Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Television Tuesday: Big Brother 16 AKA The Guys This Season Cry a Lot


I wrote about the television reality-show "Big Brother" around this time last year during its 15th season and recommend checking that article out if you want to understand how the show works. That season was of course one of the more controversial ones due to the rampant racism that started emerging as the house-guests basically forgot they were being filmed and became horribly mean to each other. This season, the 16th, hasn't had the kind of drama that requires CBS put a disclaimer up before the show, but it has been a great show in its own way, if for no other reasons than this is a very interesting group.

There is often the stereotype that men aren't supposed to cry. A tough guy isn't allowed to let anyone see him sob in some people's views, but the guys on this season must feel differently as there has been a ton of "man-tears" as fans of the show have called it. The biggest and toughest men have been absolutely bawling about having to nominate people to get evicted, double-crossing someone, or how they miss their friends and family back home. I think it is actually a good thing these guys are in touch with their emotions as I figure "Big Brother" has always done a pretty good job of getting a variety of people together in a house, and yet despite all these men coming from different backgrounds they each enjoy a good cry be they a groundskeeper in their 40's or an undercover cop claiming to the house he is just in the recreation field.

The men being in touch with their emotions isn't only what makes this a fascinating bunch however, it is also how this show has gotten quite meta, with people on it talking about past seasons and how they don't want to do certain things as they've seen how people who have behaved that way on other years ended up. Also, while some house-members are so dull they barely get any screen-time when the show is on, others are quite a hoot. Caleb has gone from being a definite competitor to a lovesick puppy obsessed with another house-guest named Amber who at this rate is going to have a file a restraining order once the seasons ends. Donnie is the aforementioned older groundskeeper and one of the nicest and most straight-forward people you will ever see on "Big Brother", making it remarkable he has survived this long with his honesty--but it probably helps that he is so easy to like that everyone in the house loves him.

Perhaps the downside to all these interesting guys on the show is that the female players seem to be  getting relatively little attention. The most outspoken female who was also most likely to cause waves (Joey) was voted out in the first week, and now the females in the cast seem to just kind of operate as secondary to the men, creating a weird paradox of a show where the guys appear progressive with their ability to be in touch with their emotions, but the show comes off as regressive in gender-politics in other ways with all these passive women.
Donny is awesome on the show.
The last season of "Big Brother" brought us a house where people legitimately hated each other. Other than the despised house-member Devin who is gone now, this seems to be a household where everyone gets along but also is aware they are playing a game--although some people are starting to crack a bit and lose the niceties (look at Zach). While the people on this season may not actually dislike each other, that hasn't stopped them all from the usual whispering, back-stabbing, and conniving that makes up "Big Brother". The whole point of the show is to be one of two people left so of course everyone is making secret alliances and otherwise working against each other, but at least this season it doesn't seem as personal.

There are also all the silly competitions and such, but I always enjoy watching the house-members interact more than anything. Over the 90-ish days people slowly start getting more and more aggressive along with less and less nice. Considering how well this house gets along there may never be the inevitable melt-down of friendships that seems to happen every season,  but I'm counting on things getting ugly at some point--they almost always do (I doubt things will get as gruesome as last season though).

All-in-all,  "Big Brother" is something I enjoy as a bit of a guilty pleasure with its hokey reality-competition aspects, but also a show I find fascinating with its sociology-experiment aspect where we see what happens when 16 people are forced to live together and not interact with anyone but each other for three months. Every season is unique, and this one seems to be a season of men who aren't afraid to cry, a house that genuinely gets along, and of course the usual plotting and planning in secret. I would recommend tuning in as it is on CBS so you don't even need cable to watch it, plus the CBS website often has episodes and clips you can inspect too. I know I'll be watching tomorrow!

Monday, July 28, 2014

What I Found Interesting From SDCC This Year

Well, San Diego has finished its immense comic convention. A variety of pieces of news came out of it, and I'll now share my thoughts on what I think is worth discussing.

Stuff From SDCC Worth Mentioning
Besides the fact that I'm amazed "Multiversity" is actually going to finally happen, this map created by Grant Morrison to illustrate DC's multiverse is both fascinating and beautiful.

Image announced a ton of new comics that are going to be coming out from them. Some look more interesting than others, but I imagine each will be good in its own way, as Image doesn't really put out much that is flat-out bad.

ComiXology is now offering publishers the option to provide digital comics to readers without DRM--as in you can back-up your comic and read it on any device without annoying "protective" software getting in the way that actually doesn't stop pirates(my views on DRM are pretty clear). Some publishers are already on-board and others may soon be too.

Batman Versus Superman apparently had a trailer but it is all-but-impossible to find it on the internet due to Warner Brothers making anyone who posts it take it down, so I'm not even going to link to anything.

Could this be a start of a monster-movie renaissance? I don't know, but I am intrigued to hear that a sequel to the Godzilla movie I enjoyed is going to be made, and that a new King Kong movies of all things is happening.

Marvel is going to be putting out Star Wars comics soon that are officially in canon and everything. Plus they've got some good creative teams.

Speaking of Marvel, they have another original graphic novel coming out right before the new Avengers movie hits theaters, fittingly titled "Rage of Ultron".

"Star Trek" and "The Planet of the Apes" will be having a comic cross-over event thanks to a deal worked out by their respective rights holders, IDW and Boom. This is an announcement that is random but also sounds pretty cool.

That's All?
I can't think of anything else from SDCC that when I read news about it I found myself saying "Wow". I guess there just wasn't as much to grab my attention this year.

UPDATE:
I forgot to mention how I am happy that "Mighty Avengers" is not getting canceled, but instead re-launched as "Captain America and the Mighty Avengers". That made me smile. Also, Image's publisher Eric Stephenson delivered quite the keynote speech.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

I Attended, "Geeklesque," a Mixture of Humor, Titillation, and Nerd References

Introduction

On Saturday, July 26th, I attended a burlesque show put-on by, "Backlot Boudoir," (Facebook page here) with a geek/nerd-theme. It had the fitting title, "Geeklesque," and I had heard about it via an email from a comic-book shop that was going to have some of the cast there to promote the show a few days before its occurrence. I went to the shop and chatted with the producer/MC of the show, Elliot, and it sounded fun so I went and brought my lady & some friends!
Pre-show before everything filled-up.
"Geeklesque" was at a location known as "The Stratford Inn" a bit outside of Saint Louis. When we arrived approximately an hour before the show there was a large but already-packed lot. We made our way to the front entrance and walked through a very large bar to a busy back-room. Well, back-room makes it sound small, and this room was actually huge. Officially called, "The Ballroom," the walls were a striking dark black with comic-themed decorations stuck-upon them such as brightly-colored, "Bams," "Zaps," and a Batman logo. Servers were offering drink specials to those who didn't feel like walking over to the bar and some vendors near the front where we entered the room were hawking their wares.

One retailer was "December Dollhouse" with a variety of neat objects, such as "interchangeable jewelry", and another was, "Toys of our Youth" with a variety of pop-culture items such as toys, some comics, and such.

The Show
After relaxing and chatting with my chums who came to the event for a bit the show started in earnest. The producer/MC I mentioned earlier, Elliot, got the crowd riled up and then the entire troupe of the burlesque dancers came out for a Pokemon bit. It was cute and definitely made it clear the show was going to be a fun night of nerdiness.
Elliot
After the opening bit Elliot talked for a tad and then the next segment began, a solo-performance with the theme of "Captain America" where the fun song from the 1st movie played.

Following that, Elliot had an "argument" with a faux-Captain Picard about a lack of "Star Trek" references having occurred so far before two of the performers engaged in a Harry Potter-themed duel with wands, jumping around, and other dramatic flair.

Next up, a contortionist named Felix who has apparently performed with Cirque Du Soleil showed off his skills whilst wearing Spider-Man face-paint.

Then there was a She-Hulk meets Nutcracker routine that was fascinatingly weird and a "Star Wars" segment with one of the performers as a sexy Boba-Fett.

Elliot and his wife who uses the stage-name, "Sugar Siren" then engaged in a bit where they yelled at one another and she started to walk away as he sang, "Turn Around" and they sang the song before segueing into a hilarious rendition of, "Paradise by the Dashboard Light/Let me Sleep on It". Afterwards a lady performed who used a hula-hoop to create all kinds of cool imagery as it spun--and then spun a fiery-hoop whilst literally setting her pasties on fire. The first half of the show ended with a four-person performance with the cast dressed as Harely Quinn, Poison Ivy, and Catwoman, engaging in a fight with Batgirl. It was fun!

Next up was intermission which featured seven audience volunteers competing to see who could eat a banana in the most sexual-way possible. A man dressed as a cowboy-esque Deadpool was incredible and easily won.

This was followed by a costume-contest where a woman dressed as a humanoid Okami won thanks to her well-designed outfit. The show returned from intermission with a bunch of the performers dressed as the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles dancing to the infamous "Ninja Turtle Rap" by Vanilla Ice. A funny choice.

This was followed by a Zela-bit where Link, played by, "Dante, The Virgin," stripped down to his underwear and did all kinds of crazy somersaults and flips. It was impressive!

Elliot then introduced us to a "Mortalk Kombat" segment with a performer dressed as the character "Mileena" and posing around on a chair, it was inventive.

Felix  returned to hang from the ceiling with fabric ropes and really impress with his amazing strength to dangle from nothing more than his arms or at one point solely his neck.

Next there was a performance with one of the ladies as Lara Croft, doing some impressive gymnastic stunts befitting the character.

Nearing the end of the show, Sugar Siren sang again with "Come on, Eileen," and was followed by an awesome segment with the Super Mario Brothers theme. The two performers re-enacted various famous Mario-elements such as bumping their head on boxes for coins, swimming in the 8-bit ocean, and showing-up Bowser. It was my lady's favorite bit as she loves the old-school Mario games.

The final scene of the show then occurred, with the whole cast coming out in their various outfits from the production and danging about to a techno-influenced version of the "Star Wars" cantina theme. It was an energetic and exciting way to end the show.

My Overall Thoughts on the Show
I really enjoyed "Geeklesque". Backlot Boudoir have been around for a bit, but this was their performance I had ever attended and I'm glad I did! My friends who went with us had a great time too, agreeing with my opinion that the variety of geek-themes mixed with comedy and gymnastics resulted in a show that moved at a good pace, stayed fresh, and most importantly of all was entertaining.

The outfits were great, the choreography was both inventive and sexy, and the crowd ate-up all the geeky in-jokes. It was a superb experience and I along with everyone I brought had a wonderful time. Should you live in the area and want to catch any future-shows by Backlot Boudoir you can read about their upcoming October show with a Halloween and murder-mystery theme. Also, they have a Kickstarter currently going to raise funds in an effort to increase production values and other features for future shows. Lastly, you can follow Backlot Boudoir on twitter here. Check them out and go to a show!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Film Friday: Six Total Reviews of A Bunch Of Movies I Finally Saw That Have Been Out For Awhile in Theaters or on DVD

It Begins
A lot of movies have come out in theaters or on DVD lately and I have seen them--albeit quite a bit after they were available to watch. As I'm not at the big comic-convention I figured now was as good as any time to put up a post a bout the flicks. Therefore, I now present a bundle of film reviews of stuff still in theaters (for however little remaining time) and features you can now catch on DVD.

Movies Still in Theaters
Tammy

Melissa McCarthy is quite funny, the key is to give her good material. This movie most of the time has decent material, but is rarely laugh-out-loud great. There is an amazingly talented cast to compliment McCarthy from Susan Sarandon as her Grandmother, to sadly brief appearances by Kathy Bates and Dan Aykoryd; this makes it all the more distressing that while there is an A+ cast they are performing generally B material.

The plot is basically about how all-around loser Tammy and her grandma go on a road trip where various shenanigans play-out with some more interesting to watch than others. McCarthy does a good job making sure Tammy is never completely impossible to like, but also clearly kind of a jerk you might not want to spend too much time with. There is a romance aspect that seems a little tacked-on but is at least nice, and any scene with Sarandon tends to keep your attention as she is one incredibly skilled actress. That said, I just wish there were more worthwhile things for these characters to actually do in the movie.

I may sound negative about "Tammy" so don't get me wrong, there is a lot to like in this production. The thing is, there just isn't too much I loved. The result is a movie that is above-average thanks to an expert cast doing what they can with what they are given, but an end result that is nothing to write home about.
3 out of 5 stars.

Chef

Jon Favreau is at this point most known for his directing (and appearing in) the first two "Iron Man" movies. While he did a great job with those, before Favreau was doing big-name movies he actually was most known for his more independent-minded films. "Chef" marks Favreau's return to that milieu, with his directing and starring in this low-budget (at least compared to his more recent works) movie about a professional chef who finds his at-first lost creative voice after growing  tired of always being stifled by the restaurant-owner who is bossing him around.

One wonders if there is an autobiographical metaphor at work here as the food-artist (Favreau) struggles to get across his vision while the owner (played as wonderfully monstrous by Dustin Hoffman) limits his abilities until eventually our protagonist gets fed-up and quits--with the rest of the movie focusing on him "getting his groove back" be it in the kitchen or trying to bond with his son whom he's been emotionally distant from since separating with his wife. It may be a stretch to think Favreau is trying to tell us something about how he feels about those big block-busters he directed as compared to smaller movies such as this, but there has to be some subtext there.

While the movie may have a smaller budget, Favreau clearly has made some well-known friends as bigger-name actors grace the screen even if for only a little bit, be it Scarlet Johansson as the restaurant hostess, or a delightful one-scene bit with Robert Downey Jr. where he and Favreau riff off each other with the kind of skill only two expert actors who are also good friends could pull-off.

The cast is wonderful, and while the plot may be mostly familiar in how it plays out (our chef has professional and personal issues but over the course of approximately 2 hours everything works out), it is expertly done thanks to Favreau's directing and a script that shows not only care for its characters but a close attention to the art of food (it didn't surprise me to read that Favreau is a big-time foodie who loves the art of cooking). So yes, I greatly enjoyed the movie. "Chef" doesn't break any new story-telling ground, but adds enough zest to a familiar recipe that it has enough skill and care to result in a movie that makes you feel both entertained and hungry by the time the credits roll.
4.5 out of 5 stars.

X-Men: Days of Future Past

You probably can see this at a 2nd-run theater by now, although I caught it when it was still in regular cinemas. That said, I was one of maybe four other people in the theater who had finally gotten around to catching this. I'm glad I did finally see this movie though despite some minor flaws.

I really did enjoy this X-Men movie, even if I felt with such a huge cast there were a variety of characters  that got barely any screen-time (Iceman got maybe a line or two, Havok said one sentence--I think--and Blink just sort-of did her cool powers but never said anything) and other folk who did get fleshed-out a little but I would have loved to see more of (Peter Dinklage as Bolivar Trask was wonderful). Still, this is a movie that is both simultaneously a sequel to a prequel with the 1970's bits and the latest movie in the timeline with its scenes set in the future, a delicate balancing act that is expertly done. It basically fixes the time-line of the "X-Men" movies and all but eliminates "X-Men 3" from continuity with an altered version of the first and second movie being somewhat apparent as having taken place.

There are some irritating plot points that occur (for example: I would have thought Quicksilver was going to play a bigger role thanks to his powers, but doesn't), and major story elements that would seem important are just casually tossed out and then forgotten even though they would be worth exploring (Wait, JFK was a mutant? Why isn't that a big plot-point?), but I still overall greatly enjoyed this latest X-Men film and think it sets up more movies to take place in the past while also freeing the franchise from being stuck as having to build-up to the earlier "X-Men" films...which took place later on, technically making them the latest films, aannnndddd now my head hurts.

I haven't really described the plot, and that is because a lot of enjoyment comes from seeing the story develop and throw little surprises at you that reward those who've seen all the X-films (even the bad ones) and read some of the comics, but this can still entertain a general crowd that has only maybe seen some of the flicks--although you really need to have viewed at least "First Class" to have the slightest clue what is going on, and of course the three main "X-Men" films will assist in your getting the maximum amount of enjoyment too (you can skip at least the first "Wolverine" movie as it is basically ignored and the 2nd one isn't that important except for its end-credit's scene that hinted at the start of this movie).

All-in-all, "X-Men: Days of Future Past" is definitely one of the strongest X-films, ranking up there with the 2nd flick in the original series and "First Class" despite it sometimes seeming like the sheer weight of continuity or vastness of the cast could cause the movie to collapse-in on itself at any moment (and it of course thankfully does not do that). Should you be able to still catch this in a nearby theater I would recommend doing so, or making sure to grab it on DVD when it comes out.
4 out of 5 stars.

Movies Now on DVD
Robocop (the 2014 version)

Perhaps it is because I haven't seen the original "Robocop" for some time, but as sacrilegious as this sounds, I think I might have actually liked  this version of "Robocop" more than the classic. Before everyone gets mad at me and starts screaming let me just explain why I feel that way.

I'll first admit that the man who plays the titular Robocop is so boring I don't even remember the actor's actual name and will just call him "That Robocop guy" for the remainder of my review. However, the great thing about this film is that it isn't just about that Robocop guy, it is about the themes that the existence of Robocop helps the film explore. From the question of US involvement in countries that don't want us there, to examining the sleazy business practices of the CEO behind the creationg of Robocop played expertly by Michael Keaton, the idea of what makes us human, if privatizing the police is a good thing, and all kinds of concepts are touched upon.

From the faux-politics show hosted by Samuel L. Jackson doing his best imitation of a futuristic-Bill O'Reily, to Gary Oldman presenting a scientist to us who is both at once sympathetic if also questionable in the actions he takes, the cast is amazing, with the aforementioned Keaton and Jackson stealing the show in any of their scenes. The question of US military-interference that I mentioned is expertly presented if only glossed over somewhat, but other aspects such as the exploration of what makes us human or a machine are touched upon too in a way that the original 1980's film explored, but which are even more relevant today in this era of machines that are getting better and better at imitating human behavior and emotions--with the point where they aren't just replicating our feelings but are actually feeling seeming to be approaching ever closer, something both at once exciting and terrifying.

That Robocop guy may be dull as dirt, but the members of the supporting cast I named along with other folk (such as that Robocop guy's wife and his police-partner) are great, and the questions the film raises are fascinating to consider. As I said, perhaps I need to re-watch the original "Robocop" and see if it is even better than I remember, but for now I'm saying this more recent version of the movie is the best incarnation of the series I have seen.
4.5 out of 5 stars.

The Raid 2

I quite enjoyed the first movie in this series, "The Raid: Redemption," and while this is also good I don't think it carries as much perfection as the first film has--then again, it also is a quite different movie in some ways. Whereas the first movie was a pretty lean hour and forty minutes, this clocks in at two-and-a-half hours if credits are taken into account. While the first movie was pretty light on plot until the end where it revealed a complex web of crooked cops, the sequel is very plot-heavy, operating as a sort of epic crime-saga that takes the characters from the first movie, introduces a bunch more, and then moves them out of a single tenement building into a whole city of corrupt and dangerous characters.

"The Raid 2" continues the plot of the first movie I suppose one could say, but also creates its own sprawling and dense stories too, sometimes to the detriment of the film. We get all these complex characters, learn their backgrounds, and spend a lot of time with them--which while interesting can make the movie drag a bit. While the first "Raid" was almost non-stop action, this is more an experience of a lot of plot and dialogue with the occasional incredible action scene inserted in just as the viewer is starting to get a bit bored.

"The Raid 2" tries to be everything more than the first film but in doing so ends up a little less enjoyable. In terms of actual running time there probably is less action in this movie than in the first-one, which is fine when you have an amazing plot but the story-line here is strictly your usual, "Undercover cop is in-over-his-head," story meets, "Criminal empire starts to fall apart when a son with big ambitions finds them in conflict with his mob-boss father," with a dash of, "Hey look, quirky assassins!" thrown-in for good measure too. Still, while "The Raid 2" may not be the near-masterpiece its preceding entry was, it still is an enjoyable film, and one that has me looking forward to the hopeful possibility of a "The Raid 3".
3.5 out of 5 stars.


The Lego Movie

Were I to only take away one idea from this film, it would be that the song "Everything is Awesome" expertly drills its way into your brain, playing on repeat for hours upon your mental record-player (or MP3 player if you prefer a more modern metaphor). Were I to have another conclusion about the movie, it would be that this was a delightfully good film not just for children, but also for all those adults out there who grew up loving Lego-products.

Both at once weirdly promoting individualism while also basically being a commercial for a toy product, "The Lego Movie" luckily doesn't end up being simply an advertisement for various products (Lego Batman, Lego Star Wars) but tells a legitimately good story that has a lot of heart in its main point that it is better to be a creative individual as opposed to another face in a dull crowd.

With a stellar cast providing voices (Morgan Freeman, Will Ferrell, Elizabeth Banks, the always-funny Charlie Day, and so forth) and an animation style that is computer-generated but also expertly-done to create an appearance of being like a true stop-motion endeavor, "The Lego Movie" excels at telling a story that is both at once intellectually and emotionally stimulating along with pleasing to the eyes. It is a great movie for both youth and adults to enjoy, and I would encourage anyone who has enjoyed playing with Lego-sets to check it out.
4 out of 5 stars

It Ends
Whew! Clearly I have seen an interesting variety of movies over the past while, and while I'm sorry I didn't review some sooner, at least I did now. So, go out to the theater/video-rental store/Redbox kiosk/movie-streaming website and enjoy yourself a movie, I did--multiple times!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

I'm NOT at San Diego's Comic-Con

So, I'm not at San Diego Comic-Con, Comic-Con International, SDCC, or whatever you want to call it. The reasons for my not attending are vast and vary from, "I can't afford to buy a flight or hotel" to "I'm not sure I'm even popular enough to qualify for a press pass considering this is such a huge event". Therefore, while I might miss such fun occurrences such as the Image Expo which was full of new comics being announced, I at least can enjoy reading all the reports and imagine what it would be like if I were actually there meeting countless folks and buying whatever snazzy merchandise I would have enough money to purchase.

I sort of don't mind being unable to go to SDCC, because over time it seems  to have gotten to be a little less about comics and even more about movies and television--which is perfectly okay, but makes it almost more of a popular-culture convention than a true comic-book convention. Then again, I have loved attending Wizard World Saint Louis and Wizard makes no secret that their events are not just comic-focused, so perhaps I'm just like the fox in that fable who calls, "sour grapes." That said, my dream convention to attend is probably the huge one in NYC, and then going to San Diego. Hence, if anyone wants to give me a lot of money to go cover a comic convention for them, maybe consider flying me to New York first.

Anyways, I may not be in San Diego, but once it wraps up I imagine I'll do a post where I discuss the most interesting pieces of news to come out of the convention and my thoughts on them. Until then, you can join me in watching all the reports and reading the articles about the hottest announcements as they happen live. Oh, and to all of you who are scouring Ebay trying to find convention-exclusive items that people are already selling, you're only encouraging others to hoard items and then re-sell them at a huge mark-up as opposed to letting people who actually would enjoy the stuff for sale have the chance to buy it. I'm just saying...

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Happy Birthday/Anniversary, Batman!


A Big Day

DC Comics has declared that July 23rd AKA today, is officially "Batman Day." This marks the 75th anniversary of Batman's first appearance in "Detective Comics" issue number 27, officially all done by Bob Kane, but truthfully with most of the work created by Bill Finger (who can't legally be called a co-creator of Batman due to Bob Kane having been a evil human being who screwed people out of what they were due).

Whatever difficult history lies behind Batman's creation, one thing remains true:  Batman is cool as Hell.

There have been heroes created before Batman, and countless more dreamed-up after him, but through the decades (all seven-and-a-half of them) Batman has remained one of the most identifiable heroes in the entire world. Perhaps the only character more famous than him is Superman, who is also a year older. However, by "more famous" that doesn't necessarily mean more popular.

While Superman represents the best of what humanity can aspire to, Batman is symbolic of what a human  theoretically can really do (as he lacks any arguable powers outside of his vast intelligence, training, and wealth). The key is probably how Batman has a realistic limit of being mortal that a happy-go-lucky super-powered man lacks. Batman is dark, brooding, mysterious, and arguably a pessimist; society over time seems to have grown into those sorts of feelings also, with the more optimistic "Anything is possible" viewpoints of the post-Depression and war-booming 1940's turning into a doubtful questioning of society and how reliable it is that came about in the late 1960's (and grew into the cynicism and anger of the late 1990's continuing into today).

 Superman may have matched those more positive and hopeful times, but Batman is the kind of hero who syncs-up with our world today, something arguably proven by how the darkly-tragic Batman films by Christopher Nolan are among the most successful of any comic-book movies--with "The Dark Knight" possibly being not just one of the best comic-book movies made, but one of the better movies created, ever.

However, despite the depressing nature of Batman, he still represents that sliver of hope humanity tries to maintain in his refusal to kill the criminals and a belief that somehow his home of Gotham City can be made a safe and happy place. Also, the fact that Batman has some of the coolest villains in the form of folk like Clayface, Poison Ivy, and of course The Joker probably helps too, but that would be a whole separate post.

In conclusion, Batman is awesome thanks to all the people who have written and drawn him (both credited and unaccredited), and because of the various things he symbolizes. Therefore, I join many others in wanting to wish him a happy 75th birthday/anniversary. I know there will be many more wonderful stories, drawings, movies, television shows, and video-games featuring Batman in the future and I wholeheartedly look forward to them.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Assorted Links of Use to Your Gaining of Knowledge

I've seen, read, and heard some interesting things lately, so why don't I share them with you, my dear reader/readers?

Links
Let's start off with an article that is quite the saga. Someone from Gawker spent 14 hours at a T.G.I.F. restaurant in a quest to see if the current "Endless Appetizers" program was truly unlimited, and to experiment with how much mozzarella sticks a human can both physically and psychologically handle.

Soooo, Russia and the Ukraine are currently a mess, with a commercial plane full of innocent victims falling in the cross-fire.

Oh, and Israel and Gaza are currently a nightmare of violence and trouble too.

This piece by the Daily Beast discusses how DC Comics has an apparent diversity crisis, especially when compared to Marvel and their recent new announcements.

Speaking of DC and Marvel, one of my favorite bloggers, Caleb Mozzocco, goes after good ol' DC for making fun of Marvel when he feels they don't really have a leg to stand on, or as he puts it, "Good God, that's some chutzpah." Considering how Marvel is at least trying new things with some of their comics (the wonderfully surreal "Moon Knight", "She Hulk" being good fun) its kind of an odd thing for DC to do.

I discussed my thoughts on "Watch Dogs" early on while playing it, and this article about the ending is very interesting in pointing out how when the game finally and truly lets you make a moral choice, what you would want to do is perhaps very different from how the main character, Aiden Pearce, has behaved the entire game with you merely guiding him in a somewhat on-rails fashion through missions. Be warned there are spoilers as it discusses the game's conclusion.

As I don't want people to think I only rag on DC when Marvel does plenty of idiotic things too, here is the full list of Marvel's solicitations for October 2014. Upon seeing how many comics there are for this "Avengers VS. X-Men: Axis" event right after "Original Sin" has just wrapped up in August, I can only conclude Marvel is trying to kill people in some sort of deluge of comics which will cause them to drown under the weight of all the paper. Needless to say, I'm not planning to read "Axis" due to my often-discussed being done with event-comics for the foreseeable future.

Oh, and lastly, you might have heard about the alternate-continuity "Life of Archie" comic with its 36th issue where Archie dies saving his gay friend, the newly-elected senator Kevin Keller, from an assassin out to kill Keller for his gun-control views. I honestly never would have thought a decade ago I would use those words in describing an "Archie" comic, but between Kevin Keller, the extremely good "Afterlife with Archie", and now this, "Archie" comics have found a way to be incredibly relevant and interesting. Who would have thunk-it?



Tuesday, July 15, 2014

One Sentence Summaries Sneaks Back To Smack You In The Face With Awesome

Opener
This is my fourth time presenting summaries of comic-books that are only one sentence long. Yes, sometimes I take advantage of semicolons or run-on sentences but I still feel each comic is only given a sentence so let's not get overly grammatical up in this sucker. Anyways, here are some thoughts....

Main Attraction
Ghost Rider #4
I'm not sure if I enjoy this because it is actually a great comic, or if it is just an okay comic with amazing art by Tradd Moore giving it the sensation that it is better than it actually is.

Thomas Alsop #1
I think the 2nd issue of this is out but I haven't read it yet, although I imagine it continues the clever idea of being like a tale about John Constantine if he were (was?) a fame-whore.

Mighty Avengers #11
I heard this series was possibly being cancelled, which is a shame because besides this and "Avengers Undercover" (which is confirmed as cancelled) I don't really read any "Avengers" books anymore due to growing bored with Hickman's comics and getting sick of Remender's super-dull saga with the Apocalypse twins that seems like it has taken 20-something issues when eight at the most would have been enough.

X-Force #6
I've quit this comic after this issue and I don't get why the writer of this (Si Spurrier) is creating something so mediocre when the X-series he did before (X-Men Legacy) was one of the best series I've ever read; life is disappointing sometimes.

Batman #32
One of the incredibly small number of DC comics I'm still reading, I continue to be a fan of "Batman" for reasons I can't quite figure out beyond that it has at least had the same creative team since launch, told interesting stories, and been creative in its originality while still calling-back to the past....perhaps that's exactly what this kind of comic needs and the very reason why I like it.

The Wicked and The Divine #1
Well damn, that was a really, really enjoyable comic.

The Red Ten #6
Comixtribe's version of a Justice League slowly being killed by a mysterious being on an island in the vein of "And Then There Were None" has actually worked out quite nicely, resulting in a comic I look forward to reading whenever it manages to come out with its somewhat sporadic release schedule.

Closer
That is all my musings for now. I hope I've inspired you to check out some comics and possibly avoid others.

Friday, July 11, 2014

"Benson's Cuckoos" Is Both Hilarious and A Tad Suspensful


"Benson's Cuckoos" is a great book. Written and drawn by Anouk Ricard (with translation from French-to-English by Helge Dascher), I really had a great time reading this. Ricard might be known to you for her kids' comic "Anna and Forga" (published by "Drawn and Quarterly" just as this title is) and this book continues her use of human-like animals as the story follows the life of a duck named Richard. We open with Richard as he interviews for and then starts his job at a cuckoo-clock factory where things are a bit...off. The boss, Mr. Benson (A poodle), is a eccentric to say the least between his fondness for strange hats and a mood that can turn on a dime, and while Richard is under the impression he is simply replacing an employee named George who quit, a news report about how George has been missing says otherwise.
Clearly something is up at the factory.
There is a style of humor in this book that I've seen compared to "The Office" with the strange people who populate the factory and weird boss apparently being like that program. As I've only caught maybe 2 episodes of the American version of the show I can't really comment on that, but can say that I was highly amused by the events of the book.
Mr. Benson is as funny as he is absurd.
Richard also has a romantic interest in the form of a lady-dog named Sophie who is sweet but not given as much character development as I would have liked, along with some other employees whom I would have hoped to see more of. However, some characters not getting as much attention is fine as the underlying mystery of just what happened to George creates a bit of tension in the book as it becomes clearer and very obvious that something which could be dangerous for Richard is occurring, but there is no way of knowing just what it is and who poses a threat.
Sophie and Richard's romantic chemistry isn't developed as well as it could be.
Clearly this title has an art style that is cute, but this is by no means a book for children. There is some swearing, animal-nudity, violence, and otherwise a clear indication that despite looking adorable these anthropomorphic office-workers are anything but cuddly. I like the slight disconnect between the art and tone however because it gives everything an extra dose of the avant-garde to see these sweet-looking animals behaving like terrible human beings.
This is asked seconds after they first meet.
"Benson's Cuckoos" is a stellar graphic novel and one where Anouk Ricard shows that she is not only a great writer and illustrator of works for children, but also someone with a wonderfully mature (yet still enjoyably silly) wit. Other than some characters seeming a bit underdeveloped I really did love this book and would highly recommend you check it out.
5 out of 5 stars. 

Thursday, July 10, 2014

I've Been Busy, So I Just Have A Quick Thought About One Of DC Comic's Latest Promotional Images

As the title says, I've been busy. The inability to create a blog post recently has come from traveling to visit family and lacking the time to consume much media. However, I do have a thought on one of those DC promotional images that came out a week or two ago.

I don't know if this is clever or stupid. There are other promotional images with this format of the characters in front of a white background with something quipy written, but this one is by far the most...provocative, is the best word, I guess? This is for the new "Grayson" comic that takes Dick Grayson and makes him some sort of super-spy as opposed to his usual Nightwing persona. Therefore, I get what the advertisement is saying. I just don't know if this is funny and smart, or juvenile and lame. It imparts attitude but almost feels like it is trying too hard-- but, the fact that is doesn't fully feel like it is doing so makes it appear to potentially have just the right amount of sass and "In-your-face" tone that I suppose DC is now going for with their new comics. 

Really, if these advertisements are interpreted to have worked successfully or flopped depends on how well the comics they are promoting sell--of course, Dick Grayson/Nightwing has developed quite a devoted fan-base over time, making me think almost anything with his name on it and/or featuring him will sell at least somewhat decently. The real test is if the ads promoting something like the new Suicide Squad and Teen Titans....

















...will help those comics work out better than they did in their previous incarnations. We shall see, I suppose. Also, that new costume for the character who is apparently Raven on the far right of the Teen Titans promo is God-awful--sorry, but it needed to be said.