Swamp Thing Season 1

Cool - if you want to take a look at the Swamp Thing series, you don't have to buy the whole DVD. You can purchase the episodes one at a time from Amazon. Trailer below.


Swamp Thing (1982) mini review

based on a comic

With the series being released on DVD this past week, I thought I might post reviews of the original movies.

I always forget how much I enjoy Swamp Thing. It's goofy, but the film embraces that goofiness and becomes a modern "B" monster movie. Starring B-movie queen Adrienne Barbeau (Creepshow), this film is based on the DC comic by the same name. (Barbeau also voiced Catwoman in the original Batman Animated Series.) Dr. Alec Holland (Ray Wise, currently the Devil in CW's Reaper) is working in the swamps, attempting to mix plant and animal DNA. Just as Alice Cable (Barbeau) arrives on the scene, he stumbles onto an amazing, explosive formula. As it would happen, the evil Dr. Arcane arrives at the same time, capturing Holland, Cable, and the formula. Holland attempts to escape with the formula, and in the chaos that ensues, drops the formula, which explodes, setting fire to his lab. Engulfed in flames, Holland runs into the swamps, apparently to his death. He re-emerges from the swamp, however, as Swamp Thing.

I don't think this film (directed by Wes Craven, incidentally) is intended to be taken completely seriously, and if you can take that into consideration, it is completely enjoyable. Barbeau plays the love interest well; Louis Jordan is completely comfortable as the obsessed villain, Arcane; Nicholas Worth (Darkman, Barb Wire) plays to type as the stereotypical henchman; and even Dick Durock takes a good turn as the pitiable monster.

See it if you can relax your standards a bit and just enjoy a modern monster movie.

Don't see it if you're expecting a a darker, more serious comic to be adapted in same form.


Largo Winch

Wow - it's shaping up to be a big year for French-language comics translated into film, and Google Translate is getting a workout on my computer (ok, I've forgotten the 3 years of French I had in high school and college). First it's the next Asterix movie in January, then the XIII: The Conspiracy translation of the Belgian comic, and now, another Belgian comic comes to the big screen - Largo Winch.

Actually, this is the first I'd heard of the comic - apparently, the comics debuted in 1990 (originally based on a failed series of novels from the 70s). Largo Winch was born in Yugoslavia, was orphaned at two, and adopted by a billionaire business owner to be his heir. From what I can tell from translating the main Largo Winch page (from French) and reading the (rather brief) Wikipedia entry, the comics follow Winch through his adventures protecting himself and his company from those that are after him and his money.

Comics2Film recently posted the debut of the teaser trailer (which led me down this research trail). It looks pretty good, and is slated for release this year on December 17. In France. I can't seem to find when it will be released in any other markets. So, here's to seeing Largo Winch on DVD sometime in 2009.

Oh; I've also posted the link to the production blog and main page to the right in it's original form. Here's the translation via Google Translate.


Dark Avenger (1990) mini review

superhero film not based on a comic

Throw in 3 parts Batman (vigilante dressed in dark, using high tech gadgets, keeping an eye on the local insane asylum), 2 parts Darkman (scarred vigilante dressed in black hat and trenchcoat), and you've got the TV movie Dark Avenger (released the same year as Darkman).

In Dark Avenger, a judge (Leigh Lawson) is scarred by a police captain (Hector Elizondo), who is in cahoots with the local Commissioner (Robert Vaughn). Believed to be dead, the judge puts on a mask and leads the life of a vigilante.

While it seems like the filmmakers attempted to make a noirish vigilante film with some interesting cinematography and editing, the movie can't be saved from bad writing, terrible acting, and worse directing. I should have realized it was made for television when I saw the opening credits that looked like they were made on someone's PC. In its defense, I guess, it kept me interested enough to not want to keep fast forwarding through it, but I won't be recommending it to anyone anytime soon.

It does contain an interesting cast. Hector Elizondo is a prolific character actor who includes a few comic titles in his resume (he was recently in the Princess Diaries movies, but also did voices for Justice League and Batman cartoons and video games and a role in Tales from the Crypt) and Robert Vaughn has had a pretty good career (to include superhero properties like Superman III and Pootie Tang). Other cast members include Ken Jenkins (famous as Dr. Kelso in Scrubs), Thora Birch (Ghost World) - in one of her first parts, Aki Aleong (the upcoming Superhero!), Victor Bevine (a part in Birds of Prey), and Tony Amendola (El Muerto: The Dead One, Lois & Clark, and voices in the HBO Spawn animated series).

See it if you're having trouble falling asleep.

Don't see it if you'd rather see great comic book cinematic masterpieces like Daredevil or Ghost Rider.


El Muerto (2007) mini review

based on a comic

Don't judge a movie by it's poster. The first time I saw a poster for El Muerto: The Dead One, I thought it might be a rip-off of The Crow. Call me Mr. Open-minded. I did a little research, and saw it wasn't a rip-off at all. Diego de la Muerte dies in a car accident and finds himself in Mictlan, the Aztec realm of the dead. He is sent back as The Chosen One, a minion of Mictlantecuhtli, the Aztec god of the dead, to bring the end of the world. But will Diego use his powers for evil, or for good?

El Muerto kind of came out of left field and was an interesting surprise. It opens with a good homage to its source material - the opening credits morph between the live film and black and white line drawings, as if the film is lifted directly from the comics. And it continues to develop well - it's a decent story, and the film has good production values. I was expecting the signature look of some independent films - you know when you see a film that has bad lighting, poor camera work, and sloppy editing. I wasn't expecting to see something that had the polished look of a professionally-made, big budget film. It plays out as mostly serious (though nowhere near as dark a film as The Crow), but in the last fight, it seems like it attempts to pick up a bit of the lightness of the comic. That falls a bit flat because it seems wedged in, but it's easily overlooked. As far as the story goes, it does keep pretty close to the comic's origin (incidentally, a digital version of the complete first comic is included on the DVD - a pretty good bonus). As a whole, it's an enjoyable story - I wasn't sure what to expect, so I didn't set the bar too high, and I was pleasantly surprised.

The movie is based on Javier Hernandez's el Muerto, the Aztec Zombie (a mini comic is also packaged with the DVD). It stars Wilmer Valderrama (who I didn't recognize originally from That 70's Show until I looked up his biography), and has a cast that you've seen in bit parts elsewhere, including Joel Moore (Art School Confidential), E.J. Callahan (a bit part in The Tick pilot episode), Tony Amendola (The Dark Avenger, Lois & Clark, a few voices in the Spawn animated series), and Maria Conchita Alonso (who played alongside Valderrama in Stan Lee's The Condor.

See it if you can enjoy a decent comic book movie without expecting Citizen Kane.

Don't see it if you're expecting something more than a decently written, well-acted indie film.


Missed Another Premier

Well, one of the main reasons I started this blog was so that *I* had a place to keep track of upcoming movies, DVDs, and TV shows. So what do I do? Completely miss the premier of the Witchblade anime series on IFC Friday night. There was an encore an hour later, but that didn't help me since I didn't realize it until I read it on Pop Candy the next day. I've never really been into anime (*gasp* - a comic fan who's not into anime?!?), but I would at least like to have seen the first episode.

Of course, the good folks at IFC assume that if you miss the first one, you won't want to see it before the second one airs, so there's not another encore, and the second episode airs next Friday night at 11:30 (that's Central, I think). And they don't even stream the first episode so you can catch up.

*sigh* Afro Samurai, all over again. Let me know if this was any good.