Joker... Joker... Joker!

Yup, the town has Joker fever after the release of the new trailer for The Dark Knight. I'm trying not to get caught up in it, Batman Begins was a pleasant surprise and I'd like to retain that sense of unexpectedness for the sequel.

They are psyching me up tho with this poster, what with the trailer showing the grungy street-level Joker here we get a glimpse of that suave madness in the purple suit. I realize the movie may be in a completely different direction, but this here is a hell of a shot in any case.

The first teaser poster was freaking awesome, I love it. A friend of mine shares the opinion and writes up his thoughts over at his design blog.


Speed Racer: Balls = Tripped

I dig Speed Racer. My left brain already knows what this movie will probably be, but my right brain dreams of that very special place just within reach. Part videogame, part live-action cartoon, part total fucking acid trip... I gotta say the Speed Racer trailer that recently dropped its load on the interwebs leaves me wanting more. I will have to check my brain at the door and see this post haste.

Do yourself a favor and download an HD Quicktime version to pace through frame-by-frame. Lots of little easter eggs* in that (always infuriating) rapid-fire editing 'da kidz likey so much. Unfortunately one can almost guarantee the whole movie is that way.

SPOILER!! (rollover to see)


Autobots: Droll Out

So I had to see Transformers. It's like they dared me to. Hollywood has become very enamored with the idea that if you throw enough money at it, anything is possible on film. Transformers has all the oohs and aahs of CG masturbation, but it lacks one other minor detail. A good story.

The raping of childhood nostalgia aside, Transformers tries to be too many things in its goal to be everything. It's a hardcore war movie. It's a tech thriller. It's a touching, coming-of-age drama about a boy and his car. It's a wacky teen comedy about a boy and his car. It's a summer blockbuster with giant robots beating the living fuck out of each other for 40 minutes straight.

It's exhausting. And the individual parts aren't all bad. The future war stuff was great, until it shifted gears into the tech thriller. The funny parts are funny, then the car chase starts and shit blows up. In typical Michael Bay fashion no shot lasts more than three seconds, and that quickly leads to a headache. Then the cycle repeats, and two hours in I'm begging for this thing to be over because I can't take another pop culture dig that sets up a jet crashing into a building.

The Transformers themselves... -sigh-. I mean, I'm all for giant robots running amok and causing copious amounts of property damage. This is present in spades, and the action sequences are certifiably insane. But man, I just want Optimus Prime to look like Optimus Fucking Prime. Eh, at least he sounded like Optimus. Every other "cast" robot is unrecognizable, and all the publicity tripe about these designs needing to look like they function in real life is thrown out the window as soon as one of them transforms. The toys are more believable-- I mean, the toys work, yeah? The CG robots are cool, yeah, transforming is cool. But the personality was not there for me. Jazz, Ratchet, Bumblebee, Starscream, considering the source material was so broad I'm baffled at how they failed to bring any of it into a mega-million dollar blockbuster that hinges on the believability of sentient, talking robots.


Ocean's Thirteen

Ocean's 11 is great, probably the best remake/re-imagining around (kudos to some others, perhaps in another post). Ocean's 12 is a god damned masterpiece, and I will argue that to anyone. And I have; I do not understand the less-than-favorable response it gets from most people. To paraphrase Dennis Miller, should you find it over your head you may need to stand a little taller.

Which brings us to Ocean's 13.

Soderbergh, damn, that guy makes a movie. Sure the Ocean's films have the cast that dreams are made of, and yes the story is clever and witty if not fanciful. But it really comes down to this director and his crazy-ass balls-out cinematography that is giving you a reason to get your ass off the couch and go to the movies.

The story behind 13 brings the crew back to Vegas, because I guess people like that sort of thing. I happen to as well, though they were already there... but that kind of gets lost behind the heist aspect, and clearly this story requires Vegas and Casinos and all the grifting that automatically goes with it. The core of the heist is so ridiculous that as a viewer you are asked more than ever to suspend disbelief and just watch it all play out. In fact in addition to some focal heist points that are barely possible, let alone plausible, we must accept that every inhabitant of Las Vegas is on the take. We all want to think that, and we all have our price, tho speaking from experience as a frequenter of Vegas -- and a former resident-- if that were true the town simply could not do business on the scale that it does. It's a picky argument, but the film does ask alot of you in that vein.

But I guess that's not what's really important, because it all plays out. We get our big set-ups, our snags, our "uh-oh's," and a whole lotta cool as Ocean and crew take what's theirs and then some. Pitt and Clooney riff back and forth like they just show up on set, scan the script and say "Let's go!" much like the laissez faire attitude of the Rat Pack's original film. Damon as Linus Caldwell continues to be my favorite character and even comes into his own this time around. The rest of the cast do what they do best, even Pacino reigns it in a bit (tho is still unmistakably Pacino).

But the real star here is Soderbergh and his 70's acid trip flashback camerawork. Not as daring and inventive as Ocean's 12, mind you, but top notch across the board. Aside from perfectly framed conversations between two people there are seamlessly cut scenes of the whole crew both together and apart, which is no easy task. Then there are massive zooms and panning shots that are sadly rare next to the epileptic editing foisted on us these days. The film explodes with color and high contrast, one imagines the scenes delivered to post for color grading bundled with a brand new box of crayons and a note that reads "go nuts." Seriously, the color usage here is out of this fucking world. What fascination was to 11 and music was to 12, color is to 13.

Ocean's 13 gives the masses the story they probably adhere to better, tho there's just enough nuttiness to make it special. When the final heist all goes down like clockwork you can feel the audience collectively smile like watching a massive display of falling dominoes. Adding the visual zealotry one is unlikely to see in any film the rest of the year, O13 sure put a grin on my face.

A good write up of O13 that takes off the rose-colored glasses with a more critical approach than mine can be found over at Pajiba (home of "good write ups").


Speed Racer

On one hand you have the Wachowski's and Joel Silver... The Matrix was what it was tho I felt V for Vendetta was disappointing (to put it nicely). Speed Racer, presumably a solo effort as opposed to a "trilogy franchise," would hold more of a production similarity to V in that respect, so I am wary.

On the other hand, you have that cast:
The film stars Emile Hirsch (Alpha Dog) as Speed, Christina Ricci (Black Snake Moan) as Trixie, Matthew Fox (TV's Lost) as Racer X, and Oscar winner Susan Sarandon (Dead Man Walking) and John Goodman (Evan Almighty) as Mom and Pops Racer. Rounding out the main cast are Australian actor Kick Gurry (Spartan) as Sparky; Paulie Litt (TV's Hope & Faith) as Sprittle; Roger Allam (The Queen, V For Vendetta) as Royalton; and Asian music star Ji Hoon Jung (popularly known as Rain), making his major feature film debut as a rival driver.

Hirsch channels a young Tom Cruise ala Risky Business in The Girl Next Door (a surprisingly good movie) and I'm sure he'll pull off a good Speed should he be allowed to (or be written as). And Fox as Racer X, well, that's pretty sweet. Rain, however you want to see it, was an incredibly smart casting move by the producers.

Then of course the car-- while the press release would have you believe that is a real car, I assure you it is for now a nice rendering of how the car may eventually be fabricated. Though I can hope and dream that the movie's cars and races will be as cool as we all want them to be.

Speed Racer as a big movie is an odd choice, it was never a major force in America, and recollections to the old cartoon are skewed towards a rather old audience. The fears of this new adaptation center around what will surely be an incessant need to "appeal to a younger and new generation" thereby discarding everything that its real audience knew to love. The adaptation of V was weak when compared to the original story, yet it too had to be modeled into something "current and appealing to today's audience." Ugh. I would love for Speed Racer to be a good movie. I know it can be, every element for a good movie is there in the original content. If only they can remember that.

I've a strong attachment to Speed Racer, both the TV series and the original comics, as well as the newer comics which I played a role in bringing to market. Published by WildStorm in late 99/2000, the Speed Racer 3-issue series was written and drawn spectacularly by Tommy Yune, in my opinion you are unlikely to ever find a better adaptation. Yune's story is proof that the series and characters can be updated and expanded upon without subverting history, and is the strongest argument for the potential quality of a new movie. The Speed Racer mini was followed by a Racer X series also written by Yune, but with art by the amazing Jo Chen. WildStorm also published a collection of the original manga which they sadly did not follow with additional volumes. Despite pleas of support, the view of manga and the trade market at the time was woefully short sighted.(originally posted by EDCO)


Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End

:: Yarr, ahead be semi-spoilers ::

- whew - this is a long movie. If you wish to peruse my thoughts on Dead Man's Chest, you may click the link. After loving Black Pearl and really liking Dead Man's Chest I was very much looking forward to World's End, but in the back of my head I knew it would not live up to my expectations. Still I was hoping for at least some cool pirate stuff, and that, thankfully, we get.

World's End is strange in that it in no way can stand on its own as a film. It would be virtually impossible to discern any one of the dozen plots without some knowledge of the first two films. So what happens is that World's End becomes this sort of sprawling epilogue, much of which was just not needed when there were elements I would have much preferred them to expand upon. And why any writer, director, or producer would want to include a dozen plots in one movie is beyond me. Think I'm exaggerating?

1. Rescue Jack Sparrow from Davey Jones Locker
2. Stop Davey Jones and the Flying Dutchman
3. Alliance with Singapore pirates
4. Break East India Trading Co. advance on pirates
5. Meet with the Pirate Lords
6. New Pirate King
7. Free the Sea Goddess Calypso
8. Calypso/Davey Jones angst
9. Elizabeth/Will Turner/Sparrow angst
10. Will Turner must free his father
11. Sparrow wants immortality
12. Pirate Lords Vs. EITC
13. ...dude, I can keep doing, I'm not kidding. I haven't even mentioned Barbossa!

If you have a high tolerance for exposition (not to mention a iron bladder), World's End is not bad in this respect. A large 85% of the film is story driven, and the action adventure parts are few and far between. This as opposed to Dead Man's Chest who's action adventure part was the entire second half of the movie... but it is the focus on story in the third pic that is ultimately its downfall. It is so very clear that there are much more interesting things going on, alot of the time I found myself thinking, "yeah this is okay, but get on with it already!"

There are a few things I felt a bit cheated out of. First and foremost was the concept of the gathering of the Pirate Lords. I had heard a bit about it and was really hoping that would be the focus of the movie. Chow Yun Fat even! Sadly Chow's Character of Pirate Lord Sao Feng is totally wasted (and not even very good). Shame on the storytellers for missing such a great opportunity. The gathering of the Pirate Lords does indeed happen and is pretty cool, but boy there could have been more here. The reveal that Jack Sparrow is one of the 9 lords comes out of nowhere in a matter-of-fact way, and I'm thinking the history behind how he became a lord has got to be much more interesting than just needing to be in attendance at the meeting. Actually during the play out I was thinking that Jack was not an actual Pirate Lord but everyone just thought he was and he'd have to reveal the last one though eventually earn the rank... but I digress.

With an overwrought focus on Will Turner's need to save his father, the introduction of Sparrow's father comes off as lackluster, again there has got to be a better story behind their relationship. The fact alone that piracy may be a Sparrow family tradition warrants some inspection, doesn't it? Sparrow Sr. appears to hold some lofty weight in the eyes of the pirate den, but for all I can figure it's just because he's the keeper of the Pirate Code. The Pirate Code being another nice tidbit totally glossed over and left behind.

The biggest miss is the appointment of the Pirate King, which was nicely done to start but left high and dry. Not to mention Elizabeth Swan's character as a whole is short changed something fierce. Prior films go through great pains to establish her as a strongly-willed type with a hankering for hutzpah, alas that tree is pruned fairly close by the end of the film. Off the top of my head I can think of at least three great directions she could have gone towards a much better ending to the film, regardless of the scenario lover Will Turner was placed in.

If you think adding to the film to explore the above would have been more than we could handle, I propose that there was tons of stuff the film could have easily done without. The stuff about Calypso? Sure that would have been cool, if it was the focal point and not a sub-plot. Dalma's character served no purpose other than to look creepy. Gone with Calypso and gone is the Davey Jones connection and that precious screen time (and needless exploration of Jones character who has enough going for him already). Jack Sparrow's delusions, which only serve to preclude that Sparrow is in fact insane and not as cool as we want him to be, the film would have done better without. I mentioned Sao Feng was wasted, and so much of the dealings and double crosses with the Singapore pirates is also unnecessary. Basically even without anything new I would have liked to see, the film could have been edited into a much tighter story.

The Pirates of the Caribbean movies, especially World's End, fall into this category of "Ultra Movie" where every shot is perfectly lit, every costume is minutely detailed, and every frame of CG was well paid for. I can imagine a gas-pump cash ticker up in the corner running over each scene because the one thing I can say for sure about World's End is that it looks great. And for at least some payoff, the finale is one hell of a finale. Yes, yes, we seemed to have been promised an armada-scaled battle between the East India Trading Co. and the Pirate Lords, that just doesn't happen. However the standoff between the Flying Dutchman and the Black Pearl was really amazing to me and I marvel at any director who could pull off as much as what was going on. Also the odd but operatic demise of Lord Cutler Beckett was a phenomenal visual which I can't say I've seen before.

My wish list aside, I actually liked World's End. I like alot of story and I'm already attached to the pirate characters so I wanted to see it played out. There are alot of good laughs and some great lines ("What, you think we should have called them the 'Nine pieces of things we happened to be carrying at the time?'") Ultimately the story was not what it should have been (not to be confused with what it could have been), but there was enough there for me to see it through. It is the weakest of the three Pirates films, tho there is hope for a better, tighter sequel to come, unburdened by a giant ensemble and multitude of plots. In fact I'm all for a whole new pirate adventure, completely recast and ready to explore the corners of pirate lore. For Pete's sake, what does a guy have to do to get some sea turtles up in this joint??


OMG blkspdy iso Emo

Spider-Man 3... There is no doubt that this is really two movies– possibly three– crammed into one. More apparent in this latest Spidey Franchise Extender is a marketing influence, one I suspect was put in place to market as many new characters as possible, because the movie is packed to the point of overflow. Even taking this into consideration, I'm surprised at how well everything turned out.

Comparisons to the other two movies are inevitable. I really enjoyed the first but it was the second that knocked my socks off. Here in the third film there is so much going on that it never could really match the emotional impact of action vs. consequences that the second had but it sure as hell tries. It's hard not to like 3 but as a whole it's massively overweight and convoluted.

Had the story concentrated on any one of the three antagonists, it would have been a stunning movie. I personally would have liked the movie to focus on Sandman, because his role and his story showed the most potential of the main triad. Keeping the undercurrent of the Harry Osborn dilemma as a subplot would have been fine, since it worked out so well in 2, and would have made for a hell of a twist if the introduction of "New Goblin" was saved for the climax rather than the opening.

As for Venom, well, the disappointment starts the moment the symbiote is introduced. Very cheap. There is such a rich underfiction in regards to the Black Costume I feel as a fan I was cheated. As a moviegoer it's more of a throw-everything-into-the-pan type of feeling, but its hard to ignore how much depth is behind the Black Costume and how Venom's creation/introduction could have been the focal point. The all-too-brief scenes with the actual big, toothy blackness that is Venom left me wanting more, and a realization that a full-on Spidey-vs-Venom with the power of the Sony production machine behind it is something that I'd -really- like to see. Instead I feel a bit short changed. Even the character of Eddie Brock is played so well by Topher Grace you can totally see how that's a movie in itself. (strangely "Venom" is never mentioned by name.)

That's the dilemma here, there's alot of good stuff and I just kept thinking, "wow, that was great, there should be way more of that!" But things kept jumping around so that each small sparkle of greatness never got a chance to cement.

The action sequences in 3 are wildly wrought out, but unfortunately there's just so much happening they come across as filler. It's odd, since 2 is not that far removed but I had much more sense of "things are really kicking into high gear now" rather than 3's "insert action sequence here." The main standout in 3 is not the action, but how the rest of the surrounding film is so damn... weird. There's no other way to describe it. It's so weird! There is all kinds of bizarre time compression editing that was somewhat confusing-- you can totally tell there is alot of material somewhere that never made it in. It peaks with a montage of symbiote-influenced Peter Parker, in all his Emo-nality and pseudo suaveness. It's alot of fun to watch, and with a bizarre boiling point set in a jazz club, again you're taken into the territory of a completely different film.

Then it's more girl trouble, friend trouble, fighting... and then Sandman shows up and has just some awesome screen time, with more impact as distraught criminal Flint Marko than sandy FX generator, once again I'm left wondering what movie I'm watching.

So yeah, it makes sense to me that any review I could write of the film would be as all over the place as the film itself. Did I like it? Sure. But I have a very powerful tool in my corner: I can take what I have seen and imagine what could have been, and be okay with that. I appreciate what the movie did, but it's my mind's eye that holds the true vision of what it tried to be, because I have a strong attachment to the material and characters. Maybe I envision alot of things differently, but shy of me running the show, well, you know the rest. But I will say one definite thing about Spider-Man 3: Gwen Stacey is positively dreamy!


300: Hot Gates

Damn, 300 is 10 kinds of awesome. It's beautiful from start to finish, visceral and fierce, unflinching in violence yet not gratuitous. The kind of movie you see first to take it all in, then happily watch again just for all the pretty pictures. Seriously, this flick is gorgeous and thankfully is backed up by everything else.


How to have a flaming skull

Haven't found time to see Ghost Rider, but check out this article at CG Society on the FX.