Friday, September 18, 2009

Random News Round-up: Wheels & Bullets

Above: The Batmobile circa 1989, designed by Anton Furst.

If you're in Auckland this weekend and you've ever wondered what it would be like to get behind the wheel of a Batmobile, you're in luck! The 1989 Batmobile created for Tim Burton's Batman films is on loan from Warner Bros Movie World to appear at this weekend's Speedshow '09 at the ASB Showgrounds.

Designed by the film's award-winning production designer Anton Furst, it's a provocative combination of sleek gothic chic and phallic symbolism on wheels (thanks to it's jet turbine engine). It could go from 0 - 60km/h in 3.7 seconds, but it's maximum speed of 530kn/h (with booster) was never reached, as it would quickly zap through the two blocks they had on set in less than a minute. Over at the Speedshow website they've listed the car's impressive features: mounted machine guns, grappling hooks etc. Although I doubt this model's ability to turn into a Batmissile or deploy full-cover shields without the use of CGI, you're more than welcome to put on your best Batman grunt of "shields" for it's voice activation system!

In DVD news, the sequel/reboot 'Punisher: War Zone' made it's unannounced debut straight-to-DVD and Blu-ray here in New Zealand this month, after bombing in the US (mainly thanks to Lionsgate's unfortunate December release date, 'cause nothing says Christmas like an ultra-violent vigilante mowing down gang bangers). It's a pity, because this is easily the best screen version of the character to date. Directed by Lexi Alexander, from a script by Nick Santora and Art Marcum & Matt Holloway (Ironman) stays much closer to Garth Ennis' MAX comics than the previous film effort, and is all the better for it.

Above: Ray Stevenson as Frank Castle/Punisher. Copyright Marvel/Lionsgate 2009.

The plot is fairly straight forward: the Punisher (a perfectly cast Ray Stevenson) takes down the Russoti crime family in a bloody no-nonsense opening, before tracking down the one that got away, Billy Rossoti (the Wire's Dominic West) and throwing him in a glass recycler (goodbye pretty boy, hello Jigsaw).
In the altercation with Billy's gang the Punisher guns down an undercover FBI agent, which sets him in the sights of agent Paul Budiansky, leading him to team-up with the one man Punisher task force: detective Martin Soap.
Guilt ridden by the accidental casualty, Castle is prepared to quit (possibly kill himself?) when Billy resurfaces as 'Jigsaw' and plans to take out his revenge on the widow of the undercover agent. With the police and Jigsaw gunning for him, Castle sets out to protect the widow and her daughter from the mobster's retribution and dispatch every last gangster extra the movie can afford (and there's plenty of 'em!).

Unlike the last film effort, this one pulls no punches to get a lower M rating, and piles up the bodies for a gory hard R, which is really what you want from a Punisher movie, right?(and interestingly, Marvel title it as 'Marvel Knights' in the credits). Taking it's cue from Ennis, the violence is sharp, straight to the point and occasionally outrageous.
Ray Stevenson is perfectly cast as Frank Castle, he's simmering with equal parts anger and haunted regret. He has no qualms about violently dispensing the bad guys at the drop of a hat, but also looks like he would welcome his own demise without any complaints. He doesn't speak unless he has to, but his actions speak volumes and that's really the way it should be.

Above: Dominic West as Billy Russoti/Jigsaw. Copyright Marvel/Lionsgate 2009.

Dominic West clearly enjoys himself as Jigsaw. He doesn't have a huge amount to play with here, but injects his performance with enough humanity to keep the character grounded and avoid the campy acting usually associated with these kind of roles.
If you familiar with ennis' Punisher comic (well, any of his comics really) there's always an 'annoying, little bastard' henchmen character, and he's it's 'Looney Bin Jim', played by Doug Hutchison (probably best remembered as 'Tooms' from 'The X-Files', basically he has a masters in playing nutcases!). It's an amalgam of Ennis' crazy bastards and gets to indulge in some of the more extreme carnage in the movie. But at 5' 8 even with kung-fu moves thrown in, his slight frame never really convinces as someone who could take down Castle (but that doesn't stop him taking a bite out of him!).

Above: The Punisher taking down the mob. Copyright Marvel/Lionsgate 2009.

Tonally the movie only wobbles a couple of time, mainly due to the fact that so much of it taken from Ennis' work, whose combination of pathos and gallows humor is difficult to mimic, and doesn't lend itself well to a dramatic movie without undercutting it's intentions (Ennis' comics usually pock as much fun at the conventions of action movies as it steals).
So until Marvel/Disney give Ennis the chance to write a Punisher movie himself, this is probably the best you can hope for. Given that this is the second Punisher feature to under-preform it's unlikely to make a return to the big-screen any time soon, but it makes for good weekend viewing.


No comments:

Post a Comment