Gatchaman 2013

There have been a few live action Gatchaman projects over the years-- I recall one commercial for a cell phone company that was pretty slick for its time, with extra SMAP.

Below is the trailer for the latest and greatest, it's not quite The Avengers, but it sure tries. Maybe it's trying too hard? But hey, dig those costumes.

(My favorite moment? 1:10... Bump of Chicken)


Tai Chi 0

Whoa, did you have me at Tai Chi or did you have me at steampunk? The film's creators have an impressive pedigree in and of themselves, and as part of a planned trilogy we can only hope its ambitions won't outpace the potential of a cool hook on a seasoned genre.


Game of Thrones is gorgeous

Yes, it's been met with critical acclaim and a steadily growing audience. Yes, it's based on an incredibly popular series of novels and the adaptation has been as good as the source. But what really puts Game of Thrones over the top is its overall production value. The caps below are just from one episode ("Prince of Winterfell"), but believe me the entire series is full of fantastic production design, location shooting, and composition.

When they say it's not TV, it's HBO, they mean it. There's nothing on television in this format that even comes close to the sheer cinematic feel of an average episode of Game of Thrones. The lighting alone is a clue to the care and craft being put into each scene. At times an establishing location shot, on screen for mere seconds, looks as if it was plucked from the BBC's Planet Earth. Earth this is definitely not, but it could hardly be showcased any better.


New Lupin III!

Lupin the 3rd has traditionally been one of the hallmarks of anime, consistently great in all of its forms be it series or theatrical (and manga!). There is a lot of joy to be had in this teaser for the new series, The Woman Named Fujiko Mine, the least of which is the prospect of the series itself. For a teaser, this thing is absolutely gorgeous.

The design and execution is fantastic all around, an artful cross between content and after-effects majesty. The absence of fully animated footage is noticed, but not missed. It makes most teasers and trailers for any animated property in the US (and arguably elsewhere) stoically bland, the exact opposite of what such a piece should represent. Kudos, Lupin, for stepping out a bit in a genre that often fearfully treads on eating its own tail.


The Hunger Games

When I first saw The Hunger Games trailer, I thought to myself, "I should probably read those books." So I did.

On second viewing, the trailer comes off as incredibly faithful. The source material is pretty good to start with, and the premise is simple but compelling. As with many adaptations, it's in the execution. The Hunger Games aims to execute well.

While I feel the first book will make for a good movie, the trilogy as a whole would likely make a better episodic series. The books are laced with cliffhanger chapters that rival some of TV's best, ala Lost, Alias, and True Blood. The second and third books especially will be hard-pressed to be condensed into the inevitable feature-film follow-ups. The second book, Catching Fire, is more of an extended conclusion to the first, and takes its sweet time setting up the next equally exciting "event," albeit one wholly worth the wait.

The third book, Mockingjay, poses the bigger issues for an adaptation. It's the contender to continue the recent trend of splitting the last part of a series into two separate movies. In this case it's entirely warranted, as Mockingjay is a huge story that plays out the series' somewhat-epic conclusion. I say 'somewhat' because while the events leading to it are indeed epic, the actual conclusion is not something one gives credit to the typical movie-going audience for accepting. Spoiler alert: It's depressing as fuck.

What strikes me even more is that the source material would make a great videogame. The concept alone lends itself to many gamer-centric features, and gruesome though some may be I can definitely see players clamoring for the chance to prove themselves. In an mash-up of Survivor and The Most Dangerous Game, players can move though generations of Games and their accompanying arenas, each fraught with deadly traps and the ability to form strenuous alliances. The social MMO aspect seems untapped-- actual, virtual Hunger Games could be held on a national and international level. Games can be sponsored, players could be "drawn," prizes could be awarded. And all you have to do is be the last man or woman standing by outlasting, out-witting, or straight-up killing every other opponent. Just sayin'.

The Hunger Games also seems to have spawned a multitude of fan films, many found easily by hopping around YouTube. If you've read the books, this one is particularly good. 


The Hobbit, near but far

Never have I seen-- and enjoyed-- so much footage from a movie so far off. Peter Jackson and crew have certainly been busy, each scene impeccably composed, shot, and colored. The results look as beautiful as ever, it would be hard to expect less from the teams involved in front of the camera and behind.

Here are some of my favorite shots from the trailer, each and eyeful in every way. Holding in the anticipation to see this played out at the unknown effect (to me) of 48fps will be tough!

Catch the whole trailer over at iTunes: The Hobbit Trailer


The Playboy Club vs. Pan Am

Two shows set out to evoke the verve of 1960's America, feverishly digging into nostalgia for those who remember and sparking fantasy for those who cannot. One spilling out of its corset, espousing the lavish nightlife and mystique of the era's most favored fetish. The other neatly tucked into uniform, bright and airy with the promise of the world before it. A comparison not unlike Batman and Superman, Gotham City versus Metropolis, if you will. Ensemble casts, superb production, and entwining storylines are found in both, but it's really only one that edges out…


NBC took a bold move signing up for this one, and their hearts were probably in the right place. Certainly the network was searching for any kind of drama to bring it some notice, least alone some critical cachet found by the likes of AMC's Madmen, which can't be ignored as inspiration. The Playboy Club as an entity comes with heaping bagfuls of history and backstory. Sex appeal is front and center, and it's the good kind. "Good" meaning innocent and coquettish, all costumes and cleavage. The premise -- the adventures and goings on of the women who work the iconic ears and tail-- seems like a can't miss. Well, on Cable, perhaps. On Network? With all it has going for it, the inability of a NBC to really take some risks to allow the series to get beyond its dressing becomes its greatest block. This disappointment seems unnecessary, since Network, even NBC, is more than capable of creating and sustaining a great one-hour drama.

It's not even about sex. There's a nice helping of sex alongside the obvious built-in appeal in the first three episodes. It comes down to the ham-fisted approach of character introduction and lackluster plot lines, many seen coming a mile away alongside others that have come too many times before. Ironically one of the most interesting subplots introduced is the least touched upon: Leah Renee Cudmore playing Bunny Alice, a closeted lesbian "married" to her closeted gay husband Sean, Sean Maher. The two have teamed up in the still conservative 60's to protect each other's identities while clandestinely attempting to further acceptance via an underground organization. Each characters' circumstances both inside the club and out show legitimate promise with parallels to today's equal rights issues.

In comparison, other characters could more than use origins as half as interesting. Leading man Eddie Cibrian as Nick Dalton is so straight as the would-be political avenger, he becomes little more than a stubbly mannequin in a nice suit. His political aspirations and loose mob ties are tired story points and do little to make him worth following. The stars of the show, the Bunnies, fare better, but not much. The new one, the tough one, the domineering one, the sassy one, the nice one-- they're all here. They are quick to point out the rules of The Club for us sheltered viewers and labor over the trials of being a Bunny. Not that they aren't real or accurate; so far the exposition, if forced, is all up to par. Many tidbits seem quoted verbatim from Katherine Leigh Scott's "The Bunny Years," an outstanding account of life working for the The Playboy Club, and not suprisingly cited as one of the sources for the series.

What brings the Bunnies life are the actresses beneath the ears. Each of course stunning to look at in uniform and out (more so in), they do their damnedest to deliver on the mediocre scripts and situations. If anything, The Playboy Club is a breakout vehicle for Amber Heard who plays ingénue Bunny Maureen. She seems born for playing the era, the camera loves her and the sight of her strutting around in satin is often more than enough reason to sit through an entire episode. Meanwhile, Laura Benanti vies for equal attention as Carol Lynn. Lithe and dark haired in a black bunny suit, she really can command attention even if the script forces her to be artificially bitchy. As a performer at the club in addition to her "Bunny Mother" duties, Carol Lynn is front and center in some of the more enjoyable sequences of the show.

Though the stories lack oomph, where The Playboy Club shines is in its gorgeous production value. Many scenes are shot with cinematic composition, and the overall direction is solid. There are scene upon scene with wonderful lighting and fantastic sets, mainly in the Club proper. Every set piece in the show is drenched in color, harmonic alongside the dreamy costuming the era has to offer. There are Emmys to be had here on the production side, were the show able to vie for them. Any fan of what The Playboy Club has to offer visually would not be disappointed.

Alas, we'll never know if the Bunnies would have found a groove (or some decent story lines), as The Playboy Club was the first of NBC's new fall season to get the axe!


Over on ABC, who rides quite a wave from shepherding several successful dramas in recent years (when not blatantly trying to recreate Lost), a refreshing entry is found in Pan Am. In many ways, it and The Playboy Club are the same show. Similar premise, similar setting, similar character archetypes, and a few more comparisons aren't hard to make. Yet the sun-blasted skyways of Pan Am become the Yin to the dark nights and stage lights of The Playboy Club's Yang.

Subconsciously we've already been set up for loving a show about Pan Am stewardesses, in that we've been given the best the concept could offer in Spielberg's Catch Me if You Can. To call Pan Am its spiritual successor is just shy of the obvious, it's as if it was merely waiting for the right time to come to fruition. Again we have production values literally reaching for the sky. Extravagant establishing shots and cinematic flair are punctuated by the spot on costuming and set design. Surely this is the dream-like remembrance of the 1960's at the peak of its entry into international travel.

The story benefits greatly from a few extensions to the focal setting, even if one or two border on the far fetched. First and most successfully is the use of flashbacks to vastly open the plot lines and provide welcome escapes from the cramped and claustrophobic airplane cabin, as nice as it is in the heyday of air travel. These flashbacks provide welcome backstory while also tying various characters together in different ways.

Guiding us above the clouds is a endearing cast of actresses who can live up to the task of making us want to fly along. The audience very quickly gets to learn there is more to these stewardesses than the uniform, and not just "girl with a mysterious past." The appearance of Christina Ricci is a welcome surprise as Maggie, the sharp beatnik wholly aware of the irony of her career. Margo Robbie takes the role of the token newcomer as the lovely Laura, but it's her sister Kate played by Kelli Garner who is the real star of the show. Rounding out the quartet of featured players is the sultry Karine Vanasse as Colette, who remains as playful as she is sweet with a French accent of which you just can't seem to tire.

One of the reaches the show makes centers around Kate's introduction into the world of... espionage. Seeing her career as an international traveler the perfect cover for delicate operations, Kate is dutifully recruited by the CIA. This waves every flag for going awkwardly wrong, but so far it's working as a foil for both the aforementioned flashbacks and future conflicts. Alias this is not, but even a light throwback to The Avengers or Mission Impossible is not the worst that could become of this development. Thankfully this device also opens up the show immensely to romantic world locations, another advantage it has over the singular locale and surrounding city of The Playboy Club. Overall the script and story is handled better and smarter than one might expect, bolstered by the crisp surroundings and attractive, talented cast.

An odd side effect of the show may have you grumbling of just how amazingly crappy it is to travel in modern times. There's no doubt the show idealizes the lifestyle purposely, but that doesn't make it sting any less. This is not to begrudge the workers of modern airlines, who's job it is to keep sane as much as the rest of us, but one can't help but imagine what such a traveling environment could have been like.

So... With each painted in the pastiche of a past era, we're given the choice of decadent night life versus shiny air travel. The ever-grey limits of Network television allow only one contender to stand out for now. Winner: Pan Am.


Keeping Up

Wow, where did the time go?! Two days from 2011 and I find the site to be a an empty hall filled with the ghostly echoes of months old posts. It certainly was not for want of trying, but maintaining a blog--particularly a blog about films--is daunting work. That word is emphasized on purpose. I have countless articles bookmarked and/or saved on my RSS reader that were meant to be subject matter for posts here, but the furious pace by which film news can gestate only meant that the ever growing swell of bookmarks would ultimately become too many to manage or even warrant attempt at diminishing. It is here that I must capitulate to the wave that crashed on me, holding me down and immobile in its undercurrent as I struggled for breath. I can now only hope to wash up on some distant shore, battered and bruised, but alive. And like Robinson Crusoe, the goal is to make the best of the situation.

What that means for this blog is perhaps a rethinking of its purpose. Originally envisioned as a place to offer commentary on film news and trailers as well as the occasional review, perhaps this mission needs to be boiled down to its bare essence. I can not keep up with news or take the time to track down trailers for obscure films from distant parts of the world. That endeavor takes an effort I do not think I will have time for in 2011. As such, I think the site will become a place to feature the films that catch my attention; films or filmmakers that are worthy of a well-written and thought-out post. In other words, I think it is best that the site provide features rather than news bites.

So, as we head in to the new year, please expect to see fewer updates on the site. However, what posts are made will hopefully offer much more meaningful and deeper insight into films and/or their filmmakers.

Now with this new mission in mind, I wish to bid whatever reader who happens upon this isle a Happy New Year. I wish you all the best for 2011 and hope you will drop by for a visit.

-- Chief Insomniac


The Warrior's Way Redux

Well, looky here. A casual check of what's new at Apple Trailers reveals that Rogue Pictures picked up The Warrior's Way and released a new trailer. Actually, this is the first true trailer for the film as the footage from the previous post about this film was actually a promo reel used at film markets. What's important to note here is the apparent change of tone of the film, at least from the marketing standpoint. Let's leave aside the awful rock soundtrack of the trailer and concentrate on the fact that the relationships Jang Dong Gun's character has with the townspeople appears to have changed. The previous promo reel had this viewer believing that Geoffrey Rush's character was the main foil in that plotline, but the trailer sells a more "partner-in-crime" type relationship and it is he who might be narrating the the story throughout. Gone, also, is the slightly romantic connection between Kate Bosworth's character and there seems to be little remaining of the "freak show" of interesting characters that make up the wayward town.

As trailers go, this is trying to sell a rather straightforward action picture, removing much of the Eastern philosophy that was prevalent in the promo reel and turning the main character in to a "hero" where the original promo reel sold a slightly more ambiguous, repentant "anti-hero." It will be fascinating to see if there will be a different edit for the film internationally as well as how the marketing is handled. For now, however, it is good to finally get a clear glimpse of the visuals which remain gorgeous and engaging. With the troubled history of this production, however, what truly needs to be seen is whether or not the story actually works.

The official site can be found here.


True Grit

The Coens are doing it again. Such an excellent teaser to what is sure to be a film that could bring back the Western. I'm certainly all for that. The fact that this is a new adaptation of the Charles Portis novel certainly has not prevented the Coens from reminding us of the iconic imagery from the John Wayne film (above photograph). View the effective teaser at Apple here.



Clint Eastwood brings humanity and depth to the theme of psychics and the paranormal so often misused as a horror genre when it could be much more. Using eerily familiar disasters as lynch pins, this film seems to be delving into the human need to understand tragedy, to touch "the paranormal" as a way of making sense of and deal with our mortality. Outstanding cast and the usual, understated but powerful direction of Eastwood. View the trailer at Apple here.


Atami no Sousakan

This is my new favorite series of the summer season. Yes, that is Odagiri Joe and Kuriyama Chiaki (aka Go Go Yubari) playing detectives in what I can only describe as the Japanese version of Twin Peaks. Created and directed by Satoshi Miki, a veteran stage producer who has created unique TV series often with Odagiri Joe in the lead, he is also an accomplished film director of comically poignant films such as Adrift in Tokyo and Instant Numa. Is this latest series as weird as Lynch's creation? No. But it is odd in a characteristically Satoshi Miki way and in so being, resembles Twin Peaks because it is clearly its creator's offspring.



Inception at its core is a heist movie and in this it follows procedure dutifully. There's the hardened veteran, his right hand man, an estranged love with unclear loyalties, the crew of assembled regulars, the wild card, and of course the inductee. Delve deeper into the formula and even more archetypes and familiar plot points appear. The only real originality in this ensemble is "the score" and the setting it resides in.

But what a setting.

The big caper, the "one last job," goes down in a dream. A realm both intangible but wholly realized. The dream has it's own rules, regulations, caveats and threats. The goal of the heist adds an extra layer of clever, the gang is charged to place something instead of taking. When looked at from afar, it all remains incredibly simple, which heaps the weight of its success onto the execution.

But what an execution.

Christopher Nolan has upped his game by taking a genre that is well loved (and often well represented) into a cinematic experience as fresh and exciting as ever. Watching Inception play out is a reminder of why we love movies. The base premise is interesting enough, invading dreams with the ability to manipulate and control the world around oneself is plenty to set anyone's fantasies afire. But it's the story that is so goddamned well crafted that the viewer is drawn into it just as deeply as the characters themselves. The concept remains simple, but storyline quickly becomes terribly complex as newer and more radical concepts are introduced. We are eased in, one concept at a time, and just as the stakes are raised, so too become the tiers both the players and the viewer must navigate. By the time Inception is entrenched in its own plot the film is working on a dizzying number of levels, all wrapped around themselves and spinning pure story magic. Dreams are happening within dreams within dreams, timelines of each compounded and compressed. It builds and unfolds like origami from an invisible hand of a master craftsman and it is all immensely entertaining.

Every cliche is spun sideways as they cause their own twists and ripple effects in the dreams they inhabit. A car chase in one dream affects a fight scene in another. Nail-biting minutes on one level translate into precious seconds on its predecessor. Action and drama are presented in pop-corn chomping awe with imagery that will be pretty hard to forget in today's love 'em and leave 'em tentpole onslaughts. This is high praise, although the truth is it's hard to ignore when it's all up on screen.

The cast of actors is just as refreshing. DiCaprio's Cobb anchors the film with a deserved leading man maturity, but his supporting cast lights up around him, even alongside Nolan's oft-featured stable of go-to's. Standouts include Ellen Paige's portrayal of dream architect Ariadne, who covers the role of leading viewers around the world while maintaining a smart and insightful determination of her own. Most fun to watch is Joseph Gordon-Levitt's Arthur, Cobb's number two who is given more than his fair share of weight to pull. Aurthur's shining moment comes in a hotel hallway fight scene that is one of those "gotta see it" experiences, a display of brute force amid freefall interwoven throughout the film's climax.

The hard science behind much of Inception's dream-wrangling is glossed over, seemingly a non-detail vehicle that allows the characters to traverse an incredible landscape. In writing and directing, Nolan chooses his battles to give the audience the most bang for the buck. A see-saw of delivery, at times exposition can be spooned with as much grace as a toddler's meal, only to be followed by sophisticated mind games relentlessly piled on top of one another with barely a breath between. The dream worlds warp and transform around all of it, the characters swim between them in search goals both tangible and nebulous. What's created is a great, great movie. Although with acclaim coming in steady streams, there is still the voice of opposition that demands to be heard in our age, as if no film is deserving enough to just be labeled as "good." In fact it's not entirely easy to lay it on as thick as what's been written here without some introspection, yet the thrill of leaving the theater after the credit roll still lingers. The La Times positions that Inception has polarized critics, citing multiple views confusing the overall effect of the film. Quoting Newsweek's David Ansen, "We live in an era when there's a tendency to overvalue anything that's even slightly good. In another era I don't know if we'd see gushing enthusiasm." Dear lord, it's baffling how much that statement cannibalizes itself given the state of Hollywood today. Inception is a superbly crafted, genre-bending watermark now-- "in another era" it's hard to think of the impact such a film would have had!

Need to cut through it?

"Inception is awesome."




Leave it to Gore Verbinski to create a CG animated film that, at least to these eyes, finally rivals what the folks at Pixar are doing. As you watch this trailer, the fact that it is CG immediately fades behind the efficacy of its irreverant mood, skillfully dressed in sub-genre trappings that puts the sharp comedic wit front-and-center. This is not selling the CG. And is barely selling Depp's involvement which is even difficult to gauge with the one clear line delivered. It's selling story... Officially looking forward to this one.


Dark World

Another fine example at some of the impressive genre filmmaking coming out of Russia. There is a unique skill at mixing fantasy elements with contemporary settings on display here that it would not be so much exaggeration to say that at this moment, Russia are the masters of this type of genre film...perhaps carving out a new sub-genre as they progress.

Dark World is centered around a group of college students on an anthropological expedition in Karelia who awaken dark, ancient magic; a few become agents for these mystical powers while others set out to fight against their now possessed colleagues.

Once again, the level of visual style on display is certainly one to rival the biggest of Hollywood's tentpole films. However, there is also that intrinsic "Russian" quality to the art direction that sets this and others previously mentioned apart from their tinsel town rivals. For some reason, the setting, the language, the faces all seem to fit this type of fantasy so perfectly that no matter how "improbable" the situation, it just works. Looking forward to seeing more of Dark World as the release draws closer.



Wow, the first entry of June and it's almost the end of the month! Apologies for the lack of updates, but time has been a commodity in short supply recently. However, I had to post this very cool opening title sequence for the recent film Gallants which is a throwback to classic Shaw Brothers film, starring some of the studio's most well-known stars, and giving us fans of old school Hong Kong films a knowing nod that could only bring out smiles. Enjoy!

Find out more about Gallants by clicking here