DEATH NOTE – less horror than action-fantasy, prolific director Adam Wingard continues to prove himself one of the most innovative and exciting genre directors working; making this adaptation of the lauded manga and anime its own thing, that works beautifully for a feature film.
Great casting, great performances, and a compelling and exciting take on the DEATH NOTE source material, makes for a film that I personally like quite a lot. No it is not the manga, and no it is not the anime, if you want just that… that already exists, rewatch to your hearts content. What this is… is the concept of DEATH NOTE turned into something that works at a feature, rather than episodic, length. Job Done.
Also while I liked the anime, beyond a point I found it a bit long in the tooth, and all the characters while intriguing not exactly.. gripping. With the live action Wingard gets to flesh out the characters with really talented actors.
Nat Wolff’s Light Turner imbuing the relatively cold and calculating character of the anime, with a humanity and likability and relate-ability that makes you care. It is a fitting change to make, and it is a strength of Wingard’s recent films such as THE GUEST, to give us characters who, like most of us, are somewhere between sinner and saint. Shea Whigham is always compelling, and brings to the role of James Turner, Light’s Dad, a warmth and strength and conviction, and nearly palpable love for his son, that is lacking in the anime.
Lakeith Stanfield, the actor who plays the quirky, candy loving, ‘L’ for my money makes that character even more compelling and interesting than in the anime. It is an inspired bit of casting and his performance largely steals the show.
And speaking of genius casting, Dafoe’s voice as Ryuk… GENIUS.
All the pieces of performance,writing, direction ends up with a DEATH NOTE feature film that deserves to be on your keep list. It joins THE GUEST and YOU’RE NEXT as Adam Wingard’s best films so far.
Grade : Strongly Recommended. B+.
Okay so it is Sunday 30 July 2017, and it has been a minute since I posted.
One of the things that has been occupying me (besides today’s POWER and ELEMENTARY marathons):
I do not like You Tube if I have to go to its web page, for the simple fact I hate its un-moderated comments and ignored idiocy and stupidity. But the YouTube channel on Amazon Fire or Roku is something else. I find it actually useful, and nice to view on my big screen TV. And no un-moderated comments to deal with.
The main thing I go to YouTube for is short films, followed closely by movie trailers.
But for short films YouTube’s Roku or Fire Channel, is a great boon. Giving a stage and platform for filmmakers who would otherwise go undiscovered to develop an audience and a name, through short films that wow you and stay with you far more viscerally than most feature length films can.
That brings us to OATS STUDIOS, a production company created by Neill Blomkamp of DISTRICT 9 and ELYSIUM fame.
I am not a fan of the feature films of Neill Blomkamp, they have wonderful core ideas, but tend to get lost under poor Hollywood casting or unnecessary backstory. However in the short film is where Blomkamp’s OATS STUDIOS shine.
Sporting cutting edge world class visual effects, great actors and performances, and big screen direction the films of OATS STUDIOS are, 30 minute or less, masterpieces of creativity and speculative fiction, of science fiction mixed with war, mixed with horror, mixed with a cautionary mirror tainted with pressing concerns, both moral and material.
Those Oat Studio short films form a loose trilogy, united by a common theme of mankind pushed to the brink by powers unearthly. And the films are also united by being superlative and imaginative, and gems of 21st century short films.
FIREBASE (which I have also titled DREAMS OF THE RIVER GOD), the 2nd film released, is a little over 26 minutes, and set in Vietnam War era Vietnam… combines so many mind-blowing concepts, and creates one of the screens memorable creations, in the character of… The River God. I can see this spawning a lot of spin-off short films, set in this universe.
RAKKA, the first film released, moves several decades ahead to a world on the brink of extermination by a threat otherworldly.
and ZYGOTE, the last film released as of this writing, further still in the future, sports one of the most imaginative and horrific monsters since Carpenter’s THING. I like RAKKA but I love FIREBASE and ZYGOTE.
All this to say if you are looking for something to watch, then make it to the Oats Studios site and find the aforementioned films by Neill Blomkamp.
As of this writing they do not yet have a BLURAY up for these films, but I urge them to release one. Quality productions such as this deserve a quality Blu-Ray production with special features and director’s commentary, and not simply the ephemeral availability of websites and streaming.
Today’s Recommended short films!
I stumbled across this relatively recent podcast today. An entire podcast dedicated to the works, the oeuvre, of one of the most influential artists, and later writer/artist, of the 1970s and 1980s… John Byrne.
As a kid of the 70s and 80s, I very much grew up on the artwork and collaborations and stories of John Byrne, so I still hold that work as formative and really ground breaking. And really his body of work remains a large part of the cultural storyboards that power today’s billion dollar comic films.
So this podcast that discusses his work, rather than the politics or quirks or controversy of Byrne the man, I find of great interest.
This 1st episode covers a classic three part story by Jim Shooter (writer), John Byrne(artist) and George Perez (cover artist).
For my money this is, in addition to visuals being borrowed liberally for for the 2nd Marvel Studios AVENGERS film, it is one of the best Avengers stories.
I’ve sold most of my comics from yesteryear keeping only those that wowed me as a kid, and that still impress me as an adult, books that remain quintessentially the best examples of Superhero Blockbuster action. These 1970s AVENGERS books, 164, 165,166 remain the impetus and heart and idea space for what now 40 years later, have become multi-billion dollar cinematic mythologies… for new generations.
For my money nothing surpasses those three books, and it would be decades before Kurt Busiek in his wonderful 4 part Ultron Story-line in the AVENGERS (vol III from 1999 – 19,20,21,22) wrote anything as iconic as those three Shooter/Byrne images. The 90s Busiek/Perez run being very much a homage to those 70s Shooter/Byrne issues. Shooter and Byrne telling in 3 perfect packed issues, what lesser creators would have ruined by trying to stretch to 4, 5, or 6 issues.
It is no mistake that those two disparate stories were mashed together to make the plot for AVENGERS II AGE OF ULTRON. A movie I liked quite a bit, it is a solid B/B+, but it is not as successful as the two story-lines that inspired it. Whereas the beauty of most of the Marvel Studios output is they are actually superior to the story-lines that inspired them; the movies written to be more sophisticated, and appeal to a very savvy adult audience. The first AVENGERS movie is better than the books that inspired it, as is the 3 CAPTAIN AMERICA movies, as is the GUARDIAN OF THE GALAXY movies, and the IRON MAN movies (the first two Thor movies, not so much 🙂 ).
Jim Shooter was a boy genius who understood hyperbole and the dream of the mythic and heroic, and arguably there is no better example of that than in AVENGERS 164, 165, and 166. These issues are relatively still very affordable as 1st printings, and recently have been reprinted along with other essential issues in a very affordable collection.
You can get the issues here:
This collection is close to going out of print and covers issues #150 to #166, which is really the very best issues of the run. Pick them up at the link above while they are in stock.
Once you have read them, or if you have already read them, check out the podcast below. I disagree with them on some points but overall an interesting listen, and an interesting idea for a podcast. And I have to thank their podcast for spurring this blog post.
POWER The acclaimed Curtis ’50 CENT’ Jackson produced STARZ series finally makes itself available on HULU, and man was it well worth the wait. Showrunner/Creator Courtney Kemp Agboh’s POWER is the very definition of binge worthy television.
From opening credits to final fade to black, the show is FANTASTIC!! Omari Hardwick helms a powerhouse cast, in an exquistely photographed, compulsively paced stunner of a show.
Thanks to Kim Selling of Seattle’s THE STRANGER website for putting Chicago Native, Jamila Woods on my radar. In a decade where we have lost so many great voices, it is nice to know new great voices rise to fill the vacuum.
Jamila Woods is one of those voices. You can sample her singles, HOLY and BLK GIRL SOLDIER courtesy of Spotify; and if you like it as much as I do, listen to her whole 2016 album HEAVN (if you can find it).
‘Jamila Woods made one of my favorite albums of 2016, HEAVN.Intricately arranged and weeping with the weight of its own gifts, each track of that album ripped through topics like police brutalty and raising a community as a Black woman with grace and fury and light.’
-Kim Selling, THESTRANGER