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: .

Also check out his website ( and blog (

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:

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 (, 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.