A Good Videogame Movie?!?

Hat-tip Moviebob

So apparently Sony Pictures has bought up a bunch of website domain names relating to “console wars.” For the unfamiliar, console wars refer to the various times within the videogame industry where one or more systems have fought for dominance. NES V. Atari, Dreamcast V. N64, GameCube V.. PS2, etc., etc.

It’s interesting to see that Sony is doing this because A. Whatever this movie is will be centered on Sony itself and its systems and B. The only current console war probably worthy of dramatic treatment is the current one: Xbox 360 V. PS3 V. Wii.

Seems like a neat development and I hope we hear more about this.

One Small Step

Sorry for no post on Friday, but I moved back up to college on Saturday and a lot of crazy packing and errand running was required. But while I was moving in, something monumental happened.

Neil Armstrong, the first man on the moon, died on Saturday at the age of 82.

Neil Armstrong. Credit: The Register

 

Think about that. The man who stepped onto the surface of the moon, fulfilling thousands of years’ worth of collective dreaming on the part of humanity, is dead. To his credit, Armstrong always downplayed his accomplishment, saying in a rare public appearance a few years ago, according to the BBC, “I am, and ever will be, a white-socks, pocket-protector, nerdy engineer,”

Well, you know what, Mr. Nerdy Engineer? You’re the reason we’re where we’re at today. Our fast paced technology, our modern life and conveniences, our new discoveries in science being made everyday: it’s all from you and your example.

So thank you, Mr. Armstrong. For everything.

Four–Bloc Party

Bloc Party has been one of the most consistent surprises in music in the last decade. The British quartet, somehow taking the disparate tones of political post-punk and dance rock and mashing them together into a brilliant whole, released 3 albums to critical and commercial success: Silent Alarm (which features the band’s biggest hit, “Helicopter”), A Weekend In The City (less successful IMO, but still has wonderful tracks like “Hunting For Witches“) and Intimacy (which introduced the world at large to the movie-monsters-meets-WWE mashup known as Kaiju Big Battel via the video for “Flux”). Then in 2008, the band decided to put on the brakes for a little while.

Frontman Kele Okerke, already a singular voice in the musical landscape by virtue of being both British and black, wasted no time. Outing himself as gay, he then went on to make straight-up dance music with the full length The Boxer and EP The Hunter. Pretty engaging stuff in its own right, Okerke–who also wrote probably the only explicitly gay love story in rock music with this song–delved into the far end of dancehall and the many electro/techno genres the UK invents every other week with songs like “Everything You Wanted”.

The other members kept busy too; guitarist Russell Lissack toured with successful rock band Ash and bassist Gordon Moakes formed the post-hardcore group Young Legionnaire. It’s that group, with its trashy aesthetic and sound, that probably poured the biggest influence into the making of Four (cover above), the album from the reunited Bloc Party that came out yesterday. It injects a breath of bratty fresh air into the band, juicing them up like they had chugged one too many Red Bulls and taken the open mic at a poetry slam to rail against damn near everyone.

This album is great; Bloc Party has always been a band that looked and sounded like no one else, and this reaffirms that with astonishing success. My personal standouts?

Well, first off, there’s lead single “Octopus,” which blends guitars with keyboards like it’s the future and we’re rocking down in one of those dance clubs from Batman Beyond (I’m contractually obligated to mention superheroes every post).

Then there’s “Real Talk,” in my mind the highlight of the album. Okerke’s soaring, brave falsetto, the calm steady drumbeat and sunny lyrics make me feel that this is a song meant to be in the closing credits of a movie or maybe some hip anime.

Finally, there’s “Coliseum,” a perfect example of the new, thrashier Bloc Party that’s A. either an indictment against UFC fighting or violence in general and B. will probably be used as a walk-up song by a UFC fighter with a particularly dim grasp of irony. Either way, this song is damn brutal and I LOVE IT.

This is gonna be one of the best albums of 2012 and you owe it to yourselves to get it. If anyone has any other British rock/punk bands they think I should try, post them below. See you Friday with more British tidings!

ParaNorman–Review

I’m not really a horror movie person. Modern slasher flicks just don’t do it for me and classic horror movies don’t find their way to me nearly often enough.

But I AM a big fan of the culture of horror movies–that thrill of the macabre, the allure of the weird, the attraction of the odd and offbeat. Every October, I look forward to Cinemassacre’s Monster Madness with relish and anticipation.

ParaNorman, the new film from American-based LAIKA Studios, taps into that vein brilliantly. But beyond that, it’s a beautifully animated, astonishingly clever, massively entertaining, and surprisingly subversive film on its own. It’s the best animated film so far this year, probably the best all year. Heck, it’s better than Brave.

That;s right; a stop-motion animated film from an indie studio is better than a Pixar movie. I’m sorry, but I’ve seen Brave twice and while I liked it, it’s not a very deep or moving film. It feels like a standard princess film.

ParaNorman, on the other hand, is anything but standard. Based in a town very, VERY much modeled on Salem, Massachusetts, it concerns an 11-year old kid named Norman, who, we learn, has the ability to see and talk to ghosts. This, plus his rabid love of horror movies, makes him a pariah in both his school and town. He’s very much a film geek in training, and boy, could I relate to his social stigma. He’s a frustrated, alienated kid and Kodi Smit-McPhee pulls it off wonderfully.

The main plot of the film involves seven ancient victims of an ancient witch’s curse rising up from the dead and it’s up to Norman, his sister Courtney (Anna Kendrick), Neil, his only true friend (Tucker Abrazzi), Neil’s brother Mitch (Casey Affleck) and his bully Alvin (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) to save the day.

There’s a lot of buzz about this movie from a technical standpoint as it was the first stop-motion film to use 3-D printing technology. Basically, instead of the characters being made of clay and having to have their faces manipulated every scene, the faces were each made individually digitally and printed on the same material as the rest of the puppets’ bodies. Something like that, anyway.

Whatever the technical stuff, it works. This film is jaw-dropping in its set design, lighting, effects and cinematography. It knows what it’s doing and it does it well. Like LAIKA’s first film, the Oscar-nominated, Annie-award winning Coraline, it has a sense of horror and creepiness, yet it’s gentle and playful.

More to the point, the film’s original story proves the studio doesn’t need heavyweights like Henry Selick or Neil Gaiman to help them make a good tale. Wikipedia says their next film comes out in 2014 and I can’t wait.

Even if you’re sick of zombies, do yourself a favor and check this out. Recommended.

My Voice on Superman

First off, sorry for no post on Wednesday, but I had my wisdom teeth removed, so I’m only just now emerging from a haze of ibuprofen, Vicodin and TV.

Second off, this post is essentially a blatant plug for one of my favorite websites out there, the Superman Homepage. I couId get into why I love Superman himself so much, but that’s a story for another time.

For not, let’s just talk about the Homepage. It’s not only one of the oldest fansites on the Internet, it’s also one of the best; Steve Younis, the webmaster and editor-in-chief, was nice enough to post a couple of articles by me on the Man of Steel last year. Thanks again, Steve!

The website does a monthly podcast, Radio KAL, where Steve and co-host Scotty V, discuss and dissect all the Superman news for the month. It’s always very solid, enjoyable stuff; to supplement it, every Monday through BlogTalk Radio, Steve and other co-host Michael Bailey, do a live radio show where they frequently interview creators and fans of the Man of Tomorrow alike.

This past Monday, the pair interviewed Jeph Loeb (currently head of television for Marvel, formerly a writer on Smallville, Lost and Heroes) about his years writing the monthly Superman comic book; I called in and was graciously allowed on air to speak to Mr. Loeb. It was a pretty awesome experience. Thanks, Steve and Michael! And Mr. Loeb, of course!

Show feed is right below, but you can also download–and subscribe, if you want–on iTunes or through RSS. My voice, in its non-hazy sounding fullness, can be heard from 35:47 to 41:17.

<div style=”font-size: 10px;text-align: center; width:220px;”> Listen to <a href=”http://www.blogtalkradio.com”>internet radio</a> with <a href=”http://www.blogtalkradio.com/supermanhomepage”>SupermanHomepage</a&gt; on Blog Talk Radio</div>

Happy Friday, everybody!

Reasons to pay attention to the CW now

Like the vast majority of people, I’ve pretty much ignored the existence of the CW–the network formed out of the WB and UPN a few years back–simply because nothing on there–well, except for the late, much-lamented The Spectacular Spider-Man cartoon–has been of any interest.

But over the weekend, I read about two things that intrigue me and have caused me to want to check out the network come fall.

The first is this piece about the pilot of the new drama Arrow by TV & film critic Daniel Fienberg over at Hitfix. His summation, for those of you not williing to click that link, is that it’s passable but not great and it’s certainly interesting. 

For better or worse, that’s how I feel about the character of Green Arrow in general. The only extended run I’ve ever read was Kevin Smith’s a few years back, which was wonderful and very compelling, but ever since then, I’ve never seen anything with the Emerald Archer in it I thought was worth reading. (Anyone wants to prove me wrong by pointing out some excellent Arrow stories in the comments, please do so.)

This show, however, which does have an extended trailer, seems to be entertaining and could develop into something pretty watchable. Course, I say that knowing full well the consensus that Smallville went down in quality after a while, even as the threats got bigger. But hey, doesn’t premiere for a while, so I’m gonna wait and see.

The second thing I saw was this news piece over at the Superman Homepage announcing that a week from this Saturday–very day I go back to school, oddly enough–the network is launching a new kids’ cartoon block called Vortexx that will include things like a WWE show for kids and reruns of Justice League Unlimited and Power Rangers: Lost Galaxy.

The fact that JLU is coming back isn’t that much of a surprise to me; kids will always love them some superheroes and very few have done it better than Bruce Timm & company. But Lost Galaxy? A Power Rangers show that hasn’t been seen in over a decade?

I mean WOW…then again, the fact that Saban, which is programming this block, chose this show–which is seen as the transition from the shared universe “Zordon Era” of Power Rangers to the current “every season is stand-alone” model–as part of the block is telling. Presumably, they did this because they know Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers will find enough of an audience on its upcoming DVD releases and because of their current deal with Nickelodeon for the current Samurai series.

Regardless, it will be nice to see these shows on TV again. And it’s nice in general that at least one network is at least TRYING for a traditional Saturday morning cartoon block.

The rest of the schedule for Vortexx is here.

The Adventures of Robin Hood–Film Review

The Adventures of Robin Hood

 

My relationship with classic cinema is a bit odd. Growing up in the home video boom of the ’90s, I was exposed to classic films by my parents. However…they were all animated Disney films. That’s not a bad thing,  mind you. Just a fact.

Regardless, it’s only now, with my school’s Film Arts Committee, the Internet, and us finally getting digital cable, that I’m delving into classic film. So when I saw The Adventures of Robin Hood was going to be on Turner Classic Movies, I hit record without a thought.

My only real knowledge of Robin Hood comes from a junior novel I once had called Robin Hood of Sherwood Forest, which followed England’s legendary, maybe-not-made-up-entirely folk hero from his beginning till King Richard the Lion-Heart returned to England.

This 1938 film is pretty much that book, although it is a very much for all ages film. And wow! What a film!

I mean, everything about this movie works. The Technicolor is fabulous; the setting and costuming is wonderful with much attention to period detail and the staging is perfect.

And man, what a cast! Before this film, my only familiarity with Errol Flynn was as the punchline to a couple of Looney Tunes punchlines. But man, is he a star here. He plays Robin–here mostly called Sir Robin of Locksley–with just the right amount of charisma and charm. Brilliant stuff.

He’s pitted against Claude Rains as Prince John and Basil Rathbone as Sir Guy de Gisbourne. Interestingly, TCM host Robert Osbourne’s opening bit made it seem that this movie was originally aired as part of a Claude Rains marathon. I found that a bit off.

Don’t get me wrong; Rains is fine as the simpering, conniving Prince John–and he certainly doesn’t need my comments on his acting–but Rathbone–best known to your grandparents as Sherlock Holmes–outdoes him at every turn. He makes Sir Guy a cackling, swashbuckling, villain in the purest sense of the word.

Watching this movie, I not only found visual cues that I think Brave might have borrowed, but I saw imprints for every action movie I could think of. In particular, a brilliant swordfight sequence between Robin and Sir Guy at the end has probably inspired a lot of other films.

This movie deserves all of its acclaim and more; it really is that good. It’s no surprise that this film won 3 Oscars for Best Editing, Best Art Direction and Best Original Score. Incidentally, this is the first movie I can EVER think of that made me want to hunt down a CD of its soundtrack.

The entry on the film in this book I have called 500 Must-See Movies said it “set the all-action standard by which other screen swashbucklers would be judged.” I tend to agree with that, and I also think this film’s mix of action, pacing and wit is something that, by and large, action films seem to have lost these days.

Enjoy the weekend. Anyone have more classic films for me to watch, leave a comment!