Schizopolitan: The Podcast – Episode 13 – Daredevil-A-Go-Go


WHO DARES? THEY DARE! Schizopolitan is back with a jumbo-sized edition of nerdy goodness that’s only the first of this week’s staggering podcast bounty! Part one of Schizopolitan’s epic double bill kicks off with Saxon and Jehan debating the oddity that is the recently released first image of Jared Leto as the Joker, revealing that the Clown Prince of Crime is now (a) fond of tattoos as a fashion statement, and (b) EXTREMELY KEEN TO LET US KNOW THAT HE’S VERY CRAZY INDEED….

After that brief interlude, they’re onto the main topic – the epic saga of S1 of Marvel’s Daredevil! How has the street-based vigilante done in his TV debut? How does it sit against other Marvel Cinematic Universe shows? Is it too violent? How scary is Vincent D’Onofrio as Wilson Fisk? And is dressing up in black and fighting ninjas really a sensible career path for a lawyer? All these questions, AND MORE! Plus! A look at Agent Carter! And Agents of SHIELD! So many shows! SO MUCH MARVEL, THE BRAIN CAN BARELY STAND IT!

Enjoy the podcast (please let us know in the comments if you do), and stay tuned for more episodes soon! And remember – you can now subscribe to the podcast on iTunes! Share and Enjoy!

(The opening and closing music on the podcast is ‘Ouroboros’ by Kevin MacLeod ( Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0.

Movie News: Live-Action Akira? No Thanks…

Akira Poster Live Action Remake News

There are times when I simply want to grab the relevant people in Hollywood by the lapels, give them a damn good shake and say, very firmly, “No!” Every so often, someone in Hollywood will come up with a very bad or unwise idea – these projects bubble up out of nowhere, or they lurk around for ages, and I usually have to tell myself “Well, that’s never going to happen” – partly because I know from experience that if it does, the chances of it actually turning out well are infinitesimal.

Well, it’s happening again, as someone in Hollywood is putting some serious traction into making a live-action version of the 1988 Japanese animated movie Akira. It’s the film that essentially put Anime on the map for western audiences – a dense sci-fi tale of near-future Tokyo, where a biker gang stumbles upon a mysterious secret, and soon telekinetic teens are tearing the entire city apart in a conflict that revolves around the mysterious ‘Akira’. Packed full of spectacle, action, violence, body horror and visuals that are still impressive over twenty years later, Akira is one of the last movies to be fully animated by hand (aside from a couple of primitive CG shots) and it’s an incredible cinematic experience, even if it’s also pretty incoherent at times (the result of condensing almost a thousand pages of comics into two hours, and the fact that director (and creator of the original comic) Katsuhiro Otomo was only 2/3rds of the way through the manga version when he made the film). It’s also an utterly Japanese movie in its approach and style, steeped in the cultural aftermath of the Hiroshima bombing and the full-tilt intensity of manga storytelling.

Akira - Kaneda with Gun - Live Action Remake?In short, it isn’t the kind of thing that lends itself to an easy reworking the way some foreign language movies do, but that hasn’t stopped rumours of a live-action version circulating for years, virtually from the moment that CG effects started getting close to replicating the astonishing levels of pyrokinetic devastation wreaked in the original hand-animated anime. There have been a few directors attached (including Steven Norrington, the man who managed to butcher the screen version of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, turning an amazing comic into a truly boring and lacklustre movie), but currently things are looking a little more active. There’s a new director attached, there’s a screenplay, and there are offers going out to actors – but little of this news is filling me with confidence.

First, there’s the director. Albert Hughes, one half of the Hughes Brothers (who made their debut with Menace II Society), has signed to make the film – and considering the Hughes Brothers were responsible for taking Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell’s dazzlingly intelligent graphic novel From Hell and turning it into yet another not-particularly-exciting ‘Who is Jack The Ripper?’ thrill ride (and also giving Heather Graham a ridiculous Oirish accent as the most cleavage-heavy yet least-employed prostitute in all of Victorian London). He’s certainly not the kind of filmmaker who screams ‘Visionary’, and I can’t help feeling that, after the over-moody nonsense of From Hell (complete with Jack the Ripper’s awesomely stupid scary-black-demon-eyes), I’ve got just about zero interest in seeing what he does with the film.

Akira Cityscape Anime Live Action Remake?Now, we do know that the action is being shifted from Neo-Tokyo to Neo-Manhattan – apparently the concept is that Japanese corporations moved in to rebuild the city after it was devastated in a Third World War, preserving some of the Japanese flavour while still keeping things in the good ‘ol USA. This doesn’t really strike me as a bad idea – I didn’t really think that a live action version would preserve the Japanese setting, although the fact that the character of Tetsuo is being renamed as ‘Travis’ doesn’t exactly fill me with excitement (especially since you can’t exactly yell ‘Traaaaaavis!’ in the same way that various characters yell ‘Tetsuooooooooo!’ in the original Anime).

Akira Kaneda Bike Shot - Live Action Remake?There’s also the rating. The producers have already said that they’re going for a PG-13 – the American equivalent of the UK’s 12 certificate – and anyone who’s actually seen Akira will, at this point, be thinking “How?”, followed by “What the hell is the point?” Because Akira is violent – exquisitely violent, violent to a level that is still pretty impressive, and which back in 1988 was simply awe-inspiring. One of the reasons Akira made so much impact in the west is that we’d never seen the limits of the animation medium pushed in this way before, rendering action in ways that weren’t constrained by Eighties movie budgets and exploring exactly how far bizarre ultraviolence could be pushed. In an era before CGI, this was explosive action without limits, and body-horror transformations that went further than anything we’d seen before. Akira is graphic, ballistic and lurid in the extreme, and it’s the extremity of the content that’s part of what makes it such an amazing piece of cinema. Take out the shocking moments of violence, and you’re de-fanging the movie before you even start. I understand the principle of it – a live-action Akira will be a very expensive project, and they don’t want to limit the audience to a big budget SF action adventure, or end up with another R-rated underperformer like Watchmen. But, to be honest, if you have to turn Akira into a PG-13 rated story in order to make it in Live-action, that’s a brilliant reason for not doing it.

However, things get really weird with some of the casting rumours. Now, there were vague murmurings last year that Hughes wanted Morgan Freeman as the Colonel – the ‘authority figure’ of the story, a military officer who’s in charge of the secret ‘Akira’ project. It’s one of those utterly obvious choices that is, at the least, fairly sensible, and certainly wasn’t getting me saying “Um… what?”

James Franco Live Action Akira Casting RumoursBut then, there are the more recent rumours, that James Franco – the man who was Harry Osborne in the Spider-Man movies, and who’s currently chopping off his arm in the name of entertainment in 127 Hours – was up for the role of main character Kaneda (although heaven knows what he’ll be called in the remake). Now, Kaneda is the teenage leader of a gang of bikers – and Franco is currently 33 years old. He’d have been a damn good choice about five or ten years ago… but unless they’re going the Grease route and having lots of thirty-year-old teenagers, it sounds like they’re happily throwing the punky teenage rebellion subtext out of the window in the hope of getting a well-known actor in.

Mila Kunis Black Swan Live Action Akira Remake Casting RumoursFranco has apparently turned down the project in favour of Sam Raimi’s currently gestating Wizard of Oz-related project (a story that focusses on the Wizard when he reaches Oz) – as has Black Swan star Mila Kunis, who was offered the female lead (which, unless they’re being really loose with the story, is Kei, the female revolutionary who Kaneda follows into serious levels of danger). This kind of thing happens a lot, of course – casting rumours filter out onto the Internet with worrying ease, and just because someone’s turned a project down doesn’t mean it isn’t going to happen. No, things get really weird when we get to the next rumour about who’s turned down the role of Kaneda – Brad Pitt.

Brad Pitt Inglorious Basterds Live Action Akira Casting RumoursYes, Brad Pitt. The 47-year old Brad Pitt. Now, I don’t know how much credence to give this rumour, and this sounds like something that’s either a mistake or a miscommunication. Having a star like Pitt onboard would have undoubtedly meant Akira instantly getting a green-light for production, and I’m hoping that maybe they were thinking of offering him the role of the Colonel (which would be smaller, but still significant and – frankly – more sensible) but I never like to underestimate how stupid Hollywood is capable of being. After all, Albert Hughes took a From Hell character who was originally a dour forty-something police detective and turned him into a louche, dandy-ish, opium-smoking visionary fop played by Johnny Depp, so the idea of him saying “Yeah! Why can’t Kaneda be in his forties?” doesn’t seem completely impossible, sadly.

The one definite piece of confirmed news we have is that screenwriter Steve Kloves has been hired to rewrite the script. A veteran of the Harry Potter films (He wrote all the screenplays, save for number 5), he does at least have form when it comes to turning unwieldy source material into a comprehensible (if not necessarily awesome) movie, and it’s easy to see why he might have been hired. It’s always possible that they’re experimenting with shaving some money off the budget to make the project more alluring to one of the big studios – but as with so many of these projects, Akira is being pursued because it has brand potential. The name is known, and that’s the kind of thing you can build on – plus there’s two thousand pages worth of comics that are sitting there and say “Storyboard waiting to be filmed!” to people who don’t understand the real difference between comics and movies.

As always, all it’ll take is the right people to say yes, and whether or not it’s a good film, the live-action Akira will move forward. It’s the first time a live-action anime adaptation has gotten this close to being made (There’s a live-action Neon Genesis Evangelion that has long been in development but with no movement, while rights have been sold for a US version of cyberpunk classic Ghost in the Shell), and Akira is close to being the Lord of the Rings of anime – a genre-defining classic that you should either do right, or not at all. I can’t deny that even if they just set out to do an adaptation that played fast and loose with the story but kept perfectly to the visual style of the anime, I wouldn’t be rather excited – but certain stories are designed to be told a certain way (as proved by Watchmen, which still works best in its original form, and – to be honest – the original Akira anime). I can’t see many ways of making a live-action Akira that wouldn’t lose sight of everything that makes the original interesting in the first place, and I’ve been burned too many times before (including with the From Hell movie adaptation), so until I hear some extremely promising news, I’m going to be keeping my fingers crossed that this is one Hollywood project that never quite gets off the drawing board…

Video: Zombie Surprise (The jaw-dropping ‘Dead Island’ computer game trailer)

A computer game featuring Zombies is hardly news, nor is the fact that it’s obviously going to be insanely violent. The trailer for the upcoming Zombie game Dead Island, however, is something different. Computer game trailers like this have been getting more impressive over the last few years (Hell, the recent ones for upcoming MMORPG Star Wars: The Old Republic have arguably been the best and most exciting Star Wars material since the original trilogy), and the Dead Island trailer is a seriously impressive three minutes of storytelling that delivers a hell of a lot more emotional impact than you’d expect from this kind of thing. It is, of course, extremely violent, very gory and decidedly NSFW, so if you have any problems with full-on Zombie violence don’t watch it – but if that kind of thing is your bag, prepare to be surprised and impressed…

Comic Review – Morning Glories : Volume One

Writer: Nick Spencer ~ Artist: Joe Eisma ~ Colours: Alex Sollazzo ~ Publisher: Image Comics ~ Year: 2010

[xrr rating=4/5]

Morning Glories Volume 1 For A Better Future coverThe Low-Down: A sharp and witty cross between Buffy the Vampire Slayer and The Prisoner (with a running mystery that equals Lost for sheer pulp unfathomability), this high school saga is overcoming a few art-related issues and shaping up to be a compulsively entertaining read.

What’s it About?: Six accomplished teenage students are offered the chance of a lifetime – a scholarship at the prestigious Morning Glory Academy. It’s an institution that’s searching for excellence, but its location is a secret, escape is impossible, and its methods include torture, mind-games and murder. Secrets are waiting to be discovered in the depths of the Academy, as the six newcomers find themselves locked in a lethal game of cat-and-mouse with their teachers. But what does the phrase “The hour of our release draws near” have to do with all this?

The Story: It’s always easy to be suspicious of hype, especially in the world of comics. When a title becomes a sell-out smash hit, it often has more to do with marketing and how ‘important’ or how much of an ‘event’ the relevant comic is than whether or not it’s any good. So, when new series Morning Glories sold out two separate printings of its first issue, it’d be easy to be cynical –if it wasn’t for the fact that it’s also a well-crafted, entertaining and intriguing story that’s heading in some extremely promising directions.

Morning Glories Page Art Joe EismaWe’re unashamedly in Teen Drama territory here, with a group of disparate characters being brought together to face an as-yet-unspecified threat (and also overcome various issues in their past). While there are plenty of echoes of early Buffy the Vampire Slayer episodes here (especially with the ‘High School that hides dark secrets’ setup) what’s more interesting is the way that up-and-coming writer Nick Spencer has structured this as a battle of wills between our teenage heroes and the teachers who are trying to manipulate, interrogate and control them. In short, it’s Buffy meets Sixties cult classic TV series The Prisoner, with an accompanying dose of the characterisation, structure and mad pulp stylings of Lost.

The overarching mystery is certainly going in directions that could be described as ‘unexpected’ (especially when it becomes clear that fifteenth century Spain is somehow connected), and Spencer delivers a number of effective shocks that build up the sense of intrigue, while also pulling off some very nicely played and engaging character moments. In the first chapter, there’s one of the best examples of the ‘meet-cute’ scene, between lead characters Casey and Hunter, that I’ve seen in a long time, and Spencer keeps the pace up while giving the characters depth and believability. He also isn’t afraid to throw violence into the equation – the stakes are high, and certain sequences feature major levels of blood, but the story binds all the mysteries together, pacing the whole saga as a compulsive teen thriller.

Morning Glories Art Joe EismaThere’s a long game at work here – seeds are being laid for a long-running mystery, especially in the sixth chapter collected here, which plays as a Lost-style ‘inbetweener’ episode that shows us a very different perspective on events and throws in some major surprises. Aside from a couple of creaky lines, Spencer’s dialogue is top-notch, the characters are engaging, and the mystery is absorbing. In short, it’s the kind of comic project that has “Soon to be optioned as a Movie or TV Series” written all over it, and given its already impressive success, Morning Glories looks likely to continue being an intriguing and engaging comic book read.

Morning Glories Page Art Joe Eisma 2The Art: Unfortunately, if there’s one area where Morning Glories hasn’t completely won me over, it’s the art. Joe Eisma’s work is sometimes very impressive, but his very line-heavy, sometimes angular approach to character’s faces means that certain panels work better than others, and doesn’t always seem to blend well with Alex Sollazo’s colour work. At times, Eisma’s able to make the dialogue scenes incredibly expressive, but he also has occasional difficulties making his female characters look different from each other, while his habit of drawing people with slightly toothy grins and staring eyes gets a little off-putting at times. It’s a shame, because he’s also extremely good at creating atmosphere, pulling off some effective compositions and grisly moments of violence (especially the sequences featuring the mysterious ‘cylinder’ in the basement of the school). It’s one of those frustrating comics where the cover art (from Rodin Esquejo) is sometimes more eyecatching than the interior work, but it’s very likely that Eisma’s style and approach will evolve as the story goes on, so hopefully these are just initial teething troubles that’ll sort themselves out soon.

The Verdict: There are a few moments where the series is still finding its feet, but the central mysteries of Morning Glories will pull you in, and the strong characterisation makes this a ride that’s well worth taking.

[amtap book:isbn=1607063611]

TV Review – Misfits: Season 2

CAST: Robert Sheehan, Iwan Rheon, Lauren Socha, Anotonia Thomas, Nathan Stewart-Jarret ~ WRITER: Howard Overman ~ DIRECTOR: Tom Green ~ YEAR: 2010

The Backstory: Five young offenders, brought together thanks to their enforced Community Service, are caught in a bizarre electrical storm and end up with superpowers – but the last thing they’re likely to do is use them responsibly…

What’s it about?: Their community ser2vice is approaching its end, and Nathan has just risen from the dead thanks to the discovery he’s immortal. However, there are even more powers-enhanced people affected by the storm – many of them dangerous – and there’s also the mysterious hooded figure who’s watching their every move…

The Show: Season 2 of this ‘superheroes with ASBOs’ comedy drama doesn’t mess around – it knows what everybody liked last time, and delivers plenty more of the gory, sweary and sex-heavy formula laid down in Season 1. Low-budget but surprisingly stylish, Misfits knows what its audience wants and isn’t afraid to go in some ludicrously over-the-top directions in order to deliver it. It’s an energetic and fun show that works well as a purely enjoyable (and occasionally nasty) fantasy comedy/drama, but is also capable of being a hell of a lot more than the sweary teen drama it advertises itself as, frequently tackling ffective drama and strong character twists. In fact, Misfits’ biggest strength is the way it uses the normally black-and-white morality of superhero stories to explore some very grey areas, combined with the way it lets its characters behave in unsympathetic ways and go in directions that aren’t simple good vs evil (although they’ve finally found the right balance with Nathan (Robert Sheehan), who spent most of S1 being a little too annoying).

As a result, there’s also no shortage of conflict and weirdness (especially in the excellent shape-shifter episode that opens the season), and while the series cranks up the bodycount in these episodes (making the main location probably the most lethal Community Centre in Britain), it mostly keeps a good balance between outrageous fantasy and gritty reality, and does it a hell of a lot more effectively than overblown BBC emo-fest Being Human (a show that has, on occasion, managed to out-emo some Anime shows, which takes some doing…). In fact, despite the ‘superhero comedy drama’ tag, Misfits is often most effective when it’s pastiching horror, frequently coming over as a super-profane and gory remix of early Buffy the Vampire Slayer episodes – and like Buffy, it understands the importance of superpower as metaphor.

Misfits TV - publicity photoFor the most part, Season 2 is a much stronger and more focussed setup, giving us some very effectively played character drama (especially in the evolution of Simon (Iwon Rheon) and Alisha (Antonia Thomas)), and it’s largely a rollicking, entertaining and gripping ride – but there are still problems, and the quality of the storytelling remains rather variable. The main arc of the season – the identity of the mysterious ‘Super Hoodie’ who seems to know everything about the main characters – starts off massively intriguing and does pay off in a very surprising way, but feels oddly truncated and doesn’t impact on the series anywhere near as much as it should. Certain plot-twists and episodes veer towards the predictable, and the overall structure of the series is a bit murky, as it once again abruptly reboots towards the end of the season (particularly the Christmas Special, which feels more like a repurposed first episode to season 3), while you can also see scriptwriter Howard Overman starting to struggle with maintaining the ’emotional metaphor’ side of the superpowers. This happens a lot with the now-frequently-appearing villains, many of whom don’t quite have the emotional focus that the ‘powers of the week’ had in Season 1 (for example, the man who has a Grand Theft Auto-style game playing in his head – what exactly is his power supposed to be?). It’s also the case that, as with Heroes, Misfits is the kind of show that should steer clear of full-on action that it doesn’t have the budget for – the only two examples sadly come across as a little embarrassing, trying to spoof superhero conventions (especially the fight with the Tatoo artist) but instead playing as weak and badly conceived.

Of course, these scenes only stand out because so much of the surrounding series is extremely good. In fact, about 70% of Misfits S2 is genuinely brilliant and entertaining stuff, but it’s let down by the other 30%, and not helped by the storytelling this year being rather skewed in favour of Nathan, Simon and Alisha. Both Curtis (Nathan Stewart-Jarret) and Kelly (Lauren Socha) get distinctly short-changed in terms of storylines, with Kelly’s one character-centric subplot leading to possibly the worst and most clumsily executed moment in the whole show (The lesson? Don’t attempt to make a tear-jerking scene out of the revelation that a character has – for slightly confusing reasons – turned into a gorilla (and especially don’t try to score it with Samuel Barber’s classical piece ‘Adagio for Strings – the results will be BAD)) while Curtis’s emotional time-rewind power essentially leaves him stuck as an emergency ‘Reboot Plot’ button or shouting “My power doesn’t work like that!” for most of the season.

The show’s being enthusiastically embraced by its fans partly because it’s a superhero tale that breaks taboos with such enthusiastic glee – a glee that occasionally gets a bit self-congratulatory (especially when they dress the characters up as superheroes in episode 4 for no other reason than ‘It’ll look great in the final shot!”) –  but while it’s still tetering on the edge of being brilliant and can be inconsistent, Season 2 does tip the balance further in a positive direction. The kind of crude, lewd show that’s oddly charming despite frequently trying way too hard to shock or repulse (most notably in the overplayed birth sequence in the Christmas Special), Misfits is nevertheless building in strength and quality – and it’ll be interesting to see whether the drastic format changes coming up in Season 3 will revitalise the series further, or send it into a Heroes-style downturn…

Verdict: An entertainingly filthy take on the world of the superhero, this isn’t quite the classic that much of the geek press is proclaiming it to be, but Misfits is definitely improving, and is one of the most enjoyable adult-skewed UK genre shows we’ve seen in a long time.

[xrr rating=4/5]

[amtap amazon:asin=B003HC8BZ4]