Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Memphis Beat: Thank You, Thank You Very Much!

TNT has put on a new crime dramady starring Jason Lee of Kevin Smith film fame as well as the Alvin and the Chipmunks movies. Memphis Beat follows Detective Dwight Hendricks and the cast of characters that make up his precinct, from his new Lieutenant Tanya Rice to his partner, even his mom.

This is the kind of cop show I enjoy, one that focuses on the character rather than procedural investigation or neat DNA testing that miraculously comes back within a couple of days. Rather, it is much like Castle and one of my favorites, Republic of Doyle.

Like Republic of Doyle which is set in St. Johns, Newfoundland, Memphis Beat uses its namesake city as a character as much as the people in it. From the music, atmosphere, humidity, and character, Memphis (and New Orleans) is as much a star as Jason Lee.

Detective Dwight Hendricks is a sly yet caring guy who loves his city, loves his music, and loves his mama. He has the admiration of his peers and is starting to earn it from his new boss. He is driven to take care of those who need protection, to see justice done, and to finish the job at hand. He spends his off time singing in blues clubs. (Vocalized by Mark Arnell) He grew up idolizing Elvis and has his own shrines dedicated to the King. It was a great end scene to the first episode with him on stage, his friends in the crowd, and his boss coming by at his invitation. Jason Lee is perfect for the role he is bringing to life. I look forward to more as he grows into the character, truly making it his own.

I just really, really hope that the good detective does not go into full blown Elvis impersonations……..

Monday, July 5, 2010

Jonah Hex: Weird West Goodness

The new Warner Brothers movie starring Josh Brolin has been panned by purists and critics alike. I DON’T CARE!!!! This movie rawked for me! To me it caught the essence of the Jonah Hex character and setting, creating a steam and iron reality of gun smoke and supernatural weirdness.

Jonah Hex is a hideously scarred gun slinging bounty hunter in the Old West of the DC Universe. A Weird West comic book, think Spaghetti Western with zombies, metal men, and magic!

A soldier that fought on the side of the Confederacy, Hex still wears the colors of his former service. He travels across the West encountering weirdness, blazing death, and Power’s corruption. His guns earn his keep as much as get him into trouble.

The film directed by Jimmy Hayward brings this character to live-action life. Starring the aforementioned Josh Brolin, a very creepy John Malcovich, and, unfortunately, Megan Fox. The action takes place about ten years after the end of the Civil War with Hex making a living by killing as a bounty hunter. His past is as marred as his face with the death of his family and the brush with death that left him with the ability to speak with the dead.

Both his past and the ability to communicate directly with the dead is a departure from the established canon of the comic book. The set up works just fine for me, because the character remains Jonah Hex and the supernatural ability adds the weirdness that is actually lacking from most of the pages of the comic.

Josh Brolin plays Hex perfectly. The hardened bounty hunter, who seeks vengeance against the world itself, caring little for his own well being, he has looked into the Abyss and laughed in the face of the Darkness. Brolin does this without once coming off as a Clint Eastwood wannabe…..a far departure from his Goonies days.

John Malkovich plays the villain Turnbull, a former Confederate who seeks to destroy the United States on it Centennial, while seeking personal vengeance on Hex for the death of his son. Malkivich plays Quentin Turnbull with an understated menace that seems to be his trademark and fits well for the “Southern Gentlemen” style villain his portrays.

Then we have Megan Fox. The character of Tallulah Black/Lilah, a prostitute with a derringer or dagger stashed in her garter is as clich├ęd as it can get for the genre. She holds out hope that Hex will come to love her and take her away from the life she has created for herself. As presented she is as far from the character in the comic as one could get. At least Hex and Turnbull stay within the established roles that they have always had. Not to mention that Fox is too good looking in the modern sense that she is an anachronism even in such a film as this. I tolerated her till her final words on film and physically cringed with the delivery of that last line.

The film itself had some odd, but interesting editing choices. Hex’s voice over and comic book style cut scenes filled in back story quickly and to the point; a lesson most superhero movies could actually learn from. The surreal battles in Hex’s mind with Turnbull tried to add too much to the weirdness factor and took away from the actual conflict. The rest was a perfect mix of supernatural spookiness, steam punk technology, and western fun. Clocking in at an hour and twenty, I think it was a little short, but I have seen movies that could benefit from brevity, so I cannot condemn the short run time unless I see a directors cut in comparison.

I would say sit back with a bag of popcorn; settle in when the lights go down for the weirdest ride in to Yesteryear ever!