Sunday, January 20, 2013

Bullet Points - Investigation of the Unknown

Why do we enjoy shows like Law & Order and CSI?  While I'll agree that Mariska Hargitay may be the reason, it's the process of the investigation that keeps us coming back for more.  So here's a few things I've watched recently that makes us pull out our magnifying glass and search for clues:

Homeland:  I have a friend who is in love with Claire Danes.  Although I agree she's extremely pretty, she ranks no where near my Top Ten Most Beautiful Woman List.  However, the one thing I can't deny, she's a fantastic actress.  Playing an overly obsessive CIA agent with a bipolar disorder, Carrie (played by Claire) honestly makes me hurt inside when I see her cry.  Although I started Homeland late in the game, I effortlessly finished the entire first season in less than a week.  For those who don't know, Homeland is about an American soldier (Brody) returning from the Middle East after being held captive for many years.  After returning home and welcomed as an All-American hero, Carrie is convinced he's a terrorist sleeper cell.  With Season 1 almost ending with Brody blowing up the Vice President, Carrie manages to stop him even though she compromises her job, reputation, and sanity.  Season 2 starts months later where Brody becomes an elected Congressman.  What I truly love about this show is that the writers don't milk a story for an entire season.  Rather than making the CIA capture Brody the season finale, they merely use this as a spring board at the season's halfway mark to make an even more intriguing story.  This allowed for an even stronger Season 2 cliffhanger where the status quo has revered -  America now sees Brody as Enemy Number One while Carrie sees him as the All-American hero.  So as long as we still get to see Morena Baccarin (who plays Brody's wife), I'll continue watching Homeland and agree there's at least one woman who'd rank on my Top Ten list.

His Girl Friday:  There's two reasons I watched this movie.  Reason number one is that it stars Carey Grant.  I've come to really enjoy his acting and respect his filmography.  Reason number two is that it appeared on a Tarantino favorite film list.  Although a dark story is involved (an innocent man condemned to the noose), this is a comedic movie with fast-paced and witty dialogue.  Directed by powerhouse Howard Hawks, this tale features how newspaper reporters will almost do anything to get the scoop.  It also explains why the passion of investigation can destroy a relationship.  I highly recommend this movie for anyone wanting to watch charismatic film of the Hollywood glory days.

Rear Window:  Only one man can tell an entire story in one room and create so much suspense.  In Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window, Jimmy Stewart is a photographer trapped in his apartment after breaking his leg from his latest escapade.  Bored out of his mind, Stewart watches from his window, peeping on his fellow apartment tenants.  What first seems to be harmless fun to make time pass by, this unhealthy voyeurism becomes quite serious after Stewart believes he witnessed a murder incident.  This is such a fantastic film and I can see its influence on Brian DePalma. The set is perfectly designed where the audience gets to sit with Jimmy Stewart in his wheelchair while he spies on his colorful neighbors: There's the frustrated musician, the woman trying to get a date, and even a beautiful blonde dancer with fantastic legs.  However, the real suspense is when Stewart's girlfriend, played by the beautiful Grace Kelly, sneaks into the murderer's apartment and tries to collect evidence.  If you're not on the edge of your seat as Stewart helplessly watches Grace Kelly being attacked from across the street, you must not have a heart or soul...

Pontypool:  Growing up, I always preferred talk radio over music.  Not to say I don't love music, but I find a car ride is much quicker when there's a radio personality talking in the background (hence why I love podcasts).  Pontypool takes this idea of radio reporting and combines it with a terrifying Sci-Fi twist.  A shock jock played by Stephen McHattie receives news of a potential "zombie outbreak" in the local town of Pontypool.  Although we don't see the violence of the outside world, McHattie and his radio team are receiving real time news from callers reporting on the incident. Although it's a pretty refreshing idea to use a radio broadcast to provoke fear, the cause of the outbreak is even more extraordinary.  Instead of losing your humanity to the typical zombie bite, your brain become infected by the sound of words... one of the unique most ideas I've ever heard of.  Directed by Bruce McDonald (who previously directed a film in Tarantino's Rolling Thunder DVD line), this movie should be watched by every horror fan searching for an absolute original premise.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Django Unchained #1 - An Actual Issue of Tarantino Comics!

As kids, we eagerly stayed awake in our beds awaiting for the arrival of Good Ole' St. Nick.  However, this Christmas Eve, it wasn't Santa Claus who caused my severe case of insomnia... It was a little film called Django Unchained (and "The D is silent") !  Ever since Inglourious Basterds left the theatres, I've been waiting for Tarantino's next film to come out.  With perhaps the exception of the Dark Knight Rises (for reasons you can read here), there wasn't one film I was anticipating more. 

Although I always enjoyed movies, it wasn't until I saw Tarantino's films that I truly started to appreciate cinema.  As I've studied and watched more film, I've come to really enjoy independent and art house films.  However, because of Tarantino's sensibilities, it's Genre Films that I need to wet my appetite:
  • Crime: Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction
  • Heist: Jackie Brown
  • Kung Fu: Kill Bill
  • Slasher:  Death Proof
  • War: Inglourious Basterds
  • Western (or should I say Southern):  Django Unchained
Now if you look at these "Genres," this is the perfect reason why Tarantino's films can be adapted into comic books.  Back in the day, EC Comics basically labeled the Genre of their stories on the cover of the magazine.  Hence, this is how I came up with the idea of Tarantino Comics!

Vertigo (an imprint of DC Comics) was luckily smart enough to realize this and decided to "exploit" Tarantino's latest flick and adapted Django Unchained into a comic book.  What's even better, the writer of these funny pages is Quentin Tarantino himself.  Expected to be a 5-issue miniseries, Tarantino puts a nice little Forward at the beginning of the comic.  He talks about some of his favorite comics as a kid including:  Kid Colt Outlaw, Tomahawk, The Rawhide Kid, Bat Lash, Yang, and Gunhawks

Using Tarantino's script, artists R.M Guera and Jason Latour (who does the flashback sequences) are beautifully crafting a story that can be read and enjoyed by all.  What's great about the Django comic is they're telling the entire scripted epic including all the story pieces that were edited out due to movie time constraints.  R.M. Guera was an excellent choice for adapting this story since he has worked with Jason Aaron on Scalped.  Although I haven't read many issues, Scalped is a crime story about gangsters on an Indian Reservation that requires a gritty artistic style - a form of storytelling necessary to perfectly translate Django Unchained into comic book form.   In addition to the interior art, the first issue has a variant cover by Jim Lee, one of my all time favorite superhero artists.

Warning - Spoiler Alert:  Issue #1 does a good job replicating the first beginning scenes of the film.  It basically covers:
  • Dr. Schultz freeing Django and the slaves from the Speck Brothers
  • Django learning about the bounty hunter business after Schultz shoots the "Sheriff Bounty" of the intolerant town
  • The duo meeting Spencer Bennett (a.k.a. Big Daddy) with a cliff-hanger of Django spotting the Brittle Brothers 
So far in this issue, there hasn't been much deviation from the film other than an extended flashback sequence when Dr. Schultz is making a "business transaction" during the opening sequence.  These few panels basically show Broomhilda being raped by the Brittle Brothers after making love with Django.  It also shows a little panel where Schultz is playing the piano in the bar after they are awaiting the Marshall to investigate the Sheriff shooting.

Overall, I'm very excited to see how the rest of Django Unchained the Comic Book unfolds. Due to work and school, I've been behind in my comic book reading, but this issue has really gotten me reinvigorated to reading other comics.  Be sure to check back as I plan to give an update of future issues of this Vertigo Series - As you all know, I just can't pass up the opportunity of a "Tarantino Comic!"