Kaoru Mori’s A Bride’s Story… Stripp’d

If you wander around a second hand book shop and start leafing through old history textbooks you will rapidly notice that history used to be nothing but stories about men with beards and top hats. Looking back on this state of affairs, we can now see that one of the reasons for this is that people naturally tend to gravitate towards stories that interest them on a personal level. Because of this, bearded men wound up writing books about other bearded men to the point where history became nothing but a collection of stories about bearded men (with or without top hats). This pattern did not change until the demographics of university education began to change and an influx of non-white, non-male students created a generation of non-white, non-male historians who reached professional maturity in the 1960s.

J. EDGAR Is Leo’s Show, All The Way

It struck me as I was watching J. Edgar that as much as I enjoy James Ellroy’s work and how funny I find his depiction of Hoover in his Blood’s a Rover, it actually is a really cartoony version of the guy.  Ellroy kinda does that a lot, and that’s fine, as not only do I like cartoons a lot, it was also Ellroy’s mission in his “Underworld U.S.A.” trilogy to deflate the images of these men that have defined 20th century American history.  Clint Eastwood’s film, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, also seeks to do this, but in a much more subtle way, which also still ends up (in my eyes, anyway) severely discrediting the man who created the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

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guilty of romance

Murder, Sex, and True Fake Crime in Sion Sono’s Guilty of Romance

“Oishi sausage des!”

–Sion Sono, Guilty of Romance

Okay, hands up if you know what a love hotel is? Yeah, right, feel free to skip ahead.

For those who don’t:

A love hotel is basically a venue that you pay for by the hour to go and have sex with someone. They are frequently themed and full of weird shit (I once spent the night in a room with a cage over the bed and manacles bolted to the bathroom wall). It’s essentially an industry built on infidelity, which in Japan is almost as common as a hot meal, so it’s a smart industry at that. Anyway, picking up from last time, Sion Sono’s true crime-ish Guilty of Romance is loosely based on a love hotel murder in Shibuya. We open with detective Kazuko Yoshida (Miki Mizono) arriving at the grisly crime scene where a body has been found and several limbs have been replaced with mannequin parts. The film flashes backwards and forwards from there as the events leading up to the murder unfold alongside the autopsy and detective work.

5 TV Crime Show Crossovers That Must Happen

There are top-rated crime shows every season these days, with something illegal to appeal to anybody somewhere on the airwaves. Whether it’s the tone, the characters or the narrative, the diverse range of crime storytelling hits chords with all kinds of viewing markets.

It’s our contention that some of these chords must intertwine, and make sweet, sweet TV love with each other. Or, more likely, make an absolute disaster of a show that would be too ridiculous not to watch.

These are those 5 TV Crime Show Crossovers That Must Happen.

Johnny Depp’s THE RUM DIARY Is Like Two Movies in One – REVIEW

I walked away from watching The Rum Diary with feelings as dichotomous as the two halves of the film.  The first half is what the film appears to be in the trailers, while the second is a fairly serious take on corruption and the censorship of news by those who control what is printed.  Neither part is entirely satisfying, for differing reasons, and the two halves hang together rather awkwardly.

THE THREE MUSKETEERS Is a Hot, Delicious Mess | review

I did not go into this newest version of The Three Musketeers with high expectations.  In point of fact, I expected the film to be kind of bad.  I find myself forced to confess a reluctant admiration for just how bad it turned out to be.

What I expected was a historically inaccurate melodrama, with some good swordfights, cheesy dialogue, a stable pretty men and an abundance of pretty costumes.  I got… a historically inaccurate… something.  I think it bordered on theater of the absurd, but I can’t come up with a film equivalency.  Oh, and (spoiler alert) airships.

5 Ways the US PRIME SUSPECT Is Better Than the UK

In crime TV, there’s another major push underway from NBC, Prime Suspect, that is bringing A-list talent to bear in an effort to seize some of those sweet, sweet CBS crime junky ratings. In Prime Suspect, Maria Bello, seen in such edgy theater releases as A History of Violence, plays a tough NYPD cop that just happens to be one of the ladies. But don’t be under the impression put forth by the ads growling that it’s “like nothing you’ve seen before.” It’s a full-fledged rip-off of a British TV show.

Crime Imitates Life: Danny Ocean Gets More Chicks than Terry Benedict

There are myriad reasons why people become artists—creative drive, fame/notoriety, money.  Actually, that’s about it.  But one reason not discussed all that often is simple boredom.  The non-creative life can be a real drag, working a regular job, marrying a regular spouse in order to birth regular kids.  Artistic endeavors, especially in this modern western culture, are just as much a product of the artist’s malaise/ennui/boredom as it is the demand of the public for such distractions from their own malaise/ennui/boredom.

Whatever Her Name Is, She’s Brilliant: The MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE | Review

It’s a role of intense emotional shifts frequently conveyed internally. It’s a portrayal of severe emotional and psychological damage created with such subtlety and intelligence it’s hard to imagine any healthy twenty-two year old pulling it off, let alone one related to seemingly vapid child star/fashion designer twins. Yet, here we are.  I have a new favourite actress.

The raves are in.

Here is mine.

What Are the Odds Tom Sizemore Is Gonna Get Killed on Hawaii Five-O?

Despite his most recent snag with the law, Tom Sizemore has turned over a new leaf, one not grown from the coca plant.  His guest role this season on CBS’s Hawaii Five-O as straight-laced IAB cop, Captain Vince Fryer, fits nicely with Sizemore’s new-found path of cleanliness and sobriety.  We here at Criminal Complex truly hope this all pans out, as Sizemore has always been a fine actor and seems like a cool guy to hang out with.  But if life imitates art, this new role could also mean that Tom Sizemore might get mortally wounded.  Again, we can’t stress enough how horrible this would be, but let us take a look at Tommy’s track record so far, shall we?

The Mortician | New Orleans Film Fest movie review

The Mortician is almost impossible to classify.  I saw it described as “post-apocalyptic,” but it’s not really SF; a fair number of people in line with me for the screening thought it was horror because the main character is a mortician, but it’s not horror; technically I guess it’s a drama, but it’s not what I think of when I hear “drama.”  The movie is set in a city that has gone to hell, with gangs running rampant and new bodies coming into the city morgue almost daily.  When a young woman’s body is fished out of a canal and brought to the morgue, the mortician (Method Man) finds himself embroiled in the tragic aftermath of her death, especially for her son (Cruz Santiago)—who is now also being targeted by the same man who killed his mother.

96 MINUTES | movie review via New Orleans Film Festival

96 Minutes is a festival gem.  With the films screening in competition, you never really walk in sure of what you’ll get; like Forest Gump’s box of chocolate, sometimes the film’s a truffle and other times it’s a coconut macaroon (and you hate coconut).  I went into 96 Minutes almost blind—I read the blurb but did not watch the trailer.  The screening was at 9:50 on Saturday, day 2 of NOFF 2011, and the theater was maybe half-full, which is a shame because this movie is powerful. 

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human chair

Edogawa Rampo: The Godfather of Japanese Crime Fiction

In a story entitled “The Human Chair,” an anonymous, physically repulsive furniture maker builds a large, beautiful chair that he can climb in and out of to enjoy the sensuous delights of having woman of all physical types sit on him. When the chair—with him inside it, of course—is moved to a luxurious hotel, he falls in love with not only his cocooned world, full of shifting female flesh relaxing on top of his own, but also various other “qualities found in…the sound of the voice, body odor.”

Crime Imitates Life: CASINO’s Ace Rothstein Is an Artist of Chance

Sam “Ace” Rothstein is the number one gambler in the country.  He is so good at betting on sporting events that by merely betting on a team, he increases the odds for that team on a national scale.  A talent like this is not inherent; Ace may be something of a natural at gambling, but he only got to be this good because he remained focused.  As his best friend Nicky Santoro, played by Joe Pesci, narrates, “He didn’t bet like you or me…He bet like a fuckin’ brain surgeon.” When we see Ace on the floor of his Tangiers casino, his face is grim, determined.  Focused.

Ludwig II… Stripp’d

0. The Challenge of Escapism

Like Tim Robbins in The Shawshank Redemption (1994), we live our lives obsessed by thoughts of escape. Escape from our jobs, escape from our relationships, escape from our friends and escape from a life dominated by work, travel and a raging torrent of TV dinners and talent shows that carries us all the way to our graves. Capitalism is the greatest prison of all because its walls are built not of bricks and mortar but of dreams and aspiration. The marketplace is saturated with opportunities to escape the mundane drudgery of our lives: Get a better job! Move to the country! Get plastic surgery! Get a better boyfriend! Get a better body! Dress like Cheryl Cole! We work impossible hours at impossible jobs in the hope that someday we might find a way of being another person in another place.

‘Bellflower’ is Long on Art, Short on Ultra-violence

South by Southwest favorite Bellflower finally made it to New Orleans this week. The movie’s description placed it well inside my sweet zone for films, so I made a point to go to one of its two screenings.  Overall I liked the film.  It had some beautiful and creative filming, the acting was solid—rare in an independent film—and the premise was both interesting and well executed.  I also, however, felt a little bit…oh, what’s the word I want here…underwhelmed by the level of violence which was not as “extreme” as the film’s descriptions implied.  Probably this says more about me than it does about the film, because there was violence, and it was devastating. 

‘Get Low’ Should Have Been Better | review

Get Low is one of those movies that really should have been better than it is.  The film has an interesting premise and the cast to pull that premise off, and yet somehow it simply falls flat.  I would like to know the intent behind the film, because intention is the difference between a failure of execution and a failure of conception, and perhaps that would matter to some viewers. 

Ooku: The Inner Chambers – Volume 6

Okay, so here’s the thing…

I started in on the sixth volume of Ooku: The Inner Chambers without bothering to re-read either the previous volumes in the series or my thoughts on those five books. As a result, I spent most of my reading time trying to remember who the various characters were and what their struggles were supposed to signify. I know that this makes me sound like a bit of a scatterbrain but Volume 6 does not feature any self-contained story lines, instead it concludes storylines from the previous volumes and lays the foundation for a storyline that will (hopefully) feature in Volume 7 if and when Viz Media get round to translating it. Given that characters in Ooku frequently change names and physical appearances with the passage of time and the somewhat interstitial nature of this volume’s narrative, I think that my disorientation is at least understandable, if not forgivable. I mention this because, as I struggled to make sense of the images and words that swam before my eyes, it suddenly occurred to me that I might have been reading this series in completely the wrong manner.  Let me explain…

Transformers 3: Dark of the Moon – movie review

The Autobots aren’t here for the good of humanity; they’re here for the good of America. We catch up with them attacking a nuclear weapons facility in an unknown Middle Eastern country (probably Iran). Luckily, the Transformers’ political ideology closely mirrors our own, with Optimus Prime regularly spouting off declarations of freedom. Absurdities aside (and this film can be as dumb as it is big), this is the most massive summer movie you have ever seen, and it throws near-perfect action scenes at you like it’s no big deal for two and a half hours. The movie has serious story problems, and we’ll get to that later, but the fact remains that this is one of the best action movies ever made, both for its eye-watering visual effects and the choreography of destruction. To top it off, the 3D is actually really good, shot with the same cameras as Avatar, though not quite as effective. The movie has shades of James Cameron in it, but while Michael Bay has become the best action director around, he can’t squeeze a drop of emotional connection out of his characters, as Cameron could with ease. The movie is definitely too long, and a lot of fat could have been trimmed from the first and second acts, because by the time you walk out you will be exhausted.

Battle of the Fang by Chris Wraight Review

Though not billed as such, this book is the last part of an unofficial trilogy. Battle of the Fang effectively bridges the story begun in McNeill’s A Thousand Sons and Abnett’s Prospero Burns to the ‘present’ of the 40K universe.

A thousand years has passed since the bloody end of the Horus Heresy, and the leader of the Vlka Fenryka (aka the Space Wolves), Harek Ironhelm, learns of the location of the Thousand Sons’ renegade primarch, Magnus. Presented with the chance to put Magnus’s evil to an end, Ironhelm musters all but one of the great companies and sets off to hunt down Magnus and destroy him

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james rollins

The Devil Colony | James Rollins Interview

The extremely talented author James Rollin is with me today to talk about his latest Sigma Force novel, the 7th in the series, The Devil Colony. Was America originally supposed to have 14 instead of 13 colonies? Who is a largely forgotten Founding Father whom you probably have never heard about in school? Did the Lost Tribes of Israel make it to America and settle here? From the dark secret origins of the United States to cutting edge nanotechnology, the action-packed and suspenseful novel The Devil Colony might be the best Sigma Force book yet!

I intend to get to the bottom of this and find out the answers to these and even more Burning Questions by water boarding–er, I mean interviewing James Rollins. Will there be any broken bones? I can’t promise that, for legal reasons. You’ll just have to read the following interview to find out for yourselves!

Return to Cerebus, cried the Earth-Pig Born! Part the Second

After what seemed two clunky beginning issues, Cerebus hit its early stride with the introduction of Red Sophia, and it built from there. Over the course of the next ten issues, Sim’s ability to see to the heart of whatever subject he was skewering served him well. And it was a skewer, make no mistake; the Cerebus Syndrome trope had not been invented yet.

Hell, it was still the late 1970’s. A lot of things hadn’t been invented yet.

Sucker Punch – A Study On The State Of Comics

Sucker Punch is possibly the most spectacular failure I’ve seen in a while. It’s certainly ambitious, it’s got lots to praise, but there are far too many efforts falling flat or possibly offending for it to be considered a success. Aside from its merits or lack thereof, I want to look into what this movie means. This isn’t a comic cinematic experience, it’s an original screenplay, but it might just be the best visual representation of what comics mean. I believe Sucker Punch to be a statement on what comics are so hit the jump to see how I make this conclusion.

Have a Drink on Ali Liebert on Harper’s Island – Interview

I recently had the pleasure of putting some questions to Canadian actress Ali Liebert, who I (and my long-time Boomtron followers) know best as “Nikki the bartender” from Harper’s Island.  We talk about what her current projects are–hint:  she has a lot!–and what it’s like working with people who have household name recognition.  Read on to find out what she had to say!

The Black Death Tries Avoiding the Plague Like Cliches

The Black Death is about what you think it is.  Set near the beginning of the era of the bubonic plague, it follows a young monk out of his abbey while he serves as guide for a group of knights on an errand from their bishop:  to find a remote village said to be free of the sickness by a pact with the devil, and deliver its witches to the holy authority for condemnation.  What the monk sees on the journey will test his faith, and what he finds in the village will threaten his very soul….

Square Jawed Heroes – The Aesthetics of Who Is Jake Ellis?

Comics are all about beautiful people. Find me a leading character who isn’t physically desirable and I’ll find you a comic I either don’t know or it isn’t selling. This is an aesthetic medium and the main players need to catch our eye. This is why I find it so interesting the lead character in Who Is Jake Ellis? isn’t exactly an attractive man. He’s quirky, bordering on ugly, and that’s something you just don’t get enough of. This pug faced spy is such an anomaly in the four colour world.

Have a look at Jon Moore, the lead spy at the centre of the mystery surrounding Who Is Jake Ellis? Look at his mug for one moment and soak it up.

Fast Five Quits Reality, Goes Full Spectacle – Review

Fast Five is great, superb summer entertainment, and a fitting commemoration for the 10th anniversary of the original The Fast and the Furious.  Justin Lin has fashioned himself into a groundbreaking action director in the vein of Michael Bay, and delivers one of the most original action films in recent memory.  Considering the Fast and Furious franchise was on its last legs a few years ago, this is a real renaissance for the series.  The film works because it dispenses with any pretense of reality or seriousness.  The bright primary color palette of the desert and Rio de Janeiro give the movie a feeling of vibrant energy, moving away from the dirge-like tone of the previous entry, Fast and Furious, which had a sense of possibly being the last in the series pending its impressive box office numbers.  The film also benefits heavily from the large budget the studio has invested in the property.

Tangled and the Death of the Disney Fairy Tale

Like Nietzsche with God, last fall Disney declared that the fairy tale was dead.  In this case, that is, Disney would no longer be making animated features out of the old stories.

As a child of the golden years of Disney fairy tales in the early 90’s, I found this news unutterably depressing.  Forget that Disney is notorious for sanitizing the bloodiest aspects of the tales and turning the bitter endings sweet.  My love for the true stories, the old stories, the stories in my various anthologies (and it was various…as many as five, perhaps) of the original form fairy tales did not diminish my love for the Disney versions.  It still doesn’t, when the modernization is done well; case in point, The Princess and the Frog.

Universal War One… Stripp’d

The Christian conception of redemption is an oddly commercial one. Grounded in Old Testament talk of ransoming the slaves, redemption is presented as a transaction through which Christians pay off their debt to God and buy back their freedom from sin. Indeed, Christ is said to have redeemed mankind by suffering on the cross, thereby wiping the slate clean for all of humanity like some vast mortgage agreement bonfire. Christians tend to think of redemption as fundamentally democratic and emancipatory because, no matter how poor one is or how horrific one’s crimes may be, redemption is never completely out of reach and God’s business hours are 9 to infinity. But of course, this assumes that God had the right to levy the debt in the first place.

I Saw the Devil: Feel Good Movie of the Year – review

“The count’s frozen face was petrified and ashen and the blood still poured down the parallel cuts.  His eyes bulged wide, full of horror and pain.  It was glorious.  If you like that kind of thing.” –William Goldman, The Princess Bride

If you like that kind of thing, then I Saw the Devil really might be your feel-good movie of 2011.  Like the Oldboy trilogy it was clearly influenced by, this is a revenge story as only Asian cinema can do it these days:  uncompromisingly brutal, undeniably artistic, and superlatively original.  When a serial killer (Choi Min-sik, who I know from Oldboy, Lady Vengeance, and The Quiet Family) murders the fiancée of a special agent (Lee Byung-hun, from Three…Extremes, and GI Joe Rise of the Cobra), the agent hunts him down and tortures him for the express purpose of “making him feel the same pain she did.”

I Sell the Dead | movie review

I Sell the Dead is proof that not every IFC production is golden. It’s from a couple years ago now—2008, I think—and showed up on my Netflix recommendations page and sounded interesting enough to try. And that was the movie’s entire problem: it sounded interesting, but somehow wasn’t. It’s about a pair of grave robbers in the 18th century who get into the highly specialized sub-division of robbing graves with potential occult significance…accused vampires and zombies, etc. See what I mean? Hell, they had me at “18th century grave robbers,” because I love me a good historical movie, and that is both an intriguing topic and one that hasn’t been the focus of a movie, just a side point in Jack the Ripper type mysteries.

Source Code | movie review

Mozart originally ended his opera Don Giovanni with Don Giovanni descending into Hell, his soul claimed by the devil, and later added a final ensemble to bring the performance away from the bleakness of that end, which was considered too dark. For me, the opera is stronger with the final ensemble omitted, because it allows the sheer emotional and moral power of Don Giovanni’s fate to linger in your mind instead of being mitigated by the tidy cheerfulness of the dénouement. Source Code suffered from the same problem: there was a clear point of finality to the story, one artistic moment of filming and philosophy that to me was the natural ending…and then there was an epilogue to that. An add-on to the story which changed the impact and the implications of that previous scene, and, for me, was a serious detraction from what would otherwise have been a truly great movie.

The Lincoln Lawyer – review

Matthew McConaughey is one of those actors that you just love even though they don’t really do that many good movies.  He’s done a handful over the years, maybe three or four, and he’s a man who makes a lot of movies.  Thus I’ve joked for years that, with the amount of roles he takes, sooner or later he’s going to make another good movie just by accident.  I am happy to tell you that I was right.  He did finally make a good movie (though whether it was an accident or not I couldn’t begin to say) in The Lincoln Lawyer.

Adjusting the Adjustment Bureau

When a movie could have been good, but wasn’t, it becomes an even worse movie experience than if there had been no expectation, no potential, for anything better.  So it was with The Adjustment Bureau.  This movie was like 30 Days of Night:  it had everything going for it—unique premise, great cast, decent if not brilliant filming, and a budget to support any necessary effects—and yet it somehow managed to squander them all and create a bad movie made worse by the simple fact that it shouldn’t have been.

Iron Company by Chris Wraight – Review

I’ve been meaning to review this little beauty for a while, so, straight to business.

Iron Company was Chris Wraight’s first Black Library novel and yet somehow managed to tick almost all the boxes for Warhammer fantasy writing. As my first review for Boomtron made clear, this isn’t something to be taken for granted.

Iron Company is not, at its heart, a new story. It tells the tale of a once famous Empire engineer, the son of famous Empire engineer who has fallen from grace and is given what appears to be a last chance for redemption. The fallen hero searching for salvation isn’t new, but it turns out that doesn’t bother me at all, as long as the tale is told well and has within it an original variation on the theme. Wraight provides all this and more.

Ooku: The Inner Chambers – Volume 5

At the end of volume one of Fumi Yoshinaga’s Ooku: The Inner Chambers, the Shogun Yoshimune asks an elderly monk to explain to her “the logic of the present custom” of using male honorifics and titles to refer to female nobles.  After all, if women run the country while men are expected to do little other than provide an heir, why should women continue to pay lip service to the idea that men are running the show?  The monk’s answer is to read to the Shogun from a book entitled Chronicle of a Dying Day.

Ooku: The Inner Chambers – Volume 4

With the opening volumes of Ooku: The Inner Chambers, Fumi Yoshinaga attempts to answer the question of why it is that a culture’s values do not automatically keep step with its demographics.  For example, why would a version of Edo-period Japan in which 75% of the male population had been wiped out by a terrible disease continue to pay lip-service to the idea that men are still running the show?  Alternatively, why would a society in which women shoulder the same political, social and economic responsibilities as men continue to tolerate sexist attitudes and language in the way that our society does?

Show Me Your Lightning Bolt!

My burgeoning affiliation with the All New! All Different! Boomtron, with its Ooku reviews and its Sandman Meditations and its other various lovingly crafted commentaries, comes with the knowledge that I am lacking in … well, knowledge. And it isn’t even the sort of knowledge your average Jim-Bob on the street would see as significant. Unfortunately, it’s something I prided myself in for years, and now …

Now I find myself at a distinct loss. And it’s a little embarrassing.

Ooku: The Inner Chambers – Volume 3

Volume One of Fumi Yoshinaga’s Ooku: The Inner Chambers posed a question of both its world and ours.  That question was why there is such a thing as gender inequality when gender inequality is so manifestly absurd.  Yoshinaga asks this question by having her characters delve into the past of a fictional Edo-period Japan in which the male population has been reduced by 75%.  The characters look to their history in search of an explanation for their society’s irrational reluctance to abandon the myth of masculine superiority despite the fact that men no longer hold any positions of power.  Why do these Edo-period Japanese still pay homage to the male ego?  By revealing the process through which old values persist in the face of radical social transformation, Yoshinaga sheds some light in our own continued fondness for stereotypes and myths of sexual difference.

Animal Kingdom | movie review

Animal Kingdom is not a movie about the jungle but simply the law of the jungle: it’s kill or be killed, and only the strong survive. As the poster tagline claims, it is a crime story, about a crime family–the Cody’s–and what happens when their anchor, their leader, is killed. The main character is teenager “J” who has to find a way to survive his crazy uncles’ schemes to get revenge and then to cover up the murders they commit, and to figure out where his own conscience is when it comes to the law and his family. This makes it equally as much a coming of age story as a crime drama, and it is effective in both genres.

Run, Micro, Run

The notion of the sidekick has been a popular one in story-telling since time out of mind, yet it has most likely been brought to its highest prominence in superhero comics.  The majority of these sidekicks, like Batman’s Robin, have been cheeky teenagers, created in order to act not only as foil for the hero, but also for the ostensibly young male readers to have a regular character to whom they could better relate.

Ooku: The Inner Chambers – Volume 2

The First Volume of Ooku: The Inner Chambers ends with the newly installed Shogun asking a question of an elderly monk. This question, though apparently simple, cuts straight to the heart of her kingdom, her culture, her history and her identity:

    – I wonder if this land was always the way it is now. I ask myself why it is that when a woman succeeds as head of her family — whether she be a merchant or a samurai or a village magistrate — she must take a manly name?  From reading the registries of this realm one would think the country was run by men.  (…) Like this, the true state of our country cannot be grasped. These registers are a distorted mirror indeed of our society, and I wish to abolish this custom of using manly names forthwith.  Unless…
    • – Unless there is a logic to the present custom…? —

A Glorious Waste of Time: Jordan Brady’s I Am Comic

There’s an old Chinese curse that a lot of hacky writers use to set up the premises of their articles, and it is as follows: May you live in interesting times.  And for stand-up comedy, these are very interesting times, indeed.

This is not to say that stand-up is cursed.  At least, it isn’t any more or less than it was when you could only see it performed in the Catskills or on Ed Sullivan.  But since the stand-up boom of the 1980s and ‘90s has waned completely, there is no longer an intense national focus on stand-up, which leaves the rest of us enthusiasts, those of us with a deep passion for this art form regardless of its popularity or lack thereof, in a unique position to analyze and dissect it, to find out how and why it works.

Phonogram: Singles Club 4 – Konichiwa Bitches | Top Single Issues

The first Phonogram mini landed and people weren’t sure what to believe. Here was a comic about music that talked about lyrics and music instead of writing and art. It didn’t feature a cape in sight and it was black and white. It sat as almost the definition of an independent comic on the stands. All any was sure of, after reading it, was that it was bringing forth two very strong talents into the field, Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie.

Ooku: The Inner Chambers – Volume 1 (2009)

0.  A Statement of Subject and Method

Fumi Yoshinaga’s Eisner Award-nominated and James Tiptree Jr. Award-winning series Ooku: The Inner Chambers is a multi-volume manga series set in an alternative version of Medieval Edo Period Japan in which a terrifying plague has wiped out 75% of the male population.  Using this fictional event as a point of divergence (or Jonbar hinge), Yoshinaga sets about exploring what might have happened had Japan’s Edo-period social and political institutions been forced to adapt to such a dramatic demographic change.

Too Cool (Or, how a moron ended up at the TCA’s)

Like Dante, I wasn’t even supposed to be there that day.

The focus of all the attention was familiar: small waves of television and movie stars, wide-smiling studio execs, nervous-looking producers and show-runners, all surrounded by the usual mad gaggle of protectors, buffers, yes-men and desperate-eyed hangers-ons. Cameras flashed, smilers smiled, and the air was abuzz with words like “new” and “bold” and “amalgamated!”

Blue Valentine | movie review

Blue Valentine screened here at the NO Film Fest the same week Welcome to the Rileys, Black Swan, and 127 Hours did.  I did not end up seeing it due to a prior engagement the night it screened, and so I watched the controversy about its rating–should it be NC17 or R, and if the board said NC17 should they re-edit to get it downgraded to R?–with trepidation.  After all, I’d blown potentially my only chance to see the “true” film.  Thankfully the film’s producers successfully argued for an R rating without any adjustment of the film, and after watching it I really don’t understand what all the fuss was about.  There was nothing that I saw which came even close to being NC17, so far from it, in fact, that I had to reconfirm with my companion that it had not, in fact, been edited.  The whole situation created a lot of media buzz for the film, but what it should have been doing was highlighting the ridiculous double standards for violence and sexuality in our Puritanical rating system; 100 deaths an hour is no problem, but explicit, clearly non-exploitative sex is still Too Much.  At least they got this one right in the end; this is not an NC-17 movie.

The King’s Speech | movie review

The King’s Speech is a problematic movie for me.  On the one hand, it’s a really great underdog story, the acting jobs were fabulous, and it’s a movie about hope in a time of darkness…but on the other hand is the history buff I know pointing out that he was hardly the only heroic figure or even inspiring orator of his age, and I can’t really disagree with that.  In school we learned about Churchill, not the king.

Dead Supermodels: The Photography Of Kaoru Izima | The Nail That Sticks Out

I love them when they are dead

I want some cold-blooded women lying in my bed

I love you when you are dead

– Batmobile, “Dead (I Want Them When They Are Dead)”

At first you have to look closely to see her, but once you spot her, she’s hard to miss.

In a field of sunflowers lies Jun Matsuda.  She’s the one blemish in this scene of rich green and vibrant yellow, a body dressed in a metallic silver dress with light blue polka-dots. She’s covered in blood.

The Dilemma | movie review

I almost didn’t go see this movie for three reasons:  it was getting panned by Rotten Tomatoes (somewhere in the 20 percent’s when I checked, which is just shy of worst movie of the year numbers); acting opposite my boy Vince Vaughn was not Jon Favreau as I had thought from a half-watched preview but Paul Blart, Mall Cop; and the rating was PG-13.  However.  It had three arguments in its favor, and those proved to be stronger than the negatives–Ron Howard directed, I have yet to not be entertained by Vince Vaughn no matter how ridiculous the movie around him, and we are in that empty January stretch after all the good movies from December have been seen and before all the Academy nominees get wide-released for those who didn’t get them over the holidays.

Ultramarines: A Warhammer 40,000 Movie | Review

At last, the holy grail of Warhammer 40k fans the world over has arrived–a 40k movie!

Penned by the master himself, Dan Abnett, produced by Codex Pictures and directed by Martyn Pick, it tells a quintessential 40k tale from the perspective of the Space Marine golden boys, the Ultramarines. Special mention must go the voice actors recruited by Codex for this movie; John Hurt, Sean Pertwee, and Terence Stamp, as well as a number of other very talented actors, all lend their dulcet tones to this film, and I felt that the atmosphere was all the richer for their vocal talents. Johnny Harris’s “Brother Nidon” was a particularly good performance and a compelling character.

True Grit | movie review

True Grit is the latest movie from the Coen brothers, and their best since No Country for Old Men.  It convinces me that they should stick to movies that are not comedic in structure but simply in tone; this is a revenge story layered with dark humor, but the characters and the situations are always, usually literally, deadly serious.  The story is told from the point of view of 14-year-old Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld), who sets out to bring her father’s murderer to justice in frontier Arkansas.  She hires the toughest, roughest, most ruthless U.S. Marshall in Fort Smith (Jeff Bridges) and insists on accompanying him into Indian territory on his hunt.  They run up against an uptight Texas Ranger (Matt Damon) who wants to bring the man back to Texas for trial.  It becomes a battle of wills and endurance to see who has the courage and tenacity to take Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin) dead or alive…to see who has the true grit.

Tron Legacy – Review

Tron Legacy is the sort of movie that, in my opinion, requires a disclosure of a reviewer’s perspective up front.  So to that end, I feel compelled to admit that I have only seen Tron once, and that I saw it about three days ago with the specific end of watching the original before I saw the remake.

I mean, sequel.

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7 samurai

A World Apart: Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai

At the heart of the Seven Samurai (Shichinin no Samurai), is a dichotomy between the peasant class and the warrior caste that is a constant source of tension. The villagers do not like or trust samurais, believing them all to be greedy and lustful and despite the existential threat of the bandits, some are still loath to seek their help and would rather surrender their entire crop and go hungry. It is hard not to notice a certain amount of intertextuality between the opening discussing and those rich dialogues of Aeschylus’ Seven against Thebes (the original “gang of seven” plot device), when the citizens discuss their feeling about the enemy outside the gates. While this type of mistreatment of the peasant classes was common throughout the Sengoku period, the villagers are also not innocent. One pivotal scene in the film occurs when the hired samurai discover the bodies of other samurais in the village, murdered and robbed by the villagers in order to get by. The alliance between the villagers and the hired samurai is at all times fragile and tenuous, under normal circumstances they would not trust each other but they are forced to trust each with their lives in the face of a common enemy. The alliance is necessary though if both groups want to survive, as in times of hardship different people often have to rely on each other; a reflection of the humanist beliefs that run throughout Kurosawa’s body of work.

The Black Swan review from the New Orleans Film Festival

I could review The Black Swan with one word:  amazing.  The film is dark and shifting, conflating dreams and obsessions into a terrifying reality where nothing is certain.  Natalie Portman stars as Nina, a ballerina dedicated to achieving perfection whose first starring role is threatened by a new member of the troupe, the restless and unrepentant Lily (Mila Kunis).  The only question is—is it Nina’s obsession, or Lily’s, that shapes the terrible path Nina finds herself walking?

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monsters

Gareth Edwards’ Monsters Review

Monsters is, as the title suggests, a monster movie.  Sort of.  It’s also an impressive achievement for a first-time director, much less one who had a tiny budget and created all the effects himself on an Intel-powered computer.  The basic premise is set up in about three sentences at the start of the film—that a NASA probe sent for proof of life crashed over Mexico and deposited that alien life there.  It’s quarantined as an “infected” zone, but nothing the military has done in six years has really contained it, and now the creatures are simply a fact of life around the zone….

Never Let Me Go | movie review

Never Let Me Go is adapted from a book that I have not read.  So if you are looking for a book to film comparison, sorry, I can’t give you that—all I can judge is the story as presented in the movie.  And while I walked out of this film overwhelmed by emotion and feeling like it had been a good movie, after a day or so to think about it more rationally I came down on the side of disappointing.  Yes.  This was a disappointing movie; not bad, but not as good as it so obviously could have been.  I don’t know, however, whether it was a flaw in the story of the book or merely how it was presented here.

Sherlock’s Little Mistakes 2: The Blind Banker

0. Terms of Engagement

ydoan

yunnuhstan

ydoan o

yunnuhstand dem

yguduh ged

yunnuhstan dem doidee

yguduh ged riduh

ydoan o nudn

LISN bud LISN

dem

gud

am

lidl yelluh bas

tuds weer goin

duhSIVILEYEzum

So wrote E. E. Cummings in 1944. The poem, entitled “ygUDuh”, appeared in Cummings’ collection 1 x 1 and it is taken to be a written imitation of a New Yorker giving his opinion on America’s involvement in the Second World War. The line “Lidl yelluh bas/tuds weer goin/duhSIVILEYEZUM” gives the game away. We are dealing with a drunken slur: Little Yellow Bastards. We’re Going To Civilise ‘em. These kinds of racist sentiments percolate effortlessly through the body politic at times of stress and torment. We are unhappy. We are in pain. It isn’t our fault. It is theirs.

The Art of the Steal – Review

Now this is what a documentary should be!  After my disappointment with Restrepo a couple weeks ago, I was thrilled to realize, after popping in this DVD, that The Art of the Steal was reminding me why I love documentary films in the first place.  It takes an important but relatively obscure conflict, lays out the history and the current state of affairs interspersed with personal opinions from some of the players involved (and makes those who declined to be interviewed look even worse), and it leaves you in suspense about the outcome to the very end…and possibly beyond, as nothing irreversible has been done yet.

Sherlock’s Little Mistakes 1 : A Study in Pink

0. Terms of Engagement

Mystery fiction is a profoundly consolatory genre.  Whether it is set in a Loamshire country house, a snow-bound train or the streets of Victorian London, the mystery novel is all about fashioning order from the chaos and misery of our daily lives.  Grisly accidents and unexpected deaths may appear to be merely the random fluctuations of tragic chance but a skilled detective will always see through the fog of circumstance to the real nexus of cause-and-effect.  In a world where humans are subject to the impersonal vastness of social forces and the unrelenting entropy of the physics, the skilled detective doubles as a revival tent preacher.  By solving crimes and unpicking the mysteries of the world he reminds us that we are not merely subject to the world but agents within it.  It is not blind cruel chance that kills but people.  People whose schemes can be uncovered.  People who can be punished.  By reclaiming human agency from the chaos of the world, the skilled detective saves us from the realisation that life is short, cruel, pointless and unpredictable.

A Glimpse of Winter Falling – Game of Thrones

Since I missed the in-production teaser when it aired during the Countdown to True Blood on Sunday, I had to watch it on HBO’s website.  Which meant that I also read the introduction by the producers (thank goodness there were no obvious spoilers in there, even if they did reference things that haven’t quite happened yet!).  Basically, I agreed wholeheartedly with everything they (and then the actors and writers in the video) were saying about why an adaptation of A Game of Thrones needed to be an HBO production and why it needed to be a series.

Winter’s Bone | movie review

Winter’s Bone is about a rural Missouri teenager whose drug-manufacturing father left her between a rock and a hard place when he put their property up to post his bond and then failed to make his court date.  Ree, the teenage daughter holding together the family for her “sick” (read:  withdrawn and broken) mother and two young siblings has to try and find him—or his body—going to all the places he used to go and all his known associates…all of whom are just as poor and often even more degenerate than he was.  It’s a movie about desperation and consequences, and it creates a mood or melancholy or perhaps simply cold pragmatism that you can’t immediately shake upon leaving its confines.

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jodelle ferland

Jodelle Ferland Interview | Mum on Cabin in the Woods

Joss Whedon is a man of many secrets, and one of them is the precise nature of the threats or coercions he clearly uses to keep the cast of his latest project, The Cabin in the Woods, absolutely mum.  Is it hit squads?  Does he have the real-life model for Serenity’s unnamed Operative on speed-dial?  It has to be something about that dire, because no one on the Whedon-written, Drew Goddard-directed movie is talking.

I recently caught up with the young, talented, and fabulously self-possessed Jodelle Ferland on set in New Orleans.  I was there to talk about two of her other projects, but while there I couldn’t resist asking about The Cabin in the Woods, in which she plays a character named Patience Buckner, according to the movie’s IMDB page.  The most revealing thing I could get out of her was that she thinks “everyone will love it” when they finally see the movie.  And, no, Mr. Whedon, you don’t need to hit that #2 on your phone–girl stonewalled me like a divorce attorney.

Inception | movie review

Inception is probably the first movie of 2010 that movie lovers have been legitimately anticipating—that is, looking forward to since that very first preview back in February.  Certainly I was.  Sometimes that anticipation is a bad thing, as when your hopes are dashed against a mediocre production; sometimes it makes a movie even better, when it meets or exceeds all of your expectations.  Inception isn’t quite the latter but certainly isn’t anything else.  Mostly, I think, what few preconceptions I had about the plot or scenario the movie would cover turned out to be wrong, so I can’t call it what I expected, but the movie as it exists blew me away.

Predators | movie review

Don’t believe all of the inexplicably great reviews for Predators; it is a seriously stupid movie.  Billed as a return to the greatness of the original Predator movie, this sequel comes off as a second-rate Avatar, where once entitled actors are brought low, and give bizarre and entertaining performances.  Adrien Brody is no Schwarzenegger; hell, he isn’t Glover, either.  He does his level best to sell his new badass persona, but every time he says something menacing, you can’t help but crack up.  The rest of the crew are an assortment of no-name actors, with the exception of Danny Trejo, Walton Goggins, and a reeling Topher Grace.

Twilight: Eclipse | movie review

I thought Eclipse was the best of the three movies so far, though not by as large a margin over New Moon as New Moon was over Twilight.  New director David Slade retained the same look established by the first installment and continued, for better or worse (in my opinion worse) by the second.  The only points of non-continuity were Victoria being played by Bryce Dallas Howard instead of Rachel LeFevre, and it showed—not that BDH did a bad job, just that she’s both obviously not the same actress and she just looked too…sweet—and Jasper’s wig service going from delightfully wild fro-let to coarse 19th-century bowl chop.  All the wigs and dye jobs were as ridiculous as the Cullen’s make-up, and while the wolves looked better than they did last time, they’re still obviously CG renderings.

Kick-Ass | movie review

Kick-Ass lives up to its name.  Best movie I’ve seen at the theater in months.  I had pretty high hopes going in–all the bad reviews I saw were focused on how violent it was, which just made me more excited–and sometimes that kind of anticipation makes the actual movie experience a let-down.  Not so in this case.  I had a smile on my face throughout the movie, which, while in some ways exactly what I was expecting, also managed to surprise me with its take on the superhero phenomenon.

Cassandra Sawtell on Harper’s Island and Gilliam| Interview

Actress Cassandra Sawtell, whom we hear at the empire know from Harper’s Island, has been nominated for Best Performance in a TV Series (Comedy or Drama) at the 2010 Young Artist Awards for her work on the show. Cassandra joins fellow nominees Valentina Barron, Ryan Newman, Miley Cyrus, and Miranda Cosgrove in the category.   The 31st Annual Young Artist Awards  will take place on Sunday, April 11, 2010 at The Beverly Garland in Studio City, CA.

Repo Men | Movie Review

Repo Men is a movie I wish someone could repo from my memory banks.  It was the biggest waste of two hours of my life since Avatar (and possibly longer, since it’s not a film that has the cultural valence of James Cameron’s mega-hit), and I damn near walked out on it.  Ultimately I’m glad I didn’t, because the ending presented a twist that moved the film a couple steps closer to not quite terrible…but not anywhere near enough.  It was still terrible.

So what was so wrong with it?