Saturday, March 31, 2012

The Raid: Redemption Review

Writing a review for The Raid: Redemption is an incredibly difficult task. It's not a complicated movie and I don't need to dance around spoilers, but it's just that no amount of praise will really do this film proper justice. People have been calling it the best action movie in awhile, and I can confidently say that those people are absolutely right. The Raid not only lives up to the hype, but it surpasses it with a roundhouse kick square in the face. You're going to have a ridiculous amount of fun watching this movie from start to finish.  It's simply an experience that all action fans need to check out at least once. It's brutal, relentless, jaw-dropping, and one of the most entertaining movies I have ever watched. I imagine I'll see it at least once more in theaters and get the Blu-ray right when it hits.

If you've watched the trailer, then you're pretty much up to date with the plot. A criminal kingpin is lurking in a tenement tower that's filled with goons who will obey his every command. A squad of incredibly talented SWAT officers are sent in to take the villain out. Simple as that. The focus is on Rama (Iko Uwais), the newbie on the team with a pregnant wife. Despite the dangers of the mission, his reason for going on the seemingly suicidal task will unfold over the course of the movie.

But let's be honest, the story isn't why you're going to see The Raid. You want insane action, and director Gareth Evans delivers an overdose of awesomeness in that regard.  Theses are some of the most impressive melees you'll ever witness. The choreography is stunning, wowing us with incredible technique in combination with using the environment for some of the most powerful impacts I've ever witnessed in a film. And this isn't the same fight scene over and over. Each will amaze you more and more as the encounters become more ruthless and engaging. I lost track of how many times people in the audience yelled "OHHH!"
What helps make the hand-to-hand battles even more powerful is the way the film is shot. Shaky cam rarely interferes with our focus and the camera work is done in a manner that lets us fully appreciate each and every one of the crazy fast and vicious punches, kicks and stabs. The lack of quick cuts is fully appreciated as well, helping us follow the almost super-humanly fast martial arts. Mike Shinoda of Linkin Park lends his talents to create the soundtrack, and the electronic songs compliment the pace of the film extremely well.

The plot isn't going to get you emotionally invested, but that hardly matters when you're so enthralled by some of the most amazing fight sequences you'll ever see. The Raid: Redemption is one hell of a good time and, for a lack of betters words, is ridiculously awesome. If you even remotely enjoy action movies, you absolutely have to see this one. Unfortunately, The Raid: Redemption is only a limited release, so go here to see if it's playing near you. And if it is, I highly recommend you see it ASAP.


Friday, March 23, 2012

Know a foe: Green Arrow's Constantine Drakon

It was recently announced that Constantine Drakon (played by Darren Shahlavi) would appear in the upcoming Green Arrow pilot on CW called Arrow. But who is Drakon and why should you care? Let me tell you why he's a villain worth reading and, soon enough, watching.

Being among the best in the world with a bow and arrow doesn't mean squat when your enemy can effortlessly catch every projectile sent his way. Meet Constantine Drakon, one of the most dangerous men Green Arrow has ever faced. This Greek assassin is quite a short fellow, but for what he lacks in height, he makes up for in speed and talent. This obscure enemy of the Emerald Archer was created by writer Judd Winick and artist Phil Hester, and first showed his face in Green Arrow #27 (volume 3).
The killer discovered at a young age that he excels in harming others. And if you're good at something, you might as well make money doing it, right? The deadly villain once made the claim that he has killed more people than cancer, and he certainly lived up to the hype when he humiliated Green Arrow during their first encounter. Drakon's a very skilled individual when it comes to hand-to-hand techniques, but it's his speed that makes him such a threat. Ollie claimed the assassin has super speed, and it's hard not to believe him when Drakon catches dozens of arrows without even breaking a sweat.  Despite the dark nature of his career, Drakon seems to have fun in the field. He'll compliment and even criticize his enemy's style and methods, meanwhile making it more than transparent how his target has virtually no chance of winning. Because of this, he's rather overconfident in combat (a weakness Ollie took advantage of with a glue arrow) and stated he'll only kill costumed heroes if given the right amount of cash for the job.

When you think of badass assassins in the DC Universe, one name should immediately come to mind: Deathstroke (shame on you if you said Brutale). But even the infamous Slade Wilson needs help sometimes, and in one case, he sought the aid of sir Drakon. The Greek killer was incarcerated, so Deathstroke allowed himself to be taken into custody just to meet the man. The two broke out and brought a whole new world of hurt to the Arrow family. Unfortunately for them, the pesky Justice League ended up getting in the way.

When it comes to Green Arrow villains, Drakon is among the most memorable and disputably the coolest. It's just a shame he hasn't shown his face after escaping the Justice League with Slade. Hopefully the man will reappear in the pages of the New 52 and get an opportunity to take on the likes of Batman and much more.

Want to see more of Drakon? Check out his Comicvine page for a full list of his appearances!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Bane's Best Battles

The man who broke the Bat will face-off with Bruce Wayne on the big screen this July, and now is the perfect time to do your homework by diving into the villain's extensive comic book history. Bane's dark and brilliant mind will make Batman's life a nightmare in director Christopher Nolan's final Batman film, but it's his sheer strength and skill that will prove to be Wayne's ultimate obstacle. Bane is infamous for duking it out with the Dark Knight, but Batman is hardly the only man to get slugged in the face a few times by the villain. Grab some popcorn and enjoy the craziness as I review Bane's best battles.

VS Batman,  Detective Comics #701
Allied with the legendary Ra's al Ghul, Bane returns to Gotham City and has an unforgettable fight with Batman on the docks. The two narrowly escape an explosion and have a contest of skill along the water, countering and blocking the powerful strikes that fly back and forth. Bane's able to finally gain the edge when he dodges a few batarangs and then connects with a swift jump quick. In true villain fashion, Bane tries to take his time with Wayne, attempting to slowly drown his longtime enemy. Batman remembers the death of his parents (for the millionth time) and overcomes Bane, landing a few brutal hits and eventually dropping him with a kick. Bane stumbles onto a piece of debris and floats away as Batman stands victorious.

VS Nightwing (Dick Grayson), Batman: Bane
Picking up directly after the events of Detective Comics #701, Bane - exhausted and floating on debris - floats into the path of a ship. Like the boss that he is, Bane hops and on-board and takes over the place with ease. But this isn't your every day ship! It turns out the vessel is carrying nuclear supplies, and Bane wants to use the vehicle as a bomb. Batman won't have any of that nuclear nonsense, but the original Robin, Dick Grayson, busts onto the scene first. Not once but twice Bane proves that, in a direct match consisting of purely physical might and skill, Nightwing doesn't stand much of a chance against the powerhouse. An elbow to the face hurts, but Bane's verbal insult must have hurt a lot more. "But you are not the Batman.  So to me, you are nothing!" Don't worry, Grayson, pappa Wayne drops in to save the day. He smacks Bane around for a bit and manages to prevent the nuclear attack on Gotham. It's just another example of why the hero deserves the title "the Goddamn Batman."

VS Batman, Detective Comics #736
Bane leaps into Gotham City during the events of "No Man's Land" and he's dead-set on claiming what he believes to be his territory. But just like every other time, the Dark Knight stands in his way. The two slug it out in the slushy sewers and Bane manages to elude Wayne with an explosive. The two meet face-to-face shortly after in a warehouse, and so begins an awesomely destructive bout between the two. They smash one another across the room and both land their fair share of painful strikes, but Batman lands a devastating combo to Bane's face in the end. Still standing and ready for more, Bane tells Batman he has an ace up his sleeve: keep fighting and risk losing, or go defuse dynamite he planted under a Nun's soup kitchen.  Naturally, Batman leaves. (You're such a crafty fellow, Bane.) The only thing that would make this fight any better is if Mike Deodato Jr illustrated it. Oh, wait...

VS Azrael (Jean Paul Valley), Azrael #36-40
Azrael beat Bane to a pulp in "Knightfall" after he forced to foe to suffer withdrawal from venom, and Bane isn't one to forgive and forget. When Bane resurfaces, Jean-Paul Valley tells Batman he's up to the task. Bane claims he no longer needs the drug and considers it a weakness, but that's not stopping him from selling it to a small army. And so begins a few fantastic and must read fights between Azrael and Bane. Bane quickly takes the first fight against an injured JPV, but the second is absolutely brutal. The two duke it out along the cliffs, and when JPV distracts Bane with a case of venom, it allows him to send the two flying off a cliff. Both combatants slowly rise, but it's Azrael who delivers the final strike. Round three picks up shortly later, but an aftershock causes Bane to bump his head and, in turn, lose the battle. These 5 issues are something every Bane fan should read at least once.

VS Man-Bat, Gotham Underground #1
Bane has a thing for humiliating some of Batman's lamer enemies.  He tortured Penguin during the end of Secret Six, brutalized Killer Croc twice, and now he drops Man-Bat with literally no effort. This well-known Bat foe has the appearance of something fierce, but it's nothing Bane can't overcome by creating a fist and sending it via first class delivery to Man-Bat's face. Better luck next time, Man-Bat.

VS Killer Croc, Batman #489 & Detective Comics #660
Killer Croc (Waylon Jones) is a villain that is written all over the place in regards to power levels. One day he's a force that requires a small amount of explosives to take down, and the next an unarmed Harvey Dent can embarrass him. But during "Knightfall," Croc proved he was able to hold his own against Jean-Paul Valley and Robin. The duo could barely hurt him, but then big daddy Bane stepped in. He took some venom and completely wrecked Croc. He smacked him around, broke his arm, and then booted him into a pile of stuffed animals, leaving the green villain broken and helpless. The line "You're too ugly to hit" was just icing on the harsh cake. But that was just round 2. After taking down Robin, Bane found himself in the sewers... Killer Croc's territory. Despite the home field advantage, Bane still gets the jump on Waylon, but Croc manages to destroy Bane's venom supply. Unfortunately for him, this doesn't even the odds nearly as much as he had hoped it would. Bane further injures Croc's broken arm and proves that even without venom his uppercuts are more than enough to put a hurting on Croc. The two go back and forth before tumbling into the water below and become separated. Bane has a great track record against the Bat family and their villains, but he should be grateful he's never had to face Deathstroke or Deadshot. That would certainly not end well for The Dark Knight Rises villain.

Bane vs Catman, Secret Six #35
After learning he's destined to end up in Hell regardless of his actions, Bane takes a moment to reevaluate what's important to him, and the answer is obvious: destroying the Bat. But he already broke Batman's spine, and he realizes that in the long run the crippling move accomplished nothing. Now, Bane wants to destroy Batman by killing his loved ones, a weakness Bane became aware of when he jumped into action to defend his own date. While sharing this idea, Catman tries to reenact how a fight with Batman would go. Bane casually withstands strike after strike, even calling one "dainty" until he decides he has had enough and puts an end to the assault. Almost nonchalantly, Bane catches Catman's fist and crushes it, leaving Catman at his mercy until he completes talking about his plan.

VS Batman, Batman #497
Ah, the infamous moment that put Bane on everyone's radar. The first half of "Knightfall" was all about Bane's elaborate plan to destroy the Caped Crusader. To beat the great detective, Bane forced Wayne through a cruel and unrelenting gauntlet. He created a massive breakout and Batman, already tired from previous events, was now forced to push himself beyond his own limits as he traveled the city and attempted to stop the rampaging threats which included Joker, Scarecrow, Amygdala, and much, much more. When all is said and done, Bane is waiting for Wayne in the comfort of his own mansion. In a futile last effort, the weakened Batman tries to stop the villain, but Bane is simply too much for the severely exhausted Wayne. What ensues is a horrific beating through the mansion and it travels into the batcave. When Bane is finished toying with Batman, he finally lifts Wayne over his head and crushes the detective's spine against his knee. Bane has accomplished what dozens of villains have failed to do for years and years: he broke the Bat. Fret not, Bruce, Jean-Paul puts an equally bad hurting back on Bane for ya.

VS Azrael, Detective Comics #666 & Batman #500

With Bruce Wayne out of commission, Jean-Paul Valley steps up to the plate and puts on the cowl. The old cowl isn't enough for him, though, so Jean-Paul makes some awesome upgrades, including assorted weapons, claws, and armor. The violent hero rushes into action against Bane, but quickly realizes he needs more upgrades. He gets some good slashes and stabs in, but Bane almost chokes him out and eventually Azrael suffers a devastating fall. Next time the two face off, JPV decides to put a few more advantages into his dark take on Batman's costume. 

VS Joker, Detective Comics #740
A physical confrontation between Bane and Joker would have a rather obvious outcome, and Detective Comics #740 shows us just how fun it is to watch Bane slug Joker around. The Clown Prince of Crime tries to distract Bane with banter and pull a weapon, but Bane's too focused to let a mere insult or two faze him.  Instead, he has a grand old time punching Joker in the face numerous times.

VS Batman, Batman: The Dark Knight #6

While I can't say I'm a fan of the New 52 Bane so far, there's no denying the fact that his debut made quite an impact. Bane is now sporting an image similar to the one he often receives in media... and that's a lumbering 'roid head (e.g. Batman: Arkham Asylum, Young Justice, Batman & Robin). Bane reveals he's behind the new toxin/venom that's circulating, and promptly proceeds to put a major hurting on Batman.  Wayne barely escapes with an electric attack, but now we're left waiting to see how it'll conclude in the next issue. My guess? Batman wins, of course. While Bane is clearly being built as a purely physical threat in the new 52 (he displayed no skill  whatsoever, just brute force), he's at least still a genius and claims this venom will further increase his IQ. If he's so smart, why can't he see how ridiculous this new outfit looks?

This article is barely scratching the surface of the many, many times Bane has been in a battle, so if your favorite didn't make the cut, please don't forget to talk about it in the comments section below!