MOVIE TRAILER ROUNDUP: SUPERMAN RETURNS vs MAN OF STEEL and the bigotry of ELYSIUM?!!

MOVIE TRAILER AND UPCOMING MOVIE ROUND-UP

GHASTLYTHE GHASTLY LOVE OF JOHNNY X- I gave this trailer a download. It’s a send up of 50s movies, especially of the drive-in, monster, teen angst variety. Not my beverage of choice. And it just wasn’t interesting at all. Save yourself the viewing time… avoid.

PACIFIC RIM- I keep watching this trailer, and I keep being impressed. “Today we are canceling the APOCALYPSE!!” Delivered as only Idris Elba can deliver it! This summer blockbuster hits screens in July. And I’ll definitely be in the crowd.

NOWYOUSEEMENOW YOU SEE ME- “First rule of magic, always be the smartest guy in the room.” A stellar cast, and an inventive and surprisingly original feeling trailer (no small feat for a film to seem original, given how many caper and heist films I’ve seen) makes this film one that I’m interested in seeing on the big screen when it hits on 31 May.

man_of_steelMAN OF STEEL- The latest full trailer is out and looks very good, though I have to be honest it doesn’t excite me the way the SUPERMAN RETURNS trailer of several years ago did. And I know it’s envogue these days to hate on that movie, but the young and foolish forget how well received that trailer and the movie initially was. That plane sequence alone having people cheering in the theaters. And while the pimply set in hindsight dismiss SUPERMAN RETURNS because of some pacing issues and I think some weaknesses with the casting, particularly the Lois character, it was, warts acknowledged, a good movie, with a great trailer. So far MAN OF STEEL merely has a good trailer, let’s hope that translates into a great movie. Being a fan of Zack Snyder (not so much Christopher Nolan) I’ll be in the theaters to find out.

THOR II- I’m watching the 1st trailer for this film and I’m not particularly gripped by the ‘story’ of the trailer, but I’m thinking how awesome it is that we can produce movies on this scale. Super-hero movies are possible due to CGI and advances of technology that can make a man swinging around and hitting things with a big hammer prop look awesome rather than stupid. That said,the absence of Branagh as director worries, as I couldn’t find anything close to an interesting story in the trailer. But it is just an early trailer, perhaps the movie has more depth to it than the trailer hints at. This one is a wait and see.

ELYSIUM- This scifi trailer is for a film by Neill Blomkamp ,the director of DISTRICT 9, and starring Matt Damon. That is strike 1 and strike 2. I disliked DISTRICT 9 for its pretty blatant Nigerian bashing, and am not a fan of Matt Damon. ELYSIUM is based on a great short film by Ricardo De Montreuil’s THE RAVEN, which sports a Black/Hispanic protagonist, almost a christ parable, taking the fight to the powers that be in a drone plane/terminator oppressed future, ELYSIUM seemingly takes everything edgy and original and challenging about THE RAVEN, and literally whitewashes it with a Dutch/South African director and a White savior in the form of Matt Damon. Compare the short film THE RAVEN (my review and a link to the film here) to the ELYSIUM trailer and I think it is clear which one is the far more interesting. ELYSIUM is a definite wait for DVD, if that, and is yet another glaring example of the bigotry and programmatic and exclusionary nature of Hollywood sanctioned films.

MANOFTAICHITHE MAN OF TAI CHI- Keanuu Reeves is one of those actors like Nicolas Cage who takes a huge amount of crap from Western critics for his acting style, or perhaps more precisely utilizing the same style regardless of project. Whether that assessment oh his acting ability is true or false, in Asia Keannu Reeves is HUGE, again like the aforementioned Nicolas Cage. And that Pan-Asian popularity seemingly has to do with their looks (since their acting/voices are dubbed by Asian actors). Asians being a, seemingly, very homogeneous society like supporting their own, and both Reeves and Cage are of the necessary dark hair and build and perhaps presence to be adopted by Asian audiences. So it makes perfect sense that Reeves’ directorial debut should be geared to that part of the world market that has always embraced and made profitable his films. The trailer for THE MAN OF TAI CHI is out and it sports glimpses of impressive fight choreography. Whether there is a story to go with it remains to be seen, but it definitely interest me enough to look for it on DVD

Okay that’s all for this segment. Join us next time for more!

Murder in the Age of Rome: American Heroes and American Mass-Murders

Superbowl Sunday I should no doubt have a post on the Superbowl like the rest of America.

However other things grab my interest. Other things that perhaps transcend caring what group of modern gladiators, beat another group of modern gladiators.

This weekend, according to the AP, Chris Kyle, ex-Navy Seal Sniper and author of the 2012 best-selling AMERICAN SNIPER was killed along with another veteran Chad Littlefield in a shooting at the gun range at Rough Creek Lodge and Resort in Glen Rose, Texas. Killed by another former veteran.

The details and the reasons are still sketchy, but aren’t they always. What is known is this is the latest in what is seemingly an endless parade of American mass-murders.

Why?

Why?

And reading the coverage of this latest violence, something of interest struck me in the coverage.

The CNN coverage states:

“[Chris] Kyle learned to shoot on hunting trips with his father, then went on to serve four combat tours in Iraq with the SEALS, though his official biography notes he also worked with Army and Marine units. He received two Silver Stars and other commendations before leaving the Navy in 2009 — claiming that, in his years as a sniper, he’d killed more than 150 people, which he called a record for an American.”

and

“The first time, you’re not even sure you can do it,” he [Chris Kyle] said in the interview. “But I’m not over there looking at these people as people. I’m not wondering if he has a family. I’m just trying to keep my guys safe. Every time I kill someone, he can’t plant an (improvised explosive device). You don’t think twice about it.”

and

“In a statement, the [Fitco Cares]foundation described Kyle as an “American hero” and pledged to carry on his mission.”

And maybe it’s that simple.

Maybe from Sergeant York to Audie Murphy to today’s efficient killers, maybe it has become the American pastime to define as hero the indiscriminate taking of lives. While we live in a world where the pursuit of life, is often dependent on those adept at death, perhaps what is increasingly lost in the American mindset today… is the sense of that act as an evil, perhaps a necessary evil, but an evil none the less.

Perhaps the American media’s glorification of men of war at the expense of men of peace, seeps into the American zeitgeist, the American Soul if you will, and America’s export of indiscriminate horror and blood abroad, returns to us at home.

From Columbine to Aurora to Sandy Hook, perhaps these uniquely American Massacres are part and parcel of the increasing unrepentant and murderous definition of American Heroes.

We glorify the wrong things in our Soldiers, and by so doing glorify the wrong things in ourselves. They are heroes because they are willing to sacrifice, not because they are willing to kill. They and we are victims, when we have to kill. When the killing is all we have left. And worse when the act of that killing ceases to have meaning.

Chickens coming home to roost. By its fruit will you know a tree.

A soldier and a warrior died this weekend and that is a tragedy. But it is only a tragedy if the loss of the 150 lives he took, is also a tragedy.

Like any soldier, like every soldier; either every life has value or no life has value. That is the lesson of America and the world in the 21st century. The more easily we justify killing the other, the more valueless we make their lives, the more valueless we make our own.

That’s the lesson I learned today, while all of Rome was watching the Gladiators in the Coliseum,

Somehow I think… a lesson of value.

Artist Website of the Day: Adam Hughes’ AH!

Artist Website of the Day:
JUST SAY AH!

Adam Hughes was one of the artists who exploded onto the scene in the 80s, and three decades later has only grown better and more acclaimed with time. A quick browse of his website emphasizes why he remains one of the most sought after artists of his time.

From the website:


“[Adam Hughes] is best known as a cover artist. He pencils, inks and colors his own covers, using both traditional and digital mediums. His artwork can be seen on an amazing assortment of comic book covers as well as many places outside the comic book industry. His work can be found in magazines like Imagine FX and Playboy and on trading and sketch cards for sets like Indiana Jones, Star Wars, and many others. He also published his first coffee table book in 2010, collecting his more than 20 years of artwork for DC Comics. Cover Run: The DC Comic Art of Adam Hughes debuted at number 2 on the New York Times Best Sellers list when it was released, and is currently in its third printing.

As of July 2011, Adam is the monthly cover artist to DC Comics title Batgirl. He tours, appearing at close to a dozen conventions a year (see the appearances list of this years shows), and when he isn’t drawing or attending comic cons, he likes to relax with his best girl by his side, his wonderful 2 Old English Sheepdogs, and what he calls “his 2 crummy cats”.”

I highly recommend picking up his art-book COVER RUN! Price and/or Buy it here: Cover Run: The DC Comics Art of Adam Hughes (Adam Hughes Cover to Cover)

You get yourself a GREAT hardcover art-book, AND support this fun blog as well! That’s what we call a win-win!! :)

MOVIE REVIEW: DREDD vs JUDGE DREDD???!!!!

Mostly on the impetus of some strongly positive reviews from podcasts I’ve listened to, I managed to catch the film DREDD, at one of the last theaters it was still playing at in my area. Left to my own impetus, I would have waited to rent it free at the library.

Having just seen it I can say that would have been the right decision. I didn’t like the film, and perhaps more accurately I didn’t enjoy the film.

The dictionary defines vile as morally debased, depraved or despicable; and that’s the word that came to mind while watching DREDD.

I understand violence and action, I am very much a child of the cinema of Sam Peckinpah and John Woo. But Action and violence must always be rooted in some moral underpinning, some moral compass, it must be part of a larger tapestry of a story to have some resonance or meaning or point. It must have heroes.

A violent film devoid of any of that, for me has always been the true definition of pornography. It is NATURAL BORN KILLERS or SIN CITY or insert garbage film here. It is an ugly video game.

That’s what DREDD was to me in the summation, an ugly, rudderless video game. Part of this wave of movies that is about Police launching paramilitary style raids in civilian centers and killing indiscriminately.

I like JUDGE DREDD in the comic book format, his stories are short and pithy, and the world and violence he dispenses more cartoony and satiric. He is something not to take too seriously, and is often slightly buffoonish. However, this film is a very ugly and graphic portrayal, and none of it sat well with me.

In many ways our fictional heroes and films define us, I know they certainly defined me growing up. We are socialized into what is acceptable by the codes of our heroes. DREDD is a film where the title character engages in police brutality/torture, mass murder and maiming, and all of it done with a seeming arbitrariness and lack of reflection, that makes both character and film… soulless.

And also because so much of the history of film has to do with reinforcing and creating stereotypes, I’m also very aware of color coded films. Films where any substantive male Black characters are presented villainized and when possible denigrated. Films with Black faces, but White messages. ‘Police Brutality against Blacks is acceptable and humorous’ to go by the giggling in some parts of the audience during scenes in DREDD, and the emasculation of the only substantive Black Man in the film by having him get beat up by the White men and women around him.

If his treatment was counterpointed by actively, strong Black Male characters in the film that would have made his treatment a story point, but devoid of any strong positive Black male images in the film, the treatment of the sole substantive Black Male character becomes a focal point. It becomes a message.

It becomes a new age Minstrel show. Black faces and White messages. And it is sad that there are always actors of color hungry enough to take such roles and debase themselves to make certain people through their fiction feel less threatened in the facts of their lives.

We are socialized by these messages. There is no stronger socialization tool for our young (and if you don’t think the young will be seeing this movie on DVD and TV you are mistaken). Movies make a billion dollars worldwide because they speak to people. They can move and shape people.

But we must always be wary of the language they speak to us in, and what they shape us to be.

So for that reason, and the lack of a hero, the lack of any real story, the indiscriminate meat grinder killing of bystanders, and the general seamy atmosphere, DREDD is a movie I did not hate, but I did not like. It was an unsatisfying meal, and one I will not be trying again.

I much prefer the Stallone JUDGE DREDD to be honest, yes it has the awful Rob Schneider in it, but him aside, I like Stallone’s Dredd, and I like some of the scenes in that movie a lot. My favorite being the Judge’s walk into the cursed Earth. There’s a heart to the goofy Stallone JUDGE DREDD movie that I will take over the heartless nature of this new DREDD movie.

So, final grade: C-. A technically well done movie, but a morally bankrupt one. Rent it if you’re curious and can get it from your local library for free, but not worth buying.

Artist of the Day: Alex Ross!!

The only reason I started rereading comics or graphic novels or slims, is because of Alex Ross. I had turned my back on the medium, just tired of the juvenile art, the storytelling style, everything. Then Alex Ross exploded onto the scene with the one-two punch of the graphic novels MARVELS then KINGDOM COME.

Self contained, stand alone, complete stories, told with jaw droppingly astonishing painted art. People immediately began calling him the Norman Rockwell of comics, and that term is not quite undeserved.

Like Norman Rockwell, Alex Ross is able to imbue his scenes with a sense of homey Americana, that calls back a yearning to better, simpler days now passed… or perhaps never existed.

But he does more than imbue scenes with nostalgia, he does something Rockwell never did, perhaps never dreamt of doing, Alex Ross imbues his scenes with a sense of awe, of scale, of grandeur.

Of myth.

It has become habit these days for people without a fraction of Ross’ talent or vision to take his work for granted. To call his effort: extremism, and to call his meticulous paints: stiff, over rendering… I see nothing stiff or over-rendered in the work of Alex Ross but people are allowed their opinion, though the criticism always struck me as uninformed opinion.

It always struck me as the voices of jealous ants trying to deride an elephant. People disparaging Alex Ross, simply because he was that good.

Alex Ross is a meticulous perfectionist, who paints worlds that never were, but should be, and populates them with the stuff of faith…rewarded. Long before Hollywood made a habit of making our marvels real, Ross reached out to the lightning, and called down the thunder, and put it on paper, and gave us all a vision… to aspire to.

Many a painter has come on the sequential art scene since Ross’ mainstream debut, and they all bring something wonderful to the mix. But it’s a testament to Alex Ross’ skill, his understanding and his love for the heroic… that none of the numerous painters now in the medium, quite grasp that sense of grandeur that Ross brings to even the least of his creations.

All his creations look out at you with eyes that have seen the worst, yet still seem to say… “endure, be better.”

And end of the day, I figure… that’s not such a bad message for an artist and his art to leave us with. So for all these reasons Alex Ross is our Artist of the Day.

Check out all his work at the links below:

Site for Alex Ross Art and Info!

Mythology: The DC Comics Art of Alex Ross

Rough Justice: The DC Comics Sketches of Alex Ross

The Dynamite Art of Alex Ross HC

The World’s Greatest Super-Heroes

Absolute Justice

Absolute Kingdom Come

Uncle Sam: Deluxe Edition

TOP 15 Favorite Comic Book / Superhero Movies!! Updated 2012 list!!


So where does Joss Whedon’s AVENGERS rank on the list of best comic-based movies?

Pretty high actually.

Well here’s my biased list of my 15 favorite Comic based movies. The ones I find… re-watchable.(Only caveat being I tried to list only one film per series, the best film of the series, to leave room for others).And it’s pretty much in order of re-watchability. Which film can I view at anytime because it’s that… good and timeless?

Well it starts with SUPERMAN THE MOVIE, still not just one of the best comic book films, but one of the best… films. My top 5 are movies I can leave on repeat in my house and grow not sick of.

SUPERMAN THE MOVIE
AVENGERS
SPIDERMAN II
BLADE II
300

X2
CAPTAIN AMERICA
THOR
IRON MAN II
WATCHMEN

WANTED
CROW
HANCOCK (horrible title, horrible marketing, horrible poster, saved by a fantastic 2nd half)
DOLPH LUNDGREN PUNISHER (The best of the Punisher Films. Fun, ninja-decimating flick. :))
MATRIX (Has not dated well, but still strong enough to make the list)

And a few honorable mentions, BATMAN (1989), DARK KNIGHT, HISTORY OF VIOLENCE, DARK MAN, UNBREAKABLE. Feel free to suggest any you think I may have missed (me? never! I got all the good ones! :)) in the comments section.

Sponsored by Ebay Store: Deals of the Day!

2012 MOVIE Review : THE Verdict is in! AVENGERS… Avenged!!! :)

You are reading this either because you saw the film and want to compare your experience with others, or haven’t seen the film, and want to get a general idea of what people thought of it. I’ll answer both demographics, without going into details about the film.

I think most of you coming to this blog know, my grumpy persona aside I’m not a contrarian. I’m not one of these IMDB idiots who rate all films either 1 or 5 (on a 5 star system, I use a 4 star system), the concept of grading and gradations seemingly lost on them.

That said neither am I a bandwagon jumper who is going to praise a film when it’s trendy to do so, and eviscerate it when it is trendy to do so.(SUPERMAN RETURNS and TITANIC being two movies with more than their share of flip-floppers).

I often listen to pod-casts, and it is amazing how often you can hear one person excited by a film, but then his friends don’t like the film, so you can hear the person backtrack from his/her position, so they can be in line with the likes of their ‘friends’.

An anthropologist might define it as a clannish race survival technique (“Bubba let’s go lynch that thar 12 year old boy, for looking at that thar white woman.” “Why Bubba Senior, that thar’s a fine idea. Hyuck. Hyuck. Hyuck.”), I’ve always just defined it as cowardice.

I’m saying my good opinion or my bad is not formed by the whims of the mob.

Never has been. Never will be.

So if I give you a review you can be sure it is my review, my considered opinion… and I stand behind it.

So my considered opinion on the AVENGERS movie?

Joss Whedon, whose other film this year CABIN IN THE WOODS I wasn’t a fan of (more due to the first time Director on that film, than to Whedon’s script), here in his role as Director and Writer, knocks this film out of the park.

THE AVENGERS is… I’m trying to avoid hyperbole here, leaving that to everyone else, but it has to be said… it is a FANTASTIC film.

It’s as smart as CABIN IN THE WOODS, but with Whedon behind the camera you also get characters and moments you really care about. You get the pathos to go with the pomp and circumstance.

I mean how do you pull this off? The culmination of all these films, all this planning, all these actors, how do you pull it together and make it work and make it live up to expectations? It is really an amazingly ambitious film, a daunting prospect, and Joss Whedon… does it.

It’s really rare for me to laugh out loud in a film, I laughed out loud numerous times in this film, just because it is so knowing, and so sharp, and so biting, and so friggin fun!!!

I’m so glad I went into this film without watching a bunch of trailers or features, or ruining any surprises because I just had a ball. And along with the fun, Whedon gave space and weight to the tragedy, something that is glossed over sometimes in epic films. The weight and cost of this battle. Whedon never loses sight of the street level view, the common men and women caught in the midst of a war of Gods and Monsters.

The humanity he imbues the attack scene with is reminiscent of Mimi Leder’s phenomenal direction in the criminally underrated Clooney action film PEACEMAKER. Where every loss and every life… was felt.


The Peacemaker (Widescreen Edition)

And going along with that, for a big, loud, blow stuff up action flick on par with Bay’s TRANSFORMERS:DARK OF THE MOON (which the battle scenes bear a resemblance to) everyone gets a chance to actually act and emote in this film. Whedon’s TV/Buffy dialog/experience serving the film well.

Every principal actor really gets a chance to shine, Scarlett Johanson, Samuel L. Jackson, Mark Ruffalo (Who I didn’t think could fill Ed Norton’s shoes, is phenomenal. Both as Banner and the Jade Giant he has some of the great scenes/lines in the film), Downey, they all bring it. And big kudos to Tom Hiddleston who plays Loki as more than one dimensional, but with charm and depth to match his machinations.

Anything more would be me… gushing. Suffice to say, if my math is correct this is the 6th Marvel Studios film, the culmination of half a dozen years, and their shared Universe experiment, and they pull it off. Creating a cinematic climax to this multi-year and multi-film storyline that is actually bigger and better than the films leading up to it.

I’m seldom the guy to tip my hat to MARVEL, but you have to give them their due. STAR WARS couldn’t do it (RETURN not quite living up to the greatness of EMPIRE), STAR TREK every other film is bad and they are all one off stories, BOND also is one off stories, INDIANA JONES no, MATRIX… no, LORD OF THE RINGS … no, but Marvel Studios managed to end their ambitious story… even stronger than they began it (Though it is worth noting that the heart of this whole AVENGERS cinematic concept, starts with one writer, Mark Millar of WANTED and KICK-ASS fame. His vision is what Marvel Studios followed from page to screen. And in the dozen years since his ULTIMATES comics, his involvement is perhaps not credited as much as it should be).

The AVENGERS storyline that began with the first IRON MAN, went out on a high-note with this film. Arguably only Harry Potter could claim to have as effectively told a story over multiple films. Plus they give us a great teaser at the end, can you say…. awww but that would be telling! :)

Go see the film. It’s earned its praise. Highest Recommendation A+.

And read more about the Avengers, here [Definite spoilers :)]:

The Ultimates: Ultimate Collection

The Ultimates 2: Ultimate Collection

Ultimate Comics Avengers by Mark Millar Omnibus

Avengers: Kree/Skrull War

And these books will get you up to speed with the teaser at the end of the film:

Essential Warlock – Volume 1

Essential Captain Marvel, Vol. 1 (Marvel Essentials) (v. 1)

Essential Captain Marvel, Vol. 2 (Marvel Essentials)

Infinity Gauntlet

POSTER OF THE DAY: CHRONICLE

The super powered teen idea may be getting a bit tired, and with a first time feauture film director, and relatively untried (an episode of MASTERS OF HORROR, DEER WOMAN is probably his best credit) Writer, this one, with a 3 Feb 2012 release date, is a definite wait and see. But even if the movie bores, that poster is pretty cool.