Posts Tagged ‘Batman

06
Mar
09

The Punisher: War Zone Review

He is all out of bubblegum.

He is all out of bubblegum.

2008 was, without a doubt, the year of the comic book movie.  Along side the earth shattering success of The Dark Knight, there was the surprisingly impressive Hulk movie, and the Robert Downey Jr. resurrection machine known as Iron Man.  Both turned out to be great movies in their own right, with the Hulk finally getting the balance between the rage fueled violence and the plight of the scientist with a curse right, and with Iron Man, where Downey Jr. literally transformed himself into a living, breathing Tony Stark.

So then why didn’t anyone pay any attention to Punisher War Zone?  Maybe it was because the 2004 entry was almost universally panned for being quite atrocious.  Maybe because it didn’t have anywhere near the hype and media coverage that the big three got.  Maybe because it’s R rated (and let me tell you, its earns ALL of that R rating and then some).  Maybe it’s because the plot concerning an ex-military mans family being slaughtered because they witnessed a mob killing is just to grim for most audiences.  Whatever the reason, it’s truly a damn shame, because against what seemed like all odds, the old adage of “third times a charm” came shining through, and Frank Castle finally get his long overdue opus on the silver screen.

The Punisher to me, always seemed like the safest and easiest bet of all the Marvel heroes to turn into a feature film.  There’s no expensive CGI and complicated suits to create.  There’s no interplanetary or ridiculously complex scientific origin to the hero.  His appearance is just that of a middle-aged tired and emotionally distraught Italian male.  And he actually doesn’t even has superpowers, his is just an incredibly driven, superlatively trained warrior who occupies the gray area in between the good and evil of society.  Aside from some more intimate and provoking undertones that go on within The Punishers own conscious, his main method of entertaining comic books fans was plowing his way as violently as possible through droves of street thugs, gangsters, and criminals.  It’s at about this time your probably recognizing how male orientated this comic series was.  It seems like every male action junkies fantasy, to be this near suicidal, empty shell of a man who can just kill with absolute impunity.  Yet, in a strange twist, it took a woman to get this story right.

The Punisher can kill a man with a chair.  That's hardcore.

The Punisher can kill a man with a chair. That's hardcore.

Director Lexi Alexanders’ command of the visual style and pacing of this movie is probably the most immediate and impressive of the taunting hurdles she had to overcome to create such an exceptionally accurate representation of The Punisher as it is presented in the comics.  The Punisher is a man of action, a man of finality, in his world there are three colors, Black (evil), White (good), and Red (Blood and Justice).  Lexi encapsulates that beautifully, knowing exactly when to allow the story play out a bit, and maybe let the characters get a little introspective, and when to crank it up to 11 by unleashing the Punisher without any hesitation or restriction.  Combining those strengths, with a keen eye for lighting, to give everything  that grimy, almost mafia look, and some dynamite performances and well thought out actions set pieces and you have a recipe for success.

But while Lexi may have created quite the landscape for a vigilante superhero with an uncanny talent for dealing death, it would be nothing if there weren’t solid actors to bring the persona’s off the pages of the comics.  Everyone, let me introduce to Ray Stevenson.  This guy is a presence on screen, I liken him to Gerald Butler, who completely stole the show in every scene he was in in 300.  His somber and weathered face and flat voice was a perfect fit for bringing to life the near emotionless Frank Castle.  He wasn’t just a revelation because he accurately portrayed a comic book character, he was a revelation because he acted his fucking ass off, and bridged the gap between inflated, comically quirky superheroes, and three-dimensional characters who seem to live and breath in an incredibly believable manner.

Jigsaw.

Jigsaw.

Surrounding him is a ensemble cast that includes Julie Benz (RAMBO, Dexter TV show), Dominic West (The Wire TV show), and Wayne Knight (Seinfeld and Jurassic Park).  They all fit the bill perfectly, and bring the kind of subtle, validating emotions to the screen, while still being incredibly fun to marvel (pun intended) at due to their fan service nature and faithful reproduction on screen.

Technically speaking, the audio is superb, with the score being allowed to creep into the forefront at just the right moments to give more emotional resonance and weight to a particular scene.  Also, every gunshot, shell casing, bullet wound, lost limb, and blown up body is accounted for, with satisfyingly loud, deep, and visceral sound effects.  As previously mentioned, the lighting is a perfect blend of realistic city environments, and heavily stylized colorful comic book cities.  The camera also always seems to be in the right place, never wearing out its welcome by using too many gimmicks or by sitting around like a seemingly uninterested bystander.  It moves with the pace of the action, and always gives a great glimpse of what is happening.

Heavy Handed for those uninitiated in Punisher lore, but this is as fitting a message to go out on as any.

Heavy Handed for those uninitiated in Punisher lore, but this is as fitting a message to go out on as any.

The Punisher, is my humble opinion, is better than the Hulk movie, and right up there with Iron Man as far as 2008 comic book movies are concerned, with the The Dark Knight being the obvious number 1.   This is an incredibly faithful, stunningly grisly, and frighteningly accurate depiction of everything that is great about the character Marvel fans seem to forget about the most in The Punisher.  The acting is simply spot on, only once or twice spilling into hammy territory.  The look and feel is wonderful without being overbearing.  It sounds like a dream John Woo had, and it moves quickly, avoiding all those slippery little chasms where character exposition and plot development can lead to mind-numbing boredom and frustration.

The birth of the alternative comic book movie is upon us, and I for one am eagerly awaiting whats next.

Get out of my way, punk.

Get out of my way, punk

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21
Dec
08

My Favorite Christmas Flicks

Christmas is a time of giving.  Unfortunately,  fans of darker, more alternative cinema usually get nothing in the way of movies geared towards there interests. So for all of you out there who think Santa should be more like this:

gothsantaOR THIS:

hailsanta

Here are my suggestions for a few holiday films that should satisfy both your desire to get into the “spirit” of the season, and your unquenchable lust to see blood split.

santasslaySanta’s Slay is every bit as silly and wild as it’s title and casting (Ex-Wrestler Bill Goldberg stars as Santa) suggests, but despite being a movie i laughed at when I first heard about it, I was pleasantly surprised at how entertaining it was.  Plus, it starts off with one of the best scenes in cinematic history.

And if that’s not enough reason to watch this movie, I just don’t know what is.

batman_returns_ver41

Batman Returns, the last Batman movie to be directed by Tim Burton, is kind of like a superhero, Christmas themed acid trip.  Along with a lot of maiming, killing, and a terrific role by Christopher Walken, people often forget that Gotham city is heavily entrenched in the Winter season during the film, making it the perfect movie for all you comic books fans to turn on while remaining in the holiday spirit.

Samuel L. Jackson's Christmas Motherfuckin' Special Motherfuckers.

Samuel L. Jackson's Christmas Motherfuckin' Special Motherfuckers.

The Long Kiss Goodnight, directed by the criminally underrated Renny Harlin (who also directed Die hard 2, which pops up on this list as well) is a great little action movie taking place around Christmas.  The whole movie is full of winter scenes, and of course, the awesomeness that is any word Samuel Jackson speaks.  A great flick in it’s own right, made appropriate for this list by the time of year in which it takes place.

Fucking Terrible...but so much fun.

Fucking Terrible...but so much fun.

It had to be done.  A Killer, Mutant Snowman movie.  Words can’t describe how terrible this movie is.  But, if you have friends with a high tolerance for garbage, a great sense of humor, and lots of alcohol and/or illegal drugs, this movie can be really really fun.  Shannon Elizabeth is in it, and she is “raped” by the snowman.  How can you not watch?

Remember when Mel Gibson was the fucking man?  I do.

Remember when Mel Gibson was the fucking man? I do.

Another 80’s action classic, taking place mostly on Christmas Eve and Christmas day.  This one really put the “buddy-cop” movies on the map, fusing intense, over the top action with quality, mostly conversational humor.  Add a Christmas theme to the proceedings and you got yourself another violent winter classic.

Poor Ol' John McClain can't even enjoy Christmas without having to waste some Jerkoffs and Scumbags.

Poor Ol' John McClain can't even enjoy Christmas without having to waste some Jerk offs and Scumbags.

John McClain has a second run in with some terrorists dirt bags in Die Hard 2, this time in the form of William Saddler, character actor extraordinaire.  Die Hard 2 is universally seen as the only weak link in the “quadrilogy”, but it’s still a perfectly serviceable late night Christmas action romp.  Plus Dennis Franz is in it, and he kind of looks like Santa anyway.

Holy shit.  That's so cute I just want to squeeze it.

Holy shit. That's so cute I just want to squeeze it.

Gremlins is one of the best, and only true, Christmas time creature feature movies.  Made back in the golden age of puppets and robot controlled dolls, Gremlins isn’t tainted by shoddy computer graphics or green screen trickery.  It’s an old fashioned mini-monster movie made the way they should all be made, with convincing puppets and prosthetic effects that give you something tangible to fear, or love in the case of Gizmo.  And like most 80’s movies, this one has some truly dark and scary moments, making it perfect for younger audiences and adults.  Long live the Mogwai.

yippee kiya mother fucker.  Merry Christmas.

yippee kiya mother fucker. Merry Christmas.

Die Hard is not only the holy grail of “one man army” action movies, it’s also one of the best Christmas movies ever made.  John McClain’s wise ass comments, the perfect “radio only” sidekick in Ellis, a tremendously devious villain in Gruber, and a supporting cast chock full of talent.  Add to the mix a phenomenal pace, some of the most impressive action scenes to date, and a not one, but two, finales and you have yourself the perfect action movie.  Oh yeah, and it all takes place around Christmas, complete with a Christmas music credit scene.  Truly a gift of a movie.

That’s it for this years edition of my personal Christmas movie favorites.  Hopefully some of these selections will help ease the pain of having to see another Hallmark Christmas special starring Tony Danza on your TV.
Oh yeah, I almost forgot to share this gift.  It’s some power metal band who wrote a Christmas song about how Frosty and Rudolph never liked each other.  It’s really funny, and actually pretty well done.