Category Archives: violent

Hobo with a Shotgun

Hobo with a Shotgun ~ Yeah, so I finally saw this. The number of times this film has been recommended to me by friends whose opinions I respect, and even those I don’t, is countless. Many of those friends have even nagged me with occasional “Did you see it yet?” inquiries.

The title revealing subject matter and the way sometimes I was recommended or asked about the flick has made me wonder about the sincerity of these friends. Ya know how someone will take a bite of something terrible, and then, not wanting to be the only one who is suffering, will offer you a taste? Yeah, that’s the vibe I have gotten in the past from Hobo with a Shotgun.

Right off the top, I have to give props to the director Jason Eisener and the cinematographer Karim Hussain. The color of this flick is insanely vibrant, no doubt a thematic choice to cash in on the 1970s action exploitation vibe that drives the picture. Even the movie poster reflects that homage, sans the Technicolor of course.

Based on the originally fake trailer from Rodriquez and Tarantino’s Grindhouse, the movie delivers its particular brand of hyperviolence almost from the start. Rutger Hauer is the hobo in question, and runs afoul of The Drake, the warlord who rules Hope Town. yeah, that’s the name, or in light of events and graffiti, it’s now called Scum Town.

Hauer is good here, playing apathetic at first and more than a little crazy, much better than his recent turn in “True Blood” as a subtly and hilariously similar character type. Actually had Sookie’s gramps been more like the hobo, it might have saved this season. When a shotgun eventually makes it into the hobo’s hands, he decides to become a crazed force for good, battling the bad guys and inspiring the frightened townspeople.

Trust me, this hyperviolent tale of good vs. evil set in a hellish Technicolor suburban wasteland sounds much better than it actually is but its misshapen heart is in the right place. Hauer watches and reacts for the most part, but for the rest of the cast it’s an over the top acting massacre that would make Lloyd Kaufman of Troma positively jealous.

Speaking of which, if you love Troma Films, you will love Hobo with a Shotgun. On the other hand, if you don’t, this movie is not for you. And neither is it for the squeamish. Either way, the color is fabulous. And maybe Robert Downey Jr. can fight The Plague in Iron Man 4

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Beware the Batman

I approach this new Batman series with both trepidation and resentment. We’re getting this series as not only a replacement for the old “Brave and the Bold” series, which gave us an intriguing and entertaining new direction for the character, but also a replacement for the much loved, and inexplicably ended “Green Lantern” and “Young Justice.” I would have much rather had either of these series back, or a JLA spin-off from the later than anything else Cartoon Network is offering lately, especially the superdeformed mutilation called “Teen Titans Go!” or this newest version of Batman.

“Beware the Batman” is a bit of an oddity, with, in my opinion, very little to like. The animation is CGI style like the aforementioned Green Lantern series, and there seems to be very little reason to have it done in this method. There are no wild scifi elements that this style would benefit. Batman’s head is odd and his whole costume has a wet, almost slimy, vinyl rubber look.

It is also quite violent. I was surprised at how violent, and I’m pretty desensitized to that sort of thing, especially when it comes to superheroes and cartoons. This is also a very different concept for Batman. He is, once again (groan), early in his career and therefore inexperienced. Why can’t we have the confident and competent Batman? That’s the one we like, not the bumbling amateur.

I said this was a new concept, well, young and dumb isn’t what I was talking about. Alfred is very different. More than a butler, he is an Australian ex-spy who looks like cross between Lex Luthor and Vin Diesel. It’s an intriguing idea, but I don’t like it.

Also in the way of change, I understand that the standard rogues gallery is being jettisoned for this new series. I think this is a very odd decision as Batman’s bizarre enemies are as much a part of his popularity as everything else. In the opener, he fights the very strange Grant Morrison creations, Professor Pyg and Mr. Toad. I was not impressed.

Also featured in the episode were a non- Mr. Terrific Michael Holt and a decidedly pre-Metamorpho Simon Stagg. Was this just for the Easter egg name drop then? Let’s face it, Mr. Terrific and Metamorpho are what makes these characters interesting, without them, why use them?

I’m giving this series a wait and see option. I haven’t really decided yet. It could go either way after watching just one episode, but I really don’t know.

I did however like the DC Nation short featuring the Tarantino-esque Aeon Flux style retro Wonder Woman short. Can’t wait to see more. Instead of another Batman, why not a series based on this, of one of the other better shorts like Amethyst, Sword of the Atom, Plastic Man, or Thunder and Lightning? Or if you insist on Batman, how about Batman of Shanghai?

Arrow: Betrayal

“Arrow” is at a point now where you need a score card to know what’s what and who’s who. I’m not sure that’s a place this show should be at right now. I’m sure there’s a core audience, but despite the handy elevator pitch origin story in the opening of every episode, I’m not sure that any new viewers wouldn’t be hopelessly lost. No matter how you slice it, even I was having trouble keeping all the balls in the air at the beginning of “Betrayal.”

Oliver confronts his mom about the notebook full of names that he got from Felicity last episode. She throws it in the fireplace, suggesting the only way the family can heal is to stop asking questions. Diggle tails her throughout the episode, discovering some nasty secrets. When Oliver confronts her later as Arrow, heh, well, that’s this episode’s cliffhanger.

In the main story this episode, Cyrus Vanch, former muckety-muck of the Starling City underworld has been released from prison, Iron Heights specifically – nice shout out to the comics. He wants what’s his back, as well as the Triad’s and the Bertinelli family’s (I guess that means we haven’t seen the last of China White or the Huntress). And he also wants Arrow out of the way. Using his contacts on the police force, he learns Laurel knows Arrow, so he kidnaps her. This forces Dad to cooperate with The Hood.

In the attack on Vanch, I am again struck by the violence of this so-called hero’s methods. By my count, there are at least eight of Vanch’s men who take arrows right in the chest. Can you live through that? It’s what bothered me about previews of the show before it aired. Have they made Green Arrow into a serial killer? Man, give me an old-fashioned boxing glove arrow any day.

In the soap opera portion of the show, honesty gets between Laurel and Tommy. Disappointingly this coupling has yet to be used to its potential as far as being a plot complication. So much unused potential, but I’ll keep waiting. Laurel’s relationship with her dad is suffering from problems similar to hers with Tommy as well this episode. I wonder what’s next on “All My Arrows”…

On the island, Oliver meets Slade Wilson, played by Manu Bennett, Crixus of Starz’ amazing “Spartacus” series. Comics readers will immediately recognize the name Slade Wilson as the not so secret identity of Deathstroke. Again, for TV they have flipped things. Wilson is apparently one of two Deathstrokes, and not the one Oliver encountered earlier. Apparently Slade is who trains Oliver. I won that bet.

There are other cool shout outs this episode as well. Vanch’s lawyer worked for Wolfman and Perez, referencing the writer/artist team of Marv Wolfman and George Perez, who created the New Teen Titans, a team that occasionally featured Speedy. They also, most notably, created Deathstroke. Laurel wants to call DA Kate Spencer for help to put Vanch back in prison. Kate is of course the civilian identity of Manhunter. Arrow and Laurel meet atop the Winick building – Judd Winick, former MTV “Real World” wrote the Green Arrow comic for a while.

Be here next episode when Oliver tells his mom that she’s failed the city, same Arrow time, same Arrow channel.

The Arrow Pilot

The norm used to be for bringing a comic book to the small screen would be to change everything. Everyone fondly remembers “The Incredible Hulk” TV series with Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno. You know the one without Rick Jones, Betty Ross, Glenn Talbot, General Ross, Gamma Base, or any Gamma Bombs. When you think about it, the show was more “The Fugitive” than the Hulk.

This was standard operating procedure though. The Justice League became the Super Friends. Bat-Mite turned green. Remember Rex Smith as the Daredevil in black who wore a mask with no eyeholes? How about the Cathy Lee Crosby Wonder Woman?

Even the wildly successful “Smallville” changed many aspects of its source material. The joke used to be that “Smallville” had some names and concepts in common with old Superboy comics but everything else was different. In later seasons of the series one of the highlights was Green Arrow as played by Justin Hartley. The character proved so popular that the CW decided to give him his own similar “Smallville” themed series. The catch – it’s not a spin-off, it’s not Justin Hartley, and it’s very different from both the source material and even “Smallville.”

In “Arrow,” despite Oliver Queen’s outfit, car, and arrows being green, he’s not Green Arrow, he’s Arrow. The city he protects is Starling City, not Star City. And previews make him out to be more of a murderous vigilante than a superhero. Before viewing the pilot, friends had told me it was great, so I was willing to give it a shot, changes or not.

It’s not that I don’t love and miss Justin Hartley, but this is a different take on the character, and Stephen Amell slips seamlessly into this new Oliver Queen rule. Despite my misgivings, I was pulled into the “Arrow” pilot immediately, and not just by the Deathstroke mask on the beach. “Arrow” is a solid TV show with or without its comic book superhero origins. And it’s an adult show, this is not going to be the teen soap opera that “Smallville” was the first few years.

A more complicated backstory and motivation is overlaid to Green Arrow’s comics origin, and it works for 2012 television. I like it. Oh sure, there’s great wink-wink stuff like his drug-using sister being nicknamed Speedy, the complicated relationship with Dinah Laurel Lance (Black Canary in the comics), and of course there is the prerequisite best friend who becomes arch-villain, Tommy Merlyn AKA Merlyn the Magician – but I would dig “Arrow” even without all that.

A warning for the kids, and the folks with kids, this is a pretty violent show. So don’t be fooled just because it’s based on a comic book, this is not for the younguns. That said, I’m looking forward to more “Arrow,” and I hope you all are as well. I was refreshingly surprised.

Lost Hits of the New Wave #4

“Hello Again” by The Cars.

The Cars were at the start of the New Wave but this entry, the fourth single from “Heartbeat City,” comes from late in 1984, well after the MTV video revolution. In fact, at this time, Ric Ocasek and The Cars were at the forefront of the music video world and recruited the legendary Andy Warhol to direct this one. He appears throughout, and also look for a very young Gina Gershon.

The song, my favorite from the album which is full of great tunes, both wildly popular and largely unknown, seems to me to be about The Wizard of Oz, but the video seems to focus on the dangers of gratuitous sex and violence in music videos. Somehow that seems too appropriate.

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Spartacus: Blood and Sand

Yeah, I know, I’m late to this party as this Starz TV series originally aired at the beginning of this year. Having just recently obtained Starz I had an opportunity to catch up via OnDemand, watching all thirteen episodes in the space of a week, despite Comcast mucking with the HD. It wasn’t that I was really that bored or had lots of time on my hands, the series was really that compelling.

Now period pieces of this type I am usually all in or all out. I’m not a sword and sandal guy, and I don’t really dig gladiator movies. They seem just a bit too gay bathhouse for me. Reality check – I haven’t even seen all of Kirk Douglas’ 1960 Spartacus by genius Stanley Kubrick. I guess I should fix that. On the other hand, I am a big fan of movies and programs about Rome and the history of that time. I loved “I Claudius” and HBO’s “Rome” for instance. “Spartacus: Blood and Sand” falls solidly into the latter category. I loved it.

At first glance, I didn’t think I was going to like it though. There is a lot of the slow motion blue screen CGI effects that made things like 300, Sin City and The Spirit so visually unique. While the comparison to 300 is obvious because of the time period and the violent content, I did not mean to compare “Spartacus” to the others. This has nothing to do with Frank Miller, because this TV series is actually good.

“Spartacus: Blood and Sand” is visually thrilling and something we haven’t ever seen on television before, and that alone makes it must-see, but there is also a compelling story, addictive characters and performances that are better than most on TV. In all aspects, this is must-see-TV.

Just one of those performances you will only be able to see in this thirteen episode series unfortunately. Title actor Andy Whitfield was stricken with cancer and will not be returning to the series in its second season, but will make a brief appearance in the prequel series, “Spartacus: Gods of the Arena” that begins in January on Starz. He will be hard to replace, but rest assured I will be on hand for whatever comes next. This is truly great television.

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Sukiyaki Western Django

Sukiyaki Western Django ~ I wasn’t sure what to expect when I sat down to watch this one. While I am familiar with the works of Takashi Miike, I had no idea how he was going to meld the legend of spaghetti western anti-hero Django into some sort of modern day samurai western. The Django I knew was from director Sergio Cambucci and featured Franco Nero as the man who dragged a coffin behind him, which secretly held a gatling gun. The violent nature of the character and his world fit Takashi but still I wondered about what it was. In the end, I wonder if even Takashi knew what the film really was.

The tale is that of warring clans of feudal Japan, but taking place in some surreal old west, a world of both gunplay and swordplay, a Nevada in a Japanese desert. It is wholly unique, with hip pop cult blood running through its veins and down its legs. The Japanese actors speaking broken English is strange and awkward, but somehow fitting. Sergio Leone would have been proud, and he would have also been confused. Quentin Tarantino plays well in his cameo, but his scenes are painfully short. He might have saved this.

Oh, it’s pretty, and visually stunning. While it is a marvel to look at, even when it borderlines between cartoon and bad stage play, it really has no plot whatsoever and is just a series of fights and visuals one after another. Pretty with little substance, and bristling with winks and nods to several genres, it comes off more like a parody than an homage. And I doubt that’s what Takashi Miike was after. It hurts me as well. I love this stuff, and I didn’t want to laugh at it, I wanted to laugh along with it. Unfortunately the former happened more than the latter. Must see, but maybe only once, just for the visceral experience.

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Ass-Kicked

Kick-Ass ~ The name of this movie may be Kick-Ass, but as a viewer, I feel like I’ve been ass-kicked after seeing it.

Much like The Losers, this flick is based on a comic that I have never read. Neither of the creators, Mark Millar and John Romita Jr., impress me much with their comics work (another reason I never read the comic), so I didn’t have high hopes for the movie. After seeing it, I think I’ll be avoiding the comic.

The story follows the concept of a ‘real world’ teenager who decides to become a superhero. No powers, no weird secret origin, just a mask, a wet suit and a couple sticks. He promptly hits the streets and gets his ass kicked, is stabbed, and is then run over by a car. From this point, all ‘real world’ aspects are out the window as the self-named Kick-Ass now has a bunch of metal braces in his bones and a serious lack of nerve endings. Scratch that no weird secret origin bit, I suppose.

Other super heroes manifest, or at least that’s how it appears. As the movie continues (and it does continue, and continue, and continue, for a solid almost intolerable two hours) a division arises between who we think the good guys and the bad guys are and who they really are. Black and white morality is not a hallmark of Kick-Ass.

Among the pseudo heroes is Nicholas Cage’s Big Daddy and his eleven year-old daughter Hit-Girl, played actually quite well by thirteen year-old Chloe Grace Moretz. She’s a veteran actress even at her young age, and Nicholas Cage, well, Nicholas Cage walks around and collects a paycheck. His only real watchable moment is his bad Adam West impression while in costume. The rest is just terrible. I’m not as much a Cage-hater as some folks I know, but he really ruined every scene he was in in Kick-Ass.

Having never read the comic, there were plot elements that seemed out of place. The Red Mist seemed like a character that should have been a surprise rather than someone whom we knew about all along. It just seems like common sense from a writing point of view. But what do I know? Mark Millar is the guy who cloned Thor, apparently he can do no wrong in some comics fans’ eyes.

Speaking of comics, director Matthew Vaughn has just been tapped to direct the new X-Men movie, X-Men: First Class. How he got that gig after this one other than they are both comics movies is beyond me as I can’t see his style here lending itself at all to the X-Men franchise. After all, Astro Boy and A History of Violence are both comics movies – no thematic similarities there.

When the flick first came out, much was made of the violence and the swearing of the character Hit-Girl. This is very violent, and mercilessly so, with close-ups and slow-mos more traditional to horror gore rather than violent action flicks. I didn’t mind Hit-Girl’s swearing, or her killing almost everyone she sees – what bothered me was when at the end the older man, the big bad, gets the better of her toward the end of the movie. No matter how you slice it, it’s disturbing seeing a grown man beating a young girl.

The previews for Kick-Ass depict a comedy, and those comedic moments are still there, just you’ve already seen them in the previews. The voiceover narration by Kick-Ass is inspired when it appears but it doesn’t appear nearly enough to save this flick. This is just a bad movie, and made worse by Nicholas Cage’s phoned-in performance. He says he was paying homage to Adam West but it comes off more as mocking and bad acting. Give Kick-Ass a wide berth, and wait for it to come to free TV if you insist on seeing it.

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Perfect Blue

Perfect Blue ~ This is quite possibly the best anime I have ever seen. Not only is it that good but it deftly illustrates the difference between Japanese and American animation. America makes cartoons of what isn’t possible, while Japan creates things like Perfect Blue – a straight thriller with almost zero fantasy elements.

This tale of pop idol Mima trying to make the jump from teeny bopper superstar to a grown up serious and sensual actress while being stalked by a deranged fan – is not the usual fare for anime. No swords, giant robots or magic schoolgirls – no martial arts or even tentacle sex – just solid drama, story and characters. This is don’t miss, but be warned, even though it’s animated – this is not for kids. Sex and violence abound. Perfect Blue is very Hitchcock with just a touch of Gaslight, recommended.

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Siege #2 Reviewed at Avengers Forever

“Bendis’ Greatest Triumph” – my comic book review of Siege #2, by Brian Michael Bendis and Olivier Coipel, is now online at Avengers Forever.

Death, mayhem, carnage, evisceration, Thor, Sentry, Osborn, Ares and the Avengers assembled – all this and more – check out my review here:

http://www.avengersforever.org/reviews/default.asp?RID=640

Enjoy!

If you want to discuss this review, this issue or anything Avengers, please check out the Avengers Forever Forum.

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