Friday, October 18, 2019

Flashback Friday/Film Friday: There is a Good Movie Somehwere in, "Hancock."

People liked my post looking-back at, "13 Going on 30," so lets do another combination Flashback Friday/Film Friday, shall we? For this one, let's look back to 2008, a simpler time when the iPhone was barely a year old and more of a luxury-item to own (as opposed to how now everybody wants one), our President was a man named Barack Obama who did not hurl grade-school insults at people on Twitter unlike our President in 2019, and the movie, "Hancock," was released. It has just been a decade but the World has changed indeed.

"Hancock," was the Will Smith movie where he played a super-hero and the previews made it look like a very different movie compared to what was released. If you watched the previews you saw how Hancock was a bit of a loser. He had superpowers but he was always drunk (somehow, even though he was invincible) and caused a lot of damage in the city of Los Angeles where he was seemingly homeless but would stop crime in between eating, sleeping, or drinking. Also in the previews we see how he ends-up becoming friends with an advertising professional played by Jason Bateman and agrees to actually go to prison for all the property damage he has done (even though no prison could hold him) in an effort to fix his image and show the city needs him.Then in previews we are shown how he then is let out of prison to stop a dangerous bank robbery and now is beloved by the city and confused by actually being hailed as a hero. Sounds interesting, right? Unfortunately even though that is what all the previews for the movie indicated we would be in for, that is actually maybe the first 30 minutes of this flick that then morphs into a wreck.
Oh, and is the kid half-immortal then? Are we going to ignore that question?
We learn that Hancock has been alive for at least centuries but has no memory after the 1920's as he doesn't age but something happened that made him forget the past. Apparently he's been a hero for decades, something the movie does not mention until pretty far in. Due to his lack of memory he literally just goes by John Hancock. Wait, it gets weirder! Jason Bateman's wife, played by Charlize Theron, has powers too and she and Will Smith apparently were these special ancient beings who were immortal unless they are in close proximity to each other at which point they would slowly become more human and eventually age and die. Smith and Theron were a special couple and even though they would always get separated he would find his way to her over a century or two, which he had now done after they were attacked outside of a movie theater in the 1920's and that attack caused him brain trauma or something. BUT WAIT THIS SHIT GETS CRAZIER!

Theron has weather-powers and can make weird little tornadoes, the bank robbers Will Smith arrested break-out of jail and for some reason think they can attack Smith's character because they realize he is slowly getting mortal, although they apparently don't know why, they just want to kill him and notice he can be hurt (due to his spending more time around Theron). Eventually Smith solves all these problems by simply...getting some distance from Theron after barely being able to fight the bank-robbers which lets his and her powers come back, so he goes to New York City in order to keep them both safe.
When Theron summons the weather-powers is about when this film lost me.
What the fuck is this film? I'll tell you what it is, a mess with a really good movie buried in their somewhere if we just carefully take the first 45 minutes or so, build off of that and slice everything else away with magical immortal, weather powers, or that other shit. There are some incredibly smart ideas buried in here that illustrated so many other good directions the movie could have gone. For example...

1. The movie follows Hancock as he deals with suddenly being liked and how he struggles to adjust to celebrity life at fancy dinners or shows while also fighting crime. It would be a bit of a meta-commentary on the idolization of celebrities through the metaphor of a super-hero.

2. Hancock gains fame, but then blows it, becomes a loser again, and the movie is more of the comedy it was advertised as of a lovable loser who has powers getting up to shenanigans. It wouldn't be that deep, but it would at least be funny.

3. The movie builds-up one of the bank robbers named Kenneth, "Red," Parker Jr. (played by Eddie Marsan) who Hancock rips the arm off of to stop a bomb connected to a, "Dead man's switch," as a criminal mastermind, but we never really see that. Maybe have Red plot revenge when in prison by realizing he can't hurt Hancock but can hurt the people Hancock suddenly cares about (Bateman and an version of Theron without powers). They are kidnapped, Hancock is told he has to do evil stuff for Red lest they be killed and the rest of movie is about Hancock engaging in all kinds of villainous stuff  (like stealing, blowing stuff up, and whatever else would make for a cool montage) before he eventually finds a way to save his friends...but then has to deal with the fallout of his actions showing how even if he didn't want to be bad, he was, and now the city fears him knowing what he is capable of doing. You know, this also sets up a great idea for a sequel with Hancock as a hated and feared Superman-type of character and Red Parker as a Lex Luthor-styled baddie of sorts.

Could've been a much better villain with a decent script...
These are just three ideas I thought of off the top of my own head and all three are a Hell of a lot better than the movie we got. Still, there is a good movie somewhere in, "Hancock," especially in those first 30-45 minutes before it turns into a confusing mess. Sometimes there is nothing more disappointing than a movie that is 2 out of 5 stars which you see the potential to be so much more. At least in 2008 when Hancock was released another super-hero movie came out as well which was much better and happened to kick off the biggest cinematic franchise ever. Yes, I'm talking about, "Iron Man." Thankfully those movies didn't introduce immortal Gods until it made sense with, "Thor."

Thursday, October 17, 2019

So, is This Comic Cancelled, a Mini-Series, or Morphing Into an Event?

I have really liked multiple versions of the comic, "Agents of Atlas." The Jeff Parker series, the stuff being done Greg Pak currently (there was a mini-series for, "War of the Realms," and that led into the series coming out now), it is all good stuff. Well, apparently the current, "Agents of Atlas," comic I could have sworn was an ongoing title was solicited recently as just being a mini-series that is going to go for five issues. That is a bummer, but the good news is the series is actually kinda-sorta continuing with the five-issue mini-event, "Atlantis Attacks," where the Agents of Atlas fight Namor (because he's always causing a hubbub). This event will be written by Greg Pak and drawn by Ario Anindito, the current creative team on, "Agents of Atlas," so this seems to basically be, "Agents of Atlas," #6 in everything but name.

All of this leads me to wonder if, "Agents of Atlas," was cancelled, actually was supposed to always be a mini-series, or what the deal is that has it morphing into an event. The whole thing is as confusing as how in the 1990's instead of making an ongoing, "Venom," comic Marvel just released mini-series after mini-series that kept a kind of over-arching plot going. I'm not upset about this at all, as it means we keep getting more Agents of Atlas in our comics, just now a different name as some kind of event and with Namor also popping-by (and he's fun when written well). I'm quite pleased to get more Agents of Atlas, I just wish Marvel would have the book be an ongoing one as opposed to made-up of a jumble of mini-series, if for no reason other than it makes stuff a lot less confusing.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

This, "Dracula: The Evidence," Kickstarter Campaign by Beehive Books Looks Fascinating

I am on a number of press email lists due to being a hoity-toity big-name journalist (not really, basically most press lists I get on I begged for access to). One of them is the snazzy boutique publisher Beehive Books whom have published some neat comics, books, and so forth thanks to the financial support Kickstarter backers can offer to ensure funds from pre-order sales. One current project they have is a clever take on Bram Stoker's classic book, 'Dracula," which they are calling, "Dracula: The Evidence." Basically, they've taken the book and turned it into a creative multimedia experience. With faux-journal entries, tools, phonograph records, and an assortment of clever, "Artifacts," that tell the story of the book in a wholly unique way. I'm a big fan of this kind of stuff, having always loved when publications such as, "McSweeney's Quarterly Concern," would switch things up and instead of simply doing a book release their latest edition as a fake batch of some stranger's mail, or a pretend newspaper.

Beehive Books actually teamed-up with the great grand-nephew of Bram Stoker, Dacre Stoker so as to get his family's blessing as well as their assistance and has been working with Paul Kepple, a designer known for his wild work on the also uniquely-designed book, "S." which was done by J.J. Abrams and Doug Dorst. So yeah, some great people have been involved in making this really cool interpretation of, "Dracula." Now, it is pretty expensive to get one of the full, "Experience," versions--$350 for early-bird backers and $400 for everyone after, with the price going-up for even cooler cases and such. Still, if you've got the scratch to spare or want to back it at lower levels that still get you snazzy items ($25 for an all digital-version is quite reasonable). Check the Kickstarter campaign out and back it if you want. I know if I had the money I'd be shelling it out for an, "Immortal Edition," to dive into the classic story over again in a wholly unique way.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

I Made a Meme to Get a Song Out of My Head

Everyone at this point knows the song, "Truth Hurts," by Lizzo. It came out over 2 years ago and slowly seeped into our World's consciousnesses to the point we all can't help but sing along when it comes on the radio. There also are countless memes for the song that tweak the lyrics and a version occurred to me the other day. It rooted itself into my thoughts to the point anytime I hear, "Truth Hurts," the lyrics are switched-out in my head.

To help cure myself of being unable to hear the song any other way I took the unique lyrics I thought of and made a meme, as can be seen above. The lyric generally goes, "I just took a DNA test, turns out I'm 100% that bitch!" yet I could not stop hearing the words, "Catfish," at the end. It makes almost no sense and is not even especially funny, but it is the only thing I can hear. Hopefully by creating this meme and putting my thoughts into the ether that'll fix my old noggin.

Monday, October 14, 2019

The First Collection of, "Nancy," as Done by Olivia Jaimes is a Treat to Read

Back in April of 2018 the comic, "Nancy," had a new creator take over the long-running strip. Her name was Olivia Jaimes (although nobody knows her real name or much of anything about her besides she apparently has experience in comics before this). Jaimes take on, "Nancy," introduced more technology (Nancy got a smart-phone) and worked-in a number of clever 4th-wall-breaking meta-jokes, but despite being newer and edgier honestly still had the heart of, "Nancy," AKA that she is a little girl who is smart, enjoys sweets, and loves to make trouble. The collection of Jaimes initial, "Nancy," strips through her start in 2018 to Christmas of that year is full of hilarity, taking a decades-old comic and injecting it with new life while still being authentically, "Nancy," in all her precocious glee.
When Jaimes first took-over, "Nancy," there was some outcry from people who saw the comic in their newspapers or read it online at GoComics. There were folk who did not like, "Nancy," changing at all, but considering how Jaimes coming-on the strip reinvigorated the comic to the point it did please a number of longtime fans and brought-in a smorgasbord of new readers I'd say Jaimes was a stellar choice. I myself have loved reading, "Nancy," when it comes-out daily and this book is like a concentrated dose of all that, "Nancy," goodness just pumped straight into the pleasure-center of your brain.

"Nancy," as done by Olivia Jaimes is a stellar comic--not merely an amazing comic-strip, a fantastic comic, period. I loved reading this collection which besides the strips includes an introduction by the strip's editor, Shena Wolf, as well as some back-matter ranging from a reprinted interview with Jaimes to fan-art of Nancy herself. Should you not yet have had the pleasure of reading, "Nancy," under the pen of Olivia Jaimes I would advise you to get yourself a copy of this book post-haste from your local bookstore/library/comic-shop. It is a simply fantastic way to immerse yourself in the genius of Jaimes and her version of, "Nancy."
5 out of 5 stars.

Apparently, "Fortnite," Got Sucked Into a Black Hole?

Ya'll know that game, "Fortnite," right? It is quite popular with folk. I've played it at times but it's been a good year since I've logged-in. I still follow news about the latest, "Season," and changes to the map, however. Apparently, right now if you wanted to play the Battle Royal version of, "Fortnite," which is the most popular mode, you would be unable to do so (the other mode about saving the world full of leveling-up and stuff that nobody plays is down too, but whatever). This is because after some in-game event full of missiles flying-about and blowing-up stuff a black hole formed that sucked the map and everyone running around upon it into nothingness. Now, everyone is just staring at a black hole. It is a wild and gutsy thing to basically just shut your massively popular game off temporarily (we all know this ain't permanent) and have everyone asking, "What now and what's next?"

There are some rumors of a, "Fortnite Chapter 2," being imminent, but right now the game is just a black hole and people are alternatively freaking-out, impressed, and a little upset about their inability to do anything besides play a version of, "Space Invaders," if they enter a version of the Konami code whilst staring at the black hole. Whatever the final result is, the game's developer, Epic, sure has succeeded at getting people's attention with this zany stunt.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Rant Reviews: All Marvel and DC

The Two Big-Shots
When it comes to comic-books there are companies making quite a place for themselves in the market with the, "Big Two," arguably being the, "Big Three," with Image around (plus other sizable publishers making a solid dent in the market). That said, Marvel and DC generally have the most books coming out and are generally the best known companies. I often discuss a wide-range of books from mainstream to more independent when I do my capsule-style reviews, but today I thought I'd change things up and go all commercial for ya'll, making all my reviews about books from the two big-shots.

And Now, Reviews!
Powers of X #6
Jonathan Hickman's big lead-up combo mini-series to the relaunch of the X-Men officially concludes by...starting the relaunch. I loved, "House of X," and, "Powers of X," and all the ideas introduced that will surely be explored in the new X-books, but I know some people online read all this and said, "That's it?" Well, yes, the whole point of these books was to kick-off all the new X-men titles, so expecting a mega last-minuted twist of everything taking place in an alternate universe or something would have undermined what Marvel told you was the plan all along. As it is, the books were great and this final issue of the two series did its job of telling some cool stories and generating excitement for new X-books (some written by Hickman and all of them curated/overseen by him to some degree) so I'm pleased, even if some folk online seemed underwhelmed.
4 out of 5 stars.

DCeased #5
You would think DC having their own take on, "Marvel Zombies," would seem derivative, but, "DCeased," has been very good, with a lot of thanks probably due to writer Tom Taylor who previously took the relatively barren, "Injustice," game's plot and fleshed it out heavily in the initial mini-series some years ago. Taylor gives us mutated version of Darkseid's anti-life equation that turns anyone who sees it or is attacked by someone infected with it into a zombie yet injects a good deal of heart and humor into the proceedings as well, amplifying just how, "Human," our superhuman heroes are in the face of such an unstoppable threat. This issue has things looking a little bit more hopeful as the remaining living folk work together to make a plan to escape Earth, but by the issue's end things have gone from bad to worse. I'm thinking we will not be getting a very happy ending to this series when it does conclude, but I'm cool with that as long as Taylor is working his magic.
4 out of 5 stars.

Contagion #2
This is kind of like Marvel Zombies except its a weird fungus and this story is a 5-issue mini that takes place in the regular Marvel Universe so you know everything will be alright in the end. Writer Ed Brisson said in the back-matter of the first issue the idea here is to do a horror-style story with street-level heroes (the heavy-hitters have been advised to stay away as this fungus seems to steal powers and have a hive-mind of sorts). It's perfectly fine, but there is nothing that remarkable to it beyond, "The heroes have to stop this fungal virus with punching and their smarts!" It is not especially horrifying so much as its a little gross at times, although a big mutation-monster that appears at this issue's end is a bit scary-looking. My feeling is once this mini-series concludes it will be considered decent but forgettable.
3 out of 5 stars.

Batman's Grave #1
Warren Ellis is not writing as many comics lately due to being so busy with big-deal multi-media projects like his delightful, "Castlevania," show, and artist Bryan Hitch seems to only do comics sometimes as he is really talented but not exactly able to turn-in projects at great speed. Hence, the long-rumored and apparently long-in-development (so as to avoid delays) comic, "The Batman's Grave," by Ellis and Hitch is a very welcome sight indeed. A 12-issue maxi-series I will tell you it is beautifully illustrated, with busy-and-full cities drawn by Hitch looking gorgeous and a decomposing dead body being suitably gross. Also, Ellis has Batman/Bruce Wayne actually do some solid detective work--something we seem to not see that often considering how Batman is the World's greatest detective. I'm not sure where things are going beyond Batman solving a weird serial-killer's latest murder, but with Ellis and Hitch at the writing-and-drawing helm (respectively) I know it is gonna be entertaining!
5 out of 5 stars.

Runaways #25
While there are big-deal Marvel titles coming out (such as the above-discussed X-Men book revitalization) it is also worth being aware of some lesser-known books that keep being stellar month-in-month-out as well. "Runaways," has frankly not been this good since the original stuff by Brian K. Vaughn and I say a lot of that is down to writer Rainbow Rowell (she's been one of my writers of the year for this title before) and some damn good artists too. With this issue not a lot actually happens, with it being more transitional as the Runaways realize they need to relocate out of their latest hiding-spot and may be heading-towards an attempt to be more traditional heroes. I'm eager to see where it goes! Yes, simply focusing-in on some former teen heroes as they come to terms with now being young-adult heroes has resulted in some stupendous storytelling and, "Ruanways," is a treat I hope does not end anytime soon. 
4 out of 5 stars.

Deathstroke #48
Speaking of amazing books that are ending soon, here we are as, "Deathstroke," approaches its 50th and final issue. The entire series has been written by Christopher Priest and has taken a character I used to never care about and given us one amazing run. It is not surprising considering just how much experience and skill Priest has, but I sincerely hope he has something else awesome lined-up with DC in the near future. As it is, Priest is still introducing weird twists as he nears the end of his time with Slade Wilson (the real name of Deathstroke) as a strange doppelganger emerges, DC's big, "Year of the Villain," event plays a bit of a role without feeling too intrusive to what Priest is up to, and basically everything keeps going deliciously wrong in shocking ways as soon as us reader think we've figured everything out. I'm gonna miss this book.
5 out of 5 stars.

Closing Thoughts
While Marvel and DC put-out some books that are not too great, they also thankfully release some really solid titles too and I quite liked the majority of these titles I reviewed. Just as some indie books are amazing and some are mediocre, the same can apply with these big-dogs as well, I suppose.

Friday, October 11, 2019

Flashback Friday/Film Friday: "13 Going on 30," and Its Clever Twist

Here is one of those occasional combo posts--a Flashback Friday looking at the past and a Film Friday all smashed together like a delicious sandwich...or something. Anyways, I was reading an article on, "The A.V. Club," where they've been examining romantic comedies and talked about, "13 Going on 30." I agree it a solid flick with a lot of the praise for its quality being due to the casting of Jennifer Garner and Mark Ruffalo as the main characters and other stellar supporting folk such as Judy Greer and Andy Serkis (as a human, not a green-screen creature).

The overall idea is how Garner's teenager character wishes to be an adult then wakes-up in 2004 suddenly 30 years old with no memory of the years between in her life. She seeks out her old Junior High friend (Ruffalo) whom she lost touch with and it is sweet and touching, but one thing that stuck with me with but which people seem to not discuss that much (and the A.V. Club only touches on briefly in their post) is how the real bad-guy turns out to be Garner herself. Judy Greer is portrayed as a friend who is conniving but Greer herself reveals that Garner (before her young-self awoke in a grown body) has been leaking secrets from her magazine to a competitor, has been a mean terrible person, and otherwise is an awful human being.

Greer seems like the bad-guy, but Garner has actually set herself up for failure pre-waking-up-in-the-future.
It is an impressively dark twist for Garner to learn the person who arguably thwarted her attempt to be a happy and successful adult was her own damn self. It is harsh already and then Garner even gets shut down by Ruffalo when she tries to win his heart as a last-ditch effort to be happy in this bleak future for herself she's awoken in. Now, of course she is able to go back in time and do stuff right (the movie avoids commenting on if she uses her knowledge of the future to get rich or anything, that'd be interesting) for a happy ending, but that little twist there is pretty killer. It is one reason, "13 Going on 30," is one of those movies for me that elevates itself beyond, "Good but Forgettable," into, "Quite Clever,"," kind of like that one scene I wrote about previously in, "The Wedding Ringer," an otherwise unremarkable movie with one shockingly smart moment.

"13 Going on 30," is not the best romantic comedy ever (that is eternally up for debate, but I vote, "Bridesmaids," myself) but it is a solid one with that awesome little miserable twist at the end before it undoes everything bad for a happy ending (which is understandable as this is a rom-com). Between the stellar cast and solid plotting it elevates itself beyond other romantic comedies that are just kind of, "There," and completely unmemorable--I'm looking at you, "27 Dresses."

Thursday, October 10, 2019

This, "Toy Story 4," Cereal is Shockingly Delicious

One thing that big media properties like to do is have random tie-in products. Some things make sense, like having action figures for the latest, "Avengers," movie of everyone's favorite heroes. Also, when a movie is called, "Toy Story 4," you obviously are going to have toys that tie-in with it seeing as you're on the fourth entry of a very successful franchise, but then you get the aforementioned random stuff, like cereal. My wife and I were at the Schnucks grocery store and say this, "Toy Story 4," cereal was on sale and had a coupon that made it a dollar a box to buy two. We figured we would try it out and if we hated it give the other box to a friend. Imagine my surprise upon discovering this cereal was incredibly tasty.

Seriously, a lazy tie-in cereal for a movie has logical reason to taste this good. It is advertised as, "Carnival berry," and is shaped a bit like a Fruit Loop, but unlike Fruit Loops tastes good (yeah, I said it, come at me Toucan Sam fans). The berry taste is not at all overpowering or artificial, as you'd expect. It is mild but clearly present enough to feel welcoming yet not insistent. The cereal itself also stays pretty firm even upon sitting in milk/almond milk/your preferred cereal liquid for a decent number of minutes (some cereals get absurdly soggy really fast). I don't know why, "Toy Story 4," cereal tastes so good, but it does and now I'm tempted to stock-up on a bunch before it vanishes from shelves to make space for the next tie-in cereal that is bound to be released in the near future. Should you have a chance to try this out do not hesitate, you will be amazed at how delicious it is.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Video Game Company Blizzard Burned Decades of Goodwill This Past Week Due to the Hong Kong Protests

Excuse the lengthy headline/post-title, but it is hard to sum all this up with just a few words. Essentially, long-time beloved video-game company Blizzard (officially known as Activision Blizzard, but most just say Blizzard for short) which has created such fan-favorite titles as, "World of Warcraft," "Hearthstone," "Overwatch," and the, "Diablo," series has become the object of scorn from video-gamers due to their reaction to the Hong Kong protests--namely, their treatment of a pro-gamer who spoke-out in favor of Hong Kong being free from China's rule. Yes, video-gamers are actually unified and mad about something good right now like Democracy instead of the usual bullshit we see from things like, "Gamergate." I know, its weird.

Essentially, Chung Ng Wai, a Hong Kong-based player of Hearthstone who goes by the name “Blitzchung,” was speaking online during an official interview on Sunday held after he won a match in the Hearthstone Grandmasters tournament. He stated, "Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our time," while wearing a face-mask as many protesters in Hong Kong have done where for months now there have been demonstrations protesting mainland China's efforts to exert more control over the semi-autonomous region (China was given control of Hong Kong from its former, "Ruler," the United Kingdom in 1997 and it stated it would let the island-city essentially rule itself for at least 50 years). After this he was stripped of his title by Blizzard, told he would not get his prize money, and was banned for a year from Tournaments for his, "Controversial," comments. The interviewers who supposedly goaded him into making his statement were fired as well. Why such a reaction from Blizzard? Money, obviously.
Mei has been turned into a meme.
Blizzard makes big bucks in China, and if the Nation were to become angry with its actions that would cost a lot of dollars. It isn't just Blizzard who has felt the sting of Chinese censors wanting the company to toe the line, the NBA has seen some turmoil, and a recent episode of South Park lampooned how much Disney is careful to edit its movies to appeal to the strict Chinese rule (Winnie the Pooh is seriously banned there due to his use as a political symbol). Blizzard acted the way it did to appease Mainland China and as a result gamers Worldwide and in America especially who up to this point maybe did not even care about the protests in Hong Kong are incensed as a community. More pro gamers are speaking-out, Blizzard's company philosophy is being mocked, there is a proposal to take a popular character from, "Overwatch," named Mei (who is from China in the game) and make her a symbol of gamers being oppressed for speaking out with pro-Hong Kong views.

Blizzard has gone from being a fan-favorite company to being reviled by basically everyone in the span of a week and the company is honestly between a rock and a hard place. Do they apologize to the pro-gamer for expressing his views and lose billions in Chinese revenue or hold the line and risk tons of bad press and boycotts that could also cost them billions in revenue from other gamers around the World? I myself have not played a game by Blizzard for some time but in the past enjoyed, "World of Warcraft," "Hearthstone," and, "Overwatch," before eventually growing tired of them.
The controversies the company used to face seem quaint now.
Remember the uproar over the, "Butt Pose," and its removal?

I also do not know nearly enough about the complex political situation between Hong Kong and China to offer a solid opinion beyond hoping something can be worked out so that everyone is at least somewhat happy in the Governments of both places. I have no idea what Blizzard should do, but they really need to come-up with a plan or at least put out a statement to all the press entities requesting answers about what the company's official position is on all this because the big convention they hold, "Blizzcon," is mere weeks away and that could become an unholy mess. Right now I'm just pleased that video-gamers are actually showing solidarity, unity, and expressing outrage over something that actually is a big deal. I'm proud of gamers, and that is a weird feeling I have not had in some time.