Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Walking Dead Volume 13: Too Far Gone (2010)

"Too Far Gone" opens with Abraham Ford sitting on the side of his bed, sweating the prospect of revisiting zombieland, with his girlfriend blissfully sleeping. My first thought was that I couldn't care less about Rosita Espinosa, to the point where I had to research her name online. I like Abraham, and his new living situation is one of the highlights of this volume, but Rosita's just lying there, waiting to die.

Eugene Porter served his purpose, and I can't recall if he even appears in this edition. Gabriel Stokes has an excellent role to play here for a number of pages, but then he vanishes, because that role was all he had to offer. They dug up Morgan Jones a while back, and he serves a useful function for about a page. Maggie Greene has been around for a long time, takes care of Sophia, and they're both Glenn's supporting cast. These are people who'll live until they die, as is their lot.

There was a nurse who acted as doctor during the prison arc, and now there's a female doctor. It's hard to tell in black and white, but I believe the old one was blond, and the new one's a redhead. There's a love interest for Andrea. There's a new black guy who cares about his buddy that's going to die. There's some new jerky guys who'll get what's coming to them. These are people who'll die-- die! They're all new friends, but they'll die.

Surreality and nihilism define this story. The cast regulars are all in fine form, and they're all aware. Rick's back in cop mode, Glenn is the cunning sneak thief again, Andrea's taking her shots, Abraham's still a hard ass, Michonne and Carl are just waiting for the zombies to come home to feast. Douglas Monroe is the one new character with multiple facets and staying power, but he still looks set for a grim fate. There's our cast, and then there's bait. Motions are gone through, and they're an entertaining diversion, but this is just the wait before the tears.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

A Frank Review of "The Green Hornet" (2011)

The Short Version? Playboy turns moonlighting vigilante with kick ass partner.
What Is It? Super-hero comedy
Who Is In It? The Knocked-Up guy, Princess Fiona, the Taiwanese Justin Timberlake, Col. Hans Landa, Admiral Adama, John Connor
Should I See It? Yes

Based on my having read a number of unflattering reviews of The Green Hornet, I'm left asking what the fuck people expected out of this film? The character's origins are clearly based on the pulp vigilantism of such box office heavyweights as The Shadow and Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze. However the Hornet's heyday was actually as a radio drama, that thing that existed before television that your parent's parents listened to. There was a failed attempt to cash in on Batmania in the 1960s with a short-lived television series. Most recently, fourth rate comic publishers like Now Comics, Moonstone and Dynamite have been desperate enough to claw at credibility with this license. The Green Hornet makes the Phantom look like Batman, so cut it some slack for chrissakes.

Having gotten that off my chest, can I just say that I enjoyed The Green Hornet better than pretty much every Marvel of DC Comics adaptation that comes readily to mind. Most of those flicks are weighted down with familiar mythology, heroic arcs, thwarted expectations, uneven casting and are often just plain dullsville. The Green Hornet has much more in common with last year's rollicking Kick-Ass, in that its primary goal is to have a good time playing dress up when not taking the piss out of this ridiculous genre. However, I actually prefer Hornet, because despite (or perhaps because of) the lack of 11-year-old schoolgirl assassins who call grown men cunts, Hornet feels more adult and believable.

Seth Rogen plays the lead character of Seth Rogen under a different name with Tom Wilkinson as his mean old newspaper tycoon dad. Unlike that neuter boy Bruce Wayne, Rogen uses his daddy's money to party in style with Tony Stark's cast-offs. Once Tom Wilkinson dies, Seth Rogen pretends to be all bummed out about it, although his father was a dick, and assumes a semblance of responsibility. Seth Rogen ends up palling around with his pop's mechanic, Kato. Jay Chou plays Kato, although in the time honored Hollywood tradition of using Asian cinema stars in action movies, Chou's role mostly consists of reciting English language lines phonetically and busting martial arts moves. Seth Rogen wants to do something meaningful with his character's life, but he's not terribly bright or athletic. Kato is an all around bad mother fucker and inventor, but without a formal education and functional application for his skills, his prospects outside Starbucks look dim. However, if Seth Rogen has the money and inclination to play super-hero, why not humor him, eh?

This gets back to why I find this movie a lot more realistic than most super-hero flicks. Shit like Spider-Man goes out of its way to try to explain fantasy stuff in real world terms, while Batman and Superman are all-around gods with flesh penises. Doesn't it make more sense for some douchebag with too much money and too little sense hiring someone to shepherd him through adventures? Of course it's one thing to say it and another to get it done, so reasonable if still somewhat deluded logic is applied to how to actually perform super-heroics. Instead of questioning why the filmmakers wasted your time with some bullshit rational any asshole could pick apart, you're in your seat kind of seeing how that might work.

Cameron Diaz plays the heroes' mutual love interest Lenore Case, and is very much the Pepper Potts of the piece. Diaz's critics may moan about her presence, but the film works in part because of the necessity of her role, even if the love triangle represents the most grating sections of the film. Diaz is a surprisingly good sport when the joke is almost metatextually on her personally, and you might be relieved to learn that her journey doesn't pan out in quite the way you might assume from the onset.

Christoph Waltz brings some good game following his heat from the vastly overrated Inglourious Basterds, but aside from a fun introductory sequence where James Franco kills in a cameo, Chudnovsky has nothing on Kick-Ass' Frank D'Amico. In fact, there is a lot of wasted talent here, with Edward James Olmos coming immediately to mind as playing a role that in no way requires his gravitas. Still, it doesn't hurt the movie to have plenty of good people around to play off, even in its Rogen and Chou's weird anti-chemistry that drives the movie. They work because they kind of don't work, like Chris Tucker and Jackie Chan in Rush Hour.

The same could be said of director Michel Gondry and the material. Gondry is known for novel animated music videos and twee romantic dramas, so he doesn't subscribe to the common wisdom of how to shoot action sequences. Instead of shitty jump cuts or unsteadycam, the action is always clear and amazing to look at. Kato-Vision is a stripped down and less intrusive variation on The Matrix's iconic "bullet time," but influences as diverse as Brian De Palma and The Benny Hill Show weigh in on other sequences. Old and new techniques come together to sell the action and the comedy as only a few greats (Landis, Donner) have ever managed to accomplish.

There's still a fair share of misfires, tonal inconsistencies, and obvious edits hitting the cutting room floor, but the movie is fun because it's a messy beast, rather than the hyper-calculated crapfest super-hero movies usually amount to. If you enjoyed Pineapple Express' modern pothead take on '80s buddy flicks, this here's your same flavor applied to the long underwear set.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Empowered Volume 5 (2009)

After finally having the time and energy to knock out my review of Empowered Volume 4, I was reminded how much I enjoyed it, and wanted to jump right into the next edition. Predictably, I was disappointed, and I'm frankly starting to wonder if there's a mild form of the "Odd Numbered Star Trek Movie" rule beginning to form here. In fact, I'm starting to break down the series' formula.

The first chapter seems like a standard opening that allows Emp to show off some newish power, as well as introduce some characters and detail the workings of the Justice League Satellite Joint Superteam Space Station. This all seems fairly innocuous, but as we learned last time, Adam Warren is already scheming from the get-go. The second chapter partially deals with the repercussions of the previous volume, but it's really about restoring Emp's status quo as her teammates' doormat, as well as furthering a subplot which may be important later. "When Titans Fornicate" is a leftover from volume 3 that was cut for space. It is a 22 page long softcore sex comedy that could have been stuck anywhere, but is good for what it is, and titillating to boot.

Having dispatched with much of the filler, the main plot starts to really flesh out. The Superhomeys finally take note of Willy Pete, the big bad the series has been building up since the beginning. The team is of course dismissive of the skullfucker's threat, so you know this will end one of two ways: another red herring, or with skulls getting fucked. Either way, hints are already dropped about another big bad to potentially replace Willy Pete at a future date, but we're not anywhere near there yet. Actually, a lot of groundwork is laid in this edition, to the point where this is clearly the first half of a TV season arc you just know won't pay off until later. There is however a 53 page final epic where fans meet shit, but unlike the serpentine mystery of the last volume, it's a series of terribly predictable turns of events that (here we go again) will hopefully build to a more satisfying later edition.

Empowered Volume 5 is a reliable workhorse edition. There's humor, there's sex, there's some crazy shit, and there's drama. It is not the volume you would hand over to the uninitiated, but it stands as a unit, even with the multiple unresolved subplots taking up a noticeable amount of space. Most of the chapters hang around past their freshness date, but they're still better than most else of what's around.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Walking Dead Volume 12: Life Among Them (2010)

Last year, I started three new blogs, which thoroughly demolished any schedule I ever tried to keep at ...nurgh... It meant I never got around to reviewing the incredible eleventh volume of Walking Dead, I actually missed ordering volume twelve somehow, and didn't correct the oversight until thirteen showed up at my door. I'm actually a bit sorry I didn't wait to play catch-up until fourteen.

A friend of mine once reached the point of nearly losing interest in this series because of the length of time spent in the prison setting, and the sharp rise in domestic drama during that period. I never really lost heart, because I enjoyed the smaller, character building stories. I could also see what a beast writer Robert Kirkman was building, as evidenced by the symphony of destruction that was Made To Suffer. Kirkman is still in his post-prison period as of this point, clearly working toward another spectacle. The problem for me this time is I'm even more aware of the calculated construction, and far less invested in the inevitably bleak results.

To my mind, Carl remains the central character around which the series now pivots. Rick still gets most of the "screen time," but his leading role feels more like inertia and the lack of a ready successor than a mandate. Glenn is the perpetual sidekick, Abraham isn't strong enough to take point, Michonne is best when used sparingly, and the presence of Rick keeps Andrea on the sidelines. A new leader-type is introduced in this volume, but he's clearly going to either be a creep, deficient or both. We've gone from Rick the POV rookie hero to the trusted veteran to the broken shell to the desperate neurotic. Despite his many turns, Rick remains a predictable, stabilizing element that now undercuts the tension of the series. I'm bored with him, frankly.

Following the uptick of "Fear the Hunters," "Life Among Them" is the odd numbered Star Trek movie. There's a shambling "reveal" early in the volume that puts the lie to some genre-excess teased "truths." With a bit of build-up, that could have been an "oh shit" moment, but a literal and literary fumbling halved the effect to just an "oh." Almost immediately, new characters and a change of scenery insure there's no sinking feeling, the plot wheels clearly spinning, and there's a sense of a contemplated plotline being abandoned. We were over here, but now we're over here. It feels rather familiar.

In fact, familiarity seems to be the point of this burgeoning mega-arc. Yet another promised land, a role reversal for Rick from naive altruist to conspirator, our cast as the new characters on an old scene. I can see where Kirkman had a novel approach in mind, and it could have made for an epic volume or two, but the premise as played feels stretched thin. This volume opens weak, closes on an obvious note, and most of the middle is perfunctory, inorganic laying of track.


Blog Archive


Surrender The Pink?
All books, titles, characters, character names, slogans, logos, and related indicia are trademarks and/or copyright of their respective rights holders.