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Sparks

 Unrated   DVD
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Product Description

After a radioactive meteor strikes Earth, a genetically altered group known as The Rochester 13 gain astonishing, superhuman powers. Ian Sparks (Chase Williamson, John Dies at the End) doesn’t feel remotely super… but after his parents’ death, he throws himself into battle against the criminals plaguing the mean streets of New York. Teaming up with, and falling hard for, the beautiful Lady Heavenly (Ashley Bell, The Last Exorcism I & II), the unstoppable duo quickly decimates the city’s army of thugs. But when they tangle with the nation’s most twisted arch-villain, they end up losing everything — including each other. Sparks’ rage-fueled quest for vengeance ignites a battle that will change the world and alter his destiny, forever.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By Tommy Dooley HALL OF FAME TOP 10 REVIEWER
Format:DVD
This is a film that people seem to really love or absolutely detest; I actually thought it had some very strong points and fell a bit flat elsewhere. It is a `superhero' tale and based on the graphic novel which tells the story of a meteor crashing to earth causing a genetically mutated group of people who become known as `the Rochester 13'. Then we have the story of the hero or rather `superhero' Ian Sparks (Chase Wiliamson - `John Dies at the End') whose parents are killed in an exploding car incident that was partially caused by the cops.

We jump ahead a number of years and Sparks has decided to go out righting wrongs and in the end teams up with Lady Heavenly played by Ashley Bell (`The Day') then they come up against a super villain and the rules of the game change forever... type thing.

Well all of that is pretty predictable and I quite liked the suspending belief as you swallowed their stories of woe. It unashamedly plays for the `noir' feeling and in many ways copies `Sin City' with its use of graphics and live action. However, it lacks the pathos of that film and is never consistent with the noir feeling, so at times it feels like we got only half the film that the makers wanted us to see - that may have been down to budget. The action is ok at best and sporadic and you will be amazed at a shotgun that causes no damage to the moving vehicle it is fired at, whilst killing the passenger.

Some have criticised the acting, but I think they had to play it in a kind of cheesy tongue in cheek way as the whole thing is quite unbelievable and some would argue that is as it should be. If you are a fan of super hero type films this will tick some of your boxes, if you are hankering for a noir then look elsewhere - if you just want some not too sensible viewing fun then this more than passes muster.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.1 out of 5 stars  40 reviews
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great story and a great movie. March 19 2014
By Ethan MacKuin - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
I write this review neither as a professional critic nor as someone directly involved with movie making. Instead I am simply a long time fan of movies in general and of the various genres that make up the melting pot that is Sparks. Sparks in its simplest description is a combination of noir style and superhero action with a late 1930s to early 1940s backdrop. It is a wonderful film and should be included in anyone’s personal catalog of DVDs. That having been said, getting down into just what makes this film special will yield even more impressive details.

Sparks is based on a graphic novel of the same name written by Christopher Folino. During the original run of the comic he and William Katt (yes of Greatest American Hero fame) decided to try to bring it forward as a film. There’s more to it than that but this is supposed to be a review of the film and hot a historical treatise of it. However, it does bear to point out that the film was produced completely independently. It is very much a labor of love and it shows in the finished product.

Visually the film is a study in contrast. Scenes are shot in a way that is similar in feel to a combination of Sin City and a theatrical production. Because the production was completely independent and was shot quickly in one location, a lot of green screening was used. Much like it was in Sin City but it doesn't take anything away from the shots. It’s the same kind of feeling you would get watching a play where you know the characters aren't actually in the location they're pretending to be in but you accept the conceit and go along for the ride anyway.

The effects overall are magnificent. Yes certain nitpicks could be made about their quality if you were to go frame by frame but given that all the visual effects were the work of TWO guys alone, it’s a marvel of artistry and talent. For a superhero movie, there aren't that many big, in your face effects (no city destroying climax here) but how and when they’re used is done to perfectly illustrate and forward the plot which is a lesson that many effects heavy blockbusters could learn.

The musical score is perfectly interwoven to the film and blends in with the entire package to nicely frame things and add to the flow without being blaring or overpowering the dialog. It is dramatic without being corny. No noticeable dead girlfriend violin.

The acting was spot on with Chase Williamson (John Dies At The End) going from adorably dorky one moment (the meeting Lady Heavenly scene is perfect illustration) to pissed off world weary the next with ease as Ian Sparks. Ashley Bell (Last Exorcism) is wonderful as Lady Heavenly in every aspect of the character. To say more about her portrayal would be to spoil a bit of plot. Clancy Brown, Jake Busey, and Clint Howard all turn in stellar performances but William Katt deserves special note for his chilling portrayal of Matanza. He delivers his lines and presence with a gravitas that is calm and sinister without being campy.
The plot and writing is where the movie shines the most. Like most noir works (at least that I've seen) the film makes heavy use of flashbacks. Sometimes repeating the same moment but from different points of view or with people admitting things they hadn't before. Sparks will not spoon feed you everything up front but by the end of the movie you will get what was going on. Fair warning though that it will not happen until quite literally the last minute but the film does tie up all the loose ends in a very satisfying way. More than once you will find yourself going “Ohhhhhh so that’s what that was.”

So to sum up, is the film absolutely 100% completely perfect? No. But it is a masterpiece of ingenuity, storytelling, and a perfect demonstration that for all the jadedness in the world, there’s still some magic to be found in movies. Beyond all that, it’s just a fun movie to watch with a great story and the world needs more great stories. Here’s to hoping there’s a sequel somewhere down the road.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable March 23 2014
By Nick Gurney - Published on Amazon.com
Verified Purchase
The film was enjoyable but not great. It was dark in places which I enjoyed but the character development was a bit poor.
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars NO SPARKS March 23 2014
By Duane Hatton - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
GREAT ATTEMPT...but more on par with a syndicated TV series like HERCULES or XEAN...corny script and eye rolling acting with laughable fight sequences...and OMG how much was the WATER BUDGET for RAIN sequences! (you've never seen so much RAIN in your life). It tries to be WATCHMEN, HELLBOY with a dash in SIN CITY but it just doesn't cut the mustard! If you can sit through the whole thing, you must have SUPER POWERS. The 2 star rating is for effort...its clear everyone involved made this film with love but sometimes love isn't enough.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Super Hero, Noir Type Film that could have been better May 24 2014
By Tommy Dooley - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
This is a film that people seem to really love or absolutely detest; I actually thought it had some very strong points and fell a bit flat elsewhere. It is a `superhero' tale and based on the graphic novel which tells the story of a meteor crashing to earth causing a genetically mutated group of people who become known as `the Rochester 13'. Then we have the story of the hero or rather `superhero' Ian Sparks (Chase Wiliamson - `John Dies at the End') whose parents are killed in an exploding car incident that was partially caused by the cops.

We jump ahead a number of years and Sparks has decided to go out righting wrongs and in the end teams up with Lady Heavenly played by Ashley Bell (`The Day') then they come up against a super villain and the rules of the game change forever... type thing.

Well all of that is pretty predictable and I quite liked the suspending belief as you swallowed their stories of woe. It unashamedly plays for the `noir' feeling and in many ways copies `Sin City' with its use of graphics and live action. However, it lacks the pathos of that film and is never consistent with the noir feeling, so at times it feels like we got only half the film that the makers wanted us to see - that may have been down to budget. The action is ok at best and sporadic and you will be amazed at a shotgun that causes no damage to the moving vehicle it is fired at, whilst killing the passenger.

Some have criticised the acting, but I think they had to play it in a kind of cheesy tongue in cheek way as the whole thing is quite unbelievable and some would argue that is as it should be. If you are a fan of super hero type films this will tick some of your boxes, if you are hankering for a noir then look elsewhere - if you just want some not too sensible viewing fun then this more than passes muster.
11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Bit Long ... But It Definitely Has SPARKS! March 11 2014
By E. Lee Zimmerman - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
I kid you not: I read my first comic book in 1970. (It was a Batman story, but I honestly don’t remember any of the specifics.) Bitten by the superhero bug at such a ripe, young age, the interest naturally stuck with me, and I’ve been reading them ever since. To be fair, I don’t read them as ambitiously as I used to – I chalk that up to the nurturing on one’s particular tastes as one gets a bit older or ‘long in the tooth,’ as they say. Still, I’ve been there through perhaps every television and/or cinematic discovery (or rediscovery) of what quality comic book material looks like once it’s committed to celluloid. TV’s Spider-man. TV’s Wonder Woman. The Incredible Hulk. All the way up to NBC’s HEROES, the various Bat-films, and the Marvel flicks. I certainly wouldn’t classify myself as any expert on the subject, but I would consider myself to have a modestly learned opinion.

That said, I was probably as underwhelmed by SPARKS as I was impressed. Like any low budget or independent production, it has its relative strengths and weaknesses, and I’ll be happy to share them with you after this brief qualifier …

(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and/or characters. If you’re the type of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last three paragraphs for my final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)

A radioactive meteor strikes Earth in the past, killing most of its three hundred victims but gifting a small group (named ‘The Rochester 13’) with not only superhuman abilities but also the capability of passing on their skills to their future offspring. Ian Sparks (played with noir-fueled sensibilities by Chase Williamson) wasn’t one of the resulting superheroes, but, after his parents die in a horrific automobile accident, he nevertheless commits himself to the cause of cleaning up the streets. Years later – as he continues his crusade – he relocates to the Big Apple and joins forces with the comely Lady Heavenly (a comely and heavenly Ashley Bell, who graciously bares her midriff for fanboys everywhere). However, their battle against a demented supervillain known only as Matanza (William Katt) leaves them physically and emotionally scarred. Can they overcome their greatest failure and eventually find true love again?

Despite some modest reservations with the story (I’ll get to that in a moment), there’s still plenty to ‘dig’ about SPARKS. Essentially, directors Christopher Folino (who also wrote the source graphic novel as well as the screenplay) and Todd Burrows have dished out a cinematic valentine to comic book stories, quite probably reminiscent of those they read in their youth. Their visual style owes a lot of inspiration to Warren Beatty’s DICK TRACY (1990) and Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez’s SIN CITY (2005) – two great-looking films worth giving an appreciable nod to – but with much more of this cobbled together on a vastly lower budget. (Not an insult, just an honest critical assessment.) It’s set during what I believe to be either the late 40’s or early 50’s, so there’s definitely a black-and-white feeling to a fairly limited color palate. Some of the period detail is quite good while others (again) clearly looks as though it was accomplished on a budget. However, Folino and Burrows knew how to give their feature the look they wanted, and I’ll let those accomplishments speak for themselves.

But about those story reservations …

At 98 minutes, the bulk of what’s in here is told via Sparks’ various flashbacks. Essentially, what you have here is – like in the comic book – a narrator telling you a story frame-by-frame. Where it gets a bit convoluted is that within Sparks’ own flashbacks he even begins recounting other characters’ flashbacks. (This is entirely necessitated by the fact that several character developments are hidden from the main character deep within the stories others have to tell him.) While I only found it exclusively confusing on a single occasion (watch closely when Sparks is flashing back to Archer’s flashbacks), it’s still not a storytelling frame I strongly encourage anyone else to use. In fact, I harken to think how the entire motion picture may’ve been better served by dropping that narrative trickery altogether and just telling the story in present day (with the obligatory subtitles telling us “three months later” when it is “three months later”). Who knows? It may’ve worked better.

Also about that running time, the last twenty minutes felt like they were vastly longer than twenty minutes; and I’d chalk that up to the narrative device going away (finally!) as everyone’s been brought up-to-speed. Clearly, there’s some fat in here – for example, Sparks figures out what is superpower is probably thirty minutes after the audience is already keen on it – and a leaner cut probably would’ve made this one a true fighting machine.

SPARKS: THE ORIGIN OF IAN SPARKS (2013) is produced by Sideshow Productions. DVD distribution is being handled by Image Entertainment. As for the technical specifications, this low budget superhero film offers up some surprisingly good sights and sounds, and there’s quite a bit of it that’s visual punctuated with some quite good cinematography. If it’s special features you want, then you have of making-of short to look forward to, along with some obligatory outtakes and an audio commentary by actor William Katt and directors Folino and Burrows: a nice assortment for what is clearly a very personal effort from all involved.

RECOMMENDED. SPARKS is the kind of film that likely has to be already in your wheelhouse of interests for you to truly appreciate what it has to offer. Stylistically, it borrows heavily from much in the superhero genre that’s come before, but don’t look for it to be anywhere near as accomplished as any of the Marvel Comics motion pictures, though it might be a tad more chic and sophisticated than any of the PUNISHER flicks. Sure, parts of it feel more than a bit derivative, but where there’s a spark there’s likely to be a fire. (See what I did there?) Passable and mostly kid-friendly, though there are some sexual assault undertones parents may not want to discuss much further than need be.

In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at RLJ Entertainment and Image Entertainment provided me with an advance DVD copy of SPARKS: THE ORIGIN OF IAN SPARKS by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review.
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