Wednesday, June 28, 2017

NEW DEVILMAN SERIES COMING TO NETFLIX IN 2018


If you're a manga/anime fan, specifically of the long running DEVILMAN series, then you've got something to look forward to in the spring of 2018; Devilman Cry Baby will land three years after the Devilman Vs Cyborg 009 series of 2015. Netflix has released a teaser trailer. (above)

The animation style looks a bit different from past series and movies, but I'm intrigued none the less.
Devilman was created by Go Nagai and released in 1972 as a manga about a month before it
debuted as a 39 episode anime. It tells the story of a boy named Akira Fudo who donned the skull of an ancient demon and became a demon-hero that fights other demons. I haven't had the occasion to read the manga, but I've watched a lot of the anime over the years, some of which is pretty damn horrific in the violence department (check out Amon on YouTube). There's also a live action film, but I can't recommend it, as the CGI is pretty rough, somewhat on par with an episode of Power Rangers.  
If you're unfamiliar with Devilman, check out this clip from The Birth...

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

REVIEWING THE HANNIBAL LECTER SAGA PART THREE; RED DRAGON



2002's Red Dragon is the second film based on Thomas Harris's 1981 novel of the same name. Michael Mann brought the story to big screen first in1986 as Manhunter, which producer Dino DeLaurentis was ultimately unhappy with. Manhunter is a stylish if dated thriller. It has all the hallmarks of Mann's best work and has a strong cult following. Red Dragon in comparison is much more faithful to the book, but a bit dry.

Directed by Brett Ratner and starring Edward Norton, Harvey Keitel, Ralph Fiennes, Mary Louise Parker, Emily Watson, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and returning for his third outing as Hannibal, Anthony Hopkins, Red Dragon wraps up the Hopkins trilogy following '90's Silence Of The Lambs and '01's Hannibal. Ending the trilogy with a prequel creates a neat loop constantly feeding back into itself. Unfortunately it's the weakest of the three, suffering from being just too damn matter-of-fact.

Red Dragon begins with a prelude, showing us Lecter throwing a dinner party after a concert and afterwards getting a visit from Will Graham who has been getting help from Lecter in the Chesapeake Ripper case. During the visit, Graham realizes that he's made a mistake and Lecter himself is the Ripper. Lecter, one step ahead, tries to kill Graham, but is shot in the process. Jump ahead, FBI director Jack Crawford pays a now retired Graham a visit, seeking out help catching a serial killer dubbed The Tooth Fairy, because he's a biter. Graham, who had been seriously wounded by Lecter is reluctant, but he knows he can't sit on the side lines while innocent people die, so he comes out of retirement. It doesn't take him long before he realizes that the Tooth Fairy is going to be a very formidable adversary and time is running out before he chooses his next victims, so Graham turns to Lecter for help.

I'm completely at a loss to compare Red Dragon to Ratner's other films since the only other one I've seen is X-Men; Last Stand. Last Stand is, next to X-Men Origins; Wolverine, the worst X-Men sequel.  Red Dragon is such a different kind of film stylistic comparisons are pointless.

Even comparing Red Dragon to Manhunter or the Hannibal tv series seems pointless and that leaves us only the other two Hopkins films to hold it up to. Jonathan Demme, Ridley Scott, and Brett Ratner have little in common in style and taste and the three films all have a somewhat different flavor that compliments and contrasts at turns. Hopkins' performance and Ted Tally's scripts are the only consistent elements. Even reoccurring characters are re-cast. As I said,  Red Dragon is rather dry. Silence was engrossing as a character drama and race against time, Hannibal was more visceral and skirted the line between horror film and thriller more, and then Dragon is more literal, less stylish, but has moments that are no less harrowing than the first two. The problem with the film is that while Demme and Scott were able to find strength in their films' quiet moments, Ratner does not. While the film boasts an impressive cast, they lack the chemistry that can be found in every other adaptation of the Harris's material. It's an A-list cast in a B-list thriller. Had it come out before Silence it may have fared better, because it's not a bad film. Red Dragon has a lot going for it and doesn't lack tension and real scares. It's well worth watching for what it does right and is generally forgivable for the lulls.

Getting back to the casting, this is probably my biggest gripe about the movie. Edward Norton's take on Will Graham is almost too normal. Graham in the book is much more damaged and traumatized after his final encounter with Lecter and this greatly effects him through his pursuit of The Tooth Fairy/Red Dragon (Fiennes). William Peterson in Manhunter and Hugh Dancy in Hannibal the series nailed this. Norton did damaged much better in Fight Club. Harvey Keitel is another odd choice in casting as he a) doesn't do much and b) doesn't fill the shoes of Scott Glen who defined the role of FBI director Jack Crawford. Fiennes is excellent in the movie, but I could never get over the idea that Tom Noonan made so much more sense and embodied the Fairy/Dragon/Francis Dollarhyde so much better. Fiennes captures every aspect of the Fairy's personality, but his disfiguration is so slight that he just doesn't visually represent an outsider the way Noonan did. I know it's all about psychology, but for me I just can't shake Noonan, even when I read the book. (If you recall from the last part of the series, I had the same problem with Julianne Moore. This isn't a typical problem for me, as I can normally accept recasting in most franchises. For whatever reason, that's a huge sticking point for me with these, that's why I harp on it so much.)

Another problem Red Dragon suffers from has nothing to do with Ratner, the cast, or anything else in the film; looking back from 2017 it just all feels very redundant. We've seen this story adapted to the screen three times in less than 30 years now. To get the most out of the film one will have to watch it before seeing the other two adaptations, accept it on it's own outside of the rest of the franchise, or see it at a great distance from watching the others. Had a director like David Fincher or even Ben Affleck (think The Town or Gone Baby Gone) taken on the film and given the direction the kind of style and flare they bring, Red Dragon may have been able to hold it's own against Silence and Hannibal instead of being so pedestrian. Ultimately, though, as an adaptation it really is just a cash in on the popularity of Hopkins' portrayal, and he's hardly in the film, though his part is a bit beefed up from the book, though no where near to the extent of the TV series. I don't like to be so cynical, especially in regards to a film that's not that bad, but it just sits there, doesn't it?


Sunday, June 11, 2017

NEW RELEASE! WOLFMEN OF MARS...DON'T LET IT IN

Horror synth rockers, Wolfmen Of Mars, have come roaring back with yet another impeccable release; Don't let it in! This is the Wolfmen's 11th album following on the heels of Warp Suburbium. Once again they lay down some serious grooves while giving shape to the soundscape of your favorite nightmares.

The album opens with the title track and might be my favorite song of theirs so far. "Kiss The Broken Bottle" is thudding urban gothic funk from hell. "Ritual" is  the title theme for some great lost Argento film. "Welcome To The Fear Theme/Hallucinatoria" will time travel you back to the glorious days of the video store and renting something fucked up you were too young to see. "At The Barn" and "Omens" are short interludes on the way to the album's closer, "Della Strega," which is Italian for whip lash or back strain, but I wonder if it's a reference to the 1973 Italian film Il Sesso Sella Strega or Sex Of The Witch? 

The artwork is by Patrick Sparrow, who had previously done The Wolfmen's The Light In The Corner Of Your Eye. It's a damn great total package, lots of fun, and will leave you wanting more, more, more! It's available HERE at Bandcamp and it's a name your own price deal.

Keep up with evil goings-on of Wolfmen Of Mars on Facebook and Twitter and play their music loud!

Friday, June 2, 2017

JOEL SCHUMACHER'S FLATLINERS AND WHAT HAPPENED WITH BATMAN

With it's Ellen Page starring sequel arriving on September 29th, 2017, and that I just re-watched it, I thought it would be a good time to talk about Joel Schumacher's 1990 haunted psychological thriller Flatliners. The premise was simple but effective; a group of medical students experiment with near death experiences to see if the stories of lights, and tunnels, and voices told by other near death survivors holds any water. What they discover are very personal experiences that bring secrets/demons of their pasts into their physical reality. It stars Kiefer Sutherland (Lost Boys), Kevin Bacon (Friday The 13th), Julia Roberts (Erin Brockavich), Oliver Platt (X-Men; First Class), and William Baldwin (Backdraft). This is my favorite film Schumacher ever made and his best looking one. He was backed up by cinematographer Jan De Bont, production designer Eugenio Zanetti, and set decorator Anne Kuljian and together they created a very cool, very alive, stylish film that had touches of gothic horror, crime noir, scenes straight out of a comic book, and washed in lighting that almost rivals some of DePalma's or Argento's work.

Flatliners was one of those films that I watched repeatedly on cable and also rented a fair number of Silence Of The Lambs had ridden in on the wave of slick adult horror *cough cough* THRILLERS, like Jacob's Ladder. Despite the genre label, Flatliners had a fair amount in common with Frankenstein and dealt with some very heavy spiritual issues. Regardless of what it was called, the important thing is that it's a smart, well made movie that offers a very satisfying experience. It has strong characters, some decent scares, high re-watchability, and ultimately a decent pay off. Schumacher had already proven to be an adept film maker with a good eye. Tonally his films were pleasing, even if they weren't always my thing. The last film of his I enjoyed was the every-man-at-the-end-of-his-rope hit Falling Down, starring Michael Douglas and Robert Duvall.
times. It came out after the 80s slasher boom had run out of steam and with the run away success of

Schumacher would betray me though. Stab me in the heart through my back even, when he made the shit-tastic Batman and Robin and Batman Forever. Yes, stellar set design, amazing lighting, yes, yes. But. There is not one other good thing to be said about these films. At all. From the casting on these films were utter mistakes, culturally tone deaf, and killed Batman in the cinema for years. Schumacher wanted to do a wild, campy, fun take on The Dark Knight that combined the feel of the two previous Burton films, with the colorful world of the 60s TV show. As far as I'm concerned, the Burton films were already a big step in the wrong direction and Schumacher just wheeled the whole franchise off a cliff. It wasn't because Batman had landed in the hands of a bad director, it was because a good director didn't respect the character enough-or perhaps have enough faith in the character to further his career in a notable way, so he decided to have fun and collect his check.

Returning to Flatliners after so many years really made me sad for what could have been. Take the
film and imagine Chicago as Gotham City (Nolan shot his DK trilogy there). Think about the themes and techniques Schumacher employed; there's touches of horror, science fiction, action, mystery, redemption, fear, heroism...If you change the plot to fit a Batman story, Joel Schumacher would have defined the character for a generation or more. It could have been a small, claustrophobic, mystery that took the character seriously, while embracing all the elements of the comic (the other-wordly, sci-fi, super human aspects) that Nolan flat out ignored. Ras Al Ghul could be hundreds of years old in that version, instead of just a man, you could imagine gods and monsters coming out of the wood work, and even an alien savior. Baldwin would have made a good Batman/Bruce Wayne. Sutherland could have pulled off a Joker to rival Ledger's performance, Roberts would have been a far more comic accurate Vicky Vale, Bacon would slay as Scarecrow, and Platt would have been a great Penguin.

I love Nolan's films, but while they are top notch Nolan films, they're only so-so Batman films, because he doesn't embrace the of the levels of the character. Which is where Burton and Schumacher fail as well. They only adapt Batman at a surface level and never dig into the depths of what makes the character so weird, and fun, and dark, and scary, and absurd. Did Snyder capture any or all of that in the new DC cinematic universe? I think we have to wait for Justice League to really judge. I have high hopes and really like Affleck as Bats. What's even more exciting is the fact that Matt Reeves will helm the solo Batman film and I base my excitement solely on Let Me In, which isn't just a great remake, but a great film in it's own right. He gets characters, atmosphere, and horror, in much the same way Schumacher did with Flatliners.