Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Wednesday Filler
Thanks, Mark!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Off the Shelf

Included in this seventh installment of the series are: Black Lantern Superman, back from the dead...again; Sinestro Corps Member Arkillo, dissenter defeated, forever forced to wear his traitorous tongue around his neck; Red Lantern Mera, with a rage-filled heart, she allows the Red Ring of Power to drown her; Black Lantern Terra with Scar, resurrected to prey on the hearts of her former team members, Terra teams with near-death survivor Scar in an effort to eradicate all emotion in the Universe.

Included in this eighth installment of the series are: Black Lantern Black Flash, Professor Zoom’s reanimated corpse, holds curious sway over The Flash’s other undead rogues; Orange Lantern Lex Luthor, the new Orange Power Ring seeks out Lex Luthor for his avarice and lust for power; Indigo Tribe The Atom, with compassion and sense of duty stronger than ever, Ray Palmer serves as the binding force uniting the spectrum of power; Sinestro Corps Member Scarecrow, delights in instilling fear in others and is rewarded with the Yellow Ring of Power.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Wednesday Filler

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

What Shapes A Young Brian Spath?

Monday, April 19, 2010

Friday, April 16, 2010

Dan Nichols causes trouble...

VA's Cardinal Day

Let's All Go to the Lobby!


Mark Millar proves he's gaining serious Hollywood clout with "Kick-Ass." After the success of "Wanted," Millar was a hot scribe with the golden touch on several Marvel properties, but it took a unique, creator owned concept to land Millar's name back on the silver screen.

"Kick-Ass" brings to life the question: What if someone stopped reading comic books and tried to be a real superhero? What unfolds over the course of the film's two hours comes close to answering that question. A high school kid decides he wants to help people so he creates a costume and an alter ego in Kick-Ass. He's soon confused with a vigilante known as Big Daddy, who has enrolled his daughter, Hit Girl, into his war on crime. Kick-Ass is captured, tortured and revealed to the world as a nebbish dork.

The film does showcase several well-choreographed fight/action sequences. The decision to not tone down Hit Girl was a wise one (even if that produces controversy) as the film would be rather droll without her. Chloe Moretz is sure to be made a star after such an obscene performance. Nic Cage is surprisingly effective as Big Daddy and I was actually able to tolerate Clark Duke. The editing is crisp and there are several genuinely funny moments throughout the story. The film is reminiscent of some Quentin Tarantino work in that it presents grandiose intense violence, coupled with humor, all while backed by songs that seem an otherwise odd juxtaposition.

While the film follows the general structure of the original comic (hitting all of the major beats, basic origin, and comedic lines), the screen adaptation greatly deviates once the film hits the third act. The comic was enjoyable for the outrageous situations that the main character, Dave Lizewski, finds himself in once he 'dons the mask.' He really finds being a hero to be much tougher than he ever imagined, YouTube celebrity aside.

Once the film hits the final arc, however, it turns into generic Hollywood action film drivel complete with John Woo shoot-outs, rocket launchers, and jet packs. Regrettably, the biggest deviation comes in the form of all generic Hollywood films: the hero gets the girl. Probably one of the coolest aspects of the source material is that Lizewski gets the crap beat out of him, his balls electrocuted, and dumped on by his big crush - all within the last two issues of the series. To make the film more appeasing to audiences, that was completely nixed.

The film keeps the original concept of the comic, mixes in a crash course on Tarantino filmmaking (hopped up on smack but with a 1/10 of the depth), and creates a dazzling, crowd pleasing spectacle that is sure to pull audiences in droves. I may have been nerding off while watching the film - checking the original comic story points against the adaptation - which may have kept me from fully enjoying the experience. However, it's a fun-filled film with gratuitous violence and absurd action that's actually enjoyable to watch with a group of people. See it.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Aspen Recap Report

Sorry for the delay on the recap report. It's been a hectic week back in St. Louis capped off with a trip to Chicago tomorrow for C2E2.

As covered in the previous Aspen Reports, the festival was enjoyable overall, though I wasn't particularly blown away by any particular program. Something that may have exacerbated the feeling is that the festival seemed too all-encompassing. The shorts selected covered the whole word, featuring stories and characters that were unique, yet presented themes and tones strikingly similar to our own culture. Regardless, I felt that out of 2500+ submissions, there may have been stronger, better pieces overlooked so as to make the fest seem far reaching and culturally embracing.

With that said, here are my favorite shorts of the fest:
Angry Man
The Continuing and Lamentable Saga of the Suicide Brothers
Franswa Sharl
Glen Owen Dodds
God of Love
The Hardest Part (trailer)
Mother of Many (excerpt)
Only One Boss
Plank (trailer)
Q&A (excerpt)
The Queen
Roof Rattling
The Six Dollar Fifty Man (excerpt)
Yellow Belly End (excerpt)

Once I returned to work on Monday I discovered that several of the shorts, including "Rita" and "God of Love," had already been to SLIFF - much to my excitement.

You can check out the full slate of films from Aspen Shortsfest here. Also be sure to check out the list of award winners, many worthy winners and hopefully several of which that will be screening at SLIFF in November.

Off the Shelf

Brightest Day #0 hit shelves yesterday - check it out!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Wednesday Filler

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

What Shapes A Young Brian Spath?

Monday, April 12, 2010

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Aspen Report #2

Aspen Shortsfest wrapped up last night with the two strongest programs of the whole event. Friday had its share of memorable pieces, which coupled with Saturday's strong effort, helped salvage an otherwise mundane festival.

Friday's Programs (Seven & Eight): The first set of shorts on Friday featured
several stories centered around kids. Two that stood out were "Franswa Sharl" and "Rita." Sharls is based on the true story of a vacationing Australian family and the outgoing son who enters - and wins - a girls beauty pageant.
The short was funny, sweet, and the lead was really captivating. It was a great all around family short. On the opposite side of the kids film coin is Rita. The story centers on Rita, a blind girl who soon finds herself forced outside the comfort of her home and taking a chance she's always wanted to. A majority of the film is close on Rita's face so the audience sees how she reacts to what she - and the audience - can't see. It's a filmmaking tactic that worked very well.

The second program had more dreck, some snakes, and two pretty good shorts. "Yellow Belly End" was an interesting animation that is absurd and quirky. A man dressed as a bird watches people dressed as assorted members of the animal kingdom jump to their deaths. The short was well-paced, funny, and strange - just my type of short.

Saturday's Programs (Nine & Ten): Saturday brought out the best of all the programs with two strong sets to finish out the festival. Program Nine delivered one great short after another, headlined by "The Queen," "Mother of Many," and "The Six Dollar Fifty Man." Queen was a charming fantasy tale about a young man who is quiet, shy and overlooked at his school. As he closes up the family laundromat one night, a random encounter with a classmate sends him into a beautiful fantasy. This piece was short, sharp, and featured Pat Benatar in the soundtrack (bonus points). Mother was a wild animation about a midwife with graphic depictions of women in labor. Six Dollar was a New Zealand short about a young, illiterate man who lives in a fantasy world all his own and the women who love him. The short was clever, imaginative and fun. The young lead (seen above in all his red and blonde glory) was quite good - he was deep, emotive and captivating.

The second set of the night was a proper send off for the festival - several awesome pieces of animation, a couple of taut thrillers, and a sweet romantic-comedy that was tops of the fest. "The Art of Drowning" was a visual stunner that looked at the act of drowning and whether or not, in the throes of death, one's life passes before his eyes. "Wolves" was a strange animated short about dreams, reality, and love's missed opportunities. "The Cow Who Wanted to Be a Hamburger" was one of the newest films from Bill Plympton and contains all the insanity one would expect from a Plymptoon. "Battered," "Cigarette Candy," and "Roar" (a SLIFF alum) were deeply moving, well produced dramas that strengthened the final program. More shorts like those sprinkled throughout the fest would have made it thoroughly more enjoyable. The closing film, "God of Love," was a snappy, jazzy love story that put a twist on Cupid folklore. The short was one of those rare student films that transcends the boundaries of academic limitations and exceeded even the best of major productions. The piece was funny, smart, well photographed and hit all the beats of a well produced piece. It didn't have anything unnecessary or over-indulgence of the filmmakers. It's a piece I definitely hope to bring to St. Louis in November.

I'll conduct a fest wrap-up tomorrow, but for now I'm just ready for bed. I'll part by saying the festival was a lot of fun and it was great to see so many shorts in a short amount of time by actually being in a theater. In the coming weeks, I'll work on following up contact with the many pieces I'm interested and I'll keep you posted on the progress for the SLIFF programs this fall.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Let's All Go to the Lobby!

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
One of the more popular Swedish films released in 2009 finally hits St. Louis (notice a trend from last week?) in "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo." A thrilling, suspenseful mystery punched up with splashes of action, Dragon is much more enthralling than "The Ghost Writer," another highly touted thriller released earlier this year.

The film deals with the disappearance of a young girl from an influential family. What unravels touches on the dark extremes of religion, racism, sexual fetishes and misogyny. Utilizing current technology to deduce the truth from various artifacts, the puzzle slowly comes together over the course of 2 1/2 hours (and a swift moving 150 minutes it is). The film produces hard truths, grizzly scenes, and powerful performances throughout the cast.

Currently, I would equate Dragon to an American equivalent of "Zodiac." Coincidentally, David Fincher has purchased the rights to Dragoon to produce the American remake. While the film contains many scenes, themes and acts that probably won't make the American version, Fincher is probably the best man for the job - someone who could deftly pull off a tense, crafty mystery that tops all that American audiences have seen for a sometime.

Scenes around Aspen...

The view from our room...

On a jeep tour of Aspen...

The view of Aspen from the mountainside...

Donald Trump's Aspen home...

Aspen Report #1

Karibe and I pulled into Aspen too late on Tuesday to make either of the first competition programs, but we made both shows on Wednesday and Thursday. Each program featured several strong pieces, but a few clunkers as well.

Wednesday's Programs (Three & Four): The first program on Wednesday featured several enjoyable shorts. "Angry Man" was a delightful, yet haunting animation that told the story of an abusive father as seen through the son's eyes. The animation was really neat and fit the mood of the film perfectly. "Glenn Owen Dodds" was a charming comedy about "an ordinary man who meets an extraordinary man" and pretty extraordinary events ensue.

The later show included an animation made from wood-block images, a StoryCorps recording, and Keira Knightley. My favorite piece from this program was "The Continuing and Lamentable Saga of the Suicide Brothers," an absurd short that utilized green screen technology, German surrealism, a haunting score and well played dark comedic sensibility.

Overall, the programs were strong. There were a few pieces that were weaker in comparison to the better shorts but still fit into the overall themes of "identity" or "coming of age." I wasn't, however, blown away by each short as I had expected.

Thursday's Programs (Five & Six): The shows on Thursday were an eclectic collection of animation, documentary, and gripping dramatic pieces. The first program featured three very strong pieces in "The History of Aviation," "Home is Where You Find It," and "Roof Rattling." Aviation is a period piece about a lost little girl and the frantic search to find her. During her time away, the little girl witnesses a horrifying attempt at flight. Home was a touching account of AIDS orphans in Africa. Alcides Soares is a 16 year old orphan who is searching for his younger brother. Soares shoots most of the footage in the film and really becomes a natural filmmaker and charismatic personality. Rattling is a Kiwi short about a young boy, a friend, and their attempt to steal Playboys. After getting caught in the targeted house, James grows close to the old man living there - just in the course of one afternoon.

The second program was the strongest of the fest so far. It featured several styles of animation (including a screening of a short omitted from the previous show). "Alma" is a chilling, Twilight Zone-esque tale about a little girl infatuated with a doll with a hauntingly similar appearance (it also screened at SLIFF in 2009). "Flowerpots" is a fun, hand-drawn animation about outgrowing your surroundings but always ending up where you started.

"Lebensader" is a tale about seeing the universe from a unique perspective and knowing that existence goes far beyond what we can see. It's a colorful, imaginative short that was a lot of fun to watch.

The live action pieces that rounded out the night were highlighted by "The Cage," "Man and Boy," and "Plank." Cage sees a young boy care for an ailing pigeon, much to the disdain of his father. Soon, the father comes to care for the bird as well but it's too late. "Man and Boy" stars the intense Eddie Marsan caught between his past and the gregarious actions of a neighbor boy. "Plank" is a documentary about a Moroccan skateboarder who makes Ryan Sheckler look like the tool douche he really is.

So far, the programs have been enjoyable with a few dazzling pieces in the mix. There has yet to be, however, a short that blows me a way in the fashion of "Sugar" or "Ten for Grandpa." With four programs still to screen, hopefully that will change.

One perplexing inclusion into two programs (the late shows on Wednesday and Thursday) has been the work of Lewis Teague, Charlotta-TS. From what I've gathered, he's connected to Aspen in some fashion but the work is beyond wretched and hampers the style, flow and quality of the programs. I understand including works as a favor or as some sort of political wrangling behind festival doors, but dedicating prestigious festival space on three occasions (another indulgence occurs on Friday) as well as a separate "special presentation" seminar on micro-filmmaking, boggles my mind and changes my perception of the fest. One of the mysteries of the universe, I suppose.

Also, last night Karibe and I saw Meg Ryan, who's cute, sweetheart face has been totally destroyed by Botox. The picture to the left is only a partial representation of the damage that has taken place. Boy, how Hollywood has bastardized the notions of beauty and perfection. I guess as long as roles don't call for Ryan to be emotive through facial features, she'll keep getting work.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Off the Shelf

A couple of neat images from the upcoming "Brightest Day" series. It's great to see the Green Lantern universe play such a large role in the DC universe as a whole. More details on several new series spinning out of "Blackest Night" at the link above.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Scenes along the way...

Driving through a snowstorm...

Driving into a mountain...
Driving through a mountain...

Grazing buffalo

Wednesday Filler

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Aspen Shortsfest

Today, Kara and I leave for a six-day stay in Aspen, CO, where I will be attending the Aspen Shortsfest festival. Over the course of our time there, I'll be taking in upwards of 100 short films - quite the daunting task. It'll be great fun, though, with the traveling, the locale, and the overall experience of the event.

Looking over the Aspen selections, there are a few films I selected for last year's festival. While I can't say how many Aspen films will eventually make the cut at SLIFF this year, it should be an enjoyable experience.

The regular posts will run as usual, including an unexpected review this Friday. Check in daily for Apsen updates as well. See you soon, St. Louis!

What Shapes A Young Brian Spath?

Monday, April 5, 2010

Invincible Returns!

A bold new era in the Invincible Universe hits stores Wednesday...
...check out a nine-page preview here!

Cool Covers

Some nice Mike Mignola work there.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Let's All Go to the Lobby!

Clash of the Titans
The 1981 fantasy classic gets a reboot and a makeover under the boring guidance of Louis Leterrier and vacant gaze of new action it-boy Sam Worthington. Lacking the charm of the original, the new Titans tries wow with 3D special effects and a talented cast. While the acting is adequate (if not lost amongst the glitz and shine of the sfx), the 3D is yet another wasted attempt to capitalize on Hollywood's hot trend.

Leterrier certainly knows how to put together an action film, but a few sequences were too tight and too dark - leaving the audience to wonder what exactly was happening. Even the well spaced and well choreographed scenes seem like retreads of "Troy," "300," or "Gladiator." In fact, were it not for the overt fantasy elements of this film, there isn't much to distinguish it from the other three or countless throngs of films produced in a similar setting. Swords and sandals epics have experienced a revival and it's has several strong examples, but "Clash of the Titans" is a remake that lacks the ingenuity and imagination of Ray Harryhausen and Desmond Davis' original. Skip it.

A Prophet
On my short list for anticipated films of 2010, "Un proph├Ęte" finally arrives in St. Louis after wowing crowds of critics since debuting at Cannes last May. The film follows the plight of a young man, Malik, sentenced to six years in prison. He finds himself alone, isolated in a world he does not understand, caught between prison cliches, as well as religious and political contentions. To top it all of, he's also illiterate. From the beginning you see that he has nothing and, basically, is considered nothing when he arrives. He soon falls in with a group of Corsican gangsters, learns to read and write (in addition to learning a few other languages) and slowly works his way up the gangster chain. Along the way he earns day leave, scores electronic equipment for his quarters, and begins dealing with other gangs, both in and out of prison.

The film is methodical and engrossing. It has a deep, talented cast of actors who lend severe credibility to the film's environs. While I've seen comparisons to the Italian "Gomorra," I found "Un proph├Ęte" to be much more interesting and realistic. Malik's journey presents a deeply moving and intense ordeal with one of the greatest closing scenes I've witnessed in a long while. See it.

No reviews next week as I will be at Aspen Shortsfest scouting material for SLIFF. If all goes well, I will be blogging daily about my short film marathon exploits.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Off the Shelf

Matt Kindt has two new books coming out this year and the first of which has a neat little contest featuring cool swag.