Thursday, June 28, 2012

Spectacular Spider-man

Hey true believers… hehe sorry had to get that out of my system.   From the original release of 1964 Marvel Comics created Spider-man via Stan Lee and Steve Ditko.  In 1967 an animation of same titled character was created and while the artwork was a bit hammy as was some of the storylines it was true to the hero.  From the 1970’s to the 1990’s each incarnation took its own spin on the wall crawler but missed the mark by several inches until 2008’s creation that blew away even the most doubting of fan boys and girls.  So grab your tights and spare web cartridges and brush up on your banter.   This is The Spectacular Spider-man Season 1.
In tradition with the standings of most of the varied releases this version is no different in giving Spidey’s younger years thus we are off to Midtown High where Peter Parker is all of 16 years of age fending off crooks and baddies with puns and punches.   The animation hails from Adelaide Productions.  The team responsible for (Jackie Chan Adventures, Roughnecks: The Starship Trooper Chronicles and Men in Black: The Series) and Culver Entertainment for distribution.  A great take on an old thang.  The stories have consequences, real character development and an expanding storyline.  Villains of yesteryear galore and Spidey is on his own fighting nutballs in costumes, bullies at school and J. Jonah Jameson for libel on his every other movement.  It feels real nice to be wanted huh?  
The crux of this version in my belief is the voice cast that was assembled.   Peter Parker/Spider-man (Josh Keaton of Spider-man: Shattered Dimensions, Marvel Super Hero Squad, Transformers Prime and Green Lantern: The Animated Series), Gwen Stacey (Lacey Chabert of Party of Five, Mean Girls, Transformers: Rescue Bots and Young Justice) Captain Stacey and the Rhino (Clancy Brown of The Highlander, Starship Troopers, The Shawshank Redemption) and Harry Osborn (James Arnold Taylor of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Valkyria Chronicles II, Batman: The Brave and the Bold) to name a few but be honest you want to know about villains and man o man have we got villains.  Dipping into Spider-man’s substantial rogues’ gallery we have a bouquet of voices to match their cartoon likeness.

The Vulture: the high flying vengeful scientist Spidey encounters voiced by none other than Robert Englund (A Nightmare on Elm Street, The Mangler, Hatchet, Justice League) Hammerhead: low ranking lieutenant to an unannounced villain in the shadows.  With a steel (or sometimes adamantium) plate in his head and a rough right cross voiced by veteran voice actor John DiMaggio (Bender of Futurama, The Problem Solverz and Batman: The Brave and the Bold) as well as The Sandman: a being turned into living sand that can mold his body into any shape he desires.

  Again as previously mentioned the lingo and dialogue has been updated to suit the younger viewers but does not detract that this metamorphosis of Spider-man can and will mostly be viewed by mature fans of many ages.  Those of us that grew up with the comics will most likely agree that this version of Spider-man was well drawn, well written and properly executed the fullest of its capabilities.   Alas this series was only made for two seasons and had not been picked back up.  What does that mean in the long run of things?  Well maybe a revamp of it is on its way but most likely with the Ultimate Spider-Man creation that it will be shelved leaving potential story lines unfinished.  Who knows what future holds for this web-head franchise.  I, for one will enjoy these episodes with my nephews.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter

Four score and seven beheadings ago…  Yeah not sure that speech would generate the same impact if you enlighten the masses to the realms of the undead in their lands.  Then again who knows?  Maybe they would have taken it in stride and gathered arms to purge the evil from their shores.  So sharpen your knives and stakes and start prepping holy water.   This is Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter.

Spoilers of the night shut up!
Director Timur Bekmanmbetov is carving himself a niche with vampire stories now with two already under his belt with Night Watch and Day Watch turns to a little bit of fiction that has been on the best sellers list with Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter.  He adapted his own novel into the screenplay so one comes to the conclusion it didn’t stray far from the source material.
Our story opens with the exploitations of 12 year old Abraham and his mother and father working as indentured servants to Jack Barts (Marton Csokas of XXX, Bourne Supremacy, Aeon Flux, Alice in Wonderland and The Tree), a man of unscrupulous behavior fires Thomas (Joseph Mawle of Freefall, After Tomorrow, Heartless and Game of Thrones) and Nancy (Robin McLeavy of 48 Shades, The Loved Ones, After the Credits and Hell on Wheels TV series) when Abraham tries to stop Barts from beating a slave boy and friend Will Johnson.  Barts did not care for Thomas’ attitude to his “betters” and tells them they will pay one way or the other.  Barts sneaks into the Lincolns’ cabin and feeds on Nancy, Thomas is grief stricken and tells Abraham he is not to seek revenge for that is a dark path.

Seven years later Abraham (Benjamin Walker of The War Boys, Coach, Westward and Flags of Our Fathers) and is all alone and feels he will have is revenge…after a few rounds of liquid courage.  An idle chat with a fellow patron Henry (Dominic Cooper of An Education, The Duchess, The Devil’s Double and Captain America: The First Avenger) who states the only time you see a man drinking like that is when he is going to ask out a girl or kill man.  Patting Abraham on the back hard, a flintlock falls out of Lincoln’s coat.   Fending off the effects of alcohol and a formidable beating at the hands of Jack Barts; Lincoln awakens in the house of Henry and was told he is going about it all wrong.  Look at the bigger picture, adapt and plan his attacks on these vile creatures.  Henry mentors Lincoln in a series of mixed martial arts and melee weapons, oh which a 5 pound wood axe seems to be Lincoln’s preferred weapon.

Let’s break this down into various categories shall we?  One hand you have a historical figure not only founder of the Emancipation Proclamation, the document to end slavery and offer a modicum of dignity to men that were whipped, beaten and often members of friends and family slaughtered, but you also have a different set of rules to vampires.  Silver is back, beheading and bodily dismemberment works.
There are plenty of the traditional standings such as; vampire powers and superiority complexes but a fairly complex storyline of the involvement of humans growing, aging and living life.     An amalgam of CGI green screen, wire work and prosthetic appliances, this film is wowing the audience a little too much on the lines of a Bruce Willis Die Hard in places.   A hybrid of Super 35mm Digital film, anamorphic for the all-encompassing shot and of course, the Phantom Flex for the 3-D version of this movie.    
Now I freely admit the title does sound a trifle silly but you have to admit it does catch the eye and make you question it and when all is said and done I actually had a good time, with one minor drawback.   I was in the far front row right in line of the surround sound.  A tad booming at times but one will adapt and move on.  Give it a view folks.  You will be pleasantly surprised.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Brotherhood of Blood...

Alright back again with an award winning film that touched the hearts of millions and filled songs deep within their souls…oh wait I am reviewing another vampire movie.  Crap.   Well strap in kiddies because this bronco will do more than buck.  It will probably stomp a new mud hole in you.

Spoiler Alert!   There will be critiquing and outright scene explanation as well as bashing of said movie

Now before I bring the hot pokers to this movie, let me be clear in saying I love Sid Haig and Ken Foree.   Sid Haig made his bones with TV shows such as Gunsmoke, Get Smart and even a few Mission Impossible episodes.   The first film I saw him in was Coffy starring Pam Grier.  He was playing this sick cat named Omar and just a vicious but calm mother.   You younger viewers know him better as Captain Spaulding of House of a Thousand Corpses and The Devil’s Rejects.   Ken Foree on the other hand starred in the original Dawn of the Dead as Peter and later as the Reverend in the 2004 remake.  I have seen him in TV as far back as a Hunter episode but my favorite character of his is the ground pounding PFC (Private First Class) Large from Babylon 5.  Smoking a cigar in a barrack that isn’t even his and telling his rookie bunkmate war stories.   Hell, Victoria Pratt from Cleopatra 2525 and Mutant X is in this so what could go wrong?   Sigh.  

Well enough back pedaling, here we go.  Directors/Writers Michael Roesch and Peter Scheerer co-wrote and directed Alone in the Dark 2 and House of the Dead 2) brings us this festive little romp.  We encounter our band of vampire hunters and it would seem not all is well as one of them is bound in chains; the other tied to a chair getting slapped around for information by vampires.   Maybe they are on the set of the last Bruno Mattei’s Woman in Chains flicks.  Always be concerned when your flick has vamp fangs made of wax and not veneer jobs instead.   The sound quality seems to be off or maybe it was just the DVD copy I had rented but I swear the actors do not sound like they are miked at all.  Our fearless vampire huntress has a heated discussion with one of the lead vamps as she picks her locks.  Hmm heightened senses must be off.   Sid Haig, a.k.a. Lord Pashek takes conference with his right hand man Fork.   Yeah I kid you not. Fork is his name.  A wandering nit wit human stumbles on an ancient burial ground in Romania and gets scraped by an ancient vampire corpse and is infused with Satan!!!   HUH?!  Oh and the accents that are attempted are to die for.  I heard so many half assed European attempts it was just painful after a while.
This film is interspersed with scenes not being in a sense of chronological order.  The story is laid out as a series of flashbacks from L.A. to Romania to San Pedro to L.A. and a rough narrative overshadowing the story and trying to bring everything tied in.  Nicely done but this HD DVD hand held steady cam; while great for those tight zoom shots and able to whip back and forth from character to character just does not give it a good 35MM feel and hey this is coming from a guy that remembers Super 8 films.   Maybe they were going for a Pulp Fiction/ Less Than Zero feel.   The HD gives it an updated home movie look and while the picture is crystal clear it feels like their budget could not be strained at all.

Our fearless vampire killers…say that would make a great…oh crap already been done.   Ahem our courageous vampire hunters sound off!    Carrie! (Victoria Pratt) Keaton! (Jason Connery) Jill! (Rachel Grant of Die Another Day and The Tournament)    I was slightly disturbed the vampire hunters chained Ken Foree to a table and not because the effects showed them cutting off circulation or the chains had crosses and holy water placed on it.  Nah it just felt like some avant-garde bondage performance art piece that no one gets.   Actually I have yet another spoiler here for you all.  Foree spends most of his scenes strapped down.   They find out with a little bit of torture that the vamps are terrified that Satan has taken human form and now roams the Earth but they call him Vlad Kosay and the greatest trick Vlad ever did was to prove he didn’t exist.  If the sets weren’t so minimum and poorly lit…well who am I kidding?  It would still suck.   I never saw so much fog in a flick outside the Fog. The narrative is unnecessary, the pace is slow and the performance is barely memorable.  Our action scenes were sketchy at best and the gore or violence was tame.   Move on gentle readers. This is a turd in your cereal bowl. 

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Season 1: The Story Begins

Normally I am not a huge USA network fan.  I skim through it every so often for series in repeat or marathons on episodes I have missed and generally do not care for films that have been censored and neutered to make less offensive.   So in 2007, I heard on the IMDB grapevine that a new show is coming out I do a brief scan and it looks interesting, I watch the first 3 episodes and it becomes captivating so grab your cell phone, your Sig Sauer and prep your lies.  This is Burn Notice Season 1.

The review you are about to read may contain spoilers and above all else is "need to know" information that is classified…(okay I was having fun that last bit).

Series creator and head writer Matt Nix (Burn Notice and The Good Guys) devised a complex series of episodes outlining a spy’s life of point and counterpoint.  Who are enemies and who allies are and lastly who blurs in between those lines.  To cap off this series is one Michael Westen (Jeffery Donovan of Touching Evil, Hitch and The Pretender) who narrates throughout the chapter.  At first I feel like it was unnecessary and just let the show unfold as it is but after a few episodes I got the feeling that the narration is integral to the action and scenes.  While conducting a little hush money transaction to a ruthless warlord in order to smooth diplomacy to warring nations, Westen’s alias has be compromised and is cut loose from any back up.  The warlord’s men proceed to beat him and he comes up with a decent lie to formulate a plan of escape. 

 Making his way to the agency plane he passes out and wakes up in a cheap hotel in Miami where he is greeted awake (by a light boot in the bruised ribs) by former girlfriend and IRA terrorist Fiona Glenn Anne (Gabrielle Anwar of Scent of a Woman, The Three Musketeers, Things to Do in Denver When You’re Dead)   Given all his assets and money are frozen he has to seek operating funds elsewhere and speaks to former SEAL and friend Sam Axe (Bruce Campbell of Evil Dead, The Adventures of Brisco County Jr., Spiderman)   Michael has to figure out who set him up and who he can turn to for help.   Family is always a good choice unless you are a Westen.  Mother, Madeline Westen  (Sharon Gless of Cagney and Lacey) could teach the KGB a thing or two about manipulation but she has a good heart and should have blacken lungs from how often she chain smokes.

This show feels like an action movie.  The fight choreography is a very similar approach to the Bourne Trilogy.  Very fluid motion and it does not feel staged.   Car chases have such precision; it is mind boggling.  The gun fights are intense.   Which each new scene you get the sensation that this conspiracy against one capable man is very elaborate and a far bigger puzzle than Michael has put together thus far and it is only going to get worse before it gets better for him.   As for the viewer, if you appreciate a well rounded cast, good writing and impressive story telling then give this show more than the once over.  You just might be pleasantly surprised.