Monday, March 2, 2009

Angel of Death and The Midnight Meat Train

Angel of Death is a web series written by Ed Brubaker and directed by Paul Etheredge. It's hosted on Crackle (http://www.crackle.com/c/Angel_Of_Death). Starring the phenomenal Zoe Bell (to actually see her in action else where, you need to see the documentary Double Dare and Death Proof because she's a stunt woman by trade - Xena and Kill Bill among others - and you're not supposed to see her), Angel of Death is about a hitwoman who suddenly, and unfortunately in her line of work, grows a conscience when she's stabbed in the head with a knife.

Episode one, "Edge," is currently up with a new episode coming once a day for the next ten days barring any sort of issues.

I don't know anything about comics. I think my friend Shawn can testify to that. You say Ed Brubaker and I think of the character in George A. Romero's Land of the Dead because of the last name. As such, I can't comment on this being within his style or any of that hullabaloo. I can say that if the remaining episodes are as strongly written as the first one, this is going to be one hell of a ride. I'm already saving up for the DVD! (Which comes out in June according to crackledotcom.) Of course, Zoe Bell kickin' ass is always ace in my book.

So far, I'm loving the comic book feel of the show, the cinematography is pretty ace, the editing flows really well, and the direction is spot on. Also, I love the score. It's bold, energetic, and attention grabbing, but not in an intrusive way.

Hoo-ray for the internets, and Crackle / Sony of course, for letting the show air without censoring Brubaker and company. I love that this isn't on teevee for that very reason; they're free to be creative and see where their creativity leads them. I'm looking forward to watching each episode as they unfold!

Anyway, I recommend it very highly.

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The Midnight Meat Train was adapted by relative newcomer Jeff Buhler from the short story written by Clive Barker and was directed by Ryuhei Kitamura (Versus.) The movie is about a young photographer with dreams of capturing the City as it truly is and winds up capturing much more than that. It stars Bradley Cooper as Kaufmann and Vinnie Jones as Mahogany with support from Peter Jacobson (Taub in House!), Roger Bart (most famously, he was Carmen Ghia in the musical of The Producers), and Leslie Bibb (she was the reporter in Iron Man.) Oh, and Brooke Shields had a very minor role as an important art dealer.

The best performances in the flick come from Vinnie Jones, Peter Jacobson, and Roger Bart and the last two play throw away characters who I found to be far more interesting than the on-screen Kaufmann and his annoying girlfriend (Bibb.)

The adaptation was uneven. If they'd cut out the girlfriend, I think it would have been a much stronger piece. She was there just to have sex with Kaufmann and be really annoying. It seemed like a few expository sections were cut in favour of gore for gore's sake. Other sections of the film were quite good and engaging, but the majority of sections added to make the film feature length were poorly written and didn't fit.

While quite a few of the effects are well done and amazing, there was a lot of unnecessary CGI blood. In fact, this movie was CG overkill...it got kind of tiresome. It seems to me that they added a bunch of gory close-ups to satisfy the perceived need for Saw and Hostel like viciousness. There was no reason for the close ups other than to "freak people out." They made me yawn and ask, "Why?"

Ryukei Kitamura's direction was solid and the cinematography was fantastic. The score and editing flowed well.

Overall, it's hard to recommend it and it's hard to damn it. This is one of my favourite Clive Barker stories and I can't say that I'm entirely disappointed. Vinnie Jones was perfect as Mahogany even if he is less Terminator-like in the story and most of the stuff where Kaufmann's girlfriend is absent is really strong, but there's so much CG and the girlfriend is so annoying that...well, it's just tough.

3 comments:

Chad said...

Hey Lori,

Thanks for the fantastic write up on Angel of Death....and thanks for sourcing me (twitter). I'll shoot out more info on the DVD later, but until then just sit back and enjoy the show!

Be sure to let me know what you think after the 13th, I'd love your opinion!

Thanks,

Chad
Community Manager, Crackle.com

Lori said...

Chad:

That I will! Thanks so much! And pass on my thanks to the Crackle folks for being able to keep up with so many visitors today!

NoelCT said...

I'll have to check out ANGEL OF DEATH. Brubaker's hard-boiled crime comics kick ass, so it'll be interesting to see his work on screen.

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What killed MIDNIGHT MEAT TRAIN for me was the ending. So much of the substance of the story was lost because the one necessary digital matte shot, the one that would have put the whole story in perspective, fell by the wayside because I guess they blew their budget on the ridiculous amount of eyeballs which were flying around. It could have been a great movie, a fantastic exploration of how people can become obsessed with and driven by violence, but it just didn't work.