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Justice League: Throne of Atlantis

I’m a big fan of the DC animated movies, so when I noticed that our library had a new one in I had to give it a try. The title sounded promising, Justice League: Throne of Atlantis.

Then I realized that this was a sequel to Justice League: War, a movie that I have little affection for. How did this new movie turn out?

I considered summing up the movie in one sentence but I couldn’t decide between, “Not as bad as War,” and, “The fields of Atlantis are burning.”

The characters are not quite as unlikable as they were in War, but I’m still left with the feeling that if these are the heroes defending my world I would not sleep well at night. It’s enough to make me think that Lex Luthor has a point. Unfortunately this is what DC thinks we want in our heroes.

Buried within this mess of sub-plots that go nowhere is a serviceable origin story for Aquaman. One that would be better served if they cut out all the parts with the Justice League and used that time to flesh out Aquaman, Mera, Ocean Master, and Black Manta. It’s a standard plot of treachery, usurpation of the throne, and the true heir fighting to claim his birthright, but there is little time left to connect with the Atlantian characters and the central plot feels rushed.

Among the more glaring plot problems with Throne of Atlantis are several smaller points that bother me:

When on the ocean floor Cyborg and Flash need masks. Hal does not, which makes sense, but neither Superman nor Wonder Woman need them to breath or talk normally. This is never explained.

Several league members are very liberal (one might say gratuitous) with the use of lethal force. This is never commented on.

Superman and Wonder Woman go out on a date in their secret identities. Lois Lane shows up and cattiness ensues, because of course it does. This has no bearing on the story.

When Ocean Master invades Metropolis he leads off with a massive tsunami, but then casts it aside before it hits the city. I’m okay with this because it’s a great evil villain move. “I’m so powerful I don’t need to flood your city! I have eeeeevil showmanship skills!” However he follows this up with an invasion force that isn’t very large and whose technology isn’t that much better than our own. I was left wondering why the Justice League was needed to repel the Atlantean forces.

Black Manta initiated the war by launching a torpedo attack on Atlantis and blaming it on the surface dwellers. In the process he wipes out many Atlanteans who were out tending their crops. The fields of Atlantis were burning.

The fields… of Atlantis… were burning…

 
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Posted by on March 29, 2015 in Movies & TV, Reviews

 

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The Pyramid

This could be fun.

The Pyramid is a new horror movie coming to theaters at the end of this year. The plot synopsis is pretty standard fare; a team of archaeologists discover an enormous pyramid buried in the Egyptian sands. The tomb is cursed, the team ignores the warning, and soon discover that the pyramid is actually a prison meant to keep something in.

Based on the trailer it looks like a medium budget B-movie, which I’m fine with. I love B-movie horror films. It also looks like it’s going to have plenty of shaky cam, which I’m less okay with. This trend and those who promote it can die in fire.

But what really caught my attention is that the archaeology team triggers a pit trap and are dropped into a labyrinth. The labyrinth looks like it contains plenty of death traps for the adventurers… er… archaeologists to avoid. I hope they brought their 10′ pole.

It doesn’t look like The Pyramid is going to be a cinematic masterpiece, but with luck it’ll be something that would qualify for an old school horror host’s show. Or at least fun enough that it would make it to the Satellite of Love. I hope they play up the dungeon delving aspects of the story. That would give it a more unique flavor, aside from appealing to my D&D loving soul.

The Pyramid is scheduled for release in the US on December 5th, 2014.

 
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Posted by on August 28, 2014 in Horror, Movies & TV

 

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Avengers Confidential – A Review

Back in January I posted my high hopes for the Marvel animated movie Avengers Confidential: Black Widow & Punisher. I opted to wait for my library to get it and I have finally had the chance to watch it. The result?

It’s… not the worst thing I’ve ever seen.

But it’s far from the best.

Animation: The artwork runs between “meh” and lousy. The male characters are okay but I’m not sure the artists have ever seen a human female. Everyone is stretched out in proportions, but this is worse for the women. For example, Maria Hill’s neck is as long as her head is tall. There are also so many impossible spine poses and gratuitous boob shots that I was checking to see if Greg Land was in the credits.

Plot: Serviceable. Though not without big holes. Such as the minor villain being surprised to see the Punisher at the secret lab. The same secret lab the villain had just told the Punisher about two scenes earlier.

Characters: There are really only three characters in this movie; Black Widow, Punisher, and 2nd In Command Villain. He has a name. I’ve already forgotten it. There are tons of other characters, like the Avengers and the master villain. They show up. They do a few things. Some of them even get lines. Captain Marvel does not.

I actually forgot that War Machine was there.

There are a bunch of other villains who make brief appearances and are never named. Fans who have read the comics will know who they are. Anyone who has only seen the Marvel movies will have no clue. Worse yet, they won’t have any reason to care.

Action: The law of Conservation of Ninjistu is in full force. The fights are dull. The army of mind controlled super soldiers love to stand around allowing the heroes to pose and give dialog. Which brings me to the next point.

Dialog: 10% of the dialog is awkward cliches. 90% is exposition. I’m not kidding, they stop entire fights to explain things. They seem to have forgotten that movies are a visual medium and the principle of “show, don’t tell” is more alien than a Skrull armada. I get that two of the principle characters are Russian, but Dostoyevsky would tell them to speed things up.

I actually startled my wife when I exclaimed, “my god, just shut up,” at the screen. That and, “please just shoot him,” became my mantra for the rest of the film, which is something you shouldn’t have to say in a movie featuring the Punisher.

Remember Tuco’s Rule:

You’d think this would be standard S.H.I.E.L.D. training.

Avengers Confidential: Black Widow & Punisher is disappointing, especially when you consider how much momentum they have coming off their live action movies. It’s a poor showing for a movie that headlines one of their most prominent female heroes, one in which she gets top billing, and any opportunities for other characters to shine are crushed under the volumes of unnecessary dialog. It’s far from the worst animated superhero movie I’ve seen, but do yourself a favor and watch a few episodes of Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes instead. It will be a better use of your time.

 

 

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Godzilla Review

Here’s the short version:

The new Godzilla movie is my favorite disaster movie.

It is not close to being my favorite Godzilla movie.

Long version:

For a Godzilla movie, this outing is surprisingly human-centric. The real focus is a family drama and about our main characters trying to survive and dealing with the horrors around them as giant monsters threaten the world. For most of the movie the kaiju, particularly Godzilla, are teased more than shown and a lot of the major destruction happens off screen. The sense is that they’re holding back, saving it all for the final battle.

Though if you’re afraid you won’t see enough destruction, don’t worry. There is plenty to go around. This movie is all about the massive destruction.

I was surprised how engaging the story is, especially with Godzilla taking a back seat to the human drama. The main characters are well acted and I found myself emotionally wrapped up in their struggles. Even my children, who were there to see monsters bashing each other, bonded with these characters. They did so to such a degree that at one point my son felt the need to tell me that he wasn’t crying because of the emotional family moment, but because Godzilla was okay.

Awww. Of course you were bud. And I didn’t feel you gripping my hand when it looked like someone in the family was going to die.

I might get a little spoilery ahead. Be warned.

The Good:

As mentioned above, the family drama is engaging. These characters are believable and likable. None of the jerks-who-find-their-heart characters here, which was refreshing. You want these people to make it. You feel bad when some don’t.

It’s a good, solid plot. Kaiju flicks aren’t known for being tight on story, but this one pulls it off nicely. It holds together more than many classic Godzilla films.

Visually striking. There are some gorgeous shots that capture your imagination. Why is the US fleet sailing that close to Godzilla as they cross the Pacific? Who cares! It’s a beautiful image.

A great redesign for Godzilla that stays true to the classic. You look at this guy and there is no question, it’s Godzilla. He looks like Godzilla, he acts like Godzilla, his CGI model intentionally moves like a guy in a suit. All the classic elements are here, including one I was starting to worry they wouldn’t use.

This Godzilla is still a force of nature. He’s the “good guy” monster, in that given the option he won’t squish humans, but he won’t lose any sleep if we get underfoot. We’re not on his menu but that doesn’t mean he’s on our side. However he is not as angry as the more recent Godzilla movies from Toho.

The military, from top to bottom, were neither stupid nor jerks. Sure, they make mistakes, but they are believable mistakes based on their limited knowledge and genuine concern to protect people.

The other monsters are creepy as heck. Excellent additions to the kaiju family.

If you like massive amounts of destruction, you will be pleased.

When we finally do get to see the giant monster showdowns, they’re great.

The Bad:

Too much teasing with Godzilla. Too many offscreen fights. I get that they wanted to build expectations for the final battles, but that was the wrong move. The people in the theaters are there to see Godzilla and you can still focus on the human struggle while showing him off. The original Godzilla movie knew this.

The “hell yeah” scenes. There are several moments that were designed to get the audience to pump their fists with excitement, but they felt forced. They rely on a connection between the audience and Godzilla, sometimes between Godzilla and the human characters, but because they went to such pains to hold Godzilla in reserve these scenes lacked weight. The connection wasn’t there and the moment wasn’t earned.

The origin. In this storyline, the atmospheric nuclear blasts were part of a covert action to destroy Godzilla. He wasn’t created by “the folly of men” and our nuclear ambitions, he has been on Earth since the dawn of the world. That’s a big shift in Godzilla’s mythology.

Ken Watanabe. It pains me to say this, but somehow one of the finest actors in the world, of whom I am a big fan, is the weakest link. At first I was going to say that this was another case of his criminal underuse in a Hollywood film, but I realized he had plenty of screen time. His scenes were just unmemorable. Ken Watanabe’s character could have been removed from the film and it would have made very little difference, which is something I never thought I’d say.

The Verdict:

Godzilla is a good movie. Just be aware what you’re going to see and you’ll have a good time. If all you want is to see giant monsters bash each other for a couple hours, re-watch Godzilla: Final Wars. If you want an engaging human drama with giant monsters and massive destruction, then this is the film for you.

 
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Posted by on May 21, 2014 in Movies & TV, Reviews

 

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Hellraiser Thoughts

“What’s your pleasure, sir?”

Released in 1987, Hellraiser is a fantastic horror film that placed Clive Barker’s name on the same level as Stephen King and John Carpenter. For years after it came out it was a regular at movie nights among my friends. We quoted it, we slipped references to it into our games, and one of our game masters ran a series of highly fatal superhero adventures revolving around the Hellraiser universe. Eventually we found other things to geek out about and as with all things that become too familiar, Hellraiser dropped off our regular viewing list. Recently I decided to revisit our old favorite.

It’s been a long time.

“I thought I’d gone to the limits. I hadn’t. The Cenobites gave me an experience beyond limits. Pain and pleasure, indivisible.”

-Frank

The story of Hellraiser revolves around the Cotton family. Frank Cotton is the despicable brother, traveling the world in search of the most intense experiences possible. Frank acquires an occult puzzle box that opens doorways to other worlds, but he receives more than he bargained for. Taken by the enigmatic Cenobites he is tortured in the most extreme fashion, ripped apart body and soul.

Years later Frank’s milquetoast brother Larry and his wife Julia move into the home where Frank had been lost. An accident causes Larry’s blood to be spilled on the floor which allows Frank’s body to partially rebuild itself, his soul escaping from hell. Years before, Frank and Julia had an affair and Julia, stifled by her marriage and yearning for the ecstasy she felt with Frank, agrees to murder people so he can absorb their blood to regenerate. The two plan on running away; Frank from the Cenobites and Julia from her boring life.

Everything was going according to plan, until Larry’s daughter Kristy discovers the murders, the puzzle box, and accidentally summons the Cenobites.

“Oh, no tears please. It’s a waste of good suffering.”

-Pinhead

The movie holds up remarkably well and watching it reminded me just why it has such a vaunted place in horror cinema. The last time I watched Hellraiser I was the same age of the heroine, Kristy Cotton. This time I’m closer to her father in age. I’m not sure how much of a difference age makes in how I view films, but I look more at the craft now than I did then and little things make more of an impression than they used to. Things like the immaculate Julia’s slightly smeared lipstick, reflecting the blurring of her sanity, stick in my mind as much as the scorpion-like beast from the labyrinth. Hellraiser is filled with such wonderfully significant little elements.

You could say that the devils are in the details.

The atmosphere of the movie is excellent. Carpenter uses washed out colors and dingy sets and contrasts them with characters who behave and are dressed as archetypes of an upper-middle class 80’s family. These people, well dressed and focused on their lives, seem mostly oblivious to the signs of decay all around them. The result is not a heavy and foreboding atmosphere, instead it’s one of discomfort and anxiety. This tension is further enhanced by the pacing of the movie, which is steady and relentless. There is no down time, no moment to catch your breath, and even the character development happens in motion.

I’ve said that the pacing is relentless, but that doesn’t mean it’s a race. To draw out the metaphor, Hellraiser doesn’t sprint to the ending. It speed walks there, pulling you along, letting you see things on the way but never giving you a moment to examine them.

I never realized before how much Hellraiser owes to the low budget horror films of the 70’s and 60’s. Barker manages to take all the best, most uncomfortable, most disconcerting elements of the schlock films and raises them to a nightmarish art form. Grotesque imagery? Pushing personal boundaries? Leering looks and uncomfortable situations? It’s all here. Sure, there are jump scares too, but Hellraiser evokes more horror by sitting on the edge of your peripheral vision and whispering horrible things into your ear.

Then it hits you with a clawed hammer.

“You solved the box, we came. Now you must come with us. Taste our pleasures.”

-Pinhead

Something else I noticed was how different Kristy is from most heroes in horror films, particularly for an 80’s movie. She is competent. She never crosses over into badass territory, she never becomes Ripley from Alien, and that works here. She’s an early 20-something woman with a troubled but normal life thrown into a horrible situation. She has breakdowns, you can see her dip into shock repeatedly, but she keeps going and she survives. She makes mistakes, usually because she can’t come to grips with the nightmares confronting her, and the mistakes feel real. 

Even her boyfriend doesn’t fit the usual model. He does come to help her, but she’s the one who saves him. Her boyfriend’s role in the narrative isn’t to rescue her, it’s to witness enough of the events that there is someone left alive who knows she isn’t crazy.

Another interesting twist on genre conventions is the movie’s relationship with sex. The cliche for slasher films is to punish sexual activity, especially when it’s young people having sex. In Hellraiser it’s clear that Kristy and her boyfriend have sex, after what may have been their first meeting. But it’s sex among the older people that has consequences. Julia’s lust drives her to kill for Frank. She lures men to be murdered using their lust for her. Sexual dysfunction between Julia and Larry is hinted at and dramatically symbolized in one particular scene. It’s a refreshing change of pace.

If there is one place that Hellraiser leaves the audience wanting more, it’s the cosmology of the Cenobites. For the sake of the first movie this makes sense; we’re not supposed to know more and numerous movies and books have gone on to flesh out their universe with varying degrees of success. Still, I can’t help wishing that Carpenter would have dropped a few more bits of information. But then, the rule of show business is to leave the audience wanting more.

“We have such sights to show you.”

-Pinhead

If you’ve never watched Hellraiser, or if you’re like me and it’s been a while, give it a look. It’s a true classic, both for its era and of all time.

hellraiser-pinhead

 
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Posted by on February 21, 2014 in Horror, Movies & TV, Reviews

 

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Man of Tai Chi

“I know Kung Fu!”

-Neo, The Matrix

Released in November of 2013, Man of Tai Chi is a martial arts movie featuring Keanu Reeves as the main villain and also marks his directorial debut.

Yes, I willingly watched this movie.  Clearly I have made some poor life choices.

Actually, let me get this out of the way right now.  I am not a Keanu hater.  I do not think he is a bad actor.  He’s not brilliant and has done some bad movies, but I have enjoyed many of his films and I’m more likely to give him the benefit of the doubt than write him off.  Keanu also seems to have a genuine personal appreciation for genre films, which I greatly appreciate.

Add to this that I am a devotee of martial arts films, especially of the low budget Hong Kong variety.  I love the Shaw Brothers films.  I love films with Bruce Lee, Bruce Li, Bruce Le, or Dragon Lee.  I hosted a movie night where we went to the local video store and rented every movie with Shaolin in the title, and one called Bandits, Prostitutes, and Silver.  

Given all this, I went into Man of Tai Chi with more than a little hope, and initially it looked like those hopes would be justified.

This movie has all the elements of a great kick flick.  Hu Chen plays Tiger Chen Lin-Hu, the Man of Tai Chi, a young and idealistic but troubled hero.  Yu Hai plays his wise and aging master, trying to temper his student’s passions and pass on the secrets of his style.  Karen Mok plays Sun Jing Shi, the Hong Kong detective who is a cop-on-the-edge obsessed with shutting down the illegal pit fighting ring that has killed so many fighters.  Keanu Reeves plays Donaka Mark, the emotionless, two-dimensional villain who runs the ring.

The story is a classic.  Chen is a good young man torn between the peaceful nature of Tai Chi and his desire to prove the style’s power, and his own martial prowess, to the world.  Donaka Mark runs an illegal pit fighting ring that caters to an exclusive clientele, offering more than just death sports.  Using a network of hidden cameras, Donaka gives his viewers a voyeuristic look into every aspect of his fighters’ lives.  It’s about more than just pit fighting, it’s a reality show about man’s descent into darkness.  Donaka recruits Chen into his stable of fighters, engineering situations that push Chen deeper and deeper into his web of violence.  All the time detective Sun Jing Shi is dogging Donaka’s trail, despite the fact that her chief has closed the case.

The story is solid and all the actors save Reeves turn in stellar performances.  From the main leads to the minor figures, you feel for these characters.  Tiger’s descent into the dark side is well portrayed and the relationship between him and his master is heartfelt.  Reeves is the weakest link in the performances.  His lack of emotion feels surprisingly forced and when Donaka’s composure does slip, it’s comically overdone.  There were times I wondered if Reeves was taking lessons from the Nicholas Cage school of over-acting.

Beyond story and acting, the core of a martial arts film is the fighting, and Man of Tai Chi does not disappoint… at least not right away.

The initial fights are excellent.  The scenes are fast paced and the cinematography is good.  There is a fight between Tiger Chen and his master that is absolutely delightful to watch.  I was particularly pleased with the use of wirework.  How much or how little you use wirework helps define the atmosphere of the movie.  Here they used just enough to accentuate the fights and avoided giving it center stage, a judicious use that I’m not used to seeing.

There’s very little camera motion and while they don’t use long shots, they don’t zoom in on the fight too closely either.  I have some major complaints with how Hollywood films action scenes.  Tight shots on fight scenes tell me that the actors can’t perform and I abhor shakey cam.  These techniques are not immerse, they destroy our ability to see and enjoy the fight scenes.  I was happy not to see them evident early in the film.

It’s about half way through the movie that things go off the rails.  There is an important fight scene where Tiger Chen is forced to fight two opponents and it is virtually unwatchable.  Suddenly the camera work is tight on the action.  While they don’t succumb to shakey cam syndrome, they do start using lots of rapid cuts between shots.  Worst of all is the lighting, which includes moments when a flood light is pointed straight at the camera and other points when they use a strobe light.

If the goal was to make this scene more immersive, then they succeeded.  I felt confused, disoriented, nauseated, frustrated, and upset.  If the goal was to invest me in the story and entertain me, it was an utter failure.

The rest of the movie continues this nose dive into mediocrity and disappointment.  There are still good moments and particularly the continuation of Detective Jing Shi’s story arc is well handled.  But the overall quality of the film continues to degrade as it is taken over by the Hollywood tropes I’ve come to dislike.  It all comes to a head in the nonsensical showdown between Chen and Donaka, which is poorly filmed and paced and has the least interesting choreography in any of the fights.

Man of Tai Chi takes an interesting story and good performances and runs them into the ground.  This is what keeps it from being either a good film or an endearingly bad movie.

 
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Posted by on January 17, 2014 in Movies & TV

 

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Elevated Genre?

I have learned a new term, “elevated genre”.

With genre fiction becoming more mainstream we’re seeing an increase in the number of fantasy movies that are receiving critical acclaim.  More and more are appearing in art house film festivals, where science fiction used to be the only genre with a foot in the door.  Now critics are faced with enough quality genre films that they can’t easily dismiss them.

As far as I can tell, the term “elevated genre” is used to define any movie from a genre that critics wish they could still ignore or are too embarrassed to admit to enjoying.  Thus fantasy is still the purview of B-grade cinema like Ator: The Blade Master but it’s okay to praise Lord of the Rings.  Tolkien isn’t fantasy, it’s “elevated genre”.  I suppose this is what horror went through when terms like “psycho-drama” were first used so that people could praise Psycho without having to compare it to Creature from the Black Lagoon.

I can only hope that some day critics everywhere will be able to hold their heads up high and announce, “Yes, fantasy movies can be art!”  Until that day we should allow them their pretensions and offer them a measure of pity.

I miss you Roger Ebert.

One day Peter Jackson will call me.  One day.

One day Peter Jackson will call me. One day.

 

 
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Posted by on November 13, 2013 in Fantasy, Movies & TV

 

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Vampyr

I love October.  Halloween is my favorite holiday and the movie selections available this month are enough to make my hard drive beg for mercy.  Turner Classic Movies, always one of my favorite networks for frightful films, has really been knocking them out of the park this year.

Among the classics they’ve been showing is the 1932 movie Vampyr by director Carl Dreyer.  Produced in German and French, this movie is known for its heavy atmosphere and creative filming tricks that create an eerie dreamlike quality.  The original masters of the film were lost long ago, resulting in poor quality and heavily edited versions being released.  But new restoration techniques have done wonders and in 2008 the Criterion Collection released a two-disc edition of the complete German version of the film.

The story of Vampyr is a straight-forward affair.  Allan Gray is a student of the occult who happens upon the village of Courtempierre where he seeks lodging for the night.  He wakes before dawn to find a strange and disturbed nobleman in his room.  The man urgently tells him that, “she must not die,” then leaves him a sealed package with the instructions to open it upon the event of his death.  He then leaves.

Gray exits the inn and has a series of ghostly encounters, including entering a coffin maker’s shop where he sees spirits on the walls, a one legged guard whose shadow can leave him, a mysterious doctor, and a strange old crone.  Once back outside he is lead by more spirits to the manor of the man who had visited him during the night, where he witnesses the guard’s shadow shoot the man.  Gray, now enmeshed in the story of the family, meets the staff and the deceased man’s two daughters, one of whom is under the curse of a vampire.

The story itself is a straight forward and good, if predictable, affair.  Events unfold in front of our protagonist rather than as a result of his actions and the final resolution is handed to the characters through the book contained in the package left by the deceased father, a book that Gray is repeatedly interrupted while reading.  In truth, the plot of Vampyr is unremarkable.

What is remarkable is the atmosphere Dreyer conjurers.  He makes great use of shadows, including scenes where the silhouettes of musicians and dancers are seen on the wall though the camera has panned over an empty room.  Shadows lead Gray from one strange encounter to another, as if the spirits of those claimed by the vampire and her minions are seeking revenge.  Shadows also offer menace through the one-legged guard, who uses his shadow to assassinate the nobleman’s father.

Dreyer also used tricks like double exposures to create other spectral effects, such as a girl dancing along the shore, seen only as a reflection in the river beneath an empty riverbank, or the vengeful spirit of the murdered father coming back for the vampire’s henchmen.  The biggest use of these tricks is an extended scene where Gray leaves his body, his astral form seeing a mix of the villains’ current actions and a dream of his own body being placed in a coffin and carried to the graveyard.  The coffin has a glass pane over the corpse’s face and we see much of the scene as if we were lying in the casket, looking up at the passing trees and looming church steeple.

There are plenty of ideas to inspire gamers.  The movie focuses more on the vampire’s henchmen, who seem to be less dominated by magic than by the allure of evil.  This gives them more agency than a character like Dracula’s Renfield.  The shadow spirits, leading the investigator on, but whose motives are unclear is also a good trope, as is the guard’s use of his shadow as an agent for murder.  And while the use of the book is one of the weaknesses of the plot, the information gleaned from it is both a good dose of vampire lore and an example of the value of a good investigation skill.

Though it lacks the horror of Nosferatu, the dreamlike quality of Vampyr is sure to please, making it a must-see for fans of early cinema and classic monster films.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that Dreyer also directed the masterpiece The Passion of Joan of Arc, another film no fan of early cinema should miss.

 
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Posted by on October 16, 2013 in Horror, Movies & TV, Reviews

 

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Wonder Woman short film? Excellent.

This makes me happy!

I love comic books, especially super hero comics.  I also have had a soft spot for live action heroes ever since I was watching Shazam! and Isis on Saturday mornings, and I’ve been a fan of Wonder Woman since Linda Carter was kicking butt and taking names.  I am also the father of an adventurous daughter who loves superheroes and I want her to see more women who kick butt.

With the huge popularity of super hero movies and TV shows it is mind boggling that Wonder Woman hasn’t received the big screen treatment, though given DC’s track record with movies maybe it’s a blessing that she hasn’t.  After all, there was the infamous pilot for the Wonder Woman TV show, a nightmare that must be seen to be believed.

Seriously, track it down and watch it.  Rarely has a show so completely missed the point of a beloved character than this fiasco.  Better yet, watch this review.

To make matters worse, people at Warner Brothers and DC never fail to deliver a PR gaff that really makes me wonder why they still have readers.  Wonder Woman has been described by DC’s president, Diane Nelson, as “tricky” and that “she doesn’t have a single, clear, compelling story that everyone knows and recognizes.”  Add to that the uneven quality of the book over the years and maybe there is good reason to be skeptical of Wonder Woman being able to cut it on the big screen.

Except that it’s all bogus.  Let’s run through a few of these reasons and others and shoot them down.

1) The target audience is men/women don’t read comics.  Look at any crowd pictures from Dragon-Con, especially groups of people cosplaying super heroes.  We’re done here.

2) Women action movies don’t do well.  Hunger Games, Kill Bill, and anything with Michelle Yeoh.  Moving on…

3) She’s “Tricky” and, lacks a compelling, recognized story.  First off, no she’s not.  She’s a diplomat and warrior given powers by the gods who made it her mission to protect the world, encouraging peace where she can and fighting against evil when she must.  Second, she has one of the most unique origin stories in comics (we do not speak of the New 52 gutting her origin.  That was a fever dream like Highlander 2.)

Most importantly, it does not matter if she never had a compelling story.  Write one.  Write something original for her.  Write something that will knock people’s socks off.  Stop using the things people wrote decades ago as a crutch.

This is all particularly baffling when you look at the DC animated movies, a lineup filled with excellent stories.  Among those outstanding stories is a Wonder Woman movie that both embraces the traditional character origin and delivers a compelling story newly created for the movie.  The Wonder Woman movie ranks among my top two favorite DC animated movies, with only Batman: Mask of the Phantasm competing for first place.

I hope this short movie is superb.  I hope it becomes an internet sensation.  I hope it will be something my daughter and I can watch together.  I hope it’ll get DC and Warner Brothers off their tails and bring their A-game to a feature motion picture.

If not, there’s been a lot of rumors about Marvel Comics doing a Captain Marvel movie.  Hope springs eternal.

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Posted by on September 23, 2013 in Books and Comics, Movies & TV

 

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Least Favorite Monster

Back on track with the 30 Day D&D Challenge!

Today’s question:

23. What is your Least Favorite Monster Overall?

My least favorite monster is the Tarasque.

This is a surprise because I am a huge fan of kaiju.  I love Godzilla, Gamera, King Ghidorah, and all their kind.  I am waiting in rapt anticipation for Pacific Rim to come out on DVD.  I love nothing better than someone in a giant monster suit stomping through a model city.

I also love the historical aspects of monsters in D&D, including the Tarasque.  The Tarasque of legend was a giant dragon-like monster that ravaged through France.  It was the spawn of the biblical Leviathan and burned everything it touched.  Sculptures and pictures show it with a turtle shell and beast-like face and the stories tell of catapult stones bouncing off its scales and how it slayed armies of knights that came against it.

Despite all that, I don’t like the D&D Tarasque.  It’s a ridiculously powerful monster that is capable of slaughtering legions of high level adventurers with ease.  This isn’t a monster designed to be fought by player characters, this is a monster meant to be avoided, or bound by relic-level artifacts, or meant to battle the gods themselves.  Even then the Tarasque is powerful enough to require a party of deities to fight it.  This brings up the question, what is its purpose?

In a world with the Tarasque all other beings are overshadowed.  Dragons and lich lose their sting and the terrifying appeal of the demon lords vanishes.  “Thank goodness it’s only Tiamat and not the Tarasque,” is not something I want to hear from my players.

If you are running a game for a party of aspiring demi-gods from the Immortals Basic D&D rules, then the Tarasque would be appropriate.  But as a monster for AD&D it’s just too much of the wrong kind of menace.

However, if I had five PCs each with their own Apparatus of Kwalish, and they could all combine into one gigantic magical mecha, I might change my mind.  “Form Blazing Vorpal Sword!

France has the city of Tarascon, with the Tarasque on its coat of arms. That’s pretty darn cool.

 
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Posted by on September 23, 2013 in Gaming

 

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