Sunday, June 27, 2010

Eminem's Road to 'Recovery'

A fair number of people certainly felt otherwise, but I actually enjoyed Relapse, Eminem’s 2009 album that was his first full-length release in five years. Laced with horrorcore influence and downright vile subject matter ranging from murder to rape to cannibalism, Eminem proved that he hadn’t lost his ability to repulse during his self-imposed exile from hip-hop, during which he was wrestling with personal demons and a crippling drug addiction. Selling 608,000 copies in its first week and netting a Grammy for Best Rap Album, Relapse was a critical and commercial success, but we all knew that Marshall Mathers was far too talented to rely on shock value and fictionalized violence at this stage in his career. When the dust settled and fans had time to reflect on Relapse, they found themselves asking, “Will the real Slim Shady please stand up?”

On his latest album, Recovery, the veteran emcee is standing, and standing tall.

Originally planned as a sequel to Relapse, Recovery is instead Eminem’s 17-track apology to his fans, whom he feels he’s disappointed with his last two albums. “This time around is different. Them last two albums didn’t count: Encore I was on drugs, Relapse I was flushing them out,” he raps on the album’s second track, “Talkin’ 2 Myself.” Later in the album, on “Cinderella Man,” he flat-out says, “Fuck my last CD, the shit’s in my trash.” It’s rare to see this kind of self-criticism in the chest-thumping world of hip-hop, especially from an artist who has never shied away from telling the world how great he is.

And it’s Eminem’s admitted vulnerability and professional honesty that makes this album such a stand out, especially when compared with his earlier work. He candidly talks about dealing with the death of his best friend and D12 stablemate Proof (real name DeShaun Holton), his contentious relationship with fame and his own lofty expectations of himself. While Relapse served as a therapeutic release for Mathers, Recovery, as its title suggests, sees the artist examining his life with retrospective clarity.

Of course, the album thankfully isn’t just about venting: Eminem, an obvious fan of wordplay and puns, displays some of the funniest wordsmithing we’ve heard in hip-hop in quite some time. It’s hard not to chuckle when he spits lines like, “I gave Bruce Wayne a Valium and said ‘settle your fuckin’ ass down, I’m ready for combat, man.’ Get it? Calm Batman?” Print doesn’t do his verbiage justice, but make no mistake: Recovery is one witty album. Does it veer into offensive territory? Absolutely, and it probably wouldn’t be an Eminem album if it didn’t. But like a good episode of South Park, it’s all delivered with a winking self-awareness that makes it palatable.

But offending people isn’t Eminem’s primary focus here. Dominated by slickly-produced underdog anthems, including the aforementioned “Cinderella Man,” the first single “Not Alone” and “You’re Never Over,” this might be the most listenable album Eminem has ever released. With guest appearances by Rihanna, Lil Wayne and P!nk, and even including a sample from Black Sabbath’s “Changes,” Recovery sets out to please just about everyone, while Relapse was more or less a niche affair.

Some are already arguing that Recovery is Eminem’s best album to date, I’d place it somewhere between The Marshall Mathers LP and The Eminem Show overall. Having said that, Recovery is one of the most impressive hip-hop albums in years, and Eminem is at the top of his game. For the sake of the genre, let’s hope he stays there.

Favorite Tracks:
“W.T.P.,” “Cinderella Man,” “25 to Life”

Friday, June 25, 2010

There and Back Again: Peter Jackson Might Direct 'The Hobbit'

After director Guillermo del Toro decided to step away from Peter Jackson’s highly anticipated two-film adaptation of The Hobbit, things seemed bleak for the Lord of the Rings prequel. Now, Deadline.com reports, it looks like the Academy Award-winning director of the Rings trilogy is planning to helm the films himself.

Although this news has yet to be confirmed by Jackson’s camp, the Kiwi director is reportedly in the negotiations stage with New Line Cinema, Warner Bros. and MGM.

Click here for the full story.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

'Hex' Crime

On paper, Jonah Hex seems like a character primed for the silver screen. A scarred, surly, Old West antihero, Hex made his debut in DC Comics’ All-Star Western #10 in 1972, and even though he never garnered the popularity of Batman or Superman, he’s become one of the publisher’s cult-favorite characters. Surely, those fans that have supported this character over the decades must be pretty excited that their favorite gunslinger is making his cinematic debut in Jimmy Hayward’s Jonah Hex, right? Well, they shouldn’t be.

One of the most disappointing things about Jonah Hex is that it could have been a far better film in more capable hands. Starring Josh Brolin as the titular bounty hunting badass and John Malkovich as his nemesis, a former Confederate officer-turned terrorist named Quentin Turnbull, this film should have been a slick, modern Western based on solid source material featuring top-notch actors. Instead, in spite of Brolin’s noteworthy performance that nearly pulls this film out of the muck on several occasions, it’s one of the most predictable and sloppily-edited action films in recent memory, and one can’t help but think that this was a total rush job.

Oh, and for those of you titillated by the idea of Megan Fox playing a tough-as-nails (and frequently sweaty) gun-packing prostitute, here’s another bombshell: She’s barely in the movie.

Read the rest of this review at Broken Frontier.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

GoldenEye Gets Shaken, Stirred on the Wii

There’s a lot of exciting news coming out of the Electronic Entertainment Expo this year, and perhaps one of the most talked-about announcements—shockingly—came from the Nintendo camp. After years of speculation and rumors, we finally learned that Nintendo will be releasing an updated version of landmark console first-person shooter GoldenEye 007 for the Wii, which is slated for release this holiday season. GoldenEye with motion controls? Sounds promising.

There are plenty of reasons why this GoldenEye remake is a big deal. As avid Nintendo 64 aficionados are already aware, the 1997 title based on the 1995 James Bond film of the same name was one of the first games based on a movie that actually honored the source material. Moreover, GoldenEye was one of the first shooters developed specifically for a console audience, revolutionizing local multiplayer gaming in the process. Sure, the single-player campaign was solid in its own right—following the plot of the movie while providing a variety of mission objectives depending on the difficulty level—but its rich, balanced multiplayer modes kept gamers coming back for years. Hell, I’m sure there are some gaming circles that still fire up GoldenEye for marathon sessions 13 years later, even though the graphics and controls haven’t exactly aged well compared to contemporary shooters like Modern Warfare 2.

Some gamers might have been content with a simple graphical upgrade of the Nintendo 64 classic, but developers are evidently rebuilding GoldenEye from the ground up. Kotaku reports that although the original title was developed by Rare—the development house behind such phenomenal titles as Donkey Kong Country and Perfect Dark—the remake is being handled by Eurocom and Activision, who are crafting a game inspired by the original without recreating it completely. In addition, even though Pierce Brosnan played Bond in the GoldenEye film, present-day 007 Daniel Craig is slipping into the character’s trademark tuxedo this time around. Weird.

The game will support four-player split-screen multiplayer in addition to eight-player online modes. I’m not quite sure GoldenEye will have the same charm if you can’t talk trash to the guy on the couch next to you after sending him flying with a proximity mine, but since online play is so popular these days, it’s a key addition.

As excited as I am about a GoldenEye remake, I urge my fellow fanboys to remain cautious. This isn’t really the GoldenEye we know, and this could just be yet another attempt to cash in on the name. As fans can surely recall, a title called GoldenEye: Rogue Agent was released by Electronic Arts in 2004, and it was pretty awful. I would almost rather have seen Activision develop an all-new Bond title that builds on what worked in GoldenEye as opposed to remaking it. After all, I thought Activision and Treyarch’s Quantum of Solace—which used the Call of Duty engine—was pretty damn good, all things considered. If GoldenEye isn’t going to be a faithful remake of the original with revamped graphics and control, why bother calling it GoldenEye save for the obvious monetary reasons? Or did I already answer my own question?

Nevertheless, the Wii GoldenEye is a first-day purchase for me and I can’t wait to dive into its multiplayer modes. But I will say this: If you play as Oddjob, we are no longer friends.

Watch the trailer below (via G4).

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Michael Bay Promises Less “Dorky Comedy” in Transformers 3

You know what? I might get blasted for writing this, but I’m actually starting to get excited for Transformers 3. Although I’ll sorely miss Megan Fox, who was ousted from the third film and replaced by Victoria’s Secret model Rosie Huntington-Whitely, it seems to me like director Michael Bay is actually trying to make the third film in this franchise a lot better than its abysmal predecessor, 2009’s Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. Granted, that could be accomplished simply by including a plot that A) makes sense and B) doesn’t overtly try to insult the audience’s intelligence at every turn, but when it comes to giant robots and explosions, I try to think positively.

According to a recent USA Today story, Bay and his team fully acknowledge that Revenge of the Fallen simply wasn’t as good as the first film, which I actually enjoyed quite a bit as a piece of light summer movie entertainment.

“I’ll take some of the criticism,” Bay said. “It was very hard to put [the sequel] together that quickly after the writers’ strike [of 2007-08].”

Producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura added, “We tried to do too many things in the second movie, which didn’t give enough time in any one of them. We were constantly jumping to the next piece of information, the next place.”

One of the things Bay is intensely focused on this time around is toning down what he calls “the dorky humor” of the last film, specifically the blatantly offensive racial caricatures Mudflap and Skids, who all too often turned the film into a big-budget minstrel show. “They’re basically gone,” he said.

Bay revealed to USA Today that the main villain this time around will be Shockwave, the cycloptic, Generation 1 Decepticon tyrant who transforms into a giant laser gun, and that the film will somehow tie into the space race between the United States and the U.S.S.R.

“The movie is more of a mystery,” Bay said of his third and presumably final Transformers film. “It ties in what we know as history growing up as kids with what really happened.”

Transformers 3 hits theaters July 1, 2011.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Joker? No, Sir

In a recent interview with Empire Magazine (via SuperHeroHype), director Christopher Nolan confirmed that the Joker will not be appearing in the highly anticipated sequel to The Dark Knight.

“No,” the director swiftly replied when asked if the Clown Prince of Crime would be recast in the next film following the death of Heath Ledger. “I just don’t feel comfortable talking about it.”

It’s interesting to note that although Nolan has been hashing out a screenplay with his brother Jonathan, he hasn’t officially signed on to direct. However, it’s almost a certainty that he’ll wind up helming the as-yet-untitled second Batman sequel to round out his trilogy.

As for villains, Nolan’s told reporters that neither Mr. Freeze nor the Penguin would factor into his grounded-in-reality Batman universe, leading many fans to speculate that Catwoman and the Riddler are two likely candidates to square off against the Caped Crusader when this film hits theaters in 2012. It’s almost a shame that Nolan’s Batman movies cling so tenaciously to realism, as I’d really be interested in seeing Clayface, Killer Croc or Poison Ivy handled well on the big screen. Having said that, I think Nolan could have fun with the Riddler, provided that his maniacal mind games aren’t overtly reminiscent of the Joker’s calculated lunacy in the last film. If we can’t have the Joker again, the last thing we want is “Joker Light.”

Nolan’s next film, Inception, hits theaters July 16.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Thor’s Movie Look Unveiled?

Earlier this week, Ain’t It Cool News posted some leaked concept art from The First Avenger: Captain America, giving fans their first glimpse of what Chris Evans will look like as the star-spangled superhero. Not longer after those reportedly legitimate pics started generating some serious Internet buzz, Collider unveiled concept art of actor Chris Hemsworth (Star Trek) as Thor, whose self-titled film debut hits theaters May 6, 2011.

Here’s one of the images:

Marvel released an official image of Hemsworth as Thor back in April, but this is the first full-body view of the costume we’ve seen thus far. It’s hard to judge this too harshly—it is just concept art, after all—but this outfit looks more like really good San Diego Comic-Con cosplay as opposed to the live-action iteration of our favorite Norse god. There’s something vaguely cheap about this design, and I think it just might be the leathery 1990s Matrix influence it seems to have.

Having said that, Mjolnir is glowing, and that’s awesome.

For more images of Hemsworth as Thor click here.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Captain America’s Movie Suit Revealed

Last Friday, movie website JoBlo posted a detailed description of how Captain America’s outfit will look in Joe Johnston’s The First Avenger: Captain America. Today, in a case of Internet one-upsmanship, Ain’t It Cool News posted actual concept art of actor Chris Evans in the suit. These pictures have reportedly been confirmed as legitimate.

Here’s one:
I think this modern-yet-retro look for Cap will work extremely well in the cinematic Marvel Universe, especially alongside characters like Iron Man and Thor in The Avengers. The designers clearly used the more militaristic Ultimates version of the suit as inspiration, which was a good call. I’m not sure contemporary movie audiences would be able to take a live-action Captain America seriously if he had tiny wings on his head.

Click here to see the rest of the pics. The First Avenger: Captain America hits theaters July 22, 2011.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Guillermo del Toro Kicks The Hobbit

Ready for some bad news? Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth, Hellboy) recently told J.R.R. Tolkien fansite TheOneRing.net that he will no longer be directing the planned two-part film adaptation of The Hobbit.

“In light of ongoing delays in the setting of a start date for filming The Hobbit, I am faced with the hardest decision of my life,” Guillermo said. “After nearly two years of living, breathing and designing a world as rich as Tolkien’s Middle Earth, I must, with great regret, take leave from helming these wonderful pictures.”

However, hardcore Tolkienites need not start crying into their Elven cloaks just yet. The films are reportedly still happening, and are scheduled for release in December 2012 and December 2013.

But what does Academy Award-winning Lord of the Rings director and Hobbit executive producer Peter Jackson have to say about his pal del Toro’s departure?

“We feel very sad to see Guillermo leave The Hobbit, but he has kept us fully in the loop and we understand how the protracted development time on these two films—due to reasons beyond anyone’s control—has compromised his commitment to other long term projects,” Jackson said. “The bottom line is that Guillermo just didn’t feel he could commit six years to living in New Zealand, exclusively making these films, when his original commitment was for three years.”

While he won’t be in the director’s chair, del Toro is still co-writing the screenplays, and will remain as close to the production as possible—assuming it ever moves forward.