Empty Balcony: Officer Downe

Not all comic book adaptations feature superheroes and supervillains chasing down the one mysterious MacGuffin that can either save or destroy the universe. Sometimes, all a comic book hero wants to do is clean up the streets of the big city.

Part Robocop, part drive-in homage, and part splatterfest, Officer Downe is the cinematic adaptation of the comic of the same name from writer Joe Casey and artist Chris Burnham. Casey also penned the screenplay for Officer Downe, while directing duties were handled by Shawn Crahan. If that name is familiar to some of the Loyal Seven readers, that’s because Crahan’s day job is as a member of heavy metal group Slipknot. Other members of the band get in on the fun as extras and minor characters. Continue readingEmpty Balcony: Officer Downe”

Empty Balcony: Atomic Blonde

Atomic Blonde is an aggressive title for a movie. By that, I mean it’s the type of title that can make a viewer immediately prejudge a film. I’m guilty of that. My expectations going into this film were that, at best, it would be a mildly entertaining, yet brainless, action flick. I was hoping for a shitty film, but was prepared for a just a plain old bad one. But, just as one shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, the same applies to film titles. Continue readingEmpty Balcony: Atomic Blonde”

Stallone Month: Judge Dredd

Judge Dredd, the comic sprung from the minds of writers John Wagner and Alan Grant, has perhaps the most fully realized fictional universe in all of human storytelling. Every week since the late 1970s, with only a single exception, an issue of 2000 AD has been published with a Judge Dredd story inside. Since that time, the titular Judge Dredd and supporting characters have aged along with the rest of us, and the universe has retained the same continuity. Meanwhile, Judge Dredd’s superhero competitors retcon their universes ever time their sales need a punch up. DC recently carried out its 2nd reboot in five years. Continue readingStallone Month: Judge Dredd”

October Horrorshow: Constantine, Rhymes with Tangerine

Back in 1993, DC Comics, under the direction of editor Karen Berger, took six of its mature readers titles and placed them under a new imprint — Vertigo. The Sandman, Swamp Thing, Doom Patrol (after a legendary run by writer Grant Morrison), Animal Man, Shade the Changing Man, and Hellblazer (featuring John Constantine, rhymes with clementine) were titles that had grown beyond the core superhero titles of DC’s lineup. Berger had been responsible for much of this, bringing aboard creative talent which would have been wasted penning yet another year-long superhero crossover designed to simplify DC’s bloated continuity, or spending day after day drawing just the right amount of ripples in Superman’s abs. Continue readingOctober Horrorshow: Constantine, Rhymes with Tangerine”

The Empty Balcony: Guardians of the Galaxy

Guardians of the GalaxyI think I may have seen too many movies. That’s the only reason I can think of to explain why I did not like Guardians of the Galaxy, Marvel Studios’ 2014 money machine. It hit all the right notes when it comes to action, pacing, and story. It kept things simple, avoiding all pretension, and at no point did it strive to be something greater than it was. But...

I think the movie showed a profound disrespect for its audience. Big action movies aren’t just simple anymore. Rather, they have been simplified, stripped of any sort of nuance or individuality in the pursuit of massive box office receipts. There is nothing inherently wrong in trying to maximize profit. But what it does mean is that, in seeing a movie like this, no viewer can expect anything beyond superficial uniqueness. There are new stories out there. But new stories require an entrepreneurial spirit that Hollywood is currently anathema to. It’s hard to explain how much the studio system has changed in a generation, so I’ll just give this example: Taxi Driver was a Hollywood studio film. That’s right. Taxi Driver. A film featuring a violent psychopath, who develops a crush on an underage hooker, as a protagonist. These days, the talents of that film’s young director, Martin Scorcese, would be steered into projects that are designed from the very beginning to be sanitized versions of past successes. Continue readingThe Empty Balcony: Guardians of the Galaxy”

Schwarzenegger Month: Batman & Robin

Ah, Batman & Robin, the movie that killed the Batman film franchise. I get it. After the Batman comic books took on a darker tone in the late ’80s, it was only natural that the new films that began with Tim Burton’s Batman would become more serious and less campy. Batman, his character and his fictional world, had changed. I also get what the director of this film, Joel Schumacher, was trying to do. He understood the character of Batman from a different era. When he chose to craft a Batman movie he chose to do so in the form of a costume ball. Bright colors, festive music, outrageous outfits — its participants are all out for a wonderful night on the town, and all seem to be in on the joke. This was the Batman from the comics, just not the right Batman comics. Continue readingSchwarzenegger Month: Batman & Robin”

The Foam Rubber Wholesalers Convention

Christopher Nolan has wrapped up his epic interpretation of the Batman saga, and the viewing public has benefited greatly. After two of the most epic and well-made superhero films of all time, and fine films in their own right, the tale comes to an end this summer. Nolan, and his screenwriter brother Jonathan, should be credited with legitimizing and dragging into believability an aged franchise that at times wears its history and legacy as a seventy-year-old burden. Continue reading “The Foam Rubber Wholesalers Convention”

The Empty Balcony: The Avengers, or, the War of the MacGuffin

Dictionary.com defines MacGuffin as “an object or event in a book or film that serves as the impetus for the plot.” Wikipedia goes further, defining it as “a plot device in the form of some goal, desired object, or other motivator that the protagonist (and sometimes the antagonist) is willing to do and sacrifice almost anything to pursue, often with little or no narrative explanation as to why it is considered so desirable (emphasis added).” Alfred Hitchcock is credited with popularizing the term in the movie industry, employing it himself, even turning Cary Grant into a MacGuffin in North by Northwest. Continue readingThe Empty Balcony: The Avengers, or, the War of the MacGuffin”

October Horrorshow, Retroactive: 30 Days of Night

The film 30 Days of Night, adapted from the popular graphic novel, was marketed as a modern update on classical vampires. A break from pattern, these creatures of the night were more fearsome, more violent, more bloodthirsty, than any that had been onscreen before. Indeed, the vampires of 30 Days of Night are not Anne Rice’s cultured charmers, nor are they the stealthy apparitions of Bram Stoker, although their physical appearance pays homage to the Dracula of the classic film Nosferatu. Continue readingOctober Horrorshow, Retroactive: 30 Days of Night”