Friday, December 14, 2007

Ender's Crayons

This thing is creepy/scary/beautiful. Crayon Physics is a computer game in which you draw free-form objects that immediately are absorbed into a physics engine and react in front of you. Played on the tablet (as it is in the clip below), it reminds me a lot of Ender's video game tablet in Ender's Game. Apparently, Windows users can download a playable version here.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Monday, December 3, 2007

Saturn's Soundtrack

This is old news, but news to me. Saturn emanates radio waves, and NASA's Cassini-Huygens mission has recorded them. The video signature is above. Check out the story, and be sure to listen to the sound. It's gorgeous. And it sounds eerily like Louis and Bebe Barron's amazing and pioneering score to Forbidden Planet.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

J'espere que Cloverfield ≠ Cthulhu

I spent about fifteen minutes combing through the web, trying to find leaked images of the tightly-guarded monster from J.J. Abrams' upcoming film, Cloverfield. That's all I could stomach before realizing I'd rather just see it when everyone else does. The amount of time some people have put into analyzing the trailer (which reveals nothing) and analyzing cloud patterns in the teaser poster (which just looks like clouds to me) is staggering. Every time there is a highly guarded event movie in the geek world, there are tomes-worth of speculation spun from the web. Everyone insists, "No, THIS is exactly how the plot of Spider-Man 3 will unfold!" or "THIS is the new grille design for Optimus Prime!" And, invariably, everyone is wrong. This is TIME WASTED, people. Go solve that theorem you've been working on, or play a video game, or spend more time with your pet iguana. Anything else would be quality time in comparison.

I certainly hope many of the bloggers are wrong about one thing: even though the web suggests that it's been denied by Abrams, one of the most prevalent theories out there is that the monster is Cthulhu, the unpronounceable master of people's nightmares from the work of the grand-daddy of modern horror, H.P. Lovecraft. But, while Cthulhu is indeed a big slimy monster (above), the beauty and horror of his story is what happens when he's not on the page. The Cult of Cthulhu is perhaps more frightening than the monster itself. This god-like entity can haunt and control the subconsciousness of a population... can drive men who haven't seen or heard of him mad with fear... can make murderers and psychopaths of anyone through ancient, demonic magic. Cloverfield, on the other hand, seems to be a simple, good-old-fashined disaster/monster flick. Nothing wrong with that. It's been a long time since a truly good one. But I see nothing in the trailers that indicates any build-up in collective fear and subconscious paranoia. I somehow doubt there will be any bloody orgies of the damned in Cloverfield (Lovecraft really was a sick f%#*).

Cthulhu could make a really good movie (there's a straight-to-video one I haven't seen). But I sort of hope Cloverfield is just a big slimy monster movie (à la the original Kong or the kaiju big-boy himself, Gojira). When they do Lovecraft, I want them to do Lovecraft.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

So Good I Could Plotz... Or Purge

The long-promised "Final Cut" of Blade Runner is now playing in New York and LA. I saw it at the Ziegfeld today. Sweet Jesus. It's odd to be that blown away by a movie one has seen so many times, but hot damn, is it looking and sounding better than ever.

I noticed only one new shot (dancing stripper ladies, which made me think I was about to see the infamous snake dance scene), plus a lot of digital fixes: Tyrell's thumb removed from the flipped close-up that introduces Roy, a CG fix on Deckard and Hassan's lips during the scene in which their dialogue was obviously rewritten and looped later, and a CG matte painting of the LA cityscape behind the obviously-shot-elsewhere insert of the dove at the end of the film. Roy's calling Tyrell "fucker" was changed to "father," and the bloody eye-gouge missing in the previous Director's Cut has been restored. Also, I didn't see the wire on the first spinner take-off; maybe it was erased. Did I miss anything? Yes, I've seen this movie once or twice. In the grand scheme of things, these are probably nitpicky points. The movie didn't need the fixes, but I'm sure if I were Scott, these trifles would annoy me.

Bottom line: the movie is damn near perfect now. It looks gorgeous, still holds up, and it's worth a pilgrimage to LA or New York if you can cut it. The DVD comes out in December. Last thing: I was reminded of the "PURGE" screen on the spinner's dashboard early in the film. It's the same exact screen seen in the cockpit of the Narcissus in Alien, shortly before Ripley escapes while the Nostromo self-destructs. Does Ridley Scott have recurring bouts of the runs? What gives?

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Place Your Bets

Carpenter is scrappy... he could take King in two rounds, tops. But neither would have a prayer against Lloyd Kaufman's The Fart.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

PC Users Prefer the +R's

Words sort of fail me when it comes to the commodification of what is probably my favorite film series of all time. So I'm not sure what to say about Alien vs. Predator 2, aka Aliens vs Predator: Requiem, aka AVP-R. Does this red-band trailer and prominent "R" in title strike anyone else as Fox's thinly-veiled attempt to reassure those fans miffed by the previous AVP's PG-13 rating?

That starts a whole other tirade, by the way. Geeks and bloggers get so incensed over ratings of sequels that they damn the films before they've seen them (Live Free or Die Hard got a lot of this). Who the hell started using ratings as a litmus paper for quality? I'd remind you that Jaws is PG, whereas Jaws 4: The Revenge is PG-13, so you tell me about the the law of direct proportionality when it comes to sequels and their more-restrictive ratings. Bull.

As for this trailer (below)... I watched it like I watch commercials for "Too Hot for TV" videos. For a moment I thought it was a video game. Just from the trailer, one can tell that it lacks all of the mystique and majesty of the original Alien trilogy. It's a montage of gory, bloody stuff. It's a direct-to-video monster movie co-opting an A-list franchise. And yeah, I suppose I see Aliens and Predators in there, but it doesn't really look like one of the Alien films to me. It looks like AVP: Totally Xtreme Sports Edition. I'm coping with this potential disaster and heartbreak by denying it much attention or feeling -- just like I still deny that the first AVP was a bad movie. Denial helps, people. I'll get to anger and bargaining soon.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Herbie Robinson From Cleveland

In honor of Ocean of Fear, a documentary about the U.S.S. Indianapolis, which aired repeatedly this past Shark Week on the Discovery Channel, I present my favorite monologue in all of filmdom. Props to Peter Benchley, Carl Gottlieb, John Milius, and Robert Shaw (all of whom wrote it, with Shaw putting finishing touches on before performing it). And of course there's the assist by Spielberg and John Williams (whose strings in this scene are amazing, and hard to hear on YouTube).

By the way, the doc is pretty worth watching, and this is for you history buffs:

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Tortureporn and a Barrel of Laughs

What do the above three hotties have in common? Maybe more than you think. I recently saw the term "Tortureporn" in an issue of Entertainment Weekly. It refers to the Hostels and Saws of the world. Then, a friend dropped the term in conversation and assured me that yes, this is the hot new word that the kids are using to describe that genre of film -- so in demand these days -- of really bad s#%t happening to trapped people.

Are people actually getting off on it? I hope not. Those ain't folks I want to know. But the inclusion of the word "porn" may not be far from the mark. It reminded me of a paper I wrote in college. I wrote about Raimi's Evil Dead trilogy, focusing on Evil Dead II as a synthesis of film genre -- as the perfect "horror comedy."

It was far more intellectual than I usually get, and I certainly don't give much credence to genre studies in general (labels are for squares, man!), but my paper led me to the conclusion that horror and comedy are basically the same thing. At least, they work with nearly identical devices. Comedy creates tension, playing off expectations to elicit physical relief (laughter). Horror creates tension, playing off suspense to elicit physical relief (screams or jumps). Evil Dead is unique in how well it does these simultaneously.

So horror and comedy, I decided, were definable as genres by virtue of the audiences' physical reactions to them. And think of all those people who just laugh during scary horror movies. But there's one more genre that fits the "defined by physical reaction" bill. Pornography creates tension, playing off arousal to elicit physical relief (I think you get this one). And think of all those people who just laugh during porn. Some even scream and can't watch. Bottom line: horror, comedy, and porn are the same thing. They toy with audiences in the same way, and it's why Hung Wankenstein is probably the ultimate film. It's a fine line between a laugh, a scream, and an orgasm. Come on, tell the truth... haven't you ever done all three at the same time?

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Like a Colander With No Holes

Will somebody please explain to me the purpose of a Transformer that does not transform? I went to the giant Toys R Us at Times Square today, and the big ground floor Transformers display had several dozen toys, of which, to my count, five actually changed form. What is going on?


The highly-unanticipated trailer for Robert Zemeckis's Beowulf is online. I can hardly contain my non-enthusiasm. I guess it's nice to see that Ray Winstone beefed up and turned his keg into a six-pack before donning the motion capture sensors for the mov... oh, wait, he's still fat.

I guess this is Zemeckis's new thing -- CG motion capture photo-realistic movies. I've never seen the point. Making something that looks like Tom Hanks or Angelina Jolie is possibly an impressive technical feat, but what's the point? It's the dog that stands on its nose at the county fair -- neat, but why? What are you trying to tell me that wouldn't be best left to the actors themselves, or to a stylistically enhanced, imaginatively painted CG canvas (rather than a literal depiction)? Zemeckis has always been one for showing off movie magic with no apparent depth. I could have made an independent feature with the money and talent he spent on changing the color of Bill Clinton's ties in the archival footage in Contact.

And accurate representations of actors, apparently, does not extend to accurate representations of the oldest narrative in Western literature. Grendel looks curiously like a muddy zombie, by way of the recent Mummy flicks. Angelina, listed on IMDb as "Grendel's Mother," looks her usual hot self, but WTF? Isn't Grendel's Mother supposed to be the most wretched of subterranean Hellspawn? The most rank and vile of monsters? From her lines, I actually thought she might be a sexed-up version of the Dragon, but even so, that's taking quite a liberty. I'm all for reinvention and adaptation (John Gardner's Grendel is a monsterpiece and you know I love Crichton's Eaters of the Dead), but this obvious Hollywood coat of gloss on what is one of the most tried and true and simply beautiful epics has already lost my vote. At least they did their research and got Angie's early Anglo-Saxon stilettos right (below). Stilettos? Come on, Bob Z. Sheesh.

Friday, July 20, 2007

The Thrilla Near Manila

Thanks to my friend A. Mo for sending this to me. This is one of the strangest and most wondrous things I've ever seen. Inmates at the Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center in the Philippines have put on a little talent show:

Friday, July 6, 2007

For That Ill Grill

I know -- it happens to you often. You're on North Main street in Dayton, Ohio, on your way to a Wright Brothers black tie memorial ball. Suddenly you realize, "S%#*!!! I forgot my oral bling!" Look no further. There is help:Another window boasts that they "buy scrap gold." So those of you with an excess of precious metal, please, think of the Dayton children without gold teeth and grillz. They need it more than you.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Happy Birthday Ray

To the granddaddy of monsters, the godfather of visual effects, and all-around badass Ray Harryhausen, this blogger wishes a very happy birthday and many happy returns. Harryhausen studied under Willis O'Brien (who created King Kong), and later greatly surpassed his teacher's techniques and artistry. Virtually every major VFX person in Hollywood today cites Harryhausen as his/her greatest hero, and it's no wonder. Harryhausen's stop-motion work is the reason people remember Jason and the Argonauts, Earth vs. the Flying Saucers, Clash of the Titans, and my favorite, The 7th Voyage of Sinbad. These are seminal films in geekdom, and their influence is all over Jurassic Park, Star Wars, Independence Day, etc.

What I find most notable is that Harryhausen was basically an auteur. His films were often his own brainchildren, greenlit based on the strength of his name and plotted by him. The directors of Harryhausen films (none of them as famous as he), tend to work around the FX sequences, which were all Harryhausen's design. His films are unmistakably Harryhausen films, not just because of his iconic creatures, but because of their pace, structure, and character. I can not think of any other technician in film history of whom this can be said. Sure, many cinematographers, editors, and designers have definitive and important styles, but no one ever said, "That was a great John Alton movie," or "Walter Murch movie," or "Edith Head movie" (you get the idea). But all of Harryhausen's films are known as "Harryhausen films." He's got two box sets and an "Early Years" collection in his name, plus several coffee table books. Tell me if I'm wrong, but I think this is unique.

No, his work is not photo-realistic by today's standards. The animated puppets are dated. But dramatically, they still work extraordinarily well. There's an indispensible sense of wonder in all his work. In his own words (I'm paraphrasing from memory here), effects that are too "real" are not interesting. There needs to be an other-wordly, slightly unbelievable quality in order to create drama. It shouldn't be too fake either, but his work always balances that fine line between the fantastic and the real (isn't that what movies are, at their core?). And so, to the ultimate filmmaker, Ray Harryhausen, I tip my hat. He's 87 today. Here's to 87 more.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Dueling Goo Puddles

In honor of my going to see John Carpenter's The Thing on the big screen tonight, I offer to the public an age-old debate which has perplexed my mind for years, namely: who would win in a fight -- the blob or the thing? Howard Hawks' original Thing monster was a lumbering Frankenstein-type dude from a planet where man evolved from vegetable. No question there; the blob would turn him into carrot smoothie. But Carpenter's thing is a shapeshifter and assimilator. Both it and the blob work on a cellular level, the thing digesting and replicating cells in its own chemical composition, the blob simply digesting and converting tissue into its own goopy and ever-increasing mass. Both organisms are capable of surviving individually on a microscopic level, in small segments that can separate or rejoin at will. Both grow indefinitely.

In light of upcoming rumored remakes of both films (the third versions of each, not including several blob sequels), it is a timely debate. So which is it? Would the blob dissolve the thing into more pink slop, or would the thing eat the blob and convert it into more pink Kurt Russell? These are the deep, important questions that keep me up at night. These are the issues on which I base my support of political candidates. Someone solve this for me, so I can sleep.

One thing is certain: against the team of Blob and Thing stars McQueen and Russell, both creatures would surely perish. I mean, look at them:

Addendum, posted after the initial post: a chat with my friend G.

Is the blob acidic? It seems to be.
Strange Case:
I would say that if it is, that's a good point in its favor. Then again, who knows what neutralizing properties the thing is capable of imitating.
People inside the blob seem to be digested.
In the 80's remake of the blob (photo above), they suggest that it is viral.
How do they suggest viral? That almost doesn't make any sense.
It's been a while, but I recall them sending some viral experiment into space in a small satellite. It crashes back to earth and has become the blob.
It's vaguely cancerous.
Because it grows. But if it's a cancer, I say the thing imitates and replaces the blob tumor.
I'm having a real back and forth in my science here... I'm gonna have to grab a reference book.

Look for G's exciting and thoroughly-researched comment to follow.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Avengers Assemble!

We all knew this was imminent. IMDb Pro (sorry if only members can follow the link) says that Marvel Studios is starting work on a live-action film of The Avengers, using go-to comic movie scripter Zak Penn (why can't they branch out and try new people just once?).

I can only wonder at the inherent legal dilemma: Marvel farmed the film rights of all their major characters out to competing studios, so how on Earth-616 are they going to pull together a team that is supposed to include (at least at its core) Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, The Wasp, Giant Man/ Ant-Man, Quicksilver, The Scarlet Witch, and possibly The Hulk? Half of these characters haven't even been introduced to contemporary audiences, so you know whatever they write will be bogged down in endless exposition and backstory, and may or may not have any connection to the other Marvel films that already exist (e.g. will Robert Downy, Jr. play Iron Man?).

Such questions may be beside the point. The only important thing is that they make a good movie. But I've been so disappointed by the sometimes good/ usually awful history of recent Marvel movies (peaks of X-Men and Spideys 1&2 interrupted by vast valleys of nearly everything else), that frankly, I doubt they'll pull their s%#* together. I suspect that Warner Brothers' Justice League of America stands a much better chance of being a good movie based on nothing more than the central ownership and administration of the intellectual property. That may sound nitpicky, but in the few years this blogger has worked lowly jobs in film production, I've seen enough to know that when expectations are too high, with too many cooks in the kitchen and too many people to please or let down, the result is usually bad. DC kept all their eggs in one basket, are owned by WB, and to completely generalize, have presented their characters with what is -- to my tastes -- a far better track record than Marvel. Bad exceptions are when we get into sequel territory, where too much money becomes involved (I'm looking at you, high-numbered Superman and Batman movies). Whatever... this is a pointless ramble until the trailers come out and we can complain all over again.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

They're here! You're next!

The upcoming Kidman flick, The Invasion, marks the fourth time that Invasion of the Body Snatchers has been made -- more if you include ripoffs (I mean homages) like The Faculty. What's remarkable is that all three versions so far ('56, '78, '93) have been very good movies. From the red scare era came this perfect formula: alien invaders replace our loved ones, turning the human race into an emotionless species of automatons.

The beauty of this sci-fi premise is that it can be used to talk about all sorts of issues. The original is widely regarded as a pro-American take on the spread of godless Communism. But other interpretations hold that the spreading disease is actually the mindless hysteria of red scare itself, and that Kevin McCarthy is the only sane, free-thinking man in a world gone mad with 1950's conformity. The Sutherland version is largely a film about organic food and obsession with health and decontamination. Maybe that's a stretch, but this is a hot topic in '78. Abel Ferrara's film is probably the scariest of them all, and although it's been a while since I've seen it, I seem to recall the notion of virus and disease (HIV maybe?) being a big part of it.

But this is all pseudo-intellectual jargon that may well be beside the point. The bottom line is, this premise will always be horrifying. The zombie film is a formula not far off from Body Snatchers, but these invaders aren't mean. They don't bite. They look and sound just like us, call us by name. They are calm and calculating, not malicious, doing what they do only because of their biology. They simply spread. Dress it up with whatever social context you like. Watching the new trailer (below), I realized that we've seen all of this before. Each version is largely the same movie set 10-20 years after the last one, with the same key scenes and familiar situations and dialogue. But even in this trailer, I'm scared. So maybe this will be about terrorism (the title alone seems indication of that), who knows? It's set in DC, so I'm sure there will be plenty about a passive, non-thinking government. But more importantly, it's about a couple people in a world of apathy, detatchment, and intellectual vacancy. It's scary as hell, and somehow, I never mind that they're remaking a classic over and over.

P.S. Sigur Rós? WTF?

P.P.S. My favorite alien impostor film ever, John Carpenter's remake of The Thing, is playing at the Aero in LA on Friday, June 15th. All in the area, be there.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Let Hish Armiesh Be the Birdsh in the Shky

It's official... no Connery in Indy 4. Apparently, "retirement is just too damned much fun." Besides, he really wanted to go out with The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Who wouldn't right? (gagging, heaving, etc.) Hollywood rumors say he's eyeing public office in Scotland, to push for Scottish independence. No, I'm not citing any sources on that. It's hearsay. I heard it, so I'm saying it.

Oh well, Shia LaBeouf will have to suffice.

Monday, June 4, 2007

The World's Biggest Snowcone

Danish artist, Marco Evaristti, announced plans to paint the summit of Mont Blanc red to raise awareness for environmental issues (he previously did this with an iceberg, above). He also wants to declare the peak a sovereign "pink" state. Is anyone else reminded of that episode of G.I. Joe (or was it just one of the comics?) in which Cobra used depth charges to raise land masses in the ocean and claim them as a sovereign state so that they could no longer be attacked as a terrorist cell? Evaristti is setting up a dangerous precedent. Next thing you know, Christo and Jeanne-Claude will t.p. the Reichstag and mandate that anyone without orange hair is part of a lower race. Heck, I'd eat dye pellets and piss all over Hawaii for my own private island. But really, how much money is this going to cost? What if that cash went towards finding an alternative energy source, or Katrina relief? How many defilers of Mother Nature, truly, are going to become more aware of the environment because some dude paints a mountain (something most of the world will see in what might as well be a Photoshopped image)? I guess my frustration at the b.s. that was Christo's "The Gates" is shining through here. If I want a red mountain, I'll stick with Kurosawa's "Mount Fuji in Red," from Dreams (which, granted, looks more orange below).

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Coaster Rails Lubed With the Oil of Olivier

Yahoo! News reports that plans are set for a Harry Potter theme park in Orlando. Finally, fans will be able to walk amongst the $20 cotton candies, vomitting children, and fat Midwestern tourists they know and love from the books.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Trailer Will Tear Us Apart

The Control trailer is finally online. Some say "why make a Joy Division movie," since 24 Hour Party People is so good. I agree on that flick, but Joy Division fills maybe 10% of the time there. Besides, Anton Corbijn, whose videos and photographs are beautiful, actually directed Joy Division videos twenty years ago. And, while Ridley Scott, David Fincher, Spike Jones, Michel Gondry, and others have made the leap from music videos to outstanding features, we've yet to see a Corbijn film. I, for one, can't wait. And that's coming from a big Joy Division fan. Now all we need is for Chris Cunningham finally to make Neuromancer (oh dream of dreams).

Monday, May 28, 2007

What Can Mediocrity Do For You?

In light of a certain five-year reunion that just took place in Middletown, Connecticut, I found the timing of this bit from last week's Daily Show quite nice. Check out our shout-out, disparaging as it may be. Go Wes.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Lost in Sparta

I sort of made myself a promise never to jump into the Lost blogging game and post a "Lost theory." But in the wake of last night's season 3 finale (see image), I think I've cracked it. As we clearly can see in Lost's flash-forward, Jack will become King Leonidas once he leaves the island. In fact, the beginning of season 4 will start off with Jack leading the survivors from the radio tower to the Pass at Thermopylae, stopping along the way at Rhodes to visit the ruins of the Colossus (now down to one foot missing a toe).
Once at the Hot Gates, they will face off against an army led by Paulo (who rose from his being buried alive this season, shaved his head, and is wearing a lot of jewelry). Don't buy it? Then why did Rodrigo Santoro, who plays Paulo, also play Xerxes in 300? I'm sorry to spoil it for everyone, but I think Jack dies gloriously in battle, possibly at the hands of this previously-deceased Brazilian hunk.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Grok This Jacuzzi

Hot springs found on Mars. "Potential for life." Here's the article.

Realism Schmealism

Bless my friend Yeagers. Following up on the Joker discussion... here's the best example of why "realism" is overrated. We love Dick Tracy, and will challenge anyone who thinks otherwise to a bout of fisticuffs. In her words, "F%#* realism." Anyone operating under the opinion that reality (which is a subjective word, granted) has anything to do with the comic book page or the cinema screen is deluding themselves. Even the most "verite" of improvised dramas (Hollywood calls these "gritty") -- or a documentary for that matter -- is engineered, designed, and manipulated to elicit a manufactured response in an audience. It's why I never bought Dogma 95 (I vastly prefer Lloyd Kaufman's Dogpile 95). Spin these cinematic gimmicks with any lofty, pretentious BS you want... it's still a constructed fiction. So everyone banking on a real Joker, and a real Batman, those ideas are contradictions in terms. The only question is, "Does this work in the context of its own world?" Forget how easy it is to imagine the Joker in our "real" world.

The Joker? Fo' rizzle?

By now the whole world has seen the photo of Heath Ledger's new Joker for Batman Begins 2: Batman Progresses. Released through guerilla web tactics that make it impossible to confirm that this picture is real, it's caused more consternation, debate, and blogging among us fanboys than we've seen since they gave Spider-Man moulded nipples. Wait, is that right?

First of all, I'm working on the assumption that this is in fact a real picture of the new Joker (sorry all you photoshop conspiracy theorists). And what I have to say is this: while I trust both Ledger and director Chris Nolan to make this work in its own way -- to make it scary and dramatically satisfying -- I have to admit disappointment. The Joker (as we know him) is important and interesting because he is Batman's alter-ego in every sense. The (traditional) Joker's perpetual grin and menacing brow may be scary, but he is a caricature of the Punch figure -- the fool. His sense of humor never wanes (unlike that of Batman, who has little or no sense of humor). His appearance is as bright and mirthful as Batman's is black and brooding, making the irony all the greater -- the colorful Joker stands for death and mayhem, while the dark Batman stands for justice and honor.

So, by giving Ledger the appearance they have, all of the symbolism and irony is lost. Personally, I find the scar make-up horrifying. It hints at a backstory of a man who was either tortured and disfigured (inside and out), or worse yet -- he mutilated himself (this could be the most deeply disturbing Hollywood serial killer in a long while). But the bottom line is, it's not The Joker. It's not Batman's antithesis. It's a literal, grimmer physical manifestation of Joker's inner ugliness. All the irony, and frankly all the fun, is absent.

But die-hard Begins fans will say that the new series is more believable -- more realistic -- and that this approach rocks. Ok, this psycho scarface may be more plausible in the world we live in, but that doesn't make it the best possible fiction.
To be honest, I'm not that into this "let's make a realistic comic book" approach. I have no problem with my superheroes and villains being elevated, exaggerated, and colorful. I say that as a comic reader. Using the word "realistic" is a bit pointless when talking about a man in a bat suit.
Look... Greek, Norse, and other mythologies are beautiful because the gods reflect all the foibles, failings, and strengths that man actually exhibits. But they are superhuman. No one can say that there is anything remotely realistic about a Thunder God, or a Gorgon, or a flying horse. I'm not the only one who sees comics as a kind of contemporary mythology, and so this is why I become wary of the attempt to turn fantasy into reality.

Now, by the same token, I detest representaions of these characters that stray too far from their reflection of real human emotions and spin into out-of-control exaggerations that have no dramatic merit. Schumacher's Batman films are travesties in my opinion, and I'll take Batman Begins over those any day. But I worry that Ledger's Joker will be as "real" as Schwarzenegger's Freeze is "surreal."
This cut-up face that speaks of a deeply disturbed mind is certainly plausible (John Wayne Gacy comes to mind), but is "real" better? For those who think so, then Joker: Portrait of a Serial Killer may be your bag. To me, it's an interesting exercise, but strays from the spirit of the characters.

Different comic writers and artists have manifested The Joker many different ways, but this is drastically different from anything I've seen before. I'm in no position to condemn change, so ultimately this interpretation may be a good thing, but man, is it different as hell. What I've always loved about Joker is that even at his most maniacal, he is funny. But I see nothing funny about this new picture. Hopefully Ledger has the humor up his sleeve somewhere.
The Joker (as we've known him) is always smiling! At least, that is his default state. Everything is funny to him, always. But that spirit is absent from this first publicity still. Of course, a still may not be indicative of the performance. But WB decided to go with this shot, and I kind of wish he were, in fact, smiling.

I'm not condemning this look unequivocally.
The inner workings of the character, the writing and performance, are certainly the most important things here, and so I'm ultimately saying, "Let's wait and see." Many comic purists have dismissed this new Joker completely and immediately. These are the same people who invariably point to some internet fan film or another as the only real Joker on film. Well, no offense to those earnest efforts, but there's more to a good film character than just copying the books (remember that great line in the first X-Men, "What did you expect, yellow spandex?"). You've got to go for the essential spirit of the character. Forget the details. On this note, I'll put in my votes for Cesar Romero on the Adam West Batman run and the Mark Hamill-voiced incarnation on the 90's Animated Series as the best examples of the sheer joyful sadism that is The Joker (I'll give Nicholson honorable mention).

All that said, I still stand by my initial reaction: this may work very well, and in a very new way, but I find something missing. It's not The Joker; it's a new guy called "The Joker." Looking at this picture, I don't see The Clown Prince of Crime... I see the Sick Twisted F#*% of Crime.
I applaud the fact that a major studio is doing something new, genuinely twisted, and creative with a character we've seen for decades. And to be fair, one must reserve final judgement until seeing the film. But right now, it seems weird, and not in a good way.