Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

What Shapes A Young Brian Spath?

Monday, June 28, 2010

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

What Shapes A Young Brian Spath?

Monday, June 21, 2010

Friday, June 18, 2010

Let's All Go to the Lobby!

Jonah Hex
With the popularity and box office successes of comic book genre films, there is a cavernous divide between the good films (The Dark Knight, X2, Iron Man) and the terrible films (Steel, Catwoman, Ghost Rider). Joining the latter list of films is "Jonah Hex."

The continued success of mainstream comic book titles like Batman and Spider-Man allows for lesser known properties to be acquired by studios and fast-tracked into production. Occasionally, small press or alt-comic titles will transition well and become crossover successes (Ghost World, Wanted, American Splendor). With a major studio's propensity to snatch up the rights to any title it views to have big returns, some films are rushed into development, forced into production, and crafted with disregard for crucial elements (plot, editing, actors). Because of this, "Jonah Hex" fails on several fronts and the end product is wholly dissatisfying.

There isn't much to be said about this movie that isn't disparaging. Josh Brolin plays Hex and his makeup looks good. I don't know what John Malkovich is trying to convey through his performance (grumble, grumble, kill 'em!), and Megan Fox can't act to save her thumbs. What Michael Shannon, Will Arnett, and Aidan Quinn were thinking of when they signed onto this film is beyond me.

The plot is simple enough: a confederate solider, Turnbull (Malkovich), wants to exact revenge on the US during centennial celebrations. He steals a doomsday-type weapon and plans to lay waste to the Capitol. The only person who can stop him is Hex because Hex killed Turnbull's son, who in turn murdered Hex's family and scarred his face.

The story forgoes much of Hex's comic-inspired origin; the screenwriters (of Crank fame) opt instead to create their own. This includes granting Hex some zombie conversation powers. In addition, the script is filled with such inane dialogue, contrived plot devices, and barely there essence it makes a SyFy film strong in comparison. At a crisp 81 minutes, there's little time for exposition, just choppy action sequence after surreal metaphor-ish fight scene between Turnbull and Hex after washed-out close-up of Fox. Skip it.

Jesse Eisenberg continues his ascent to the top of quality young actors with a tender portrayal of a Hasidic Jew in New York during the late 90s. Eisenberg plays Sam Gold, a young man who lives with his parents, works at his father's shop and hopes to marry soon and strike out on his own.

When things don't go his way, he falls in with his neighbor's older brother who has been moving ecstasy pills to New York from Europe. Sam quickly ingratiates himself into the drug cartel, helping with numbers and making deals happen, recruiting new kids into the ring, and wearing new sneakers.

The film follows the standard trek of a drug film: new kid in the business, makes an impression, then reaches a point of no return. In spite of the Jewish slant, the film doesn't breach any new ground. Eisenberg delivers a fine performance, but seems to be riding his shtick as far is it can take him. "Holy Rollers" is an interesting film, but not an exciting one. Rent it.

Michael Douglas delivers a stand-out performance as a charming, slick horn dog who can't get his act together or keep his hands to himself. Douglas plays a former car salesman who tried to cheat the books, got busted, developed a heart condition and is now trying to get his life back in order. He plays every angle, takes everyone for granted, and looks to satisfy his most basic needs.

In some regards, this character seems like a continuation of, or parallel to, Gordon Gekko from Wall Street. No expense is too big, no woman unattainable, no matter what the cost. He scorns his daughter, his grandson, and his friends because he looks out for himself and he seems very content with that. There are moments during the film where that facade fades, his guard is let down, and there's a hint of redemption, but Douglas shrugs it off and presses on, unfazed.

The ensemble cast is deep and the performances are strong, though they pale in comparison to Douglas'. Sure, it boils down to pretty people with problems, but Douglas plays the part with such charisma that he's hard to resist and even harder to root against. While the end of the film is ambiguous, I found it tough not to root for Douglas in hopes that he got his act together. See it.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Off the Shelf

Captain America: Truth
One of the more interesting retcon stories produced by either Marvel or DC, "Truth" looks at the development of the super soldier program and the creation of Captain America. The revelation, however, is that Steve Rogers wasn't the first Star-Spangled Avenger. The original origin of Captain America saw Steve Rogers selected to be the recipient of an experimental serum that would make him the ultimate combatant. For centuries, this stood as the extent of the genesis of Marvel's ultimate hero.

That is until Robert Morales and Kyle Baker developed Truth. They delved into the history of Captain America and exposed the ugly history of how Steve Rogers became who he is. Instead of Rogers walking into an army recruiter's office and becoming a military superman, Morales and Baker show that the super soldier program was in development for years and Rogers wasn't the first recipient of the serum.

While I initially had a negative reaction towards the prospect of this scenario, I quickly realized that it made sense. America was in the throes of war and in Marvel's comic book world, heroes were needed to gain an advantage. In the volatile racial climate the nation was in, blond-haired, blue-eyed Caucasian weaklings would not be the a guinea pig for unproven, radical experimentation.

Enter the segregated African-American regiments of the US Army. As the best and brightest were screened through, experimented on, disfigured, lied to and essentially abandoned on suicide mission after suicide mission, an ugly realization came upon me: if such a program existed, this is exactly how it would operate.

Morales does a great job of tying in factual events, themes, and sentiments of the period. It really brings the book to life and makes it scarily realistic. Where the book lacked was art: Kyle Baker has a long history in comics and has several historical perspective/commentary works to his credit. For such a stark, chilling tale, however, his cartoony approach didn't mesh with the subject matter. Thankfully, it doesn't distract from the overall story and is not a hinderance when read in the graphic novel format.

"Truth" is an important book in many regards. It injects a hard, disturbing reality into the Captain America mythology and it instills a relevance and appreciation that Steve Rogers had previously been lacking. With a Captain America film in the works, it would be great to see this story incorporated into the script, even if just a subtle nod to the fans, but more so to those in the real world who have been sacrificed at the expense of progress.

Henry & Glenn Forever
This mini-comic proposes an amusing premise, but the allure quickly fades after the first couple of pages. Setup as a sitcom scenario, it features Henry Rollins and Glenn Danzig as roommates (maybe more?) living next door to noted Satanists Hall & Oates. Forever contains one page comics, diary excerpts, and little else. While it's fun to imagine such an arrangement existing, the loose narrative created a clunky story that left me unfulfilled. As even Rollins himself quipped, "Has Glenn seen this? Trust me, he would not be impressed."

Jeffrey Brown's latest release is a collection of small-release, little seen work. Switching back-and-forth between various publications, the anthology holds together well and is a fun read. Brown is in an interesting artist. In the case of some contemporaries, anthologies such as this will show a real progression over the course of the work. Brown's art remains relatively unchanged over the decade or so range and his wit, paranoia, and demeanor stayed the same. Brown's work is always fun to read, very personal, and serves as a great mirror unto the reader. He's embraced the medium of comic storytelling well and is a prolific creator. "Undeleted Scenes" is an enter

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Wednesday Filler

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

What Shapes A Young Brian Spath?

Monday, June 14, 2010

Friday, June 11, 2010

Let's All Go to the Lobby!

It's a big box office weekend for the 1980s as two prominent properties square off for your nostalgic lust. Before you pay out of pocket to revisit the past, be prepared for one thing: you'll need to divorce yourself from the memories and affections you had for both franchises.

The A-Team
For a sloppy, ham-fisted action film, "The A-Team" is a mediocre movie with a mess in several regards (plot, choreography, direction). As a big screen adaptation of a popular TV show, it's a despicable pillaging and stereotyping of an iconic program. After watching the film, I approached it from two angles: big screen adaptation and blockbuster summer flick. Thoroughly, it failed on both fronts.

Over the course of a television series, characters develop personalities beyond what was originally recognizable to separate all of the actors. For a two hour film, however, the essences of the original A-Team were boiled down, stripped away, and given generic, staid traits that only hint at the series. Instead of being developed with a resourceful Hannibal (while being charismatic to boot), goofy yet misunderstood Murdoch (and endearingly so), hard-nosed B.A. Baracus (but a compassionate man just the same), and the charming Face (a Casanova if there ever were one). Each character undergoes a revamp and only certainly traits remain and are amplified to satisfy a hungry (albeit simpleton) summer audience: Hannibal always has a plan, Murdoch is crazy, B.A. is a badass (unless he's without his mo-hawk), and Face is a womanizer.

The plot for the film encompasses an origin of sorts. It reveals how the group came together, completed impossible mission after impossible mission, and eventually found themselves double-crossed and as escaped convicts. The plot is generic, following the A-Team through Baghdad in pursuit of US currency plates before they fall into the wrong hands. The team is soon outwitted and accused of treason with no hope of redemption.

Cue the explosions and reality defying escapes! The action sequences border on the boring. Fight scenes are so poorly shot and executed that the muddled editing drove me crazy. There were times I could not even look at the screen because it was becoming a jumbled mess. It's a frustrating movie-going experience, and a disappointing one at that. Skip it.

This remake takes indulgence to a whole new level. Will Smith produced the film so his son, Jaden, could play a star-making role. While the young Smith delivers an engaging performance, the film is two hours and 20 minutes of montages, overriding musical score, and cliched storytelling (aside from the fact that it's a remake).

Jaden plays Dre Parker, a recent transplant from Detroit to China, and studies kung fu instead of karate. In spite of the original script, 12 year-old Jaden develops a crush on a classmate and certain montages depict the blossoming relationship. I've never felt more uncomfortable than when watching two kids kiss each other knowing full well it should be Ralph Macchio and Elizabeth Shue instead.

"The Karate Kid" isn't a terrible film. It just lacks the depth the original possessed. Jaden Smith has the ability to be a fine young actor, but his involvement seems forced and incongruous with the original concept for the film. Had it lost the the romantic interest slant and shaved 40 or so minutes from the running time, I wouldn't be thinking I should have seen Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage instead. Skip it.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Wednesday Filler

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

What Shapes A Young Brian Spath?!v=FPvOthnDj6I

Monday, June 7, 2010

Cool Covers

It's Amalgam Month!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Let's All Go to the Lobby!

A sci-fi thriller tries to get philosophical but comes across creepy. Two pop scientists specialize in hybrid DNA technologies but soon find themselves parents to a freak of scientific nature. Hilarity ensues. Adrien Brody has sex twice during the film, and that's not even the creepiest part. Skip it.

Get Him To The Greek
Jonah Hill is fat, Russell Brand is not funny, and together they deliver nearly two hours of boring narcissism. The self-indulgent nature of the film is hidden behind a pretentious facade of tongue-in-cheek satire and parody. Hill creates a few genuinely funny moments, but proves he is unable to lead a film. Russell Brand must be an acquired taste - one I have yet to find. Sean Combs must have had some grade A handlers on set pampering that massive ego. He can't act and this film isn't entertaining. Skip it.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Wednesday Filler

Battle of the Planets - never going to happen...

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

What Shapes A Young Brian Spath?!v=8-qOzAWyRx4