Sunday, January 30, 2011

Salt - Angelina, The Beautiful Action Hero

Other than Uma Thurman as Beatrix Kiddo, Angelina Jolie may be the greatest female action hero of the last 10 years. Having roles ranging from Tomb Raider, Mr. & Mrs. Smith, and Wanted, Angelina once again proves she can wield a gun with her gorgeous looks in Salt. Angelina, as Evelyn Salt, is supposedly a Russian Sleeper Agent working for the CIA. When she is allegedly awakened to bring America into political turmoil, she is on the run to stay alive. With many twists and turns, the audience continues to question if Salt is an American Hero or a Russian Spy.

The film keeps you on the edge of your seat with "cat and mouse" chases, assassination attempts, and shoot em' up battles. One of the best sequences shows Salt jumping from vehicle to vehicle on a motor freeway. These stunts and visuals are on par with the highway action scene in The Matrix Reloaded (it's really the only good thing from that film). Directing the film is Phillip Noyce, known for other political thrillers such as Patriot Games and Clear and Present Danger (both starring action hero Harrison Ford).

Angelina is one of my favorite actresses. She is beautiful, yet knows how to intimidate. She is able to maintain her femininity after being tortured or surviving a gun fight. In Salt, an element she did so well was change her appearance (and we have to give credit to the make-up staff as well). Being a master of disguise, she transformed herself from an American, to a Russian, to a Puerto Rican, and even into a man. I know not everyone likes her, but I I'd choose Angelina over Jennifer any day.

To help ground Salt with humanity, she is married to an everyday citizen played by actor August Diehl. As a Tarantino shout-out, we've seen Diehl in Inglourious Basterds. He played Major Hellstrom, the infamous Nazi who uncovered Operation Kino in the tavern cellar. He met his demise in a Mexican Stand-Off with a pistol aimed at his manhood.

Mixing elements from both Bourne and Bond, Salt could continue as a franchise. She is an American fugitive trying to bring down the same Russian sleeper cell she is accused of supporting. Based on popcorn fun and Sunday afternoon re-watchability, I give Salt - 4 out of 5 stars.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Dead Space 2 - Movie Homages

I'm not the biggest gamer, but every once in a while I have to get my video game fix. When I get a game, I'll play the heck out of it until I beat it or get too frustrated. When I'm done, I'm good for the next 6 months. Recently, DC Universe Online was finally released and I almost got it until I realized there was a monthly subscription fee. For as much as I love Jim Lee, I'm going to pass since I don't want to spend the extra money and don't really have the MMO gaming discipline. However, since I already had the PS3 controller in my hands, I had to get a game. Persuading my decision, there's this intriguing advertising campaign I keep seeing:

If you've seen the commercials, this marketing ploy is for Dead Space 2. I researched the plot for the first game and it seemed interesting. From what I've gathered, an alien construct called the "Black Marker" landed on earth and emits a frequency that prevents a virus from turning dead corpses into mutated monsters known as "Necromorphs." The government and Unitarian Church end up funding experiments in outer space to see what the virus can really do. As expected, things go wrong and the protagonist must escape from a secluded spaceship. Dead Space 2 picks right up from the previous game. The hero ended up escaping, his girlfriend didn't, and he is being interogated by some authority. Suddenly, he wakes up from a 3 month blackout, only to find Necromorphs are invading the facility he is contained in. It now up to you to uncover the mystery and escape hopefully unscathed.

As I've been playing, I don't believe it is intentional, but I do see some film homages (as you can see, I'm trying to link this back to my Tarantino Comics theme). So here are 5 movie homages I've encountered:

  1. Alien: "In space, no one can hear you scream." In the game, if you are floating outside the ship, there is no sound. In addition, some of the Necromorphs remind me of face-huggers.
  2. 2001: A Space Odyssey: A black monolith arrives on earth, similar to what Kubrick portrayed arriving before the apes.
  3. Starship Troopers: Most of the Necromorphs have these horrific appendages, visually similar to the monstrous Bugs.
  4. The Devil's Rejects: There are these huge behemoths that can tear off your limbs. If you are killed by one of them, there is a cinematic cut scene similar to Tiny dragging a corpse during the opening credits of Rob Zombie's film.
  5. The Unborn: Look at the picture below and hopefully you see what I mean.

I am no where near finished, but this game is a lot of fun. It is challenging and intense. With surprise pop-ups and loud sounds, I haven't been this scared playing a video game since Resident Evil 2 on the original Play Station.

Since video games are a part of pop culture, I going to rate this game. Due to the horror and Sci-Fi elements, I give Dead Space 2: 4 out of 5 stars.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Peeping Tom - Voyeurism Before the Flip Cam

Peeping Tom is a 1960 British thriller by director Michael Powell. The main reason I sat to watch this film was to see red-headed actress Moira Shearer. Moira starred in another film I recently watched called The Red Shoes (also directed by Powell), an inspiration to Darren Aronofsky's Black Swan. It is a beautiful technicolor film about a dancer's struggle between her personal life and career.

Although Moira Shearer also plays a dancer in Peeping Tom, her fate is slightly different as she is a murder victim to Mark Lewis. Mark, played by actor Carl Boehm, is a professional photographer and film maker. But in typical exploitation fashion, Mark has an evil side - he gets his kicks filming scared women while murdering them with a sharp spear. As the story progresses, we discover Mark has a troubled childhood past. His father use to film and perform "fear experiments" on his son to benefit the scientific community. But when Mark meets a love interest, will he be able to stop his murderous ways or will she be slashed by his camera?

The one thing that bothered me was the authorities didn't catch Mark any sooner. He didn't cover up his crime scene anywhere near the meticulous professionalism of serial killer Dexter Morgan. However, I still enjoyed this film and here's why:

  • The film foreshadows the technological voyeurism of today. We view Mark walking around with a bulky camera making "documentaries." Although he looks awfully peculiar toting a recording device throughout town, it's not much different than everyone having camera phones today. I was at Hooters the other today and saw men pointing their phones at the waitresses. Although we can get away with this today, it would have been totally unacceptable to hold up Polaroid cameras twenty years ago.
  • Most of the female cast had red hair. For the most part I go for brunettes, but it was cool to see so many red-heads, where I believe they usually tend to be minorities in film.
  • Carl Boehm plays a very creepy character. His mannerisms and accent remind me of Peter Lorre from the Maltese Falcon.
Overall, I give Peeping Tom - 3 out of 5 stars.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Batman Incorporated #1

So far in my blog posts, I've been focusing on the film side of "Tarantino Comics." However, the comic book half has definitely made an impact on Tarantino films. So much so, that he has included comic references within his movies' dialog. He has compared Joe Cabot to The Thing or Beatrix Kiddo to Superman. Today, I will give a comic review of my all-time favorite character - Batman.

It is common knowledge that Batman's mission is to seek vengeance on the criminals of Gotham city. However, in writer Grant Morrison's Batman Incorporated #1, Batman is gathering a task force to battle crime across the entire world. Paired with Catwoman, the couple arrives to recruit the Japanese Batman (Mr. Unknown), only to find he was brutally murdered.

Comic Fans either love or hate Grant Morrison. Although he is very innovative, his writing can be so wacky that his continuity gets convoluted. However, I believe this new series is off to a great start. So far he has introduced 3 plot lines which may span over the series:
  1. An international army of Batmen - It will be fun to explore the personalities of those deemed worthy to join Batman's crusade.
  2. The introduction of the villain Lord Death Man - He tortures his victims with acid, he tests the "hero's code" of not killing, and he has the face of a skull. What's not to love?
  3. Batman stole a diamond from an evil guy with Catwoman's help. However this diamond really isn't a sparkly gym. Maybe it's a source of information or power?

Overall, I'm excited for this new series. I loved the interplay between the Bat and the Cat (if Bruce ever settles down, it should be with Selina). The issue ended with a cliffhanger hearkening back to the Silver Age. The Yanick Paquette artwork is fantastic. Most of all, the J.H. Williams III cover art is on par with Tarantino Comics (and believe me, that's a compliment).

I give Batman Incorporated #1: 4 out of 5 stars.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Ten Taglines #2

This is my second round of giving quick thoughts about films in my movie collection. Hopefully it's somewhat entertaining:

  1. Once Upon a Time in Mexico: “Are you a Mexi-Can or a Mexi-Can’t”
  2. Kill Bill Vol. 1: Best Movie of All Times
  3. A Clockwork Orange: Tell your girlfriend she is “horrorshow” and that's a compliment
  4. Inception: Leo isn’t the only one to have Ellen Page in his dreams
  5. District 9: Cat food – The breakfast of Aliens
  6. True Romance: Even a guy who works at the comic shop can get a girl
  7. Blue Velvet: Dennis Hopper is the most terrifying character in cinema
  8. Pi: No matter how good you are at math, numbers can still drive you insane
  9. Vanishing Point: Who’s crazier: The DJ or the Driver?
  10. Fight Club: Unlike the title led me to believe, it’s much more than hand-to-hand combat

Monday, January 24, 2011

Tarantino Comics - Issue 8

Last September (2010) I went to Dragon Con in Atlanta, Georgia. It was not my favorite con, as everything was too spread out and the con staff was not very helpful when we received counterfeit badges from their own ticket booth. Regardless, there were some really awesome costumes, ranging from comics, fantasy, television, and film. This was also the first time I've ever seen a city block off their streets for a cosplay parade.

Dragon Con doesn't have the largest artist alley in the world, but they still had a lot of talented artists. And seeing his work in the past, I had Chris Moreno draw the cover to Tarantino Comics #8:

Chris did an awesome job uncovering one of the buried treasures from Tarantino's work, the Four Rooms segment - The Man from Hollywood. His caricatures and facial expressions remind me of the old Mad Magazine Movie Parodies. Chris is a terrific artist, fun to talk to, and has a great sense of humor (in the past, he drew the Swedish Chef chainsawing the Two-Headed Monster in half in my Muppet Show vs. Sesame Street sketchbook). This is one of my favorite pieces to date because of his level of detail and the rarity of the idea.
Be sure to check out more of Chris' work and his upcoming projects at:

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Bloody Birthday - Can Children be Slashers?

If your looking for cult favorite movies, check out TCM Underground on Saturdays at 2 AM. TCM compliments the main feature with a similar film, making it an awesome double feature. Most of the time, the movies are pretty campy, but they have some gems like Blue Velvet or Faster Pussy Cat, Kill, Kill! What I love about TCM is that they have no commercial breaks and they don't censor their film. So if you like to stay up late watching movies into the wee morning of a Friday night, always have this time block DVR'd just in case so you don't miss out on the fun. Checkout the TCM Underground schedule at

So this week's main feature on Underground was Bloody Birthday. Directed by Ed Hunt in 1981, this movie is your typical slasher, except your serial killer isn't a massive hulkling wearing a hockey mask. Instead, it's three 10-year old kids recking havoc across town. Basically, 2 boys and 1 girl were all born at the same time during a total eclipse. According to astrology, if born during this occurrence, you grow up with no morals and heartlessly kill people. So the "terrible threesome" end up being best of friends, and start off by killing a teenage couple who were making out in a graveyard (Note: It's never smart to fool around in a cemetery, much less an empty grave). And like a domino effect, they start killing off anyone who gets in their way.

Like any slasher, there is plenty of nudity, where the evil girl sells "quarter peep shows" to the elementary boys so they can watch her older sister change clothes. You also have your surprise scares with a strangling or an arrow to the head. However, this slasher is not scared to have cold-blooded murder in the middle of the day. For example, one of the boys is running around with a hand gun and shoots down a teacher who is going to assign homework during their big birthday party. This was obviously before Columbine, as you're allowed to have toy pistols at school, but the movie does not allow the death of any kid below the age of high-school.

Not the best movie in the world, but a watchable and entertaining slasher. Not that I'm a Bona Fide film critic, but I want to start rating movies based upon personal re-watch-ability and enjoyability.

So until I think of a Tarantino Comics themed substitute for a "rating system," I give Bloody Birthday - 3 out of 5 stars.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

House - Cute Japanese Horror?

One of the newer installments from the Criterion Collection is "House." Like an awesome comic book cover, this simple, yet unique movie poster drew me into watching the film. I first thought the creature seen on the poster was a giant bear, but after viewing, it only turned out to be a white "witch" cat.
Released in 1977, House was a horror film directed by Nobuhiko Obayashi. The story follows 7 school girls, who are named and act in a similar fashion to the 7 dwarfs from "Snow White." The leader of the pack, Gorgeous, brings her six friends (Prof, Mac, Kung Fu, Fantasy, Melody and Sweet) to visit her aunt who she hasn't seen since her mother passed away years ago. When they arrive to the Aunt's house, one by one, the girls start disappearing. As it turns out, the aunt is a ghost who eats maidens because her fiance never returned after fighting in WWII.
This movie has silly moments and is not as scary as other Japanese horror films such as "The Ring" or "The Grudge". However, there is some really disturbing imagery surrounded by bouncy sounds and psychedelic lights including:
  • Mac's decapitated head levitating from a well and attacking the protagonist.
  • Melody gets eaten by a possessed piano after biting her fingers off.
  • At the climax, blood is flowing everywhere, a la The Shining or Suspiria.

Overall, this movie uses all kinds of camera tricks and has an interesting set design. The piano score, sounding like a music box, adds to the creepiness of the film. And even though I'm not an Anime fan, the girls are fun to watch in their "Sailor Moon" outfits as they are being massacred in their own unique way. If I had to choose a favorite, Kung Fu was the best since she fought intangible ghosts using martial arts dressed only in a tank top and her underwear.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Ten Taglines #1

To get myself writing and posting more often, I'm going to start a segement called "Ten Taglines." Basically, I'm going to randomly pick 10 movies from my DVD / Blu-Ray collection and write the first thoughts that come to my head. Since I'm only briefly touching these movies, there's a good chance I'll be writing more on the individual films in the future, especially if they are one of my favorites. This could turn out to be really stupid, but it should be fun anyways. So with the first 10:

  1. Snatch: Brad Pitt has a really mean punch
  2. Boogie Nights: Heather Graham, roller skates, and nothing else
  3. The Happening: Even Mark Wahlberg gets scared of plants
  4. The Switchblade Sisters: Girl Gangs like the Jezabels are awesome
  5. Fargo: My favorite Coen Brother movie
  6. The 40 Year-Old Virgin: Michael Scott is a Man-O-Lantern
  7. The Evil Dead 2: The possesed hand is one of the best scenes in cinematic history
  8. Requiem for a Dream: The last 40 minutes is a downward spiral to depression. One of the few movies I couldn't sleep after watching.
  9. Dawn Of The Dead: Screw Driver!
  10. Dawn of the Dead: Zack Snyder got me into zombies with this remake.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Scarface (1932) - The World Is Yours

I haven't posted in a quite a while, but I've been watching a lot of great movies lately due to the awesome streaming capabilities of Netflix. Since then, my blu-ray and DVD collection has also grown, so I'd like to share my thoughts of what I've been watching, even if it's only for my own personal record.

I just finished watching the original Scarface (and no, not the "gangsta" Al Pacino version). After the beginning credits, the creators at the time felt the need to put title cards for the audience to question their government on how to handle crime. Once the camera starts rolling, the rest of the film is pretty much popcorn fun with one "behind the office door scene" discussing how "the people" are the government and it is their responsibility to protect their neighborhoods. However, I'm not sure how a political discussion between ordinary citizens and men with Tommy guns is going to resolve fairly.

Some interesting parallels between this film and the DePalma version are:

  • "The World is Yours" - this is the tagline for both films.
  • Tony works his way up and then kills his boss to take control of the empire.
  • Tony's mom doesn't like him that much.
  • Tony kills his right hand man after he finds his sister in the same apartment.

Although the 1932 version doesn't have a crazy chain-saw scene, a tiger, and a doped-up massacre finale, this film is quite enjoyable. It definitely gives insight on how the world viewed gangsters, a time even before Batman started battling them in the funny pages. Although I'm not sure if this film is considered "film noir," it definitely has some the elements with the shadows and lighting. My hope is to watch more Noir and see how it develops into some of Tarantino's favorite movies, Exploitation.