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.