Ligotti vs Ligotti: Comparing Subterranean Press’ vs Carroll & Graf’s GRIMSCRIBE editions

Ligotti vs Ligotti: Comparing Subterranean Press’ vs Carroll & Graf’s GRIMSCRIBE editions

So I just received in the mail, the now Out of Print, Subterranean Press’ 2011 HC edition of GRIMSCRIBE. Now I own the original 1991 Carroll & Graf edition, but my interest was piqued by the sold out nature of previous Subterranean Press editions, the wonderful cover art as well as the description of their Grimscribe edition as being revised and definitive.

Here’s the description:

“Grimscribe
by Thomas Ligotti

Dust jacket by Aeron Alfrey.

Limited: (sold out)
Trade: (sold out)
ISBN: 978-1-59606-409-6

Grimscribe: His Lives and Works is the second volume in a series of revised, definitive editions of the horror story collections of Thomas Ligotti. First published in 1991 by Carroll & Graf in the United States and Robinson Publishing in England, Grimscribe garnered significantly more recognition than Ligotti’s first collection, Songs of a Dead Dreamer, which was issued two years earlier by the same publishers.”

So biting the bullet I picked up one of the sold out Subterranean editions (sold out in less than 3 months, which is pretty darn impressive), thankfully for not too much more than cover price (it’s now, in the brief 2 weeks since I purchased it, climbed to the 3 figure range) and having perused it today I have to say, my initial impression upon taking it out of the box is… I’m a bit dissapointed.

I mean I really am disposed to like imprints such as Centipede Press and Subterranean Press, that in this day of digital are trying to make the hardcopy something attractive and special. My problem is for the price, I’m not even talking the marked up reseller’s price, I’m talking Subterranean’s retail price, GRIMSCRIBE when finally seen is underwhelming.

I mean for the money I don’t think a slipcover done to quality, embossing on the cover, and maybe spot illustrations and a ribbon marker and gilded pages are too much to ask. Look at books such as Dark Horse’s FRANKENSTEIN illustrated by Bernie Wrightson, which sells for a fraction of the price of Subterranean’s books, but in terms of quality there is no comparison. Dark Horse’s FRANKENSTEIN is a work of art. Something you’re going to be treasuring and proud to have on your shelf for a long time.

Bernie Wrightsons Frankenstein

I can’t say that for Subterranean’s GRIMSCRIBE.

The first thing that strikes me is it’s a smaller, less imposing/less impressive book than what I was expecting. Just average HC trade dimensions. And the slipcover which boasts imaginative art by Aeron Alfrey, unfortunately undermines that art quite a bit with a muted, even muddy looking printing, and cropping/shrinking the image rather than allowing it to take up a respectable amount of the cover.

But getting beyond the slipcover the book itself is just an average brown coated HC, with blue type on the binding. The interior however does offer large, legible, and attractive type.

Now onto the heart of the matter, the “revised, definitive” nature of this new version. Is it or isn’t it, an improvement over the original?

Well comparing the two versions there are minor differences, what Ligotti described thusly:

“One thing I did not do is deliberately seek out changes. Of course there would be errors that needed corrections and phrases that needed to be polished. But I didn’t look to shorten or lengthen the stories or any part of them, or to make my prose leaner or more baroque, or to in any way alter the tone of a given story. I just read the books carefully from start to finish and keep on the lookout for additions and deletions that would enhance each story, at least to my mind.”—- see full article here.

Okay, a writer can change his work if he wants, I mean it’s his work. But sometimes you can’t go home, and sometimes a writer or a boxer or an actor’s best work is behind him rather than in front. Frank Miller’s great comics are all decades in the past, his current work a poor shadow of him in his prime. Bernie Wrightson is one of the most hailed and influential artists of the 70s and 80s, but his work in the 21st century (while still head and shoulders above most artists) for a variety of reasons, cannot compare to the artist he was. I’m saying the changes a 21st century Thomas Ligotti makes are perhaps not an improvement on the writing of a 20th century Thomas Ligotti.

Examples, changes are small, but they are I think telling, a tendency to the dumbed down, and often clumsy phrasing rather than the lyric poetry and embracing of the extremes of youth:

THE LAST FEAST OF HARLEQUIN

Original:

“At certain times I could almost dissolve entirely into this inner realm of awful purity and emptiness. I remember those invisible moments when in disguise I drifted through the streets of Mirocaw, untouched by the drunken, noisy forms around me: untouchable.”

Revised 2011 Subterranean version”

“At certain times I could almost dissolve entirely into this inner realm of purity and emptiness, the paradise of the unborn. I remember how I was momentarily overtaken by a feeling I had never known when in disguise I drifted through the streets of Mirocaw, untouched by the drunken, noisy forms around me: untouchable.”

Again the changes aren’t many and aren’t drastic, I just don’t think they improve on the original and for the most part I find them to be the clunky exposition of age, rather than the fertile and frenetic choices of a visionary.

I find his earlier word choices, in almost every case, to be the stronger, more poetic, more memorable. The mating of differences, terms like “awful purity” and “invisible moments” wonderful baroque phrasing of the original, that are missed in this revised edition.

THE SPECTACLES IN THE DRAWER

“Without an author whoever lived in this world, if you will recall what I told you about it.” that is a clunky, and unwieldy sentence in the revised version.

In the original it is:

“Without a living author, if you will recall what I told you about it.”

Original:
“Plomb had done nothing less than multiplied these visions into infinity, creating oceans of his own blood and enabling himself to see with countless eyes. Entranced by such aspiration, I gazed at the mirrors in speechless wonder. Among them was one I remembered looking into some days– or was it weeks? –before.”

Revized Suibterranean version:
“Plomb had done nothing less than multiplied these visions into infinity, creating oceans of his own blood and enabling himself to see with countless eyes. Entranced by such aspiration, I gazed at the mirrors in speechless wonder. Among them was that tilting mirror I remembered looking into not so long ago.”

Again, not a major change, a few words, but they tend to be poorly chosen, and a bit boring and pedestrian compared to the original.

And such ‘improvements’ run throughout the stories in the 2011 Subterranean collection.

The only thing the Subterranean version has going for it is the slightly flawed slipcover, which flaws and all is a 100 times better than the pathetic slipcover on the original 1991 HC. Unfortunately a slipcover is not enough. So my recommendation, save yourself the dough on Subterranean’s “revised, definitive” edition and get the original HC instead and have your own nice slipcover made for it(all of which can be done for less than the price the Subterranean books are going for).

Grimscribe: His Lives and Works

Grimscribe: His Life and Works

THE BEST PODCASTS OF 2011!!

“I felt kinda silly, the way you do when you find a hole in your sock at the shoe store.”
— from JOHNNY MADERO, PIER 23

Hilarious. JOHNNY MADERO is a poor man’s PAT NOVAK. A rival network’s attempt to replicate the popularity of the PAT NOVAK radio show. But MADERO’s saving grace was it was also performed by the great Jack Webb, it’s not as good as PAT NOVAK, but boy does it have its moments.

Only two episodes are known to exist, and both are available via Archive.Org.

Okay a while back I did a post that was ominously titled… ‘THE END OF PODCASTS?’, and at the end of that post I promised that I would follow up with the other side of the coin, reasons to be hopeful and overjoyed about podcasts.

In other words, a post praising the people still out there kicking out constantly great podcasts.

Without further ado they are:

MOVIES
B-MOVIE CAST
HORROR ETC

COMICS
COMIC GEEK SPEAK

MUSIC
BLUE PLATE SPECIAL
ELEVATOR CLUB
VINYL, LIVE AND LOCAL

DRAMA / OTR
BOXCARS711- Bob C’s site is a staggering, and authoritative labor of love to one of my favorite mediums, radio drama. Specifically he covers OTR, Old Time Radio.

Those are some that I recommend. I’ll add more next time, including links. But Easy way to find them yourself is go to http://www.scroogle.org and use that search engine. (just say no to google :))


—To Be continued

DCs RELAUNCH! 52 Books coming in September! Tips on ones to get & ones to avoid!

DC has announced its lineup of 52 new titles starting September. As stated in my previous post DC is doing a lot of things right, with this publishing revamp of their comic-book line; namely pushing digital distribution, and creating new jumping on points to coincide with that distribution.

But the major thing I see DC Publishing (owned by Time Warner)is doing wrong is ignoring the root reason they were not selling books in the first place, which is that there books were not that good.

Their esteemed major competitor, MARVEL COMICS GROUP, has the better writers, and without question the superior artists. And I see very little in this revamp that addresses that quality problem.

You can see the full list of the 52 titles to be released in September here, and for the most part they look uninteresting at best, and 90s retread crap fodder at worst.

Uninteresting writers with very dated looking artists. And often artists, untried as writers, writing major characters?!! WTF?? Nice way DC to sabotage your own facelift/revamp.

You want to do a revamp and make it count then pay the money, and get the name writers, and the hot artists. Get the best. Liefield? Really??? God bless him, but really? That’s who you choose to launch a new book geared to galvanize and attract new readers? This is not the 90s.

SAVAGE HAWKMAN, good artist, but needs a name writer to get my money. Tony Daniels? Sorry, just don’t care. STATIC SHOCK, great character, no interest in that creative team… at all. NIGHTWING, TEEN TITANS, LEGIONS LOST, JUSTICE LEAGUE, FLASH, GREEN LANTERN books, most of the BATMAN books, most of the SUPERMAN books (Grant Morrison is too hit and miss for me to trust him monthly, I wait till his stories are collected and listen to the general feedback to see if he’s the good Morrison, or the hodgepodge one), all look like the poorly written, poorly drawn tripe no one was buying before.

Now the ones I think are (or could be)exceptions to DC’s general trend of mediocrity and lack of quality are as follows:

SUPERGIRL #1
Written by MICHAEL GREEN and MIKE JOHNSON
Art and cover by MAHMUD ASRAR
On sale SEPTEMBER 21 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T
Meet Supergirl. She’s got the unpredictable behavior of a teenager, the same powers as Superman – and none of his affection for the people of Earth. So don’t piss her off!

The writers did good work on Batman/Superman, and I like the art.

VOODOO #1
Written by RON MARZ
Art and cover by SAMI BASRI
On sale SEPTEMBER 28 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T+
Who is Voodoo? Is she hero, villain – or both? Learn the truth about Priscilla Kitaen as she leaves a trail of violence across America. Discover the new DCU through her eyes, because the things she sees are not always what they seem

Ron Marz doesn’t do anything for me, but Sam Basri I consider one of the few great artists DC has (that Marvel hasn’t stolen away from them yet) and this book is worth getting for his art alone.

BATMAN #1
Written by SCOTT SNYDER
Art by GREG CAPULLO and JONATHAN GLAPION
Cover by GREG CAPULLO
Variant cover by ETHAN VAN SCIVER
On sale SEPTEMBER 21 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T
Retailers: This issue will ship with two covers. Please see the order form for more information.
Be here for the start of a new era for The Dark Knight from writer Scott Snyder (AMERICAN VAMPIRE, BATMAN: GATES OF GOTHAM) and artist Greg Capullo (Spawn)! A series of brutal killings hints at an ancient conspiracy, and Batman learns that Gotham City is deadlier than he knew.

Only Batman book that has me really interested, and it is because of the writer, Scott Snyder.

BATWOMAN #1
Written by J.H. WILLIAMS III and W. HADEN BLACKMAN
Art and cover by J.H. WILLIAMS III
On sale SEPTEMBER 14 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T
At last! Batwoman’s new series begins, from the multiple award-winning creative team of J.H. Williams III and Haden Blackman!
In “Hydrology,” part 1 of 5, Batwoman faces deadly new challenges in her war against Gotham City’s underworld – and new trials in her life as Kate Kane.
Who or what is stealing children from the barrio, and for what vile purpose? Will Kate train her cousin, Bette Kane (a.k.a. Flamebird), as her new sidekick? How will she handle unsettling revelations about her father, Colonel Jacob Kane? And why is a certain government

I had mentioned Sam Basri being one of DC’s great artist, here’s the other, the brilliant JH Williams III. Now whether he can write is another story, but I’ll definitely check this one out to see.

MISTER TERRIFIC #1
Written by ERIC WALLACE
Art by ROGER ROBINSON
Cover by J.G. JONES
On sale SEPTEMBER 14 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T
The world’s third-smartest man – and one of its most eligible bachelors – uses his brains and fists against science gone mad in this new series from Eric Wallace (TITANS) and Roger Robinson!
Michael Holt is the head of a successful high-tech corporation and an institute that recruits and encourages the finest minds of the next generation to excel. As Mister Terrific he inhabits a world of amazement few others know exists, let alone can comprehend.

Premise sounds interesting, and I really like the character, but once again we have an unknown writer, and generally unknown, serviceable (but not awesome) interior artist. I’ll give it a try but have serious doubts.

JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK #1
Written by PETER MILLIGAN
Art by MIKEL JANIN
Cover by RYAN SOOK
On sale SEPTEMBER 28 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T
The witch known as The Enchantress has gone mad, unleashing forces that not even the combined powers of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and Cyborg can stop. And if those heroes can’t handle the job, who will stand against this mystical madness?
Shade the Changing Man, Madame Xanadu, Deadman, Zatanna and John Constantine may be our only hope – but how can we put our trust in beings whose very presence makes ordinary people break out in a cold sweat?

- I was going to pass on this book, but the artwork by Mikel Janin looks great, my only concern is a gaudy colorist could ruin his beautiful gray-scale washes/artwork. If they were smart they would use spot coloring and leave it mostly gray-scale.

SWAMP THING #1
Written by SCOTT SNYDER
Art and cover by YANICK PAQUETTE
On sale SEPTEMBER 7 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T+
One of the world’s most iconic characters has returned to the heart of the DC Universe, and every step he takes will shake the foundations of the Earth!
Alec Holland has his life back…but the Green has plans for it. A monstrous evil is rising in the desert, and it’ll take a monster of another kind to defend life as we know it!

ANIMAL MAN #1
Written by JEFF LEMIRE
Art by TRAVEL FOREMAN and DAN GREEN
Cover by TRAVEL FOREMAN
On sale SEPTEMBER 7 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T+
Buddy Baker has gone from “super” man to family man – but is he strong enough to hold his family together when Maxine, his young daughter, starts to manifest her own dangerous powers? Find out in this dramatic new series from writer Jeff Lemire (SWEET TOOTH) and artist Travel Foreman (The Immortal Iron Fist).

FRANKENSTEIN, AGENT OF S.H.A.D.E. #1
Written by JEFF LEMIRE
Art by ALBERTO PONTICELLI
Cover by J.G. JONES
On sale SEPTEMBER 14 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T
It’s Frankenstein as you’ve never seen him before, in a dark new series from acclaimed writer Jeff Lemire (SWEET TOOTH) and artist Alberto Ponticelli (UNKNOWN SOLDIER)!
Frankenstein is part of a network of strange beings who work for an even stranger government organization: The Super Human Advanced Defense Executive! But can he protect the world from threats even more horrifying than himself? And since he’s vilified for who and what he is, will he even want to take on this mission?

—Scott Snyder, Jeff Lemire, interesting premises, and decent artists, what is not to like.

DEMON KNIGHTS #1
Written by PAUL CORNELL
Art by DIOGENES NEVES and OCLAIR ALBERT
Cover by TONY S. DANIEL
On sale SEPTEMBER 14 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T
Set in the Dark Ages of the DC Universe, a barbarian horde is massing to crush civilization. It’s fallen to Madame Xanadu and Jason Blood, the man with a monster inside him, to stand in their way – though the demon Etrigan has no interest in protecting anyone or anything other than himself! It’ll take more than their own power to stop an army fueled by bloodlust and dark sorcery, and some very surprising heroes – and villains – will have no choice but to join the fray!

STORMWATCH #1
Written by PAUL CORNELL
Art and cover by MIGUEL SEPULVEDA
On sale SEPTEMBER 7 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T+
They are Stormwatch, a dangerous super human police force whose existence is kept secret from the world Directly following the ominous events of SUPERMAN #1, Adam One leads half the Stormwatch team to recover the [INFORMATION REDACTED] from deep in the Himalayas. Meanwhile, Jack Hawksmoor and the rest of the Stormwatch crew look to recruit two of the deadliest super humans on the planet: Midnighter and Apollo! And if they say no? Perhaps the Martian Manhunter can change their minds…

— Both of these by Paul Cornell sound interesting

ALL-STAR WESTERN #1
Written by JUSTIN GRAY and JIMMY PALMIOTTI
Art and cover by MORITAT
On sale SEPTEMBER 28 • 40 pg, FC, $3.99 US • RATED T+
Even when Gotham City was just a one-horse town, crime was rampant – and things only get worse when bounty hunter Jonah Hex comes to town. Can Amadeus Arkham, a pioneer in criminal psychology, enlist Hex’s special brand of justice to help the Gotham Police Department track down a vicious serial killer? Find out in this new series from HEX writers Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti, with lush artwork by Moritat (THE SPIRIT)!

-This is a great and proven creative team.

MEN OF WAR #1
Written by IVAN BRANDON
Art by TOM DERENICK
Cover by VIKTOR KALVACHEV
On sale SEPTEMBER 7 • 40 pg, FC, $3.99 US • RATED T+
On the ground and on the front lines, a young, headstrong soldier known as Joe Rock assumes command of Easy Company – a team of ex-military men turned contractors. Will they survive the battle-scarred landscape carved by the DCU’s Super-Villains? Find out in this explosive new series from Ivan Brandon (Viking, DOC SAVAGE) and Tom Derenick (JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA)!

-Premise has me interested, and Derenick is a good artist.

SUICIDE SQUAD #1
Written by ADAM GLASS
Art by MARCO RUDY
Cover by RYAN BENJAMIN
On sale SEPTEMBER 14 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T+
They’re a team of death-row super villains recruited by the government to take on missions so dangerous – they’re sheer suicide!
Harley Quinn! Deadshot! King Shark! Defeated and imprisoned, they’re being interrogated about their mission – and about who’s pulling the strings behind this illegal operation. Who will be the first to crack under the pressure?

-Not familiar with the writer but Marco Rudy’s work an ACTION COMICS was stellar

DEATHSTROKE #1
Written by KYLE HIGGINS
Art by JOE BENNETT and ART THIBERT
Cover by SIMON BISLEY
On sale SEPTEMBER 14 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T+
“Friends die, family disappoints, but a legacy… That lives forever.”
Slade Wilson is the best mercenary in the DCU, and he’s been doing this a long time. Some might say too long. But they’ll learn: Never turn your back on Deathstroke the Terminator. He won’t quit, no matter how high the stakes. Kyle Higgins (BATMAN: GATES OF GOTHAM) and Joe Bennett (TEEN TITANS) team up to bring you the finest in mayhem and gore.


-An unknown writer, and the premise doesn’t fill me with confidence, anything that uses gore as a selling point is usually braindead, lowest common denominator tripe, but Joe Bennett (THE CREW) is a great artist, and I would like to be proven wrong on this one

LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES #1
Written by PAUL LEVITZ
Art by FRANCIS PORTELA
Cover by KARL KERSCHL
On sale SEPTEMBER 21 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T
The Legion of Super-Heroes has been decimated by the worst disaster in its history. Now, the students of the Legion Academy must rise to the challenge of helping the team rebuild – but a threat of almost unstoppable power is rising at the edge of Dominator space, and if the new recruits fail, the Legion Espionage Squad may be the first casualties in a war that could split worlds in half!

-solid creative team, so worth a look.

THE FURY OF FIRESTORM #1
Written by ETHAN VAN SCIVER and GAIL SIMONE
Art by YILDIRAY CINAR
Cover by ETHAN VAN SCIVER
On sale SEPTEMBER 28 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T
Jason Rusch and Ronnie Raymond. These two high school students are worlds apart – and now they’re drawn into a conspiracy of super-science that bonds them forever in a way they can’t explain or control. The dark secrets of the murderous Dog Team and its Firestorm Protocol force them to put aside their differences to confront a threat so terrifying that it may lead to a new Cold War! Welcome to a major new vision of nuclear terror from writers Ethan Van Sciver and Gail Simone with astonishing art by Yildiray Cinar!

- I’ve seen some sample art by Cinar, and Gail Simone is a good writer and should keep Ethan’s ideas from imploding. Though from this premise sounds like this is a miniseries rather than an ongoing. Worth a look.

The Following are MAYBEs:

BATWING #1
Written by JUDD WINICK
Art and cover by BEN OLIVER
On sale SEPTEMBER 7 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T
Africa, a land of beauty – and of great horror. A land of creation and conflict. It is in desperate need of a defender, and from the ranks of Batman Incorporated comes a soldier to carry on the legacy of The Dark Knight in the most tumultuous region on Earth. Meet Batwing, the Batman of Africa!

I’m intrigued by this one, the premise sounds like a Bat take on Unknown Soldier, but I’m not sold on the art, and that costume is horrible. This one is a wait for the trade.

BATGIRL #1
Written by GAIL SIMONE
Art by ARDIAN SYAF and VICENTE CIFUENTES
Cover by ADAM HUGHES
On sale SEPTEMBER 7 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T
Yes, it’s really happening!
Barbara Gordon is back as Batgirl – and she’s going to have to face the city’s most horrifying new villains as well as the dark secrets from her past. You won’t want to miss this stunning debut issue from fan-favorite BIRDS OF PREY writer Gail Simone!

Gail Simone has me interested, but not interested in the artists. I’ll wait for the trade.

CATWOMAN #1
Written by JUDD WINICK
Art and cover by GUILLEM MARCH
On sale SEPTEMBER 21 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T+
Meet Catwoman. She’s addicted to the night. Addicted to shiny objects. Addicted to Batman. Most of all, Catwoman is addicted to danger. She can’t help herself, and the truth is – she doesn’t want to. She’s good at being bad, and very bad at being good. Find out more about what makes Catwoman tick in this new series from writer Judd Winick (BATMAN: UNDER THE HOOD) and artist Guillem March (GOTHAM CITY SIRENS)!

I do like the art on this one but not interested in the character. It’s a weak maybe.

Well those are the titles I think are worth a try, and you may agree. Try them and let me know.

2011 Upcoming Summer Fall films worth seeing in the Theater! (And those that aren’t)

This Summer & Fall’s selection of movies is pretty uninteresting.

Pirates- don’t care. Harry Potter- don’t care. Green Lantern- trailer looks awful. Hangover- Don’t care. Panda2- Don’t care. Cars2- Don’t care. X-men First Class- Trailer has me completely uninterested.

So yeah, summer is sequel heavy, and I am not spending my money on most of em.

    Also ones that sound interesting and they can go either way, being either okay or terrible, are:

STRAW DOGS- As I’ve previously mentioned I have my qualms about this remake, and having just seen the trailer it only increases my doubts about this film. First the trailer basically is the entire film, and 2nd the film is a pretty formulaic reduction of a far more complex original, and 3rd the actors as I’ve previously discussed. Basically the trailer has actually decreased my interest in this film. The lack of a decent poster at this late stage, illustrating the lack of this films identity when compared to the original, that has one of the great, iconic posters of film. So based on all this, currently no plans to see this remake in the theater if at all.

VIVA RIVA- This congo film is seemingly getting some attention, but from some conflicting reviews it sounds like it might be more exploitation flick, gansta rap than I care to be interested in.

I liked CITY OF GOD because there is a vein of decency and humanity and redemption that grounds it. VIVA RIVA has me concerned that it’s just a lowest common denominator, abuse women gangsta want-to-be flick, and that doesn’t interest me in the slightest.

I have a low tolerance for watching women get abused, or the glorification of ignorance, not my idea of something to pay to see. If reviews come in and paint this as something better than what I think it is, then I’ll catch it on DVD.
ADDENDUM: I just saw the trailer to VIVA RIVA… it looks good. So yeah, if I can catch this at a local theater I’ll check it out.

ABDUCTION- I keep wanting to like the films of John Singleton, but the thing is typically I just don’t.

BOYS IN THE HOOD was okay, a nice debut, but is ever in the shadow of the superior MENACE II SOCIETY by the Hughes Brothers. The former feeling dated even upon release, and the latter being ever timeless in its stylish, existential and gothic examination, of hearts of darkness. But very few films can compare favorably to the Hughes Brothers debut, but taking that out of the equation Singleton’s followup films from SHAFT to FOUR BROTHERS also tend to underwhelm, to go through the motions of having a story but tend to lack either momentum or direction.

So adding to my misgivings of Singleton as director, is my complete disinterest in watching his TWILIGHT star, that is the lead in ABDUCTION. I don’t mean any harm… but that is one odd looking kid, but I guess the teen girls find something in that look. However me being not a teen girl, I require out of the star and the director, the ability to carry a film and make me care about it. And I’m completely uninterested in watching this actor. And the trailer does nothing to change my reservations.

So failing any additional feedback ABDUCTION will probably be a DVD rental if that.

    Now the ones that do interest me enough to pay theater prices? Glad you asked :) They are:

10 Jun-

SUPER 8- looks like a cross between ET and CLOVERFIELD, and considering it’s a collaboration between Spielberg and JJ Abrams, that particular feel is obviously by design. I hated CLOVERFIELD but JJ Abrams coming off his impressive STAR TREK reboot, has built up some good will with me, so I’m willing to plunk down money and try this one in the theater.


29 Jun 2011

TRANSFORMERS DARK OF THE MOON IMAX 3D- For reasons previously discussed, very interested in this film. And will be the only movie I pay IMAX 3D prices for, for the rest of the year. Michael Bay shot this with the Cameron 3D cameras, so the 3D should look as good as AVATAR. Plus the trailer just looks great.

THE LEDGE- Matthew Chapman’s first film as director in over 20 years, it’s an intriguing premise about a man compelled to committ suicide. Stars Terrence Howard trying to put his career back on track post the Iron Man debacle. This and another 2011 film LITTLE MURDER, directed by Predrag Antonijevic, starring Howard and set in post-Katrina New Orleans has me interested.

1 July 2011

THE PERFECT HOST- A criminal chooses the wrong house to hide out in. Not typically the kind of film I would pay to see in the theater, but the trailer looks good. Definite maybe.

5 Aug 2011

RISE OF THE APES- There’s only two trailers for the rest of the year that really made my jaw drop and made me exclaim “I have got to go see that!”.

One is the TRANSFORMERS DARK OF THE MOON the other is RISE OF THE APES.

Just like any other kid who grew up in the 70s I liked the Original PLANET OF THE APES films, largely due to the performance of Roddy McDowell one of my favorite actors, and Kim Hunter who I only recently realized was the Kim Hunter of STREET CAR NAMED DESIRE and THE 7TH VICTIM (If you had to define my perfect woman, what I’m attracted to, it would be very close to Kim Hunter in those two roles, her looks and the strange aura she gives off of both vulnerability and sultriness).

So shorn of these two actors to center such a out there scifi film, I had doubts about any remake. Particularly given the awful Tim Burton attempt. However this trailer is going for a different tact, and the Universal Monster/Frankenstein fan in me… really likes it. If the movie lives up to the trailer it will be AWESOME. Either way, I’ll be in the theaters to find out. Also I’m hearing noting but accolades for writer/director Rupert Wyatt’s previous film THE ESCAPIST (which I will make time to watch on DVD in the coming week). This could be the movie of the summer, if not the entire year.

12 Aug 2011

FINAL DESTINATION 5- The series that cannot die returns for a fifth installment. The previous entry which I saw in RealD 3D, was okay 3D, with a fantastic opening credit sequence, unfortunately that was the best thing about the movie, after that it continued to lose steam till the forgettable ending. That said a new director, the addition of Tony Todd, and a pretty solid trailer, and the fact it was shot in 3D has me interested enough to give this latest entry a look on the big screen.

26 Aug 2011

COLUMBIANA- I really liked SALT, and the trailer for this does look good, and I like Zoe Saldana, and how do you not like a director with the name Olivier Megaton… all that is on the plus side. On the minus side is Zoe Saldana playing a bad ass is pushing my suspension of disbelief too far. She’s a 110lbs for goodness sake. The guns are bigger than she is.

Angelina Jolie is at least a big, substantial girl, so you can buy into her handling herself a little bit more. Plus I don’t like how they are kinda grooming Zoe Saldana to be the next Halle Barry, ie someone who is being groomed for typical Black women in White films type rolls, ala MONSTERS BALL. These type of roles are the reason I don’t go to see anything Halle Barry is in, and i would hate for Zoe Saldana to fall into such easy stereotyping. All that to say, the trailer looks good, but I do have qualms. I may see it in the theater though, because it also has Lennie James in a starring role, and he’s a good actor.

Entering the fall only one film as of this writing has me interested in seeing it in the theaters, Tarsem Singh’s THE IMMORTALS.

11 NOV 2011

THE IMMORTALS- Tarsem Singh who helmed the visually stunning THE FALL returns this fall with THE IMMORTALS. By the producers of 300, it has that 300 feel with some CLASH OF THE TITANS tossed in. Visually the trailer looks awesome. However just in that bit of trailer the acting looks hokey and the story similarly questionable. It was a problem that plagued Singh’s THE FALL; shaky performances, and a shaky story. Unlike Snyder who can do both amazing visuals and elicit amazing performances, Singh has yet to meld both in service of a strong, engagingly told story. However, there’s always a first time, and based on the visuals alone I’m intrigued enough to give this film a try in the theater. Because again, like Snyder, even his failures are far more interesting than most directors’ successes. Much like Peckinpah who produced films that never did great at the box office, and opened to mixed critical reviews, but 50 years later have grown in esteem, and are now remembered and still watched when the more commercially successful films of his day are not.

That’s the trajectory of directors Snyder and Singh… they are making movies, slightly ahead of the comfort zone of their time, movies that people will be discussing and praising 50 years from now. Perhaps IMMORTALS will be one of those films or perhaps like most mythological movies it will sink like a stone from the memories of men. Time will tell.

Okay some last minute mentions:

After a lapse of over a decade, John Carpenter returns to the directorial chair with the horror film THE WARD. The film which wrapped in 2010 and received a UK release in January 2011, is finally slated for an 11 July 2011 US release. By all reports critical response to it so far has been luke-warm. I’m still at odds with the idea of releasing US movies abroad before releasing it domestically.

While some of this has to do with studios playing games of economic gymnastics, for smaller studios… much of that has to do with the monopolistic distribution system in the US and the difficulty and expense of getting a slot for wide release in increasingly studio controlled theaters. Whatever the reason THE WARD after a sizable delay is hitting US theaters this year.

Seemingly dealing with a ghost in a women’s institution… the film doesn’t scream original, but from the trailer it is shot nicely, plus it’s Carpenter, he’s earned the benefit of the doubt with me.

That said, the poster is not filling me with confidence.

I’m a big believer if you don’t care enough to put out a creative poster, that’s pretty proportional to what value the backers put in the film. Having a good poster is no indicator of quality, look at Roland Emmerich’s 2012 (a horrible film), but at least it means someone thinks enough of a movie to try and promote it well.

Typically when the poster is nothing more than someone’s face, the money men are saying “we’ve paid for a star, we’re not paying for marketing as well. Their mugshot either brings in people or it doesn’t, either way we’re not spending any more money to market this turkey.”. You get these bland mugshot posters typically when the backers think they have a commercial failure on their hands.

Now that’s not always the case, sometimes expected financial disappointments turn out to be commercial successes… such as HANCOCK (worst… poster… ever, but turned out to be a good movie and managed to gross over 300 million).

So we’ll see if THE WARD will also be an exception to the bad poster rule. Somehow I don’t think so.

And another delayed film, the Guillermo Del Toro produced DON’T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK, after being shelved for some time, is also looking at a theatrical release this year. Already released in Iceland in March, the film gets a UK, Australia, and Turkey release on the 12th of August, a Finland release on the 19th of August, and finally cracks the states on the 26th of August.

That just annoys me. But the vagaries of distribution aside the film itself looks interesting, if extremely familiar and formulaic.

With odes of DARKNESS and any number of “child in jeopardy, not believed by the parents, evil house” films. Films that tend to infuriate me with the stupidity of its leads/writing.

Helmed by first time feature director Troy Nixey, the film can go either way. The trailer itself is okay, but films like this tend to lean on that same conceit which I have a problem with, of staying in a house when they’ve been made aware of the danger. So time will tell if this film can do anything different. Katie Holmes, who I tend to find, comes off very annoying and abrasive in everything I’ve seen her in, from Dawson’s Creek to the Batman films, seemed okay in the trailer, we’ll see if that extends to the film as a whole.

I have seen pundits on-line creaming their shorts over the trailer for Jeff Nichols 2nd film, TAKE SHELTER, scheduled for 7 Oct 2011 release. I’ve seen the trailer, it’s okay. Obtuse, not giving anything away, but kinda intriguing. What it is not… is great, or deserving of all this hyperbole of best trailer ever. Are you people on crack? It’s a small, understated trailer, that doesn’t really say anything, but hints it’s about a guy with schizophrenia. May be worth a look, or not. But all this hype screams of award season bs. Time will tell.

And as of this writing that’s all the films for the rest of 2011 that have me interested enough to see them in the theater. I’ll add to this list should any notable new trailers pop up.

Epsilon Data Leaks

If you’ve done any business on line, such as buying flowers or books or utilizing job search sites among other activities, more than likely you’ve received an email from various companies saying your data has been exposed.

Why?

The official story is Epsilon, the uber-firm, that contracts with major firms to handle their email correspondence, and by its own estimation sends out 40 Billion email messages on behalf of its powerhouse clients, among them Target, Walgreens Citigroup, was hacked and the email addresses for the clients of these vast firms were… siphoned off.

It amounts to easily millions upon millions of affected customers. And right now all Epsilon is admitting to is the theft of email addresses. Though logically it would occur to me that any hacker group adept enough to smash, hopefully stringent security, walked away with a lot more than just email addresses, up to and including real names, full addresses, and credit card #s for a start.

This is the problem with consolidation, with a monopolistic mindset. Increasingly all our data is congregated through a single provider, which also as this example shows translates into a single point of failure, a potentially catastrophic failure.

So instead of the bad guys having to hack 200 different companies, in the age of information consolidation, and monopolistic data aggregation, all they have to do is get by one company’s defenses… and everything comes tumbling after.

This latest, and arguably greatest, data leak, reinforces the need for more checks and balances, and better and more stringent privacy and information controls. And indeed less consolidation of same. Instead of companies outsourcing everything to increasingly fewer providers, bring these sensitive data services back in house. And besides abuse from without, I’m also concerned of the potential for abuse from within. All that data and info, subject to a single company’s policies can be an unpleasant personal liberty nightmare waiting to happen… again.

I think in an age of FACEBOOK and YOUTUBE and TWITTER we may need to recognize the obvious detriments to such easy dissemination of information and perhaps be a bit more wary about what we share and why. And more importantly what is done, and who controls the things we share. Perhaps be more aware that what we give up in exchange for this ease of online dialog may be nothing less… than ourselves.

Something to consider.

2011 Upcoming Movies/Films to be on the Lookout For!Pt. 1 of 3!

So 2010 was a fantastic year for film. Whenever you get me going to the theater over a dozen times in a year, pretty good year.

So before we continue with the 2010 Year in Review, will 2011 be as exciting?

Well so far the first two months of 2011 are pretty uninteresting film-wise (Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu of BABEL film released BIUTIFUL this January. He’s a brilliant director, but the film’s premise doesn’t interest me enough to see it in the theater, but I will pick it up when it hits DVD. There’s a film called LOVE that is listed as a FEBRUARY release but I haven’t seen it in any theaters, like too many intriguing films, such as BLACK DYNAMITE it probably can’t get distribution, so probably will end up straight to DVD, but sounds great. Like this year’s MOON. Another one I hope to check out on DVD at least). So let’s take a look at what films do have me interested enough to pay theater prices to view them:

THE UNKNOWN-Thriller-Release Date: 18 February- I wasn’t a fan of Liam Neeson’s TAKEN, and this film seems to be in the same playground. What does interest me is the director Jaume Collet-Serra, I was quite a fan of his ORPHAN.


Feb 25th sees the release of DRIVE ANGRY 3D and SHELTER. Both I’m pretty lukewarm on, especially DRIVE ANGRY.

So 3 maybes, that’s a pretty pathetic January and February.

March gets a bit better, RANGO is a fun looking, family friendly animated film.

I really am, as a filmgoer, tired of Matt Damon, you would think he was the only actor in Hollywood, but that aside the previews for ADJUSTMENT BUREAU by first time director look very good. So that one is on my radar. But really casting couch, can you cast someone besides Matt Damon?

Also in March you get Jonathan Liebesman’s BATTLE OF LA.

It looks a little less stupid than the similarly themed, and by all reports awful, SKYLINE. However Liebesman gets a little bit of rope with me for his film DARKNESS FALLS, which while it faltered at the middle, and limped to an ending, that first 15 minutes is impressively scary and effective! So BATTLE LOS ANGELES is a weak maybe.

So far a lot of maybes but nothing I’m really committed to seeing in the theater. Until… SUCKER PUNCH. I know going in this is going to be completely nonsensical, but I also know it’s a Zack Snyder film, and he is one of the few directors that creates films, truly deserving of the big screen. His film are visual game-changers, adrenalin fueled power houses, designed to rattle your bones and stun your senses. So even when his films stumble (WATCHMEN) they are still compelling, and Amazing, and definitely worth seeing on the big screen. So SUCKER PUNCH is my first must see movie of 2011. Congrats to Zack Snyder (That said , what the heck is wrong with Zack Snyder hiring a British Actor to Play Superman!? Really? Is America no longer producing actors? All our actors come from England, or Australia, or South Africa or Canada? Really? WTF? Comeon, I know there are home grown actors out there besides Matt Damon!)

Okay, so onto April…

April 1st sees the release of Duncan Jones’ follow-up to MOON, the film SOURCE CODE. An interesting DAYBREAKesque type time mystery/thriller/scifi flick. Sounds good.

James Wan’s INSIDIOUS sounds like a reworking of POLTERGEIST, sounds intriguing but have not seen a trailer. It’s a maybe.

Steven Soderbergh has been more miss than hit for me recently, and I’m getting a little tired of all these female Assassin films (SALT was good, but enough is enough) however HAYWIRE is getting buzz of being Soderbergh’s best film since THE LIMEY, so depending on the trailer may be worth a look.

April 22nd sees the release of the mysterious sounding APOLLO 18. I saw the trailer and looks intriguing, about the moon landings discovering (and covering up) evidence of life on the Moon.

Okay May 6th sees the release of one of the most hyped films of 2011, Kenneth Branagh’s THOR, which I discussed in a previous post. Up there with SUCKER PUNCH as a must see in the theater movie of 2011. It’s been a long time since Branagh has had a hit, I think interest alone will make this film profitable, but it being good depends upon if Branagh, can rise not only to the challenge of a blockbuster action film, but the quality of his own early success. I’m hoping he succeeds, and will be in the theaters to see for myself.

Okay so here it is almost six months into 2011, and the only films with any significant number of characters of color, particularly Black characters are comedies. Inane product like “Medea something something”, and idiots walking around in drag, or whining, snap your finger, shake your head, talk show complaining flicks. I mean I’m sure those films have their place, but everything in effing moderation.

Which is why I LOVED the fact that 2010 gave us films like TAKERS and OBSESSED and even THE LOSERS. It gets old, Hollywood films that have no characters of color, or worse the token, step and fetchit character of color (COP OUT anyone). IT infuriates, mostly because I go to the film festivals and there are dozens of great films and filmmakers of color out there, but their films do not get picked up for distribution.

I can see the conversation going something like this: “Wow a movie that has characters of color not wearing their pants on the ground, or cursing every other word, or not a comedy, or otherwise lowest common denominator?? In other words showing Black People as more than the propaganda and stereotypes we’ve spent billions of dollars to sell to their children? Nope, we don’t want any of that!!” :).

My facetiousness aside, that seems to be the general thinking of the gatekeepers, those who determine what ideas, perceptions, should or should not reach the larger consciousness and conversation of the masses (particularly American).

So my rule these days is to seek out films that star characters of color in non-stereotypical ways, challenging and hopefully uplifting ways (which generally means no Halle Barry movies :) ). And you’ll see by the films I select (with exceptions), if a film doesn’t at least recognize diversity in its casting, I don’t recognize it in the Box Office. It is one of the reasons I have very little use for Woody Allen films.

Okay tirade over, onto the rest of the year of upcoming movies:

June has films that should be heavy hitters, but I’m really not interested in. GREEN LANTERN film, while it has a decent director, not a fan of the lead casting, or the trailer. But film does have Angela Bassett as Amanda Waller and Nick Jones as John Stewart and Taika Waititi as Tom Kalmaku. So those three and decent word of mouth may sway me to see this film. Matthew Vaughn, follows up KICK ASS, with X-MEN:FIRST CLASS, I’m a bit indifferent about the film, but Vaughn is an interesting director, and removed from his uncomfortable juxtaposition of extreme violence and preteen kids, I should have less problem with this film then I did with KICK ASS. It’s a maybe.

And also in June, JJ Abrams, a hit and miss director for me, is coming off a big hit with STAR TREK so I’ll follow him into his latest release… the scifi/alien flicK, possibly found footage film, SUPER 8.


July 1st brings us Michael Bay’s TRANSFORMERS:THE DARK OF THE MOON, and I have to tell you, I have no real interest in TRANSFORMERS, but much like I said about Zack Snyder, I find Michael Bay a filmmaker who makes films that are deserving of the big screen. And he has an amazing eye for camera placement and shot sequences, that stays with me long after I have seen his films. That’s a rare Pekinpahesque ability he has, for getting his images… to persist.

There’s a shot in TRANSFORMERS 2, where Megan Fox is leaning over the prostrate Lebouf, and the helicopter flies over her head in slow motion. It’s an absolutely gorgeous shot. I’ve seen that particular scene maybe twice, about a year ago, and that image is still rock solid in my head. David Lean would be proud.

It’s an amazing understanding of the iconic, and what visually… compels. So caring very little about the Transformers, for his visuals, as well as being a director who uses a diverse cast (While not a fan of his lead actor, his supporting actors are always intriguing) I’ll be in the theaters for this movie.

July 22nd brings us Joe Johnston’s CAPTAIN AMERICA:FIRST AVENGER. Like THOR that’s a no-brainer for me. I’ll be in the theaters for it. And the 29th brings us the latest from Jon Favreau, COWBOYS AND ALIENS. Riding high on his new lease on life with the IRON MAN films, we’ll see if he can continue his blockbuster ways sans Robert Downey Jr.


August brings us yet more hack remakes and sequels, in a year full of them. Among them CONAN (Lead actor looks great, but the director has a horrible track record. This, right now, looks like rental fodder), FINAL FANTASY 5 (This one has a fledgling director, but one who has assisted James Cameron, and writers who did not write the atrocious previous films, but also have not proved themselves capable of doing any better, one of the writers has also written the THING prequel, so FF5 could be a good barometer for how good or bad the THING movie will be), and also FRIGHT NIGHT (by a director of comedic romances).

September 2nd FINALLY brings us a film with a couple of people of color in the lead, Zoe Saldana (of TAKERS, STAR TREK, LOSERS and AVATAR fame… yes she has been very busy :) ) as the protagonist in COLUMBIANO, and Lennie James (WALKING DEAD) as Special Agent Ross.

Though I’m not crazy that Hollywood is trying to groom Zoe Saldana to be the next Halle Berry, or the fact that the film is yet another SALT permutation, about a female Assassin seeking vengeance. Still, I’ll support COLUMBIANO strictly because of the casting of Saldano and James in a thriller.

September 16th brings us DRIVE the latest from director Nicolas Winding Refn of BRONSON and VALHALLA RISING fame, a heist/thriller it’s a wait and see. Stars Tina Huang and Tiara Parker.

Also on September, 16th Rod Lurie who helmed the brilliant CONTENDER and is master of political thrillers, enters more stark thriller territory with the remake of Pekinpah’s classic STRAW DOGS. I’ve never been a fan of remaking great films, the optimum form of that film already exists, re-release it in theaters rather than remaking it, or push the DVD. However, if you’re going to remake something for a new generation, then remake something that you can improve on.

While I quite like the casting of James Woods and Laz Alonzo, and it is intriguing to see Kate Bosworth and James Marsden kinda reprise their SUPERMAN RETURNS roles of ill-fated lovers (though Kate Bosworth looks completely different as a blonde, that and the scant years, have made quite a difference in her face, there’s something quite unusual and perhaps a bit feral in her face in recent stills, that makes her quite beautiful and quite perfect for the role of a woman burning from within), I’m still a bit wary.

No one has ever improved on a Pekinpah film, and I don’t think Rod Lurie is going to be the first.

That is a concern, as is the fact the film hinges on James Marsden filling the role, amazingly performed by Dustin Hoffman in the original, and to date Marsden hasn’t shown the ability to be compelling on screen, or to have the range to make you care about him. X-MEN, SUPERMAN RETURNS he’s always the least interesting person on screen. Still, Lurie tends to be able to get the performances he needs, so I’m intrigued enough to give this one a look.


23rd September sees the release of ABDUCTION. I have no interest in the lead actors, or really the premise, but John Singleton as director makes me intrigued. Mostly because he’s slated to helm the POWER MAN/LUKE CAGE film, and what he can do with this film, will speak a lot on whether POWER MAN/LUKE CAGE will be horrible or great.

John Singleton is a director I keep wanting to like, but his films tend to underwhelm. SHAFT was awful, yet his last film… 2005’s FOUR BROTHERS was good, if not great. So I’m hoping the years since that movie, have made him a stronger filmmaker. We’ll see.

And closing out September we have Daniel Craig in director Jim Sheridan’s DREAM HOUSE, “a couple move into house where murder was committed” type thriller/spook tinged film.

Some honorable mentions that I’m not sure when they are being released:

CARANCHO- Just saw a trailer for this Argentine thriller, and it looks great. Mad, and war touched, and a bit beautiful.

RUBBER- Okay I’ve seen my share of weird movies, but this trailer even gave me pause. A killer tire??? Trailer is pretty funny, take a look.

RED RIDING HOOD- I’m no fan of TWILIGHT, but this take on the Red Riding Hood myth, stars Gary Oldman, and the trailer is pretty good. Plus I’m a huge fan of Werewolf movies. This is one to go see.

BLACK HEAVEN- Distributed by IFC films, the trailer for this French import looks quite compelling. Something about a VR game, that has dark and mysterious consequences in the real world.

CONSPIRATOR- Just saw the trailer for Robert Redford’s latest film, concerning the trial of conspirators in the wake of Lincoln’s Assassination and it looks FANTASTIC.

LIMITLESS- The trailer for Neil Burger’s latest re-imagines the idea of someone with superpowers, powers used not to jump around in gaudy spandex, and fight crime, but the way most would probably use such gifts, to pleasure themselves and to acquire more. It’s WALLSTREET meets THE BIONIC MAN. Nice hyper-kinetic trailer.

BLACK DEATH- This trailer tells a tale of superstition, and a reign of bloody torture during the dark years of the 14th century. Quite compelling trailer.

The Rise, Fall, and Rise of Kenneth Branagh or Marvel Studios Thor and Black Norse Gods!


Mavel Studios 2011 feature THOR, will be the latest film from director Kenneth Branagh, following up his 2007 film SLEUTH. SLEUTH met with uneven reviews at best, generally considered to suffer in comparison to the original.

I haven’t seen Branagh’s SLEUTH, and indeed have not followed a film by Kenneth Branagh since his 1996 film HAMLET. I consider Kenneth Branagh’s 1989 debut film, HENRY THE V, to be an undisputed masterpiece. It’s one of those rare debuts that is so good, that the rest of a filmmakers filmography can, if he is not careful, suffer in comparison.

It is a fate that befalls many a great director:

Orson Welles spent all his life in the shadow of the success of his first film, CITIZEN KANE.

Tobe Hooper has never quite crafted anything to rival, much less exceed the filmic power of his first film 1974’s TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE.

Michael Bay who made himself a Hollywood Power, on the strength of the blockbuster success of his first film, 1995’s BAD BOYS, but arguably (while his films get bigger) he hasn’t yet made one better, than that early buddy film.

And that brings us back to Branagh. Following up his debut with DEAD AGAIN (Branagh’s most financially successful film to date. Nearly tripling its 15million Dollar budget, with its US take alone), PETER’S FRIENDS, and MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING (A theatrical hit, doubling its budget in US sales alone), all good films, but all paling in critical comparison to his first film, and then releasing his first unquestioned financial and critical failure in 1994’s FRANKENSTEIN (which in the years since has managed to recoup its cost in Worldwide sales).

FRANKENSTEIN is the kind of film that can easily end careers, however Branagh, being Branagh, follows it up with a beloved comedy A MIDWINTER’S TALE and his best film since his debut, the magnificent, audacious 4 hour magnum opus HAMLET.

Long before LORD OF THE RINGS sold America on extended length films, in 1996 Branagh, backed by three brave production companies (The now defunct Turner Pictures and Fishmonger Films, and the still swinging Castle Rock Entertainment) released this stunning production on an unprepared America (Distributed by Sony Films and Columbia Pictures) . It did Katherine Hepburn type business (critically acclaimed, but too high-faluting for middle America, the theaters that did show it, showing it in a butchered 150min print), which is to say it lost money theatrically.

However on DVD the film would gain a new life, and continues to be considered not just one of the most ambitious Shakespearean productions ever staged, but one of the best. You can make a strong argument for HAMLET being Branagh’s best film. And I think the more often you watch it, the better it gets. Though personally for me, HENRY THE V is the stronger film. Part of it being, it’s no fat on it, it’s gripping from beginning to end. That said HAMLET is a brilliant and strong film, and is deserving of all accolades, and is a very close 2nd.

It is obvious Branagh put his heart and soul into this film, and its theatrical failure was a clear disappointment and setback to the director, as he would not make another film for 4 years, the 2000 film LOVE’S LABOUR’S LOST. By all accounts a good film, but on a 13million dollar budget, the film would receive virtually no distribution, only being released in less than 200 screens in the UK, and only TWO SCREENS in the USA. Needless to say the film was a financial disaster.

Following this Branagh would not make another film for six years, 2006 ‘s AS YOU LIKE IT for HBO Films, and 2006’s THE MAGIC FLUTE (a French/Uk production, Branagh’s most expensive film to that time, at a reported 27 Million Dollars) both films, virtually unknown in the US, generating little theatrical business. Though both films, as well as LOVE’S LABOUR’S LOST I’m in the process of acquiring the DVDs to, and viewing, as they all sound compelling.

So That brings us to 2007’s SLEUTH. Five different production companies, including Sony, an undisclosed budget, and Branagh coming off a string of Eight theatrical misses, and a piecemeal distribution schedule, the film did not have hit written over it, and unfortunately it wasn’t. Managing to gross only a sickly $343,000 in the US. And considering the actors involved the budget was most likely between 18 and 30 million dollars, the loss can only be called… staggering. Whatever its actual budget it’s clear the film was yet another crushing theatrical failure, Branagh’s 9th in a row.

With a budget of $150,000,000 Dollars Marvel Studios’ THOR is yet another of their very expensive super-hero franchise films, and kenneth Branagh has been chosen to helm it.

To date Marvel Studios, since taking over production in-house at the end of 2007 (with David Maisel as Chairman and Kevin Feige as Head of Production) , has been hitting all homeruns, starting with 2008’s Iron Man which grossed $319 Million domestically, followed by HULK in the same year, it was a powerful and successful one-two punch. Followed in 2010 by the equally successful IRON MAN II. 2011 year sees the release of the latest Blockbuster films from Marvel Studios: THOR and CAPTAIN AMERICA. At budgets of a $150 Million and a $140 Million respectively, no one is going to confuse these with cheap movies. And it is clear THOR is the one they are banking on , hoping to be this year’s IRON MAN.

Marvel’s choice of directors for both films is quite interesting.

Branagh for THOR and Joe Johnston for CAPTAIN AMERICA.

Their choice of directors from day one has been unusual to say the least. Their choice of Jon Favreau to helm their first film, a huge expensive action blockbuster, IRON MAN, when Favreau’s filmography didn’t hint at the background to pull it off, had many people seeing a repeat of Tim Story and The Fantastic Four films (Which are better films than Story is given credit for, the issues being not directorial, but script and production). However Favreau steers the ship, creating one of the best films of the year, and duplicating his success with 2010s IRON MAN II. So not sure what made someone think Favreau could do the job, but they were correct. Or was it just a case of economics? Was Favreau the right price? Much like Branagh for THOR and Joe Johnston for CAPTAIN AMERICA, Favreau was coming off of a movie that was a theatrical disappointment.

While I personally was a huge fan of Joe Johnston’s WOLFMAN, it was a theatrical failure.

Could Marvel be selecting directors that have fallen on hard times, coming off theatrical failures, directors they can control? Directors that have name recognition among fans for films done early in their career, but have not been successful of late. This extends to Joss Whedon, that both the big screen and small screen, have been not exactly favorable to in recent years.

This way the studio gets a name director, but without the prima-donna stance that is typically the director’s right. An auteur as hired gun.

The only exception to this being Louis Leterrier, director of 2008’s Hulk, unofficially co-written and co-directed by Edward Norton. Leterrier coming to the table with a short filmography, but a filmography of films that make money domestically. Unfortunately THE HULK, which I found to be a great film due to what Norton and Leterrier brought to it, and tried to bring to it (the conflict between director/star and studio being well known), didn’t recoup its $150000000 cost domestically. But I see this as less supporting Marvel’s producer heavy style, and more indicating the flaws of handicapping your director/star.

I’m still waiting to see THE HULK director’s cut.

The least interesting part of the Hulk film was the 30 minute CGI fight at the end. What was interesting about that film was Ed Norton’s Bruce Banner, the journey he took that character on. So the fact that Marvel Studios is quick to flex their producer muscles, and throw actors under the bus they deem difficult, ignores the fact that those actors may be difficult, beyond just monetary reasons (we’re not talking Terrence Howard here) but because they invest themselves in those characters, and they really deeply care. And in the case of Ed Norton, they may be completely right about how that character should be played.

Kevin Feige came out with a pretty scummy press release about Ed Norton back in 2010, trying to label him a troublemaker, and justify the studio’s, I feel, bad decision to replace him. Kevin later on stating they wanted basically a weaselly, simplistic Bruce Banner, who basically will just be there as a place holder for their CGI nonsense. In essense playing up what didn’t work about the previous two Hulk films, which was the Hulk, and discarding the thing that did, which was the heroism and humanity Ed Norton imbued the character of Bruce Banner with.

It is a bad decision by Kevin Feige and a bad decision on Marvel Studios part, and shows the first chink in their armor, the chink being a mentality of treating directors and actors as commodities that should obey, rather than as collaborators that should care. It’s a policy of hubris, that if not watched, will begin to chip away at the studios… successes.

Already in IRON MAN II you begin to hear the grumbling, and the diminishing returns of just special effects. Of just CGI. The film cost more than IRON MAN I and made less. A movie needs a heart. That means actors of the level of Ed Norton, who care enough to tell you when you can do better. And you need a head of production, who is not so full of himself, that he is actually capable of listening, and letting the director do what he is paid to do, which is make the decisions on set, and make the best film he possibly can.

Which, again, brings us back to Branagh.

I do think it was a great idea, recent films notwithstanding, to hire Kenneth Branagh for the THOR film.

For my money they could not have chosen a better director to get people excited about this film. Branagh’s name, and his Shakespearean Pedigree, brings an air of legitimacy, that will attract people with no interest in a comic movie. People who want more from their films than CG/Video game action.

I think Branagh can deliver that.

And the cast is beyond reproach. I too was a bit up in arms by the choice of Idris Elba as a Norse God. Nothing to do with his acting, it’s understood that Idris Elba is one of the best actors of his generation, but there was some, justifiable question, about a Black guy playing a Norse God.

But I’ve seen the trailer, and it’s not just Idris, there are Asian characters as well, they are going for a whole multi-cutural feel, and I had a chance to think a bit, and especially weighed against some extremely stupid, moronic comments I read online, I can see the casting making sense.

Some less than enlightened individual (I won’t credit him, because he is undeserving of credit) posted the following (his mistakes of spelling left in), regarding Kenneth Branagh and Thor:

“if he really loved the character and world of thor he wouldnt have casted Idris Elba as Heimdall. and dont give me all this racist crap everyone here always does. Heimdall is white, the actor should be white, Norwegians are white, do you know what ancient Norwegians called black people? NOTHING because they didnt know they [frick]ING EXISTED! so go bring on your hate “

The problem with the above is it is written by someone who sees but poorly. But it helped, by its moronic and belligerent stance, clarify the problem I initially had with Idris’ casting. Yes Norwegians are white, and yes Norwegians were ignorant of Black people. But the film is not about Norwegians, it is about the Gods they worshiped.

I was hung up on this idea that Gods are extensions of the men that worship them. In short we make them up, so they should look like those who worship them.

But here in this fiction, Gods are real tangible things. Which means they are not extensions of the limitations of men, therefore our definitions of them, encompass them but poorly. And let us assume Gods are not as limited or ignorant as men. Let us assume the Gods the Norwegians prayed to, were real gods, of real colors, and that they were not ignorant. That they were the real spacefaring fact, behind the Norwegians flawed and biased fantasy, and the Norwegians being only human made in their own image… those who were not of their image.

Same way even today Hollywood portrays Nubian Queens with Elizabeth Taylor, or Black Scouts with John Wayne. Or for that matter the way churches still propogate the idea of a white Jesus Christ, of the straight hair and the blue eye, which goes contrary to his description in the bible. So let us assume the ancient Norwegians were as close-minded when recounting their tales of Gods and heroes as modern day man. Were as willing to whitewash the truth.

Now I’m saying all this without having read the script, or having seen anything more than the trailer, but just throwing out some ways the casting of Asiatics and Nubians could work.

So yeah, I can totally see that these Gods adopted by the ancient Norwegians, were not then, nor now, Norwegian. They were Gods, or Advanced Aliens ( The Trailer looks like they may be going for that), they don’t have Norwegian names, Norwegians adopted their names. and as such the multicutural cast works fine.

So if you go into the movie, with that perspective, it works fine. But I can definitely see how initially that casting, sans anytype of explanation like what I just gave you, could cause issues.

I personally have a bit of an issue, everytime I see a White person playing an Ancient Egyptian/Nubian. And I would have similar issues seeing a Black person playing a historical Norwegian. However if we accept my previous hypothesis that the Gods (Aliens) are not the men, and the Men are not the Gods, you know a nifty scifi explanation, then I can work with it.

Going back to Elba for a second and the heat he has been taking; he’s an actor, it is not his job to justify the roles he chooses to accept, it is his job to do those roles credit. And Elba has made a career of doing that job well.

So any questions, concerns shouldn’t be directed at him in the first place, but the filmmakers. And I’m confused why Elba is the only one getting heat. As I pointed out, he is not the only actor of color cast in this film as a ‘Norse’ God, however he’s the only actor to get any grief about it. So I would say… back off. Those issues need to be taken up with the producers, not the actors.

Anyhow, Marvel Studios, Branagh, I gave you guys a way to make this casting right for the complainers. You can put my check in the mail. :)

Okay I hope I’ve put that argument to rest.

I am looking forward to the THOR movie. Based on the trailer, and Branagh’s track record with the dramatic and Shakespearean I think it will be a good film, and I definitely think it will make money. At least as much as IRON MAN II. My only concern is the budget of these Marvel Studio’s films. I think with budgets of 150million and 200million, you have to do a lot more to make a sizeable return on that investment. I think from a business standpoint if they could bring these films in for 100million or under, it would take a lot of pressure off of needing the film to crack 300 million domestically.

Now the question is could they bring it in and still get the quality actors and directors, and special effects? Well Look at DISTRICT 9, that was done relatively affordably and it looks great. So I would think it can be done. Of course, I guess being backed by Disney these days, money is no object for Marvel Studios.

Though I tend to think extravagance, for extravagance sake, does not usually translate into great film-making. Look at TERMINATOR 3. Very expensive film at the time, pales in comparison to the first two films.

So in summation, very excited for a good THOR film, and more than that I’m excited for a strong showing from Branagh. Here’s hoping we get both.