Thursday, January 20, 2011

A video I just put together.

A lazy editing exercise; done out of a mixture of boredom, interest, and a need to edit something.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Comics I just got (9/16/10)

"What If? Daredevil VS. Elektra" = A decent little one-shot. The main story is so-so (What if Matt Murdock died saving Elektra and her dad in college? According to these cats: he gets ressurected by the Hand, Elektra becomes a SHIELD agent, the Hand destroys SHIELD, Elektra gets trained by Stick, and then Elektra and the undead Murdock fight.), but the cover (referencing Frank Miller's work) and the funny bits on the last couple pages bring the book home.

"Punisher: Year One" = Pretty good trade. Collecting the mini-series from 94/95, it's a worthwhile book that heavily influenced the 2004 film version (which I think is a highly underrated film). Unfortunately, just about all the action is in the last chapter, but it's still worth reading.

"Batman Beyond" #4 = Ugh. This book isn't exactly getting any better, with a pretty unbeliavable/lousy "twist" ending. Still, I do like seeing more stuff in the Beyond era. Makes me want more of the cartoon.

"Marvel Universe VS. The Punisher" #4 = This is the best issue of the mini-series. The way the conclusion of this story is written is a great improvement over the writing in the previous issues. Parlov's art, though cartoony, still seems befitting of the Punisher to me. I highly recommend this mini for any Punisher fans, if for no other reason than this excellent final issue.

"Batman" #703 = Perhaps the most enjoyable issue of "Batman" I've read in years. Fabian Nicieza and Cliff Richards deliver a well-written, well-drawn issue in which Dick, Damien, and Alfred display just the right amount of skill, heart, and optimism.

"Serenity" #1 = Go out and spend a buck on this reprint of the first issue of "Those Left Behind". Good stuff.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Comics I just got (9/1/2010)

Marvel Universe vs. The Punisher #1-3 = This is a decent read. It's kinda like "The Punisher" meets "I am Legend" meets any other post-apocalyptic story. The comparisons being made to "Marvel Zombies" are not unfounded. The characterization of The Punisher is not always so great (certainly no Garth Ennis, not even Jason Aaron). He just keeps saying "I'm a shooter. I'm just a shooter. I'm not fighting FOR anything. I'm just a shooter. Padre. Padre. Padre." Goran Parlov's art is enjoyable, though.

Wolverine #1 = meh. The writing's kinda decent, but not as good as most of Jason Aaron's stuff. The whole "Hell" thing is stupid to me. The best part of the comic is the Silver Samurai back-up story.

Shadowland: Elektra = This is a pretty good one-shot. For the most part, I enjoy how Elektra is portrayed, but something is lost in the combination of the art and writing. I can't really describe it.

Shadowland #3 = meh. I'm still not really enjoying the series. The Punisher isn't used enough, even though he's on the cover. The only other thing I can remember reading by Andy Diggle is "Green Arrow: Year One" and I mostly enjoy that story. This comic, though...

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Comic I just got (8/25/10)

Batman #702

Pretty good. I'm enjoying Grant Morrison's writing in "R.I.P. -- The Missing Chapter" a lot more than in "R.I.P." itself. "Return of Bruce Wayne" is frustrating me a bit, but these last couple issues of the monthly "Batman" have been enjoyable. I'm actually getting more and more interested in Bruce's inevitable return.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Comics I just got (8/21/10)

Batman Beyond #3 = I'm pretty much enjoying this mini-series so far. I'm definitely looking forward to seeing where it may be going.

Green Lantern #29 Secret Origin Part 1 = This one was just given to me by my friend at the comic shop. It's decent.

Deadpool #26 = Also just given to me. It's pretty good; a nice little look at Deadpool's past. Also, certain nerds should be pleased at Ghost Rider and Deadpool fighting.

Wolverine: Weapon X #16 = A pretty good issue. It features Logan mourning for Nightcrawler. Jason Aaron takes a nice little look at their relationship.

New Avengers #3 = Also just given to me. It's okay. I think that the best aspect of Bendis' current Avengers comics is the text "History of Avengers" feature in the back.

Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #13 = A good issue. This series has become hit-or-miss, but this time Bendis hits. The Ultimate Chameleon(s) is/are interesting. Seeing Peter and JJJ taken hostage together is interesting.

Invincible #1= Also given to me. This is great. I definitely want to check out the series now. If you haven't read it, just shell out the $1.00 for it.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 8: Riley = Another freebie for me. Meh. The dialogue is well-written, but since I don't read the series, I have no idea what the fuck is going on.

Aliens vs. Predator #1= Another gimme. This is a fun comic from 1990. It's effective in that it makes me want to read more. Once again, drop a buck to check it out next time you're in a comic shop.

Simpsons Comics #169= A good issue written by Chuck Dixon. It's quite funny, with a funny "Single White Female" reference, a couple of lines that could be on the TV show, and a last-minute appearance by Silent Bob.

Comic Book Guy: The Comic Book #2= This mini-series is great so far. This issue is very funny and very referential. Stan "The Man" Lee makes an appearance. The issue also briefly takes a nice little jab at film directors, particularly Kevin Smith, Quentin Tarantino, Steven Spielberg, and George Lucas.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

a quick post about "The Dark Knight"

Recently, a friend of mine asked me whether or not I thought the ideas presented in "The Dark Knight" could be separated from the source material. In response, I quickly drafted this messy little essay of sorts.

Can the ideas presented in a Batman film be divorced from the source material?

Short answer: Yes.
However, the question should be asked and seriously discussed. Batman is a cultural icon that has persisted in the public conscious for seventy years now. Just as any film that depicts Jesus Christ is not interpreted solely in terms of what the film itself presents but also what is written in the Bible and what many centuries’ worth of theologians, any film that depicts Batman is typically interpreted not only in terms of what such a film presents but also what has been depicted in other media.
While the typical filmgoer is not all that knowledgeable about comic books, Batman is one of those characters that have permeated the overall modern popular culture. Because of radio and movie serials, the 1960s TV show, wildly popular movies, countless animated series, action figures, and video games, even someone who has never read a comic book likely knows who Bruce Wayne is and why he is Batman. Because of his popularity and 70-year existence, the premise behind Batman and (at least) some minor details are known by just about every man, woman, and child in the “civilized” world.
Because Batman is such a well-known character, it might be unlikely that a viewer would initially watch a particular Batman movie (for the purposes of this piece, I’ll focus on “The Dark Knight”) without making associations with prior interpretations of Batman. However, it is not necessary that a viewer discuss “The Dark Knight” while associating with previous incarnations of the characters presented therein. It is simply a lot easier to do so, and such associations allow for more discussion.
One can divorce the ideas presented in “The Dark Knight” from the source material/character by simply “emptying his teacup”. However, if that answer is too vague/eastern for you, then it may take some extra effort on your part to watch the film with eyes only for the film itself. I admit that I am unable to logically explain exactly by what method one might go about doing such a thing, but I do think that if I am able to do it, then most anyone else should be able to as well. As a lifelong Batman fanatic, perhaps I will naturally be subconsciously biased and never truly able to interpret “The Dark Knight” freely, but I can do my damndest to at least discuss the film without making reference to other Batman-related media (except for “Batman Begins”, which is excluded from such efforts because it is the progenitor of the filmic masterpiece that is the focus of this writing).

Let us look at how the character of Bruce Wayne/Batman is portrayed in the film:
He is a self-proclaimed man with no limits. He keeps moving. He gets bitten, beaten, stabbed, and even shot, yet he continues to fight and run and do all of those things that physically distinguish Batman from lesser mortal men.
He is supposedly incorruptible. Even the Joker believes as much. He cannot be bought, bullied, or even negotiated with. It is interesting that he should be considered incorruptible when he is, in fact, a corruption – of law, societal ethics, and the sense of goodness as “light”. He works outside the law to enforce a sense of justice that is more in keeping with the law than breaking it. He uses methods that many people would not approve of, especially when used by authority figures (i.e., torture, invasion of privacy, blowing up parked cars, etc.). Most people would associate light with a concept of “good”, but here we have a “good guy” who is garbed in black, works at night, and stays mostly in the shadows. Or is he more like the Bat-Signal? A symbol, a beacon, a “light” in the sky or at the end of the tunnel?
In the film, Bruce Wayne/Batman is perhaps driven by more than a sense of simple revenge. The loss of his parents certainly inspire his actions, but he is not as haunted by their deaths as he is in “Begins”. He may be driven by something broader, deeper, more important, and more inherent. However, it is possible that his love of Gotham and his need to protect and clean the city may simply be the manifestation of his psychological need to please his father.
Whatever the reason for his mission, he certainly demonstrates a sense of “tunnel vision”. Like a horse with blinders on, he knows only to move ahead. He sees little besides the mission at hand. He may be somewhat distracted by Rachel Dawes or the Wayne Enterprises’ goings-on, but he is ultimately moving forward as Batman. For this reason, he may be considered something of a narcissist. The world revolves around Batman. Alfred has no life of his own (even beyond the duties of a normal butler, though this is also his choice). Bruce seems to only ever think of Rachel in terms of her relationship with him. Batman’s ego may very well be out of control. He wants to be a symbol, an embodiment of ideals. He cannot simply be a mere mortal.
Is it Bruce Wayne or Batman that displays this narcissism? Are they the same man? They could be two halves of a whole, or the protagonist’s personalities could be representative of an uneven dichotomy. Is Bruce/Batman representative of the duality of man? Is he more representative of a Freudian construct? Perhaps there is a vengeful, idealistic monster that is the superego; there is a misguided, hedonistic playboy that is the id; and the character we see on screen is the ego, balancing the two sides to live in the real world. There may also be the concept presented by Hermann Hesse in “Steppenwolf”-- that there are thousands, if not infinite, different personalities within one person. We may just see a few different amalgams in the different actions of Batman and Bruce Wayne.
In the film, Batman is supposed to represent the victory of good over bad, order over chaos, and Good over Evil. He does not kill the Joker. Instead, he captures him, choosing to let the authorities (the physical manifestation of order) contain him (the physical manifestation of chaos).

I have done my best to look at the subject strictly in terms of the film and the story presented therein. Were I to mention comics, Batman would actually be much more complex and difficult to figure out because of the many different writers who have handled the character over the last 71 years. Sometimes, Batman would be much kinder, or much worse. So, hopefully this can serve as a sufficient enough demonstration that a Batman film can be discussed without bringing up the comic books.

Friday, August 13, 2010

The Expendables

When I started reading about this movie (seemingly forever ago), I was super fucking excited about it. Stallone writing and directing a mercenary flick to star a bunch of action stars/lesser action actors? Fuck yeah!
Then, the first trailer hit. Still excited!
Then, all of the TV spots and other such promos. Not as excited.
Then, last night, I saw the flick at midnight. Excitement confirmed!

While the film may not live up to the expectations I had when I first heard about this movie being made, it is better than the promos make it out to be. It's exciting and action-packed and often funny. But you really go to see this movie for the actors.

Sylvester Stallone and Jason Statham are great as competitive best friends who look out for each other, bicker, and crack many a joke. Jet Li is great in what is, for him, a rather small role. Dolph Lundgren isn't as good as expected, but still pretty good as the loose cannon of the group. Terry Crews and Randy Couture are sadly underused, but great when they're on screen. Mickey Rourke is his usual amazing self as an ex-Expendable friend.
David Zayas, Eric Roberts, and "Stone Cold" Steve Austin are all good as the bad guys.
And, of course, the cameos by Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger....... pure greatness.
It is somewhat odd to see some headliners taking a backseat. Stallone and Statham have the biggest roles, but it's kind of strange to see Jet Li as a sidekick and Mickey Rourke as a buddy who's only in a couple of scenes.

The action is pretty good, but Stallone's camera work is often too shaky and tight, and the CGI blood/fire/smoke often looks obviously fake. But the fight scenes and some of the more creative deaths are great. Seeing Stallone getting beaten up by Stone Cold, Jet Li and Dolph Lundgren going mano a mano, and Jet Li and Jason Statham double-teaming a bad guy -- these are all wonderful things to behold.

Of course, the real treats are the references. Stallone and Lundgren together again (Rocky IV), Statham and Li reunited (War), Randy Couture talking about his cauliflower ear. The best scene is probably the interaction between Willis, Schwarzenegger, and Stallone. Schwarzenegger and Stallone just go at it with the insulting jokes, and the audience just erupts. I love that a lot of lines are written specifically because of the actors playing the characters.

In case you can't tell, I definitely recommend seeing this movie.

(As an aside note, in a real fight, Dolph Lundgren would probably kick Jet Li's ass. Jet Li could probably kick a lot of guys' asses, but mostly he does flowery, gymnastic wushu, whereas Dolph Lundgren is a giant man who was in the Swedish army and is an experienced practitioner of kyokushin karate.)