Like my co-dork, this time of year my life is pretty much consumed by work. That being said, I still managed to watch a crap ton of movies and read nearly an equal amount of comic books. And boy, I really needed the downtime that these delicious confections had to offer. And if there was one through line of the week, it would have to be The Great One - Tom Cruise. As I get older and Tom Cruise seems to receive more and more hate from the masses, I find myself gravitating more and more to his special brand of insanity and undeniable charm. You look at a film like Knight & Day and you gotta imagine that he's in on the joke. But then you watch a film like Collateral and you realize he can deliver a cold, brutal performance. And then you've got Jack Reacher...well, you'll just have to wait till you reach the end of the week for my feelings on Lee Child's creation.
Trek Nation: This one took me by surprise. Randomly saw it on Netflix Instant and pulled the trigger late Sunday night. Eugene Rodenbery Jr examines the impact that his father's creation has had on pop culture via various interviews with Trekkies, including Hollywood luminaries like George Lucas, JJ Abrams, and Rob Zombie (yeah that's right, he's a luminary). Thanks to an inquisitive and sometimes confused familial connection, this doc succeeds where others like Trekkies & William Shatner's Get A Life don't - sure, it's still a touch too exaggerated on Star Trek's "Importance" but there is genuine heart in young Rodenberry's quest and he does not shy from the darker aspects to Gene the Man. And talking heads will only give you so much; Trek Nation is just another commercial for one of my favorite franchises but it brought more warmth to the tale than I was certainly expecting.
Miami Connection: So. Yeah. They're right about this one. Written, Directed, and Starring Master Y.K. Kim, Miami Connection is one of those fabled So-Bad-It's-Great lost 80s classics. I'm not sure how I never saw it growing up. Never grabbed the VHS box or saw it Up All Night on the USA Network (apparently it was rejected from every distribution house in the country and only played in & around Orlando, Florida). Bummer, cuz I think my child mind would have been blown by this goofball ninjafest. When a clan of biker ninjas roll into town it's up to the Tae Kwon Do mastery of the multicultural synth band, Dragon Sound to karate chop their ass. The band concocted exclusively with orphans struggles with love, music, college life, and evil bastards named Jeff. This might not be the best Bad Movie I've ever seen, but it's definitely up there.
Bernie: A charmingly sad film. Jack Black is a little too unreal with his performance...at least in the portrayal of the real life murderer - or least it feels that way, I have no real idea of who this Bernie Tiede is in real life and maybe he is just a lark of a killer but, I just sense a 1 dimensional character interpretation. That being said, it's a fun enough journey to prison. Shirley MacLaine is a heisnous witch and when Bernie pulls the trigger you're more than happy to see her drop face first in the cement. Matthew McConaughey is a goof of a Texan and he's sorely underused in the narrative...and that's not just my rampant McConaughey love talking...at least I don't think.
Collateral: Watched this in prep for both Jack Reacher and Django Unchained, and I definitely believe this to be not only Tom Cruise and Jaime Foxx's best film to date, but also Michael Mann's greatest achievement in crime cinema (obviously, his greatest achievement is The Keep). The Los Angeles high def photography is stunning, that dirty concrete city has never looked this beautiful. Tom Cruise is a sociopathic murder machine, and his typically steely stare has never worked better on the big (or small screen). But it's Jamie Foxx's daydreaming cabbie that steals the show. Released the same year as Ray, I believe his simmering rage performance here is ten times better than anything found in that mimicry biopic. Granted, I would probably prefer for the film to play out a little differently in the last ten minutes or so but as is, Collateral is one of my favorite films of the last fifteen years. And it is the flick that started to turn me back into a fan of The Great One.
All New X-Men 4: This is the issue I was waiting for. Cyclops on Cyclops violence. It's a little talkier than I would like (but it's Bendis, so that's to be expected) and the Scott Summers of yesteryear doesn't kill this new asshole dictator version of himself, but there's still hope that the new Scott gets taken out by the old. But 4 issues into this bizarro idea and we're starteing to see where this book is heading - I see a lot of anger and violence ahead.
Avengers #2: I really do love Jerome Opena's art, but I'm not feeling Jonathan Hickman's story yet. The Great Big Avengers team continues to Assemble to fight the threat on Mars, and we get a little more detail on what the big bad Ex Nihlo's plan entails. But this still sorta feels like a retread on what Bendis did a few years ago for his New Avengers Breakout arc...only with less character detail. I don't care about Manifold or Hyperion. Why should I be excited that there joining the team?
Avengers Arena #2: No Darkhawk this issue. Sigh. I'm only reading this book for its Darkhawk content. Give me that punchy 90s hero or I'm gonna walk cuz this Battle Royale wannabe is not at all appealing. Granted, it's not the complete crap that I thought it was going to be but I also don't see why my comic book guys are going gaga over this book.
Captain America #2: This just might be my least favorite relaunch from Marvel Now. One of my all time favorite characters ripped from his comfort zone, and thrusted in the ultra lame Dune wannabe Dimension Z. I've enjoyed Rick Remender's writing and John Romita Jr's art in the past, but this is just abysmal storytelling. With every turn of the page I become more and more disconcerted. I really hope this Zolaland nonsense lasts for six issues because I don't think I could take a whole year of this, and the moment they start flashing back to that year gap between issues 1 and 2 - I'm out.
Hawkeye #6: And as much as I don't like Captain America right now, I LOVE HAWKEYE! Seriously, I know this is my same old song but I cannot believe how damn good this book is - it might very well be the best book Marvel's publishing right now. Crazy bold words, but it's fact. Issue 6 sees the return of the Bro army as Clint tries to understand the joys of Christmas AV Electronic set up. The story bounces in and around his Holiday week, and we see just how hard it is to be an Avenger and not have your favorite TV show (Dog Cops!) ruined by those asshole heroes you work with (Spoilers Spider-Man!!!! Geez).
Indestructible Hulk #2: Not a bad second issue, but its nowhere near as fun as Mark Waid's other books this year. I do appreciate how the Marvel Now relaunch seems to be following the relationship between Tony Stark & Bruce Banner found within in Joss Whedon's movie universe. And I can't tell you how relieved I am that Banner is starting to have control of The Hulk again. The whole Dr Jekyll/Mr. Hyde thing has been more than a little tired for the last 30 years.
Thor - God of Thunder #3: Another great issue. Focusing mostly on present day Thor, I dig the regret he has for his brash failure back in the cave of issue 2. And is it me or are The God Butcher's hounds ten times scarier than The God Butcher himself? Thor attempts to gain some knowledge from the libraries of Omnipotence City, but the guy is not much of a reader - he's going to get his education done on the battlefield. This might not be my favorite book of Marvel Now, but it's a close second.
Thunderbolts #2: Did not enjoy this as much as the first issue, but I enjoyed it enough to keep going. I'm just one of those guys that really likes seeing Steve Dillon draw these B List heroes. This book mostly focuses on a Thunderbolts assault on the horrible dictatorship island all Marvelites know as Madripoor. Imagine that crappy little island from Commando and add a Red Hulk and you pretty much get the idea. I do wish this was a Max title cuz I want to see The Punisher off the chain, tearing through guerilla scum.
Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #18: Finally, the United We Stand arc is over. Not the finest moment from Bendis Spider-Man run. Not saying it's garbage, but I never really got excited by any of this Hydra terrorist nonsense. Especially how it plays with Miles Morales...although I did enjoy his encounter with that Giant Woman's breasts. Giggle. But the best stuff from this issue surrounds Spider-Woman's almost revelation to Miles - I'm really looking forward to Jessica Drew unleashing her origin on the new Spider-Man cuz it's gonna blow his mind. Now, let's get on to the Venom War.
BPRD 1948 #3: Another month, another kickass 1948 issue. And there is a moment in this book with little Hellboy that might be the cutest moment in the characters history - yeah, that's right, cuter than PANCAKES! But the weight of this book settles in Professor Bruttenholm's telling of the dimensional birth of Hellboy, and our young lady scientist is more than a little horrified by the Prof's casual adoption of the beast. Not exactly sure what's really going on in this book yet, but I eagerly await it's conclusion.
BPRD - The Return of the Master #5: Don't get me wrong. I really enjoyed this latest chapter in BPRD misery. But...this book leaves you seriously hanging. For a series titled The Return of the Master I was expecting something a little more conclusive but this book reminds me a lot of The Warning. There's a lot of set-up here and I guess the payoff is not going to come until later. The Hell on Earth saga continues to torture mankind and I gotta laugh at how devastated our world becomes with the conclusion of each mini. Just when you think it can't get any worse, it most certainly does. Mignola & Arcudi are having to much fun with pain. Very curious to see how this plays in trade.
Happy! #3: Well, we finally get the answer as to why Sax can see Happy The Horse and even though it shouldn't come as a huge surprise I found myself taken aback. This is not Grant Morrsion's finest hour by any means, but I'm enjoying Derick Robertson's underworld horror show. And Happy is delightful. But I find myself thinking about the last issue coming up next month - can it possibly satisfy the story? Four issues is not a lot of room for a masterpiece.
Saga #8: The Internet is madly in love with this book. I'm enjoying it just ok. I want to be gaga. Y The Last Man & Ex Machina are two of my all time favorite series, but Saga is a little too fanciful for my tastes. I'm not a full on hater like Matt, but I find myself deeply disappointed by my lack of love for Saga. And after the grotesque introduction of the giant Fard, it was a little bit disconcerting to see him dispatched so easily in this issue.
The Sixth Gun #27: I'm starting to think that this book should just be read in trades. Issue 27 sees Drake take down the Wendigo, but blink and the book is over. Good stuff, but after I put it down I'm done. My brain hasn't drifted back to this book since. But I could just be obsessed with super hero comics right now. I'm so jazzed on Marvel Now there's little energy left for the independents. Wow. That's a horrible thing to write.
XO Manowar #8: The Ninjak story comes to a close and that's ok. Solid. But not amazing. It pretty much let Archer & Armstorng and Bloodshot take the lead in Valiant Comics away from my favorite XO character. Oh well. Looking forward to the Planet Death stuff next month. I need Aric to go psycho on Earth. I need him to tear up this modern world, bring a little classic barbarism back to the masses...or at least the masses of government.
Death Proof: My least favorite of Tarantino's films. That's not to say that it doesn't have some fairly badass stuff in it, but after each viewing I find myself disappointed. The funny thing is that The Wife freaking loves this movie. I guess it has something to do with girl power kickassery and Zoe Bell's cat-like reflexes. For me though, I just cannot stand the first half of the film. I love Stuntman Mike and his nacho gnashing. Rose McGowan is shockingly good as the sadsack Pam. But Sydney Poitier and her group of big shit friends annoy the hell outta me and the only pleasure I get from the first 45 minutes is watching them crash all over that road. And that two act structure devastates the flow for me every time. I'd gladly watch the second half over and over again, but I don't see myself going back to this film on a regular basis. Still, those stunt car sequences are some of the best road rashes ever filmed. Gotta give QT that. And Kurt Russell is quite a character. His crying screams are beautiful.
Beyond the Black Rainbow: "Oh Barry, you startled me." Whoa. I was not ready for Beyond the Black Rainbow. There's a little John Carpenter in its synth score, but there's a whole helluva lot of David Cronenberg pumped throughout this monster of a movie. And I'm talking The Brood, Rabid, and Videodrome Cronenberg - there's no Dangerous Method to be found here. But what's it all about? Not really sure. It's a headtrip of a flick that will definitely bare repeat viewings. There's something to do with a secret laboratory, a girl with psychic abilities, and a trip down Stanley Kubrick's A Space Odyssey. I've seen a lot of ineffectual horror films this year, and even though I would not necessarily place Black Rainbow in that genre, no other film has disturbed me quite as deeply as it has this year. When the plot starts to go off the rails in the last fifteen minutes, I was practically pulling the hair out of my head with great waves of anxiety. All I can say is, Bravo. Need to get this sucker on blu ray - there are some serious reds that will destroy my HDTV.
Knight and Day: "I'm The Guy!" Tom Cruise is so scarily, and creepingly charming in this movie. And I adore how Cameron Diaz swoons for his Secret Agent nutjob. Their flirtations feel genuine to me. Scary and weird. But genuine. As Tom Cruise kills his way to Cameron Diaz's heart, I feel myself being won over by the madman's intoxicating mastery over his 007 craft. Killing squadrons of goons in the aisle of a 747. Jumping from a flying policeman's motorcycle and onto the hood of a speeding car - he's a regular TJ Hooker. It's a goofy movie, not to be taken seriously and director James Mangold doesn't quite have a hold on some of the action sequences, but that's okay - the leads carry the film. When surrounded by a herd of CGI bulls, you're more focused on the smiley faces of Cruise & Diaz to be distracted by the uncanny valley. Knight and Day is a lark if you let it be.
Solomon Kane: I've been anticipating this film for nearly four years. A wait like that will surely not bare delicious fruit. But it's not rotten either. Similar to last year's Season of the Witch (have I lost you already?) I admire Solomon Kane's "Just Do It" attitude. This is a Fantasy film. It's not a medieval tale with hints of the supernatural. F that. We've got full on demons, witches, magic, and disfigured cultist goons. And in the middle of all that Robert E Howardness, you've got James Purefoy looking damn good under that buckle hat. Maybe not the grande adaptation all us Conan aficionados want, but it's a helluva lot better a Solomon Kane flick than I thought we would ever see.
Iron Sky: Invasion of the Moon Nazis! It's a premise this exploitation nut should absolutely adore, but ultimately, this film is far too bland to be entertaining. There are a couple of fun sequences involving a whole lot of awkward racial humor and our heroic astronaut, but for the most part the jokes are far too broad - and the Sarah Palin stuff really needed to go, just not funny.
Ted: How do I write about this film without spoiling the single greatest cameo in cinematic history? I just can't rob you of that joy. What I will say, is that when this person finally revealed himself and Mark Wahlberg got to fulfill his boyhood dreams, I nearly wept with giddy glee. Ted is a damn funny movie. Seth McFarlane's talking teddy is a vulgar riot made for snuggles, and the way both Wahlberg & Mila Kunis interact with this creature is fascinatingly authentic - he's this decade's Roger Rabbit. That's an achievement unto itself, and some night I really do feel like I could use my very own Thunder Buddy. Still - my love of this film all comes down to that all too brief, but absolutely perfect cameo.
Attack of the 50 Foot Cheerleader: One of the few disappointments of this year's Comic Con was missing the screening of Roger Corman's latest. Thanks to Netflix Instant, I've finally seen this cheesefest. I know this might come as a shock, but Attack of the 50 Foot Cheerleader is not very good. But it's cheeky enough. Lots of innuendo that climaxes on a giant topless cat fight. If that sounds like your kind of thing (and how could it not) than look no further. I do wish I'd caught this in 3D on the big screen though.
Jack Reacher: I've been eagerly anticipating this one. And not just cuz it's the latest flick from The Great One. But it's Christopher McQuarrie's directorial follow up to The Way of the Gun, a twisty crime film that does not get the attention it truly deserves. So, how does he do with Lee Child's baby? Not bad. Tom Cruise is pretty much playing the same character as he was in Knight and Day, but without the joyous bombardment of smiles. He is earnest. He is stretching all his badass muscles and for the most part he succeeds. Of course, McQuarrie's screenplay really helps on giving him the best snarky one-liners and whip-smart retorts. The best scene in the film is when he intellectually devastates a couple of barhopping bros before physically crippling them. Sock to the balls! And Werner Herzog's milky eyed big bad is worth the price of admission alone. The moments in the movie where he rears his seriously ugly head are delightfully intense, and his final confrontation with Cruise is extremely satisfying. I don't think we're gonna get a whole series of Jack Reacher movies, but I would be down for a few more.