Northlanders: Sven The Returned (2008)

Northlanders: Sven The Returned (2008)

Publisher: Vertigo/DC Comics
Creative Team: Brian Wood, Massimo Carnevale, Davide Gianfelice

Set in Viking-era Scotland, Northlanders: Volume One (Sven The Returned) collects issues 1-8 of the DC/Vertigo comic series written by Brian Wood (DMZ, Demo) and illustrated by Davide Gianfelice (Dylan Dog).

Sven, as a boy, abandons his roots and is sold as a slave, ending up in Constantinople where he is freed. However, he longs to return home and finds that his uncle, the evil and cowardly Gorm, has subjected the people and stolen his inheritance. Sven becomes a one-man army in his quest to get back what is rightfully his, and he will turn the white, icy tundra red with the blood of any who stand in his way….but at what cost?

I just finished reading the first issue of Helheim (My review of Helheim is linked there) and while I liked it, a lot of it felt like fluff. Northlanders is definitely not fluff. It is gritty, filled with blood and greed and sex and you will find yourself glad that you were not alive to see such times.

Brian Wood weaves a great story around a would-be-unsympathetic character and somehow makes him likable. The art by Davide Gianfelice is AMAZING, though, and the two of them work miracles together with this series. A guy at the comic store recommended this to me along with Helheim and I’m glad he did. I will definitely be picking up the second volume when I can.

If you like Viking lore or medieval fantasy or action, you need to give this a try. It’s great.

JOE Rating: ★★★★★

Here’s a sample page from Northlanders: Sven The Returned

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Helheim Issue One (March 2013)

Helheim Issue One (March 2013) Publisher: Oni Press
Creative Team: Cullen Bunn, Joelle Jones

A small viking settlement is under attack by savage wild men and supernatural creatures. A small band of viking warriors is all that protects the village from gruesome death and destruction. During a raid, Rikard – one of their best warriors – is cut down but finds himself resurrected by the power of a witch. Now, he will stand against the dark with abilities far more powerful than any normal man.

The guy at the comic store recommended this to me and I like anything viking-related, so I was like “Sure, I’ll give this one a shot”. First off, the artwork was pretty decent. Joelle Jones did the awesome, very-stylistic illustrations. Nick Filardi used muted colors that suited the mood well. Lettering was by Ed Brisson, and I found no problems with it. It was only the first issue so it was really hard to tell whether or not I liked the writing by Cullen Bunn. The story seemed clear enough, but I think I will need to go through the entire arc to judge that.

Overall, for a first issue, it had me somewhat intrigued but the end was sort of anti-climactic. Rikard should have been showcased on the last page much better than he was, but he wasn’t. Ah, well. It was a fun viking romp, for sure, but so far it doesn’t seem to stand out especially well. We’ll see what the future holds for this series.

JOE Rating: ★★★

Here’s a sample page from Helheim #1 to check out

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Red Dawn (2012)

Red Dawn (2012)

Original Theatrical Release: November 21, 2012
Director: Dan Bradley

What would happen if North Korea and Russia decided to join forces and with the aid of a new weapon that shuts down America’s power grid, invade the United States? In this movie that tries to answer this question, a group of teens mostly comprised of a local football team called The Wolverines decide to fight back with all they have against the invaders and try and take back their town. Led by the war-veteran Jed Eckert (Chris Hemsworth) and his younger brother Matt (Josh Peck) the teens must learn to adapt and work together if they are to come out of the conflict alive.

Having been a fan of the original Red Dawn movie from 1984, I was unsure if an update would be necessary or even entertaining. The original film was a Cold War scare movie, and the message has sort of faded with time, relegating the movie to B-Movie cheese status that is both harmless and fun to poke fun of with friends (plus it had Patrick Swayze in it).

This newer incarnation takes itself far too seriously, trying to evoke the same sort of scare tactics used in the 1984 version but failing at doing so by using iffy politics that probably wouldn’t exist in the real world, yet trying to sell us on the idea that it could really happen.

There were some parts that had my blood pumping, but overall it was a redneck’s wet dream rather than a good film. I’m sure if you like movies where the antagonists are screaming Asians who kill Americans calmly and then go about their business, then this will be right up your alley.

‘MURICA!!

JOE Review: ★★

Movie Trailer For Red Dawn

Oz The Great And Powerful (2013)

Oz The Great And Powerful (2013)

Original Theatrical Release: March 8, 2013
Director: Sam Raimi

Oz (James Franco), a small-time traveling circus magician, finds himself on the run due to his philandering. He escapes the clutches of a slighted circus strongman with the aid of a hot air balloon and is hit by a tornado which transports him to the land of Oz. With his newfound companions, he must defeat the Wicked Witch and restore Oz to its former glory and also redeem himself.

Before seeing this film, I’d had lots of trepidation about it. We have all (hopefully) seen the original Wizard of Oz and it’s one of those untouchable films that has withstood the test of time, and will seemingly always be a classic in our hearts. So, when I heard that Sam Raimi was doing an Oz prequel with James Franco and Mila Kunis…yikes. I was pretty scared.

However, my fears turned out to be unfounded.

The film starts out true to 1930’s/40’s film fashion and Raimi does a great job with the transition from black and white to full color. You can definitely see his influence in the film with the way some of the scenes are shot and especially with how one of the witches looks. (She looks like a Deadite from his Evil Dead series) This may or may not be a good thing, given the nature of the flavor Oz movies have.

The best part of the film, to me, was Mila Kunis as Theodora. We finally see how she became the evil witch we all love to hate, and despite the crazy makeup she still somehow exudes sexy. There were a couple of weird nods to her hotness, with a butt-shot and a bodice-ripping scene…but it didn’t jar me for too long. She looked amazing as The Wicked Witch.

All of the companions are creepy but somehow entertaining. (Doll with a knife?! Helloooooo?!) There were nods to other characters like the Cowardly Lion and the Scarecrow that we know we’ll eventually see. The visuals were great and the music was nice by Danny Elfman (despite the random pop song during the credits…WTF?)

All in all, I think it was a fun movie. It had some plot holes and dull moments, so it’s not perfect, but it’s nice to revisit Frank L. Baum’s universe again and see how Oz, The Great and Powerful got his start.

JOE Rating: ★★★★

Movie Trailer For Oz The Great And Powerful

Kick-Ass (2010)

Kick Ass (2010)

Original Theatrical Release: April 16, 2010
Director: Matthew Vaughn

Dave Lizewski (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) is a high school kid with lots of problems; Girls, unpopularity and no real talents to call his own. One day, after being robbed by some street thugs, Dave decides he’s had enough and creates the superhero persona of Kick Ass. Despite not having any powers or training, he becomes involved in a web of crime and punishment, teaming up with other ACTUAL vigilante heroes like Big Daddy (Nicholas Cage) and his daughter, Hit Girl (Chloe Grace Moretz) to take down evil crime lord Frank D’Amico (Mark Strong) and his loyal son, Chris D’Amico/Red Mist (Christopher Mintz-Plasse).

Kick Ass is, of course, based on the Marvel/Icon comic written by Mark Millar and drawn by John Romita Jr. of the same name. The comic book differs a lot with major plot points but generally has the same feel, and both can be enjoyed as separate entities. I loved Kick Ass when it first came out, and I hadn’t read the comic before seeing the movie so I didn’t have trouble separating them from each other.

I have been getting a little bit of Nicholas Cage fatigue with all the films he’s been in lately, but this is one of his better roles. He totally nails Big Daddy, and it’s fun to see him on the screen as a cross between The Punisher and Batman. Chloe Grace-Moretz is one of the best characters in the movie as Hit Girl, and Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Christopher Mintz-Plasse both do a great job as nerdy guys trying to be heroes.

There is lots of action, very gratuitous violence and some great scenes. Kick Ass’ character is very reminiscent of Spider-Man’s early years, so it was fun seeing a “more” realistic take on a boy just buying a costume and putting it on to fight crime.

See this film, read the comic book. Enjoy both. The sequel is coming out soon.

JOE Rating: ★★★★

Movie Trailer For Kick-Ass

Cruel intentions (1999)

Cruel intentions (1999)

Original Theatrical Release: March 5, 1999
Director: Roger Kumble

Kathryn Merteuil (Sarah Michelle Gellar) and Sebastian Valmont (Ryan Phillippe) are step-siblings. Both are extremely attractive and twisted individuals. Sebastian can have any woman he wants. Well, almost…except for Kathryn and it drives him crazy. Kathryn decides to make a wager with Sebastian, betting him that he can’t bed a virgin waiting for true love, named Annette (Reese Witherspoon). If he loses, she gets his jaguar. If he wins, she has to sleep with him. How far is he willing to go?

I watched this back when it first came out (I had a thing for Sarah Michelle Gellar. Yes, I did.) I think I appreciated the film less then, than I do now.

On its surface, it’s just a vehicle for the twenty-something actors to look edgy in their fledgling careers, flaunting skin and excess. However, at its core is an express message of sexuality, temptation and virtue that reveals itself at a slow pace throughout the length of the film. (Albeit through the POV of jaded, rich white kids from New York)

Some of the movie watches like a high-school dramatic play, but other times it shines with devious tittilation and complex character motivations. Overall, it’s better than some films in its genre (Such as Wild Things) but it’s not amazing by any definition of the word.

PS – I have never read the novel, Les Liaisons Dangereuses, that it was based on (Choderlos de Lacios) so I can’t speak as to the differences from the book to the film.

JOE Rating: ★★★

Movie Trailer For Cruel Intentions