28 September 2012

Solomon Kane Movie Needs More Solomon Kane

Solomon Kane (2009)
Directed by Michael J. Bassett. Starring James Purefoy, Rachel Hurd-Wood, Pete Postlethwaite, Jason Flemyng.

Cross-posted to Black Gate.

The sixteenth and early seventeenth-century Puritan adventurer Solomon Kane is my favorite of Robert E. Howard’s serial characters: a fascinating mixture of obsession, religion, righteousness, history, and dark fantasy awesomeness. However, it’s the character I love, not necessarily the stories in which he appeared. With the exception of “Wings in the Night,” the Solomon Kane stories are mid-range pieces in Howard’s canon, not at the consistent level he delivered later with Conan, King Kull, or many of his one-shots. Solomon Kane appeared early in Howard’s short professional pulp career, with the first published story in the August 1928 issue of Weird Tales. Perhaps if Howard stayed longer with the Puritan hero while his storytelling skills increased, he might have equaled the Conan series in quality.

But a great character is always an excellent starting point to make a great movie, and in concept a Solomon Kane film should be an easy third-base hit for any talented filmmaker. The 2009 British-French-Czech Solomon Kane, which finally received its limited U.S. theatrical release today (also on VOD if you can’t find a local theater), showed many hints of not only getting on third, but possibly stealing home: Tonally, it captures the 1930s version of Weird Tales. The violence is graphic and bloody without falling into the slapstick idiocy of Marcus Nispel’s Conan the Barbarian. The production design is top-tier for a mid-budget movie and feels saturated with the benighted European dreariness of Kane stories such as “Skulls in the Stars” and “Rattle of Bones.”

21 September 2012

Dredd Sentences You to a Bloody Good Time

Cross-posted to Black Gate.

The Charge: Attempting to re-start a film adaptation of a classic comic book character.

The Verdict: Guilty.

The Sentence: Director is hereby ordered to make more Judge Dredd Movies.

Any Last Words: I am the law.

The upcoming re-make of RoboCop now feels even more unnecessary than it did before. Dredd has just handed us an over-the-top violent buddy cop SF flick that fills up that niche for the next year, maybe two. Dredd is an old-style Paul Verhoeven film in feel, although missing much of his satirical glee, and hits perfect for a September action movie, trading in any “mainstream” credentials for hard-R blood and guts on a narrow budget. It’s a wet blast for action fans and dark SF junkies.

12 September 2012

Movie Review: Commando

I feel like writing a movie review in the format of CHUD’s “Movie of the Day.” Since Expendables 2 put me into a mood to reminisce about the action days of yore (i.e. my adolescence), I’ve got a perfect Movie of the Day in mind. And the Blu-ray on hand.

Commando (1985)
Directed by Mark L. Lester. Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Rae Dawn Chong, Vernon Wells, Alyssa Milano, Dan Hedaya, Bill Duke, David Patrick Kelly, James Olson.

The Premise: Villains kidnap Arnold’s daughter. Arnold kills them all, gets daughter back.

Slightly longer version: Retired Delta Force butt-kicker Colonel John Matrix tries to make a peaceful living with his adorable daughter Jenny (future hottie Alyssa Milano). But someone starts picking off the former members of his team, and General Kirby (Amityville II: The Possesion’s James Olson) comes to warn Matrix and provide him protection. But… that’s what the bad guys were hoping for! They follow Kirby right to Matrix’s mountain paradise, where they make off with Alyssa. It turns out that Matrix’s former Delta Force buddy Captain Bennett (The Road Warrior’s Vernon Wells) has switched sides and made a deal with ousted dictator Arius (Dan Hedaya from, well, everything). If John Matrix goes to the fictional South American nation of Val Verde (future Predator hunting site) and kills the president who replaced Arius, they’ll let his daughter go free. But this plan is no bueno for Matrix, who head-snaps the poor sucker escorting him on the plane to Val Verde, slips off through the cargo hold, and goes on the hunt for Bennet and Co. before any of them realize he’s slipped the noose—which will happen in eleven hours when the plane lands in Val Verde and the crew discovers the dead guy slumped over in first class. Or until they hand out the complimentary champagne. Massive amounts of superhuman death and macho weaponry ensue, and Matrix gets an assist from an eager flight attendant and semi-pro pilot (Rae Dawn Chong, who also starred in The Color Purple that year).

09 September 2012

04 September 2012

Edgar Rice Burroughs’s Mars, Part 9: Synthetic Men of Mars

Greetings, late 1930s ERB! How have you been? Oh, not that great? Yes, I know how it is. I’ve read enough of your output from these days.

Cross-posted to Black Gate.

In this long trip across Burroughs’s Mars, I have now reached the conclusion of Phase #3 of the Barsoom books, with the last work of the 1930s. Synthetic Men of Mars is also the last novel Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote in the series; he turned to novellas after this, resulting in two collections, one posthumous. So the ninth book of Barsoom is a eulogy of sorts.

And “eulogy” is the appropriate word: let’s pause to remember the good times, because the good times are gone.

Our Saga: The adventures of Earthman John Carter, his progeny, and sundry other natives and visitors, on the planet Mars, known to its inhabitants as Barsoom. A dry and slowly dying world, Barsoom contains four different human civilizations, one non-human one, a scattering of science among swashbuckling, and a plethora of religions, mystery cities, and strange beasts. The series spans 1912 to 1964 with nine novels, one volume of linked novellas, and two unrelated novellas.

Today’s Installment: Synthetic Men of Mars (1939)

Previous Installments: A Princess of Mars (1912), The Gods of Mars (1913), The Warlord of Mars (1913-14), Thuvia, Maid of Mars (1916), The Chessmen of Mars (1922), The Master Mind of Mars (1927), A Fighting Man of Mars (1930), Swords of Mars (1934–35)