Monday, November 16, 2015

The Anti-Blockbusters: Defendor

Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars (Highest Rating)

Superhero movies have been all the rage of late with the Avengers franchise dominating the big screen and the Batman vs. Superman and Justice League films not far off on the horizon.  But while the big budget capers have given us plenty of senses-dazzling, popcorn-munching moments, it’s worth taking the time to recognize a superhero film of sorts from a few of years ago made on a much smaller scale but that delivered a grand, moving story. Defendor (misspelling intentional and explained in the film) comes to us from writer/director Peter Stebbings and stars Woody Harrelson and it flew very much under the radar getting a limited release in theaters in February 2010 and a quiet debut on DVD a few months later. But this is a must-see for genre fans even if it does take a major detour from what you would expect for a superhero film.

The movie focuses on Arthur Poppington (Harrelson), a person with no superpowers who dons a costume and gear to take on the criminals who seem to run unchecked in his city, and he has a particular vendetta against a super villain known as Captain Industry. And that’s about as much as you should know going in. I could provide a bit more detail (and I will to a small extent below), but this movie is best viewed spoiler-free to experience its full impact.

Now many reading that brief synopsis will immediately think of 2009’s Kick-Ass (or 2008’s Special or this 2011’s Super). And it's worth comparing Defendor to Kick-Ass because they definitely have their similarities but the former film takes a very different approach and delivers a far superior film. Both have normal people putting on a superhero disguise and trying to act like the comic book characters that inspired them. But Kick-Ass takes this idea to the extreme if not the absurd whereas Defendor remains grounded in reality. In fact, Defendor really counts more as a drama than a superhero film. Very little that happens in the movie is not plausible, and it has almost nothing in the way of science fiction and/or fantasy elements, whereas Kick-Ass definitely embraces its genre much more heavily. But Defendor still gives plenty of nods to the superhero tropes (though in an angular sense) and should be embraced warmly by genre fans. Kick-Ass also verged on torture-porn at times, though intentionally as it winked to its audience and brought to life elements only implied in the comics that inspired it. Defendor steers in a different direction (though it has plenty of violence), as it delivers more in the way of a dramatic character study. It also has a gut wrenching quality about it, something present in Kick-Ass as well, but the latter film actually makes you feel creepy at times, almost like you need to go take a shower. Defendor has moments that make you cringe and/or feel uncomfortable, but ultimately these help bring out the true pathos in the film’s hero.

And you can’t accuse writer/director Peter Stebbings of stealing the basic premise from the Mark Millar comic book series. Stebbings wrote the screenplay in 2005, three years before the comic hit the stands, and he filmed the movie in 2009 (though it did not get its release until February 19, 2010, one month before Kick-Ass hit the big screen). And if the name Peter Stebbings rings a bell, he is an actor/writer/director who has had frequent guest appearances on genre shows like The X-Files, The Outer Limits (the 90’s remake), and Stargate SG-1. He also played Markus Alexander across the two seasons of J. Michael Straczynski’s excellent but underrated post-apocalyptic series Jeremiah (more on that one at this link).  But with Defendor he has demonstrated that he can do much more than act. He has shown himself to be a highly talented filmmaker, handling a grand story on an intimate scale while expertly working in such nuances as the misspelling of the title character’s moniker and the Captain Industry reference (no explanations, watch the movie).

It’s not like we haven’t seen the idea of normal people dressing up as superheroes played out before in comics, on television, and in the cinema. But Stebbings manages to give the concept a fresh spin and ultimately taps into its full potential to deliver an engrossing and moving film. It’s not too much of a spoiler to tell you that he works in many of the expected standards from the darker, grittier comics that this film draws its influence from. Defendor gives us the troubled, driven central character with a motivation from his past to strike out against crime. And of course, the city is riddled with the criminal element and the people feel helpless and insecure. Then we have the corrupt cop on the take and the jaded hooker with a good side she tries to suppress. Stebbings even throws in the overly melodramatic--even a bit campy--theme music just for good measure.  And all of this could have led to a muddled, contrived affair that felt all too familiar and even descended into bad camp. But Stebbings meshes these elements together masterfully without reverting to cliché so that it feels new and vital instead of tired and stale. Reworking old ideas is not a bad thing in itself. It’s when you regurgitate what has come before that you deliver an ersatz product. Stebbings avoids the latter and instead takes a well-tread idea to new heights (and you can hear him talk more about this in the short film "Origin Stories - The Genesis of Defendor" available for free viewing at Amazon Instant Video). And with this relatively simple, grounded story that he put together on very little money (about $3.5 million) which relies on little in the way of special effects, he succeeds in delivering that grand tale that genre productions often strive for yet often come up lacking. That’s story-telling and that’s filmcraft and that’s what makes this a film fans should seek out.

And of course I would be remiss if I did not mention the outstanding performance delivered by Woody Harrelson. Woody is one of my all-time favorite actors and one of Hollywood’s best character performers. Unfortunately, he has rarely received the material equal to his talent, even though he manages to make almost any role given to him shine. But with Defendor, Harrelson finally gets his Magnus Opus, even if few have recognized it as such. He delivers a career performance and expertly interprets the nuances of the scripts. From the one-liners that aren’t quite as witty as you'd expect (there’s a reason for that, and don’t worry because he does get some zingers in there), to his less than heroic run-ins with bad guys, to the moments when he reveals the inner turmoils that haunt Arthur Poppington, Harrelson is at the top of his game from start to finish. And he gets a pretty impressive supporting cast that includes Sandra Oh (Grey’s Anatomy), Elias Koteas (The Prophecy, Fallen), Michael Kelly (The Sopranos, Fringe), and Kat Dennings (various supporting roles), each of whom fully immerse themselves into their roles and help elevate this movie to that next level.

Defendor unfortunately suffered from little to no marketing, and what did exist misrepresented the film. The movie is played up as a comedy in its promos, and while it does have its humorous elements (a few times it had me rolling on the floor laughing) it’s in truth a drama through and through. And that unfortunately seemed to hamper it in more ways than one. The movie industry, which prefers an easily labeled product, couldn’t quite peg down this drama with genre trappings which ultimately resulted in it falling through the cracks. It got little attention upon its release, and no recognition from the Academy. And while the Oscars often shy away from genre films in the non-technical categories anyway, this indy film definitely deserved at least nominations for Harrelson’s acting as well as Stebbings’ writing and directing. Unfortunately it received no attention from the organization that supposedly recognizes the best examples of filmmaking.

If you missed out on this film, which is quite likely, you need to check it out and soon. And spread the word. I consider this one of the best ever superhero movies even though you could make an argument that it’s not a superhero movie at all. In any case, it’s a must-see for all genre fans as well as anybody who appreciates true filmcraft.

Buy Defendor and Other Superhero Movies on Blu-ray and DVD from

Monday, November 9, 2015

Audiobook Review: The Dark Tower - The Gunslinger by Stephen King

Book Rating: 2 ½ out of 5 Stars

Audiobook Rating: 4 ½ out of 5 Stars

Bottom Line: This book seems very unapproachable, but perhaps may not be best suited for an audio adaptation.

The Gunslinger is the first book in Stephen King's fantasy series The Dark Tower.  It takes on the guise of a Western with the titular character (we find out that his real name is Roland) following the "man in black" whom he has chased after
for many years.  His pursuit of this man is the first of several steps in his eventual quest to reach the Dark Tower.  The book takes place in a familiar Western desert setting, and the Gunslinger character plays very much off of the Clint Eastwood archetype.  But we find out that the land he is traveling in could be a purgatory-like plane of reality or a post-apocalyptic Earth.  Along the way he encounters several people and supernatural forces that try to stop him, but he remains diligent in his pursuit of the man in black.

I have not read much of Stephen King's works over the years because I am not a big fan of horror (and because his books are loooong), but this entry has long been on my to read list of books because of its fantasy leanings and the fact that the Dark Tower series has been hailed as one of his greatest accomplishments.  Plus, The Gunslinger incorporates a lot of the trappings of a Western and I have always had a soft spot for a good tale in that genre.  So I thought for certain that I would love this book, but actually found myself struggling with it throughout.

In retrospect, I'm thinking this may not have been the best novel to encounter in audiobook format.  It is rife with imagery and allusions and it is a pretty dense read.  This is one of those that you probably need to reread some passages several times which doesn't fit in well with a morning commute listen.  I think I may have enjoyed this better sitting down and reading the actual book, but then looking over other reviews across several sites it appears that I'm not the only one who found it somewhat unapproachable.  Apparently the series gets better as it goes along, so I will plan on getting to the second book at some point.  But it's not a high priority at the moment as the first seemed to meander and digress and never really tell a good story, though maybe that's in part because it was pieced together from five short stories.

As far as the audiobook adaptation, I can't find any faults with George Guidall's reading.  His gruff voice fits perfectly with the Western setting as if he were reciting the tale while sitting around the campfire.  His narration definitely helps make the book more enjoyable, but unfortunately does not cut through the mire enough to improve its clarity.  It appears that he narrates several more books in the Dark Tower series (though not the second), so that will definitely be a plus if I decide to continue with these books.  But if I do so, it will be more on the reputation of the series and not on my experience with the first book.

Monday, November 2, 2015

#DidYouKnow That The Martian Has Broken a Long Losing Steak of Mars Movies at the Box Office?

Ridley Scott's The Martian (based on the book by Andy Wier) is currently riding high at the Box Office, holding again at Number 1 this past weekend, though largely because the competition has been so poor.  It is currently at approximately $430M for its worldwide gross and it is on the verge of becoming Scott's highest grossing domestic release ever (currently at approximately $183M in the States),  But did you know that before this movie the Red Planet has had a losing streak in the theaters for quite some time now.  In fact, you have to go all the way back to 1990's Total Recall for the last major studio release taking place on Mars that made money in its initial run.  (To come out in the black, it has to at least double its budget domestically or triple it worldwide by my definition.)  And quite a number of Mars films from the past couple of decades have been major busts.  Here's a quick rundown working backwards from The Martian:

The Martian (2015):  Budget - $108M  Worldwide Box Office - $430M (thru 11/01/15)
Reviving the Red Planet at the Box Office, this in on target to be the highest grossing Mars movie of all time.

John Carter (2012):  Budget - $250M  Worldwide Box Office - $284M
The budget ballooned under a director who was new to live action films and then the marketing department bungled the selling of the movie and succeeded at killing a promising movie franchise.

Mars Needs Moms (2011):  Budget - $150M  Worldwide Box Office - $39M
Somehow what should have been a promising adaptation of a fun little Berk Breathed book spiraled out of control and turned into one of the biggest Box Office flops of all time.

Doom (2005):  Budget - $60M  Worldwide Box Office - $56M
This adaptation of the video game was a critical and Box Office flop delivering another stillborn franchise attempt.

Ghosts of Mars (2001):  Budget - $28M  Worldwide Box Office - $14M
Horror legend John Carpenter continued his string of flops from the 90's into the 21st century and he went into semi-retirement after this one.

Red Planet (2000):  Budget - $80M  Woldwide Box Office - $33M
This movie had star power with Val Kilmer and a good budget behind it, but it failed to register with critics or theater goers.

Mission to Mars (2000):  Budget - $100M  Worldwide Box Office - $111M
Brian De Palma directed this one and he had a lot of star power on his side with Gary Sinese, Tim Robbins, and more.  But that didn't draw enough people into the theaters.

My Favorite Martian (1999):  Budget - $65M  Domestic Box Office (not released globally): $37M
This ill-advised attempt to reboot the 60's TV show for the big screen faded quickly and didn't even get a release beyond the States.

RocketMan (1997):  Budget - $16M  Domestic Box Office (not released globally): $15M
This sci fi comedy was panned by critics and audiences weren't too thrilled with it either.

Mars Attacks! (1996):  Budget - $70M  Worldwide Box Office: $101M
Tim Burton's spoof on older sci fi / horror movies has since achieved cult status, but it didn't count as a Box Office winner during its initial run.

Total Recall (1990):  Budget - $65M  Worldwide Box Office:  $261M
Of course, this may have just been an illusion because we can't say for certain that Quaid was really on Mars or if that was just planted in his mind by Rekall Corp.  So maybe it's been even longer since a Mars movie made money at the theaters . . .

You can read my review of the film version of The Martian at this link and the audiobook adaptation at this link.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Audiobook Review: If Chins Could Kill, Confessions of a B-Movie Actor by Bruce Campbell

Book Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars (Highest Rating)

Audiobook Rating: 4 ½ out of 5 Stars

Bottom Line: Bruce Campbell narrates the acting career of Bruce Campbell.  Do I really need to tell you this is a must-buy?

I’ll start this out with a confession:  I’ve long had a bit of a man-crush on perennial B-Movie actor Bruce Campbell.  There, I said it.  And I don’t feel a need to check into a homophobe clinic either.  He is a tough as nails man’s man, and a heck of a good actor even if the material had has received over the years has not always been up to his level of talent.

I was first introduced to Campbell back in the early 90’s when I got addicted to FOX’s Adventures of Brisco County Jr. TV series which he headlined.  From there, I discovered the Evil Dead movies which I loved and then I kept an eye on what he was doing with his career after FOX ill-advisedly cut short Brisco County after only a single season.  But I always wondered why such a great actor didn’t appear in more TV shows and movies and why he so often seemed to show up in cheesier flicks rather than the big budget entries.  After reading If Chins Could Kill, I now have a better understanding of that and how the film and TV business works, as well as a better appreciation of one of my favorite actors.

In this book, Campbell recounts his acting career from his early days doing semi-pro films when he was still in high school all the way into what he has been doing in the first part of the 21st century.  He grew up in Detroit where he was close friends with future directors/producers Sam Raimi and Rob Tapert and they all shared a love of making movies.  They produced quite a number of short films, often comedy capers, using Super 8 cameras which they showed locally in their neighborhood.  And then they made their first foray into professional film-making with The Evil Dead.  After a couple more additions to the Evil Dead franchise as well as a few low-budget indy films, Raimi and Tapert eventually graduated into A-List films as well as television production. Campbell tested the waters with some A-List films but ultimately decided he was less interested in being one of the elite Hollywood leading men and more concerned with steady work and enjoying what he was doing.

This book is definitely a must-read, not only for Bruce Campbell fans bur for anybody interested in getting into the entertainment industry, even if things have changed considerably from the time that Campbell first got started.  His recounting of how they raised money for the first Evil Dead movie is eye-opening considering that these days many indy producers often just turn to crowd-funding to get that initial cash influx.  And his tales of the grueling hours working on movies and TV shows definitely make his job seem much less glamorous.  It’s interesting to hear his take on the cancellation of Brisco County.  He enjoyed working on the show but also looked at its end as a break from the long hours he had to put in.  We wonder sometimes why some actors don’t lobby more heavily for a cancelled show to be renewed, but they are just as happy to get their lives back from the arduous shooting schedule.  Campbell ended up enjoying much more his recurring role as Autolycus on Hercules and Xena (we need a DVD compilation of just those eps) and also slipping behind the camera as director for a few episodes, even though he did speak fondly of Brisco County.

The audiobook version of If Chins Could Kill is read by Bruce Campbell himself.  And even though I usually insist that writers should stick to writing and leave the voice work to the professionals (Harlan Ellison being one of the few exceptions), could you imagine anybody other than His Chinness reading this?  Of course that said, he starts this out by delivering pretty much just a straightforward reading.  You could just see Campbell in your head sitting there and reading from a book he is holding in his hand.  But he eventually starts to get the feel of it and Campbell’s personality and snarkiness really starts to shine through after a chapter or so.  By that point, it was a sheer pleasure to listen to the audiobook and Campbell actually made me look forward to my commute for several weeks.  This one is definitely a great book, a great read, and a must buy!

Available from

Friday, October 16, 2015

Sci Fi TV Quick Hits: A First Look at Heroes Reborn, Limitless, Minority Report and Other Fall Shows

We're only a few weeks into the season and I'm already behind on my DVR queue, but I have managed to sample several of the new and returning shows.  Here are my thoughts on what I have watched thus far:

Heroes Reborn (NBC): I'm three episodes into this one and enjoying it so far.  The new characters are mostly interesting and HRG is back to being his menacing yet still somewhat sympathetic self.  Not too many of the old characters have shown up yet, which is probably a good thing as it gives the new ones a chance to establish themselves.  And if this were to continue for more seasons the way Tim Kring wants by regularly rotating the characters, I think it would work.  Unfortunately, the ratings suggest this revival will be one and out.  I'm enjoying it for now, though.

Limitless (CBS): This spin-off from the movie of the same name about a drug that enhances people's mental abilities didn't sound that interesting to me, but I decided to go ahead and check out the pilot and I liked it.  The show is definitely another one of those procedurals with a twist, but they do that well enough and have some fun with the concept.  It reminds me a lot of Intelligence from two seasons ago (which disappeared after a thirteen episode run), but it's not quite as grim as that one was. I'll definitely be checking out a few more eps of this show.

Minority Report (FOX): And speaking of cop shows with a twist, that's exactly what this sequel series to the movie is, and it's just not that interesting.  It reminds me a lot of Almost Human from two years ago which I didn't care for either.  That one did apparently start to hit its stride before it got cancelled (based on what I heard, I had given up on it by that point), and perhaps Minority Report could develop into something as well.  I was really hoping this show would delve into the moral quandaries of knowing about a crime before it happens, but I didn't see much of that in the pilot.  Perhaps it could have gotten there (more likely if it was on one of the cable nets), but it's headed for cancellation anyway, so I doubt I will invest much more time on it.

Blindspot (NBC):  And yet another cop show with a twist, and not one of much interest to sci fi fans.  Jamie Alexander (formerly kicking butt as Sif in the Thor movies) is tattooed from head to foot with clues to crimes and doesn't remember who she is or how she got all marked up.  Now we're off to the races with procedural stories padded with layer upon layer of mysteries.  Another show where they think that convoluted mysteries that the writers probably don't even have answers to are better than trying to tell a real story.  The pilot wasn't bad and Alexander made a good showing along with Sullivan Stapleton as the requisite FBI agent, but it just didn't interest me enough to stick with it considering all the other shows currently airing this Fall.

The Muppets (ABC):  I was pumped when I heard they were bringing this show back, but then notably deflated after watching the first two episodes.  I have no problem with them trying to update this for the modern audience, but its The Office meets The Muppet Show premise just doesn't do it for me.  They completely ignore that the original series was already doing that to an extent.  It was a behind the scenes look at mishaps and antics of putting on a variety show.  Take that and just do a few tweaks to bring it up to date, and you got a good show.  And don't focus it too heavily on the adult audience.  The original's child-like silliness was part of its charm.  But they have lost track of that with the new show and the ratings fall-off suggest that nostalgia is waning quickly.

Gotham (FOX):  I watched the season premiere and fell asleep about three quarters of the way in.  I really like Ben McKenzie as Gordon as well as several of the other characters.  And there's a decent story in here somewhere, they just aren't telling it.  I think I'm done with this show and the ratings suggest quite a few more have given up on it as well.

The Walking Dead (AMC):  So while most of the shows above are meandering and misstepping, TWD returns for its sixth season and proves why it's the top rated show on television.  The season premiere could have easily gone off the rails in lesser hands with the thousands of zombies it threw at us (is this the infamous "herd" from the comics?), but the crew behind the scenes know how to do something very important for good television: tell a story!  They throw us right into the middle of a new tale without resolving the cliffhanger from last season, but artfully use the flashbacks to bring us up to speed while also delivering the character and story development to balance the action scenes of dealing with the zombie mob.  It's a bit confusing at first, as if we missed an episode in the middle, but it also keeps us engaged asking what the hell is going on?  And most importantly, they answer those questions!  No mysteries upon mysterious, just good, solid story-telling.  Six season in and this show is still at the top of its game.

The Flash (CW):  And another show that's still kicking it, the first two episodes of The Flash's second season have been among its best.  I love that they are bringing in the whole Earth 2 storyline and that they keep mining the comics for ideas instead of just giving us thug-of-the-week tales.  And we haven't had too much of the soap opera diversions, though I know they'll be working them in.  It would be nice if they could up the game a bit and cut down on the copy-and-paste dialog, but the show has been fun enough this season that it hasn't bothered me too much.  I consider this one now my top guilty pleasure.

Supermansion (Crackle):  I've seen only the pilot of this animated superhero parody starring Bryan Cranston, but it had me rolling on the floor.  It goes into a lot of familiar territory with older superheroes still trying to prove that they have what it takes, but it gives just enough fresh spins on the subject and has plenty of witty lines that it doesn't seem like a retread.  It's walking a fine line and could easily go in either direction, but the first episode was a laugh riot!

Friday, October 9, 2015

Movie Review: The Martian

Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

Bottom Line: Mostly faithful to the book which it manages to translate into a first-rate, nail-biting sci fi film

This movie is based on the excellent book by Andy Weir and I sung my praises on the audiobook version at this link.  The basic story follows a man—Mark Watney—stranded on Mars who is left for dead when an exploration team abandons the planet as a dangerous storm looms down upon them.  When he finds himself alive an alone, he sets out to beat the odds and figure out a means of survival until a rescue ship can be sent for him well over a year away.

When reviewing the book, I commented that a movie adaptation would be difficult because so much of the narration involves the math (and rather sound) science involved with his survival.  But the movie, directed by Ridley Scott in a return to form, handles all this brilliantly as it gives us Whatney delivering his log entries, but these are judiciously edited and bring in just enough of the scientific facts to explain what he is doing without overloading us on technical jargon.  And there is plenty of action (and humor) from the book which the movie wisely focuses more of its time on.  It follows very closely the story of the book, even if it does condense it in many places and also drops out some of the predicaments he faced (which I thought started to get a bit tedious toward the end of the book).  It also makes a few changes to the end to enhance the drama, but I thought those worked quite well.

There is not a lot of character development beyond Watney simply because there is just not enough time to fit that in.  But the stellar cast more than makes up for that as they fill in the blanks with their excellent performances. And Matt Damon is spot on as the Whatney and easily carries much of the movie.

Having read the book just recently, the story fell right in place for me, but I’m not sure if those unfamiliar with the source material may have been lost at times because so much was condensed.  But the general reaction to the movie as far as reviews and Box Office success suggest that it manage to convey the story quite well as The Martian delivers a hard sci fi film that works in plenty of drama and never derails into technobabble or CGI-excesses.  This is definitely the type of science fiction film we need more of these days.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

The Anti-Blockbusters: Ink

Rating: 4 ½ out of 5 Stars

InkThis odd little indy film is a bit hard to peg down, but here’s how I describe it: imagine what would happen if Terry Gilliam did a Disney film while taking large quantities of hallucinogenic drugs.

Sound pretty trippy? It is, but it’s worth your time.

In the movie, we are introduced to a group of warriors called the Storytellers who live on a different plane of reality and who provide humans with good dreams. This group also protects humanity against the nefarious Incubi, vain spirits who deliver nightmares and who wear screens over their faces that display a perpetual facade of happiness. A deformed being named Ink, neither Storyteller nor Incubi, kidnaps a young girl’s mind from the real world, despite strong resistance from the Storytellers, and plans to take her to the Incubi as an offering so that he can join their ranks. However, his drum that would open the portal is broken so he must take a longer, less-direct route. A Storyteller named Allel--who had tried to protect the girl from Ink--summons up a blind pathfinder named Jacob to track the creature down and free the girl. In the real world, the girl is in a comatose state and her grandfather asks her father--a high-powered workaholic businessman--to come and see her hoping this would help draw her out of her coma.

This movie comes from indy writer/producer/director Jamin Winans, and despite its left-field description, it actually delivers at its core a fairly standard story that Disney and other kid-friendly studios have covered many times before. We have the child with a work-aholic parent who spends very little time with his daughter and cannot fully connect with her. Then, she falls into trouble and ultimately the parent does the right thing and comes to her aid just in time to deliver a happy, feel-good ending. So if that’s the case, why did I give the movie such a high rating? Because Winans manages to take this very familiar premise and rework it well enough that he succeeds in providing a fresh spin on an old tale and what he delivers in the end is also anything but a kids’ story (in fact younger viewers might find it quite terrifying at times). And reworking a familiar tale is not in itself a bad thing, heck, most of Shakespeare’s works were inspired by stories that came from previous scribes. The trick is to take the familiar and make something new from that, and Ink does just that.

It gives us a pure fantasy story, despite its Terry Gilliam-like sci fi trappings, that introduces a bizarre dreamworld that seems ludicrous yet believable at the same time. And Winans had very little money to work with (only $250k according to Wikipedia), but he gets the most from his limited budget and he excels in creating a surreal, stylized world that comes to life without CGI-overdose. If I could complain about only one thing production-wise it would be the character Ink’s very fake, rubbery looking snout, but try to look past that minor detail to the film's better qualities. And it has many including the excellent performances and the nearly seamless blending of the surreal dreamworld with our own reality. And even though the story treads familiar ground, Winans vision and delivery make it feel like a completely new experience. Unlike the many mega-dollar bloatfests that dominate the theaters and rely heavily on their CGI-gams visuals to compensate for their tired copy and paste plots, Ink takes what has come before and breathes new life into it.

Just a note, though, that this movie may not be everybody’s cup of tea because of its bizarre, trippy juxtaposition of the fantasy dreamworld with reality. In fact, I found it somewhat inaccessible early on, but I stuck with it and was glad I did.

Buy Ink and Other Anti-Blockbusters on DVD and Blu-ray from