Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Hey Kids, Comics! For 12/31/08

Welcome to the last HK,C! of 2008! Not a very big week for the ol' pull-list but there's at least one book that I was looking forward to that will be a guaranteed puick-up for the week.

  • Bold is what I will grab for sure.

  • Italics mean it's something I want, but won't necessarily pick it up right away.

  • Regular text indicates something that has caught my eye but is either too pricey to be reasonable, or I would only pick up as an impulse buy. More than likely I'll read it at some point but not own it.

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    THIS WEEK'S PULL-LIST

    STAR WARS CLONE WARS TP VOL 02 CRASH COURSE (I have been buying the monthly but haven't committed to the digests just yet.)

    LEGION OF SUPER HEROES #49 (Almost to the end. I've liked what I've read of Shooter's run and it's the first time I've actually collected a Legion book in years. Wonder if it will last past the reboot.)

    FANTASTIC FOUR #562 (This is just good comics.)

    And that would be all she wrote, folks. I hope you have a happy new year and a great Wednesday at the LCS.

    Later!

    mike
  • Saturday, December 27, 2008

    Four Years and Counting!

    Four years ago I bit the bullet, registered with Blogger and posted this. The whole motivation for doing so was a kind of New Years resolution type thing where I had decided that a Blog would serve the purpose of keeping me in practice, writing-wise, possibly keep me in touch with the world wide web (which I had sort of unplugged from), and act as an online journal (something that I've never been able to successfully accomplish with pen and paper).

    I never really had a solid plan or theme to operate under so the blog has wandered, often aimlessly, between journal, linkblog, pop culture commentary and the like. It tends to follow the ebb and flow of my own haphazard approach to my interests, so at least I can be happy that, if nothing else, the blog accurately reflects me and my personality.

    Still, I'm trying to figure out what, if any, defining quality it may have and what I want to continue doing with it into the new year. I think its overall lack of focus is part of the reason why I have never really had a group of regular readers who visit the site and comment on the posts like other blogs. I mean, it's not like I'm a review or news or gossip blog that people make a point to visit. A destination site, like a digital big box store. The stuff I have been doing for the last four years has usually been pretty random, and often irregular, musings that do not serve the goal of community building very well. Not that that is the only reason I continue to post on the site, but there has always been an attraction to having more interactivity with Meanwhile... and that might be a motivation for tightening things up a bit this year. We'll see how it goes.

    Community building aside, I would also like to do more reviews, so I may make a resolution this year to take that on. If you are a regular reader be sure to take me to task if I don't stick to that particular resolution. I've also toyed with and tried, in the past, to launch a new interview blog, which would get me back to doing something that I love. I spent so many years doing it that I feel a little strange now that I'm no longer in the loop. I've posted about it before and it is something that I am still interested in so it may be one of the things I try to tackle in 2009.

    I think I would be remiss if I didn't acknowledge that, despite the 'problems' I list above, the biggest accomplishment I have made so far is the fact that I'm four years in and not completely balls-up bored of sitting down from time to time and posting something. It's a long time to keep coming back and doing this, especially without some format or umbrella to hide under when desperately seeking inspirado.

    And, with that, I take my leave. Thanks to everyone who has visited in the past and, as I said in my first post, I hope it hasn't been a total snorefest. I raise a glass to four down and many more to come!

    Cheers.

    mike

    Tuesday, December 23, 2008

    Hey Kids, Comics! For 12/24/08

    It's a Christmas edition of HK,C! and I'm shocked and amazed to see that I'll be making the trip out to my LCS on Christmas Eve for a book or two (much to my family's chagrin, I'm sure).

    Bold is what I will grab for sure.
    Italics mean it's something I want, but won't necessarily pick it up right away.
    Regular text indicates something that has caught my eye but is either too pricey to be reasonable, or I would only pick up as an impulse buy. More than likely I'll read it at some point but not own it.

    INDIANA JONES & TOMB OF THE GODS #3 (OF 4) (FINALLY! I thought the next Indy adventure was going to be finding out what happened to this issue.)

    MISTER X CONDEMNED #1 (OF 4) (Might be worth a peek.)

    UMBRELLA ACADEMY DALLAS #2 (Haven't started the first issue yet but I really enjoyed Way and Ba's first effort and I don't want to get behind.)

    BILLY BATSON AND THE MAGIC OF SHAZAM #3 (It's interesting having these kids books that aren't based on TV shows and Kunkle is doing a nice job on this series.)

    FARSCAPE #1

    That's it for this week. Have a great Wednesday and a freakin' sweet Christmas Eve, folks! Happy Holidays!

    mike

    Monday, December 22, 2008

    Sometimes I Hate the WWW

    Surfing around, whether it's on the WWW or on comment boards on iTunes and the like, I find myself shaking my head more often than not. We all knew that the art of communication was going the way of the Dodo, but the level of discourse and literary ability of most of these people actually scares me a little bit.

    I know it's nothing you haven't seen or heard before if you've spent even 10 minutes on the web, I just wanted to pop on and say something so I don't seethe in private and get an ulcer or something.

    Later!

    mike

    Wednesday, December 17, 2008

    Wolverine: Origins

    I didn't have great hopes for this movie but the trailer (as seen below) actually looks not too bad. Unless something else deters me, this trailer has at least made me want to catch this one on the big screen in May.



    Later!

    mike

    Tuesday, December 16, 2008

    Hey Kids, Comics! For 12/17/08

    It feels like no time has passed since last week when I did this. Heck, I haven't even read half the books I picked up! Anyway, here is, as always, the legend:

    Bold is what I will grab for sure.
    Italics mean it's something I want, but won't necessarily pick it up right away.
    Regular text indicates something that has caught my eye but is either too pricey to be reasonable, or I would only pick up as an impulse buy. More than likely I'll read it at some point but not own it.

    BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER #20 (I'm still, like, six issues behind on reading this title so no hurry on the new issue.)

    HELLBLAZER #250 (Looking forward to seeing what Milligan can do on this book although Diggle will be missed.)

    ROBIN #181 (Does Batman R.I.P. kill this book for me or does it go on to rise above the tie-in quagmire it has been in for 4 months.)

    SPIRIT #24 (Love this book but still a few issues behind reading-wise.)

    X-FILES #2 (OF 6) (This one's a no-brainer.)

    MADMAN ATOMIC COMICS #12 (Still catching up but I am enjoying the series.)

    That's it for this week. Have a great Wednesday, folks!

    mike

    Tuesday, December 09, 2008

    Hey Kids, Comics! For 12/10/08

    Missed last week but here's the pull-list for this week. The legend, as always, is as follows:

    Bold is what I will grab for sure.
    Italics mean it's something I want, but won't necessarily pick it up right away.
    Regular text indicates something that has caught my eye but is either too pricey to be reasonable, or I would only pick up as an impulse buy.:



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    STAR WARS CLONE WARS #3 (OF 6) (I love the show and I'm enjoying the comic.)

    AMBUSH BUG YEAR NONE #5 (OF 6) (Almost done.)

    FINAL CRISIS #5 (OF 7) (Decided to can Secret Invasion and stick with the FC)

    CAPTAIN BRITAIN AND MI 13 #8 (Still surprises me that I'm hooked on this book but it's great fun.)

    COURTNEY CRUMRIN AND PRINCE OF NOWHERE (I grab anything Courtney Crumrin, no questions asked.)

    And that's the list for Dec. 10, 2008. See you next week and have a great Wednesday!

    mike

    Tragedies of English Language Use

    #3 in a continuing series.

    The word for today is penultimate.

    I was reading a review of The Dark Knight today over at DVD Talk and the reviewer made an incorrect word choice that I encounter often in print and in conversation, and it inspired me to post about it. Not that anyone is actually reading this, but at least I can say I did my part.

    I'll quote the passage from the review:

    "Headlined by a penultimate performance from the late Heath Ledger..."


    See, it's a common mistake because it seems like the 'pen' prefix is emphasizing the 'ultimate' (as if it made it even more ultimate than before) but, in reality, the word means 'next to last' so its use here is wrong. I guess, in this context, it could be argued that Heath Ledger's ultimate performance was his subsequent suicide, but I'm pretty confident that this was not the writer's intent.

    Yeah, I'm being a little cheeky.

    Anyway, I kind of expect to see it coming from the odd blogger, board poster, or possibly a high school student, but I find it a little embarrassing when professional writers make this mistake. And it happens often enough that it gets me a little wrankled.

    Coming up next time on Tragedies of English Language Use, the double negative, irregardless.

    mike

    Wish Fulfillment

    If I had the money and the ability to, I would so totally go and see this.

    And I was just telling Jen how I'd finally come to terms with the fact that Blur was over. After Gorillaz, Think Tank, and the The Good the Bad and the Queen, it was time to accept that the likelihood of Blur making another album together was iffy to nil. Graham leaving the band didn't kill them creatively, but it seemed like the desire to go on beyond their last three-man effort was gone.

    Now, they reunite for a live show that I can't go to, probably the last time they'll do a live show, with Graham, no less.

    *sigh*

    mike

    Thursday, December 04, 2008

    "Oh, Canada!"

    What can I say, I'm embarrassed by the political situation in my country. Sure, it's a minority government and everybody hates the right wing, but forming a coalition between the Liberal and NDP parties? Now, bear in mind that this coalition would be led by the guy who was told he wouldn't be continuing as leader of the Liberal party after the last election, and that it is supported by the Bloc who, by nature, serves Quebec's own self-interests (and yet, strangely, is a national party), in the hopes of toppling the democratically elected Conservative party and current Prime Minister.

    And all of this just 7 weeks after we had an election. What is this, 4 or 5 in the last six years?

    And people call American's crazy.

    Update: I just caught this quote from Jack Layton on Google News:

    "I cannot have confidence in a prime minister who would throw the locks on the door of this place, knowing that he's about to lose a vote in the House of Commons. That's denying about as fundamental a right as one has in a democracy."


    What an ass. Yeah, and creating a party, deposing the current leader, and installing yourself as the Big Kahuna are what the principles of Democracy are based on. These guys all behave like children on the Hill (and I'm including everyone here, not just the folks I don't like) and I just want to shake my head any time I see them speak on any 'issues'.

    And never let it be said that the NDP would ever turn down an idea that would get them closer to the power they could never attain on their own.

    If they manage to knock the Conservatives out, bully for them. If they have the stuff to solve our country's problems I'm all for it! But 38% of Canadians did vote for Harper's tories while none of the other parties, individually, managed to top that so, if they want to form a new coalition party, they should have another election and see if the remaining 62% of Canada rallies behind them. That seems fair to me. Not just slip in and start playing house under the assumption that if you didn't vote Conservative you clearly would have voted for the Coalition, especially with Dion at the helm.

    There is a reason the Liberals have been failing to get the kind of support they need outside of Ontario and Montreal. They spent 16 years in power getting fat, lazy, and cocking it up more often than they got it right. I would gladly vote for them again if they came off as gave a little less lip service and stopped blowing smoke up my ass.

    Update 2: Just caught this from Layton also said his party expects to vote against the government at the earliest opportunity.

    Don't you even want to see the budget, Jack?

    I also point you to this article from The National Post. I find this a bit disturbing:

    Although only two parties have signed this accord, the coalition cannot survive without the support of the Bloc Quebecois. The Bloc negotiated a permanent consultation mechanism and will have veto power over any major initiative, including he budget and all measures it deems of interest to Quebec.


    mike

    "Oh, the Horror!"

    Got home from work Wednesday night, poured myself a glass of Coke and sat down at the computer to check my e-mails and what-not. Jen is sitting behind me working on her laptop and we're talking, happy sounds are steadily pumping out of the iTunes. For all intents and purposes, a pretty decent and calm evening home after work with the wife and kids.

    Then I go and smack my Coke glass with my hand, firing caramel coloured liquid sugar all over a bunch of DVDs and CDs that sit next to my computer desk.

    About an hour-and-a-half later, I've cleaned up the mess with only a few minor, but significant, casualties. The Coke came off of everything without problem except for my David Bowie Black Tie, White Noise collector's set, and there was a minor smudge left on my limited edition White Limousine disc by Duncan Sheik. Two of my Buffy sets suffered some minor damage (of the so sticky it peeled variety) and the slipcase to an X-Files: Mythology set was stained as a result (brown Coke, white case).

    All-in-all I got off pretty easy, despite the stuff getting absolutely freakin' everywhere. I'm still a bit emotionally spent by the whole ordeal, but I'm not freaking out, as my wife pointed out, so that's a good thing. We'll see how I cope in the days and months to come.

    Later!

    mike

    Thursday, November 27, 2008

    Event Fatigue

    Like many others, I'm experiencing what folks are calling "event fatigue". With Marvel and DC running major events back to back where the stakes are always universe shattering and the repercussions semi-permanent, even a person who doesn't read every tie-in or tertiary title (heck, even if they don't read the main title) seems to be suffering from burn-out. It's like exhaustion by proximity. The two current events, Final Crisis and Secret Invasion, I thought I would give a try: the first because it is/was supposed to be the big finale to a string of crises, and the latter because it looks kind of fun, if maybe a little drawn-out.

    In the beginning, I thought I was going to give up on FC because the storytelling was so opaque, and the stuff Morrison was constantly referencing were things I don't think I was in on. Granted, I didn't read 52, Seven Soldiers of Victory or Countdown before picking up FC #1, so I think that had a lot to do with the alienation I felt. Secret Invasion, on the other hand, looked like another Secret Wars to me. Big event, a whole bunch of Marvel characters fighting each other but not like in Civil War where it was all doom and gloom, this one promised to be fun. Finding out who is/was a skrull, how deeply they had infiltrated the Marvel U and discovering why they had targeted 'us' sounded like an interesting plot line to follow. After the third or fourth issue, however, I realized that Bendis essentially crafted an 8-issue slugfest with some exposition in-between characters punching each other. To its credit, Leinil Yu's art is great and likely the reason I hung on for as long as I did, but I think I only bought three issues.

    Somewhere in the middle of all that brouhaha, I grabbed a copy of the FC#1 Director's Cut with the Morrison annotations and script pages. I also read an extensive interview (I think on IGN) where he talked about his Batman R.I.P. storyline and what he's trying to do with FC as a storyteller. These two things essentially showed me that I was reading the books wrong and, to their credit, they were right. FC is unwieldy at the best of times, but the way Morrison has paced this event's central book is different than your average super-hero comic book story. He's chosen to show the reader just the big moments of the story and not many of the interstitial moments that you would normally get in a 22 page comic. It was jarring for me early on, but I've got the rhythm now, I think.

    I have since tracked back and read Batman R.I.P., 52, Seven Soldiers of Victory as well as the first book of Countdown, and I'm starting to get more out of the series than I did previously. Seven Soldiers especially seems to have some ties to FC what with the Mister Miracle connection and the red skies and Frankenstein of S.H.A.D.E. making an appearance in #3. There are still things I'm mulling over, but that's sort of the point, isn't it? Grant wants us humming and hawing until the last frame of the last page of the series. At this point I think I'm okay with that. Batman R.I.P. may have had a crap payoff in the end, but I think Grant will actually pull something out of his hat with FC so I'm going to hang in there and see.

    Later!

    mike

    Tuesday, November 25, 2008

    Hey Kids, Comics! For 11/26/08

    Another pull-list for the week. The legend, as always, is as follows:

    Bold is what I will grab for sure.
    Italics mean it's something I want, but won't necessarily pick it up right away.
    Regular text indicates something that has caught my eye but is either too pricey to be reasonable, or I would only pick up as an impulse buy.


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    UMBRELLA ACADEMY DALLAS #1 GABRIEL BA CVR (Been waiting for this one!)

    BATMAN #681 RIP (Having read but not purchased the previous issues, I would like to see how it all ends. Still, this event has been pretty lackluster from the beginning so I am not expecting much.)

    BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER #19 (I still like this series but the need to have every issue as it comes out is dwindling.)

    LEGION OF SUPER HEROES #48 (Almost done. Just counting down to 50.)

    Have a great Wednesday, folks!

    Cheers!

    mike

    Monday, November 24, 2008

    It's Like I Made It Happen

    Did anybody else see Coldplay on the AMAs last night? What was up with that performance? I got the impression that everyone was having some trouble with their audio but Chris Martin looks drunk and out of key, nobody seems to be entirely in time, and the audio mix is just awful. Observe:



    I've seen them do this song on several different occasions (via YouTube, of course) and it has never been quite this odd. Here's another version. Not perfect but quite a bit better:



    Considering how I was just slamming the guys for looking and acting like goofballs, I feel as though I may have willed this to happen just to prove my point to the world.

    The argument for not having anything to do with the band visually keeps getting stronger and stronger.

    Cheers.

    mike

    Monday Morning, 11:53 A.M.

    Flipping through some of my podcast subscriptions I noticed that I had downloaded a Barnes & Noble One-On-One interview with Paul Simon. I guess he is on tour promoting the new Lyrics 1964-2008 book that presents the lyrics for every song for that he wrote for that time period. Since I like listening to interviews while I work, I hit play.

    The next hour was a relatively enjoyable one with Simon talking less about his book and giving listeners more of a trip through his early career and songwriting process. I always find it interesting how older artists can ride both sides of the fence when talking about music. They touch on the whole "I don't know where it comes from" idea but they can also intellectualize it like nobody's business. Listening to Simon talk about how the second you hit your first chord while writing a song you've already committed yourself to a certain pattern. The first note you sing will inevitably be a note within that chord and it will also affect your word choice when you write the lyric.

    In some respects, breaking it down like that might be a bit of an artistic killjoy, but I love the insight it gives me as a non-musician and, really, I don't think it takes any of the 'mystical' aspects of songwriting away.

    I've always been a listener of Simon & Garfunkel but never really gone through their catalogue beyond the Greatest Hits album that everyone has and the odd non-single track here and there. So, I've decided to do some proper exploring and have gone back to Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M. and will be working my way up through the years until I hit Bridge Over Troubled Waters. As of this writing, I'm actually a little surprised by the religious content in many of the songs (although I would assume for folk music at that time having a song like "Go Tell It On The Mountain" was nothing unusual) but I have singled out "Bleeker Street" as a fast favourite and find that I prefer the non-electric version of "Sounds of Silence" over the second, better known, version the label released.

    Anyway, I highly recommend checking out the interview which can be found here, and I'll post a follow-up on the music when I get a little further in.

    Cheers!

    mike

    Thursday, November 20, 2008

    Next Trek

    Not entirely sure how I feel about this:



    But it seems to be generating more positive responses than I expected it to, initially, so I'm intrigued as to how this will play out for the franchise.

    Anybody have any opinions on this one?

    mike

    Wednesday, November 19, 2008

    What's Up With Chris Martin?

    Jen bought me the latest Coldplay album for my Birthday in September and I had a lukewarm reaction to it at the time. There were definitely songs on there I liked a lot, and it was a definite improvement over X&Y, but it wasn't until a couple of weeks ago that I really embraced it sort of put it into regular rotation on my iTunes while I'm working.

    Around the same time that was happening, iTunes offered a free download of their new video, "Lovers in Japan". I like the song so I snagged the video and hoped it would be better than the previous two which I had difficulty watching. Of course, it wasn't. I don't know what's up with Chris Martin and the other guys but the look they've chosen for this album is not working for them. I know it's supposed to fit into the French Revolution theme of the album but they just come off as total poseurs. And the stuff they have them doing in the videos is 20 steps back from the minimalist brilliance that was "Yellow", or anywhere near as conceptually strong as "The Scientist".

    I've finally come to the conclusion that, while I have decided to let Coldplay back into my life, I just can't look at them anymore. Chris, you're not Bono so stop trying to be him. And find something less silly to wear.

    Here's the offending video, by the way:



    Later.

    mike

    Hey Kids, Comics! For 11/19/08

    Another pull-list for the week. The legend, as always, is as follows:

    Bold is what I will grab for sure.
    Italics mean it's something I want, but won't necessarily pick it up right away.
    Regular text indicates something that has caught my eye but is either too pricy to be reasonable, or I would only pick up as an impulse buy.


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    AMBUSH BUG YEAR NONE #4 (OF 6) (In for a penny, in for a pound)

    ROBIN #180 (Starting to lose interest with all this event tie-in stuff, but hanging in there for the time being)

    SPIRIT #23 (I'm glad that I'll be able to stay home and read these when that abomination of a film finally comes out)

    X-FILES #1 (OF 6) (I've been waiting for this puppy for a looong time)

    AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #578 (The cover was enough to suck me in on this one, and I'm dying to see Martin's take on Spidey)

    FANTASTIC FOUR #561 (This remains an enjoyable ride)

    ANGEL AFTER THE FALL #14 (I'm still missing Franco Urru on this book)

    Have a great Wednesday, folks!

    Cheers!

    mike

    Monday, November 10, 2008

    Indiana Jones and the Army of the Dead

    The cover art has been released for Indy's latest literary adventure to be written by Steve Perry and looks like so:

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    Not as cool as the Drew Struzan covers from the previous 12 books, but if the stuff inside is half-decent I can't complain.

    mike

    Thursday, October 30, 2008

    Halloween Horror Film Roundup

    Every year I try and do a week-long run up to Halloween where I spotlight and talk about some of my favourite horror movies. Since I'm coming in a little late this year, and seeing as I've been watching a lot of horror movies in the last few months, I decided I would make a list of those movies and post clips (via YouTube) for your viewing pleasure.

    To start off with, I've just finished watching George A. Romero's Martin, a strange little vampire picture that is more of a mood piece than a senses-shattering shocker. Similar in pacing to Night of the Living dead, I think. Slow and atmospheric.

    Anyway, here's the trailer:



    Dark Water I sort of came to by accident but I'm glad I did. Proper moody ghost stories are in short supply these days and to see one executed this well and taking itself seriously made me happy. The cast is top notch with Jennifer Connelly putting in a great performance as the haunted mother, Dougray Scott playing her estranged husband and Pete Postlethwaite as the creepy superintendant. It may be dark and a little oppressive, but it's not gory and it's not torture porn so it's the kind of movie you could show to a group of people who may not be big on horror movies and still keep them as friends.

    Here's a scene from the movie:



    Clive Barker's Hellraiser was a movie that really left an impression on me when I was younger, but it wasn't what I would call a great one. While I would never forget its blood, its visual design or its crazy looking Cenobites, I always remembered it as being a little over the top. Watching it again, recently, I've changed my opinion of it somewhat. Sure it's over the top, but it's meant to be that way. Barker weaves this twisted love story that is very operatic which is evidenced in the design and the music of the film. It's bombastic, not moody, and coupled with some great performances by the cast it makes for a classic horror flick that I'll be sure to revisit before the next Halloween rolls around.

    Here's the opening scene of the movie:



    Pulse, like Dark Water started life as a Japanese horror film that was adapted for an American audience. Kristen Bell (known around Jozic HQ as Veronica Mars) was the main draw but the movie turned out better than I expected it to be. Another non-gory mood piece that does, sometimes, slip into 'teen horror flick' territory but manages to hold itself up on the strength of its visuals, its cast and it doesn't have a bad story.

    This clip is a bit longer than the rest:



    The next two movies are both classic Werewolf movies. The Howling and An American Werewolf in London both made it into my DVD player earlier this month and it had been a while since I had seen either of them so it was a bit of a treat. Both movies hold up after many, many years, and are both funny and scary in equal measure. Different flavours to each one but when you have Landis and Dante at the top of their games, it's hard to go wrong.

    Both of these clips are the famous in-camera transformation scenes from each movie. First clip is from The Howling with effects by Rob Bottin:



    And American Werewolf with effects by Rick Baker:



    I found Resident Evil: Apocalypse for a bargain so I picked it up. I liked the first one for what it was and, although I'd heard terrible things about #2, I figured I would try it out. Turns out it was better than I thought it was but still wasn't good enough to top the first (which should have been no mean feat) despite opening the story and environment up to reflect more of the game elements. It gets better with further viewings, but you kind of have to want to watch it again for that to happen which, I'm told, most people don't.

    Oh, well, here's the trailer:



    Last on the list is Nightmare on Elm Street: Dream Warriors. The third in the series and the second of the Craven written ones (although his script got a serious once-over on this one), Dream Warriors features the return of Nancy to the series and a group of teens who are willing to track Freddy back to the dreamworld where their imaginations give them powers with which they hope to combat and destroy him. Not a bad concept, not a bad film. It's a fun popcorn slasher flick if ever there was one.

    Here's the opening scene of the movie:



    I haven't quite made it to the 10 I was aiming for, but if I count the 'getting to them' discs, that will flesh it out perfectly. So, while I haven't watched them just yet, I have Evil Dead (the original) and Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 (I know, I know, but I haven't seen it in years and I found it for a couple of dollars in a bargain bin) sitting on my desk and I plan to watch those in the next 24 hours.

    So, with that, Happy Halloween, folks. Have a great October 31st!

    mike

    "My City Screams"

    Further proof that The Spirit movie will likely be terrible.

    "This is not a tribute to Will Eisner, this is a tribute to The Spirit!"

    [groan]

    I'm all for being proven wrong, but there's only so far I can go with all the scenes, interviews and trailers that have been released.

    Does anybody think this will be okay?

    mike

    Monday, October 27, 2008

    Hey Kids, Comics! For 10/29/08

    Another pull-list for the week. The legend, as always, is as follows:

    Bold is what I will grab for sure.
    Italics mean it's something I want, but won't necessarily pick it up right away.
    Regular text indicates something that has caught my eye but is either too pricy to be reasonable, or I would only pick up as an impulse buy.

    AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #575 (Bachallo's back, baby)

    HELLBOY IN THE CHAPEL OF MOLOCH ONE SHOT (99.999% of the time, Hellboy is just a no-brainer)

    LEGION OF SUPER HEROES #47 (basically spinning wheels until the reboot)

    X-MEN FIRST CLASS GIANT SIZE SPECIAL #1 (Parker and crew always deliver good fun in First Class)

    That's all she wrote, folks. Have a great Wednesday at your LCS!

    Cheers!

    mike

    Friday, October 24, 2008

    Believe It, Or Not

    I have a long history of shaking my head at the CW's (previously the WB's) super-hero teen soap, Smallville, but despite giving up on the show in its third season I still kept up with it in the off-chance that it might pull itself out of soap-opera hell and return to some semblance of watchability. I think I finally gave up in the middle of season 6 after enduring things like the coming of Lois Lane, Lana becoming a mystical avatar for Jane Seymour who happens to be her boyfriends mom and a witch, the on-and-off-and-on-and-off-and-on again relationship dance of Clark and Lana, seeing Lana eventually hook up with Lex, seeing a junior Justice League form, and Lana's pregnancy to name the ones I can remember off the top of my head. As far as I was concerned, I was done with the show, even as a guilty almost pleasure. And hearing that Supergirl joined up in season 7 had me thinking I made the right choice.

    So, why am I posting about Smallville now?

    The other night, I watched Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut for the audio commentary and it got me in a Superman sort of mood. I thought about it for a bit and decided that I was going to track down which episode I left off with and, at the very least, finish off season 6 for better or for worse.I thought I would take it on an episode-by-episode basis and after the first major irritation I would just pack it up and be done. If the hankering ever hit me again, I'd pop in the old Adventures of Superman with George Reeves or Lois & Clark for my fix.

    Turns out that episode 14, "Trespass", was the next on the list so I threw it on hoping I didn't regret the decision. The plot revolved around a stalker following Lana around and continued developing the politics and relationships between the main cast members until the stalker's identity is revealed and Clark, as usual, saves the day. Surprisingly, this was a decent episode even though every fabric of my being is opposed to the Lana/Lex pairing (not that I ever wanted her with Clark, I just think the other two are wrong on so many levels), the pregnancy, and Clark still being hung up on her. I think what ultimately saved this one, though, was the fact that it was Clark and Chloe playing detective and not having to deal with a lot of super-soap-operaish stuff. It made me think that this is what I would have liked more season 1 & 2 episodes to be like. Chloe should have learned Clark's secret loooong ago, I'm telling you.

    The lack of Erica Durance as Lois (one of the most awkwardly shoehorned characters into the show from her debut onward) probably helped, too.

    That episode was followed by "Freak", then "Promise" and "Combat" (which I just finished today) and I have to say, I'm still enjoying them. Every one of these last handfuls of episodes heavily feature the Clark/Chloe dynamic, are light on co-stars, are a mixture of genres and we get to see Tom Welling portray more than one emotion (I love Lana so much...sob) and it works for both him and the character. Lana has gotten downright medieval (and not in a Jane Seymour witchy sort of way), Lex is acting like Lex Luthor should be acting (duplicitous, powerful, calculated, prone to rages), Oliver Queen is mentioned but never seen and Lois makes only one appearance in all four shows. Not a bad formula, as far as I'm concerned.

    There are four or five episodes left to the season so I'm likely to finish it. I'll probably come back on and give an post-season wrap-up report, see if I lasted through to the end or if Gough and Millar finally take me over the edge and I gouge my eyes out.

    Later!

    mike

    Wednesday, October 22, 2008

    I'm a Sad Robot No More, Thanks to Jeff Parker (Sort Of)

    I'm browsing around over at Jeff Parker's website and after catching up on his recent posts and making a comment I found my attention drawn towards an item located on the top menu bar. Sitting there next to his Wiki and RSS links was the word "Periscope" which, at the time, seemed out of place and felt somewhat submarine related. So, like the proverbial cat I clicked through to discover that "Periscope" was, in fact, a link to the blog of Parker's studio whose name had been changed from Mercury a while ago (something I actually knew and somehow forgot) and was neither mysterious nor submarine related.

    Browsing around the Periscope site I scrolled down and stumbled across a post from the beginning of October titled "Band adopts Boilerplate as mascot for North American tour". The post discusses how Paul Guinan's Victorian robot, Boilerplate, has been adopted by an indie Toronto band for their upcoming NorthAm tour. Very cool, I think to myself. Boilerplate has always been a visually interesting character and the cover for the EP, titled Sad Robot, looks great with Boilerplate and Lily Campion looking out at the Machinery Hall of the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago, Illinois. And, hey, there's the band name in the upper left hand corner; Stars.

    Stars!?!

    What the hell?! I wish there was an emoticon for 'startled-bug-eyed-double-take' because I could probably find a use for it right now. Man, I had no idea that one of my all-time favourite bands had released any new music post-In Our Bedroom After the War, Stars' last full length effort. What rock have I been hiding under? Now we have five brand new songs and an unreleased live track? This is freakin' sweet news.

    Investigating it further I note that the EP had actually been released way back in September. Huh? On the first of September, no less, a mere week before my birthday. I ask again, how did I miss this? It pretty much goes without saying that it would have been a real treat to have some new Stars music to celebrate my 3-5.

    Brother.

    I actually subscribe to the Arts&Crafts.Inform newsletter but I'm guessing it probably was sent to my other e-mail account, the one direct from my service provider. An account which I haven't had access to since the middle of August, unfortunately, due to a work-related computer switcheroo and haven't bothered checking in on since because I'm pretty much a Gmail user these days. That'll learn me.

    Yup, looking through the backlog of old e-mails there are definitely a couple of notices from A&C. Tour dates, contests, information.

    Sigh.

    Oh well, at least I know about it now.

    So, further down the rabbit hole I went, linking through to the Stars official Sad Robot page featuring a nicely designed animated image/blueprint of Boilerplate's various pieces with an embedded audio player in his heart. The player streams clips of all the tracks on a constant loop and, of the six, it's "A Thread Cut With a Carving Knife" and "Undertow" that really stand out for me. A return, I think, to the romantic melodrama that I haven't heard so fully since their first full-length album, Nightsongs, and their sophomore effort, Heart, the album that first got me hooked.

    Now, if the music moves you as it has me, I encourage you to click through to the store (as I have) and purchase the EP. It's a decent primer for the uninitiated and, really, the whole thing only sets you back $4 for the digital download. How can you possibly go wrong with this stuff?

    There's also some really cool exclusive merch available for fans of either the band or Boilerplate. There are some cool T-Shirts and I love the tour poster, but I was probably most impressed by the chain and pendant they had made featuring Boilerplate in all his glory with a little plaque featuring the Stars logo, circa Bedroom.

    Also, if your curiosity has been sufficiently piqued, check out Paul Guinan's site where he has some pictures of the album art, various bits of merch, concert pics and images from the Stars show after party. There's also a blurb at the bottom from Amy Millan explaining how the two ended up collaborating on this project.

    For more info on Stars, hit their website (duh).

    For more info on Boilerplate, check this link out.

    And, lastly, Jeff, you had virtually nothing to do with this but had I not been cruising your blog I don't know how long it would have been before I figured this out. If it was any other band I probably wouldn't have bothered with the post and all the gushing, but it's Stars and I don't respond to their stuff on a very intellectual level.

    So, thanks.

    Later!

    mike

    Hey Kids, Comics! for 10/22/08

    I haven't done one of these in a while but I've been reading a lot of comics and trades lately so I wanted to get 'back-in-the-saddle', as it were. Like last time the legend is as follows:

    Bold is what I will grab for sure.
    Italics mean it's something I want, but won't necessarily pick it up right away.
    Regular text indicates something that has caught my eye but is either too pricy to be reasonable, or I would only pick up as an impulse buy.

    TINY TITANS #9
    SECRET INVASION #7 (OF 8)
    ANGEL AFTER THE FALL #13
    INDIANA JONES MAGAZINE #4

    That's all she wrote, folks. Have a great Wednesday at your LCS!

    Cheers!

    mike

    Tuesday, October 21, 2008

    Late to the Game as Usual

    Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.usBased on a sort-of recommendation I got through Rob Williams' blog I decided to give Captain Britain and MI:13 (a series that, until now, I have almost completely ignored) the ol' college try. I had seen the wonderful Bryan Hitch covers on the shelf and peeked at the artwork of Leonard Kirk (which I thought was quite good) but not knowing anything about the writer, Paul Cornell, I just passed on the thing expecting it to be no better than previous attempts to keep this character around and operating in the Marvel U. To my surprise (and to Cornell and Kirk's credit), however, I found that I really quite enjoyed it.

    Considering my track record, I think it's typical of me to have initially ignored this series when it first hit the shelves (I can't tell you how many times I've caught on to a good title late - and even sometimes too late - in the game). In addition to my general unfamiliarity with the project and it's writer, I also had trouble sussing out what the point of this book was? What purpose did it serve for Marvel other than keeping Captain Britain around even though there were a number of recently failed series behind him? The Secret Invasion tie-in was just as likely to turn people like me away as it was to attract their attentions. With comic book funds at a low, experimenting on a book that I couldn't bring myself to care about was just not a consideration.

    And look at me now, shouting out into the blogosphere after reading only two issues that I'm a total convert and ready to evangelize on its behalf. I think it's just so uncommon for me, these days, to find a book within one of the established super-hero universes that I can enjoy purely on the creative team's overall talent at telling good, interesting stories.

    Part of my conversion has to do with just how much I love Leonard Kirk's work on the book. Leonard is rarely a let down and his Agents of Atlas work was some of the best coming out from any company at the time of that series' release. It reminds me, in spirit, of the old Alan Davis and Bryan Hitch days of Cap in his own title or either of their work on Excalibur. The layouts are easy on the eyes, his linework is clean and expressive, and his ability to show everything from drama to comedy in his characters is top-notch.

    I should also point out how very pleased I am with the writing of Paul Cornell. He has taken a group of characters that haven't been very compelling (or even made much sense) since Davis left Excalibur the second time (with the exception of Wisdom who wasn't present at the time), and he's made them genuinely interesting. The dialogue is crisp and feels natural, the story has the definite feeling of going somewhere rather than padding things out for the eventual trade collection, and his collaboration with Kirk appears effortless. These guys appear to be pretty much in sync.

    Looking at how my pull-list has been shrinking these days (I'm sure I've lost a half-dozen titles in as many months, mostly Marvel and DC books) it's a nice feeling to be able to find a diamond in the rough like CBaMI:13. Now, if issues three and four turn out to be just as entertaining as the first two, consider me on board for the long haul.

    Thank you Cornell and Kirk.

    Later!

    mike

    Thursday, October 16, 2008

    The Indiana Jones Comic Book Revue#3

    All books are rated on a 0 to 5 Fedoras system.

    The Further Adventures of Indiana Jones #4
    (Marvel Comics Group)

    Written by: David Michelinie
    Pencilled by: Ron Frenz
    Inked by: Danny Bulandi
    Cover by: Ron Frenz & Mike Gustovich

    "Running's good for ya! Sometimes it keeps ya alive!"

    Dateline 1936

    "Gateway to Infinity!" kicks off with our intrepid hero airborn and on his way to London. His purpose there is to assist with a very important translation job relating to an artifact found in one of the Stonehenge blocks. In a scene reminiscent of the Lao Che Air Freight incident from Temple of Doom, Indy runs afoul of the Germans whose interest in the artifact leaves Dr. Jones, once again, a Nazi target. After taking a dip into the English Channel, Indy gets picked up by a Navy patrol boat and manages to keep his date with British intelligence.

    Once there, he is introduced to Professor Karen Mays, the woman who he will be working with on the project. Mays is, like so many women in Indy's romantic life (at least in the expanded universe), a redhead and is also their top expert on ancient languages. Indy takes a shine to Mays and turns on the charm, convincing her to go out for dinner with him where the Nazis take another crack at eliminating the good doctor. Failing to poison him through his soup as Indy sees through the ruse, Jones and Mays leave the restaurant and spend the next few days translating the artifact.

    Turns out the crystal's markings were carved by a civilization that pre-dated man on this Earth and claims that 'they' will return when needed. 'Their' return just happens to coincide, astrologically, with "midnight tonight", according to Mays and the two set off to meet the would be visitors, but not before being attacked, yet again, by the Nazis who are desperate to be the first to meet these creatures. A chase ensues throughout London and the cliffhanger ending leaves Indy and Mays trapped in a Rolls sedan and going off one of London's many bridges. The next issue blurb reads, "What Lurks at Stonehenge? (And Will Indy Live Long Enough To Find Out?)"

    I know the recap sounds a little dull, but "Gateway" is a surprisingly entertaining issue. The characterization of Indiana Jones by David Michelinie is, in hindsight, not perfect, but when you consider he was basing everything on Raiders and what he knew of the pulp/serials heroes of the period that influenced Indy's creators, he does a commendable job. Indy has a bit of that Raiders smarminess when dealing with people he doesn't like very much and shows tremendous ingenuity in getting out of a scrape. I like how things move along quickly in the story which keeps the energy up and doesn't let it get too bogged down in the otherworldly creature storyline that drives the A plot. I think, even at this stage of the game, if they tried to intellectualize an alien story, the whole thing would have just fallen apart.

    I should also give kudos to Ron Frenz, new artist in residence, who shows that he can take Michelinie's story and turn it into a fun, well-paced read. I've always kind of liked Frenz' earlier work (which can also be seen in some great Amazing Spider-Man issues not long after this) and he is a welcome addition to this series. He also does a good job of capturing the period and injecting some stylistic flourishes that give the whole thing an old adventure strip sort of feel.

    I should note for fans of the expanded universe (meaning Young Indy, the novels and comics) it's kind of neat that Indy was sent on a translation job since that was his specialty when he was younger and it's not something that gets mentioned much in the films (he does a lot of reading and translating, but his aptitude for it is rarely brought to anyone's attention). While Dr. Jones is, indeed, an archaeologist, he is first and foremost an expert at languages, modern and ancient. That he was brought in for expressly that purpose (something Michelinie couldn't have possibly foreseen at this stage of the game) is a nice little added plus to the proceedings.

    A good effort overall, although I'll admit that I'm dreading the extra-dimensional beings that are going to materialize through Stonehenge in the next issue. I can't see anything good coming of that. Still, it was better than the last issue but not quite as good as Byrne's so I'm going to go with a three fedora salute this time around. Until next time...

    Sunday, October 05, 2008

    Clone Thoughts

    I just finished watching the feature film and the first two episodes of the brand-spanking-new Clone Wars animated series and, I must say, I am very much impressed. More by the show than the film, really, but when you think of my biggest complaints with the prequel trilogy being the fact that we did not spend enough time with Anakin to give a rat's ass about his fall, this whole endeavour is just a godsend, you know? All we saw were the whingy bits with Anakin pining away for Padmé and none of the bonding with Obi-Wan, or the heroic efforts he made during the Clone Wars to rate 'potentially greatest Jedi ever', so having the opportunity to go back and spend some time with the guy is something I'm looking forward to.

    So far, the show has just about everything I would have expected or wanted from this particular material covering the time period between Episode 2 and 3 of the Star Wars saga. The feature was paced in such a way that we spent a LOT of time watching battle scenes interrupted briefly by characters moving location to engage in more battles (which is a funny thing to complain about when you're talking about a war movie) so it's not my favourite of the two projects but I can say with some conviction that I'll be watching it again soon (and with any luck on Blu-Ray in the very near future). The half-hour series, however, is pretty exceptional and I hope it has a long life on the network because I think they might be able to save Episodes II and III from themselves if they do a good job on the character writing.

    Anyway, I just wanted to chime in and give a happy thumbs up to the show and encourage those who have not checked it out to go and do so. You can watch them for free on the official Star Wars site and on Cartoon Network's site.

    Later!

    mike

    Friday, October 03, 2008

    The Most Dangerous Game

    I ran across this video while visiting John Rogers' Kung-Fu Monkey and I just had to stick it on the blog for two reasons: this happens to be me and my cat's favourite game (usually played around the corners going up/down the steps) and I don't really have a longer, more captivating post to offer y'all.

    In my defense, I was helping out installing a bathroom window on my second floor today, if that counts for anything.

    Anyway, enjoy the Ninja cat.



    Later!

    mike

    Tuesday, September 30, 2008

    Audio Commentary Cliché

    I've been listening to a lot of audio commentaries since I started working from home (I'm listening to Undeclared commentaries as I write this) and something I've really come to hate is when the commentators introduce themselves as the other person. I'm sure it's sometimes awkward for people to sit in a room and talk about an episode of a show or a feature film but, man alive, if I hear that stupid ass joke one more time I think I'm going to shoot someone, or possibly myself.

    Another thing that bugs me about the aforementioned style of commentary is that it is most often a room full of actors who will do it. Sometimes it'll be a director and actor, or writer and actor, but if it's a room full of crew, you never hear that. Directors, DPs, writers, producers, they all say their names and start talking about the process, the story, the lighting, the film. Actors (not all of them, I know) make the funny ha-ha I'm you and you're me gag then giggle to themselves like they're the first people to ever think of that joke.

    Sigh.

    I think I've hit my rant quota for the week.

    Later!

    mike

    Friday, September 26, 2008

    Lucas Centric Post

    This post is going to cover a few George Lucas related topics from Indy to Red Tails, so if you're just not in the mood, skim this one or pass it over.

    Everyone else, read on...

    I went out and saw Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull on its last night at the second run theatre in town and it got me in a bit of an Indy mood (surprise, surprise). I enjoyed the film immensely on opening night but found that I liked it even better the second time around. Little details I didn't absorb on my initial viewing popped up, enriching the experience somewhat, and things I may not have liked before were greeted with a little less irritation this time around. It's amazing how knowing what will happen will take the edge off of what may have previously been perceived as "bad scenes".

    Still on my Indy buzz after leaving the theatre, I got home and hit the web looking for more info, interviews, and behind the scenes stuff on the film and the expanded universe but found myself running into the same brick wall I've been hitting for years; a lame, uninformative official website. Yeah, I know there are a few decent Indy fan sites out there that pull their respective weight (TheRaider.net, IndianaJones.de and IndyFan.com being a few of the best) but there is so much information and cool stuff that the official site could have, it's really, really disappointing to see the few videos and factoids that reside there.

    When the Star Wars prequels started production, the Star Wars site ran web diaries, weekly teaser/set images, and other cool behind-the-scenes stuff. By the prequel trilogy's end, the site launched the Hyperspace fan club, exclusive material like deleted scenes and animatics, the ability to watch the original Clone Wars cartoon before they aired on Cartoon Network, newsletters, DVD ROM features, fiction, videos, web strips...I could go on. It was a website that I enjoyed visiting regularly until they changed it a few months ago, but that's another story.

    The Indiana Jones site briefly tried to be as informative a resource as the Star Wars site back when they released the Young Indiana Jones Chronicles and the Indy trilogy on VHS. There were many similar features started but not very much of the extras ever materialized. Then, with the anticipated release of the new film, they shut the old site down and we had to wait until they relaunched it as the Crystal Skull site. I always thought that was a bad idea since, as a series, they should have one big umbrella site with mini sites for each film, but what do I know, right? It's not like it didn't service the Galaxy Far, Far Away's site for a decade.

    I mean, where are the interviews with cast and crew? Where are the web diaries (one Frank Marshall clip does not count, guys), the development extras, the exclusive web features, the continuing news updates, the archival material, the depth text commentaries, the production blog?

    In my desperation I turned to the Indy-Cast, a fan produced podcast on all things Indy. Some of the news bits are interesting (although I can't say as I heard anything on the Indy-Cast that I hadn't already gleaned from other sources), but most of the show is an hour-long marathon of the host reading peoples press releases and e-mails talking about what they think the fifth movie should be about, what the best Indy fist-fight was, random ramblings and what Indy related foodstuffs they had for breakfast. All to a looping backdrop of the John Williams score.

    Ugh.

    What I wouldn't give to be a content developer (or one of the schmoes producing it) for an Indy site, particularly the official one, which should be the ultimate resource, in my opinion. Lucas Online, you listenin'? One dedicated content droid sitting idle and looking for work. Call me.

    Anyway, the DVD will be coming out on October 13th, so maybe I'll get my Kumba-ya-yas out in a few weeks (although, I'm cheesed off that the Blu-Ray has exclusive content not available on the standard definition disc...grrrr).

    Update: I picked up an issue of the official Indiana Jones magazine this evening and one of the features inside was a storyboarded, but unused, sequence from Temple of Doom. I seem to recall seeing this stuff up on the old website before it went the way of the dodo and I can't help but theorize that all the really fun content was pulled in favour of showcasing it in something like the magazine for $7 rather than on the web for free. It's a cynical viewpoint, especially when you consider there's a Star Wars magazine that's been running forever and it never impacted the website, but I can't think of anything that makes more sense.

    In other Indy related news, I just found out that they will be producing a new set of expanded universe books, which has me all aflutter. I really enjoyed the original series (not quite done all twelve but almost there) and anxiously await the first of the new batch, Indiana Jones and the Army of the Dead written by Steve Perry. More good news on the novel front is that Rob McGregor, writer of the Last Crusade novelisation and the first six books of the first set, will return to the character. His book should be the next up after Perry's so we'll see how that works out. The first one should hit bookstores in May of 2009, so there's still a few months to wait. Still, good news for an Indy fan, overall.

    By the way, does anybody know if there is going to be a volume two to the Indiana Jones Adventures series? This digest sized gem was one of the best Indy stories I have read in some time. I thought I posted about it a while back but it doesn't appear that I have, so I'll have to post a review of it sometime soon. I'm working on my next Indy Comic Revue so I might slip it in at the same time. Back to the point, though, I haven't seen any news regarding a #2 on the DHC site or in the press, so I'm throwing it out there in case one of y'all happen to know anything. I want to see more of this stuff.

    I was going to talk a bit about Clone Wars, but I'm going to pass on it for now and just finish off with the good news I've just heard regarding Lucas' pet project on the Tuskeegee Airmen, Red Tails. It has a writer, John Ridley, and a director, Anthony Hemingway, so we just might be seeing a non-sequel Lucas project in cinemas sometime in the next few years. To be honest, I've been waiting for a non-Star Wars or Indy project from George for almost as long as everyone else wanted the prequel trilogy. I still love Tucker and Radioland Murders remains a guilty pleasure of mine, so I'm really looking forward to RT. You could do a lot worse than John Ridley on script-chores, too.

    I gotta run, so I'm going to end the post there. I'll be back to add some images if you happen to be reading this sucker bare and if you are, I commend you.

    Later!

    mike

    Monday, September 22, 2008

    Size Does Matter

    Hmmmm. I'm thinking I need to get PhotoShop up and running so I can shrink that header image, there. As much as I think people should be watching Burn Notice, I think the size of that image may be just a bit much.

    Oh well, click through to check out clips and stuff from the official site. It's good stuff.

    Later!

    mike

    Monday, September 15, 2008

    Did My Homework

    After posting my review last night of the two trades I read recently, I did some online research to answer the questions I posed regarding the contributing artists and the duration of their contributions.

    As far as I can guess, Byrne was slated to be on The All-New Atom for six issues and likely left due to creative conflicts. Everyone knows that Byrne has had some rocky assignments and lacking a better explanation, I will assume Eddy Barrows was brought in to pick up the slack when Byrne exited a little early.

    Also, the Atom series concluded with issue #25, so even if I did like it immensely, I wouldn't be finding it on the shelves of my LCS.

    With Pacheco on Green Lantern, if issue seven was included in the collection I would have realized that he and alternate artist Ethan van Sciver traded off art chores every three issues to accomodate the monthly schedule.

    This one, perhaps, may require further exploration. Any comments or opinions regarding the series post "No Fear" would be appreciated.

    Later!

    mike

    Sunday, September 14, 2008

    Lanterns and Atoms

    Two of my most recent TPB selections have been the first collection of the All-New Atom series, reprinting the first six issues and a story from a Secret Files & Origins issue, and Green Lantern: No Fear, a collection reprinting the first 6 issues of that series with a Secret Files & Origins issue thrown in for good measure.

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    I was never all that interested in The All-New Atom when it debuted despite having an interest in the character. The artwork by John Byrne piqued my curiosity, and the fact that it was based on concepts developed by Grant Morrison got it onto my radar, but the writing of Gail Simone has absolutely never drawn me in. Regardless of what she is writing, I just can't get sucked in like so many people I know can. I feel like she's missing something narratively. Every time I pick up something she's written, I feel like the connective tissue was left out, for some reason I can't quite put together.

    So, I can't say as I was surprised by my reaction to these issues. So much of it seemed derivative, tired, and trying too damn hard to be clever. The basic concepts are there, and under the guidance of another writer it's possible they would have played out more effectively, but the whole magic vs. science war fell pretty flat for me. Oddly enough, I did like the artwork by Byrne quite a bit. I think this is probably the best work that he's done in years. The last time I enjoyed his work quite this much was when he was writing and drawing Jack Kirby's New Gods. The only Byrne-related disappointment was the fact that he only drew three issues and the Secret Files story. What's up with that? Was his assignment on this book stunt casting or did he get tired and want to move on? I'd be curious to find out.

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    Next on the list is the relaunch, post-Rebirth, of the Hal Jordan Green Lantern series. This is another book that I passed on when it debuted, mostly because I wasn't too terribly interested in seeing Hal Jordan reintegrated into the DC Continuity. Granted, Geoff Johns is a competent writer, and I've always loved the work of Carlos Pacheco, but it still wasn't enough of a draw until I could read it from a library copy with only an investment of time to lose.

    Since I've mentioned my love for Pacheco's work already I'll start this review off with another "what the hell?" to basically echo the sentiments in my Atom review regarding Byrne's departure after three issues. Same deal here. Pacheco is around to bring back the Manhunters and then bails to let Ethan van Sciver take over as penciller. Now, van Sciver is a competent artist but not what I signed on for when I decided to read this trade. Seeing as how he was the artist on the Rebirth mini that reintroduced Hal, I'm guessing the Pacheco gig was another bit of stunt casting to get the book out of the gate, but I'm still feeling totally ripped off by both of these series and they are not even my regular schtick. There is a Darwyn Cooke illustrated prologue, which was originally published in a Secret Files issue, and it's a joy to look at. Especially seeing him adding a little Gil Kane flare in the earlier parts of his story. A nice little story, too, giving you some background on the Jordan character.

    That's a good segue to talking about Geoff Johns, I guess, seeing as he's probably the strongest thing about these issues. I wasn't totally engaged by the whole story with the Manhunters coming back and then Hector Hammond, The Shark, and some Gremlins drop by to make Hal's life miserable, but I did like the quieter character moments with Hal, the new lady pilot whose name I forget, the other Lanterns and his Air Force subplot. Not enough to actively go out and seek this book on my local comic shop's rack, but I can't say I regret reading them. I think the main problem with these issues is clarity. After issue three, for example, the Manhunters essentially disappear without any reasonable sort of resolution until you find out in issue six that they're being packed away in a hanger by the Air Force with the rest of the characters and artifacts of the story. A little rushed, perhaps, for my tastes, or maybe I just need to be reading the other GL related titles to really clue in to the pacing and vibe of the whole thing. Either way, I probably won't be looking in on this series again for the forseeable future.

    And with that, I take my leave.

    Later!

    mike

    Saturday, September 13, 2008

    "It's like a bad Disney movie."

    I browsed over to Cartoon Brew, one of my favourite stops on the internets for animated news and fun, and saw this video posted there. Clearly, it has little to do with animation short of a quick Disney reference about half way through, but I found it an interesting little sound bite from Matt Damon. It's clear, too, how uncomfortable he is with the thought of Palin becoming POTUS at some point in the future. There's visible agitation, not unlike the agitation I felt while watching 10 minutes of the Republican convention when I was over at my parents the other day.

    Now, I've never thought of Damon as the next Noam Chomsky or anything like that, but he does make a valid point about Palin and, to be honest, anybody with half a brain should be thinking like this regarding the Republican VP candidate because it could very well be a reality and I can't help feeling like they're selling the American people Palin the way you would sell someone a used car. It's so transparent I find it unsettling.

    Anyway, here's the vid:



    Curious what anybody else thinks.

    And, since I'm being uncharacteristically political, here's a fun monologue by Craig Ferguson:



    Later!

    mike

    Thursday, September 11, 2008

    Whatever Happened to the Wave?

    I know this will probably come off whiny, but I was out and about with the wife in the car today and couldn't help but get enraged when she let another car into her lane and the other driver never gave her the obligatory thank you wave. Now, I don't know if it's just not cool anymore to give some form of appreciation when another driver goes out of their way to make your commuting life/day a little bit easier, but I was raised to give visible thanks. It just seems proper, you know? Especially with all the road raging and hellish traffic experiences you always hear about. You all have your own stories, I'm sure.

    My wife always gets amused when she sees how much it bothers me. I try to tell her that I'm not at all surprised that it doesn't phase her because 80% of all drivers that I personally let in who don't wave tend to be women. I'm not sure why, it just seems to be the case. I asked her if she extends the same courtesy when she's let it and she replied, "sometimes".

    Urgh.

    On a positive note, the next two vehicles that we encountered in a similar situation did give a little wave when they merged so it hasn't all gone to hell in a handbasket yet. And for those of you who are grousing because of my woman comment, one of them was a woman, so you're not all bad.

    Anyway, I'm always wanting to post on the blog after some driving experience drives me mad (don't get me started on four-way stops and the greatest evil known to motorists, the uncontrolled intersection) but I always forget to do it by the time I'm home or don't feel equally enraged by the event. As it is, I figured I'd rant it up a bit and save the non-pop culture freaks out there another review of whatever anime I happen to be watching and give them something a bit more relatable.

    Later!

    mike

    Tuesday, September 09, 2008

    Catching Some Shows

    I've been catching up on some TV that I've fallen behind on and, while some of it is surprising me with how good it is, others are falling dreadfully short of what I would deem passable entertainment.

    For example, while doing work at home I've been listening to the audio commentaries for Heroes, something I attempted back when I bought the Season 1 set but never really kept up with and eventually abandoned. If you know anything about me, you know what a features whore I am, particularly for audio commentaries, so it was unusual for me to give up on them. Listening to them now, I do find a few of them to be senseless and lacking in any interesting information (that often happens when it's just a bunch of actors in a room) but there have been a couple of exceptional commentaries, the main stand-out being the one for "Company Man" which features the director, Allan Arkush, writer, Bryan Fuller, and actor, Jack Coleman, otherwise known as HRG. I generally like listening to anything Bryan Fuller has to say, so I'm sure that influenced the experience somewhat, but it was also neat to see what you got when you mixed one of the actors with behind-the-camera crew. In earlier commentaries, Coleman would joke around and talk about how cool everything was on the show, but when sitting next to the writer and director, suddenly he's talking about composition, narrative, lighting, themes, character and acting. It just brought the whole quality level up, like, 110%.

    An interesting side effect of listening to the commentaries is that it's given me a bit of a refresher course on the show. I'm not seeing every episode, but I'm getting a nice cross-section of season 1 and I'm being reminded constantly why I liked the show so much in the first place. It's doing a stellar job of getting me primed for season 3 which premieres at the end of the month, if I'm not mistaken. The 22nd, or something like that.

    I suppose it also helps that I read the Heroes graphic novel in the last week, but that's another post.

    Next up is a show that has never impressed me much, but I just got it in my head at some point that I was going to watch it, in its entirety, no matter how much pain it causes or how long it takes. That show would be Highlander: The Series and I don't think I'm understating things when I say that the first season is a perfect example of everything that was wrong with syndicated television in the early to mid '90s. You could put virtually anything out there on the market as long as you did it cheap enough, there was always someone who wanted to fill up their broadcasting slate. Having the Highlander brand probably helped put this one on the air and keep it there beyond season 1, but it's still no excuse for the quality of some of these episodes.

    There's an awkwardness to just about everything on the show. The lead, Adrian Paul, is decent enough as the new Highlander, Duncan MacLeod, but he's still not very adept with the swordplay (not that their stunt coordinator was doing much in the way of fight choreography), his love interest, Tessa, seems like she'll add some nice international flavour but ends up pretty flat and useless, and the sidekick, Richie, is petulant, annoying and viewers are supposed to buy into the idea that this very clean-cut looking 'kid' is supposed to be a rough and tumble street tough from the old neighbourhood. And don't even get me started on the clothes!

    Two good things about the show are the flashbacks which are often interesting and well put together, and the fact that Thomas J. Wright (who later went on to be the director for the Chris Carter series Millennium) directs just about every second episode. His style is still pretty rough but these were apparently shot fast and cheap so I'm willing to give him a small amount of leeway here since I know how smoking awesome his stuff eventually got a few years later.

    I'm hoping that things improve when I hit season 2, but for now, I'm stuck in a morass of bad acting, cheesy guest-stars (I never knew Joe Pantoliano could give a bad performance, to be honest), and a show that's hanging on by the hairs of the franchise's chinny-chin-chin.

    A big surprise for me was getting the original Twilight Zone DVDs from the library. I knew I'd enjoy them, I knew I was picking up something that was timeless and fun, but I didn't anticipate just how much I am loving these shows. My memories of the shows consisted only of the stories and how they made me feel and not how well shot and written they were. Looking at these episodes on DVD, they look fantastic. The lighting is amazing, the acting, surprisingly good. The direction classic but brave enough to shed traditional angles and techniques when necessary. And although the writing is not always perfect, there's an energy there you can feel. A young Rod Serling (who wrote, like, every episode) pouring his heart out on the page week after week and giving us stories that still resonate to this day with the occasional genuinely creepy moment thrown in for good measure.

    I'm even showing them to my oldest daughter now. I figured she'd like the format of the show and with different stories and actors, she wouldn't have to commit to watching every one, just the ones that catch her eye. So far, she's seen two or three and enjoyed them. She said she'd be willing to explore them further which may just be her trying to make Dad happy, but if there's a chance they're actually connecting with her, I'm willing to delude myself.

    Finally, I've re-immersed myself into the world of Steed and Mrs. Peel. Last year, for my birthday, my mother gave me the Complete Emma Peel Avengers set. A 17 disc treasure trove of Avengers episodes featuring my ultimate feminine ideal, Mrs. Emma Peel, played by the inimitable Diana Rigg. I've always loved the show, but I'm always reminded how great these were every time I go back to the show after a long absence. They're so witty, offbeat and damn sexy. I can see how scores of pubescent young boys' lives were forever changed by watching this show.

    I've taken a particular shine to the episodes of Brian Clemens, and associate producer on the show. titles are escaping me at the moment, but there's one that takes place in a department store that I defy anyone not to enjoy on some level, and some of the last black-and-white episodes are really starting to show that quirky spy-fi look and feel that they explored further in the colour shows. You know, when I'm done posting this I wouldn't be surprised if I go back to the DVD player for one more episode before bed.

    Other shows that I've been dabbling in but will save comment for now include Supernatural, Blood+, Burn Notice, Fullmetal Alchemist and I have the discs for Kolchak: The Night Stalker sitting on deck. Hopefully there'll be another post there when I get further into those shows.

    Until then...

    mike

    Sunday, September 07, 2008

    Back Into Planetes

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    A little while ago I discovered through a review over at Johnny Bacardi's blog the manga series, Planetes, by Makoto Yukimura. I was never much of a manga or anime fan, but I remember JB being fairly positive in his reaction to the book and being the trusting fellow that I am, I decided to seek out the series whenever the opportunity presented itself. That opportunity came a short while later when I ran into the second volume at my local library and devoured it in a sitting or two. I susequently tracked down the first and posted about the experience on the blog in March of '05.

    Well, three-and-a-half years later, I started reading it again. I found the first issue at McNally Robinson for, like, $5 and picked it up. I'm also wanting to finally check out the anime which I have sitting around, so if I can finally finish the series (I never read the third or fourth installments, for some reason) I can get the double whammy experience. I might have to grab the remaining installments from the library again, though, since the comic budget has taken a bit of a dip in the last month.

    I'll probably post a review of the whole series when I've completed it.

    Anyway, just wanted to 'vocalize' that tidbit.

    Later!
    mike

    Thursday, September 04, 2008

    Haven't Posted About Sloan in a While

    About a month and a half ago, one of my favourite bands, Sloan, released a new album called Parallel Play. Normally, this would be great news in the Jozic household but I found this new effort a little lackluster in early listenings, a little less cohesive than some of their earlier releases and not quite eclectic enough to attain the status of their last album, Never Hear the End of It. Not a complete throwaway of a CD, just not what I was looking for, hence no CD review or comment about it one way or another (in all fairness, I did link to it at Amazon in the sidebar).

    Sometimes you don't really know what your looking for, though, and having since sat down and given the thing a proper listening to, a whole new appreciation has emerged. Songs that seemed trite now have an added depth or whimsy. Tired radio friendly licks show previously unheard layers that now seem to pop. This is by no means their best album to date, but it is far more entertaining than I first gave it credit for. Add to that the fact that I just got word that the band will be hitting town on the 22nd for a show at the University pub and you have one excited Space Monkey. Possibly a birthday treat? We'll see.

    Considering the band doesn't get much attention in Canada, never mind the states, I was surprised and interested in this article on the new album courtesy of NPR. Some of what he says is misguided (Sloan has not really been a top 20 band in Canada for 10 years or more) but I can't fault him for thinking Americans are missing out on a truly great band. Give it a listen if you're musically curious.

    mike

    Thursday, August 28, 2008

    Getting Leverage

    I had heard of this project from John Rogers' blog and wondered if it would be worth checking out. I enjoyed his work on The Core, Eureka, the unaired Global Frequency pilot, and several comic book projects so I hoped there would be something cool to draw me in. Well, this preview has pretty much done that.

    At the very least, I'll try the pilot out and see how it plays. Timothy Hutton's not a bad catch, and Christian Kane appeals to the ol' Angel fan in me, so fingers crossed on this one.

    mike