Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Brad's Week In Dork! (5/5/13-5/11/13)

We're two weeks into the Summer Season and I'm having a blast.  Granted, I'm still a little obsessed with The Alamo Drafthouse DC and their preshow entertainments go a long way into granting me a serious giddy schoolboy glee.  Just 12 hours after seeing Iron Man 3 at The Alamo, The Wife & I were back to chow down on fried pickles and guffaw at Don Cheadle's amazing Captain Planet monstrosity. Immediately upon returning to the household I leapt online to consume the rest of Cheadle's environmental horror shows.  Pure comic gold.

I also tracked down a blu ray copy of Martin Scorsese's New York, New York but just when I thought that movie marathon was back up and running, I fell into some deep boredom with that disastrous movie musical sendup.  I'd like to say I'm ready to dive into Raging Bull next week but with Star Trek Into Darkness on the horizon I've got some serious Trekkie preparation to complete.  On Wednesday, I had Matt over to the household for my first every Peckinpah Party...well, not so much a party when it's just Matt, the little lady, and myself.  But I don't think the joys of Peckinpah warrant a big damn event shindig.  The man is so wonderfully depressing and only a special few can find good times in his doom & gloom entertainment.

Iron Man 3:  I love the Summer Movie Season.  Especially when it's launched with such a bombastic mega movie like the latest from Marvel Studios.  Reading the nasty nitpicky reviews of the flick, I just shake my head.  The last minute arrival of the Iron Army, the voiceover rush job of a climax, blah, blah, blah.  Most of the film's problems are neatly swept under the carpet with a couple throwaway lines, and the film is more concerned with its set pieces than its motivations.  However, this is an exhilarating sequel to The Avengers and manages to add an extra layer of neurosis to Tony Stark.  The rotating cast of buddies to banter allows Shane Black to showoff his wit and the twist in the script might mock a long ago Marvel mainstay, but it's a character worthy of a good mocking.  Iron Man 3 might not be as simply revelatory as the original film (the revelation being "Holy cow that's Iron Man and he's got cool lasers and stuff & Robert Downey Jr is amazingly snarky!") but it evolves the story of Stark's super hero delusion forward while at the same time bringing it home with another "I Am Iron Man" finale.  Solid symmetry in a season most critics are rewarded with Battleship bitchfests.

Hulk:  Ang Lee's HULK is Sophocles meets Marvel. Not spandex cinema. The director reaches back to the Jekyll/Hyde story that inspired Stan Lee and digs even deeper into mythology. It mucks with the character, twisting the origin to fit the needs of the screenplay - Nick Nolte's hobo patriarch growls rage & hate, jealous of his big green son. Eric Bana is reduced mostly to a sulker, but the way his pants popping counterpart tears through the supporting cast is fantastically barbarous. The super hero antics are reduced to a couple of puppy fights, but the real theatrics are saved for the climactic Shakespearean stage war between father & son. And when words aren't enough, a big bite of electricity launches the mondo saga into a conceptual combat grasping for A Space Odyssey. HULK is violently ambitious, not entirely successful, and enthusiastically alienating. Not the film Marvel Studios would dare force upon the world these days, but a flick striving to do something different with the genre.  And the last time Ang Lee really hit my mojo.

All New X-Men #11:  The Secret of the All-New traitor is revealed and it's...not at all shocking thanks to it being casually spoiled in last week's Uncanny X-Men.  So, despite having last month's cliffhanger ruined in another book (by the hands of the same writer no less, thanks Bendis), this is still another solid issue in the time traveling melodrama.  I dig the traitor.  It feels right.  Each of these guys has a reason to be horrified by their future selves, but I think the character in question easily has the most pathetically sad transformation and given his already narcissistic upbringing I can easily see him walking over to bad guy Cyke's side.  The other half of the issue sees Mystique strike out against another Marvel top dog, and it looks like it brings the attention of the Uncanny Avengers; we've got more big guest stars to look forward to next month.

Thanos Rising #2:  I really enjoyed the first book.  Kiddie Thanos learning the joys of anger & killing.  This issue continues his descent into pure evil, but I'm not sure I like the whole serial killer in training bent.  Also, I'm starting to wonder if we even needed this book.  Do we need to know why Thanos is such a bad guy or how he learned the pleasures of murder?  I want the story to march on to Universal Domination and leave the teen angst behind.  Give me Alexander The Great with a side of Space Hitler.

Winter Soldier #18:  Man, it sucks that this is the second to last issue in the series.  It never really had a chance, beginning with Ed Brubaker coasting out of the Marvel Universe but finally finding its feet under the tenure of Jason Latour.  This latest entry is a brooding downer with Bucky learning the origin of Tesla Tarasova, an opportunity Latour uses to express his Warren Zevon love ("That Son of a Bitch, Van Owen!!!") and gain another foothold in my appreciation.  The Winter Soldier has always been the bummer book of marvel - Super Heroics mixed with shame and dread.  Bucky Barnes is probably the saddest character in their bullpen and I kinda get why people aren't buying the book.  But dammit, they should.  Too late though.

Abe Sapien - Dark and Terrible #2:  The second issue still sees Abe on the run from the BPRD, but we're also given a little flashback to explain his flight.  I'm excited to see the fishman on an adventure of self discovery and now that Hellboy's trapped in Hell, it's good to have another dissatisfied agent lurking along the fringes of the Mignolaverse.  Having worked years alongside Mike Mignola, Scott Allie obviously has a deep understanding of these characters but the real star of this book is artist Sebastian Fiumara.  The man knows horror.  He's EC personified and I never want him to leave.

New York, New York:  The film lost me 15 minutes into the runtime. As Scorsese orchestrates a fantastic crane shot across a V-J Day celebration, and Robert De Niro practically sexually assaults his way into Liza Minelli's heart, a poisonous idea scratched into my brain - New York, New York is Martin Scorsese's 1941. A thought that's good for a chuckle, and not even that accurate. After all, Steven Spielberg's 1941 is a righteous disaster filled with a colorful array of confused cinematic icons stumbling about a spectacularly unfunny screenplay. 1941 is so damn odd, it's interesting. A train wreck worthy of your best gawk. Martin Scorsese's New York, New York like 1941 is trying to ape a time and a genre, but failing miserably to excite. This film doesn't have the parade. It's a somber saga. Robert De Niro's sexfiend manages to score some tender moments with Minnelli cuz her character is too dang shy to fend off his attack. The next thing we know they're in a relationship, falling bassackwards into a big band career and a marriage doomed from that first moment of Hate At First Sight. The rest of this too damn long story is filled with typical Hollywood Couple jealously. When Minnelli hits the big time & De Niro slips, neither their marriage nor their child can soothe the ambition. Maybe if this film was actually a musical than I could handle the banal romance, but what little Glenn Miller cool slips into the film is not enough to keep your mind from wandering or the zzzzzs from setting in. A real dull bore.

Star Trek - Countdown To Darkness:  The two prequel comics produced by IDW leading into 2009's Star Trek were not great, but they had a couple of interesting insights.  This latest Countdown, on the other hand, adds absolutely nothing to the JJ Abrams experience and completely screws an opportunity to play with Enterprise history.  At 4 issues, there is very little story to consume.  First Captain of the Enterprise, Robert April has been leading a civil war on an alien planet for decades.  With the aid of Mudd's daughter, April has lost his way in a skirmish with the Klingons but when the young Captain Kirk smashes the Prime Directive (as all Kirks are destined to do) he gets the devious idea to reclaim the chair.  I'm not sure how this relates to Into Darkness, but hopefully very little with only the obvious retrofitted Klingons & references to First Officer Marcus leaking forth from Abrams' mystery box.

Jason and the Argonauts:  Perfectly capturing the joy and excitement of Greek mythology, Jason & The Argonauts understands the Clash of the Titans better than any film baring that name. My go-to Harryhausen flick, it offers several stopmotion set piece classics like the bronze giant Telos, the Hydra attack, and the screaming skeleton assault. But as cool as all those effects sequences truly are, Jason & The Argonauts also supplies some fine human performances. Todd Armstrong squares his jaw as best he can, takes command with a puffed chest, and eats the melodrama with the appropriate theatricality. Nigel Green's Hercules is the absolute coolest, and seriously badass depiction of everyone's favorite demigod. He's all beard, smiles, and bravado. It's a shame when the tussle with Telos sends Green on his way, as his Hercules is worth a handful of spin-off films. I may prefer The 7th Voyage of Sinbad & Mysterious Island, but Jason & The Argonauts is the film Ray Harryhausen will be remembered for - pluck this out of cinema's history and the genre landscape would be utterly unrecognizable.

Pat Garrett and Billy The Kid:  "Remember me to whoever rides by." Sam Peckinpah's ultimate expression on the passing of the American West (a sub genre all utno itself), Pat Garrett & Billy The Kid is a passionately somber saga in which James Coburn's bought sheriff damns his soul in the pursuit of Kris Krisstofferson's outlaw spirit. Billy the Kid might be a cattle rustling murderer, but through Peckinpah's twisted morality he represents independence and the pursuit of happiness. Peckinpah's Garrett is a man who sold his freedom for the white picket fence, and the house to box his converted Mexican bride. The film is preachy with nearly every frame coated in Bob Dylan's lyrics, and Peckinpah's hatred for institution poisons the well for those looking for the simplicity of High Noon. It's a film busting at the seams with Western icons - Jack Elam, Slim Pickins, LQ Jones, Harry Dean Stanton, RG Armstrong - most of which violently fall in the conflict between legends . Pat Garrett & Billy The Kid tackles the fiction of American mythology; it's angry, mean, but mostly sad - not the rollicking adventure we often seek from the genre, but a heartfelt sendoff from its most iconoclastic creator.

Bring Me The Head of Alfredo Garcia:  "There's nothing sacred about a hole in the ground or the man that's in it." After expressing his gloomy displeasure with the disappearance of The American West, Sam Peckinpah's follow-up film documented an all-out descent into hell that mirrored his own self-destruction. Warren Oates is Bennie, an ex patriot bartender who attempts to rise above his station by collecting a million dollar bounty on the severed head of a gangland lothario. A real hero's quest...if you replace Gilgamesh with a bottom feeding drunk and the will of the gods with blind luck and a sure shot. Tagging along for his damnation is his prostitute girlfriend, Isela Vega.  Their relationship seems to start the film as one of mutual convenience but through horrific circumstances they fool themselves into love but down south such fantasies will not last. The final third of the film is not just melancholic like Pat Garrett, but downright depressing. Warren Oates is said to be mimicking the look and mannerisms of his director, and considering Peckinpah's eventual collapse into self pity, Bring Me The Head of Alfredo Garcia is one of cinema's hardest watches. That being said, it's also a brilliant bit of dread; a mean, hateful, ugly, angry film. A real sick puppy that wallows in its filth. Peckinpah would make other movies, but this is his final statement.

Batman #20:  Well, this was a real disappointment.  And coming off of my lukewarm reaction to Death of the Family, Snyder has a lot to prove with his next Zero Year arc.  Last year at the Baltimore Comic Con, Greg Capullo was giving away mini prints of Clayface with every autograph.  It's a beautifully grotesque image that currently hangs above my television in the living room, & when I heard this muddy rogue was going to make an appearance in this two issue arc I was pretty dang excited.  Now that it's all said and done, Capullo never delivered on the horror of that tiny print.  This goofy tale of Bruce Wayne imitation hits the basic beats already explored years ago in The Animated Series, and awkwardly ignores the crushing damage hammered down on Commissioner Gordon last issue.  3 issues past the last big arc, and Batman has slipped behind both Detective Comics & Batman Inc as the third best Bat-Title.  Lame.

Avengers #11:  "I am here because the universe demanded it."  Don't let the crappy manga cover fool you.  None of those goofy costumes appear in this issue, and it is easily my favorite book from Jonathan Hickman's run so far.  The team heads to Hong Kong in an effort to infiltrate an A.I.M. bidding war.  Shang Chi is the standout of the book, striking gorgeous Bruce Lee poses as he brings his Kung Fu against a series of ninja strike attacks.  But this issue also offers some great chuckles with Cannonball & Sunspot discovering the joys of gambling with tuxedoed A.I.M. agents, and the Black Widow popping headshots on a batch of terrorist assholes.  Hickman has taken this series all over the universe - from Mars to the Savage Land to the far reaches of Gladiatorial space.  With each trip he gives us a new texture, and this 70s Spy Puncher is the best genre vacation yet.

Thor - God of Thunder #8:  Young Thor slaves away for The God Butcher while meeting his future children, The Godesses of Thunder.  Meanwhile, Avenger Thor & Old Man Thor sail the cosmic seas and drink all the ale.  Jason Aaron's high concept romp is barreling towards its conclusion and I have no idea how these three timelines are going to collapse into each other and resolve themselves.  And dammit, that's exciting.  I have a feeling that Arron's run on Thor, how ever long it eventually lasts, will go down as one of the great arcs.  Mark my words.

Homicide - Life on the Street Season 6:  "In this world Dead is Dead."  Probably the toughest and most emotionally complex season of the show so far.  If you thought Detective Kellerman gunning down Luther Mahoney was the end of the gang war than you were seriously misguided.  Luthor's sister lands on the scene, and Georgia Ray is ten times the villain her big bro ever was; the back half of the series is populated with a sea of gangland killings.  With each dope death, Kellerman brings the department closer and closer to an apocalyptic outcome, threatening the lives of everyone touched by the Luthor Killing.  If I had one complaint about Season 6 is that super cop Frank Pembleton is given the back seat and I completely understand why Andre Braugher was ready to leave the show.  New additions Ballard, Garrity, & Falzone are welcome but neither of them can hold Pembleton's shoes.  The show just aint the show without Frank.  Still, other highlights of 6 include Charles Durning's racist cold case cop, James Earl Jones' devious Twinkie king, and Vincent D'Onofrio's subway flattened worker bee.

The Great Gatsby:  When Baz Luhrmann's at his most Baz Luhrmanny I was thoroughly enjoying this movie. You see that first trailer and you want the anachronisms, you want the artifice - bring on the Jay-Z, bring on the Jack White. Sweeping CGI landscapes populated with gyrating stripper flappers. But The Great Gatsby is far too faithful of an adaptation to be interesting; an hour and a half into the film you're pretty much sick of dopey Tobey and you want to throttle Leo and his "Old Sports." Baz Luhrmann is too in love with the novel, and his theatricality is suffocated by the Summer Reading selection. I would have much rather seen Baz revel in the period than find the modern in Fitzgerald.


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