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Films, television, videos, or other visual media that's currently caught my eye ...

Sunday, September 20, 2009

X-Men Origins: Wolverine

Just finished X-Men Origins: Wolverine.

I'm a comic book fan. Look, I know you need to make changes to adapt IP from one medium to another, but why these changes? Not all of them felt necessary or additive.

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Monday, January 26, 2009

Wolverine and the X-Men

The new vehicle for one of Marvel Comics's cash cows, the merry mutants that are the X-Men, debuted this weekend.

Wolverine and the X-Men is the newest cartoon for the X-Gene challenged, and I find it so far to be a good mix between my beloved 90s series, and X-Men: Evolution (from which it takes some heavy visual cues).

The series has some serious talent on the acting side (Nolan North, Liam O'Brien,Richard Doyle, Kari Wahlgren, etc.), same writer (Craig Kyle, also a comic book scribe) as X-Men: Evolution. I'm a big Steve Blum fan, though I think he's more of a Cowboy Bebop / Spike guy than a berzerker canuck, so his emoting felt a little off in the first two episodes. I'm hoping he flexes into it (and I know he can, so it's not a talent issue at all).

Not that everything's rosy with the series. Marvel is going to have a serious challenge of doing the series justice, without bending it too much on its ear to support the X-Men Origins: Wolverine film vehicle in May (example: Cyclops is a leader of the X-Men; Storm is a leader of the X-Men; Wolverine is not so much).

Marvel also has a glut of animated content available or coming down the pipe (the current Spider-Man series; the new Iron Man series that has me concerned; all of the Lions Gate direct-to-DVD fair (they already had to smartly combine the two "Hulk Versus" films; etc.). I do have a concern that people will get saturated with it, and we'll have a late-1990s(ish) tailing of interest in all things comic book. That would make me sad.

I think what will mitigate it is companies treating these things for what they are -- not comic book properties, per se, but intellectual properties with various expressions, one of which happens to be comic books. The dark horse is whether the fanboys will give the properties that latitude.

Lookit me -- I start out with quick impressions, and wind up with the start of a biz dev article. I'm complex that way.

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Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Dark Knight

It's been too long since I've posted a micro review of anything on the visual front, but Christopher Nolan's revisited take on Batman has been rattling around my head since opening night, and I need to jot down a few thoughts.

My opinion? Not to overstate it, but The Dark Knight is arguably not only the best comic book movie to date, but one of the best movie movies to date.

Nolan takes -- and deconstructs -- the comic book genre more than he did with Batman Begins, showcasing an appropriately gritty, costly version of the genre's tropes.

The Dark Knight is alternately a heist movie, a mass serial killer film, a psychologically thriller, a morality play, and -- while it might even be a comic book flick -- it's thankfully not a tights flick.

What makes it good?

Well, there's story; the brilliant, wave-upon-wave story from the Nolans (Chris and Jonathan) and David S. Goyer, making the nearly 3 hours fly by in an exhausting rush. "Wave-upon-wave", because there are at least three instances where it feels the film could be escalating to its climax, only to build on that moment and ratchet the intensity up, yet again. There are sub-plots that don't get lost amidst the movie's spine. And, unlike Spider-Man 3, all of the baddies showing up in this film don't get lost amidst each other. And there's the whole genre diversity thing I mentioned earlier.

More important to me, I'm a fan of those too-few films showing "The Clean Win is a Lie."

The short version is this: Big stuff, important stuff, comes at a cost.

There's a truism that says if I say "yes" to something, I'm saying "no" to something else. It follows that the bigger the yes, the bigger the no. The bigger the stuff, the bigger the cost.

There are people who are heroes, and they make sacrifices. So, it likewise follows that if there were a world with super heroes, they make would super-sacrifices.

The Dark Knight showcases this better than most films (independent of genre).

And, of course, there's the acting.

Christian Bale, the already beyond ridiculously inspirational actor who woke the world up in American Psycho, delivered an emotionally brutal performance in El Maquinista, has had five films released between Begins and The Dark Knight.

Then there's Gary Oldman, who's bringing depth and cost to Batman's Gordon, and Michael Caine, who makes Alfred more than just a comedic button.

Morgan Freeman, who could read a phone book and keep me rapt, far from faxes in his performance as the additive cast member Lucius Fox, Wayne's confidant and tech supplier.

Aaron Eckhart, D.A. and more, with a storied career of his own, has perhaps his defining moments within this film. Gripping and tragic.

And that brings us to the greatest and most tragic part of film.

Heath Ledger redefines the Joker, bringing the insane, Alan Moore / The Killing Joke brutality of the Crown Prince of Anarchy to the big screen (Cesar Romero this is not). Ledger also pulls off the not-insignificant feat of bringing character acting to a marquee role. The mannerisms and idiosyncrasies are distinctly what he brings to his portrayal of the Joker. With all due respect to Jack Nicholson, this is the Joker, and Ledger's performance will either keep everyone away from ever touching the role, or elevate it as the role to beat, and provides a tragic exclamation point to the senselessness of Ledger's death.

So, yeah, I like the film, and not just because of the genre -- but because it's a a great film, and a fantastic vehicle for a bunch of talent in front of and behind the camera.

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Monday, October 22, 2007

30 Days of Night

I caught the first showing of 30 Days of Night last week, the vampire flick based on the Steve Niles comic books from IDW Publishing.

Like the comic, this is solidly mature fare -- and really well-executed.

Great tone, scenes, and characters make the translation from the source material.

Writers Niles, Stuart Beattie (Collateral), and Brian Nelson ("Earth: Final Conflict") turned out a solid script, and music video director David Slade turns out a tightly shot horror flick that feels more substantial than Underworld (a horror flick that feels like a music video; and I like that film).

Josh Hartnett surprised me in this role -- the guy is connected and authentically emotive, and fun to watch. Ben Foster is an actor's actor in this film, having gone from chisel-buffed, clean-shaven, squeaky clean Angel in X-Men: The Last Stand to the dirty, creepy, Cajun-infused and Renfield-like "The Stranger" in 30 Days of Night. Very impressive.

I also liked Mark Boone Junior, one of those constantly hard-working actors you see and go, "Oh, I know that face."

The vampires in the film are less fleshed out than the series, but Danny Huston and newcomer Megan Franich are stellar as the iconic vampires from the print run.

On the technical side, I need to watch the film again, but there were some weird interactions that felt like they were cheated way too much toward the camera than to the onscreen conversant. I noticed this in at least two Hartnett scenes, and maybe more.

On the content side, this is rough stuff. And while I like the trueness of the translation of the books to film, I am concerned that more and more of the rules of horror films (no harm to children and animals) are being violated. Not sure what that means on the slippery slope front.

Be that as it may, if you're not the queasy side and you like good vampire flicks (it's been dry for a while), I highly recommend 30 Days of Night.

And if you're not familiar with the book series, I envy the newness of the franchise for you.

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Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Comic book video game videos

Kudos to a video like this which reminds me their are good comic book video games out there, feeding two of my passions. Especially since I've had a snarky couple of days.

And the games that are left out (Spider-Man 1, X-Men Legends, Rogue Trooper, and others) remind me that there are even more things about which to be grateful.

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Saturday, August 11, 2007

Who Wants to Be a Superhero

I'm a big Stan Lee fan. I think he's is responsible for most of the success and positive direction of tights-wearing comic books today. I respect the guy, and look for any opportunity to hear from him and get his insights.

And I'm a comic book fan. Wednesday's are special days of the week for me.

So I'm watching the second season of Who Wants to Be a Superhero.

Sweet mother, I must be a fan.

I mean, it's better than season 1, but this show is painful for me to watch.

There are folks that are obviously not going to make it through the running and get their own comic book, action figure, and movie. "Hygena"? Please. "Basura"? Shouldn't she be enemies with Hygena? "Mr. Mitzvah"? WTF?

And these non-contenders are irritating, because it makes the audience do time to find out who the "real" contenders are. Think thinly veiled red herrings. (It's going to be The Defuser, Hyper-Strike, or Whip-Snap. In that order of likelihood.)

And the acting from the villains makes me want to spew. Crappy campy.

I did say it was better than last season. There are no Blackberries with post-production video cheesily (and falsely) overlaid. And they're intentionally being campy at times. As opposed to being unintentionally corny in season 1.

But the "Elimination" sequence has gotten worse.

So, it's a tough series to watch, but I do, because I love getting insight from Stan Lee about what makes a hero, and how you create one. He'll be 86 this year, and he's got to be one of the most active and incredible lifetime independent creatives I've ever seen. It would be an honor to work with him in any capacity, and these reality show folks are really blessed.

Oh, and this pict is from the Website's "Hero Creator", which crapped out at the last step. Forefront's a character of mine I've had for a while. But not with this costume. I think my catchphrase is obscuring my package....

Adam Creighton as Forefront

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Monday, July 23, 2007

Spider-man 3

Just saw Spider-Man 3.

I have lot to say on the pro and con side, but they're pretty specific spoilers, so I'll hold off.

I enjoyed it, though I like it least out of the trilogy. But I liked it better than Superman Returns.

And I understand now why no has tried to do a musical dance number in the middle of a comic book summer blockbuster film. Everyone else please take note.

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Friday, March 16, 2007


In the interest of full disclosure, I'm a Frank Miller fan.

So, I was going to see 300 the day it opened. I didn't know I was going to see it twice.

Visually, the film is impressive. It's a pseudo period adventure / war piece, and there's a commitment on the visual feel (borne from the original graphic novel) that's cohesive and compelling.

Scenes are almost frame-perfect from the original work, which comes off well for the most part -- though there are a couple of miss-steps where something that looked "super badass" in the book comes across a bit flat in the movie (the Persian duplicity reveal and the corpse tree in particular stand out to me).

But for the most part, scenes flowed well, and didn't feel too disjoint -- which is a danger considering their self-contained "wow" moments.

The actors were strongly committed, which makes for a great performance, with Gerard Butler (Leonidas) in particular surprising me with his performance, though Lena Headey's (Gorgo) refreshingly strong character portrayal was nice, too. Dominic West (Theron) was sharp in his political portrayal, and Vincent Regan (Captain) is a shamefully underrated actor, who gave perhaps the most powerful, humanizing moments in the film.

The only real downside to the film (for me) was they included the text-heavy narration throughout, which became a little grating. Not so much because it violated the "show, don't tell axiom" (which it did), but because I'm not sure for which accent David Wenham (Dilios) was trying, but it certainly didn't work (as an aside, dialects are all over the map in this film).

Overall, 300 is a powerful, visually impressive film, and the few missteps don't detract from the overall impact of the movie.

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Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Christmas comic book cartoons

Last year, I made recordings and an all-in-one DVD of three different holiday-themed comic book cartoons. I'd forgotten I had this, stumbled upon it, and popped it in during Christmas Eve festivities. Glad I did.

(And, yes, there's a theme here.)

Powerpuff Girls: Twas the Fight Before Christmas

I miss this show. Tom Kenny is an amazing voice talent. The special has Princess Morebucks, who is one of my favorite baddies to hate -- and she's a Powerpuff girl? And Santa takes Christmas away from everyone? And then he's ... had ... enough!?

Good stuff.

Justice League ("Comfort and Joy")

This was a great series, and I'd argue better than its follow-on Unlimited incarnation.

This holiday one shot (most episodes were part of 2- or 3-episode arcs) is fun, has a lot of heart, and shows some (mostly) non-combatitive vignette moments of key members of the team. Superman/Clark and Martian Manhunter/J'onn visit Smallville. Green Lantern/Jon Stewart and Hawkgirl/Shayera have a superhero version of a snowball fight (then are off to an alien bar for a decidedly different holiday tradition). The Flash/Wally West and Ultra-Humanite end up in a battle that winds up well for everyone (including some orphans).

Batman: The Animated Series ("Holiday Knights")

Perhaps my favorite all-time cartoon, this holiday one-shot was one of the last episodes of the 1990s TV series. It has three great, different stories that have Bruce Timm's trademark "I get it" take on each character. The first story has Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy kidnap Bruce Wayne and put him under their control, using his money for a huge Christmas shopping spree. In the second story, Batgirl takes on Clayface in a Gotham Department Store during the holiday shopping rush. , Finally, Batman and Robin take on the Joker, who's (understandably) trying to kill all the people at Gotham City's New Year's Eve celebration. Great, solid acting and good story throughout.

I need to add the "Christmas With The Joker" episode to this collection. That episode has Mark Hamill (The Joker) in top form. And he sings a special version of "Jingle Bells".

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Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Justice League Unlimited

I watched Saturday's new Justice League Unlimited last night, and it was pretty impressive -- but probably only for the moments long-time comic book fans will notice.

The tale centers around Deadman (yeah, they actually showcased Deadman -- the whole JLU framework is awesome!), and had some great, subtle vignette moments.

Like Deadman, in ghost form, trying desperately to pull boulders off of a loved one.

They're actually killing people in cartoons. None of this "Oh he's stunned" crap -- but a more believable, non-candy coated, non-gratuitous depiction.

And there's a powerful moment related to Batman and Devil Ray (wasn't he Black Manta in the old Super Friends? What, is that not PC or something?). I won't give the moment away, but if you're a Batman fan, and know what makes him tick (and ticks him off), this may be a pretty powerful moment for you.

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Justice League Unlimited

Justice League Unlimited is finally back after an unnecessarily long hiatus, and last week's episode, "Flash and Substance", was a great return to what makes the series fun.

The series does a fantastic treatment of the wit and heart of the Flash character, and Michael Rosenbaum brings perfect light to the character. Flash also makes a great foil for Batman, and the writers are doing a slick job on the character development front for both.

Speaking of Rosenbaum, kudos to this guy -- he's Lex Luthor on Smallville, and the Flash on Justice League -- bad comic book guy, and good comic book guy.

That rocks, and I will be there someday ...

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