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.
Monday, November 28, 2011
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
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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
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 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.
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
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
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.
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.