Wednesday, August 30, 2006

A Brick, Andre and a Brave New World

How about my man Andre Agassi? I'm gonna start calling him the Comeback Kid.

Brave New World

Just to show you how behind I am on my comic book reading, I just read this. The series it promotes are already a few months old I think, a bit late for me to be jumping on probably. All for the better I think though. The only story that was even slightly appealing was Winnick's take on Shazam. I just couldn't muster any enthusiasm for the new Atom, the OMAC series looks like so much other crap that has come before. The Creeper seemed like a decent start, but that character just does nothing for me. Martian Manhunter...I just don't like the guy outside of the cartoons, and Uncle Sam felt like a re-hash of what they did with the JSA years back, and I just don't care. So, it wasn't a terrible wast of a dollar, but not a very good one.


Brick is a movie that defies modern description. I can take 99% of the movies made in the last 10 years and say "This is ____ meets ____ ." For instance? Jason Statham's new flick Crank- Speed meets Innerspace. See, pretty simple. The only movie I can point to for comparison with Brick is The Maltese Falcon, and that really is unfair to both films. Other than the crime-noir aspects they don't have too much in common. Except after watching Brick I can only think that this is what the people must have felt like walking out of the theatre in 1941. But, MF had been adapted once before in 1931, and it's based on a novel. Brick is a completely original work by writer/director Rian Johnson. His only other credited work is a short film titled Evil Demon Golfball from Hell, so I guess Brick is his debut feature film. And, as debuts go, it has to rank among the top.

The film is a throwback to those classics noir films like Maltese Falcon. The character speak in a very distinct dialogue and the movie doesn't have a single swear in it, but there are some pretty violent scenes, which I'd imagine is where the R rating comes from. The greatest thing about the movie may be that Johnson is able to...downsize? That might be the best way I can put it. Downsize the atmosphere of a city like Chicago or New York (or, at least the '30s stylizations of them) and bottle it up into a high school setting. And if that might not make sense right now, after watching the film, it will

Joseph Gordon-Levitt turns in a (surprisingly) stellar performance as Brendan, a high school loner who investigates the disappearance of his ex-girlfriend after a mysterious phone call. He soon discovers her involvement in some shady dealings and gets himself further and further into a mess he may not be able to get out of alive.

Lukas Haas plays The Pin, the local pusher and possible cause of all the trouble, and you can just feel him channeling Sydney Greenstreet. It's an inspired performance and he almost steals the movie away from Gordon-Levitt. The rest of the cast is filled out nicely, most of the actors are unknown's to me, but I recognized a few faces from the teen dramedy scene. Narah Zehetner is excellent as Laura, and the two Noah's (Fleiss and Segan) as Tugger and Dode (respectively) are brilliant. Richard Roundtree plays one of the few adults in the film (the only other I can recall right now is The Pin's mom). Roundtree is the film's lone voice of authority, only instead of being a cop he's the assistant vice principle. And since Hollywood is so keen on nominations and awards for excellent, but extremely short performances, I'm crossing my fingers that Roundtree gets nominated for at least a Golden Globe this year (the movie might have fallen under last year's awards, but I'm never sure of those things. I can still hope!).

Though the movie is largely serious, it's not without its moments of brevity. The absolute best of which comes in a meeting between Brendan and The Pin. As the two stare at eachother across a dining room table, with Pin's goon looking on, Pin's mother repeatedly attempts to offer Brendan juice. It's not only hysterical (trust me, it is), but it grounds the story back in reality. It's one of the best scenes in any film I've seen this year.

From beginning to end Brick is a masterpiece of modern cinema.

Go Agassi!!!!


Monday, August 28, 2006

The Kids from Columbus, Ga.

Earlier today the team from Columbus, Ga. (that's my town folks) beat the team from Kawaguchi City, Japan to win the Little League World Series. It's arguably the greatest game of Baseball I've seen since before the strike oh so many years ago. The only game that could have been better was Boston's win in the World Series. But, considering I had no emotional investment in Boston's win, this one was far more satisfying.

Japan's pitcher, Go Matsumoto (seriously, what an awesome name) put up one hell of a show. He struck out nine and seemed almost unhittable at times. But Columbus' pitcher proved to be even more impressive. Ryan Carter struck out eleven batters (keep in mind that there are only 18 possible outs in the game) and became the only pitcher in the history of the LL World Series to win four games. Both pitchers put up showings that would put some Major Leaguers to shame.

It was a truly amazing game to watch. These kids played with a passion and intensity that is sorely lacking in the Majors. They played with talent, no allegations of drug abuse tainted the purity of the sport. It was just pure baseball, and when it's pure there really is no better sport.

So, congrats to the boys from my hometown, we're all very proud of you.

Right now I'm watching Andre Agassi possibly play the last match of his career. He's struggling, , here's hoping he pulls it out. Maybe I'll actually get some posts in this week!


Friday, August 18, 2006

Motorcycle Hero

Well...not so much.

In an attempt to get my comics reading to a manageable state (Currently over 75 GN's and Trades line my room and well over 150 floppy issues are stacked in a pile, all unread, not all recent material of course) I am going to monthly shipping from my online retailer for a while. Maybe.

So, yeah, I read Ennis' Ghost Rider: The Road to Damnation hardcover as well as the first issue of Daniel Way's new GR monthly book. As unimpressed as I was with Ennis' first issue when it first debuted, the story reads decently as a collection. GR gets out of Hell with some help an
must track down some demon. Nothing is what is seems and it's violent as all get out, exactly what you want in an Ennis book. But the art is atrocious. It looks like stills from an abandoned CGI heavy flik, with some dialogue added in word baloons, awkwardly worked into the panels. It all but makes the story unreadable. And it pretty much spits in the face of much of GR's established continuity. Not that I care, but it didn't much work that the last shityy GR mini a few years ago did it? Doesn't work here either.

Then we get Way's first issue. I've already decided to wait for the trades on both this and his Wolvie book, but damn he never fails to hook me. First, the immediately noticeable difference in art, here by Javier Saltares on breakdowns andfinishes by the always fantastic Mark Texiera. That alone makes all the difference in the world. Add to that Way's knack for acknowledging the recent past of characters he takes on and incorporating it into the overall continuity and it's just an awesome start to what I hope will be a fantastic run on the character.

Picking up where Ennis left off, Way has Ghosty successfully breaking out of hell, but discovers he's being played by Satan. It's filled with humour, action and so-so horror stuff. It's the humour that really pulled me in. Way out Ennis' Ennis here, and it just blows my mind. There's plenty of questions to be answered as well, hopefully ones that will drive the series for a while. I can't wait to see Way bring GR back into the regular MU, and I hope we get some definite nods to the history of the character, if not the out and out return of Danny Ketch.

So, avoid the Ennis version unless you're just a completist, or at least opt for the inevitable (and cheaper I hope) softcover. Instead, all you flameheads run out and pick up Ghost Rider #1. Then pray that the movie will at least be pretty good.


Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Life, Death, Murder, Collectors, Kids, Dogs, Romance, the Handicapped and a Little Science

Everything is Illuminated

The directorial debut of Liev Schrieber, and it turns out he's a far better director than an actor, and he was/is a pretty good actor. Illuminated is the story of a man looking for the woman who saved his grandfather's life by helping him escape the Ukraine at the start of WW2. On the way he befriends a Ukranian man and his grandfather...and their dog Sammy Davis Jr Jr. Based on the novel of the same name, it's one of the most interesting looks at the Holocaust I think I've ever seen. The flashbacks can be confusing, at least until the end of the film. Elijah Wood gives an unusual, but excellent performance. However the real star of the film is Eugene Hutz, Wood's guide through the Ukraine on his search, and essentially our guide into the weirdness that is Wood's character Johnathan. His blunt nature provides both laughs answers, and the honesty Hutz plays him with is just moving. I really can't recommend this movie enough.


Seeing Kevin James and Ray Romano as the film's stars was enough to pique my interest, reading the premise was enough to get me to bite. Two door-to-door meat salesmen get entangled in the world of organized crime. Wacky and not exactly original, but certainly intriguing enough to warrant checking out. I was pleaseantly surprised at the supporting cast (Juliet Lewis, Burt Reynolds and the always great Michael Rappaport), and even moreso at James' and Romano's ability to shed theor TV personas. That the two are close friends in real life certainly plays a part in their on-screen charisma. The script is very Tarantino-esque, stylized violence, snappy dialogue. It has that neo-noir feel, entertaining but been-there-done-that. Worth probably a rent at least.

High Tension

This movie sucks. It had me on the edge of my seat, eyes glued to the screen and then they go and drop in an inexplicable "twist" to the story. I shrugged my shoulders and cursed M. Night Shamalamamamama-whatever for re-popularizing the damn twist ending. If you insist on watching it turn it off about an hour into it and just assume everything comes out okay, otherwise, don't say I didn't warn you.

In America

I repeatedly put off seeing this flick. I originally thought it might be some America-bashing story, though I'm not sure why I thought that. Then I read a few reviews and thought it might be some overly patriotic drivel. Apparently I walk a fine line when it comes to films about the U.S. Don't ask me why, I haven't a clue. But, man was I ever wrong. In America is the type of story you'd expect to hear someone's great grandfather tell, something that touches your heart and makes you remember exactly what the hell it means to live in this country. Patriotic, yes, but it never crosses that line into pushing an agenda. It's a story, not one of politics or religion, but of love, loss and having the freedom to succeed or fail on your own merits. The performances warranted the two nominations they recieved (Actress and Supporting Actor), and probably deserved another for Best Actor, if not wins in all three categories.


Another Tarantino-ish (maybe more Guy Ritchie-ish in this case) story that centers around a group of people in Dublin. It's got a stellar cast and some great writing, but it comes too close to Lock, Stock for me to really get behind it. Colm Meany is just absolutely fantastic though and it will be interesting to see if director John Crowly can make his next film more his own and less like and Irish Pulp Fiction.

The Life and Death pf Peter Sellers

This was an incredibly hard film to watch. On one hand Geoffry Rush is as believable as Sellers as one could ever hope to be, and Stanley Tucci actually makes me want to like Stanley Kubrick, Charlize Theron is a knockout and John Lithgow is brilliant as Blake Edwards. But, it takes away severely from my enjoyment of Sellers' films. It's easy to understand and even sympathize with what he goes through, but there are times where he comes out looking like such an asshole that you really want to hate him.It was definitely worth watching the once, but I'll never be able to watch a Sellers film the same way again.

Little Manhattan

It's not often I can get behind a sweet" film, usually they make my teeth hurt. But, Manhattan is so well written, and the angst of young Gabe seem so real that you just get so wound up in the story. It's such an accurate portrayal of not only first-love but of the innocence of childhood, it sends you reflecting on your own life, remembering those very same moments from your life. Josh Hutcherson and Charlie Ray are fantastic as the two children in love and Mark Levin is almost flawless in his first directing gig (I noticed a very "Wonder Years" vibe in the film early on, and see that Levin was a producer on that show, not sure if that speaks good of me or bad of Levin, well, not know what I mean). It's a romantic comedy almost unlike any ever made, and while the cuteness often threatens to suffocate the performances, it thankfully never does.

Must Love Dogs

Despite my unabashed love for all things both Diane Lane and John Cusack, I really didn't like this film. Parts of it are okay, and with a little more screen time Cusack could have rocketed the movie past it's very thin premise. There were a few chuckles, and I really can't hate anything with the always beautiful Lane, but this is probably best avoided by anyone who wants some meaning behind their romance. Watch Little Manhattan instead.

The Ringer

The third in the Farrely "sweet" trilogy (what's with all the sweets?), oddly enough not directed by them. I'm not sure why they chose to not direct, but it actually pays off I think. There are far fewer silly gags here than in all their other films, focusing more on the heart of the story, that the mentally handicapped are oftentimes better (and in some cases no worse) than anyone else. Knoxville wisely sees that the film's true stars are those he's somewhat mocking and steps back, allowing them to take over the film and in turn mock him. It's certainly not the most PC film you're ever gonna see, and it shouldn't be, in most cases it's very blunt. It's probably the most honest and entertaining flik the Farrelly's have ever been involved in.

Stuck on You

Ah, and another Farrelly film. Only, I seem to be moving backwards. This was their second "sweet" film, about conjoined twins. It's full of visual gags and little jokes. I laughed for sure, and it really has a heart to it, same as The Ringer, but mostly it's just a film full of jokes, some morality thrown in for good measure. Not bad at all, just not gonna shatter any perceptions. That they would go a step further in The Ringer and actually cast those with the handicaps they were addressing showed a step in the right direction. Here Kinnear and Damon can never make you forget who they are, actors playing the part and making you laugh. Top notch effects though.

What the Bleep Do We Know!?

Man, this one blew my mind. Anyone interested in examining not only the origins of life, but the purpose of humanity and the effect our minds can have not only on our bodies but of everything we see. This must be what it feels like to drop acid.


Sunday, August 06, 2006

No Excuses That I Know

Okay, let's get to it!

Cable & Deadpool #30

Deadpool decides to hire himself out to the government to nab unregistered heroes. To demonstrate his usefulness at this he takes on the Great Lakes Avengers...err, Champions? Hell I don't know. Turns out they're already registered, hilarity ensues. This book has been a constant roller coaster of good and bad, but if there's one thing it handles well it's those damn cross over plotlines. Fabes takes a potential disaster and at least makes it funny and entertaining, which is all I ask of this book. Dear God how awful are thos Civil War covers though?

X-Factor #9

This marks the end of my monthly X-Factor reading, I'm hopping on the trades/HCs. I enjoy the hell out of it, and like Fabes, Peter David has a knack for handling the cross over junk brilliantly, I just can't keep up with what all is going on in the book. Quicksilver made a return this ish and the gang kicked the X-Men out of Mutant Town, which was cool as hell, but the overall plot has felt convoluted as of late, especially with Layla. Here's to one cohesive story, cheers.

X-Men #188-189

I haven't bought a regular X-Men title since Morrison left. (No, Astonishing doesn't really count.) What the hell have I missed? Seeing Mike Carey and Chris Bachalo as the creative team perked my interest, but only after I saw that my very favorite mutie was making an appearence (Ahem, Cable...). So I picked up the first part of this Supernovas arc. No Cable and some villains I apparently don't know. Second ish, still no Cable and even more confusing plot elements. What the hell man? Bachalo has not gotten greater with age, his art seems more confusing now than when he was on a regular X-book. Of course the shitty coloring job could have something to do with that too. Carey isn't bad, but the story reminds me of whe Calremont returned and brought those new bad guys with him. It was confusing as hell when it wasn't downright boring. Sabretooth was cool though.

Eternals #1

This seemed like a no brainer. Gaiman and Romita Jr, shoudl be a winner. And really, it's got potential, but this ish required so much exposition that there's no room at all for the character development. Understandable really, because how many people are boned up on their Celestial knowledge? Not me. Romit invokes Kirby while still keeping the book his own and Gaiman seems to have a solid story to tell if he can get past all the explaining. I'll be waiting patiently for the collection.

Batman #655

I really hoped that picking up another DC book after the whole Crisis thing wouldn't leave a bad taste in my mouth. Looks like I picked a good one this time. Been awhile since I picked up a book starring Bats. At least a book set in continuity. The multi-issue, multi-book million part plot lines became a huge headache, not just Crisis, which I didn't even read. I'm talking about the Hush story, the Bruse Wayne Murderer arc, the Cataclysm, I could go back for years. It was just all too much and I sincerely hope DC's done with that, at least until Morrison leaves. Maybe one of the best Batman stories I've read ever...or at least a great beginning to what I hope will be such. Kubert is fine on the art chores, one need look no further than the second page spread to see how great he can be, but what really made the book stand out was how expertly Morrison captured the characters. It's not All-Star Superman, and it is a multi-issue storyline, but it looks to be a damn good one.

Detective Comics #821-822

Haven't bought a Bat book in years and I've picked up three in less than a month.With #821 Paul dini of Batman:The Animated Series fame takes over writing chores with what I suppose is a rotating art team, telling stories that are essentially one-offs, no multi issue arcs here! Both issues have Bats going up against knew villians, so to speak. Dini focus is mostly on the detective aspect of the character, something very, very few writers have been able to pull off. He does it possibly better than anyone. The firs issue he faces down a costumed creep named Facade. Nothing major or character altering, just a good old-fashioned mysterythat ends in a good old-fashioned ass whooping. The second issue is definitely the best of the two. Apparently Riddler has decided to become a detective himself, and evolution of character that makes so much damn sense I can't for the life of me figure out why it hasn't happened sooner. Riddler and Bats end up investigating the same murder, and while Riddler seems contempt to settle for the obvious solution, Bats digs deeper and finds out the truth, one-upping his former nemesis. It's ingenious and I hope they keep him on this track, he makes a much better foil this way. Add to it the beautiful covers of Simone Bianchi and you've got two excellent Bat-tales.

American Virgin #5

I really hope that this doesn't turn into Y, the Last Man, teasing us with the real reason behind Cassie's death until the book's conclusion. This issue feels like filler, holding the story between major plot twists. The funeral sex scene was downright creepy thanks to the uber-talented BeckyCcloonan. Here's hoping the story picks up a bit next ish.

Sidekick #1

I generally enjoy Paul Jenkins work. Or, I thought I did. Apparently when left to his own devices he's pretty humdrum. Sidekick is the story of a sidekick, pretty inventive, huh? Think The Tick told from Arthur's POV, only with vulgarit galore. No, it's not horrible, but Jenkins is, I think, a much better writer than this.

Elephantmen #1

If you're unfamiliar with the world of Hip Flask then this book would be likely wasted on you. Well, outside of the great art. I was hoping for something a bit more focused on the world that Starkings has created, but the stories here are mainly character pieces meant to give you an every day look into life in Mystery City. Good stuff though.

X Isle #1

Forced to abandon their boat, a group of people wash ashore an island apparently inhabited by monsters. None of that is exactly an original concept, but it's such a great mish-mash of concepts, on top of being well written and illustrated, that I was hooked by issue's end. What the hell are those Tremor-looking things and is anyone gonna die? Can't wait for the next one.

Jeremiah Harm #4

Jeremiah and the gang take care of one of Dak's thugs while he opens a portal to another realm. Not much I can say about this book that I haven't been saying. It really makes me want a new Lobo series though.

The Black Plague

Not really sure why they went with a one-shot that leads into a series, but it's a damn good read. A retired superhero and his former archenemy play chess in the park while someone else takes on the mantle of said villain, the Black Plague. Can't wait to see where this leads. It's like Batman Beyond for the villainous crowd. Plus it'll be nice to be reading a Joe Casey capes book again.

Second Wave #5

The group barely survives an encounter with some crazy townfolk as a pod lands nearby. Eh, not ever a bad read, there's just not much going on.

Dark Horse: 20 Years

Brilliant idea: Gather your talent, assign them to work on characters someone other than they created. Result: Hellboy by Adam Hughes, Aliens by Cary Nord, Conan by Sergio Aragones, The Goon by Matt Wagner, Groo by Paul Chadwick, Star Wars by Eric Powell, Sin City by Stan Sakai, Emily the Strange by Joss Whedon and Usagi Yojimbo by Frank Miller. There's more, and yeah it's just a pin-up book. But, damn does it rok. And dig that Mignola cover too!

Tales of Leonardo #2

Splinter leaves a blind Leo in the woods to find his way home, hallucinations ensue, important character traits are learned. Nice, just nothing worth writing home about.

Virgin Comics #0

Points for trying some originality, and I'm definitely checking out the Garth Ennis/John Woo project, but I couldn't make heads or tales of the two stories here. Glad it was free.

Whew...maybe you'll get some movies tomorrow!