Archives for October, 2012
This week we start the show with a lengthy discussion of the Disney purchase of Lucasfilm for 4 billion bucks! We cover Star Wars, Indy, and Howard the Duck! We do manage to finish the shopw with movie film ball numbers and the week’s box office!
Directed by: Timur Bekmambetov
Starring: Benjamin Walker, Dominic Cooper
Odd trends come and go in entertainment. There was a time for disaster films for example. Lately there’s a trend of taking literature classics and/or historic actual characters and placing them in otherworldly or supernatural situations. It’s an odd combination to say the least but done correctly it could be fairly entertaining. In the case of Abraham Lincoln the questions is asked; what if the true story of one of our nation’s most popular presidents is that he was a vampire hunter? The book was a huge success so a movie was inevitable. So is Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter a good movie? Is the trend worth while?
The story begins with a young Lincoln witnessing his mother murdered by, you guessed it bloodsuckers. Later on as he grows up jaded and traumatized by that memory an odd man crosses his path and introduces him to the true world of the vampire and makes a deal with him to train him to kill the creatures of the night and help him find the particular one responsible for the death of his family. I wonder now in retrospect after having seen the film in the theater and on blu-ray if the story would have been more successful had it been played purposefully for camp rather than as serious at is actually approached. The series attack on the story just makes the misses and terrible moments of melodrama laughable and when you laugh you may laugh more because you know it’s not supposed to be funny.
Perhaps the worst scene in the entire film is the main training scene where Linc’s new vampire killing sensei teaches him that he has incredible power in him and to use it he simply has to get mad. It’s not that Lincoln is particularly special though; he just needs someone to get him mad. When he literally decimates a giant tree the simultaneous nuggets of information offered during the conversation are embarrassingly bad. Now with that said Lincoln’s weapon of choice is a giant ax and his wielding of the weapon can make for some near iconic imagery. In the trailer there was a great scene of him literally bolting the ax like a gun and that scene was energetic and fun but seeing the entire scene in the film just fell flat.
The acting is pretty awful throughout the film, the special fx are mostly abysmal with the icing on that rotten cake being a ridiculous scenes with Lincoln chasing his prey by leaping across a huge stampede of digital horses. If you don’t have the money to execute a realistic looking effect and you’re going for serious making something look so bad just rips the viewer right from the film. Icing is usually the best part of the cake but in this cake I just got a stomach ache. I didn’t get to review the 3D version sadly because I think the additional gimmick may have made a few of the scenes a little more entertaining. I wanted this movie to be fun but it just isn’t. Overall the viewing experience is in a word, annoying.
The 1080p transfer here in a way looks too good. The detail is so high that some poor special fx and makeup stand out even more at home than they did in the theater. Colors pop and contrast looks great throughout. The only real issue with the film is that in some scenes the black levels get a little crushed causing some digital noise to mix with the fog and grit already in the source material. It’s not bad but it does stand out in comparison to the rest of the film.
This HD Master audio presentation has everything in it including the kitchen sink. There’s immersive sound fx that whoosh across the soundstage, there are good ambient sounds making the film feel immersive, and a good dynamic range with some use of the low end sounds. The score spreads out too getting plenty of breathing room across the entire soundstage. Most importantly dialogue is generally pretty clear throughout the film with only a few very minor exceptions. The voiceovers are weighty in the mix and definitely portray their importance.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
The standard amaray case features a combo pack of blu-ray, DVD, and a digital Ultra Violet copy. The cover art is actually not bad but also not as iconic as some of the original theatrical posters were.
Seth Grahame-Smith, the screenwriter and author of the original book offers up a solo feature length audio commentary here. He discusses the differences between the film and the book and offers some good behind the scenes information. The problem is that he is by himself and he runs out of things to say in a few places just leaving dead spots. This commentary should have also featured the director discussing the story and film with the writer. That would have been a much more interested listen/viewing.
The true meat of the bonus features is an hour and fifteen minute long documentary that follows the film from the book to script, the locations, the action, and the fx. The documentary does feel a little to sound bite-ish at times but overall this documentary, broken into several parts is a pretty detailed look at the making of the film.
There’s a graphic novel giving a little backstory on how vampires found their way to America. This is actually kind of cool but would have been much better served as a download to a tablet or smartphone. Finally there’s also a music video and a trailer. The selection of bonus features is a bit of a miss just like the film. While the documentary is pretty good the commentary is a dud and there are no deleted scenes, not TV spots, and no photo galleries. The documentary is still better than the actual film though.
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter could have been a campy fun roller coaster ride or a serious film with clever integration of vampires into real history. The film tries to take itself serious and offer up that clever integration but it just doesn’t work. In the end I wish the movie would have tried the other direction.
Overall (Not an Average) 5/10
The Movie 3/10
The Video 8/10
The Audio 9/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features 6/10
Overall (Not an Average) 5/10
NBC is really promoting the heck outta Mockingbird Lane! We’ve got clips along with a new preview for tonight’s episode of Grimm. We’ve also got the official trailer and some clips from the upcoming film Holy Motors.
Halloween with Monroe
For Wesen, Halloween is better than Christmas!
Marilyn’s boyfriend invites the Munster clan to a masquerade.
Marilyn goes as Priscilla, Lily is Little Bo Peep, Grandpa is Napoleon and Herman is King Arthur in a suit of shining armor.
Behind the Scenes
The cast and creators pull back the veil to showcase the making of the special, Mockingbird Lane, coming to NBC Friday at 8/7c.
Holy Motors trailer
Holy Motors: Who Where We
Holy Motors: Beauty of the Act
So we talk tons of TV this week with lots of talk about Nashville, Homeland, oh and the iPad mini. There’s information on Superman’s new job, Batman getting arrested, and the Spider-man blu-ray! Oh and there was something about Iron Man 3….
So when I saw The Amazing Spider-man in the theater I had some fun with it but was overall a little disappointed with the story execution outside of the chemistry between Gwen and Peter. Admitedly when the film hit theaters the bar had just been raised by The Avengers and previous films such as The Dark Knight and Captain America require a higher level of craftsmanship when it comes to writing. So, with some time to reflect on the film I was excited to sit down with the blu-ray and give it a second go.
Director Marc Webb took on a daunting task by agreeing to take the reins of a Spider-man reboot so close to the previous three highly successful films. Webb previously directed 500 Days of Summer, a romantic comedy that many liked, but I didn’t. Sony has a similar disease to many Hollywood studios; they don’t take these franchises seriously. Webb had some success with 500 Days of Summer so the studio decided to throw him a bone by allowing him to direct an action movie film with an iconic character that would definitely bring in some bucks even if the movie ends up being a disaster. Sony previously destroyed what could have been an amazing franchise with Fantastic Four by putting it in the hands of Tim Story, another director of comedy that had moderate success with a previous film.
Marvel and Disney have proven that these comic book franchises should be taken seriously and they can both tell compelling stories and be summer action tent pole films. Warner Brothers and DC have claimed to finally understand that with their success in the Batman franchise and failures with Green Lantern and Superman. So, Marc Webb does a few things right with this film and so many things wrong. The first thing that’s right about the film is the casting. Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone do solid jobs of bringing their characters to life in spite of a script that needed at least one more pass. Dennis Leary also shines in what could have been a near invisible role in the film. Now with that said, Garfield and Stone do not look high school ages. They both look every bit of their mid-20’s.
The biggest mistake of the film may be out of Webb’s control, although he could have chosen not to do the film. That mistake is to waste what’s sure to be a planned trilogy with another retelling of the origin. Most of the films running time is spent retelling how Peter Parker became Spider-man. Everyone, EVERYONE, knows how Peter Parker became Spider-man by now. The writers did attempt to tell a slightly different version of the origin and they of course controversially left the organic web shooters behind in favor of the classic mechanical ones from the comics. Some of the new additions to the origin are quite dramatic but overall it just felt like a rerun. The origin story changes could have been made without retelling everything from scratch. Parker’s parents never played a role in the original franchise so this film brings them in with a little mystery to boot. The problem is that all of this mystery is just that, mystery. There’s no resolution to their story at all. It ends up being just a tease for what will surely be more installments in the new film franchise. These films each have to stand completely on their own and find interesting ways to tie together in order to be successful. The Marvel/Disney super hero films handled these connections with true finesse, although some would argue Iron Man two was a little bit of a hiccup.
The Lizard, the villain of the film has a plot that almost perfectly mirrors that of the Joker in Tim Burton’s 80’s Batman film that you might think it laughable. The ultimate solution to said problem involves Gwen Stacey knowing more than she should and the solution also being dumbly simple. A few years ago you could have just chalked this up to simple fun comic book writing but movies like The Dark Knight and Iron Man have taken the level of expectation for comic book films up several notches. At the same time though, if the action and energy of the film were solid enough these issues would not have mattered. The action just didn’t ring through as exciting as it should have been. Webb chose to utilize actual stuntmen and practical fx as much as he could and that’s a great thing except that all of the practical stuff made some poor CGI stand out too much.
Finally there are some character moments that are just insultingly bad. This paragraph gets into some mega spoilery territory so you may wanna just skip this one if you haven’t seen the film yet. At the end of the film Peter and Emma can’t be together for a reason that’s really only been said to Peter. Gwen shows up at Peter’s house crying and flush faced. He rejects her and she walks away but just before she gets off the sidewalk she turns and basically recites the reason they can’t be together to him. This knowing of her character totally crushes what started as a successfully dramatic scene. The destruction of one scene ends up being simply for the purpose of a stupid joke at the very end of the film too. Now as she leaves Aunt May appears and says to Peter “What a pretty girl. Did you ask her out?” Now if she could see that the girl was pretty surely she could see that she was crying and extremely upset. Like I said insultingly bad.
The action scenes that work, really work, and Garfield is able to become the wise cracking Spider-man from the books that many fans have been hoping for. Some of the uses of his webbing are more in line with classic Spidey moves and that’s a lot of fun too. Spider-man is one of my favorite characters in comics, always has been, but I’m not so locked to the character that I can’t except some changes for film. For example I still think Spider-man 2 is the best representation of the character on film and that version of the wall crawler is still different than the comics. I just need a great, or dare I say it, amazing Spider-man film and this one isn’t it. The script needed a second pass and the action needed a more experienced director to make them exciting. This flick isn’t all bad though. There are many great Peter Parker moments and some solid Spider-man one’s too. The Amazing Spider-man ends up just being a good not great film that I liked but didn’t love.
Sony does a stellar job with this 1080p presentation bring on the solid detail and black levels. Facial details and the ridges of the costume come through loud and clear throughout the film without any edginess or digital glossiness. Night scenes retail the detail and even when Spidey is swinging the image holds up. Colors are muted and the overall image is just a little dim though. I wonder if this comes from the source material since the film was produced for 3D which automatically makes the image dimmer. Overall this is a solid presentation though.
So this film is action packed and the DTS lossless audio holds up to the action nearly perfectly. The soundstage is filled with sound both ambient whiz bang. The experience feels completely immersive while still retaining consistent clarity of dialogue even down to a whisper. The low end of the sound spectrum also gets plenty of attention with boomy fx and score throughout the film. Solid stuff.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
The three discs comes packaged in a thick amaray case with a Spider-man head shot for a cover and slipcover. It’s ok but not particularly creative. There’s a blu-ray version of the film, a digital/ultraviolet version, and DVD along with the supplementals.
The first and most important of the bonus features is a series of featurettes that can be watched all at once as a 90 minute documentary. The featurettes don’t really fit well together as a cohesive film because they are still so broken up. With that said though, there’s tons of content here, more than we got with the Avengers blu-ray by far. The documentary starts with the producers beginning work on Spider-man 4 and hitting a wall on that project. With the exodus of Sam Raimi and the original cast the producers decided to reboot the franchise. Their reasoning goes in line with the comics because the character has infact been rebooted and retooled many times throughout his comic book existence. Next the film transitions into hiring a director, casting, costuming, special fx, and action scenes. The coverage is truly epic but imperfect. The casting section is definitely annoying as there’s no true information in it. They each simply discuss how excited they were to work with each other and how much they respect each other. There’s very little more annoying in bonus features than mutual backslapping. There are segments on editing, the 3-D, and how well the film works overall. With some flaws this is still a fantastic deep look at the creation of the film.
There are deleted scenes, pre-visualization scenes, multiple photo galleries, stunt rehearsals, and even a short featurette on developing the videogame.
On disc one there’s an audio commentary Director Marc Webb and Producers Avi Arad and Matt Tolmach. The focus is more on crafting the film than behind the scenes anecdotes which is completely acceptable especially considering my overall opinion of the film. I wanted to know why certain decisions were made. While I don’t get all of my answers here there’s still a great deal of information in the commentary with very little repeated in the documentary.
Finally, there’s a second screen app which allows you to sync your iPad with the film and get additional information on the characters and the film on your tablet as the film plays on your TV. It’s kind of gimmicky but hey there’s still more information to be gleamed here. There are fx shots, production notes, and much more.
This release is what I had hoped for on the Avengers blu-ray. Sony really did it right with this one.
The Amazing Spider-Man was crafted by someone much more interested in the chemistry between the two main characters than the overall story. This is obvious because the script needed a few more passes to develop the story the filmmakers were hoping to tell while the chemistry and the reality of the two characters (Peter and Gwen) was fantastically rendered. Marc Webb is a romantic comedy director not a super hero film craftsman. IN the end The Amazing Spider-man is an OK film but the blu-ray release of it is fantastic!
Overall (Not an Average) 8.5/10
The Movie 6.5/10
The Video 8.5/10
The Audio 9.5/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features 9.5/10
Overall (Not and Average) 8.5/10
Written by: Nathan Edmondson
Art by: Matteo Buffagni
The Ultimate Comics series of books from Marvel is supposed to be a place where creative can go and play with Marvel characters and stories with complete freedom including not being tied down by the standard universe story arcs and history. Ultimate Comics Spider-man has really taken the most advantage of this opportunity by creating a Spider-man that isn’t even Peter Parker and even giving the character some different powers. When this line launched one of the first titles was a limited Hawkeye story, now they’re at it again with a limited Iron Man story.
So this first book in the four issue Ultimate Comics Iron Man doesn’t actually play with the character’s overall history that much. A new character and company is added to his past but he’s basically the same Tony Stark/Iron Man that we all know and love. We get glimpses of his past via flashback and those glimpses tie directly into what is coming for the character in this story arc. The characters here are pretty well defined and the depth for Tony is handled well in this book by defining his relationship with his father and how it influences his decision making and how he has become a different person after a tragedy in his life. So the character development is intriguing, and that’s a good thing considering where the story appears to be going.
Past Iron Man stories have seen Stark go through company espionage and having his own technology turned against him and even his company and assets taken from him. The capitalist moniker has always played a part in the Iron Man story, which is why it would have been nice to have not seen it in this new story. The Ultimate Comics world is supposed to be about different not just another classic story. Hopefully something new will be brought to this story that we haven’t seen before. At this point though this story feels very familiar. As I previously mentioned the character development is interesting and maybe that’s where we are supposed to be looking. With that said though Stark going through a personal struggle has been expertly done with previous arcs such as Demon in a Bottle which was personal and focused on his company and assets.
Ultimate Comics Iron Man #1 isn’t bad it’s just nothing new and it’s not particularly exciting. It’s just another Iron Man story, at least so far.
Non-human things are extremely well rendered in this book but the humans are lacking detail in their faces specifically. If it weren’t for facial hair it would be a little difficult to tell some of the men apart. There are times in some panels when faces amounted to just a few quick lines. This may be a stylistic decision and if it is it just doesn’t work alongside the better detailed mechanical parts of the book. The color palette is nice and the subtle differences in the flashbacks are also not abrasive but it tells the story.
I am an Iron Man fan, I love him in the Avengers team books but this series may define why his stories should have limited runs. Can something truly unique be done with this character in a solo book? Well, the answer is yes. Matt Fraction did it when he reinvented the character in the Invincible Iron Man books but it’s less common to see than it should be.
Overall (Not an Average) 6.5/10
The Story 6/10
The Art 6.5/10
Overall (Not an Average) 6.5/10
Written by: Rick Remender
Art by: John Cassaday
The Marvel NOW! books are meant as perfect jumping on points for new readers and lapsed ones. These are not however reboots for the characters. At least so far, these stories seem to just be starting points of new story arcs. In the case of Uncanny Avengers you do need to at least have a basic knowledge of the characters to jump in.
Uncanny Avengers picks up in the aftermath of the summer blockbuster story arc Avengers vs. X-Men. Of positive note though is that you can jump into this book having not read that summer series. The whole thing is quickly recapped and this book appears to be a story that is happening as a result of the summer story but the minutia of that summer story is inconsequential here. Basically it took the near destruction of the planet for Captain America to realize that he hasn’t done enough to help the X-Men as a minority part of the global population. I don’t mean to be hyperbolic but that is the core of the reasoning that this new team exists. That part of this story, as least as far as this issue goes, is the best part of the story.
Mutants are hated more now than ever after so many of them teamed with the four that possessed the Phoenix force to try and rebuild their population at the cost of the rest of humanity of necessary. Captain America’s bright idea is to put together a new Avengers team made up of half mutants and half known Avengers to show the world that not all mutants are bad and that they have a lot to give to the world. The Avengers and even more Captain America are highly respected and trusted universally so if these mutants are part of the team then a statement is being made. It’s a neat set up for an eclectic team. It’s also a way to build mistrust and drama within the team as Avengers who were nearly killed by mutants must now team with them. The challenge dramatically will be to build on and maintain that drama. If done right there could be some fascinating character complexities. The problem is that for the last 20 years when the X-Men have gotten close to something challenging and interesting the book has simply fallen back into stereotype and story retreading, and that’s with any of the writers that have attempted the book.
Also, while the concepts that are established in this book have potential the entire book is a very small piece of what will probably be a very large set up. In the whole page count of the book Cap is able to sort of recruit one mutant, that’s it. It that’s his pace, and half of the team is to be mutants, it’s going to take at least two more issues to build the team. There are a few other nice moments though. The exchange between Rogue and Scarlet Witch is great, two mutants on opposing sides of the summer battle with one being both directly and indirectly responsible for everything that happened, for better and for worse.
There’s very little action in this book and the entire thing is a set up but there are nice moments in the story and the potential for a cool story is there. Definitely worth a look.
The artwork is fairly solid throughout the book with more focus being applied to characters than backgrounds. In fact some of the nicest character moments have almost no background at all other than a solid color. Speaking of the colors they are vibrant and appealing throughout the book. A few of the smaller panels feel a little messy but overall this is good stuff. It’s easy to see the flaws in the art when you are reading the book digitally on the iPad and that’s something comic book creative need to remember as they are building books.
The only potential problem with this first issue of Uncanny Avengers is that it is setting a standard for the pacing of the story. This issue is a little slow for what little that does happen. If things are right in the world the pace will pick up in subsequent issues and this one will end up feeling like a set up title and that will be fine. I’m crossing my fingers that these concepts are built into something that will make for an interesting Avengers diversion and will rebuild the X-Men to their former greatness.
Overall (Not an Average) 8/10
The Story 8/10
The Art 8/10
Overall (Not an Average) 8/10
Created By: James Cameron
Narrated by: Bill Paxton
James Cameron could easily have veered from filmmaking to deep sea exploration as in a modern day Jacques Cousteau. He has crafted an amazing deep sea documentary in Aliens of the Deep and been responsible for innovating not only filmmaking in general but specifically much of the camera equipment utilized for deep sea filming. Cameron’s fascination with one epic event, the sinking of the RMS Titanic, fully manifested itself in his 1997 film Titanic. In 2001 he followed with this documentary, Ghosts of the Abyss.
During the making of Titanic Cameron made his first trip down to the sunken ship to gather footage for his feature film. His fascination continued with the ship and he was simultaneously becoming more and more invested in innovating 3-D filming technology. The two worlds collided in 2005 with Ghosts of the Abyss, which was released in theaters in 3-D. Disney released the film in 2003 as their first feature length theatrical 3-D film. The film was also released in IMAX 3-D. It’s funny to think that a documentary was the start of a formula for releasing 3-D film. But, that’s the James Cameron effect. Cameron assembled a team for his expedition made up of scientists, Titanic historians, and his friend and one of the stars of his movie Bill Paxton. Paxton serves as our voice throughout the documentary, the everyman experiencing the awe of the trip and seeing the huge ship for real, for the first time.
The film delves deep into the ship this time using cameras mounted on special arms able to fish through smaller areas so we see the upper decks but we also see the inside of the massive ship. The ship is rotting away from the assault of the salt water but the elegance of the ship, all of the amazing detail work in its design, and the enormity of everything including the engines is still apparent and truly palpable through the lense of these cameras. The documentary shows images of the ship as it was being built and often compares those photos to the same parts of the ship now buried under the sea.
There are many interviews that offer up detailed information about the disaster and the ship but it is Paxton’s narration, the unscripted parts in particular, mixed with the jaw dropping imagery that takes us on the journey and has the most impact. Even if you don’t have interest in the disaster and the ship you can’t help but be spellbound by the epic-ness of the tragedy and the beauty of the ship and the footage Cameron is able to record.
Ironically as Cameron and his crew were working on their study of one of the world’s most captivating tragedies the 9/11 attacks occurred. During the interviews and narration comparisons of the two disasters naturally came up. While they are two completely different situations the stories of bravery are what crosses between them. Ghosts of the Abyss might not be for everyone but if you give it a chance it is riveting and moving and completely unforgettable.
This film is meant to be viewed in 3-D. The majority of the work as far as the transfer and maintaining the director’s vision went into the 3-D version. There is a 2-D disc that looks good but the 3-D blu-ray is absolutely spectacular. This movie makes it worth having 3-D at home. As you get engulfed in the subject matter so to do you get taken in by the immersive images. Debris and grit in the water seem to float right out of the screen as the cameras attempt to penetrate the water to get inside the ship. When you get shots of the other ships (there are three in total) they seem to be floating in the middle of the room rather than on the television screen. The image does a great job of staying viewable evne when the watery depths are dark and we’re viewing through dim glasses. Sharp blades of light from the cameras cut through the image but don’t cause the artifacting that would normally occr with lesser transfers. Ghosts of the Abyss is easily one of the best 3-D at home experiences I’ve had. The 2-D disc does look good outside of some odd issues with contrast but the 3-D near IMAX looking version is the way to go.
The DTS HD Master track here is overall great but there was some decision making in the presentation that may throw you off. Scenes that are above water, on the deck of the ship before the submarines hit the water for example, the surround usage is expansive with waves in the rear speakers and action spanning across the entire sound stage. Once the submarines go under water the rear speakers go almost completely silent leaving the action to the front and center. At the same time the low frequencies are consistent and extremely deep, as they should be, especially when under water. The score always fills the sound stage as well. It’s a little off putting but I think it’s supposed to be. It’s supposed to show that this deep under water these explorers were truly in a totally different world. The silence is a little creepy as I imagine the work of exploring a ship that befell such a disaster would be.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
The regular amaray case features a 3-D Blu-Ray, a regular Blu-ray and a DVD. The art is taken from the original poster and a silver band is added for that special edition flair. While the packaging isn’t spectacular the film itself is and there’s a good set of extras here to boot.
The original film was just over 60 minutes long. The second disc features a 90 minute uncut version with more footage and more detail. Hardcore fans will love to have the expanded information. It’s definitely worth a watch. Unfortunately the bonus features from here on are extras that were previously available. This is the version of the movie to own so you want all of those specials here too. It just would have been great to get something new.
Reflections of the Deep is a 30 minute multipart documentary (documentary about a documentary?) featuring the key people involved talking about the process of shooting the film and generally getting it made. It’s brief but good.
There’s a brief featurette (if you can call it that) called The Cheese Sandwich Prank that illustrates why Cameron is always fed cheese sandwiches during dives. Funny but not substantial.
Where’s the director commentary?
Ghosts of the Abyss is a truly beautiful to look at film that also fully covers the subject. By the end of the film it just feels like a crime to leave the RMS Titanic on the bottom of the ocean, left to rot and die a little more by the minute. It’s easy to see why people become fanatical about the disaster and the ship. Cameron has given us a film that should be viewed in schools as a part of history classes.
Overall (Not an Average) 9/10
The Movie 9/10
The Video 9.5/10
The Audio 8/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features 7/10
Overall (Not an Average) 9/10
There’s a ton of video goodness in this week;s tease. First up we have a preview for tonight’s episode of Haven on Syfy, then we have some awesome clips from 30 Rock and a trailer for the upcoming animated series Iron Man and Hulk: Heroes Unite! Finally, we never thought we’d be saying this, but we have an exclusive video Q&A with Morgan Fairchild. What she doing featured here? Scroll on down to find the answer!
Mockingbird Lane Special airing October 28th (NBC)
Coming soon to Syfy, Defiance is the innovative serial drama from the minds behind Battlestar Galactica and Farscape. Drifting through a terramorphed American landscape, the mysterious Nolan settles in a border town where aliens and humans fight against the fragility of peace. Tune in weekly as the citizens of Defiance thrive in this hostile world, and see how their struggles impact your war in the high-octane multi-platform MMO shooter from Trion Worlds!
Face Off Scene of the Crime Sneak Peek (Syfy)
Rise of the Zombie: Interview with a Zombie featurette from the Syfy Original film (Syfy)
American Horror House Morgan Fairchild Q&A
Iron Man and Hulk: Heroes Unite
This is the ultimate Marvel Animation Studios Super Hero team-up starring iconic Marvel characters, Iron Man and Hulk. Audiences will enjoy an adrenaline rush as they see their favorite Super Heroes as never before in this all-new groundbreaking Marvel CG-animation movie experience available only on Blu-ray™, DVD and Digital platforms. Marvel’s Iron Man & Hulk: Heroes United is an incredible pairing of Hulk’s brute strength and Iron Man’s high-tech intellect. Presented in the mighty Marvel manner, their combined force is unstoppable in this feature-length original animated adventure.
Cool new updates on the SHIELD TV show, Arrow and Walking Dead discussed, the DVR debate, Blade Runner 2, Justice League movie, sex lines, and none of this goodness is on DISH!
Created by Mitch Glazer
Starring Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Olga Kurylenko, Steven Strait, and Danny Huston
Extravagance is what you get when you visit Magic City and Ike Evans’ Miramar Playa Hotel, with mob hits, romantic trysts, and high-rolling wining and dining to spice things up. But is the show simply all dolled up, or is it as deep as the murky water where they keep the bodies?
On Miami Beach in 1959, the Miramar Playa Hotel is the epitome of luxury, and the man responsible for making the dream for its guests is its stalwart owner Isaac “Ike” Evans. Maintaining the illusion of glamor becomes harder and harder as Evans and the hotel are swarmed with mob hits, underground gambling, spouses sleeping around, multiple break ins, and police investigations into Ike’s mysterious business partner Ben “The Butcher” Diamond. Can Ike hold his family and his hotel together as everything tries to tear it down?
This series is an ensemble piece of well-acted characters, but the focus is centered on Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s Isaac “Ike” Evans. Ike is a burdened man, stressed with providing for his family and protecting his life’s work. Morgan does a great job looking like he has the weight of his world on his shoulders, and he also knows how to make the character put on a smile and be a generally likeable guy. Morgan’s Ike earns the adoration of his employees, almost so that you want to work for him.
Pitted against Ike Evans is his business partner and sinister mobster Ben “The Butcher” Diamond, eerily played by Danny Huston. Huston effortlessly adds a sadistic undertone to every scene he’s in, even when he’s simply playing cards by the pool. As predictable as much of the actions in the series may be, Huston’s Diamond is just enough off-kilter that you still fear for Ike’s close ones when Diamond’s gaze is turned towards them.
Continuing a trend of mid-20th century period pieces, Magic City sets itself at the end of the ‘50s in Miami, FL, utilizing that sharp ’50-‘60s fashion and the real life tension of the times. The mob was in full force, and Fidel Castro was taking over Cuba just miles off Miami’s shores. Unlike current period piece champ Mad Men, the setting doesn’t beat you over the head with itself. It’s less of a main feature and selling point, more of a backdrop. The history of the time sets up the environment the characters live in, but these characters could stand out at any time, which is its own selling point.
Unfortunately the story isn’t quite as strong. The show, especially early on, is plagued by obvious turns, actions whose results are called well ahead of time. It’s easy to see who the mob is going to knock off, why some girl is bad news for some guy, and how some characters are just fated for despair from the get go.
Then we have one of the biggest downfalls to this first season in its season finale, which I didn’t even realize was the season finale until no more episodes followed. There’s no thematic break to lead from one season to the next. Hardly any of the story lines resolve or reach a logical breaking point before the almost year-long pause for season two. It feels more like “we’ll be back next week” instead of “we’ll be back next year,” leaving the audience underwhelmed and less likely to stay on the hook until season two starts.
The show doesn’t bring anything new to the table with the businessman-mobster relationship story, but it dresses it up nicely with style and immersive characters. Its predictability will likely keep some away early on, but the characters will still be a treat for those who stick around.
The Video and Audio
The series is presented in 1.78:1 widescreen with English Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound audio. For our Spanish speakers, you only get mono audio though, or Spanish subtitles of you prefer. For the most part, everything comes out clearly. The brightness of sunny Miami, the warm glow of the blue water, all of the color is nice and crisp.
The opening credits though, an underwater montage, have a graininess the rest of the show doesn’t. I don’t know if that’s intentional, to evoke the idea of television of that era, or what. If I can’t tell, though, then it might not be working.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
The three-disc set comes in a folding case. The inside has a nice panoramic cast shot, with the episode titles neatly hidden under each respective disc.
The bonuses are made up of short featurettes covering various aspects of the series, from the cars to the fashion, music to the setting, and so on. Personally, I would have preferred more from the segments covering the history of Miami during this period and the construction of the impressive Miramar Playa Hotel sets.
Overall (Not an Average)
The show is a fun run on the Miami Beach with enjoyable characters that you get invested if you give them the time. The story takes some effort to build into something more interesting, and even then it’s not much, but if you stick with it, you’ll probably find yourself glad you did. Just don’t expect much extended value from the bonuses.
The Series 7/10
The Video and Audio 7/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features 6/10
Overall (Not an Average) 6/10
Created by Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk
Starring Jessica Lang, Connie Britton, Dylan McDermott
Scary stuff hasn’t done well on network TV for quite some time. Part of the reason could easily be that it just never was scary. At best you might get a little creepy or eerie. Old shows like The Night Stalker or Night Gallery are examples of relatively successful horror-ish shows for network TV. Basic cable on the other hand has less to loose so why not give it a go? The Walking Dead, a series about the zombie apocalypse, proved very successful for A&E. FX answers with the much edgier American Horror Story.
Season one of American Horror Story tells the story of a haunted house and the very damaged people who have been connected with it and the damaged family that buys it to try and recover their lives. Dylan McDermott and Connie Britton play a husband and wife recovering from not only a miscarried child but an affair that McDermott’s character committed. They have a high school aged daughter caught in the middle. After the affair the couple went through six months of counseling and decided to buy a big old house in California, far from their past lives and tragedies, to get a new start. The problem is odd things start to happen the minute they move into the house. A creepy thieving southern lady played by Jessica Lang begins showing up uninvited and mostly unwelcome. Her daughter also finds ways to constantly break into the house just to sort of hang out.
Throughout the season episodes begin with scenes from the house’s history usually ending in tragedy, from the graphic murder of two young girls in the living room and bathroom to the shooting of a man and his mistress to a murder suicide. The house begins to almost learn about this new family and find ways to use their weaknesses against them to try and rip them apart. Several guest stars appear as both humans and ghosts throughout the season most notably Zachery Quinto (Star Trek, Heroes) as one half of a gay couple that once owned the house and found their lives end tragically.
Episode one of the show starts off with a bang not only setting the stage for what the show is all about and how the story will be presented but it also attempts to get the viewer used to something much edgier and racier than they may be accustomed to seeing on basic cable or network television. The language and situations portrayed in the first episode and throughout the season push the edges of what can be done on night time TV. Sexual situations in particular can make you a little uncomfortable depending on who you may be watching with. Yes you see McDermott’s butt but that’s not what I’m talking about. It’s hard to get into much without just spoiling the whole thing but let’s just say there are some dark sexual situations and a good bit of masturbation happening.
The season is dramatic and the story is complex and always engaging. The scare factor is also in full effect. There are some truly scary moments but more than that the completely unnerving atmosphere is palpable and unique to TV. The acting is spot on most of the time and the execution of the series is of such a great quality it feels almost theatrical.
American Horror Story is shot on film, something we don’t see much these days. The good is a depth and realism, or “unrealism” that we are still used to seeing in the cinema. The bad is that there is a substantial amount of grain running throughout the episodes. The grain thankfully is just about all related to the film not any compression done to the video for this release. In fact this HD blu-ray release looks noticeably better than the original compressed television broadcast. Artifacting due to the transcode to blu-ray is minimal also. Colors look great throughout but darker scenes do show off the grain too much.
The series gets a DTS Lossless audio presentation which does a splendid job of spreading the sound around the soundstage. Now this is still no theatrical movie so you won’t get that level of audio detail but there is ambient noise that attempts to make the proceedings feel immersive and when the s hits the f the surround speakers do kick in solidly. Dialogue is always clean and easy to hear which is essential for the story driven series.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
The series is packaged in a slim blu-ray with standout vivid blood red art for the cover that matches the overall style of the series. The packaging isn’t special but it does work.
There’s an audio commentary from one of the show creators on the pilot. The commentary is engaging as it offers up plenty of behind the scenes information on how the show was created. The Murphy House Presented by eternal darkness is a fake tour of the murder house that’s pretty poorly assembled actually. Behind the Fright: The Making of American Horror Story is an all to brief but really well done behind the scenes documentary featurette with interviews from nearly everyone involved with the show. Finally there’s a short featurette on the creation of the title sequence and a series of interviews with all of the ghosts that inhabit the house.
There’s pretty much always room for more behind the scenes extras but here there are just a few things missing. More lengthy discussion of the writing is one thing that would have been great. This could have even been handled with additional commentaries. What we do get is solid stuff though.
American Horror Story is a magical combination of truly scary and deep engrossing story. You truly invest in these characters even if you don’t much like them. It’s edgy, modern, unique, and fascinating, one of the best shows on television and truly riveting to watch on blu-ray.
Overall (Not an Average) 9/10
The Season 9.5/10
The Video 8/10
The Audio 8/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features 7/10
Overall (Not an average) 9/10
Check out these awesome Avengers bonus featurettes from Marvel meant to keep the hype going on their epic Avengers DVD/Blu-Ray release. Didn’t get enough behind the scenes stuff on the discs/ Here’s a little more for ya:
Designing the Ship
Writing for Visual Moments
Leader of the Band
Captain and Hulk
Gag Reel 1
One More Shot
Alternate Opening Maria Hill
Extended Scene: Bruce Banner
The weekly tease features all the great teaser images and video from upcoming TV, movies, comics, toys, and much more! This week we get an official trailer for Tarantino XX 8 film Collection that includes every feature film he has directed, a trailer the next Die Hard film, early art from the upcoming Marvel NOW! initiative, and even a new trailer for the Hitchcock biopic.
Two of the teaser images from Marvel NOW! are from an upcoming new series called Superior Spider-man. The concept is that he’s finally taken everything he’s learned as a hero and used it to make himself smarter and faster than ever before. His new atitude also brings a new look.
Scroll on down and take it all in!
Click the images for larger versions.
Hitchcock Trailer and stills
Mega Photo Gallery!
Tarantino XX 8 Film Collection Trailer
Die Hard: It’s a Good Day to Die Hard
Written by John Kenneth Muir
Published by Applause Theatre Camp; Cinema Books
I remember reading An Askew View back in 2002 and loving the insight shown through the interviews with Kevin Smith’s friends and family. The big thing I remember about that book was the early information on Smith’s forthcoming movie Jersey Girl. A lot has changed since then.
It’s been ten years, time to look at the second half of Kevin Smith’s film work. And what a mixed bag of work that is. The PR and production problems on Cop Out have been well documented and the box office failure of Jersey Girl and Zack and Miri Make a Porno nearly sent Smith into early retirement. In An Askew View 2 we learn how Smith climbed his way out of the doldrums and created the masterful Clerks II and went on to create the underrated Red State.
Actually, I would be remiss to not mention everything before Jersey Girl. As a fan of Kevin Smith’s work I sometimes forget that there are people out there who do not know about his rise to fame in the mid-90’s by self-financing the movie Clerks. That story is a well known tale in Hollywood and one many a would-be filmmaker tried to immolate. Where An Askew View 2 stands out is in its telling of the View Askewniverse through a third party lens rather than through Kevin Smith’s nostalgic and in-joke heavy SModcastian lore this is his story as told by his friends and family as well as cast members and critics. It is all pieced together with love and respect and if you have never heard the story behind Kevin Smith’s movies this is a good place to start.
If there is a slight on An Askew View 2 it’s that Muir seems to be in love with the subject matter. And that isn’t such a bad thing. Why write about a subject that you care very little for? But still there are a few obvious omissions about Cop Out and the friction with Bruce Willis on set. Granted a quick Google search will give you all the anecdotes associated with that production and this book isn’t about the interpersonal relations on a movie set. It is about the inner workings of the man Kevin Smith.
Now I know that Kevin Smith is a polarizing character. Gen Xers like myself like his crude humor and sense of geek where-with-all but a lot of hardcore film fans think he is a hack director who keeps “going back to the well” of Jay and Silent Bob. Whether you love him or hate him Kevin Smith is a true Hollywood survivor and his body of work stands as a testament to the indie film boom of the 90’s. An Askew View 2 is a nice piece of reference material for both the Kevin Smith fan as well as the casual observer.