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

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.


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?

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

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.

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 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.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The Best Comic By Someone Whose Work Normally is Terrible & The Worst Comic By Someone Whose Work is Normally Great

Today I feel like discussing something that I always find interesting. Namely, when someone who generally seems to put out bad comics somehow gives us something really good, and  the opposite where someone who normally creates amazingly wonderful pieces somehow produces a steaming pile of trash. For this article I think I'll go with someone who has almost always disappointed me, J. Michael Straczynski, and his inexplicably really  good (at least at first) "Supreme Power" 12th issue and the usually delightful Grant Morrison and one of his rare misses, "Happy" and its 2nd issue that at least hinted at something better hidden in the muck.

Supreme Power, Volume 1, Issue #12: "Ominous Tidings Expressed as Four-Part Harmony"

You know that famous issue of Watchmen where the first panel in the comic is a mirror of the last panel and the entire issue does this trick up to the center of the book where the two middle pages are a perfect opposite of one another? Yeah, this isn't that incredible, but probably is my 2nd favorite example of the comic medium being used in a unique way to tell a story that is impossible in any other format.

"Supreme Power" was basically a series that took the idea of the Squadron Supreme and put them in a much more realistic world (our world, at least until things went off the tracks later on) and examined how it would react to these super-beings. It started out amazingly great, before petering out at its final issue #18, having some decent-to-subpar mini-series, and then becoming an utter mess when it quit being a Marvel "Max" title (meaning there couldn't be swearing, the heavy-yet-realistic violence, etc.), before finally reaching a sort-of-acceptable conclusion some years ago in a mini-series written by Kyle Higgins. So yeah, a spotty history with various writers, but the best stuff is without question found in the original series written by JMS, with the highlight being this issue, the 12th.

Even if JMS seemed to run out of ideas by issue #18, here he is firing on all cylinders and using a level of skill in his writing that we haven't seen since with his other work--be it things that started out interesting but became awful ("The Twelve") or stuff that was an abomination from the start (his Superman run and mostly anything else he's written). The thing that makes this issue work so well is that it focuses on four different stories, all happening at the same moment throughout the world in its various time-zones. This results in some panels being quiet for a long period of time, while others have a bunch going on. Characters in one area of the story may move into another or just disappear altogether for a period of time, and it all fits the purpose of just what the title says, giving us some ominous tidings of the trouble that lies ahead for our heroes as they prepare to face a mass-murderer with power-levels that make him a huge threat.

When I see other work by JMS and compare it to this earlier piece in his bibliography it makes me wonder if he somehow suffered a sort of traumatic brain-injury that inexplicably only damaged his ability to make a good story, because how could something as good as this also come from the guy who gave us a Superman that allowed factory to keep producing toxic pollution and then subtly threatened his then-wife Lois Lane (it was before the New 52) with violence if she reported about it? Yes, that really happened. Whatever the case, this is an amazing comic from an at one point great series, and it boggles my mind that JMS made it.

Happy, Issue #2

I've discussed the series "Happy" before and how awful I thought it was, and time has not softened my position as feeling it is the worst of Grant Morrison's works. Basically it was the kind of comic you get if Morrison were to try and do something "edgy" with a bunch of swearing, violence, and sexuality but failed--so if Morrison were attempting to rip-off Garth Ennis but forgot to include all the craft and hint of heart and sentimentality that Ennis brings to his work. I'm not joking when I say that either, as Morrison even got Darrick Robertson to illustrate "Happy", an oft-collaborator with Ennis.

"Happy" is about a Hitman who gets on the wrong side of the mob during Christmastime, has to try to survive everyone hunting him down, and somehow has a magical donkey-with-wings appear to help him rescue the daughter he never knew he had who has coincidentally been kidnapped by the very same group of mobsters (if I recall correctly) to be in some weird pedophilia-themed sex-film with a drugged-out Santa. Yeah, that plot sounds kind of like a mess full of unpleasant elements that it would take good writing to make stomachable, doesn't it? Well, Morrison turns in work that is of the quality where you'll throw-up, so I'm sorry to hear if you had a tasty lunch before you tried reading  this series because that will have been a waste, a messy, messy waste--just like this comic.

The one (count'em one) scene that hints at some of that Morrison magic, that creativity that has given me some of my all-time favorite comics such a "The Filth" or "All-Star Superman", involves our protagonist getting involved in a poker game where everything gets all meta with a discussion of what reality is, and how fiction can in essence become real through our efforts or such. Other than that the series is absolute poorly-written junk, though.

When I flip through "Happy" it doesn't even seem like a Morrison comic (except for that one scene that hints at what the comic could have been) so much as the work of a hack who thinks that aping Ennis' ability to throw in swear words and extreme violence is all it takes to be as good as him--and while Ennis may often dabble in unpleasant and gross topics, he does it with an ability that is startling and basically impossible to replicate. Why Morrison felt the urge to make this comic escapes me, but whenever I think about his work I like to pretend this series just never happened. It's easier to pretend the pain didn't occur than dig-up old wounds.

I'm not sure if I had much of a point with this article other than to point out even the worst creators can sometimes turn out something amazing and the best folk can at times give us something really, really bad. Perhaps I guess I'm just pointing out even a broken clock is right twice a day (with JMS being a broken clock) and a working clock can at time go on the fritz and be terribly messed up (AKA Morrison with "Happy"). Whatever the case, you can't always count on a creator to deliver, and other times someone you underestimate might just surprise you with something really good--it is just that neither of  those events will occur that often, as overall I'd still rather read something by Morrison than JMS any day of the week. You just never know when something will come out and shock you with its quality or lack-thereof, however. You truly can never know.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Reflections on the Hubbub my "Open Carry" Article Caused AKA Why We Can't Talk About Gun Control Without a Ruckus

It all started so quietly...
On Wednesday June 18th I posted an article that I expected to get little views. It was an opinion piece on how I felt that "Open Carry" was an extension of white privilege and therefore inherently racist. My more political-posts generally get minimal views so when shortly after it went up even a single person commented on it I was pleased, regardless of how they disagreed with me. I then had a quiet weekend where little of note happened, and Monday came with a nice sunrise. And then within the span of a couple hours I had hundreds of views of my article and a lot of comments and tweets about it by folk who really, really, didn't agree with me.

Apparently various  open-carry and 2nd-amendment-boosting groups had stumbled upon my blog (or someone who already read it and disagreed with that post told others) and linked to it, resulting in an immense uptick where what would normally be the views I receive over days on a variety of posts turning into a tsunami focused on a single piece. Some people disagreed with me respectfully, others less-so. The thing that struck me the most however was that if I, some pretty small name on the internet, can get this much attention for wading into the ever-controversial debate on gun control, what happens to actual journalists who dare express an opinion other than "Guns are just great and should be everywhere!"? I wondered...

Dick Metcalf, who despite owning guns is apparently some kind of anti-gun crusader.
...and well, to answer that question:  They get in trouble, and depending on where they work, they get fired. A new article by "Atlantic" titled, "Why We Can't Talk About Gun Control" discusses how a man who wrote for "Guns & Ammo" magazine who dared to express the opinion that he felt his rights weren't being infringed by having there be more training before someone is issued a gun got in hot water. Perhaps it was also that he said universal background checks were an okay idea, but whatever the case, Dick Metcalf, who is a gun owner and even a member of the NRA was told he was some sort of "Benedict Arnold" and wanted to infringe on people's rights--despite his never saying he wanted infringement, only regulation.

A man, who actually proudly owns a gun, finds himself torn to shreds by others for daring to suggest that the Constitution's 2nd amendment maybe is open to interpretation as meaning folk shouldn't just be given all the guns they want until a single person owns enough weaponry to qualify as a small army. Then that man loses his writing job, and becomes another victim of those few gun owners who do more than simply own a gun, but instead also loudly obsess over a fear of them being taken away as if Obama himself is actually going to show up at their door and demand their weapons before their being implanted with a tracking chip to keep them in line.
From the cradle to the rapid time

I wonder if us pro-choice people would have more success at getting laws that support us pushed through if we had people as rabidly pro-choice as there are folk who petition for limited-to-no gun control. Maybe if NARAL and Planned Parenthood had the money that the gun lobby does politicians would say how banning abortion is pointless because those who break the law and still get an abortion would get one regardless of the laws--just as how those who supposedly get guns illegally are unaffected by gun control (or maybe the Supreme Court wouldn't rule in favor of religious objections over human rights). The same goes for those who push immigration reform; maybe a catchy slogan such as "You can take my green card from my cold dead hands," that threatens violence to anyone who disagrees would get the message across. I'm being a little sarcastic here, but it makes my point how it seems for some reason if we talk about any issue besides gun control debate is okay, but as soon as firearms come into the discussion you're either on the side of "Ban all guns!" or "Everyone gets a gun!" when there are so many shades of gray between those two extremes.

I don't get why we lack the ability as a nation to talk about gun control without a ruckus--I really don't. Perhaps it is a fear that if we start regulating some guns rights it will be a slippery slope leading us into the next holocaust somehow (people do think that); maybe the reason it is hard to have a discussion is that while there are many gun owners who are reasonable, it is the loud few who scream about how we are "sheeple" that dominate the conversation. Then again, it could be that very few people really care all the much about gun control but organizations such as the NRA intimidate us all into thinking it is a hot-button issue when really they're just working to further gun interests. I'm not sure what the reason is gun control discussion is so often hushed. I do believe that if we just shut-up and let those who want to have no gun control maintain free reign of public discussion however then we'll only have more crime, more mass-shootings, and more tragedy.
One issue I think everyone can agree on.
That's why I didn't get quiet even when a veritable storm of rage poured down upon me and my little ol' blog. I listened to what people said--the respectful and disrespectful--told them my thoughts, and can only hope that I possibly impacted someone's opinion for the better. Maybe if everyone realized that talking about regulation was just that--talking and trying to show other folk our opinions--something positive could get done.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

PrideFest Was A Great Event!

PrideFest Thoughts
I attended PrideFest and it was fun, informational, and nice to see people able to feel comfortable being themselves. There were numerous interesting local vendors from food from Naked Bacon and Fields Foods to clothes from Glad Rags and numerous other folk. There also were organizations raising awareness for various causes from The Anti Violence Advocacy Project by "ALIVE" to the Missouri division of the ACLU.

This was a big year for PrideFest;  it was celebrating its 35th anniversary, and commemorating the 45th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. At first the brainchild of two groups who then unified to become "The Saint Louis Lesbian & Gay Pride Celebration Committee", PrideFest has grown into a tradition still going strong.
There was music, plenty of food, and a bunch of interesting booths (as I mentioned). I wasn't able to see the parade on Sunday morning but heard it was fun and had a friend take photos. I recommend going next year for sure. Through its providing a safe place for people to be who they wish to be, PrideFest is a great event and one I recommend checking out next year!

Below are some images from the parade given to me by my friend:

I changed the title of the headline as "Neat" didn't seem to impart how wonderful pride was as much as saying how it was great. Also, here are two more photos, one with my lady (Samii) and a friend of ours, Chrissy, from the aforementioned Glad Rags, and another with Samii by some of the rainbow-colored chalk!