Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Ending Of Brightest Day Is In Sight......Thank The Lord!

I guess it's true, Blackest Night and Brightest Day really ARE as different as night and day. 

The current mini series of a brighter sensation has only eight issues left in it's run, but I find myself unable to NOT declare it one of the worse mini series within the last decade.  

Don't worry, I realize there have been some doozies out there such as Superman and Batman vs. Vampires and Werewolves, The Return of Bruce Wayne, and A Cry For Justice, but I can't see Brightest Day redeeming itself when the bulk of the series has been a confusing and utter disasterpiece.

Geoff Johns helmed the hit eight issue series, Blackest Night; DC's answer to Marvel Zombies.  In it, the dead super heroes of old and recent are risen as brain eating, heart gobbling, and mind manipulating zombies controlled by the black toned emotional spectrum harnessed within their power rings.  While much of the series used a typical Saturday morning kid's superhero show motif as its motivation, (AKA, Power Rangers and Captain Planet) Johns took Blackest Night to new depths and maturity and kept the series from falling flat on it's face.  The enjoyment of Blackest Night was amplified even more when DC announced the series' sequel, Brightest Day.

Three issues into Brightest Day, however and I was already tilting my head in bewilderment.  "What's going on?" I would ask myself, "Why am I so confused?"  I took my reaction to the first three as Johns way of building up the story; making me want to come back for more.  (That or I was just too stupid too get it.)  But now I've reached issue #18 and I still don't get what the point of Brightest Day is. I love Geoff Johns, don't get me wrong!  He's my favorite comic book writer right after Gail Simone, Alan Moore, and Neil Gaiman.  But something is certainly amiss with his current literary work within Brightest Day.

Maybe it's DC's fault.  Maybe Dan Didio and company are asking for too much and decided to overload a miniseries with so much content that the plot becomes too confusing too follow.  (Not surprising.)

Maybe it's the fans fault.  Maybe we have been asking for way too much, and Johns decided too finally deliver to his readers everything they've always asked for.  (if that's true, never listen to us again Geoff!)

Maybe it's the genre's fault.  Maybe comics, and the expectations that come with them, have reached a point of no return; sometimes an idea sounds good, but when applied to paper...it just doesn't work out the way you had hoped.  (Poor James Robinson, one day something will work out for you.)

Maybe it's Jim Lee's Fault..........................NAAAHHH!

The fact of the matter is that Brightest Day has really hit a low point and is beyond redemption.  I'll still pick up each issue till the end, but I'll do so with a bitter taste in my mouth.  Geoff Johns is great, probably one of the greatest things that's ever happened to comics, but every great writer has his or her flops right?

Now, let's see, what's coming to my local comic book shop tomorrow?  No Brightest Day...Nothing by Grant Morrison...Nothing by James Robinson....Sweet!  This week will be a good week for comics.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Brightest Day #18 Review

Written By: Geoff Johns & Peter J. Tomasi
Artist: Ivan Reis, Ardian Syaf, Scott Clark, Joe Prado
Inker: Vicente Cifuentes, David Beaty
Colorist: Aspen MLT’s Peter Steigerwald, Beth Sotelo
Cover Artist: David Finch
Letterer: Rob Clark Jr.
Editor: Adam Schlagman, Eddie Berganza

My Awe-Inspiring Opinion
And here we are, eight issues into the finale of Brightest Day and things are beginning to make sense…while still being confusing as hell!  This series has been plagued with confusion ever since issue #1, with nothing making any more sense than me playing a game of basketball completely in the nude outside of my neighbor’s house.  Johns and Tomasi have finally figured out where to start giving this story its main pile of gumption, and what better way to do that than by killing off two of DC’s more popular characters?

Now for those of you who have actually read #18, you may or may not be shocked at the death of the Hawks.  I mean, good grief, Comic companies kill off enough characters consistently enough that sometimes I wonder if I’ll ever be surprised at another heroes death ever again.  But in any case, this turn of events is pretty epic, especially how Deadman is left in a dusty cloud of despair, allowing the ashes of the Hawks to trinkle between his fingers.

But of course this issue is a nightmare for the fan of the pure and unadulterated action story that feel a good storyline has no place amongst all the testosterone, punching, explosions, and what not right?  It’s all about love and how the power of love will conquer all.  Sound cheesy right?  Well…it is.  Up until that point where we think we can sit back, relax, and enjoy the fact that Hawkman and Hawkgirl can at long last be together with their curse finally lifted.  Johns and Tomasi certainly pulled out the ultimate cliffhanger as the white ring upon Deadman’s hand interrupts the Hawks moment of embrace and tears them apart, once again causing us to question if the two lovers will ever be happy.

Enhancing the story is of course the ever crowded room of toggling artists, with Ivan Reis heading the team and Peter Steigerwald taking over the coloring duties.  And one thing I am completely sure of, Blackest Night and Brightest Day has been a colorist’s dream boat.  One thing I am ALSO certain of is that the Star Sapphire’s color scheme can do a real number on the eyeballs if not careful.  And I completely echo Mr. Paul Mallory and his inability to look at pinks and purples without thinking of the toy isle bearing Barbie dolls. 

Now this isn’t a criticism, I for one enjoy the clever way the colors were displayed on every page.  But for those of you with weaker eyes…or at least the ones who feel their manhood has been put into question because you’re reading a comic book filled with pretty little colors and all about love…you might want to put on some sun shades.

My Majestically Climactic Conclusion
No doubt this is the best issue of Brightest Day thus far, but it hasn’t had too much competition to begin with.  But offing the Hawks was definitely a story addition that is going to keep me interested until eight issues from now.  (knock on wood.)

But then again, could this death be another rouse?  Will the Hawks come back from the dead?  Tune in next month when we will, more than likely, be confused and start wondering why the hell we are reading this series to begin with.

Rating: 7 out of 10 stars

When Bad Decisions Become Intriguing Ideas

Having STILL not made up my mind of whether or not I like the idea of Hathaway as Catwoman in the third Batman film, I came across this little piece of fan art.  As I looked at it and thought about numerous things, I came to the conclusion that Hathaway might not be so bad after all.  I know this picture really isn't a good representation of what Hathaway will actually look like in the film, but Nolan hasn't let me down yet, and I've enjoyed his casting picks thus far.  Maybe I should give this a little more of a hopeful thumbs up than is judgmental thumbs down.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Artists Corner...Amanda Conner

I love Amanda Conner.  I'm jealous that Jimmy Palmiotti gets to hang out with her frequently.  Why do I love her?  Because her art is among some of the most unique in the industry.  While Francis Manapul got my top spot for Best artist of 2010, Amanda Conner will always remain my favorite.  She's masterful at giving each character that cartoony feel within making it feel kiddish.

Her work on Power Girl was tremendous but met with utter disappointed as she and her writing cohorts decided to leave the Power Girl title after only one year.  The new team has been doing a fantastic job filling the artistic shoes of Amanda Conner, but without her...It just doesn't feel the same.

Amanda Conner most definitely had the best cover of 2010 with Power Girl #10, displaying just how awesome PG is and why we all love her.

And now, as a special bonus, here is a motion comic short based off of the fun and twisted graphic novel by Garth Ennis...The Pro.  Enjoy.  If you get easily offended...Don't watch!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Blog Delay...Were You Expecting Anything Else?

Yes, I'm having to put something of a week to a week and a half long delay on my blog due to my job.  It's become very hectic and the project my boss put me on has taken a turn for the worse; some of it being my fault, most of it being someone else's faulted, and the rest being the fault of uncontrollable factors.  I've done my best to stay on top of things, but nothing seems to be coming together.  The deadline to get this project done is February first, so needless to say I'm towing a thin line.

I've got two weeks worth of comics to catch up on and no reviews are in site.  I'll try to post a few small things here and there but don't expect TOOOOO much for at least two weeks.  I do thank everyone whose visits my blog frequently with much rejoicing...yay....(for you my fellow Monty Python fans.) And I take great pride in this blog as it's helped me to earn a lot of free stuff from comic book writers and what not.  i'm not giving up on this blog, just need two weeks to focus on keeping my job.  Please be patient with me.  in the meantime, enjoy a few photos from the wonderful world of Google images.  Taking these images out of context from there comics is SUPER fun....

It's like being back in college

Does anyone see the smile on the smoker's face?
Why do all the older guys get the young, beautiful women?  
My wife never says this about me.
Ok guys, tuck your boners away and make out with your girlfriend.
She seems so love struck
Nothing more needs to be said.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Best Artist of 2010...Francis Manapul

Sometimes it's hard for me to pick who I think made the top spot for best artist for the entire year.  There's so many good ones out there and they all do there part in giving stories life and gusto.  Amanda Conner and Gary Frank were close contenders, followed closely by Frank Quietly.  But there is no doubt in my mind as to who wins the title for this year.

In 2009 I picked Ed Benes, but he only worked on very few comics that year; it made me feel the need to alter my requirements for being the Heretic's Blog pick for best artist.  Well this year I think I got it right!  Say hello to the best artist of 2010, Mr. Francis Manapul! (applause!)

He hasn't been working in comics that long based on the information I was able to scrounge up on him, (that's right Manapul, I'm your personal stalker!)  but in 2007 he signed a contract with DC comics and has worked on some very popular titles like Legion of Superheroes, Superman/Batman and Adventure Comics.  While his career with DC is very short, he's definitely made a mark for himself within the comic book world and is progressively rising.

I should note that he has a resume with some very well-to-do comic book companies such as Aspen, Top Cow and Image Comics.  All of which truly help him boost into the artist spotlight today.

I've chosen Manapul as 2010's best artist mainly for his work in the 3rd volume of the Flash title.  For those familiar with his work, Manapul's style is unique and edgy, always pronouncing that "sketched out" look.  Most other artists out there take time to make everything they do exceptionally clean with extra smooth lines.  This isn't bad by any means, it's the way I draw for pete's sake!  But Manapul gives us something fresh and different to look at while enjoying our comic reading experience.  I hope to be at a comic book convention where he attends so I can shake his hand and tell him how much I enjoy his artwork.

Below are a few of his pieces, enjoy!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Best Writer of 2010...Gail Simone

Geoff Johns may be the grafting agent of DC, but Gail Simone is it's heart.  DC landed on a gold mine when they first hired her to write for the company, and very few regrets and complaints come from fan reviews on the internet.

Simone takes advantage of every aspect of the human condition known to human kind as she leads the charge in Women comics for DC.  She changed the way comic book fans look at Wonder Woman, and has changed the meaning of being a bad guy with her work on Secret Six, and consistently produces quality work unmatched by any other writer in the genre.

There have been a few titles I've read by her that I haven't been particularly fond of, but that doesn't mean she wasn't writing it well.  Birds of Prey has been written exceptionally well, but it hasn't really "grabbed" me yet.  I wasn't quite sure what would happen in Birds of Prey and the White Canary, but I think Simone has finally put this title in a place where I can hop on board and enjoy the ride!

To be honest, however, there isn't anything Simone has done yet that I haven't enjoyed.  While she's at her best when delving into the much more serious side of her stories, there's never a lack of humor and the right amount of campiness to give her arcs enough balance to keep from being too overwhelming.  If you haven't discovered Gail Simone yet, don't wait any longer!  You'll thank me, I promise.

Monday, January 10, 2011

I'm Power Girl...Damnit!!!

It's very corny and dumb...but I love it for that reason!  And Tawnya Manion is a friggin GREAT Power Girl!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Movie Review: True Grit

Release Date: December 22, 2010 
Studio: Paramount Pictures 
Director: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen 
Screenwriter: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen 
Starring: Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, Josh Brolin, Barry Pepper, Hailee Steinfeld 
Genre: Drama, Western 
MPAA Rating: PG-13 (for intense sequences of western violence including disturbing images) 
Official Website: TrueGritmovie.com 

The Nitty-Gritty Plot Line
In an unrelenting attempt to bring her father’s killer to justice, Mattie Ross finds her way to a small courtroom in a western town where a drunk, gun-slinger of a deputy is on trial for needlessly murdering innocent civilians.  His name…Rooster Cogburn.  As Mattie listens in on the old man and his successful man-hunts, her eyes glisten as she decides to hire Rooster in finding Chaney, her father’s killer.

But the road ahead isn’t easy as Rooster is an old, senile drunk who doesn’t take to kindly to…well…anyone.  With the aid of a big-headed Texas Ranger named LaBeouf, Mattie and company set out on the trail for Chaney and his gang of murderous thugs.  But along the way, the three run into some difficult and life changing situations, all of which will redefine their outlook on life.

My City Slickerish Opinion
Having never seen the original John Wayne film version of the Charles Portis novel, I haven’t a clue as to how close the two films with the same name are as far as the story is concerned.  But having never been one to judge a film based on it’s loyalty to the source material, I can say with absolute certainty that my judgments are not based around any nostalgic sentimentality towards the Henry Hathaway directed original.

Jeff Bridges as Rooster Cogburn
That being said however, one has to wonder how much of Jeff Bridges performance as Rooster Cogburn resembles that of John Wayne’s.  Or an even bigger question, how much of the story is a Coen Bros. trademarked film making technique, and how much of it is a tribute to the 1969 True grit.  Either way, it’s hard to deny that the story of True grit is without a doubt one of the best of any film from 2010.

Right off the bat we are shown a young girl, around the age of your average middle-schooler, taking charge of her life and not allowing herself to be bullied by the adults surrounding her.  Often times she questions the intelligence of any adult she comes in contact with, often sounding annoyed or put-off.  Never doubt her intentions as she might direct her inquisition at you by saying “Well that’s a silly question.”  Her determination in accomplishing her goal can never be questioned, even in the face of one of the most intimidating drunks you’ll ever meet.

The 2010 True Grit I’m sure presents a much more violent and bloody version of the old west than the one staring Mr. Wayne, (no no no, not Bruce.) of which I’m sure is part of that Coen Bros. movie making trade mark.  The thing I was most surprised by however was the darker tone in the overall story.  Naturally, when it comes to the Coen Bros., I can expect a bit of gruesomeness and blood, but I’ve never actually seen a John Wayne film that didn’t feel at least some what silly.  So, going into the theater, I was expecting something a little more light hearted. And at first, the film was exactly that; filled with laughs and an incredible amount of dry humor coming from every character.  But soon to follow are a series of very brief, yet very vivid, scenes of sliced ligaments, faces crashing into boulders, and incredibly graphic bodies hanging from tree branches many feet off he ground. 

But no one should be thrown off by this obviously more graphic and violent remake as the comic relief of the film will help dissipate any stomach curdling sensation you might have when it comes to blood.  The western trifecta has within it two men whose personal differences are hard to put aside.  The Texas Ranger, played by Matt Damon, is so high on himself and his kind that he can’t see past the dirty coat and greasy beard worn by Rooster, masterfully played by Jeff Bridges.  And our Drunk hero can’t help but shoot snide remarks and questions at the Ranger that involve the length of time he and his posse have been riding sheep.

But of course our star, new comer to the big screen, Haliee Steinfeld, puts on one of the most impressive and talented performances by any actor or actress in the last year.  She is quite the stubborn child with more “grit” than any other character in the film.  I honestly can’t wait to see what’s in store for the young actress in the future.  Only an actress with such a personality that Miss Steinfeld possesses could have pulled off playing a character with a knack for delivering such wonderfully poetic scriptural oratory. 

And it is in her character that sums up the overall meaning of the film.  The Coen Bros. have been recently bringing scripture into almost all their films, having little Mattie Ross quotes Solomon, “The wicked flee when none pursueth.”  It’s a story of wandering souls who fall short of the heroic ideal of which I’m sure John Wayne personified during his reign as king of the Western.

Matt Damon does wonders as the egotistical Texas Ranger whom we all hate in the beginning, but love towards the end.  But of course the role everyone wanted to see played out the most was Jeff Bridges as the drunkard deputy, Rooster Cogburn.  In 1969, John Wayne wowed audiences by playing the no good law man, and as a result, won the Oscar for it.  As I’m sure many fans of John Wayne will criticize Bridges for not living up to the Wayne legacy, (of which I completely disagree with) I think I’m justified in saying that John Wayne was only capable of playing one type of role.  John Wayne won the Oscar for playing John Wayne.  Jeff Bridges, should he be nominated for an Oscar (because sadly, he wasn’t up for a Golden Globe) it will be because of his uncanny acting ability.

As stated above, a religious undertone stalks the heart of this film’s core.  This religious heart is introduced through Mattie Ross and her Bible thumping, and is maintained with the gorgeous hymn of “leaning on the everlasting arms” of which most of the film’s music seems to be based off of.  By the end of the film, we find ourselves having been entertained by a parable of good and evil.  But within this film, differentiating the two sides is hard to determine as much of it is indistinguishable.  So lies the tale of how the West was won….or lost.  I guess that’s up to you.

10 out of 10

New Vlog Youtube Channel

So I've had enough people say I should start a VLOG.  And after multiple requests, I've done so.  I'm not sure what to do with it yet, but I'll do my best to keep it going.  My first Vlog posting is about a book called "The God Machine" by Chandra Free.  Enjoy!

Top Ten Comics Of 2010

And here we are, we've gone through another successful year of DC Comics and there have been some incredibly awesome stories that have come around.  I'm sure many of you have certain issues you've read that you'll never forget.  Well for me, I have about ten.  So below is my top ten DC Comics for 2010.  Please, comment your thoughts, opinions, and disagreements.

Top Ten Comics For 2010

10. Superman: Secret origin #6
Geoff Johns took the corny and cheesy origins of Superman and turned it into something a little more tangible and up-to-date.  Instead of having Clark Kent put on this tremendously nerdy and bumbling facade, Johns makes Superman an ACTUAL bumbler, not because he means to be, but because he's an alien from another world who's unfamiliar with the surroundings of big city life.  There's also a nice redeveloping of Superman's relationship with his Earth buddies and the people of Metropolis.  While the the "Secret" of the Superman's origin is never quite revealed here, #6 gave us a Superman with whom we can relate too.
9. The Return of Bruce Wayne #6
I hate Grant Morrison, most of you know this.  And if I were to rank the top five WORST mini series in the history of comics, The Return of Bruce Wayne would make the five.  However, the 6th installment of said series truly did take my breath away.  With all of the confusion, lack of focus, and over zealous story telling, #6 really did a good job at wrapping up the story.  And while I absolutely hate that Morrison brought Bruce Wayne back from the dead, I cannot deny the level of quality portrayed in this final issue.
8. Secret Six #27
I think Simone and Calafiore got together one day and agreed to make this issue the complete and utter visualization of the American dream.  Vigilante men and women turning savage, wearing almost nothing and duking it out to an almost arousing degree.  But this has more to do with the art rather than the dialog, even though there are obvious sexual tensions going on between characters.  J. Calafiore brings in all the stops and more with sexy and savage depiction of jungle war.  Jimmy Palmiotti, watch out, Gail Simone’s sex appeal in this story might rival even yours!
7. Power Girl #12
#12 is one big wrap-up, bringing back some characters to give Power Girl that final frustration of reliving everything she’s gone through within this last year; there’s the meeting a Terra’s parents and being introduced to a new food group, Fisher comes back to say thanks to Power Girl to help fulfill his young, hormonal state of mind, and Vartox is sent home packing.  Thank you Jimmy Palimiotti and Amanda Conner for making such an underused character life and meaning within the DCU!
6. Wonder Woman #600
What can I say? This issue was filled with greatness. I’m usually not a fan of artist toggling, but this worked perfectly since no one story was connected to the other. It is one big homage to a great heroine who’s been an inspiration to human kind for generations. And even though the new era hasn't been the most popular, this issue certainly gave it the much needed fresh start to transcend into a post-Simone life span. Let’s hope the new era can continue that greatness. I am going to put this down in my “most treasured comics of my life time” bin, which means I’ll need to buy a second copy. 
5. Secret Six #20
Sometimes I wonder if Gail Simone simply likes to torture her Secret Six characters.  Have any of you noticed how often Catman is in pain due to his past, or the frequent struggles bane and Scandal have, and the low self-esteem Deadshot continually displays through his constant babble?  #20 leaves you in a state of discontent and angst with the level of tension that flows throughout it.  The ending took me by complete surprise, and with the way Simone writes this book, you'll never know exactly how things will turn out.
4. Green Lantern Corps #47
Blackest Night is over.  Everything is destroyed.  The Corps must now rebuild itself from the bottom up. Gardner, Rayner and a handful of other Lanterns take a stand against the Guardians and their newly established Book of Oa laws.  Vath wakes up with a pair of foreign legs, and Kilowog makes a life altering decision that could have a huge effect on the future of the Corps.  Tomasi brings in all the stops as he bids farewell to a comic book series that has been defined by his unremarkable ability to tell engrossing and angst driven tales.  

3. Supergirl #54
Bizzarogirl and Supergirl going at each other tooth and nail...ultimately figuring out that they are more alike than originally thought.  Sterling Gates has given Supergirl the right treatment, making her much more respectable and hard-hitting than ever before, and #54 takes it to endless bounds.
2. Superman: The Last Family of Krypton #3
As this miniseries will never be considered part of the “true” Superman mythos, I believe this has officially become the best Superman story to ever be told!  It’s only rival would be the wonderfully clever Superman: For Tomorrow.  If you haven’t picked up this series, go to your local comic book store and get it!  It’s just three issues that are PACKED with story.  This is not a series where you’ll feel jipped by the $5 per issue price mark.  Bates’ put everything he had into this story and I look forward to the day when he comes back to comics more consistently.  (Please Cary!)
1. Secret Six #22
Secret Six is an amazing title and I would recommend it to anyone.  If you are conflicted with paying more money to you’re already long list of monthly titles you pick up, please consider dropping a title or two, this is well worth your money.  There isn’t one issue since this title began that hasn’t been worth the $2.99 price mark and I fully expect anyone whose reads this will come away happy.  Simone doesn’t approach the Six like every other comic book in the industry; it’s new, innovative, and fun.

The story gives us the finalization of Catman’s past as a young boy growing up with a physically and verbally abusive father whose mind-twisting jargon caused the young Catman to embrace a new way of life, one filled with murder and a stoic, uncaring demeanor.  However, this life changing event doesn’t keep our feline hero from loving those closest to him.  The question raised here is what are you willing to do for loved ones?  What is the best for them?  MacQuarrie brings to light that Catman’s son is very much alive, and adopted by a new family.  Like MacQuarrie said, no one can hurt Catman through his son ever again.  Catman had to make a choice, let his son live a happy life and cause his mother the utmost pain, or go get his son back and wait for the next dubious villain to snatch him away for ransom yet again. Just like Watchmen, Gail Simone makes you ponder on what you must do when faced with two options, both of which will cause someone a great deal of suffering.  Catman letting go of his son and lying to Cheshire about it could very well be one of the most tragic endings in a comic book I’ve ever read.

The stories stems even further with the Catman’s teammates, mostly dealing with the issue of family.  Black Alice comes to center stage with her amazing bit of oratory, expressing her guilt of theoretically giving her father cancer.  This sense of loss brings Scandal savage closer to the young villain, and even more so with Ragdoll whose defense of Black Alice was an amazing addition to an already depressing story.  (Deadshot really can be an ass huh?  That’s why we like him!) 

This arc was a true Mind Fuck!  but this issue in particular went above and beyond the call of duty and transformed the idea of "bad guy" comics into something better than ever.  

Wonder Woman TV Series put on hold

Numerous factors came into play when deciding to pull the plug on the Wonder Woman TV Series; cost, difficulty finding appropriate actors, and no networks agreeing to take the show into their already hectic and limited time slots.  Entertainment Weekly has more to say on the issue.

I was never quite sure what I thought of the whole Wonder Woman TV show endeavor, it was already failed as a show and the acting was piss poor too.  As cliche as it sounds, having Lucy Lawless as Wonder Woman would be the only appropriate actress I can think of for this role; she's old enough, gorgeous enough, and has so much personality that I find it difficult to believe anyone else could play Wonder Woman effectively.  The only problem of course would be whether or not fans would get distracted because of her past as Xena, Warrior Princess.

Though the bigger question is, why isn't Warner Bros. actively pursuing and creating a Wonder Woman film?  I was really hoping that it would at least be in production at this point, even before Green Lantern.  Don't get me wrong, I'm really excited for Ryan Reynolds as Hal Jordan, but Wonder Woman really does need to have a mature film made that will help people forget about the awful 1975 TV series with Lynda Carter.  Batman and Superman have been ruling the big screen for too long, Give Diana her spotlight.

Thanks to a youtube film editor, Editninja, I found this fan made film trailer that used pieces of random movie clips to promote the idea of a new Wonder Woman film.  It's actually quite well done.  I'm sure you'll all be able to recognize which movie clips are being used, but Editninja did a fantastic job in splicing it all together in a seemless manner.  enjoy!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Movie Review: Black Swan

Release Date: December 3, 2010 (limited; wide: Dec. 17) 
Studio: Fox Searchlight Pictures 
Director: Darren Aronofsky 
Screenwriter: Mark Heyman, John McLaughlin 
Starring: Natalie Portman, Vincent Cassel, Mila Kunis, Barbara Hershey, Winona Ryder 
Genre: Psychological Thriller 
MPAA Rating: R (for strong sexual content, disturbing violent images, language and some drug use) 
Official Website: BlackSwan2010.com 

The Dark And Twisted Plot
It’s a tale where dreams become nightmares, hopes into obsessions, and artistry dissolves into sexual confusion…and no one goes home happy.  Nina, a ballerina who lives with her retired ballerina mother, fulfills her deepest desires and lands the leading role in Swan Lake.  But this joyous moment doesn’t come without its dark side.  Swan Lake Director Thomas Leroy begins playing some very serious mind games with his new leading dancer and shows some hidden and perverse desires towards her.  Things only go from bad to worse as Nina deals with extreme and violent delusions of a dark alter ego who seems to take control of Nina at random moments.  But the question is, what’s better for Nina, her naturally happy yet timid side, or the hidden gothic, more aggressive side?

My Bright And Chipper Thoughts
For those of you who know about the famous ballet, Swan Lake, you know it takes the idea of fairy tales back to their origins; making them out to be stories of a twisted and dark nature, typically stemming from the wants and fears of human beings.  Through the years, they have been fabricated into moralistic tales to read to our children, which is far from the original intention of these fantastic and other-worldly pieces of fiction.  Black Swan brings us back to a time when fairy tales were terrifying stories that show what human nature is truly like.

As the reviews run rampant, talking about the fear Nina has over loosing her leading role to another upcoming and aspiring dancer, the reviewers would like you to believe the film’s focus is about how Nina obsesses over maintaining her position in the spotlight.  While this is very much a crucial aspect of the story, a deeper theme in the film’s over development is where the story’s heart lies.  Growing up with a mother who hopes to live her “failed” career as a ballerina through her daughter’s success, Nina has developed a very skewed sense of reality.  As an audience member, you’ll be just as confused as Nina as she toggles back and forth from her delusions to reality.  Nina struggles more with herself rather than with her surrounding peers through the bulk of the film, constantly worried about her status on stage, her relationship with the director, the constant images of scratching and cutting herself, and the consistent sexual confusion that plagues Nina’s mind. 

Now don’t be fooled, the plot isn’t all that difficult to figure out.  Considering her upbringing and the lifestyle she chose, it’s not that hard to determine what the outcome will be.  Will she succumb to the temptations around her?  Will she transcend the hard lifestyle she’s had to endure with her mother?  Will she hold onto her self respect and tell her director to not put his hand on her?  Well….Will she???

No…this isn’t that type of movie.  There is no happy ending.  There is no down-on-his-luck football player whose life is changed with the help of an upper class white woman.  There is no knight in shinning blue-skinned-avatar-suit to swoop in and save the day.  There is no small town outsider coming to a town filled with uppity rich families whose lives are changed by the inspiration provided by the outsider.  No ladies and gentlemen, like I stated above, This is a true fairy tale where nothing ends positively, and no one learns anything.

 If you’re familiar with this type of story, it won’t take you long to decipher the film’s inevitable conclusion, but the process the story goes through in uncovering the ending is a thrill ride in and of itself.  With a predictable storyline comes along with it an intelligent film making process, mainly focused around the artistry and glamour of the film. 

This psychological thriller, with all of its darkness and dementia, takes on a new meaning of cinematic beauty.  Even during its most gruesome moments, Black Swan is a spectacle that will keep your eyes glued to the screen.  You’re brain will be torn between telling you to “look away, it’s too much” and “don’t cover your eyes, this is gorgeous!”  It’s startling to see at first, but most of the “thrilling” scenes are tolerable to watch.  It’s mostly the mere thought of what Nina does to herself that will get your heart pumping and cause you to clench the arms of your chair.  And the final dance sequence will terrify and amaze you to the point of no return!

Black Swan does take some major risks though; it’s serious yet silly, absurd yet incredibly artistic, engaging yet completely ridiculous.  So much goes on in the film that, towards the end, you’ll wonder if you’re actually enjoying the movie, or hating it.  And I’ll bet you a million dollars that moment of questioning will occur during a scene where some of Nina’s ligaments begin to…well…take on an entirely different shape.  Don’t be scared, just be READY for it.

The cast is perfect!  Natalie Portman delivered a performance unlike any before.  Sure, she still acts like Natalie Portman, but without a doubt this has to be one of the best performances by any actress or actor of 2010.  But let us not forget about our esteemed “That 70’s Show” bitchy girl, Mila Kunis, who’s finally broken free from the burden of her TV sitcom character and blossomed into an incredible actress.  Vincent Cassel is really good at making you hate him, as well as Barbara Hershey who is amazing at playing a mother who can’t seem to let go of reliving the glory days.  But my greatest joy, casting wise, is simply seeing Winona Ryder back on the big screen.  She’s always had a knack for landing roles in films that appeal to my love of gothic tales.
There’s no real way to express just how incredible Black Swan is…you’ll just have to go see it.  No doubt that this film is only for a certain type of movie goer.  You aren’t going to walk out of that theater feeling great about life, so don’t go if you’re not in the mood for a negative storyline.  However, if you don’t walk away from the movie left in a state of awe due to the impact of the visual rhetoric, I might question you’re artistic nature.  In any case, I recommend this film to everyone…Even if you don’t think you can handle it.

10 out of 10

Thursday, January 6, 2011

What Should OUR Heroes Be Like?

Let's take a moment and think about what we like our heroes to be like, shall we?  This comes from the exceptionally funny comic blog, Comically Vintage, taking panels from old comics and putting them out of context.  I usually chuckle at their postings, but when I saw this I almost died laughing!  It's nothing but men, because women can't be heroes right?  Make sure you check out Comically Vintage at some point and enjoy the really funny and misogynistic comics of old...

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Movie Review: Tron Legacy

Release Date: December 17, 2010 (3D/2D theaters and IMAX 3D) 
Studio: Walt Disney Pictures 
Director: Joseph Kosinski 
Screenwriter: Eddy Kitsis, Adam Horowitz 
Starring: Jeff Bridges, Garrett Hedlund, Olivia Wilde, Bruce Boxleitner, James Frain, Beau Garrett, Michael Sheen 
Genre: Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi 
MPAA Rating: PG (for sequences of sci-fi action violence and brief mild language) 
Official Website: Disney.com/Tron 

So Here’s What The Film Is About…
20 years later, Encom has taken the world by storm; providing people with state of the art technology that would have Steve Jobs shaking in his boots.  But where’s Kevin Flynn?  Didn’t he take over the company once Dillinger was exposed as a thief?  Apparently Flynn has been missing for 20 years, leaving the more money hungry administrators in charge of the powerful corporation. 

Enter Sam Flynn, son of the missing owner, who seems to have it in him to ruin the present image of Encom and maintain his father’s vision of providing cheap technology to the people of the world.  As the introduction pumps through, and we learn of Sam’s deep longing to find his father, Sam accidentally finds his way into the game grid where he runs into a program with the spitting image of a twenty year old Kevin Flynn.  Of course we, the die-hard Tron fans of old, know this Flynn doppelganger as the program called Clu, who has a dream of ruling the game grid…and the world of the Users. 

Limited time allows Sam and his real father the chance to escape and go back home.  The monkey wrench?  Clu will stop at nothing to enter into the real world.  Can Sam and Kevin stop Clu from world domination, or will Clu succeed and cause mass chaos in both worlds?

And Here’s What I Thought About It…
In this day and age, it’s really is hard to please the average film goer when it comes to CGI integration in realistic movies.  If it looks obviously animated, it becomes a distraction which, in turn means the majority of audience members will hate on that aspect of the film’s animation endeavors.  But of course, while these critics are making fun of the animated head of Clu (made to resemble Jeff Bridges) and how unrealistic it is, they also fail to recognize that Kevin Flynn, who is a real human being living in a digital world, has somehow lived for twenty years in a world where human food doesn’t exist.  How did he exist for so long without sustenance?  This will always remain uncertain.

The point?  If you want realism in your movies, don’t watch Science Fiction.

Now this isn’t to say Legacy doesn’t have its flaws, they merely lay in the areas of the film that most people don’t seem to care about to begin with.  But I guess when it comes to a winter action film, the quality of the story doesn’t matter as much to people when it comes to digital effects.

It’s nothing to run home about; the plot isn’t as profound as Disney makes it out to be, but the story’s execution is the best it could be given the circumstances.  The question is, however, did we know what was coming because of the painfully revealing trailers released by Disney, or is the plot just that obvious?  I would vote the latter, but I can’t say that with absolute certainty. 

The retro, David Bowe motif that ran through a good chunk of the film was a bit much.  The 1982 film presented the game grid as a world filled with very stoic, wooden characters with no more life in them than an idle Jellyfish.  But almost 30 years later, Legacy shows a world much more vibrant, exciting and rebellious.  Even if you’re one of those people who can’t get over Clu’s cartoony style head, it’s hard to deny the beautifully digitalized world of the game grid.  The simulated ground flowed with gorgeous light cycles which trail semi-transparent ribbons of color, shimmering and twisting all throughout the racing sequence.  It’s obvious that Disney went above and beyond in upping the anti with better animation combined with its darker, more gothic tone.  Even the suits worn by the characters were spectacles in and of themselves.

Favoritism on my part lies with a film’s script and always has, so I was quite disappointed with the Legacy’s very mediocre story, but it was MORE than tolerable to sit through thanks to the tremendous performances given by the cast.  Jeff Bridges, like always, gives audiences everything and more, technically playing three different characters; The younger and more colorful personality of Kevin Flynn, the older Zen-like religious wiseman of the older (and hairier) Flynn, and the defiant and dictatorous computer program known as Clu, all three coming off very believable and fun.  Garrett Hedlund, who’s always brought terrific performances to the big screen, was perfect in portraying a very confident man whose feeling of loss is never overshadowed by his vibrant personality.  But the best addition to the film’s “minor character” list is Bruce Boxleitner return as Alan, also known as Tron, who has a voice made for the big screen.

Speaking of which, did any of the other Tron geeks get a major nerdgasm in how well Tron was used in that subtle, non-revealing way?  Truly, Legacy was made for the cult of fans that have loved the first Tron film ever since 1982, or whenever a fan first discovered the landmark Disney Sci-Fi film.

Much like most films these days, Legacy is in 3D, but it doesn’t lend much…if anything.  All the 3D technology does for the film is to help pop the characters out a bit, but the action sequences are hardly utilized with the 3D at all.  The film is even prefaced with a note, letting us know that only certain parts of the movie were filmed in 3D.  This, in turn, compelled me to take off my enormous glasses only to realize just how much brighter the overall look of the film is.  As advanced as 3D technology is today, no one has found a way to get rid of the annoying dimness provided by the glasses.  And to be honest, I think I would have enjoyed the film just as much, if not more, had I seen in it 2D.

Legacy hits the ground running almost from the start, which is always the more intelligent thing to do in Science Fiction.  Its downfall, as stated above, is its inconclusive plotline.  It’s a roller coaster ride of a film and may very well be one of the more visually exciting and fun films of the year, hopefully worthy of an Oscar nomination.  But Quorra’s statement of “All your questions will be answered” doesn’t really extend its favor to the audience very well.  Through all the twists and turns we go through in the film, in the end, nothing changes.  Sure, Sam decides to take back his fathers company, but he was already keeping it in check with his late night invasions and technological thievery. 

The film hopes to explain the plot through a series of expositional dialog that’s forced into our ears, giving the illusion that the plot is effectively being executed when in reality, it’s just causing more confusion.  This has a lot to do with the fact that so much was packed into the story that it was hard to keep the plot simple enough not to rack the brain to and fro.  It throws one to many plot devices at us; such as three versions of one character, a society of intelligently advanced programs called “Isos” which were obliterated before we had a chance to really know what they were, A beautiful and fun woman whose purpose in the story wasn’t entirely clear, and a highly developed world that’s too complex too explain in just under two hours.  The end result of all this and more is bringing the audience to a state of mind no different from when they sat down in the seats of the auditorium two hours before.

Don’t expect too much with this film.  It isn’t mind blowing nor is it a milestone in the history of cinematic excursions.  But it is a spectacle that should be seen and will keep your eyes open and your body pumping ready for the next scene.  And while it doesn’t even touch the animation achievements made by James Cameron’s Avatar, it certainly brings a much more enjoyable and exciting ride when it comes to Science Fiction films in general.

Rating 7.5 out of 10