COMICS THAT SHOULD BE MADE INTO MOVIES: DEADMAN

Deadman is another comic with a cool story that I think would make a good movie if done right. Excuse the resemblance to Daredevil. Here’s the Comicvine origin.

The Deadman, born Boston Brand, was a well known trapeze artist who was killed by newly joined member of the League of Assassins, The Hook. (It wasn’t personal, the mission was only for initiation purposes.) For the many kindnesses that Brand had performed during his life, Deadman was saved and given his powers by Hindu goddess of balance, Rama Kushna, so that he should find his killer and settle the score.

He began to hunt for his assassin, knowing only that the man had a hook for a hand. When Deadman learned that a villain called the Hook was a member of the League Of Assassins, he was certain it was the same man who killed him. Along the way of his journey, Brand continued to interact in peoples lives, doing good deeds in his own way. One of the people was another aerialist known as the Eagle. They would first meet in St. Louis where the Eagle tried to kill him during a performance while in the air. Boston Brand as Deadman would see justice done as the Deadman when the Eagle was hired to replace him.

Deadman eventually tracked down the Hook, only to watch him die at the hands of the Sensei, leader of League of Assassins. Then with his brother Cleveland and new friend Batman, Deadman then prevented the League of Assassins taking control of the fabled Himalayan land of Nanda Parbat. Deadman was subsequently called upon to do the duties expected of spirits, such as him, greeting those entering the Land of the Just Dead. In this role Deadman guided the Phantom Stranger, the Spectre, Etrigan the Demon, and Swamp Thing in order to rescue the spirit of Abby Arcane after she was murdered by her uncle.

Deadman has teamed up with other spectral heroes, joining the Phantom Stranger and Swamp Thing to combat the threat of a “primordial shadow” that imperiled Heaven and Earth. When Asmodel usurped the power of the spirit of wrath, Deadman formed part of a strike force of sentinels of magic with Doctor Occult, Felix Faust, the Phantom Stranger, Ragman, Raven, and Sentinel assembled by Zatanna to oppose the fallen angel. Deadman continues to work with people on Earth, hoping one day to achieve a peaceful reward.

Powers and Abilities

As a spectre, Deadman has many supernatural abilities, most notably, the ability to possess other living creatures. The possession is strong enough to allow Deadman total control of the host body, although some particularly strong-willed persons have been shown to be able to resist the possession and exorcise Deadman from their bodies.

He possesses the ability to fly and cross the boundaries between the land of the living and that of the dead with ease, and as such, he maintains an intimate knowledge of the supernatural world.

Deadman is also invisible to most people, with the exception being those with similar supernatural abilities to his own. This, along with his intangibility, are out of Deadman’s control.

As a human, Boston Brand was an elite gymnast and trapeze performer, capable of phenomenal feats of agility and strength.-Source

MOVIE REVIEW: LOOPER

By Scott Tre

In the year 2074, organized crime has become much more sophisticated. This is due in large part to the invention of time travel, which is almost instantly outlawed due to its propensity for misuse. It proves quite a handy tool for carrying out hits and disposing of corpses. Various mafias employ it too just such nefarious ends. Intended targets are sent 30 years into the past, where a hitman known as a looper lies in wait. The looper than takes out the target and gets rid of the body. The loopers ask no questions, they simply follow orders and are paid handsomely in return.

Eventually, the day comes when each looper is expected to kill their future selves, thus “closing the loop.” One such looper is Joseph “Joe” Simmons (Joseph Gordon-Levitt). However, when the time comes to close his own loop, Joe hesitates, along his 55 year-old self (Bruce Willis) to escape. This not only voids Joe’s contract with the crime syndicate, but makes him a marked man. He hopes to save face by tracking down his older self, but this proves much easier said than done.

Looper is the third feature film from writer/director Rian Johnson. It’s a sci-fi actioner that involves the concept of time travel. That puts it squarely in the same genre as films such as The Terminator or 12 Monkeys. Though it shares some obvious similarities with those films, Looper is very much its own animal. It not only contemplates plot intricacies and paradoxes, but how such things affect the characters on a human level.

Looper takes place in a future world, but much of the production design suggests the American Old West. The story takes place in Kansas City, which has a suitably futuristic skyline. Take a closer look, and the details begin to emerge. The Mecca rests in the middle of a veritable no man’s land, like a frontier town hidden in the desert. Those who higher on the economic food chain can afford hover bikes that look like steampunk choppers. Professional criminals carry large, powerful six-shooters like cowboys. The loopers themselves carry a futuristic variation of the old blunderbuss flintlocks. This retro fantasy world is the kind of future that George Lucas has always championed. It looks and feels used.

As with any western, the plot of Looper facilitates an inevitable showdown between a good guy and a bad guy. The twist here is that both the antagonist and protagonist is actually the same person. The hero is fighting himself in the literal sense. That little conceit opens up a number of tantalizing possibilities that Looper is only too glad to explore. That kind of thematic brevity is a big part of its appeal, yet the film also has a sense of restraint. It leaves enough to the imagination to keep truly thoughtful viewers engaged.

The central conflict is allowed to evolve as the narrative progresses, as are the characters themselves. Unlike so many other films of its type, Looper isn’t just empty spectacle. The characters are allowed to have actual arcs that go beyond mere plot resolution. They are morally complex, occupying different ends of the moral spectrum at different times in the narrative. Even their most deplorable actions can be understood if not condoned. No matter how complex the plot or elaborate the set pieces, Looper never forgets what it’s actually about, and that is a blessing.

One of the many joys of the screenplay is how Rian Johnson subverts the tropes of various genres. Looper is equal parts time travel yarn, western, and superhero movie. Those hidden identities gradually, and are handled in a number of unusual ways.

The cast is simply great. Bruce Willis looks less like the scrappy action hero of his younger days, and more like a grizzled shell of his former self. He’s tougher, more world weary. His appearance, coupled with the story’s context, gives his screen persona added weight this time out. Levitt, with the help of some very subtle makeup, looks like the younger Bruce Willis that might’ve existed in some alternate reality. He successfully mimics the mannerisms of his costar, yet his performance is much more than an impersonation. Both versions of Joe seem like the same person, but at very different points in life. Child actor Pierce Gagnon is not the usual precocious type. As Sid, He turns in a performance so creepy and effective that he often seems like a grown man in a child’s body. As Sara, Emily Blunt is a more complex version of Sarah Conner as depicted in Terminator 2: Judgment Day.

Looper is a masterpiece, bar none. It represents a new level of sophistication for a sub-genre that already has its fair share of notable classics. It’s everything that the best kinds of blockbusters should be, straddling the line between pulpy fun and thought provoking art. It doesn’t achieve that feat through gimmickry, but through great writing, acting, and direction. I doubt that a better time travel flick will emerge for quite some time.

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MOVIE REVIEW: DREDD

By Scott Tre

In the not too distant future, the United States of America has been ravaged by nuclear war. A vast megalopolis known as Mega-City One now encompasses the entire east coast. Due to its immense size and population density, the massive city-stat is a veritable cesspool of crime. Instead of sitting on bench with a gavel, Judges are given heavy artillery and charged with policing city streets. The most notorious of these is Judge Joseph Dredd (Karl Urban), as relentless a lawman as has ever existed.

One day, Dredd is partnered with a young rookie named Cassandra Anderson (Olivia Thirlby). The two respond to a call in Peach Trees, a giant slum contained in a single 200 story high-rise. In the upper reaches of the building, a vicious gang lord named Ma-Ma Lena Headley) commands an ever expanding drug ring that distributes a narcotic known as “Slo-Mo.” She locks down Peach Trees and places a bounty on the heads of the judges. Suddenly, both Dredd and Anderson are in the fight of their lives.

Dredd is an adaptation of the 2000 AD comic strip Judge Dredd. It is the second such attempt to bring that property to the screen, the first being the execrable Stallone vehicle Judge Dredd. Thankfully, Dredd has no connection whatsoever to that debacle other than the source material itself. It takes a different approach to the material, offering something grittier and more stripped-down. It manages to be better and more entertaining than expected, though nonetheless routine.

If the 1995 version of Judge Dredd had two saving graces: The production and costume design. Mega-City One looked like Mega-City One, and the judges looked like judges. Dredd is no slouch in this department either, though the budgetary constraints are visible. The scope is much smaller, as the bulk of the action is confined to a single location. Mega-City One looks similar like any other modern city aside from the expected architectural exaggerations. Skyscrapers stand unrealistically tall. The aesthetic is also a bit grungier. Much of the activity inside Peach Trees takes place underneath minimal lighting, but it is still discernible.

In terms of plot and setting, Dredd bares some striking similarities to The Raid: Redemption. However, quite unlike The Raid, Dredd does not seek to raise the bar for action choreography. Good guys and bad guys alike wield some really cool hardware, but the execution is fairly standard. The slow motion photography echoes the “Bullet-time” technique popularized by The Matrix, though a bit more stylized. There’s not a stitch of martial arts-style fisticuffs to be found. What the film lacks in fancy pugilism, it makes up for in brutality. As gruesome as some of the bloodletting is, it never quiet reaches the “survival horror” grandeur of The Raid, but it still works.

The original Robocop took more than a bit of inspiration from the Judge Dredd comic strip, particularly it’s ultra-violent and satirical tone. Dredd is more than a bit reminiscent of Robocop. It’s surprising, then, that the satirical elements of both properties somehow got lost in the mix. There are the requisite jokes and puns peppered throughout the dialogue, but that’s about it. There’s nothing in the way of actual commentary, despite there being ample opportunities around every corner. That missing element could have added a few much needed layers to this film. From a story perspective, Dredd often feels very episodic. It plays like the pilot for a futuristic cop show. This is in keeping with the adventure serial format of the weekly strip, but it also makes the film feel a bit trite.

Karl Urban is a good a Judge Dredd as one can hope for. He’s one note and strictly business. His mouth and chin remain in a furrowed sneer throughout the entire film, and his eyes remain hidden by the helmet. Just as in the strip, the audience never really gets to “know” him. He represents the ideals of the system he serves, nothing more. Olivia Thirlby does a lot with the bare bones of a character she’s given. Her compassion contrasts well with Dredd’s merciless nature, yet she never seems less than capable in a firefight. The character of Ma-Ma is perhaps the only real let down. Her ruthlessness is treated casually. She’s merely a figurehead.

Dredd is very much like its main character: stoic, unflinching, and all about the job at hand. Its focus is narrow, and it’s single-minded in its purpose. Had it aimed just a bit higher, such qualities would play more as strengths than limitations. Missed opportunities aside, the film mostly fulfills its agenda, which is more than can be said for many of the blockbusters released so far this year.

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WHO’S THAT GIRL? KRYSTEN RITTER





















Krysten Alyce Ritter is an American actress and former model. Ritter is well known for her role as Jane Margolis on AMC’s Breaking Bad, where she first appeared as the property manager and neighbor of Aaron Paul’s Jesse Pinkman.

She has been cast as Carol Rhodes in The CW’s Valley Girls series. The show, a spin-off of Gossip Girl, is a prequel set in 1980s Los Angeles, and will chronicle the teenage years of the character Lily van der Woodsen. Ritter described her character Carol, Lily’s sister, as “the outcast,” and “an ’80s Sunset Strip rocker” to Access Hollywood. Ritter co-starred on the second season of AMC’s television drama Breaking Bad, and finished the film How to Make Love to a Woman (2009), based on a best-selling book by adult film star Jenna Jameson. She also will co-star with Jason Behr in the independent film The Last International Playboy (2009). She sold a television pilot that she wrote named Model Camp, based on her experiences as a model, and is also writing a female-buddy comedy film.

Ritter lives in Los Angeles, where she moved in 2007 from Brooklyn. She bought what she describes as a “pimped-out” Prius. As of November 2008, she is renting an apartment in a house in Silver Lake with her roommate, interior designer Lauren Bratman. She did tell Philadelphia Style that she misses “the climate and the seasons of Pennsylvania”. She has naturally black hair, and sings and plays guitar in a band named Ex Vivian in her spare time.

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MOVIE REVIEW: THE DARK KNIGHT RISES

By Scott Tre

As Gotham City steps into a new era, the sins of the past continue to haunt Jim Gordon and Bruce Wayne. Eight years ago, they engaged in a cover-up that required the Batman to become a fugitive from justice. The caped crusader hasn’t been seen or heard from since. Gotham is now a crime free utopia thanks to the Dent act, an aggressive crime bill named in honor of slain district attorney Harvey Dent. In the wake of its success, Gordon is now seen as a relic of the past, and Bruce Wayne has given into despair.

Since hanging up the cape and cowl, the billionaire playboy has become a reclusive cripple. However, a chance meeting with a lovely and exceptional thief named Selina Kyle coaxes him out of a self-imposed exile. He puts his detective skills to work, and discovers Ms. Kyle to be a cog in much larger machine. Sitting at its controls is Bane, a fearsome terrorist leader who means to raze Gotham City to the ground. Once again, The Batman is needed. Can Bruce rise up from the depths of despair meet the challenge that lies ahead?

The Dark knight Rises is the long awaited conclusion to Christopher Nolan’s “Dark Knight Trilogy.” It easily dwarfs its predecessors in terms of size and scope, showing itself to be the most ambitious of the three. That ambition, like so many other elements of the film, proves to be a double edged sword. On the one hand, it liberates the film from the conventions of superhero cinema. On the other, it proves to be an albatross. The film bears the weight of this self-imposed burden while valiantly pushing onward towards the finish line.

With each successive entry of Nolan’s trilogy, the setting and production design have expanded to accommodate his vision. The city of Chicago featured prominently in both Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. Its criminal lore greatly informed the plot of the latter, which was clearly inspired by The Untouchables. In the Dark Knight Rises, the windy city has been supplanted by New York and Los Angeles. There are obvious parallels to the former during the Guiliani administration, which ties into Nolan’s ongoing allegory to the war on terror. Just like New York City in the weeks and months preceding 9/11, Gotham basks in the possibilities of a brighter tomorrow. Those hopes are dashed with the emergence of Bane.

Nolan and his cinematographer, Wally Pfister, have applied some much needed discipline to their visual style. The shots are steadier than ever before, resulting in a strikingly epic look. Unfortunately, the newly stationary camera proves to be both a blessing and a curse for the film’s fight choreography. The Batman is revealed to be an unimaginative night brawler, relying on haymaker punches and the like. While this is a bit frustrating from an aesthetic standpoint, it is admittedly consistent with this particular iteration of the title character. Bruce’s fighting style seems to grow out of his own bullheadedness.

That little nuance comes into play during Batman’s confrontations with Bane. The character is the living embodiment of physical intimidation. The cinematography, coupled with the costume design and Tom Hardy’s bulked-up physique, create an undeniably menacing presence. The vocal effects applied to Tom Hardy’s voice make him sound like Darth Vader. He even seems to have affected Sean Connery’s Scottish accent. During his monologues, he takes on the air of a brutal ringmaster. While effective, he feels a bit incomplete when compared to the likes of The Joker and Rha’s Al Ghul. One never gets a clear idea of what his long term plans are.

The screenplay incorporates elements of such well known story arcs such as “Batman: The Dark Knight Returns,” “Knightfall,” and “No Man’s Land.” It also remains doggedly true to the core themes established in Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. As a result, the film often feels overstuffed and disjointed. It bursts at the seams with ideas, sometimes threatening to buckle under its own weight. The doomsday scenario established in the final act feels abbreviated. Matters are not helped by Nolan’s tendency toward obvious symbolism. Still, his dedication to his vision sees the film through, consequences be damned.

Nolan’s dedication is mirrored by the principle cast. Catwoman is nicely implemented into the pseudo realistic universe he’s created. Her inclusion is handled with a certain modicum of restraint. Her origins are not explored, and no explanation is given for her considerable skills. Like Heath Ledger’s Joker, she simply is. As always, Michael Caine provides the films emotional core, proving to be the sole “voice of reason” in Bruce Wayne’s world. Christian Bale’s incessant brooding instills a certain level of sympathy for the title character. We want to see him succeed, despite the fact that he isn’t much fun to be around.

When looking back on The Dark Knight Rises, there are many parallels between Christopher Nolan and Bruce Wayne. Both men are visionaries with limitless resources at their disposal, and they both exhibit a dogged determination that ultimately pays off. They paint themselves into a proverbial corner, yet are able to defiantly fight their way out. Having reached the inevitable end game, Nolan’s vision is now complete. The Dark Knight Rises doesn’t quite barrel through the finish line as expected, but it still emerges triumphant, and wearing it’s battle scars with pride. To an extent, it succeeds in spite of itself.

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MOVIE REVIEW: THE AMAZING SPIDERMAN

By Scott Tre

Peter Parker, a promising young student at Midtown Science High School, is about to undergo a drastic life change. A discovery in his Aunt and Uncle’s basement prompts him to seek out one of his father’s old colleagues, Dr. Curt Conners. After infiltrating the OsCorp facility under false pretenses, Peter is bitten by a genetically altered spider. The bite endows him the proportionate powers of the tiny creature.

In light of his newfound abilities, Peter again seeks out Conners. The two form a bond, and Peter aids Conners experiments in limb regeneration. Shortly thereafter, Peter’s uncle is accidentally killed by a petty thief. Peter takes to the streets to find his Uncles killer, eventually becoming a masked vigilante named “Spider-Man.” Spider-Man soon becomes an overnight media sensation. Meanwhile, Conners experiments result in him becoming a giant human/lizard hybrid. When the creature begins rampaging through the streets and sewers of New York City, It ultimately falls to Spider-Man to stop him.

The Amazing Spider-Man is the much anticipated reboot of the Sony Pictures franchise. It boasts a different cast than the previous three films, as well as new director. In certain regards, it’s more faithful the source material. In others, it’s wildly divergent. While it admittedly finds a happy medium between the two, it ultimately fails to embody the true spirit of its title character.
The world of The Amazing Spider-Man feels more superficially realistic than that of the Raimi films. The film’s vision of New York is a neo-noir throwback to 70’s revenge classics such as Death Wish. While this works to modernize the film to an extent, it also renders it generic.

While Spider-Man has never been a dark character per se, there has always been a dark undercurrent running through his mythos. Both he and his rogues gallery are the direct result of science experiments gone awry, often with tragic results. The filmmakers choose to bring such elements to the surface, and wind up pushing a bit too far in that direction. Certain moments evoke David Cronenberg style body horror. It gets to the point where even Spidey himself comes off as somewhat creepy.

The action scenes are bit more grounded in reality this time out, and as such not quite as dependent on CG as previous Spider-Man films. Stunt Coordinator Andy Armstrong incorporates elements of parkour and MMA. The difference is noticeable, as Spider-Man is more fearsome in combat than ever before. Strangely, this doesn’t result in more exciting action scenes. The set pieces, like much of the rest of the film, feel strangely indistinct.

The film’s conception of Spidey also proves to be misguided. It’s a complete 180 from the Sam Raimi/Tobey Maguire characterization. The fault lies not with Andrew Garfield’s performance, nor with his physical appearance. The problem lies with the film’s overall depiction of Parker, who’s shown to be a social outcast only in the most romantic sense of the phrase. He never seems particularly put upon, nor do his social inadequacies seem like anything that he won’t eventually outgrow. His transformation into Spider-Man never feels like an organic or even a necessary evolution.

As Conners, Rhys Ifans is much too mannered and distant to be a truly sympathetic villain. The Lizard’s creature design, while somewhat true to the original one by Steve Ditko, is too humanoid. The CGI used to bring the creature to life unintentionally evokes the stop motion creations of Ray Harryhausen.

The Amazing Spider-Man isn’t truly a bad film, but a frustratingly adequate one. Director Marc Webb has a vision for the character, but it consists of making him little more than a garden variety brooding loner. Raimi’s films were light as air, and never felt too tethered to modern expectations of what a superhero film should be. In that regard, they were very much like the title character. By contrast, The Amazing Spider-Man feels much too beholden to fan expectations. As a result, it never truly soars.

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