Saturday, March 31, 2012

New Mutants, Midnight In Paris, Percival Everett's Damned If I Do

A Random Assortment of Things
The New Mutants Search for Nate Grey (a character I have a soft spot for), a man travels back to 1920s Paris, and a book of short stories by Percival Everett titled Damned If I Do.

Nate Grey Is So Cool AKA New Mutants: Unfinished Business

I've talked previously about how much I love Nate Grey, and this trade collects the New Mutants adventures where the series sort of got a new focus with the team solving past X-Men cases--the first of which was finding Nate Grey. Putting aside how delicious it is to see Nate Grey fight Marvel's super-heroes even if it turns out to be a dream (yeah, that's a spoiler, but you see that in the first issue, so suck it up), it is also just fun to see the team come together in a new way. Yes, we have to put up with some of the past-issue events I didn't read being discussed, but after that things are smooth sailing.
Dog-pile on Nate Grey!
This is a fun comic, with the team's dynamic working well, the art generally looking good, and times otherwise being pretty good. If there were more Nate Grey or the whole, "giving mutants back powers," plot-point didn't rear its head for the hundredth time since the number of mutants in the world went down this would be a really high scoring book, but with what there is, it's indeed enjoyable.
4 out of 5 stars.

Good Times Abound--Midnight In Paris

Woody Allen has done some solid dramas, but I always love his comedic movies when he does them right (See: The masterful Annie Hall), because when he does comedy, "right," he creates something quite entertaining.

Midnight in Paris is basically about Owen Wilson's character inexplicably discovering a way to go back into the past where he visits 1920s Paris on multiple occasions, meeting many of his favorite literary and art icons. The fun he has and the lessons he learns take those of us viewing the film on a fun ride and the movie makes some clever points about nostalgia too along the way.
It makes sense this movie won the Oscar for best Screenplay (Original) as even though there have been plenty of movies about time travel that have used it for comedy (Back To the Future did it spectacularly) this film does use the idea very well, so it is not trite or cliche.

Plus, the film is genuinely humorous. There are a good number of moments one will find funny even if not particularly knowledgeable in literature or art history--although that will bring even more smiles with some of the clever references the film makes from Fitzgerald and Hemingway to Picasso and Gertrude Stein.
Yes, the same man playing Scott Fitzgerald also is Loki in Thor and The Avengers. Interesting, eh?
I quite liked Midnight in Paris and would recommend viewing it. It's quite a hoot and you should enjoy it.
4 out of 5 stars.

Everett Does a Variety of Stories Quite Well: Damned If I Do

I have discussed Percival Everett before when reviewing his book Erasure. This book, Damned If I Do, is a collection of short stories by the author and they run the gamut in tone, style, and quality--in the end there is more good and intriguing than bad and dull, however, so yah!

Everett sometimes writes about race, and when he does the man is so clever you almost want to tell other people trying to write about racial issues to call it a day. Not all of the stories here are about race, but one of my favorites is. "The Appropriation of Cultures," takes the idea of white people taking black people's culture and turns it on its head. How? A black man buys a pick-up truck with a Confederate flag and starts speaking of it proudly as a black-power flag. More than that happens, but I don't want to spoil everything.

Don't think of Everett as only writing about race however, he talks about a lot of things, often fly-fishing for instance--which figures into a few of the stories. There isn't really a common theme even with fly-fishing popping up a lot, as these stories are so varied. There are ones with a slight magic edge such as the first one about a man who can fix anything (and I mean anything) titled, "The Fix," then some realistic slice-of-stories which are interesting such as, "Alluvial Deposits," and "True Romance."

The strangest story that actually starts out somewhat normally then spirals into an utterly surreal ending is, "The Last Heat of Summer," and it is the penultimate story in the book (although "Epigenesis" is pretty bizarre too), with the also different-than-you-expect, "Randall Randall," closing out the paperback. "Randall Randall" is interesting because it starts out seeming like the classic story of some angry old man carrying on about insignificant nonsense, and then suddenly the stakes in the story rise sharply and we start reading the closest thing to a thriller of the short stories in this collection.

I haven't discussed all the stories, but mentioned the ones that stuck out most in my mind, and this book is pretty entertaining reading. The genres and the story tones change often, showing Everett's versatility as a writer and keeping the reader on his/her toes. I quite enjoyed this and would recommend picking this up if you've read other works by Everett such as Erasure, I Am Not Sidney Poitier, or want an introduction to the writer before embarking on one of his big novels.
4 out of 5 stars.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Some News and Links, So Let's Just Chill

New & Links

Michael Bay Is Pissing Fans Off
Alright, so they aren't going to be mutants, they are going to be from space. They also aren't going to be teens. Therefore, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in their upcoming movie from Michael Bay will be in a flick just titled, "Ninja Turtles"? I am going to prepare for the fan-rage now by locking my doors when the riots start.

WILDCATS 3.0 Is Something I Need To Get Around To Reading
Seriously, as this review points out, I need to read it. I love much of Joe Casey's work, I bought the trades and have been meaning to get to it, but I just keep on delaying.

Racist Hunger Games 
Apparently some people who didn't pay close enough attention while reading The Hunger Games books missed the fact that certain characters were black. This had led to people saying really racist things over Twitter about characters I have never heard of because of my lack of knowledge about the series, but with my knowledge about the evil of humanity I can continue to be disturbed by how people out there in our society act.

The Tragedy of Trayvon Martin
While we're on the subject of racism, what happened with Trayvon Martin is inexcusable for the fact that the shooter is still just walking around freely. A young black man was racially profiled by someone else and shot. The shooter claims self-defense, but look at the information and you have to say, really? Just read up on the story. Let's consider the past and present when people say racism isn't as common today or stupid things like that:

Click on the picture, read it, and yeah, that's pretty much a summary of things.

One More Post About Race, This Time A Link to David Brothers, One Of The Smartest People I've Read The Thoughts Of
David Brothers, one of the smartest people not just on the internet but probably around our world, has some extremely insightful observations about ol' Mark Millar and his supposed plans to make black characters more popular in comics. The same Mark Millar who has made racial comments both in public and in his comics that can be a bit...iffy. Millar is not a racist, I would say, but definitely not down for any sort of racial-equality cause. He just sees dollar signs, as Brother's points out.

Good Ol Games Now Just GOG--And Home To Newer Games
Website I absolutely love, GOG, has dropped the meaning behind the acronym GOG and now it literally just means GOG. Sort of how Harry S Truman really was just an, "S," with no need for a period because it didn't stand for anything. The main reason for this is that GOG will now be carrying somewhat newer games--many of them cool independent titles. One of the most important features of all is remaining however, absolutely no DRM.

For those of you unfamiliar with DRM it is basically a way for companies to treat you like a suspected game-pirate right off the bat even though you bought the game by limiting various things from how many times you can install the game over a certain number of computers, to incredibly-insidious methods such as requiring you to always be online so they can monitor your game and make sure it is legit at all times. I've never committed game piracy and don't appreciate being treated like a thief by game companies so even if there is a computer game I want to play that my computer can handle should there be DRM I pretty much say no.

GOG trusts us gamers to be honest and gives us the games in all their raw data glory to mod and fiddle with to our hearts content with digital bonus features like manuals and other goodies occasionally such as soundtracks. I plan to continue supporting GOG as it grows into whatever name it adopts as long as they stick to their great principles and keep the superb old--and now many more newer--games. Check them out.

The Pope goes to Mexico
The Pope went to Mexico and I have a picture of him in a sombrero:
I don't really have anything else to say, I just love that picture. Okay, I do have something to say, I really preferred the old Pope. He seemed much kinder and wiser, this one generally comes off as a grouch and just less likable. I dunno. This hat picture makes me like him a bit more however.

You hear me Tucker Stone? Damn you for being so funny and clever! I will never equal you or probably Abhay in my intellect and wit but I sure do love reading your thoughts on comics and such regardless. If I could get the smartness of David Brothers and the humor of Tucker Stone I would be an unstoppable writer.

Poor Captain Atom
Since January or even earlier, various people all over the internet have been sounding the warning of Captain Atom's comic to suffer an imminent death AKA cancellation. Seriously, all over the web people are talking about his series horrible low sales. This makes me sad as Captain Atom is the first comic by J.T. Krul that I have actually enjoyed for being good (Rise of Arsenal doesn't count, that was just utterly weird and crazy to a so-bad-it's-good point).

 It's got a bit of the Doctor Manhattan from Watchmen vibe--which is funny as that character was based off of Captain Atom--mixed with some super-heroics. It sort of riffs off of the idea of a hero so powerful, scary, and uncontrolled even the Justice League don't want to be involved with him. Seeing the character work at understanding his powers and being a God-like being makes for intriguing reading and I'll be sad to see this comic eventually go. Trust me, this thing is going to get cancelled, most likely in the next wave of cuts and new-introductions to balance things out and keep the ongoing series at 52.

UK Gaming Store "GAME" Is A Sinking Ship
In The UK there is a gaming chain known simply as "GAME" and for awhile they have been having some issues with money. It's a been a slow burn, sort of in the same depressing way it was with Borders when they were dying, but GAME is entering that phase where things start getting shut down. To make things worse however, they aren't taking gift cards and you can't get a refund on any pre-orders for games they clearly won't have now--what with the whole being doomed thing. There's money down the drain for anyone who didn't think to cash those cards in and get their money out while they could when the storm clouds were starting to gather.

Warren Ellis Asks His Friends If Magazines Are Doomed
An older link, but a good one. Warren Ellis asks some various folk he knows about if magazine publishing (at least as we know it) is utterly screwed. Opinions abound.

That's All For Now

Friday, March 23, 2012

Magazines I've Been Reading, Reviewed....With Rigor?

I've been reading magazines, as I enjoy doing. I shall share about them with you in a somewhat rambling manner of reviews.

PC Gamer
Probably my favorite gaming magazine. This thing has unabashedly honest reviews, interesting editorials, great features, and otherwise is just a high-quality read. I don't even really have a computer that can play some of the games they talk about, but I still love reading this because it's just such a fun time. Hopefully in this era of shrinking print PC Gamer won't go away anytime too soon.
4.5 out of 5 stars.

The Economist
I don't read it too often, but when I pick up an issue I always walk away informed about something new. Now, I don't always agree with The Economist and its hyper-pro-free-market ideas of privatization being just great for everything. However, when the Economist is right boy is it right. From talking about how the Euro may be utterly doomed to the failed dream of Nuclear Energy along with all the other articles and small news-bits they shove in, this thing is positively packed with content. It's good stuff.
4 out of 5 stars.

An alternative culture sort of magazine that has lots of interviews and interesting fashion pieces spread throughout. The sixth issue came out recently with Daniel Radcliffe of all people on the cover. There are some genuinely fascinating interviews and creative photo spreads--along with a few written pieces. Here is a link to the website, as I know those alt-culture magazines can be hard to find, although this one has been at some Barnes and Nobles in St Louis I go to, plus there are always independent bookstores which I've seen this at.
4 out of 5 stars.

Game Informer
I read this, but its kind of like the junk food of video-game magazines. I mean, I like how they get the world exclusive reveals of certain games, and that by subscribing to this I get discounts at Gamestop...but I just sort of said the rub right there. They get those exclusives because this magazine is so closely tied to Gamestop. This results in reviews with scores that almost never can dip too low for fear of offending game companies, and therefore makes the review section wholly worth skipping. The whole magazine is just never that critical of anything, previews only say how something will be awesome, features don't ask tough question--its like watching Fox News interview a Republican and lob him nothing but metaphorical softballs. Still...I read it, and sort of enjoy it, I guess? Those exclusives can be snazzy and with all the stuff I skip the magazine gets positively breezed through, but hey, I've still got that Gamestop discount!
2.5 out of 5 stars (would be less if not for scoring those exclusives).

Edge Magazine AND GamesTM
Two UK Games magazines. I actually have talked about these before. I said I like GamesTM a good amount and as a counter, Edge a bit less so. Well, that has sort of changed. GamesTM is still enjoyable to read, but Edge really has just become even better. The editorials I loved still shine, but the main features are of a high quality now too, and the reviews are much more interesting than they used to be. GamesTM is interesting, but not as cool. They both are still of a high quality and sort of the last real video-gaming magazines left besides PC Gamer after so many have died (Game Informer doesn't quite count due to its aforementioned ties to Gamestop).
4 out of 5 stars
3.5 out of 5 stars

While they may occasionally dumb-down their US covers as Jon Stewart humorously pointed out on a Daily Show episode, this magazine still often has insightful and great articles. Generally objective and always interesting, Time is something I've been reading since I was a young'un due to my parents getting a subscription (and my being a weird kid). I still enjoy reading it today.
4.5 out of 5 stars.

The sixth issue came out a bit ago, and I actually saw it in some of my Barnes and Nobles in St. Louis, so props to Coilhouse for getting wider distribution and getting out there for more people to enjoy! What is Coilhouse? Another alternative culture magazine. They'll cover everything from (in past issues I've loved) an interview with a famous violinist or Grant Morrison to a weird photography bit inspired by, "The Picture of Dorian Gray," or an article about perfume, eeriely realistic-looking dolls, and whatever else just seems to work perfectly for the magazine. I really love this publication and if you want an issue of the magazine but are having problems finding a place carrying it, you can always get it on their website here. Seriously, if you like strange and though-provoking stuff you should find this up your alley.
5 out of 5 stars.

That's what I've been consuming in terms of print media. How about you?

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Citizen Kane, Mr. Murder Is Dead, A Book about The Night Of The Living Dead. Odd Spring break.

I had a Spring Break. I spent it mostly doing schoolwork to get ahead on things and/or catch-up. I did also however read and watch things, these were the best of those.

Citizen Kane
The classic movie from 1941 starring and directed by Orson Welles is still a flick I enjoy watching today. I wouldn't say its one of the best movies of all time, but I find it to be a fascinating character study of a man who is so deeply flawed and desperate to be liked and/or loved he ends up alienating everyone around him. Whether that is because he is incapable of love for anyone but himself as one character claims, or something else is up to interpretation.

All the interesting controversy aside about the battle over who wrote the film, how much of it was based on William Randolph Hearst--who railed against the movie--and all the other outside stories about the film, the movie itself it quite good. True, I do have a complaint in that the whole mystery of a reporter trying to find out the meaning of, "Rosebud," and going around talking to everyone is a bit of a macguffin just to get us into excellent character-pieces, but those scenes with the characters are so great one can't be too upset.

Citizen Kane also has a surprising amount of great humor I had forgotten about since I'd last seen it some years ago. The moments that most stick out to me though are those quiet sad bits of Kane being there, alone, literally in his mansion or figuratively as all around him stay removed. It's a great movie and with the new Blu-Ray re-release with a bunch of extra-features including a documentary and reproductions of programs and such I would say you should grab a copy of this film if you don't happen to have a dusty old VHS, and if you do, watch it!
4.5 out of 5 stars.

Mr. Murder Is Dead

A fascinating hardcover book, Mr. Murder is dead takes nostalgia and warps it in clever ways while mixing with noir and detective tales to create a good crime story. The idea is that an old detective known as The Spook who long ago retired has just shot his arch-nemesis Mr. Murder dead finally after years of hating the man--or did he?

The clever aspect is that the old adventures of the Spook and his fights against Mr. Murder are shown as if the old Sunday-newsprint comics from different eras, with each character getting progressively older and with less to lose as we move closer to their elderly present.

It's kind of fun to have a comic version a bit like, "What if Dick Tracy got old and bitter?" and the mystery itself is a good one. If it were just the story this would be good, but with the unique use of past and present-day art creating such clever effects this is really great.
4.5 out of 5 stars

Night Of The Living Dead (BFI Film Classics Book)

Night of The Living Dead is a fascinating movie. It's about zombies, but so much more. It has a class allegory about us versus them, all kinds of overtones, and yeah, its got some gory zombie action. The BFI Film Classics books are great way to learn more about movies. They are brisk reads and tend to be quite interesting. The one about Night Of The Living Dead discusses everything from class conflict, to the trials and tribulations of getting the movie made and released, to race relations.

If you ever saw The Night Of The Living Dead and marveled at how it was a horror movie that actually thought then this is a book you'll enjoy reading. I've picked up some other BFI Film Classics books I plan on reading and if they are as good as this one I'll surely be pleased.
4.5 out of 5 stars.

Of the many ways I spent my sorta-week-off, these materials show there was some quality entertainment.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Rant-Reviews--Evil,Vigilantes, Arm-Breaking, Old-School Formats, And Last Issues.

Let's Start The Reviewing

Daken: Dark Wolverine #22
Since Rob Williams took over this book it became really, really good. Therefore, that of course means it has to cancelled, and it will be as of the next issue. This issue has an interesting narrative idea of Daken trying to make people hate heroes, and putting aside how in the Marvel Universe people already seem to always hate heroes that is kind of clever. I think perhaps seeing someone being a bad guy and just being unrepentant about it is a bit refreshing in this era of anti-heroes or villains with a soft-side where even Dr. Doom has to cry about something. Plus what Daken does to Reed Richards and says to him is just pretty hardcore.
4 out of 5 stars.

The Punisher #9
Frank Castle is going to have a female side-kick. I am not that excited about this. Why? Well, Garth Ennis did a female-Punisher really well already, there apparently was a good Punisher-Painkiller Jane cross-over that did this, and ehhh. It looks good and the action was well done so that is pretty neat, and the hyper-condensed water that makes a dangerous weapon is kind of cool...and but wha? We're heading into that cross-over with Spider-Man and Daredevil now? Hmmmmm.
2.5 out of 5 stars.

Aquaman #6
Mera, Aquaman's wife, is not to be trifled with. Touch her without permission and you will get a broken arm. Also, make jokes about how she needs water and she will us her powers to dehydrate you. Basically, if you mess with her Mera will fuck you up, without question. That's sort of been the plot of the Aquaman comic in general about Aquaman himself too. Geoff Johns is being kind of clever in making our hero and his wife much more tough and not at all happy to put up with other people's B.S. Plus, Ivan Reis turns in great art. It's not an amazing comic, but it is quite enjoyable.
3.5 out of 5 stars.

Crack Comics #63
Another one of Image Comics, "The Next Issue" things they put out every year or so, this is enjoyable enough. At times it seems to be a straight-up homage to classic golden-age comics, then at other points it is slightly updating them with a bit of humor or making fun of them gently. That, or being minimal and neat such as with the last tale of The Red Torpedo. For my money though, the best story is the depressing two-pager about Slap Happy Pappy. That's some harsh stuff. Overall a fun assortment of material.
3.5 out of 5 stars.

Black Panther #529
The last issue of the Black Panther comic that picked up with Daredevil's numbering, and kept it when Daredevil returned with a new first issue because Marvel comics is just plain weird. Black Panther's run had some ups and downs, at times being meh and at other times being fantastic. I would say it ends decently and that friend of the blog (I interviewed him) and writer David Liss did right by the character over his tenure with T'Challa.
3.5 out of 5 stars.

Nothing too horrible this time, and some quality comics. I guess life doesn't have to be a downer.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Fantasy, Sci-Fi, and Morality AKA Skyrim and Prophet #21 & #22

Dragons, Aliens, Space, and Magic
When science-fiction goes really out-there it starts to feel a little like fantasy. You're far enough in a desolate future that technology is either gone or so advanced it feels like magic? Yeah, I'll call that similar. It seems the creatures are what makes the difference sometimes. Fantasy has elves, dragons, and trolls. Sci-fi has aliens, weirdly evolved creatures, and both genres seem strangely fond of huge bugs.

I've played hours upon hours of a video game called Skyrim that is quie emeshed in fantasy. It's amazing and has won game of the year for 2011 from countless people for good reasons. I also have read the first two issues of the re-launch/re-interpretation of Prophet, some hard science-fiction. The thing is, Prophet at time can almost seem so out-there as to be a type of fantasy, and both it and Skyrim are intriguing in their own unique ways. They also impart their own morality.

So Much Adventure, And Never Told I'm Good or Bad
I'm a bit under 100 hours of playtime for Skyrim after numerous months of off-and-on adventuring. There are countless things I still haven't done, major cities I haven't even visited, and a main quest that remains unfinished. I probably need another 200 hours to get close to doing everything I want to accomplish in this game. It's an amazing thing, what they've put on this disc, but the Elder Scrolls series always has been known for quality, so that isn't too much of a surprise.

One thing that takes this game a level above other great RPGs by Bethesda such as Fallout 3 is something I didn't even notice at first until Edge magazine pointed it out. There is no, "morality system". The game doesn't tell you you're being good or evil. Yes, people will run and scream if you commit a murder in front of them, or call a guard if you steal right under their nose, but do something without being seen and you don't get any special message. No alert you lost or gained karma. It's just your own personal conscience. I hadn't fully registered the game wasn't telling me I was being "good" or "evil", but there it was. It was like real life where you could take an action and the only thing you really had to deal with were the consequences if you got caught--and of course how you felt about it. I had no remorse killing those annoying spiders however.

Frostbite Spiders, bane of my existence!

I had been acting under complete moral freedom without fear of a "karma system" or such locking me out of certain quests, followers, or game features...and I had been kind of a goody-two shoes. Except for a few personality flaws I was pretty much angelic. I almost always only killed when I was attacked first unless I knew the person was a bandit or wild animal which would try to kill me, and I helped anyone with a problem who had a task. True, I was a huge kleptomaniac when it came to books and  took any new ones I found even if they were marked as being owned by someone else. I also loved alchemy and had been making so many new combinations of ingredients and potions, which wasn't really evil or nice, except for the fact I didn't use the poisons on anyone innocent.
I stole anything resembling these without remorse.

I suppose I should be relieved  when put in a world where I can act out any way I want I pretty much am just a nice guy except for a weird book obsession--possibly mirroring my love of comics, except I buy those and don't pirate them like some folk. Regardless of what my play-style means, Skyrim has been pretty amazing so far and with its lack of a system to inform you that you're "right" or "wrong" it truly is an open-world game full of shades of grey in terms of good and evil.
5 out of 5 stars.

The Morals of a Post-Apocalypse

In Prophet #21 there is a scene where our hero, John Prophet, eats what is essentially the meat of descendants of humans. He has a mission that seems to involve trying to restore humanity, but in the process won't hesitate to use some good ol' fashioned pseudo-cannibalism too. Then again, what choice does he have in this nearly unrecognizable future? There are strange creatures with unique ecosystems, technology that is incomprehensible it is so advanced...its almost like a fantasy comic except for some bits of familiar electronics and the fact we are told that this is in fact the future.

What a harsh future it is, however. Over the course of the two issues of #21 and #22 (which are actually the first, this is a re-launch/re-interpretation of sorts) our hero has to fight, kill, work, and struggle just to move along on his adventure slowly--and he makes pretty much no friends along the way (not counting an alien he "mates" with in a scene we thankfully don't see considering how hideous this alien is) but plenty of enemies. Many reviewers have compared this comic to old-school Heavy Metal--the comic magazine and not the genre of music. I agree as before the magazine devolved into little more than tits and ass with some gore sprinkled throughout it would have unique sci-fi and intriguing stories not unlike this (I know, as I've seen some old issues of Heavy Metal in discount-bins and they were quite good compared to the mostly-dreck that gets put out now).
Prophet's future is really, really far out there in time. Is this even supposed to be earth?

This is "adult" not in the sense that its sexual, because it is really not, or violent--although it has plenty of that--but in that it has a bleak outlook on life one seems to develop as they reach a certain maturity in life. As the optimism of childhood gives way to the cynicism of teenage years and the stark realism of adulthood. The morals of Prophet are not that of being a good or bad person, they are of being someone who is alive or dead in a harsh ecosystem where pretty much everyone has a predator. It's a depressing and visually unrecognizable world, yet one with an emotional core not unlike that of our current time where everyone seems to at times be trying to take advantage of someone else economically, by forcing their morals on them, or just physically assaulting someone. It's depressing, but in the end not that far-fetched.
4 out of 5 stars.

A Closing Conundrum
As Skyrim illustrates sometimes morality can only be measured by a person's own feelings, when the game doesn't deem them good or bad the true grayness of the world becomes apparent. Prophet #21 and #22 show a world that has little to no place for morality, as when survival is the main thing on everything's mind what's right and wrong become expendable concepts. One world is a fantasy land the other is that of science  fiction, but within both any sort of "true" morality is itself a fantasy or fiction. There is no golden standard to measure what is right or wrong. Only the player in Skyrim truly can judge what they feel is good or evil outside of the bit of jail-time they do if they get caught committing a crime. The mission of John Prophet is all that matters and there are no moral issues on the way to achieving it. If Prophet does what he thinks could be a "good" act it seems to be more because he needs to get closer to accomplishing his mission and not because of some silly concept like "rightness".

Perhaps as the series Prophet continues the main character will develop a type of morality that stands out in the harsh future, and perhaps when someone plays Skyrim and injects their own beliefs of good and evil into their character they turn that fantasy into something real and tangible, because if they believe it, isn't it almost as if it is a part of the game too? This leads me to my final conundrum however. If there isn't truly morality until John Prophet develops it, or unless a player of Skyrim believes in it, does that mean morality really is just a social concept? Morality isn't something tangible that can ever be measured in a game and is in fact just something we created? The concept of absolute good and evil is wrong and things are subjective? Perhaps, or am I just reading way too much into a video-game and two issues of a fun comic?

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Two Conservatives I Listen To.

Left VS Right
I am a Liberal-Leaning guy. With some odd exceptions on certain policies here and there I do really tend "left". Hell, I'm even left-handed (bad joke I know, but true). Often those who are to the right and in the media bug me. Why? Because idiots like Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh just cause me to get mad. I also can't stand most of Fox News, and generally it seems if someone is a conservative and in the media they are doing something stupid like calling Obama a socialist or supporting Sarah Palin's opinions (it never gets old hating on her). This isn't to say there are those on the left who are unbearable, but they are unbearable while being people I agree with so while I find their personalities annoying at least their views don't enrage me--sort of a 50% disliking them instead of 100%, you know.

That said, there are two conservatives who when they speak, I listen. I don't necessarily agree with them often, if much ever. However, they are smart, they think about what they are saying, they back up the figures they spout with data to prove it factual, in other words they act the way anyone in the media should. Who are they? Let's break it down.

George F. Will
He writes columns for the Washington Post, can often be seen on ABC's, "This Week," and has written some books. George Will is really, really conservative and I find I disagree with him on almost every policy issue that comes to mind. However, the man is so darn smart and makes such good points I can't help but listen to him. Also, just because he's conservative doesn't mean his criticisms of Democrats aren't at certain times right, or that he hesitates to point out flaws with Republicans either. I may think Will is often wrong, but I'll be a penguin on a prairie if the way he expresses his thoughts isn't done in way that is quite right.

David Frum

I don't give this man credit just because we share a name and I have a soft spot for all Davids. No, David Frum is impressive because he is the editor of frumforum, a page with a variety of contributors that comes through the Daily Beast, he writes regular columns for CNN and other news entities, and of course he's written some books--a pretty busy schedule. The fact he served as a special assistant to George W. Bush is something I try not to hold against him too, by the way. Anyways, I listen to Frum because when he speaks I find he generally seems to have carefully thought everything out carefully, and with his measured tone expresses his thoughts/opinions in such a smart yet understandable way that I enjoy hearing what he thinks. Again, he is someone I often find disagreement with, but the fact that he is reasonable and willing to admit when he's wrong just as I'll admit sometimes he is quite right makes him someone else who's writings/speaking I will stop and pay attention to instead of ignoring.

2 out of many
There you go, out of the commentators I can't stand two people whom I will listen to. Therefore, next time you want me to listen to a counterargument about something I'm passionate about, just know almost all of those conservative radio or television personalities will have me reaching for the mute or off button, but when it is these two guys, I turn the sound up.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

A Strange and Highly Enjoyable Film--Drive


I saw Drive not too long ago. It is really a strange little film. I enjoyed it a lot, but it is so bizarre. I describe it as if an action movie were done art-house style. If you read a standard plot description it sounds like some sort of dull cliche flick about the mob, a man who drives well, a girl he has feelings for, etc. Then you see the thing though, and its just so different.

I'm going to say as little about the plot as I can, I'm going to talk more about how the movie made me feel and why. I'm going to talk bout the emotions and thoughts it gives off, but without spoiling much as I went in knowing next-to-nothing and it made the movie all that more good.

This isn't really an action movie. I wouldn't say that. Even the opening with its fast driving has a strangely subdued feeling. This is more of an arty-thriller. While watching the movie you almost always have this uncomfortable feeling about Ryan Gosling's character. He is a man who barely speaks, so little is known about him that we never actually learn his name in the film--he is just the driver or the kid. He has a scary intensity that seems as if he were pushed too far something horrible would happen. We see the first flicker of this in a restaurant when a man whom he did a job with in the past approaches him and starts talking--in the open like a total idiot--about a "sweet job" he has lined up. Ryan Gosling's character stares right at us in the camera as we don't even see the man, and tells us to shut our mouth before he kicks in our teeth and shuts it for us. The man says it was nice to see him and gets the hell out of the restaurant.

The only time Gosling's character doesn't seem to make the viewer feel this unease is when he is spending time with his neighbor and her son, and seems to be genuinely happy. These brief quiet moments let him actually smile and seem like a normal person, and then that oddly retro music kicks in.
A fleeting calm and happy moment for our character.

The music at times reminds you of the 1980s, there are these bizarre moments that make it seem like a weird art film with this loud synthesizer going off. The music sometimes sounds more standard, such as when after the bubbling suspense gives way to violence finally erupting--but its not fun. It's just brutal and gory. Not the kind of gory you get in horror films, the kind of gory that feels uncomfortably real, making for a strange counter to the at times almost surreal and floatly feeling you get in the movie when those short happy moments take place. I said the viewer has this scared feeling around Gosling, and it is wise to know that emotion, because when the violence does start to occur in the movie, Gosling moves in a way that is just terrifying. He drives for action movies about tough guys who don't even do their own stunts but is the toughest guy around capable of killing with brutal efficiency.
Gosling is terrifying and incredible.

We know so little about our driver man, yet Gosling makes him so fascinating. That scene in the elevator, that goes from soft and romantic to brutally grotesque almost instantaneously, is done perfectly by him. He carries that moment with a soft gentleness before again becoming the scary machine of violence his character truly is, resulting in a witness to his brutality only being able to back away as he stares at them with eyes saying, "You think I'm a monster? I've known that forever."

The supporting cast is superb, Bryan Cranston as a car repair-shop owner, Ron Perlman as a mobster with a chip on his shoulder, and Albert Brooks in the polar opposite of his usually humorous roles. Everyone is on top of their game.

Brooks is actually imposing in this movie, quite a change from his comedies
This film is tense, brutal, and a bit scary. It's basically a study of a man we only know about through his actions, and those actions vary from the extremes of amazing kindness to homicidal depending on if you cross him or not. In lesser hands this would be a silly action film, but this is some great movie-making right here.
5 out of 5 stars

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Rant Reviews--I Guess The Moral Is That People With Super-Powers Are Jerks?

I've read comics, and in them it seems when someone has a super-power they are just a jerk, a meanie, a dick, etc.

The Cape #4
This was a one-shot that had a four-issue mini-series made to elaborate on it. Joe Hill did some basic scripting, and it is more horror than super-hero, really. Basically a man who can fly is just going about wreaking havoc and murdering all the people he feels slighted him...because he's a jerk. The original one-shot was pretty cool with its seeming sweetness resulting in a dark twist, but the mini-series has essentially just been building on that cool ending twist that didn't need to be elaborated on that much. It's like if you saw a thriller movie and after that last amazing reveal, "Oh my God, they were behind the fig newton robbery?" the movie went on for another hour dealing with the fallout. It'd be kind of interesting, but really what is the point?

I suppose there is some enjoyment in seeing our "hero" take a chainsaw to a airplane, but its a cheap visceral thrill like the kind you get from reading the corny comics Mark Millar puts out. Still, it was somewhat fun and the art was good. I'd check out the trade for at least the great opening stuff.
3 out of 5 stars.

Superior #7
Oh damnit, I should have known if I said Mark Millar's name one of his comics would show up. This is...not terrible. Huh. A giant-sized last issue that costs more but doesn't feel like a rip-off. It kind of almost reminds me of his stuff I really enjoyed like those earlier Ultimates comics. How so? It takes a high concept and runs with it. A boy becomes a super-hero from the movies, but it isn't a gift from God, its a trick by a demon to get him to sell his soul and more zaniness. It's kind of fun.

One thing bugs me horribly though. That lady reporter. The character herself is just horribly written. In the span of one issue earlier on in the series without warning she just magically goes from sort-of evilly trying to seduce Superior and get a huge news story to being this kind motherly figure who is there to inspire our young hero in his human form. She basically just morphs for the sake of the story and it is lame. Still, this comic is better than the one where Mark Millar had a bomb in a woman's uterus. That seriously happened. Also, the art by Leinil Yu is good.

Really however, that reporter just bugs me, and the ending is too much of a, "gotcha!" for me to be happy. I suppose like pretty much everything Mark Millar makes nowadays this is a pitch for a movie that will be made by people more talented then him--who will take his good ideas that didn't fully coalesce and create something better. Yeah, I'd see the movie...on DVD. What? as I said in another post, the mainstream movie theaters cost way too much these days! Until Avengers I doubt you'll see me in them. Funny I'd mention Avengers as a lot of that has ideas from the Ultimates made to be better too.

Oh, who is the person with the powers that is a jerk? Basically the kid that is Superior in earlier issues was  a huge pain about it, even if now he's better, and one of the bullies who was given powers goes around murdering people with them, showing that having super-abilities does not a nice person make.
2.5 out of 5 stars.

The Last of The Greats #5
After how dark issue #4 was its good to see the Great get what he has coming for being such a jerk to everyone. Joshua Hale Fialkov has written a good mini-series here and with the cliff-hangers he's got to accompany the somewhat confusing ending I'm hoping this sells well enough in trade for Image to want to do another mini-series as he says he would happily do in the afterword.

This was an enjoyable mini about a "hero" who was pretty much fooling everyone except the people closest to him into thinking he was a good guy when in fact he was just plain abhorrent. Pretty much like a lot of people we know in the world who act like they are delightful but probably need a good smack in the face.
3.5 out of 5 stars.

As I said in the title, I guess the moral is when you get superpowers you become a big ol' hot mess.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Another Take On The Steve Wacker Debacle AKA PR Crisis

As people who frequent various internet sites may be aware, popular and very even-tempered internet writer David Brother's did a post about Marvel comics and how he thinks it is a bit detrimental for them to ship so many issues of certain comics to a point where they are "double-shipping" (more than two issues a month). This means the regular artist can't keep up--resulting in substitute artists of a lesser quality. Marvel has an editor named Steve Wacker who basically treated Brother's like he was being an obnoxious fanboy to the point Brother's did a post on it--where he still was pretty cool-minded. Wacker didn't let it go, and still acted really poorly for a big-name editor at Marvel, and Brother's pretty much made a post saying, "You know what, I should have never engaged in this, I was foolish." That was mature of Brothers. The thing he also did was mention he was taking a break from Marvel. He is a man who really enjoys Marvel, so it would have taken some effort to make him want to stop. Well, looking over comments and discussions, I can say Wacker did enough I can't blame Brothers.

Now everyone else on the internet has commented on this and Wacker has an uncanny ability to pop up everywhere. Savage Critics discussed it and he was there, and Caleb of Every Day Is Like Wednesday made fun of Wacker's eerie ability to be wherever his name is spoken/written with a hilarious post.

The thing about all this is, I'm not going to debate who was right and wrong, Wacker clearly was stand-offish and rude towards people. The thing other people haven't talked about much is how does this reflect on Marvel from a PR standpoint? Steve Wacker looks like a mad dog Marvel can't keep on the leash who is going around attacking anyone who questions him and/or the company. Is it really a good press relations method for Marvel to passive-aggressively target anyone who has the slightest criticism about them--especially people who are very fair like David Brothers?

How many people are going to read about this Steve Wacker nonsense and take it as a sign that Marvel not only allows him to go around attacking people, the company condones it? "You have an observation about our comics that isn't purely glowing? Well, you're just a whiny and angry fanboy/fangirl!" is basically what Wacker is giving us, and Marvel isn't stopping him. This makes it look like Marvel either:

A. Can't control Wacker.


B. Likes him behaving this way.

I don't know which it is, but either way this has been a PR nightmare for Marvel, something few people have mentioned and I just wanted to discuss. Luckily/unluckily so few people read this blog I think I will fly under the radar of Wacker's rage so I don't have to worry about him coming to my blog and saying anything.