Wednesday, December 29, 2010

"Star Wars" Movie Posters by Tyler Stout

Today turned out to be another wonderful day for art lovers and Star Wars geeks the world over.  This morning Mondo announced the final set of Star Wars movie posters, this time completed by the masterful Tyler Stout.  For those of you who haven't heard of Mr. Stout, he's one of the go-to artists in Mondo's stable and favors a jam-packed, dense, and cluttered aesthetic.  Unlike Olly Moss, who uses negative space to create images within images, Tyler delights in the impenetrable minutia that make up a character’s face or the nicks and cuts on a droid's metal frame.  There's been quite a bit of build up to Tyler's contribution to the Star Wars series and I'm oh so happy to see that he succeeded on every front.

Star Wars - Regular Edition
Star Wars - Variant Edition
There's so much going on in your average Tyler Stout poster that it's often difficult to choose a starting point when reviewing.  I guess we should start off with some of the characters depicted in this gorgeous illustration for the original 1977 film.  Tyler did a bang-up job capturing the glossy sheen of Darth Vader's helmet; you can practically hear the metallic hum of the Dark Lord’s breathing.  I also like what Tyler did with the film's title.  The "Star Wars" wording is like some sort of epic skyscraper enveloping the Tatooine skyline and somehow also managing to act as a platform for Luke Skywalker to strike a slightly awkward heroic pose.  To briefly mention the variant, the gold and silver, a Stout trademark, go a long way in evoking the metallurgic daydreams of our two favorite droids, R2-D2 and C-3PO.

Taken from the UGO article that premiered this artwork earlier today, Justin Ishmael, the man in charge of Mondo, had this to say about the Tyler Stout's Star Wars poster.
"If you look at the Star Wars one, if you kind of start at the bottom and go counterclockwise, Luke is on Tatooine, up the next one you see is him training on the Millennium Falcon with the visor on, and then you go up to him in the X-Wing fighter, and then finally he becomes the Jedi - essentially that’s him posed on the Star Wars logo."
The Empire Strikes Back - Regular Edition
The Empire Strikes Back - Variant Edition
Tyler's use of blue on The Empire Strikes Back poster is a wonderful touch that reminds us of the planet Hoth, a world completely blanketed by snow and ice.  I think I'm definitely more into the regular versions over the variants; there's just something about that added splash of color that give the posters a bit more character.  The AT-AT Walkers are also a nice little bonus as I think Tyler Stout, an artist who thrives on detail, does a great job of outlining all of the metal panels as well as the machine’s laser singed body armor.  Mr. Stout makes clear every point of articulation on machines and humans alike; the specificity with which he draws is really a sight to behold.  This poster also features Boba Fett and Yoda, that's always a big bucket of win to any Star Wars fan.

Justin also briefly spoke with UGO about the amount of time Tyler spent working on The Empire Strikes Back artwork.
"I still can’t believe how much time he spent on Empire.  It’s good that he spent so much time, but it was also very nerve-wracking, as it had to be in approval for so long.  You know, it’s Empire!  This is the big one and I think he really knew it.   
I love the depiction of the Hoth battle, it’s got everything you want.  Everything you think about this movie, you’ve got the Hoth battle, the space slug and even the Millennium Falcon flying out of it."
Return of the Jedi - Regular Edition
Revenge of the Jedi - Variant Edition
The final poster in the series features Palpatine front and center and Tyler's attention to detail is not doing the man any favors.  I love how on all of the posters he included square icons of some of the main characters featured in the films.  I wonder if Tyler has any plans to release those as handbills in the future.  He's been known to do that you know.  I thought I should also mention the manner in which he presents each poster. Tyler has drawn tears and fold marks onto the images, reminding us all of the way we treated movie posters when we were younger.  Hanging them up on the wall, taking them down, folding them, and then hanging them up all over again – this was all part of the vicious and loving cycle that many posters couldn’t hope to survive.  What also caught my eye was how, out of all the variants, the Return of the Jedi variant has a completely different title.  Instead of the "Return of the Jedi" wording it reads "Revenge of the Jedi."  How crazy is that?

Here’s what Justin had to say about the Revenge of the Jedi title.
"This was the first thing we talked about for the whole Star Wars project.  It was Tyler doing the original three and then Revenge of the Jedi.   
All of the variants are a color change.  All of Tyler’s variants are gold.  It’s his standard thing.  We’ll spend extra money if we think it’s really cool and this is an example.  A New Hope and Empire are color changes to gold and they are all metallic.  But this one we are printing new screens for everything, because it’s like a totally different poster.  
He had to resize the logo, too.  The logo is different enough that it needed to be resized, but we'll go the extra mile to do stuff that’s cool.  If we have to spend money to do it it’s not a problem.  We are fans first.  That’s always what is on our mind."
I did a little additional research (and by research I mean Wikipedia) and apparently a teaser trailer and poster for the film carried the title Revenge of the Jedi, but Lucas changed it to Return of the Jedi before its release because "revenge" was not a Jedi concept.  Very interesting stuff.

I'm really happy to see that Mondo has increased the edition size for these prints.  I'm hopeful that in the future if they're selling Stout or Moss, or any insanely popular artist for that matter, they'll realize their audience has substantially grown since the early days of Mondo Tees and adjust the volume appropriately.  Even if they increase their edition sizes these prints are still VERY limited.  Absolutely nothing is lost if a few more fans are able to get the poster they've been trying to buy since six in the morning.

The final posters in the Star Wars series will be available Friday (12/31) at a random time through Mondo, so if you want a piece of pop culture history you'll need to follow the @MondoNews twitter feed for the exact drop time.  The posters measure 24" x 36" and are all hand numbered.  The regular editions will cost $50 each and are limited to an edition of 850.  The variant editions cost $100 each and are limited to an edition of 250.  These are sure to go quickly.  May the schwartz be with you!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

TRON: Legacy (2010) Theatrical Review

I should probably start off by saying I’m not a very big fan of Avatar.  At this point you may be wondering why I would start off by saying something like that.  Well, from what I’ve been reading there’s already been a slew of comparisons between TRON: Legacy and Avatar.  That is to say, both films take place in an alien world, a world GREATLY enhanced by CGI (computer-generated imagery for the laymen, and by laymen I mean my mom), cutting edge 3D technology and an epic adventure narrative.  In my opinion Avatar was too long, kind of boring, overly preachy (Unobtanium, seriously?) and was so overhyped by everyone around me that I couldn’t help but be unimpressed upon my initial viewing.  Many critics have said the same thing about TRON: Legacy, but I have to disagree mainly for one reason – I freaking loved this film.  TRON: Legacy was the dystopic balls-to-the-wall adventure I’d been waiting for.  The visuals (minus one glaring infraction), the sounds and score, even the paint-by-the-numbers plot had me completely hooked.

For those of you that haven’t yet been inundated with TRON information by the Disney marketing machine, here is the basic rundown.  Sam Flynn, Kevin Flynn’s son, is transported to The Grid (that’s what the TRON world is called), the very same digital domain that his father (brilliantly played by Jeff Bridges) created in the first TRON film.  In this new and amazingly rendered world, Sam is forced to not only survive but is tasked with saving mankind and the world as he knows it.  Action ensues.  Things explode.

Light Cycles in the arena
Let’s start with what I loved about the film, and there’s quite a bit.  First and foremost – the visuals.  There, I said what we were all thinking.  The main reason to see this film is the visuals.  The world that Disney created here and has grown since the 1982 precursor is absolutely mind blowing.  The look is simple, elegant (in that neon-light explosion kind of way) and respectfully pays homage to the original while bringing something wholly new to the table.   The art direction in TRON: Legacy is the stuff of legends in my book, everything, including the architecture, the vehicles and costumes lend themselves to a sleek futuristic minimalist high-tech high-sheen aesthetic, and it’s simply mesmerizing to behold.  This film is complete eye candy and if you went for no other reason than that, I think you’d walk away satisfied.  Fortunately or unfortunately, depending how you look at it, this means the acting and plot are largely overshadowed by the gorgeous mise-en-scène.

While I think Garrett Hedlund as Sam Flynn did a fine job with the lines he was given and looks enough like Jeff Bridge’s Kevin Flynn as to imply a possible familial connection, the acting is secondary to the effects.  Even Jeff Bridges, who seems to be channeling an older and much nerdier Jeffrey Lebowski and is always great in pretty much everything he does, plays second fiddle to the bright lights and pulsing soundtrack.

Daft Punk making a cameo in TRON: Legacy
The other element vital to the film’s success would have to be TRON: Legacy’s score.  Disney was VERY wise in hooking up with the boys from Daft Punk as they really give the film’s visuals an added legitimacy.  With every synth tone the neon lights that illuminate the world of TRON become that much more tangible.  I can say with very little doubt that this was my favorite score of 2010.  So much so, that I purchased the album within an hour of getting home from the theater.  The score, which somehow manages to perfectly combine the duo’s traditionally electronic sound with an epic orchestral arrangement, is something altogether new and I’m sure will give Daft Punk even more opportunities to flex their musical muscles.  The film’s amazing score seems to be the one thing that everyone can agree on; people really seem to like it.

The digitally rendered Clu
Now I mentioned how beautiful the film is earlier.  It’s true, the movie is gorgeous visually and aurally, but there’s one small offense that’s a bit hard to forgive – Clu.  The Clu character is meant to look like a younger Kevin Flynn/Jeff Bridges.  It doesn’t work; it’s as simple as that.  The same problems that many films run into when incorporating CGI characters, including dead eyes and skin that looks like plastic, crop up here.  It wouldn’t be much of a problem if Clu had an insignificant role in the film and only appeared for 30 seconds here and there, but he’s the main villain!  With that said, Clu is really my only gripe with the film and I can’t wait to pick this up on Blu once it’s released.

TRON: Legacy was a gripping adventure that I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend to friends who don’t mind a big, sometimes dopey, often explosion-y action spectacle now and again.  The film is a revelation to look at and a complete thrill to listen to.  It might just be the perfect cure to anyone who is still dealing with the gut punch that the amazing Black Swan packed.  Go see the film and simply enjoy the ride it takes you on.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Black Keys Gig Poster by Jeff Proctor

When two of my favorite things come together I can’t help but take notice.   Combining Jeff Proctor, an amazing artist who I’ve been following closely ever since his initial Mondo outing with the Zombie , and The Black Keys, who are easily one of my top three bands in 2010, is a surefire success any way you look at it.  I missed out on the original Black Keys poster that Proctor designed earlier this year, but definitely do not plan to miss out on his soon to be San Diego poster. poster

The Black Keys Gig Poster - San Diego 2010
Does Jeff Proctor love zombies?  If I had to guess, I’d say, quite emphatically, “Yes!”  And thank goodness he does, because that means pretty much every poster he puts together is an instant win in my book.  I love how Proctor is somehow able to create these incredibly lifelike and realistic depictions of zombified Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney, but make it look completely effortless with bold black lines and a very minimal color palette.  The man's clearly got a pretty decent understanding of human anatomy as well, because Patrick Carney’s rotting/chewed through cheek looks freakishly authentic.  If I ever turn zombie, and mark my words I someday will, I’d like Jeff Proctor to do my portrait.  It’s a fantastic poster and I really hope he’ll continue working with The Black Keys.  I wouldn’t mind a few more Mondo posters either.  Keep'em coming Jeff!

I also wanted to mention the awesomeness that is The Black Keys.  I had originally heard the band in college with their spectacular Thickfreakness album and immediately knew I had stumbled onto something amazing.  Their muddy electric rock spoke to the parts of me that loved the heart-on-your-sleeve soul music of the 60s and the garage rock beats of The Strokes.  These two interests of mine had somehow prepared my ears for the duo’s wonderful minimalist and distorted approach.  Fast forward to a few months ago, when on a whim I picked up their most recent Brothers album and was once again transported to some sort of dirty blues nirvana.  Need more proof of the band’s greatness?  Check out my favorite track off their newest album, “Unknown Brother,” and you will forever bow at The Black Keys altar.

Back to Jeff Proctor’s awesome poster.  There hasn’t been any announcement about when the poster will be released, but Jeff has asked folks to sign up for his newsletter for the impending purchase date.  While we’re waiting for an announcement, be sure to check out his website and store for some really beautiful artwork.  Also, head over to The Black Keys website and learn a little more about these guys and their music.  They're really good.

Monday, December 20, 2010

"True Grit" Movie Poster by Aaron Horkey

You'll have to excuse me if I come across as a little bitter today.  I got burned on this morning's Olly Moss Mondo Star Wars release and am feeling quite down at the moment.  It's a real shame that the run was so limited, and the demand SO high, but it is what it is.  Ultimately, Mondo will release another amazing poster set (I'm looking at you Guillermo Del Toro Director's Series), which I will have no problem scoring and all will be right with the world again.  Hopefully.  To those of you who did manage to snag a Star Wars poster, or even more unimaginable, posters - congrats...and damn you!  Now moving on to what I had intended to talk about in the first place, Aaron Horkey's True Grit movie poster.

True Grit - Regular Edition
True Grit - Variant Edition
I've always been kind of hot and cold with Aaron Horkey.  I think the level of detail and Aaron's artistic ability are truly awe inspiring, but a lot of his art just doesn't really do anything for me.  For some reason I've always found much of his work, including his trademark razor sharp typography, to be a bit cold and impersonal.  These posters are more of the same for me.  I’m really impressed with all of the detail, it looks like the man must draw/paint with a magnifying glass to generate such a degree of realism, but I think the poster is a bit boring.  I will say this though, Horkey’s True Grit certainly elicits that old-timey feeling with his Western era type and the slithering-in-the-sand rattle snake.  The brown in the regular version of the poster also seems a fitting touch for what is sure to be a Coen Brothers classic.  Ultimately, Horkey’s True Grit poster is an impressive image that doesn’t really connect (for me at least).

As you've most likely already guessed, the True Grit poster will be sold through Mondo's store.  There’s a bit of confusion about when this poster will actually go on sale.  Yahoo! Movies, who announced the poster, says Thursday (12/23), but @MondoNews, who linked to the Yahoo! announcement, says Wednesday (12/22).  I’m sure this will be clarified as the sale gets nearer, but I’d keep my eyes Mondo’s twitter account for the actual sales drop information.  Both posters measure 39” x 15”, with the regular edition being limited to an edition of 400 and the variant to 100.  I can’t wait to see this movie and I imagine the inclusion of the snake on this poster will become much more apparent once all is said and done.  I’m also in the process of writing a review of TRON: Legacy, hopefully it’ll be up by this weekend.  Have a great night everyone!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

"Star Wars" Movie Posters by Olly Moss

For the three nerds that still aren't aware of Friday's (12/17) internet-melting announcement, Mondo has commissioned fan favorite artist Olly Moss to do full-size movie posters for Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi.  Commence freak out.  Olly Moss really did a bang up job on all of these prints although I think the Return of the Jedi poster may be my favorite.  A very hearty thanks go out to WIRED for breaking the story, Mondo for commissioning the piece and of course Olly for completely killing it with his stellar designs.

Star Wars
Well this is a gorgeous print.  We've got an outline of a rather dapper looking C-3PO with a wide shot of some beautiful Tatooine scenery, as well as the planet's two suns (AKA the droid's eyes).  Olly Moss really is the master of the clever composition.  He takes shapes and space and can somehow turn what would normally be a boring square or triangle into a character or iconic cinematic moment.  I'd really love to see his process because his brain clearly works better and is entirely more creative than mine could ever hope to be.  I wonder what else he was able to sneak in to this poster?  Moss's ability to shape complicated, and often astute, imagery out of simple and straight forward elements has been his biggest strength in my opinion, but that doesn't mean he's a one trick pony.  Not at all.  His color choice always seems remarkably appropriate for whatever the subject may be and his use of texture gives much of his Mondo work a sense of authenticity and depth.  Whether it be the strong orange in his Rolling Roadshow posters or the retro green predominantly featured in his Lost art print, one thing is for sure: the man knows how to make a captivating image.

The Empire Strikes Back
Another wonderful print.  In many ways I feel like Olly Moss is the anti Tyler Stout.  His designs are always super clean and modern looking, unlike Stout's posters, which are usually filled to the brim with content and bursting with detail.  I am in no way saying that one is better than the other, in fact it's reasons like this that I love and respect Mondo and the artists they choose to work with - diversity is good!  The Empire Strikes Back poster features the iconic bounty hunter Boba Fett and his menacing silhouette, which just so happen to be housing the Cloud City in this wonderfully conceived design.  And again, Moss has cleverly used one of the simpler elements (Cloud City) in the picture to inform the other (Boba Fett's helmet).  There's really nothing I can pick out in any of these posters to complain about.  They're all brilliant.

Return of the Jedi
This is my favorite of the bunch.  I can't exactly place why I like it so much, although I think it may have something do with the fact that it's somewhat similar to his The Evil Dead movie poster, the crown jewel in my art collection.  And this is probably fanboy heresy, but I've got a soft spot for Ewoks.  They're adorable, they're kind of badass in a very juvenile way, and I used to have a cocker spaniel that sort of looked like Chief Chirpa.  Also, this poster features freaking Darth Vader.  Is there a cooler character in the entirety of the Star Wars universe?  Finally, Olly Moss has done a great job of creating a new and sleek looking poster for a classic film series, while also retaining the original whiz bang sense of excitement we all had when first watching the original trilogy.  This in large part is thanks to his use of the original title typography and his own authentic nerdcentric point of view, something which he has proven again and again.  I'm definitely planning on getting all three of the posters, but this is the one I'm REALLY gunning for. 

Olly probably summed it up best when describing his inspiration and excitement in making these posters to WIRED.
"It was so intimidating!  There is such a wealth of great Star Wars art out there already, from paid professionals and from enthusiastic fans.  I suppose my main aim was to make a set of Star Wars posters that were a little different from what people are used to seeing from the franchise, but still retained that essential Star Wars feel.  I started by re-watching the original movies with a sketchbook on my lap, and just sort of went from there."
Olly Moss's Star Wars posters will be available through Mondo on Monday (12/20) for $50 a poster.  If you've got the bankroll, you can snag all three for $150.  The posters measures 24” x 36”, are out of an edition of 400 and will surely sell out within minutes if not seconds.  Be sure to keep your eyes on the @MondoNews twitter feed and/or sign up for Mondo's newsletter to get the scoop.  When you have some free time also be sure to check out Olly's portfolio site and BigCartel store.  May the force be with you.

Friday, December 17, 2010

"Inception" Art Print by Thomas Kovach

What can I say? I just really, really like Thomas Kovach's art.  There's a fantastical almost comic bookish element in his work that really connects with me.  So here I am, yet again, reviewing another Kovach art print.  As an added treat this print was inspired by the mind bending action flick Inception
To briefly wax on about one of my favorite films of 2010 (Black Swan still being the leader of the pack), Inception was such a breath of fresh air after being forced to reckon with the likes of Robin Hood, Shrek Forever After, The Karate Kid, Prince of Persia, and Jonah Hex.  Sure, we also had movies like Splice, Toy Story 3 and Predators (which I actually really enjoyed), but Inception was unique in that, not only was it an edge of your seat pulse pounding action roller coaster, it also happened to be a completely enjoyable mind fuck.  I've really got to give credit to Nolan for taking some pretty complicated ideas and making them very easy to comprehend.  To this day, I've never understood how some people could be so utterly confused about the plot of Inception.  And to quickly defend the film from the much cited "Inception has way too much exposition" attack - what did you expect?  It's a film about people who go into dreams within dreams within dreams with each level of the dreamscape having its own rules.  Of course the filmmaker is going to have to take some time to lay out the world for us!  Apologies for the tangent, but I feel like that argument could be leveled at many brilliant and innovative films; dismissing the film for that reason is a complete cop out.  Now let's take a look at Thomas Kovach's art print titled "Inception."

As you can already see, Thomas hits this one out of the ballpark.  And one of the things that immediately struck me about this print was his depiction of Cobb (played by Leonardo DiCaprio in the film).  I really like how he didn't feel the need to try to create some sort of photo realistic representation that looked exactly like DiCaprio, instead we get an artist's interpretation of the character and it's a powerful one at that.  Kovach's Cobb is a broken down man, someone who's been in a fight or three and hasn't shaved since last Sunday.  He's also way more badass looking than DiCaprio could ever appear (sorry Leo, it's true).  In addition to his great character work Thomas does some wonderful things with color.  Using the black of Cobb's suit as the image's background helps create that awesome infinity shot effect and really lends itself to many of the film's bigger themes, including reality/fantasy, identity (always a popular one) and of course Joseph Gordon Levitt's three piece suit.

This print is available for purchase through inPRNT! for $24.99 or $40, depending on the size you want. “Inception” is an open edition giclée and is printed on 100% cotton rag archival paper.  To learn more about this artist checking out his blog, portfolio, and his inPRNT! artist page.  He's also written a great blog post about his inspiration for the image, though be warned there are a few spoilers if you haven't already seen the film.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

"TRON" Movie Posters by Eric Tan

Another Eric Tan poster?  Yep.  It turns out that once just wasn't enough and I have returned to the well that is Mr. Tan for more poster goodness.  I'll be honest, I'm not blown away by Eric's TRON: Legacy movie poster, but I absolutely love his more retro TRON poster.  I kind of understand why the Legacy poster doesn't do it for me, but there's also something I can't quite put my finger on.  My biggest complaint (that I'm cognizant of) is the costumes.  When compared to the TRON poster, the TRON: Legacy design is just too simple, too sleek - there's a distinct lack of character.  I think this is more the movie's fault than it is Eric's, because, honestly, that's what the costumes look like in the new film - they're cool, they're hip, essentially everything the original TRON's costumes are not.  With that said, I'm sure if these posters were hanging side by side I'd probably be in awe of their combined greatness and fall down on my knees to sing their names in praise.  Now that that's out of my system, I'd really like to dig into Eric Tan's TRON poster.

There's something so fun about the original TRON.  Even if it's not the greatest movie around (and it's definitely not), the film is filled with so many fresh ideas and those once "state of the art" vector graphics are thoroughly enjoyable for their now, admittedly, obsolescent aesthetic.  Eric's TRON poster also does a fantastic job of capturing that 80s vibe with loud colors, superfluous circuitry and a level of detail that expertly identifies the characters and their motivations.  In other words: the poster does such an effective job of articulating the personalities that populate it, you don't even need to have seen the film to understand who the goodies and the baddies are.  Of course I'd still highly recommend seeking it out.  By the way, what gives with the total lack of any TRON Blu-rays or DVDs guys?

Well now that I've shown you the TRON poster I feel like it'd be a bit callous of me to not show you the Legacy poster.

TRON: Legacy
Better yet, what would the posters look like side by side?

TRON & TRON: Legacy
That's absolutely gorgeous!  I now must have both.  All previous arguments are invalid.

Want to grab one or both of these beauties?  Well, both posters will be available tomorrow, Thursday (12/16), at a random time through Mondo.  I'd highly recommend paying attention to the @MondoNews twitter feed and/or sign up for Mondo's newsletter to get the scoop.  The posters measure 16" x 24" and are hand numbered.  Both posters costs $40, are printed with glow in the dark ink and are limited to an edition of 240.  Don't forget to check out Eric Tan's blog when you've got a chance - he's quite the talented fellow if you couldn't already tell.  Godspeed!

"Jim Cooper" Art Print by Tom Kovach

I love movies and I love posters, ipso facto (did I use that correctly?) I love everything that Tom Kavach creates.  I randomly happened upon Mr. Kavach while browsing inPRNT!, a site where artists can easily sell and distribute their art, and was just blown away by his work. His style bares a striking resemblance to Mike Mignola with just a hint of Jack Kirby, but of course reducing an artist’s output to such a superficial comparison isn’t fair to anyone. Let’s just agree that his art is fantastic and you’d be a dolt if you didn’t follow his sure-to-be stellar career. I’m being completely serious when I say that everything I’ve seen on his blog and through his inPRNT! storefront has blown me away.
Jim Cooper
Remember that guy’s body that was completely flayed by the Predator in Predator? Sure you do.  He was hanging upside down from a tree and had a dog tag that identified him as Dutch’s old Beret buddy, Jim Hopper.  Yep, that’s the guy.  Well, this is a picture of what Jim Hopper looked like BEFORE all of his skin was ripped off.  How great is that?  Well not that great for Jim Hopper obviously, but you get the gist of it. Tom Kavach, obviously a fan of great cinema, has really done an awesome job depicting the soon to be deceased Green Beret (take a look at his right arm if you don’t believe me).  Complete with felled trees, deadly serpents, and a demolished helicopter, the jungle never looked so ominous.

Still not sure what this print is all about?  I’ll let the artist explain in his own words.  The following quote was taken from the Tom’s blog about his portrait series celebrating 80’s icons…sort of.  Read his entire post for more info as I’m only highlighting one of the three portraits he created.
“For anyone who hasn’t been following the blog recently, I’ve been working on a series of portraits of obscure characters from classic 80’s movies. The catch, however, is that these characters are dead and have never been seen before on film. Having only ever been mentioned in fleeting dialogues between the main cast, the viewer is left to create the character for themselves.”
Tom Kavach was also nice enough to shed a little more light on who exactly this Jim Hopper character was.
“Referenced in Predator. He was part of the first team sent into the jungles of South America by Dillon and the CIA. They went in looking for a downed chopper carrying a "cabinet minister and his aide" but what they found was the sharp end of the Predator's wrist blade. All that was left to identify Hopper was his Dog Tags. Although he was not in the physical condition of his superior, Dillon, or his comrade Dutch, he was still a highly decorated, veteran officer in the Green Berets with over 100 successful missions.”
This wonderful giclée is available for purchase through inPRNT! for $24.99 or $40, depending on the size you want. “Jim Hopper” is an open edition print, meaning its edition is not limited to a certain number, and is printed on 100% cotton rag archival paper.  To learn more about this artist I highly recommend checking out, not only his blog and portfolio, but also his inPRNT! artist page.  He’s got some really great stuff for sale. And if you haven’t seen Predator, what are you doing reading this? Seriously? Buy it, now!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Black Swan (2010) Theatrical Review

Note: Since this is the first film review I've ever written I'll try to keep it concise and ignore my inherent inclination toward rambling, but no promises.

I had high, probably unrealistically high, expectations for Black Swan and yet am happy to announce that not only was I completely floored by the film, but as of right now it's my favorite of 2010. For those of you not keen to Darren Aronofsky's filmography, the man likes flawed characters often plagued by obsession, usually to the detriment of the film's protagonist and those around him or her. You can see this theme repeated throughout his entire career - Pi, Requiem for a Dream, The Fountain, The Wrestler, Black Swan - there's always some level of fixation touched upon. Of course simply stating that Aronofsky has an obsession with obsession is painting a picture with some fairly broad strokes.  His films also deal with identity, nostalgia, and desperation to name a few of his other favorite motifs. While Black Swan was obviously developed in Aronofsky's wheelhouse, it's clear that as an artist he's continuing to mature and try new things. In addition to being a brilliant character study, the film also happens to be a fantastic art house horror flick that not only challenges your mind, but also your nerves.

Natalie Portman as Nina Sayers
The less said about the film's plot the better as I tend to think movies, specifically horror films, are much more enjoyable to watch without knowing the entire plot and all of the characters involved.  But to briefly summarize the premise: Black Swan is the story of a ballerina, Nina Sayer, wonderfully played by Natalie Portman, who, when the possibility of attaining her life's dream of dancing the lead in Swan Lake, must learn to not only perform the role of the White Swan, but also the Black Swan.  The White Swan is innocent and graceful, something Nina has no problem with, while the Black Swan must be danced with reckless abandon and sensuality, something Nina journeys to find within herself, yielding some rather horrifying results.

The film starts off with a bang as we peek inside the mind of Nina and become intimately, often uncomfortably, familiar with her aspirations to be the perfect dancer.  To say this film is frighteningly beautiful is an understatement.  Nina moves with graceful refinement from frame to frame, but it quickly becomes clear, due to not only the outward pressures in her life, namely a mother who is both bitter and devoted to her daughter and a ballet director that gleefully manipulates his dancers' emotions, but also her internal struggle as she attempts to tap into the darker side of her psyche, that she is in fact quite unhinged.

Von Rothbart the evil sorcerer
There's a lot to love about Black Swan and I mean A LOT. The film has often been described as Repulsion meets The Red Shoes (both from the Criterion Collection by the way) and it's a rather fitting description, although I think it goes without saying that the Black Swan is an entirely new beast.  Natalie Portman completely transforms herself in the lead role, much like Catherine Deneuve in the aforementioned Repulsion, adopting a mousy voice and a meek demeanor as we witness her character's metamorphosis; Portman wholly becomes Nina.  Coupled with the rigorous months of ballet training she completed to prepare for this film, I'll be very upset if she isn't at least nominated for an Oscar.  That goes for all of the performances, Mila Kunis as the competitive ballerina, Vincent Cassel as the exacting director, and Barbara Hershey as perhaps the film's most frightening character, Nina's mom, all deserve praise (and awards) for their wonderful portrayals.

Vincent Cassel as Thomas Leroy works with Nina Sayers
And the cinematography, my god the cinematography; this film is absolutely gorgeous.  There were several shots during the Swan Lake rehearsals that boggled my mind.  The camera would be focused on Nina, slowly revolving around her, while rows and rows of dancers would weave in an out of the camera's line of sight, somehow just narrowly avoiding what I imagine to be a quite dexterous camera operator.  Darren Arofnosky and cinematographer Matthew Libatique take ballet, something that is normally treated with elegance and grandeur, and made it gritty and personal without compromising the film's beauty.  The CG effects work in Black Swan also add to the insanity developed by Arofnosky and company by creating some very gory and very stirring imagery, though there was one shot that looked less than perfect (which I will address below).  As previously mentioned, while there are certainly aspects of the film that scream art house drama, this film would make Cronenberg proud with some of the more grotesque and horrific scenes.

The only real complaint I have about the film was a scene which takes place in a hospital near the end of the film.  It was frightening, it was gory (both things I love), but some of the visual effects looked fake and had me a bit worried about the ending.  Ultimately, this was a very shallow complaint and didn't affect my admiration and infatuation for the film in any way, but still surprised me given the amount of work that clearly went into the picture.  Who knows, maybe when I see this on Blu-ray (and I WILL be buying this on Blu-ray) I'll find that I was completely mistaken.

Ultimately, Black Swan is a masterpiece, which I think many will remember whenever thinking back to 2010, a year that hasn't given us very many great films.  The film is sure to divide audiences (something more films should strive to do), but will definitely pack a punch no matter how you feel about the movie.  It is still in limited release but is sure to be coming to a theater near you soon.  When it does, run, don't walk to the nearest screening.  It'll be well worth your time.

Rating: 5/5 stars