Watched a spattering of movies this week. Still going strong with my Western Reviews for cineAWESOME! and I found myself enjoying Navajo Joe much, much more than I had anticipated. I was quite happy to get some black & white love in this week with Edward G Robinson's angry demento The Red House. And yeah, I got burned by Nicolas Cage...again. I love you, sir. But Drive Angry seems like forever ago.
The real joys of the week were Batman related. Cracking back into Grant Morrison's run on the series. Sooooooo goooooood. I should be all caught up with Batman Incorporated by next week. However! My favorite bit of joy this week was....
TV OF THE WEEK!
Batman - The Brave & The Bold Season 3: Holy Series Finales, Batman! As much as I love Bruce Timm's Animated Series, The Brave & The Bold has become one of my all time favorite shows period. For funny book geeks like me there is no better love letter to the wackiness of Comics Past than this cartoon. And, sadly, it's over. But for it's final 12 episodes we get oddball partnerships with Space Ghost and Captain Atom as well as fistfights with forgotten absurdities like The Weeper and Equinox! And for the final episode? It's Batmite vs. Ambush Bug for the fate of the series! It's wonderfully bonkers and if you claim to love comic books than you must absolutely be familiar with The Brave & The Bold. Essential viewing.
MOVIES OF THE WEEK!
Navajo Joe: Burt Reynolds is Navajo husband out for revenge against the brutal bandits that slaughtered his wife and tribe. Directed by Sergioi Corbucci, the film is not as crazed as other macaroni efforts like Django or The Great Silence but there is plenty of wicked glee in the way the camera lingers on the horror of vengeance. Reynolds is even more ridiculous here as a Navajo than he is as the half breed desperado in 100 Bullets but he gets the job done and there is a fantastic tomahawk climax to make up for his stilted speech. Read my further ramblings over at cineAWESOME!
Don't Be Afraid of the Dark: Thanks to some Arthur Machen/Algernon Blackwood enhanced backstory, screenwriters Guillermo Del Toro & Matthew Robbins reinvigorate the "haunted house" story with a herd of tooth craving gremlins scurrying the dark halls instead of your expected moaning poltergeists. Guy Pearce has a rather thankless role as the self-involved divorced dad, but it's Katie Holmes who is the real surprise as the Try Hard Stepmother struggling to understand her seemingly delusional step daughter. First time director Troy Nixey excels with the shadows and the scrambling CG creations, and even if the script is a little predictable the story offers up some serious scares and at least one heckuva powerful killing.
Seeking Justice: Nicolas Cage seems imprisoned within the script of this painfully routine rape revenge drama and it's frustrating to see his mega acting restrained inside this Direct-To-DVD jail. After the boring as dirt January Jones is assaulted by some faceless fiend, Cage makes a bargains with Guy Pearce's mysterious vigilante organization and obviously nothing will come from that, right? Oh wait, now Pearce calls upon Cage to commit murder and he don't want to--snooze. Pearce is definitely creepy with his shaved head and dangly silver necklace, but instead of exploring the implications of a Death Wish conspiracy, Seeking Justice only bothers with the cliches. Roger Donaldson has directed a lot of missed opportunities with Species, White Sands, Cocktail, The Recruit, The Bank Job, and Seeking Justice is just another not-quite good movie.
The Red House: "He amputated the leg on the Morgan kitchen table." When high schooler Lon McCallister volunteers his strapping young man services to Edward G Robinson's gimpy farmer he gets more than he bargained for with screaming forest night calls and a spooky hidden farmhouse guarded by a philandering rifleman. The plot drags a little in the middle, but The Red House is an odd ball noirish gem directed with a twisting eye for lighting and performed with psychotic glee from Robinson. The man can throw a table like no other.
Moonrise Kingdom: Another entertaining, wonderfully artificial Wes Anderson production that focuses less on the name actors like Bill Murray and Bruce Willis and more on the child runaways discovering love in a Hank Williams scored universe. The kids seem bred for the Anderson/Coppola dialog and their stilted fondlings seem both sweet and menacing on the big screen. But I gotta say that this failed to connect to me emotionally the way other Anderson films have in the past and I left the theater a touch unengaged. But I've felt this way before, I loathed my first experience with The Life Aquatic and that' s now one of my favorites. So who knows?
COMICS OF THE WEEK!
Ultimate Doomsday: When mysterious dimensional aliens start targeting the Marvel Universes top scientists (including The Fantastic Four's Reed Richards and your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man) it's up to Sue Storm and a newly transformed Ben Grimm to get to the bottom of the mystery. With this mini series, Brian Michael Bendis wraps up a few ideas hinted at in Ultimate Origins, Ultimate Power, & the Roxxon Clone Story arc from Ultimate Spider-Man. It's been a while since I've seen the Ultimate Universe diverge in such a significant way from the original timeline, but with this arc we've got a new villain not seen before in the 616. Bendis also pushes the cloned Spider Woman into the forefront, revealing a fascinating new character I'm excited to see more of in the current Ultimate Spider-Man series. You can't really talk about this saga in depth without revealing the big bad, but it really does turn these series of Ultimate books into a much more complex world than other event books like Jeph Loeb's lackluster Ultimatum. A good, solid read.
Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #11: Woo Hoo! I'm all caught up on Ultimate Spider-Man! Frankly, I didn't think I was gonna be able to do it but thanks to The Wife devouring my old hardcovers I plowed through and here I am buying single issue again. Feels good. And Bendis really is firing on all cylinders with this series; Miles Morales has brought new life to this series. Miles and his Prowler uncle go head-to-head with The Scorpion and it's a nice taste of some serious horror I'm guessing the new Spidey has in his future. But the real excitement comes at the end of this issue...Aunt May is coming!
Spider-Men #1: Ok. So I don't know how I feel about this yet. Peter Parker of the Marvel 616 universe and Mile Morales of the Ultimate Universe collide in one big event book celebrating 50 years of Spider-Man. Since it's a first issue there's not much to talk about. Peter gets zapped into the Ultimate world thanks to some strange Mysterio magic and swings into the black Spider-Man. Done. This could be a really interesting book with the 616 Peter Parker discovering the fate of his Ultimate counterpart and I would love for him to meet this world's Gwen Stacy...a lot of potential here. For good and bad.
Winter Soldier #7: Nothing really new to say about this series. The Sleeper Agent story is still building and it looks like it's going to play heavily into the Black Widow's backstory. Cool. Still, I can't help but pine for the glory days of Ed Brubaker's Captain America run. This just feels like generic by-the-numbers stuff. Waiting for the series to open up a bit and surprise me. I really want to love Bucky again.
BPRD Hell on Earth - The Devil's Engine: Agent Devon and Fenix are still trying to make their way back to the Bureau HQ but the monsters of this New Earth just refuse to make it easy for them. After the devastating train wreck of the last issue, the two runaways are pursued by horrifying crabby beasts who want to munch munch munch. Meanwhile the Zinco Corporation and a couple of your favorite evil Nazis are about to raise "The Master." I've said it before and I'll say it again, neither of the big two comic book companies have ever succeeded in a game changer event as beautifully realized Mignola & Co's Hell on Earth.
Batman - Whatever Happened To The Caped Crusader: "I fight until I drop. And one day, I will drop." Neil Gaiman & Andy Kubert write the final Batman story. It's Crime Alley, the murderer Joe Chill tends bar as heroes and villains shuffle into the backroom funeral service for The Dark Knight. The Cat-Woman tells her tale of a dying Batman. So does Alfred. And The Joker. And Clayface. Each supporting player has a different story. And all the while Bruce Wayne is trapped in his head, contemplating his last moments as Gotham's Caped Crusader. What's it all about? I've become quite the weepy in my old age, and the final two pages of this two-issue story wrapped me with choking emotion. Impressively, Gaiman & Kubert succeed in telling the last Bat story even when it most certainly is not.
Batman and Robin - Batman & Robin Reborn: Bruce Wayne is dead. Want proof? His cowl shrouded corpse rests inside a vault down in the Bat Cave. Can't come back from that, right? Putting the cliche's of comics aside, Grant Morrison's Silver Age obsessed run on Batman has been crazy amounts of fun for fans of both the character and the medium. Watching Dick Grayson struggle to control his new Robin, Damien Wayne is tremendous especially when Morrison's bonkers plots pits them against the insane Professor Pyg and his Circus of the Strange. This is not just Joker battle #5,007. Batman & Robin is a lot like The Brave & The Bold cartoon only brutal & disturbing instead of joyous & daffy. In previous Bat narratives, Morrison has peeled back the history of Batman exposing a bizarre world of International Batmen and inter dimensional purple suits. But with the first arc of Batman & Robin the mad writer is fleshing out his own special brand of lunacy with unstoppable Dollotrons and Flamingo assassins scaring up Gotham City. My only wish is that Frank Quitely's beautifully grotesque art could have stayed on for the remainder of the series.
Batman and Robin - Batman vs Robin: So remember that Bruce Wayne corpse in the basement? Dick Grayson drags it across the pond to merry ol' England and with the help of Batwoman, he attempts a little resurrection via a newly found Lazarus pit. Nothing wrong can go here, right? There is quite a bit of love lettering going on here from Grant Morrison as he drags out the British guest stars of The Beefeater and Knight & Squire. Plus the Pearly Court of Crime! But this book really doesn't excite me till Talia Al Ghul reemerges and commits some fairly heinous bodily horror against her son Damien. And oh yeah, how 'bout all that Bat Devil worshipping hiding in the Wayne Family History. You thought Morrison's Batman was nuts before, just you wait...
Batman and Robin - Batman & Robin Must Die: Grant Morrison's Batman & Robin reaches some of its darkest heights with the revelation of Oberon Sexton and the plot to bring about the Bat Beast Apocalypse. Dick Grayson, Damien Wayne, and The Joker team up to take down an undead member of the Wayne Family and it's all dark secrets and hidden agendas that bring about a return to the status quo. But I somehow don't mind when it's being handled by the illusionist pen of Grant Morrison. I really cannot sing his praises enough, this is some of the best Bat Writing the character has ever experienced. And some of the weirdest. Bring on Batman, INC!
FIELD TRIP OF THE WEEK!
Steven Wright at The Warner Theater: On Friday The Wife, Matt, and myself trekked on into DC to see the man with the smooth dulcet tones word play his way into our hearts. I'm not sure what my first exposure was to Steven Wright--it was probably a guest spot on Mad About You or the opening credits to Reservoir Dogs, but I feel like I've been a fan since birth. He doesn't appear to work for your laughs but he always succeeds thanks to his big giant brain. And seeing him live in person was a hoot. We had great seats in the orchestra pit, right in the middle, and some of the best moments were just watching him crack up over his own comedy. They were brief and you had to be on the look out, but it was adorable. Also, I'd just like to say how much I love DC. All within one block of each other you've got the Warner Theater, E Street Cinemas, and Ford's Theater. And oh yeah! Zombie Coffee!