Rick Remender can write the hell out of some superhero comics. He can write the hell out of comics, period. The guy doesn’t get near enough respect although his run on Secret Avengers gets a lot of love as does his Uncanny X-Force. The fact that he’s now on one of the most high profile books of the year that will bring in readers from the X-Men and Avengers camps with art from the amazing John Cassaday, I would say the general level of anticipation around this book hit some pretty high levels. I know I rushed out to pick up a copy even though I have one on order from my monthly shipment that won’t arrive for another two weeks. Was it worth it?
Let me say this, just seeing Cassaday drawing Wolverine again gave me the warm fuzzies in my geek cockles. I am an unabashed lover of his work on Astonishing X-Men and he hasn’t lost a bit of his magic. He gives these characters life and shows why he is one of the most revered artists of his generation. I don’t know what the schedule for this book will look like, because I remember Planetary and Astonishing X-Men and the intermittent shipping delays, but if the book maintains a level of quality from the artwork, I can do with some waiting. Cassaday is that good.
Remender’s scripting is equally impressive. The man knows how to launch a book. We’re coming right out of the fallout of AvX and while that series was one of meandering quality, what has been birthed from its loins is anything but mediocre. Remender gives us a look at Alex Summers at a crossroad in his life and at a crucial time in his development. He’s approached by Cap and Thor who want to bridge the camps of the Avengers and the X-Men and put hostility behind them. Of course, this is a Marvel comic so at the appropriate time the shiz hits the blades and chaos resumes at its regularly scheduled pace.
The big reveal at the end of the issue is spoiled in one of the variant covers, but if you are unaware I’ll leave it to you to discover on your own but it looks like Remender is going to go for the same sort of over-the-top drama that makes the Avengers work so well. His ideas are the perfect fit for something like this and he has delivered on his first issue. I am confident the rest of the run will live up to his debut.
I think it comes as no surprise that I skipped over Once Upon A Time, when it first came to television. As a fan of Fables, I felt that the conceit of the show borrowed too heavily from that book and thus deprived us of an eventual adaptation of Bill Willingham’s Vertigo series. Willingham said on his twitter account that the series were completely different but drawing from the same well and I suppose I should have given the ABC show the benefit of the doubt at the time but I simply didn’t want to put forth the effort. Now that the second season is about to begin and the first series is available on Netflix and on blu-ray, I decided to give it a chance. Mostly because I figured it would be a nice show for myself and the lady-friend to enjoy together on lazy Sunday evenings, but also because I don’t want to be the kind of person who writes something off without at least giving it a fair shake.
After sitting through all 22 episodes of the series on blu-ray, I can say that it bears very little resemblance to Fables outside of the “fairytale characters in the real world” baseline. The characterization is completely different, the structure is completely different, and the story is aimed in a completely different direction. The major difference between the two is that in OUAT, the characters do not know about their fairytale past. The conceit being that they have been cursed by the evil queen to live in a purgatory devoid of magic in our world not knowing about their past lives. Fables depended fairly heavily, early on at least, on the idea of the magical folk to hide their identity from the real world. If there is any reason not to watch the show, a loyalty to Fables isn’t it. You may find yourself turned off at the SyFy original movie level CGI that makes up a lot of the fairytale portions of the show, but don’t try to claim this is a ripoff.
Let’s talk about what does work for a moment. The actors and actresses in Once Upon A Time truly give it their all. They commit to the material with the same sort of dedication that you see from actors doing Shakespeare. Is it sometimes over the top? Yes. But we are talking fairytales here. You can’t expect there not to be a little melodrama. All of that works in the favor of the show. I found myself being reminded a lot of Buffy in terms of tone, which shouldn’t be a surprise considering how many time Jane Espenson’s name pops up in the credits. You have to embrace your genre in a show like this and I will say that Once Upon A Time does not try to be anything that it isn’t. What makes that work is the fact that none of the actors seem to be ashamed of that fact or think the material is below them. Lana Parilla is downright magnificent as the evil Queen/mayor Regina. She nails the character on every level. It takes a special type of actor to make you want to claw someone’s face off because they’re so delightfully wicked and she is one of them. As Rumpelstiltskin, Robert Carlyle seems to relish the chance to play both darkly sinister and creepily impish. The dichotomy the actor is able to showcase with the character is impressive and while some may think his portrayal of Rumpelstiltskin is a tad over the top, I would argue that it works to establishing the tone of the show more than just about any other character. There have been realistic depictions of fairytales in the media before, this year’s Snow White and the Huntsman comes to mind, but by making Rumpelstiltskin a cackling gold-flecked imp, it is hard to ignore what sort of show you’re watching. You have to embrace it or turn off the set.
Some things don’t work quite as well. As I mentioned, the CGI can be a little dodgy but then again this thing doesn’t exactly have Peter Jackson money. More of the problems come from the pacing. I talked about how the characters are unaware of their background and as a result it can cause the viewer to grow impatient waiting for them to come to their senses. Having the audience know more than the characters is something that happens often in a television medium but at the same time there has to be a modicum of payoff. I feel like the show takes a bit too much time getting to the logical culmination it requires to movie forward. Some might not have the same problems I have with pacing, but it was the number one issue I had with the series as a whole. I feel that the show could have easily been a few episodes shorter and been far more effective. Perhaps I’m growing too accustomed to the shorter, tighter seasons of cable television shows like Breaking Bad. It’s a distinct possibility.
All things considered, I really enjoyed the show for what it was. I have not yet had a chance to watch the first episode of the second season, but there may be an addendum to this post when I get around to checking my DVR. If you have Netflix, I wouldn’t argue against adding this to your queue. It’s entertaining and accomplishes most of what it sets out to do, which is more than I can say for 80% of network TV shows.
My favorite cartoon when I was a kid was the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I had all the toys, I had VHS tapes of the show out the wazoo and I enrolled in a martial arts class at age six just because I wanted to be a ninja. My sensei made me do fifty pushups for taking too long in the bathroom once. I didn’t stay in the class long. That didn’t discourage me from watching the cartoons and playing with the action figures though. Nothing could put the kibosh on that.
I never read the comics of TMNT at any point until around 2006 when I was able to get my hands on some of the reprinted oversize editions that went back and colorized some of the original stories. I knew there were differences between the version I had grown up with and the original source material, but I never really had any idea of that until I got those books. Even then it was only a miniscule sampling of the original Turtle stories and I didn’t get to really delve into that world until around 2010 when IDW started reprinting those issues in omnibus style trade paperbacks. I really enjoyed reading those books and I think that it gave me an appreciation for h0w there can be several interpretations of the same property and have it work out for the better.
The 2012 volume of the TMNT animated franchise seems to be a melding of the ideas from the early nineties cartoon and the one that hit air back in the early 2000s. The show does not attempt to downplay the humorous elements of the franchise and yet at the same time it appears that they will be eschewing the original series’ tendencies for the villains to be downright laughable. The threats to the heroes will feel realistic and the heroes’ response will be utterly sardonic. The melding of tone works well in the hour long first episode which introduces us to the turtles, Splinter, a now teenaged April O’Neil and a race of alien brains known as the Krang. The first series had Krang as a singular character, displaced from his homeworld. This time around they seem to be going with the hive-mind idea and some of the dialog that comes as a result is hilarious. Going back to the humor I mentioned, the show has a handle on it and knows when to use it.
The element that most will find polarizing will be the animation style. It is 3D but there is a somewhat overlaid 2D style, that at times feels heavily manga inspired, that will put off some viewers. I think those who get caught up on the style would do well to look at what else it is doing that works in its favor. I know plenty of people who had a problem with the animation style of something like Teen Titans, and while the anime styling lost that show a number of fans, most would argue that it was easily on par with the rest of the DCAU at the time, regardless of how it was drawn. The stories they told and the voice acting on display made me a fan and I was one of the people initially turned off by the design style. Here, the voice acting is equally good. Rob Paulsen takes over as Donatello and feels right at home. Sean Astin is our new Raphael and he does it well. Greg Cipes, who voiced Beast Boy in Teen Titans, gives Michelangelo a different spin than I was expecting but does a great job nonetheless. Jason Biggs as Leonardo takes some getting used to, as the characterization is different than previous incarnations in a number of ways. That said, it works for the style they have chosen.
I think that this has a lot to offer for fans of the old show and is a great introduction to the kid-friendly aspect of the series for younger viewers. I’m not ashamed to admit I have the new action figures posed on top of my iMac right now. This could be a great show if hard-nosed fans don’t give it too much grief. I personally can’t wait for the next episode.
And now, in a shameless ploy for hits. I present sexy pictures of the adult actress and sexy nerd icon April O’Neil, because I know what people like:
If you are of mature age and want to see more of Ms. O’Neil, check her out on twitter @Undeux.
I watched the first series of BBC’s Sherlock late last year and missed the second series when it aired on PBS early in 2012. I was disappointed because I absolutely loved the first three episodes and thought they were brilliant. The cliffhanger ending was a fair level of insane, with Moriarty, Holmes, and Watson all set to be blown to smithereens in the pool room. I honestly did not know how things were going to play out. It is a testament to Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss’s handling of the show and the characters that the resolution of that cliffhanger in the first part of this series, while somewhat anti-climactic, feeds into the greater good of the show in a way that makes the audience realize that things will never work out quite the way they seem. This is a series of misdirections and nearly every scene works towards that end.
The first episode, “A Scandal in Belgravia” introduces us to Irene Adler, reenvisioned here as a professional dominatrix privy to governmental secrets and somehow tied to James Moriarty. The second episode, “The Hound of Baskerville” almost feels like filler when tied to the overall scheme of Holmes’ game with Moriarty but in other ways is a much needed sidetrack to show a part of Holmes that is talked about but never shown in detail. The third episode, “The Reichenbach Fall” is a stunning climax built from the ground floor of the series and executed to perfection. For those who haven’t seen or heard about the ending of that particular episode, let’s just say it is so well put together that if it didn’t leave so many open doors and lingering questions it would very well have been a great place for the show to stop on the whole.
While the writing of the shows is the backbone of what makes it so great. The interplay between Holmes and Watson wouldn’t work if it weren’t cast so amazingly well. Benedict Cumberbatch, he of the most British name of all time, and Martin Freeman, who I believe to be the most effective Watson of all time, bounce off of each other so well that you sometimes lose sight of the bigger picture. This is the story of a partnership as much as it is about any mystery and the development these two go through together is played with great relish by Cumberbatch and Freeman. It never feels like acting, no matter how outside of normal humanity Cumberbatch’s Sherlock may come off. These are two real people who rely on each other because one is missing something the other provides and this sort of writing in the hands of lesser thespians would be a disaster.
Series two of this show takes what was so great about the first three episodes and keeps going deeper. Most people seem to label Sherlock as a mini-series that we are getting in short bursts and that makes sense. There is something organic about this story in a way that most shows can’t seem to accomplish. A lot of TV drama could learn from this show as well as Luther, which seems to work in a similar fashion.
Basically, it’s going to be agony waiting for Series three to hit sometime next year. I’ll just try not to think about it.
Jonathan Hickman is one of those writers who seemingly exploded onto the scene a few years back from out of nowhere. His work for image with The Nightly News and Transhuman marked him as a fresh new talent with a different sort of perspective. He had a unique style that garnered the attention of just about everyone and now a few years later he is considered one of Marvel’s brightest writers, handling major projects and a-list characters. Despite the fact that he is writing multiple titles for one of the big two, Hickman seemingly has an unquenchable desire to write his own original stories and his Marvel workload doesn’t seem to slow him down a bit.
With The Manhattan Projects, Hickman teams with Nick Pitarra to give us an alternative reality version of the development of the atomic bomb. Honestly, the story feels like something that Warren Ellis would put out. Hickman’s voice still rings clear but there is something different in the plotting from his previous work that is easily noticed. The chapter breaks and title cards are straight out of his wheelhouse but the dialog seems to be divergent from his usual style. It’s more highly articulated and animated. It doesn’t have the poetic sense of reality that I tend to absorb from Hickman’s usual fare.
Personally I found the story to be somewhat derivative. I had the unavoidable feeling that I had read all of this before. While the story is supposed to be a new take on old history, the style in which it was performed made it feel like every other alternate history story you’ve ever seen before. There is not much new here. Nothing that surprises. Which is the only thing that sets it apart from everything else that Hickman has written in recent memory.
It is not a bad book, by any means. It just isn’t the sort of A-grade material that I expect from Hickman. There is a lot to like here, if you know what you’re getting into ahead of time.
My dad was a cop for most of my childhood before he decided to leave the force and become a private investigator. I shit you not, that’s a real thing. I’m not making that up. A good portion of my time as a youngster was spent in the police station with my dad and his police buddies. I can still vividly remember the hum of the fluorescent lighting and the furnishings leftover from a hodgepodge of decades gone by. In my mind the accident division room is perpetually stuck in the early eighties and nobody was allowed through the door without a prototypical mustache. Even though my dad retired early, he never lost contact with his former friends in the department and some of them were so close they were practically family. Basically, I’ve been around enough cops to know what most people don’t really understand; they’re people. Some of them are assholes. Some of them are the nicest men and women you will ever meet. Some of them have strange hobbies and some of them are smarter than you could ever hope to be yourself. Some are as dumb as dirt. Police departments are walking samplings of the community they are tasked to serve. If you truly wish to find one police officer to fit a profile to a T, chances are you can find that officer somewhere. They are exactly what you think they are as well as everything you never would expect.
David Ayer’s End of Watch tries to show us the world of law enforcement through a lens that is far more positive than what you generally get from most cinematic outings. This is one of the few cop films I have ever seen that doesn’t feature the trope of the corrupt police officer. This is a film that wants you to come out of the theater feeling a little more respect for what cops do and it does it in the only way that you can manage that feat; by focusing more on the fact that there are men and women wearing those uniforms who have lives and feelings and families. Although the film features plenty of on-duty heroics and action, the script seems far more focused on showing you that even if these men and women don’t take gunfire at every turn they still operate under the constant threat of violence and bodily harm and they do so with wives and husbands and young children at home. Essentially, the film wants to take the patriotic love most Americans have for soldiers and sprinkle that a little bit towards the police. It’s easy to love soldiers. They’re overseas fighting the good fight and how much daily interaction do we have with them while on duty? Very little. The public will always have a resentment towards the police because they are policing us as citizens. If the military were the ones telling us not to drive over 55 or not to run that red light, I’m sure there would be far fewer “Support the Troops” bumper stickers around. I’m not saying that the police are perfect and that each one deserves our undying love. I read an article this morning about a Houston cop who shot a man in a wheelchair. This is that officer’s second shooting in five years. There are plenty of questions to ask about law enforcement in this country. The militarization of most American police departments as part of the escalating war on drugs has bled over into everyday tactics and has had serious repercussions in the way we view our police officers. That having been said, you can see why they might get a little defensive when most people have a blanket “Fuck the Police” mindset.
I think films like End of Watch need to exist to balance out the “dirty cop” genre. Not only does it serve as a chance to remind people that cops really are out there trying to help, but the counterpoint feels exceedingly fresh among the crop of films that seek to push the opposite image of law enforcement. I feel that for every show like The Shield or every film like Bad Lieutenant, we need something like this to balance things out. If it weren’t a good movie in and of itself, regardless of the message behind it, I probably wouldn’t be writing this review at all. The thing about End of Watch is that it is entertaining in and of itself. It feels like an extended episode of COPS that doesn’t leave you feeling like you need a shower. The acting on display is excellent. I’m not really a fan of Jake Gyllenhaal but here he really turns in a great performance as an everyman who the audience can relate to and empathize with. He is equal parts immature and stoic and he pulls it off well. Michael Pena really deserves to be showcased more often because I feel he is insanely talented. He and Gyllenhaal really do feel like they’ve been rolling in a shop together for an extended period of time. Their chemistry rings very true and because this film works so hard to sell the “people behind the badge” aspect, that element cannot be undersold.
I don’t know how well this film will go over. I think people will go in expecting something more action oriented and be surprised that it is about 85% character drama with rare flare-ups in violence. It’s a seemingly realistic depiction of law enforcement in that when the shit does hit the fan it does so unexpectedly and it catches you off guard. The audience I saw this with were visibly and audibly shocked multiple times during the showing and had a very visceral reaction to the film as a whole. It was also a packed house, so maybe the film will do well enough to make it a success. It is definitely a film that had the crowd talking afterward and that’s always a good sign.
I have a healthy appreciation for the Sylvester Stallone adaptation of Judge Dredd. It is a mess and it has nothing to do with the source material outside of the name but I’ll be damned if it isn’t like watching stuff melt in the microwave. You know there’s no reason for your eyes to be subjected to what you’re seeing but you can’t stop yourself. If you want to see what kind of enjoyment you can get out of that particular film, be sure to check out the “How Did This Get Made” podcast episode about it. They basically spend the whole time hung up on the pasta robot. It’s glorious.
Put aside everything you know about that previous adaptation. It isn’t part of the equation. This new film, titled simply Dredd, is a start from scratch effort to reboot the character for film and it does so by keeping the character as close to his roots as humanly possible. He doesn’t take off his helmet and he doesn’t take any shit. This is the Dredd that fans of the character have been hoping for. It is a bloody dystopian action massacre that does not reach outside the bounds of what makes the property popular. The movie doesn’t waste time setting anything up. The voice-over from Karl Urban as Dredd letting us know that it is the future, the future is fucked up beyond repair, everyone lives in cramped crime-ridden Mega Cities, and that the Judges try to keep shit in check lets us know everything we need to know. We don’t need to know why things are the way they are, we just know that the stage is set and the violence is forthcoming.
While the film does not directly adapt any storyline that I know of, although there is some controversy about its plot and that of The Raid:Redemption, the film does a far better job of capturing the mood of the 2000 AD series than the previous film. Granted my knowledge of Dredd is somewhat limited having only read some of the Case Files trades in passing while I still worked in a comic store, so take that how you will. What I do know is that this film does bring in Judge Anderson, who has a fairly storied history of her own. She was first introduced in the popular storyline that debuted Judge Death and her inclusion goes a long way toward establishing the overall universe of Dredd in a way that the previous film did not.
Now, how does the film work in and of itself? Pretty damn well. The action is executed well and Karl Urban does a very good job playing the perpetually scowling and snarling Judge. The blood flows freely and the film doesn’t pull any punches. There was audible audience reaction in several places at my showing which is always a good sign for a film like this. If you can catch the audience off guard and get them invested you have done your job and Dredd does its job well. There really isn’t much of a point wasting words about a film like this. If you like hard-R action flicks this is one for you.
Put your reservations aside and check this one out. Anything else would be criminal.
I’m a big fan of Terry Moore’s work and I count myself lucky in that I have been able to meet with him face to face more than a few times. He’s one of the most affable and instantly likable professionals I’ve ever met and he’s a joy to talk to. I think Strangers in Paradise is a comic classic and Echo is vastly underrated. With his latest work, Rachel Rising I wasn’t as immediately blown away as I was with some of his previous work. This isn’t a book that hits the ground running at breakneck pace. It’s a definite slow burn. By comparison, Echo moved at a mile a minute. Rachel Rising is a textured piece that requires you to be patient while layers of the narrative unfold. The structure and the nature of the story dictate that you may find yourself confused, as I admit I was with my initial reading.
The fact that you want to fight through the confusion to savor the answers is what makes the book a success. Mr. Moore has a talent for unraveling the interwoven threads of the narrative and making something intriguing. Couple that with the fact that he is one of the most distinct and well rounded artists of his generation and you get a stunning final product. Moore seems to relish the way he plots the action, in such a manner that the build and deconstruction of the mystery intertwine and strengthen each other. This is definitely a story that Mr. Moore has been eager to tell and it shows on the page. There is an excitement to the construction of Rachel Rising that is missing from a lot of graphic literature.
I can’t say that this book is for everyone. It’s certainly a great companion piece for something like The Walking Dead. People that prefer long-term, slow-build storytelling will enjoy it a great deal. Those who prefer something a bit more slapdash and breakneck may find it tiresome. I think it boils down to perspective. But if you’re looking for something different than 90% of what is on the racks this is an excellent place to start.
It’s no surprise that Hell on Wheels was one of my favorite new shows of last year. I’ve been severely missing a good true western show since Deadwood ended years ago. The AMC show may not be as vulgar but it is just as violent, dirty, and cynical as the HBO western whose void it is seemingly trying to fill. Last season was a home run in my book. I would go to say it’s AMC’s most consistent show outside of Breaking Bad and while I’ll catch hell for it, especially with comic fans, I think it’s a better show, pound for pound, than The Walking Dead. Don’t get me wrong, I still like The Walking Dead but the front half of last season was a mess and it took a while to recover on the back end. Pacing is that show’s biggest enemy and at times the bad guy seems to win more than not.
Season two of Hell on Wheels does not take any time to get back into the swing of things. They hit the ground running and then power down the road like a damned steam engine. We pick up a little while after the end of season one with our protagonist Cullen Bohannon as an outlaw having killed a man in the finale of season one. It turns out he figured his best course of action was to just roll with the punches and go full on Jesse James. Cullen is now raiding railroad payroll cars trying to steal enough cash to make his way down to Mexico to start fresh. The opening scene of this episode plays out like a stripped down version of the first train robbery in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. I greatly appreciated the fact that they didn’t feel the need to draw things out and explain why the characters were where they were at the start of this season. There wasn’t a lot of wasted exposition style dialog and it worked heavily in the show’s favor. If you didn’t watch the first season you probably felt lost as all hell, but I appreciate shows that don’t baby their audience.
The show doesn’t necessarily spell out how long has passed between the finale of season one and this episode but we do get to see how drastically things have changed since Cullen left camp. The Irish McGinnes brothers have risen up to take the place of the Swede who they tarred and feathered in the last season, effectively diminishing his standing to the point where he now is forced to work as a collector of dead bodies because no one wants him doing anything with any more authority. Lawlessness is rampant in the community and nobody has the power to stop it. Railroad boss Durant won’t call in federal help for fear of it sinking his stock prices and the only capable hand who could help is Elam, who can’t be given the job because of the color of his skin. Common plays Elam with a rare sort of authority. He is proud of his ascension from a lowly railroad worker to what amounts to middle management but the scene near the close of the episode where he walks through camp seeing a congregation of dancing white men and a group of his former friends from the cut crew and knows that he truly fits into neither part shows us what sort of man he really is. Elam is a smart man but he also must force himself to be deluded in regard to his importance and the acceptance of those around him in order to continue doing his job.
There is a lot here to like, and I like that there are parallels to Cullen’s predicament at the beginning of the first season here at the climax of the first episode of season two. It speaks to the nature of the character and his arc. We know that he’s not going to end up dead because the show is centered around his character. What we can take away from the fact that he finds himself constantly incarcerated and facing his own demise is what which way his moral compass points.
In short, I can’t wait for next week’s episode. I’m glad this one is back for another season. I wasn’t sure it would make the cut because I don’t imagine it is a cheap show to make. I’ll continue to support it because it is one of the few shows on the air that I will say without argument deserves it.
The Dark Knight Rises is probably the biggest film of the year. At least in terms of the discussion taking place around it. As such I’ve waited a little bit before even beginning to put my own thoughts on the matter down. With so much media being devoted to ancillary issues surrounding the film, be it the midnight premiere shooting, the insane arguments about the political aspects of the movie, etc. It’s definitely a beast of a film with so much going on that touching on everything would be an impossibility. I know The Avengers brought together plot threads of multiple movies but thematically speaking The Dark Knight rises has just as many irons in the fire. Nolan and company work off of plot threads left dangling from Batman Begins and weave them into something that leads to a very satisfying conclusion. I can’t think of any film trilogy that pulls this sort of cohesion off and doesn’t fumble everything at the last minute. This review should try to examine exactly why that is.
I think the first thing I need to bring up is that there is the constant influence of Christopher Nolan. When a series swaps out the creative forces behind them, the franchise loses focus. How different might things have turned out if Richard Donner had remained onboard for another Superman film after number two? Or if James Cameron had been in charge of the third Terminator film? A steady hand at the till goes a long way. That is why the previous Batman franchise faltered. There isn’t any consistency to them from film to film. Even from the ’89 film to Returns, you can see a shift in the way the people writing the damned thing feel about the character. Thematically, those films seem to fight against each other for validity. With Nolan’s trilogy, there is a logical escalation and cyclical nature to the writing and the overall story. By returning to the League of Shadows in The Dark Knight Rises, Nolan effectively reminds us that Batman Begins was more than just a simple setup film. One of the things I had said before The Dark Knight Rises hit screens was that The Dark Knight felt almost entirely removed from Batman Begins. As a standalone film, it works quite well. You can watch it without having seen Batman Begins and there isn’t enough of a thematic connection that you feel like you have missed anything. The Dark Knight Rises is equal parts a continuation of the themes developed in Batman Begins AND The Dark Knight. The rise and fall of Harvey Dent sets the stage for the action but it is Bruce Wayne’s personal journey that he undertook in Begins that drives his conflict with Bane in this installment. By going back to the beginning in this way, The Dark Knight Rises is a film that focuses on the idea of enduring legacy. Bane is attempting to foster Ra’s Al Ghul’s legacy of destroying Gotham. Bruce Wayne is trying to ensure that Harvey Dent’s legacy as a hero isn’t tarnished. Bane does so through calculated action. Bruce Wayne does so through a calculated lack of action. Both of them received the same tutelage from Ra’s but they implement it differently.
In The Dark Knight Rises Nolan puts the focus on the idea of deception and the cloudy morality surrounding bending the truth. Obviously the biggest example is Batman and Gordon’s lie surrounding the death of Harvey Dent, but there are several other deceptions that drive the film. Bane’s entire plan is centered around deception. Whereas Joker in The Dark Knight was as straightforward in his implementation of chaos, Bane has a separate plan for multiple people and they often contradict each other. He tears apart Gotham as part of his attempt to break Batman, but his plan is only allowed to take root because he lies to the population of Gotham and maneuvers them into playing along with his game. Bane turns the people of Gotham into villains the way Joker wished he could have in the third act of The Dark Knight. In many ways, Nolan is showing how much more effective Bane is as a villain than the Joker was. The Joker was unable to turn the people of Gotham against each other. Bane pulled it off. Nolan shows how powerful a lie can be. Lies have power. That is the crux of the film. Everybody in the film is lying. A major lie from The Dark Knight comes back around to drive a wedge between Bruce and Alfred. Selina Kyle’s actions are guided by a promise that turns out to be a lie. In a film about a man that wears a mask, this is a powerful theme to work through.
Essentially, The Dark Knight Rises is a great bit of filmmaking. It does stumble in some respects. But the parts of the film that make up the whole really pop. Anne Hathaway is an amazing Catwoman. She’s the finest movie version of the character since 1966 and really manages to pull off the dichotomy of wounded, confident, and sexy that the character requires. Joseph Gordon Levitt puts in his usual good work as a character who could have sunk the movie if they had played it differently. If we are going to talk about what works in the film, the character work is definitely tops. Michael Caine and Gary Oldman put in their best work of the series, without a doubt. And since we’re talking about character work, let’s take a moment to discuss Tom Hardy’s Bane. Heath Ledger put in a memorable turn as the Joker, that’s true, but Tom Hardy does something wholly original with the character. The Bane in this film takes elements of the character in the books and evolves him into something else entirely. The Bane in the comics is a cold and calculating man with the same level of intelligence on display here, and he does have the ties to Ra’s, though not identical in nature. But in the animated world as well as that abomination in Batman & Robin, his strength has always been the primary focus. Here, Tom Hardy gives us a man of belief and conviction, one trying to leave a lasting legacy. He plays him with bombast and intensity. I think over time his Bane will be regarded as one of the most interesting comic film villains in history.
So those are my thoughts on the matter. I could probably spend another couple paragraphs on the film but I think I’ve hit the major points. I figure everyone has seen the film by now, but if you haven’t you should check it out, in IMAX if you can. The film is very well shot and plays well on a bigger screen. The Dark Knight Rises is one of the finest cappers to a trilogy you could ever hope to find. I certainly can’t think of a better one off the top of my head. That’s one of the finest compliments I can pay the film.
I think my thoughts on Piranha 3D are pretty clear. I have been wanting to catch the followup since I first heard about it a few months back. Unfortunately it wasn’t playing anywhere near me in theatrical 3D format. Considering that the last film’s 3D actually enhanced the movie in a way that you don’t really see with modern films, I’m a little disappointed that I didn’t get to experience the same joy with this one. It’s still a good movie, but there are so many gags in the film that are designed around the 3D gimmick that I feel as if I had been deprived of some of the film’s magic. A good bad movie is a special thing. I wish I could have seen this one the way it was meant to be experienced.
Is it as good as the first one? No, it isn’t. The budget has been slashed to nothing and so the carnage takes a little bit of a hit but there are some inventive tricks on display here. The insanity has been dialed up in other areas and as such the film seems more self-aware than its predecessor in that regard. For some films that would be a bad thing. With something like Piranha, it doesn’t really seem like a negative. I think that has a lot to do with the cast really committing to the parts. Nobody acts like the material is below them. It might be for some of them, but nobody acts like it is.
I don’t really know how to review this one without giving away what makes it so special. Just know that if you liked the first one to any real degree you should go ahead and Redbox this one because there really are worse ways to spend your evening. If you can manage to figure out a way to see it in 3D, do that. I figure it should be a good ride.
You know how some people with a staggering problem will deny, deny, deny their issues until they get help? I was in that stage when it came to the Total Recall remake. I didn’t think it would be that bad. There’s no way they could screw the pooch in such a colossal way that it wouldn’t be worth the $4.25 matinee on a Saturday morning. There is no way they would spend the budget they did on this thing and have it turn out as anything other than passable. I figured we were in for something tepid and at least competent. Why did I lie to myself in that way?
Total Recall 2012 is absolute garbage. Sit on that thought for a moment, because the original film is not all that great either. It had the virtue of groundbreaking special effects and enough sense to play the material with tongue planted firmly in cheek. I mean, its a film that expects us to roll with the idea of Arnold Schwarzenegger as an everyman. They expect you to take that at face value. That takes balls. Casting Colin Farrell this time around I knew they would be playing things completely straight, but I figured that Len Wiseman would have had the good sense to have fun with it. But Total Recall 2012 is a joyless bore. I hesitate to call any film boring but that is the most apt descriptor I have in my vocabulary. When using it to describe an action film it is pretty much the kiss of death. Aside from some competently staged fight choreography, this film is positively lifeless. The hovering car chase fails to deliver anything new. The shootouts are dry (and I’m not just talking about a lack of blood, which the original had in spades) and the dialog is delivered with all of the conviction of a child reading Shakespeare in an elementary school play. The film is a lifeless corpse of a movie.
This is a film that manages to waste both Bill Night and Bryan Cranston. This is a film that took the cinematography of Blade Runner if it had unprotected sex with I, Robot and peppered it with all the lens flares that JJ Abrams thought would be TOO ANNOYING for Star Trek. This is a film that states openly that the sole remaining governing body in the future is British and then has all the vehicles sporting Dodge and Chrysler logos. This is a film that insults the intelligence of anyone who bothers to watch it. Although I suppose we deserve it for thinking that it would be any better than it is. Those trailers should have warned everyone away. I should have listened to my gut.
Seriously a candidate for one of the most ill conceived if not worst films of 2012. Sit on that thought and see if you want to test your mettle by paying money you earned doing something you probably didn’t enjoy to sit through this dreck.
I really enjoyed the last Hawkeye series with Mockingbird. I’m not a huge fan of the character and so I don’t mind seeing different takes on him from different writers. I’m certainly not going to pitch a bitch about the way Marvel used him in The Avengers on YouTube the way some people did. I will admit that the current re-design of his costume strips him of some of what makes him visually unique, but his costume is systemic of the current trend in comics where a stripped down sense of utilitarian design work is en vogue. However, a costume does not make the character. So is the book focused on a character worth reading about?
Matt Fraction and David Aja reteam and bring back some of the magic they worked with Immortal Iron Fist on a character who needs a steady hand more than just about any solo character in Marvel’s stable. With his profile raised considerably because of his appearance in The Avengers Hawkeye needs to validate his own existence somewhat. He isn’t a particularly interesting character most of the time. He’s a side dish to the main entree in team books. He’s someone who is born to share the spotlight. Fraction luckily is one of those writers who really knows how to dig deep and find the things that work about a character and this is one of his strongest debut works since Iron Fist or Invincible Iron Man. I personally have been enjoying the majority of his work but will admit that he can fall into a little bit of a lull sometimes. His Uncanny X-Men run was about 50/50 and Fear Itself had none of his usual flair.
With Hawkeye, Fraction seems to get back to the nitty gritty. We get maybe a page and a half of Barton in costume and the rest of the issue follows his exploits while he’s not on duty. That doesn’t mean that it isn’t a hero story. It isn’t about him going to pick up milk or wash his car. Instead we get a closer look at how Barton views himself; in the context of his role as an Avenger, in the shadow of Captain America, and as a simple man without powers standing next to men who can shatter planets. Fraction utilizes the first issue to tell a stand-alone story that explains why Barton does the things he does and where his moral code comes from. And Fraction tells us more about Barton through the way he treats a simple dog than most writers do with an entire series worth of heroic exploits. I know some might say its a cheap trick to play the wounded animal card, but Fraction nails it and nobody can really deny how effective the issue is.
I was planning on giving the series a pass entirely but the first issue was good enough that I can see myself following it through. I know for a fact that there are less deserving books that I’ve stuck with for the duration. I figure this one isn’t going to disappoint me anytime soon.
I didn’t rush out to get this particular book because after the hooplah surrounding the Superman Earth One graphic novel I didn’t want to find myself let down. I was seeing more than a few positive and glowing reviews and figured that a little distance would do me some good. I have been anticipating the book a little bit, as the announcement for the title was made back when I still had a bit more regard for Geoff Johns as a writer. Don’t get me wrong, I still believe he is a great talent and one of the best guys working in the mainstream today but his more recent work does seem to lack the sort of focus he had back when he relaunched the Green Lantern franchise.
With Batman Earth One there is at least something to be said for Geoff Johns getting the tone of Batman. JMS’s work on Superman Earth One was passable but I don’t think he get the tone of what the book should have been. It was far too, as much as I hate the phrase, “street level” in its execution. Batman has that same feel but it goes with the character. JMS would have been smart to study Morrison’s work on All-Star Superman for the sort of tone that really works for big blue. Johns seems to want to play in the Nolan sandbox and that is appropriate. Johns also realizes that because there is no continuity to follow he can throw everything up in the air and be a little dangerous. Some of the changes to established lore might upset a number of Batman fanatics, but that’s okay. Again I point to the sort of people whose heads exploded over Ultimate Spider-Man. Johns’ idea of Harvey Bullock coming from Hollywood as a reality tv cop trying to regain his former glory is something that comes wildly out of left field. Alfred being a grumpy old army colleague of Bruce’s father is also somewhat odd. But within the confines of the book Johns is able to make it work.
More than JMS’s Earth One book, Johns really swings for the fences here and while not everyone will be pleased, I can say that I feel like I got my money’s worth this time around. Nothing here felt particularly rehashed the way that it did in Superman Earth One. The parallels to Superman Birthright in that OGN are almost unmistakeable. Even the death of Bruce’s parents has a different spin. It’s not entirely original. It’s just a retelling. But it feels different in the way that The Magnificent Seven was different from Seven Samurai. The flavor is refreshing.
I hope the inevitable second volume is as willing to play with conventions as this is. Johns teases a personal favorite villain of mine as the centerpiece and for not immediately jumping to the Joker he has scored major brownie points with me.
Comedy is a tricky thing. You can have all the ingredients necessary for a truly amazing film and everything goes wrong simply by virtue of a single element being slightly off. The trailers for The Watch seemed to indicate that we had a rollicking good time of a comedy on our hands. I can tell you that while the film has its moments, and is pretty damn funny most of the time, the whole thing doesn’t come together in any real way to make something that will hold up to repeat viewings the way a comedy with this many great players really should. Compared to Ben Stiller’s turn in Tropic Thunder, this thing really falls flat. Nobody here really nails anything with the kind of confidence that Stiller and co. did in that particular film. Here we seem to be expected to laugh because of the manner in which the joke is delivered without the joke being actually clever. We are expected to chuckle because of Vaughn or Hill or Ayoade’s cadence and delivery rather than the fact that what they are saying may be funny. Most of the time it works, because the dialog falls into absurdity and nonsense and our brain, in an attempt to reconcile that, interprets it as comedy. Upon repeat viewings, I don’t see those jokes holding up. Unless the underlying premise is solid, delivery alone can’t save it.
The film doesn’t really commit to anything. It doesn’t want to dwell too much on the alien aspect of the storyline, focusing more on the people in the eponymous neighborhood watch, but in doing so they have to manufacture drama to make their lives interesting and this comes at the detriment of the comedy. That is the number one flaw with the film. When the film does work it is because someone decides to fully commit to the premise. Will Forte shines in every damn second he has on screen because there is something there beyond a tilted line delivery, though he does bring his own brand of wacky characterization to the table as well. He just doesn’t hinge his entire performance on it the way Hill or Vaughn do. Hill is the worst offender, as his character is very one-note, and it’s not a pitch-perfect note either. Vaughn plays the same character he always plays, so I’m sure his usual crowd will be pleased but he didn’t do much for me.
I think this is one of those films that would have benefited from a little bit more of a backbone. If they had the guts to really commit to any level of the premise it could have been a great film, but unfortunately that’s just not the case. I would recommend just catching it when it hits cable or redbox because I feel paying theater prices for this sort of mediocre offering will leave you feeling more disappointed than you really should. It’s not terrible, it’s just so middle of the road that any effort made to see it will taint your opinion of the overall product.
I haven’t done day-and-date reviews for individual comics in a while. I get my books mail-0rder nowadays for financial and convenience reasons and I only rarely will pick up a book off of the rack. Usually it’s when I have some spare cash laying around and want to give something different a chance. Today I got some issues that I initially passed on because I didn’t have the cash for them in my budget at the time.
AVENGING SPIDER-MAN # 9
STORY BY Kelly Sue DeConnick
ART BY Terry Dodson, Rachel Dodson
COLORS BY Edgar Delgado
LETTERS BY VC – Joe Caramagna
COVER BY Terry Dodson, Rachel Dodson
PUBLISHER Marvel Comics
Next week sees the first issue of Carol Danvers’ turn as Captain Marvel. This week gives us a sort of primer as she teams up with Spider-Man in a fun little issue written by Kelly Sue DeConnick, who will be handling the ongoing series as well. I have said that while I don’t consider myself one of those “shipper” fans, I would totally support Peter Parker and Carol Danvers as a couple. Their banter and flirtations are often a delight to read, especially if they’re written by someone who gets the voice of those characters individually. Kelly Sue does. She’s one of the writers at Marvel who can seemingly write any character with ease and put them into a story that is fun and breezy in a more classic tradition that eschews the post Bendis style that seems to find its way into every book no matter who is actually penning it.
Avenging Spider-Man # 9 feels like a classic issue of Marvel Team-Up in all the right ways. The story centers around Peter and Carol going for a flight in Carol’s new junker of a plane when they find themselves caught in a dispute between a young lady who has had a brush with the law and a private security firm trying to bring her in. It is a fun read and a welcome change from what I’ve been reading from Marvel at the moment. I’m hoping that trend continues with the ongoing series. Kelly Sue has set the stage for something that could easily be just as good or better than the last volume of Ms. Marvel which I enjoyed from end-to-end.
REVIVAL # 1
STORY BY Tim Seeley
ART BY Mike Norton
COVER BY Jenny Frison, Craig Thompson
PUBLISHER Image Comics
SYNOPSIS: For one day in rural central Wisconsin, the dead came back to life. Now it’s up to Officer Dana Cypress to deal with the media scrutiny, religious zealots, and government quarantine that has come with them. In a town where the living have to learn to deal with those who are supposed to be dead, Officer Cypress must solve a brutal murder, and everyone, alive or undead, is a suspect. A beautiful “farm noir” that puts a new twist on the zombie genre, created by NYT Bestselling author TIM SEELEY and acclaimed artist MIKE NORTON.
Tim Seeley has made a name for himself on Hack/Slash and I bought this based off of that reputation alone. I haven’t been following his run on Witchblade, but this seemed more up my alley. Revival seems like it fits more into the mold of Image comics like The Walking Dead in that there is definitely a lot of world building being done but the core of the series is going to be centered around the interactions of our main characters. The danger with something like that is that you have to give people something to like. I wouldn’t say that Seeley’s character work is the best thing about Hack/Slash. The characters there are somewhat thin but the reader is still able to connect. In this series, Seeley has severely stepped up his game. Right off the bat we are given small looks at Dana and her personal life that make her immediately relate-able. She has family issues aplenty as well as personal issues relating to her own personal successes. This is one of the best first issues of a new comic I have read since Chew with regards to getting a sense of character.
Revival is definitely worth a look. It isn’t just another zombie book. To even use that term in association with it is somewhat misleading. This is a horror book, to be sure. I’ll even admit that parts gave me goosebumps. It’s been a while since I’ve read something that did that. Aside from the character work, Seeley has done a great job setting the mood here. Mike Norton’s illustration of the gore really hammers it home as well. I think this one could very well be one of the best things to come out of Image in a good long while.
So there you are. Go buy those things. You won’t regret it.
Synopsis: The critically acclaimed smash hit series rolls on with this collection of the blockbuster third arc, “P.E.!” The first days were just the beginning – when the faculty cancel classes and send the students on an outing in the nearby woods, all hell breaks loose – sending the Glories on a mysterious journey through time and space. Nothing is what it seems to be as Academy’s hold on the kids collapses and new threats emerge! Collects MORNING GLORIES #13-19
I hopped onto Morning Glories with issue one and found myself immediately hooked. While many people seem to call this the Lost of the comic world, I get a more clear and present feeling that much of the book is an homage to The Prisoner. The themes of isolation from the outside world and the mystery of the protagonists’ prison seems to fall more in line with that show than J.J. Abrams’ big hit. Though with this volume more than any other, the presence of time travel as a plot element seems to push it closer into that territory. The only thing is that the manner which it is conducted leaves us feeling less frustrated because we are told from the outset that it will be an omnipresent theme.
Nick Spencer and Joe Eisma have created a book that is damned hard to put down. This volume could have been called the book of revelations, as we get a deeper look at many of the characters origins. While the book likes to play in a mysterious sandbox, it never withholds information in a way that frustrates the reader. The pacing is truly out of this world. Now, I say that with the full disclosure that I stopped reading the monthlies around issue twelve because of budget constraints as well as my own feeling that the story reads far better as a collected edition. That isn’t a slam. None of this feels decompressed or drawn out. The pacing and the suspense would work just as well in individual issues, and now would be a great time to jump on board as things are really starting to heat up.
I think what anybody can appreciate about the series is the way the stakes are continually raised and conventions find themselves getting flipped from issue to issue. Totally unlikable characters get moments of humility and sympathy and you may find yourself questioning whether or not someone you liked was really so likable at all. Nick Spencer truly does know how to plot out a narrative and fill it with amazing character work. It’s no wonder he’s established himself as such a major talent so rapidly. I don’t think I’ve read anything he’s penned that I didn’t enjoy. His voice is a perfect fit for this medium and this is one of the best examples of his top tier writing. His pairing with Joe Eisma is a master stroke of genius as well. Eisma’s style is a perfect match for the tone of the book. His style reminds me of the Luna Brothers but fair more detailed. I adore small flourishes he will add to panels, such as the random insert of Kat Dennings’ 2 Broke Girls character into a diner scene. His art has personality and it serves the book well.
I recommend people pick up all three of these trades and give the series a go if they haven’t already. It lives up to the hype it has garnered and I think that in a few years time we’ll all be talking about what an amazing run it really was. I don’t know when the endpoint for the series is but I’ll keep reading as long as they keep putting it out.
- ANGEL & FAITH VOL 1 : LIVE THROUGH THIS
- Writer: Christos Gage
- Artist: Rebekah Isaacs, Phil Noto
- Colorist: Dan Jackson
- Cover Artist: Steve Morris
Genre: Horror, Action/Adventure
- Publication Date: June 20, 2012
- Format: FC, 136 pages; TP, 7″ x 10″
- Price: $17.99
Synopsis: Angel has made bad choices in his life. Most recently? While possessed, he killed Giles. However, he believes he’s found a way to make amends, by bringing the Watcher back from the grave! Cue Faith–rebel Slayer, and Angel’s only ally–who only supports this harebrained scheme in order to keep her friend from catatonia. New threats emerge as this unlikely duo struggles against real and personal demons alike, while hitting the dark streets of London! Collects Angel & Faith #1–#5, plus the Harmony one-shot.
In order to fully appreciate this book you will have had to have read Buffy season 8 from Dark Horse. In order to appreciate that you will have had to watched the Buffy series in its entirety. Basically, this book has a very limited audience going in. If you were not a fan of Buffy or Angel on TV, this is not going to change your mind. This is a book entirely for the people who did love those shows and are still saddened that they aren’t on the tube anymore. I’ll admit I fall into that camp. I even read that Angel series from IDW, the one that they reference in this book casually but is ultimately forgettable in most every way. I give Gage credit where it is do for dropping enough exposition to catch people up who may not have followed through with Season 8 of the Buffy comic, but this is still very much a continuation of what has come before. I liken this book to taking part two of a math class. If you missed the first semester you’re not going to be able to pick things up without a little extra effort.
So how does the book measure up to what has come before? First and foremost, this is the best Angel based comic book I’ve ever read. He’s getting a much better shot here than he did at IDW. His characterization and circumstances are infinitely more interesting this time around. The tone feels closer to his own show than the IDW series did and I feel like it is important to point out that the biggest difference between the two series is that this one is absolutely gorgeous. I cannot say enough how amazing Rebekah Isaac’s work here blows me away. The detail she puts into every little scene really wows me. The background carnage in the wake of a demon attack is something most might miss but caught my eye, with bodies hanging from coat-hooks in a quite grisly manner. I also liked the fact that for a few panels she stuck faith in a Boston Red Sox shirt. That’s something that really works to give us little looks at the character without wasting exposition. Isaacs is as good a visual storyteller as Gage is a scriptwriter and it holds the story together quite well.
Of all the Buffy comics I’ve read recently, this comes out on top. Hands down it is one of the best made spinoff comics I’ve ever laid eyes on. It is wonderfully drawn, the characters are written well and seem to fit with what has been established. I like where they are going with the title and if you were turned off by Buffy season 8 this might be a good place to jump back in. I certainly am going to follow it for at least as long as this creative team is on board.
You know what came out in theaters ten years ago? The first Spider-Man movie. It has only been five years since Spider-Man 3 hit screens. That seems like a short turnaround for a reboot on a major franchise. But I suppose it had to happen. No way was Sony going to let such a cash cow sit on hiatus just because Tobey Maguire and crew didn’t want to play ball. They wanted to make sure that they were getting their money’s worth with the character. That’s why we got this reboot. Money. It’s not about an artistic vision or building a world the way the Marvel cinematic experiment has been, though those films have been an exercise in aggregating money as well. This is a film about maintaining possession of a character first and foremost. Does that mean that it isn’t a good movie? Not at all. In fact I’ll go out on a limb and say that I enjoyed this take on the character more than I did in Sam Raimi’s trilogy. What I have to wonder is if this film will have its merits overshadowed by the circumstances of its own existence.
While the film is in no way connected to the Marvel cinematic universe and the Avengers franchise, the tendency in those films to mine more from the Ultimate universe of comics carries over here. Many elements of Brian Michael Bendis’ work on the title finds its way here. At the same time, there are just as many elements taken from classic Spider-Man stories of the sixties and seventies. Even the look of the Lizard is taken from the silver age rendition of the character as opposed to the current animal-like interpretation. The current look, which seems to evoke more of a crocodile appearance, a sharp contrast to the original appearances which retain more of the human features of Curt Conners which seems to be what the filmmakers were going for in their adaptation. I know there have been some comments about the design being evocative of the Super Mario Bros film goombahs but judged within the confines of the film it works well.
The quickest rundown I can give of the movie is that everybody does their respective parts very, very well. I didn’t have many doubts about Andrew Garfield or Emma Stone. Having seen their recent filmography I knew they were going to do well. I had a few more reservations about Martin Sheen as Uncle Ben and Sally Field as Aunt Mae. Martin Sheen gives the film a bit of gravitas that it might have lacked otherwise. He makes the role his own, he really does. Sally Field doesn’t really get the chance to do anything at all. I can’t say that she disappointed me because she really didn’t get the chance. Denis Leary does a good job as Capt. Stacy, giving him a real sense of blue collar weight that works for the character and even though his arc is somewhat truncated, his presence in the film works to fill the hole left by a lack of J. Jonah Jameson, as shoehorning in the Daily Bugle would have made the movie seem overly bloated.
There are honest points to be made for this one being the best Spider-Man film to date. The interplay between Peter and Gwen is excellent, the action scenes are impeccably filmed, the cast is about as top notch as you could hope for and while the origin story is repetitive the makers of the film were able to differentiate it from the previous trilogy enough that you’re never bored. That was my biggest reservation about the film; that the origin would be so dull that it would overshadow anything that may have made the film worthwhile. I’m happy that I was wrong, as the streamlined take on the death of Uncle Ben as well as the nod to the infamous wrestling match are handled in such a way that they feel fresh and entertaining. I really was quite surprised.
I may have said some bad things about the film before I even got a chance to say it but I’ll eat my words and say that I was wrong. The Amazing Spider-Man is well worth your time. Don’t let the lackluster previews fool you, this thing is the real deal.
I don’t think I’ve actually watched an episode of Family Guy live in close to four years. I’ve watched some of the newer episodes on Netflix lately when I’ve been falling into a dark pit of boredom, but that show and its particular brand of humor has lost its effect on me. On the other hand, I do love American Dad. I think it is a much funnier show and it has managed to hold my interest longer. I think the writing staff for American Dad is more focused on a consistent comedic tone and it comes across in the finished product. The hand of Seth MacFarlane is there in both shows. There are hallmarks of his sense of humor that crosses over no matter what show he’s running. The same can even be said for The Cleveland Show, though I personally find that one unwatchable.
I bring all of this up so that you get an idea of how I feel regarding Seth MacFarlane’s particular schtick. I don’t find him as horrid as some people do, nor do I worship at his altar. Even the earliest episodes of American Dad weren’t as amazing as everyone makes them out to be. They don’t reach the level of classic Simpsons episodes or even early or modern Futurama installments in my honest opinion. But MacFarlane did inject a bit of fresh air into the animated comedy genre and made a name for himself based on a very specific type of humor. Do his sensibilities cross over into live action?
I have to say that with Ted, MacFarlane hits far more than he misses. He’s smartly put Mark Wahlberg in the lead and let him play the role completely straight. Wahlberg is surprisingly great in comedic roles. His turn in The Other Guys is enough to prove that point. He adds enough comedic flourishes to let us know that he isn’t phoning it in or taking himself too seriously, but at the same time he doesn’t go out of his way to act wacky or cartoonish. That would have sunk this film fast. Even MacFarlane plays the titular teddy bear as if he were an ordinary guy. The humor comes from that ordinary guy being a teddy bear and interacting with the real world. Honestly, I feel as if this movie could have been written without the element of Ted being a teddy bear but instead being Wahlberg’s human best friend and much of it could have remained mostly unchanged until the third act.
I also need to point out that it almost feels as if this movie is an apology to Mila Kunis from MacFarlane because her character is well written and treated with much more respect than her role on Family Guy. I suppose it was Seth’s way of saying “I’m sorry for all that horrible shit we put you through.”
Simply put, this is a better film than it has any right to be. Yes, MacFarlane is still overly dependent on 80′s pop culture to make a joke (which works with all the Flash Gordon references but falls on its face when he tries to parody the dance scene from Airplane! which was in and of itself a parody) and the third act seems to go off on a really weird tangent, but overall the film just works. I would recommend at least giving it a watch when it hits Redbox. You could do far worse.
Synopsis: Mentally defeated and physically broken, Bruce Wayne suffered a crippling blow while battling the brutal Bane. Now, the mantle of the Bat must be passed on to another, and Jean Paul Valley answers the call! But as the new Caped Crusader slowly loses his grip on sanity, his idea of justice takes a violent and deadly turn. Witnessing this dangerous behavior firsthand, Nightwing and Robin try to come to grips with Bruce’s highly controversial decision while the new Batman sets his sights on taking revenge against Bane! Collecting DETECTIVE COMICS #667-675, BATMAN #501-508, BATMAN: SHADOW OF THE BAT #19-28, CATWOMAN #6-7 and ROBIN #7!
When I reviewed the first volume of Knightfall, I spoke about how the book had a charming old-school quality that seemed to rage against the pitfalls of nineties comics’ tropes. The first installment seems to rally against the idea of comics in the Image mold of the time where everything was grim and gritty and the hero must be as violent as the crime he combats. In the second volume, it seems that the nineties enveloped the Batman mythos and everything about the title got flipped upside down to fit with the established status quo of the time. Readers apparently wanted my blood, more bullets, more outlandish mechanical costumes, and a darker, more violent Batman. Or maybe they didn’t and these issues were written to show them that point.
I don’t want to say that Knightquest is a terrible story. I appreciate the fact that the arc of the narrative does build to a satisfying climax and that Jean-Paul’s decent into madness is very carefully spelled out and detailed. That having been said, his story could have been truncated because after a while it begins to get repetitive. His constant struggle with his own inner programming as well as his progressive upgrades to his armor become staples of the story and you can tell when we are going to get a scene with Jean-Paul talking to the ghost of St. Dumas or becoming frustrated with his own results and redesigning the suit. There are several scenes like this and by the end of the book you wonder why they couldn’t have streamlined it a little bit.
My other major gripe with this collection is that Bruce Wayne’s side-story of flying off to rescue Tim Drake’s father is introduced but then never followed up on. He simply returns and we don’t know what exactly happened on that trip. It is a somewhat frustrating element to the collection because it feels like there is something important to that story and yet they do not bother to tell it.
All in all, it is not a horrible story but the first volume is superior in every way and makes these issues look poor by comparison.
Synopsis: In the first installment of this classic storyline, the Dark Knight’s greatest enemies have all simultaneously escaped from Arkham Asylum and are preying on Gotham City. With his city under siege, Batman pushes his body to the limit as he takes on The Joker, the Mad Hatter, Poison Ivy, Killer Croc, The Riddler and the Scarecrow. But things get much worse when Bane, the man behind all the madness, confronts an exhausted Batman – and breaks his back.This massive first KNIGHTFALL volume collects BATMAN: VENGEANCE OF BANE SPECIAL #1, BATMAN #491-500, DETECTIVE COMICS #659-660, SHOWCASE ’93 #7 and 8 and BATMAN: SHADOW OF THE BAT #17-18, including chapters never previously reprinted.
With The Dark Knight Rises coming out soon, DC Comics has decided to collect the entirety of the now-classic Knightfall storyline into three massive volumes. Never before has the entire story been collected in trade. The tale spanned multiple books and is one of the largest crossovers I can think of. I have all of these issues in their original magazine form stuffed in a longbox somewhere but haven’t revisited the series in quite some time. This collected edition makes that task much simpler by assembling all the pieces of the puzzle together for the first time. Previous collected editions have only contained the very core of the story, leaving out the ancillary pieces. By creating a multi-volume omnibus style collection of the story, it is much easier to get a real feel for one of the biggest cornerstones of the Batman mythos. I have to say that Bane’s introduction and the breaking of Bruce Wayne’s spine is one of the most important stories in Batman’s history. It’s definitely up there with the death of Jason Todd. As far as crossovers go, I would say it’s one of the better handled ones I can think of. I think the closest comparison would be something like the Death of Superman or Spider-Man’s The Other. I would argue that it is easily better than either of those.
The story begins with a special issue detailing the origins of Bane, from his birth and time spent in prison on Santa Prisca to his eventual escape and migration to Gotham. I feel like this is where the story makes its best effort to ensure that it is differentiated from something like The Death of Superman in that we get a true feeling for Bane as a character. His introduction strikes me as gloriously silver age in design despite being a character very much cut from the nineties cloth. There is a deliberate nature to his creation and his motives that seems very much like what you would have seen for a new character in the seventies. The only difference is that Bane was created with the storyline of taking Bruce Wayne out in mind and so arguments will be made that he came secondary to the story itself. It could have been anyone who pulled his scheme on the Batman. However, Bane is such an inventive character that you truly have to respect the effort that went into his creation. Imagine if Doomsday had this sort of development instead of having the personality of a rock. I think The Death of Superman would hold up much better. Bane was created to serve a purpose, but he was created in such a manner that after this storyline ran its course he could be used again and allowed to evolve. Doomsday never had that option. Nor did the villain in Spider-Man’s The Other storyline whose name I can’t remember, thereby proving my point. Bane made an impact. He wouldn’t be around now if he didn’t. He wouldn’t be the focal point of a new Batman film if he hadn’t made an impact. He’s been in two major motion picture adaptations of the Batman mythos. There are other high profile villains who don’t even have that honor.
Looking back at this particular volume it is easy to see that it does have some of the trappings that we hold against stories of its time. There is a definite 90′s feel to some of the story but there is a lingering feel of classic Batman style to it as well. Only when Azrael begins upgrading his Batman armor do we get a tinge of the ninetiess comics era that was dominated by the hard-edge pioneered by the folks at Image where violence and grit became the status quo. This story however, utilizing Tim Drake as the audience surrogate, seems to intimate that by going in that direction you lose what makes comic characters like Batman special. While some will call this story the epitome of what was wrong with comics in the nineties, its easy to see how, just as easily, it can be a crusade to uphold what has come before. I never truly recognized that until I gave it a read-through again this time around.
Anyhow, the book is a great deal even at the 29.99 cover price, but many retailers are selling it for almost half of that. You really could find worse things to spend your money on. DC has plenty of lesser offerings at the moment, if that’s what you’re going for. This thing does deserve the title of classic. I’m convinced of that now.
No, I didn’t read the book. I know, shame on me. How else can I make the standard exclamation of “the book was better!” if I haven’t actually read it? Who really cares, though? I think this is the sort of thing that should have gone direct to screenplay anyhow. It is the sort of B-movie concept that I feel can’t truly be captured and exploited as literature. But then again, I could be wrong. Because I didn’t read the book. On the plus side, it does allow me to have a completely unbiased review of the film. That’s a good thing, I think.
The film is everything you think it is. As ridiculous as you may think it is in your mind, it is every bit of that and more. There is no subtlety to this movie in the slightest. Everything is hammered home in loud bombast and with the firmest tongue-in-cheek attitude. The only reason this film is able to function as well as it does is because it plays everything 100% straight. There is no *wink wink* to be had here. By doing so, the film becomes incredibly fun. Abraham Lincoln:Vampire Hunter is melodramatic and dumb in ways that most people would struggle to fathom. This is a film in which a vampire throws a CGI horse at the titular character in the midst of a stampede. He literally grabs the horse by the hooves and chucks it at the man who freed the slaves. Reading that line should tell you everything you need to know about the tone of this movie. Whatever manner of true sincerity this film may ever hope to put on screen is trampled underfoot by scenes of horses being thrown at the president of the United States or someone power-sliding a horse drawn carriage into the manor of a slave plantation. In short, this film has the same depth of vision as a child playing with action figures in a sandbox.
Don’t think I’m slamming the movie though. This movie is my kind of stupid. The fact is that everyone involved sells the premise so hard that you can’t help but enjoy it. Benjamin Walker is an excellent Abraham Lincoln. I suspect he may have gotten the part because he looks so much like Liam Neeson, who was the frontrunner to play the president in Spielberg’s take before Daniel Day Lewis took over. Jimmi Simpson, Dominic Cooper, Anthony Mackie, Marie Elizabeth Winstead, and Alan motherf##king Tudyk as Stephen Douglas all round out the cast and do a superb job of selling the insanity. I suspect that Cooper is going to break out as a big star pretty damned soon. If I’d had my druthers Mary Elizabeth Winstead would be a leading lady ten times over. She’s beautiful, confident, and even in a film like this she manages to sell us on her character with very little material to work with.
I know there are going to be many people who trash this movie, some without even seeing it. Yes some of the action scenes are overly muddled by the CGI as well as the editing. Yes you may feel a little guilty for how this film treats the subject of slavery. The fact of the matter is that this is not a great film, but as a pure piece of popcorn entertainment you really can’t ask for more. The difference between this film and many like it is this film’s ability to sell its own ludicrous nature. While the film is played completely straight you can tell the intent was for the audience to walk out with a smile on their face asking themselves what they just saw. This film does exactly that. Let’s just hope the producers don’t get too bold and try to hoist a sequel on us. That my friends, would be going too far.
I am going to say something at the start that everyone needs to understand. It takes a lot of work to fully appreciate Prometheus. This film is something that many people have been clamoring for and yet at the same time will be shocked to find that they don’t want at all. Expectations get toyed with and as such it is best to see this film at least twice before making your mind up on it. Watch it once without knowing what to expect and then again knowing what it is and you will find yourself judging it less harshly than a majority of the critics who are trying to drag it down. I recently went through the entire Alien franchise in anticipation of this film and now I almost wish I hadn’t because the film in my head was not the film I saw. I should have been prepared for such an eventuality, because each film in the series evolves and never follows the style of what came before. I suppose with Ridley Scott returning we would get something similar in style to the original Alien, but that is not the case. Make no mistake about it, this is the genesis of the Alien legacy. Does it sync up in a nice package? No, but we’ll get to that later.
The film begins at the birth of mankind. We witness our creation out of the sacrifice of space-faring engineers in a scene that is simultaneously wondrous and confounding. Much of the film plays this way. Either things are spelled out too directly, or they are left as questions dangling in the back of our mind. I suspect this has much to do with Damon Lindelof’s involvement with the script. I could be wrong, but if it walks like a Lost duck… We then flash forward to 2089 when future archeologists digging in Scotland discover a cave painting pre-dating anything on record featuring symbols that have been discovered at sites spread out across the earth and multiple time periods with no interconnection of the societies that created them. They all feature a star pattern that our group locates and journeys to in the hopes of finding the creatures these early civilizations worshiped as gods. The team is led by Elizabeth Shaw, played by Noomi Rapace, who has previously failed to impress me but carries herself well here. Her staggered speech patterns that bothered me so much in Sherlock Holmes have been corrected and she feels far more at home delivering dialog as a result. She is accompanied by her colleague and lover played by Logan Marshall-Green who really doesn’t leave much of an impression whatsoever. That’s not too big of a slam because a majority of the cast are faceless ciphers who don’t really give off any defining character traits. The cast is around the same size as Aliens but it doesn’t have the same level of personalization to the cast. We got a real feel for the individual personalities of the marines in Aliens but the crewmembers of the Prometheus don’t give us much to work with. Idris Elba acquits himself nicely, and plays perhaps the most affable and relatable character in the film. Unfortunately he’s not much of a major player in what transpires. Charlize Theron does well but also has a tendency to simply exist in the framework without adding very much at all. The real star of the film is Michael Fassbender, who unsurprisingly steals the film with his portrayal of the android David. This is perhaps the first film in the series that does not hide the android’s nature and as such his mannerisms are far more robotic than Ian Holm’s Ash or Lance Henreiksen’s Bishop. His every movement is calculated and Fassbender imbues him with a sense of methodical unearthliness that truly makes him a wonder to watch.
The film’s story works well. It isn’t as tense as Alien but I do not believe it is meant to be. I also believe that there will be an eventual extended cut that allows several things to fall into place better than they seem to in the theatrical release. The only ones who will decry the narrative flow of the film are those who want it to run parallel to Alien. That isn’t what is in play here. What is in play here is a new series that has a timeline that will eventually sync up with those films. Ridley Scott has said that the ending of this film, which I will not spoil for anyone here, does not line up with Alien. He has stated that there are at least two more films worth of content before the timelines connect ant you see how everything developed from point A to point chestburster. It is best to view this story as something standalone. Something detached from Alien so that what this movie does well is better consumed by the viewer. Trying to compare it to Alien will result in a disappointment. It’s not a disappointing film unless you make it one. Judged on it’s own merit it is a spectacular film, with a few minor flaws. If nothing else it is a technological and visual marvel. The 3D screening I saw was absolutely flawless. One of the prettiest films I have seen in ages.
Essentially, the film is going to be divisive. That is the mark of a film worth viewing, in my opinion. What you take away from the film is largely dependent on what you want to take away from it before you ever set foot in the theater. Like I said, I would recommend viewing it twice. For the sake of your own enjoyment, you should be willing to examine the film from multiple angles. I’m certain I’ll be seeing it more than twice.