Archives for January, 2012
Without Sylvester Stallone we wouldn’t have current action stars such as The Rock and Vin Diesel. Wait wait; is that really a good thing? Nevertheless Stallone has been making films for nearly forty years. He’s responsible for two of the most popular film franchises of the 80’s, he’s starred In sixty films, produced seven projects, written twenty-four projects including television episodes and characters for a videogame, and directed eight films. For a body building action star the guy is fairly prolific. Oh and as mush mouthed as he can often be, have you seen Vin Diesel in Fast Five? What the Hell was that guy saying in that film? If you’re looking to dig through the bad stuff to find the diamonds here are his top ten films so far:
10. The Lords of Flatbush 1974
Directed by: Martin Davidson, Stephen Verona
Starring: Sylvester Stallone
Stallone is pretty young in this film and it’s still one of his better roles. Set in the late 1950’s Stallone plays a young thug that becomes a part of a gang that rides motorcycles, smokes, and drinks their way through the Flatbush area of Brooklyn New York. The film is well executed if a bit on the melodramatic side, especially when the story begins to focus on the love lives of the characters. The film was directed by the team of Martin Davidson and Stephen Verona. It’s early in Stallone’s career here but for him anyway; he does a good enough job. Hell he holds his own with the Fonz right? Well, take from that what you will.
9. Death Race 2000 1975
Directed by: Paul Bartel
Starring: Sylvester Stallone, David Carradine, Mary Warnov
Paul Bartel directs a classic film from producer Roger Corman that not only stars Sylvester Stallone but also David Carradine and Mary Warnov. This is one of those films that are so bad it’s just awesome. The down and dirty of it is a sci-fi story where the hot sport is a cross country race where the racers also get points for the kills they score along the way. The core concept of this film has truly made it into the pop culture zeitgeist. The film was originally released and over 30 years later kids are making jokes in the car with their mom saying “hit that guy he’s worth 150 points!” They probably don’t even know where the joke originally came from, especially since the Jason Statham starring remake made in 2008 has less to do with the original concept and more in common with a videogame like Twisted Metal. Stallone is pretty wooden in this film but no less so that David Carradine. Both actors are unintentionally hilarious in the film. Death race 2000 is a true drive in classic and Stallone is a ton of fun in the film.
8. Nighthawks 1981
Directed by: Bruce Malmuth
Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Rutger Hauer, Lindsey Wagner, Billy Dee Williams
Nighthawks is a film that is almost transitional for Stallone. This film finds Stallone transitioning into the modern sort of Hollywood cops and robbers style of action film but still falling into the comfortable New York tough guy role he had previously been playing. The film features the great Rutger Hauer in the role of the villain and is directed by Bruce Malmuth. Also featured in the film are Lindsey Wagner and Billy Dee Williams. Stallone and Williams play NYC cops that are assigned to a new elite anti-terrorism squad just in time to stop a terrorist who has come to town to cause some mayhem. Additional conflict comes into play when the leader of the squad orders the cops to simply shoot to kill. Nighthawks is a solid action film but it might actually feel a little sedate to fans of the bombastic Michael Bay films of today. The character intensity between Stallone and Hauer is the anchor that makes this film a must see.
7. Cliffhanger 1993
Directed by: Renny Harlin
Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Michael Rooker, John Lithgrow
What’s wrong with a well-made adrenaline rush of an action film? The answer is there’s nothing wrong with such a film. The film needs to have a streamlined story that’s also not too stupid or doesn’t assume that the viewer is stupid. Cliffhanger is just such a film. The premise is simple to set up allowing plenty of room for the action ride that the film is. Stallone plays a member of a mountain rescue team along with Michael Rooker. After the two of them lose Rooker’s wife in an attempted rescue Stallone’s character retires leaving a woman that he loves behind. Later he returns, not to work, but to try and get Jessie to leave with him. At the same time John Lithgow plays a criminal planning the heist of a lifetime. Of course the two end up facing off in the snow covered mountains. Renny Harlin directed this fast paced roller coaster ride. Sylvester Stallone is absolutely at home in this film and he does a fantastic job in the lead role.
6. Rambo 2008
Directed by: Sylvester Stallone
Starring: Sylvester Stallone
Like Rocky Balboa, the Rambo franchise is another franchise that Stallone decided that he needed to clean up, to end it with a great story and finality for the lead character. So Stallone wrote and directed a film that took into consideration the age of the character and it also did what the franchise has often done by trying to bring attention to some real world genocide. This film finds a very different Rambo from the younger man of the 80’s, yet in many ways still the same man carrying the same weight of his past. The action is fantastic and oddly more grounded for the age of the character and the final moment, just before the closing credits offers up a very nice subtle emotional beat to the character and gives him a nice finish.
5. Demolition Man 1993
Directed by: Marco Brambilla
Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Wesley Snipes, Sandra Bullock
Ok, so here’s a film where Sylvester Stallone and Sandra Bullock have the most bizarre form of cybersex probably ever put on film. Does it sound funny? Well it is funny and this time in Stallone’s career it’s supposed to be. In this science fiction film Stallone plays a rough and ready street cop that was put into suspended animation after being accused of killing people while chasing his greatest foe played by the hilarious Wesley Snipes who is also frozen by the way. Both men are thawed out to continue their fight in a future where everything is peaceful to a truly annoying degree. Bullock plays a beat cop obsessed with “classic” pop culture and the beat ‘em up style of cop portrayed in Hollywood films. She partners with Stallone to track down Snipes who is planning to run this new innocent and untouched world. Demolition Man is action packed and full of fantastic comedy from beginning to end. Snipes is on fire in this film full of hilarious one liners and Stallone even gets to be funny too.
4. First Blood 1982
Directed by: Ted Kotcheff
Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Brian Dennehy
First Blood is a film that has some really campy moments and it should considering the type of film that it is but at the same time it has heart and it’s an extremely well executed small cast story. The film made in 1982 is originally based on a book and is an answer to the backlash soldiers received as they returned home from the Vietnam War. Many Americans didn’t support the war and many of them took their disdain for the war out on soldiers that weren’t to blame. Stallone played John Rambo, one such hated soldier. He came home traumatized from the war having lost many good friends and not having a family to support him. At the beginning of the film he’s hitchhiking across country looking for friends who may have also returned home when he comes to a small town where he’s not wanted. Brian Dennehey played the small town sheriff desperate to keep his little town clean. He tries to run Rambo out of town but Rambo just wanted to pass through. Things escalate too far with incarceration and beatings which ignite memories from Rambo’s time in Vietnam leading to him bringing a war to this small town. There are a few clunker scenes and the closing horrible song actually became iconic because it was so bad. The movie is exciting intentionally melodramatic, and it’s the beginning of one of the greatest action heroes of the 80’s.
3. Rocky Balboa 2006
Directed by: Sylvester Stallone
Starring: Sylvester Stallone
Rocky was one of Sylvester Stallone’s best films. The film was so popular that it became a major franchise. Each film that was released in the series was just more ridiculous than the one before it until it got to the point that the franchise made a mockery of what was a fantastic and groundbreaking film. Stallone is as at fault for the mess as the studio that made the films because he continued to star in them. In 2006 Stallone turned 60 and he was still being asked about another Rocky film. He decided to take the franchise to a proper close by starring, writing, and directing the film. To the shock of many viewers Stallone crafted a quiet subtle film that sees him as a creator and his character taking stock of who he is and realizing that he is in fact getting older and not the super hero he once was. Rocky Balboa is a smart and honest film that is the only film in the franchise to truly touch on the heart of the original film. In the film virtual reality versions of Rocky and the current champ are pitted against each other and Rocky’s avatar loses the fight. In response to the highly publicized exhibition the current fast and young camp challenges Rocky to a fight and to the shock of his friends and family Rocky comes out of retirement and accepts the fight. He needs the fight to find a bookend to what feels like an incomplete life. Rocky Balboa is a truly amazing film that should have happened right after Cop Land rather than 10 years later.
2. Cop Land 1997
Directed by: James Mangold
Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Harvey Keitel, Ray Liotta, Robert DeNiro
James Mangold wrote and directed this film in 1997 that was meant as a reboot for Stallone’s career and for the actor proof that he’s more than just an action guy. To be honest Mangold probably plotted this film to be made with or without Stallone but casting him ended up being a brilliant choice. Stallone famously put on quite a bit of weight for the role because he didn’t want to play the super hero for this film. In Cop Land Stallone plays an older, deaf in one ear, and out of shape sheriff of a small town where big city corrupt cops come to live. Stallone had always wanted to be a city cop but could never qualify due to his partial deafness. He languishes in a world of depressed existence until he learns that the cops that he looks up to are in fact corrupt and he’s forced to be the hero even though he’s outnumbered and outgunned. While Cop Land may not be Stallone’s most impactful film it does feature his absolutely best performance. The film also stars Harvey Keitel, Ray Liotta, and Robert De Niro.
1. Rocky 1976
Directed by: John G Avildsen
Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Meredith Burgess, Carl Weatheres
This film is quite a feat when you really think about it. Back in the era in which the film was made Stallone just didn’t seem like a storytelling auteur. Come on you know it’s true. But he had written this story and wanted to star in it. The resulting film was earthy and real to the characters in it, surprisingly heartfelt and also uplifting. Rocky stands 30 years later as one of the greatest sports films ever made. Stallone plays New York City thug carving out a life but wanting to do more, wanting to become a world class boxer and marry a local girl he loves. The film was brilliantly sprinkled with supporting actors that also felt like true neighborhood people including Talia Shire, Burt young, and the great Burgess Meredith. Carl Weathers is extremely entertaining in the film as Rocky’s final opponent too. Say what you will about the mush mouthed Stallone, and his was that in those days, but he is responsible for a Hollywood classic.
Directed by Alex Cox
Starring Gary Oldman, Chloe Webb, Courtney Love
Sid Vicious was a degenerate piece of work. On the flipside Nancy Spungeon was an equally degenerate piece of work. Too often I hear them referred to as the Romeo and Juliet of punk rock. If you take into account that they all died young due to their own idiotic choices then yeah, I guess it works. But unlike two Victorian teenagers Sid and Nancy didn’t have family rivalry or class warfare working against them. Instead they had drugs. You do the math. Granted this is its own form of suicide but Nancy’s alleged murder at the hand of Sid Vicious is still a topic of debate.
But all that aside we’re here to talk about the movie Sid & Nancy. And what a movie it is. Gary Oldman is incredible as Sid and Chloe Bell is just as memorable as Sid’s partner in crime Nancy Spungeon. Director Alex Cox really took great effort to capture the urban decay from the late 1970’s on both sides of the Atlantic. The costuming, lingo and most importantly the soundtrack all provide a time warp to a long gone era.
Biopics are always an interesting endeavor. At their best they capture a hint of what the character’s real life might have been like and at their worst they are over exaggerated, “print the legend,” self aggrandizing ego strokes (I’m looking at you The Doors). Alex Cox as both the director and co-writer takes great care to not preach or hypothesize about what really happened in the Hotel Chelsea. He also makes Nancy look a great deal less manipulative and crazy than she was purported to be in real life. This could have been the aforementioned “print the legend” story of Sid and Nancy but thankfully Cox chose a different direction.
Oh, and Courtney Love is in this movie as well. She has a minor role and she plays an annoying groupie with realism. Wonder why that is?
Widescreen 1.85:1. One of the great things about blu-ray is the ability to take an older film that has been weathered a bit and clean it up. The transfer here looks really good. Blu-ray is starting to grow on me.
5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. It sounds good. Even with all Nancy’s screeching and Sid’s mumbled words.
The Packaging and Special Features
If you want a real “collector’s edition” of this movie then pick up the Criterian Collection DVD from the late 90’s. There are far more special features. This disc has two featurettes, For the Love of Punk and Junk Love. Neither of them really shed any kind of light on the punk movement that you haven’t already seen on endless reruns of Behind the Music. Also included is theatrical trailer. Pretty standard stuff, for a run of the mill dvd release. I cannot understand why studios think they can trot out crap like this on blu-ray and expect people to pay a premium price. That’s crap.
If you want to see just how good Gary Oldman has always been then this movie is for you. If you want to see just how unglamorous the punk movement was then this is the movie for you. If you want a Collector’s Edition of Sid & Nancy look elsewhere.
Overall (Not an Average) 6/10
The Movie 8/10
The Video 9/10
The Audio 9/10
The Packaging and Special Features 4/10
Overall (Not an Average) 6/10
This week we share traumatic stories of parent sex, speculate about the Avengers movie, there’s some gloating about fantasy film ball, and much more!
Directed by Michael Brandt
Starring Richard Gere, Topher Grace, Martin Sheen
Was this film in theaters? The answer is yes it was but very briefly. Richard Gere is one of those unfortunate actors that have sort of fallen from grace for some reason. I never felt either way about him but in the 80’s he could do no wrong. Nowadays, maybe because he’s older, he’s barely doing more than direct to video films. He still appears to be a good enough actor though, and based on this film he also appears to be open to experimentation.
In The Double Topher Grace plays a young bookish FBI agent that has become obsessed with a deadly assassin that was part of a team of assassins responsible for many epic killings in the heyday of the Soviet Union. When a senator is murdered Grace’s character believes that he was killed by the mysterious assassin, the only one of the original group of killers that was never caught. Gere plays a retired CIA agent, who is living a quiet life of isolation, that was responsible for tracking down the assassins. Gere is asked to work with Grace by his old boss, played by Martin Sheen, to track down this killer and finally complete his long unfinished mission.
Gere seems to not believe that the senator was killed by the notorious assassin but it soon becomes apparent that he does believe that the murder comes from his old foe. He is just determined to throw Grace off the trail in order to protect him. Grace is like a mad dog though, not willing to give up or be deterred.
The fast paced film has good bones and an interesting character for Gere to play but the final execution of the story is just a little to ham fisted and that’s what keeps the film from being a classic spy thriller. There are some unexpected twists in the film which are great but the actors don’t quiet seem to be able to carry these twists through to the finale of the film. It’s hard to blame these two actors though. The script just needed more work and honestly there are several scenes where the director should have worked the actors harder to bring out some important character traits that were absolutely necessary to make the twists believable. Gere took a real chance here with his outward persona but he just didn’t bury himself in the character enough. Again, the blame gets laid at his feet and at those of the director.
The Double is a fair enough one time view but it won’t be a film you’ll be recommending to your friends because it just doesn’t strike home enough to make it memorable.
The widescreen 1080p presentation here is fairly solid throughout as it should be considering it comes from a very recent print. There’s a lot of color tinkering that went into this film simply for style and it often makes the video look harsh in presentation but overall the detail levels are solid and the black levels are good.
The surround sound presentation is basic but good enough. Dialogue is crisp and clean and well balanced with the action scenes. Surrounds are used at various points but there’s not a lot as far as dynamic range. It’s a good enough home video presentation.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
The single disc is packaged in a standard slim blue case and the artwork is a basic floating head situation. The heads of Grace and Gere are here but at least they aren’t ghostly floating. The shots are taken right from the film.
The only real bonus feature here are some brief interviews with the lead cast and crew. The interviews are sound bite laden and offer very little in the area of new or interesting information.
The menu system features a really terrible focus in the movie’s awful soundtrack too by the way.
The Double is good for a rent, that’s about it sadly.
Overall (Not an average) 4/10
The Movie 5/10
The Video 8/10
The Audio 6.5/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features 3/10
Overall (Not an Average) 4/10
Directed by Ami Canaan Mann
Starring Sam Worthington, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Chloe Grace Moretz
How did Texas Killing Fields not get a bigger push into theaters? The film features a cast of solid actors including Sam Worthington, who appears to be in everything these days, and wunderkind Chloe Grace Moretz, who also appears to be in everything. The story is also intriguing. When the film was being made it appeared that it might get a bigger theatrical push, and then it disappeared. Now we finally have the film on blu-ray.
In Texas Killing Fields Sam Worthington and Jeffrey Dean Morgan play police detectives obsessed with solving the killings of the killing fields, an area between Texas and Mexico where the bodies of young girls are constantly found. This one element of the film is based on reality; a real area in Texas full of unsolved murders of young women. As these two detectives follow up on a couple of cases unrelated to each other a second story follows a young girl played by Moretz as she stumbles through the small town trying to find ways to occupy herself while her mom services random men for money in their house. The stories collide when Moretz gets in trouble and it becomes apparent that the detectives know her and they constantly try to watch out for her.
The character development gets a lot of attention in this film with each of the two detectives getting backstory that defines their decision making when it comes to the killing fields murders. Jeffrey Dean Morgan is the cop from out of town with a chip on his shoulder and past experience haunting him, forcing him to follow these killing fields’ murders to the end. Sam Worthington is the local cop who has seen people and relationships destroyed due to these murders and the police department’s inability to solve the crimes. Chloe Grace Moretz’s character is a truly hopeless and sad character and she magically wears it on her face all the way through the film. The film is quiet, and often purposefully slow, feeling like an indie film with long moments of no dialogue with the story being told in music and facial expression only.
The character development isn’t the problem with this film, it’s the connect the dots mystery that lacks attention. The whole “whodunit” element of the film is painfully obvious and predictable literally from act one all the way to the closing credits. Sadly there’s just nothing exciting or truly mysterious about this part of the story. The failing of this part of the story is epically sad because the film does a phenomenal job of getting us invested in the characters and making us care about them all. The direction and editing is good but the script just needed one more pass to make it great.
This 1080p presentation is aggressively color shifted and it comes through nicely on the blu-ray. Nighttime scenes lose a bit of detail but black levels are still good. The color shifting is a bit annoying too. There doesn’t seem to be a reason for it other than possibly covering for budgetary shortfalls.
Audio is solid in this surround sound mix with dialogue coming through loud and clear. This is a fairly subdued film so there aren’t many opportunities for extreme dynamic shifting or immersion. With that said, the film sounds fine.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
The single disc is packaged in a standard slim blue case and the artwork is a basic floating head situation. The shots are taken right from the film.
All we get for bonus features is a commentary. The commentary is fine and does offer some added value but there needs to be much more here. What about an examination of the real killing fields? Actor interviews maybe??
Texas Killing Fields is good for a rent, that’s about it sadly.
Overall (Not an average) 5/10
The Movie 6/10
The Video 7.5/10
The Audio 7/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features 2/10
Overall (Not an Average) 5/10
Directed by Takeshi Koike
Featuring Voices by Patrick Seitz, Michelle Ruff and Liam O’Brien
“In the far future, the greatest velocity in space is decided.” And that velocity is how quickly you should pick this Blu-Ray up.
The film opens on a humanoid-dog-inhabited planet watching a race in progress. Your eyes lock onto the unique character and car designs animated with an odd beauty and fluidity that many may not be accustomed to. Suddenly, this pompadour-sporting Trans-Am driver hits the nitro, and the film’s got you through the end. Twelve minutes later, the title sequence plays, but you’re so engrossed that you forgot the film hasn’t even told you its name.
That’s Redline by Takeshi Koike (from The Animatrix – “World Record,” ), a spectacular spectacle of speed, packed with great characters, awesome cars, stunning visuals and more than enough action and humor to please any movie-watching adrenaline junkie.
The story (by Katsuhito Ishii) goes that every five years, the Redline race is held to determine the fastest drivers in the universe. No holds are barred, as drivers deck their rides with any weapon or trick they can, except for our pompadour-topped greaser star JP (voiced in English by Patrick Seitz), who wants to win on speed alone. With the help of his mob-lackey mechanic friend Frisbee (Liam O’Brian) and his tricked-out custom Trans-Am, JP competes with the best of the best – including a certain female racer Sonoshee (Michelle Ruff). This year’s race takes place on a heavily-militarized planet that doesn’t want Redline anywhere near its secret projects and will stop at nothing to wipe out the racers before they can cross the finish line.
If that sounds like lot, don’t worry. The film is rarely bogged down, yet it still surprisingly manages to establish perfectly serviceable and deep characters. You learn about relationships and rivalries, back histories, even intergalactic political conflicts all while the film blazes by. This great job in world building is both satisfying and yet leaves you wanting more, which isn’t a bad thing in this case.
You don’t need to be a racing fan to like this film. I’m certainly not. Don’t think NASCAR. Instead think Speed Racer mixed with sci-fi dystopia, topped with a healthy amount of humor, violence, rough language and a little bodacious fan service. It’s not rated, but it’s definitely not for the kiddies.
You don’t even need to like Japanese anime. Redline is a good action film entirely on its own. Anyone who likes fast action and humor in their space tales will have a blast watching it. Anyone who claims to enjoy animation in general will marvel at this visual masterpiece, animated with over 100,000 hand-drawn cells that took three years of the film’s seven-year production to complete.
If you stay away from anime because nothing has been stylish or cool since Cartoon Network premiered Cowboy Bebop, if you’re tired of having to sift through hundreds of episodes of a series to find anything worthwhile, if you’re sick of over-reliance of CGI in animation, Redline is just what you need. It’s a stand-alone piece of carefully-crafted visual wonder and high-octane action, and most movie goers can find something in it to enjoy.
This film makes me glad to own a Blu-Ray player. It’s in widescreen 1.78:1 and 1080p HD, and it’s gorgeous. It’s hand-drawn animation at its finest, with incredible care going into making each cel. Everything is incredibly crisp and clear. The animation is fluid and kinetic, superbly conveying the feel of speed. The colors are breathtakingly vibrant, popping out with contrast from deep black shadowing. I can’t see the DVD version looking as sharp as this Blu-Ray. Definitely the way to own this movie.
The film has both English and Japanese languages, each in 2.0 and 5.1 surround sound. Be sure you choose the correct setting though, or some of the dialog will be overpowered by the sound effects and background music. You might not notice though, since the sound effect are well done in matching every little detail, right down to the car noises and JP’s leather jacket. The electronic rock music is a perfect fit with energetic popping beats synching perfectly with these high-speed cars and characters.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
The film comes in a standard Blu-Ray case and has three neat extras: a full-fledged documentary “Perfect Guide,” an abridged and flashier “Quick Guide,” and an early 2006 concept trailer made entirely of animation not used in the final film.
The so-called Quick Guide would be sufficient on its own, clocking in at about 25 minutes long and covering plenty of creator comments, behind-the-scenes footage, and in-depth character bios. The Perfect Guide goes much deeper into the seven-year effort to create this spectacle, spending more time on the drawing process, voice recording and the movie’s time on the film festival circuit.
All together, these extras show the dedication and effort that went into making Redline, leaving the audience with a greater appreciation of the work and a burning desire to own the toy cars shown throughout the documentaries.
Overall (Not an Average)
Redline is an adrenaline rush. Its fun action and humor will leave you on the edge of your seat, and its stunning graphics will keep you glued to your TV. You don’t need to be an anime or even general animation fan to have fun watching this movie. The Blu-Ray is the must-have version of this film for the complete visual experience.
The Film 9.5/10
The Video 10/10
The Audio 8.5/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features 8.5/10
Overall (Not an Average) 9.5/10
Ok it’s time for trash talk as the films for fantasy film ball start hitting theaters. We talk snack foods and sweets in the pre-show and then hit on the Golden Globes, a Hack/Slash movie, the Psycho prequel, of course Spider-man, and yep, Niko has to read a rectum story.
Writer Gaylord Du Bois
Artists Jesse Marsh, Russ Manning
The Brothers of the Spear are Natongo and Dan-El. Natongo’s father, Chief Lugongo, has raised Dan-El in his household since the passing of Dan-El’s father sixteen years ago. After Natongo and Dan-El both prove their right to be called a warrior in the annual Festival of the Spears Chief Lugongo finally reveals the truth to Dan-El. Lugongo reveals that Dan-El was not born in the village, but that his father, who had been exiled by his northern tribe, brought Dan-El, still a newborn, to the village before passing away from injuries suffered saving Lugongo from a crocodile. Lugongo explains that Dan-El’s father was known as Om-Ri The Golden for his blond hair and beard and pale complexion, which explains why Dan-El is the only white man in the village.
After Nantongo and Dan-El learn the truth of Dan-El’s ancestry they set out on a journey northward to find Dan-El’s people and learn the truth behind his father’s exile. Their journey is punctuated by close calls with lethal black mamba and wild boar until they stumble across a hunting party led by a beautiful young woman. Before they can make introductions a cape buffalo springs from the bush and charges the young woman but just before the half ton beast tramples the girl Dan-El stops it in its tracks with a well aimed spear thorough its heart. The action isn’t over though. By the time Dan-El and Natongo figure out that the young woman’s name is Liloma and discover they do not speak the same language the group is attacked by a war party from a rival village. They all race back to Liloma’s village to discover that she is not just a brave and beautiful young woman but the well loved Queen. Natongo and Dan-El help the Queen prepare the village for an attack and stick around to help the villagers beat back their attacking neighbors. When the battle is over and the butchers bill tallied Dan-El and Natongo somewhat sorrowfully continue their journey north to find Dan-El’s people.
Nantongo and Dan-El continue their journey north though they are beset with many obstacles, leopards, deserts, hippos, lakes, pirates, storms, slavers and crazed witch doctors, until they come across the Aba Zulu, a tribe of white Zulu’s. One of the tribe’s leaders recognizes a birthmark on Dan-El’s shoulder and a key that Dan-El has that belonged to his father and declares to Dan-El and Natongo’s astonishment, if not the readers, that Dan-El must be the son of the rightful King who was run out of the kingdom sixteen years ago by the usurper Han-Ool. Han-Ool is not a popular sovereign. He keeps the people in line by use of force and a cabal of sinister witch doctors led by the crafty Nagopa. Dan-El and Natongo have no trouble rallying a group of citizens loyal to Dan-El and the memory of his father to take the fight to Han-Ool, but dealing with Nagopa will be the true test of Dan-El and Natongo’s wits.
The Brothers of the Spear was a backup feature in the Tarzan comic books. It started in Tarzan #25 which was published in 1951 and continued through issue #156 in 1966. This hardcover archive edition from Darkhorse covers the first couple of years, issue #25 through #67. Gaylord Dubois wrote all of the stories but Jesse Marsh turned the artist reigns over to Russ Manning in issue #39 or page 93 in this new hardcover. There is a clear dividing line between the books that Marsh worked on and the books Manning worked on. It’s not just the artwork that changes. The story also takes a turn when Manning takes over. While Marsh was doing the honors Dan-El and Natongo were just traveling, usually with a couple of minor impediments and one major obstacle in each issue. While there were several mini arcs the stories were very episodic. When Manning takes over the story gets a little deeper and more plot lines are drawn out from issue to issue. During the Marsh issues you didn’t need to see the “to be continued” text to know when one issue ended and it was time to start the next one but during Manning’s tenure things were not as clear cut.
I enjoyed Manning’s artwork more than Marsh’s. They both were masters of the use of color. When you look at the individual items in a panel the color might seem ridiculous, pink mountains, blue rocks, pea green rivers, but when you look at each panel as a whole it all blends together and makes sense, Manning however seems to have a better knack at managing the contrasting colors and keeping a panel lively. Manning’s characterizations were also clearly superior to Marsh’s. Under Manning’s pen Dan-El and Natongo and the rest of the cast became much more distinctive and their emotions and thoughts were much easier to read.
While the artwork is delightful the story is repetitive and predictable, it still manages to be fun. Dan-El and Nantongo are almost too upright and heroic to be believed but I found myself enjoying their company anyway. I have to admit I’m curious what the two will do when they have the Abu Zulu stabilized, will they strike out on more adventures, or will there always be more mischief keeping them home? I guess I’ll have to wait until Darkhorse releases Brothers of the Spear Volume 2.
Overall (Not an Average) 8/10
So both the CineGeek contributor game and CineGeek Webcast listeners’ game are in full swing. We bid on films that we believe will make the best bank in the first 3rd of 2012. The winner of the listener game gets some swag and sits in on the contributor game during the summer block. Follow along with us and predict who you will think will win! Below is a list of the players and their movies that we’ll be updating as the films hit theaters and start raking in the bucks. We only count 4 full weekends of take so final numbers will be coming fast and furious. Stay tuned for weekly updates!
|Joyful Noise||Stephen, Ada||$11,225,190.00|
|The Divide||Niko, Jonathan|
|The Iron Lady||Mike, Hector||$5,412,934.00|
|Red Tails||Alan, Zach|
|Underworld Awakenings||Alan, Ada|
|The Grey||Alan, Jonathan|
|Man on a Ledge||Bill, Stephen|
|One for the Money||Stephen, Hector|
|The Woman in Black||Mike, Jonathan|
|Journey 2: Mysterious Island||Stephen, Zach|
|Safe House||Niko, Hector|
|This Means War||Stephen, Bill|
|Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance||Niko, Hector|
|Tyler Perry’s Good Deeds||Stephen, Bill|
|Star Wars The Phantom Menace 3D||Niko, Zach|
|Dr. Sues’ The Lorax 3D||Mike, Bill|
|Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters 3D||Stephen|
|John Carter||Stephen, Bill|
|The Raven||Mike, Hector|
|21 Jump Street||Mike, Hector|
|Mirror, Mirror||Ada, Alan|
|The Hunger Games||Stephen, Jonathan|
|Wrath of the Titans||Stephen, Ada|
|The Cold Light of Day||Niko|
|Bullet to the Head||Niko|
|The Cabin in the Woods||Mike|
|The Three Stooges||Mike|
|House at the End of the Street||Stephen|
Directed by Andrew Niccol
Starring Justin Timberlake, Amanda Seyfried, Cillian Murphy, Olivia Wilde
A good sci-fi story is hard to find in major theater releases these days. In fact, unless it’s an alien invasion they’re almost nonexistent. The most recent exception that comes to mind is Bradley Cooper starring Limitless. That film too was more of a contemporary film with science fiction elements rather than a full blown science fiction story. In Time goes back to a traditional type of sci-fi film where the author is trying to deliver a message while telling an entertaining science fiction story. It’s sort of like wrapping the pill in a piece of cheese if you will.
In Time is set in an alternate, or possibly just future, version of Earth where wealth is determined by time rather than money. Time is money, how about that? Literally people work for minutes added to their lives and they pay bills and make other purchases with minutes, hours, days, months, and years of their lives. Wealthy people can live hundreds of years and literally have time to burn, whether it’s on booze and prostitutes or gambling it away at a card table. People have been genetically engineered to grow a clock on their forearms and stop aging at age 25. So literally if you’re wealthy you not only can live for an extremely long time but you live that time in a 25 year old body.
Justin Timberlake plays a young man living in the slums trying to keep time for his mother and cover their debts. He works in the local factory and is trying to stay on the straight and narrow. It appears he was once a good street fighter and card player. Two pivotal things happen within days of each other to change his path forever. The first is that a wealthy man tired of living gifts him over a hundred years, so much time in fact that the wealthy man dies. This sets the police, or “time keepers” on Timberlake’s path. Next is his mother dies, literally in his arms. After these two events he decides that it’s time he did something about the system that makes the rich get rich and the poor get more poor. Do you see the social and political commentary coming into play here?
I’m a fan of injecting some social commentary in film even if I don’t agree with it. That sort of layered storytelling can ground an other worldly story and make it relatable. It works here too, even if there are a few too many time is money sort of puns throughout the film. The problem isn’t the commentary here. This sort of blanket assumption commentary is the common way to approach this sort of story. Now that I’ve mentioned that there is in fact a problem I’ll say that it is more set in the scattershot character development and the character abilities as a crutch sort of writing. Just when things seem bleak Justin Timberlake has an ability, like being a good fighter or gambler, to get his character to the next act. Also much of what’s happening doesn’t seem to have the weight that it is meant too. When he decides to reset the system he takes on a sort of Robin Hood approach to saving the day but for some reason it just doesn’t seem to matter.
Many elements of the story are quite good. The core idea of the story is very Phillip K. Dick, and that’s a really good thing. The problem is that the writer/director focuses too much on the gimmick of the film and forgets to make his characters mean something to us. For instance there’s a thug in the film that seems to really only be there for a social statement in the story and to show off Timberlake’s character as a fighter. The fight has absolutely no impact on the bigger story. There are also a few elements of the story that are so glossed over that you might miss them or the reason for them. With all of this said the good in this film makes it worth a watch. The cast is great and as I said, some parts of the film are truly intriguing. It feels like a sci-fi matinee film on local TV and when approached that way it can be entertaining.
The 1080p Presentation here is solid with good color and contrast. Detail is strong throughout the film too. The presentation isn’t particularly striking, possibly due to the budget of the film or simply weaker directing but overall the film just has a flat look.
The surround sound mix is well balanced throughout with dialogue always coming through loud and clear. Dynamic range and sub-woofer use is a bit on the flat side, like the video actually. It’s not outstanding but it’s not bad either.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
We were sent a check disc for this film, which is just a disc in an envelope so we can’t comment on packaging and we aren’t sure if the disc we were sent is final as far as bonus features. Since there were absolutely no bonus features hopefully this isn’t the final version. So, at this point we can’t rate this section of the film.
In Time is second rate low fi sci-fi and that’s not necessarily a terrible thing. These sorts of films can be good fun for a Sunday afternoon rental. If you’re a hardcore science fiction fan then even with the film’s flaws it still might be worth a purchase.
Overall (Not an Average) 6/10
The Movie 6/10
The Video 8/10
The Audio 7.5/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features N/A
Overall (Not an Average) 6/10
Directed by Asger Leth
Starring Sam Worthington, Elizabeth Banks, Ed Harris, Jamie Bell, Edward Burns
Occasionally Hollywood hits a trend where several films of the same type come out all at once or within really close proximity to each other. There’s the disaster film, the zombie film, most recently the alien invasion films, and the lesser known hostage negotiator film. Could Man on a Ledge be the first in a return of the lesser known sub-genre of film? There have been many others, some pretty great, including the on the nose titled The Negotiator.
The Man on a Ledge, as it were, is a cop who insists he was wrongly convicted of stealing a diamond, a $40 million diamond. He escapes prison and steps out on the ledge of a hotel owned by the man (Ed Harris) he stole the diamond from. Elizabeth Banks plays the police detective brought in to talk our “hero” down from the ledge. This leads to the first problem with the film. Banks is a cute girl, almost innocent looking. She was probably at her best in Slither and in Zack and Miri Make a Porno. She’s good enough in this role but miscast. She’s supposed to be playing a grizzled heavy drinking cop beat down by a failed rescue of another cop. She’s too cute and too perky for the role. Sometimes it doesn’t matter how good an actor you are; you just can’t get away from who you really are. Kyra Sedgwick plays a throwaway role as a reporter in the film with two funny lines. The movie might have been better served had she and Banks swapped roles.
Obviously all is not as it seems in the film and much of the twisting and turning is as predictable as bad sushi on a Chinese buffet but there still some nice story elements here and there. There’s an overall sort of 80’s outlandishness from the ridiculously over the top stop story elements to the story that’s just so sentimental and engaging that the flaws are often forgivable. That’s if you like 80’s action movies. Secondary characters are surprisingly amusing, our heroes’ brother and his girlfriend are often scene stealers. Ed Harris in your movie is never a bad thing and Ed Harris as a villain is even better. The actual on the ledge stuff is fairly suspenseful even though you know the hero isn’t going to fall to his death it’s still entertaining and he eventually makes a decision that’s damned exhilarating.
The film definitely feels lower budget than other similar films featuring heist elements but the money the filmmakers did have was well spent because action scenes are all well executed and suspenseful. It’s a little tough to say too much more without getting spoilery as far as the plot goes. If you’re a fan of the medium budget action film such as Shoot ‘Em Up, Smoking Aces, and Running Scared then you’ll have a good time with Man on a Ledge.
This week the listener side game of Fantasy Film Ball begins on Google+, We talk FOX animated TV, Dark Knight Rises IMAX tickets, Sony Vita Pricing, and Ultimate Spider-Man! Yup it’s super geek out fun time. Oh and Niko has to read a penis story!
Written and Drawn by Eric Powell
Publisher Dark Horse Comics
When the poor and disenfranchised have nowhere else to turn who ya gonna call?
The Goon. Obviously.
The Goon exists in a rather unique world very similar to early 20th century America but, you know, with magic and stuff. One might think this is an odd combination of literary sub genres but if you know Eric Powell then you wouldn’t expect anything less. I once heard this story about him, a troupe of burlesque dances, a cement mixer and an alpaca farm that would put anything published in The Goon to shame. But I digress….
The Goon #37 tells the story of a greedy factory owner who cares more about the bottom line than the workers responsible for said bottom line. The story is obviously taken from the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire that happened in New York City in March of 1911 only here it happens at the Pentagram Girdle Factory. In response to the many deaths and the owner’s refusal to allow a union the workers ask the Goon for help. Much ass-kickery and magic ensues. Which reminds me of another story I heard involving Mr. Powell, a voodoo priestess, the Nashville Symphony and Bristol Palin. But once again, I digress….
As I said before, this story is obviously inspired by actual historical events. Powell’s storytelling here is superb and blends an interesting mix Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle and classic EC Comics such as Tales from the Crypt. One of things I really liked about this issue is that I didn’t need to know an extensive back story to understand what was going on. In an industry that is driven by huge company spanning events that last for months or even years it is a relief to be able to read a single issue revenge story with a satisfying climax. Mr. Powell I commend you. And speaking of commendations, have you heard the story about Eric Powell, DJ Fat Andy, the Belligerent Rollergirl Fans, a 1954 Cadillac Eldorado and a road trip to find the last issue of Miracle Man at a comic book convention of ill repute in South Dakota? Maybe you should just Google it….
Eric Powell has a very unique and original art style. I have seen many would be comic artists try and replicate it but no one comes close. Every page, every panel, every pixel bleeds with noir. One of the great things about creator owned comics is that the art is consistent from beginning to end. I couldn’t imagine anyone but Eric Powell doing artwork for The Goon. Frank Frazetta would be proud.
I’ve always really liked The Goon and this issue is pretty freakin’ awesome. And if you didn’t get enough in this issue check out this Tweet from one Mr. Eric Powell. Looks to be exciting!!
The Story 9/10
The Art 9/10
Overall (Not an Average) 9/10
White Collar is back with even more intrigue, wit and sex appeal as charismatic con-man Neal Caffrey (the exceedingly handsome Matt Bomer) walks a dangerous line between good and evil. Plus, pop culture icon and series regular Tiffani Thiessen is at the center of a kidnapping plot! White Collar premieres Tuesday, January 17th at 10/9c on USA Network. Starring Matt Bomer, Tim DeKay, Tiffani Thiessen and Willie Garson.
To celebrate one of the most entertaining shows on TV we have a great prize pack:
• Cashmere Cable Knit Scarf
• Custom Waxwear Shoe Bag
• Izola Shoe Brush
• Jet Black Playing Cards in Large Box
• White Collar Season 2 DVD
• Custom Reporter’s Notebook
• Black Long Sleeve Shirt
It’s easy to enter just register here at the site and let us know what your favorite heist on the show has been so far. Do this by leaving it in the comments below, emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, or tweet your answer @cinegeek with hashtag #cinegeekcontest. You must be a registered user of the site to win! We’ll pick the winner on Tuesday January 17th!
*Contest only available in the Continental United States.
We’re in the dead of winter, but sunny Hamptons awaits…what’s not to like about a medical dramedy with a charming cast, to-die-for décor and relationship drama? Royal Pains premieres Wednesday, January 18th at 10/9c on USA Network. Starring Mark Feuerstein, Paulo Costanzo, Reshma Shetty and Henry Winkler.
To celebrate one of the most entertaining shows on TV we have a great prize pack:
• Season 1 DVD
• Season 2 DVD
• Season 3, Vol. 1 DVD
• Royal Pains Bag
It’s easy to enter just register here at the site and let us know what makes this show one of the best on TV. Do this by leaving it in the comments below, emailing email@example.com, or tweet your answer @cinegeek with hashtag #cinegeekRoyalPains. You must be a registered user of the site to win! We’ll pick the winner on Tuesday January 17th!
*Contest only available in the Continental United States.