Monthly Archives: August 2008
First, a little background. Midnight Meat Train is based on the first story in Clive Barker’s seminal short story collection, The Books of Blood. The story, it must be said, scared the shit out of me when I first read it nearly 20 years ago. In fact, most of the short stories in the six book series did. When it was announced that Midnight Meat Train would be making it to the big screen, I was incredibly excited. I followed the blogs that talked about the film’s shooting, the casting of Vinnie Jones as the lead villain, and the anticipation horror fans had for what was shaping up to be a solid Clive Barker adaptation.
Then strange things started happening. First, Lionsgate management went through changes that found the man who first green lit the movie out of the picture. Soon afterwards the release date changed and changed again. Then there was talk that the film title was being changed too, from Midnight Meat Train to simply Midnight Train. Then came the big hit – Lionsgate wasn’t going to give the film a wide release, electing instead to dump it into 100 dollar cinemas across the U.S. before putting it on to DVD. Clive Barker himself tried to rally the troops and petition Lionsgate to give the film better treatment, but in the end Midnight Meat Train spent two weeks in the cinema and died a quick death.
With all this controversy you’d likely be left thinking Midnight Meat Train was a total clusterfuck, a horrible film worse than anything in the Final Destination canon or even the straight to DVD Lost Boys sequel. Unfortunately you’d be wrong, which makes the treatment of the stylish and downright scary film by Japanese director Ryuhei Kitamura so much more disappointing.
On Thursday August 22nd, Rue Morgue Magazine held a one night only showing of Midnight Meat Train at a packed Bloor Theatre. Clearly there was demand to see the film, since the line-up to get in stretched around the corner and people had been milling about for nearly an hour and a half before show time.
As adapted by Jeff Buehler, Midnight Meat Train tells the story of photographer Leon (Bradley Cooper), who is encouraged by a sophisticated art dealer (Brooke Shields) to try and capture the dark underbelly of the city in his photographs. Leon winds up in the subway late at night and captures the picture of a woman who winds up missing the next day. Ultimately he comes face to face with a subway serial killer known as Mahogany (played by former football hooligan Vinnie Jones. Oh, and he’s also the Juggernaut, bitch). Leon’s life begins to unravel as he slowly discovers what darkness lies underground beyond the subway borders.
Midnight Meat Train is dark, uncompromising, unrelenting, and one of the best horror films I’ve seen in years. The performances are solid, but not spectacular. We watch as Leon comes unglued and feel sympathy for his girlfriend Maya (Leslie Bibb) as she tries to hold their relationship together. Vinnie Jones utters only one word in the film, which means he has to scare and intimidate slowly by his face and physical prowess, which he admirably accomplishes.
Midnight Meat Train has gore a plenty, with director Kitamura crafting some innovative kills for good measure. But more so than that, the movie looks great, courtesy of cinematographer Jonathan Sela. This is a film that should be seen on the big screen to be appreciated, which makes Lionsgate’s decision to leave it for dead that much more disappointing. Since the company’s new head Joe Drake took over, he’s been clearing out the films that don’t mesh with Lionsgate’s desire for more accessible and less bloody film fare. For all of its quality, under the new regime, Midnight Meat Train just didn’t stand a chance.
I’m not going to suggest you sign any petitions or call your local congressman. But if you’re a fan of horror, I will say that when Midnight Meat Train does make it to DVD take the time to check out what’s become an unfairly and unjustly ignored film. It’s scary. Trust me.
Though not as scary as the fact that Meet Dave made it to theatres.
Over a decade since their last release, the eight-million-plus selling Urban Hymns, The Verve have returned to their roots rather than move forward in their sonic meanderings. Forth sounds like the follow-up to their second release, 1995’s brilliant A Northern Soul as it shares brief glimpses of stadium-rock sound with that recording as well as the psychedelia of their first, 1993’s A Storm in Heaven.
Much was made of 2007’s recording process, a jamming cacophony of sound and ideas that saw the internet release of The Thaw Sessions late that year, the title also reflecting the melting of long-standing angst between band members. This album stays true to what came out of those sessions. In fact, over half of the ten songs on the release run over six minutes long.
“Sit and Wonder” opens the album, instantly a Verve-sounding song that swirls with the sharp guitar work of Nick McCabe and thrums with the thick drum and base groove of Simon Jones and Pete Salisbury. This is what the world has been waiting for – the brooding majesty of sound that was A Northern Soul overlaid with Richard Ashcroft’s plaintive wailing – but there’s something amiss here. True to those early sessions, after nearly seven minutes, the song, we discover, goes nowhere – a common occurrence throughout the album.
A stab at a radio and dance floor number one, “Love is Noise” hits like a punch to the solar plexus. This is Richard Ashcroft at his rock/pop best. Destined to receive radio-play, the singer questions western culture by singing: Will those feet in modern times walk on soles that are made in China? Despite audiences loving the song live, it doesn’t change the realization that the recurring background vocal loop is, in fact, headache-inducing.
Indeed, if there is any track that sees The Verve attempting to move their music forward, it is “Rather Be”, with its gospel-like background vocals that tilt the musical landscape in a slightly new, soulful direction. The guitar work is still here, fading in and out from back to front and constantly shimmering.
This is Nick McCabe’s album.
The soundscapes he constructs on each song are what draw the interest of listeners. Forget the grooves that relentlessly drive forward. Forget, even, Ashcroft’s vocals. It’s the guitar you want to hear: simple and complex, rolling and swooping, airy, wispy and, sometimes, heavy. The problem that Forth has, then, is that these beautiful sounds, more often than not, are hidden in the background or covered over by a deep bass resonance and it’s a shame. McCabe has struggled in the past with stage fright and that neurosis is ever-present throughout the production of this album.
At worst, Forth is the sketch of a great album that The Verve might have made. At best, it is ambient background music for late nights amongst friends. It never lives up to the expectations we have of the band, those memories of stadium-sized sounds with flourishes of psychedelic meanderings and classic rock riffs. For that, we return to A Northern Soul, a better album by far. Perhaps The Verve just need more time to finish their thaw.
Say it with me.
“Donna Martin graduates!”
It’s still got that ring to it, doesn’t it? The sound of anti-authority behaviour. Because those kids at West Beverly High were nothing if not true rebels that knew how to piss off the man and rally the troops.
“Donna Martin graduates!”
I still remember watching that premier episode of Beverly Hills 90210. It was 1990. I was 13 years old, fresh into high school, and I could relate to the fish out of water situation Minnesota natives Brandon and Brenda Walsh found themselves. I remember watching Brandon get into the hot tub with some girl in that first episode and thinking “wow, if this is what high school’s going to be like, I’m going to have an awesome four years”.
It wasn’t and I didn’t.
I probably remember too much about the show. Like how Emily Valentine spiked Brandon’s drink with Euphoria, a drug that made people feel “alive”. Or how Brenda and Dylan were listening to “Losing My Religion” when they broke up for the first time. I remember when Brandon’s university girlfriend Susan insisted he not take a job with a paper out of state, only to ditch him when a similar opportunity came her way. I always liked Susan though, or maybe I just liked the actress who played her, Emma Caulfield. She’d show up on Buffy The Vampire Slayer a few years later and she was great on that show too.
A brand new 90210 hits tv this Tuesday night, a last ditch ploy by the CW Network in the U.S. to try and score some ratings. They’ve got some fresh faces, the Peach Pit, and the same theme song from back in the day. You know, the one you can hum right now, even if you won’t admit that you can. While a name and a catchy tune probably aren’t enough to drag old school viewers back, the new 90210 has two weapons of mass destruction that just might do the trick.
Jenny Garth and Shannon Doherty. All grown up and back playing the rolls that got one of them on Charmed and the other a slot on Dancing With The Stars. Now we can finally find out the answer to the questions that have plagued us all for years?
“Did Brenda make it as an actor?” “Did Kelly ever have a relapse?”
Of course, you’re probably wondering were Ian Ziering is. I’m guessing the producers won’t take his phone calls.
The buzz on 90210 is pretty hot right now, and I’m sure the show will debut with some solid numbers for at least one week. But will the new millennium version of a 90′s cultural phenomenon have what it takes to turn the fortunes of an ailing network? Will it become another guilty pleasure like Gossip Girl but with better ratings? Or will it sink like a stone, just like that remake of The Bionic Woman that none of us watched even though it had Katee Sackhoff as a regular.
Will you tune in or is that fact that Tori Spelling is M.I.A. sullied you on the whole endeavour? Enquiring minds want to know.
But wait. Can you hear them? Off in the distance? The children of West Beverly. What sweet music they make.
“Donna Martin graduates!”
Here’s how I remember some of the more recent comic book films from the past few years:
The Dark Knight was dark and moody.
Spider-Man was bright and bouncing.
The Incredible Hulk…green, of course. And powerful.
All these films were distinct and entertaining. But none of them were beautiful.
Superman Returns was beautiful.
It was bold and majestic. Director Bryan Singer made me believe a man could fly, again. The man was Brandon Routh, who stepped into the shoes of the beloved Christopher Reeve and managed to do what was in my estimation a brilliant job. Superman Returns was a throwback to the classic Reeve films (Superman: The Movie and Superman II) and at the end of its 2+ hours, left me feeling hopeful.
Now that hope is dead.
At the end of August, Warner Bros. Pictures Group President Jeff Robinov announced that rather than continue with the mythology that Richard Donner created for film and Bryan Singer followed, the film company would do a complete Superman franchise reboot. The reboot has become a common practice with comic films today and is usually utilized when previous films have underperformed (Batman and Robin in 1997 led to Batman Begins in 2005, Ang Lee’s Hulk in 2003 begat 2008’s The Incredible Hulk).
According to a Robinov interview in the Wall Street Journal, “Superman didn’t quite work as a film in the way that we wanted it to. It didn’t position the character the way he needed to be positioned. Had ‘Superman’ worked in 2006, we would have had a movie for Christmas of this year or 2009, but now the plan is just to reintroduce Superman…”
I’m not sure which film Mr. Robinov was watching, but to say that Superman Returns “didn’t quite work” is a pretty ignorant statement, considering Warner Bros. had no issues green lighting the story Singer presented with writers Michael Dougherty and Dan Harris. No doubt the decision to reboot comes not from the strength of the beautiful but occasionally flawed final product, but from its perceived financial failure. The key word is perceived.
According to Boxofficemojo.com, Superman Returns’ budget was an inflated $270 million. Of course, all that money doesn’t show up on screen. That number includes the various pay or play deals and failed attempts to reboot the franchise that were made in the years following 1987’s Superman IV: The Quest For Peace and the ultimate decision to hire Singer in 2004. By the time Superman Returns ended its theatrical run following in June 2006 premier, the film had grossed $200 million domestically, and another $193 worldwide for a total take of $393 million. Even with its ridiculous budget, those are solid numbers and don’t even include the DVD sales, which by all accounts have been solid. If there’s any financial failure, I don’t see it.
Further more, Superman Returns’ North American take was only $5 million less than that of Batman Begins.
And we know how the next film in that franchise turned out.
But clearly in this case, perception is reality. And the perceived failure of Superman Returns has brought us to the end of the film saga Richard Donner and Christopher Reeve began 30 years ago. It’s left us without the chance to see what Brandon Routh could have accomplished in the next film. It leaves us without the chance to see Bryan Singer create a sequel he teased would be his Wrath of Khan. The decision to reboot The Man of Steel now leaves us with many questions, with one standing out above all others:
Whatever the answer is, I hope the next film finds some measure of beauty that Superman Returns contains. But knowing how Hollywood works you’ll forgive me if I’m missing the optimism. I hope I’m wrong.
Writer: Brad Meltzer
Artist: Adam Kubert
A Final Crisis is coming to the heroes of the DC Universe – a final battle between good and evil and this is the story of what each hero does on the eve of their certain deaths.
Of course, this is a comic book, which means that this has all happened before. Brad Meltzer doesn’t shirk this idea: that promises of a final battle have been made and broken before, that this final crisis will be no more final than the previous two published over the last twenty years. But early in the story he heightens the gravitas of this final crisis: this time, it’s Superman, the eternal optimist, the tent pole of DC Comics, who says that the world is going to end. Heavy stuff indeed.
Make no mistake. Even with the above mentioned heroes represented on the cover and many more heavy hitters making cameos within the double-sized issue, this is Geo-Force’s story.
What? You don’t know who Geo-Force is? Well, you’re not the only one. A “C-list” character at best, Geo-Force was one of the founding members of the Outsiders back in the mid ‘80’s. He’s the Prince of Markovia, an eastern European country with powers over the earth itself. Under Meltzer’s award winning run, he is now a current member of the Justice League of America, an attempt to elevate the characters status within the DC Universe. Meltzer loves the character. He took him and polished him up when all other writers left him in literary limbo. This story, then, is the next logical step: give the character a meaningful raison d’etre.
And what’s better than revenge masquerading as justice?
On his last night alive, while some characters have dinner with their families and others bond, confess, pine or make love to each other, Geo-Force plans on finally avenging his long dead sister Terra, murdered at the hands of Deathstroke.
Meltzer brings a sense of realism to these heroes. He plucks them from the lofty perch that we, as readers, place them and shows them for the humans they are beneath the masks. He did this in his Identity Crisis series a few years back and was both canonized and vilified by comic fandom for it.
Geo-Force is told that an encounter with Deathstroke, one of the more lethal villains in the DC Universe, is one that he will not survive. And yet, this is the only idea that drives the character through the story. Here, Meltzer questions the idea of what a hero is: are these actions motivated by revenge or righteousness? Is it fair that Deathstroke has, for so long, gone unpunished for his crimes? Now that the end of the world is upon them, what rules hold heroes back from an ultimate justice? There is no “tomorrow” at the end of days.
This finality affects the bad guys too. In a twist, Captain Cold, a long-standing Flash rogue, foils a robbery and, for a brief moment, becomes the hero. Is this a penance for years of wrongdoing? Here Meltzer shines a light on the difference between heroes and villains and why they do the things they do. When pressed on how he felt after such a good action as opposed to his general thieving ways, Cold states that “In the end it’s the same exact rush. But then ya leave with nothing…” which aptly leaves the character in the same philosophical realm he started but not without adding a deeper understanding of the inner workings of the character.
If there is one complaint to be made about Last Will and Testament it’s in the timing of the issue’s release. It is meant to be read after Final Crisis #4, which is still to ship. Some of the events depicted in this story have yet to occur in DC Universe continuity. Still, that’s easily put aside, so well written is this comic. If anything, it makes the reader wait for the next issue of Final Crisis with even greater anticipation.
It goes without saying that Adam Kubert’s renderings are fantastic. Assisted at times by his legendary father, Joe Kubert, the expressions of Starfire’s plaintive longing, Tim Drake’s sorrowful understanding or Deathstroke’s look of astonishment all elevate Meltzer’s script. This is a writer/artist tandem working as one.
On the last night of their lives, as they leave their homes to assemble for the final battle, the characters, one by one, lie to their loved ones, telling them that they will be o.k. Here then, Meltzer and Kubert, on Last Will and testament’s very final page, remind us what it means to be a hero in the DC Universe. Wally West, the Flash, asks Green Lantern Hal Jordan, the man with no fear, what he thinks of the end of the world. As he flies into the night, the reply is simple: “This is the life…I’ll see you tomorrow.”
For heroes, there is always a tomorrow.
Pick up this book. It’s wonderful.
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