Category Archives: Film

The Icon

I have a half written piece sitting on my desktop that was supposed to be finished and published today, but yesterday something more important happened. Frank Frazetta died of a stroke at age 82; nearly a year after his wife, Ellie, died battling cancer. I mention the death of his wife for two reasons. The first is to address the reports that since the death of his wife, Frazetta had slowly been slipping away. The other, and more important, is that all of Frank Frazetta’s fans know how important Ellie was to his work. Frazetta, unlike his contemporaries, portrayed women as strong, capable beings and often attributed his admiration for them to his wife. I typically don’t like to get too philosophical on here, but that relationship strikes me as something to strive for. A passionate artist whose passion is derived from those he loves.

It is truly difficult for me to explain the importance of Frank Frazetta to all of Science Fiction/Fantasy, so I’ll keep it simple. Frank Frazetta was a story teller. Through his paintings and drawings, he conveyed more motion and emotion than most film makers or actors ever can. Frank Frazetta is one of the reasons I am writing this now. Though I now seek to write stories, I first sought to illustrate them. Long before I knew about Jack Kirby or Steranko, I knew about Frank Frazetta. It is Frank Frazetta that gave us visions of Tarzan and Conan, of John Carter and of Dracula. It is Frazetta that first brought many of our imaginations to life.

His powerful women, his enchanting heroes and his grotesque monsters. Anyone who draws (or writes for that matter) should wish to be as good as Frank Frazetta. They won’t be.

-Vinny

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Panels and Screens

This Friday, Iron Man 2 will begin showing in thousands of movie theaters across the U.S. and will continue its run abroad. This installment may be the 2nd of this specific series, but it actually the 3rd in what will be a 6 film Marvel Universe series by 2013. These plans have existed since the early stages of Iron Man’s development and are part of Disney/Marvel’s plan to dominate the genre in film. Though it is yet unconfirmed, recent reports also indicate that the upcoming Batman, Green Lantern and Superman films (all of which to also be released by 2013) may follow suit, creating a film DC Universe as well. There are two questions that must be addressed. First, is it possible to create such a universe and have it be cohesive enough to function and second, is it a good idea to create such a universe. I admit, this won’t be based on much information, just speculation, but if there is any type of story I have a firm grasp on, it’s these. That said, LET THE SPECULATIOOOOON BEGIN!

So, in the first 2 films in the Marvel Universe series (Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk), the following seeds of this film universe were planted:

  1. Both films made heavy references to the existence of “super” tech in World War II, in the Hulk film, they even acknowledge the super-soldier program which Captain America would have come out of.
  2. Both films acknowledge the existence of S.H.I.E.L.D., who, in this universe, are seeking out super heroes for an “Avengers Initiative” which is named specifically in Iron Man.
  3. Nick Fury briefly acknowledges that there are other superheroes in the world in Iron Man.
  4. The military uses Stark technology to fight the Hulk.

Though it does not seem like much, points 1 and 2 will serve to unify both the existing and future stories, and admit to a world that is not our own. This hopefully will reach the audience as this admittance is essential to any expansion of these ideas, the expansion that will likely happen in The Avengers film scheduled for 2012.

DC is a lot rougher, the 2 Batman films which would potentially be part of this continuity were not written with other films in mind. That said, there are some thematic elements that a writer could exploit. The aforementioned super tech exists in the Batman films, and has been used by hero and villain alike. You could always say that Luthor had been competing with Wayne or that Batman got his new Bat-Wing from Ferris aircraft. It’s not much, but it is something. Additionally, the transition from traditional crime to “super crime” has already occurred, Gotham has at least 2, though some claim 3, super villains alive and active. A writer could easily make Batman the first public superhero and therefore spin the occurrences in Gotham into a global phenomenon.

While both of these universes seem feasible, there seems to be one character in each that will be a challenge. Marvel’s basic continuity at this time revolves almost exclusively around military technology. This has already worked for Iron Man and Hulk, and is tailor-made for the upcoming Captain America film. With Thor…not so much. It should be very interesting to see how they intend to present a story of hammers and sorcery, and then ask the general public to accept him fighting along side a human jet and a super soldier. DC’s problem is Batman. As acknowledged before, the first 2 films were not written with any acknowledgement of a bigger universe. More importantly, it is going to be very hard to convince the audience that Batman can exist with Superman across the country, not to mention The Green Lantern, The Flash and Ambush Bug…nobody? It might even take a direct explanation, like Batman being all angry and not wanting Superman in HIS city. Regardless of method, it has to be addressed.

Okay, now that we’ve gotten obsessed with thinking if we could, let’s slow down and think about if we should. Movies are very restrictive for comic book characters. Not only does the origin need to be told before moving on, but time restrictions have a huge impact on the stories that can be told. The best example of this is The Dark Knight. Even at a running time of just over 2 and a half hours, the film barely squeezes in what would be a standard comic book story arc. This has a lot to do with how comic book stories are structured. Instead of a standard 3 acts, comics have multiple, escalating climaxes. This forced the writers of The Dark Knight to give the film a frantic pace, one that I am sure would not work with a lesser director. Not only this, but as my friend Bob has pointed out, the story they are able to tell is pretty mundane as far as most comics are concerned. The reason I explained this structure is because when you are creating a film universe, you are implying that the types of stories executed in comics will now be executed in film. The problem I see with this is that comic books allow for the character to develop on there own over long periods of time. Rushing them into encounters with other leads may not allow for this development and ultimately leave the character in a sort of weakened state (yeah, I just called Hollywood a bunch supervillans who steal powers). Part of the reason the comic book Batman can stand next to the comic book Superman is because he is such a strong, well developed character. The powers of Superman do not detract from what that media’s audience already knows about Batman. Though there are plenty of people who do not need justification, either out of indifference or knowledge of the source material, it may not be responsible story telling to throw Captain America in with Thor the second time you see either of them.

Regardless of how this all ends up, I have faith the journey will be fun. A lot of very talented people are working on all of these films and I will certainly get to see some moments I have been imagining in my head since I was 8. Please share your thoughts on this topic. This entry was originally intended to be much shorter, but I didn’t realize how much thought I had already put into it. Oh well.

I am Iron Man,

Vinny

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Return To Chaos

I’ve been exhausted. After over a year of working a job I don’t care for, but should be thankful to have, and working on sketches that have yet to be posted anywhere, I have decided to return here. I respect my co-workers, but they typically have the most boring conversations in the world and I need to vent about more interesting issues. That said, I never really left intentionally; I got caught up in other projects and my aforementioned job. Time moves too quickly these days. Though I’ll be back here on a consistent basis, Alex will be working on his blog over at Mancouch because they actually pay him. This may end up on there as well, but that’s not important at the moment.

So, it’s been a year, there is much to talk about. Let us pray.

  1. Inglorious Basterds– sucked. I have never in my entire life of watching pretentious movies seen a movie worse than this. The constant thought streaming through my mind as I watched Nazis, American GIs and French folk sit at tables speaking incessantly was that someone forgot to remind Tarantino that second drafts are not only customary, but a great way to remove unnecessary dialogue and details. I understand that quick dialogue and style over substance are Tarantino’s trademarks (I do own and enjoy the majority of his work) but this film merely impersonated style. When a movie is at least in part supposed to be about a group of Nazi murdering Jewish-American misfits, I would have liked to see them do something, instead of being told about it in passing. That and its ridiculous juxtaposition to what should have been a heart wrenching story of the Nazi occupation of France exemplify the film’s greatest failure: tone. I would have liked to have seen the rip roaring adventure portrayed in the trailers. I didn’t. I would have liked to have seen a drama about the occupation of France. I almost did, but Brad Pitt doing an irritating accent interrupted it constantly. Ultimately, what I ended up seeing was about 5 characters over what felt like 6 hours, none of whom I gave half a shit about. This was capped of by an awkward revenge fantasy where the guy who directed Cabin Fever was crying and had a punch-gun. Actually, the punch-gun was one of the few things I liked. I know at least half of the people reading this disagree with me, and were pulling hard for the Oscar, but I can’t fathom it. I try to be even-handed with things like this but holy shit, Inglorious Basterds was horrible. Seriously, this is the first time I don’t even want to hear a counter argument. I know that is bad form for a blog like this, but really, I get extremely agitated thinking about this movie. It was shit; it hurts my brain that people liked it. And you can’t be mad anyway, Kathryn Bigelow won! SUCK IT JAMES…sorry, I really liked The Hurt Locker. Speaking of James…
  2. Avatar: The Highest Grossing Film of All Time- Haha, that giant cat just threw a six foot long spear.
  3. Frank Turner- put out my favorite album of last year, Poetry of the Deed. This, and much of Turner’s other work, exposes the insecurities of those who call themselves artists and the emotions of realizing that your punk rock rebellion is not what it once was when you were 16. All this without surrendering to the ridiculous idea that it was never worth it. For those of us who begin to doubt our dreams, Turner will remind you that Punk Rock can still save your life.
  4. Lady GaGa- yes, Lady GaGa. I don’t love her records, some of them I down right despise, but she represents something good. It is nice to see a figure in pop that survives on basic, radio friendly music and makes headlines by having fun with her fame. In a media that now thinks that Green Day have had some sort of important social impact and should be hailed for their political views, I turn to Lady GaGa to save our youth. I think we would all love to be famous and stay that way by messing with people who don’t get the joke. I get the joke Stefani, please don’t stop.
  5. Wisconsin- I recently went to Wisconsin. Spring Green specifically. *SPRING GREEN IN THE HOOOOOUSE*. Sorry. So anyway, on our nearly four hour drive to Spring Green, I discovered that I really had no idea what farms looked like. I mean, there was nothing out there.  We went through Madison, the capitol, and it looked less populated than Paramus, New Jersey. And I’m not insulting Wisconsin, the people were nice and the food was good, but holy shit, I could never live there. Plus, I was kind of scared that I was going to have to fight off a family of cannibals.

Okay, that’s enough for now. I promise something more well conceived next time; I’m just getting back into rhythm.

Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition.

-Vinny

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Filed under Announcements, Film, Music

Infinite, Round Table – Vol.1

Hey kids

In my continued effort to bring valuable work to this blog while juggling my other responsibilities, I failed to produce a full entry this week. I’m about half way through my first draft and it looks like it is going to work out, but due to the complexity of the topic, its going to take me a few more days to get to a draft I’m comfortable publishing. I take what I post on here very seriously and would not want to rush a piece to make a deadline that isn’t there. I can promise that this piece will be something very special and unique, and I hope the wait is worth it. That said,  I had an idea at the beginning of this that didn’t quite work because literally no one was reading it (sometimes logic escapes me), but I believe we have the readership (and the quality of readership) to start posing questions to you.

So, here’s topic #1:

When adapting an existing story, should the adaptation’s reverence to the source material have a direct relationship to the current popularity and relevance of the work?

Vinny’s Thoughts:

I believe that it is fair to modify less popular and/or relevant narratives more radically than those that have maintained their place. Many characters who previously had little importance have been saved through that method. However, those are rare cases and do not make up the majority of  adaptations. There is rarely a valid reason to adapt anything that is not relevant in the first place. Additionally, I am often disturbed by Hollywood’s penchant for praising a story, buying the rights to make a feature film of it and then telling a totally different story in the film.  Aside from the task of reinvigorating a dying property, which typically is more of a business decision anyway, the question really should be whether something is worth adapting in the first place.

Okay, your turn.

-Vinny

Vinny’s Unrelated Video of the week

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Letters to the Internet

Dear Chaos Collage,

I’m so sorry I have neglected you for this long, but I simply could not find the time to write between my job, the fiction piece I am currently working on and the four hours of Street Fighter IV I play per day. Since we have so much to talk about I will do my best to keep this entry well organized and to the point, much like the wonderful entertainment section in my local newspaper.

I. Television

With Batman: The Brave and The Bold on mid season hiatus and new episodes of Battlestar Galactica a thing of the past, I have not been paying much attention to episodic fiction recently. What I have been watching (aside from wrestling) is the wonderful “reality” based programming on Spike TV. This includes such shows as Vice Cops Uncut (which is of course very cut), DEA and the new king of Discovery Channel style investigation, Deadliest Warrior. What historical investigation could be more satisfying than one focused on how adept different warriors from different eras would be at killing each other. Have you ever wondered how a Viking would fair against a Samurai? Me too! Finally, we have a resource to find out! What a relief.

II. Movies

…So, Drag Me to Hell comes out in May. Okay, so we aren’t in 2008 anymore and things have slowed down. I guess that writer’s strike finally hit cinemas. The aggravatingly disappointing Watchmen came as quite a downer, probably the first film I was truly disappointed with since before the release of Iron Man. Aside from a couple of decent comedies, it looks like things won’t be picking back up until the edge of June with Sam Raimi’s return to horror Drag Me To Hell. From there we have numerous films to look forward to such as Michael Mann’s Public Enemies, JJ Abrams’ Star Trek and Quentin Tarantino’s long awaited Inglorious Basterds (I know how to spell, that’s just the name of the movie). With these films on the horizon and promises of Iron Man II, Green Lantern and Stallone’s The Expendables for 2010, I’m sure we can make it through The Revenge of the Fallen and The Rise of Cobra. In order to keep hope alive, I will provide a trailer to watch and enjoy.

III. Those Comic Books that rot your brain and/or turn you into a Commie.

Bruce Wayne is gone and it is all Grant Morrison’s fault. He’s not dead though, just gone for the time being. I will not spoil  his replacement for the following reasons A) I think this story will be better if its integrity is kept intact and B) I have no idea who his replacement will be. What I do know, without ruining it for the TPB crowd, is it seems like it won’t be Tim. On the other side of the DCU, the lead-up to Blackest Night is picking up and boy does it look like its going to be good. Geoff Johns’ events lack the rarely deserved self importance of Mark Millar’s or the progressively less satisfying introspection of Bendis’ big story work. Both Morrison and Johns posses the rare ability to not only create inventive plots for beloved characters, but to distill what made us love them in the first place. It is this difference that has defined the best of DC in recent months. That said, Marvel has perhaps the 3rd best writer for this, Ed Brubaker. Both Daredevil and Captain America have rarely missed a beat since his run began and the stories are far from small.  On the Mighty Marvel side, Norman Osborn has taken control of the United States and things are not pretty. I mean this in both a philosophical and editorial sense. Yes, great books that deal directly with the issue are coming out (Thunderbolts being the strongest at the moment, though I have a soft spot for the in-continuity Punisher) but there are way too many stunt books or books that are becoming stunt books (Bad Avengers, sorry I meant Dark Avengers, Mighty Avengers, New Avengers, Avengers: The Initiative, Dead Avengers, X-Avengers, Bad X-Avengers, X-Forcevengers, The Secret Avenger-Defenders, The Force Works Avengers, Two-Gun Kid and His Westvengers, Iron Man and The Reb-Bot Avengers, Rick Jones’ Rockin Avengers and of course Kevin Smith’s Late Avengers Annual). Okay, I made most of those up, but you get my point. Yes, events are made to be exploited but when you can’t even keep continuity between books referring to the same events, you really need to slow down. Take that sales department! On a happier note, all three of the IDW GI Joe books are a lot of fun and should counter act the damage the upcoming film may do to my brain. Dynamite’s current licensed properties and Ennis’ The Boys are still kicking monthly.

IV. Rasslin’

WWE’s Wrestlemania was worse than the next night’s Raw, TNA is a joke and ROH appears to be rotting from the inside. I unfortunately have very little to say aside from that. I am seriously disappointed in both the E and TNA’s inability to create great product with fantastic rosters. In happier news, it looks like there will be a new Hart Foundation on ECW.

V. Music

Typically I isolate an aspect of music or the music industry through an artistic lens, but for this entry I figured being more practical would be better. What I would like to note is the amazing amount and quality of live music hitting the New York/ New Jersey Area in the next few months. Aside from the big guns like Bruce Springsteen and Elvis Costello hitting the road, the area (which is the home of both writers on this blog) will also be hosting such acts as Jenny Lewis (Music Hall of Williamsburg, June 9th), The Get Up Kids (Blender Theater, May 1st) on their reunion tour and hometown boys done good, The Hold Steady (Bowery Ballroom, June 8th & 9th-Music Hall of Williamsburg, June 10th and 11th). Even Green Day will be playing a theater show this spring (no, I don’t know when and I can’t get you tickets). In addition to these exciting travelin’ troubadours, local act The Neutron Drivers will be hitting the Big Apple’s famed Knitting Factory on April 30th. I hear there’s even a free sandwich and cheap beer for the die-hard early crowd.

Well, that’s it for now. Hopefully I will come up with some amazing insight for my next piece.

Love,

Vinny

Vinny’s Unrelated Video Post of the Week!

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