Out in cinemas this week: The cold dawn of the new year sees the release of two different flavors of writer-director-star indie films: an exploration of the superhero/villain conflict and a futuristic melding of the lone wolf in the wasteland with dystopian technology bastardization.
All Superheroes Must Die (2011)
This film actually bowed in October 2011 at the Toronto After Dark Film Festival as Vs., but has since resurfaced under a new and rather more helpful title for a limited theatrical release just under a month ahead of its Blu-Ray and DVD shelf date. Most superhero-themed films, whether blockbusters or indie ones like this or, say, Griff the Invisible or cult thrillers like (the first) Darkman, benefit from a big-screen environment where you can more easily immerse yourself in the idiosyncratically stylized world of the protagonists, so its gratifying that this effort will be in at least some cinemas before diverting to home video. It's true that the superhero who's flawed to the peril of impotence is something of a trope, and as it requires some perspective to handle perhaps is to be attempted by a writer-director-star at his own risk, but Jason Trost deserves credit for ambition and nerve.
The story: Masked vigilantes Charge, Cutthroat, The Wall, and Shadow are rendered powerless by their archenemy and are forced to complete a series of deadly tasks in order to save the lives of more than 100 innocent civilians. Should they fail or refuse to cooperate, the entire town will be destroyed.
Starring: Jason Trost (Charge/John), Lucas Till (Cutthroat/Ben), James Remar (Rickshaw), Sophie Merkley (Shadow/Jill), Nick Principe (Sledgesaw), Brian Taylor (Man), Lee Valmassy (The Wall/Charlie), Sean Whalen (Manpower).
Directed by: Jason Trost.
The Gunrunner Billy Kane (2012)
Another indie film from a writer-director-star-editor-best boy-key grip auteur, this time one M.D. Selig, a.k.a. Michael David Selig, whose previous chief-cook-and-bottle-washer film, Southern Justice a.k.a. Heavy Southern Nights, apparently revealed a penchant for a sort of grindhouse grit noir. What's interesting about the juxtaposition of this week's two handmade films is the fresh insight they've provided me into my own predilictions--mainly that I have a softness for superhero films, even when they verge on the melodramatic, whereas any sci-fi movie that starts with a long shot of the hero loner tearing through the desolate desert scrub on his motorcycle (one thinks of Timerider or Warrior of the Lost World) makes me want to abort the viewing immediately and put in A Boy and His Dog instead. On the other hand, this one does have John Kassir, who was the voice of the Cryptkeeper, so, yeah.
The story: A rogue professor runs guns to fund dangerous science experiments on humans that three Superpowers believe may alter the balance of global military power. Mad Max meets Frankenstein (it says here).
Starring: M.D. Selig (Billy Kane), John Kassir (Machinist), Patrick Hume (Twitch), Elizabeth Greer (Angie), Mark Arnold (Ron Sheridan), Candice Afia (Tina), Julianna Robinson (Sarah Hawkins), Angela Elayne Gibbs (Nurse), Max Williams (Solenon), Filip Watermann (Ivan), London Vale (Evan Hawkins), Jack Dimich (Vladimir).
Directed by: M.D. Selig.