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The Dark Knight Rises

27 Jul

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So once again, I made my excuses to the nanny (“groceries” I think I mumbled) and disappeared to my friendly little neighborhood mall to catch the early, early matinee showing of The Dark Knight Rises.  The movie is so long that my previous attempts to slip away were foiled by issues like little league practice and the like, but finally now I can download my thoughts here and tell you how MUCH I want to find another excuse to watch the movie all over again.

First of all, some terrific twists at the end.  I’m the kind of viewer that delights in puzzling out the reveals ( I figured out the Sixth Sense like 15 minutes in) and I did not see most of what coming at the end of TDKR.  I’m not going to comment much on Christian Bale, Gary Oldman, or Morgan Freeman’s performances – we’ve seen them before and I’m not sure anything in this script brings out anything new in the characters. And the toys? They deserve a mention just as they do in any James Bond film.  We love the cool gadgetry and neat vehicles but it’s not new.

It’s the other supporting cast that really rose to the occasion.  When the casting decisions had been announced I had real trouble seeing Anne Hathaway as Catwoman. I have never been a fan. Don’t get me wrong- I’ve never thought she was a bad or even OK actor, just not great (like Gwynny).  My admiration has always been reserved for whoever her excellent agent/manager is that gets her such great roles.   But in this movie, BOY did she deliver.  AH plays the role with the kind of complexity and whipsmart intelligence the character deserves, and with the perfect timing of a Costello in Who’s On First?  Let’s get her a Catwoman movie for God’s sake.  Anyone at Warner Bros listening?  Hello?

Another supporting actor who shows he needs a leading role – Joseph Gordon-Levitt.  Yes, hard to believe the little guy from 3rd Rock from the Sun.  John Blake, tough cop, with a heart of gold could have been a hugely stereotypical role and again not one I would necessarily have seen JGL do well in.  But he does with nuance and expression.  Michael Caine as Alfred has some wonderfully heart rending bits.  The only one who seemed to be a little off was Matthew Modine. My goodness he’s aged.

I have some quibbles – I found Bane’s booming voice cartoonish and distracting. The whole Wall Street trading thing made me laugh, and Marion Cotillard’s character – well, my annoyance with her would be a spoiler so I’ll save them for later.  But in short, this was a three hour movie that flew by for me, I was so wonderfully entertained.  Hmmm, I may have to slip out later to get the car washed…

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Alien vs Prometheus: Less is More

8 Jun


As soon as noontime rolled around I made some feeble excuses to the babysitter, and hustled to my local theater by myself to catch the matinee showing of Prometheus.  If you’re like me, having grown up with the Alien franchise, it is indeed a must see, but be prepared. Prometheus is a spectacular mess.

It’s impossible not to compare this $120 million production with the original $11 million Alien and indeed echoes of the original Alien movie present themselves in all to brief moments through this overly long movie. Maybe contemporary viewers are more jaded and sophisticated, but the tremendous attempts to make Prometheus an action packed existential epic makes me yearn for the simplicity of the original story.   While trying to jam multiple action and suspenseful scenes on the screen, the movie also attempts to raise existential questions that were so elegantly handled in another venerable sci-fi flick Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.  In the end the reveals fall flat, and even the visuals make me long for the originality of H.H. Giger.

Michael Fassbender and Noomi Rapace do an admirable job throughout the movie, especially Rapace is our heroic scientist who somehow endures increasingly unbelievable situations.  Sadly (and perhaps this is nostalgia talking here) she lacks the tenacity and grit of the young Sigourney Weaver.  Fassbender is terrific as a sort of hybrid Kane meets HAL.  Charlize Theron is pretty good but we know she could be better with a meatier role.  And later on the amazing Guy Pearce (The King’s Speech, Memento)  makes an all too brief appearance, unfortunately.

The weakness of this movie is Spaiht and Lindelof’s script which tries to do too many things and satisfy too many requirements.  See it while it’s still in the theaters to fully savor the special effects, and then if you like, rent the DVD when it becomes available so you can attempt to make heads or tails of the convoluted story line.  Ridley Scott, now 74, has been responsible for some industry game changers like Alien and Blade Runner, but alas, this is not one of them.

Review: Godzilla #1

23 May

Writer Duane Swierczynski, Artist Simon Gane, Colorist Rhonda Pattison

Release Date: May 23, 2012

Let me tell you straight up, I REALLY LIKED this story and more than I thought I would.  This could have been handled simply as a fluffy action piece riding off the popularity of the enormous pop icon. Instead it goes way deeper, as we meet “Urv” on what is supposed to be the happiest day of his life and the soldier named “Boxer” as he attempts to make breakfast.  With Godzilla there is always a risk of campiness as gigantic movie monsters shriek and battle their way across the page.  Swierczynski and Gane do a nice job of making into something more.

First of all, a gay wedding in Mexico City is quietly slipped in for this story’s setup. DC and Marvel have grabbed all the attention lately with news about their gay characters, but I like how this is done, naturally with no fanfare.  (There will hopefully come a time when such things make no difference, but I digress…)  There’s more little twists in the dialogue that make it a fun read.  Swierczynski uses narrative captions extensively and gracefully – I thought they married very nicely with the distinctive artwork by Gane.  Licensed comics can be dreadful crap – this is an intelligent effort, and with Gane’s artwork, one that even hipsters would appreciate.

Read Duane Swierczynski’s blog here:

http://secretdead.blogspot.com/

Review: Resident Alien #1

23 May


by Peter Hogan and Steve Parkhouse
Release date: May 23, 2012 $3.50 #1 of 3

The doctor is IN—and he’s an alien!

I ‘ve been pulling late nights thrashing out an alien detective concept for the last couple of weeks now so you can imagine my horror when I spied DARK HORSE COMICS RESIDENT ALIEN #1 in the store this morning. NOOOOO!!!! Curse you, Mssrs. Hogan and Parkhouse! Anyway, it’s a neat device and different enough that I will continue my review here without banging my head too much on the wall…

This is an enjoyable straight-up police procedural with an alien twist. The extraterrestrial in question is stranded by an unfortunate crash landing and forced to lay low in a small town somewhere in the US. Fortunately for him, there is a MURDER and the police need his help to solve it, or he might be bored to tears since he’s apparently waited an inordinate amount of time for the extraterrestrial AAA mechanics to come by and fix his ship. Through some alien trickery he’s able to disguise his appearance and passes himself off as a Dr. Harry Vanderspeigle. Dr. V’s nice. He’s empathetic. He makes tea. If he were human he would probably be a great boyfriend. Both creators have had long runs on 2000 AD and plenty of other comics so what you see is what you get – competence with no headscratching dialogue or artwork trickery. I did not read the prequel #0 but that didn’t seem to impair my understanding of the story at all.

Read an interview with Peter Hogan here:
http://www.darkhorse.com/Blog/929/interview-peter-hogan-about-resident-alien

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Review: AMC’s Comic Book Men or Let’s Just Dig That Grave A Little Deeper, Shall We?

13 Feb

michael-walt

I tried watching.  I really did.  About 40 minutes into the show I had to give up.  It had everything going for it- a sweet spot following The Walking Dead, star power meets comic cred in the form of Fanboy-gone-Hollywood Kevin Smith, and MORE advertising than the earth shattering DC Comics universe reboot last fall.  What went wrong? Three things:  1) an ill-conceived format 2) lack of confidence in the content, and most importantly 3) absence of passion.

1) On the format: we had no idea where the show was going aside from the expected sophomoric humor.  It’s like they didn’t know what kind of reality show they wanted to be. Game show? Desperate housewives?  Later, it was like someone belatedly read The Rules on Reality Shows Handbook and said, ah, we must throw in a challenge to spice things up!  We all know reality shows are not reality.  Those that are, we call “documentaries.”

2) A lack of confidence that mainstream audiences might be interested in the world of comics as it is today.  This is a show that went for cheap tricks and stereotypes to drum up ratings.   A little respect for the audience, please.  These are viewers who are already interested in zombies in comics.

3) Absence of passion.  I have no doubt that these guys without the cameras around can discuss heatedly and with passion about continuity and any number of topics.  And I wanted to like them, I really did.  But with the cameras on them, they looked like they were singing for their supper, and they knew it. Even the Ming-baiting was pathetic.

I won’t really get into the whole treatment of women in comics thing.  Anyone who has gone to a comic convention lately will laugh at you if you claim that women/girls have no interest in geek culture. And any comic book store with a modicrum of marketing sense know having women on their staff certainly does not hurt sales. I’m not sure why keeping the original lineup with Zoe Gulliksen (@bookishbelle on Twitter) would have made it any less authentic than it already was.   If Kevin Smith doesn’t believe women in comic book shops is a reality, well he needs to shop at other stores besides his own.

What could have made it better?  More than 8.1 million viewers watched The Walking Dead last night.  This translated into 2 million viewers for CBM, and who knows how many prospective consumers of print and digital comics?  Surely these viewers could have been treated to a discussion about other indie comics.  You enjoy The Walking Dead?  Let’s talk about American Vampire, or Chew, instead of little tidbits like who is the hottest female character (yawn.) Argue with a passion about the new Catwoman. And sure maybe a knowledgeable woman or two would’ve helped.  Bring in a guest star – I mean Rachel Maddow reads comics.  Hey, make them all women.  Anything but this. A sorely needed and missed opportunity to get new and relapsed readers.

Let us mourn together.

@amychu

Impressive Feat: One Man Lord of the Rings

5 Feb

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If you are a fan of Lord of the Rings, nay, a fan of the Peter Jackson LOTR, you will be rolling in the aisles if can catch Charles Ross” one man show. Ross manages to squeeze all three extended DVD versions in one compact show by recreating the highlights with some hilarious interpretations.

His dizzying array of impersonations from Frodo all the way to Treebeard left the audience rolling in the aisles and gasping for air.  It’s an incredibly physical performance – he had to stop twice to get some water. But his ability to recreate key battle scenes solo is something to behold.  This is a show for the hardcore audience.  To fully appreciate it, rewatch the trilogy (preferably the extended version) before so you can keep up with fast-paced sequences and inside jokes.

One Man Lord of the Rings will be coming to New York Feb 17-19.  More performances listed here:

http://www.onemanlotr.com/?page_id=32

https://www.facebook.com/pages/One-Man-Lord-of-the-Rings/285605143733

Indy Creator Spotlight: Rob Anderson & Da Fu Yu

22 May

Experiencing zombie fatigue?  There’s a novel twist on the horizon- look out for Rex, Zombie Killer coming out in June. I’ve seen the early script and artwork and it promises to be an action packed and entertaining issue.  In the wake of a zombie apocalypse, Rex, the golden retriever, and his pack of animal buddies set out on a crosscountry journey of survival.  Look for it at Panda Dog Press at Heroes Con in Charlotte, NC.  Here’s a sneak peak:

http://www.pandadogpress.com/2011/05/rex-zombie-killer-launches-in-june.html