Friday, 30 April 2010
...And then you'll all leave my blog in droves.
Wheat from the chaff, motherfuckers!
... Don't leave me.
Wednesday, 28 April 2010
I have no faith in the final product.
But why should I stop? I've been at this for nearly a year now, and to stop now it just ridiculous. Sure, the plot keeps getting twistier and more insane, but fucking come on, 'The DaVinci Code'?. I think I can provide something much more less shit than that, right?
So anyway. Music. A lot of it. Nine Inch Nails to Led Zeppelin to Tiger Lou. Not any one genre, mind. Not all of it with lyrics. Some of it could be classed as noise-- I mean, Clint Mansell's instrumental scores are immense, same as Charlie Clouser's. And God knows I love me some Combichrist (though I'll admit, a lot of their instrumental stuff-- noise-- does sound so similar... I just don't care), and Nine Inch Nails are my bread and butter-- but check out Ghosts I-IV... not what you would expect from the guy who won a Grammy with the lyric "...gotta listen to your big time hard line bad luck fist fuck...", right?
(Obviously the 'Grammy committee' weren't all "Oh, 'fist fuck'! What the music industry has been missing!", but come on. Bear with me.)
So a lot of it is music. Inspiration. Good stuff.
And a lot of it is information. Stuff I've read and I've heard or I've seen. Characters are people I know, mixed and matched and smudged together so you wouldn't recognise them. My main character is someone I saw in a low budget horror film*. I saw him, half way through writing the novel, and I was like "Holy shit, what's he doing there?" because that was my guy. That was Taylor Mahn, all flesh and blood and broken pieces of spirit, that was him right there. How am I supposed to take that?
(I took it well)
(*'Masters of Horror: Dear Woman', by the by. Damn you John Landis, you ruin me! In an alternate reality Brian Benben would play the lead role in the film adaptation of my novel.)
And then the literary references. Come on. Warren Ellis, Neil Gaiman, James Robinson. I owe my style to them. Heck, one's a comic book writer (they're all comic book writers, but Ellis and Gaiman have at least had novels published!) but that doesn't stop him being an inspiration (some time soon I might take a break from the self deprecation and post up a list of Must Read comics, but until then...). HP Lovecraft, even though I'm not as knowledgeable about his work as I should be (I'm more knowledgeable about the man), is a big influence, as anything with gods and monsters should be. I mean, come on:
(That translates to "In his house at R'lyeh, dead Cthulhu waits dreaming." for those of you interested)
And then comes the television stuff. Oh, God. This is the worst. Supernatural, for instance, is not as big an influence as it looks like it should be. I started writing this before some of the major plot stuff started moving in Season Four, and I was reaaally pissed when things started coinciding. I don't want this to be fan fiction because that would just hurt, but it might appear to be, right? Not that Sam and Dean and Castiel (with a little help from Bobby) are running around trying to stop the apocalypse, right? But still, some of the characters are present (Lucifer, for one. Duh) that can cause people to point at me and say I'm a hack.
I don't want that!
But anyway, I'm posting this because I'm winding down from some hardcore novel writing tonight. Things are coming together. I'm prowling around the hardest scenes to write, so obviously I'm procrastinating. But soon I'll be done. I think I'll hit a year.
Monday, 26 April 2010
I could talk about it paragraph after paragraph, but instead...
...I'll just share it with you.
Sunday, 25 April 2010
Tuesday, 20 April 2010
Oh, balls, might as well just open a new document and weep.
Jude Law is likeable. I've never liked Jude Law but he delivers in this film because he doesn't allow himself to overtake the role, and in everything I've seen him in, he's Jude Law, brash, cockney, whatever-- irritating. But in playing Remy, I forgot all that because he was subdued, inhabiting the role as best he could with a cold determination I've never seen from him before. I could ignore my irrational hatred of him. The voice-over (always a risk in film, and especially when it comes to a first-time effort from a director, as this was with Miguel Sapochnik) was light enough that it wasn't too intrusive, and downright funny at times. Jude Law delivered when I expected nothing from him.
Forest Whitaker, on the other hand, is one of the best actors of his generation, and I have never been disappointed by his performance. Playing Jake, he brings a terrifying sense of humour to the role, with all the tics of a human being, and not an actor playing a character. He's terrifying, and throughout you're fearful of him becoming the villain, but it always veers away from him going over that edge-- even with the reveal of him having more to do with Remy's situation that previously thought-- so that the end, whilst a surprise, isn't big enough to make you go "Yeah, but what--?!"
Liev Schreiber, also another one of my favourite actors, plays slime-ball to the hilt, and his delivery of every line is wonderful. In the role of Frank he embodies corporate sleaze, and every time he came onto the screen he was a delight to behold. So, barring the fact I hate Jude Law, the cast was stellar, even though I had to check Wikipedia to actually remember who their characters were.
Thus, my first big problem:
The script was so thin on the ground that the only memorable moments were those that kicked you for attention. I remember the set pieces because they were wonderful and bloody at the same time. The characters were 2D at best, and you could sum them up with a few keywords and still have the same audience impact that they had on the screen. This film was a series of set pieces stringed together with dialogue instead of an actual cohesive whole, and there were certain leaps from one point to another that made no sense to me. If you've read my reviews before, you would know I'm a big fan of verisimilitude, the ability to truly believe the film. I'm a cynic, so I won't believe a film unless it tries hard to engage me, and for the most part films recently have delivered on that. "Kick-Ass" faltered near the end, "The Blind Side" had an excruciatingly irritating comic relief character. The stumbling point for "Repo Men" was the [re]introduction of the character of Beth, a throwaway character in an earlier scene, and someone who just happened to be around when Remy was at his lowest. Thus romance ensues, and it was just... strange. He loved her voice (Remy loves music, it's a weakness, more on that later) and then loved her for everything else later. She's apprehensive at first because he's a Repo Man, but eventually they fall in love and stick together. Bit of a reach, but fine, whatever. That bugged me.
The soundtrack to this film was immense. From the opening repossession scene punctuated by Remy slipping on his headphones and listening to "Sway" (a song you cannot go wrong with) as he cuts into his target, to the perfection of some of the closing scenes, UNKLE's "Burn My Shadow" and "Sing It Back" by Moloko. Nina Simone, Beck and others have appearances on the soundtrack and it was so sublime that I have to pick it up. If I was going to rate the film out of ten, it would go up two points on music alone. I adored it, and would listen to the whole thing on repeat if I had the time (oh, and I do).
Talking of the closing scenes, two songs and two scenes feature very much in my enjoyment of the film as a whole. I think you can take it by now that this is a spoiler zone, so if you don't want to ruin the film for yourself you can skip a paragraph or two, so, if you're still with me... the "Oldboy"-esque fight scene between Remy and a horde of Repo Men, with UNKLE blaring in the background as he cuts into them ("HACK! SAW!" being a dialogue highlight. You'll understand once you see it) was immense. And after that, the overtly erotic scene of Remy and Beth literally cutting into each other as they scanned their organs to fool the computer into "closing their accounts" was both horrifically visceral but perfectly done.
I've heard this film referred to as "torture porn" by some, but that's a misnomer. If anything, it's "gore porn", and not in the usual sense of the word. It doesn't revel in it's horror. Not really. There are perfectly timed cutaways as Remy and Jake go about their business, though one scene, with a nine year old and some open knee surgery were steady to the pointy of hilarity. This film knew it's target audience wasn't going to be the cultural elite (was that self deprecating of me?), and it catered to it perfectly (Hacksaw-eye-view!). The violence had a somewhat surreal normality about it, reminiscent of "A Clockwork Orange", and an early scene reminded me of the Kubrick classic when a sudden burst of violence appeared from nowhere, and a comparison like that can be nothing if not a compliment, correct? There was a workman-like effort from Miguel Sapochnik, a thorough, well-thought out direction that framed the film nicely. Kubrick would have approved. Probably. (Probably not).
Talking of "Oldboy", I have to admit, I was a bit concerned that the entire scene in the corridor was lifted from that film. Don't get me wrong, it deviated from it somewhat (it wasn't just one, steady, uncompromising shot) but there were moments that reinforced my idea that this film was a collage of other films put together into one whole. Check it out and you'll see what I mean. Also, I could have sworn I heard a musical beat from "The Matrix" during a chase scene as well, and all that coupled with the controversy with "Repo! The Genetic Opera" (apparently the creators of that film shopped it to Universal, who liked the concept but not the musical nature of the film, so take from that what you will) bubbled to the forefront my mind.
The fight scenes were well executed considering that this was Sapochnik's first feature, and there was a great use of the colour pallet utilised. The dark shadows of the "nest" ship early on in the film were brilliantly morbid, and echoed well later on in the film when Remy and Beth stumble into another nest of repossession jumpers. And later still, the stark contrast between Remy's grubby attire and the organ builders in the closing act-- all well done and beautiful. The explosions of blood-- and this doesn't apply just to this film, but all films recently-- took a distinctly Zack Snyder-esque turn on exploding out of any exposed artery, and the
I called the ending at the half-way point. The script fell victim to a trope known as Chekhov's Gun, coined by the noted short-story writer Anton Chekhov, who once said: "If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off. If it's not going to be fired, it shouldn't be hanging there." It's Foreshadowing 101. Time and again in this film were we exposed to elements that we'd meet again down the line. Lingering, knowing shots gave us the wink, and a litany of minute details were not forgotten by the writers Eric Garcia and Garrett Lerner. The type-writer, the hole in the floor, the M5 Neural Net, the Jammers, the lung costume, the four times Remy had been knocked unconscious and the curious fifth that takes place at half way through the film... all these elements were picked up on and tied up in a neat package before the credits rolled. I don't feel insulted, or robbed, I feel treated fairly-- the less involved viewer might be surprised, but I wasn't lied to. If you follow the clues you solve the mystery, even if there doesn't seem to be one. Kudos.
And now an element I think would divide viewers: I don't think the ending was a cop out. It could one way or the other, and with mention to Chekhov and his gun, I think it was satisfactory. I adored Jake's man-crush on Remy. If there was any subtext to the film it was Jake's love for that man. He beat him up in the playground when they were at school (and eventually, when they were grown men, at work too) , they were always together at bars, barbecues and repossessions. Jake tried his best to separate Remy from his wife (thus driving him into the arms of another woman. Oops) and then to keep their partnership intact. And it wasn't wholly un-reciprocated... the final scene at the beach, Remy at his happiest? Jake is right there. Ignore the attractive Chinese neighbour that Jake promises Remy-- it's all one massive beard situation. The film was the perfect cap to a solid film, and I am going to buy it on DVD in the hope that there's more. Brilliant stuff.
But anyway, due to recent events my political foundation has been shaken. I've always been a believer in the "two party system", if I'm allowed to call it that. The Government and the Opposition. Any other party is ancillary, unnecessary, because they'll never gain enough of a foothold in Parliament to create real change. Obviously, that's a very simplified version of the truth, but it holds up enough to be true-- in my eyes, at least. The Liberal Democrats were always the indecisive's choice, and nothing else. Not Left? Not Right? Vote Lib Dem. But with the way the world has been moving now, Labour-- who I always believed to be the Left-Wing party-- have moved away from their populist stand point and are now veering toward the Middle-Right. That's not good at all, because that makes the Government and the Opposition on the same page, for the most part. Sure, there are other distinguishing features-- the Conservatives and their privatisation and Labour (are they still New Labour at this point?) are all about the public services (aren't they?) but really, they're pretty Right Wing.
Lord Bell, former adviser to Thatcher (I refuse to call her 'Baroness', she raped this country and it's ideologies, and I refuse to personalise her in any way, therefore no first name for you) said the Conservatives were "stupid" for agreeing to the televised debates that pitched Gordon Brown, David (I was so tempted to call him 'Dave' then, and that scares me. 'Man of the people'?) Cameron and Nick Clegg against each other. It was "stupid" to have given Nick Clegg, leader of the Liberal Democrats, the same status as Brown and Cameron. That made me stop and think. Apparently, Cameron's sole campaign strategy was to simply destabilise Brown in the face of the people. He travels to working class establishment to working class establishment-- bakeries, breweries, food stockists, delivery services-- talking about "change". He's working from the Obama Paradigm of Change in the most heinous way possible. He's not playing politics (this is the root of my hate of politics, but I'll get to that later), and that's why I will never respect him.
The Liberal Democrats deserve an opportunity to be more than the "indecisives'" choice. I believed-- and I think that thousands, millions even, do too-- that they would never gain enough votes to truly affect change, so what was the point in voting for them in the first place? That opinion has changed. I'm done with Labour. They've had their time and they've not evolved with it, so the thick, monotonous leadership of Gordon Brown has to end (and even then, it shouldn't have even started-- remember how he's an unelected leader? Ouch) before it gets worse. I don't think he was doing a terrible job, and if it came down to it in a "two party" showdown, Labour all the way, but the real situation with politics is that there are dozens of parties vying for attention (some less deserving than others, sure) and I can't keep stumbling around screaming "Labour versus Conservatives!!" in the fanatical ring-announcer style of Michael Buffer, ignorant to the other parties.
Nick Clegg apparently delivered in the televised debates that took place recently. He offered a third choice that was always there but never really acknowledged. The Liberal Democrats suddenly became a force to be reckoned with-- isn't it grand? It shook the country to the core, it grabbed them by their shoulders and demanded their attention, because we're so bored with politics, we need that kind of face-slap. Our society is too concerned with buzz words (RECESSION! PAEDOPHILES! CREDIT CRUNCH! #-GATE! XYLOPHONE! (...Yeah, that last one was to see if you were still paying attention)) and slogans the newspapers can plaster on their front pages. The Brown/Cameron war was becoming old hat, and so it needed so much needed fuel to keep the media-pistons moving. Clegg became that fuel.
What I've been able to glean from headlines and out-of-date media coverage, is that Cameron was positioning himself as the Young to Brown's Old. New blood. New leadership. No one was paying Clegg any attention until recently. In fact, Cameron's latest election broadcast was an attack on Labour, because that's what he's good at. That all changed due to Clegg's ability to actually be charismatic (something all the other major leaders have stumbled at, recently) and get people talking. Witnessing this horrific turn of events, Cameron took a step back, breathed a bit, and then decided that the best way for the public to make a difference right now is to ignore the Liberal Democrats (paraphrasing, as ever).
He's scared. David Cameron is running scared because the Liberal Democrats are picking up steam, and if the election goes like people are predicting, Parliament is going to be Hung, and that basically means that Labour and the Liberal Democrats will be a Left-Centre tour de force and the Conservatives would be rendered sterile and ineffectual for a good long time. David Cameron won't be able to muster up an argument for a long time if the Conservatives lose this election. It would be a thrill to witness. Can you see what Cameron's doing? He's trying to reinforce the notion that I've held all my life. That this is a two-party deal, and no one else comes into it. And as soon as Cameron starts spouting rhetoric like that, I know that I'm wrong. Because I can't agree with that man, I simply can't, and it took a serious slap in the face by Nick Clegg to realise that. The Conservatives are running scared, and like I said... it's a thrill to witness. But that doesn't change the fact that Cameron is also reinforcing the method of which this election has been run so far. He's turning it into a playground of insults and hearsay. And now I'm going to tell you why I don't follow politics like I should:
I hate slagging matches.
I hate them on television, I hate them in papers, and I hate them in politics. Getting elected should be about offering a better way of life to the voters. Having vaguely followed the run up to the election this time around I'm horrified by the methods that both major parties (though I'm sure the Lib Dems have done it too, I've just not seen it) have undertaken to get attention. Slanderous billboards springing up in cities undermining Brown's leadership, or Cameron's lack of common sense. Insulting each other in printed word. What's the point? It's that kind of thing that makes me think that neither of these parties have anything to offer the world, and that they'd rather get elected on a "Na-na, we're better than you" platform. A "my penis is much bigger than yours" mind-set. What's the point of that, I ask you? Offer change. Politic's favourite buzzword, and like I said before, the main component of the Obama Paradigm.
Tony Blair told the Labour Party when he stepped down that the only way to continue on in power would be if they were "the change". Gordon Brown seems to be stuck in a very staid situation wherein he has to act as fireman to all the political fires that seem to spring up. Obama had The Recession and so did Brown. For Obama, it became a wildfire just as he stepped into the role of President. Poor guy. I blame Bush for the shape of America's economy, even though I know it was the whole bank-loan-loaning situation, because I'm an irrational Left Wing-er, but it was the previous administration's problem, and they left it for the present to deal with. Passing the buck on a hilariously terrifying level. Gordon Brown had it bad, and I believed until last week that he was the best man for the job because he knows what he's doing and he's doing his best. Cameron's taking pot-shots, and I hate his face with an irrational fury second to few. Since I was able to vote I voted Labour. Since those hypothetical debates wherein you were asked who you'd vote for, who you would support, it was always Labour. I don't know why. They were the best for the job at hand. The Conservatives were the political bogey-men. The Recession was not Gordon Brown's fault. He dealt with it as best he could. And now he's suffering for that, and I don't think he should have.
All in all, I've had my political foundation shaken to the core. No longer do I think a vote for the Liberal Democrats to be a waste of time. Before I thought if you didn't know much about either party, you could vote the Lib Dems with ease. I was wrong. It was stupid, ignorant position to have, and I think that the only option we have now is to phase the Conservatives out so I don't have to hear anything about David Cameron or Thatcher, and exist within a Labour/Liberal Democrats coalition-- because I don't think Nick Clegg, no matter how effective or charismatic he is, has the political stopping power to overthrow the current government, but I do think he's got it in him to overtake the Conservatives-- the Liberal Democrats' viewpoints and agenda tempered by an old guard sensibility... I don't know. I can't predict the results. But I can hope, can't I?
Tuesday, 13 April 2010
Such grand ideas. Such dreams. And they're like the ones you have when you're a child. You want to be a writer, or an artist, or a director, and you do stuff, and you consider them grand, and they're so tiny that it's barely worth the effort in talking about it.
Rewrites are coming. Big, meaty, fat rewrites. Whole characters needs to go, whole reactions. I was beginning to like this draft, too. In all it's unfinished glory. Well, live and learn! I'm not even sold on the title anymore, "The Chain" seems really... generic and non-specific. Ideas. Ideas...
Monday, 12 April 2010
Captain Richards and Lucy Jones are sitting in the squad room, he's holding his beer bottle, she's got a headphone in one ear, the other dangling in front of her. Her eyes have rolled back into her head, as per whenever she has a clichéd premonition.
1) Caption: NOW.
2) Lucy Jones: oh
3) Lucy Jones: HE'S COMING.
4) Captain Richards: HOW CAN YOU TELL?
Lucy turns to Richards, her eyes back to normal. She's looking peeved-- jokingly so, so stern eyes, slight smile, and he's drinking from the bottle.
1) Lucy Jones: DO I HAVE TO REMIND YOU ABOUT THE WHOLE PSYCHIC THING AGAIN?
2) Captain Richards: ...MAYBE.
We're now way back in the past, in Roman Lacuna's torture chamber. We're close up on the man who's about to be tortured to shit, tied to a table by leather straps (maybe more than just the few we had before, maybe he's really, impossibly tied down? Or maybe the straps are really thin and there are dozens of them, indenting his flesh?).
1) Caption: WAY BACK WHEN:
2) Roman Lacuna (off-panel, so no tail?) : WHEN I WAS BUT A BOY...
3) Roman Lacuna (off-panel, so no tail?): ...I USED TO PULL THE WINGS OF FLIES, ONE BY ONE.
Close on Roman Lacuna as he moves in so close to the torture victim, the closeness between them inherently uncomfortable, Roman's face a twisted expression of honest sharing and the kind of shit-eating evil you could imagine. He's holding a pair of vicious pliers-- razor sharp, jagged, crude, PAINFUL. And he's loving it.
1) Roman Lacuna: DID YOU KNOW THAT EVERY SINGLE FINGER ON YOUR HANDS ARE A LIE?
2) Roman Lacuna: I'M GOING TO MAKE YOU HONEST.
Sunday, 11 April 2010
Like I said before, Batman doesn't have to be kicking ass and taking names to be awesome. He can talk, and he can escape, or... he could do something else entirely.
During the first issue of Final Crisis, J'onn J'onzz, the Martian Manhunter, was viciously murdered by the Society [of Super Villains], led by the villaious Libra. In Final Crisis: Requiem the entire murder was expanded on (yay...) and the psychic Martian Manhunter sent a message to all his closest friends that relayed his memories into their heads. What followed is Batman's reaction to the "thought e-mail":
OK, yes, that's ultimate awesome. "After I bring them in." How brilliant is that? His grim determination in the face of all this madness-- this psychic fire. That's fantastic, that's Batman to a tee. He's determined, he's unstoppable, he's a monster of law enforcement. Right, later, the Justice League and all of J'onn's friends travel to Mars to put him to rest, and they say their goodbyes and the ones closest to him stay behind.
The last to leave? Batman. Why?
Why Batman Is Awesome #9: "Face reality, Harleen-- Joker had you pegged for hired help the minute you walked into Arkham."
Batman always looks brilliant because he's the best at what he does. And what that is exactly, is beating the bad guys. We all know the set-ups by now, the death-traps, the riddles, the murder mysteries that Bruce Wayne can solve with one hand tied behind his back or whatever the handicap of the week is.
We've seen him buried alive, sent hurtling through time, murdered by a god. And he's brilliant and he escapes, because Batman is indeed awesome. But sometimes the odds are against him, and he's up against the wall, and he fails, or he struggles or he falters, and even then... he'll prevail. Because he's Batman.
Harley Quinn debuted in the Batman animated series from the 1990s, surely the greatest animation ever put on the small screen-- so good it spawned sequel series, films, and blazed the trail for Superman and Justice League to get there too. I've said it once, and I'll say it again-- Kevin Conroy is my Batman. You can keep Christian Bale, he's nothing compared to this guy. Anyway, Harely debuted on this show, and her crowning moment was the episode called "Mad Love", which was then adapted into a comic book.
In which, Batman is awesome.
Right, the lowdown-- Harley has Batman in the ultimate death-trap. He's tied up nice and tight, and there's a tank of piranhas below. Harley approached the Joker, the love of her life, with this plan before, but he dismissed it because it wasn't his idea, so instead, she decided to act on it by her lonesome, to remove the one distraction from their lives-- Batman.
So Batman doesn't have his utility belt. Any of his gadgets. He's groggy from being upside down for so long. There are drugs in his system. He's screwed. But you know what he does have going for him?
His mouth. She begins spouting off about how this will bring Joker and her together, and he just... well, see for yourself.
So Harley calls the Joker, and the Joker is, obviously, furious. He storms over, punches Harley out of a window, and then frees Batman, apologetically. Then, he decides, what the Hell, he'll finish the job. But Batman is out of reach of the fish tank, he's got his bearings back, and the two brawl-- until Commissioner Gordon arrives and the Joker makes his escape, but...
(Batman got behind Joker on a moving train. Yeah, he's awesome.)
So Batman continues his verbal surgery on his enemies. And it's a beaut.
Boom. Drop the bomb. Batman really was screwed this time around, and his arch-enemy was the one to save him. The Joker is at his best in the animated show, I think. They balance homicidal lunatic and trickster perfectly, and he's never been at his best like this in the comics. In fact, whenever I read the Joker, I hear his dialogue as read by Mark Hamill, my favourite Joker, just as I read Batman's dialogue as Conroy. They're the epitome for me. The guys behind the show distilled all that was great about every character-- especially Batman-- and did beautiful things. I still miss that show. Anyway, I think I've proven my point once again: Batman is awesome.
Saturday, 10 April 2010
Friday, 9 April 2010
Thursday, 8 April 2010
Sunday, 4 April 2010
Agents of Atlas was a Marvel Comics miniseries released in 2006-- one of the many brilliant titles they début but eventually cancel due to the masses not appreciating the amazingness of the concept-- that had a full quota of badass every single chapter.
It led to a spin-off ongoing series (said title was eventually cancelled) and a number of back-up features and mini-series, guest-starring the X-Men and Avengers. A pretty badass feat unto itself.
The concept behind the series was simple-- uniting a number of forgotten characters from the Marvel stable, including Jimmy Woo, Namorita, M-11 the Human Robot, et al, these characters sought to defeat the [red] menace known as the Yellow Claw (your typical Fu Manchu stand-in) and the organisation known only as "Atlas". I'm not going to ruin the story for you, I think you should pick that up yourself, but know this: One character, Ken Hal aka Gorilla Man, was the greatest concept you could ever dream of being introduced to. Formerly a game hunter with a wanting for immortality, he tracked down a mythical ape in the jungles of Africa. It was said that if you killed the ape, you would never age, and you would live forever.
Sufficed to say, things didn't turn out the way he expected.
Take from #1 of the six-part series, here is the most badass thing I have ever read involving a Gorilla called Ken. Four guns. One Human Robot. One Gorilla Man.
Guns akimbo. x2.
THAT was badass.
My turn up to the bat for the trifecta of Brucei. You'd think, opening with an awful pun like that, I was going to be revealing an oft recounted badass moment of ol' Bruce Wayne, but no, not this time. This time...
Evil Dead 2 is one of the greatest remakes of all time. It's a remake of Evil Dead 1. That's common knowledge. But in this film, it turns up everything to eleven. Raimi cuts lose with a bigger budget, and half the film is just Bruce Campbell playing against himself. Literally.
Case in point below. His hand is posessed. And you know what he does? He cuts it off. He cuts it off with a chainsaw. Later in the film, he one ups this moment by attaching a chainsaw to his recently stumpified stump, but right here? This is where the ascension of Bruce Campbell to godhood begins.
"That's right... who's laughing now? WHO'S LAUGHING NOW?!"
THAT was badass.
Captain America has always been awesome. Clad in the red, white and blue of the American flag, he's fought Nazis, communists and whoever is stupid enough to get in his way.
But you know who he punched straight in the face his first appearance in Captain America Comics #1?
Hitler. Captain America punched Adolf Hitler right in the face.
THAT was badass.
Saturday, 3 April 2010
Matthew Vaughn is an immensely talented director, and he made the story sing straight off the page and onto the cinema screen, and Jane Goldman took the b est of the comic book series and made it one of the tightest film packages I've seen in a long time. The cast was one of the best assembled for one of these projects-- and by that I mean a superhero -- and Aaron Johnson was inspired for the role of Kick-Ass. He emotes like no one else, and he doesn't devour scenery ala William Shatner in that regard. For a character stuck behind a mask for a good chunk of the film, you could really follow his evolution emotionally, thanks to the way his eyes reacted, wide and tight, to the events on the screen. The influx of British actors in minor supporting roles-- gang-members and the entourage of Frank D'Amico, the villain of the piece and played by Mark Strong, was brilliant, and the amount of times I smiled knowingly at Vaughn's casting choices was a bit of fun that I don't know if others could share. That's neither bad nor good, I have to admit.
Kick-Ass is the first post-modern superhero film.Others have come close, but none have truly subverted the conceits and tropes of the genre-- I'm thinking Mystery Men and The Specials here-- but where Goldman sticks closest to the original series is where this is done best. Kick-Ass goes out, intends to save the day, gets stabbed and then hit by a car for his trouble. This is what would happen if you really were a superhero-- or a hero hero, because let's face it, you're not a superhero unless you've got some kind of special ability. Johnson instils such vulnerability in his character that I was on the edge of my seat for the most of the film, and I did not mind one bit. The first half of the film holds the most promise. Dave Lizewski is a complete nobody, the girl of his dreams only pays him attention when she thinks he's gay, and he plays along because that means he gets to spend [creepy] time with her. A lot of content from the first issue is washed over-- we don't see him borderline stalking Lyndsy Fonseca's Katie Deauxma, the girl of his dreams.
But the second half is where it starts to fall apart, and I believe it's because the film diverges from the source material. Lizewski gets the girl. He tells her the truth about being both straight and Kick-Ass, and she doesn't beat the living heck out of him. In the comics, this reveal is saved for one of the penultimate scenes of the final issue, where Dave tells Katie that he's straight, and he loves her. She openly rejects and humiliates him in front of everyone at their school. Tonally, that shifted it from post modern to... pre modern. It became Spider-Man 1-3 or Superman Returns-- it fitted into a pattern that all superhero films feel the need to hold to. The guy gets the girl. We needed to root for Kick-Ass, so give him a girlfriend, give the viewers someone to see cry over him during the most brilliantly done sequences I've ever seen ever.
I have to make a point though-- even in the second half, where I was all "well, this isn't what I expected" it still defies expectations. Instead of wanton torture, the gangsters plan to reveal his, and Big Daddy's (more on him in a moment) identities. Live camera feed, live on television and on the internet. It's daunting. Our heroes are beaten all to heck. And that leads to the greatest rescue sequence of all time.
Yes, Hit-Girl saves the day.
Big Daddy and Hit-Girl are brilliant. Chloe Moretz is a force of nature, and I am so pleased they didn't age her up as executives wanted. Her being 12 (and her character 11), and saying "cunt" in her first appearance, is just... wow. It boggles the mind. I know it sounds juvenile to love that, but the character is wonderful, and she portrays her better than anyone could have imagined. And what's there to say about Nicolas Cage? The man mainlines Adam West into his performance as Big Daddy, and it made me so excited. Every inappropriate pause and twisted syllable, and Cage makes Big Daddy the greatest Batman you will ever see on the big screen. I'm serious, he's dangerous, he's deadly, and he's not going to take shit from anyone-- and don't you ever even consider laying a hand on his daughter. Big Daddy is Batman, duh, and Hit-Girl is Robin, and they're the greatest superheroes you could ever imagine. This is revisionist film making, isn't it? It takes every brilliant thing from the public consciousness when it comes to superheroes, and makes it into something new and glorious. There's an extended scene with Big Daddy taking apart a warehouse full of men, and I have to say... every five minutes in this film there was a crowning moment of awesome that had me punching the air in victory.
Even their combined origin is heart breaking-- animated in the style of series penciller John Romita Jr-- with Nic Cage's past as a "super"cop revealed, and his downfall due to D'Amico having him framed for drug dealing because he was too god damn honest to become dirty and become D'Amico's inside man... that was harsh times. I won't ruin the rest, but it was nice to see that all these characters had facets to them that you might not otherwise think to learn about. Good stuff.
The other "superhero" of the film (and by the end, the supervillain) is Christopher Mintz-Plasse's Red Mist, and here's where I was tripped up. This is real life heroes, correct? Costumes and dress up, but still, based in "reality"... so why doesn't Dave recognise Red Mist for who he really is? Why doesn't he realise that Red Mist is the guy he tried to befriend so very early on in the film? His mask isn't at all that obscuring of his very obvious features, so why would Kick-Ass, so self aware of the genre as he is, not even catch on? Naivety isn't a mass band-aid for a lack of verisimilitude. Even Nic Cage's Big Daddy puts on fake handle-bar moustache extensions to make his identity a little less obvious. Oh, and also to make him look piss brilliant.
On a less obvious note now, the soundtrack and scoring was brilliant, the song use during certain scenes freaking immense, and I swear to God I heard pieces from The Dark Knight, as well as familiar cues from 28 Days Later. This, as well as the abundance of tracks from The Prodigy and other great bands, make it a film full to the brim with self-referential and overtly meta musical commentary. What more can you ask for? Oh, wait, I'll get to that now...
Yes, it was violent, yes there was swearing, and yes, it was ugly as sin in parts-- befitting the subject matter-- but it didn't lose sight that it was a superhero film, and I was bowled over by how effective it all was. So I was disappointed that it didn't keep with the tone of the comics 100% (how many times have you wanted the hero to not end up with the girl? How come Peter Parker ends up with Mary Jane Watson!? It makes no sense) but the emotional resonance of the film made sure I didn't meander in that thinking-- plus the idea that having a girl at home gives Dave a reason to stop being Kick-Ass just rings true on so many levels, and makes his narration all the more heartfelt-- oh, and it also gives quite a few comedic moments for us to enjoy. "I'd fuck his brains out" being but one.
I could go on and on about this film. In fact, I might post an addendum some time down the line, because I swear I've forgotten something important. I would see this film again. And I will. This is the best superhero film I've ever seen, and I think you have to see it to believe it.
Friday, 2 April 2010
Last time around I mentioned how I was just using Grant Morrison's Justice League of America work as an example of how Batman is awesome, and that's all well and good for the reasons I mentioned, but there is one moment, in the sequence I'm about to share, that demonstrates why that's such common sense. After this I'll get to some other creators' work, and we'll see what you think to that-- I'll probably avoid Frank Miller, Alan Moore, all the obvious awesome moments, and go for something a little down key-- Greg Rucka, perhaps, or even better, Ed Brubaker! I know I have a Gail Simone moment that needs to be seen to be believed.
To recap: The Justice League have been replaced by a team calling themselves the Hyper Clan. They came from outer space with their brilliant powers and endearing optimism, and the public loved them. The public loved them a bit too much, and when they announced that they were executing Superman for crimes against humanity, the public didn't... even... blink.
So yeah, Hyper Clan = Evil. Go figure. But how evil? Only one man knows.
Just one man. So they sent one of the Hyper Clan to take him down. Let me share with you the before of the above image.
That moment didn't last long, did it?
Batman, who, after being blown out of the sky by one of the Hyper Clan, is presumed dead. They didn't check the fiery wreckage of his Batplane (how awesome a name is that?) and that reaffirmed Bruce's suspicions. He didn't die. Of course he didn't die, he's Batman, and he infiltrated the Hyper Clan's HQ when presumed dead and he began to piece it all together.
One race in the DCU are terrified of fire. That race? Martians. With the abilities of Superman, plus telepathy, they're nearly unstoppable a force, and they had seduced the population of the Earth with their mass mind control ability and taken the JLA down one-by-one. So, what's Batman to do? He may be awesome, but he's not able to take down four Superman-level threats, is he?
Yours, Batman. Your luck has run out. Oh, but wait.... what was the sole weakness of the martians, again? Batman, do you have the answer?
What's Batman to do. Oh, yeah...
To recap again. Superman is down. Wonder Woman is down. Green Lantern defeated. Martian Manhunter off the board (understandably so). Aquaman gone. The Flash down. Who is the only one left standing?
Batman. And the next words out of his mouth?
Yeah, Green Lantern, stow your sarcasm. Also, side note? Three minutes and fifteen seconds. Beat that, bitches. And you know what? That first martian he took down, the one he hung up as a warning and an object of fear for the others? I like to think he took him down without fire. Because he's Batman, and there was no evidence as such. He took down a martian, with all the superior abilities that entails, without any hint of fire. He just scared them to shit. Batman is awesome.
Why Batman Is Awesome #3: "Days, months, years, spent memorising the finite ways there are to hurt and break a man. Preparing for all of them."
I know I've been using Grant Morrison's most recent run on the character to showcase how awesome he is, but Morrison can get to the root of who Batman is and show how brilliant he can be without undermining those around him. Batman had at least one crowning moment of awesome in every arc-- perhaps issue-- of Morrison's Justice League of America run, and so he knows what he's doing.
I'll get to JLA later.
Anyway, in the run up to Final Crisis and the god-bullet incident, and after the poison-cup debacle, Batman was dismantled by the Black Glove, a group of very rich, very influential individuals that dismantled Bruce Wayne, took away his life, his family of crime-fighting side kicks and butler, and then just... shat on his identity. Of course, Batman was ready for this-- he was ready for the Dark Master, after all, and he created a secondary Batman personality to run "in case of emergency". More on that later, of course.
But in the final issue of "Batman RIP", the Black Glove have won. They've buried Batman alive. So, of course, he's fucked, isn't he? He can't possibly escape! The Black Glove have him buried in the Arkham Asylum grounds, they've dressed him in his best cape, and in a while, when his brain is so oxygen deprived he becomes insane, they said they'd disfigure him to resemble the Joker.
Ho ho, these guys are so awesome, they're so bad ass, Batman doesn't stand a chance.
Batman thinks of everything. Of course he does. And what does he think of being buried alive?
He's so fucking unimpressed. Because he's Batman, he's been ready for this for years. Buried alive? Year One, child's play. Robin could get out of being buried alive. And in a straitjacket? As per my previous post-- Batman can escape anything. He can escape the Omega Sanction, so why should a casket even impede him?
I'm going to let Batman's internal narration do the rest of the talking for a moment. I can't cut this down without ruining the bad ass flow of how Batman's mind works.
He's done the math. He knows everything about the situation. He knows every dimension of the death trap he's been placed in-- he's fucking Batman-- he's been in every death trap conceivable! Even the inconceivable is nothing to him because his archenemy is the Joker! A guy who evolves every few years into the scariest bastard you could possibly imagine! You can't out him in a box because he'll out think you and turn the tables. He's Batman. Anyway...
Now, praise aside, I have to say, no matter how well meaning or well filmed this film was, it was a seriously flawed picture. The tone veered wildly from one scene to the next, and it didn't help that the actor playing Michael Oher-- Quinton Aaron, chosen, I'm sure, because he was built like a brick shit house-- had the charisma of a stick. I understand that he was supposed to be socially awkward, somewhat broken inside (thusly meaning that Bullock's character had something to 'fix') young person, but even shining moments couldn't redeem a sheer lack of acting ability.
I wanted to enjoy this film. I want to enjoy any film that's been well received, and to be fair, I had no preconceptions when entering the theatre. Normally, I know the ending. I know the plot, I know the twists, I know everything about a film before I even step inside-- one of the problems that arise from working in a cinema. This, on the other hand, took me by surprise once or twice. One) the aforementioned accent Bullock was sporting and Two) how damn patronising the entire film was.
Michael Oher, the stereotypical silent black giant that perpetuates the form, needed the reassurance and help of the God-loving Tuohy family to get somewhere in life. Heck, I know this is based in real life (somewhat-- I'm sure liberties were taken in places) but there was nary a redeeming black character in sight. We had the full course of negative black stereotypes: gang-bangers, rapists, drug-addicts, and even one angry black lady, but the real heroes were the Tuohys, white, God lovin' saviours of the disenfranchised, illiterate black sports prodigy. It was around the midway point that my opinion of this film crystallised, and I'd had enough. I can only take so much back-patting, self-congratulatory story-telling.
So my enjoyment of the film was hampered. There were moments I loved-- Oher getting over his initial 'stage fright' during Wingate Christian School's first game of the season and taking a player 'to the bus', Oher putting his arm in front of SJ (a character I'll talk about in a moment) as they crash into a truck to protect him from near death, and Leigh Anne's realisation that Oher's testing in the 98th percentile of 'protective instinct' is instrumental to his character is just sublime in it's simplicity. The moment when Oher and SJ hit another vehicle was daunting-- I was expecting it from the moment they got in the car-- and it was a small thing that some might miss-- but during the quick cuts just as the air-bags deploy, Oher throws his arm in front of SJ, saving him from the full force of the potentially neck-breaking, jaw-shattering impact. Leigh Anne realising what Oher did was wonderful. I could forgive Aaron's lack of acting ability for that.
Now, another problem I had-- SJ Tuohy. The comic relief. Whenever he came onto the screen, with his cheeky child actor grin and his ability to speak (don't you just hate it?) the tone veered off completely. The film couldn't decide what it wanted to be, and this character was part and parcel of that. It wanted to be funny in parts, because it felt like the director wasn't sure the audience could handle a straight melodrama. So we had coaches from across the country (played by real coaches, and by God you could tell) trying to poach Oher, and they had to make an offer to SJ too. Wow, that was a new low for this film. Seriously, it hurt seeing these coaches trying to act. Bad luck, guys. So we had our awkward cameos, our forced comic moments, and not only that but we had an action sequence (off the football field) with Oher confronting a gang-banger who just threatened his adoptive family! With rape! Oher becomes a superhero, able to dodge bullets and move faster than a speeding one as guns are pulled and he becomes ultimate bad ass (so yeah, I guess he does make a good American football player, eh?), only to be hampered from the film's trend of showing flashbacks to a time he wasn't such a hardcore guy.
So, how would I rate this film? Mediocre. Not better than average, because it just couldn't nail down what it wanted to be. It veered from genre to genre, it felt wildly out of place within itself at times, and yes, it was directed well (the American football set pieces were spot on), and for the most part well-acted (Tim McGraw can kind of act!), but I don't think I can forgive it for it's major flaws, namely the overbearingly patronising tone and the flat acting from Quinton Aaron. Oh, and the fact that Sandra Bullock's accent hurt my soul.
I think Scott Tobias from The Onion's A.V. Club sums up my thoughts somewhat in his review of the film, calling it "a new low" in the "long, troubled history of well-meaning white paternalism".
You know what I mean, right?