Sunday, August 27, 2006

Comics: week of 08.23.2006

Justice League of America #1
So far from just this first issue, and taking #0 into account, it really does feel like this is written for a trade. I'm not sure I like this just yet. On one hand it does make for a good story when they are all pulled together, but on the whole it makes the issue feel broken. It isn't that I dislike Meltzer's writing style, it is just that I wished the issue felt a little more enclosed. I should also note that Turner's cover has Wonder Woman looking a little blown up and Superman looks starved. He draws a good Batman, however.

The story continues from #0 with DC's holy trinity discussing who they think is good enough to join them in the new league. I really like Batman speaking up first for Captain Marvel. There are a lot of reasons why, but my favorite is he can potentially take out Superman if need be.

The story seemed to focus the most on Red Tornado. I suppose he was the member selected to be the binding plot device. Afterall, there is only so much potential angst that can be pulled from the other characters.

People have made comments on not liking Platinum's new look. My take is that she's a robot - a shape changing robot. Who ever is behind the art makes her look how they want. Rivets don't fit her very well, however, I do like the long hair. She seems to be the female half of the robot angst plot, to counter balance Red Tornado's quest for humanity.

Speaking of becoming human, I think it's not such a good thing for Red to become human. Still, I bet Deadman will find the outcome of self sacrifice this time around interesting. I like Deadman, but he seemed rather pushy. Wait, was that really him or an illusion by the bad guys? It wasn't very clear...

I have really taken a liking to Green Arrow these last few months. It feels like they are breaking tradition by not seeking him out this early, but I have to admit it was fun to see him pushed off to the side as a babysitter. It sort of sets the tone that this new Justice League will be the league handed down to the next generation, like how the Teen Titans has become.

I'm rather neutral to the story so far. It is focusing on characters I know little about, which will help me learn about the characters. The problem is what I have read isn't snagging my interest very much.

The biggest thing about this issue that I hate is the 'bonus' this issue of the written pages of Meltzer's upcoming book. Words cannot full explain why this does not belong in the comic. I didn't read them, because frankly I was completely turned off when I discovered what they had slipped in.

Batman #656
I had problems with the issue before this one, because of continuity issues I was unsure of that prevented me from really enjoying that issue. Those have been cleared up now, and I can really get into this issue.

The visual play in this issue is amazing. I loved the Lichtenstein references everywhere, which were made ever greater by ninja man-bats. I think this issue was created for Chris Sims in mind, and anyone else that likes over the top craziness. Very enjoyable.

Batman and the Mad Monk #1
I vote that Batman and the Monster Men be accepted as canon, and seeing as how this looks like a direct follow up I will likely be viewed the same way. This issue felt like it was mostly a transition issue, following characters from the last arch and laying the groundwork for this new story.

Needless to say it felt very much like classic Batman, and I'm curious as to where this will go. I also really like the art style, which is always a bonus.

Wonder Woman #2
About time this came out. I was starting to worry a little if it was ever going to continue this year. I'm enjoying the title so far, but Robin looked really off model.

After introducing Nemesis last issue I would have liked a little more of him in the issue as backup, but then again he isn't the one who the comic is named for.

Xena #2
Issue 2 of the title, and the title is still rather good. In fact, the banter between the characters was enjoyable this go around. The flow also feels very much in line with the show. It may also help that Bruce Campbell's character has more focus in this issue.

The art is still rather decent though there are moments where mouths don't quite look right, but that is a minor point. I'm enjoying this title.

Supergirl #9
Oh dear. Do you hear that? That is the sound of respect being broken like a worn out Bruce Wayne over the knee of Bane. Seriously, this single issue has turned Supergirl into a character I don't like very much into a character I absolutely loath. What happened anyway? Did DC finally decide to drive off every reader?

First of all the last plot arch was wrapped up like someone thought it would be ok to just jump to a new story. No ending, just a horrible jump cut with occasional random flashbacks that explain nothing. Oh yeah, and the 'current' story involves Supergirl acting like a whore and stealing Superboy's iconic shirt. No respect for the chief casualty of Infinite Crisis.

There is still potential for Wonder Girl to flip out completely and beat the crap out of Supergirl. It'd be awesome if Power Girl joined in too. I think that would be the best way to end this title. Maybe then Supergirl's bones will heal in a way that will put her back into a more typical body shape.

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Saturday, August 26, 2006

Snakes on a Plane - Review (spoilers)


Up front I think I have to say that I was probably one of the rare few who didn't care about the hype surrounding this movie. That being said, I can use that as an excuse for seeing the movie a week after it came out. There were only a handful of others in the theatre, which could be seen as a testiment to how strong of a pull it really has. It did help with staying 'in' the movie, so I can't complain.

First of all, yes, there is a story. The story makes a fair amount of sense, too. They actually make having snakes on a plane make sense, and as to why they are attacking everyone without reason. In fact, it makes a surprisingly decent binding agent for the whole movie, and prevents it from being a Sci-Fi original on the big screen.

The cast worked for the most part. Everyone is a stereotype of people you meet or see on an airplane. I mean everyone. This doesn't bring the movie down too much, because half the fun of the movie before the snakes take over is about the interactions between these stereotypes. It should also be noted that only Sam Jackson could play his role - anyone else and the movie would have fallen apart.

Is the movie smart? Generally speaking, it tries to be. The way situations are handled makes quite a bit of sense, and the improvised solutions work. My biggest snag in the movie is the types of snakes they used.
-Using a bunch of snakes from around the world? It works on several levels, and I liked that touch.
-Using black snakes and king snakes? Most people in the audience wouldn't notice this little point, but it killed some of the scenes for me. Besides, if the king snakes really were coral snakes, they don't have very large fangs.

It has a very good twist at the end of the movie, which did make most of the people in the theatre jump. It will also make your brain hurt briefly, ina good way.

Overall, I'd say it is worth at least one view on the big screen if you have any interest - otherwise it honestly is worth rental when it comes out.

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Friday, August 18, 2006

Comics - Aug 2006, week 3!

Figured I should go back to talking about comics at some point, and I'm a little off track from the last few weeks.

Catwoman #58 - Check out that cover. They went from an awesome Lone Wolf and Cub homage to this sexed-up Wheel of Fortune mess. I'm fairly impartial to Zatanna - I don't mind her in a story, but usually she seems very much like a background character. That cover puts her up front, and her costume looks several sizes too small. After a string of great covers, this one is such a miss.

Enough about the cover. The story is a good cap to the recent plot arch. Zatanna still feels like a background character despite her importance to the issue, but it is probably her reluctance to do anything seriously dangerous to fulfill Selina's request. I like how Angle Man retells his past, and how it shows how he has slipped into a low rate villain. Also, Black Mask is dead according to this comic, and not alive as shown in the Man-Bat miniseries (guess which one I am thinking is canon).

The best part, in my opinion, is the way Film Freak 'confesses' his crimes. Not how he interprets the command as crimes against cinema, but the freaking amazing Psycho homage. That made my week. 8.5/10

Street Fighter Legends: Sakura #1 - This came out of nowhere, but it did do for my fix of Street Fighter this month as I wait anxiously for the title to catch up on its release dates.

Firstly, Sakura isn't my favorite character from the series. Despite that, I do know she has the ability to be a fun connection to multiple characters in the franchise - as shown in this issue. She's an upbeat character, and always has been. This issue is fun.

If that isn't enough: This issue has Dan Hibiki and Rainbow Mika. Zangief also towers over everything he's around, but is relegated to comic relief. It also is stuffed with inside jokes and game references. The only thing that set me off a little in this issue was the hyperness of Sakura. I can't blame the writer for that, it's in character. I eagerly look forward to the next issue. 9/10

Manhunter #25 - I'm so glad this isn't the last of Manhunter, but we have to wait till December for more. I wonder if it will just come back as a group of miniseries to be sold whenever. I hope not, but whatever happens happens.

I was really curious as to how they were going to wrap up the Sweeny Todd story line. They built him up to be overly powerful, but they was he was taken out makes comic book sense. Things seemed to wrap up nicely in this issue, and could have easily been accepted as an ending to the title. I especially liked the twist at the very end. 7.5/10

Nightwing #123 - I was surprised with this issue. With the load of crap that has been released recently, this issue was rather decent. Relatively decent, of course. There were still many moments where it was rough, such as my dislike of the two brothers. Speaking of which, why did one of them suddenly develop a temper? Oh well, Dan Didio said things will turn around starting with #125.

What I did like seeing in this issue was Dick finally talking about what happened between him and Barbara way back when he broke things off with her. I thought that little moment of angst was handled well, all things considered. 5.5/10

Shadowpact #4 - Stand alone issue with Blue Devil? I'm game, and it read well. I really lied the two demons speaking in a way to make themselves sound superior, and them taking care of the dragon thing for Blue. 7/10

Poor Booster. He deserved better, but at least he went out with a bang.

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Friday, August 11, 2006

The Pulse

Saw the Pulse today...
Someone else paid for my ticket, which is why I agreed to see the movie. Otherwise I would have left the movie alone as it seems so many seem to be doing - the screening only had 5 other people in it aside from our little group.

How was the movie? Bad. Very bad. Lots of continuity errors, bad sound, a story that makes no sense at all. Wes Craven wrote the adaptation, and honestly it is no better than the Curse. I honestly think the man has no more talent left to tap.

F all the way. Stay away.

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Thursday, August 10, 2006

The Descent: a full review (spoilers)

Yes, there are spoilers here. If you are thinking of seeing the movie, and want to enjoy what you can, turn away.

First of all, I have to say that the casting was fairly good. The women actually felt real when they were interacting, so their dialogue was not only decently written, but they also delivered the lines fairly well. They felt like old friends when they meet up in the begining, and you don't feel very forced into the situation, and their interaction doesn't confuse you that much.

The movie takes place in the Appalacian Mountains, which pulled me into the setting. I'm from the area, and the movie looks like it really was filmed in the area. The cave setting was also well thought out, and when they were exploring they actually looked like they knew what they were doing. No easily noted mistakes as far as technique goes. A few people in the audience chuckled here and their when they were climbing, but with a little background you could tell someone in charge has actual experience.

So far it sounds as though the movie is good, right? After all, they advertise it to be the best horror movie since Alien. That's a big statement, and with so much attention to detail it may very well be for much of the public. For me, however, the horror aspect makes the movie fall apart.

The movie opens with an introduction of the main character, and the tramatic death of her family (esp. her daughter). Basically, they are setting up a tragic streak into the character to seperate her from the rest of the cast later on. The others are cheerful and eager to cavedive, while she is joining them to try to overcome her trama. She takes pills to calm her nerves, so you know she isn't wholely recovered mentally.

This mental trama presents itself early on with mindtrips that lead into "boo-scares" - sudden events that make you jump and question what's real. These early moments feel forced into the movie due to its genre, as if there are a required number of audience jumps per 15 minutes. The car wrecking and the deaths were acceptible, because they didn't actually show the death. It was implied and your mind is welcome to imagine the worst. The other moments made no sense, and pulled me out of the story briefly.

I hate boo-scares. I personally am fond of horror movies that creep you out atmospherically, or make you wonder about what is really happening. Boo-scares feel cheap and exploitational. They make you jump because sudden noise. I want to feel icky about what is presented by allowing my brain to fill in the gap. Trust me, my imagination can come up with things Hollywood will never put onto film.

Later after the enter the cave, the movie feels like it was finally begining. This isn't a good thing, but I can't complain too much since much of the time was spent devloping character traits. As they travel deeper into the cave, things begin to grow strange. Caves can be strange, which is part of the draw of them. Sound is distorted, perception is dulled, and irrational fears are magnified. Afterall, Batman lives in a cave and his main weapon is fear.

One thing I do have to point out now that I am talking about the cave. I have to point out that I really liked the choice in how to film the movie. There is no natural ambient light. If there is no light it is black, like a real cave. The only sources of light for the whole cast are the headlamps, flashlights, flares, glowsticks, and a digital camera with nightvision. When someone is talking, someone is looking at them so you see them talking. When they look into cave rooms you can only see as far as they would see, and shadows dance everywhere. In tunnels and pipes you feel very trapped.

Anyway, the main character hears a child periodically, which you assume is her hearing her child. She's crazy, remember? She is told by the trip leader that things are not as they seem in caves and to stick with the group. The noises do make her break away to try to find the source of the sounds, which is almost always Stupid Horror Movie Rule #2. This leads into the interaction with the freaky dwellers in the dark.

Rule #1 is that the girl must twist her ankle while being chased, and since there is no "girl" stereotype it doesn't apply. The whole cast is female, and there isn't a romantic relationship between any of them. Instead you have close friends and sisters. There is a bond between them all, and that bond is stressed as the movie progresses.

The creatures in the cave are eerie when introduced, and very much like the alien from Alien. It appears and vanishes into the shadow. It runs around the group, crawls on the walls, and they can't see it well enough to get a good look. After this initial confrontation, however, the movie falls apart.

You see a lot of the monster, because there is more than one and they have actual weaknesses that get figured out an exploited by our split up group of girls. After you get face to face with them, and they are in full light, they are more repulsing than frightning. You no longer freaked out by them, but you do feel a level of direness in the situation.

Attention was paid to how the creatures would act. They can't see like nearly all cave life, but hunt by sound. However, I have two major troubles with the creatures.

First of all, the noises they make are snake hisses and hyena calls. They don't fit. What they should have done is have human voices making wierd noises, because that would have only aided the disgust of the human like creatures. Besides, they had previously used those noises in Pitch Black, and they mostly worked then - the creatures were not humanoid.

Second, though the make up and effects were quite good, they were total ripoffs of Count Orlok. The name may not be familiar, but he's the vampire from Nosferatu. Pointed ears, clawed hands, and most telling they have the two fangs in the very front (instead of canines). He's featured not only in Nosferatu, but also Shadow of the Vampire - another of my more favorite movies.

I'm not going to give the whole movie away, but it does spiral into a bit of a metaphor. In the end it comes down to what you (or the girls) are willing to do to survive, and how loyalty plays a role. It feels like they were also making a point that to be an ultimate survivor you have to lose your humanity.

...and then they give you a final boo-scare that makes no sense and ruins the feeling of the end of the movie.

For a horror film, it really is one of the better ones to be released in a long time. Sadly, it content choices in the begining and ending prevent it from me fully enjoying it.

Overall, I'd grade it a C+
Worth admission, but no food or drinks. Best if you see it in a group, not so good alone.

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