Friday, October 12, 2012

Villain of the Day- October 12th

"Didn't you say that all who stand against England deserve to die a traitor's death? Burn down the church!"

I wonder how much the british much hate Mel Gibson. He's been in two movies that have totally bastardized the english and made whoever it is they're fighting to look like total saints who have never wronged anyone in their lives and were totally taken advantage of by those tea drinking bastards. Probably the embodiment of exaggerated english dickweeds is Colonel Tavington from The Patriot. Played by Jason Isaacs, who would go on to win popularity as Lucius Malfoy in Harry Potter, Tavington is basically a bastard right from the start. His very first appearance on screen is him killing a 12 year old boy and ordering the murder of several wounded POW's and the burning of a farm... Even though the owner of the farm (and father of the 12 year old boy) cared for wounded english soldiers as well. He's one of those guys who believes that the ends always justifies the means and as long as he gets results, who cares how he got them? Even if he did get them by burning down a church filled with innocent villagers. After this movie was released, historians were quick to discredit this character as just being an exaggeration of several british officers who did some pretty questionable things, but none of them went so far as to immolate innocent people for holding their tongues. The thing that sets him apart and doesn't make him as strong as other villains is that he is never really given a backstory, so you don't really know why he thinks he can justify these terrible actions, which wouldn't really be a problem, except that this is a historical movie about things that actually happened. As long as people remember that this is a movie, and a fictional one at that, I don't think it really does any harm though, and Jason Isaacs is an extremely underrated actor who turns in a really cool performance in this movie.

Villain of the Day- October 11th

Mr. Hyde
There are many ways to look at the story The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson. One way to look at it is that it is about man's ongoing struggle between good and evil. When he is Dr. Jekyll, he is a decent human being, whereas Mr. Hyde is a bloodthirsty monster. The approach that I like to take to the story, since I am a psychology major, is that it is really an exploration of the human mind, making Dr. Jekyll the civilized person and Mr. Hyde the barbaric animalistic side of a person. According to Sigmund Freud, the human mind is divided up into 3 areas, the sections that are governed pleasure, morality, and the area that tries to find the common ground between the two. Dr. Jekyll is governed by the third area, while Hyde is controlled by pleasure, in other words not at all. Hyde is the end result of what happens to man when you strip away all rules, consequences and restraints that have been put on him by society. He just does what he wants without any second thoughts, no hesitations and no regard for what might happen to him or what the effects will be on others. I like this approach to Hyde because it brings to light a very disturbing idea: Hyde lives in all of us. And again, it's not that we all have an evil personality waiting to unleash hell on the world, it just means that we all have that animalistic side to us. So really, the potion didn't change Dr. Jekyll or make him a different man, it just stripped away any regard that he had for rules, morality and society. 

Villain of the Day- October 10th

Professor Moriarty
One of the most iconic heroes in all of literature is famed sleuth Sherlock Holmes. And his adversary, Professor James Moriarty, is one of the most well known villains in all of literature, and he's gotten a reputation in film now too since both the Sherlock Holmes movies and the show Sherlock have featured him. So what is so freaking cool about this guy that makes him so prolific? Well, in my opinion, it's the fact that he is everything that the hero is, except that they stand on different sides of the law. We get the sense that he is Sherlock in a different life. In the Guy Ritchie movie, they have the same level of intellect, have similar habits and can even play the same mind games with each other. In the series Sherlock, it's a little different, they are almost black and white, total polar opposites. Sherlock is a detective, Moriarty is a criminal. Holmes is very stoic, Moriarty is extremely flamboyant. It's a classic case of how people can be similar and yet so different. In both the movies and the series, I could almost see them being friends had they not been standing on different sides of the line. They even have a respect for each other and admit that they are the greatest adversaries they have faced. So, I guess what makes Moriarty such an iconic character is not so much he himself (there are plenty of other characters like him), but the complex relationship that he shares with Holmes.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Villain of the Day- October 9th

"You know how I stayed alive this long? All these years? Fear. The spectacle of fearsome acts... It's what preserves the order of things. Fear."
Bill The Butcher
It's no secret that while I am a huge fan of director Martin Scorsese, and while I do love movies like The Departed, Shutter Island and Casino, there is one movie that I really like above all those and think is extremely underrated. That movie being of course the historical epic that is Gangs of New York. It's not entirely overlooked, being that it was a hit at the box office and was up for it's share of academy awards, but when people discuss Scorsese, it does tend to get forgotten. And when people talk about good villains, Daniel Day-Lewis's portrayal of ruthless gangster Bill Cutting gets overlooked as well. Lewis really is one of those actors who, every time he is on screen, you forget that that is an actor and you accept that who you are seeing on screen is a real person, which makes the thought of a person like Bill The Butcher really scary. He's a small time gang leader in the more impoverished section of New York City during the Civil War era, when New York was the epicenter for immigration. This was a time when being an actual born american was something to be proud of (to say the least), and caused increased tensions in growing cities like New York. Bill is the leader of the gang called The Natives, a group of born americans with an utter hatred of immigrants hoping to become americans, most of all the irish. Bill has a complicated attitude towards the Irish. He acts as though he has an incurable contempt for them, but admits that he admires some of them. Even when he talks about one of his oldest enemies, he admits that in another life, they could have been friends had fate not chosen them to be sworn adversaries. It's almost one of those moments when you look at him and say "You know what? You're not so bad." but then you remember that his sworn enemy was Liam Neeson who he killed in the opening scene, and now you want to see him rot. What makes Bill such a cool bad guy is not only his hatred, but his rage. There is this great scene at the beginning of the film in which you just see this intensity in Bill's eyes as he cuts down opponent after opponent. It's not a sadistic look, as though he enjoys it, but it definitely gives the impression that he is clearly someone off his rocker. Later on in the film, he has this great monologue in which he explains how a person like him has been able to survive in this world. Again, you don't get the impression that he necessarily enjoys doing such horrible things to people, but he at least has this attitude of "It's either you or me". I believe Daniel Day-Lewis was up for an academy award that year, and it would be a shame if I was wrong about that because his performance really did help this very insane, but also very humane character. It's one of the few times when you actually, not feel bad for someone, but at least see where they are coming from and why they have such a warped view of people, society and the world at large

Monday, October 8, 2012

Villain of the Day- Oct 8th

"You cannot hide... I SEE YOU"

"You do not seriously think that a hobbit can contend with the will of Sauron?"

"Give up the half-ling!"

"Do you not know death when you see it? This is my hour!"

In continuing with my accidental trend of talking about all things geek, we are going to look at what many have called the Bible of all Geeks, The Lord of the Rings. I have often said that Tolkein is about as close to Homer as we're going to get in this modern age, and the villains he created for Middle Earth only help reinforce my belief. Most of the characters in this series fit our idea of typical literary archetypes, his villains of course being no exception. Sauron, the title character and main antagonist, is pretty much like the devil in that all he wants to do is create misery and chaos and either kill or enslave every living creature in existence. Those that he can't do that to, he twists them and manipulates them into doing his bidding. A prime example is the white wizard Saruman, who is also one of the main antagonists, though he only shows up briefly in the final installment. Saruman was a pure and wise wizard until Sauron got to playing around in his head and actually convinced the wizard that to join him is the better idea than fighting him. And he really takes that to heart. It is one thing if he joined Sauron because he felt that he had no other choice, but he dives into this alliance very willingly and even helps him create whole armies of hellish minions numbering in the thousands. The other people that have been twisted by Sauron's deceit are the Ring Wraiths. Having started out as being wise and great kings in their own lands, the dark lord has now taken them and turned them into his personal errand boys, leaving Mordor to hunt the one that has the ring and lead his armies into battle. Chief among them is a man known only as The Witch King, a very powerful and skilled sorcerer who it has been said cannot be killed by any man. Each of these baddies are awesome in their own way, from the Ring Wraiths dark over powering presence to Saruman being played by Christopher Lee whose deep voice and towering height make him all the more intimidating. Even Sauron has this creepy vibe to him even though we never actually see any characters interact with him all that much. It probably has little to do with characters talking to him, and more to do with how characters talk ABOUT him. Every time someone even utters his name, you know that he is bad news. There's no reasoning, there's no negotiating, he just wants to watch the world burn.

"The half-ling was dear to thee, I see. Know, then that he suffered greatly at the hands of his host"

And one more guy that shows up here that is creepy beyond all reason is The Mouth of Sauron. Unlike the Ringwraiths, you don't really know what his story is, or how he ended up working for Sauron. He is just the servant who acts as Sauron's voice to his armies. He probably even outranks the Witch King since he is the one that sits by Sauron's side and is the first to greet the army marching on the black gates. He even taunts them by giving them evidence that Frodo has been killed as slowly and as painfully as possible. Unfortunately, there isn't a whole lot I can say because he only shows up for about 5 minutes in the extended version of the final movie, and his appearance in the books isn't that long either. But the little screen time that he does have is pretty memorable, and is among many scenes that should have been left in the original draft.

Sunday, October 7, 2012


I've found myself apologizing for a number of things lately. One of them is being an enduring Tim Burton fan in spite of his last few movies. Even though I have said multiple times that some of his films, especially the ones that have come out in the past few years, have landed in the 'Guilty Pleasure' category. Thankfully, he has finally come out with a movie where I don't think I'll have to make that excuse. Frankenweenie, Burton's first animated film in years, is a remarkable movie that ranks amongst his best. The story of a boy who brings his dog back to life after an unfortunate accident was made into a short film many years ago and has now been made into a full length motion picture paying homage to classic horror films including Frankenstein and Dracula. In this movie, Burton's love of such films really becomes evident in the style of the character's appearances, the fact that the whole movie is in black and white, and even a character that is a salute to classic horror actor Vincent Price. If you're a Burton fan, you'll love it, if you have pets, you'll love it, if you like old school horror, you'll love it. Seeing as how I fit into all 3 categories, it's pretty safe to say that I freaking love this movie and will be looking for it on Blu Ray when it comes out. Something that I have heard a number of people ask me is how I think it compares to Paranorman. Well, they are both similar in that they pay homage to horror flicks of the past and they both use stop-motion animation, which I always enjoy, but they also have a vast number of differences. For starters, Norman salutes more of the slasher films of people like George Romero than the traditional monster genre whose homage was payed by Frankenweenie. I will say that I enjoyed the humor of Paranorman more while the style and story was trumped by Frankenweenie. Not to mention my slight bias which comes with being a Tim Burton fan. I guess I would say that I enjoy these movies about the same and will definitely be picking them up when they hit the shelves.

Final Grade: A

Villain of the Day- Oct 7th

Marvel has given us some pretty fascinating characters. One of the best, in my opinion is the mega villain Magneto. He's not only a villain, he's a tragic hero almost that is easy to identify with and feel sorry for, but is also hard to root for when you see him do some pretty messed up stuff. All he wants to do is make the planet safe for mutants to live in, but in his mind, that can only happen when humans are no longer in existence.He's much like Ra's Al Ghul in that he has a radical objective that he has already decided in his mind is the right thing, and nobody can change his mind, not even his best friend who believes that humans and mutants can live in harmony. At this day and age, I think we find the idea of radicals rather frightening because we have seen what a radical belief in something can do and how little they care about the consequences. Magneto's convictions, paired with a masterful performance from Michael Fassbender and the always great Sir Ian McKellen make for a great villain and another one of my favorites, even if I haven't read all of the comics.

"The war is still coming, and I intend to fight it, by any means necessary"

Villain of the Day- Oct 6th

Today's entrees are actually two of my favorite villains of all time. Not only because of how lethal they are, but because of how lethal they don't appear. One is disguised as a cop, but constantly on the hunt for a teenage boy while the other has the appearance of an accountant, but is relentlessly pursuing people whose minds have been freed from the Matrix. The cool thing that both the t-1000 and Agent Smith have in common is that since they are both basically machines, you can't reason with them. At least in cases like some of the other people to show up here, you can try to appeal to their human side. With these two, you can't even pray to have such a chance. If they want you gone, then you're gone. And yeah, I know alot of people think that Arnold was pretty awesome in the first Terminator movie, and while I do think that he was, I like the T-1000 more because he looks far less suspicious, thereby making him more terrifying and he passes off as a cop, which opens up a whole new can of worms. Same with Agent Smith. He is a high ranking officer in the justice system and has control of the police. How he got to that point, I'm not sure, but I wouldn't want to stick around this guy to find out anything.

"Say, that's a nice bike"- T-1000

Human Beings are a disease... You are a plague and we are the cure"- Agent Smith

Villain of the Day- Oct 5th

The other popular franchise that has been taking over movie theaters for the past few years is The Avengers. Just about everybody and their mother has seen the movie by now and while they do have a really cool villain that definitely deserves recognition, there is another one that I think deserves to be looked at. And that is... Red Skull. Appearing in Captain America: The First Avenger, Red Skull starts out as a Nazi Officer who is after some ancient power that he believes was placed in the earth by the gods many years ago. And now he plans on using this power to achieve his own objectives, which is of course, world domination. He is a military genius and extremely arrogant, not wasting a single opportunity to flaunt his genius in other people's faces. He is about as old fashioned a villain as you can get, which fits really well, considering that Captain America is an old fashioned super hero. There isn't a whole lot that sets him apart from other super villains except for the fact that he is played by Hugo Weaving and his eyebrows that are set at a permanently evil stance. Being that I've never read any Captain America comic books, or really and comics for that matter, I can't really say that much more about him. So if the movie totally botched what he was like in the comics, well, I could care less, he's played by Hugo Freaking Weaving!

"No matter what lies Ersken told you, you will see I was his greatest success!"

Villain of the Day- Oct 4th

One of the highest grossing film series not only of the past few years, but of all time, is Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight Trilogy. And it's not hard to see why. These movies really pushed the envelope in terms of how grounded in reality we could make a comic book movie seem, and it really worked out. Even people who aren't really into comic books or superheroes or anything like that were able to find something worth liking in these movies. One of the coolest parts of these flicks were the villains. Chris Nolan really showed that he knew how to write good characters when he gave us his renditions of characters like The Joker and Bane. And we're here to talk about them today!

The Joker- Even though Heath Ledger's performance as the killer clown is the most well known and most well received, that in no way means that we should shun all of the others, which were each good in their own way. That's the beautiful thing about a character like the Joker, as long as he does the essential things, mainly laugh like a maniac, you can do whatever you want with the character. Just be sure to include that he is a clown and that his only true motivation is to make people suffer. The how and why has ranged from adaptation to adaptation, but the core concept has stayed the same. Jack Nicholson's performance focused more on the clown side of the character, while Heath Ledger focused more on the maniac side of the character. For what they were trying to accomplish, each actor did beautifully. My personal favorite though has to be Mark Hamill's version from Batman: The Animated Series, which seemed to find the perfect mix of clown and killer, which is no small feat considering that this was a cartoon show aimed primarily at children.

"Why so serious?"

Bane- This is a character that has really been through the ringer. Even though he had a cool backstory, there weren't many movies that took him seriously as a character, which is sad because this guy would be the perfect adversary. He is afterall, one of the only villains to best the caped crusader in a one on one fight and break his back. In the atrocity that is Batman and Robin, he was reduced to being a mindless body guard who spoke in one word sentences. I don't think he even harmed Batman let alone broke his back. In this newest incarnation in The Dark Knight Rises, he has been upped from a gun for hire to a full blown terrorist leader with a crazy agenda and a messed up means of achieving his goals. In the comics, his backstory was that he was raised in a prison and he wears the mask because it pumps a steroid into his blood stream that makes him stronger than any man around.  In TDKR, the mask is a portable life support that pumps a pain killer into his blood stream because he is in chronic pain due to an injury (or series of injuries) that he received when he was younger. Not too different from Darth Vader. Either way, he is still a pretty awesome character, and it's nice to see a movie treat him like the badass he is, even if his voice was hard to understand at times.

"No one cared who I was until I put on the mask"

Ra's Al Ghul- In arabic, his name literally translates out to mean "the demon's head". He is the leader of a cult called "The League of Shadows", a group of ninjas hell bent on restoring world order, no matter the cost, even if that cost is the lives of thousands of people, innocent and guilty. It's scary to think of somebody having such a conviction and while we can all agree that world peace is a good thing, we can all take issue with the means. In the show, Ra's was immortal by means of a fountain of youth type device that wold restore his youth and body should he ever age or be fatally injured. In the movies, they talk about him being immortal through his ideals being passed on so that others may fulfill his work and succeed where he failed. Either way, it lead to a Liam Neeson cameo in TDKR, which we can all agree is a plus.

"If someone stands in the way of true justice, you simply walk up behind them, and stab them in the heart"