When Mark Millar hit the scene with a number of edgy renditions on classic and wholly original titles, it wasn’t long before his work was bound to hit the silver screen with some sort of adaptation after another. He has a feel for the pulse of a jaded youth culture and a negative outlook that would make Nietzsche proud. There’s a strong influence from Alan Moore in his approach to stories, especially in the finale portion where all things are brought to a head. He really started to gain a name for himself with his work on the Ultimate Avengers, notoriously having the Hulk perform acts of sadistic torture for the sure joy of it while also turning Giant Man into a wife beater, forcing Captain America to dwell within his anachronistic tastes, making Thor an environmentalist, and on and on. So, for those of you who know me, you probably realize that I’m not a fan of his work. “Wanted” saw a world ruled by Supervillains where a young man is chosen to carry the mantle of his Assassin father, and ultimately becomes no better and no worse than just about any other super villain with a psychotic fixation on abusing the world around him. He followed that independent title up with “Kick Ass”, a story about a milk-toast kid who decides to don a costume and play vigilante in the modern world. This wretched story sends you home with the same moral as “Watchmen”, that the people who want to do right in this world are sick and twisted people who should be put in a funny farm.
The movie removes a number of the more disheartening elements from the comic and delivers a fairly psychotic dose of ultra-violence played up with heroic themes. After the death of his mother and a life that pretty much drones on, a teen boy decides to don a costume and become a vigilante in order to fill some sort of a vacuum in his life. While he tries to tell us that there were no major events, no sudden catastrophes, no special reason for donning the costume it becomes apparent that he’s not really all there in the brain and this sudden break came after a series of lifes’ disappointments have threatened to swallow him whole. It doesn’t take long before the audience is let in on the fact that he’s not the only game in town, and the teen eventually meets the crime-fighting duo of “Hit Girl” and “Big Daddy”. The duo have been waging a personal and extraordinarily violent war with the city’s lead criminal empire, not so much acting the part of costumed vigilantes as they are purely psychotic serial killers.
The story depicts all the mental problems and insecurities that would drive most of these people to pursue these lives, but we’re too often asked to put aside the nagging disgust that rises when “Big Daddy” shoots his own daughter to get her ready for their mission. It tries to be “funny’ but often comes off as uncomfortable, and the fight scenes are far more vicious than you would have imagined from the commercials or ad campaign when the film came out. Another problem is that the films’ lead character doesn’t really do much and often comes across as a somewhat clueless putz, fawning over his romantic interest and narrating line after line of meaningless diatribes in order to sound hip and throw around comic book references. By comparison, the character of “Hit Girl” virtually steals the movie out from underneath the lead, Big Daddy is one of the best performances from Nicholas Cage in a long time, and even the awkwardly diabolical “Villain” comes off as a more endearing character than the lead.
4 out of 5, but I’m not even sure it really lives up to that rating. I’m torn on this film.
Gamers (spoiler alert)
Not to be confused with “The Dead Gentlemen” production or its sequel, “Gamers” is actually a mockumentary documenting the lives of a generic gaming group celebrating their 25th anniversary of gaming with one another and hoping to break a record on total hours played. Featuring cameos and bit roles from several established “stars” in Hollywood (John Heard, Olivia D’Abo, and William Kat amongst some few others).
Look, all five guys are portrayed as alternately stupid, socially awkward, obsessed, and infantile. None of the men have decent jobs, none of the men are shown to be in a steady relationship, and none of the men seem to have any sort of a life outside of their small little fantasy outing for a few hours on a given Saturday night. And, of course, the game acts a source of embarrassment for some of them and taken far too seriously by others. It’s actually a fairly insulting sort of a film and seemed more than a little bitter toward a hobby that many perfectly well adjusted people play on a regular basis. As a matter of fact, the end of the film finds the group breaking up in order to explore what else life has to offer them and somehow automatically become (somewhat) successful in their lives. All they had to do was give up their hobby, of course! Things like this kind of irk me, because these are people whose lives were messed up long before and after the discovery of a game. Perhaps the game actually helped them find connections and friendships they wouldn’t have otherwise? No… they just weren’t athletic or handsome or whatever, so they wound up with an RPG instead.
2.5 out of 5.
TNA: PPV Hardcore Justice
Let’s be honest… it was an ECW pay per view with TNA footing the bill. And the honest truth is that I’m glad it was precisely what it wound up being. I was really depressed for my birthday, dwelling on things best left alone, when I had a friend convince me to order the PPV and give it a go. I thought that maybe it would be a couple of guys from ECW and a couple of guys from TNA, but it was honestly just a start to finish ECW show with all the bells and whistles. The show was a solid salute to the old promotion, hitting all the familiar notes with some impressive build up and a “101” lesson in how to book wrestling shows and angles.
The FBI, Kid Kash, Simon Diamond, and Johnny Swinger opened the show with a good comedy match that featured dancing, goofing off, and a decent amount of work from the matches lead workers (Guido and Kash). It wasn’t much in the way of showing what ECW was made of, but it provided a light-hearted opening to the PPV. Kash and Guido were wrestling like this was an opportunity to show Dixie Carter that they could both still go and the rest of the crew actually did their best to put over the two men. Tony (Marma)Luke took an especially nasty bump from Kid Kash and got spiked into the mat with a double underhook piledriver. Nice stuff.
We then followed up with a number of testimonial features from the performers of yesterday and today, talking about the influence of the promotion and providing commentary on their memories. These kind of things played throughout the show. Al Snow, Steven Richards, and some members of a club dressed in Blue whose name was not allowed to be put to use did a good backstage bit where Snow did what he does best.
Too Cold Scorpio Vs. CW Anderson: A much more serious match with plenty of stiff shots on the part of both men. They’ve both been working, primarily, in Japan for the past ten years or so. And it’s the fairly traditional clash of styles… one a technician on the mat, the other an aerial high flyer. Both men worked a solid match with Scorpio hitting the Tumbleweed for a finish.
More video packages. I'm not going to bother giving the break down on all of them.
Steven Richards vs. PJ (Justin Credible): Credible doesn’t seem all that interested in being at the PPV and somewhat phones in a performance. Kind of makes me sad to think of this guy as washed up, but I think his confidence is frankly shattered beyond redemption and he figures he’ll never step up his game again. Richards, on the other hand, is a rising star in TNA and does his best to get a good match out of Credible. Unfortunately, the whole thing kind of comes to a bizarre end when Sandman hits the ring post match to dish out a beating on PJ with the Singapore cane. What’s worse is that this is the only appearance from the Sandman for the night, and it was kind of pathetic all around.
Brother Runt (Spike Dudley), Al Snow, and Rhino come down for an ECW classic 3-Way Elimination style dance. Good match with solid work from all three guys. Al Snow showed more than just a little of what he’s still capable of. The guy doesn’t look his age at all and hit a number of impressive moves before elimination by Runt. Great comedy bit with a triple down, with Runt and Snow trying to get each other DQ’ed and Rhino finally picks up the win after nearly cutting the Runt in half with a GORE GORE GORE!!!!
Chair Swingin’ Freaks hit the ring and call out any tag team… and they get a “Well…. Well…. Well… “ in response. Team 3D hits the ring with Tye-Dye and Joel Gertner for the traditional Brother Gertner opening poem. Bubba reminds the Freaks, one Axl Rotten and one “Kahoneys”, that no one is paying to see them “wrestle”. So we get a South Philly Brawl, which is just another way of saying a classic ECW rules “Hardcore” plunder and broken furniture match! This match was awesome, hilarious, and everything that’s missing from wrestling in this day and age…. It was FUN!!! Lightsaber duel hit the high point of the match with a flaming table in the finale.
Afterwards, familiar sounding music hit the arena and out come the Gangstas and a whole set of brand new plunder. They beat up everyone… and then they hug, celebrate, and head backstage. Not a very well-booked ending, would have rather seen them as part of the match in whole than for a quick little intro like that. But New Jack, Mustafa, JB, and So-Cal Val have a good little bit backstage after the match that I found fairly interesting.
Raven vs. Dreamer: Ultimately, the only real angle leading into this PPV was the end of a long running feud between Raven and Tommy Dreamer. They threw everything into this match, using their build up time to remind the fans of what has gone before and just what this feud was all about. So there was a lot riding on this match so far as writing, booking, and performing. Dreamer and Raven aren’t in their prime any more, they’re both in their late 30’s and early 40’s with two careers stacked with injuries. Despite the limitations, both men brought us back to the mid-90’s with a fantastic brawl. Best match of the show by far, which is actually a little surprising given the Main Event.
RVD vs. Sabu: Sabu shaved his head?!?!?!! Unlike the previous two men, RVD still seems to be in the prime of his career… but he’s really the only one who is. It would have been smarter to build a larger story around this match, putting some heel heat on Sabu and giving the ECW original freak a real platform to perform. AS it was, both men gave a solid performance but lacked any real psychology or story to build… on it’s own, the match would have been a solid one on one. As the Main Event to a Pay Per View?
Post match the performers hit the ring and gave a last call send off to the fans and one another, giving me warmth and comfort for memories I feel special to have shared with a number of like-minded individuals. But those are years long past… and that’s a little hard to swallow on a birthday.