A Quickie With Lisa Marie: Crossfire (dir. by Edward Dmytryk)

I recently decided that I wanted to watch and review every single movie ever nominated for the Academy Award for best picture.  As part of that mission, I recently rewatched one of my favorite also-rans, 1947’s Crossfire.

Crossfire is a message movie disguised as a B detective flick.  A group of soldiers who have just returned from World War II decide to get together for a drink.  At the bar, they run into a civilian named Joseph Samuels (Sam Levine).  The soldiers end up going back to Samuels’s apartment and the next morning, Samuels is found dead.  Obviously, he was killed by one of the soldiers but which one.  Suspicion falls on the meek (and missing) Floyd Bowers (Steve Brodie) but police detective Finlay (Robert Young) and Sgt. Peter Keeley (Robert Mitchum) both (correctly) suspect that Samuels was actually murdered by the far more outspoken and imposing Montgomery (Robert Ryan).  It quickly becomes obvious that Montgomery is an anti-Semite who killed Samuels solely because he was Jewish.  However, neither Finlay or Keeley can prove it.  The film quickly becomes a darkly intense duel between these three men as Finlay and Keeley attempt to trick Montgomery into implicating himself while Montgomery attempts to further frame Bowers for the murder.

Before Crossfire, director Edward Dmytryk specialized in making low-budget “B” movies and he brings that noir, near-grindhouse sensibility to Crossfire.  As a result, Crossfire is a one of those rare “message” films that is actually entertaining.  Only a few times does the film start to feel preachy and luckily, Robert Mitchum is there being his usual cynical self.  If anyone could deflate the pompous nature of the mid-40s message movie, it was Robert Mitchum.  The film says, “Love one another.”  Mitchum replies, “Baby, I just don’t give a damn,” and he keeps things from getting too heavy-handed.  Mitchum is one of three Roberts to star in this film.  Robert Young plays the police inspector with just the right amount of world-weary indignation while Robert Ryan is a force of nature as the film’s brutal murderer.  Don’t get me wrong.  You can pretty much peg Ryan as a killer from the first minute he shows up on-screen.  If Mitchum and Young smartly underplay their roles, Ryan goes the exact opposite direction.  He’s an obvious brute but he’s also totally believable.  You look at his character and it’s not difficult to imagine him passing the collection plate at Westboro Baptist Church.  As well, Crossfire also features an excellent supporting term by one of my favorite noir actresses, the great and wonderful Gloria Grahame.  She plays Bowers’ married girlfriend and gives a compellingly, real performance that suggests that maybe Hollywood in the 40s wasn’t quite as clueless as we all like to assume.

Crossfire was nominated for Best Picture of 1947 but it lost to another film about anti-Semitism, Elia Kazan’s Gentleman’s Agreement.  (Oddly enough, both Kazan and Dmytryk would end up naming names during the McCarthy Era.)  Like Gentleman’s Agreement, Crossfire was based on a novel.  However, in the original novel, the victim was not Jewish but instead was gay.  However, back in the 1940s, the Hollywood Production Code specifically forbade any open depiction of homosexuality and so, the crime went from being motivated by homophobia to anti-Semitism.

6 Trailers For Your Oscar Hangover

Now that the Oscars are over with, it’s time for another installment of Lisa Marie’s Favorite Grindhouse and Exploitation Trailers.

1) The Sicilian Connections (1972)

Since we’re coming down off the Oscars, I’ll start this latest edition off with the trailer for The Sicilian Connection, an Italian rip-off of 1971 best picture winner, The French Connection.  I haven’t seen the actual movie but I love the music that plays in the background of this trailer.

2) Dirty Gang (1977)

This is another Italian crime flick.  This trailer is worth it to just see that wonderful credit “Tomas Milian as Trash.”

3) Trouble Man (1972)

Tomas Milian may have been Trash but Robert Hooks was Trouble.

4) Q: The Winged Serpent (1982)

I’m so happy to include this trailer because I think Arleigh will love it.  David Carradine and Richard Roundtree fight a prehistoric something-or-an0ther.  Michael Moriarty’s in this which can only mean that this is a Larry Cohen film.

5) Dawn of the Mummy (1980)

“Egypt…a nice place to visit but would you want to die there?”  Not surprisingly, this is an Italian film that was released in the wake of Dawn of the Dead and Zombi 2.

6) The Crippled Masters (1979)

I kinda feel that this trailer runs a little bit long but then again, I’m not big into Kung Fu films that don’t star Uma Thurman.  Still, this is one of those pure grindhouse trailers that has to be seen to be believed. 

What Lisa Watched Last Night: The 83rd Annual Academy Awards

Last night, I watched the 83rd Annual Academy Awards.

Why Was I Watching It?

Why was I watching it?  I was watching it because I love awards shows.  I love them in all of their tacky, silly glory.  I was watching for the clothes, the celebrity meltdowns, and the infamous acceptance speeches.  I was watching because James Franco is hot and Anne Hathaway is adorable.  I was watching because I loved Black Swan and I was only mildly impressed with the Social Network.  I was watching because, as a film lover, my year starts and ends with the Oscar ceremony.  You boys have got your super bowl.  I’ve got my Academy Awards.

What Was It About

This year, the big question was would best picture be taken by the Social Network or by the King’s SpeechI predicted that the Social Network would win and I was wrong.  The Academy gave best picture to The King’s Speech which, unlike Black Swan (my personal choice for best picture), is a film that is very easy to love.  Don’t get me wrong.  I loved The King’s Speech and, seeing as how I wasn’t exactly a huge fan of The Social Network, I can’t complain about the Academy’s decision (though apparently almost everyone else can).

By the way, as far as my Oscar predictions went, I ended up going 15 for 22.  I correctly predicted all of the categories except for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, Best Foreign Language Film, Best Editing, Best Costume Design, and Best Cinematography.  So, in other words, I correctly predicted all of the awards except for the ones that actually mattered.  However, I am proud to say that, as the broadcast started, I predicted that it would last for 3 hours and 15 minutes and by God, I was right.

So there.

What Worked

Roger Ebert called last night’s ceremony the worst he had ever seen so I guess it’s no surprise that I actually enjoyed it.  I certainly felt it was an improvement over last year’s ceremony which was pretty boring except for when Kathryn Bigelow won best director.  There weren’t any endless tributes, self-congratulatory speeches about how important the film industry is for the survival of the world, and we didn’t have to sit through any pre-scripted, awkward banter between poorly matched presenters. 

As for the hosts, James Franco appeared to have mentally checked out before the show actually started but he was nice to look at.  Anne Hathaway, meanwhile, was a bundle of nervous energy and you know what?  I would have been too.  For the first time in my history of watching the Oscars, I could actually relate on a personal level to what was happening on the stage.  I’ll take the charming awkwardness of Franco and Hathaway over Hugh Jackman any day.  Ebert disagrees.  He apparently tweeted that Kevin Spacey should host.  And, if I ever felt like spending three and a half hours watching some smug jackass singing Under the Sea, I’d agree with him.

I liked the opening film montage, which featured Hathaway and Franco going into Alec Baldwin’s dreams in order to learn how to host the show.  If nothing else, it paid tribute to just how much of a cultural phenomenon Inception actually was last year.  (At the same time, it also pointed out just how ludicrous it is that Christopher Nolan — who is hot along with being a genius, by the way — was not nominated for best director.)

Probably my favorite presenters were Mila Kunis and Justin Timberlake.  Kunis looked great and Timberlake won my heart all over again by announcing that he was actually Banksy.

The In Memoriam Tribute was actually pretty touching this year and I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that the audience has finally figured out how inappropriate it is to break out into applause in the middle of it.  A lot of viewers were apparently angered that Corey Haim wasn’t included.  Personally, I was disappointed (but not surprised) to see that Jean Rollin was left out.

For me, the best acceptance speech came from David Seidler as he accepted his Oscar for writing The King’s Speech.  His speech touched me as a former stutterer but on top of that, he delivered it with just the right amount of humility and humor.  Aaron Sorkin could learn a thing or two from Mr. Seidler.

Finally, I said earlier that I was hoping for just one upset win to keep things interesting and, to my surprise, the show provided me one when Tom Hooper beat David Fincher for best director.  Even among those who expected the King’s Speech to take best picture, the general assumption seemed to be that Fincher would win best director.  Personally, I think Fincher would have won best director except for the fact that people tended to think of The Social Network as being an Aaron Sorkin film as opposed to a David Fincher film.  In all of the preliminaries leading up the Oscars (the Golden Globes, the critics awards), the emphasis was always put on Sorkin’s screenplay as opposed to Fincher’s direction.  David Fincher was almost treated as an after thought and, as a result, Tom Hooper won best director.

(Of course, personally, I was rooting for Darren Aronofsky.)

Of the nominated films, Black Swan was my favorite, followed by 127 Hours, Inception, Winter’s Bone, and the King’s Speech.  I thought The Social Network was a good film but certainly not a great film and, to be honest, I’ve come to resent being told again and again by various online, self-appointed film gurus that my refusal to unconditionally love The Social Network is somehow an indication of a character defect on my part.  Seriously, some of these Social Network partisans make the Avatar people look tolerant by comparison.  I’m sure these people have spent last night and today ranting their little hearts out about how the Academy sucks and how The Social Network is clearly the greatest film ever made.  And to them, all I can say is get over it.  If you were watching the Academy Awards because you seriously felt that the awards actually mean anything, then you’ve obviously still got a lot of growing up to do.

That said, I make no apologies for being ticked off over the award for Best Feature Documentary but more about that below.

What Didn’t Work

Well, I’ll get the big one out of the way first.  This was the only time I actually got angry while watching last night’s show.  I’m talking, of course, about Inside Job winning best documentary.  This upset me even though I had actually predicted that Inside Job would defeat Exit Through The Gift Shop.  My objection comes down to this — Inside Job was the Capt. Hindsight of documentaries this year.  Inside Job was basically a documentary that told us what we already know and then encouraged us to pat ourselves on the back for agreeing.  In a year that was actually a pretty good one for documentaries, Inside Job was the least challenging of all of the nominees and therefore, I guess it’s not a shock that it won.  Meanwhile, Exit Through The Gift Shop — a film which should have been nominated for best picture — was ignored.

Add to that, I was really hoping for a chance to see how Banksy would accept the award or if he would even show up at all (or if he would turn out to be Justin Timberlake).  Instead, I got the director of Inside Job going, “You know, nobody’s been arrested for the bad economy yet.”  Well, if that’s what you think should happen then go to talk to the people who make and enforce laws.  But you’re on an awards show, buddy.  And if you think anyone watching an awards show is going to take action just because of some comment you weakly muttered during your acceptance speech, then you really are out of touch with reality.

We were reminded one too many times that we were watching “the young and hip Oscars.”  The young and hip Oscars would not have featured Celine Dion singing.

I really wish the Oscars would stop trying to force some artificial “theme” on each year’s ceremony.  This year, they took time to celebrate “the greatest films” of Oscar Past.  The problem, of course, is that most of the greatest films of Oscar past didn’t win best picture.  Usually, they ended up losing to movies like How Green Was My Valley, The Greatest Show on Earth, and Crash.

Aaron Sorkin won best adapted screenplay as we all knew he would and, as usual, he came across as smug and condescending during his acceptance speech.  The whole, “Daddy’s an Oscar winner now…” thing would have been touching if not for the fact that it’s been used at least once at every single Oscar ceremony in history.

Trent Reznor did not say, “I want to fuck you like an animal” while accepting his award for scoring The Social Network.  However, I must say, Trent cleans up well.

Technically, yes, James Franco was not real impressive as co-host.  The general consensus on twitter was that he was stoned but I can’t say too much against him because he’s James Franco.  Even when he showed up in drag, he was still James Franco.  I know some people looked at Franco last night and thought, He’s not even trying.  I looked at Franco and thought, yum…..

“Oh my God!  Just Like Me!” Moments

There were a few and most of them had to do with Anne Hathaway.  Most of the comments on twitter concerning Hathaway’s performance as host were not kind but I don’t care.  I love her and I think her lack of polish was actually rather adorable.  If I was hosting the Oscars, I would probably take a few moments to brag about my dress as well.  I know I’d certainly probably start giggling at random moments.  I also know that I’d probably get a little bit annoyed with James Franco’s lack of commitment to the show as well but you know what?  I’d still get all sorts of naked with him after the show because he’s James Franco and he just does things to me.

(If anything, last night’s show proved that the difference between a hot guy and all other guys is that a hot guy can get away with it.)

My other big “Oh my God!  Just like me!” moment came when Melissa Leo won for best supporting actress for the Fighter and dropped the F-bomb on national TV.  I would so do that too.  I mean, it’s an Oscar!  God knows what I’d end up saying if I ever got one.

Lessons Learned:

I’ve seriously got a thing for James Franco.

Review: Drive Angry 3D (dir. by Patrick Lussier)

Every year there’s always a handful of films which gets little to no love from both critics and audiences. These are titles that for one reason or another get left by the wayside. Some say these films are awful. Some say they’re weren’t in the theaters long enough for people (or even critics) to notice. Yet, these films will get it’s vocal and ardent supporters and fans who sees through all the flaws and warts and find a rough gem that really entertains. One such film for 2011 is the supernatural-action film from filmmaker Patrick Lussier simply titled, Drive Angry 3D. Yes, it’s a 3D film and not one of those post-conversion deals but shot from start to finish in 3D.

Drive Angry 3D harkens back to the good, dirty era of grindhouse films. Films with simple storylines and even simpler dialogue. They were made on the cheap (though with a budget of 35-40million this film definitely not low-budget) and cramed full of everything that could be exploited to bring in the audience: sex, violence and lots of nudity. Lussier’s film definitely has all three in abundance. With Nicolas Cage headlining a cast of veteran genre actors and a spitfire of a female sidekick, Drive Angry 3D was a grindhouse film at its very core.

The story could’ve come from any number of revenge films of the 1970’s. Cage plays John Milton (I kid you not) who escapes Hell itself to seek vengeance on the Satanic cult and their leader Jonah King (Billy Burke sporting a slithery Southern accent that’s one step over excessive but oh so fun to hear) for killing his daughter and kidnapping his baby granddaughter. A baby to be sacrificed by Jonah King and his followers to usher in an era of Hell on Earth. Just going over that brief synopsis one could just imagine this film being made in the 1970’s with country rock playing in the background.

Along the way in his quest for vengeance and redemption, Milton comes across Piper (played with crackling gusto by the lovely Amber Heard in the shortest Daisy Dukes I’ve ever seen on film) who becomes his partner in his quest through some shared encounters which shows Piper not as a damsel-in-distress but a young woman who can kick ass as much as Milton does. The fact that she didn’t appear in any form of nakedness throughout the film was a sign that she wasn’t a woman to be messed with.

While it Milton and Piper going after King and his Satanic-cult inbreds wasn’t enough action for one film Lussier and screenwriter Todd Farmer (he also played the role of Piper’s philandering fiancee who gets knocked around a bit by almost everyone) decided to bring in the character of the Accountant (played with an almost childish glee by William Fichtner) who has followed Milton from Hell to bring him back and an item that was taken from Lucifer’s own stash of goodies. Watching the Accountant play someone not used to being human play-act as one definitely became some of the funnier scenes in the film. That’s also why this film was such a fun ride to sit through. Everyone in the cast seemed to be having a blast playing their characters to the hilt. Even David Morse in the role of a Webster as the aging sidekick of Milton’s before his trip to Hell looked to be into his role.

But enough of trying to explain the story and how the actors performed. Drive Angry 3D is all about action and action of every kind. This film oozed action from its very being. We had car chases with some of the most beautiful classic muscle cars in existence. We first get to witness Piper and her 1969 Dodge Charger 440 R/T then for the last third of the film twin 1971 Chevrolet Chevelle SS 454’s. This film is such a throwback to the car chase action films of the 70’s like Vanishing Point and Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry. It wasn’t just car chase action to be had and experienced. This film didn’t shy away from some very violent and up-close gunfights. One particular gunfight may just go down in history as one of the best as Cage’s character (still fully dressed) shoots it out with some of King’s thugs while having sex with the local waitress, smoking a cigar and a bottle of Jack Daniel’s in one hand. Milton was one multitasking badass.

This film was all about excess and it’s why it held such an appeal to those who have seen it and have raved about it. It didn’t pay homage to grindhouse, but ended up as being one of the very films it tried and succeeded to emulate. Forget the gloss veneer of the film. A film doesn’t have to be dated and cheap-looking to be grindhouse. Both Patrick Lussier and Todd Farmer wanted to make a badass film about a badass character doing badass shit and they succeeded.

Even the 3D used for this film actually worked. It helped that the crew actually used real 3D cameras to film every scene instead of doing post-conversion work of regular camera filmed scenes. Yes, there were scenes where things were made to come straight at the audience but it wasn’t so distracting as to ruin the experience. In fact, I would say that 3D added to this film’s appeal and fun. One reviewer had said that 3D should be reserved for use in films such as Drive Angry 3D. I won’t disagree.

Will this film be for everyone? I don’t think it is. Not everyone is ready for extreme excess of badassery from Cage, Heard and Fichtner.

Drive Angry 3D will be seen as a failure by those not involved in its production or by those who saw it and enjoyed it. There’s some truth in that, but I do think that this film succeeded in doing everything that was promised by its filmmakers and producers. It’s not an Oscar-baiting film or even one to be seen in the yearly film festivals and circuits. What this film has become was one hell of a ride that was all about kicking ass, taking names (screwing the local waitress while waiting for the ambush to come) and driving beautiful, fast cars. I do think that Lussier’s film looks like a cult-classic in the making as time passes and those who saw it while it was in the theaters should be proud to say that they saw it and liked it when most people couldn’t be bothered.

Now, where’s my pistol, cigar and bottle of Jack Daniels.

A Quickie With Lisa Marie: One Million Years B.C. (directed by Don Chaffey)

So, last night, I was talking Oscar fashion over on twitter and, at one point, I somehow ended up promising that if I was ever nominated for an Oscar, I would wear an outfit based the fur bikini that Raquel Welch wore in the 1966 film One Million Years B.C.  Well, everyone seemed to think that this was a pretty good idea on my part but it made me realize that I’ve never actually seen this movie.  As I was already planning on going to Fry’s to buy the Criterion edition of Fish Tank, I decided to buy One Million Years B.C. as well.  When I returned home, I kinda watched it.

I say “kinda” because One Million Years B.C. is probably one of the most draggy movies ever made and my mind wandered considerably whenever there wasn’t a dinosaur on-screen.  The movie opens with a really pompous sounding narrator who explains 1) that One Million Years B.C. was a long time ago and 2) not much else.  I mean, honestly, Mr. Narrator, I could have figured out we were dealing with prehistory just from the fact that there’s a bunch of dinosaurs wandering around.  Anyway, the movie itself is about a caveman (played by a nicely rugged actor named John Richardson) who is exiled from his own savage tribe but who eventually ends up with Raquel Welch’s tribe.  But then his new tribe gets sick of him and decides to exile him as well.  This time, Welch goes off with him and they eventually join Richardson’s old tribe which then goes to war with Welch’s old tribe and then finally, a volcano explodes.  Oh, and there’s a lot of dinosaurs wandering around as well.  On rare occasions, they attack the cave people but, for the most part, they just put out the same aloof vibe as my cat does right after he eats.

Most of the film’s dinosaurs were created through stop motion animation and they’re fun to watch.  However, for me, what truly made the film was a giant turtle that pops up about 30 minutes in.  It’s trying to make its way back to the ocean and, for its trouble, a bunch of little cave people insist on throwing spears at it.  But the turtle just kinda looks back at them and shrugs.  What a cool turtle!

There’s a certain type of viewer — and we all know the type — who will complain that One Million Years B.C. commits the sin of 1) having dinosaurs existing at the same time of cavemen and 2) having all the different dinosaurs living together at the exact same time.  And to those people, I think it’s high time that everyone just finally says, “Shut the fuck up.”  I mean, seriously, instead of nitpicking every little cinematic detail, why don’t you concentrate on losing some weight before you drop dead of a heart attack? 

Just a suggestion.

Oddly enough, this film has a weird connection to the James Bond film series in that, on the basis of their work here, both John Richardson (who also starred in Mario Bava’s classic Black Sunday) and Raquel Welch came close to being cast in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.  However, the roles ended up going to George Lazenby and Diana Rigg instead.  (Welch was also nearly cast as a Bond girl in Diamonds are Forever.)   Though neither Welch nor Richardson ever became a part of the 007 franchise, Robert Brown (who plays Richardson’s father here) later played the role of M in a handful of Bond films.

The Daily Grindhouse: Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS (dir. by Don Edmonds)

Our latest “Daily Grindhouse” is infamous for popularizing that subgenre of exploitation and grindhouse film involving Nazis and their atrocities during World War 2. The typical setting for these so-called “naziploitation” films always end up one of the Nazi stalags (POW camps) or even concentration camps (for the truly exploitative of the bunch). The film that truly started it all for this subgenre is none other than Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS.

Grindhouse has a certain amount of individuals who’re seen as icons in the industry. Ilsa would be the film which would make a certain individual an icon within grindhouse. That individual is the Las Vegas showgirl turned exploitation actress, Dyanne Thorne. It was her performance as the SS Commandant of the setting for the film which made Ilsa such a cult classic in the eyes of grindhouse aficionados. Her statuesque and buxom figure was such a presence in the film that it was difficult to take one’s eye off of her whenever she was in it.

The film set the benchmark on the naziploitation subgenre and also the rules on how to make one. Ilsa could be seen by younger fans of film this day and age as nothing but softcore pornography. They wouldn’t be too far off with that description. This film was all about sex and violence. Thorne’s character would be the instigator for both themes and central to every scene which had them. To say that rape and torture of female prisoners (and male prisoners who fail to satisfy Ilsa) became the  blueprint for naziploitation films would be an understatement.

Other films in this subgenre would take what Ilsa had created and up the ante. Adding in even more explicit violence and sex. They would begin to mash it up with other subgenres of grindhouse. This film is not for everyone and definitely not for children (and probably some adults as well), but for fans of grindhouse it’s mandatory screening.

There’s really no trailer about this flick which has been uploadedt. The grindhouse faux trailer created by Rob Zombie to be part of Grindhouse definitely was influenced by Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS.

Lisa Marie’s Oscar Predictions

The Oscars are tomorrow and I know I’ll be watching it and tweeting about it over on my twitter page.  That’s assuming, of course, that twitter doesn’t go all screwy and spend the entire night putting up that cute little picture of the fail whale.

Anyway, I guess I’m a bit overdue in posting my predictions of what and who will actually win tomorrow.  I guess that’s because this year’s Oscar race looks to be one of the most predictable ever.  Don’t get me wrong.  I like quite a few of the nominees and Black Swan is a contender for my favorite film of all time.  It’s just that this year, the winner’s are so predictable. 

Let’s be honest, we don’t watch the Oscars because we really think that the best film or performer is going to win.  We watch the Oscars for all of the WTF moments and acceptance speech breakdowns.  We watch the Oscars because we want to see something weird happen, like a shocking upset win that leaves us all outraged and shaking our heads.

This year, though, the only suspense seemed to center around the Best Documentary category.  Will Exit Through The Gift Shop win and if it does, will Banksy be there to accept it?  And if he is there, will he wear a monkey mask while accepting it?

Anyway, here’s my list of predictions.  These are the movies and performers that I think will win.  They’re not necessarily who and what I personally would want to win.  (That list can be found here.)

Best Picture: The Social Network

Best Actor: Colin Firth, The King’s Speech

Best Actress: Natalie Portman, Black Swan

Best Supporting Actor: Christian Bale, The Fighter

Best Supporting Actress: Melissa Leo, The Fighter

Best Director: David Fincher, The Social Network

Best Adapted Screenplay: The Social Network

Best Original Screenplay: The Kids Are All Right

Best Animated Film: Toy Story 3

Best Foreign Language Film: Buitiful

Best Art Direction: Alice in Wonderland

Best Cinematography: True Grit

Best Costume Design: The King’s Speech

Best Documentary Feature: The Inside Job (bleh)

Best Editing: Black Swan

Best Makeup: The Wolf Man

Best Original Score: The Social Network

Best Original Song: “We Belong Together” from Toy Story 3

Best Sound Editing: Inception

Best Sound Mixing: Inception

Best Visual Effects: Inception

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (Official Gameplay Trailer)

Ok, I was already pretty hyped up for Skyrim even without seeing a second of gameplay video. That is just how big a fan of the Elder Scrolls rpg series I am. To say that I have spent close to near 3000+ hours playing the four games in this series would be an understatement. Yes, that does sound quite pathetic, but I don’t care because it’s awesome in my own personal world how much I’ve played this series.

This new trailer is not just voice-over with a cavern wall carving being panned around by the virtual camera. This new trailer I would consider Skyrim‘s first official cinematic trailer but also one that includes gameplay footage. Gameplay footage which shows off Bethesda’s latest game engine, Creation Engine, which has replaced the Gamebryo Engine that the studio used for Morrowind, Oblivion and the last two Fallout games. While the gameplay footage was all about action it does give some hints about changes to the faces and figures of the NPCs. Gamebryo was ahead of its time in 2001 when Morrowind came out but now it’s antiquated so I’m glad Bethesda listened to the pleas of fans to come up with a new and more advanced game engine.

I like the sound of the theme for the game which combines and remixes the themes from both Morrowind and Oblivion but with a nice male chorus doing something akin to a Norse battle-chant. Music composer Jeremy Soule will return to compose the music for Skyrim and that alone means I shall be acquiring the soundtrack, if and when, Bethesda releases the CD.

The game is set for a 11.11.11 release and I shall be one of the brave few who will pre-order the most expensive edition of this game because it deserves it.

Artist Profile: Frank Frazetta


For the latest “Artist Profile” I have picked one of the icons and giants in the realm of fantasy art. This artist has influenced many artists who looked up to him as a mentor and inspiration. His work has also fired up the imaginations of writers and filmmakers the world over. The artist I speak of was the great Frank Frazetta.

Frank Frazetta is one of those artists whose work has become so recognizable that people know it’s his artwork even without any sign pointing it out. He has been in the forefront of fantasy artwork since he switched from doing comic strips and comic books during the 40’s and 50’s to painting covers for Warren Comics such as Vampirella, Creepy and Eerie. It was during this same time period that he began to create some of his most iconic pieces when he painted the covers for the paperback editions of Edgar Rice Burroughs classic character such as Conan and John Carter of Mars. In fact, one of the Conan paintings he did, Conan the Destroyer, sold for $1.5million dollars at an auction this past Summer of 2010.

He would add to his body of work during the 1970’s by painting album covers for such rock bands as Dust, Nazareth, Molly Hatchert, Wolfmother and Yngwie Malmsteen. One such album cover was an earlier original painting Frank used for the band Molly Hatcher. It would introduce a character who has spawned it’s own industry of comic books, posters, novels, games and collectible statues. This painting is The Death Dealer (the picture above) and it has become the one piece of Frazetta artwork which a majority of his fans around the world consider his best work.

Frank Frazetta passed away on May 10, 2010 in a Florida hospital near his home. Frank’s legacy is not just the hundred or so of paintings he had kept through the decades of his career, but also the uncounted artists he had influenced. Fantasy artists of renown themselves such as Boris Vallejo, Julie Bell, Joseph Vargo, Ken Kelly and Brom. The pieces of work chosen for this profile are just the tip of the work Frank left behind for future generations to study and admire.

Game Review: Marvel vs. Capcom 3: The Fate of Two Worlds

The Bottom Line

It’s been over a decade (no, seriously! Marvel vs. Capcom 2 came out in 2000! It was on the Dreamcast!) since we last dropped into this remarkable franchise of fighting games. A lot of our favourite characters are missing, but the feel hasn’t changed.

Unfocused Ramblings

As usual, I like to begin these reviews with a boring story about my personal life. About ten years ago, a friend of mine owned the Sega Dreamcast. He never had a ton of games for it, and we all agreed that the controller was preposterously big, but it was probably the console that my group of friends and I played the most during that stretch. Because whatever we thought about the Dreamcast, and however few games there were on it, or however few my friend owned… he did own Marvel vs. Capcom 2. At this point, years later, I don’t even remember much about the fine details of the game. But I do remember its feel… and that feel has returned, to my hazy memory more or less intact, this year with the release of Marvel vs. Capcom 3: The Fate of Two Worlds. So now that I’ve played it, and the excitement is all flooding back to me, the unfortunate truth comes out: for all of its selling points (and it has them to spare) this game is not as much fun as its predecessor.

It’s not. You may think it is, and you may even be having more fun with it now… but it’s a matter of circumstance. And this game is not as much fun as the last one.

Does that mean that Marvel vs. Capcom 3 isn’t a great game? No. Actually, I’ve been impressed by basically everything that I have seen from the new title so far. It has the same feel of the old game. That hyper-frenetic superhero/comic book/action game and so on action is quite intact. You still have the hyper combo bars. You still have three different characters who are flying in and out of the action supporting one another and generally causing some havoc. You can still fill the screen with blasts of energy and crazy attack schemes that seem like no one could ever possibly survive them (and be just as disappointed to see that your opponent blocked in time). In other words, they’ve done a magnificent job of recreating what made Marvel vs. Capcom great. So we can say that this sequel is a faithful one. So what’s the problem?

I’m not sure this game translates as well to playing against faceless strangers on the internet as some of the other fighting games that have come out over time. Of course, it’s not a different experience on XBox Live (or the equivalent service of your choice) but this game, unlike other games, is a more intense frenetic experience and should be less about a cold, tactical approach. To me, this makes it more fun to play with friends than in multi-player match-making. Ultimately, that’s subjective, and if you like fighting games you should enjoy the multi-player experience here as well. Of course, whatever I may say about frenetic superhero/video game combat, the more skillful players of fighting games will still maintain a big advantage in this game due to the huge variety of combos available, even if the move-sets of each character are relatively simple. A lot of universal concepts translate across all characters (such as chaining together flashy aerial or team combos, and the counters to those moves).

The game does offer some options to help teach people about the game-play mechanics. If your fingers aren’t made of steel you may get frustrated attempting to execute long multi-team-mate-extravaganza type combos, but the mission mode (sort of a training mode with specific objectives as far as moves) encourages you to explore chaining moves together (from the basics of knocking a foe in the air and coming down on top of them with a crushing blow all the way to the aforementioned 500000 hit combos). I suspect that if you explore some of these modes, and trouble to learn the moves of a few favourite fighters, you’ll quickly get the hang of winning in this game.

Oh, and don’t be overly troubled by the absence of some Marvel vs. Capcom favourites. I’m sure they will all be available through DLC sooner or later. What’s that, you say? They announced that Jill Valentine and Shuma Gorath will appear as DLC characters even before launch? Let the games begin!

The Big Question

What were they thinking, not including characters like Megaman X? Presumably they were already looking at the prospect of selling DLC packages… but there is an infinite pool of characters to draw on between Marvel and Capcom. It still feels a little cheap to have excised some of the staples that we’ve been playing with since the first installment in the series.

Overall Game-Play

It’s a seamless game-play experience that has more than its fair share of flashy effects and super-cool sets of moves. My one gripe with the game on the whole is the inconsistency in move-sets between the characters, where some of the characters have a huge variety of diverse moves that can work in every situation… while other characters… are basically stuck with a signature move or two and a series of button combos. I can see how the innate attributes of the different fighters necessitate some of this for the purposes of balance, but it’s a little disappointing to find out that a personal favourite character has a lackluster move set. I suspect that this will be the exception rather than the rule for most players, but I do think it’s worth mentioning.


It’s not visually breathtaking, but it has a certain (and to my mind, incredibly appropriate) style, and you won’t be disappointed by the attack animations. A ton of unlockable artwork accompanies the game in addition to the rendered character models, and there’s a lot to like with the visuals in this game. More important than the overall graphical presentation is probably the tightness of the experience, which doesn’t seem to have any glitches or bugs to it.


An upbeat main soundtrack accompanies unique themes for every fighter in the game as well as for the mighty Galactus. You’ll likely recognize a lot of the music as remixes on songs associated with the character in question (for example, Chun-Li’s appearance in a bout is accompanied by an overclocked remix of her battle theme from Street Fighter II) and you’ll probably come to appreciate a few favourites. I didn’t find the score forgettable which is a point in its favour. Obviously there’s not a ton of room for mood music in a fighting game, so the character themes and menu themes are essentially it. As for the voice acting, I haven’t encountered any voices that send me to my knees screaming at the heavens, and I take that to be a good sign. For a handful of bonus points, if you have some good surround sound and bass, you may be blown out of your seat by comments from Galactus, who addresses Thor with a hearty “If you are a god… then what shall we call Galactus!?” and other fun-loving quips.