Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Taking of Pelham One Two Three - A TV Episode made for the Movies

Although I've never seen the remake by Tony Scott, Joseph Sargent's The Taking of Pelham 123 has a realistic film style that has influenced the movies of today. Taking place in New York City, four men hijack a subway train demanding a ransom of one million dollars. If the city is unable to make the payment within one hour, they will start murdering hostages one by one. With a rescue mission headed by the city transit department, will Lieutenant Zachary Garber (played by Walter Matthau) prevent the criminals from killing?

The Taking of Pelham 123 captures the realistic grittiness happening in the films of the 1970's. It opens up with an powerful musical score where the booming horns and trombones foreshadow the danger upcoming in the film. Even though the story is fictional, the people and settings are real, allowing even the exaggerated to be believable. I'm not certain, but upon viewing, most scenes look like they were shot on location, taking place in either the subway tunnels or city streets. In a similar vain to the French Connection, there is a fun car chase sequence where the protagonist is speeding to keep up with a train - But rather than pursuing a tram visibly over head, the subway being chased is racing hidden down below.

The film's biggest strength is the showcase of realistic dialogue and attitude from New York City. The conversations are highly entertaining and may be even more memorable than the action itself. The script is filled with humorous puns and wittiness that allows the audience to let out a few chuckles. Looking over Joseph Sargent's filmography, most of his work has been in television. Since television usually has a smaller budget than the movies, they rely more on the verbal interactions between people. Sargent masterfully directs these interactions whether its hostage negations over the radio or even right at hand between two officers driving in a car.

One last note I must mention since this blog is named after Mr. Tarantino - The disguised criminals are given code names after the colors of the rainbow - Mr. Blue, Mr. Green, Mr. Grey, and Mr. Brown. Besides green and grey, the idea of code names definitely has a familiar ring... Although their uniforms are not as sharp looking as the Reservoir Dogs, their attire is more British looking probably because they are led by Robert Shaw. And like most heist crews we see on the silver screen, personalities clash among its members leading to accidental death and disaster.

So on Death List Five, The Taking of Pelham One Two Three ranks #3.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Screw The Hunger Games - Watch Battle Royale!

All across the news media (especially my Facebook feed), I've seen so much buzz on the highly anticipated Hollywood Blockbuster - The Hunger Games. If you haven't already purchased a ticket for this weekend, chances are you'll be sadly disappointed arriving to a sold-out show. However, if you want to avoid seeing 21 Jump Street for a second time, pick up a copy of the original Hunger Games - Battle Royale!

Now I'm going to be a hypocrite since I've neither seen nor read Suzanne Collins' novels, but The Hunger Games sounds like a ripoff of Battle Royale. Let's compare each film's IMDB one-sentence synopsis:

Battle Royale: "In the future, the Japanese government captures a class of ninth-grade students and forces them to kill each other under the revolutionary "Battle Royale" act."

The Hunger Games: "Set in a future where the Capitol selects a boy and girl from the twelve districts to fight to the death on live television, Katniss Everdeen volunteers to take her younger sister's place for the latest match."

With the exception of Katniss Everdeen, Entertainment Weekly even points out the similarities between Battle Royale and The Hunger Games. I'm fairly certain this weekend's movie based on the 2008 book will be pretty awesome, but how can you not think there is a little theft of ideas from the 2000 Japanese film?

I'm probably angering a lot of fans because I'm talking a lot of smack for someone who has never seen either film, but until now, Americans couldn't get their hands on Battle Royale unless they pirated a bootleg copy. Luckily (and smartly planned) Anchor Bay Entertainment has finally made one of the most controversial film series readily available on Blu-Ray disc. And why am I so excited? Look at the red sticker on my beautifully packaged collection:

Tarantino! Until I have enough time to watch, digest, and enjoy, 'Nuff Said!

Friday, March 2, 2012

Psycho - What does it Share with The Empire Strikes Back?

If you ask a random person off the street about The Flash's secret identity, more than likely they've never read a comic book in their life. Furthermore, I doubt they'd be able to tell you Barry Allen (and I really doubt if they would tell Jay, Wally, or Bart). However, if you ask anyone about Superman's, they'll quickly respond Clark Kent. Similarly, only cinephiles can tell you the director of movies like Strangers on a Train, Dial M for Murder, and Rebecca. But the minute you mention Psycho, immediately Alfred Hitchcock registers to the brain, regardless if they've seen the movie or not.

Everyone knows Psycho's plot: Marion Crane (played by Janet Leigh) decides to run away after she steals $40,000 from her workplace. Tired from driving, Marion stops for some rest off the old highway - The Bates Motel. Run by a peculiar young man named Norman Bates (played by Anthony Perkins), he also takes care of his cruel, yet ill mother in the old house behind the motel. Not caring for Norman's attraction to their new customer, Mrs. Bates brutally stabs and kills Marion in the shower. Being the loyal son that he is, Norman gathers all evidence of Marion and disposes of it by throwing it into a nearby swamp. But when Marion's sister and lover begin searching for her, what secrets and darkness will they discover at the Bates Motel?

If you are one of the few people who doesn't know the ending to Hitchcock's film, stop reading now and do yourself a service - Pick up Psycho and watch a Cinematic Masterpiece. I'd love to be in your shoes!

Now, I'm going to believe most people are like me and probably knew the film's "twist" before even seeing it. In my case, Universal Studios spoiled Psycho's ending in their Alfred Hitchcock Exhibit when I was only a kindergartner. I vividly remember because my family got to skip to the front of the line since my grandfather was chosen to play Norman Bates in a reenactment of Psycho's shower scene. I laugh back on it now, but I was terrified to sleep next to my Grandpa that night...

Just as everyone knows Darth Vader is Luke Skywalker's father, it's synonymous that Norman Bates is the killer. These pieces of pop culture are so ingrained with society that they've become common knowledge. Personally, I wish I could rewatch this film and be as surprised as those who first viewed it in 1960. I imagine the next generation will have a similar relationship to The Sixth Sense since it's parodied so much in movies and television. Regardless, if you do know the ending of Psycho, you can easily enjoy the movie as the suspense is created through the characters, cinematography, and music.

I highly recommend picking up the latest Blu-Ray because it's filled with tons of bonus features and has the seal of approval from TCM. I haven't watched Psycho in quite a while, but Anthony Perkins blows Vince Vaughn out of the water. He plays the role perfectly by showing a likable guy filled with frustrated innocence who can quickly transform into a terrifying murderer. The character of Norman Bates has made major impact on cinematic history, creating a passageway for slashers and bad guys to exist on the silver screen today.

So on Death List Five, Psycho ranks #4

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Tarantino Comics - Issue 22

This is long overdue, but it's about time I showcase the final issue of Tarantino Comics from Heroes Con 2011. Presenting an issue inspired from Kill Bill, Tarantino Comics #22 was illustrated by Jay Potts.

There was no better way to end my 2011 convention season with an issue drawn by an artist who totally gets the genre of exploitation. Jay beautifully drew and inked a realistic portrayal of the infamous Elle Driver. Taking place in the close quarters of a mobile home, Jay's line work captures the claustrophobia of the scene. In addition to the fantastic artwork, I love the tagline - "An Eye for an Eye" - foreshadowing Beatrix's revenge for her master Pai Mei.

At the convention, Jay was the number one person I wanted to get a sketch from because he does an awesome blaxploitation webcomic called World of Hurt. Originally I thought he would have chose something from Jackie Brown, but I was pleasantly surprised by his final choice. Jay's artwork is reminiscent of the old Marvel Black and White Magazines and I believe he would make a kick ass Kung Fu or horror book. So be sure to check Jay's artwork, storytelling, blog posts, and opinions at

Be sure to check back soon as I've got some recent new covers from this year's MegaCon - and these are some of my favorites yet!