Sunday, October 30, 2005

Linkbloggin' Ain't Easy

Real-life duties have slowed my comic/movie intake considerably (our Manitoba-style wedding social is this Friday), but I still found time to check out many, many excellent blogs.

Beaucoup Kevin checks out the new DC solicits, and both snarks and loves on them, as the spirit moves him. He also seems to share my concerns about the Seven Soldiers TPB, but I'm already had my fanboy hissyfit on that topic, so I'll endeavour to rise above...

Brian Hibbs give a nice plug to volume 2 of BECK: Mongolian Chop Squad, which is my absolute favorite manga. I've read lots and lots of it in scanslation form, which is not in any way preventing me from buying the Tokyopop editions as soon as they come out. Dude, it just gets better. So, so much better.

Halloween costumes? Tom at Comics Ate My Brain does a nice round-up of his dress-up history. Which includes professionally-made Jedi robes.

Harvey Jerkwater does a cover version of Dave's F*@% Yeah! Files recounting his experience reading one of the greatest issues of What If? ever. It's certainly the issue with the most kick-ass cover.

Jog has written a nice column re: Dave Sim's role in the comicsphere. Dave is mildly bats**t crazy, but damn those Cerebus pages are pretty. I still don't understand what happened in Flight, tho.

And finally, any blogpost titled DC's Teen Sluts get a plug, regardless of content. Well played, Lady, That's My Skull!

Hopefully, I can find the time to process another chunk of Tomb of Dracula over the next couple of days. I just have to find a way to do it that does not lead Tamar to believe I'm goofing off. Apparently "It's for my blog!" is not a strong argument. Who knew?

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Dracula Fights Idiots

I'm now just under halfway through the Essential Tomb of Dracula vol. 1, and what has struck me most is that Dracula, in general, is fighting opponents with the relative tactical ability of a cheese sandwich.

I mean, he's constantly running away from a group of people who have yet to mount anything even resembling a notable threat to his wellbeing! These people seem to forget on a nightly basic the most general vampire rules, and approach Dracula as if they can overpower him solely with the strength of their purple prose.

Rachel Van Helsing, who has the great honour of being the granddaughter (I think) of the world's foremost vampire authority and dispatcher, has developed an irrational attachment to a weapon that, over the past 11 or so issues, has not even managed to nick Dracula. She clings ferevently to her belief that the crossbow is the weapon of choice when it comes to taking on the King of the Vampires. Even when presented with modern, specially designed anti-vampire artillary, she refuses to even consider the posibility of switching. This leads to at least one scene in every single issue where she fires a crossbow bolt at Dracula, and it passes harmlessly through him when he turns to mist. As he does every time a crossbow bolt is shot at him.

While I respect her desire to remain constant, it gets to the point where even Dracula himself is mocking her. I mean, when the guy you're fighting is laughing at the weapon you've brought for the umpteenth time to the battle, it might be time to seriously consider a swap.

And speaking of swaps, she might want to think about dropping uber-WASP beau Frankie Drake, who has turned out to be even more of a lame-duck series lead than I had feared. Frankie is consumed, for no discernable reason, with the fear that he carries the threat of vampirism with him, depsite all evidence suggesting that the affliction is in no way genetic but rather the result of being bit. By. A. Vampire.


Thank god they introduce Blade in issue 10, because the old crazy guy in the wheelchair was turning out to be the most competant fighter in the group. No, I'm not kidding. He's the only one of the core group to have even scored a hit on Dracula. Which does not in any way prevent Frankie from making all sorts of fervent threats every time Drac sails away undisturbed by the Wack Pack.

"Come back here Dracula! What, are you scared?! Go ahead, run away, you coward!

...oh crap, he's circling back this way, everyone into the Oldsmobile!!"

Frankie Drake, ladies and gentlemen. Your hero. First class weiner.

(and yet I'm still really enjoying these stories. I know, it doesn't make any sense to me either!)

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Shortform Linkblogging

Mick over at The Daily Burn has written a well thought-out piece on what he sees as the role of superhero comics, and it is very much worth reading. So go do so. A very nice use for his blog's 100th post, if I might say so.

And Dave's Long Box is running through some high-quality F*@# Yeah! moments. But you already knew that, of course. Because you are so Airwolf.

Oh, I'm now about three issues into Essential Tomb of Dracula and I have to say, I'm really looking forward to Marv Wolfman showing up a few issues down the road. There's nothing exactly bad about the early issues, but my god, Frankie Drake is a drip of a lead character. I'm not sure if he continues as the lead for the duration of the series, but I sure wouldn't be disappointed to see him finish what he started at the outset of the third issue.

The art is really nice, though. I can see why so many people have commented that Gene Colan's art really lends itself to black & white reproduction. Great use of blacks, and the sketchiness of the linework makes Dracula seems almost fluid, like he's made up of smoke and shadows.

Still, the stories themselves lack a certain crackle. It's like the writers could all get a handle on Dracula himself, but were sort of confused about how to approach stories in which Dracula couldn't presumably come out a clear winner, but in which they were loath to allow him to be defeated. It's like a Doctor Doom series, but instead of the Fantastic Four, you have him take on two guys who work at a car wash. You just keep thinking to yourself, "why doesn't he just kill them?"

Still, fun stuff. Don't get me wrong.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Essential for Halloween: Tomb of Dracula

I received a package containing the fruits of my inaugural Sequential Swap exchange this afternoon. I'm pretty excited to check out the contents, which included Pounded, Astronauts In Trouble: Live From the Moon and Top Shelf Asks the Big Questions. However, the book I was most psyched to see when I tore open the package was Essential Tomb of Dracula vol. 1!

Some background might be in order, I suppose. I was born in 1976, so I effectively missed out on the whole mid-seventies horror revivial that the Comics Code Authority changes brought about. I think I had a copy of Werewolf By Night in my collection as a kid, but I don't remember giving it more than a cursory look. See, I was a DC reader, and still am today. To a young DC reader, Marvel books from the seventies looked terrifying. And I'm not just talking about the horror books, the whole damn line was scary!

The colors were darker, all oranges and browns, the inking seemed muddy, the printing seemd darker, and then there was Gene Colan. It didn't really seem to make a difference what the subject matter was, every page of Colan art seemed to me like it was infused with near-satanic evil. It's only in recent years that I've begun to appreciate the energy and atmosphere his pencils produced.

So, as a result, I have vitually no experience with the once-popular Tomb of Dracula series. I know Blade first appeared in its pages, but other than that, I'm pretty much a blank slate. Which is why I am really looking forward to digging into this phonebook sized chunk of the macabre.

And just in time for Halloween, no less. Awesome.

Monday, October 24, 2005

So, is he allergic to fire, or not?

Over at Monitor Duty, Alan Kistler has put together an exhaustive (in the good way) profile of the Martian Manhunter. I highly recommend checking it out if you have any interest in the character. I honestly had no idea how convoluted his history had become. It seems like every writer to take on J'onn J'onzz has felt the need to tweak his origin, resulting in more than a handlful of overlapping accounts of his life on Mars and early exploits on Earth, each one contradicting the ones that came before in some way. It's positively Hawkman-esque.

I loves me some MM (yup), so you know I enjoyed learning so much about the permutations of the character over the years.

Go read it!

Counting Sheep

Well, I finally did it. It's been well over a year since I started, but I finally finished Haruki Murakami's A Wild Sheep Chase. Now, it certainly didn't take me a full year of reading to finish the book. Did you ever have one of those books that you pick up sporadically, grabbing it every couple of months and reading a chapter or two? Sheep was that book for me. Everytime I was standing in front of my bookcase, looking for something to read before I went to bed, Murakami stared back at me, judging me silently as I pulled out a volume of Terry & the Pirates or my copy of David Sedaris' Naked.

Don't get me wrong, it was a very enjoyable read. It's just that I've found I have to be in precisely the right mood to get into the story of a disatisfied Japanese ad-man who gets drawn into a dream-like search for a mythic sheep with a star-shaped patch on it's back. That's not the type of book you can just plop down and carve through.

What surprised me most, as I neared the end of the book, was how truly creepy the tale had become. Throughout the bulk of the book, the protaganist has an almost clinical detachment from the events unfolding around him. He's not uninterested in what's going on, but it doesn't seem to move him on a personal level, even when his life is being threatened. The last section deals with his isolation at an old house deep in the mountainous Japanese countryside, and both he and the reader start to react more actively to his situation.

I was reading the last 80 pages or so last night while Tam slept next to me, and I actually considered putting it down and finishing it during daylight hours. Which is kind of a sissy move.

So, the book is finished, and I can now slip it back onto the bookshelf with my head held high. The only problem? Right next to it is a copy of Murakami's Dance, Dance, Dance, which has now taken pole position in the "you need to finish me" sweepstakes.


Saturday, October 22, 2005

Light As a Feather, Hard as Steel

Tam was working last night, and I was feeling decidely less than 100% (Winnipeg turns into a germ factory about this time of year), so I decided to take it real easy and just chill out with a movie before hitting the sack. Seeing as how I was too tired to read anything while I watched the movie (my usual modus operandi), I took the opportunity to watch a movie where I wouldn't be able to read anything else, i.e. a film with subtitles.

I've got quite a few in my movie collection that I haven't gotten around to watching yet (Kung Fu Hustle, Crouching Tiger), but I decided to go with Hero, starring Jet Li.

Wow, I really liked this movie. It may have been the perfect movie to watch while mildly hopped-up on flu medication. It's basically a series of fight scenes, but man, what amazing fight scenes. Jet Li is a guy who shows up at the King's place claiming to have returned from defeating the three assassins who the King was terrified would kill him. He tells the King how he came to beat them, then the King tells Jet Li what he thinks happened, then we find out even more about what really happened.

It sounds a little complicated, but all that's really important to know is that you get to watch the same 5 characters have multiple fights. And the fight choreography is amazing. I admittedly haven't seen a lot of modern kung-fu movies, so I'm probably a lot behind the curve in regards to this genre. There's quite a bit of "wire-fu", but while I'm sure a lot of movie watchers are sick to death of it, it still looks amazing to me. Most movies you see these days are overloaded with CGI effects(no offence to Geroge Lucas), but I really prefer watching actors interact with real environments.

Yeah, there definately is still some CGI in Hero, but the shots it's used to create would be absolutely impossible to film without it. And the shots are so inspired that I have no problem with how they were created. Even if it involved puppy slave-labor. There's a fight sequence set in the middle of a forest, with the leaves falling all around the two combatants, that is breathtaking (and not just because I'm so congested).

The story is a little Rashomon influenced, but has enough surprises to keep things interesting, and the movie doesn't waste a whole lot of time on non-kung-fu or swordfighting-free scenes. This is a movie that aspires to be a great visual treat for fight enthusiasts, and on that level it succeeds completely.

I know I'm kind of behind the boat on this one, but I'm really looking forward to checking out the other recent martial arts films that are grouped with Hero. Sometimes it's a good thing to be late to check something out, because then there's a whole glut of material just waiting to be enjoyed. Hooray for me, and my pop-culture laziness!

Thursday, October 20, 2005

"Smell How They Burn" - Klarion #4

This was the Seven Soldiers miniseries that I was least looking forward to, when I initially heard the line-up, but it has turned out to be both the one I looked most forward to reading, and (perhaps more importantly) the one I feel gave the best reading experience as a mini-series. I'm really surprised at how much I've grown to enjoy the character of Klarion the Witch Boy. I remembered the character vaguely from some earlier appearances (mostly Young Justice and Demon), and really didn't care for him.

Morrison really did a number on him, though, stripping away the cloying cutesy aspects of the Witch Boy, and replacing them with Salem allusions and puritan imagery (thanks in no small part to the absolutely stellar art of Frazer Irving).

While some of the other Soldiers seemed to exist simply to serve the function of the uberstory, Klarion was well fleshed out. His environment and supporting cast was rich with history and rife with story possibilities.

Some of the other minis have seemed more concerned with forwarding the Sheeda concepts, but I feel that Klarion told a complete story (more or less). Yes, it ends with a push for Seven Soldiers #1 just like the rest, but you get a sense that Klarion has had a complete adventure, and is now heading off on another (as comic book characters are wont to do).

I certainly have my problems with the decision DC has made regarding the collection of the Seven Soldier minis into TPB (you betcha), but I will admit that I'm really looking forward to rereading this family of books once all is said and done, and piecing together the clues and echoes that thread through all the books.

Yep, I'm gonna buy the TPBs regardless. DC, you win this round.

Update: Jog the Blog has an interesting look at Klarion #4. Check it out.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Undercover Martian Brother

The Onion AV Club has a fun list of their favorite “Underrated” pop culture figures (actor, cartoon, band, etc) and they’ve selected Martian Manhunter as the most underrated super-hero. It’s just a brief little blurb, but it’s an interesting read all the same. It’s hard to debate their selection, as MM really does seem strangely obscure, especially considering the length of his publishing history. There’s no mention of his role in the bwahahaha Justice League, which is where I would argue he gained the bulk of his current fan base. J’onn as exasperated den mother to a gaggle of super-powered buffoons is my favorite interpretation of the character.

Or it would be, if not for his brief turn in House of Mystery as super-mole in the evil spy organization VULTURE. I’d love to see him return to the Marco Xavier identity. A Martian infiltrating a spy group to bring them down from within is a badass idea that I support without reservation.

Although, admittedly, I haven’t read the Ostrander series yet, so I’m not sure if the Xavier period is revisited there. Maybe it is. Anyone know? I keep meaning to try out the solo MM series, but it just looks like pretty dreary stuff. It might just be the muddy looking Mandrake art. I liked his work on Spectre, but I just think the MM series could have been better served by an artist who's work was less EC/Bernie Wrightson inspired.

Regardless, I hope DC throws together a Showcase phonebook that collects a chunk of J’onn’s solo stuff from the 60s. That would be a great use for the format. Um, for me, anyways.

(If this kid comes to my house this Halloween, he will receive double treats. That's a promise.)

Monday, October 17, 2005

Free Comics! (Kind of)

I recently joined Sequential Swap. For those of you who've never heard of the site/group, it's basically a group of clever comic fans who realized that everybody has books they own and don't want anymore (I'm looking at you, Scooter Girl). The elegant solution: have members list the books they have but don't want, and the books they'd like to read, and work out swaps to get the right books to the right people. This arrangement seems perfect for me, because I've already exhausted the relatively meagre selection of tpbs available at my public library, but I sure don't want to be plunking down mucho dinero to get more books, when the bookshelves of my little condo are already filled to the point of bursting.

I haven't completed a swap yet, but I do have a couple in the works. And any service that allows me to get rid of books that I'm angry that I paid retail for is worth it in terms of stress reduction alone.

I have to give mad props to Mick of the Daily Burn for turning me onto Sequential Swap. So, um, big ups, Mick. Holla. Wow, my "mad props" are pretty pathetic.

Anyways, if you have books you'd like to trade away for other tpbs, why not have a look and see what's available at Sequential Swap? (especially if you're a Canadian looking to dump your Cerebus phonebooks and are willing to give me first crack!) Come on, people... I need to read Church & State.

Thanks for your support.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Clancy Ain't Got S**t on Me, Baby.

You know how you'll be reading a Tom Clancy novel (don't lie, I know you have), and there'll be like ten pages describing how the engine of a specific helicopter operates. So you just skim over it, scanning the pages until you see the name of a character you recognize? Spartan is like a Tom Clancy movie with all the military-dork stuff trimmed away.

Oh, and there aren't any ultra-patriots running around saving freedom, whereas in a Clancy novel every second character loves his goddamned country so goddamned much he could cry sweet manly tears, if that didn't go against everything his rigorous Special Ops training had instilled in him. So instead he just steals a quick look at the creased photograph of his pregnant wife, that he keeps inside the battered rucksack that was a gift from his father. The only gift the old man had ever given him. He still remembered the way Pops had saluted him the day he left for basic training in Okawanee...., sorry, got a little carried away there... anyways, there's none of that in Spartan. David Mamet wrote and directed it, so there's no lame-assed dialogue or character motivations cluttering up this sleek movie.

Val Kilmer plays Scott, an uber-agent searching for the President's daughter, who was abducted from college. Now, everybody has by now heard that Kilmer is apparently batshit crazy, right? That may be true (and may be why his dour, focused agent keeps referring to everyone as "baby"), but he keeps it on the rails in this movie, delivering a really strong performance. He's such a magnetic presence on screen, you kind of have to appreciate the fact that Hollywood didn't really manage to make him a Tom Cruise-ian type Star.

The story unfolds quickly and crisply, barely giving you time to process information before more is given. You know what, though? It was nice to watch a military/espionage thriller and not have to book time off work to finish it. It runs a slim 106 minutes, and feels much shorter, which is a good thing in this case.

And hey, Veronica Mars! I didn't even know Kirsten Bell was in it, so that was a nice surprise (although it was a little strange to hear her drop Mamet-style eff-bombs all over the place). The cast overall is great, as you would expect from a Mamet film, and yes William H. Macy shows up, as he is required to do everytime David Mamet picks up his camera.

"Yes, dear?"
"Why is Bill Macy standing behind Timmy in his birthday party video?"
"Oh, he heard I was shooting something, so he just showed up and started workshopping a scene he's been tackling. I think it's dynamite"

Oh, and how awesome is this alternate poster for the movie? It looks like Val Kilmer is starring in Black Rain 2: The Search For Curly's Gold. I think they made the right choice when they went with the other poster.

Val Kilmer is such a BAMF, though. Represent.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

JLA #120 - Now W/ 80% More Bickering

Um, I'm going to keep this pretty short but, if the incessent arguing among the DCU's Big Guns has you half as annoyed as it has me, you're really going to want to avoid JLA 120. It's like they decided that super-heroics were actually holding the book back, so they eliminated them entirely to focus more effectively on the angsty inter-personal drama playing out among the Right to Mindwipe movement and its detractors.

It's just boring, angry bitching with no story momentum whatsoever.

Although, there are, I believe, at least a couple of fan favorite "Green Arrow gesticulating wildly while foaming at the mouth" panels. I assume those scenes are very popular, right? Otherwise why would DC feature them? Every. Single. Month. The only way the scene could be more generic would be if they had one of two of Ollie's teammates "holding him back" from punching somebody. They should rename Green Arrow "Drunk Uncle", because that's who he is.

Zip it, beatnik. Just zip it for once.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Spoilers Abound: Infinite Crisis #1

Oh my god, they killed Ratcatcher... NOOOOOOOOO!

Sad thing is, someone, somewhere counts Ratcatcher as one of their favorite characters, and is, in fact, very upset about his fate. Actually, that's not sad.. that's the beauty of the DC Universe. There's something for everyone, even rat-control fetishists.

I guess I liked Infinite Crisis #1. I sure didn't come away from it thinking that the collected series is set to take a place on my shelf next to the original Crisis on Infinite Earths, but it did contain enough interesting interludes to make it worth my while.

Because, in the end, isn't it the great character interaction scenes that we think of when we look back on CoIE? Hawk watching Dove die while saving a child, Supergirl and Batgirl talking on a frosty rooftop. Those are the moments I remember from the series. They were short (often less than a page) and sweet. I know comic writing has changed since the 80s, but this book seemd a lot more sluggish.

My biggest problem with Infinite Crisis, though, is that it seems to be mainly preoccupied with the disintegration of the Supes/Bats/WW relationship. I just don't care. I know those are the three icons, the "Holy Trinity" of superheroes, but I'm not in the least bit interested in watching them argue for five pages in the rubble of the Watchtower.

Furthermore, Batman's "the last time you inspired anyone was when you died" line, while a really good burn, was nonsensical. Are they trying to retroactively change our perception of Superman's role in the DC universe? Sure, he's been kind of a lame duck for a year or so, but I blame that mostly on the fizzling of the Azzarello/Lee run. And hey, did that story even happen yet?

Sigh. I think I liked much of the rest of the book, I'll admit. The Freedom Fighters bit was fun, until they got massacred.And did anyone else think for a second that the Spectre had absorbed Batman at some point? No? Just me? Okay.

The Connor (Superboy) stuff was just bad, though. He's so "depressed" that he just sits ther all day watching tv news while his best friends fight for their lives? That's lame. And then he gets up...starts to pull off his shirt, revealing the S... and then someone on tv mentions the name Lex Luthor, and Connor gets bummed out and sits back down on the couch.

In future issues, I'm hoping for a lot less Big Three bickering, a lot more great character moments from the lesser lights in the DCU, and hey, if you're going to clean house and off some characters, at least try and give the deaths some poignancy. I guess they tried with Uncle Sam (if he's dead), but it just fell flat.

This book did prove to me that it doesn't matter which title it's happening in, I just don't give a crap about the Rann/Thanagar war.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Seven Soldiers of Poor, Poor Marketing Decisions

So this is what I see as I’m scanning the solicits for upcoming DC trade paperbacks:

Writer: Grant Morrison
Artists: J.H. Williams III, Simone Bianchi, Cameron Stewart, Ryan Sook, Frazer Irving and Mick Gray

Wow. I just can’t understand who would’ve thought that was the best way to package this series of minis. Now, it's important to keep in mind that I’m writing this from the perspective of not just someone who’s currently reading and enjoying these books, but someone who was also looking forward to picking them up in tpb form for the bookshelf.

Why on earth would they combine parts of four separate miniseries into one volume? You’d think that one of the goals of the collection would be to appeal to people who didn’t pick up the floppies, but were curious enough to consider picking up at least the first volume. Well, what DC has now done is tell those possible consumers that they’re welcome to pick up the first volume, but they’ll have to commit to at least the first two if they want to get anything resembling a complete story. It’s just bad business.

I mean, I WANT these books, and I’m still not sure I’m going to buy vol. 1. DC isn’t just alienating potential new readers, but their established consumer base (me) as well.

And besides, weren’t readers assured before the Seven Soldiers books launched that you could pick up any of the separate minis and get a complete story? Weren’t we? Well, here’s a snippet from an interview with Grant Morrison:

“Morrison promised if readers were just interested in a few of the heroes showcased in this event, that all of the miniseries under the Seven Soldiers banner could be read independently. "If you choose to buy only Klarion: the Witch Boy, say or The Manhattan Guardian you'll still get a complete and satisfying four-issue mini-series which sets up the characters and establishes them for future adventures," said Morrison.”

Um, when did that plan change? I must have not read the follow-up interview where Morrison admitted that not only would readers be expected to buy every Seven Soldiers title to understand the story and get a resolution to the characters’ individual miniseries, but that such devotion to the line would be used as the main assumption in formatting the inevitable collection of said books. Again, bad move. We shouldn’t be expected to pick up a minimum of two tpbs in order to get a full four issue mini. It’s lame, and is a rare occasion of DC’s trade collections department dropping the ball.

Big time.

Monday, October 10, 2005

James Coburn Could Kick My Ass

I'm starting to come to the sad realization that I might not enjoy super-spy movies. I'd like to think that I'm the kind of movie lover that has an appreciation for all genres of film, but this may not be the case. The reason for this burgeoning self-realization: Our Man Flint.

This seemed like a movie that could be a lot of fun to watch. It was reportedly one of the main influences on the Austin Powers, the trailer looked sufficiently goofy and colorful, and James Coburn. I just couldn't see how a super-spy movie starring Coburn could be anything but a hoot. And actually, Coburn's performance was great. He clearly didn't take this role very seriously, which was probably the best decision he could have made. He smirks his way through the movie, in seeming disbelief of the things he is being asked to do.

Now, I knew James Coburn wasn't a stocky man, but it wasn't until I saw Our Man Flint that I realized what a tall drink of water he was. His mod tailered suits make him look to be about 9 feet tall, weighing maybe a buck-thirty. Dude is skinny. Maybe that's one of the reason his "feats of valor and derring-do" fall so flat. Yeah, and maybe it's that he demonstrates karate with the approximate grace of fat Vegas Elvis. Maybe.

Still, the bad fight scenes are part of the charm of a cheesy super-spy movie, right? True enough. But between the nonsensical plot, and wooden performances from everyone besides Coburn, the movie dragged. Everytime they would cut away from Flint, the proceeding ground to a halt. It's like this movie starred James Coburn and a bunch of Haittian zombie people. Actually, that would be a gerat movie, so I guess not.

Anyways, Flint's got these four girlfriends (Hefner-style), and thank god they're all color-coded, because none of them display any character traits beyond blind subservience to Flint. Let me just clarify here: Flint has four hot 60s girlfriends, and I was completely bored everytime they were on screen. It's insane.

There's another main girl, an evil counter-spy chick, and all I remember about her is that during one scene, she pretends to be asleep and observes Flint stealing her keys, as she intended. After he leaves, she immediately radios her superiors to let them know that the trap is set, and Flint is on his way. What does she do next? Well, she goes right back to sleep. That is one cool as ice motherf**ker. Or the script is stupid. You make the call.

I still enjoy Connery Bond movies on one level, but I think I'm at the point where most older super-spy movies are going to have to be watched while I'm reading something else. They have their fun moments, but have massive pacing and acting problems that make them less than engrossing.

Here's something bad-ass Flint does in the movie though. He's a little tense after taking on the big assigment, so what does Our Man Flint do to relax? He stops his heart for a few hours. See, I just would have had a nap or a bath. And that's the reason why I'm not a super-spy. The only reason.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

I Am My Own Worst Enemy

I swear to God I was going to watch a movie for mreview purposes this weekend. Tam was working overnights, so I had free reign to watch whatever I wanted. Sadly, I seem to have a serious problem getting myself to commit to a movie when I'm left unattended. So, here's a list of the things I did Saturday night instead of watching a movie:

1) Ate a can of chili. See, this probably doesn't cound as time-wasting, because I have to eat, right? Maybe a can of chili wasn't the best choice for dinner, but it's better than like, crack cocaine or a puppy or something.

2) Cleaned out the storage room. It had to be done. The storage room was quickly returning to it's previous condition of disarray, which made entering it to find anything a remarkably complicated and disheartening procedure. Plus, I told Tamar I was going to, so there really wasn't much of an option there.

3) Washed the dishes while listening to an album of Kanye West/Beach Boys mash-ups. Dirty kitchens are my kryptonite.

4) Watched last week's episode of Veronica Mars. That show is awesome. This episode wasn't the greatest, but even a sub-par episode of VM kicks the crap out of most shows on television. No shame here, watching this was a "heads-up play".

5) Watched bits and pieces of Hockey Night in Canada while reading comic books. I think I should get bonus points for multitasking.

6) Watched Saturday Night Live. Um, okay, this was not a good call. SNL is like a bad relationship that you just can't seem to get out of. Most of time you sit there, miserable, but once in a while something happens that reminds you of why you fell in love in the first place. This was not one of those times. The host was Jon Heder, who starred in Napolean Dynamite. I haven't seen Napolean Dynamite, and I probably never will, based on his SNL performance.

Look if you're Christopher Walken, you can get away with blatently reading the cue cards when you host SNL. People aren't looking for Walken to disappear into a character when he's on screen. They want him to be the same oddball with the stilted dialogue delivery that they know and love.

However, if you're Jon Heder, and you'v got exactly one popular movie under your belt, you might want to take the time to learn your fucking lines. Not that the lines he was given were especially hilarious, but he totally phoned it in. Blech.

7) Watched about a half-hour of Mystery Science Theatre 3000 and fell asleep. Yeah, I'm a dork. I promise I'll watch something I can write about tonight. Seriously. Don't look at me like that, I mean it this time.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

So Long, and Thanks For Nothing

Okee dokee.. I finally got around to watching The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Sigh.

I should confess up front that I’m a pretty big Douglas Adams fan. I’ve read the Hitchhiker books a few times, and I even plowed through the Dirk Gently, Hollistic Detective books, despite finding them a bit dry.

So, as you can imagine, I was both excited and nervous about seeing the big film version. Well, let me just be clear about this – books good, movie bad.

Hmm, you need a bit more than that? Alright, fine.

The casting in the movie runs the gamut from perfect to horribly misguided. Martin Freeman from The Office does a fine job as Arthur Dent, the ‘audience entry point’ character. He’s not, however, given much to do. Anyone who’s seen the Office knows how great he is at both dropping a dry punchline, and reacting to the madness that surrounds him, but he isn’t given the opportunity to do either in this film. I understand the character is a bit of a schlub, but it’s difficult to root for a character that you wouldn’t want to spend 10 minutes with, let alone the bulk of a movie.

Mos Def is great as Ford Perfect. I’m sure a lot of Adams’ fans were dubious about the prospect of an American rapper taking on this role, but he does a really nice job. He really seems to understand the absurdity that lies at the heart of the Hitchhiker saga, and runs with it. Mos (is that what I call him?) gives an energetic performance that is a lot of fun to watch. I think I would have liked this movie a lot more if he had been the lead.

Sam Rockwell made a tragic misstep when he decided to play the role of Zaphod Beeblebrox as a cartoonish caricature of George W. Bush. He’s clearly having a blast, but it was lame. Political impersonation just doesn’t fit in this movie, and I wish someone had told him that.

And the absolute worst casting of the entire film, and maybe the Worst. Casting. Ever. (okay, probably not, but it’s bad. REAL bad.) Zooey Deschanel as Trillian. Now, some might disagree, but I consider Trillian to be one of the most important roles in the movie. In order for the audience to have any sort of emotional investment in Arthur Dent’s character arc, his longing for Trillian has to be seen as a rational motivation for the internal changes he undergoes. Trillian, as played by Deschanel, is a drip. Everything she says falls painfully, thuddingly flat. It’s as if she was shipped in from an angst-ridden indy flick in order to give the “dorky” HHGttG some ‘street cred’.

Now, I saw Elf, and I sure don’t remember hating her performance as much as I did here. I can’t confirm that she was phoning it in, but any time that she spent developing her character was not time well spent.

I really wanted to like this movie. I thought the casting sounded great on paper, and even the commercials made the movie look like it would be fun. Imagine my shock when, halfway through, I found myself profoundly bored. I know the story isn’t dull, but they seemed to have drained all the wit out of the script. There’s a real difficulty in taking a book (or radio play, as the case may be) in which much of the humor is based on very precise language choices, and attempting to break it down into a high-concept Hollywood popcorn flick. Some of the classic bits made it into the movie (i.e. the whale) but for the most part they kept the basic concept and characters, but removed most of the charm and quirkiness that is such an important component of Adams’ style.

I believe that it is much worse to make a boring movie than a bad movie, and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is hugely, overwhelmingly boring. Again, sigh.