Sunday, July 31, 2011

Bane Finally Steps Out of the Shadows and Into the Light

Leaked images from highly anticipated blockbusters often arrive without the proper context or explanation.  Even when taking that inconvenient truth into account, this shot of Tom Hardy in full costume as Bane from The Dark Knight Rises leaves me scratching my head.  I haven’t the foggiest idea as to what Nolan is trying to accomplish here.  Bane looks like a street vendor at an open air market in a dystopian sci-fi flick.  How is a character like this supposed to fit in to the pseudo-realistic Gotham that Nolan has spent two films establishing?  There’s no way of knowing until the completed film is released, but the costume design shown here is just plain baffling.   

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Movie Trailer: Red Tails

African American history is a valuable resource that remains largely untapped by Hollywood.  When one of these stories actually makes its way to the big screen, it does so in an antiseptic and often emasculated state.  This is sometimes the result of political correctness on the part of white filmmakers, (in the rare instances that they don’t marginalize black characters in their own story).  Handing the material over to black filmmakers might seem like an obvious solution, but that to can have its drawbacks.  So many of the old guard are solely concerned with presenting positive black images, to the point where they forget to allow the story to simply tell itself.  Its seems that great stories of the black experience in America may never get the ideal treatment.  Well, the upcoming Red Tails aims to be the antidote for all that ails black historical dramas.

Album Review: Wu-Tang Clan - Legendary Weapons

The Wu-Tang Clan’s efficiency as a collective has diminished greatly in the last decade, as certain solo careers have fared far more than others.  Though it is well past their heyday, the clan has been more consistent in the last two years than during almost any time since their height.  In continuance of their current hot streak, the compilation album Legendary Weapons (named after the Shaw Brothers classic Legendary Weapons of China aka Legendary Weapons of Kung Fu) offers a helping of tracks that feature various group members spitting over stripped down beats by sonic architects such as Lil Fame, Noah Robin, and Andrew Kelley. 

Television Series Review: ‘Thundercats’– Series Premiere: “The Sword of Omens” & “Ancient Spirits of Evil”

The kingdom of Thundera has long enjoyed dominion over third earth.  Likewise, the Thundercats have long been at the top of the planets food chain.  King Claudius (Larry Kenney) rules with a sure and steady hand.  He one day hopes for his youngest son, Lion-O (Will Friedle), to take his rightful place on the throne.  Alas, the cub has other things on his mind.  Claudius’s adoptive son Tygra (Matthew Mercer) appears to be better suited to wear the crown.  During a celebration in honor of the returning warrior Grune the Destroyer (Clancy Brown), lizards launch an all-out attack on Thundera.  The kingdom’s inhabitants find themselves ill prepared for the onslaught and its orchestrator, Mumm-Ra (Robin Atkins Downes).  Young Lion-O finds himself confronted with the defining moment of his life.  Will he prove himself worthy of the crown?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Web Series Review: ‘Touye Pwen’ Episode Five – “In Too Deep”

Detective Ash (Said Faraj) pays Zho (Tracey Dukes) a visit.  During the less than friendly Rendezvous, Ash reminds Zho of the important task he has been charged with.  Mere moments later, Ash pulls rank on his young partner (Orion Solarion) to keep him in line.  Ash struggles to keep things together as the youthful inexperience and emotional instability surrounding him threatens to tear it all apart.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Television Series Review: 'Breaking Bad' Season Four Episode One - "Thirty-Eight Snub"

After the last particularly tense meeting with Gus, Walter (Bryan Cranston) takes the necessary precautions and prepares for what he sees as the inevitable.  Jesse (Aaron Paul) continues to nurse the pangs of guilt with women, whine, and song.  Of course, he supplements that therapeutic concoction with lines of crystal meth.  Hank (Dean Norris) buries himself in a new found obsession with minerals to cope with his feelings of helplessness while his wife (Betsy Brandt) struggles to find a way to connect with him.  Skyler (Anna Gunn) continues trying to assert control of Walter’s criminal endeavors any way she knows how.   

Teaser Trailer: 'Black Dynamite: The Animated Series' Pilot Episode

A certain badass mofo will be making his debut on Cartoon Network a bit sooner than expected.  The pilot episode for Black Dynamite: The Animated series was screened at the San Diego Comic-Con during a panel hosted by Michael Jai White, Carl Jones, Scott Sanders, and Kim Whitley.  Those of us who didn’t attend will have to make due with this teaser trailer until the pilot airs exclusively on on August 8th.  A two week waiting period isn’t an ungodly amount of time, but it’s not every day that a cartoon series featuring a black protagonist makes its debut.

Preview Clip: The Goon

As computer animated features become more varied in terms of subject matter, some truly bizarre offerings will start popping up on multiplex screens.  One such oddity is the upcoming adaptation of Eric Powell’s Dark Horse Comics series The Goon.  The title character is a hulking brute who poses as a mob enforcer.  He and his pal Franky go about town busting heads and collecting debts.   Together, they fight off zombie hordes, occult priests with supernatural powers, and mobsters who’ve risen from the grave.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Movie Review: Captain America: The First Avenger

Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is a humble, patriotic kid from Brooklyn.  He wants nothing more than serve his country in World War II.  Alas, he is a frail and sickly youth whose attempts to enlist in the United Stated armed forces have been unsuccessful.  His fortunes change when he attends the Modern Marvels of Tomorrow Exhibition with his friend Bucky (Sebastian Stan).  While there, he makes one final attempt to enlist at a recruitment center.  He then makes the acquaintance of Bavarian scientist Dr. Abraham Erksine (Stanley Tucci).  

Friday, July 22, 2011

Blu-ray Trailer: Star Wars Deleted Scenes

While former fans continue to vocalize their disdain for the prequels and special editions like spurned lovers, loyalists like me keep fighting the good fight.  My love for the original trilogy has tirelessly endured every indignity George Lucas has inflicted on his industry changing creation.  Therefore, I have no shame in admitting that I will be purchasing the complete saga when it’s released on Blu-Ray this September 16th.  If that makes me a dupe, so be it.  I will be comfortable in the fact that the set will contain some truly sweet extras, not the least of which are a handful of legendary deleted scenes from the first three films.

Red Band Movie Trailer: Drive

It’s no secret that even the best blockbusters can be rather insubstantial affairs.  Their saving grace is that are usually adept at providing the requisite action and thrills, often because the massive production budgets allow for such things.  Well, times must and always do change.  Just as the western and the musical completely fell out of favor long ago, so too will big blockbusters one day go the way of the dodo.  Lower budgeted films may one day begin to dominate the market place for a time, just as they did after the collapse of the big studio system.  Fear not, fellow adrenaline junkies, for we will still be able to get our collective fix.  A new generation of filmmakers seems capable of delivering the goods  at only a fraction of the cost.  What else would explain the existence of a modest budgeted thriller like Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive.   

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Teaser Trailer: Holy Terror

The last decade and change have not been overly kind to the legend and legacy of Frank Miller.  Both of His new millennium endeavors involving the caped crusader have proven to be nonsensical and extraneous.    The highly anticipated The Dark Knight Strikes Again was the graphic novel equivalent of Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom MenaceAll-Star Batman & Robin The Boy Wonder somehow managed to be even worse.  To add insult to injury, the poor reception of DK2 seemed to spark a collective reconsideration of Millers entire catalogue among fandom, with many now viewing it as mildly diverting yet childish and derivative.  Cinematic versions of Sin City and 300 offered Miller a rebirth of sorts, but that momentum was quickly stalled by his ill-conceived adaptation of Will Eisner’s The Spirit.  

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Teaser Trailer: The Amazing Spider-Man

At this point, the new Spider-Man costume has been shown from every imaginable angle even though actual footage of old web head in action had yet to be seen.  Amidst such circumstances, it’s hardly surprising that the teaser trailer for The Amazing Spider-Man arrives with relatively little fanfare.  The first Spider-Man film, released nearly a decade ago, was perhaps the defining event movie of the early 2000’s.  That’s a hard trick to pull off twice, yet the abysmal reception of Spider-Man 3 demanded that the franchise start from scratch yet again.  

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Web Series Review: ‘Touye Pwen’ Episode 4 – “Dead To Rights”

Still brooding over the humiliation he suffered at the hands of Zho, J. (Mark P. Hawthorne) is encouraged by his cousin Ox (Chyna McCoy) to take drastic measures in dealing with the situation.  J. goes along reluctantly, fully realizing that such actions are completely out of character for him.  Elsewhere, Rhyis (Amin Joseph) gives Grimm (Sean Riggs) a grisly task to complete. 

Monday, July 18, 2011

Teaser Trailer: The Dark Knight Rises

After willfully ignoring the bootlegged version that leaked and refusing to sit through another epic length Harry Potter flick at the multiplex, my patience was finally rewarded.  The teaser for The Dark Knight Rises surfaced online today.  Since the film hasn’t actually been shooting for that long, I wasn’t expecting much in the way of “money shots” or iconic images, but I was expecting something to stoke the fires of my anticipation.  Well, something is exactly what I got, though I’m not sure it was worth enduring all of the hype that preceded it.

Happy Birthday Ellen Ripley: ‘Aliens’ Turns 25

Ridley Scott’s sci-fi/horror classic Alien was a tough act to follow.  It combined surreal visuals, murky atmospherics, and subconscious male sexual phobias into a suspenseful concoction.  In its own way, it was just as influential as the all-time top grosser Star Wars.  No one dared try to follow it up.  No one, that is, except for a young Canadian that just helmed a modest sci-fi/action hit starring an Austrian born bodybuilding champion.  Preproduction on a modern updating of Spartacus had fallen through when another project caught the attention of James Cameron: a sequel to Ridley Scott’s space faring nightmare.  Instead of trying to outdo the maestro at his own game, Cameron chose to offer something else entirely.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Television Series Review: ‘Breaking Bad’ Season Four Episode One - “Box Cutter”

After taking a drastic action that they thought would give them leverage over their employer, Walter (Bryan Cranston) and Jesse (Aaron Paul) have maneuvered themselves into yet another untenable position.  They both sit in the super lab that Gus (Giancarlo Esposito) constructed for them in the bowels of his corporate laundry with Mike (Jonathan Banks) and Victor (Jeremiah Bitsui) standing guard.  As those two await Gus’s decision regarding their fate, Skyler (Anna Gunn) continues snooping while Hank (Dean Norris) deals with the boredom of in house rehabilitation.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Shaw Brothers Saturday Matinee: Five Element Ninjas

Two rival Chinese clans face off against each other in ten rounds of combat.  The victors will be proclaimed rulers of the martial world.  Chief Hong, who presides over the losing clan, refuses to accept defeat.  He enlists the help of a ninja clan headed up by Kembuchi Muduo (Chen Hui Min), who in turn issues a challenge to the champions.  The victorious school answers by sending out eight heroic warriors, who are massacred when faced with the deadly “five elements” formation.  The ninja clan then proceeds to overrun their compound, slaughtering everyone inside save for Hsiao Tien Hao (Cheng Tien Chi).  Hsiao escapes, and finds shelter with an aging martial arts master who has studied Ninjutsu.  This elder warrior schools Hsiao and three others in the dark arts.  They then use this newly acquired skillset to exact vengeance on Kembuchi and his ninja clan.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Webisode Review: Touye Pwen - Episode 3 ‘Rules of Law’

Knight’s (Shaun Mixon) leisurely meal in the comfort of his mansion is interrupted by an unannounced visit from detective Ash (Said Faraj).  The already tense confrontation escalates when Knight boldly makes a reference to a tragic event in the detective’s personal life.  Meanwhile, Ash’s younger partner Poge (Orion Solarion) has to abruptly postpone his household duties when the elder detective summons him.  Before leaving, Poge attempts to placate his girlfriend Alaina (Hope Martinez), who has grown weary of the influence that both the Ash and the job are having on her man.

Teaser Poster: The Dark Knight Rises

The Dark Knight Rises will undoubtedly rule the summer of 2012. To what degree it will rule the worldwide box office is anyone’s guess, but one thing is for sure: Fans like me are dying to see even a smidgeon of footage.  The teaser trailer will debut in front of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II this Friday.  Until then, the viral campaign for the film continues to unfold with the official teaser poster.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Movie Review: Horrible Bosses

Nick (Jason Bateman), Dale (Charlie Day), and Kurt (Jason Sudeikis) are three high school friends with one thing in common: they all hate their jobs.  Nick is an executive at a financial firm.  He endures all manner of indignities at the hands of his boss Dave (Kevin Spacey) in hopes of one day getting a promotion to vice president.  Dale is a dental assistant who must evade the aggressive sexual advances of his nymphomaniac boss Julia (Jennifer Aniston) on a daily basis.  Kurt’s job at an industrial company becomes an ordeal when an insufferable coke head (Colin Ferrall) inherits the business from his dead father.  After nights of commiserating at the local bar, the trio comes up with a simple solution: murder.  They figure their lives would be much better if they could kill their bosses.  They seek the help of the seedy Dean Jones (Jamie Foxx) to get the job done.  This proves an impossible task, as a series of bungles and set-backs threatens to ruin everything.

Happy Birthday Johnny Utah: ‘Point Break’ Turns 20

James Cameron left an indelible mark on the summer of 1991.  Terminator 2: Judgment Day effectively transitioned his skillset to the realm of mega-budget blockbusters.  As it set up a benevolent dictatorship at American multiplexes, Cameron offered moviegoers another, even more potent shot of adrenaline.  This time he merely served as producer while someone else administered the injection.  He vacated the director’s chair for his ex-wife Kathryn Bigelow, who proceeded to make a “guy movie” better than any guy could have made it.  Though her genius would be roundly dismissed at the time, it would be recognized 18 years later when filtered through the conventions of the modern war film.  Its 1991 incarnation was fittingly titled Point Break

Friday, July 8, 2011

Happy Birthday Cyberdyne Systems Model 101: ‘Terminator 2: Judgment Day’ Turns 20

When media outlets initially revealed the reported budget of Terminator 2: Judgment Day, it came as an apocalyptic shock to rival anything depicted in the film itself.  The price tag was a then unthinkable 100 million dollars.  Any blockbuster of the time considered itself lucky to cross the century mark at domestic box office, so to actually spend that much money to make a film seemed insane.  Add to that the fact that Cameron was just coming off of the mixed reception to his expensive underwater sci-fi opus The Abyss, and the whole endeavor seemed a recipe for disaster.  Here was a sequel to an incredibly well received yet undeniably modest success that didn’t seem to have much mass appeal.  As came to be the norm for most of Cameron’s productions from that point on, he knew better than his detractors.

Happy Birthday Doughboy: ‘Boyz n the Hood’ Turns 20

1991 proved to be a landmark year for black cinema.  New Jack City was released to both controversy and enthusiasm.  It reintroduced black exploitation to a new generation under the guise of a feature length anti-drug PSA.  It also became the highest grossing black film of all time up until that point.  Spike Lee kept his as yet unbroken winning streak going full bore with Jungle Fever.  As the summer movie season got underway, audiences the world over were enthralled with liquid metal spectacle of James Cameron’s Terminator 2: Judgment Day.  While the masses were being distracted by Cameron’s technical wizardry, an unknown filmmaker from Los Angeles offered them an as yet unacknowledged side of African American life.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Movie Review: Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest

Throughout the 1990’s, A Tribe Called Quest established themselves as one of the most influential (if not biggest selling) rap groups ever.  They released a trio of classic albums that went a long way in shaping a non-stereotypical identity for Rap music.  Creative differences between members Q-Tip and Phife Dog would eventually tear the group apart as the latter’s struggle with diabetes exacted a hefty toll on his personal and professional life.  With Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest, director and lifelong fan Michael Rapaport documents the rise, fall, and enduring legacy of four brothers travelling along a musical path.

Movie Trailer: Batman: Year One (Animated)

It seems that no modern adaptation of Batman will be able to escape the shadow of Frank Millers take on the character.  The animated series, as well as the films of Tim Burton and Christopher Nolan, all have taken some level of inspiration from Millers seminal graphic novels.  That influence has also yielded much fallout, as the pretentious ‘grim and gritty’ era of superhero storytelling was largely ushered in by Batman: The Dark Knight Returns.  Still, the visceral appeal of Frank Miller’s Dark Knight cannot be denied.  Interestingly, there was never been a literal adaptation of either Dark Knight or Year One.  Batman Begins is perhaps the closest that the live action films will ever come.  Now, the DCAU will be the first platform outside of comics to bring the Frank Miller’s vision of the caped crusader to glorious life.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Web Series Review: Touye Pwen: Episode 2 Point of Death

Fresh from prison, Zho (Tracey Dukes) pays his ex-lover Leena (Jasmine Hester) an unannounced visit. He arrives at her apartment only to find that another man (Mark P. Hawthorne) now occupies his space. Zho deals with the situation as only he can. Meanwhile, crime syndicate leaders Knight (Shaun Mixon) and Simone (Monyque Thompson Scott) arrange a meeting with Strap Set chief Khalil (Maurice Whitfield). The reason for this meeting is unknown, as are the intentions of Knight himself.

Zho (left) makes a few things clear to J(right).

Saturday, July 2, 2011

The Ebony Cat Roars: An Interview With Writer/Journalist Allen Scott Gordon (Part 2)

In the second part of my interview writer Allen Scott Gordon (Click here to read the first part), he elaborates further on the collapse of Hip-Hop journalism's golden age, and how publications like The Source lost their cultural perspective.

Friday, July 1, 2011

On the Front Lines: An Interview With Writer Douglas Century (Part 1)

Having a front row seat to an era that becomes the stuff of legend for subsequent generations is a privilege.  It’s even more of a privilege to have the talent to articulate what you saw and preserve it for posterity.  Douglas Century is one of those lucky few.  He got to witness a side of New York City that is now largely extinct.  During the 1990’s, he hung out with surviving members of Brooklyn’s fabled Franklin Avenue Posse.  He documented that experience into his first book “Street Kingdom: Five Years Inside the Franklin Avenue Posse.”  It predated many of the true-crime novels that now populate “urban” book stores across America.