THEATER REVIEW: CSC’s Movable Shakespeare’s RICHARD III

“No beast so fierce but knows some touch of pity. But I know none, and therefore am no beast.”
― William Shakespeare, Richard III

There is no shortage of villains in the oeuvre of the writer known as William Shakespeare. From the machinations of Hamlet’s Uncle-cum-Father who puts Hamlet ‘too much in the Sun’, to the deviousness of Othello’s ‘trusted’ Iago, to the bloody, eye-plucking Cornwall in King Lear, but none are so ever quotable, and perhaps as eminently watchable as Richard III, who is of such expanse in his villainy that he is the star of his own self-titled play, rather than just a player in another character’s tale.

And this comes to life in florid detail in the Chesapeake Shakespeare Company’s unique production of RICHARD III. Directed by Ian Gallanar, one of the CSC’s founders, RICHARD III is presented in a ‘movable’ style that puts the audience, truly in the heart of the action and makes them mute(and not so mute) chorus to this tale of treachery and tragedy.

Taking place in the ‘haunted’ ruins at the Patapsco Female Institute Historic Park in Ellicott City, Maryland, beneath the stars and the eyes of God, it is truly a presentation to remember. Particularly on a good, clear fall night (which we were blessed to see it on) with the wind picking up just a little, and showering Richard III with leaves, almost on queue, as he woos a man’s widow over his corpse. Ay, it’s a great thing, when the heavens provide your special effects.

And the whole play went thus, as a crowd of over 100, moved from picturesque room or steps or courtyard, moved from scene to scene, and watched actors of talent and temper… a tale unfold.

And before getting into the actors, a bit more on the setting.

Ellicott City is a 30 square mile area, more loose community than incorporated sub-division, that traces its history back to its founding as a Flour Mill back in 1772 by Quaker Brothers named Ellicott. Nestled in the Baltimore-Washington bosom, the area is rumored to, like Rome, be built on seven hills.

So this is no concrete jungle or ‘great white way’ for your theatrical experience, it is a beautiful and languid tree-lined drive, followed by a pretty spooky uphill walk to make the (typically) 8pm showing, that takes place in the Grecian tinged ruins of the Patapsco Female Institute.

So that is the stage, not New York, or Charlotte, or DC or LA, but the woodlands of Ellicott City; and the PFI Historic Park is a stage worth traveling to see.

Now for those who prance upon that stage.

While there are many strengths to an outdoor production, there are also obvious weaknesses. There are minor moments of congestion and confusion inherent in herding a hundred people to and fro, and that very act of going in and out of the ‘reality’ of the play, perhaps can limit how engrossed the viewer can get into the play.

However I think the immediacy of being ‘in’ the play, and viewing that closely the actors and interacting in their space, compensates for any loss of concentrated immersion in the piece.

However one other weakness of an outdoor production, is the sound. Without the acoustics and sound system of a real theater the actors have to project to be heard, particularly should the weather pick up. Some actors were better at doing this than others. Some actors needed to project better. And some actors were stellar.

The word stellar has to be kept close to the name Vince Eisenson who stars as the titular Richard the IIIrd. He has, as expected, to carry much of the play, much of the language, much of the energy. It is a ponderous role to undertake, and Eisenson manages not just to suffer the weight of the role, but to carry it as if he was born to it.

Part of this may have to do with his youth, but more than that Eisenson’s Richard is a far more vibrant and lively Richard, no less tortured than other actors who have portrayed the character, but there is a sophistication there, a deft touch to his portrayal, that eschews mustache twirling, that makes the character’s ability to charm and deceive, more believable here.

Also of note is the performance of Associate Director Scott Allan Small, as he makes the role of Buckingham, that I think can often come off as no more than a yes man, into one of the formidable figures of the play. He particularly just shines in the scene where he mixes with the audience as he ‘attempts’ to get Richard to accept the crown.

Also the scene where Buckingham draws the line at the slaying of children, and demands his due of Richard, I thought was just played beautifully between the two actors of Eisenson and Small. The physicality of how they played that role, with Buckingham played as the brick wall in that scene (like Marvel Comics’ Kingpin transplanted to Shakespeare), against Richard’s flowing water, that seeps into the brick… and breaks it all to pieces.

And the CSC performance is filled with such capable actors, among them Dave Gamble, Greg Burgess, and Jamie Jager in a passionate performance as Richmond. Another highlight scene is with Ron Heneghan delivering a very captivating performance as the imprisoned Clarence; it takes place in a fireplace dominated prison opposite equally entertaining performances by Bart Debicki as Brackenbury (the lieutenant of the tower) and the actors playing his assassins (Rebecca Dreyfuss and Jared Murray).

All in all, a thoroughly enjoyable and recommended production, by a theater company I do not think you would be wrong, in calling world class. And this is typified by the fact that the last few performances of their RICHARD III (ending the weekend of this writing) are all sold out.

But don’t mourn too much, if moved by this review to sample the Chesapeake Shakespeare Company in the future and will be visiting the East Coast, 2013 brings new CSC productions of Shakespeare’s classic plays, among them ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA and THE TAMING OF THE SHREW.

And If RICHARD III is a gauge, both shows will be much labored over in their construction, and much loved in their delivery.

Accolades go out to communications Director Sandra Maddox Barton for all her assistance, in making this review possible.

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.

THE TOP 3 Actor Ad-Libs of All Time!!!

To paraphrase Rodney Dangerfield, Actors, their salaries aside, tend to have to put up with more than their share of disrespect. Generally from people that don’t have anything close to talent, and their only joy is pushing people from pedestals. The unwashed masses that have nothing but venom to spout about the personal lives of the Cruises or the Woods or the Gibsons.

As long as someone’s personal life isn’t affecting my life, or is not changing the laws or policy I have to endure, I don’t give a good darn. Someone wants to be a Scientologist or Mormon or the last Scion of Zion… more power to em.

I tend to give people more leeway than most. Mostly because though I don’t believe in much, I do believe that ‘let him without sin, cast the first stone’. So Romney needs to shut the eff up. :).

And getting back to actors, in particular, they are often seen as primadonnas, who get paid much and bring little. And no doubt there are the ones for whom that belief is completely accurate. But on the whole I think it’s something of an impressive calling.

To give everything, your hurt and your joy, to crowd and stage and screen.

Writers particularly tend to view Actors adversarially, ‘Don’t you dare change my line!’.

But when you have a committed actor, feeling the part, living the role, being the moment…their ad-libs, their additions…. can be priceless. Can be in certain cases, the most memorable lines of a film.

Three standout cases come to mind.

And counting down….

#3!!

PAT GARRETT AND BILLY THE KID- I’ve mentioned this before, but can never get enough PAT GARRET & BILLY THE KID. :)

R.C. Armstrong, born in 1917, (95 years ago, and by all reports still going strong) delivered one of the quintessential lines in Pekinpah’s PAT GARRETT & BILLY THE KID. As is well documented, Pekinpah had a way of riling up actors to get a performance out of them, he did that with the 6’3″ mean as a rattlesnake R.C. Armstrong and Kris Kristofferson had the bad luck of being the object of that realism. :). R.C. bringing his fundamental upbringing into the crafting of this line…

“Your problem is you don’t know about Jesus! I’ll show you! I’ll take you for a walk across Hell, on a Spider Web!”

What an awesome line, next up….

#2!!!!

THEY LIVE- Roddy Piper’s biggest step from the squared circle, into the lights of Hollywood came with this John Carpenter film, and the wrestler turned actor attacked it. Giving a great performance in a great film, opposite the always impressive Keith David. But even more than his performance, it’s probably this line he added, that stood out for a whole generation of people seeing the film—

“I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass… and I’m all out of bubblegum.”

heh, heh, heh, I never get tired of that line (A really close followup to that, from the same movie is..“Life’s a b*tch… and she’s back in heat!”. Aww that roddy Roddy Piper! :) And the number #1 Actor Added Line of ALL Time IS!!!!!

Rutger Hauer in Blade Runner!!!!!

BLADE RUNNER- Rutger Hauer seeing the climatic scene of Ridley Scott’s chaotic production needed something, came up with this, my favorite bit of ‘not in the script or the book’ writing, that anyone has brought to the table—

“I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I’ve watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to die.”

Well all three actors take a bow. Your Awards are being kept safe for you, until you ask me for them :).

As far as you writers, you can all stand suitably chastised. And all you film fans… go out there and treat yourself to a classic flick!!

Enjoy!!! And remember (leaving you with one more Actor Added line)…

Who Loves Ya Baby? :)

WARNER BROTHERS, CASABLANCA, PIRATES, and The Rights of MAN?!

You know, after a hellacious week of giving people what for, nothing relaxes me more than curling up with a nice nature DVD. Attenborough’s LIFE, or in this case the documentary SHARKWATER.

So here I go, I put in this DVD to relax, while planning the latest update for the blog, and more mundane things like bills, when what the heck should come on the screen than one of those pirate warnings. You’ve seen these idiotic videos, that if anything only makes me want to do the exact opposite just to give it to them for interrupting my damn movie.

However I had not seen this one before.

This one used scenes from CASABLANCA to make an anti-pirating commercial. Excuse me? WTF?

You’re going to use one of the greatest movies ever made like a 2bit whore to sell your political or corporate viewpoint?!!

(And it is worth noting that the FBI warning on these DVDs, having very little to do with any sane legal system. A sane system would say to the studios “It’s not our business to ensure your corporate profits or protect your corporate losses. That’s a civil case… at best.”. Instead in the corrupt America we live in, the FBI warning is a product of studios making their commercial and corporate whims into laws. Using a system, not designed for corporations, to pass corporate whims and lunacy as Federal laws. Such a thing can not be looked at, by anyone rationally, and not see it as something… obscene)

You want to show violating rights is wrong, by using a commercial where you violate artistic rights?

Is the paradox lost on the studios?

Where do we draw the line? Next we use Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman’s images to praise one candidate for President and put down another? Where do we draw the line?

Both Bogart and Berman were deeply humanistic and activistic people, Bogart stood up against the McCarthy Witch-hunts. Bergman spent her days, after the lights of Hollywood, feeding and fighting for the poor.

I don’t think either one would have signed on in life to do a commercial for some companies new generation witch-hunt. And I don’t think they sign over those rights in death.

Because they did a popular movie, and you own the movie, should not then translate into you re-purposing their images to sell either your political agenda, your new vacuum cleaner, or your poorly made or counter-productive pirating campaign.

Those actors didn’t sign off on that, and weren’t paid for that. And this push to extend ownership beyond the exact product they created… to ownership of their likenesses… reeks. It is immoral. That, if anything, is true pirating.

They purpose not this end, when they purpose their services.

It sets an ugly an abhorrent precedent, an argument that flies in the face of Warner Brothers Anti-Piracy message. Warner violating with impunity the artistic integrity of their own film, and the rights of the actors.

Unless you’re paying them, their images, not their likenesses but their actual images, should not be re-purposed to create a new item, inherently different from the item they signed on to produce.

In many ways it’s like rewriting someone’s autobiography or a writer’s novel. For an actor all they have is the work, the images they leave behind. So to then insert them convincingly in a commercial, is just as wrong as inserting them into a porno.

It’s a violation.

And to not understand that, is to be very young, or very stupid. Or an executive.

Is piracy wrong? First I think it is an idiotic term, unless you’re at sea. Now if you’re talking about the copying of copyrighted DVDs, I think it’s a tempest in a teapot. If Warner Bros and other studios embraced their customers rather than criminalizing them all in advance (which is what me having to sit through an FBI warning or one of those stupid commercials on a DVD I just bought or rented… is doing. It’s saying to the consumer we’re going to treat you all as guilty until proven innocent) they would realize most people are happy to pay and own, a quality and reasonably priced product.

But there’s the rub, quality and reasonable prices. All companies want to do today is give you the least they can, for the most they can.

I’ll tell you what is wrong… Warner Brothers and all the studios like them are wrong, they are dinosaurs trying to survive in a changing technological society where big studios are increasingly superfluous. Rather than try and survive by being better and winning customers through innovation and great products, they instead want to survive by removing from you… choice. By scaring, suing, legislating, themselves as a law that we must fear, and bow down to, and pay tribute to because they are using the FBI and the courts like their personal thugs,

Warner Brothers should be glad people think enough of their work to desire it. Because the alternative is… people stop wanting… ANYTHING from them.

The consumer may start saying “You know what, there’s a lot of choice out there, despite Warner Brothers attempt to eradicate choice, why don’t we just stop buying or supporting anything Warner Brothers?”

Can you imagine that. People just get fed up of being treated like dogs by Warner Brothers, and just say to them, ‘you’re that worried about your intellectual property? Well you keep it then. You keep it all. We already have the memories of all the decent movies, keep anything new. Keep your DVDs, keep your games, keep your movies, keep your books.’

And after a few months of them not having to worry about patron or pirate, I’d love to see how their effing tune changes. They’d be crying for someone to think enough of their movies to sell bootlegs on the streets of Nepal.

It’s about perspective. And the perspective the studios and record companies and media oligarchies must come to, is that of earning customer business and customer goodwill… rather than attempting to lock in customers through terror.

Because here from these subtle fights, do great things grow.

And they are things the studios will not like at all.

As simple a thing, seemingly insignificant a thing as a tax on tea changed the face of the world, Today’s corporate atmosphere of pushing and prodding, with every move a crime, and in every hand a club… cannot do less.

There is a war of terror coming, that much the media ‘talking heads’ have right. But it’s not one of religions. It’s one between the mindless stupidity and greed of corporations… and the very rights of man.

And it is a war, that in the waging the rich will lose. And the poor, who have only lives to lose…and pushed to it… can only win.

So a wise man would say to the rich… ‘now may be a good time to stop pushing’.

Something to think about. :).

CLASSIC TV reviews: DOCTOR WHO! STORY 13 – THE WEB PLANET !!!

This installment of IT WILL NOT BE TELEVISED we take the way back machine to the swinging and bloody early days of 1965, and look at a serial from season 2 of a little known (at the time) Brit show called Doctor Who! And the serial, the 13th Who Serial, is called THE WEB PLANET.

Onto the review:

SERIAL 13 THE WEB PLANET
Original Airdate Weekly from 13 Feb 1965- 20 Mar 1965
Doctor Who: The Web Planet (Story 13) (See all Sci-Fi & Fantasy Cult Movies)


First let’s start with a bit of back-story. What was happening in the world over the six weeks, six Fridays, this serial went out on? Well The News during this Time is… all too human:

-The first US combat troops arrive in Vietnam. By the end of the year, 190,000 American soldiers are in Vietnam.

-In the Audubon Ballroom in New york City on 21 Feb 1965 El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz (perhaps better known as Malcolm X) was assassinated before a crowd of hundreds including his pregnant wife, and 3 of his 4 children.

-18th March, 1965: A Soviet cosmonaut known as Lt. Col. Alexei Leonov exited the spacecraft Voskshod II for a short “spin”. He completed a somersault, and then proceeded to take pictures of space. This took place just days before the U.S. planned to launch its first two-man spaceship and becomes the first man to walk in space.

-18th February, 1965 : An avalanche and Glacial Slide caused the deaths of 26 miners who were removing copper ore from underneath a glacier in British Columbia.

-15th February, 1965 : It was proclaimed by Queen Elizabeth II of England that the Maple leaf would become Canada’s new national flag symbol.

-20th February, 1965 : The Ranger 8 spacecraft crashed on the moon after sending back thousands of pictures of the lunar surface

-2nd March : The Sound of Music Premier 1965

-7th March, 1965 : Troopers with night sticks, shotguns and tear-gas grenades violently confronted 600 civil rights marchers during an attempted 50-mile march from Selma to the Alabama state capitol Montgomery.

-Optical Disk —– 1965 USA by James Russell – now Compact Disk CD / DVD

-The Supremes, “Stop! In The Name Of Love” rises to the top of the charts

So that’s a look at the world 46 years ago. And for a bigger kick to put that world in perspective, here are what things cost then (US prices):

Cost of a new home: $21,500.00
Cost of a first-class stamp: $0.05
Cost of a gallon of regular gas: $0.31
Cost of a dozen eggs: $0.53
Cost of a gallon of Milk: $0.95
Federal debt: $322.3 billion

Average Income per year $6,450.00 (Needless to say this average income bought you a lot more more back then, than today’s average income of $39,423.00 is going to buy you. For one thing far more of today’s money is eaten up in taxes upon taxes, and most things have multiplied faster than income… ie stamps and petrol and the price of a house are nearly 10 times 1965 levels, while income is barely 6 times 1965 levels. So income is trailing inflation by nearly 50% overtime, and that’s not even accounting for various new forms of taxation. And just think, you thought this was just a Doctor Who review! :) )

While the Brits may have been watching Doctor Who (and let’s be honest, very few of them were doing that), In the States the airwaves were packed with shows eating up the ratings from THE FUGITIVE to BEWITCHED to MAN FROM UNCLE to VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA to BONANZA to ED SULLIVAN to JONNY QUEST to popular music shows such as SHINGDIG. And 1965 would only provide more programs to keep Americans occupied.

It wouldn’t be till the late 70s, and Public Broadcasting’s increased efforts going across the pond for programming… that would introduce the States to this thing called Doctor Who. And indeed give the show the added funding to keep it running, when other BBC shows of the period had given up the ghost.

And being one of the few shows of the fantastic, Doctor Who offered a cross cultural appeal that continues to… stand the test of time. So to speak. :)

So without further ado the review of the 13th Doctor Who story, starring William Hartnell and written by Bill Strutton, produced by Verity Lambert, and directed by Richard Martin:

    EPISODE 1 OF 6

THE WEB PLANET- by Bill Strutton. More shockingly bad alien costumes. Dennis Spooner graduates to script editor. This is a mysterious but not particularly satisfying series opener. Unimpressively directed by Richard Martin. C.

    EPISODE 2 OF 6

THE ZARBI- Strange premise with more shockingly inept alien costumes. Here’s the thing, if you don’t have the budget to do something convincingly… then don’t do it. Not without interest, but those sets and costumes… uggh. C-.

    EPISODE 3 OF 6

ESCAPE TO DANGER- I do like how the Menoptra move. Very elegant. It was Richard Martin’s idea to have dancers play the Menoptra, and a great idea it was. Lacking their… grace, and performances, and strangeness I would not be writing this review. Roslyn de Winter, an Australian mime, was hired to choreograph the Menoptra’s movements and speech, and also plays the central Menoptra… Vrestin. For the actress to act through all that makeup is impressive… for all the actors actually. With this episode I became interested in the serial, in spite of its constraints. B-.

    EPISODE 4 OF 6

CRATER OF NEEDLES- You have to give this serial points for sheer imagination. So much creativity. If I was a kid, the target audience, I would have loved this serial. It is very well written, and passionately performed. And the flying scenes, and battles are quite lovingly staged. While as an adult I could ask for better costumes, effects, sets, what they pull off is still quite impressive. The strength of Doctor Who, being the same strength of The Simpsons or any good Pixar movie, it is layered, smart writing to appeal to both adults and kids. B+.

    EPISODE 5 OF 6

INVASION- From a serial I almost did not finish, when I saw the first one, this has really grown on me. Beyond the questionable budget it is quite a lovely fable, and also at times quite touching, and quite dire.

    EPISODE 6 OF 6


THE CENTRE- All routes lead to the center, as the Doctor and his Crew and the butterfly like Menoptra battle the Animus, an eater of worlds, at the center of all things. A strong denouement, for a surprisingly good serial. B/B+.

So in summation this six part series is not, when recalled, fondly remembered by most. That said its first episode, THE WEB PLANET, originally brought in 13.5 million viewers, the most of any Doctor Who broadcast of the 60s.

Doctor Who never brought in great numbers, but it managed to be consistent, and have a passionate fan-base. Which accounts for the longevity of both the original series, and the success of the new series. If you can get past the questionable first couple episodes, and go along with the conceits, I think you’ll find a serial that is surprisingly… fun. Overall grade: B/B+.

You can pick up the DVD using the link below AND support this blog at the same time! Say it ain’t so, Joe! :) ! But seriously I only recommend things I myself own, and I appreciate any purchasing you do via this blog. Thanks!

Doctor Who: The Web Planet (Story 13) (See all Sci-Fi & Fantasy Cult Movies)

Sources:

http://www.shannonsullivan.com/- Offers background info on this episode
http://www.listzblog.com- Nice overview of popular shows by period
http://www.tvparty.com/- More great overview of what’s hot in tv by year
http://oldies.about.com/od/60srockers/tp/topten1965.htm- A great overview of popular music by year
http://www.1960sflashback.com/- Helped with research on prices in 1965
http://www.ssa.gov/oact/cola/AWI.html- more prices over time data
http://www.thepeoplehistory.com/- another great tool for prices over time
http://doctorwhoreviews.co.uk/N.htm- for a helpful scan, plus see it for another take on this serial. Good stuff.

Doctor Who Season 5 Review: Steven Moffat’s Reign?

Steven Moffat, on the strength of some stellar self-contained DR. WHO stories in the first four seasons of the revamped WHO series (see my Best of Doctor Who posting), was rewarded in the fifth season by being promoted to lead writer/show runner, replacing Russell T. Davies.

Russell T. Davies the heart of this new WHO, was clearly running out of things to say with the character by the 4th season, so Moffat would seem to be the perfect choice to replace him (the episode BLINK written by Moffat and directed by Hettie MacDonald being arguably the finest hour of Dr. Who done to date).

Particularly when you consider between season 4 and season 5, (specials not counted) was an almost 2 year delay, you would have thought Season 5 would have had all the kinks worked out and been a solid season… ready to… wow.

Unfortunately that is not the case.

Season 5 sporting a new Doctor, a new companion, a new look and a new lead writer, is a season I was rooting for to be great, but it just isn’t. It’s not even good.

I mean the first two episodes show promise, THE ELEVENTH HOUR is a good into to the new Doctor, though almost immediately the character of Amy begins to annoy me. Still overall an okay B- episode.

Next is THE BEAST BELOW which was a good episode, and was one of the only times all season I thought the character of Amy was remotely helpful/interesting. It’s solid writing by Moffat that elevates this episode to a B/B+.

However, after this episode from the VICTORY OF THE DALEKS on, Amy and her boyfriend, and their whole angsty issues just like the Mickey/Rose subplot, annoyed. And the shows felt like chores to get through rather than entertainment, all the way up to the mess of a two part season finale.

And while a lot of this is the writing, a lot is the casting (There are exceptions such as the character of River Song, played by the brilliant Alex Kingston [of ER fame] , who was fantastic last season, and is even better this season. And I also quite like the character of the Bloody Queen played wonderfully by Sophie Okenedo).

The new Doctor is okay, Matt Smith is likeable enough, but his companion and her boyfriend are “turn the channel people”. When I see them on the screen, I want to change the channel. That’s harsh I know, unfortunately… it’s not untrue.

We’ll get back to that in a bit, but all this adds up to not good omens for the 5th season, because Matt Smith is filling big, and overwhelmingly liked and respected shoes in David Tennant’s Doctor, and Matt won’t fill those shoes on his personality/performance alone. He’ll need everything working with him in this season, including the cast, the scripts the direction, all working at full steam… and unfortunately for the most part it doesn’t.

And as stated one of the big hangups this season is the casting. One of the weaknesses of RTD ‘s reign was the horrendous writing of the character Mickey, however this was made up for by the great character of Rose and a stellar, endearing, effervescent performance by Billie Piper, and the great dynamic between her and the great actors that played the Doctor, Eccleston and Tennant. Martha, played by the wonderful Freema Agyeman was likewise a fantastically written and performed character (In fact my personal favorite of the companions).

Unfortunately the character of Amy is no Rose or Martha, she is as annoying as those characters were charming. She and her boyfriend/fiance are this season’s Mickey, largely annoying characters.

Evidently BBC is skewing younger for this season of Doctor Who, a British Dawson’s Creek feel, and I think that is to this season’s detriment.

And on top of the irritating characters, this season suffers largely un-compelling scripts and tired plot-lines.

Example: Daleks AGAIN!??

Really???

Are you going to use them every other episode?? Come on, really?!

The Daleks have built up fleets and been destroyed seemingly half a dozen times in the last couple of seasons. It cheapens and weakens the “ultimate’ enemy, for it be pulled out and dispatched like a parlor trick every other episode.

And the season seemed replete with such retreading of RTD plotlines, and “ultimate enemy” storylines. Moffet seemingly trying to outdo RTD in the universe shaking event, and for my money fails. Universe destroying event after event, becomes meaningless and boring when not used sparingly. Moffat forgetting that the intimate smaller stories is what got him the job as lead writer, that’s his strength, and in this season he completely fails to play to those strengths. Epic is what RTD does, trying to follow him up with more epic, to out epic him,… was not a wise decision.

Watching the season, it was hard to believe the innovative writer behind BLINK could helm a season so lacking in innovation or interest. It felt like a redo of other/better seasons.

Season 5 did the one thing a Dr. Who season should never do… it bored me.

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.

Matthew Vaughn’s KICK-ASS Movie vs Mark Millar’s KICK-ASS Graphic Novel!


How to begin.

Let us be blunt and unsubtle, since that is in a nutshell what KICK-ASS, The Movie, wallows in.

Woah, tell me how you really feel.

Okay, since you asked. :)

I’ve never had to go back and retweak a review. But my first viewing of KICK-ASS, I immensely disliked one particular part of the film, one character’s story arc (and I still dislike it), and it strongly colored my whole perception of the film.

And I think my original review, which follows focused too heavily on just that negative aspect of the film.

But there is a lot to like about KICK-ASS, a lot to like about Matthew Vaughn’s direction, and Matthew and Jane Goldman’s script, brings a lot of originality, strength, and humor to the source material. There’s lot of innovative, fun stuff in the script that wasn’t in the source material, and Matthew Vaughn’s commentary is as interesting as the film.

So that’s my revised review, because I felt my original review (below) while I still stand behind all the problems I had with the film, there’s a lot of great things that went into this film as well that deserved a bit of praise.

Okay onto the original review:

Having just finished the DVD (not having read the Graphic Novel first) I’m unusually divided on the film. I’m glad I didn’t pay to see this in the movie, or buy the DVD, but the film isn’t a simple one to dismiss or enjoy.

Why?

Because the movie while well made and well performed, I thought was way too morally bankrupt and more than a bit irresponsible. Not everything that comes into your head, should go out your mouth. And having a little child spout language that would give a sailor pause, which only nominally phased me while watching the film, but really began to trouble me in hindsight, serves questionable sensationalist and prurient needs. Ultimately the creators’ needs.

The film was a well paced, garishly colored spider-man type take off as constructed through the slightly demented psyche of series creator Mark Millar. However the caveat being it is a normal teen kid, nerd, who decides to don a costume and fight crime.

So brain off, it is a typical blood and bullets action flick, right? Well not quite.

Have we pushed the envelope of adults, being effed up, violent, cursing sociopaths so far that we have to now try and get children to act out these fantasies? I don’t know, it didn’t quite sit right with me.

Less for what the film is then what the film opens the door to.

Everything, all values, sacrificed to the selfish needs of ever more egregious creators, and an ever more deadened audience.

And perhaps that selfish need, to push the envelope, when weighed against the needs of the story, the needs of the young actress, and the needs of the young viewers who will ultimately get their hands on this movie, dressed up as a kid’s comic movie, perhaps the writer and director’s needs… should be outweighed. Not by committee, but by themselves.

Not everything that comes into our heads, should come out our mouths, or worse yet a young actress’ mouth.

Young Actors generally have a hard life. As they find their childhood chewed up in service of people who just “Want to have a laugh” as the brits would put it (Yes, I know Millar is Scottish).

Millar, spoke somewhat jokingly about, during the auditions, being slightly disturbed hearing his lines uttered by these young girls. A whole generation of Jon Benet Ramsey’s in the making?

And he should be disturbed. “Humanity is also our business” to quote the THIRD MAN. Because to some extent it’s a bit of child endangerment, and bad parenting, and something a bit seedier, that you have to embrace, and ask others to embrace, in order to portray these things.

The creators’ need to be shocking for shocking’s sake, which may work in the rather insular world of comics where people are “in” on the conventions you’re attempting to satirize and transgress, works less well in the broader world of cinema.

Making mountains out of molehills? Possibly, but at what point does paying a child actress to do what we want, to bring someone’s fantasy to life, cross the line? At what point does art stop and something not terribly unlike pornography begin? And whose responsibility is it to ask these questions, seek these answers and monitor that line? At what point does the creators’ responsibility to his muse, to his characters, perhaps take back stage to his responsibility to a child actor and to larger society? Do the comic book lines, this child actress is asked to recite and internalize, do these lines have weight and purpose and value transposed to the world of the quick and the warm? Or are they part and parcel of the withering of culture, and the desensitization of man?

Those are difficult questions. And I’m not saying I have the answers, but I’m saying the KICK-ASS film blithely wallows in its transgressions, without even given those transgressions the weight of acknowledging them. Which could have potentially made them mean something. And that omission seems more than a bit of a shame.

And you have to put that weight on the screen-writers of Matthew Vaughn and Jane Goldman.

Having not been a fan of Millar’s WANTED comic, while being a huge fan of the much different, and much more moral, WANTED movie, scripted and humanized by Michael Brandt and Derek Haas; I went into the KICK-ASS film (where Millar had greater input) with a bit of trepidation.

Mark Millar.

I think he’s a talented writer. Starting out in main-stream comics as Hardy to Grant Morrison’s Laurel, he has written a couple things I am quite enamored of. He’s written more things that I am not a fan of.

I think it comes down to Millar is somewhat, or wants to be, the Takashi Miike of comics; absurdest and shocking for shocking’s sake. But that is when Miike, as I have stated before, in films like DOA or FUDOH is at his weakest and most boring, in films where he surrenders to the lowest common denominator in himself, when he eschews all limitations, and fills the screen with violence, body fluids, and excrement.

But give Miike a structure to work in, give him limitations, where he must resist his own temptations, his need to just “Have a laugh”. and he produces films with a surprising amount of heart, craft, and brilliance. With humanity. Films such as the oft praised THE BIRD PEOPLE IN CHINA, and THE NEGOTIATOR among others.

And I think that same sensibility is true of Mark Millar, when he rises above the quick and easy method, of shock-jock tricks, and tries to say something, tries to tell an earnest story… he can be devastating. He can bring us THE ULTIMATES, he can bring us CROSSOVER.

And that’s because limitations aren’t the end of art, in many ways they are the engine of it. Roberto Rodriguez’s best film by a long way, is still his first, where his lack of budget necessitated the story be there, and that the story move.

But Millar’s tendency of late has been toward the extreme for extreme’s sake and I find that incredibly lazy and boring in a book or a film. And watching KICK-ASS, that’s what I was thinking: Here’s a movie that is too true to Millar’s sensationalism, and that’s why it has no heart.

Because the KICK-ASS film when it was over, I felt oddly unmoved, uninvolved, because the characters were all relatively reprehensible, the “heroes’ as well as the villains. It felt like the cut scenes of a video game, just violence, with no narrative or heart to make the violence mean anything. And nothing made sense; the cop who becomes BIG DADDY, and trains his daughter to be a cursing, mass murdering sociopath, to get revenge for his wife’s death?! Really? Really?!!

And the ‘hero’ seems to take Hit Girl’s and Big Daddy’s Mass Murder in stride a little too easily. So ultimately on a moral scale, and what is a film about Super-heroes but a morality play writ large?, I just had real issues with the film. The film walked a relatively serious line, too serious to give it any personality as a dark satire/comedy.

However, the film is not without its moments, that early scene where Kick-Ass saves a guy from a group of thugs… has real heart. And it does have definite strengths. It looks great. Director Matthew Vaughn knows how to keep the action moving, Aaron Johnson, Mark Strong, Nicolas Cage and Chloe Grace Moretz as Hit-Girl lead a strong cast, the character designs are more innovative, and I think the script in places, was strong, and interesting, but I think the lynchpin of the film, has to rest with the arc of Chloe Grace Morez as Hit-Girl, in many ways I felt her salvation to be the central theme. Perhaps the very reason the stars aligned to give birth to a Kick-Ass, so he could be there… to set her free.

That’s the idealist in me talking of course, but hopefully that’s why people go to see these modern myths played out, to remind themselves, in an increasingly rudderless age, of ideas worth defending. Ultimately the film’s moral stance, or lack of, in the script by Matthew Vaughn and Jane Goldman outweighs the strengths of the movie.

But is the script just being true to Millar’s source, or does it diverge?

So I came here to review the film. But thought it was necessary to also review the source material, the comic series, and see what the two medium’s shared, and how they differed, and where the movie went wrong.

I just completed it and have to say… the graphic novel addresses many of the issues I had with the movie. Excellent structure, married to I thought a far more engrossing story-arc for Hit-Girl and Big-Daddy. The true origin of Big-Daddy and Hit-Girl, is pretty ambitious, and pretty brilliant, being both sad, horrific, and costly. And gives a weight, and pathos, and tragedy that’s completely missing in the film.

Vaughn said he was worried about kids following the antics of a Kick-Ass, and I think by eschewing Millar’s downer ending, for both Kick-Ass and Hit-Girl, he does glamorize his protagonists murdering antics, rather than an ending that redeems them.

In the graphic novel, Mark Millar offers subtle and human, in-between the violence. Restraint and humanity. When Millar mixes these elements in his writing he’s great, when he loses these touchstones, in pursuit of the cheap shock, or cheaper violence, he bores me and loses me as a reader (As in his WANTED graphic novel). Thankfully and surprisingly, KICK-ASS is Millar talking to us, rather than at us… and it is for the most part effective.

And effective is a word that also describes the art. John Romita Jr, is an artist that can be hit or miss with me, but he is great in this series. His slightly cartoony art, a nice counterpoint, to the at times extreme actions depicted. All in all, quite impressed with the story points in this graphic novel, and the ending, particularly in comparison with the film, offered a nice bit of closure and humanity. That particularly addresses Hit Girl’s abuse (because that’s ultimately what her fathers’s sculpting of her amounts to, he’s taken a child and made a serial killer), and how she comes to terms with it.

In Millar’s book you get the sense that all that violence, finally causes her to break, and comes to terms with wanting to put away these adult things and embrace her childhood. You don’t get that sense of closure and healing in Vaughn’s film, and that closure would have gone a long way to salvaging the film for me.

As it is, for me the film is an intriguing misfire, and the graphic novel a surprised and shaky thumbs up (Shaky, because in the end the book’s premise is still a dangerous lie, of a normal kid taking on crime. If you have a kid getting beat on by 200lb bad guys, metal plate or no, should he survive, he’ll be san’s teeth, and with a heavy case of brain damage. And looking far worse than just a little blood artfully applied to the face. It’s a dangerous and unworthy lie.)

So final grades: KICK-ASS DVD/Movie C-/C+ (Very intriguing Director’s Commentary)
KICK-ASS Graphic Novel B-.

The Cinema of Hollywood— Black Faces, White Messages

I, as a rule, avoid stupid people.

Because they are vexations of the spirit, and in the truest sense of the word… wastes of time.

But every so often, I feel that a positive discussion can be distilled, or needs to be made, out of one person’s negative.

Someone posted on line for “flicks where there are NO BLACK PEOPLE?”

On the surface it’s the kind of ignorant discourse that has become common place in the increasingly unmoderated world of YOUTUBE and CRAIGSLIST and IMDB and insert other online site here. Increasingly companies shirk their responsibilty to moderate discourse under the guise of liberty, when in truth it’s about being a haven for hate, confusion, and disconnect, and the antithesis of communication. It’s about sites creating an uncivil experience.

But I thought such moronic statements, occasionally warrant an answer, not for the moron who posted it, but for those stumbling honestly on it, and who may take away only the fool’s foolishness, I wanted to give the other side of the story.

or

One moronic topic deserves another.

or

We need more films with characters and directors of color, and preferably more than the stupid tokenism prevalent in “Hollywood” films. Cause trust me I hate the token, shoe-horned in, poorly written single Black character in a film otherwise filled with pale faces more than anything. I mean what was that damn RESIDENT EVIL movie. Don’t bring the Black character in the film or show… just to be the sum of your stereotypes.

I mean I really fucking hate that.

And I hate the Black actors who are in the films to do nothing more than reinforce white messages. Be walking stereotypes. It’s one of the reasons I hated SIN CITY (beyond it being just a god-awful movie) or the otherwise excellent DAY AND NIGHT that was ruined for me in the last 5 minutes with an inexplicable introduction of one of the most annoying characters in all cinema.

So the search should be for movies without poorly written Black characters. And it’s a search, that I back up with dollars. As a rule films with strong characters of color, multiple characters of color, smartly written, get my attention and my dollars. And those without… do not.

One of the reasons HANCOCK (that was marketed to be a failure) was one of the highest grossing movies of its year. Making over 300 million, just shy of IRON MAN, and the blockbuster that was DARK KNIGHT, was the same reason most critics hated it, and most people of color loved it, it was a film with an unconventional 2nd half where the character of color, transcended the box that hollywood designs for them… of crook, fool, or comedy relief, and got to be a hero, while also being a quite brilliant and forlorn love story.

That’s the cinema, I like paying for. And it’s the cinema I want to see more of. The cinema… of transcending. And more than that it’s a cinema, our youth desperately needs more of.

We do not rise above our dreams. And mass media, movies, music, tv, teaches youths of color, to dream very poorly indeed. To be sidekicks in their own lives at best.

And it’s the reason I LOVE movies like CITY OF GOD (or the equally brilliant TV series CITY OF MEN), CAPUCCINO, And we need more of them.

Thing is there are brilliant films and filmmakers (SOUNDS OF SAND, LIFTED, EL BENNY, THE DISCIPLE, THE ASSASSIN, ALGENY, DARSALAM, BLACK DYNAMITE etc), but they don’t get picked up for distribution, and our cinemas instead get flooded with the 8 million copies of moronic comedies, or the same old, tired, boring, and ultimately eurocentric tripe.

And we are all… diminished, by the lack of diversity and dumbing down of American culture. Our cinema and our songs. There’s a reason films and music are stuck in the 80s, regurgitating and recycling it. It’s because the new has always come from the ground up. The culture of those on top, always dependent on the culture of those on the bottom. You get no country music, no rock and roll, without negro spirituals, and blues, and jazz.

And today our inner city youth our devoid (devoided) of culture. And mainstream America has nothing to copy, so we get stuck in this loop, of listening to the good old days, or remaking the good old movies.

We become a cannibal nation, eating its own tale.

Because people in positions to give us the new, are afraid. And they crush innovations, new voices and new dreams… not realizing, that ultimately the dreams they crush, of that young filmmaker or actor or musician of color… is everyone’s dreams. They have always been, these people of color, the engines of our tomorrow.

All our tomorrows.

So the search must ever be, for more visions, and more visionaries… of color.