Trailer: Daredevil

daredevil“Bless me father for I have sinned.” — Matt Murdock

Marvel has pretty much been dominating the big-screen with it’s yearly event offerings. 2015 will not be an exception with Avengers: Age of Ultron set for a summer release expected to rake in the box-office by the money bins. Now, Marvel has set it’s site on the small-screen with it’s first Netflix Original Series that will be the first link in a five series set that will culminate in a team-up series called the Defenders.

This first link will be a new, and hopefully better take, on the street-level superhero Daredevil aka the Man With No Fear. The blind lawyer by day and vigilante by night whose blindness since childhood has helped him developed the rest of his senses beyond human levels. We shall not speak of the film adaptation starring Ben Affleck over ten years ago.

Marvel’s Daredevil will release all 10-episodes on Netflix this April 10, 2015.

Trailer: Furious 7 (Extended)


We saw the Super Bowl trailer of Furious 7 (formerly known as Fast & Furious 7). Well, here’s the extended version of it with more Jason Statham mayhem added to the mix. We also get The Rock get beatdown by Statham. Then again we’re all pretty much aware that Statham probably is the only person can put a beatdown on the Rock.

It looks like the summer blockbuster season starting out earlier and earlier with each passing year. Furious 7 is set for an April 3, 2015 release date.

Shattered Politics #68: The Skulls (dir by Rob Cohen)


What do George W. Bush, John Kerry, and Paul Giamatti all have in common?

They were all members of the Skull and Bones, which may be an organization that secretly controls the world.  Then again, it might also just be an organization for male students at Yale, a place for the sons of the rich and famous to get together, drink, and do whatever else rich kids do when they go to an Ivy League college.

One thing’s for sure — when you’re a member of the Skulls and Bones, you’re a Bonesman for life.  If you have any doubt about that, go ahead and watch the 2000 film The Skulls.  In The Skulls, Martin Lombard (Christopher McDonald) is such a loyal member of the Skulls that, even though he’s currently a provost at Yale, he’s still willing to break a student’s neck in order to keep him from revealing the society’s secrets.

Seriously, do all Ivy League administrators know how to break necks or just ones that were former members of the Skulls?  It just makes me glad that I went to UNT, a good school with absolutely no ivy on the walls.  A degree from UNT might not translate into membership into America’s elite but at least you don’t have to worry about being targeted by any dangerous secret societies.

(Unless, of course, you’re a TAM.  But that’s another story…)

Anyway, the dead student’s best friend is Luke McNamara (Joshua Jackson).  We know Luke’s the hero because he doesn’t come from a rich family and he’s attending Yale on a rowing scholarship.  Shortly before Will’s death, Luke is invited to join the Skulls and does so because he thinks it will help him court rich art major Chloe (Leslie Bibb).  However, after Will death, Luke decides that he has to join so that he can find out the identity of the murderer.

Luke wrongly suspects that the murderer was his new friend and fellow Skull, Caleb Mandrake (Paul Walker).  What Luke doesn’t know is that the murder was actually ordered by Caleb’s father, Supreme Court candidate Litten Mandrake (Craig T. Nelson).  (As a sidenote, has anyone named Litten Mandrake ever not turned out to be evil?)  However, as Luke gets closer to the truth, the Skulls arrange for him to be arrested and put into a mental asylum.

Oh, and Martin Lombard starts chasing after him with a gun.

Remember, this is the same Martin Lombard who is a provost at Yale.  Now, I’m not saying that it’s out of the question that a Yale provost could chase after a student with a gun.  But, at the very least, it seems like a conspiracy as wealthy and powerful as the Skulls could afford to hire less recognizable henchmen.

In fact, watching The Skulls, you can’t help but suspect that this secret conspiracy is not exactly the smartest conspiracy in the word.  Not only do they do a terrible job of hiding their existence but they are continually outsmarted by a bunch of undergrads.

Anyway, eventually, it all leads to Luke challenging Caleb to a duel.  A mysterious Senator (William Petersen) shows up and says, “Well done, son, well done.”

It’s all kind of stupid.

Shattered Politics #67: The Contender (dir by Rod Lurie)


The 2000 political melodrama The Contender is one of the most hypocritical films that I’ve ever seen.

The Contender tells the story of what happens when U.S. Sen. Laine Hanson (played by Joan Allen) is nominated to be vice president by President Jackson Evans (Jeff Bridges).  During Laine’s confirmation hearings, Rep. Shelly Runyon (Gary Oldman) dredges up rumors that, at a college frat party, Laine took part in a threesome in exchange for money.

When Runyon asks Laine about the rumors, she replies that she refuses to answer any questions about what she may or may not have done while she was younger.  She replies that it is “simply beneath my dignity” and you know what?  She’s absolutely right.  First off, if someone could be disqualified just because of what they did in college then nobody would eve be eligible to be President.  Secondly, and far more importantly, nobody would care about Laine’s sexual history if she was a man.

For over two hours, Laine refuses to answer any questions about the allegations and instead, she turns the tables on her attackers.  And while this alone would not have made The Contender a good film (because, after all, The Contender was written and directed by Rod “Straw Dogs” Lurie), it at least would have been a film that I could respect.

But, Rod Lurie being Rod Lurie, he just couldn’t help but fuck it all up.

Towards the end of the film, Laine is attending a White House reception.  She and President Evans sit down on the White House lawn and, as the stars shine above them, Evans says, “Just between us, is it true?”

Now, there’s two things that Laine could have said here that would have kept this film from falling apart.  Laine could have said, “It’s none of your business.”  And that would have been the right thing to say because, quite frankly, it is none of the President’s business.  The whole point of the movie has been that it’s not anyone’s business.

Or, if the film actually had any guts, Laine could have said, “Yes, it’s totally true.  Like most people, I experimented when I was in college.  But that doesn’t have anything to do with whether or not I’m qualified to be your vice president.”

But no.  Instead, Laine smiles and says, “Nothing happened.  Two guys propositioned me, I said no, and they spread rumors.”

So, basically, the film is saying, “It’s nobody’s business if Laine was sexually active in college but don’t worry, Mr. and Mrs. American Audience, she was a virgin until she turned 30.  So, it’s still okay for you to like her…”

And that’s the thing about The Contender.  It’s a film that doesn’t have the courage of its own convictions.  It’s a film that drags on for over two hours and it expects you to forgive it just because it pretends to have good intentions.  As a woman, there’s nothing I hate more than being pandered to and, for all of its attempts to come across as being feminist, The Contender is all about pandering.

What makes The Contender an interesting bad film — as opposed to just your usual bad film — is how even the littlest details feel false.  It’s obvious that Lurie knew all of the legal details that go into confirming a Vice President but he didn’t know how to make any of those details dramatically compelling.  So, the film becomes a bit of a know-it-all lecture.  By the time that Saul Rubinek popped up and said, “Do you know what Nelson Rockefeller said about the vice presidency?,” I found myself snapping back, “No, what did Nelson Rockefeller say about the Vice Presidency?  Please tell because ah am so sure that it is just goin’ to be the most fascinatin’ thang that ah will ever hear in mah entire life!”

(The more annoyed I get, the more pronounced my Texas accent.)

There’s a lot of weird little things about The Contender that just don’t work.  They may not sound like major problems but when combined together, they start to add up.  For instance, there’s a long shot where we see U.S. Rep. Reginald Webster (Christian Slater) and his blonde wife at a White House reception and the shot just lingers on them for no particular reason.  Long after you would expect the shot to end, it’s still going.  This wouldn’t be an issue if there was some narrative reason for that shot.  Instead, it’s just randomly dropped in there.

And then, after Laine is nominated, we see the front page of a newpaper and there, in the middle of the page, is a headshot of Joan Allen.  Underneath it, a small headline reads, “It’s Laine!”  It just feels so fake.  Wouldn’t the nomination of the first female vice present actually rate a bigger headline and a more dynamic picture?

Speaking of fake, towards the end of the film, President Evans picks up a framed magazine cover and stares down at it.  The magazine, itself, looks like one of those joke “Man of the Year” pictures that people pose for at a state fair.  On the cover is a picture of Last Picture Show era Jeff Bridges.  The headline on the magazine reads: “President Jackson Evans.  His ideas have changed the world.”  Not his actions, mind you.  Not his policies.  Instead, his ideas have changed the world.  But the film shows us no evidence of this and, during Laine’s confirmation hearings, everyone spends the whole time debating the same old shit that they always seem to be debating in Washington.

(Of course, if you’re lucky enough to have a name like Jackson Evans, I guess you might as well become President.)

Of course, when it looks like Laine might not be confirmed, President Evans speaks before Congress.  “For the first time, a woman will serve in the executive!” he declares, which seems like a hilariously awkward way to put it.  (People in this film don’t talk like human being as much as they talk like characters in some fucked up Washington D.C. fanfic.)  He then adds, “There are traitors among us!”

So, I guess the message here is yay for demagogues.

And don’t even get me started on Kathryn Morris, as the cheerful FBI agent who investigates Laine’s past and who, at one point, announces, “Laine is hope!”  Would a male FBI agent ever have to deliver a line that stupid?

And also don’t even get me started on the subplot about Gov. Jack Hathaway (William Petersen), who stages an auto accident in an attempt to convince President Evans to nominate him for vice president.

The Contender is not a good film but it could have at least been a respectable film.  But then, Rod Lurie had to have President Evans ask whether it was true or not.

Perhaps being a hypocrite was the idea that changed the world.



Shattered Politics #66: The List (dir by Sylvain Guy)

The List

“No one pays $15,000 for a back rub.” — Words of wisdom from The List (2000)

 Oh my God.

Listen, I have seen some truly terrible films before but very few were as bad as the 2000 thriller The List.  The List is not just bad.  Instead, it’s bad on a level that very few films manage to reach.  It’s almost as bad as April Rain and that’s pretty bad.

(It’s also currently available on Netflix, just in case anyone wants to take the risk.)

The film opens with a lingerie-clad woman (Madchen Amick) reading the U.S. Constitution to a fat, naked, middle-aged man.  We discover that he’s a judge when she calls him, “your honor.”

“I am no longer your honor,” the naked fat guy says, “I am your dishonor.  And, as for the founding fathers, fuck them.”


Anyway, then the police come rushing into the room and arrest both the woman and the judge.  It turns out that the woman is Gabrielle Mitchell (Madchen Amick), a prostitute who is exclusively used by the rich and powerful.  She has a list of her clients, one of whom happens to be the governor of New York state.

Despite the best efforts of her over-the-top pimp Dom Roselli (Roc LaFortune), Gabrielle is convicted and sentenced to prison.  Hoping to get a few years taken off of her sentence, Gabrielle testifies at the judge’s trial.  She hands the list over to yet another judge, Andrew Miller (Ryan O’Neal).

Andrew, who is conservative and very religious, has recently been nominated to the state supreme court.  However, now that he has the list, he find himself being threatened by shadowy figures, one of whom tries to stuff a cow’s tongue down his throat.  Or something like that. I’m not really sure what was going on in that scene and dammit, I’m not going to waste any more of my life trying to figure it out.

Meanwhile, Gabrielle’s associates are also being murdered.  Written in blood near every body: Snitching Pigs Die!

So, if a bunch of community theater actors got together with a film school drop out and attempted to make a film out of a script written by a 16 year-old with authority issues, the end result would look a lot like The List.  When Andrew  holds a press conference, there are about 6 reporters present and only two of them get to ask questions.  When the bad guys all meet to discuss what should be done about Gabrielle, they appear to be sitting in a community college study room.  When a character is found dead, it’s obvious that some crew members got a little bit enthusiastic about splashing red paint all over the set.  The actors may trip over their lines and they may seem frequently confused by what their saying but, obviously, this was one of those films were second takes were considered to be too expensive.

Did I mention that Ben Gazzara is in this thing?  Because he so is!  I can’t being to imagine what path could have led Gazzara from co-starring in Anatomy of a Murder to appearing in something like The List but, let it be said that he actually gives a pretty good performance.  Or, at the very least, he does the best with what he’s been given.

Ryan O’Neal on the other hand…

O’Neal wanders through the film, watching the action through bloodshot eyes and defiantly refusing to show the slightest hint of emotion or interest.  It’s an interesting idea actually, casting an actor who appears to be perpetually hung over in the role of a straight-laced, moralistic judge.

Usually, I make excuses for films that were obviously filmed with next to no budget but seriously, The List could have been made for Avatar money and it would still suck.  I’m sad to say that it doesn’t even manage to raise to the level of being so bad that it’s good.

Instead, it’s just bad.

But, in case you’re into that, it is on Netflix.

Shattered Politics #65: Election (dir by Alexander Payne)

Election_1999filmLast year, when I did my series of Back to School reviews, it somehow slipped my mind to review Alexander Payne’s 1999 comedy, Election.  Don’t ask me how I managed to do that.  Election, after all, is one of the greatest high school films ever made.  Not only does it feature Reese Witherspoon’s best performance (or, at least, it was her best performance up until the release of Wild) but it also features Ferris Bueller himself, Matthew Broderick, as the type of teacher who regularly inspired Ferris to skip school.  Trust me — when I realized that I had managed to review Cavegirl while somehow ignoring Election, I was mortified.

But then, a few months later, I decided to do Shattered Politics and review 94 films about politics and politicians.  And it occurred to me that Election may have been a high school film but it was also a political satire.  Add to that, it’s totally plausible that Reese Witherspoon’s Tracy Flick will someday end up running for President.

That certainly seems to be the concern of Jim McAllister (Matthew Broderick) in Election.  When he learns that Tracy is planning on running for student body president, Jim is concerned.  Tracy is an overachiever.  Tracy is the type of student who always raises her hand in class and who always has the right answer.  Tracy is the type of student that tends to drive other students crazy.  As Jim puts it, if Tracy is elected Student Body President, who knows where it will end?

Of course. Jim has other reasons for disliking Tracy.  Earlier in the year, for instance, Tracy was seduced by Jim’s fellow teacher and best friend, Dave Novotny (Mark Harelik).  When Tracy’s mother (played by Colleen Camp) discovered the affair, Dave was forced to retire and was subsequently divorced.  When Tracy mentions that if she’s elected President, that means she and Jim will be working closely together, Jim panics.  Jim thinks that Tracy will try to seduce him and he knows that he would be too weak to resist.  Instead, Jim would rather have an affair Dave’s ex-wife (Delaney Driscoll) while trying unsuccessfully to get his own wife (Molly Hagan) pregnant.

So, of course, Jim decides to recruit Paul Metzler (Chris Klein) to run against her.  Paul is a simple-minded but sweet-natured jock who, as the result of breaking his leg while skiing, has become something of a school martyr.  As soon as Paul announces that he’s running, his cynical little sister Tammy (Jessica Campbell) also announces that she’s running, despite the fact that she hates school and thinks that idea of student government is a joke.  Tammy’s main motivation is that her ex-girlfriend, Lisa (Frankie Ingrassia) has announced that she was just “experimenting” and is now dating Paul and managing his campaign.

Got all that?

As the campaign plays out, Jim is panicked to discover that, while Paul may be popular, he’s also amazingly inarticulate and really doesn’t seem to care whether he wins or not.  Meanwhile, Tammy announces that her first action as president will be to destroy the student government.  However, Jim then has reason to believe that Tracy destroyed some campaign signs (mostly because Tracy did) and he comes up with a plan to get her disqualified from the ballot.

Except, of course, it’s not that easy to get rid of Tracy Flick…

One of the things that always amuses me about TV shows set in high school is that they almost always feature an absurdly powerful student council.  Remember that episode of Boy Meets World where Topanga is elected president because she gives a speech about how somebody has to do something about the mold in the cafeteria?  That’s the fantasy view of the student council.  The reality is that, when I was in high school, the student council was something that, whenever we remembered that it actually existed, we all laughed about.

(One of the great things about Degrassi is that it’s one of the few teen shows to acknowledge that the student council has no power.  Considering that the current President of the Degrassi Student Council is Drew Torres, that’s probably for the best.)

But here’s the thing — we all knew someone like Tracy Flick.  We all knew someone who took things like the student council very seriously and who would always get very angry whenever the rest of us showed less reverence for school institutions.  And, in retrospect, you almost have to feel sorry for her because what she never understood was that devotion to the rules and hard work really don’t mean much in either high school or college.  The genius of Reese Witherspoon’s performance is that she brings to life a character that we all know and then, at the same time, makes her a unique human being.  In the role of Tracy, Witherspoon allows us to understand what motivated the girls who always used to get on our nerves.

And then, of course, there’s Matthew Broderick.  Broderick starts out as a glibly self-confident character just to end the film as something of a twisted gargoyle, unshaven because he’s been sleeping in his car and, as the result of a bee sting, a frightfully swollen eye.  By the end of the film, Jim has essentially been destroyed by his fear and obsessive hatred of one student.  Broderick is not exactly playing a sympathetic character here but it’s still a compelling performance because it confirms everything that I always suspected about all of my teachers — i.e., that they specifically and targeted certain students and that most of them were motivated by jealousy.

Thank you, Election, for letting me know that I was right!

Let Me Play “Postal” Worker For A Minute —





One of my favorite things about reviewing comics is finding a hidden gem that no one’s really talking about and doing my part to help spread the word just a bit, and while Top Cow’s new ongoing series Postal (a product of their Minotaur Press sub-imprint) is, in fact,  generating at least a little bit of online “buzz,” given that it’s being released, as ever, by Image Comics, it’s understandably finding itself rather buried under all the hoopla surrounding the debut issue of Grant Morrison and Chris Burnham’s Nameless, which also comes out today. It’s probably not fair to say that Nameless is sucking all of the oxygen out of the room, but — well, it’s coming pretty close. So let’s do what we can to even the scales a bit here, shall we?

I’ll admit right off the bat to not being much of a fan of Top Cow’s “shared universe” titles, but they’ve published  some interesting workset outside of its confines lately, and in particular I found myself intrigued by their recent four-part “eco-thriller” mini-series Wildfire, which was written by Matt Hawkins (who’s probably more talented than his status as a Top Cow “suit” would lead knee-jerk readers to believe) and illustrated in superb fashion by Linda Sejic, so given that much of the Wildfire  crew has re-assembled itself for Postal (Hawkins is co-writing it along with Bryan Hill while Sejic is doing the covers and colorist extraordinaire Betsy Gonia is joining in on both the covers and interior pages), I was bound to give at least the first issue a look — and my oh my am I glad I did.

Postal is an exercise in fairly comprehensive “world-building” that centers on the fictional town of Eden, Wyoming (population 2,198) as seen through the eyes of local mailman Mark Shiffron. Mark’s got an unusual perspective given that he suffers from Asperger’s syndrome, and while characters with Asperger’s have certainly appeared in comics pages before (most notably in the form of American Splendor‘s Toby Radloff), this marks, at least to my knowledge, the first time one of them has been given center stage in any considerable way. Three cheers to Hawkins and Hill for doing a bit of trailblazing, then — and for absolutely “nailing it” in terms of Mark’s ongoing interior monologue as well as his dialogue and mannerisms — but how’s the story itself, apart from that?


So far, so good, I’m pleased to report — the “secret” Eden is built on (which I’ll refrain from “spoiling” here) is given away maybe a bit too early (it may have made for a nice cliffhanger “revelation” at the end rather than a “gotcha” moment halfway through the issue), but given the necessity of getting the murder mystery that’s apparently at the heart of the story rolling, I can understand why they structured the script the way they did. Apart from that, though, I have absolutely zero complaints about the quality of the writing here. Eden is a town populated by rich and diverse characters, and most of the notable ones are given a chance to make at least something of a mark in the story, with the back-matter “trading-card style” profiles at the end of the book serving to enhance our knowledge of them rather than acting as a crutch. These are all individuals you’re going to want to know more about, and I can’t really think of the last time that a series with such a large, ensemble cast arrived on the scene as well-thought-out as this one.


As for the art, it comes our way courtesy of relative newcomer Isaac Goodhart, who won Top Cow’s “new talent search” contest last year and is certainly deserving of a regular monthly gig. His style won’t bowl you over with its flashiness or anything (thank goodness), but he’s got a seasoned eye for visual storytelling and seems equally at home illustrating both the book’s slower, “talky” scenes and its dramatic, “high impact” pages. Postal has much the same “rural noir” feel as fellow Image series Revival, and Goodhart breathes a lot of life into the characters he’s drawing by imbuing each of them with unique visual “tics” and traits that make them instantly stand out. I’m probably not the first person to make this comparison and I doubt I’ll be the last, but the pacing and flow of the story and pictures here are also reminiscent of a number of early Vertigo books, and that’s pretty high praise indeed for both the writing and the art.


Yeah, okay,  so murder mysteries have certainly been done to death across all media, but when you populate a well-worn premise with unique and memorable characters and set it in an inventive locale, there’s a great chance that you’ll still be able to squeeze blood from a rock. I’m ready to go Postal — you should be, too.