Sunday, May 20, 2012

Matt’s Week in Dork! (5/13/12-5/19/12)

     Got an unusual amount of comic reading in this week.  Not a lot of movie, and those mostly at the end of the week.

Pippi Longstocking:  Dubbing.  Bad dubbing.  I imagine this would be a charming children’s film if it weren’t for the absolutely awful dubbing.  It sounds like all the children and all the women are voiced by the same woman.  And I think the men may all be by the same guy.  It has pretty good production design and the story is fun.  But I just couldn’t get past the terrible voice work.  A young kid might still enjoy it, if he/she is too young to notice how bad the audio is.  It eventually becomes somewhat interminable.

The Fury:  Psychics and spies, man.  You can’t trust ‘em.  After all the psychedelic drugs, government betrayals, and scientific advancements of the mid 20th Century, pseudoscience and hucksterism became pretty commonplace.  And science fiction, especially movies, took it up with a passion.  Along with the rise of religious based horror movies like The Exorcist there was a rise of this sort of pseudoscience horror films like Firestarter, Scanners, Spontaneous Combustion, and this, among many others.  I think there was a genuine feeling that we as humans were changing dramatically, awakening psychically.  Of course, it’s all bunk, but it made for some pretty cool movies.  I do love a good conspiracy story, and psychic powers give it a little something extra.  Kirk Douglass is pretty cool in this one, too.  Honestly, the movie goes on a bit too long.  But it’s not bad.

Alien:  A slow-burn, classic monster movie with post-Star Wars, lived-in future setting, Alien stands as not just a great science fiction film or a great horror film.  It’s a great film.  Exceptionally well crafted, it balances scares and gore with a fantastic cast of believable, likable characters.  When bad things happen, you care.  You want these people to do OK, because they’re just like you.  The effects still look good 30 years on.  The creature design is one of the most iconic in film.  The music, the direction, the acting are all top notch.  This is a classic.

Aliens:  Totally different in tone, scope, and style, this James Cameron follow-up to Alien is a grand, balls-out action movie with lots of quotable lines, colorful if not especially well developed characters, cool tech, and lots of thrills.  Roving hoards of alien soldiers rampage through dark, cluttered hallways as humans try desperately to stay alive and escape.  For a long time, I said I love both Alien and Aliens, for different reasons.  In recent years, I’ve realized that for me, though lots of fun and very cool, Aliens is not as good a film.  It’s solid.  It more than gets the job done.  But in the grand scheme of cinema history, I don’t think it stands the test as well.  That said, still a totally awesome flick, and an interesting sequel.  A must see for action sci-fi fans.

Tracker:  After loosing everything during the Boer War, a weary South African (Ray Winstone) travels to New Zealand looking for…something.  Returning home, a Maori (Temuera Morrison) whaler seeks something as well.  A pursuit through the wilderness ensues, with each man learning of the other, and themselves.  This is one of those classic ‘men’ movies like they made in the 60s and 70s, about loss, honor, shame, redemption, dignity, and respect.  Shot like a classic Western, it feels a bit out of time, but not at all in a bad way.

London Boulevard:  Bad guy Colin Farrell is fresh out of the pen and looking to change his life’s direction.  But you know, they keep pulling you back in, criminals do.  He tries to go straight, working for a reclusive actress, but beastly criminal overlord Ray Winstone is having none of that.  Like a lot of British films, much of the actual violence is off screen or less explicit/graphic, but there is an intense dread (perhaps caused by this very thing) that permeates the film.  A solid UK crime film, stylish without being style driven, which can be a problem in British movies these days.  Great soundtrack.  If you have a problem with accents, especially the London lower class types, you might need subtitles.

Night Call Nurses:  What the crap, man?  The 70s were weird.  The tone is all over the place.  The encounter group strip sequence is all kinds of sketchy.  Creepy stalkers.  Bad ADR.  Prowling Dick Miller.  And so much strange social semi-consciousness.  Touchy feely (literally) psychology is downright icky.  And that wacky flasher.  He’s so sweet.  Thank goodness there’s also a transvestite psycho killer.  And for the record, a pill-poppin,’ motor-mouthed redneck might not be the best choice to drive a get-away vehicle.  I do miss those natural women of the 70s, though.

Candy Stripe Nurses:  “Even the streakers move better than that!”  Young women get into the sex-charged world of candy striping.  It’s pretty much just wall to wall sex, with dashes of violence, drugs, and rock n’ roll to spice things up.  And then they go to the sex clinic and things really get out of hand.  What’s weird is that in spite of my hatred of the so called pixie cut, the girl who has one in this movie is adorable.  She has an charm that shines through in pretty much every scene.  The Frank Zappa looking rocker is a trip.  And the whole search for a witness subplot takes things in some weird directions.  Dick Miller heckling some basketball players is a highlight.

    Waking up Sunday morning, after the madness of Shat Attack V, Brad, John, and I kept things going with a few episodes of the Star Trek animated series.  The show has some real problems.  The animation isn’t good.  The voice work is spotty.  And some episodes are crap.  But, being animated, they’re able to carry ideas further, and generally do grander concepts.

    Keeping the Shatner/Trek thing going, Brad, Ben, and I watched Balance of Terror, the first episode to feature the Romulans.  I like the Romulans more in the original series, where they’re dignified and dangerous, not the shifty back-stabbers of Next Gen.  Then Ben and I watched a childhood favorite of mine, Devil in the Dark, with the very alien Horta.

    A bunch of us went out to see The Avengers.  It was my second time seeing it, the other three’s first.  Enjoyed by all.  On my second go, I found a few new fun bits.  Excellent popcorn entertainment.  It may be a bit over done with Scarlett Johansson in a catsuit.  But worse things could happen.

    Knocked out a couple more episodes of Charlie’s Angels, which is sadly not keeping me as excited.  Season one was so much fun, but season two doesn’t have the magic.  It’s OK.  Just not as good.

    I read the first issue of Boom! Studio’s new series Higher Earth by Sam Humphries.  Not too much happens (a lot of action with little story), but it does introduce a potentially interesting setting involving multiple Earths.  The art by Francesco Biagini isn’t bad and the final image in the issue makes me want to see what happens next.

    I followed that up with the Free Comic Book Day double of Serenity and Star Wars.  Both stories were written by Zack Whedon.  They’re fine, very brief, self contained tales.  The Star Wars art by Davide Fabbri is pretty good.  But I really, really didn’t like the Fabio Moon work on Serenity.  I would love to see Serenity continue as an ongoing comic or something.  But I sure as heck wouldn’t want to see it drawn by Moon.  There are a couple other little tidbits in the issue; glimpses of other Dark Horse projects.  Alabaster, by Caitlin R. Kiernan interests me not at all.  But Brian Wood’s The Massive seems like it has potential.  I’ll be curious to see what it looks like when it actually comes out.

    “What hath mad science wrought?!”  Atomic Robo is one of those comics that I just know I should be reading, but for whatever reason, I’m not.  It’s kind of like a more light hearted Hellboy, with lots of retro-science fiction stuff.  Reading the Free Comic Book Day issue reminded me I should really grab the first trade.  Also included were short teasers for NeoZoic, which seems like it could be a cool idea, but didn’t really pique my interest, and Bonnie Lass, which wasn’t even a little bit interesting to me and has dreadful art.

    While I was on a kick of reading stapled together comics, I dipped back into some of the New 52 first issues I hadn’t read.  Green Lantern: New Guardians was up, and it was OK.  It’s a Kyle Rayner centered series I guess, so…well, meh.  I am curious what the deal is with what happens in the issue.  I don’t know if it’s enough to pick up the trade or not, but maybe.  Tyler Kirkham’s art isn’t especially memorable, but it gets the job done.

    Following that, I read Teen Titans, a totally forgettable bunch of ho-hum.  The great thing about the Teen Titans is that it takes characters I don’t care about, and makes young versions of them.  Because EVERYONE likes to see younger versions of characters.  Like with the Star Wars prequel movies.  I always wanted to see a child version of Darth Vader and Boba Fett.  Didn’t you?  Kid Flash?  Wonder Girl?  F this comic.  How do you make me like the Justice League even less?  Make them all teenagers.

    And I read Batman, which was pretty much the same-old same-old for the Bat.  Dark, dark, dark.   Brood, brood, brood.  The artwork is OK.  But like so much Batman, it feels like they’re just going over all the same stuff yet again.  I want to like Batman more than I do.  I think he can be a genuinely interesting character (see: Batman Begins).  But it seems there’s some unwillingness to really DO anything with him that hasn’t been done a dozen or more times before.  I’ll be skipping the trades of this one.  But I imagine if you’re normally into reading Batman, there’s plenty to like, since it appears to be the same thing you’ve been enjoying for years.

    All Star Western’s first issue was up next.  I dig the idea of Jonah Hex, but I never really read any of his comics.  I’ve liked when he’s shown up in the various cartoons.  And I didn’t totally hate the movie (though it is pretty awful).  Plus, with my getting hooked on Red Dead Redemption a couple years ago (during my awesome Western month), I’ve just got a general hankering for some grim Western action.  Bringing a classic DC Western character into early Gotham is an interesting choice.  I don’t know if it’s a good one.  The plot of this comic feels pretty much like From Hell, if Eastwood’s Man With No Name were the central character.  There’s a Mason-like secret society, murdered whores, bumbling cops, and all the usual.  The team-up with Dr. Arkham (obviously, the guy the asylum is named for) could be really cool, but I have a strong feeling it’s going to get botched.  Plus, the fact that he’s drawn to look like a raving maniac in most panels makes me think it’s going to be one of those “what a twist!!!” endings where he’s the real killer or something like that.  It’s intriguing enough that I might consider reading it in trade.  We’ll see.

    Now, here’s a random one.  I read a ‘Marvel One-Shot’ called Thor: Man of War, written by comic golden boy Matt Fraction.  I’ve never been much of a Thor fan, though I enjoyed the new movie.  I feel like this is supposed to be a sort of origin story.  Mostly it’s just Thor being combative and Odin wanting to slap him down.  The art is pretty good, plenty dramatic.  I don’t know enough about the overall Thor comic mythology to catch any references, so I don’t know if it has anything extra for fans.  But it was a decent story, and it might make me want to read more, depending one who was involved and where the story might go.

    Heck, why not follow that up with another Thor comic?   So I did.  Once again, Matt Fraction is on the scene with Thor: Ages of Thunder.  This is a far more grand and mythological story with titanic battles between gods and frost giants.  Thor feels kinda like Conan here, or like, well Thor of mythology.  The art is fittingly wide screen, with panels sometimes stretching across both pages, and lots of almost painterly images.  Considering the last page has a ‘to be continued in…,’ I don’t’ think the folks at Marvel quite get what a ‘one-shot’ is.  Or, I don’t get what they’re doing.  Still, it works fairly well on its own.  Am I gonna have to find a Thor trade to read?  Probably not.  But maybe.

    One more Thor issue.  This time, Thor: The Truth of History written and drawn by Alan Davis.  The book looks and feels more “comic booky” than the other two I read.  Less mythological.  Still, it’s a fun kind of goofy tale that reaches back to ancient Egypt.  Thor is a pretty crazy character to have in the Marvel universe.  Actually, really crazy.

    For a change of pace, I read the first issue of IDW’s post 2009 movie Star Trek comic.  I guess there’s nothing wrong with it.  It’s fairly well written and the art isn’t bad.  But shoehorning the plot from my personal favorite original series episode, Where No Man Has Gone Before into the new universe feels all kinds of wrong.  This timeline is too different to revisit stories, or at least to revisit them in much the same way they were originally done.  I wouldn’t mind them working in Gary Mitchell and Lee Kelso, or Elizabeth Dehner for that matter.  But the way it’s done doesn’t sit right with me.  And as it looks like it’ll be sticking pretty slavishly to the plot points of the episode, I don’t feel any particular desire to read on.

    Another of DC’s New 52 first issues down with Men of War #1.  The updating of Sergeant Rock doesn’t do anything for me.  Rock, like Jonah Hex, is too connected to his era.  When I think Sgt. Rock, I think the Second World War, not modern combat.  And nothing in the first issue captured my interest.  The art is fine and the writing seems OK.  Just not my cup of tea.

    Then on to another New 52, Blackhawks.  The art in this is just too anime for my taste, and very little actually happens in the issue.  No interesting characters or plotlines appear in the first issue.  And while I always dug the old comic (what very little of it I ever read), this one doesn’t appeal to me at all.  Frankly, the dialog feels kind of like something out of Claremont’s X-Men…and that ain’t good.  Not as bad, by any means.  But along those lines.

    And, why not.  #1 of The Flash.  Now, here’s a character I’ve just never cared for.  I watched the TV show that came out in the post Tim Burton Batman days, but mostly because I had a crush on Amanda Payes from her time on Max Headroom.  But in comics, meh.  And I never much cared for his various appearances in the cartoons, either.  This issue seems like a good jumping off point if the character interests you at all.  It leaves you with a good ‘huh?’ moment, and a potentially good mystery.  But I still don’t care about The Flash.  The art is a little uneven, sometimes quite nice, others not.

    Finally, the last of the New 52 first issues Brad and/or I picked up, Wonder Woman.  The art is OK and the writing pretty good.  There could be a pretty good story being set up.  But, it could easily become hackneyed if the writer isn’t careful.  Wonder Woman is one of those characters I’ve always wanted to like, but have been given very little reason to do so, and much more not to.  So, I hope Brian Azzarello is going to bring the goods.

    All this comic reading got me rummaging through some boxes, where I came up with a bunch of Free Comic Book Day issues from last year that I didn’t read.  Not to mention my haul from SPX, which I picked at, but didn’t read a great deal of.  First off the pile was Green Lantern: Special Edition.  It was a piece of some larger ‘Secret Origin’ story, which basically just told the Lantern’s origin story, with an added detail about Abin Sur’s final flight.  Then there’s some teaser for their ‘Flashpoint’ story, which I gather was designed to set the stage for the New 52.  Not much of anything interesting in this issue, at least, not for John Q. Public (read: me).


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