Sunday, August 30, 2009

Jay's Review: Cravings

Another of my DVD reviews for the fantastic DVDsnapshot.com. Have you seen it?

CRAVINGS
OFFICIAL SYNOPSIS:
Nina, a troubled teen, is fixed on an uninterrupted feast of destruction when she's forced to confront her immortality and twisted bloodlust. Trapped between light and dark, psychosis and reality, the living and the dead, she'll stop at nothing to satiate her cravings. Every addiction has a price, and usually it's the cost of a life. Her price will be life too... but never her own.

OUR TAKE:
The DVD packaging is a little misleading as true vampirism isn't what's going on in Cravings. Steven, a recently widowed psychiatrist who's about to lose his mother, starts also losing his grip on reality when he's confronted with Nina, a teenage cutter who's harboring some very nasty appetites. Is she a vampire teenage frustrated with a single mom? Is he being haunted by the wife who's image is everywhere? Is she signaling him from beyond the grave or does he just need a better plumber?

Subtler and quieter than most horror films coming out lately, Cravings is more a psychological study that gets more disturbing as it unfolds. Sound, pacing and atmospheric imagery full of rich reds, blues, and pinks give the film's mundane Welsh reality a haunting edge. They add a sophisticated edge to this creeper of a sinister story. With questions of what's in one's head and the violations of medical ethics, you won't be sure if madness is on the agenda in Steven's mind or Nina's. With one truly great "oh, no, she didn't" moment 68 minutes in* and an ending that takes a nasty turn a la Audition put a tasty, rewarding cap on this chilling little thriller. Worth a watch for any fan of dark, character-driven horror.

SPECIAL FEATURES:
Not much, as is typical for a Lionsgate horror release. The DVD auto-launches the following trailers (which are ALL RED BAND, so you know they show something approaching the goods)

-jarring trailer for a Halloween rip-off featuring campers and a killer in a clown mask named FRAYED
-A conspiracy flick involving Danny Trejo and Lance Henriksen and reanimator fluid in a mind-fuck movie called NECESSARY EVIL
-Lots of trailers come together to spoof Blair Witch one AND two with A little Evil Dead mixed in DEAD WOOD
-THE LAST RESORT (see the last blog post) and commercials for BREAK.COM and FEARNET
The menu offers scene selections and subtitles in English and Spanish, along with a previews page featuring Cravings and "Also from Lionsgate", which leads back to the autolaunch trailers.

CONCLUSION:
You'll be trying to decide if the horrors of drinking blood or the total violations of medical ethics are scarier in Cravings. That aside, it's a dark little thriller that takes some nice veers into nightmarish imagery.
With lots of blood, some nudity, and a few salty words, it's not one for the kiddies, but it is a disturbing little drama of a horror film that you may well find worth the ride. It's quiet, but it has a lingering bite.

OVERALL PICTURE:
Movie: B
Extras: D

Jay's Review: The Last Resort

My review of The Last Resort is up at DVDsnapshot.com... be sure to check the site out for lots of fantastic DVD news and reviews... and a little column called Jay's Prime Cuts.



THE LAST RESORT
Official Synopsis:
Paradise has gone to Hell.
When a group of five girlfriends heads for the tropics, they relax, hit the beach and step out for a night of partying. All is fun and games, until someone gets hurt. Robbed by their tour guide and left for dead, the girls take shelter in an old abandoned resort. This vacation might have been the time of their lives, but The Last Resort will most likely be the time of their deaths.

Our Take:
Sometimes you wonder where to start, and sometimes you wonder why you should.
Especially when there’s nothing here. The Last Resort seems to be a “tourists wander into a haunted environment and are confronted with their inner evil” story, but it’s so brief it’s hard to tell. It was an hour into the 75 minute running time before a) the "evil" kicked in and b) I finally got the lead characters names straight. Take out the padding of party scenes and shots of the desert and this is a 20 minute student film project expanded into a nearly full-length feature.

The movie dips into actual plot-clarifying exposition and action like a rock skipping across the pond. Brief and occasional bits of jumbled clich├ęs bob up to move the action along; like a Mexican Fortune Teller warning of evil (who by the way, is really overly dressed. This may be the only Tijuana street vendor having "a Chico's kind of day.") or the possessed virgin suddenly becoming a wonton, murderous succubus. What little action there is gets crammed into the last half hour and it's hard to tell what's happened to who when you still can't hardly tell them apart. It's been done before, and you've seen it in longer, better, fuller films than this.

Special Features:
The Last Resort offers audio only in 5.1 Dolby Digital with Subtitles offered in English and Spanish. The following trailers are offered:
-The Last Resort, a red-band trailer that gives the impression this is Donkey Punch meets Texas Chainsaw with some implied monster action... like maybe this will be an EEEEVIL resort. Mostly off the mark.
-Frontier(s): The Unrated Director’s Cut, French Gorenography in the Hostel/Saw tradition…
-The Slaughter, Topless witches and The Evil Dead’s Necronomicon join forces to kill cannon fodder?
-advertisement for Break.com; a site that evidently collects web clips of people doing really stupid things, a la Jackass.

Widescreen presentation, this film is rated R.

Conclusion: The Last Resort isn't really a bad film. It's just barely a film. Everything's presented passably but don't let the alluring cover art fool you, as both the bikinis and beach are disposed of pretty quickly. Some passable cinematography and well executed flashes of minimalist gore are all you're getting here. There's a kernel of a much better movie here... or rather a bowl of unpopped kernels from pictures like Hostel, Killer Party, All Saint's Day, and others. Buyer beware.

Overall Picture:
Movie: D
Extra Features: D

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Kissin' Time

A lovely photo-montage from Impact Cincinnati's leg of the recent Great National Kiss-In - a little event designed to remind people that love trumps hate. Enjoy!



...and a "Song o' the Day," Marianne Faithfull's "Kissin' Time".

Monday, August 24, 2009

Jay's Review: The Tiger's Tail

Here's my most recent review to appear on DVDsnapshot - check it out!

THE TIGER’S TAIL

OFFICIAL SYNOPSIS:

In a society divided by haves and have-nots, wealthy Irish capitalist Liam O'Leary has it all. But now, Liam is being stalked by a menacing look-alike, intent on stealing away everything he has: his job, his wife, and his sanity. Liam must fight to stay alive and uncover the shocking secret of his past.


OUR TAKE:

I'm pretty sure John Boorman started writing this film while dwelling on the proverb "What does it profit you if you gain the whole world but lose your soul?" The Tiger's Tail, (named for a reference to the "Celtic Tiger" economic boom that Ireland enjoyed in the late 90s and early 00s) tells the story of a wealthy, successful, and stressed-out businessman, the most-Irish Liam O'Leary, who finds a mysterious double following him. This other is seemingly intent on taking over his life; overleveraged business and chilly, estranged family included. Questions of identity and recognition abound as Liam learns about his troubled past, the loss of his present, and the questions that will be his future.

While the film gets off to a languorous start, the pacing and acting engage the viewer into staying for the full ride. While the mystery is dispensed with quickly, the story has well-trod elements that play out in a mesmerizing way thanks to John Boorman's experienced direction and excellent cast. Brendan Gleeson's Liam and the Doppelganger are both multi-layered performances. He's playing a man in full, and it carries the film so well that after you watch it the smoke clears and you see the story to me more simple and direct than you thought.

Liam's birth family is fraught with secrets and he frequently engages people who're in the process of losing their own memories and identities just as he's questioning his own. However, his home life seems to be just a Greek chorus of two. His son serves to bring up possibilities about identity: doppelgangers, clones, and engage in debates about communism (his father is the "one" profiting from the "many," and all). Kim Cattrall plays a wife who goes from chilly with the husband to falling back in love through the replacement. She has thudding lines about his being a new man and seems only an Irish version of the more comedic "Social X-Ray" wife she played in The Bonfire of the Vanities. Though she's played such characters before, she does bring a spark of real, honest life to a character who's just about unconquerable in her canned reactions.

This is a nice, quiet gem with familiar elements. Just because they're familiar though doesn't make them unworthy of a watch.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

TRAILERS:
Mila Kunis and Peter Stormare in Boot Camp, which seems like a classing-up of a women's prison movie channeled through the bad-teen rehab featured on every other episode of Maury Povich.
The Betrayed - Melissa George has to kill her hubby Christian Campbell.
Laura Vandervoort (Smallville) and Jason Lewis-clone Chris Carmack are in Into The Blue 2: The Reef. I'm sure it makes you long for the depth and gravitas of the first film.

MENU OFFERINGS:
Just Play, Scene Selections and Language Selection:
Audio: English 5.1 and Dolby Surround
Subtitles: English or None
This film runs 107 minutes and is rated R

CONCLUSION:
A man with everything has it all taken away and has to learn who he really is when he's literally confronted with himself. There's little here to offend and not much flash. It's a film for adults, not necessarily due to content, but to content. This is a story about the cross-roads reached in middle age and in marriages. Also, it's about resolving family secrets. Mostly, it's a fine Irish yarn from a very accomplished director with a good cast and the occasional flash of dry, dark wit. I think it's a rewarding watch.


OVERALL PICTURE:
Film: B
Extras: F

Saturday, August 22, 2009

A Glorious Mess

So last night we went and saw "Ingloroius Basterds" and I'm still trying to process it. A few notes and thoughts...

1) While I don't often rave about an actor in a movie, Christoph Waltz is an absolute genius. As the evil, opportunistic Col. Landa, he has the kind of character I'd assume most actors would literally kill for. He's the real star of the movie and I'm definitely going to seek out some of his previous films. He's a German actor with a long list of credits (none I'm familiar with) and Gerard Depardieu's nose. Either oozing evil or charming the pants off the audience... or even just eating a pastry, you can NOT look away.

2) The French actress Melanie Laurent is also new to me but worth seeking out. She looks like Helen Slater (though Andy said Rachel Hunter)and her character is the real heroic lead of the movie. In one scene, she's set up as the ultimate Frenchwoman visual icon, smoking her cigarette in a wine bar while reading. Her character gets to turn around two film stereotypes. She's the final word on "A woman putting on her warpaint" (loving imagery and a surprising dash of David Bowie's music)and her Shoshana gets to show you the reality behind the romanticized film tale of a soldier romancing a local girl. Instead of romantic pap, we get to see the reality of someone wanting nothing to do with a brash invader.

3) I was a little disturbed at the end of the movie when the audience is applauding and some guys start chanting "USA! USA!" Not only were they living the "ugly American" stereotype, but really it'd be more accurate to spout "Lone French Woman! Lone French Woman!"

4) Long-windedness. The first scene has a helluva payoff, but come on, I swore it'd be 15 minutes of 2 guys chatting over a glass of milk - and it pretty much was. Later, I'm sitting there going "if they play this ENTIRE card game I'm going to lose it"... and sure enough they do. Thankfully the dialogue is good and the acting incredible but, man alive, wrap it up already! My theory is the director's cut is actually shorter.

5) The final sequence. A scene of characters moving through a crowded theatre lobby is better choreographed than you've seen in ages. It's rare to actually get a sense of space and location in a movie. The end is an almost pornographic bit of wish fulfillment with some stunning images. A projected face on a flaming screen and against smoke are two images from this movie you'll see pop up time and time again.

6) Is Brad Pitt pretty much playing Clark Gable or is it just me? Eli Roth's accent is also off-the-hook awful. While a lovely man who photographs well, what he really needs to do is stop acting and start making me a full-length version of Thanksgiving. (I'm also wanting real movies made out of Don't and Werewolf Women of the S.S., thank you very much)

7) Much like "District 9" kept me thinking"The Office meets Aliens", the appearance of B.J. Novak totally takes me out of the war picture. TV stars in movies can be an iffy proposition. Same with Mike Myers in a lot of makeup showing up as a British intelligence agent. Once he whips out the exaggerated accent, you're back in Austin Powers territory.

8) This one goes all over the place stylistically. One character is introduced like "Shaft," there's two plot exposition moments narrated by Samuel L. Jackson. I'm still not sure if it adds up to something more than a bunch of wild, incredible parts. I'm not sure I care. It's a heckuva ride.

Again, just a few thoughts and impressions. Not a real review, just processing a wild experience of a movie. I definitely recommend seeing it.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Jay's Review: Big Man Japan

Here's another review I wrote for DVDsnapshot.com, so check it out!

Big Man Japan

Official Synopsis:

BIG MAN JAPAN is an outrageous portrayal of an original superhero. As Big Man Japan, Daisato inherited the role of defending Japan against a host of bizarre monsters. He receives high-voltage electroshocks which transform him into a stocky, stick-wielding giant several stories high. However, where his predecessors were revered as national heroes, he is an outcast among the citizens he protects.

Our Take:

Big Man Japan” is one of those films that is probably best seen cold, ignorant of what will develop as the story goes along (so reviews may not help here). The reason I say this is that the story unfolds with a marvelous invention/ It opens like a rather dull documentary following a man who's not only pathetic but not that deluded about that fact. He's in a rut. The average man on the street doesn't like him. You learn he has an unusual job and an estranged family in little, honest bits and pieces... then the special effects show up and “Big Man Japan” makes a big turn off the beaten path.


It also would help you to have had a childhood like I did with lots of Saturday reruns on USA of the whole Godzilla movie cycle. (Any experience with “Ultraman” or even the “Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers” will give you extra credit.) Breaking up the long documentary sections are quick, satirical, CGI versions of old “Men in Rubber Suits on City sets” Japanese Monster movies. They've certainly got wit. “The Strangling Monster” has a comb-over and stretches like he's got Sansabelt arms. “The Evil Stare Monster” has a body like a hairy chicken, spindly arms, and a long, retractable penis stalk that ends in a giant eye.

Just let that one sink in for a while. Especially as he's followed by a “Stink Monster” who discretely flashes a dangling breast and then... presents... a little later on.

Hitosi Matumoto directs and stars as Daisato, the superhero known as “Big Man Japan VI.” While the storytelling hops between quick, funny (tho mean-spirited) CGI fight and long dissections of a rather washed-up man trying to keep his head held high as he plods through his unusual life, Matumoto isn't afraid to let little moments shine. A visit to a grandfather who casts a big shadow resonates with anyone who's seen dementia develop with a family member. The “He said, She said” pair of “interviews” about his marriage subtly and accurately show how there can be two different perceptions of a relationship broken off by only one party. The end veers wildly off track tone-wise and I guess it's an affectionate homage to those “Man in Rubber Suit” films. I'm not experienced enough with that strain of Japanese film history to tell for sure. It certainly feels and looks accurate to me, though I never recovered from the jokey, jarring shift.

Special Features:

The animated menu offers Scene Selection, Special Features, and Set-Up.

Set-Up offers Japanese audio in both 5.1 and 2.0 Dolby, subtitles in English and Spanish.

Special Features offers 16 deleted scenes and a 68 minute documentary “Making of Big Man Japan,” either with or without Director's commentary (also in Japanese). The feature with the commentary on is essentially double-subtitled but fairly easy to follow. The doc itself is something of a leisurely fly-on-the-wall chronology of the production. I found it pleasant but it's a feature you watch if you buy it, not if you rent it...

The trailers are for the 6-Shooter Film Series:

-”Let The Right One In” - Last year's icky adolescent vampire hit.

-”Special” - Michael Rappaport takes a drug that has him either developing or hallucinating super-powers. How this allows him to better stalk Lili Taylor isn't really made clear.

-”TimeCrimes” -the Spanish Time-travel thriller that my friends are praising but I haven't seen yet. The trailer only had me mildly intrigued while word of mouth has it a must see. That's a bad trailer in my book.

-”Eden Log” -a French Sci-Fi flick with some interesting imagery that sold me on checking the film out. There seem to be underground criminals and nasty tree roots?

-”Donkey Punch” -Chavs ruin boating and Majorca vacations for me forever in a sex and death thriller in the “Dead Calm” vein. Worth checking out...

-”Big Man Japan” - Hey, it's our main feature! ”Big is Beautiful”

The packaging is a simple case. This film is rated PG-13 and runs 108 minutes long.

Conclusion:

This one starts out proving that boring documentaries (or, rather, mockumentaries) that study the minutia of our lives are really a universal language. Then it whips out giant monsters who sling eyeball-studded penises and an ending right out of “Godzilla v. Everybody.” I can't recommend it for the kids because these monsters aren't kid friendly... and teens will probably get bored by the long stretches of painfully real underachievement. Adults with a taste for culty cinema who're willing to enjoy a nice, humorous satire with bite will find a lot to enjoy here.

Overall Picture:

Movie: B

Extras: B-

Like Christmas morning...

Friday was a banner day here in Big Lug Land… much like Christmas morning, the FedEx man came in his big white sleigh and brought the new laptop. An Inspiron 1545, it may not seem like much to you, but for me it represents a big step up from the Frankenstein machine I’d kept alive probably 2 years longer than was humane.

Expect more posting now that it’s a) easy to do on the go and b) less likely (so far, keep your fingers crossed) to crash mid-composition!

There's an obligation with a new "toy" like this to make it work FOR me instead of just playing. There'll be a lot more writing, mark my words (pun intended).

Friday, August 7, 2009

Jay's Review: The Color of Magic

Here's my take on the Terry Pratchett TV mini-series, "The Color of Magic", in a slightly different for than how it appears on DVDsnapshot.com


The Color Of Magic

Official Synopsis:


Some wizards are born heroes. Others must fight for greatness, like failed sorcerer Rincewind (David Jason). When a gung-ho visitor to the Discworld (Oscar-Nominee Sean Astin, Lord of the Rings) enlists him as a guide, Rincewind learns that only he can take on dark wizard Trymon (Tim Curry) and restore balance to the troubled land. Based on Terry Pratchett’s classic story, this adventure is packed with angry Druids, Barbarians, fire breathing dragons and mountain trolls. Featuring Christopher Lee (Lord of the Rings) as the voice of Death, The Color of Magic proves that wizards need only one spell- as long as it’s the right one.


Our Take:

First off, I have to confess I’ve never read any of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels but have heard them widely praised. I’m not sure this TV mini-series adaptation of the first two novels in the series (The Color of Magic and The Light Fantastic) is faithful to the text or will bring readers to them, but it’s certainly charming.

The very opening scene establishes a cloud-covered view of a planet much like Earth... except it’s a flat plate resting on the backs of four elephants, who are themselves on top of a giant flying space tortoise. This leads to Astrozoologists lowering a quaint (and doomed) bathysphere over the side of the world to establish this fact. They’ll later mount a second expedition to discover the turtle’s sex.

That’s a set up that should give you a good sense of the playful and fun-for-most-all- ages adventure you’re getting into here. A medieval fantasy culture (with notes of more advanced technology when needed) is seen through the eyes of a flower-shirted tourist carrying a camera right out of The Flintstones. He meets up with David Jason (now bearing an amazing resemblance to Maggie Smith in the Harry Potter movies) as the incompetent apprentice wizard Rincewind. Tim Curry (over-savoring every vowel) as the bad guy countering their adventures as an wizard killing his way to the top of the wizard heap in a manner right out of Kind Hearts and Coronets.

It’s light and none-to-serious, quickly picking up to pace after a dragging first half hour –there’s a lot of narration (courtesy of Brian Cox) to set things up on the outset. Get through that and this is sparkling, family-friendly adventure. Maidens are saved and dragons breathe fire. There’s a really nice sequence of upside-down battle with magic swords. Adventures proceed at a rapid pace, with the end of part one being the biggest literal cliff-hanger imaginable…

Special Features:

None. The animated menu gives you the option to “Play Part One” (101 minutes), “Play Part Two” (95 minutes), and “Scene Selection.”

No audio selections and no subtitles. The sound is default English 5.1. This was a TV mini-series, and as such is Not Rated.

Conclusion:

While you have to pay attention to narration and it’s a little draggy at the get-go, The Color of Magic quickly turns into a whiz-bang family-friendly fantasy adventure. It’s playful, humorous, and clean. The only real worry is that Tim Curry chews the scenery with such gusto you’ll fear your television will fracture.

If you’ve shown your kids “Lords of the Rings” they may just find this more accessible. Only the youngest may be frightened by the swordplay (including a few impaled peasants) or the droll, skull-faced Death who keeps popping up. Fantasy fans and those liking adventure in the spirit of rapid-fire Saturday serials will also find a lot to like here. Namely, a charmingly cozy fantasy adventure, perfect for a rainy day.

Overall Picture:

Movie: B-
Extra Features: D

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

A New Crush: Google Analytics

So I just signed up today for Google Analytics. Big props go out to my generous neighbor Troy for sharing so much of his time and giving me my first real lesssons on the tool. The more I learn about search engines and keywords the more interested I become. I'd known the tools were out there but this was a big eye-opener for me... I had no idea they could do so much!

I'm excited and incredibly curious to find out what it'll tell me about this blog. I also expect to be humbled by those results. They recommend you wait 24 hours before the information will start showing up... absolute torture.

I'm finally ready to learn more about my traffic and to figure out who I can generate more. Not out of any sort of greed, mind you... just that I'd like to expand my little online footprint.

(I want big feet virtually as well as in real life, evidently...)

Monday, August 3, 2009

Jay's Prime Cuts: Number Two... Y'all know comics are ready-made movie properties, right?

This is the second of my "somewhat Monthly" column articles over at DVDsnapshot.com. This month I take a look at Comic Book properties, which can make terrific straight-to-video animated films with a ready-made market. What got me thinking about it is the (now recently released) Green Lantern movie, which I, of course, left out of the article...

THE BEST ANIMATED MOVIES YOU HAVEN'T SEEN YET: WHY NOT ADAPT MORE COMIC BOOKS?


I'm going to take a sidetrack from the promised "Trash Cinema" for this column because I got to reflecting on something. Lately, and I'm expecting it's in response to increasing "grown-up" life pressures, I find myself returning to the juvenalia of my youth. Namely, I've become a hard-core Comics reader again.


I was a huge comics fan all through my childhood but pretty much gave buying them up cold-turkey at 18. College - with all the journeys of self-discovery and limited income it implies - beckoned. For the last decade I've kept a toe in the water. Picking up a graphic novel here and an issue collection there, I remained apprised of developments. Friends kept me updated with stories going on in the universes of "The Big Two," Marvel and DC. Toddmichael was dead on about Power Girl (those who know, know).


Part of being a comics fan is that you keep up with the movies and cartoons spun off of them. Even as a kid, I never understood why the stories couldn't just be spun off into animation. "It's all right there," I'd say. Adaptations alientate the hardcore fan in what they alter or water down for consumption by the masses – or as what it's really known to be, accessibility. While these characters and myths are incredibly adaptable and flexible, open to shaping themselves to whatever of your personal pathos you need them to; as ready-made entertainments, they're ripe for the plucking. It's easy to shave off the continuity back-bending comics writers get into to explain themselves out of boxes – it's easier to just leave Power Girl Power Girl, as was eventually proven right – and still keep the core of a ripping yarn.


Live action adaptations can be hit or miss. "Superman: The Movie" and "Batman" took over the world when they hit; even with all the story-tweaks they brought that left them both a little undersatisfying in the end. The "Flash" had a weird velveteen costume, rippled for your pleasure. The "Sable" TV series is as yet uncollected, a cold comfort indeed. The non-Superhero properties fare a bit better, though. "The Crow" was a dark, goth slice of heaven that hit at just the right time. (Being tinged with the real-life sadness that somewhat reflected the loss in the story never stopped haunting that film.) "Wanted" diverged wildly in some (most) ways from it's source material, but at least the fantastic, surreal traincrash and Santa Angelina (now spoofing herself while bending those bullets) made up for it.


The DC superheroes have always fared better than the Marvel ones. Is it because they're more "cut and dried" good v. evil fables than Marvel's introspective morality plays? Or is it just something Warner Brothers got right? (For every "Batman Begins," there's an "Elektra.")


The "X-Men" films stripped the big, dense, sprawling Chris Claremont epic -15 years of serial stories – down to a mobile of a skeleton frame, but they mostly worked. The first film picked and choosed enough to satisfy fans and the general filmgoer alike. "X2" brought back some of the darkness that had accumulated over the years – and played Jean Grey's death as noble self-sacrifice rather than the rushed, impulsive, editorially-dicated suicide it was in the books.


And then there's the "Watchmen." Pour millions into a complicated novel of a comics mini-series (yes, it was a series before it was the Grande Dame of Graphic Novels) that seems a little simpler and shows it's bones more in retrospect; and you get a big, sprawling film that actually plays it's weaknesses for strengths and does it right. Well, most weaknesses. The use of "Hallelujah" was unforgivable... It presented it's world as what it was, and an audience could take or leave it. (And if you take out all the slo-mo, an audience may discover it's only 90 minutes long, heh...)




Animation always called to me as being "where it's at," though. The fantastical can be hemmed in by green screens and the laws of physics. Pen and ink only know the limits imposed on them by the imagination.


As a kid, I loved "Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends." I was never clear how they installed all that flipping, computer-console backed furniture into that apartment, but it mostly took characterizations straight from the books. The animated film adapations coming out now are following that ideal.


"Superman: Doomsday" comes close to it's source material storyline. It cherry picks out of a year of "Death of Superman" stories to come up with a storyline that skips across the surface, hits a few highlights, but makes for a satisfying self-contained hour of entertainment. "Doctor Strange" adapts the origin story, mythos, and years of fantastical animation into a freestanding story about magic and maturation.


It's "Ultimate Avengers" and "Justice League: The New Frotier" who get it most right, though. Mostly leaping straight from the stories in the books, they show that graphic novel structure (and all monthly series seem to write now for the eventual six-issue story-arc collections) can easily adapt to cinematic flow. "Avengers" comes from Marvel's Ultimates line. Reinterpreted sixties origins with the new market's darker, pathos-ridden realistic stylings; it's gritty, propulsive and a bang-on shoot 'em up. These pop-culture icons the general viewer may not know well are just askew and new enough to be fresh.


"New Frontier" is the pinacle to date, I think. Taking even the aesthetics and character design straight from Darwyn Cooke's illustration – even the wide-screen framing of the images on the printed page – it's candy-colored pop art with a self-contained story. Comics fans are used to the stories of old being repackaged and reinterpreted yet again. Newcomers to the stories will find them rich and full even if they don't know how many storytellers laid the foundations. A fresh-scrubbed optimism in a 50s setting, it's as luminous and openly-sketchy as "Ultimate Avengers" is darkly, densly lined.


There's as many different illustrative styles as there are stories. I say keep the flow of these films coming. Kids like them, adults like them, and I'm betting they turn a profit and genrate loyal fans. Decades of work by creative talents have laid the seeds, and the new breed may prove to be adept at transitioning their work to movement. Mr. Cooke did a fab job, but just building on a legacy of animation design by the likes of Alex Toth and Jack Kirby.


If it's never viewed to be as high-culture as a Disney cartoon, that's okay. I like dancing teapots as much as the next cat, but if you gave me ninety minutes of moving Kirby I'd never leave the living room. I know lots of people who'll keep rewatching and keep reading -just like the True Believers they are.



BATMAN

SUPERMAN

SABLE: THE TV SERIES

THE FLASH: THE TV SERIES

THE CROW

WANTED

X-MEN

X2

WATCHMEN

BATMAN BEGINS

ELEKTRA

SUPERMAN: DOOMSDAY

DOCTOR STRANGE

ULTIMATE AVENGERS

JUSTICE LEAGUE: THE NEW FRONTIER



Sunday, August 2, 2009

Jay's Review: El Camino

This is review number three over at DVDsnapshot. This time I take a look at a road trip movie (watched, no less, during a road trip) called "El Camino."

EL CAMINO




OFFICIAL SYNOPSIS


Set against a changing American landscape, “El Camino" follows Lily (Elizabeth Moss) as she travel across the country with Gray (Chris Denham) and Elliot (Leo Fitzpatrick) with their friends ashes in hand. The film is full of surprises. As these young adults confront their unrealized selves and their grief, nothing happens the way we expect.



OUR TAKE


How can you have “The Great American Road Trip” in a Volvo Station Wagon?

“El Camino,” which the film takes pains to point out means “the journey” or “the path,” is the story of a road trip involving three people with nothing in common beyond a dead friend. The “official synopsis” is a bit misleading as our main character is actually more Elliot than of Lily, and he remains something of a cipher the whole way through.

In this setting of “road trip,” what’s actually tackled is loss and youth. Loss in the sense of losing touch with our childhood, our friends, and our parents. Youth in the sense of the great American extended perpetual adolescence. Gray has daddy issues and fears being one just like his dear old. Elliot lost both his parents and friend (from their foster home days). He holds the world at bay with his video camera. Lily is that elusive creature that only exists on celluloid, the “indie film girl.” She’s a stripper who smokes, wears a lot of wigs, and acts like a free spirit. Watch out for Wes Studi as the “Magical Indian Mechanic.” He pops in and out fairly quickly to be the counterpoint of the good, present father; mentioning a son in Iraq who’s implied to clearly be possessed of goals, focus, and maturity.

Phone calls home come in threes to show progress. Encounters with children (don’t they say just the darndest things?) also come in threes. Everything is laid out with tight story structure, arcs planned in screenwriting 101 structure.

While there’s little here you haven’t seen before, that’s not to say this isn’t a good film. Every road trip is unique, following its own rules and rhythms. This one is no different. With excellent music and shots of country flying by, it’s Americana at an even clip. These travel companions aren’t that empathetic, but are pleasant enough in their quiet moments to pleasurably pass the time with.


SPECIAL FEATURES

The disc starts straight to menu and offers four options: Play, Chapters, Setup, and Extras.

Setup will give you options for 5.1 Surround and 2.0 Stereo, along with a lovely photo of a rusted-out car. Don’t expect any subtitles.

Extras offers you:

- the trailer for the film

-a selection of out-takes offered with or without Director’s commentary

-“Gravity,” a 17 minute short-film by the same director. This one involves an American and a German soldier, both trapped in the trees by their parachutes. Their brief connection feels honest. Worth a watch.

The film is 87 minutes long and unrated.


CONCLUSION

An Indie Film’s Indie film, this in a somewhat aimless journey into the lands of the protracted American adolescence. Elizabeth Moss is breaking out with “Mad Men,” and turning in fine, quiet work here with a character that’s not realistic but a pleasant travel companion. The characters follow their arcs tightly, but the landscape flies by as lulling as it does during a real road trip.

There’s no nudity and a splash of strong language, but on the whole you can be a teen up and find something to take away from this.


OVERALL PICTURE

Movie: B-
Disc: B-

A big purchase

Well, I did it I bought a new computer. A laptop.

After years of kvetching and pining and being wistful for one while putting up with what I have -- a jerry-rigged Frankenstein machine only still puttering through the graces of the all wise and powerful Naladahc working magic a few months ago.

I'm excited. It'll offer a lot of mobility (though I don't plan to take it on the road anytime soon). It's got a bottomless memory and 4GB of RAM, so it'll be a long time before I get too stressed out about it running slowly. I thought about buying one in red and calling it "The Flash," but I don't have THAT much faith in it...

I promise to take good care and not clutter it up and I can't wait until it arrives... in one to two weeks evidently, according to Dell and Costco. Good price, too. Was cheaper as a Costco online deal than it was through Dell's Outlet website. Regardless of how you feel about big box stores, sometimes you just have to shop with them.

Dell 1545 T4200 2.0 GHz

8x DVD±RW Dual Layer
7-in-1 Media Card Reader
Wireless 1397 802.11g Half-Mini Card


Warranty & Returns:

  • Dell 1-Year Limited Hardware Warranty (with 2 year extension)

Operating System:

  • Microsoft® Windows® Vista Home Premium 32-bit (w/ Windows 7 Upgrade included)

Processor & Memory:

Drives:

  • 500GB 5400RPM SATA Hard Drive
  • 8X DVD+/-RW Dual Layer Drive

Graphics & Video:

  • 15.6" Wide XGA Widescreen Display (1366x768)
  • Integrated Intel Graphics Media Accelerator X4500HD (Shared)

Communications:

  • Dell Wireless 1397 802.11g Half Mini Card
  • Integrated 10/100 LAN

Audio:

  • Integrated High Definition Audio 2.0

I/O Ports & Slots:

  • 3 - USB 2.0
  • 7-in-1 Media Card Reader
  • 15-pin VGA Connector
  • RJ-45 (LAN)
  • AC Adapter Connector
  • Mic In
  • Line Out
  • 34mm ExpressCard Slot
  • 1 Half Mini-Card

Productivity Software:

  • Microsoft® Works 9.0

Additional Software:

  • McAfee SecurityCenter 30 day trial
  • Adobe® Acrobat® Reader
  • Roxio Creator Basic

Power Supply:

  • 4-cell Battery

Additional Information:

  • Dimensions: W 14.7" x D 9.6" x H 1.02" front - 1.48" back
  • Weight (Approximately): 5.8 lbs