Sunday, July 31, 2011

FROM THE LONGBOXES: Amazing Spider-Man #30-35 by JMS & JRJr – Part III


One of the best things about J. Michael Straczynski’s run on Amazing Spider-Man (at least up to the point I stopped reading, which was when JRJr left the book and Mike Deodato came on as artist) was his characterization of Peter Parker. JMS had a firm hold on what makes this character tick.  Despite being older, Peter is still a person who takes very seriously his responsibility to his family (Aunt May and, though she is gone at this point, Mary Jane) as well as his responsibility, as Spider-Man, to the populace at large.  This does not mean his exploits as Spider-Man are not nerve-wracking.  This is why Spidey has always been a wise-cracker, spewing ridiculous jokes to cover up the fear he feels. It’s a common defense mechanism and one that has been a part of this character from the start.  And JMS’s dialogue smoothly fits into this aspect of the character. 

JMS also has Peter moving forward in his civilian life, having him become a science teacher at his old high school, as another way for him to give back to the community.  This is a natural extension of the Spider-Man template set forth by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko back in the early sixties where they had him graduate high school, move on to college, and have evolving relationships with the likes of Betty Brant and Gwen Stacy. Again, it fits the character and is a nice way of “showing” readers who Peter Parker/Spider-Man is rather than telling us through some dull expository caption boxes.  It’s a subtle bit of storytelling that too few writers in comics miss out on, even today.

The pacing of this story is also excellent.  There’s an ebb and flow to the narrative that allows readers to enjoy the story and experience the emotional crescendos when they arrive.  One of the best bits of writing advice I’ve gotten came from the DVD commentary by JMS for the final episode of season one of Babylon 5.  He discussed how one should have a quiet moment prior to a major disruption in the narrative – whether it be an emotional disruption or an alien attack or whatever – in order to make that emotional instance resonate with the audience.  And JMS deftly weaves the quiet moments with the “big” ones in this storyline. 

Straczynski also sets things up nicely.  He doesn’t have any resolutions come out of left field.  The way Spider-Man defeats Morlun is reached through a natural progression of events, none of which feels forced or hackneyed.  The way Morlun goes on about feeding on a pure totemistic host, and Ezekiel’s surprise arrival that catches the villain off-guard and bloodies his nose – offering Peter an opportunity to study what manner of creature Morlun is – all make sense and feel like the events they are (the villain monologuing, Ezekiel helping Peter) before you realize that they have secondary consequences (the opportunity for Peter to survive this primal force).  It’s wonderful storytelling.

And that brings me to another aspect JMS brought to his initial storyline.  He incorporated Peter’s scientific background when he had Peter take Morlun’s blood and analyze it for a possible way of defeating him.  This is something I have rarely seen utilized in Spider-Man comics.  It was refreshing.  This has always been a cornerstone of the character, and yet it is hardly used within the stories.  Peter’s webs were originally created by him, a scientific breakthrough that he tried to sell to some scientists way back in issue # 18 – a deal that fell through when they discovered the webs dissolved in minutes. 

Yeah, editors have made his webs organic – actually an extension of Peter and emanating from his wrists – and I can’t say where the “continuity” stands on this aspect right now, and I’d rather not think about that.  Ugh.

Bringing this aspect back into the book, accentuated by Peter’s decision to become a science teacher at his former high school, was something I greatly appreciated.

And John Romita, Jr’s artwork has never looked as good, in my opinion.  He draws a lithe, ballet-like Spider-Man who is wiry and able to contort his body in a manner reminiscent of a spider and, again, a body type that hearkens back to Steve Ditko’s seminal work. 

AN HISTORICAL NOTE:  Initially, Jack Kirby was tapped to draw Spider-Man and he finished five pages of an initial story.  But Stan Lee discarded that and chose to have Ditko draw the book.  He obviously made the right choice.  I don’t know the reasoning, but it seems to me that Kirby’s blocky style really would not fit with the character of Peter Parker – a teenage bookworm with a slight physical frame – whereas Ditko’s lithe artwork was a perfect match for the young hero. 

JRJr knows how to draw comics, especially action-packed ones like Spider-Man.  And he does not disappoint here.  When Spidey first faces Morlun, the double-page spread we get from JRJr is fantastic, a whirlwind of these two larger-than-life characters pummeling each other.  It’s a collage of images without panel borders that gets across the frenetic pace of the battle.  It really is a masterfully drawn spread that showcases the unique properties of comics storytelling. 

But, though this may not be his strong suit, JRJr can also evoke emotion from the quieter moments of the story.  It’s these moments that help punctuate the action and give it the emotional tenor necessary in a story like this.  Thankfully, JRJr is not afraid to let these softer moments breathe within the larger narrative.  He understands, better than a lot of artists, how to tell a comic story effectively and give readers a full and satisfying experience.  Having a veteran of his stature, who can also hit deadlines, on this book with JMS was a good move on Marvel’s part. It really elevated the first half of Straczynski’s tenure as writer on Amazing Spider-Man and is a major reason why this first storyline won the 2002 Eisner award for best serialized story.

And finally – JMS went there.  He finally had Aunt May discover that her nephew is Spider-Man.  And the way JMS handled that was brilliant. 

But that’s best saved for another time.


To read more of Chris’s thoughts or to check out his short prose and comic work, go to, the online home for the comics/prose anthology, Warrior27, created by Chris and by Dan Fleming – with contributions from Matthew J. Constantine (half of In the Mouth of Dorkness), among others.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

FROM THE LONGBOXES: Amazing Spider-Man #30-35 by JMS & JRJr – Part II


First go read part I, then come back.


Peter, bloodied and severely bruised, goes to Ezekiel to accept the offer of sanctuary this enigmatic businessman with eerily similar spider powers had proffered earlier.  But it is too late.  Morlun has touched Spidey and can now track him no matter where he hides.  And, despite having extra-normal powers  – or maybe for that very reason – Ezekiel declines to assist Peter in his battle with Morlun.  If he did that, Morlun would be able to latch onto his scent, as he’s done to Peter, and he would come after Ezekiel next to leech him of his own totemistic powers.  Ezekiel has too much to lose.  He can’t forsake all he’s amassed for a fool’s errand. 

So Spider-Man returns to the maw of destruction created by Morlun, and he must save a young child from this primal force of nature before going on the attack with his fists and his webbing.   Nothing stops Morlun, and Peter realizes he needs to get some breathing room.  But he stays within his enemy’s field of vision so that Morlun will remain fixed on the prize and not go after anyone else. 

But first, in a nice touch by JMS, Peter calls the school to tell them he won’t be in.  Too often, questions within the hero’s private lives (such as why would Clark Kent not be missed from the Daily Planet if he was off in space for weeks at a time as Superman) are never confronted, let alone answered.  Having Peter do this in the middle of a battle not only firmly establishes this new status quo in Peter’s life, but it is also another example of JMS exhibiting Peter’s conscientiousness, which is a hallmark of the character. 

Then the battle continues, with Morlun devastating Spider-Man in his relentless onslaught.  Hardly able to move, after Morlun smashes him into a building with a lamppost, Spider-Man snags the bumper of a car with his webbing and lets it drag him along the paved road in order to get away, if only for a moment.  Once he’s put some distance between himself and Morlun, Peter takes a moment to call Aunt May and tell her how much he loves her.  He realizes it may be the last opportunity he has to do this.

And then Morlun is on him again, driving Spidey toward the docks.

But out of nowhere, Ezekiel knocks Morlun down from behind.  With the enemy momentarily confused, Spidey and Ezekiel pour it on, bloodying Morlun’s nose before he regains his edge and sucks the energy from Ezekiel, who falls into the bay.  Morlun, having quenched a bit of his thirst, leaves Spider-Man to look for his friend, content in the certainty that he will feed on him soon enough.  And he returns to his aide, Dexter – a human liaison who wished to be close to power and has been helping Morlun make his way through New York – in order to prepare for the final battle.

But this altercation gives Peter something he hadn’t had before.  He takes the bloodied timber from the dock and examines it at home.  In so doing, he discovers that Morlun’s cells are made up of an amalgam of every kind of animal cell – the purest forms of DNA Peter’s ever seen.  That is why Morlun needs to feed on a pure totemistic life-form, so that he can recharge those cells before they break down. 

And that’s the key for Peter.  He needs to dilute the purity of his Spider powers.  To do that, he considers seriously Ezekiel’s earlier question:  “Which came first, the radiation or the power?”  Which is to say, did the radiation give the spider the power with which Peter was infected, or did the spider already have that totemistic power and inject Peter with it when it knew the radiation was going to kill it?

So, Peter injects himself with that same radiation, in order to dilute his totemistic purity and give Morlun something poisonous to feed on instead.  And when Morlun tries to take Peter’s spider force, he burns with the radiation.  Spider-Man now has a weapon, and with every punch he pours more radiation into Morlun – weakening him, changing him, making him vulnerable. 

As Peter pounds on Morlun, he realizes that just defeating him isn’t enough.  Morlun is a primal force that cannot be stopped in any conventional manner.  Only through such an extreme scenario as this one, in which Peter injects himself with a near-lethal dose of radiation, is there any hope of defeating him. 

Peter realizes Morlun must die.  But can he do it?

And then Dexter, Morlun’s aide, comes out of the shadows and shoots him, wrenching the decision away from Peter.  Part of Dexter’s services to Morlun included providing sustenance for the centuries-old vampiric being.  It may have made Dexter feel important at first, but it hurt – a lot – and the toll it took on him was overwhelming.  So, seeing his opportunity to be free, Dexter takes it.

And we, and Peter, will never know if he would have made that ultimate choice.  It is a question that will haunt Peter for a long time, and it’s a perfect, emotional ending for this initial story from JMS and JRJr. 

Except that this wasn’t the end.  There still needs to be a cliffhanger, a reason for readers to come back and buy the next issue.  There has to be the denouement.  And JMS provided one helluva denouement.

When Peter had called Aunt May earlier to tell her he loved her, she had offered to pick up his clothes and take them to the cleaners.  But, with Morlun on his trail, he didn’t have time to answer then. 

So Aunt May decides to go to Peter’s and pick up his clothes – always wanting to do for her nephew, it makes complete sense.  Peter is sleeping, and had taken no time to put away his tattered costume when he arrived home earlier.  He is so exhausted from his battle with Morlun, that his spider sense does not warn him of Aunt May’s arrival. 

And she sees his bloodied body and his Spider-Man costume, and realization hits her like a lightning bolt from a clear sky. 

But that story is reserved for another day.


To read more of Chris’s thoughts or to check out his short prose and comic work, go to, the online home for the comics/prose anthology, Warrior27, created by Chris and by Dan Fleming – with contributions from Matthew J. Constantine (half of In the Mouth of Dorkness), among others.

Matt’s Week in Dork! (7/17/11 to 7/23/11)

Feed the Machine!

    While my fellow Dork Brad may be having one of the dorkiest weeks ever at the San Diego ComicCon, mine has been pretty tame.  I've seen some pictures.  It looks like a wild time.  Mostly, I’ve been trying to stay out of the heat.  Sadly, I’ve done almost no reading this week at all.  Anyway, first up, the movies…

Archangel:  The shadow of Stalin reaches into the modern day in this mystery about a lost notebook and a 50 year old secret about to raise it’s head.  Daniel Craig is typically charming as the bulldog historian looking for the truth.  And Ekaterina Rednikova is the perfect mix of hard and sad as the young law student and prostitute.  The location shooting in Moscow and Latvia are both beautiful and depressing.  The script drives the action along fairly quickly and keeps interesting throughout the three episodes.  Overall, a solid mystery, steeped in the horrors of the Cold War.

The Last Unicorn:  “There are no happy endings, because nothing ends.”  That certain strange brand of fantasy that was common in the 70s and early 80s produced this strange little classic of non-Disney animation.  Pretty good voice work and a solid story keep things moving along well.  Good family entertainment, with plenty for old and young to enjoy.  Probably a good companion film for Flight of Dragons.

Cedar Rapids:  The adventures of a mild mannered dork when he goes out into the wide, wide world.  It’s interesting, playing with expectations while remaining fairly true to genre standards.  The actors and the characters they play are interesting and less two dimensional than one would expect.  Not amazing, but good and good for some laughs.

Jason and the Argonauts:  Ray Harryhausen’s amazing special effects aside, this is a rip-roaring mythological adventure film of the highest caliber.  Though the Arabian Nights setting of the Sinbad films is more my speed, this movie makes me want more good Greek myth movies.  There is a magic in these films that stands the test of time.  Grade A entertainment.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules:  More comic misadventures from the Wimpy Kid, his friends, and his awful brother.  It’s cute.  Solid kid-friendly goofiness.  It’s not quite as good as the first film, but still enjoyable.

The 7th Voyage of Sinbad:  Though I prefer John Philip Law’s performance as Sinbad (in The Golden Voyage), I think this is probably the strongest of the Harryhausen Sinbads.  A dastardly villain, vile monsters, and thrilling heroics make the legends come alive.  And, it’s got one seriously awesome score by maestro Bernard Herrmann.  A thrill for Harryhausen fans, Arabian Nights fans, and probably anyone with a pulse.

The Thing:  Probably my favorite horror movie of all time, The Thing is an excellent thriller with a fantastic cast of actors playing interesting and memorable characters.  The script is tight, the music haunting, and the setting captures the essence of seclusion.  It really has everything a good horror film needs.  Everyone is in top form.  A must.

Speed Racer:  Like a role of fruit Lifesavers launched out of a neon confetti canon, this movie is a rainbow assault on the senses.  Yet, at its heart is a surprisingly heartwarming tale of brothers and of the love between a father and son.  Between the Technicolor explosions, wacky wipes, and garish design, the film manages to be fun, exciting, and engaging.  Like a cartoon brought to life (which it is), it plays fast and loose with physics and realism, yet rings true at the end of the day.  Plus, Matthew Fox is just super cool as Racer X.  If you enjoy the twisted humor of Robert Rodriguez’s family films, like Spy Kids, try this one out.

Tron: Legacy:  The original film was groundbreaking in its sense of visual wonder and conceptualization of a digital world.  In many ways, it helped shape our ideas of virtual reality and computer graphics.  It paved the way for many later films, though it was not received especially well when it was released.  This new film is a fantastic extrapolation of the original.  With a driving score by Daft Punk, stunning visuals, and a fast paced story that manages to keep its heart intact, it does an excellent job of world building that feels true to the original, while embracing modern aesthetics.  The lead character, son of the original hero, is a bit grating for the first ten minutes, but grew on me quickly once he entered the Grid.  Jeff Bridges and Bruce Boxleitner return, which was a real treat.  And the film looks amazing.  My only complaint was the wonky looking ‘young’ Jeff Bridges.

Metropolis (The Complete Version):  Finally.  Finally.  One of my all time favorite films complete for the first time since its brief original run.  For this fan, this is truly an amazing thing to see.  Whole subplots are restored, the rhythm is smoother, characters have more depth.  I was especially glad to see the character of The Thin Man played by the ophidian Fritz Rasp.  In the earlier cuts I’d seen, he had but a brief appearance, and was completely unmemorable.  But I ‘discovered’ him in two other Fritz Lang films, Women in the Moon and Spies, and became quite a fan.  Now he’s back as the predator spy.  And there’s so much more.  The relationship between the senior Fredersen and the mad Rotwang makes more sense.  And young Freder’s story makes more sense as he descends into the depths of the city to find his fellow men and women crushed beneath the weight of the great towers.  I really can’t sing the praises of this enough.  If you’ve never seen Metropolis, now is the time.  If you’ve seen a cut version, see it again.

    Honestly, that’s about all I’ve managed to get in this week.  I haven’t been listening to much new music.  I did get the idea of picking up the guitar again put in my head.  I do kind of miss it.  I’d like to get into something creative outside of writing.  Painting, music, something.  But we’ll see.

    I guess I’ll leave you with a song that always puts a smile on my face.


Saturday, July 23, 2011

Fistful of America! (Matt’s Picks)

    With the release of this week’s Captain America, we at In the Mouth of Dorkness got to thinking about how awesome and in-your-face America (!) can be.  Kind of like a Michael Bay movie, we’ve got some good actors and lots of explosions, but sometimes the script is weak.  Anyway, if our movies say anything, we’re pretty cool and we’ll keep coming back. 

5.  Chuck Yeager’s Fiery Crash (The Right Stuff):  Oh, sure, those boys might be breaking out into space (a nice chunk of America, right there), but Yeager ain’t gonna play by nobody’s rules.  He hops in a plane and does his thing.  And no high speed impact with a planet (Earth, in this case), is gonna stop him.  F Yeah!

4.  Raoul Duke’s Wild Ride (Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas):  While running savage burns on Vegas hotels, having run-ins with Streisand obsessed artists, and fending off the insane bullish antics of his best friend Dr. Gonzo, Duke (alter ego of Hunter S. Thompson), manages to capture in a sort of poetry the mindset of a certain type of person at a certain, turbulent time in our history.  We never did find out how much the ape costs, though.

3.  Logan 5 Bashes Francis 6 With the Old Stars and Stripes (Logan’s Run):  In the ruins of our once great capital city, Logan 5 discovers the best of us.  But when his old buddy and fellow Sandman Francis 6 doesn’t understand, it’s time to grab a flag and get smashing.

Devastation or no, the Future is kind of awesome.

2.  Jack Burton’s Six Demon Bag Toast (Big Trouble in Little China):  May the wings of liberty never loose a feather.

1.  Eddie Valentine Don’t Take No Guff From No Nazi (The Rocketeer):  Oh, sure.  Valentine is a heartless criminal; a mobster who will stop at nothing to get what he wants.  But when a poncey actor turns out to be a Nazi agent, his blood is up, and it’s red, white, and blue. 


Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Dork Art: Cap on a Harley!

Marvel just unveiled this nifty bit of Marketing/Advertising Poster for Captain America: The First Avenger.  The artist is Adam Kubert and it depicts Cap riding into battle on a Harley-Davidson "Liberator."  Read the whole article/commercial here.


Dork Art: Bruce Is Elvis!

Just found this over at Reelizer.  Art by Matt Talbot for the Sub Rosa Drive In.  As much as I love Ash, Bruce Campbell's performance as the geriatric Elvis Presley might be my favorite.  Mmmmmm...that might be crazy talk talking.


New Release Tuesday (7/19/11)!!!

Not a great week.  Some stuff I want to see, but nothing screaming to be a Must Buy!  And, of course, I'm not even going to bother till after San Diego Comic Con.


LIMITLESS:  There definitely seems to be an interesting idea at play here with this film, and I'm kinda bummed that I missed it in theaters.  I dig Bradley Cooper when he's not doing Hangover movies and I like the fact that his name alone seems to have driven this movie into a success.  Robert De Niro seems to just cash paychecks these days, but he's one of the better work-for-actors when he's not messing with The Fockers.  Also, you should check out The Q & A with Jeff Goldsmith podcast episode with Limitless screenwriter Leslie Dixon.

TAKE ME HOME TONIGHT:  The Omega Dork tells me that this was a fun flick.  Again, I wanted to see it in theaters but not enough for me to put for an actual effort.  I like Topher Grace.  And I like 80s teen comedies.  Mash them together and there might be some fun there.  I'm down.

BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (BLU):  What!?  A Criterion New Release that's not an essential Buy!?!?!?  Well, with the Barnes and Noble sale going on it might very well end up on my shelf, but I already have the original Criterion release and even though I love this film I'm not sure it's worthy of the double dip.  It probably is, but I'm also trying to save cash to blow at Comic Con.  Decisions, Decisions.

TEKKEN:  Man, this film looks terrible but I will suffer through this silliness cuz what if it's geniusly terrible?  What if?  I'm a sucker, but that's why you love me.  And when does the poster tag, "From The Producer of Ghost Rider" mean an indication of quality?  No, what that says is that we're all in a world of trouble.

And, yeah, that's if for the DVDs I care about this week.  I think this might be the weakest string of DVDs since Matt & I started this blog.  Bummer.  Oh well, next week we've got Source Code, The Blues Brothers blu ray, and the Sam Axe film.  And, uh, Dylan Dog.


Monday, July 18, 2011

Dork Art: 6 Mondo Captain America Posters For Comic Con

Oh man oh man.  These are some pretty phenomenal prints from Mondo.  The muted Tyler Stout print second from the top is probably my favorite, although Olly Moss' Hydra Propaganda poster at the very bottom is totally badass.  And the two Eric Tan's in the middle sure are pretty too.  Seriously doubt I'll be able to get my grubby little hands on any of these at Mondo's Booth #433 but I'll do my darndest.


Trailer: The Dark Knight Rises

Below is the teaser trailer for The Dark Knight Rises that ran in front of all those sold out Harry Potter screenings.  I like it.  I'm definitely digging how this final film seems to be connecting to Batman Begins.  And I absolutely love that last looming figure shot.  Summer 2012 seems like a long way off and the Internet is nearly ablaze with Dark Knight hysteria.  I'm right there with everybody else.


Sunday, July 17, 2011

Dork Art: Hard Case Crime

Yowza!  When Hard Case Crime fled Dorchester Publishing I was worried that their brilliant pulp revival would come to an end.  Well, today at Barnes & Noble I purchased their new Trade Paperback edition (looks like they're not doing straight-to-mass markets anymore) of Donald Westlake's Somebody Owes Me Money.  When I got home I jumped over to their website to look at the rest of their publishing schedule.  That's where I discovered the amazing art seen above.  Again, Yowza!  They've had some nice saucy covers in the past, but that one absolutely takes the cake.  When am I gonna get some Hard Case Crime posters?


Dork Art: Olly Moss' Captain America

And here's another not quite crisp enough image of another upcoming Mondo poster, Captain America by Olly Moss.  Love the "A Is For Victory" bit.  Again, when I get more info I will update.  The image is a scan from the LA Times thanks to the Super Punch blog.


Dork Art: First Look at Mondo's Buck Banzai Poster

Thanks to a Twitter spy (@BTSjunkie) we have our first glimpse of Mondo's Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension poster and I have been in a perpetual state of dorkgasm since putting eyes upon it.  Obviously, I'm an absolute fanatic when it comes to these Mondo posters so it's real easy for me to freak out over each and every print.  But Buck Banzai?  That's a Top Ten film for me.  And I MUST have this poster.  This photo was taken from the lobby of the Alamo Drafthouse which, right now, is screening the movie on the big screen.  I was actually lucky enough to catch Buck at the AFI Silver, so I'm not too jealous about missing the screening, but I need to get my grubby hands on that print.  Bad.  When I get a crisper image and more information I will share it with you good folks.


Brad's Week In Dork! (7/10-7/16)

Honestly, this week has been kind of a blur.  I started out with the intention of turning it into a mini-In Defense of Tom Cruise marathon, I soon realized that it was going to be another week filled with random distraction.  San Diego Comic Con is nearly upon me.  I've been waiting a long, long, long time to reach Dork Mecca and every fiber of my being is currently consumed with anxious, unbridled enthusiasm for the upcoming Con Madness.  My wife and I leave Wednesday morning and I'm not sure how much of a presence I'm going to be later in the week.  After the con we're spending a little more time in California, visiting all the typical sites.  I'm bringing my computer (and my iPhone) so I won't be totally invisible, just a little toned down.

I will get back to the Tom Cruising.  I need to bask in the glory of Collateral, Interview With A Vampire, Knight and Day, Valkyrie, The Last Samurai, Magnolia, Vanilla Sky, and Tropic Thunder.  That Week in Dork will be a lot of fun.  So, To Be Continued... with that.


Tangled:  Cute and fluffy and a definite step up from the last Disney animated film, Tangled still feels a bit Dreamworks/Pixar-lite but who cares when yer chuckling along at the rivalry between Chuck and the persnickety Maximus or the schizo emotions of runaway Rapunzel. But I doubt these tunes will stick around in my noggin and I probably could have done without them.  Fun, but I'm not going to remember this film next week let alone a decade from now.

Hot Fuzz:  "Yarp." The Simon Pegg/Nick Frost/Edgar Wright follow-up to Shaun of the Dead could have been heaps of disappointment, but Hot Fuzz delivers on the bizarre, properly British & skewered humor, and ups the ante as far as whacko characters are concerned. A smattering of Michael Bay, a dash of 80s slasher, and a good heap of Wicker Man Love keep the geeks happy.  But for me it's Pegg's unstoppable Super Cop that elevates the cheeky proceedings. A love letter that should garner its own batch of pen pals.

Mission Impossible:  With the exception of the pre-credits sequence, this cinematic take on Mission Impossible feels absolutely nothing like the original 60s television series, but despite defaming the character of Jim Phelps and refitting the saga to Blockbuster status this flick is still loads of fun under the precise hand of Brian DePalma and his cutesy action set pieces. Tom Cruise, his cocksure bravado, the team building, and that utterly brilliant Chemical Brothers theme retooling. Plenty too enjoy.

Mission Impossible III:  After the ridiculous John Wooieness of Part 2, JJ Abrams breathes much needed life into the Mission Impossible franchise despite also injecting it with some completely unnecessary romance and some awkward sad teacher/father Keri Russel moodiness. Tom Cruise delivers the typical action-face intensity and Philip Seymour Hoffman is sneeringly scary as IMF's first good screen villain. And the bridge attack set piece is sincerely badass. BOOM! Cruise Meet Car! Again, I would have dumped Michelle Monaghan but M:I:III might be the best one yet.  And I can't wait to see the Brad Bird Tom Cruse Karate Kick fourth installment.

Eyes Wide Shut:  "Please don't despise me." Stanley Kubrick's final film might also be his most haunting. What starts off as this slightly surreal relationship melodrama slowly burns into this possibly mad, sexual conspiracy with Tom Cruise struggling to decipher the world he's slipped inside. Strange, beautiful, and damn creepy. Eyes Wide Shut is a film impossible to dismiss and I often find myself drifting back to its mysterious grip more so than 2001 or The Shining or Dr. Strangelove.  And that score.  Holy Cowcrap, some of those piano pangs nearly messed my drawers.

Tremors:  With each viewing my love for Tremors grows and grows and at this point that love is all consuming and I would argue that Tremors is one of the all time great modern monster films. Kevin Bacon & Fred Ward are a fantastic not-so-odd couple and I wish fanboyishly that there was a whole franchise of films about their characters (that not necessarily involve the graboids). And the film is perfectly PG-13 gross with exploding burrowers, mutilated sheep, and scooped out man-noggins! Tremors is just a wonderful big budget Corman flick.

Big Trouble In Little China:  "It's All In The Reflexes." When I think Kurt Russell Cool I think of Jack mind should probably jump to Snake Plisken or RJ MacReady, but I gotta go with the blowhard fool hero of Big Trouble in Little China. He says all the wrong things, he doesn't know what the hell is going on, and 2 out of 3 times his aim is way off, BUT! He and his "sidekick" Dennis Dun shook the pillars of heaven, no horseshit. The Thing might be John Carpenter's masterpiece, but my go-to flick for the instant cheer-up is Big Trouble in Little China and its hodgepodge kung fu narrative pleases all the real dorks in the audience.

Battle Beyond The Stars:  A long time ago in a backlot far far away, Roger Corman turned his penny-pinching sights upon Star Wars and delivered this delightfully goofy space opera comprised of fun model work and heavenly map paintings. The plot is pure Seven Samurai with John Boy Richard Thomas gathering the most cut-throat mercenaries of the known universe to protect his homeworld from the hamheaded John Saxon. Robert Vaughn is bad man Gelt, George Peppard is the belt-whisky dispensing Space Cowboy, and Sybil Danning is the almost clothed St. Exmin, Warrior Queen. Together they will spit crazy dialog about kissing and hotdogs and you Corman Nuts out there will eat it up. Lots and lots of fun.

Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Part 2:  A hard film to discuss without unleashing an array of spoilers. The franchise will obviously go down as one of the great cinematic sagas and having just watched all eight films in the last couple of months I can honestly say that they are loads of fun. But the last film, or the climax of the last film left me feeling incredibly flat. There are some fine moments. The opening scene between Harry and Warick Davis is fantastic. And Snape's story is wonderful. But the action is soft with a score that's far too muted. And much of the climax is handled too quickly and often offscreen. Found it frustrating. And, that epilogue was groan inducing.

Damnation Alley:  After a nearly overlong pre-nuked intro, Damnation Alley blows its wad too early with a great giant scorpion vs. motorcycled Jan Michael Vincent battle. The rest of the film meanders about like the geektastic Landmaster (imagine a van that Jesus would have driven if Jesus had driven vans), and your enjoyment of the film will depend on how much you love the aforementioned Vincent, the strangely mustached George Peppard, and the gregarious Paul Winfield. The film also has some nasty metalic cockroaches, crazed diner hillbillies, and lots and lots of technicolor storms but you'll be craving more mondo as the running time ticks away. Fun, but maybe too serious.

Red Riding Hood:  Look, any self respecting film fan knows from the very first trailer that this movie is most likely going to suck. So why would any self respecting film fan watch this film? Well, it's got a pretty great supporting cast in Gary Oldman (Tiptoes, people, Tiptoes), Billy Burke, Virginia Madsen, Lukas Haas, Michael Hogan, and Julie Christie. And none of them should be in this film. They should be cashing paychecks elsewhere. But here they are. Twilighting it up with lifeless Amanda Seyfried and the even more corpse like boy duo of Shiloh Fernandez and Max Irons. But the real problem is that it's a snoozefest.  Ghastly, and a real contender for The Worst Film of 2011.

Trailers From Hell Volume 1:  Thanks to my fellow Blogger, The Daily Grindhouse I am now the proud owner of both volumes of Trailers From Hell.  I don't know if you hipcats out there in Internetland are aware of Joe Dante's brilliant website, but as my wife and I were cranking through Commentary-laced trailers for Blood & Roses, Phantom of the Paradise, Curse of the Werewolf I could feel myself falling deeper and deeper in love with cinema.  That sounds so silly.  But it's true.  Listening to movie masters like John Landis and Guillermo Del Toro go on about their favorite flicks is infectious.  You can't help but get sucked in by their joy.  It's philosophical cinema crack.  If you've got an hour watch the below interview with Dante on This Week in Horror and suck up some love.