Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Books you ought not to ignore

I generally try to avoid discussing uber-nerdy things like video games and comics on this blog (that's what the other one's for), but I feel the need to express my meaningless endorsement for Neil Gaiman & John Romita Jr.'s Eternals mini series. Yes, it is a comic book. A Marvel comic book to be exact. Yeah, it mentions guys like Spider-Man and all that. It also ties heavily into the previous history of the Eternals (a near-godlike race of ancient supermen genetically---look, its complicated, ok?) Right, so, Marvel continuity gets touched on, but its not essential to the story. There's a whole big "Civil War" event going on over Superhuman Registration that gets mentioned, but isn't important here. You don't have to know about it to enjoy what's going on. Gaiman's writing is good. The guys got an ear for dialogue and can deliver on off-the-wall concepts, and the Eternals, created by comic god Jack Kirby, definitely are. There's a whole bunch of plot threads going on, but I get the feeling that "all will be revealed" when its all said and done. And Romita Jr.'s art is really damn good. Sometimes he's a little "blocky" for me (like some of his Punisher stuff), but not here. Its all good. I've gotta say, if you're looking for an inroad into the world of comics as deeply rewarding storytelling, this may not be as artsy as an indie comic (or Vertigo, for that matter-->See Gaiman's Sandman), but its a good way to ease into parts of the Marvel Universe that don't involve Spider-Man or Wolverine.
And for Pete's sake, if there's one thing comics need less of right now, its Wolverine.

Besides, its a mini, so six issues and you can pretend you never stepped into a comic shop.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Reservations and the lack thereof

Well, its about a week till I climb aboard a heavier-than-air marvel of engineering and hope I safely land in Dublin. And if not that, then at least the peanuts had better be good. Its strange. Most of the flight arrangements have been taken care of. I’ve begun test packing to see what I’m going to have to exclude from the suitcase, figuring out what book to read on the flight, little stuff like that. Basically, it’s a lull in the action, much like the point where you realize you’ve strapped yourself into the roller coaster, but the fun part hasn’t started yet. Its that middle part in between, where every second that goes by with another clunk is a stark reminder that bit by bit, the comfort of the ground is slowly slipping away whether you want it to or not. At least there’s no ratcheting “Klink klink klink” sound as you get dragged to the crest of the hill. It’s not quite the eerie silence before the plummet where you begin to have reservations on it being good idea after all. It’s the moment when you realize that the eerie silence is close at hand.

Surprisingly, I’ve managed to find time for television amid all this chaos. Not a whole lot of television, so most of that time’s been spent on the Travel Channel. Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations is a show I’ve been slowly getting into over the last couple of months here and there, but its finally won me over. The premise is simple; famous author and chef travels around the world and tells you what he thinks. It’s a great show because he eats everything, even the nasty stuff. Greater still is his command of language and imagery. The guy knows his narrative stuff. Now, on a completely opposite end of the spectrum is Passport to Europe which, while showing interesting places in Europe, just doesn’t have the whole “I want to go out of my way to watch this” factor. Actually the only reason I did watch it was because they went to Dublin.

And I’ve just run out of stuff to say, so I’ll stop.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Tto the MAXXX!!

So I’m sitting here wondering what to write about. Ah, what the hell. Here’s a book review. I mean, uh, a book review so X-TREEEM it’ll rip your face off and wear it to a masquerade ball!

Miyamoto Musashi’s “A Book of Five Rings” is like a lesser known “Art of War.” Basically, it’s a treatise on strategy and warfare written just before the samurai’s death. Its written in short, economic sentences. What’s interesting about it (and completely contrary to pretty much any anime out there) is that he advocates learning to be tactically flexible, study the enemy, adapt tactics, and use any weapon at your disposal to win. He has no “super-ultimate” attack that’s guaranteed to win. In fact, he shows scorn on martial arts styles that limit themselves to only one style of combat. He says long swords, short swords, bows, spears, guns, cannon whatever all have tactical uses and a victorious warrior will never look down any of them. Adding weight to his argument is his resume of winning over sixty duels before he turned thirty. One of those duels was won with an oar. He killed a man with an OAR.


Thursday, July 13, 2006

A Symphony of Terror for Moog and Slide Whistle

Well, it was a late work night last night, so I didn’t get this posted before collapsing from exhaustion. So its getting posted now. And through the miracle of the “internet” if you’re reading the archive for fun (though what madness could impel that idea escapes me) it’ll appear in a sequential format, and it’ll be like there was no missing day at all. Except for this incriminating paragraph. Curses! Foiled by my own verbosity!

Rounding out my foray into classics of early German cinema is F.W. Murnau’s Nosferatu. Its from 1922, so it predates Metropolis by five years and it definitely lacks the polish and film quality of the latter. Still, it definitely deserves its place in the hallowed halls of film classics. The plot is essentially an unauthorized bastardization of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Guy goes to Transylvania and is essentially responsible for bringing a vampire to his home town. Vampire takes a ship and kills the crew before leaving a bloody mess in said town before finally being stopped. There’s even a crazy lunatic. Ok, so the plot’s pretty straightforward.

Admittedly, the directing is also usually straightforward too. But there are moments of visual awesomeness. You’ve probably seen the hunched and spooky shadow of a figure creeping up a stairway? That’s from Nosferatu. And its one of the best shots ever. Also, Count Orlock is probably my favorite movie vampire ever. Freaky looking as all hell and a downright monster with creepy monster hands. Another interesting technique Murnau used was adding different filters to set the mood of the place. This being a monochrome picture, it’s a little difficult to tell a lot of the time whether its day or night outdoors (since they probably filmed all the outdoor stuff during daylight so it would come up on film), so a blue tint was added to make it look a little more like night time without being nearly as dark as actual night.

The only real complaint I have about the movie is that, well, the soundtrack does sound rather digitized. This being a silent film and all, the original score must’ve deteriorated, so a substitute was put in. It does get the job done, but it doesn’t sound nearly as good as Metropolis’. And yes, parts of it do sound like a slide whistle.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Undead Monkey Ahoy

Right, so, as I loosely promised last night, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest was on the plate for today (yeah, I’m a few days behind the curve. I know).

I must admit to being a little torn about it. Visually, the movie knocks it out of the park. ILM did a hell of a job with Davey Jones and the Flying Dutchman’s crew. The story was great for an action movie, with the plot and subplots all moving forward at a nice clip. Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow is exactly as he should be and the movie lets you know that he’s the center of the POTC universe, and that’s a good thing. Keira Knightley is still sigh-inducingly beautiful. It’s a great movie. There’s no doubt about that. You will leave the theatre thoroughly entertained.
Its just that the POTC: Curse of the Black Pearl left me leaving the theatre with the heady euphoria of seeing something extraordinarily new and original. While there’s no lack of big awe-inspiring moments in Dead Man’s Chest, some of the sense of wonder is missing. Part of has to be the fact that the Disney Marketing Machine™ has put their entire weight behind this movie, unlike the previous one. The toys and books have been out since at least May, so Davey Jones isn’t nearly as surprising when you first see him. Oh sure, there’s stuff later on that provides some great surprises. In the first film, Jack Sparrow’s an unstoppable force. Crazy as a loon, yes, but someone with an ace up his sleeve whenever he needs it. It feels slightly less like that in this movie. He’s still Jack Sparrow, but he’s unnerved this time around.

One thing that was an absolute joy about this sequel was that it kept a lot of characters around from the first one. Some, like Jack’s crew, are logical nods to continuity. Others make for some great surprises that I’m not going to spoil here. The great thing about them is that even the side characters actually get to grow and develop too. Be prepared for a “to be continued” ending though. Although Empire Strikes Back ending on a similar note, so its not a big deal. Audiences loved the first one, they love the second one, and they’re going to keep on lovin’ the franchise. At least as long as they don’t decide they want to make prequels.

And yes, there is an undead monkey that Jack loves to shoot. S’wonderful, really.

Not Your Superman’s Metropolis


I have just had sweet cinema lovin’ made to me. No. Its not Pirates of the Caribbean (that’s tomorrow). I’m talking about Fritz Lang’s 1927 silent masterpiece, Metropolis. Man, I’m still soaking it all in. The Germans know operatic, and this, this WAS operatic. Take a city of the future, built on the backs of drudging workers. Have the son of the genius behind the city discover that there’s more than fornication in a pleasure garden. Add a love interest that gets replaced by a robot duplicate by a crazy old guy with a mechanical hand and you’ve got a swiftly complicating plotline. At first, it seems like the movie’s going to go all “downtrodden workers rising up against the corporate masters,” and it does…in a way. Then it goes and spits in Marx’s face (I love when that happens) by going biblical. Great Flood kind of biblical. Tower of Babel kind of biblical. And the special effects are just about as good as they can get for being an 80 year old film. The “mascot” of the movie, the robot woman (they called it a machine-man in the movie) was really well done, and you can see where Lucas got the idea for C-3PO. Hell, there’s even a surreal stripshow, so there’s something for everybody.

I have to recommend this movie. If you call yourself a film buff, you’ve probably already seen it, unless of course you’re a filthy liar or just a misguided soul like I was who simply hadn’t had the chance to see this work of wonder. If you’re a fan of Modernism, its got stuff you’d like. Hell, even if you just casually like movies (like most of the people in the world) give this film a look. Some of the acting (particularly by the character of Maria) is just so crazy and brilliant at the same time. The lighting of the film is phenomenal. There are some shots where I was simply floored by the innovation and imagery used.

Look-just--Its good--Oh for heaven’s sake, just see the movie for yourself!

Saturday, July 08, 2006

You WILL Believe a Franchise can Fly...Again

I was going to post something yesterday, but it was a cold lifeless list of all the places I’ve traveled to in my short lifetime. And in all honesty, I didn’t post it because I would’ve felt like an ass.

Anyway, I got myself to a silver screen and witnessed a nifty motion picture called Superman Returns. I’m sure you’ve heard of it. Some may have even seen it. Me? I enjoyed the hell out of it. I thought it was a great story that made me care about Superman, something that hasn’t happened much since “The Death of Superman” back when I was a wee little lad. Right, so what worked? Kevin Spacey as Luthor is charming, intelligent and batshit crazy when he needs to be. His jolly little line about “Krrrrrryptonite” as he was taunting Superman before kicking him over and over in the gut was great. That and he didn’t treat his henchmen like they were dead weight. It was great seeing him get mad whenever he lost a henchman. I thought Routh’s Superman was on par with Reeve’s (blasphemy, I know) and that his Clark Kent was even better. It was also nice seeing James Marsden actually given significant screen time in a superhero movie. Turns out Jean didn’t kill Cyclops. She de-powered him and sent him to a better movie (OH SNAP!) Jimmy Olson, though given little screen time, was good, and not nearly the god awful annoyance that Pre-Crisis Jimmy Olson was. If you don’t know what that means, trust me, Jimmy done badly will make you want to kill him. To be honest, I didn’t really feel that Kate Bosworth’s Lois really worked for me, but she didn’t hurt the movie either.

What I absolutely loved about Superman Returns was that it placed Supes in just about the most awkward position possible when he returns. He’s ready to start up his life again at the Daily Planet and finds out that in the 5 years he’s been gone, Lois Lane has gone and had a kid and gotten herself a great guy for a fiancĂ©e. You just gotta empathize with Clark when he finds out Richard’s a great guy who absolutely loves Lois. I give the guy a lot of credit for cockblocking Superman.
Oh yeah, and some action stuff happens too.

Now I must make special not of the preview trailers. Spider-Man 3 was the only trailer worth seeing. Everything else was just mind-numbingly retarded. It is very sad to think that the shitty animated movies of our youth have been supplanted my shitty CG movies of the present. Male cows do not have udders you utterly deplorable people at Nickelodeon responsible for Barnyard!!! UDDERS ARE THE MAMMARY GLANDS OF COWS!!! MALE COWS DO NOT HAVE THEM BECAUSE THEY ARE CALLED BULLS!!! ARRRRRRGGHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!! JUST THINKING ABOUT THAT TRAILER MAKES ME WISH VIOLENCE UPON THE WORLD!

Ahem, so, anyway, the Spidey 3 trailer was full of Black Costumey goodness (its not really a spoiler since its all over the teaser). Can’t wait for that next year.

Catch you on the flipside.