Thursday, January 27, 2005

Wednesday, January 26, 2005


Check out the Trailer! Trailorificness

I finally bought a copy of Returner. I brought it home, and rammed into the DVD player with quivering fingers. This Takashi Yamazaki film blends Terminator, ET, and matrix while coming up with its own reality.

For my money there just isn't enough Sci Fi around, and this film brings home some of what I love the best about the genre. You've got Takeshi Kaneshiro making like Keenu Reeves in all that sweet-black-trenchcoat-wearing-kung-fu-kicking goodness. I really like that Yamazaki didn't make Kaneshiro's Miyamoto the typical emotionless killing hero. Miyamoto weeps and bickers and whines (and boy isn't that refreshing! Then there's Goro Kishitani doing his impression of psycho with a gun.

But none of this prepares you for the delightful performances of Anne Suzuki playing the time traveling Milly or Kirin Kiki playing Xie, the aged intelligence and explosives expert, with grandmotherly charm.

Oh my God and the CGI kicks ass.

Everyone in the entire world should go out and buy this film right now to encourage more films just like it!

Monday, January 24, 2005

Astonishing X-Men #6
writer: Joss Whedon
artist: John Cassaday
published by Marvel Comics

You know...I've been reading X-Men comics for over 20 years (closer to 25!!! -- jeez, I'm old). And every once in a while, I despair for the characters I love so much.
Once in a while, I almost give up on the X-Men.
Almost invariably...they pull something like this. And I remember why I love these characters and why I've had such a long-standing relationship with them. Astonishing X-Men is the comic I've been wanting to read all these years...and on a few occasions, have gotten out of the X-books.
Comics fans love the X-Men for one primary reason. They're outsiders, just like the readers themselves. In spite of all the comic movies out there, comic fans are still looked on like they're some kinda dirt. Buy a comic book, sit in a public place and open it up. Watch the eyes that drift your way. Revulsion? Disgust? Contempt? You ain't seen nothin' yet, baby.
Where Grant Morrison's New X-Men was a celebration of the affirmation that freaks will inherit the earth...Joss Whedon's Astonishing is a reminder that the normal people won't let us.
Bleak as that may sound, keep in mind that this is the X-Men. Their goal isn't conquest. It's coexistance. It's understanding. At it's root, the story of the X-Men is a parable about racism and equality.
Whedon understands that. And he's a skilled enough writer that he can take the old notions about it, turn them on their ear and still entertain. The X-Men have readopted costumes, thanks to Whedon. They've integrated more fully into the superhero community. And they're still takin' care of business when mutantkind is threatened.
That's the case here. A clinic is offering to cure mutants, and using alien technology from a dude called Ord and DNA from Jean Grey to do it. When the X-Men raid the lab, they find Colossus...ALIVE (jooooooy) and begin to tear the place up (previous issues). Then, SHIELD shows up. And SWORD (kind of like an offworld SHIELD). Turns out they're not gonna let the X-Men deal with Ord.
Ord's race has a problem with mutants from earth. They can see into the future...and they know a mutant is going to destroy their race...probably an X-Man, even [not that they didn't just give said mutant a reason!!!]. SWORD let him come to earth and do his thing to prevent an all out war. Complicates things, doesn't it?
You wanna talk greatness? Don't even get me started about the dialogue. Joss Whedon proved on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel and Firefly that he has a master's understanding of how dialogue is paced and used to effect. Couple that with one of the most insanely brilliant artists working the medium in John Cassaday and you've got pure magic in your hands. The spash pages depicting the return of the Fastball Special? I damn near wet myself. Even if I wasn't reading comics any more...Astonishing X-Men would get me to the store once a month.
I can't give up on the X-Men. They're like two-dimensional family to me.
Thanks, Joss.

Supreme Power #13
writer: J Michael Stracynski
artist: Gary Frank
published by Marvel Max Comics

Dr Spectrum #3-4
writer: Sara "Samm" Barnes
artist: Travel Foreman
published by Marvel Max Comics

So, the original Squadron Supreme series dealt with a reimagining of DC's heroes by a Marvel writer, and what would happen if they took over their world.
Then, the suits at Marvel let J Michael Stracynski, the uber-writer behind Babylon 5 and their own Spider-Man relaunch play with the toys. What's come of it? A smart, gritty, tough book that pulls very few punches and takes no prisoners whatsoever. And now, a companion book that answers the question of what would have happened had the military found out that Hal Jordan, test pilot, was the Green Lantern.
Dr Spectrum is a prequel book, so I'll cover that first. The titular character is in a coma. Colonel Joe Ledger was special forces...and a tough one at that. He was good at his job, which was eliminating obstacles to US interests abroad. Ledger was a killer, and deep down he wasn't happy with it. So, while his body's in a coma, his mind is dealing with what he's done in the service of his country. Meanwhile, since he now has an alien crystal bonded to his hand, the military is wondering what to do with him. They eventually decide to remove the crystal (along with his hand) and things...don't go so well.

Back in Supreme Power, Nighthawk and Hyperion are tracking a serial killer who might just be superpowered. Turns out the government was experimenting on prisoners. Bad idea. When Nighthawk tracks the guy down, he finds out just how bad an idea it was when the killer hands him his ass on a TV tray. But, Nighthawk's a smart guy...and backup's heading his way at supersonic speeds...

Both of these books feature top notch writing. I've never heard of Samm Barnes before...though I suspect she used to be a TV writer, like Stracynski...but she manages to preserve the tone of Stracynski's book while adding her own unique touches (Joe's inner dialogue is really the heart of the book, at least for now). Stracynski, of course, is brilliant. Marvel needs to continue kissing his ass, because he's still knocking 'em out of the park month after month. I have YET to read his Strange...but it's in the pile!
Gary Frank's art is another wonderful thing about Supreme Power. Somewhat similar to Steve Dillon, but more dynamic in its capture of motion (a good thing on a sooperhero title) and more generous in its use of shadow. Lovely stuff.

Ocean #2-3 (of 6)
writer: Warren Ellis
artist: Chris Sprouse
published by DC/Wildstorm Signature Series

So, there's a bunch of coffins under Europa's ocean...and they're a prehuman race, a billion years old.
Nathan Kane and the crew of the Europa UN mission have to uncover who they are and what they're doing there...and quick. There's also a weapon of some kind in the water with the capsules, which is why they sent a weapons inspector out first.
The Doors corporation, a future analogue of Microsoft, is already studying the coffins and the weapon system and they're about ready to have the weapons online. Kane takes a jaunt over to their station and finds that corporate life has gotten rougher in the future. The Doors workers are subjected to a corporate personality implant that directs how they act, respond and even move. Of course, as with all programming...mistakes can happen.
It's an interesting hard sci-fi story from one of the more interesting writers working today. I'm positive it'll be collected, so by all means, check it out.

Wolverine #21-23
writer: Mark Millar
artist: John Romita Jr
published by Marvel Knights

Millar's "Enemy of the State" storyline is going to have some wide-ranging afteraffects on the Marvel Universe. Well, it should...but the current policy of eschewing continuity for short, free-standing story arcs might negate that.
Wolverine's been kidnapped and killed by an alliance of the Hand, Hydra and a Japanese mutant group called the Dawn of the White Light. He's being sent to terrorize the US, and also to kill select superheroes so that they might be similarly brought back as terrorists by the Hand.
Wolverine is dealing out the death in major amounts, bombing power plants, causing chaos and tearing through SHIELD soldiers like they were paper cutouts. And all the while, he's a prisoner in his own mind, struggling against the conditioning that's making him into a weapon again.
Millar's a smart writer. I enjoy his stuff immensely. And this is one of his better efforts. The brilliance of the plan, to use superheroes as a weapon against their own kind, is the kind of mean-spirited thing that a superscience superspy supervillain like Baron Strucker would do.
The focus on SHIELD and Elektra is refreshing, too. Dammit, Millar could write a kick ass Nick Fury book...or a great Elektra book, if he didn't get bored and pissy. Hell, I'd pay good money to read a Fantastic Four book by Millar. In this story arc, the FF gets a visit from Wolvie...and they hand him his ass. They're not just four of the most powerful heroes in the Marvel Universe, they're the smartest. And they show it. Damn, do they show it.
As it is, I'm thankful for this absolutely kick ass storyline, and can't wait to see how it turns out. Hell, I can't wait to see what happens in part 5! Part 4 ends on a terrific cliffhanger that has to be giving Brian Michael Bendis an ulcer.
John Romita Jr has always been a favorite of mine, but his style shift over the last few years has made him simply amazing. The dense, panel-packing nature of his art as well as his slightly sparse design creates a unique look that few in the industry can top his stunning visuals and gorgeous splash pages. He doesn't so much draw a book as unleashes it on your eyes. And with a top notch artist like Klaus Janson inking his pencils, Romita's work becomes the comic equivalent of high art.

Y: The Last Man #28-29
writer: Brian K Vaughn
artist: Pia Guerra
published by Vertigo Comics

I still have no idea where this series is heading. As with my other monthly Vertigo must-have, Fables, every issue is a delightful surprise. I appreciate that.
To say that this is continuously one of the strongest ongoings out there would be an understatement. Brian K Vaughn hit the comics industry like a ton of bricks, and they've been smart enough to let him do his thing -- tell the stories he wants to tell. He's just so damn talented, and he makes it look easy.
When last we saw poor Yorrick, the last male left on the planet, he was keeling over -- perhaps finally stricken with the disease that wiped out half the earth's population (the male half) -- and mumbling about losing the ring he intended to give his girlfriend when he asked her to marry him. So, 355 heads out to find it, just in case it might have something to do with his mystery immunity to the plague.
Meanwhile, Yorrick's sister Hero wanders the streets looking for him, lost in her own mentally unstable head.
A showdown's a coming...and even that doesn't turn out quite like I'd have expected it to. Nor does Yorrick's illness. Issue 30 is going to finally have the major revelation of how Yorrick survived the plague. And maybe some ninjas.
Ninjas are cool.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Direct Link to the What Is It? trailer

You've seen it featured on Ain't It Cool download at yer leisure...
What Is It?

Saturday, January 22, 2005

I went to the House of Flying Daggers and all I wrote for you is this lousy review!

OK. House of Flying Daggers has been out for a week. I know this. However, in that week's time, I've seen the movie three times in the theater (twice at the Temple of Moviedom, the Arena Grand and once at the Dirt Theater, aka the AMC). And I watched it once on DVD. Because I'm special.
There's really a lot going on and I wanted to make sure I was clear on my feelings about this movie. I've attempted to write this review four times now, and I'm going to struggle though it as best as I can.

The story takes place in 700 AD. The Tang Dynasty is in decline, riddled with corruption and bureaucracy. A rebel group, the House of Flying Daggers, has been fighting against the oppression of the current regime. However, their leader has been recently assassinated by the local militia.
Jin (Takeshi Kaneshiro from Wong Kar-Wai's movies), a young captain of the guard, is assigned by his superior Leo (Andy Lau) to infiltrate the New Peony Pavillion, a brothel where it's suspected that members of the rebel group may be hiding out.
The prime suspect: a new dancer by the name of Mei (Zhang Ziyi), a beautiful blind girl with surprising grace and martial prowess. The old leader of the Flying Daggers had a blind daughter, and she disappeared shortly after his death. Jin hires her for a dance, then attempts to take advantage of her to get them both arrested.

The madame makes a plea to Leo to spare Mei from jail because of her rare talents as a dancer, and Leo consents to play the Echo Game with her. They place drums around a chamber and Leo flicks almonds at them. Mei must correctly match each tone by striking the drums with the sleeves of her robes. It's a gorgeous sequence, from the design of the magnificent chamber to the dance Mei performs. It seems to be what the people I drag with me to see the movie take out with them.
Mei concludes her dance by attempting to kill the police captain, and Leo subdues her and throws her in irons. Then, he has Jin break her out so she'll head back to the Flying Daggers and the army can attack them.

The plot is, of course, far more intricate than that, involving betrayal, lost love, subterfuge and a few phenomenal action sequences. But, to tell you more might let you in on the twists and turns to come. You learn to like the characters, then you learn something more about them and are back to square one with them. Each revelation propels the story forward, and makes the double crosses and betrayals that much more important. There's no clear hero. No true victory. And in the end...nothing but regrets for those involved.
Where Zhang Yimou's previous martial masterpiece Hero was all about the imagery of the old Chinese folk legends, House of Flying Daggers is all about the melodrama. It's still visually gorgeous. I'd say a few sequences even surpass Hero in bold use of color to tell the story.

The acting is top-notch as well. If you've seen Takeshi Kaneshiro in Chungking Express or Fallen Angels, you know he's great at evoking the weary angst necessary for his character. He's charming, duplicitous and in the end, perhaps even true. There's conflict and perhaps even a little bit of hope in his heart...which leads the character down the obvious road to ruination.

Zhang Ziyi is, of course, gorgeous in an ethereal and almost alien sort of way. She radiates a confidence and strength in her performance that one wouldn't expect from someone so tiny and frail looking -- and she's always wholly believeable whupping a man's ass. Go figure.

Andy Lau has long been a fan favorite in Hong Kong, both for his Cantopop (ugh) albums and his wide-ranging film roles. Hopefully this film (and the Miramax DVD of Infernal Affairs) lets the world know he's a guy to watch.
If you haven't seen this movie in the theater. Go. Even if you own the import DVD. Really. It's that spectacular, and it BEGS to be seen on the biggest screen possible with the best available sound. It's a cinematic experience to be savored. You owe it to yourself.

(Besides, you get to see the trailer for Kung Fu Hustle, Stephen Chow's new film!)

Friday, January 21, 2005

Commentary Review -- Dodgeball

On this commentary you get Ben Stiller and Vince Vaughn chatting like gal pals of a cup of mocha lattee, and director Rawson Marshall Thurber tagging along like the unwanted little sister in pigtails toting a teddy bear and sucking her thumb. They end up discussing the fairly mundane issues about the film, mostly logistical details such as Ben calling up folks for cameos, but do get into Thurber's writing process a bit. You're certainly not going to understand how Vaughn works or how Stiller works after this commentary. You're not going understand how such an unlikely film got made really. You will learn that they all had to read guideline's from Fox before making the commentary, and that they all managed to muster up somewhere between seven and eight ounces of enthusiasm for this movie.

In short this commentary is a long slow walk to no-where land population--boredom.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Black Widow #4
writer: Richard K Morgan
artist: Goran Parlov (with Bill Sienkiewicz)
published by Marvel Knights

I started buying this mini for one reason: Bill Sienkiewicz. He's my favorite comic book artist. He makes comics pages look like high art. And dammit, if they didn't immediately put Goran Pavlov on just so he'd end up pencilling the rest of it. They call it "layouts" but you know what that means. He'd doing the fucking art.
I hope it's not because Sienkiewicz is getting slow in his old age. Because that would suck. His art is so damn primal, it just rips into my brain and stomps my gray matter to ruin.
Sad that I am about the art not being pure Sienkiewicz greatness, this isn't a bad book at all. Natasha Romanova, the Black Widow is finding out things bout her past as a Russian agent that she never knew before...for instance, she wasn't recruited out of the Bolshoi Ballet...and there were 27 OTHER Black Widows out there at one time. As far as espianoge tales go, this is a damn fine one.
So, disappointment about the art aside (and I'm not really that disappointed...because every once in a while, a really black, inky Sienkiewicz panel pops up in there), I'm in this LS until the conclusion.

JLA: Classified #2
writer: Grant Morrison
artist: Ed McGuinness
published by DC Comics

OK. I know I'm behind on my comics buying/reading/reviewing.
But, I've committed a sin...
I missed the first issue of a Grant Morrison book.
I know. I'm surprised about it too. And disappointed in myself. Why? Because it was Morrison's late 90s run on JLA that got me back into comics. Because he's hands down, the smartest comic writer on the planet. Yes. He's smarter than Alan Moore. Deal. (Notice I didn't say he was BETTER than Alan Moore -- and shut up, will ya?).
So, the JLA have been drawn into an infant universe without superheroes on the trail of a supervillain by the name of Black Death (I've never heard of him before, but I'm no expert on DC continuity). And Grodd, with the aid of a being called Nebulo has attacked the Ultramarine Corps, subduing them with tiny creatures called Spine Riders, and turning them into superpowered weapons, essentially.
Batman, left behind by the League, plans an offensive against the gorilla and his new pawns, but things go wrong real quick. And as the JLA return, they look to be in for a bit of a dust-up.
As with his previous turn on JLA, this is superhero storytelling at its finest. Tight, fat-free and so fast paced you might think you missed about 16 pages by the end of it. Morrison juggles high-concept with purely visceral adventure so easily, you'd think this could never be the man who wrote The Filth or The Invisibles, two of the most mind-blowingly dense reads I've ever come across.
As far as the art, let me say. I was wrong. I've been one to trash Ed McGuinness' art, and I was wrong. I've been loving his stuff in Batman/Superman (picked up the HC and loved it long time), and I'm willing to admit it. I didn't give the guy a fair shake. He makes superheroing look...well, super.
Now I gotta track down the first issue...

Friday, January 14, 2005

Ultimate Fantastic Four #13-14
writer: Warren Ellis
artist: Adam Kubert
published by Marvel Comics

Warren Ellis continues hie retelling of the Fantastic Four's early adventures with the beginnings of a foray into the Negative Zone, called the N-Zone in the Ultimate universe (how catchy...yawn).
So far, Ellis' run has suffered from the typical complaint with Ultimate books...fiddling with the past. Not just organic armor for Dr Doom (coming soon to a theater near you...ugh). Just general revisionism and crapttude.
Making the FF a military funded thinktank might seem realistic, but it flies in the face of their Marvel Universe identities as scientific adventurers, beholden to no one. Instead, everything about them has to have a military application.
Don't get me started on the dialogue, either. Ellis probably writes Ultimate Fantastic Four when he first gets up in the morning, and hasn't yet had his first cuppa.
He can do better. And usually does.

We3 #2
writer: Grant Morrison
artist: Frank Quitely
published by Vertigo Comics

Grant Morrison is a super genius. Not really news, but it's fun to say over and over again. Grant Morrison is a super genius.
Try it, you'll like it.
Only Grant Morrison could make a series like We3 work as well as it does. The premise of melding The Incredible Journey with a cyborgs and guns shoot-em-up is something that any crackhead could think up...but none could tell with the panache and style of Morrison and his frequent partner in crime, Frank Quitely. 1, 2, and 3 just want to find home...but they're not really housepets any more. How many cats have you seen with rapid-fire razor claws? Or dogs with surface to air missiles?
The human military still wants to get rid of them, but all the troops they send end up dead. So, they decide to send a final animal...the 4th after them...
I'm struck at how Morrison imbued each of the 3 animals with characteristics from their species. 1, the dog, for example is struck by guilt and keeps trying to help people. He wants to be, in his words, "GUD DOG". 2, the cat, is a moody piece of work. And 3, the rabbit, is concerned about two things -- food and getting his tail fixed.
Sad that the series is only 3 issues, but Morrison doesn't want to overstay his welcome. Besides, he's surely got something marvelous in store for us after.

Flash #215
writer: Geoff Johns
artist: Howard Porter
published by DC Comics

In the Identity Crisis limited series, we found out that Barry Allen, Wally West's predecessor as the Flash, participated in the magical mind-wiping of several supervillains. As further fallout, Wally found a letter from Barry explaining that he tried something even bolder with one of his Rogues, the Top...
He tried to turn him into a hero.
The road to hell is paved with good intentions, though, and the guilt from his past crimes drove the newly good Top insane.
And now...Wally has to set things right.
Meanwhile, the events of Identity Crisis overlap seamlessly with the story, as Boomerang goes on his last mission and the other heroes seek out Sue Dibney's murderer. Johns gives us snippets to tie into the story, but not distract from what's going on in Wally's troubled mind. He's lost his greatest hero. And how that's going to change the Flash is anyone's guess at this point.

Bullseye: Greatest Hits #3-4 (or 5)
writer: Daniel Way
artist: Greg Dillon
published by Marvel Knights

Previously in this limited series, we've found that Bullseye was both an ex-operative of both the CIA and the NSA and every bit the rotten, psychotic SOB we know and love from the Daredevil comics.
Now, we find out he was also a heck of an entrepeneur, too. Using his CIA mandate in Nicaragua, Bullseye cut off the flow of cocaine through the country in the 80s to make a buck. He also incurred the wrath of the Punisher. Bad idea? Well, you're not Bullseye. Bullseye continues playing games with agents Baldry and Hoskins, leading to a showdown in the fifth and final issue that I'm gonna guess is gonna be bloody.
Daniel Way's a talent, and I don't know where Marvel dug him up, but they need to give him the room he needs and a few good characters to play with. Between his great characterization of Bullseye and Steve Dillon's art, I can't say enough good thnigs about this series.
I'm sure the trade will be out two weeks after the final issue, so you don't have to worry too much.

Fables #31-33
writer: Bill Willingham
artist: Mark Buckingham
published by Vertigo Comics

Fabletown is in flux, after Prince Charming is elected mayor. The new administration takes over their offices, the old sloughs off to old haunts or parts unknown. With Beauty taking her office of deputy mayor, Snow White takes her new children up to The Farm to raise them until they can exist in the Mundy community and Bigby...well, he just disappears, after showing Beast some secrets he'll need to perform adequately as the new sheriff of Fabletown.
Couple that with a series of murders in Fabletown and The Farm that vex our favorite Fables, some skullduggery about possibly invading the Homelands in retaliation for the attack of the wooden soldiers...and things are heating up again in Fabletown. If you haven't picked up Fables yet and you have any inkling to read one of the smartest, most original books on the market, collect the trades. I love that I have no idea where the story is taking me, and I'm certain that if and when Willingham does decide to end the book, it'll be satisfying to say the least.
Have I the damn trades!!!

Solo #2 (Richard Corben)
writer: Richard Corben (with John Arcudi)
artist: Richard Corben
published by DC Comics

You know? A buddy of mine the other day was musing about back in the day, and he mentioned how much he missed Richard Corben. The cool thing is, Corben's been back for a couple of years now, and just whupping ass in the mainstream comics biz (Hellblazer: Hard Time and Startling Stories: BANNER! for two noteable examples).
As if on cue, DC gave him a spotlight book to showcase his particular brand of genius. You get five stories for the price of one, all written AND drawn by Corben (aside from the final story in the book, which was written by John Arcudi). They're all pretty damn good, even the pseudo-retelling of "The Masque of the Red Death" ("Plague"). The man's got the complete package. He writes, he draws, and he's unlike anyone else in the damn biz. He might be a seasoned citizen at the age of 64, but damned if Richard Corben still isn't a force to be reckoned with in the comics world.

The Ultimates 2 #1-2)
writer: Mark Millar
artist: Bryan Hitch
published by Marvel Comics

For the record, I still think Mark Millar did his definitive take on the Avengers in the pages of The Authority way back when. Sure, it was mean and cruel and just plain rotten, but it was a great fucking read and I enjoyed the hell out of it...enough to buy the bigass slipcase hardcover apparently.
Still, I'm enjoying The Ultimates. There's enough golly-gee-wiz moments in it to forgive the occasional Freddie Prinz Jr. reference. Hell, I appreciate that they already dream-casted the group, though I can't recognize all the actors quite yet (though Brad Pitt as Thor and Samuel L Jackson as Nick Fury are both inspired choices).
Oddly, after the erratic nature of the first storyline, I think Millar's got his ducks in a row this time. Things move...and you have an idea of what's going on for a change. I enjoyed the first "season" of The Ultimates quite a bit, but it's looking like I'm gonna enjoy season 2 even more.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Astonishing X-Men #7

writer: Joss Whedon
artist: John Cassaday
published by Marvel Comics

As we pass the halfway point in Joss Whedon's so-far amazing run on this book (unless Marvel can mind control him into staying for another...30 years), I'm struck by two things.
1) This is a completely awesome book
2) I'm an idiot and I missed an issue and no one has it, dammit!
So much to love about this book so far. The art, being Cassady, is nothing short of spectacular. The dialogue damn near makes me wanna cry because there's no Buffyverse any more. Damn it all, this guy can WRITE. Every time Emma Frost and Kitty Pryde speak to each other, I squeal with glee. But, I'm a geek. I guess it's expected of me.
Oh, there's a great little guest appearance by the Fantastic Four, too...which makes me sad that the movie still sounds like a pile of crap.
Can we clone Joss Whedon and make him write all of Marvel's books?

JSA #68-69

writer: Geoff Johns
artist: Don Kramer
published DC Comics

If you have read any of my comic reviews, you'd know that Geoff Johns writes bettter superheroes than just about anyone on the planet. JSA is my go-to book. The one I know will be awesome month after month.
This storyline, titled "JSA/JSA" promises to be nothing less. The time travelling fascist Degaton is out to erase the JSA by striking at a critical point in their history, the HUAC hearings in the 50s...when elements of the government tried to put them out of business for concealing their identities and not working directly for the government. See, without the JSA to inspire a new generation of heroes, no nobody. Everyone would be too afraid to act, or they'd end up under the control of the government.
A time guardian named Rip Hunter grabs the few current JSAers he can from the present and takes them back to convince the original JSA to reform. But, things aren't so hunky dory. For one, they need the help of Atom Smasher, who's gone off with Black Adam to mete out a rougher form of justice...and who's now having serious doubts about his role as a hero. For another Ted Knight, the original Starman, is in a mental institution...and when Stargirl goes to confront him, she gets captured and institutionalized herself...Bad juju on the horizon for the JSA.

Identity Crisis #6-7 (of 7)

writer: Brad Meltzer
artist: Rags Morales
published by DC Comics

So, now Jack Drake (father of Tim Drake, the current Robin) and Captain Boomerang are dead. Understandably, Batman's not happy about it. As the series winds down, the parallel investigations all come crashing in together, and the horrible truth is...heroes, and the people around them, are all too fragile and human.
The darkness this series has introduced into the DC Universe can be erased. They've remade the DCU enough times to know that no change is completely permanent.
But, why bother? The series has diminished some of the heroes, yes. But, since when is it bad to be human? To make mistakes? Even when those mistakes have far-reaching consequences, it's our mistakes that drive us more than our successes, isn't it?
Damn fine series. I hope Meltzer's got another funny book in him...

Ocean #1 (of 6)

writer: Warren Ellis
artist: Chris Sprouse
published by Wildstorm Signature Series/DC Comics

Warren Ellis is a hard man to pigeon hole. But, that's a good thing. A writer can't pen themselves into one genre without limiting the stories they'd be able to tell.
Ocean is another of his forays into hard sci-fi, with perhaps a twinge of mystery. Perhaps, just because you don't find out jack in the first issue. You meet the main charater, Inspector Nathan Kane, he travels around a bit, and kicks the shit out of some hitmen. Then he goes to Europa, the ocean covered moon of Jupiter. In the beginning of the book we're promised coffins with people in them under the water...but we don't see any more of them by issue's end. I'm hoping there's less padding coming...

Elektra Evisceration...I Mean, Review...

I saw Elektra last night at a sneak (thanks yet again, may come and raid my Star Wars toys or take it out in trade that's something less than man-rape, OK?)...
I have some bad news. The word on the street is correct. Elektra is dull, dull, dull.
It's not the fault of Jennifer Garner. Honestly, she has a few off moments, but she puts in a good performance, considering the material. She's physical, she's full of rage and regret...she's evolving into something else, for better or worse (Well, we know she's the heroine, so it'll be better...blah blah blah).
I don't even know that I can fault Rob Bowman, other than he should have perhaps dropped this project like Britney Spears drops husbands. Actually, sure, I'll blame Bowman a little.

So, we jump into the movie with a poorly drawn explanation that there's this never-ending battle between good and evil, evil being the Hand and good being the Kimagure. No Orange Road, just a blind guy and ninjas in white who desperately wish they were hanging around in Shogun's Ninja (at least then we'd get Sonny "Ezekiel 25:17" Chiba busting heads. We only get to see Terrance Stamp's Stick fight once, and it's not even whupping Hand ass.).
Other than ninjas, a total lack of humor and slightly better special effects...this is The Golden Child, all fucking over again. Instead of Eddie Murphy in a jaunty leather beanie, we get Jennifer Garner in red lingerie...which I'm happy for. But none of the villains have the charisma of Charles Dance, or even Randall "Tex" Cobb. And dammit, Garner spends far too much time in civvies and far too little time in Victoria's Secret.
I'm gonna steal a bit from Bill Maher here, but I have a New Rule...NO MORE KIDS IN ACTION MOVIES, DAMMIT. Kids don't advance an action plot, they detract from it. They're helpless, even if they're supposedly powerful. They get in the way of righteous ass-kicking and property damage, and I think we need to be done with them.
The character of Abby, aka The Gift/The Prize/The Golden Child/Whatever They're Calling the Special Kid This Week, is truly unnecessary. She may as well be a magic jade image of Buddha or maybe even a Happy Meal toy. She shows the acting ability of a frozen fish stick the martial arts ability that only clever editing can produce. Her character is supposedly a super powerful warrior and has the amazing weapon of SOME BEADS SHE BOUGHT ON eBAY. No shit. Watch out for her mighty beads. I should have paid attention to the credits so I could hunt down the writers and smack the shit out of them. This movie is damn near offensively stupid, and yet is no fun at all. It actually made me pine for Steven Seagal (not TOO much...I'm not a masochist).
Instead of getting a movie about Elektra whupping ass or killing demon ninjas or even making julienne fries in her red lingerie, we get Elektra the Ninja Mommy. America apparently can't deal with a female action hero, unless she's acting on some sort of maternal instinct. I know it worked great for Ripley in Aliens, but give it a fucking rest, Hollywood. Elektra isn't a soccer mom, she's a bad mutha. She actually SAYS she's become a soccer mom. THIS is our heroine? This is the asskickin', tough, capable ninja assassin? Don't think so.
Did Michael Dudikoff need a kid around in American Ninja? Shit no. And you know what? Turd-fest that it is, American Ninja was a damn sight more entertaining than Elektra.
I have deep fear that they're going to include a kid in every comic book move made from now on. Captain America will have to have that jerkoff Bucky around. Spider-Man will have a youthful ward, and Aunt May will move into Stately Parker Manor just so he doesn't look totally gay. Rick Jones will appear in a Hulk movie as a seven year-old. Fuuuuuuuuuuck!
What's worse is, there could have been gold here. They had a decent cast assembled. They had a director I trusted to make a quality film (I've liked Rob Bowman's previous feature and TV work, and he's a hella nice guy). The wasted potential is just unbelieveable.

Let's go over wasted cast members:
Cary Hiroyuki-Tagawa: in a Joss Whedon show, his character would be the Big Bad...and he does nothing but sit around and play with his beads (yes, beads again, though his aren't magic fighting beads...or ARE THEY???). He doesn't even off his henchmen when they fail...they just scurry through a door looking sheepish. YAWN. I usually love this guy, even in shitty movies. A crying shame.
Bob Sapp: if you look up the words GIGUNDUS MOTHERFUCKER in the dictionary, there is a picture of Bob Sapp there. He shows the most promise out of the Hand's operatives and goes out like a bitch. Likewise shameful.
Tattoo Guy (imdb says his name is Chris Ackerman): an actor whose entire performance is standing around while special effects ooze out of him. Great concept, absofuckinlutely dumb execution. Rocket-powered wolves? Snake missiles? C'mon, can do better.
Terrance Stamp: Should have put the smack down on the Hand like General Zod on Planet Houston. Dammit. Dammit. Dammit. His casting gave me such hope. As it is, he adds about an ounce and a half of much needed class, but isn't allowed to do anything else.
Goran Visnjic: he's there just so that Abby isn't a total orphan, and also for a cheap name gag (Mark Miller/Mark Millar...ugh)
Natassia Malthe: Norwegian hottie she may be, but her Typhoid bears no resemblance to her comic counterpart as a character and has the least sexy girl on girl kiss I've ever seen.
Colin Cunningham: Elektra's agent McCabe is the character I most enjoyed in the movie, even if he's the stock smartass agent. Since I liked having him around, he had to die...and die poorly. Can't the asshole ever survive when he's not played by Sean William Scott or Ryan Reynolds???

There was potential for violence, too. But, unlike the stylish but emotionally empty The Replacement Killers, the assassin turned savior doesn't get to whup ass on a near biblical scale. Elektra, despite the discussions with her agent of extreme body count at the beginning of the movie, kills all of maybe 6 Hand members in the course of the story. That sucks...the Hand dissolve when killed...bloodlessly. The opportunity to throw in a truly horrendous body count in a PG13 movie is pissed away with a level of violence that I've seen done better in between commercial breaks on Alias.
Someone smack the shit out of Raven Metzner before he writes again. Couldn't they get a GOOD hack writer on this job?
Utterly average in quality, totally insipid in story, Elektra will be excellent for lulling yourself to sleep if you have insomnia. Wait for cable...and then only if you can't find something good on basic.

Monday, January 10, 2005

First Look at TOM YUM GONG!!!

From the good folks at, comes a quickie look at the sequel to Ong Bak...

Click and get your ass kicked by Tom Yum Gong

Sure, you only see about 3 seconds of action rehearsals...but it's just an appetizer, baby...give them time to have it ready in May.

(special thanks to Tim from Horseshoes and Handgrenades for pointing this out)

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Potential Rock God Sighting!

Tim from Horseshoes and Handgrenades pointed this out to me...


Commentary Review -- Young Frankenstein

The one thing I get from any Mel Brooks commentary is that this is a man who loves people. He remembers the names of set dressers and hair stylists and what their children were like. However, there is no doubt that this is a man who understands his craft. From the quality of lighting, the speed at which a joke must be delivered, how you cut a joke; the overall beats of a film. He knows his craft inside and out. Whenever I hear him I feel like I’m in the presence of a master. He is also able to communicate the powerful need of chemistry between himself and his actors, but he directs like Tiger Woods plays golf. In some films he is the master of his game, but in others the wind is wrong, the moves won’t work, and that tenuous winning concentration is lost. It is strange to note, that you can really sense those films where Mel had it, Young Frankenstein, and where he didn’t, Robin Hood: Men in Tights.

In one of Mel Brook's stories, he discusses the creation of the exagerrated black and white film look. Gerald Hirschfeld (cinematographer) makes a brief appearance in the documentary footage, and he tells his side of he story. Was Gerald almost fired? Did he almost storm off the set? Did Mel give confusing nonsensical instructions or did Gerald willfully do what he thought best? You have to listen to both the commentary and the interview to figure it out!

Friday, January 07, 2005

After the super has left the building!

Click here to find out what your aging superfriends are up to in this post-super mockumentary!

Whatever happened to Alyce LaTourelle?

I remember 1999, and baby, it wasn't the party that Prince had led us to believe all those years. 1999 was the second hardest year of my life, it was the year I finally had to admit to my family, to my mentors, and to myself that I wasn't going to be what they expected. I wasn't going to be the white picket fence, the dog, two cats, 2.5 kids, a volvo, and a lovely holiday at disney twice a decade.

It just wasn't going to happen. It wasn't the gay thing (that's so 80s), it was the year I admitted that I loved horror films.

At the same time Lloyd Kaufman was "making some art", some trash art called "Terror Firmer". Lloyd, the iconic leader of Troma Studios, has produced some of the most dubious art ever committed to film. "Sgt. Kabukiman NYPD!", "Toxic Avenger 1 -4", "Slaughter Party", and my personal favorites "Sucker", "Class of Nukem' High", and "Tromeo and Juliet".

Let's be clear there is nothing redeemable about "Terror Firmer", it is a confusing mash of porn, violence, and, well, poop jokes. It is trash of the first degree. It is Troma Studios screaming as loud as possible, "FUCK YOU HOLLYWOOD!!!!!"

They are making irredeemable trash because they can, because they're everything John Waters wishes he could be. They are INDEPENDENT, not independent "look at our clever art film that is so smart we got Nicole Kidman to sign on" or "look at my VISION", this is honking in your face, "WE DON'T CARE IF YOU LOOK!"

It's everything hollywood hates; it's not about the slick image, it's not about the money. It's about screwing the man, and the woman, and the dog, and the hideously deformed cow creature with the huge utters.

It's about head explosions, and eyeballs, and severed limbs. It's a salute to the bawdy, and a slap in the face for every emotionally manipulative dramedy aimed at suburban America. Troma is often called the Punk Rock of Cinema, and Terror Firmer is that mohawk headed, tatooed, androgynous, heroin addicted singer screaming incomprehensibly into the mike at the top of his lungs, "I HATE YOU! DIE! DIE! DIE!"

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

What If...Magneto and Professor X Had Formed the X-Men Together?

writer: Chris Claremont
artist: Tom Raney
published by Marvel Comics

So, I forgot that I bought another of the What If...? one-shots. Man, I should have forgotten to buy it.
So, if you write a book called What If...Magneto and Professor X Had Formed the X-Men Together?...shouldn't Magneto at least play a part in the festivities?

Monday, January 03, 2005

Random Quotes

Jedi Council 5 mil credits, cool lightsaber 100000 credits, getting loaded after palpatine whips your ass: priceless.


Xwing : 10,000,000 creds, Lightsabre more than you can afford... daggy haircut 20 dollars.... finding out you just tongue kissed your sister after she rescued you from freezing to death? Priceless.


Sunday, January 02, 2005

Ultimate Nightmare #4 (of 5)

writer: Warren Ellis
artist: Trevor Hairsine
published by Marvel Comics

So, shit finally starts happening. And it ain't purty.
Ultimate Nightmare took its sweet time getting to the gist of the story, but it's starting to pay off.
We finally find out what's in the Russian complex...the remnants of a Soviet program to create super soldiers like Captain America.
Instead, they made monsters. Even the Trustee...what looks like Russia's equivalent of the Captain, is a psychopath with a shield made of human skin. Both teams, Ultimates and X-Men, have to fight (and kill) their way through the monstrousities. Cap faces off against the mad Russian Captain and the X-Men find somthing else deep within the complex. Hopefully, the final issue will resolve all the questions.

Absolute Planetary Book One

writer: Warren Ellis
artist: John Cassaday
published by Wildstorm/DC Comics

Warren Ellis is a fuckin' super genius.
I've probably said it many times, but it's true. Deal with it. The man's brain works on levels most of us only dream of understanding. This is the man who brought us Druid and The Authority. And Planetary.
The first 12 issues of Ellis' secret history of the superhuman world, along with the Planetary Preview and the complete script are contained in this beautiful oversized slipcase edition (it looks great on the shelf with Absolute Authority books one and two, the JLA/Avengers slipcase and the super-deluxe League of Extrordinary Gentleman vol one slipcase set -- hope they release volume 2 that way). The book has real heft, and it's tempting to swing it around a couple times...or brain the cat with it. I advise you don't. You don't want to get blood on your comics.
Ellis takes familiar characters and situations from classic comics, pulp novels and movies and deconstruts them, finding new approaches and directions that haven't been explored before. His erzatz Superman alone is worth the price of a softcover trade, but the beautiful job that DC does on their hardcovers makes me come back each time they put out a new one (and they're EXPENSIVE). The inclusion of the preview story at the end of the book is icing on the cake.
I've waxed poetic enough on the art of John Cassaday. He's awesome. Nuff said.

What If...Jessica Jones Had Joined the Avengers? one shot

writer: Brian Michael Bendis
artist: Michael Gaydos
published by Marvel Comics

I absolutely loved the original What If...? series, and was mostly pleased with the second coming of it in the 90s. Now, Marvel has put out a quickie revival of the title with a handful of one shots...and sadly, I only bought one of them.
Nothing against the others...I just picked up one because I bought an assload of other stuff.
It's nice to see Michael Gaydos and Brian Michael Bendis back together, and the story really does deal with issues that were brought up in Alias. One simple choice could have changed Jessica Jones' life. And the lives of the Avengers. Had she accepted Nick Fury's offer to be the SHIELD liason to the Avengers, she not only would have prevented the recent Avengers: Disassembled storyline, she also could have landed Captain America, whom she had a slight spark with during her detective days that was never explored.
Most of the What If...? books dealt with crucial moments in Mavel Universe history, and much as I loved Alias...her abduction by the Purple Man and subsequent encounter with the Avengers just wasn't an earth shattering event. While a nice story, fairly well just doesn't end up being a great What If...? book.

The Walking Dead #13-14

writer: Robert Kirkman
artist: Charlie Adlard
published by Image Comics

Rick and company stumble upon an abandoned prison, thinking it might be a secure place where they can rest. Quickly, they find it's not the case. The zombies have overrun the prision, much like every other space they've found to this point. However, they have a plan this time.
They systematically clear the yard and then enter a cellblock, where they find that they're not alone. Four prisoners have survived, locked in the mess hall.
The prison secured, Rick travels back to Herschel's farm and persuades him to bring his family to the prison. With Herschel's knowledge as a farmer, they can grow food on the prison grounds and actually make the facility a liveable community. Things are looking up for the survivors.
And then things go south. Bad things happen. Kirkman never lets his characters get complacent in the hostile world of the living dead, and it's rather apparent that no one is safe. It's such an honest, human approach to the story...and it's probably my favorite read every month.

Saturday, January 01, 2005

Hard Time: 50 to Life graphic novel

writer: Steve Gerber
artist: Brian Hurtt
published by DC Comics

Ethan Harrow was a dork. A dweeb. A spaz. A nerd. An outcast. Because of this, the diminuative high school student and his friend Brandon Snodd took a good portion of their student body hostage. They planned it as a joke...a way to humiliate the jocks and popular people who'd laughed at them.
Of course, it all went terribly wrong. Brandon snapped and started shooting. And Ethan, well...something happened to Ethan. And that something punched a hole through Brandon's chest, ending the standoff.
Ethan is tried as an adult and sentenced to fifty years to life. And that something happens again at his sentencing. This time, no one is killed, but the court room gets trashed pretty thoroughly.
See...Ethan has super powers.
Reprinting the six issues of the limited series, Hard Time is as unconventional story as Gerber's told...which is saying something, as he's the creator of Marvel's Howard the Duck and the classic Hanna Barbera adventure toon Thundarr the Barbarian. Ethan's travails in prison are fairly textbook to viewers of Oz, but the addition of his extra abilities changes things considerably. He doesn't seem to control these powers initially, but when he learns to accept them and takes control, they earn him a semblance of freedom in a world that's utterly hostile to him.
Interesting book, and ripe for a sequel...
I'm intrigued.