin Smith could write and direct such a strangely brutal and potentially incendiary film shouldn’t be all that surprising—fans will likely spot a familiar sting in the dialogue—but it is nonetheless. Here Smith is a new filmmaker, checking his usual low-brow raunch after the first fifteen minutes and letting his camera and actors propel the story forward, including Michael Parks as grandfatherly religious crackpot Abin Cooper, Kerry Bishe as the single voice of reason in Cooper clan and John Goodman as conflicted ATF agent who quickly finds himself in a no-win situation. To be fair, there are patches where the narrative feels ham-fisted—Goodman’s final scene, for instance—but what it lacks in precision it makes up with its wrenching left turns. From act to act, you won’t know who to root for (or if you even should) and by the end, you won’t be sure what you’ve just seen. It’s a refreshing challenge, particularly from Smith, and as horror movies go, Red State is far more ambitious than most in recent years.

Rival Sons: Pressure & Time

  • Earache Records
  • Available now
  • Download from iTunes | Amazon

When it comes to rock music, it’s often said that they just don’t make them like they used to, but not if Rival Sons has anything to say about it. On their second full-length album Pressure & Time, the L.A.-based quartet pulls together blues and rock and roll, throws in singer Jay Buchanan’s soulful, soaring vocals and cranks it all up to blistering volumes. Comparisons to the likes of Led Zeppelin, Mountain or even Wolfmother wouldn’t be far off, and the influence of other great artists from decades past is undeniable, but even so, in an era when rock has lost its way, Rival Sons excels at building on that high-powered classic rock sound. The album’s titular track, for instance, uses a four-note passage similar to one found in Zep’s “Out On the Tiles” but gives it a powerful new urgency as the song’s main hook. Other highlights include: “Gypsy Heart” with its funky riffs and backbeats and musings on the wayward lifestyle;  “All Over the Road” that, frankly, just makes driving a car sound sexy again; and the glorious, organ-tinged love letter  “Only One”.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

  • 20th Century Fox
  • In theaters August 5

When scientist Will Rodman discovers a cure for Alzheimer’s, he also inadvertently triggers an evolutionary leap in his ape test subjects, including a chimp named Caesar. When one of the chimps goes on a deadly rampage in the lab, Will is sent back to the drawing board and told to euthanize all of the animals, but not before whisking Caesar away to his home. There’s a tender subplot with Will’s Alzheimer’s-stricken father, but it mostly serves as a way for us identify with Caesar as he learns how to live as humans do. It’s here where the film succeeds more than expected. Andy Serkis and Weta do a spectacular job of making Caesar and the other primates real characters that are both meant to be sympathetic and yet terrifyingly dangerous. Perhaps the most striking example is a pivotal moment in the film where everything—even time itself, it seems—stops. From that point on, we’re suddenly thrust into an entirely new and uncertain world—a world that belongs to the apes.

Captain America

  • Paramount Pictures
  • In theaters July 22
With Marvel’s superhero train rolling full steam ahead, Captain America does an admirable job of both setting up next year’s Avengers mega-flick while also giving us the origins of Cap himself. It’s not often that we get a superhero story set in the 1940s, but Captain America pulls out all the stops and makes the most of the period to remind us how pure American resolve was once the bright, shining hope that could save the rest of the world. It also doesn’t hurt that Chris Evans—thanks to some nearly-flawless CGI body shrinking—inhabits the role of Steve Rogers with an earnest, dutiful grace and gives us an all-around good guy to root for. When Hugo Weaving’s Red Skull takes his mad science to new heights in order to secure world domination, it’s only Cap that can save the day, even if it means sacrificing everything (including a delightfully awkward yet tender romance with British operative Peggy Carter). Ever the underdog despite his newly-granted abilities, Captain America is a champion of the highest tradition, but one has to wonder how this will fuse with today’s society where being a symbol of ultra-patriotic American might may not be as celebrated as it once was.

Zombie Gunship

It’s dark out, and although a light shines in the distance, a fog of death looms all around you. You decide to make a run for it, and as you get closer to the light, you hear the sound of a plane overhead. When one of the undead appear between you and your sanctuary ahead, you charge forward hoping to slip by unscathed. Just as their cold, clammy hands reach out to grab you, they explode into a cloud of bones and blood—all as if touched by a hand from above.

That scenario—left entirely to your imagination, of course—only plays out at a distance in Zombie Gunship. Your goal: man the high-tech instruments of death aboard an AC-130 gunship to protect the survivors on the ground and keep the hordes of undead from entering the bunker. While monitoring the action though the cold eye of a black-and-white thermal scope, dropping heavy ordinance and watching the bodies fly is a morbid delight.