Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Movie Review: ‘Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol’ The IMAX Experience

After being sprung from a Moscow prison, IMF agent Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and his team infiltrate the Kremlin in order to acquire information on a target known as Cobalt.  The mission ends in unmitigated disaster, and the Kremlin is decimated.  The President of the United States enacts “Ghost Protocol,” effectively turning Hunt and his team into international fugitives.  Unable to operate in an official capacity, the remnants of the IMF must pool their resources and talents to clear their names and avert a nuclear holocaust.  Intelligence Analyst William Brandt (Jeremy Renner) is along for the ride, as he hopes to find redemption at missions end.  Failure is most definitely not an option.  

Monday, December 19, 2011

Movie Trailer: The Dark Knight Rises

Though I adore Christopher Nolan’s vision for the caped crusader (sans the incomprehensible fight scenes, of course), I realize that it isn’t for everyone.  The Dark Knight was essentially a crime film featuring a superhero.  It made Batman a supporting player in a story that made allusions to 911 and the USA PATRIOT Act.  Perhaps that is why many fans found it just a tad pretentious.  Not to mention that while Nolan can be heavy handed, his intent is sometimes murky.  For that reason, an in-depth analysis of the new trailer (or at least an attempt at one) might be in order.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Recently Released Test Footage Reveals The Green Goblin That Might’ve Been

Spider-Man 3 made it all too easy for detractors to focus on what Sam Raimi got wrong in bringing the web-slinger to the big screen.  That is unfortunate, seeing as how he had a relatively solid track record up to that point.  The first Spider-Man film kicked the superhero revolution into high gear, proving the genre’s appeal to be much broader than anyone had previously thought.  Spider-Man 2 is arguably the greatest film of its kind ever made.  Yet, even those films had their share of missteps.  Among the more nonsensical decisions made was to cover up William Dafoe’s wonderfully expressive face with a plastic mask/helmet hybrid.  That design ran contrary to the one in the comics, where Norman Osborne sported a close fitting rubber mask more akin to something out of Mission: Impossible.  

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Music Video: Ludacris ft. Gucci Mane - Shake N Fries

WARNING: The Video Reviewed In This Post Contains Sexually Explicit Content

Now that I’ve gotten that needless disclaimer out of the way, we can get down to business.  Even overly analytical types like me need to unwind every now and then.   In such cases, nothing does the trick better than a rap video featuring a bevy of voluptuous strippers.  Such clips usually accompany uptempo, raunchy party records.  The latest bit of such recreational material comes from Ludacris and Gucci Mane, under the title "Shake N Fries."

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Happy Birthday Clownface and Panda: ‘Body Bags: Father’s Day’ Turns 15

It’s easy to forget how Quentin Tarantino’s masterpiece Pulp Fiction forever altered the course of American pop culture.  Its influence reverberated far beyond the confines of American cinema and could be seen in a variety of different mediums.    In the years immediately following its release, many tried to ape its style, often failing miserably.  In 1996, comic book artist Jason Pearson paid tribute to the film as only he could, with an irreverent yarn that told the not-so-tender tale of an estranged father and daughter becoming reacquainted with one another.  

Monday, December 12, 2011

Movie Trailer: G.I. Joe: Retaliation

Michael Bay’s Transformers films ushered in a wave of nostalgia for 80’s toy properties.  Sylvester Stallone’s The Expendables tried to accomplish the same for 80’s action heroes.  The former was much more successful than the latter, as The Expendables required the action heroes of yesteryear to collectivize in order to achieve a respectable level of bankability in the current marketplace.  By comparison, The Transformers were able to achieve much more without having to do a crossover with other toylines.  Would it be possible for one form of nostalgia to aid the resurrection of another?  The makers of G.I. Joe: Retaliation seem to think so, as they have cast Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson in a lead role.  While not actually an 80’s action hero, The Rock unmistakably comes from that exact same mold.  Such iconography will now be used to aid the Joes in their second cinematic outing.

Matthias Stork Answers Detractors in the Third Installment of ‘Chaos Cinema’

The first two parts of Matthias Stork’s video essay Chaos Cinema drew the ire of many, inspiring a number of responses and rebuttals.  Stork obviously took some of them into consideration when crafting the third installment of his controversial series, which debuted this past Friday on Press Play.  Stork doesn’t concede defeat, though he admits that he initially painted with broad brushstrokes.  He apologizes for that oversight, while answering his critics.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Bane Leaves Batman Broken in the Second ‘Dark Knight Rises’ Poster

Superhero comics are sometimes criticized by detractors as being stories that never end about characters that never age.  Such a reading characterizes the form as lacking a sense of purpose, evolution, and finality.  Likewise, that same criticism is often leveled against movie franchises featuring said heroes.  The current trend of “rebooting” certain franchises does nothing to contradict that notion, as these reboots usually occur without the previous cinematic iteration of the character having reached anything resembling closure.  The Dark Knight Rising stands apart from its peers in that the marketing emanates a sense of finality.  The second poster for the film places that sentiment firmly in the forefront.   

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Movie Poster: The Amazing Spider-Man

The teaser poster is here for The Amazing Spider-Man is here.  It shows Peter Parker having crawled up the corner of two intersecting walls in what appears to be a really dark alleyway.  He sits perched in a crab walk position, while a light from above shines down on him.  Peter Parker himself is almost completely covered in darkness, but his profile casts a shadow on the walls below him in the shape of the spider emblem that adorns his costume.  Beneath this eye catching image is a rather weird tagline that reads “The Untold Story.”  

Friday, December 9, 2011

Music Video: KRS-One – Aztechnical

When an iconic artist appears to be long past his prime, fans find themselves wishing he would either return to form or just call it a day.  While the latter would be the most realistic option, it’s not so easy for those who’ve tasted success to throw in the towel.  They often begin trying to their glory days, making it all the more obvious that their skills have atrophied.  Amazingly, some artists are able to keep their tools sharp indefinitely.  KRS-One has long purported himself to be such an artist, and his upcoming 20th studio album Just Like That aims to prove it.  

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Movie Review: Boy Wonder

The very concept of a “realistic” superhero film would seem to be a gross contradiction in terms.  The fantastical conventions and tropes of the genre seem irreversibly resistant to such iterations.  This has not stopped a plethora of filmmakers from offering pseudo realistic takes on the caped and costumed set.  Kick Ass, Watchmen, and Christopher Nolan’s Batman films all purport to be the genuine article in terms of grit and realism.  All of the aforementioned address the various implausibilities and impossibilities of the genre in a myriad of ways.  Though these films can in no way be considered artistic failures, none of them ever has ever been completely successful in accomplishing their goals.  Writer/Director Michael Morrissey has attempted to remedy this problem with his gritty vigilante film, Boy Wonder.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Music Video: LBP Stunts Chicago - Boogie Woogie Feng Shui No. 5 (Live Action AMV - Anime Music Video)

LBP Stunts Chicago seems to have a bottomless reserve of energy.  They channel it into a number of endeavors, from short films to experimental clips and now music videos.  You read that last part right: music videos.  No, LBP has not formed a band of any sort (or God forbid a rap group).  They have simply put together some visual accompaniment for a few existing pieces of music.  The visuals in question are not a random collection of disconnected images.  No, these are recreations of key fight scenes from some three of the more notable anime properties from the past 20 years.  The curiously (though fittingly) titled Boogie Woogie Feng Shui No. 5 (Live Action AMV - Anime Music Video) is a trilogy that clocks in at about seven minutes, but acts as a greatest hits package of sorts.

Monday, November 28, 2011

LBP Stunts Chicago Makes Muggers Think Twice in New Test Footage

LBP Stunts will not be denied.  It’s just that simple.  Even the throwaway material from those guys is worth a look.  Their latest experiment was conducted as a test of the Sony FS100 Super 35mm digital motion camcorder.  It’s a bit of test footage depicting a physical confrontation between a mugger and a victim in a multilevel parking garage.  Emmanuel Manzanares plays the attacker and Shawn Bernal the target.  As expected, the two engage in a bit of fierce fisticuffs.  As is the standard for LBP stunts, the choreography comes at the viewer fast and furious.  Moves and countermoves are unleashed in rapid and hard hitting succession.  

'The Raid' Gets a Somewhat New Trailer

As the excruciatingly long wait for the North American release of Gareth Evan’s Indonesian action extravaganza The Raid continues, plans have already been announced for both a sequel and a Hollywood remake.  Meanwhile, many of us stateside continue to salivate over the red band trailer that got released a few months back (you can read my review here).    A new extended trailer got released recently, which contains much of the same footage as the first.  It was originally shown at the Indonesia International Fantastic Film Festival.   Gareth Evans posted it on his blog yesterday.  It shows a bit more graphic violence and boasts a new musical composition by Fajar Yuskemal and Aria Prayogi.   It again emphasizes the insanely kinetic energy on display in the various fight scenes and shoot outs.  Though it offers only minor differences from the red band trailer, it still demands countless viewings by any self-respecting adrenaline junkie.  Such well-crafted carnage goes a long way in satiating the collective longing for the heyday of Hong Kong action cinema.  Screen Gems needs to get this into North American theaters and then onto Blu-Ray ASAP.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Surviving the Game: An Interview with Michael “Mick-Man” Gourdine A.K.A Candy Man, Author of Chili Pimping in Atlantic City (Part 2)

In the second part of ‘Surviving the Game: An Interview with Michael “Mick-Man” Gourdine A.K.A Candy Man, Author of Chili Pimping in Atlantic City’ (Click here to read part one), The Candyman offers unprecedented insight into the drug game as practiced by New Yorkers.  He also reveals some little known truths about the “sporting life.” 

Monday, November 21, 2011

Cool Characters: Roland Bishop

Hood films have never been known for their subtlety.  Even the best ones often hammer their points home.  They have always fallen squarely on the nurture side of the nature vs. nurture argument.  Most explanations for criminality are often spelled out in the most overt and expository manner possible.  It’s as if the filmmakers don’t trust the audience to come to the appropriate conclusions on their own.  Still, somewhat vague and ambiguous characterizations sometimes slipped through the cracks.  The randomness of street crime dictates that not every murder has a clear or logical motive.  Any otherwise “realistic” movie about the streets would be somewhat dishonest if it ignored such a fact.  In the midst of the hood movie onslaught of the early 1990’s, a future Hip-Hop legend would be cast as one of hood cinema's definitive sociopaths.

Short Film Review: Rosa

Cyberpunk has been around since the early to mid-1980’s, and has long since become just another pop culture well that genre filmmakers return to time and again.  As such, it would seem to have run dry by now, seeing as how cyberpunk imagery has become an integral part of the dystopian sci-fi filmmaking language.  Video games have also made extensive use of such stories and settings.  However, like so many other fantasy genres, cyberpunk has much more to offer than what has previously been shown, even if just in a superficial or visual sense.  In fact, the imagery is probably best suited by no dialogue at all in some cases.  Jesús Orellana’s animated short film Rosa likely would have thrived in the silent film era, since it functions mostly as a beautifully rendered dream.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Payphone Pimping Ain’t Easy: An Interview With J-Zone

Living outside the box can be a lonely existence.  Some do so by choice, usually as a way to distinguish themselves from the pack.  That kind of pretentious facade is usually nothing more than an elaborate ruse.  Much harder to figure out is the authentically odd duck, that rare kind of weirdo who is, quite simply, being himself.  Such an individual has an especially hard row to hoe, seeing as how people tend to roundly dismiss anything they can’t easily categorize.  

Friday, November 18, 2011

DJ Quik Pays Tribute to Heavy D as Only He Can

As Hip-Hop continues to mourn the passing of Heavy D, it seems that no tribute to his memory and legacy could possibly be enough.  The expected tribute mixes from old school DJ’s are par for the course, and it’s always great to hear the songs that endeared Heavy D to his fans.  Still, such a huge personality demands something a bit grander.  Such huge expectations can, of course, never truly be met.  In such a situation, it’s the more unexpected tributes that tend to have the greatest impact.  An artist who would appear to be the antithesis to all the Heavy stood for (at least to those not paying attention) has chosen to poor out a little liquor for a fallen comrade, albeit one from the other side of the country.  DJ Quik, who early in his career never hesitated to engage east coast rappers in verbal fisticuffs, has crafted a funky send off for the overweight lover.

Movie Poster: The Expendables 2

As a tribute to the larger than life action extravaganzas of the 1980’s, The Expendables was merely adequate.  It had its moments, but it wasn’t the hard hitting, ultra-militaristic alpha male free-for-all that many fans were hoping for.  It felt especially safe after 2008’s blood drenched Rambo entry.  One could almost feel Stallone pulling his punches until the CGI enhanced carnage in the final reel.  Well, the good thing about sequels for such films is that they offer a major chance for improvement.  The era of body building super soldiers has yet to receive the proper tribute.  If the poster is any indication, The Expendables 2 will offer much more of the same, only bigger.  

Happy Birthday Brundlefly: David Cronenberg’s Remake of ‘The Fly’ Turns 25

Modern superhero movies often portray scientific accidents as a form of rebirth.  While there is a very obvious downside to becoming a superpowered freak, there are certainly a great number of advantages as well.  Peter Parker has an acute sixth sense that alerts him to danger, and he can lift many times his own body weight.  Bruce Banners gamma fueled temper tantrums make him one mild mannered nerd that anyone would be afraid to piss off.  If Stan Lee and his stable of artists wanted to take an even more disturbing approach to that material, they might have portrayed such bizarre scientific blessings as a full on curse, A disease which slowly transforms the human body into something truly hideous.  In August of 1986, a daring Canuck filmmaker did just that by offering a disturbing new take on a classic horror film.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Thousand Pounds Fight Team Has Their Mettle Tested In Streets of Arkham City (Sort of)

Batman: Arkham City is easily as addicting as any narcotic.  After buying it last week, my XBOX 360 controller has become permanently fused to my hands.  The numerous fights and melees, which happen frequently and at the drop of dime, are enough to have ones thumbs and forefingers in a perpetual state of cramped exhaustion.  The Thousand Pounds Fight Team admittedly knows such addiction all too well, and has decided that merely playing the game is not enough. The next logical step is to enter the game grid and try ones luck on Gotham’s streets.   In keeping with that spirit, they have put together a test video which aims to accurately recreate the combat style and camera angles of the game.  It’s set to the strains of the “Arkham City Main Theme” by Nick Arundel.  Altogether, it’s an aesthetically accurate recreation of the game.  Now if only they could build a time travelling Delorean, go back to when The Dark Knight was still in the planning stages and hand Christopher Nolan this test footage as an audition reel.  Maybe he would have taken the hint.          

Music Video: KRS-1 – “Just Like That”

With every passing day, New York City’s legacy as the birthplace of Rap music and Hip-Hop culture is looking more and more like the lost history of a forgotten kingdom.  This is due to the big apple having zero mainstream presence in the music as of late.  As Drakes second album is poised to set a new creative bar for the next of generation rap stars (or so various media outlets are saying), the traditionally east coast brand of the music is now something that youngsters can see on VH1, like some well-preserved museum exhibit.  If such a place existed, KRS-1 would undoubtedly be a key attraction.  However, the Blast Master continues to release new music in the vein of that which made him a giant so long ago.  He now sounds the horn for the forgotten legacy he represents with “Just Like That.”

Movie Trailer: Urban Fighter

An action renaissance is upon us.  At the rate things are going, American martial arts films (or American films with decent fight scenes period) will one day become the sole province of low budget independent filmmakers.  Independent stunt teams and film companies continue to prove unequivocally that big or even average budgets aren’t needed for well-staged action.  When special FX technology becomes refined to the point where the average citizen can render convincing CGI on their home PC, the major studios will surely be in trouble.  Until then, scrappy independent crews will continue turning out product like Urban Fighter.

Music Video: RZA f Justin Nozuka, Kobra Khan & James Black - "Gone"

Though the RZA has never been the best or most charismatic rapper in the Wu-Tang Clan, I have always found his abstract and off beat style intriguing.  His verses take on the characteristics of urgent stream of consciousness rants, almost as if he can’t control his own thoughts.  Every now and then, this approach has yielded moments of inspired genius.  Still, he can be just as effective when applying a stricter discipline to his delivery.

Cool Characters: John McClane

From the outset, action heroes were almost always portrayed as stoic supermen.  From the sneering “Dirty” Harry Callahan to the dead pan Paul Kersey, protagonists in action films rarely showed anything resembling vulnerability.  Even the ones who used fists instead of guns (such as Bruce Lee) possessed some sort of otherworldly ability that made them more than ordinary men.  By the time the 1980’s rolled around they were even outfitted with comic book physiques that made the ultra-masculine ideals they represented seem that much more unattainable.  It was in the latter part of the decade that a high concept offering from producer Joel Silver would set a precedent in the genre by going against that trend.  It cast a TV star who was physically unremarkable and without a hint of stoicism in the lead role plunked him in the middle of a warzone.  

Monday, November 14, 2011

Frank Miller Embraces His Inner Fascist, Declares War on The Occupy Movement

Legendary comic book artist and writer Frank Miller, who famously turned the caped crusader into a fascist in the seminal graphic novel The Dark Knight Returns, now advocates fascism in the real world.  In a rant posted on his website, he disregards the Occupy movement as one populated by “louts, thieves, and rapists.”  He also dismisses them as an “unruly mob” that does nothing but “harm America.”  Miller manages to do all of the aforementioned in first paragraph alone.  His rant maintains the same tone throughout, even going so far as to take jabs at the sheltered man child who at one time worshiped him, before execrable works such as All Star Batman and Robin and most recently Holy Terror eroded such devotion. Though inflammatory, his stance isn’t exactly surprising, given the militaristic and fascist tone of even his most respected works.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Damien Walters Takes to the Air With a Vengeance in His Latest Showreel.

Damien Walters is Hollywood’s last line of defense against the onslaught of digital stunt men.  This British gymnast and parkour expert only very recently got his start in the industry in 2008’s Hellboy II: The Golden Army.  Since then, he has built up a consistent resume of top notch work.  He does anything a digital stunt man can, except he does it for real, without the aid of wires or computerized trickery.  The guy has to be some kind of physical anomaly.  He flips through the air, bounding effortlessly off ledges and walls.  He flips over (and through) moving cars.  He turns regular somersaults into visual poetry.  The guy is simply a real life superhero.  Every year about this time, he releases a showreel that displays his abilities in various settings and obstacles.  The latest one got released just yesterday and it really is something to behold.  This guy is a true artist, using any available structure or landscape as his canvas.  This video has more reply value than your favorite song.  Once you click play, you’ll be hooked.  Enjoy.

Short Film Review: The Mini Boss (Third Person Action Scene)

Many see Hollywood’s plundering of superhero comics, cartoons, and video games as a sign of creative bankruptcy.  That’s a rather curious outlook given as to how tinsel town has a long and storied tradition of adapting material from other mediums.  Then again, relatively modern mediums such as video games don’t have the prestige that literary properties do.  Neither are they confined to the same laws of physics and traditional storytelling that that live action filmmaking usually is.  Perhaps that is why they provide so much inspiration for Hollywood’s showmen and ringmasters.  Every once in a while such inspiration leads to inventive and novel filmmaking.  Such is the case with the super short film The Mini Boss (Third Person Action Scene).

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Peaceful Journey Heavy D: Mount Vernon’s Favorite Son Passes On

Sometimes bad news just broad sides you.  You have to remind yourself that death rarely picks a convenient time to show its ugly face.  It strikes without warning or explanation, and on this day it claims one of Hip-Hop’s most underappreciated talents.  Dwight Myers, better known to his fans as rapper turned actor Heavy D, died earlier today due to complications from pneumonia.  He was only 44 years old.  Hip-Hop has been plunged into a collective state of deep and sorrowful mourning.  Heavy D manifested the culture in its purest sense.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Tron's Light Cycles Blaze a Trail Into Reality

The crushing disappointment of Tron: Legacy notwithstanding, one of the coolest imaginary vehicles in cinema history has to be the light cycle.  In the 1982 original, the light cycles sped across the game grid, producing a synthesized whiny noise that I incessantly imitated as a child while running full speed around the house.  They were beautiful examples of fast moving eye candy that no boy could resist.  The updated 2010 versions weren’t too shabby either, featuring a more streamlined and “sexy” design to accompany the likewise updated scenery.  They remained a lovely toy, and would sit proudly alongside Batman’s Tumbler in any self-respecting fanboys garage.  Alas, the real world and the game world are still light years apart.

Straight from the Hood: Amazing But True Gangster Tales (Exclusive Pete Rock Excerpt)

Until very recently, the realm of African American organized crime was largely an undiscovered country.  Over the past decade, the amount of information available on the subject has grown exponentially.  That is due in no small part to the growth of the internet, as well as the numerous biographies and testimonials that now populate the shelves of “urban” bookstores nationwide.  What was once the sole province of “street magazines” like F.E.D.S and Don Diva is slowly becoming a vast and reliable reference library.     

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Cool Characters: Michael Myers

The nature of evil is difficult to contemplate, and even harder to visualize.  Movie villains often have clear motivations that are spelled out explicitly.  The audience is made to understand how and why they came to be.  The audience is also made to understand what their goals are, and just how they plan to go about getting them accomplished.  Such rules are considered mandatory for proper storytelling.  However, backstory and exposition are sometimes unnecessary.  An effective villain can simply be a force of nature, with no rhyme or reason as to his existence or actions.  The most horrible acts often occur without the benefit of logical explanation.  The horror genre, which is a great medium for examining mankind’s collective fears, has many examples of how such characterizations can be employed to optimum effect.     In 1978, writer/director John Carpenter offered a vision of evil that revealed it to be a faceless, emotionless void.  It was simply titled Halloween.         

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Tag ‘Em and Bag ‘Em: ‘Death Certificate’ Turns 20

Ice Cube’s Death Certificate isn’t just Hip-Hop’s greatest concept album, but an artistic revelation whose earth shattering impact can only be understood within the proper historical context.  The musical, social, and political landscape of America was quite different in the early 1990’s.  People actually went out to stores and purchased music on physical media.  CD’s were still a relatively new format.  Street corner drug dealing was still a viable means of clocking tax free loot.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Punisher Cometh: ‘Circle of Blood’ Turns 25

Vigilantes invaded American cinema in a big way during the 1970’s.  The world of superhero comics responded in kind.  Mere months before Michael Winner crafted arguably the definitive vigilante film of the period with Death Wish, Marvel comics offered up a costumed anti-hero who had an eerily similar modus operandi.  He was conceived as an antagonist to none other than Spider-Man.  By the mid to late 80’s, American superhero comics were entering the “Grim and Gritty” period, which offered up exceedingly dark takes on classic heroes such as Batman.  The tone fit the punisher perfectly.   Seeing as how the character had never been the subject of his very own series, writer Steven Grant and artist Mike Zeck felt the time was right to finally unleash the character on an unsuspecting Marvel Universe.  They did so in a mini-series fittingly titled “Circle of Blood.”

Monday, October 24, 2011

Movie Poster: The Guillotines

The flying guillotine is simultaneously the coolest and most absurd weapon in movie history.  It is essentially a bladed hat attached to a length of chain.  Its wielder throws it at the intended target.  As It then lands on the targets head, the bottom half telescopes down around the neck.  The blades that line the lip of the bottom half then close around the neck like a bladed iris diaphragm.  One yank of the chain by the operator, and the target is cleanly decapitated.  As grisly as that may sound, the visual is absolutely hilarious when accompanied by unbelievable FX.  Did I mention that when it is flying through the air, the flying guillotine sounds like a bullet ricocheting of a rock in an old western?     Little touches like that made Jimmy Wang Yu’s chop-socky gem Master of the Flying Guillotine a joy to be behold. 

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Red Band Movie Trailer: Outrage

Characters in movies often exhibit a flare for the theatrical when committing acts of violence.  Such grandeur is often facilitated by various filmmaking techniques.  One imagines that real life sociopaths, especially the ones who do violence for a living, often go about their business with a certain measure of casual detachment.  After all, for them it’s just a job.  Curiously, the sometimes ultra-violent works of Japanese actor and filmmaker “Beat” Takeshi Kitano seems to exhibit both emotional intensity and deadpan indifference all at once.  Half of his face was paralyzed in an August 1994 motorcycle accident, diminishing his range of facial expressions considerably.  He sometimes plays characters that inflict unspeakable physical damage on their enemies, yet betray nothing in the way of an emotional response to the carnage, be it disgust or gratification.  His latest gangster opus, Outrage, seems to continue this curious tradition.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Batman Lives: 'Batman: The Dark Knight Returns' Turns 25

The superhero was born in the late 1930’s, and had become somewhat antiquated by the mid 1980’s, Likewise, America’s notions of heroism had drastically changed.  Other mediums, to varying degrees, reflected the country’s shift in mood and political attitudes.  Two comic book writers, Alan Moore and Frank Miller, thought it was time to bring the superhero out of the dark ages and into the present, kicking and screaming if need be.  Seeing as how they were two of the hottest writers around, they were more than up to the challenge.  They both decided that a deconstructionist take on the material would be the best way to go.  However, their vastly different storytelling sensibilities took them down wildly divergent paths.  Moore was going to question the very notion of superheroes, while Miller was planning to turn an iconic superhero into a seemingly fascist enemy of the state.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Movie Review: Batman: Year One

Gotham city is drowning in the murky depths of its own corruption.  Organized criminals operate with impunity.  Petty crooks prey on helpless civilians.  The police act more like hired thugs than civil servants.  Into this cesspool steps Lieutenant James Gordon (Bryan Cranston), an honest cop with a pregnant wife.  Meanwhile, billionaire playboy Bruce Wayne (Benjamin McKenzie) has just returned from a twelve year sabbatical abroad.  The reasons for his self-imposed exile are unknown to the general public, but Wayne has secretly been preparing himself to wage a very large scale yet private war.  He has the means, but not the method.  He finds a kindred spirit in the likes of Lieutenant Gordon, whose honesty and steadfastness have made him a pariah in his own department.  As both Gordon and Wayne embark on their own personal crusade to purge the city of corruption, they inevitably cross paths and become the unlikeliest of allies.  

Monday, October 17, 2011

Short Film Review: Batman: The Last Laugh

In one of Gotham’s dark alleyways, the Jokers thugs assail a young woman (Christina Falcon).  Batman (Greg Rementer) leaps to her rescue, only to be overwhelmed by her attackers.  The Joker (Selman Markovic) then appears and knocks him unconscious.  Batman comes to in an abandoned warehouse where he’s been strung up like a side of beef.  The Joker than vacates the premises with his female hostage, allowing his minions to administer a severe beating to the Dark Knight detective.    Batman breaks free and fights his way through a veritable battalion.  He then resumes the chase, tracking the joker down to remote location.  As batman closes in on his prey, it becomes evident that the Joker has one of his nasty little surprises in store.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Short Film Review: Seeds of Arkham

Batman is perhaps the most durable and endearing of all superheroes.  He can sustain any number of interpretations, no matter how disparate.  He can also weather the fallout when said interpretation becomes passé, leaving his legacy in tatters.  The character is consummately iconic, so much so that he continues to inspire any number of fan films despite the massive success of his most recent cinematic incarnation.  Interestingly, though Christopher Nolan’s version of Batman is arguably the most widely accepted to date, fans still look to Tim Burton’s vision for inspiration when crafting their own batman films.  Sometimes, they combine elements from both to create an amalgamation of the two.  

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Teaser Trailer: The Avengers

Expansive superhero teams present filmmakers with a unique challenge.  It’s hard enough to tell the story of a single character.  Trying to sufficiently handle a group of said characters can be a logistical nightmare.  How does one divvy up the screen time in a way that appeases general audiences and remains true to the source material?  How can multiple subplots and characters arcs be organized into something resembling a coherent and streamlined story?  Logically, the most popular and/or marketable characters will take center stage while the others are relegated to the background.   Such problems have plagued both the X-Men and Fantastic Four film franchises to varying degrees.  In the face of such odds, Marvel Studios presses on with the grand experiment that is The Avengers,  the most ambitious production of its kind thus far.   

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Music Video Review: Method Man - World Gone Sour (The Lost Kids)

Right from the beginning, Method Man stood out from his fellow Clansmen.  Though he wasn’t the most skilled lyricist, he clearly possessed the ever elusive “it” factor that separates mere celebrities from true superstars.  Strangely, his genius only seemed to manifest itself when contrasted against another flamboyant personality, be it Redman or Mary J Blige.  In keeping with the very low key resurgence that the clan has been experiencing over the past couple of years, Mr. Meth has been trying to show fans that he can still conjure up a bit of that old shaolin magic.  As the new spokesman for Sour Patch Kids candy, he performs an amusing parlor trick that ultimately proves to be bittersweet.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Promo Video: 009 Re:Cyborg

For all the complaints that detractors may have about Japanese anime as a storytelling medium, its command of both style and kinetic energy is undeniable.  Such invaluable assets go a long way in smoothing over the ambiguities and cultural barriers that seem to be inherent to the form.  While style is never truly an adequate stand in for substance, it’s hard to tell your brain that when your eyes are taking in a visual feast.  During such moments, the viewer is compelled to rule all out other criteria, as what they behold feels very much like an end unto itself.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Short Film Review: Naruto Shippuden: Dreamers Fight -- Part One

As the sun shines brightly over the village of Konohagakure, Rock Lee (Brendon Huor) trains tirelessly.  By sunset he is physically spent, having endured a full day of rigorous activity.  As he settles into an all too brief resting period, he is startled by a sudden noise deep in the woods.  He rushes to investigate only to find Naruto (Donald Mills) splayed out on a patch of grass.  The newly anointed “Hero of the Hidden Leaf” has opted to train instead of basking in his newfound glory.  Such dedication is an inspiration to Rock Lee, who now finds his own daily training regimen woefully insufficient.  Fearing that his abilities are stagnating, Rock boldly Challenges Naruto to a duel. Naruto heartily accepts.  At noon the next day, the two meet up at a neutral location so as not to inflict damage on the village.  As the duel gets under way, the intensity of it surpasses that of a mere sparring match.       

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Surviving the Game: An Interview with Michael “Mick-Man” Gourdine A.K.A Candy Man, Author of 'Chili Pimping in Atlantic City: The Memoir of a Small-Time Pimp and Hustler' (Part 1)

For squares, the pimp game has long held a certain mystique.  Men of leisure have always operated behind a shroud of mystery.  Their trade is practiced in the shadows.  Supposedly, the game is to be sold, not told.  Never the less, countless books and documentaries have claimed to give an insider’s view of the sporting life.  Many of them simply recycle and reinforce any number of clichés popularized by Blaxploitation films and the like.  Since it’s impossible for civilians to separate fact from fiction, many of these myths are accepted as truth by the general populace

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Here We Go Yo: 'The Low End Theory' Turns 20

By the fall of 1991, rap music had a considerable number of classic albums under its belt.  Classic in the sense that said albums yielded multiple hits and contained far more good songs than bad.  Yet, the relatively young musical genre didn’t yet have anything in the way of a definitive long player, something that was an unmitigated, cohesive masterpiece from start to finish.  An album that perfectly fused two seemingly disparate forms of music together without sacrificing the core fundamentals of the younger and lesser regarded one.  One might’ve thought that such an innovation would come by way of Hip-Hop’s heavy hitters of the day.  Instead, it would come to being as a sophomore effort from relative second stringers.     

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Cool Characters: Tony Montana

Some characters embody the absolute worst in human nature.  They represent the most repugnant qualities in all of us.  Sometimes, they do their job a bit too well and bring us face to face with things we’d rather not confront.  These characters, and the films they inhabit, are often dismissed as dangerous and without a shred of socially redeeming value. On December 9th, 1983, one such character was born.  He is a bit of an odd duck in the history of motion pictures, equal parts grim reality and bloated fantasy.  He would come to be as the main character in a big budget remake of the classic Howard Hawks gangster film Scarface

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Happy Birthday Nino Brown: 'New Jack City' Turns 20

The crack epidemic of the 1980’s proved to be a boon for drug dealers, law makers, and the American media alike.  By the latter half of the decade, it had permeated the American consciousness via endless news coverage and fear mongering.  Strangely, it had yet to receive a crime film that purported to put the phenomenon in perspective.  Scarface had mythologized the “Cocaine Cowboys” era of Miami in way that still resonates today.  The gangster films released by Warner Brothers pictures during the 1930’s paid tribute to the kingpins and vices of that particular era, to the delight of that days movie audiences.  Was crack cocaine not worthy of similar honors?  Again, Warner Brothers pictures sought to properly dramatize the prevailing criminal trends of the era and reap the financial rewards.  On March 8th 1991, American moviegoers were given a guided tour of New Jack City.  

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Movie Review: Never Back Down 2

Four college age kids from different walks of life enter an underground mixed martial arts tournament known as “The Beatdown.”  In order to prepare themselves, they train under a mysterious loner known as Case.  The wisdom he imparts on his pupils proves useful both inside and outside the octagon.  On the eve of the event, an altercation with some crooked cops puts his freedom in jeopardy.   His students rush to his aid, and prepare to root out the traitor that hides within their ranks.