Saturday, December 31, 2011

Top 5 Countdown - My Favorite Things of 2011

As a little kid, adults always told me time goes by quicker the older you get. I thought they were liars, but believe it or not, they were telling me the truth. 2011 has proven to be nothing but a blur. Overall, I had a good year, but nothing spectacular really happened. I spent a lot of time at school working on two degrees, so I didn't get out much. And in the world of entertainment, I don't think there was anything breathtaking. However, there were a few pop culture gems I'd like to mention. So as my final post of the year, here is a Top 5 Countdown of My Favorite Things of 2011:

5. Batman for Best Comic Book of the Year: Comic Books have always been a huge part of my life, but I kind of got burnt out this year. It was a mixture of too many events, wasted space, escalating prices, and relocation of my comic shops. But with DC's company wide relaunch, I have much hope to get back into the game for 2012. I'm thinking about getting an iPad next year and reading all my comics digitally. However, one series I will always get the paper floppy is Batman. Thankfully the Dark Knight had a solid relaunch written by Scott Snyder. The art is fantastic, the story is solid, and the characters are interesting.

4. Wasting Light for Best Music Album of the Year: There was not a lot of rock music this year, so I spent a lot of time listening to The Lonely Island's silly hip-hop album - Turtleneck and Chain. Thankfully David Grohl and the Foo Fighters brought the awesome power of the guitar to the radio waves in their latest album. With enticing lyrics and riffs, the Foo Fighters brought us raw energy and sounds that could only produced from a garage. Even their hit Walk was featured in Thor.

3. Drive for Film of the Year: I didn't see a lot of movies in theater this year. Once again, I think I have to blame school, but nothing remarkable caught my eye (except for my choice). Yes, I enjoyed Planet of the Apes and Captain America, but there was nothing of Tarantino caliber - except for one movie - Drive. Most will consider this an artsy film rather than exploitation, but if you watch the trailer, you can't help but rush out and see it (a trait of Grindhouse films). It's not a film for everyone and can be slow at times, but when the intensity builds, it explodes! Accompanied by an all-star cast, I never thought I'd say Ryan Gosling is kick-ass.

2. Sons of Anarchy for TV Show of the Year: I came to this show late in the game. But once I started, I quickly breezed through all the previous seasons and caught up with the current airings. Right now, I think Television is the most entertaining medium with shows like Breaking Bad, Dexter, American Horror Story, and Raising Hope. But if you've never seen Sons of Anarchy, go watch it - You will not be Disappointed!

1. Jimmy Fallon for Entertainer of the Year: I based this decision on the number one person I'd like to hang out with (besides the beautiful Jessica Alba). I chose Jimmy Fallon because he is just a fun guy. On Late Night, he plays games with his guests, the audience are highly entertained, and he is multi talented. Yeah, Kimmel is funny, but Fallon goes one step further by carrying a tune and acting. Jimmy's latest stints on Saturday Night Live were awesome (as host and Barry Gibb) and I hope to see him live one day.

2011 was cool, but I'm more excited for 2012. I can't wait for Django Unchained and The Dark Knight Rises. So in 2012, I'll be hard at work studying lasers and glass (and hope to do some traveling), but one of my resolutions is to blog more (especially with Tarantino Comic Covers). This year I had a total of 77 posts as opposed to 2010's 6 posts. Looks like an upward trend, so let's see if I can do it!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Top 5 Countdown - 2011 Black Friday MovieStop Specials

As we all know, the day after Thanksgiving is that infamous corporate holiday coined Black Friday. Two years ago I waited early in line for a 50 inch TV, but since then, I had no need to wake up before 3AM and fight others for some specials. Instead, I woke up around noon and went to my favorite store:

In case you never been to MovieStop (because I don't think they're as prevalent as GameStop), they're a store where you can buy and trade in for used or new movies. I know most of the time you can get better deals on Amazon, but sometimes it's just nice to browse real life shelves because you never know what hidden gems you can find. Also, Amazon doesn't have a hot female worker who has great taste in film and likes comic books...

Anyways, this Top 5 Countdown is featuring the best Blu-ray deals I scored at MovieStop for this year's Black Friday:

5. Muppets in Space - Not the best of the muppet films, but I couldn't beat the deal and had to support Kermit in some way since I didn't see his new film over the weekend.

4. Predators - This is the recent remake that came out about a year ago. I haven't watched it myself, but I'm sure I'll enjoy it with the Robert Rodriguez commentary.

3. Wonder Woman - In case you haven't seen any of the recent DCU Animated Films, you ought to check them out. Princess Diana doesn't get the credit she deserves, but this flick shows her some love.

2. The Exorcist - This really isn't in theme with the holiday season, but this is my scariest movie of all time. It comes with lots of features, unseen footage, and a couple versions of the film. I'm kind of excited to watch it with the commentaries and see if I can still get through it without covering my eyes.

1. North by Northwest - I've been meaning to get this one for a while, but I'm glad I waited because I got a great deal. It's been a while, but I'm super excited to watch this Carey Grant thriller and see what bonus features are included. As they come out, my goal is to get all of Hitchcock's films on Blu-ray, so this was the perfect one to start with!


So, if you have a MovieStop nearby, stop by and support them. Believe me, I enjoy internet shopping, but you don't always get the same experience and conversations like you would at a brick and mortar store.

Overall, I had a pretty good Thanksgiving eating too much food and goofing off. Sadly, I had to go back to work and school - meaning this will be my last post for at least a week until I finish finals and can enjoy the UCF Winter Break. I'll be back soon and can't wait to share a few more Tarantino Comics and review things in the entertainment world!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Tarantino Comics - Issue 20

I've been trying to stretch out these covers for as long as I could since my next con is not until February, but I have to share one of my favorites - Tarantino Comics #20 illustrated by Dave Wachter at Heroes Con 2011.


Inspired from Jackie Brown, Dave created a beautiful depiction of Pam Grier co-featuring Robert Forster as Max Cherry. If I saw this iconic issue on the news stands, I'd most definitely pick it up. Also notice the vertical title bar next to the comic banner, another great homage to EC Comics.

I first met Dave a few years ago at CGS Episode 300 where he did an awesome Yip Yips and Pigs in Space in my Muppet Show versus Sesame Street sketchbook (he actually did a Kermit vs. Cookie Monster piece which inspired the entire theme). Ever since then, I've gotten Dave in almost all my sketchbooks since his art is so beautiful and fantastic. So if you ever see Dave at a convention, grab his art now before he becomes a mega-comic superstar and has commission prices on par with Adam Hughes. Recently for IDW, he did a mini-series called That Hellbound Train, an adaptation of Robert Bloch's short story (also the author of Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho). But don't let that scare you from just talking with him because he's fan of comics, very humble, and a super guy.

So if you like what you saw, check out his sketchblog at http://davedrawscomics.com/ . Also, I've been hoping for a revival of Westerns with recent projects such as AMC's Hell on Wheels and my most anticipated movie of next year, Tarantino's Django Unchained. So if you don't want to miss the next "zombie / vampire craze", get on board with Dave's awesome webcomic (Eisner and Harvey nominated), Guns of Shadow Valley at http://www.gunsofshadowvalley.com/ .

Sleepaway Camp - Didn't See This Ending Coming

For this blog entry, I have to give credit to the Double Feature Podcast. Whenever I see a new episode queued up into my I-Tunes account, I'm always surprised how their tastes align with mine. The hosts (Eric and Michael) are either covering films I've just watched or movies I plan on viewing. Double Feature has a reoccurring event called Killapalooza, where the crew screens all the movies in a horror franchise. Past Killapalooza's have covered Nightmare on Elm Street, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Hellraiser, and even the Amityville Horror flicks. One of their latest installments was on Sleepaway Camp.

Having never heard of this franchise, I decided to listen to the episode, ready for any spoilers until Eric and Michael announced: Do not listen to this episode until you have at least seen the first Sleepaway Camp. So I decided to take their advice, and wow, was I actually surprised!

Sleepaway Camp is a 1983 Slasher film directed by Robert Hiltzik. The premise is simple, kids at Camp Arawak are brutally murdered one by one. These deaths include:
  • The head chef doused with boiling water (this guy deserved it, he was a pedophile)
  • A camper drowned in a capsized canoe
  • A camper stung to death by bees in a bathroom stall
  • A camp counselor stabbed in the shower
  • A camper raped with a curling iron (this was the "Mean Girl" of the camp)
  • Three elementary campers mutilated by a hatchet
  • The camp commissioner shot in the neck with an arrow

The film focuses on one particular camper, Angela (played by Felissa Rose). Angela is extremely shy, making herself a target for bullying and is constantly rescued by her likable cousin Ricky. As the murders progress throughout the film, all signs lead to Angela being the murderer. So as I'm watching this film, I'm asking, do the Double Feature guys really think a female murderer is really such a shocker?!?! But I shouldn't question Eric and Michael as the final shot totally took me by surprise! Angela is a boy!!!!

That final frame was so horrific between the music, noise, and image! After reflecting on the film, all the clues were there, but I just didn't see them coming. As we find out, poor Angela was "masculinely" repressed by Ricky's mother and was raised as a girl. So no wonder she became a serial killer and didn't like to be felt up by boys...

I'm not sure if I'll ever watch any of the Sleepaway Camp films other than the chance to see footage of teenage girls running for their lives in slasher tradition (and possibly Felissa Rose). But that's one of the great benefits of listening to Double Feature's Killapalooza's so you don't have to suffer through horrible sequels.

So on Death List Five, Sleepaway Camp ranks #3.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween 2011

It appears my blog has turned from daily entries to the occasional monthly. But since it's Halloween, I thought I better write something in the spirit of October 31st. Besides watching horror flicks, my favorite activity during this spooky holiday is carving pumpkins. Over the years, I've gotten pretty good at making patterns from those paper cutouts, but wanted to expand my talent from those wimpy kid-friendly templates you buy at Walmart. Luckily zombiepumpkins.com has patterns to fulfill my pop-culture hunger.

In case you don't know the general process to making kick-ass pumpkins, you start by:
  1. Ripping the guts from the pumpkin
  2. Poking the pattern into the pumpkin
  3. Carving the shapes from the pumpkin
  4. Illuminating the pumpkin
So this year, I decided to carve the leader of the Cinobites, Pinhead. The Hellraiser flicks have always been hard for me to watch due to the masochist nature of the films, but this pumpkin turned out pretty mesmerizing.

As for my little 13 year old brother, he carved that scary demon face that occasionally pops up throughout The Exorcist (in which I consider the scariest movie of all time). I was pretty proud of him for his effort and choice.

Anyways, I hope everyone is enjoying the movies (Paranormal Activity 3) and TV shows (The Walking Dead and American Horror Story) that fit this season. Happy Halloween!

Friday, September 30, 2011

Top 5 Countdown - Most Anticipated TV Series of Fall 2011

I've been extremely busy as of late since I've been finishing one Master's Degree and starting another. My new degree is in Optics (lenses, lasers, light, etc..) and I'm enjoying it very much. However, it's taking a lot of my time reviewing things such as calculus and physics - Subjects I haven't touched since my freshman year of college.

When I'm not busy working or studying, the one thing keeping my sanity is ironically Television. I'd rather be watching movies and writing reviews, however TV shows are a quick escape from reality. So today's Top Five Countdown is a listing of my Most Anticipated Television Series of Fall 2011 (although most of them have already started):

5. American Horror Story - I don't know much about the premise, but I do love a good horror story. From the creators of Glee, I'm sure this show will have the same quirkiness minus the singing. Other than AMC, FX is making some of my favorite shows ranging from the dark humor of Wilfred to the grittiness of Justified. There's no doubt American Horror Story will be a hit.

4. Raising Hope - If you haven't watched this show, you are missing out on one of the best slapstick comedies. From the minds of My Name is Earl, it's about a boy who knocks up a serial killer and takes care of the baby after the mom has been captured and executed. Although this sounds pretty grim, this show is nothing but laugh-out-loud antics as this family takes care of baby Hope. Plus, it has Shannon Woodward, a foxy chick I truly adore...

3. The Office - If you ask what's my all-time favorite comedy, I'll answer "The Office." I'm sad to see Michael Scott leave Dunder Mifflin, but the rest of the cast is amazingly funny. With intelligently witty humor and a new boss, I am excited to see the new direction of this show.

2. Dexter - You have to love the show's concept: A Forensic Scientist who is a Serial Killer. This series has taken us for one wild ride and I'm sure it won't calm down anytime soon. I have no idea what this season has in store, but I'm temporarily subscribing to Showtime just so I can watch Michael C. Hall bring justice... or should I say death.

1. Sons of Anarchy - After quickly finishing 3 seasons in 3 weeks, I have found a new series which rivals my favorites of Breaking Bad and The Sopranos. I just can't get enough: It has a superb cast, awesome storytelling, and fantastic cinematography. As you watch this show, you must remember it's more than a gritty crime story - it's a family drama. I plan on writing more about SOA in the future, but right now, I can't wait to see what danger lies ahead for SAMCRO and how they'll deal with Danny Trejo and the Cartel.

After writing this post, I feel like a couch potato... but can you really blame me with such awesome stories to be watched ?!?!?!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Road Games - This is No Rear Window

My DVR is quickly approaching its full capacity with a large portion consisting of TCM Underground films. I'm going to write posts on these movies more concisely so I can clear out my backlog without missing a chance to view any of my recordings. To help keep me focused, I'm going to use the following template to review TCM Underground films:
  1. Start with a quick synopsis.
  2. Finish on why I think the film has reached a cult status.
So to start off this new format, I'll begin with a 1981 film directed by Richard Franklin: Road Games. This roadsploitation film follows a trucker (played by Stacy Keach) who picks up a female hitchhiker (played by Jamie Lee Curtis) off the long highways of Australia. As they travel down the road, they hear reports on the radio of women hitchhikers being picked up and strangled by some unknown serial killer. Along their journey, they spot a green van and suspicious driver who appears to be a likely suspect. When the duo decide to spy on the van during their route, the truck driver becomes a suspect himself. While trying to keep a low profile among the authorities and other commuters, can the truck driver and his companion survive a deadly game of cat and mouse?

Throughout this movie, I had a hard time keeping interest. It depicts a trucker lifestyle but is definitely no Smokey and the Bandit. So why might this be a cult classic?
  • It stars Jamie Lee Curtis a few years after some of her big roles in Halloween and The Fog.
  • The truck driver's best friend is a Dingo (and who doesn't like a dingo).
  • This was a large budget Australian film and can be considered Ozploitation.
  • The story was somewhat influenced by Alfred Hitchcock's film Rear Window. Not only is Curtis' character named "Hitch," but the story carries similar voyeurism and stalking elements seen by the helpless Jimmy Stewart.
  • Of all the scenes in the movie, the most memorable is the strangling by wire. It's so memorable because you can see the weapon is clearly a guitar string.
Even though the movie didn't capture me, you can tell it's Exploitation. The story isn't anything spectacular. However, its promotional material, like the poster seen above would have enticed me into the seats of the movie theatre.

So on Death List Five, Road Games ranks #2.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Hobo With A Shotgun - Homelessploitation

I don't think I'll ever be able to emphasize it enough, but I love Tarantino's and Rodriguez's Grindhouse. It was my all-time favorite movie experience: A midnight showing, a fun crowd, a double feature, and awesome intermission trailers. And it was those fake trailers in between films that made me fall in love with Exploitation Cinema. When Exploitation was being produced in the 70's, the movie itself could be terrible, but it was the exciting movie previews that got an audience to fill the seats of the theatre. So to gain interest in the production of Grindhouse, an Internet sensation came to fruition as the general public were challenged to submit their own faux trailers. While there were many awesome trailers produced, there was one that stood above the rest: Hobo With A Shotgun. With high appraise, support, and a legendary lead to helm the title role, this small fan project grew into a full overblown movie production.

Starring Rutger Hauer, this 2011 film was directed by Jason Eisener. Hauer plays a hobo who has just arrived to Hope Town and quickly discovers it's filled with nothing but hopelessness. Aspiring to save up enough money to buy a $40 used-lawnmower, he has no chance of making an honest living in a city overridden by crime. After saving a prostitute named Abby (played by Molly Dunsworth) from being mutilated, the Hobo can no longer handle the corruption and decides to take matters in his own hands - He trades in his dreams and life-savings for an avenging shotgun. As the Hobo slowly cleans up the streets, will he be able to defeat the evil crimelord running Hope (or should I say Scum) City?

From my little synopsis, you can tell this movie is outrageously overblown. However, along with all the silliness and humor, you have to have the right stomach to watch this film as it's filled with some pretty horrific scenes:
  • Homeless are decapitated using "glory holes"
  • Naked women erotically beat dangling homeless people with razor serrated baseball bats
  • A bus full of elementary students are murdered through the use of a flame thrower
Just as Machete is a "Mexiploitation" film, Hobo With a Shotgun is a "Homelessploitation" film. Right from the start, the movie's opening title card screams of Exploitation. Portrayed with a grainy film stock, you feel like you're watching a film in the Grindhouse. Even the story's plot exhibits these perverse elements. The homeless are oppressed and forced to do excruciating things such as chewing on glass while being filmed on camera. However, once the Hobo comes to town serving justice by shotgun, the homeless band together to fight the system. Mix in some sex, blood, and over-the-top dialogue, this movie makes homage to the quintessential Exploitation films.

As for the acting, Rutger Hauer plays the role of the Hobo perfectly. He comes into town, nameless, in a similar fashion to Clint Eastwood from the Leone Westerns. He is strong willed and doesn't like to be tied down. Even though he hides behind a tough demeanor, he has an affectionate side, especially towards Abby. Preserving a platonic relationship with elements of a father and daughter, the Hobo is able to pass his torch of rebellion onto Abby. Molly Dunsworth effectively plays this role, feeding off of Hauer's presentation and becomes a strong and beautiful character the audience likes. In the end, both actors display a intimidating side (especially when Abby sacrifices her hand), where they become scary figures we wouldn't want to mess with, reminiscent of Hauer's Android role in Blade Runner.

If you like Exploitation Films, this movie is for you. If you liked Grindhouse, this movie is for you. Or if you only liked the Thanksgiving and Don't Trailers, this movie is for you.

So on Death List Five, Hobo With A Shotgun ranks #4.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

TCM - Summer Under the Stars 2011

In this blog, I tend to gravitate towards Exploitation and Film Noir, but I am trying to broaden my horizons by being more diverse in the movies I watch. Black and white films no longer bother me as I really enjoy the strong contrast. However, it's usually the dialogue of classic films that keeps me distanced. Luckily, Turner Classic Movies is a great resource to help me get past the dated lingo. TCM is truly a great television station that has opened up my aperture by showing some awesome films that I would have never taken the chance to sit down and watch.

Besides being commercial free and having historical vignettes between films, TCM has some great reoccurring features that I really enjoy:
  • TCM Underground: Airing late on Friday nights (or early on Saturday mornings), this time frame presents a double feature showcasing some strange but awesome cult classics. In the past, I have reviewed some of these films.
  • The Essentials: Introduced by Robert Osborne and Alec Baldwin, this Saturday night feature presents a must-see film and concludes with a post-movie discussion. Also check out The Essentials Jr, currently being introduced by SNL's Bill Hader.
  • Silent Sunday Nights: Silently shown every Sunday night before I go to bed, this is the perfect way to end your weekend before waking up to the beginning of the long work week.
TCM also has an annual event called Summer Under the Stars. For each day during the month of August, TCM presents 24 hours of films featuring a particular movie star. You've probably heard of these Hollywood legends, but have never seen any of their work. TCM makes it very accessible to get familiar with these artists by spotlighting some of their most spectacular performances. Some of the stars showcased this month are Carey Grant, Lucille Ball, Marlon Brando, and Lon Chaney.

I decided to blog about this month long event because my namesake Jimmy Stewart (myself named James Stewart Hardin) is being featured in today's Summer Under the Stars. Although I've seen very little of his work (It's a Wonderful Life and Rear Window), TCM proved my parents didn't do too bad of a job naming me. I haven't really analyzed any of the films shown today, but The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance will definitely be a film I will review and can say is one of my all-time favorites. From what I've seen, I really enjoy Jimmy Stewart as he plays the likable and good willed man and makes me proud to be named after him. I plan to watch more of his work, so stay tuned as I may blog on a particular Hitchcock thriller in the very near future.

So before this month ends, be sure to check out TCM's Summer Under the Stars film schedule at: http://www.tcm.com/summer/

Friday, July 29, 2011

Tarantino Comics - Issue 19

"Mmmhmm! This is a tasty burger!" Inspired from Pulp Fiction, Tarantino Comics #19 was drawn at Heroes Con 2011 by Matthew Petz:

I first met Matt at the CGS Super Show. Not only is he a humble guy, but he's a terrific artist. His art style can range from the classic super heroics to the humorous imagery presented above. I've been waiting for Matt to draw an issue of Tarantino Comics ever since he's illustrated Animal tearing Elmo's head off in my Sesame Street vs. Muppet Show Sketchbook. And I don't regret my choice because he wonderfully transposed one of the most quotable scenes in cinematic history into comic book form.

So if you like how he presents Jules biting into a Big Kahuna Burger, be sure to check out his Zuda webcomic War of the Woods at: http://www.comixology.com/digital/series/5123 .

Also check out his website (http://www.monsterislandmedia.com/) and blog (http://matthewpetz.blogspot.com/).

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Following - The Old B and E

Christopher Nolan knows how to make a solid film. From his stunning grittiness of The Dark Knight to the complex intricacies of Inception, Nolan is able to fill the seats of a movie theater. But before his record breaking blockbusters, and even before his creative storytelling of Memento, Nolan directed a very unique short film called Following.

This 1998 Neo-Noir takes place in the streets of London where an unnamed man (played by Jeremy Theobald) has a unique hobby: Following. He randomly follows people to see what they do, who they meet, or where they go. He never interacts with his prey, until one day he is caught by a man named Cobb (played by Alex Haw). Rather than be disgusted by the man, Cobb takes interest in him and shows him his hobby: Burglary. The two men begin working as a team, breaking into random houses and stealing personal items. However, the man becomes infatuated with a Blonde (played by Lucy Russell) whose house they break into and forms a relationship with her outside of their escapades. But with a rift forming between him and Cobb, risky tasks inquired by the Blonde, and a murder occurring, has our protagonist gone too far with his stalking?

In a similar fashion to Memento, this film is told in a non-linear fashion. It's not backwards, but it interlocks three chronologies following the three primary characters. One chronology is told from the main character's perspective while the other two showcase his interactions between Cobb and the Blonde. Eventually the three chronologies converge and you know the whole story and a twist is revealed.

As for noir elements, the story is told in black and white. Reminiscent of the old classics, the main character is a writer and narrates the story. Cobb is the slick criminal mastermind making the calls. As for the Blonde, she isn't really who she appears to be and is that Femme Fatale pulling the strings of our protagonist. Although this film is quite dark, I can't help but think of Dane Cook. Since their occupation consists of burglarizing homes, I think of Dane's B&E (Breaking and Entering) from his Vicious Circle stand-up comedy special. Dane's hilarious anecdote doesn't go the same direction as Following, but it has similar dynamics when Cobb and company go on their first burglary.

One final observation: The criminal mastermind of Following is named Cobb. If you ever watched Inception, you may notice Leo's character carries the same name. Although their characteristics are a little different, you can't help but ask, are these the same Cobb's? They both are master thieves and they both keep their hair slicked back. Could Cobb from Following be Cobb before the events of Inception? Probably not, but I like to see links and continuity between director's films (a reason why I like Tarantino so much!).

Following is a solid film and you can see Christopher Nolan taking root with his unique storytelling. I wouldn't rank this film as one of my favorites, but I'm sure it got the creative juices flowing so we get the awesome projects he's producing now.

So on Death List Five, Following ranks #3.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Breaking Bad - The Season 4 Premiere (and Recap)

Who would have ever guessed that silly dad from Malcolm in the Middle would become such a bad-ass?!?! Bryan Cranston plays Walter White, the main protagonist on my favorite television show, Breaking Bad. With great acclaim from Variety Magazine stating it has a "jarring feel of a Tarantino film" and Rolling Stone claiming it's a "Southwestern noir the Coen brothers would make if they did TV," how could you not want to watch this show! After waiting through a suspenseful cliffhanger, my anxious little mind was finally appeased by the Season 4 Premiere on AMC. So for those of you who haven't watched the show, or have never even heard of it (as I know plenty of people who haven't), here's a quick recap:

Walter White is a high school chemistry teacher diagnosed with lung cancer. Too proud to ask for help, Walt uses his talented knowledge of chemistry to pay for his rising medical costs: Cooking Crystal Meth. Unsure how to deal his product on the streets, Walt teams up with one of his prior high school dropout students, Jesse Pinkman (played by Aaron Paul). As Walt and Jesse start pushing the product, Walt's recipe is the most purest (and bluest) meth on the streets. After associating himself with a sleazy lawyer (Saul Goodman played by Bob Odenkirk), his wife leaving him because of his "new career" (Skyler played by Anna Gunn), and his brother-in-law Hank (a DEA agent) getting paralyzed because of his misdeeds, Walt continues down a dark and twisted path.

Walt ends up teaming with the crime lord Gus (a man masqueraded as community businessman), who provides him the proper resources and facilities to carry out the drug operations. Walt slowly teaches his recipe to Gale, a lab assistant assigned to him by Gus. However with all of Walt's knowledge transferred to Gale, Gus plans to kill Walt and Jesse. In a desperate measure to save himself from getting shot in the head, Walt calls Jesse to assassinate Gale so no other living person knows his cooking secrets. So what was this big cliffhanger? We were left with a gun pointing at Walt and a nervous Jesse firing a gun at Gale...

After the ending of the Season 3 Finale, my emotions were running wild and was left on the edge of my seat of wondering the fates of my favorite protagonists. Thankfully, the Season 4 Premiere has finally aired and lived up to all my expectations! Walt's plan worked, where Jesse was able to cap the lab assistant, buying them a little more time. However they must plan and act quickly if they want to stay alive. We discovered the true capability of Gus' darkside where he silently killed one of his own lackeys with a razor blade to instill fear into Walt's and Jesse's minds. We also discover Walt is corrupting the people he loves. Skyler illegally lied to a locksmith so she could gain access into Walt's house. He's creating a monster in Jesse, where Jesse has easily justified his murderous deed. And as for paralyzed Hank, he's a pathetic man losing the motivation to live, wasting his time buying rocks on the Internet rather than putting his willpower into rehabilitation.

Breaking Bad
is a highly character driven show with quirky and dark situations. Walt has morphed from the innocent school teacher into the ultimate gangster. He may have put his cancer into remission, but he is slowly losing his family and friends. In my opinion, the scene in which Walt is at the point of no return was when he murdered two drug dealers by shooting them to the ground after running them over with his car. Walt use to be a man of moral judgment, maybe even a mentor to Jesse. But instead, he commanded Jesse to murder, a crime Jesse wasn't willing or ready to commit.

However, even though Walt is becoming a master criminal, he's still a likable character. Since he was forced into something he wasn't willing to do, I believe the audience can identify with his emotions and actions. Walt didn't deserve cancer and desires to leave the criminal business that has ironically saved his life (at least for now). But as Michael Corleone once said, "When I thought I was out, they pulled me back in!"

This season, we are in for a wild and crazy ride as Walt and Jesse try to survive their hostile environment. And even if they get rid of Gus, will they have to bury themselves even further into the criminal underworld so they can stay alive?

Once more, I have to reiterate, if you haven't seen this show, watch it now! All the previous seasons are on Blu-Ray and DVD. I promise, if you watch this show, you won't be disappointed!

So on Death List Five, as an ongoing series, Breaking Bad ranks #5.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Italian Job - The Ultimate Cliffhanger

AMC's Breaking Bad had a cliffhanger keeping us in suspense for almost a year. Luckily tonight, the waiting ends and we'll continue down the dark path of Walter White. So in honor of my favorite show on television, I present a movie with a cliffhanger (although more comedic) on par with Breaking Bad: The Italian Job.

Directed by Peter Collinson in 1969, The Italian Job is your typical heist movie in which a band of British merry men plan to steal pallets of gold from the Italian Government. It's a complex job that requires the heist team to disable the city's computer traffic control system so they can take advantage of the chaotic streets. Once they manage to steal the gold, the team quickly transfers the pallets into Mini Coopers so they can easily manipulate through the Italian city of Turin. With the police and the Mafia on the crew's tails, will the team be able to get away with the gold?

The heist team is led by Charlie Croker, played by the suave Michael Caine. When I think of Caine, I think of Alfred, Batman's butler or that crazy hippy guy from Children of Men. Although the humor aspect is epitomized, Caine also played Nigel Powers, a definite homage to Croker, a witty man loved by the ladies, yet heavily respected by his crew.

Each member of Croker's crew is essential in completing the job. Of all the members, the most beautiful is Lorna (played by Maggie Blye), the only American member at his side (or I at least assume since she has a Texan accent). He is funded by Mr. Bridger (played by Noël Coward), the prison warden purchasing the team's resources and equipment (Croker had to break into jail to get Bridger to sign on). And finally, the man responsible for scrambling the traffic control system is Professor Simon Peach (played by Benny Hill), a comedic and strange fellow who has a fetish for fat women.

So now you ask, how does the Italian Job come full circle with the ultimate cliffhanger? After watching Mini Coopers drive through Turin's off-terrain passages and bumpy stair paths (entertaining scenes I cannot describe but need to be watched), they load the gold onto a stripped-out bus. As the bus leaves the city streets, they maneuver through the twisting and mountainous roads of the countryside. They're almost free when the driver tragically takes too sharp of a turn and sends the bus teeter-tottering off the edge of a cliff. As the group of men cautiously shift all their weight to the front of the bus, they fearfully watch the mountain valley peering through the rear window. With the catchy lyrics of "Getta Bloomin' Move On" (aka "The Self Preservation Society") queued and ready for the ending credits, Croker concludes the film with these final words: "Hang on a minute, lads, I've got a great idea!"

Nevertheless, The Italian Job is an entertaining caper with some awesome car chase sequences. Although I'll never know the fate of Michael Caine's crew in their literal "cliffhanger," at least by the end of tonight, I'll get some catharsis on how Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul get out the mess they were left in last year.

So on Death List Five, The Italian Job (1969) ranks #4.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Diabolique - The Psycho Ending

When a man abuses his wife and mistreats his mistress, what twisted plan can these female victims devise? As we find out in Henri-Georges Clouzot's thriller Diabolique (1955), nothing but a tale of murder and paranoia arise.

The plot is simple: The fragile wife is convinced by the strong-willed mistress to kill her abusive husband. Making the murder look like a drowning, the ladies dispose of the body in a murky pool. After a few days go by and the body has yet to be discovered, the two ladies have the pool drained and the body is gone. Paranoid where the body went, the women start to question:
  • Is someone toying with us by removing the body?
  • Or is this guy really dead?
With these questions, the audience is kept in suspense. The longer the body is gone, the more creepy and supernatural the movie gets. Since this film takes place in an all boys school, the children claim the principal (meaning the "dead" husband) has been stalking around the campus. As the frequency of these "wise tales" flourish, the women become more terrified the husband isn't really dead. Backed with black and white imagery, you can't help but stay on the edge of your seat. And looking at this haunting screen shot, how can you not be disturbed by this film?

As of late, I try not to reveal the endings in my movie reviews. At times, I write selfishly to remind me of the whole movie from beginning to end. However, if I spoiled this ending, not only would I be doing a disservice, but I'd be disobeying the last wishes of the film's final title card: "Don't be devils. Don't ruin the interest your friends could take in this film. Don't tell them what you saw. Thank you for them."

Overall, I really enjoyed this film. Yes, it's subtitled, but I promise it doesn't take anything away from the film. Just imagine you're watching the French scenes from Inglourious Basterds (but this is a little more creepy).

So on Death List Five, Diabolique ranks #4.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Tarantino Comics - Issue 18

These next couple issues of Tarantino Comics will probably be my last run for 2011. Unless some oddball conventions pop up locally, Heroes Con will have been my last convention for the year. However, I have some awesome covers to share, starting with Tarantino Comics #18:

Drawn by Banky, this cover was inspired from Death Proof. She beautifully drew two of my favorite scenes onto a single cover: The Butterfly Lap Dance and Zoe Bell playing Ship's Mast.

Banky is a Florida artist and I got to know her at this year's Megacon. We ran out of time for her to do a piece during the show, so she made sure to reserve these Death Proof scenes when I saw her at Heroes. She definitely didn't disappoint and I absolutely love her Butterfly dancing at the jukebox (probably my favorite shot of the whole movie). Her color scheme perfectly fits the cover's theme and her 1970 Dodge Challenger rocks!

After personally hanging out with Banky, you should definitely stop to see and talk with her. She is an awesome person, a great artist, and can draw some gorgeous women! So, be sure to check out her deviantART page at: http://bankyone.deviantart.com/

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Revenge - Is this True Romance?

Revenge is a 1990 drama directed by Tony Scott. After serving a 12 year term in the Navy, Cochran (played by Kevin Costner) takes a trip to Mexico to figure out what he wants to do with the rest of his life. After spending time with his wealthy and powerful friend Tibey (played by Anthony Quinn), Cochran forms a relationship with Miryea, Tibey's beautiful wife (played by Madeleine Stowe). When Cochran and Miryea discover they are truly in love, they run away to start a new life together. However, Tibey finds out their whereabouts and brutally tortures them. Left for dead, will Cochran be able save Miryea and get their revenge?

This is a rough movie to watch. As an audience, we want to see Cochran and Miryea live happily ever after. Even though they are unfaithful, we want their relationship to succeed. However, Tibey gets his revenge and makes the audience suffer for their betrayal:
  • For Cochran, they beat his body to a bloody pulp, kill his dog, and burn his house down.
  • As for Miryea, they cut up her face and enslave her to a whorehouse.

The main reason I watched this film was because
Tarantino mentions the movie Revenge in his audio commentary for True Romance. Tarantino claims we fall further in love with this couple because Cochran must live a life without Miryea. Similarly, Tarantino wrote the same fate between Clarence and Alabama in his script for True Romance. However, Tony Scott changed the ending from Tarantino's screenplay because he didn't want to suffer losing another beautiful couple.

My only complaint of this film was Cochran didn't dish out his revenge like I wanted him to. Sure, he shot some rounds and fought with a knife, but I wanted to see him blow up buildings, twist off some toe-nails, and hack off some scalps.

As one last note, I didn't recognize Madeleine Stowe in this film. I know her best from 12 Monkeys, but I usually recognize her when I randomly flip through movies on TV. I think it was her portrayal as a Hispanic character that masked her identity from me. Brunettes and Latinas are my weaknesses and I thought she was absolutely stunning in this film (probably another reason why I was so angered when she was suffering in agonizing pain).

Overall I enjoyed this movie, but I couldn't watch it anytime soon. For whatever reason, my emotions overcame me on this one.

So on Death List Five, Revenge ranks #3.

Monday, July 4, 2011

The Woman in the Window - Is it a Beautiful Picture or a Dark Reflection?

It's been a while since I've watched Film Noir. As a person who likes film, I know I shouldn't have any problem watching movies in black and white. I have all these older movies in queue, but I usually have a hard time pressing play because I have some inner voice telling the movie is going to be boring since it's not in color. However, once I start the film, I'm instantly mesmerized by the story and have no idea why I was hesitant beforehand. This once again happened to me in Fritz Lang's 1944 mystery, The Woman in the Window.

Starring Edward G. Gibson, Professor Richard Wanley notices a beautiful portrait of a woman in a store window. After discussing how wonderful it would be to meet the woman behind the painting, his dreams come true when he sees the woman's reflection in the storefront window. After striking a conversation with the actual woman (played by Joan Bennett), she invites him back home to look through her other paintings. But as the two are sitting on the couch examining her art portfolio, a man walks into the house with a jealous rage and starts to strangle the professor. In self defense, the professor stabs the man with a pair of scissors, leaving a dead corpse in the center of the room. After deciding they shouldn't inform the authorities, the professor and woman have to dispose of the body.

When trying to get rid of a dead body, there are two parties you have to worry about: The Police and Blackmailers. Lang shows how to handle both using Gibson's character. Since the professor is friends with the district attorney, he tags along to observe the process of uncovering the "killer's" trail. Using this knowledge to his advantage, he is able to tie up loose ends he forgot to conceal. But at the same time, he must deal the man trying to blackmail both him and the woman.

Even though the professor devises a plan to poison and quiet the blackmailer, he remains a likable character. Overall, he is an innocent man put into a seedy situation. By doing the dirty work of disposing the body, he takes control of the situation yet maintains his charm.

As for the femme fatale, you can look at Joan Bennett in two ways. She may be the beautiful painting of an innocent woman trapped in an abusive relationship. Or, she may be the dark reflection in the window, using the "cute little old man" as a payoff to get rid of her dirty baggage. I have mixed views as she did hand the professor scissors when he was being choked. Was she doing it for the professor's benefit or was she wanting the other man dead? By the end of the film, I feel she was pushed into the situation rather than commanding it. However, seeing the beauty of Bennett, she could be easily pulling the strings of the professor (and even myself).

As for most films of this time, no one ever gets away with the crime. However, even though Gibson becomes a part of the lawlessness, the film is able to preserve Gibson's morality with a sweet and comedic ending.

Once again, my inner voice has been hushed that black and white films are boring. Fritz Lang proves he is a master of his craft, beautifully telling the story. Even though I am watching these older movies for my own appreciation, I will make it a goal to share them with others so they too can enjoy countless hours of black and white cinema.

So on Death List Five, The Woman in the Window ranks #4.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Trick 'r Treat - This Should be the Next Horror Franchise!

For a time of fireworks and barbecue, I guess it's an odd time to watch a movie about costumes and candy. But when you're craving for something in the realm of horror, it's okay to splurge on a movie even if it's not the right holiday season. Luckily I had the perfect movie sitting in my Netflix Queue for the last couple of months: Trick 'r Treat

Written and directed by Michael Dougherty, Trick 'r Treat (2009) is an anthology of 4 short stories taking place in a single town one Halloween night:
  1. The Principal: Is this man a father figure or a child serial killer?
  2. The School Bus Massacre: Local legend says a group of troubled children drowned on a school bus. But what happens when some kids try to pull a prank based on this old wise tale?
  3. Surprise Party: Sometimes girls just wanna have fun...
  4. Meet Sam: A grumpy old man with a haunted past gets visited by an evil Trick or Treater...
For me, the most disturbing tale was The Principal starring Dylan Baker. However, if you took any one of these stories and separated them from each other, they would make great episodes for Tales from the Crypt. Each story presents a frightening plot resulting in a twisted ending. For instance, in Surprise Party (featuring True Blood's Anna Paquin), this story appears to be the murdering exploits of some beautiful girls looking to party. But once we see the princess costumes come off, you no longer fear for the girls, but worry about the males who are tied and lit up under the Full Moon sky...

So yes, Trick 'r Treat presents some fun single stories. However, taking storytelling one step further, this anthology is presented in Pulp Fiction style. Characters that we see in one story are seen in the background of another. And to give the viewer re-watch value, each sequence is like a jig saw puzzle put together in a non-linear fashion. For example, this movie begins where the story ends. The movie opens with a small vignette featuring a husband and wife being terrorized (staring Dollhouse's Tahmoh Penikett) and ends with them being stalked by Sam...

So who is Sam? He is the living embodiment of Halloween who upholds it's traditions. Dressed up like a cute sack boy from Little Big Planet, this force of terror is armed with razor blade chocolate bars and serrated lollipops. As another link between each story, he comes out of the background and into the foreground in the fourth tale. We root for this character as he becomes the slasher we are jonesing to see. As we associate Jigsaw with the Saw movies, we'll associate Sam with Trick 'r Treat.

Overall, I really enjoyed this movie. As recommended by one of my favorite podcasts, Double Feature (http://doublefeatureshow.com/), this would be an awesome franchise for horror films since it has the perfect formula: You can tell 4 different witty tales and link them together using Sam. Between merchandise and comics printed through Wildstorm (and written by the awesome Marc Andreyko), I'm surprised Warner Brothers hasn't already banked out on some Direct-to-DVD's. But until they wise up, just as I have It's a Wonderful Life on December 25th, at least I found a new movie to satisfy my holiday craving on October 31st.

So on Death List Five, Trick 'r Treat ranks #4.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Tarantino Comics - Issue 17

Issues ago in Tarantino Comics #5, Mr. Blonde is proudly holding the ear of Marvin Nash. But in Tarantino Comics #17, we no longer see a sinister smile, but a tortured man who is beaten, gagged, and covered in blood:

Inspired from Reservoir Dogs, Chris Dibari drew this cover at the 2011 CGS Super Show. Danielle Soloud (who drew Issue #11) mentioned Chris would be great in my book and I'm glad I listened to her. He is an awesome artist and a great guy. While he was drawing, we had some fun conversations ranging from comics to movies.

Chris has a gritty art style that I enjoy very much. In this particular piece, his line work is sharply drawn and perfectly complimented by the dripping red blood. Also, Chris' blood splattered "Tarantino Comics" logo may be my favorite design thus far.

So if you see Chris at a comic convention, be sure to say hi. Also check out his work at Cadence Comic Art, where my favorite piece for sale is The Exorcist Pinup.

I hope you enjoyed this week's piece and be sure to come back next week for another issue of Tarantino Comics!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Drive Angry - Without the 3D Please!

Ever since Planet Terror and Death Proof, I've been dying for some more contemporary Exploitation Cinema. Luckily we've been blessed with Machete and Hobo With A Shotgun, but I'm still waiting for Thanksgiving and Werewolf Women of the SS. But in the meantime, although not part of the "Grindhouse Branding," Patrick Lussier's 2011 film Drive Angry provides a wild ride of cars, sex, guns, and a touch of the supernatural.

Milton (played by Nicolas Cage) is a perplexing man on a mission to rescue his dead daughter's baby from a crazy Satanic cult. Although he is quick with a gun and cool with the women, he doesn't have any wheels to chase after the bad guys... until he meets Piper (played by Amber Heard), the hot blond with a Dodge Charger. Adding to the cat and mouse games, a mysterious man called The Accountant (played by William Fichtner) is after Milton to collect his soul. With dark forces and bullets surrounding his goal, will Milton be able to save his granddaughter?

This flick is filled with intense action. I was on the edge of my seat when Cage was rescuing Heard in the Charger while she was to struggling to stay alive on a speeding RV with nothing but her bare hands. And you couldn't help but be mesmerized when Cage is unloading bullets into lowlifes whilst banging a waitress. Although I was not expecting a supernatural element to the film, it was a nice twist that added more depth to the film. With a gun called the "God Killer" and Fichtner's enigmatic, yet likable character The Accountant, this movie takes you to Hell and back.

Overall, I really enjoyed this film. It provides mindless entertainment with mind-blowing action. My only complaint of the film is the 3D effects. They were unnecessary, looked fake, and added no value to the film. This is just another example of Hollywood being greedy with their money. With all hokey effects aside, Amber Heard more than makes up for the mistake. Me being a fan of brunettes, she is a blond I wouldn't mind seeing in the back of my Charger or Chevelle someday...

So on Death List Five, Drive Angry ranks #3.