Wednesday, April 28, 2010

List of the Week: Most Anticipated Comic Book Adaptations

Ever since Spider-Man swung into theaters smashing box office records, studios have been scrambling to find the next big hit. Some have been masterstrokes (The Dark Knight, Iron Man, Spider-Man 2), some have been just alright (The Incredible Hulk, Hellboy), and a lot have been just downright awful (X-Men 3, Elektra, Daredevil, Both Fantastic Four). I am a fan of the genre and I try my best to catch all of these flicks, both the good and the bad. So I've decided to compile what I believe to be my most anticipated Comic Book adaptations.

1. Iron Man 2 - Sequels usually fare well in the comic book world (The Dark Knight, Spider-Man 2, X2) but this one has a lot to live up to. The trailers are tightly knit and well made and Iron Man looks just about as bad-ass as ever. Rhodes dons the War Machine suit as they team up to fight Michey Rourke's whiplash. It looks like a lot of fun. Let's hope so!

2. The Dark Knight Follow-up - When we left our Caped Crusader he was on the run from the cops for crimes comitted by Harvey Dent/Two-Fac. Joker was arrested and we assume was sent to Arkham Asylum. When the credits rolled people were left wondering what would happen next. Would there be a sequel? Or would Christopher Nolan let Batman go out on top, let his series end with a masterpiece? Well a few months ago he and his brother Jonathon started writing the follow-up. The excitement and questions came rushing in: What would it be called? The Dark Knight 2? Batman Begins 3? The Return of the Dark Knight? Who is/are the villain(s)? We all expect great things when this one comes out.

3. Green Lantern - Martin Campbell(Casino Royale) is tackling the (or "a" seeing as there are several Green Lanterns) Green Lantern origin story with Ryan Reynolds playing Hal Jordan. Pitch perfect casting if you ask me. Then we got news that they would be shooting the film in 3-D, Avatar style. Then we got word that the suit would be all CGI to achieve an "alien-like" look. Say whaaa? That sounds interesting. The supporting cast is strong as well with Peter Sarsgaard playing the villain Hector Hammond. So we've got a director who knows how to shoot an action movie, a lead actor who seems born to play the role, and one of the most under-rated actors ever playing the villain. I say let them take some risks, this is gonna be sweet!

4. Thor - Im just really interested to see how they do this one without making it cheesy (same goes for pick number 5). Thor seems to be one of the more difficult to make the translation from page to screen, but with Kenneth Branagh behind the camera you gotta think the seasoned vet knows what he's doing. Chris Hemsworth will play the Norse God/ Donald Blake (Thor is placed in Donald Blake's body without him knowing that he is a God in order to teach the arrogant Thor humility) and Natalie Portman will be playing the love-interest Jane Foster. Hemsworth showed his chops in the opening of Star Trek as Kirk's father and we all know Natalie Portman can act. This one will be interesting, with the potential to be either fantastic or a flop.

5. Captain America- Oh, Captain America. One of the most beloved comic book characters of all-time, it will be interesting to see how they pull this one off. Chris Evans is a great pick as Cap (though I personally wanted Matthew Fox) and Hugo Weaving as the Red Skull is excellent casting. Here is the problem, Joe freaking Johnston is the director. The guy who did Jurassic Park III, The Wolfman, and Hidalgo. Three swings, three misses. Rocketeer was alright, and October Sky was a sweet, if overly sentimental, movie. Does he have the chops to pull of a movie like Captain America? His track record would say no, but apparently Joss Whedon (Serenity) is doing a re-write of the script. We'll see what happens...

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

List of the Week: My Favorite Album Titles

Naming your album is an art, and one that gets forgotten from time to time. I mean when you are a kid the first thing you do when you create a faux-band with your best friend is name your band, and then you give your band's debut a name--then you start playing music. From the awesome to the ridiculous here we go:

"The World is NOT a Cold Dead Place" by Explosions in the Sky

"Building Nothing Out of Something" by Modest Mouse (In all honesty any of MM's album titles could be on here

"Let it Bleed" by The Rolling Stones

"Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven" by Godspeed You! Black Emperor

"It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back" by Public Enemy

"I Am Not Afraid Of You And I Will Beat Your Ass" Yo La Tengo

"Birth of the Cool" by Miles Davis

"Louder than Bombs" by The Smiths

"Appetite for Destruction" by Guns 'N Roses

"I And Love And You" by The Avett Brothers

Monday, April 19, 2010

Treme Ep. 1.2: Meet De Boys on the Battlefront

So I've decided to write a weekly recap/reflection on what is turning out to be the one of the best shows on television: David Simon's Treme. The follow-up to the series premier had a big job. It's predecessor succeeded in introducing characters and creating a tone for the series. This weeks episode needed to continue its successful march by delving deeper into these characters lives and keeping us interested. It was triumphant.

This week brought the funny, albeit with some dark and disturbing elements. It opens up with the sacrificing of a chicken during a live radio session, which ends up getting our lovable DJ Davis (Steve Zahn) fired. It was a strange, humorous, if unsettling opening to our show. Davis gets a new job at a hotel and proceeds to send tourists, who happen to be in New Orleans on a mission trip, to the seedier side of New Orleans so that they can indeed get a taste of the culture of the city. They go missing, and Davis goes jobless, again. His heart is apparently much bigger than his sense of logic--but we love him for it.

A theme that I thought was interesting throughout the episode was that of pride or respect. Antoine (Wendell Pierce) goes to a gig on Bourbon Street at a strip-club. He is ashamed thinking it is beneath him, but people console him by saying "There is pride on Bourbon Street." Antoine is not convinced. Creighton (John Goodman)is wanting to get back to writing his book about the history of floods in New Orleans (he is already 250 pages in), but he doesn't want to be seen as cashing in on tragedy.

The most jaw-dropping moment of last night's episode was when Albert (Clarke Peters) confronted the thug who stole his tools. We expected a philosophical chat after Albert slammed him up against the wall, but what we got instead was a brutal beating. Albert took a crobar and beat the boy (he couldn't have been older than 20 years old) to death. Could it be that Treme has it's own Omar Little in the tragic figure of Mardi Gras Indian Chief Albert Lambreaux?

Treme continues to deliver when it comes to writing, acting, and music. If it stays on the track that it's on it will be a force to be reckon with come awards season.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Roethlisberger's Uphill Battle

By now we have all heard that the charges against Big Ben have been dropped. We all know about the message that the Rooney's sent to the Steelers by trading troubled Superbowl MVP Santonio Holmes to the New York Jets for a measly 5th round pick.

Now what is next?

Wallace should fit just fine in Holmes' spot, he basically recreated Holmes' Superbowl-winning catch in the game against Green Bay last season. We know that talent is no question for Wallace. The kid can play and it's his time to step up. But what about getting the ball to him? How will Big Ben bounce back after he let down his team and his city by putting himself in a bad situation. Ben has a lot to prove and he needs to do it now.

Honestly, I think he's gonna go through a lot at the away games from the hecklers. They will not be kind to Ben (as if they ever were). But this is the NFL and this is part of the game. As Tomlin likes to say in the locker room, the Steelers are a "Band of Brothers" and this is no one-man show. This is the team with the legacy of "Mean" Joe Green, Jack Lambert, Terry Bradshaw and Jerome Bettis. The Steelers need to prove why it's an honor to walk in those player's footsteps. Why it's a privelage to don the black and the gold.

The off-season isnt over yet--or even close to it--and I'm already pumped for game day. This is the situation we are in. Big Ben and the Steelers need to show the world that they are the most dangerous team in the NFL. It's time to go back to what the Steelers are known for, smash-mouth football.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Treme: A New Beginning

HBO used to be the holy grail for television. It had The Sopranos, Six Feet Under, Deadwood, The Wire, and Sex and the City. All groundbreaking shows in their own respect. Band of Brothers showed us war from beginning to end and pushed the limits for what a miniseries could do. And Entourage was good, if brainless, fun. But those shows have since ended (or fizzled out if you're talking about Entourage) and a new crop of shows started to try to fill the gaps.

Alan Ball's True Blood tried to cash in on the country's vampire phase, but never really caught on (though it the show does have some very loyal followers that swear by it), and Big Love always felt like a Six Feet Under rip off. Other than those two, all of HBO's newer shows (John from Cincinatti , Tell Me You Love Me, In Treatment ) struck out. None could capture the allure, the weight, the quality of the premium channel's previous shows. In short, there was nothing new in these shows, nothing groundbreaking. And we have come to expect nothing less from HBO. After a few years we began to lose faith.

And then last night the premiere episode of David Simon's (The Wire)Treme premiered. We had been waiting for the second coming of HBO and I believe it came last night soaked in jazz and flood water. The sprawling premiere introduced us to people who were coming back home, to find that their home had been changed. The watermarks were over their heads, everything they owned had been destroyed. Loved ones were still missing and the city's infrastructure was virtually nonexistant. Reporters came to the city trying to understand the tragedy, but they just cant. To really feel the heartache of losing your home, you had to be a native of "The City That Care Forgot".

The writing is naturalistic and on-point, the acting subtle and heartbreaking, and the soundtrack pulses like no other. The music and culture of New Orleans are just as much a character in the show as any living thing. The parades that take place in the streets are an enigma at first. How on earth can people parade in their city after it has been leveled by floods. But at the end of the show you understand. These people parade because they have to. They parade because it is in their blood, in their soul.

And the show will not leave out the politics, it is of course about the after effects of Hurricane Katrina. However, what is interesting is that the show doesnt seem to point fingers at any one person. As one character (played by John Goodman) booms "this was a Federal fuck-up of epic proportions." Everyone is to blame for this catastrophe. The Federal Government, FEMA, the Local Government, the Police. Everyone.

Treme premiered just after one of the most intense episodes of The Pacific (another fantastic miniseries that adds to the regeneration of HBO). I looked over to my fiance and whispered about how Treme now had a lot to live up to. From the first blast of the trombone, Treme hit it's stride and never let up. We are being brought along on a journey, a rebirth of the soul as we watch these people return to their lives to pick up where they left off. The pain is real as characters are being portrayed by real Katrina survivors (most of which were in the Spike Lee documentary When The Levees Broke).

With Boardwalk Empire, (a gangster series from the minds of Timothy Van Patten and Martin Scorsese) premiering in the fall we can only expect the best. The thing is, Treme has set the bar unbelievably high. Treme is art on a television screen. Time will only tell if it will live up to it's expectations. If it will indeed mark a new beginning for HBO.

Count this viewer in the believer category.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Film Review: Shutter Island

Martin Scorsese is one of my heros. Honestly, if I were to pick people who made me who I am today (excluding family and friends of course) Scorsese would be very close to, if not at the top of the list. He is a master of cinema, and all of his films have stuck with me and challenged me in ways that other films haven't. The only director today that comes close is the incredible Paul Thomas Anderson (Magnolia, There Will Be Blood), but only time will tell whether he wil be able to match the cinematic prowess held by Scorsese.

Shutter Island is Scorsese's latest film and it is a masterpiece of the neo-noir genre. Scorsese has taken the darkened hallways of an Massachusetts insane asylum and turned them into a beautiful contemplation of what our minds our capable of. DiCaprio turns in one of his best performances (which if you ask me is saying something) as the tortured detective, Teddy Daniels, trying to solve the mystery of a missing patient, but unbeknownst to everyone else, Daniels has a hidden agenda that unravels as the film plays on.

And of course, there is the twist at the end that everyone is talking about. And here is my opinion about it: it's not that the twist is so shocking, but it adds a meaning and gives the film a sudden depth that forces the film to stay with you. The twist actually adds something to the movie if you allow it to sink in the way that it is supposed to. This is certainly a film that improves on repeat viewings.

The cinematography and editing are top-notch as Scorsese uses just about every trickin the book to capture the images and emotions that he wants. Daniels is haunted by flashbacks of his deceased wife as well as horrors that he witnessed during his campaign in World War II. These sequences are done with a phantasmagorical flair, matching on-screen beauty (although sometimes graphic the images are indeed somehow still beautiful) with incredible music. Scorsese wants you to know how much these events, these people, mean to Daniels. He wants you to know the weight that he carries on his shoulders, and he succeeds wildly.

I will admit that this is a difficult movie. But it is a rewarding one if you allow it to be. Scorsese is one of the best artists creating today and Shutter Island is a marvel. The same Scorsese themes are present: human nature, guilt, and the essence of violece; but he uses those themes to explore new ones as well such as the lengths the human mind will go to protect the body.

Scorsese is my favorite filmmaker not just because he makes great films, it's because his films apply to things outside of the world of celluloid. His films are cinematic marvels as well as gateways for people to explore themselves and the world around them. He is a master of his craft and his art demands to be seen, and Shutter Island is no exception.