Comicommand is back and the first articles of the new year were uploaded yesterday, including my article on Ed Brubaker’s “Kill or Be Killed” (2016).
Check it out below or on the site.
I first came across Ed Brubaker’s work with Incognito, a short but interesting series about a former supervillain in the witness protection program. Kill or be Killed (2016) frequently popped up in any discussion of Brubaker and I was quick to add it to my reading list.
The series follows Dylan, a college student who is visited by a demon after a failed suicide attempt. The demon advised Dylan that he spared his life, but must now kill one person a month in order to continue living. After the demon breaks his arm and uses host bodies to assault him, Dylan begins his quest to eliminate people who deserve to die.
Dylan’s father committed suicide when he was younger, which indicates he may have inherited certain dispositions from that side of the family. What makes the story so interesting is that Dylan has tried to commit suicide previously, so we know that he is mentally troubled. For all we know, his vision of a demon is all a part of his own delusion: a sort of split personality that prods him to begin his quest. The series is only on its fifth issue so there is still plenty of time to see if this theory is right.
Dylan may be mentally troubled but many of his struggles are universal. He is yet another student trying to figure out his life, and who struggles with girls. His best friend, Kira, is dating his roommate and he mostly sees her only when she visits her boyfriend.
Even though the protagonist is relatable, the story can fall apart if the transition to crime-fighting is handled poorly. Brubaker excels at creating a realistic portrait of attempted vigilantism that reminded me somewhat of Kick-Ass. Dylan is able to get a gun pretty easily, since his deceased father had one buried in his possessions. This plot point might seem too convenient but it fits since we know Dylan’s dad committed suicide, he is likely carrying out his mission with his father’s murder weapon.
The toughest part for Dylan is finding people who deserve to die. He realizes that he can’t rely on movies as a blueprint, knowing that muggings and other crimes don’t routinely happen on subways or dark alleys when he is present. He finds his first target because he remembers that one of his childhood friends was molested by his older brother. He already knows the person’s name, and Facebook gives him everything else he needs, including the person’s work place.
When he’s successful with his first hit, he can’t remember if he said something to the target before he shoots him. Maybe he did. Maybe he didn’t, and his mind is retroactively adding in a cool one-liner that one of his favourite movie characters would say. Dylan faces success, but he also faces plenty of failure. His actions escalate, bringing more consequences for him. As the story progresses, we’ll likely see consequences for his loved ones too.
Kill or Be Killed is a deconstruction of vigilantism, a love story and a story of mental illness. Brubaker deftly handles Dylan’s development and I am eager to see how the series ends his journey.
Tom Hardy first came to my attention from his performance in Inception, where he nearly stole the show from Leonardo DiCaprio with far fewer lines and less screen time. Inception was followed by Warrior, Lawless, The Dark Knight Rises, The Drop, Legend and The Revenant. I didn’t like Hardy’s performance in The Revenant as much as the critics did, mainly due to the accent he used in that film, but it hasn’t tainted my perception of Hardy as a whole.
Although I don’t watch television shows on television that much (mostly online through kodi or Netflix) I often get some exposure through my uncle’s religious television watching. Back in December, I caught the tv spots for Taboo and decided that I would watch it as soon as I saw Tom Hardy. Ridley Scott co- producing is only icing on the cake. The tv spots didn’t give away much of the plot, instead only offering cryptic lines and haunting imagery.
Some online chatter speculated that Tom Hardy’s venture into television was a step down in his acting career. These people have obviously missed out on the fact that respected and talented actors such as Kevin Spacey, Matthew McConaughey and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson have all starred in television. Aside from starring in Taboo, Hardy is also co-producing, which will give him valuable experience in a different department of film-making.
Taboo follows James Delaney (Tom Hardy), who returns to England after his father’s death. Presumed dead, James is the sole heir listed in his father’s will. Chief among these possessions is a highly coveted island that the East India Trading Company and the American government want for their own profit. Unwilling to acquiesce, Delaney begins his mission to establish his own shipping empire.
I know the show has been described as a slow build, but I did not find the first episode to be as slow as the first episode of True Detective. My patience was well rewarded with the first season of that show and the first episode of Taboo left me eager for more. The show does a great job with establishing a captivating atmosphere, with dark cinematography and visuals that are sometimes reminiscent of Hannibal.
Delaney initially comes across as a man of few words, but Hardy still manages to exude a powerful presence on screen. He is enigmatic and intimidating. He has was in Africa for years before he returned to England and rumours follow him. Our introduction to the character is especially intriguing because the show has not revealed much about Delaney’s past at this point. The tv spots gave us glimpses of a supernatural element in the show, which could be hallucinations for all we know. The first episode already gave us a scene where Delaney is confronted by his involvement in slavery, personified by a hulking black figure that he has to verbally subdue. Or maybe some of these rumours circulating about witchcraft are true. Especially since Delaney gives us hints that he “knows about the dead”.
Delaney is also confronted by the past, in the form of his half-sister (Oona Chaplin). It is implied that their relationship may extend beyond typical family boundaries, and online articles appear to confirm what I expected. It seems that this show, co-written by Hardy’s dad, is not afraid of approaching its namesake.
Although Delaney is the most captivating character at this point, he is also supported ably by the rest of the cast. Most notable among them is Jonathan Pryce as Sir Stuart Strange, Chairman of the East India Company. Pryce is no longer The High Sparrow, motivated by a desire for moral purity. Strange seeks power and wealth, and views Delaney as another pawn that needs to be eliminated to obtain more of it.
I could delve further into what this first episode offers, but I feel like if you want to know more, you should just watch the show.
Two days ago, The Rock posted to Instagram about a meeting he had with DC Comics concerning the DC Extended Universe (DCEU). The Rock was announced as a lead for the DCEU’s Shazam (yes, the hero is actually called Captain Marvel but due to copyright issues he is just Shazam at the moment) adaptation, playing the role of the villain Black Adam.
However, there has been little word on the project since then. Henry Cavill posted a picture of he and the Rock sharing a drink in late December, fueling speculation that The Rock would make an appearance in the next Superman solo film, especially since Cavill hinted at bright things for the future.
The Rock is one of the few stars who can engage audiences off charisma alone. He is not the greatest actor, but his work on Ballers shows that he is developing. I am excited to see that the project is coming together slowly but The Rock’s summary of the meeting leaves me slightly worried.
“Had a very cool and strategic meeting with the heads of DC about their entire universe. As a hard core DC fan, to get a real sense of the tonal shifts and developments coming in these future movies has me fired up. Something we, as DC fans have all been waiting for for a very long time.
Hope, optimism & FUN.
Even when talking about the the most ruthless villain/anti-hero of all time finally coming to life. Prepare yourselves DC Universe.”
I have discussed the obsession with making comic book films “fun” before and how this belief is founded on nonsensical assumptions.
“I am not anti-fun or anti-humour. I simply do not like it when the device is overused. While some Marvel films have juggled it well, such as The Winter Soldier (2014), the Thor series has been severely brought down by terrible and consistent one-liners imho. While Loki’s humour is handled well, Jane’s (Natalie Portman) and Darcy’s (Kat Dennings) end up being the Jar Jars of the franchise. My problem is not only the overuse of humour, but how Marvel has successfully conditioned people to believe that this humour is the mark of a good comic book movie. Nowadays, any film that lacks the same level of levity is deemed too “dark”, “gritty”, “depressing, “brooding” or “pretentious”. A lot of the criticism levied towards Man of Steel (MOS) before it was even released came from this misconception. The trailers were serious in tone, nothing about them screamed “dark” or “brooding”, but people were so used to Marvel’s marketing by this point. The MOS trailers did not have enough one-liners, enough levity in comparison to Marvel’s trailers, so people were thrown off. Everything is relative, and since the MOS trailers were found to be lacking in humour, they were immediately deemed too dark.
This brings up another issue I have with Marvel’s brainwashing. I often hear people throw around the word “dark” like it is an insult in itself. As if saying a film is dark is as bad as saying the acting was terrible, the writing was terrible etc. A film can be “dark” and also be good… While Marvel has darker material in some of its films, and has Netflix shows with much darker tones (Daredevil, Jessica Jones) it appears that Marvel’s status gives it more room to experiment than any other property has. Marvel’s trailers, films and tv shows can have darker tones without people complaining about them trying to “copy Christopher Nolan”, “not being fun” etc. While Marvel is allowed to experiment, change and adapt, DC is now forced to appeal to Marvel sensibilities in order to be less divisive among audiences.”
You don’t have to tell me that BatmanvSuperman (Bvs) of Suicide Squad (SS) had issues. The villains and third act for both films sucked. Some dialogue was weak, some acting was weak, Eisenberg was a terrible Luthor etc. I am not a DC “fanboy”. I don’t think that DC can do no wrong. I just hate the fact that people believe that the solution to these films is to make them more “fun”. Some of the things added to SS to make it more fun, actually made it worse, such as the overly abundant musical segways. The emphasis on adding more “fun” in could cause the writers, directors, studios etc. to overlook other issues, such as a weak villain or weak storytelling (which is not always tied to tone). Like this writer says, “‘Justice League’ Is Reportedly “A Mess” & That’s Fine, As Long As It’s a Fun Mess.” Words can not describe how much I detest this mentality. Sadly critics and audiences will probably love the film more for its tone even if everything else is terrible.
The Justice League trailer already had me worried that the studio is putting even more pressure on the directors and writers to lighten things up. Bruce Wayne seems completely out of character, and so does Barry Allen. Wally West (Allen’s nephew-in law) is the version of The Flash that is known for being comic-relief. Allen is a more serious character, but it seems like the writers have just changed Allen completely in order to get more room for humour. Wayne can be funny as well, but I find his humour is best when it is done similarly to the dry humour we’re familiar with from Alfred.
One of the best examples of Batman’s humour, in my opinion, comes from the animated film Superman/Batman Apocalypse. After a newly arrived Supergirl damages $50,000 worth of batcave equipment, Superman asks Batman to send him the bill. Batman then says: “On a reporter’s salary, right.”
That kind of humour adds levity, without coming across as out of character. Unlike the “more or less” exchange in The Justice League. That is the issue I have with some of the “fun” people insist on, especially because people normally ask for fun because DC is dark relative to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). When there is an insistence on having “fun” in every scene it can just kill dramatic tension. As Jeremy Jahns said in his review of Doctor Strange, “Sometimes I want an epic moment instead of a funny one.”
I’ll be back to writing for comicommand soon, and should have an article for them around January 15. My first piece for the new year will be a piece on Ed Brubaker’s Kill or Be Killed. Until then, I wanted to share some thoughts on another ongoing series that I’m reading.
Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead is undoubtedly the comic that turned me into a serious comic book reader. It started with Rick Grimes, then moved on to Spider Jerusalem, Jesse Custer, Billy The Butcher, Mark Grayson, and now Kyle Barnes.
After binging on Invincible and then having to wait until February for the next issue, I eagerly sought out Kirkman’s latest series. After giving us a post-apocalyptic zombie tale, and then a superhero story, Kirkman delves into demonic possession.
Outcast follows Kyle Barnes, a man whose life is plagued with demonic possession and who is ostracized in his hometown after allegedly hurting his wife and daughter. While Kyle knows something changed his wife, making her attack their daughter, no one else believes him. As he returns home, Reverend Anderson helps to open his eyes to the truth of demonic possession.
Although I have not seen many films related to possession, I have always been interested in the subject. Firstly, Paul Azaceta’s artwork truly helps to bring the story to life from the first frame onward. The style is somewhat simple, compared to works like Punisher: Max, but is reminiscent of Invincible. Azaceta fits the comic’s atmosphere of horror by seamlessly transitioning from relatively simple frames, to ones that are genuinely unsettling.
Kirkman is also able to explore a religious theme, without creating a story that is pro or anti-Christian. Kyle represents the skeptic, while Reverend Anderson is the holy man who slowly makes Kyle accept the truth of exorcism. The story could come across as formulaic with this set up, but Anderson is a layered character who believes in the Lord, while also having his own doubts about institutionalized religion and God. Anderson’s thoughts are some of the most interesting parts of the story.
Kirkman also adds interesting modifications to the exorcism mythos, which are slowly explained as we get further into the series. In some ways, the exorcism links to several other issues in Kyle’s life. His mother abused him due to her possession and his wife abused their daughter. Both of these periods have significantly affected Kyle’s psyche, which leaves him in a dark place that aligns with the overall tone of the comic. Every triumph that Kyle faces is followed by another revelation that causes more pain or a setback from the forces that are working against him.
With each issue, we learn more about the possessed and the overarching conflict continues to build with Issue #24, which was released today.
Like The Walking Dead, Outcast currently has its own television show as well. One season is complete, and it has been renewed for another. Clearly, it isn’t the phenomenon The Walking Dead is, but maybe the show isn’t as hampered by filler. That’s a post for another day.
Imperium (2016) follows Nate Foster (Daniel Radcliffe) as he infiltrates a white supremacist group in order to prevent an act of domestic terrorism. I was originally intending to do a review of the film, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Radcliffe is amazing as Foster, and Toni Collette is masterful as his supervising officer, Angela Zamparo.
I decided to forgo a review and focus on the film’s portrayal of white supremacists. I tried to go to IMDB to discuss the film itself, its acting, its ending etc. However, most posters are still hung up on the film’s portrayal of white supremacists. In many ways, they come across as people offended or amused by how white supremacists are represented. Or they are simply annoyed that a film on white supremacy was made.
Imperium interested me when I first heard about the film, due to its exploration of white supremacy through the eyes of an undercover agent. I have previously discussed Imperium on this blog, since the backlash the film received was highly indicative of racism. IMDB was filled with one thread after another criticizing Hollywood for creating more “left wing propaganda” that was attacking white men and making them “feel guilty”.
White supremacists exist, and we shouldn’t be banned from showing them on screen because some insecure people might see it as a personal attack. Of course, these same people will argue that anyone who complains about negative portrayals of minorities in films are “politically correct” or “social justice warriors”. To them, it only matters if American society’s dominant group, straight white men, are depicted negatively. Imperium does not depict all white men in the film as bad guys. After all, Radcliffe’s character and his supervising officer are both white people, but the alt-right doesn’t want to see any white people portrayed negatively. Meanwhile, minorities must simply disregard every single negative portrayal of themselves since it is “just a movie”. These negative portrayals don’t make us “feel guilty” but they do bother us since we see them so often.
One of the alt-right’s most popular arguments is that Imperium should focus on more pressing issues, like Islamic extremism. Firstly, most terrorist acts in the US are committed by non-Muslim Americans. Even if Muslims were the most deadly terrorists in the US, is a film only allowed to show a fictionalized version of society’s most pressing issues? Would these same people criticize films about serial killers because most murders aren’t caused by serial killers?
Of course, there were also IMDB users who openly defend groups like the KKK and the Aryan Nation since there is nothing wrong with having white pride. Even groups that are openly racist reject the label of “racist”, which is why phrases like “I’m not racist but…” are so popular nowadays. I won’t spend anytime trying to enlighten such people.
I read American Swastika: Inside the White Power Movement’s Hidden Spaces of Hate for a university assignment and was interested to see if this film would reflect any of the case studies explored in the book.
One key theme of the book is that white supremacists are no longer just uneducated rednecks. It is comforting to think that white supremacists all live in the back woods, but that is not fact. American Swastika explored white supremacists of varying education levels, classes and careers. Off the top of my head, one of them was a manager at a technical support company. Many of the ones studied were middle-class or upper-middle class, just like the white supremacists we see in the film. Many of the white supremacists in American Swastika were typical suburban families in many ways, which only makes them more unsettling. The whole point of the book is that someone in your neighbourhood, or maybe even your neighbour, could be a white supremacist.
There was one post on IMDB where a user criticized the film for showing a white supremacist barbecue where one of the wives was serving cupcakes decorated with swastikas.
The cupcakes might seem over the top but American Swastika describes birthday parties where parents would decorate their children’s cakes with white supremacist symbols. Homes are a “safe space” where people can invite other like-minded individuals and unabashedly embrace their views. However, it is easier to see the cupcakes and dismiss it as the work of liberals instead of realizing that such gatherings happen every year in the US. This poster obviously didn’t do his own research either. He saw the cupcakes, and assumed that they were a ridiculous Hollywood creation. Since he calls out “liberals” for their supposed mistake, we can assume he is a conservative and probably someone who was watching the movie feeling like he was personally being attacked. Therefore, he was eager to pick apart the film’s premise and portrayal of white supremacists.
White supremacists aren’t such a fanatical “lunatic fringe” any longer. They realize the importance of blending in from day to day, whether it is in the suburbs, or in a diverse urban environment. Imperium portrays them accurately and if this accurate portrayal scares you, good. It’s supposed to.
I wake up,
Vowing that I will soon be free of the cubicle that defines my existence,
The cubicle that bestows me with a title,
Trying to prolong my miserable life,
I go to work,
Surrounded by strangers,
Only to leave them and then be surrounded by co-workers,
I don’t work,
For hours at a time,
Relieved to have a few minutes to unhook my leash and roam free,
Until I can finally be free,
I go home,
Surrounded by strangers again,
Maybe I exercise now instead,
Surrounded by more strangers,
All deserving of death’s embrace,
I arrive home,
With only a few more hours to spare before I must awake and return to my leash,
As part of my New Year’s resolutions I want to try to upload a video once a week.
New Year, New Me,
Or so I always say,
I have numerous resolutions for the year,
But New Year’s Eve reminded me of one of them,
Surrounded by friends,
Forgetting all of my troubles until I came across a single woman,
Then my mind shifted to other thoughts,
Thoughts shared by other friends,
Who held the woman’s interest better,
Happiness slowly evaporated,
Bitterness and self-doubt came in to take its place,
While everyone else kept enjoying themselves,
I spent too much time reflecting on my friend’s good fortune,
And reflecting on all my past failures,
I came across as miserable,
Which only hindered my appeal even further,
I find myself caught in this cycle too often,
Letting any perceived rejection drown out all the things I have to celebrate,
With a new year,
I want to work on being the master of my own happiness.
Happy New Year to all my readers and followers.
This year has been a rough one in a sense but there are some things to celebrate.
This year marked the continuation of my desire to blog regularly, with a goal of posting at least three times a week. I have been able to maintain that output for the most part, amidst working full time, writing books, exercising, job-hunting and learning how to play the guitar.
I finished a novella and started working on my second novel. I am currently 40,000 words into Alive, and have now committed to writing 1000 words a day. I may not be writing today but the limit will be in place from here on out. Hopefully I should be done a rough draft by March, or April at the latest.
I am attempting to make a career switch to teaching, and will be doing a guest lecture for a college class in February. The time I need to prepare for this may cut into my writing but I want to do my best not to make excuses and commit to writing everyday.
I have been able to grow my social media presence, as well as the presence for comicommand. I am hoping that this can result in more visits to the site as the new year progresses. One issue with my social media, specifically the @moviegrapevine instagram, is that I cover a wide array of topics. I have noticed that engagement and followers seem to drop off when I drift from a focus on comics. Posts on politics, movies, tv etc. all seem to suffer and alienate followers who only want a certain kind of content. The same trend applies to the site. The posts with the most views, judging by Google Analytics, are ones on popular topics such as The Walking Dead. I like discussing shows too but I don’t want to have to limit what I discuss for more views. I want people to be able to engage with more than one type of subject matter.
Moving forward, I will have to see if I can continue to build my base of readers. This year marked the first time that a reader commented on one of my posts, showing that there are some people who are enjoying the content and engaging with it. Either way, I can’t blog just for them. Writing helps to stretch mental muscles, and blogging is a key part of that exercise. I can’t just be someone who wants to become a published writer: I have to truly be a writer, creating content everyday, whether it is writing 1000 words of a book, blogging or posting poetry pieces to @wmoviegrapevine. Some days, I’ll do all three.
Writing full-time is a distant goal at this point but I know that it is a goal, not a dream. I have given up on the idea of being published next year, or the year after. Like a former teacher told me “there is no rush in this game”.
I know it’s a little late but since I’ve been thinking about it a lot, I thought I would share my thoughts on the Alien: Covenant trailer.
Prometheus was a disappointment for many people, myself included. I didn’t find it as confusing as most people did but I thought that the film did sport some weak dialogue and some poor writing. However, the performances and the visuals were great. Michael Fassbender’s role as David cemented him as one of my favourite actors and Noomi Rapace was lovely as Dr. Elizabeth Shaw. With that said, I am probably more excited about Covenant than the average person.
Ridley Scott is back in the director’s chair, which probably helps to satiate a lot of fan worries. Although I am hopeful, I also remember Exodus: Gods and Kings. That film is the best proof that a legendary director can still direct a bad film. Whitewashing aside, a lot of the writing, acting and special effects left a lot to be desired.
There was originally talk of director Neill Blompkamp (Elysium, Chappie) being signed on for a fifth Alien film, which would serve as a direct sequel to Alien: Resurrection (1997). Sigourney Weaver also confirmed that she would return as Ellen Ripley, but the project was cancelled in October 2015. Now Ridley Scott has confirmed that Alien: Covenant is the first of three planned sequels to Prometheus. Scott plans to pursue another Alien film once these sequels are completed.
With that said, a fifth Alien film likely won’t happen if Covenant or any of the sequels don’t do well enough at the box office. Michael Fassbender’s presence and my love of the Alien lore guaranteed I would be seeing Covenant anyway. This first trailer also did a great job of building my excitement.
It starts off with some of the dark (literally) imagery that is reminiscent of Alien (1979) with its dark hallways and dim lighting, all of which help to disguise the uninvited visitor aboard the spaceship. We see Carmen Ejogo’s character pleading to be released from one of the ship’s rooms, while her roommate’s back begins to erupt in bloody fashion. There appears to be a new xenomorph type, which will burst from someone’s back instead of their chest.I knew the trailer was a red-band version but this shot still shocked me and makes it clear this film, like Prometheus, is embracing the franchise’s horror roots.
The trailer synopsis available on Wikipedia says that The Covenant is a colony ship looking for worlds to inhabit, and that David has been stranded on this world when they arrive. Fassbender also plays Walter, another synthetic (android) that arrives with The Covenant. There is no sighting of Shaw in the trailer, but she has shot scenes for the film. It is likely she could be in flashbacks or that her role is just being kept under wraps for now. Shaw and David were both headed towards the Engineer’s homeworld at the end of Prometheus, so it appears that this film takes place on the engineer homeworld or perhaps some other world that they encountered on route.
One scene that seems divisive among viewers is the trailer’s ending shower scene. While a couple are enjoying some down time together a xenomorph tail snaking between their legs, shortly before its shadow appears outside of the shower. The female of the couple is then showered in blood once the man is killed.
A lot of the criticism is due to the fact that people interpret the scene as something that doesn’t belong in a sci-fi/horror film. It’s slasher territory. I didn’t mind it though since the original Alien had some elements of a shasher film. The antagonist wasn’t a man in a hockey mask but the film did involve the population of a location being picked off one by one.
That scene also gets me thinking that James Franco may have been the one to die in that scene. The actress sprayed in blood looks like it could be Katherine Waterston, who plays Franco’s wife in the film. Franco was announced as the ship’s captain but we see Billy Crudup as the new captain in the film. He also listed as the “new captain” on Wikipedia. Franco’s death could either come before the ship lands on this new planet or perhaps Crudup gets a promotion thanks to a xenomorph. Killing off one of the most famous actors early on would mirror the surprise of Drew Barrymore being killed first in Scream (1996).
Aside from the footage, I am also happy that this film will be using more practical effects for the xenomorphs. Danny McBride has confirmed that every xenomorph is brought to life by someone in a suit, like Alien. If handled well, this can make them much more terrifying than a computer generated image. It is likely the aliens could be touched up or enhanced with CGI as well.
Speaking of McBride, I also wonder how he will handle a more serious role. His presence was one reservation coming out of this trailer. Another is an issue that people still harp on about Prometheus. A lot of people hated the fact that the ship crew seemingly made stupid decisions, such as removing their helmets on an alien planet. Dr. Holloway did this because he suspected the air inside the room was breathable, and the rest of the team followed. At the time I could understand but this trailer does bring up one of the issues of removing your helmet, even if you can breathe. A crew member steps on a plant and released black spores that travel into his ear canal.
Even though they can breathe the air, they didn’t account for alien pathogens. If the ship is specifically a colony ship then this should be a known risk. It does beg the question of why a crew wouldn’t keep their helmets on while they are still learning more about a new world.
What are your thoughts on Prometheus and Alien: Covenant?