4 Shots From 4 Films: Special Alfred Hitchcock Edition


4 Shots From 4 Films is just what it says it is, 4 shots from 4 of our favorite films. As opposed to the reviews and recaps that we usually post, 4 Shots From 4 Films lets the visuals do the talking!

121 years ago today, the master of suspense, Alfred Hitchcock, was born!

In honor of the most influential director all time, here are….

4 Shots From 4 Films

Spellbound (1945, dir by Alfred Hitchcock)

Vertigo (1958, dir by Alfred Hitchcock)

Psycho (1960, dir by Alfred Hitchcock)

The Birds (1963, dir by Alfred Hitchcock)

20 Shots from 20 Alfred Hitchcock Films


Happy National Hitchcock Day!

20 Shots From 20 Films

The Pleasure Garden (1925)

The Lodger (1927)

Blackmail (1929)

The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934)

The 39 Steps (1935)

The Lady Vanishes (1938)

Rebecca (1940)

Shadow of a Doubt (1943)

Lifeboat (1944)

Notorious (1946)

Strangers on a Train (1951)

Rear Window (1954)

The Wrong Man (1956)

Vertigo (1958)

North by Northwest (1959)

Psycho (1960)

The Birds (1963)

Topaz (1969)

Frenzy (1972)

Family Plot (1976)

 

TV Review: Twin Peaks 1.7 “Realization Time” (dir by Caleb Deschanel)


“What I want and what I need are two different things, Audrey”

— Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) in Twin Peaks 1.7 “Realization Time)

In anticipation of the Showtime revival in May, Leonard, Jeff, and I have been reviewing every single episode of the original Twin Peaks!  Today, I will be taking a look at the 7th episode of season 1, “Realization Time.”

Now, I have to admit that I was not originally assigned to review this episode.  Much as I did with Zen, or the Skill To Catch A Killer, I literally got down on my knees and begged for the chance to review this episode.  Once again, as I explained why I felt that I was predestined to write this review, I shed many tears and threatened to utilize the power of excessive whining unless I allowed to do so.  Eventually, it paid off.

Why did I want to review this episode?  Well, first off, it’s a strong Audrey episode and, as I discovered while writing my previous Twin Peaks review, Audrey Horne is who I would be if I was a character on Twin Peaks.  She is the character to whom I most relate.

(Audrey was such a popular character during the initial run of Twin Peaks that, apparently, Mulholland Drive was originally conceived as being a spin-off in which Audrey would have gone to Hollywood and solved crimes.  In other words, no Audrey, no Mulholland Drive, no polls declaring Mulholland Drive to be the best film, so far, of the 21st century.)

Secondly, this was the final episode to feature Waldo the Myna Bird and I just happen to love the way that whenever Harry Goaz, in the role of Deputy Andy, said the name “Waldo,” he would drag out each syllable so that the bird’s name became “Walllll DOE.”

Anyway, with all that in mind, let’s take a look at Realization Time!

We start with those beautiful opening credits, that mix of machinery and nature that reminds us that Twin Peaks is a David Lynch production, even if this particular episode was directed by noted cinematographer Caleb Deschanel.

(Deschanel’s wife, Mary Jo, also played Ben Horne’s unhappy wife.  Interestingly enough, in the 1983 best picture nominee The Right Suff , for which Caleb Deschanel received an Oscar nomination, Mary Jo played the wife of John Glenn.)

This episode opens where the last one left off.  Audrey (Sherilyn Fenn) is naked in Dale Cooper’s (Kyle MacLachlan) bed and Dale is explaining that he is an agent of the FBI and, as such, he has taken an oath to uphold certain principles.  He tells Audrey that she needs a friend and he says he is going to get them two malts and that she is going to tell him all of her troubles.

This is one of those scenes — and there’s a lot of them to be found in the first season of Twin Peaks — that really shouldn’t work and yet it does.  Everything about it, from Cooper’s corny sincerity to the promise of two malts, serves to remind us that Twin Peaks often has more in common with an idealized 1950s than with any recognizable modern era.  I think that only Kyle MacLachlan could have made Cooper’s lines come across as being sincere as opposed to condescending.  Being rejected by an older man who has just found you naked in his bed is not as pleasant experience as this episode makes it appear to be.  And yet, Fenn and MacLachlan both do a great job at selling this scene.

And yet, there’s one key line in this scene that I think is often overlooked.  When Audrey says that she can’t tell Cooper all of her secrets, she then asks him, “Do you have any secrets?”  Cooper says, “No.”  However, we know that’s a lie.  We know because we saw the way that Cooper smiled when Laura kissed him in his dream.  We know that Cooper is not the asexual puritan that he pretends to be.  When Cooper says that there’s a difference between what he wants and what he needs, we perhaps understand his meaning more than he does.

We learn one of Cooper’s secrets the next morning when he shows up at the police station and discovers Harry (Michael Ontkean) and Doc Hayward (Warren Frost) looking in on Waldo the Myna Bird.  Doc Hayward explains that myna bird’s have an amazing ability to mimic the human voice but they only do it when they’re feeling playful and Waldo is definitely not in the mood.  He asks Cooper if he wants to give Waldo some food.  Cooper replies, “I don’t like birds,” and steps back in such a dramatic fashion that you’re left wondering what terrible bird-related misfortune befell Cooper during his youth.

(Personally, I suspect this was meant to be yet another one of the first season’s many Hitchcock references.  There’s a few more in this episode, which we’ll be getting too shortly.)

Don’t feel to bad for Waldo, though.  While Dale, Hayward, and Harry are watching the bird, Deputy Hawk (Michael Horse) enters with the forensic report on Jacques Renault’s cabin.  There was only one exposed negative on the roll of film and it’s a picture of Waldo biting Laura Palmer’s shoulder.  BAD WALDO!

Realizing that, regardless of how much he may hate birds, Waldo is the only witness they have, Dale leaves a voice-activated tape recorder at the base of Waldo’s cage.  When Waldo speaks, they’ll have it on tape.  Dale also suggests heading up to Canada and investigating One-Eyed Jacks.  When Harry points out that he has no legal authority in Canada, Dale says, “That’s why I was thinking it would be a good job for the Bookhouse Boys.”  Yay!  Vigilante justice!

Last episode, Shelly (Madchen Amick) shot Leo Johnson (Eric Da Re) and we all cheered.  Well, it turns out that Leo survived.  He’s hanging out in the woods, watching his house through a pair of binoculars.  That’s how he sees Bobby showing up at his house and Shelly greeting him with a kiss.  It’s interesting to note that, when Shelly was talking about Leo in The One-Armed Man, she lamented that she only married him because of his red corvette.  However, Bobby — who seems to be destined to grow up to be another Leo — drives a black corvette.  Shelly needs to stop picking her men based on their car.

While Leo sits outside with a sniper rifle, a sobbing Shelly confessed to Bobby that she shot Leo.  Shelly may be upset but Bobby thinks that all this sounds like a good thing.  “Leo Johnson is history!” he declares.  No, Bobby, Leo is sitting outside with a sniper rifle.  Fortunately, for Bobby, Leo has a police scanner with him and he hears Lucy (Kimmy Robertson) announcing that Waldo has been talking.  Leo gets into his pickup truck and drives off.

At the Hayward House, Donna (Lara Flynn Boyle), James (James Marshall), and Maddy (Sheryl Lee) listen to the tape that Maddy found in Laura’s room.  It turns out to be one of several tapes that Laura recorded for Dr. Jacoby (Russ Tamblyn.)  On the tape, Laura wonders why it’s so easy for her to get men to like her and, for a few minutes, I was worried that we’d have to deal with another “James-Gets-Weepy” scene.  Fortunately, Maddy distracts him by pointing out that there’s one empty case in Laura’s collection of tapes.  The missing tape was recorded the night that Laura was killed.  James deduces that Jacoby must have it and that Jacoby might also be Laura’s killer.  He comes up with a plan to get Jacoby out of his office so that he and Donna can search for the tape.  What if Jacoby gets a call from Laura?  Everyone looks over at Maddy.

At Horne’s Department Store, Audrey attempts to convince a customer to buy a perfume that will make her smell like a forest.  Since most forests smell like death, the customer really isn’t interested.  She wants a perfume that makes a statement.  Audrey suggests hanging the perfume around her neck.  “It’s a perfume.  It’s a fashion accessory.  Two statements for the price of one?”  “I don’t appreciate your attitude,” the customer says.  If only I had a dime for every time that I’ve heard that…

Anyway, Audrey isn’t really all that concerned about making sales.  She’s got an investigation to conduct!  This means hiding in the manager’s office and listening while he recruits one of Audrey’s co-workers to go work at One-Eyed Jack’s as a “hospitality girl.”  The manager says that the co-worker’s positive and money-hungrey attitude will take her far in life.  (It’s all about attitude at Horne’s Department Store.)  Later, Audrey deftly manipulates that co-worker into giving her the number to One-Eyed Jacks.  Audrey’s the best.

Meanwhile, at the Double R, Hank (Chris Mulkey) is working at his new job and boring Shelly with inspiring stories about his time in jail.  Little does Shelly know that, before she shot Leo, Hank beat him up.  They have something in common and personally, I think they’d make a cute couple.  I mean, Hank may be sleazy but he’s so damn likable.

Of course, Harry doesn’t like Hank but that’s probably just because of all the drug dealing and other assorted crimes that Hank has committed.  When Cooper and Harry stop by the diner, Harry tells Hank that if he misses one meeting with his parole officer, he’ll be sent back to jail.  Harry tells Cooper that people never change but Cooper is too busy appreciating a cup of black coffee to worry about Hank Jennings.  Cooper tells Harry that the secret of happy living is to give yourself a random present, like a good cup of coffee.

(It’s played for laughs but again, the important word to remember is secret.  Twin Peaks is all about to secrets.)

At the Hurley House, Nadine (Wendy Robie) watches the latest episode of Invitation to Love.  When Big Ed (Everett McGill) enters the room, Nadine announces that she’s eating bon bons because a patent attorney rejected her silent drape runners.  Ed assures her, in one of my favorite lines ever, “Nadine, there’s plenty of patent attorneys.  We’re just going to have to keep looking until we find one that understands drape runners.”  McGill delivers that line with just the right amount of gravitas too.  If I ever lose an eye and become obsessed with drapes, I hope my man will be as understanding as Big Ed Hurley.

At the Packard Mill, Pete Martell (Jack Nance) laments to Harry that a fish he recently caught was bigger before he sent it to the taxidermist.  “Once they take all the innards out,” he explains, the fish loses something, a reminder that everything that makes existence interesting (in both Twin Peaks and life itself), lies directly under the surface.

Harry’s come to see Josie (Joan Chen).  He knows that she was at the Timber Falls Motel on Tuesday but he doesn’t know why.  (She was spying on Ben and Catherine.)  At first, Josie lies and says she was at the mill on Tuesday but eventually, she reveals her secret.  She also tells Harry that she heard Catherine talking about burning down the mill.  Harry swears that he won’t let that happen.

Later, that night, Cooper, looking incredibly dashing in a tuxedo, is preparing to go to One-Eyed Jacks with Harry, Hawk, and Ed.  Cooper has $10,000 of the FBI’s money for them to use in the casino.  “Whenever I gamble with the bureau’s money, I like a 10 to 15% return,” he says.  Cooper’s a gambler?  Who would have guessed, especially since Cooper claimed to have no secrets?

Walter Neff

Twin Peaks, like most of David Lynch’s films, borrowed a lot from classic film noir and nowhere is that more obvious than in the next scene.  An insurance agent (Mark Lowenthal) had dropped in on Catherine Martell (Piper Laurie).  The agent’s name is Mr. Neff, as in Walter Neff from Double Indemnity.  He’s visiting because a life insurance policy has been taken out on Catherine by … Josie Packard!  And, as Mr. Neff goes on to explain, it appears that Ben Horne (Richard Beymer) originally said that he would make sure that Catherine signed the papers!   Apparently, thinking it was strange that Catherine would be “too busy” to appear in person to sign the policy, Mr. Neff held off on giving Josie and Ben the last page that needed to be signed.  Catherine, realizing that she’s been set up, coolly says that she’ll have to look over the policy with her lawyer before signing anything.  It’s a fascinating scene because both Catherine and Neff realize what’s happening but neither comes right out and says it.  Apparently, this was Neff’s only appearance and that’s shame because Mark Lowenthal gives a fun, scene-stealing performance in the role.

Meanwhile, at the police station, Waldo the Myna Bird is feeling well enough to say, “Laura … Laura…” Suddenly, there’s a gunshot.  Hawk, Dale, and Ed — who were busy trying on disguises in the next room — run into the conference room.  Someone — and we know that had to be Leo because he was the one with the sniper rifle — has killed Waldo!

And I have to admit that I felt really bad about Waldo.  The shot of Waldo’s blood dripping down on the uneaten conference room donuts is far more horrifying than you would think, based on the description.  In just one and a half episodes, I had grown rather attached to Waldo.  The fact that we know he was talking because he was finally feeling playful again makes his death all the more tragic.  Andy, with tears in his eyes, reaffirms why he’s one of my favorite minor characters when he says, “Poor Wall-DOE!”

Rest in Peace, Waldo

Dale listens to the tape.  As Angelo Badalamenti’s somber music plays in the background, we hear Waldo say, “Laura!  Laura!  Don’t go there!  Hurting me!  Hurting me!  Stop it!  Stop it!  Leo, no!”  As the camera cuts between Dale and Harry listening to Waldo mimicking Laura’s death, I stopped to once again marvel at the genius of Twin Peaks.  This scene should have been ludicrous.  Instead, I’m getting teary-eyed just writing about it.

Leaving behind the unfortunate Waldo, we go to One-Eyed Jacks.  Cooper and a bewigged Big Ed show up.  (Cooper’s wearing a pair of glasses that look unbelievably adorable on him.)  Blackie (Victoria Catlin) approaches them, which gives us a chance to witness flirtatious Cooper.  On the one hand, flirtatious Cooper is specifically written to be kind of dorky.  That’s just who Dale Cooper is.  But, on the other hand, nothing he says is as dorky as the way Jerry and Ben Horne behaved when they visited One-Eyed Jacks in Zen, or the Skill To Catch A Killer.  Cooper, at least, has the excuse of being undercover.

Blackie takes one look at Big Ed and announces, “You look like a cop.”  Cooper smiles and says, “I’m the cop,” which leads to Blackie says that Dale looks like Cary Grant.  Ironically, MacLachlan would play Cary Grant in the 2004 film, Touch of Pink.

Kyle MacLachlan as Cary Grant in Touch of Pink

Meanwhile, Maddy sneaks out of the Palmer House, barely noticed by Leland (Ray Wise), who is sitting in the shadows.  It’s time for Operation Freak Out Jacoby and here’s where we get this episode’s other big Hitchock reference.  In order to fool Jacoby, Maddy has not only taken off her oversized glasses but she’s also put on Laura’s clothes and is now wearing a blonde wig.  Now is as good a time as any to point out that Madeleine Ferguson’s name comes from Hitchcock’s Vertigo, a film that starred Kim Novak as Madeleine and Jimmy Stewart as Scottie Ferguson.  In Vertigo, of course, Novak played two roles, just as Sheryl Lee does here.  In Vertigo, Novak was used to trick Jimmy Stewart into believing the woman he loved was still alive.  Essentially, that’s the same thing that James and Donna are planning to use Maddy to do to Jacoby.

Back at the Great Northern, Jerry (David Patrick Kelly) and Ben (Richard Beymer) are partying with the Icelandic businesspeople.  (Iceland appears to be full of a lot of fun people.)  Jerry is enraptured with the Icelandic people but Ben is more concerned about getting the contracts signed.  It turns out that the Icelanders only want to sign the contracts if they can do it at One-Eyed Jacks.  Ben agrees and then sends Jerry out of the office so that he can call Josie.  Apparently, the plan is to kill Catherine in the fire that Ben hired Leo to set.

It turns out that Ben and Jerry are not the only Hornes heading to One-Eyed Jacks,  Audrey has already arrived and is meeting with Blackie. As soon as Audrey enters Blackie’s office, we immediately notice all of the red curtains.  That’s never a good sign.  Audrey hands Blackie her resume.  “Hester Prynne,” Blackie says, as she looks the resume over, “Pretty name.”

Audrey has made the mistake of claiming to have worked extensively in Canada.  When Blackie started to quiz Audrey about where specifically she had worked, I yelled, “Degrassi!  Say Degrassi!”  (Later I realized that was foolish on my part, as Twin Peaks predates Degrassi by over a decade,)  Instead, Audrey makes the mistake of mentioning an obviously fake “dude ranch,” (which I guess is where they grow dudes because I’ve never quite understood that term) and answers a question that Blackie asks about someone named Big Amos.

Big mistake.  It turns out that Big Amos is a dog and Blackie read The Scarlet Letter in Canadian high school.

(That said, borrowing the name of a Nathaniel Hawthorne heroine is such an Audrey thing to do that it automatically becomes the greatest thing ever.)

Blackie asks Audrey for one good reason not to kick her out.  Fortunately, there’s a cheery nearby so that Audrey can take it, eat it, and then use her tongue to tie the stem in a knot.  (Before anyone asks, despite having a very flexible tongue, I cannot do that.  However, neither can Sherilyn Fenn.  Apparent, she already had a pre-tied stem in her mouth when they shot the scene.)  Audrey has the job, which — considering how much her father and uncle love visiting One-Eyed Jacks — has the potential to be all sorts of creepy.

 

Inside the casino, Dale is playing blackjack,  His original Jamaican dealer goes on break and is replaced by … JACQUES RENAULT (Walter Olkewicz).

At Jacoby’s office, the good doctor (Russ Tamblyn) is watching Invitation to Love because, apparently, that’s the only show that plays on Twin Peaks television.  When the phone rings, the Hawaii-obsessed Jacoby answers with a somewhat perfunctory, “Aloha.”  (In my experiences, a true Hawaiian can make even the most somber “Aloha” sound like an invitation to the greatest party ever.)  On the other end, Maddy pretends to be Laura.  She tells Jacoby to go to his door.  “There’s something waiting for you.”

And indeed there is!  A VHS tape has been left outside Jacoby’s office.  The tape features Maddy (as Laura) holding that day’s newspaper.  From the payphone, Maddy tells Jacoby to “Meet me at Sparkwood and 21 in ten minutes.”

(Everything in the town of Twin Peaks revolves around wood, both figuratively and literally.)

What James, Maddy, and Donna don’t realize is that they’re being followed by Bobby, who is just as shocked as Jacoby to see “Laura” apparently alive.  (Now is as good a time as any to, once again, point out that Laura was named after the title character from Otto Preminger’s Laura, a film noir about a woman who is incorrectly believed to be dead.)

When Jacoby runs off to find “Laura,” James and Donna sneak into his office.  Meanwhile, Bobby plants cocaine in James’s motorcycle.  As for Maddy, she hangs out around the gazebo, little realizing that someone is watching her from behind the trees…

What a great episode!  Tomorrow, Leonard looks at the finale of season 1!

By the way, if you want even more Lynch, be sure to check out Gary’s review of three of Lynch’s short films and Val’s look at a music video that was made for one of Lynch’s songs.

Previous Entries in The TSL’s Look At Twin Peaks:

  1. Twin Peaks: In the Beginning by Jedadiah Leland
  2. TV Review: Twin Peaks 1.1 — The Pilot (dir by David Lynch) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  3. TV Review: Twin Peaks 1.2 — Traces To Nowhere (directed by Duwayne Dunham) by Jedadiah Leland
  4. TV Review: Twin Peaks 1.3 — Zen, or the Skill To Catch A Killer (dir by David Lynch) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  5. TV Review: Twin Peaks 1.4 “Rest in Pain” (dir by Tina Rathbone) by Leonard Wilson
  6. TV Review: Twin Peaks 1.5 “The One-Armed Man” (directed by Tim Hunter) by Jedadiah Leland
  7. TV Review: Twin Peaks 1.6 “Cooper’s Dreams” (directed by Lesli Linka Glatter) by Lisa Marie Bowman

 

 

The Preacher Is About To Begin Mass


Preacher

Preacher the comic book that came out in 1995 and became the title that everyone gravitated to to balance out all the superhero titles that were coming out from Marvel, DC, Image and every small publisher in-between. The book was written by Garth Ennis and drawn by Steve Dillon. It was the book that took on the institutions of the Church, government and family in the most irreverent and blasphemous way one could think of at the time.

The book had been talked of within Hollywood since it’s release as one title that producers (seems all of them at one time or another) wanted to adapt for the big-screen. It wasn’t a superhero title so there was no need to worry about trying to adapt tights-wearing heroes and villains. Yet, the book’s subject matter which tended to go into the extreme at times became something that kept the title from being adapted.

After almost two decades of futile attempts to get Preacher up onto the big-screen it took the star-power of one big-screen star (Seth Rogen) to finally get the book adapted, but not on the big-screen, but on the small-screen to become part of AMC’s stable of unique series titles (The Walking Dead, Better Call Saul, Into the Badlands).

So, fans of the books only have until 2016 to wait for their dreams of Preacher finally coming to live-action life and non-readers will finally see what all the hype has been all about.

Review: The Wolf Among Us


The-Wolf-Among-UsThe Wolf Among Us was the first game released by Telltale after the extraordinary success of The Walking Dead. They had finally found their element, and decided (prudently) to stick with it. But how do you follow up a title based on a comic book series recognized by some as the best game of its year?

It’s simple. Make another title based on a comic.

Fables, the series Telltale’s following project was based upon, is about fairy tale characters we grew up reading about secretly living in our real world, in a real city, hiding their existence by creating their own society. None of that Once Upon A Time cutsey niceness. They are opressed and opressors, have severe flaws in their characters, vices and, in some cases, signs of antisocial personality disorder. That is to say, they’re often psychopaths.

I'll reconcile the shit out of you!

I’ll reconcile the shit out of you!

The game gives you control of Bigby Wolf, sheriff of the fables. As you might have guessed, previously known as the Big Bad Wolf of Little Red Riding Hood and Three Little Pigs fame. Reformed and willing to put his past behind him, Bigby tries to reconcile the poor and rebelious with the powerful and bureaucratic, in a very socially imbalanced society of mythical people.

Bigby is the most human of all characters, ironically. Given the task of upholding the law in this broken, small society where everyone knows everyone else, he lives a lonely life, being recognized and feared for doing his job, which frustrates him. His tendency to bend the rules makes the fables’ mayor office see him as a loose cannon. Bigby is a noir hero, chain smoking and full clad in trenchcoat. Bitter with having to raise his hand against unsatisfied citizens and with the impunity of guileful villains; forced against rebellion, but resentful towards the bureaucrats, he often passes his own kind of law. His humanity is revealed through conversations with the only people close to him. Colin, one of the three pigs he used to terrorize, and Snow White, secretary of the mayor office and object of his affections.

the-wolf-among-us-004The amount of deviance from the path of justice in the game vary depending on your playing style. As you solve a series of murders during the span of the game, you decide how violent Bigby will be towards everyone, from the mostly innocent to the very guilty. However, this is not a story about choices like The Walking Dead, but about people leading double lifes. By taking fables, one of our most powerful cultural symbols of purity and innocence, and twisting and corrupting them, The Wolf Among Us is a modern and allegorical story with heavy noir influences, with fantasy and magic playing a part in the narrative.

It is not without flaws, however. It should be noted that, as the game needs a central story, the mystery of the series of murders obfuscate this amazing world, and one purely interested in the big picture; the unjust society of the fantastical, would be better served by reading the Fables comics. The Wolf Among Us has lots of ups far too early in the game and a few too many downs too late into it. It serves as a decent mystery thriller, and more importantly as an origin story for the comic book series, and it does have absolutely thrilling moments. However, it doesn’t bring much new to the table of longtime Fables fans other than focusing on one of the most interesting characters of its mythos.

the-wolf-among-us-episode-3-review-a-crooked-mile-1109968

As a standalone story, The Wolf Among Us has amazing action sequences and is a very exciting story up until the last quarter where it disappoints. As part of the Fables series, and possibly first chapter of others to come, it’s a perfect entry point and highly recommended. The complexity of its premise and excellence of some of its moments more than compensates for the lackluster closure of this first chapter. If that’s not enough to convince you, play it for Bigby Wolf, who might just be the coolest detective in videogame history.

100 Bullets To Be Developed For Showtime


One of my favorite comic book titles ever ended up not being a superhero title, but an inventive take on the pulp noir stories which has it’s basis on the stories of such luminaries as Dashiell Hammett, Mickey Spillane, Jim Thompson and Raymond Chandler. 100 Bullets by DC Comics’ Vertigo imprint is that very title and it’s creative team of Brian Azzarello (writer) and Eduardo Risso (artist) were able to fit a complex, morally ambiguous tale of betrayal, conspiracies and bloodshed.

In years past there had been talk of adapting the 100-issue maxi-series into an HBO series, but those plans went for naught. With DC now hellbent on adapting much of their comic book properties to the big and small screen it was a nice surprise to read from Slashfilm.com that 100 Bullets is in development for premium cable channel Showtime with David Goyer executive producing the show. Whether this news ultimately reaches it’s logical conclusion and Showtime picks up the show is still up in the air.

The fact that there’s a good chance the series will finally have it’s live-action realization has made this news a happy one for me. I have always thought that Azzarello and Risso created something that was tailor-made for premium cable. Even the way Risso drew the scenes on the pages of the comic was done so as if through a film camera recording every detail. The series also has quite a cast of characters that makes it easy for an audience to latch onto and invest themselves emotionally for their well-being.

Here’s to hoping that Goyer is able to set aside his ego and find quality writers to help him adapt the series. Of all the details about this news it’s his name that worries me the most. Showtime definitely needs a new series to counter the runaway hit HBO has in it’s hands with it’s Game of Thrones series. I believe that 100 Bullets could be Showtime’s counter to HBO’s new show if they decide to pick it up.

Source: /Film

Review: 100 Bullets Vol. 1 – First Shot, Last Call


I missed out on the initial release for 100 Bullets, but I’ve since rectified that problem.

Brian Azzarrello’s 100 Bullets continues the long line of excellent mature comic titles from DC Comic’s Vertigo line. Azzarrello’s hardboiled, crime-thriller noir series brings to mind classic detective-noir works by Hammett, Spillane and Chandler. It’s a more complex continuation of the hyper-noir series Frank Miller began with his Sin City series. I’ve heard people say that this series was better than Sin City and to some respect it was. The stories in each issue contained in this first volume (issues 1 through 5) were abit more complex in nature and execution than Miller’s more simple noir tales. The five stories in this collected volume also laid the basic groundwork for what’ll turn out to be one long-running series lasting exactly 100-issues. Where Sin City‘s simplicity in its storytelling and artwork lay its strength, it’s in the complexities in the tales and the detailed, but economical artwork that 100 Bullets shined through.

In First Shot, Last Call we’re introduced to the gamemaster of the tale: Agent Graves. Looking like an ever-present government agent who has seen all that life has thrown at him and ready for more, Agent Graves picks a recently paroled Latino lass by the name of Dizzy Cordova with a proposition. He offers Dizzy an attache case with a gun and 100 bullets that’re untraceable and definite proof that certain individuals caused her heartache and grief that has ruined her life. He only offers her the attache case, its content and the proof within. The choice is Dizzy’s to make on what she should do with what’s offered her. This set-up and premise is the beauty of 100 Bullets. The story’s basically a morality tale of choices offered to the characters. Will they use the offer to exact vengeance and get away with it scott-free, or will they refuse the offer and live on with their life. The choice of revenge really doesn’t bring back lost time and loved ones and only feeds the need for retribution. Agent Graves doesn’t really force Dizzy’s hand, but a supporting character knowledgable of the offer does — for his own agenda not yet known — prods, pushes and guides her to picking the more primal choice. Dizzy’s choice in the end was both understandable and in the end inevitable.

The second story arc deals with Lee Dolan who also has had his life turned upside-down by people unknown to him. His life and family taken away by the stink of a child pornography accusation in the past. Agent Graves makes him the same offer of the attache case and its untraceable 100 bullets. Dolan’s reaction to this offer is different from that of Dizzy’s, but in the end his ultimate choice doesn’t give him the same resolution and new life path that Dizzy made. It’s a tribute to Azzarrello’s great writing that the decision both Dizzy Cordova and Lee Dolan made were understandable when taken into context of their personalities and yearning to fix the problem that led them to their current state in their lives.

To complement Azzarrello’s words perfectly were Eduardo Risso’s artwork. It would be a misnomer to say that Risso’s art style was minimalist like those of Frank Miller’s woodcut-engraving style for Sin City or Mike Mignola’s chiasroscuro-style for his Hellboy series. There’s a sense of the cinematic in Risso’s work. The scenes were always drawn with a mind for action even when it’s just people standing around. Risso has quite the filmmaker’s eye in how he’s drawn 100 Bullets which just adds to its noirish feel. The characters and environment were drawn not to scale and real-world proportion, but just enough not to look cartoonish. I would agree that there’s an abundance for cleavage on the women drawn, but Risso doesn’t do it gratuitously. Instead he uses this detail to showcase the sexuality of the strong female characters. It paints the female characters like Dizzy Cordova and Megan Dietrich with a sense of both strength and sensuality without pandering to the teenage boy demographic. Plus, he gives these ladies their own personality and character with how he draws them. Dizzy truly has the Latina sensual curves while Megan has the icy-cold Aryan beauty that serves her well.

100 Bullets: First Shot, Last Call was a great discovery and a wonderful beginning to a very mature, intelligent and hardhitting comic series. Congratulations must got to its creator Brian Azzarrello for writing such great characters and memorable stories. I can’t forget the work of his artist and partner-in-crime, Eduardo Risso. Risso’s artwork has stamped themselves in my mind as the only way to see 100 Bullets in. Both Azzarrello and Risso complement each other well and their continued collaboration right up to the end of the series helped make this series one of the best of the past decade.

Review: The Losers (dir. by Sylvain White)


There’s something to be said about DC’s attempt to try and take some of the thunder away from Marvel as the two battle it out over the hearts and wallets of the film-going public. With the exception of Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins and The Dark Knight DC’s properties has lagged behind that of Marvel when it comes to being adapted to the big-screen. Some would say that this is a good thing in that DC hasn’t flooded the market with too many comic book titles adapted to film. Marvel’s track record has been very good but they’ve also had some very awful comic book-to-film titles which at times almost derails this Golden Age of comic book films. But even with the misses Marvel has released they’ve done a good job of keeping their name brand in the film public’s eye.  DC hasn’t been very good at this but this may be changing soon.

While not part of the DC Universe proper the Vertigo line of titles do belong under the DC umbrella. Vertigo has always been the more mature-oriented publishing arm of DC with well-known and critically-acclaimed writers such as Grant Morrison, Garth Ennis, Warren Ellis and Alan Moore being the top names releasing titles under that aegis. There’s already been several films based-off of the Vertigo line with Constantine and League of Extraordinary Gentlemen being two. Two examples which haven’t gone over well with comic book fans and film-goers. We now have another title from DC/Vertigo which hopes to break that cycle of mediocrity. The Losers (written by Andy Diggle) as directed by Sylvain White (Stomp the Yard) is a funny and exciting action-comedy which definitely had a chance to be one of the great comic book films if it actually had a coherent storyline.

The Losers is pretty much the name of the special-ops covert team the audience gets to know from start to finish. The basic premise to this film is actually straight out of late 80’s and early 90’s action films. A team of badass operatives gets betrayed during a covert mission by unknown parties who may or may not be working for the very organization the team has worked loyally for. For this particular reiteration of that action flick staple the team literally calls themselves the Losers and their betrayal occurs while in a secret mission inside Bolivia to take out a narco-terrorist. While their mission to take out this bad man does happen it does so with some new wrinkles such as first saving 25 innocent Bolivian children before the airstrike called in by them happens within 8 minutes. This eventual betrayal now forces the Losers’ commander, a military colonel called Clay (played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan), to take his 5-man team deep under while convincing their CIA masters that they died during the operation.

The rest of the film revolves around the Losers being discovered by a third-party as still being alive and given a choice. The choice being to remain under the Agency’s radar, stay dead and in Bolivia or take on this third-party’s mission to take out the very man who betrayed them, get back their good name and return to their families or, for some, their old lives. Heading up this mysterious benefactor is the one and lovely Zoe Saldana (fresh-off a little flick called Avatar). She’s pretty much the only female of note in the whole film. One would think she’s the token female, but she’s more than capable of holding her own in a testosterone-fueled action-comedy.

What would an action-comedy about betrayed badass special-ops guys (and gal) without a bad guy to match. In The Losers we get the betrayer of the team in Max (played with an almost James Bond villainish flair by Jason Patric). He’s the one who gave them the team their last official mission in Bolivia and the same one to frame them for the a heinous crime they didn’t commit. To say that Max is over-the-top in terms of on-screen villainy would be an understatement. While the character doesn’t prance or growls his way through the film he does have a certain je ne sais quois about him that doesn’t pigeonhole him as your typical uber-bad guy.

One would think that with such a simple enough revenge and wronged team-on-a-mission set-up it would be quite an easy story to create and film around. I would have to say that the screenplay adapting the first two volumes of the original source material had left much to be desired. While it wasn’t a total waste there wasn’t enough of a story beyond creating set-pieces for the characters to either shoot at and blow stuff and people up, Max to show the audience how evil he really is, or show Saldana’s and Morgan’s character together either fighting or getting it on. The whole script used almost seemed like it was culled from a much bigger one.

What we do see on the screen was exciting and funny enough that it helps cover up enough of that major flaw of a non-existent story. In fact, I would say that the film behaved almost like an extended, well-shot and well-casted pilot for a new tv action series. It’s almost what I would expect USA Network’s excellent spy-comedy Burn Notice to look like if shot on 35mm, given a multi-million dollar budget and shot on exotic locations. The film definitely would’ve benefited from an additional 20-30 more minutes to help add muscle to the story. The fact of the matter is that the story actually was able to flesh out the main characters enough that they were all quite distinct in personalities without ever becoming cardboard copy caricatures.

It’s the chemistry between the ensemble cast which shines in The Losers. While Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Watchmen), Zoe Saldana and Jason Patric were the three main leads (with each of them pushing their own agenda over the other two) the rest of the players were very good in their roles. Idris Elba (The Wire) as Clay’s second-in-command Roque does a very good job of balancing out the cool-headed team leader. his name may not be spelled like it but he definitely was the rogue factor in the whole film. While the team itself wasn’t an amoral team of killers and expert covert ops operators it was the character Roque who came closest and Elba played him with enough menace that one might’ve wondered why he was actually still with the team instead of going off on his own. Columbus Short as driver extraordinaire and Óscar Jaenada as Cougar (got a hilarious reaction from Saldana’s character upon hearing of the name) the expert marksman who never seems to miss are good in their roles as well, but the one who stole every scene he was in was Chris Evans as Jensen who filled the role of team tech and communications expert.

Chris Evans is definitely not a novice when it comes to being part of a comic book film. He’s already done two portraying the wise-ass brother in the Fantastic Four franchise and already tapped to play one of Marvel Comics’ most iconic characters in Captain America. His character portrayal of the Losers’ Jensen is more akin to his work as Johnny Storm in the FF franchise. He was the funniest thing and most lively character in The Losers. He pretty much got the best dialogue and his comedic timing was on point. He definitely kept the film from leaning towards the too-serious side of the equation. His singing of Journey’s classic motivational song, “Don’t Stop Believing”, was one of the funniest moments in the film and the song itself ended up being the closing credits musical choices which I thought was quite appropriate.

Sylvain White’s work in this film I would say would constitute as being good and, at times, bordering on being very good. There were a few stylistic choices by White which elevated the action sequences into comic book territory such as sudden pauses in the action to capture a good kill or scene like one would see in a panel of a comic book page. Even some of the camera angles mimicked those angles used by comic book artists to create a more dynamic and stylized point of view of the scene. I thought his use of the slo-mo shots of the team walking towards the screen was done overmuch. It was good to show the team together for the first time with something exploding in the background, but just once would’ve been enough. His background as a music video director showed too much in The Losers that at times it became too distracting. Fortunately, it didn’t detract from the fun everyone seemed to be having on-screen. There’s talent in White as a filmmaker if he would just trust in his growing sense as a feature filmmaker and not fall back on his music video directing days. I did like the choice of using the original comic book art to highlight the starting and ending credits of the film. Artist Jock’s artwork was great to see on the screen.

Overall, I enjoyed my time with The Losers. I enjoyed the film despite a glaring flaw in the story (which was really nowhere to be seen). The film took the comic book film staple of “origin story” a bit too far and made the whole production look like a glorified and high-budgeted tv pilot for an action series. In fact, if DC and Warner Brothers wanted to make a series out of The Losers they already have said pilot in the can and just continue things from there. What really saves this film from becoming a huge disappointment was the cast and how much fun they had on-screen. The action scenes were not great but they had life in them and when propped up by some of the comedic stylings of one Chris Evans made the sequences enjoyable. While The Losers will not be anything to scare Marvel Studio into cranking out something similar it does help bring attention to some of the more non-superhero properties DC has in its Vertigo line. The film definitely has more excitement in it despite its major flaw than either Constantine and League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. I do hope it does well enough that a sequel gets greenlit and helps build more of a story in the follow-up now that introducing the characters and the world are now out of the way.