Thursday, January 29, 2009

Unicron Versus The Death Star

What's a more important debate in our times than figuring out which planet-destroying satellite is cooler?

Unicron is able to transform into a another form. Point for Unicron. However, his method of destruction is mastication, which is slow and tedious. Point for Death Star.

The Death Star isn't sentient. Point for Unicron. Also, Orson Welles didn't voice the Death Star. Another point for Unicron.

The Death Star's method of destruction is a simple laser beam. So point for Death Star.

Both of them are destroyed eventually by lame methods. For The Death Star, single photon torpedo takes it out. For Unicron, the Autobot Matrix of Leadership is opened within his chest, thus blowing him apart. So no points for either.

Both of their demises, however, are f*%&ing awesome explosions, so points for both. But, Unicron's head remains a smoking empty shell, floating as Cybertron's new moon, which is awesome and haunting. Another point for Unicron.

The total? 5 points for Unicron and 3 for The Death Star. Our clear winner?

Congrats! Now please go destroy Arrakis and get rid of all those annoying Bene Gesserits.

Next week? Conan versus He-Man! Stay tuned!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Happy One Year Anniversary!

Well. It's been an entire year that I've been working on this blog. Isn't that amazing? In this post, we're going to look at my Top Twelve Favourite Posts of All Time, one from every month of the year. This is different than my 200 post spectacular because I'm going to go chronologically and show how I've grown as a writer on this blog, how I've developed the voice that you've all come to love.

Playing with Jacques Tati
In this post, I started what was my critical voice, where I analyzed something, a work of art, a movie, a comic, and I "reviewed" it, that is, I judged it based on its merits and foibles. In this case, Playtime, a French film from the Sixties, was judged as being awesome. I also started doing some jokes that were over the top, and weren't really that funny. It makes the review easier to read, especially considering that I delve into politics and sociology for a paragraph. I love this post because it started the wheels turning in my brain on how to see something in closer detail. This blog helps my brain keep functioning, especially since I'm not in school anymore.

My Summer Vacation
It's going to have to be that. For five full months, this blog concentrated on my own personal growth using a summer vacation. Sure, I read some comics and watched some movies, but in my life, my real life, there were three things that propelled me through: my job, my new girlfriend, and the summer vacation. In March, I was promoted and started dating the girl that I love with all my heart, and in March, I figured out what I was going to do with my summer vacation, but all of that was triggered by an intense desire to do something more with my life, as outlined in this post. I also really like this post because I said I would do things, and I did them. I also said I would revisit the post, which I did. I committed to something and followed through. I haven't done a lot of that in life, and this blog helped me do that.

Doomsday is the worst movie of 2008
And I stand by that statement. March was a tough call. This was when I was at the peak of my blogging frequency. This was also when I started really reviewing things, and a lot of them. There were very few "filler" or "low-content" posts in this month. I struggled to go with either my Into The Wild review, which I mean, was awesome, but not terribly critical, or with my "review" of
Doomsday. I think that the Doomsday review is funnier, more entertaining, and I have a couple clever turns of phrase. I was getting more confident in how to review a movie and how to explain my thoughts.

DC One Million
I didn't review this nor read it for the first time, but this is the post I had the most fun writing, and it comes off that way. This encapsulates my love of comic books. Only in this medium would have all the fun and zaniness, the surrealism and the confusion of superheroes and time travel. I also love this post because I had never before tried to convince somebody of my love for Morrison's future-epic. I love this post, and that's saying a lot in a month where I had hit my stride.

I'm doing research
This was a tough one. May was the month of 35 posts, a lot of reviews, a lot of comics, and a lot of books. I was really trying to read as much as I possibly could and I was getting really excited about California. There were two major posts about Cali in this month, the first one being California Dreamin', in which I dreamed about my possible route and where we wanted to go. I like that post, but I much prefer the second major trip post, I'm doing research, in which I posted pictures from Google Earth about the places I was going to and lo, I did. A close runner-up is my review for Tom Perrotta's The Abstinence Teacher, a novel I loved and really examined with a critical eye.

I'm still alive!
Ah, the vacation month. For a good portion of June, I was gone. This post, simply a picture of me near the famed Hollywood Sign, was actually posted in a hotel in San Pedro. That itself is the reason why this post is my favourite from June.

The Echo Maker
This was a really really tough one. In July, I posted about San Diego, I reviewed both Donna Tartt novels, a Stephen King,
Revolutionary Road, and The Dark Knight. Wow. But, as a personal triumph, I finished Richard Powers' The Echo Maker, a difficult novel filled with science and very complex. I really like my review of it because I actually peer beneath the text and make a conclusion from it that wasn't handed to me by either the author or another review. I finally achieved a sense of balance when it came to reviews.

Final Crisis: Superman Beyond
This was an easy one. Possibly one of my favourite posts ever, this started out as a review for Morrison's 3D tie-in to his own miniseries, but the post ends up being a critical examination of how "event" comics unfold and how it's similar to "hyperlink" cinema, a theme that I had already touched on when I spoke of Ellis'
The Informers. And, just so you know, it's now January, and the second issue has yet to be published.

Speed Racer
This one was a little tough to decide. I wanted to go with Why I Don't Give Stars, almost because it's meta, but I decided that a much stronger post, one with good content and good prose, is my review of Speed Racer. This is a good sample of my style of reviewing, and I'm proud of the conclusions that I make. Ebert once said that it's the average films that are the hardest reviews to write, and considering that, I'm glad I accomplished this.

Secret Invasion 7
This was the low-content month. I was so busy with work and with my beloved g/f that I had nary the time nor inclination to post. I also moved out of my parents' house that very same month. I chose to go with my review of Secret Invasion 7 because I'm fairly proud of the quality of prose in this post. I made some good jokes and made some good comments about the quality of the story and art. It's a solid review, nothing spectacular, but solid.

The Politics of Barack Obama
Yes, We Can. I was saying that a lot around November, and I felt that I could have been accused of hero-worship. So I sat myself down and took a long hard look at Obama to figure out if I could even support him. I like this post because I don't come up with easy answers. There's things that Obama and I disagree on. Nothing's monochromatic in life, and I'm glad I took the time and the effort to research and determine where he and I sat.

Friday at the Comic Book Store
I like this post because it's funny and because I talk a little about the incongruous and self-defeating business style of some comic book shops and I support the one that does it right. It's a simple post and I like it.

Where do I want to go with my blog, you ask? Well... nowhere different, really. I think after a year, I'm happy with the style I've created and I've been slowly building a small reading audience. If I had to choose one thing that I'd like to do differently or better, it's have more posts about books. I want to read more this year, and I want to blog more about books. That's really about it.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Oscars are Irrelevant

I suppose everybody and their grandma with a blog has already made their opinions known about the recent Oscar nominations. I guess the main complaint is, of course, The Dark Knight being ignored for Best Picture and Best Director. The frontrunner? The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. The unknown underdog? Slumdog Millionaire.

But where the hell is Wall-E for Best Picture? It's easily one of the best films of the year, but since it's animation, for kids, and a comedy, it's being edged out for more "serious" fare as
Milk, or The Reader.

The Academy has a famous history of ignoring comedies and focusing on works that are "serious" and deal with VERY IMPORTANT ISSUES, such as the Holocaust, or racism, or gay cowboys. ISSUES are what the Academy likes, and it's always what they reward.

Here are the Best Picture nominees...
  • The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
  • Frost/Nixon
  • Milk
  • The Reader
  • Slumdog Millionaire
Who should win? I don't know. Of those five, the only that I've seen was the first half of Benjamin Button, and I got bored real quick. The Reader? Not interested in the slightest. Milk? The only reason why I would see it is for Sean Penn, otherwise... not interested. Only Frost/Nixon and Millionaire interest me, but they're not going to be as good as The Dark Knight or Wall-E.

This is the worst showing of Best Pictures in a long time. Last year was great.
Michael Clayton, Atonement, No Country for Good Men, There Will Be Blood? These are some serious contenders. If Atonement had been in this bunch, it would surely win.

Okay, moving on, let's take a look at Best Director.

Danny Boyle –
Slumdog Millionaire
Stephen Daldry –
The Reader
David Fincher –
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Ron Howard –
Gus Van Sant –

Ron Howard... really? Is he that good of a director? Better than Christopher Nolan? Better than Batman? I think not. Who should win? Fincher. It's deserved. After the Academy ignored the brilliant and beautiful
Zodiac, I think we should give him whatever he wants.

In terms of acting, I don't really care. I know Heath Ledger will win, deservedly, and that's all there really is to talk about. So let's move on with our lives, shall we?

I don't know. Every year the Oscars come, and the Best Picture winners become smaller and smaller, as studios invest more money into big dumb spectacles while smaller imprints, such as Focus Features, puts out the prestige films. This means the "better" movies get less exposure, so I don't get to see them until much later.
Milk has yet to be released where I am. That's terrible. I haven't even seen any advertisements for it.

Every year I say I'm not going to care, and every year I end up caring. I'm going to try and watch the five Best Picture nominees, like I do every year, but other than that... do the Oscars matter anymore?

Ratings are going down, like usual, and the self-congratulatory montages make the bloated running time of the ceremony even longer.

It's frustrating. The entire world put their money in
The Dark Knight. That's the movie everybody went to see. Everybody. I saw it two times in the theater, including once on the Imax. If everybody saw this movie, and the Academy is shunning it, then it just goes to show that they're out of touch and irrelevant.

The Dark Knight should win Best Picture because it's a fantastic movie, and it's the one that everybody wants to win.

Ugly Truth

Friday, January 23, 2009

Final Crisis: Superman Beyond 2

Wow. I'm sure everybody knows by now that
Final Crisis has been plagued by delays. Lots of delays. It's almost cliche to mention it now. With that out of the way, let's have a look at the second issue of Final Crisis: Superman Beyond, possibly one of the best tie-ins, ever. Here's the review for the first issue, which includes a bonus essay on hyperlink-writing. Okay, let's get started.

Ultraman has read the infinite book and realizes that the Dark Monitor, Mandrakk, is coming to destroy everything, I think. The denizens of Limbo raise arms and Superman has a good talk with Captain Adam (or Doc Manhattan, if you will) who then understands "quantum super-position as used defensively" which means he duplicates himself and smashes Ultraman and Superman together, causing the end of everything. Superman awakes as a composite in the land that's "more profound". Supes is a thought-robot, an ultimate weapon, a body of pure thought. Then, Superman fights Mandrakk, and realizes that he's always going to win, because he is written to win. It's not destiny, it's fiction. Mandrakk is killed/forgotten, and Superman inscribes his own tombstone. Once back in his own world, Superman gives Lois the Bleed that he kept in his mouth, and she awakens. What did he write on his tombstone, the last page asks? To Be Continued.

Morrison and metafiction, eh? Those two go hand in hand, always. This series hearkens back to his run on
Animal Man, for sure. In that run, everything was a story, and everything in the Multiverse was a product of a writer, forgotten or memorialized. In Superman Beyond, the writer is taken out of the equation. Only the story remains supreme.

I absolutely adored this comic except for the 3D bits which gave me a headache, no word of a lie. I hated the 3D effects. They were distracting and added nothing to the story.

I tend to think of stories about stories as existing in a vacuum, even though those stories try to encompass everything story there is. I imagine that the story about a story is the final word, but I forget, and thanks to Tim Callahan, I remember, that I'm reading this story. The act of me, an individual, reading this story places it in a physical world, grounds it in reality, taking away from the universe-spanning scope. I forget that.

This says to me that the writer is doing a fantastic job of taking me to a whole new world. The writer has done his duty in helping me escape reality if only for fifteen minutes.

It also helps that Mahnke's pencils are tremendous. It takes a good artist to be able to keep up with Morrison, and Mahnke manages with flair. This is a well-drawn issue that's clear on the action, while still being detailed and pleasing to the eye.

Final Crisis: Superman Beyond 2 is a spectacular conclusion to a spectacular mini-series and I would recommend it to anybody, even if they're not following the main storyline.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Meet Bandit

This is my g/f's beloved dog Bandit. He's staying with us for a couple weeks and maybe indefinitely, if he behaves. He's kind of dumb, but he's intensely loyal to the g/f. If you hug her, Bandit will jump and try and push you away. Bandit would try and push me out of the bed if I didn't already sleep against the wall. He loves walks and drinking out of the toilet, and he's really a quintessential dog.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Political Ugly Truth

Marvel's April Solicitations

Ultimate Spider-Man is ending? I didn't see that coming. Does that mean the entire Ultimate line is gone? That's sad, but not really. I only ever read Ultimate Spider-Man.
Pencils & Cover by STUART IMMONEN
The end of an era? The last issue of Ultimate Spider-Man? Peter Parker is Spider-Man no more? Is Spider-Man dead and gone in the events of Ultimatum? This final issue will leave you jaw-on-the-floor shocked at the turn of every page!
40 PGS./Rated A ...$3.99
Okay. What's next? Well, I've heard great things about this, so I will probably pick this up.
As the Mighty Thor reclaims his rightful spot in the Marvel Pantheon, we join Matt Fraction and Patrick Zircher as they examine the triumphs and tragedies that have befallen the God of Thunder across the eons. As all the things he holds dearest are threatened by unimaginable forces of evil, Thor must rise up, again and again, to hold the line against terror and chaos as only the God of Thunder can! Plus, For countless millennia, over and again has the mighty, thunderous, impetuous, petulant god Thor raged and rebelled against the leadership of his father and lord, the all-powerful Odin. The capricious tantrums of a selfish titan, spoiled by his own power. But...ODIN HAS HAD ENOUGH! And so as the cycle is repeated in all ages, Thor must ultimately face the fullest wrath of the enraged All-Father! Then, his name was Skurge, and men and god alike knew him as Executioner... and the legend of his life and death reverberate across the walls of Heaven itself. In Asgard, though... no one can quite remember WHAT happened to him. How did he live? How did he die? And why does everyone in Asgard remember it differently? There's trickery at hand so vile even Loki joins Thor in trying to unravel it Collecting THOR: AGES OF THUNDER ONE-SHOT, THOR: REIGN OF BLOOD ONE-SHOT, THOR: MAN OF WAR ONE-SHOT and THOR GOD-SIZED SPECIAL.
160 PGS./Rated T+ ...$24.99
ISBN: 978-0-7851-3567-8
Sounds great. And I love Dougie Braithwaite.

Wait, what the f*%& is this? Oh my god.
Cover by JOE JUSKO
No matter how well she handles the Sisterhood of Evil Mutants, Moonstone and Blackout, the Tatterdemalion, and other villains, Alison Blaire never set out to be a super hero just a superstar! But her big film break shatters that dream when she's outed to the public as a mutant, and not even the Beyonder can mend her stricken soul! After a series of adventures with bounty hunters, cults and family secrets, she's ready to start a new life but with the stage, the big screen and the fashion runway all closed to her, what success will she the combat arena? Guest-starring Power Man and Iron Fist, the Inhumans, Millie the Model, and more than half a dozen X-Men! Collecting DAZZLER #22-42, MARVEL GRAPHIC NOVEL #12, BEAUTY AND THE BEAST #1-4 and SECRET WARS II #4.
688 PGS./Rated A ...$19.99
ISBN: 978-0-7851-3730-6
As if somebody asked for this. And not just once, but for a SECOND volume?!?!?

Other than the first two things, there's not really much else to talk about.
Dark Reign continues, War of Kings continues in titles I don't read, and there's a bunch of new Wolverine titles, and a THIRD reboot of Exiles. What else is new, Marvel?

Monday, January 19, 2009

This is giving me nightmares

DC's April Solicitations

Is there any question?
Written by Grant Morrison
Art by J.G. Jones, Carlos Pacheco, Jesus Merino, Marco Rudy, Doug Mahnke and Christian Alamy
Cover by J.G. Jones
The year’s most mind-blowing event is collected in this spectacular new hardcover featuring FINAL CRISIS #1-7! What happens when evil wins? That’s the devastating question Superman, Batman, the Justice League and every other super being in the DC Universe must face when Darkseid and his otherworldly legion of followers actually win the war between light and dark. Written by superstar creator Grant Morrison (JLA, BATMAN) with stellar art from J.G. Jones (52 covers), Carlos Pacheco (SUPERMAN) and Doug Mahnke (BLACK ADAM), this event defined the DCU and the New Gods for the 21st century and beyond!
Advance-solicited; on sale June 10 • 240 pg, FC, $24.99 US
Yeah, I thought not. I'm picking this shit up. What I didn't expect to see is this.
Written by Alan Moore
Art by J.H. Williams III & Mick Gray
Cover by J.H. Williams III
ABC. Alan Moore’s entrancing masterpiece is collected for the first time in oversized, Absolute format featuring the spectacular art of J.H. Williams III. The first of three ABSOLUTE PROMETHEA slipcased collections, this volume collects PROMETHEA #1-12! Discover the stories that introduced Sophie Bangs, an ordinary college student in a weirdly futuristic New York, whose life will be changed by her research into the mythical warrior woman known as Promethea!
Advance-solicited; on sale September 30 • 8.25” x 12.5”, 328 pg, FC, $99 US
Wow. The first of three Absolutes, eh? Of my favourite Alan Moore series? I will probably get this. April Solicitations are amazing, because guess what else is coming out?
Written by Grant Morrison
Art and cover by Cameron Stewart
In 2008 alone, superstar writer Grant Morrison killed Batman, put the entire DC Universe through its FINAL CRISIS and concluded the unanimously beloved ALL-STAR SUPERMAN. But what does a writer who’s written every significant Super Hero do when he can create any Super Hero he wants? The answer, of course, is SEAGUY! Morrison (THE INVISIBLES) rejoins original SEAGUY artist Cameron Stewart (SEVEN SOLDIERS) in an all-new adventure starring the cult-favorite character!
In Seaguy’s cartoon future world, everyone is a Super Hero and no one dies. It’s absolutely perfect...Or is it? In this follow-up to the cult 2004 miniseries, Seaguy resurfaces with a sinister new partner, a hatred of the sea and a rebel restlessness he can’t explain. Why are Doc Hero and his ex-archenemy Silvan Niltoid, the Alien from Planet Earth, whispering strange equations? Why is Death so useless? And can that really be the ghost of Chubby Da Choona mumbling uncanny warnings and dire prophecies of ultimate catastrophe?
When the grotesque powers lurking behind the corporation known as Mickey Eye and the Happy Group attempt to erase Seaguy’s entire existence, can he possibly get it together in time to save a world so far gone it can’t even imagine the horror lying in wait? Find out here in Morrison’s own personal reframing of the Super Hero concept for the 21st century.
On sale April 1 • 1 of 3 • 40 pg, FC, $3.99 US • MATURE READERS
This, I'm excited for. Apparently, this is the second part of a trilogy. Very exciting.

So that's it. Check back in a day or two for Marvel's April Solicitations.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Final Crisis Endgame

We've got two issues left of Final Crisis that are worth me picking up. Obviously there's Final Crisis 7, as well as Final Crisis: Superman Beyond 2. You'll remember that I liked Superman Beyond 1, and wrote a long essay about it, so I'm fairly interested in the conclusion of that miniseries. But what about Final Crisis 7? In my review for issue 6, I said that I looked forward to the ending, but I wasn't desperately holding my breath for it. Let's take a look at it....

Here's the solicitation:
The dramatic finale to the epic, seven-part saga of the DC multiverse concludes with an apocalyptic battle for the soul of humanity that must be seen to be believed! Can the heroes of 52 Earths save the multiverse? And is the only way to save it, to change it forever?
That sounds interesting... I guess. I suppose that the DC Universe will be irrevocably changed after this issue, but I can't really see that happening. Many comic critics and bloggers and academics have written reams and reams of pages upon pages on how comics are designed to maintain a status quo; a good writer provides the illusion of change. I'm not going to spend an entire post discussing this, or even providing an opinion. This is something that happens, the maintaining of the status quo, and it's neither good nor bad. It just is.

So will Grant Morrison buck the trend? Will he give us an illusion of change? And what if he actually changes things? Turns the heroes of the DC Universe into New Gods?

It's not like this idea is foreign or new to the writer. At the end of his JLA arc, World War III, he had the Purple Ray turn every human on the planet into a superhero in order to defeat Mageddon.

A recurring theme in his work is the ability of the human to evolve his consciousness onto a higher plane, and a good metaphor for increased awareness of the universe is to have superpowers.

So, Fifth World New Gods including Superman, The Flash, Wonderwoman, and Mister Terrific? Yeah, for sure that's a possibility.

But I don't know. It doesn't seem likely. Maybe they'll all become gods temporarily. But as a status quo? It doesn't seem likely.

What I am looking forward to is 30 pages of Doug Mahnke. His brief stint on Final Crisis 6 was the art highlight of the entire issue. Superman ripped shit up, and it looked f*%&ing awesome. Let's hope he brings his A game for both Final Crisis 7 and Superman Beyond.

As a whole, I'm liking Final Crisis. Let's hope the conclusion doesn't disappoint.

Friday, January 16, 2009

The Ugly Truth About Disney

It's true. Even though Disney purports to be the most beloved film studio of all time, they simply aren't. They don't produce absolute masterpieces, and when they do, they are infrequent. I'd like to expand on my usual Ugly Truth joke, and show you, by virtue of numbers, that Disney movies in general, are average at best. I will be doing this by listing every single canon Disney film and giving it a score. I will then total up the scores and figure an average to show you that - yes - Disney movies aren't that great.

Before I do this, I want to provide two disclaimers. Firstly, the Disney movies that I do love are the ones I cherish a lot. I don't have a "hate" on for Disney in particular. This leads to the second disclaimer. I'm only doing this because Disney keeps telling people they're the best, and anybody who puts themselves up that high deserves to get knocked down a peg.

So, in chronological order, followed by numerical review and then quick comment, here are the canon Disney films.

1937 –Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs [Five out of Five] amazingly innovative
1940 –Pinocchio [Four Out of Five] very good
1940 –Fantasia [Five out of Five] one of the best, so innovative
1941 –Dumbo [Three out of Five] unimaginative and uninspired
1942 –Bambi [Four out of Five] terrific beginning, poor ending
1945 –The Three Caballeros [Two out of Five] not funny
1950 –Cinderella [Four out of Five] Amazing
1951 –Alice in Wonderland [Three out of Five] Poor execution
1953 –Peter Pan [Four out of Five] excellent animation quality
1955 –Lady and the Tramp [Three out of Five] starts the sketchy uninspired era
1959 –Sleeping Beauty [Four out of Five] amazing impressionist style
1961 –101 Dalmatians [Two out of Five] the terrible era begins
1963 –The Sword and the Stone [One out of Five] would've been zero if it wasn't for the magic cleaning scene
1967 –The Jungle Book [One out of Five] reused cells, horrible handling of Khan, no ending to speak of, good music, though.
1970 –The Aristocats [One out of Five] jazz is the only thing that saves this
1973 –Robin Hood [One out of Five] Prince John is the saving grace
1977 –The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh [Three out of Five] It's okay
1977 –The Rescuers [One out of Five] Uninteresting.
1981 –The Fox and the Hound [One out of Five] Terrible
1985 –The Black Cauldron [One out of Five] Terrible
1986 –The Great Mouse Detective [Two out of Five] Great set pieces
1988 –Oliver & Company [One out of Five] Good lord, I had forgotten how bad this was
1989 –The Little Mermaid [Five out of Five] Fantastic
1990 –The Rescuers Down Under [Three out of Five] Better than the original
1991 –Beauty and the Beast [Five out of Five] Outstanding
1992 –Aladdin [Five out of Five] Outstanding
1994 –The Lion King [Five out of Five] The best.
1995 –Pocahontas [Three out of Five] Not very good.
1996 –The Hunchback of Notre Dame [Two out of Five] Terrible
1997 –Hercules [Three out of Five] Okay
1998 –Mulan [One out of Five] Boring and insipid
1999 –Tarzan [One out of Five] Terrible and unoriginal
2000 –Fantasia 2000 [Three out of Five] Okay
2000 –Dinosaur [One out of Five] Terrible story, great animation
2001 –The Emperor’s New Groove [Three out of Five] Funny enough.
2001 –Atlantis: The Lost Empire [One out Five] Awful
2002 –Lilo and Stitch [Three out of Five] Funny
2002 –Treasure Planet [One out Five] Awful
2003 –Brother Bear [One out Five] Awful
2004 –Home on the Range [One out Five] Awful
2005 –Chicken Little [One out Five] Awful
2007 –Meet the Robinsons [One out Five] Awful
2008 –BOLT [Four out of Five] Great.

So the average? 2.44 out of Five. Close to three, at least! So there you have it, Disney. You're just not that good. It's that 70's era that really did you in, when Walt Disney himself was gone, and the animation itself suffered greatly. Just not that good. The late Nineties and early 00's also did you in. Those movies were garbage.

It doesn't help that you continue to sully the memory of your classics with terrible, unloved direct-to-video sequels that nobody asked for. It's a law of diminishing returns, Disney.

Well, I hope I proved in a satisfactory manner that Disney movies aren't nearly as good as the studio would have you believe. They aren't the paramount of classic children's entertainment. But, when Disney movies are good, they are
good. Beauty and The Beast, Aladdin, Little Mermaid and The Lion King stand out as some of the best movies ever.

It's just too bad, Disney, that you continue to draw from the "crappy" well.

Final Crisis 6

The final Crisis is upon us. Issue 6 of the larger than life mini-series has arrived, only a couple months behind schedule. The last issue was pretty good, so let's move on and take a look at
Final Crisis 6 as written by Grant Morrison and drawn by the entire DC artist talent-pool.

We open with Superman back from his adventure in 3D (the finale of which I have yet to see released) talking with Brainiac 5. It's the Miracle Machine or something like that which is being shown to Supes, and apparently, this is a reference to some 70's-era Kirby story. Sweet. I guess. We switch gears to show Tawny and the Marvel family taking on Kalibak. Some intestines are shown and Marvel Jr uses an old trick to depower Mary Marvel. Back with Checkmate and the Japanese New Gods, Mister Terrific is given a lesson on how to counterprogram against the Anti-Life equation. This is all very important exposition. Finally, we get the fight between Batman and Darkseid that everybdy's been talking about.

Spoilers, of course.

Batman gets "killed" by the Omega Sanction, which was set up in Morrison's
Mister Miracle series from Seven Soldiers. Darkseid is murdered by the time-bullet that Batman so carefully concealed. Yes, he goes against his oath and murders Darkseid via projectile weapon. It's pretty cool.

Now, I didn't review
Batman RIP, but I did read it and I liked it well enough. It's a zany Morrison-style adventure, and it's not the final statement on Batman that everybody wants it to be. It's just a fun adventure. Final Crisis 6 gives us the intended ending to this story, and it's a bit of a doozy.

It's a shame that a rather large back door is built into this death. I guess Morrison is trying to make some grand statement about the impermeability of comic book death, with bringing back Barry Allen and then killing Batman all in the same series.

In comparison to
Infinite Crisis, this series has some serious teeth. In the former series, a Superman is killed, but not the Superman. In the latter series, the Batman is killed. That's ballsy.

A lot of criticisms of character deaths in events are about the lack of emotional impact. When you have a cast of hundreds, it's hard to care about one death. Well, Morrison circumvents this criticism by having an entire arc in the character's title to increase the emotional impact. There you go. That's a great idea.

I'd love to say that the art in this issue is terrific. I'd love to say that. Unfortunately, the reality is that only about six pages are worth mentioning, and most of those are the amazing scenes of Superman going crazy as drawn by Doug Mahnke. I look forward to an entire issue drawn by him if this is what we're going to get. Excellent.

The dialogue is obtuse and great, just like you'd expect from Morrison, so it's not worth judging based on that. What we can judge is the weird attention Morrison puts on the Marvel family. I don't find the evil Mary Marvel all that interesting or frankly well-written. We already have an evil Marvel, Black Adam, who is brilliantly shaded thanks to
52 and his recent mini-series. There's no need for a slutty punk nihilist with a short skirt that shows off her panties. Unless Mary Marvel is Morrison's comment on "evil female characters show their evil by showing their sexuality" trope, which I highly doubt it is.

The scatterbrain plot, which worked so well in the beginning, when Morrison was forging a constant dread oozing from every character, has fallen apart, just like the logo has on the cover. The scene on the JLA satellite is inconsequential and uninteresting. The Tattooed Man was given a decent story in that one-shot, but he's been fumbled with in this scene. I can't quite place my finger on why this scene doesn't work for me. Maybe it's just because the circuit concept was just explained to me in the Checkmate scene previously. Perhaps switching the order would mean I would feel the desire to learn how The Tattooed Man did it. I'd probably still complain.

On the whole, I'm enjoying this event. It's big, it's cosmic, a ton of shit has happened. There's ample plot, probably enough plot to last twelve issue (but I couldn't wait three years to read it all), and the art's been mostly great. I'm intrigued with the ending of
Final Crisis, but I'm not desperate to read the ending.

Judging by Morrison's usual endings to big arcs, it's probably going to be an anti-climax, a sense of deflation, and a whole horde of fanboys and bloggers going "that's it?" and throwing their hands in the air. Morrison prefers the quieter endings, a better sense of denouement, rather than the good guy hitting the bad guy, a punch-'em-up ending. The climax is in
Final Crisis 6, with Batman shooting Darkseid. It's a mistake to think that Morrison will do anything so big with the last issue. He might have Superman go nuts and kick the crap out of everybody, but that's not the whole issue (I'm looking at you, Secret Invasion).

So, with that being said, I hope I'm pleasantly surprised by a twist, or a spectacular ending that takes the DC universe to a new level, a new fertile ground for stories, to be mismanaged and poorly harvested by Judd Winick and Geoff Johns. I liked
Final Crisis 6, and I look forward to the next issue.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Best New Facebook Group.

Seek it out and show your support for the belief that Superman would be good at basketball. Not only can he fly, but he's the fastest dude in the world. He could shoot and win from anywhere on the court. He's the fastest dribbler and the strongest. He could superfast dribble while flying and nobody could intercept. In short, Superman would be good at basketball.

More Ugly Truth

Monday, January 12, 2009

The Great Dance: I of XII

Last month, I said that 2009's big project was to read Anthony Powell's A Dance To The Music of Time. Well, it's been awhile since I finished it, so I thought I'd share my thoughts about the first of twelve novels, A Question of Upbringing.

The first book sets the themes, tone, characters, and structure, right from the first page, actually. An older, wiser Jenkins is walking by a quarry, and is reminded of the great dance of the seasons, as painted by Poussin. This classical analogy unleashes a torrent of memories, as it takes him back to school, and we follow his recollections for almost 3500 pages.

In the first part of the first book, Jenkins introduces us to Stringham, Jenkins' "close" friend, Templar, the prototypical ladies' man, and Widmerpool, the confusing, complex awkward young man destined for all sorts of things. The narrator spends some considerable amount of time setting each character up and discussing their personality. The only bit of plot is a practical joke they play on one of the schoolmasters, which has some unfortunate consequences in the long run.

After this, Jenkins spends a couple months abroad in France, living with a friend of the family, and all the eccentric people in that house. Again, this is mostly just character development. The romantic aspirations and confusing thoughts of love begin to bloom within Jenkins' mind. It's in this section that the power of Widmerpool becomes more evident, a man destined for great things.

Finally, we join Jenkins in university, where he spends time with Sillery, a professor, and Jenkins takes a disastrous car ride that introduces us to three more people who will return at a later point in his life.

I think it's a mistake to think that there's going to be a ton of plot in this sequence of novels. The whole concept is that people and things move back and forth, in and out, like a great dance, the greatest of all, actually: time. It's all about the slow and gradual passage of time. There's no terrorists or atom bombs, or anything like that. This is about the human life in between the two World Wars.

I really enjoy just reading Powell's prose. He has a very specific style, with long sentences of intricate structure, but not labyrinthine. He tends to articulate complex thoughts in a precise way to make it perfectly clear what the narrator is trying to convey, very non enigmatically. This helps in sketching the myriad of characters to a "t". Considering this is going to be a cast of hundreds, it's necessary for every character to be sharply defined and not shapeless in anyway.

I don't really have a "review" for this novel. As a standalone novel, it's entertaining and presents the many themes in a very interesting and intriguing way. Characters are fully developed, motivations are clearly defined, and the prose waltzes off the page. This is a good novel. But... I don't know if I can review the first chapter of twelve. It's seems unfair to the whole project.

So, until next time, when I finish the second book, here's to Anthony Powell. I look forward to finishing this great mammoth.

Mixtape: Rawk n Roll

1. Alice in Chains - Man In The Box
2. Soundgarden - Spoonman
3. Foo Fighters - Stacked Actors
4. Alice in Chains - Would
5. Aerosmith - Train Kept A Rollin'
6. Nine Inch Nails - Perfect Drug
7. Soundgarden - Black Hole Sun
8. Queensryche - Silent Lucidity
9. Metallica - For Whom The Bell Tolls
10. Silverchair - Tomorrow
11. The Outlaws - Green Grass and High Tides
12. Foo Fighters - This Is A Call
13. Iron Maiden - Bring Your Daughter
14. Metallica - Fight Fire With Fire
15. Alice in Chains - Them Bones
16. Nine Inch Nails - Closer
17. Pearl Jam - Do The Evolution
18. Metallica - One

The Telephone Speaks the Ugly Truth

Blame Mike Sterling

Saturday, January 10, 2009

New Year's Shots

Here's Kristel and I about to do a shot of something....

Turns out it was straight JD! Not prepared!

HAHA! That's a great reaction!

Friday, January 9, 2009

Free Rock Band Drum Kit!

Thanks to my uncle, I got a free Rock Band drum kit. Let me tell you, since we got Rock Band for the Xbox in this house, we've been playing non-stop. Now I have the kit for PS3, my system of choice. Oh, let the obsession continue.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Final Crisis: Secret Files

Is this mega-cross-over-super-event-crisis
still going on? What is this particular tie-in, with its phenomenal Frank Quitely-drawn cover? Possibly the issue I was excited about way back when, back in September? Wait a dang minuter, this Final Crisis: Secret Files 1 doesn't have the same announced writers or pencillers? What's going on around here? What's in this comic?

Oh, it's an origin issue written by the great Len Wein and pencilled by Tony Shasteen... about Libra. Hokay, I'm still interested. Let me crack this sucker open and read it. Uh-huh, abusive father. Idolizing Ted Knight. Likes astronomy. Let me turn the page. What-the? He's invented an "energy transmortifier"? What the f*$& is that and where did it come from? This is a jarring change in direction....

Followed by a recap of the two issues that introduced Libra for the first time, and an explanation on how he came to find himself at the heel of Darkseid, which is a tenuous connection and a straining explanation at best.

This was a bland, boring, uninteresting origin. Abusive father? Really? That's your motive for trying to take half of the universe's energy? Confusing...

At least Shasteen's pencils are tight and fluid. That's the good news. You know who has really fluid panels? Frank Quitely! Where were his pencils in here? There's some Grant Morrison sketches at the back, but that's about it.

Let's return to the solicitation for a second.
Finally, the secrets of this year’s most talked about event can be revealed! Witness how Darkseid's death shattered the Multiverse, creating continuity ripples throughout the DC Universe! Submit to Darkseid and read the full Anti-Life Equation! This is a book you cannot resist to buy!
Oh.... That's not what this issue is about at all. You've got to be kidding me here, DC. Can you please make Final Crisis more of a disappointment, please? Already it's woefully behind schedule, it's plagued with rumours of re-writes, three different pencillers have been called in to bail out Jones, and the final issue has a completely different artist! This is exactly how you don't publish big-money comic books. Thanks for the lesson, DC.

Fantastic Four 562

Good lord, when was the last time I reviewed this title, and what did I say about it? Oh jeez, it looks like in November of last year, right here, was the last time I picked up this comic. Also, I noted in that review that it was late as well. So now that the current arc is ended, where does Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch take their team fantastic?

To a funeral. Everybody worth drawing is standing around awkwardly while Sue eulogizes herself... and she didn't have time to change out of her smelly old unstable molecules uniform. Gross! Wolverine looks at the Hooded Man and they share a joke. Then Johnny makes some empty promises about meeting up with Cindy, even though we know he won't. Afterward, Ben Grimm proposes to a girl and Reed has a talk with Valeria and then with Doom. It turns out there's a super-supervillain called Mageddon, who's coming to destroy the world. Oooooh, foreshadowing.

This issue was well-written, I suppose. I'm unsure because Millar is simply hitting all of the requisite post-arc and pre-arc beats. He's in the middle, so this is a filler issue. The dialogue is uninspiring, except for when Doom is talking, so that balances itself out. Nothing exciting happens save for some toothy people landing on Nu-World to wreak havoc. I wasn't blown away by the issue, but neither was I bored to tears.

The art was serviceable. I guess Hitch was feeling the crunch, so his faces seem a little blurry and unfinished, especially after the funeral scene. The best panel for me was Grimm's proposal. Frankly, it's amazing the amount of emotion that Hitch has Grimm convey. Otherwise, Hitch's people suffer from the same complaints I've always had. No change there.

Again, we're looking at a mediocre filler issue between arcs, so what can we possibly expect? Not much.

Side note, is it just me or is The Wasp crying on the cover of this issue, when she clearly died two months ago? Confusing chronology, Batman!

Fantastic Four 562 was okeedokee but nothing spectacular or amazing or web of. It was just another comic book. Let's hope the next arc is tremendous. Or it's the Christmas issue coming out two and half months late. Way to go, Hitch and Millar.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

I want I want I want

Here's some movies, etc, I want on Blu-Ray that are upcoming....

The Bourne Trilogy (01/27/09)

Here's an example of a trilogy where the first movie was good, the second movie was better, and the third movie is frigging awesome. To this day,
The Bourne Ultimatum is the paradigm of movies that I compare all other movies too. For example, in Quantum of Solace, there's a fight in a hotel in Haiti that's very reminiscent of the spectacular and possibly best fight ever in Morocco in The Bourne Ultimatum. I can't wait to have them all on Blu-Ray and be able to appreciate Paul Greengrass' excellent cinematography.

Zodiac: The Director's Cut (01/27/09)

This is a movie where I'll be upgrading formats, as I already have this film on DVD. I think that every single Fincher film should be put on Blu-Ray as there's no other director who's pushing the limits of visuals more, maybe Michael Mann....
Zodiac is a far superior serial killer film than Seven, and it even stands alongside The Silence of The Lambs. It's almost like a "f*$& you" to audiences who're looking for closure, answers, and conclusions.

Donnie Darko (02/10/09)

Often hailed as being better than what it is, I like
Donnie Darko, especially its theatrical cut. I have a special interest for the Director's Cut as its an example that too few excises means too much. However, this Blu-Ray retains both cuts and all the extra features I'm used to. Yay!

Body of Lies (02/17/09)

I didn't get a chance to see this in the theaters, and I really wanted to. A new Ridley Scott movie? Based on a book that's awesome? From the screenwriter of The Departed? Oh, sign me up. I shouldn't have my expectations too high, though, from what I've read in the reviews. Still, Kingdom of Heaven didn't fare well with critics, and it remains one of my favourite films ever.

Of course, there's more movies I want on Blu-Ray, like Cloverfield, Mission Impossible 3, Kingdom of Heaven, The Kingdom, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Iron Man, and tons more, but I can't afford them all. Especially when a couple of them are upgrades.

So there you have it.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

The Best Comics I Read in 2008

I'm eschewing the Top Ten format for this particular post just because I don't feel I can properly organize them by quality. I've been reading a whole bunch of "Top Ten" lists on comic book blogs, etc, and I stumbled across this particular article, Steven Grant's Permanent Damage, in which Grant proclaims that 2008 was a year of mediocrity and the only two comics he enjoyed were reprints.

He disagrees with the notion that there's tons of creativity in the field of comics now, saying that a "finely honed symbolist Batman story is still just a Batman story". He expands his point saying it's frustrating that the talent has missed the point of their cultural touchstone, Watchmen, in that everybody's pounding the road somebody else paved years before.

This argument is very easy to agree with. Even the God of All Comics, Grant Morrison himself is "debasing" himself and playing in the DC Universe sandbox, playing with their toys instead of making his own. He's writing Batman, a character still stuck in the Frank Miller-style as created twenty years ago in The Dark Knight Returns.

My problem with this particular argument is that the market doesn't always support new characters and concepts with the vigor that they support traditional characters done in new and interesting ways, or even in old-fashioned ways, which is the more likely possibility.

The market is notoriously difficult. Superhero fans are very loyal. We tend to read the same characters or the same writers. I cannot be excused from this particular behaviour, as I have loyally followed Garth Ennis, Grant Morrison, and Brian Michael Bendis all year long. I read a ton of comics by Ennis, some new, mostly older, and I read every comic put out by Morrison this year.

Morrison and Bendis were playing in their large sandboxes, and Ennis was playing in his own little sandbox made to look different.

I've got nothing against that. People don't think that Sam Raimi was "debasing" himself with Spider-Man 2, one of the finest comic book movies ever. Alan Moore isn't "debasing" himself with Victorian superheroes in League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. This being said, a lengthy introduction to somebody's "best of" list, I don't think that any comic on this blog being reviewed is of lesser quality if only because the writer is playing with somebody else's characters.

Especially with Morrison and Moore, who are saying new and interesting things with characters they didn't invent. Morrison is making a large statement about the proliferation of evil with the Fourth World characters and Moore is making a highly entertaining pastiche of literature that verges on Art with a capital "a".

So to summarize, I don't think there's anything inherently wrong with wanting to write with another writer's character(s), unless they're simply going through the motions and slavishly imitating. However, I do think that more creativity in mainstream comics is never a bad thing.

With that off my chest, let's look at the single best comic published in 2008 I read.

All-Star Superman 10 by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely.

I almost went with Final Crisis or The Black Dossier, but I'm going with my gut on this one. This single issue hit me like a ton of bricks. Everything's great: the concepts, the execution, the art, the characters, the story, and it's mostly self-contained. This is a fantastic issue, and this series is one I would give to a non-fan to get them into the spirit. Awesome.

The best comic I read all year long, regardless of publication date?

Heartland by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon

Another issue that hit me like a ton of bricks. What a comic. All of the angst, emotion, commentary, heartbreak and love for his country packed into one little comic. Garth Ennis' true masterpiece, standing alongside Preacher, is easily this comic. You can read the review for more hyperbole and more fanboyish mutterings, but I stand by Heartland. I love this comic.

There was a ton of good comics published this year, too, like The Incredible Hercules, Love and Rockets, Millar and Hitch's uneven but decent Fantastic Four, and even Ennis' The Boys. That leaves out all the indie stuff, some of which I read and didn't care for, and some I did, like Skyscrapers of the Midwest and Too Cool To Be Forgotten.

I love comics and what I read this year made me love them even more. Sure there was some duds, like Justice League of America, but there were some gems. Let's just hope that 2009 is even better, and it probably will because Final Crisis concludes and The Blackest Night starts. Yes. Let's do it!

The Best Book I Read in 2008

Here's a list of the books I finished reading in 2008:
  • The Lay Of The Land by Richard Ford
  • The Abstinence Teacher by Tom Perrotta
  • The Wishbones by Tom Perrotta
  • Duma Key by Stephen King
  • The Little Friend by Donna Tartt
  • Lisey's Story by Stephen King
  • Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates
  • The Secret History by Donna Tartt
  • The Echo Maker by Richard Powers
  • The Turnaround by George Pelecanos
  • The Collected Stories by Richard Yates
  • A Multitude of Sins by Richard Ford
  • Wildfire by Richard Ford
  • A Special Providence by Richard Yates
  • The Easter Parade by Richard Yates
  • A Good School by Richard Yates
  • Young Hearts Crying by Richard Yates
  • Cold Spring Harbor by Richard Yates
  • A Question of Upbringing by Anthony Powell
  • Ticket To Ride by Dennis Potter
There may have been a couple other books I don't remember reading at this moment. I'll edit if I can remember. So what was my favourite book?

That's a tough one. Like I talked about here, in my confession of great failure, there's appreciating pure artistry and there's pure entertainment. The book that I finished the fastest was Pelecanos' novel. The book that took me the longest was either Richard Ford's The Lay of the Land or Powers' novel, both of which were amazingly complex books.

I think the novel that I read in 2008 that combines excellent composition with mass amounts of entertainment is Richard Yates' Revolutionary Road. A novel about the dissolution of a marriage due to the frustrating claustrophobia of suburbia, this novel had perfectly drawn characters, realistic dialogue, complex themes and images, and it stuck with me long after I read it. So long, actually, that I went to the library and read, in the span of a couple weeks, the entire Yates oeuvre.

A runner-up would have to be Richard Ford's The Lay of the Land, the novel that gave this blog its title. The third part in a trilogy focusing on regular joe Frank Bascombe, I absolutely loved this novel not quite as much as The Sportswriter, but I loved it regardless. As a whole, the trilogy stands up as a singular work, a bildungsroman of a middle-aged man.

I wish that I had read more books in 2008, but trips, a girlfriend, two jobs, a promotion, a move and other life lessons had their spotlight in the sun. For 2009, I plan to read A Dance To The Music of Time by Anthony Powell in its entirety, The Given Day by Dennis Lehane, Anathem by Neal Stephenson, and Harvest Home by Tom Tryon, which I've already started.

I have a lot of books to read in my room, and I will get to them all. I'm on a big reading binge right now and I'm going to git 'er done, the books I mean. Keep your eyes and your browser locked to this blog and you can read all about it!