Sunday, August 10, 2008

Am I the Only One?

Has anyone else stopped frequenting Newsarama since they gave their site a facelift? The previous, clean and easily navigable design was user-friendly and to the point. The new design is just busy, with the images distracting from the headlines to the extent that I can no longer tell if there's an article I want to read just by scanning the main page. And if I do sift through the site with greater concentration, I find that their articles are much more Hollywood-oriented and a lot less comics oriented. It's like they're turning into Wizard Magazine.

If I wanted movie and TV news, I'll read imdb or Aint It Cool. I want comics news, damn it, and their site used to be my favorite source. Now it's Comic Book Resources for me... which, in all fairness, was always a close second.

Is that just me? Am I the only one?

I'm a True Believer

At some workplaces, a guy on his last day gets a cake. At cooler workplaces, he gets a stripper. Me?

I get Stan "The Fucking MAN" Lee.

Crappy cell phone photo, but still... Thanks, Barnes & Noble.

Earth X is Love

My last day at the bookstore ended a few hours ago. Weird to end a chapter in my life, but even more weird to consider 9 months working at a bookstore an entire chapter. The new job equals awesome, although I am still adjusting to having a regular weekly schedule and the stress of having my actions at work actually matter.

I was discussing Alex Ross & Jim Krueger's outstanding Earth X trilogy today with a friend and the rarely-viewed short film Ross included in a low-print run hardcover edition came up. I was bemoaning the fact that I had never seen the thing when, suddenly, out of the blue, something occurred to me...


Earth X is one of the greatest single accomplishments ever to come out of Marvel comics, tying together a mythology created haphazardly over decades by writers and artists with no master plan into a single narrative that, suddenly and brilliantly, makes everything seem to have been crafted for a reason. And that reason is Earth X. All the plot holes, all the out of character moments suddenly come crashing together into perfect sense in a tale that, on its own merits, stands as one of the most involving and dramatic storylines in all of Marvel canon. Universe X is a worthy follow-up, as is most of Paradise X (although its ending sure does seem rushed), but Earth X in particular is one of those rare books that I make a point of re-reading every year or two just to remind myself of how good comics, and superhero comics and Marvel comics in particular can be. Just remembering the scene where Peter Parker teaches his daughter the importance of quipping in the face of impending doom still gets me kind of misty-eyed (although that scene was from Universe X - bite me).

But man, this video is actually pretty lame. It's interesting to see Ross's models in costume, but to put them together in such a melodramatic way sure brings to the foreground all the less-than-flattering touches he smoothes over in his artwork. From the fake beards to the awkward facial expressions, but mostly from the bad music to the lack of any sense of Earth X's wonderful narrative (the video's just a series of models in costume standing around), this hardly seems worth including. I'd love to see a documentary with this material - seeing Ross's artistic process, how he puts together first-hand reference material for out of this world characters - but to put it together like some kind of trailer does a disservice to the entire material. A couple of the shots are kind of neat, though.

I don't want to harp on - Ross himself says the project was ill-conceived - but still, it's an odd let down after years of being interested in seeing this thing. I thought Ross was just being too hard on himself, but I'll give him credit... he's a fair self-critic. Still, now that we're getting Marvel animated movies - and pretty good ones too - I think it's time someone gave Earth X the DC's New Frontier treatment. As long as they can have the running time they deserve this time (did New Frontier feel choppy or what?).

Sunday, August 3, 2008


I start my new job tomorrow morning. Normally, this calls for little more than a clean shirt and a shave, but for the first time in about four years I really want to excel at my new position, so I am actually really nervous. To expel this nervous energy, I am now blogging.



I rewatched Rosemary's Baby this week for the first time since high school. I wasn't planning to, but the lovely girl who returns my affections had never seen it and so it was rented. My initial viewing was met with a mixed reaction. While obviously a quality production, the film left me cold at the age of 16. At the age of 26, however, I found myself incredibly affected.

Rosemary's Baby is a classic, and you certainly don't need yet another film critic (not that I define myself as such) telling you the same. Critics have a tendency to build certain films up too much. The Exorcist, for example, is a film that a lot of people claim is "the scariest movie ever made." But to modern audiences, "scary" is frequently equated with "gory," or at least "shocking." While the crucifix scene is still pretty fucked up, the actual horror in the film comes from the mundane, particularly the mother's plight of knowing her child is sick, but finding herself incapable of helping her in any tangible way.

Rosemary's Baby, unlike The Exorcist, has no shocking moments of violence for modern audiences to latch on to. At its heart, it's simply the story of a woman who's pregnancy is... wrong. She isn't gaining weight. She's in inexplicable pain. And all the people who should be in her corner - her husband, her doctor - refuse to listen to her. It's like they want her to suffer, and she just can't figure out why. By the time she comes to the conclusion that there is a very real plot against her, she can't get anyone to see her side of the scenario. "But there are plots against people, aren't there?" she asks a disbelieving doctor, to which even his objective mindset has to agree. Yes, there are, but most of us have never actually seen one.

Pregnancy is scary without the threat of cultists. A person's body goes through unusual changes, and every little thing can seem to threaten the health of not just the conscious adult, but an innocent unborn child as well. Seeing Mia Farrow wasting away when she should be at her most vital is painful to watch, but in the best way possible. An adult would have to be completely heartless not to die a little inside with every passing scene. It's emotionally devastating in a way that few horror films even attempt in this day and age, and a must watch if you haven't, or were a little too young to appreciate it the first time out.


"Who knew?" is the question I asked myself after watching Never Back Down, a blink-and-you-missed-it release from earlier this year. Little more than The Karate Kid with mixed-martial arts as a plot synopsis, the resulting film is a clever take on the familiar American fight genre. New kid in town, has something to prove (mostly to himself), gets his ass handed to him by some jerk dating the girl he likes, takes martial arts classes from a wise master with a troubled past of his own, eventually learns to control his anger and loses his desire for a rematch, but eventually finds himself in the ring against his will. Been there, done that, and too cool to wear the t-shirt, right?

But it's the smaller moments that make Never Back Down worth watching. The screenwriter, Chris Hauty (whose only other IMDb credit is Homeward Bound 2: Lost in San Francisco), knows his stuff. His script hits all the familiar beats that resonate on an emotional level, but when he finds one that has become a cliche, he hits it from the side. The moment where the hero forgives the girl who has wronged him because she too has a troubled past? Well, he's smart enough to know that she's using her backstory as an excuse, forcing her to actually earn his trust through her actions. That works. I'm also fond of the final fight, an underground tournament where we know our hero and our villain will duke it out in the final round, only for their names to be called in the first elimination round. It's simple change, but so logical that it borders on profound. The odds would are equally good that in a tournament they'd fight early on. But by the time it registers, they pull a switcheroo. The hero's generic name was actually called as a result of typo, and we're going to have to wait a while longer. Clever. Not ingenious, but clever, and this kind of storytelling keeps the audience on their toes in what should be well-trod territory.

Never Back Down is not the best movie of the year; not by a long shot. But it may turn out to be the most surprising. I popped the DVD in expecting a one-star movie at best, and ejected it having watched a solid and entertaining three-star film instead. Well worth a rental, believe you me.

Friday, August 1, 2008


I just got a new job starting Monday, and I really wanted this one too. It's back in the film industry, doing something I actually care about. Only one song will do:

Monday, July 28, 2008


Save the Last Dance, have you met Coyote Ugly? Coyote Ugly, Save the Last Dance? I mean, seriously, the try-outs sequence looks exactly like Save the Last Dance. It's spooky.

I love a good dance movie, although they're few and far between. One of the hardest elements in a dance movie trailer, however, is somehow making giving dancing dramatic weight beyond, well, getting freaky. This trailer tries twice, as near as I can tell. First, it emphasizes the difficulty of bookkeeping. "The other bookkeeper? Lasted about week." Damnnnnnnn... Sounds hard.

The second comes when Mary Elizabeth Winstead tries out a second time (!) for the big... dance... thing that she wants. Seriously, that guy's all like, "Bitch, make an appointment!" And she's all like, "I took three buses and a train to get here! I'm hijacking this motherfucking stage and by God you will watch my pelvic thrust!"

Here's hoping the movie ends with the snooty guy saying, "You have certainly learned a lot of new dance moves, but you are apparently a total diva so I'm afraid we will once again have to pass on your application and have your car towed." "But I don't have a car anymore!" "We'll wait."

Another recent favorite dance trailer was for Step it Up 2: The Streets, which for all its various degrees of popping and locking all boils down to one line of dialogue, 1:29 into the video:

"You realize with those competitions you are risking everything!"

Everything? I almost paid good, or at least unnecessary amounts of money just find out what exactly she's risking. Everything? Do the losers get shot in the head? If she dances for "urban" kids will she be kicked out of school? Will she forever lose the ability to become pregnant? Wow, everything. That's a lot.

Sunday, July 27, 2008


1. Haven't blogged in approximately FOREVER and if anyone actually read this I might even apologize. Sigh...

2. Been spending a lot of time with my new girlfriend (GASP!), who is totally awesome and I adore her. So there's an excuse right there for ignoring my legions of non-existent readers.

3. Didn't go to Comic Con AGAIN this year. A friend of mine said he'd try to pick up some stuff for me. I asked him to pick up CHOCOLATE, the new action film from the guys who made ONG-BAK and TOM YUNG GOONG, and L, the spin-off film from DEATH NOTE. Hopefully I'll get them.

4. That said, I COMPLETELY forgot to ask him to pick up the new SCOTT PILGRIM merch they have available this year, and I don't have his number since he's a casual work friend so there's no way in hell I'm getting any. It's literally eating me up inside.

(I would have settled for these damned buttons. Oh well...)

5. THE DARK KNIGHT was built up pretty badly by the surprising number of people I know who got to see it early, so my expectations were pretty high. These expectations were thoroughly trounced when I finally saw the finished product. There may be a couple of loose ends here and there (Batman basically abandons the Joker in a room full of his friends and associates to rescue Rachel early on, which feels like a mistake to me), but these are the definition of nitpicks. One of the best movies I've seen in years, although WALL-E comes damned close.

6. Work is KILLING me, Smalls. Usually when I'm stuck at a job I find boring I spend most of the time coming up with screenplay ideas, but now I'm hitting 2 or 3 good ones a day, then talking myself out of writing them by the time I get home because I'm neurotic like that. That said, I've got a couple new reasonably low-budget horror ideas in the last few weeks that I may try to just pump out in the coming months to add to my portfolio.

(Expectations? Exceeded.)

7. Reading the new ZOT! trade paperback by Scott McCloud. UNDERSTANDING COMICS practically changed my life when I first read it back in high school, but despite that I always wondered who this Scott McCloud guy was and what made him so qualified to define comics for a generation. Now that I'm reading ZOT! I am convinced that he's the real deal... someone who can DO, not just teach. Check out the trade paperback if you can, it's worth the read. And if you can find it in a back issue bin, read the Superman mini-series he wrote a few years ago called SUPERMAN: STRENGTH. It stands alongside some of Grant Morrison's finer issues of ALL-STAR SUPERMAN as my favorite Supes stories of all time.

(Maybe he's an asshole, but at least in this one he's a likable asshole.)

8. Finally got around to watching PAYBACK: STRAIGHT UP, Brian Helgeland's director's cut of that Mel Gibson revenge movie from the late 90's, and it's a much better film. They undid that atrocious color-timing that took a well-shot movie and made it look, well, blue. REALLY blue. It was pretty oppressive and helped ruin my enjoyment of the film the first time around. Also, the score, the tone and the ending are vastly improved. I know I'm a little late on this, but if you hadn't heard of it or were simply uninterested before, I'd recommend checking it out.

(There's an entire book to be written about Erig Bogosian's performance in UNDER SIEGE 2, but I sure as hell don't want to write it...)

9. I've been reading Vern's SEAGALOGY, and it's a pretty entertaining examination of the action star's oeuvre. B-Movies are frequently disregarded in the critical community as being beneath their scholarly attention, and while Vern may not have proved them wrong, he does provide a nice counterpoint.

10. In related news, a critical studies book I myself have been ruminating for some time may finally start getting typed out in the next few months. I don't want to say too much about it on the off-chance it doesn't get written (as is likely to happen with me), but I've been pretty frustrated at my lack of output lately and trying something different like an actual BOOK-book may be just the ticket. I'm debating starting a new website to feature the material I come up with to help promote the book, but again, this is all probably a long way away.

11. A screenplay I beated out earlier this week went from being a fairly clever idea for a low-budget revenge movie and became this pretentious rumination on loss and redemption. As a result, all the fun got ripped out of the idea and I'm probably going to scrap it altogether, as there's no point in making an action movie that will depress an audience more than IN THE BEDROOM.

12. A similar project got stalled when a sexually charged horror movie born from my own frustration with the opposite sex lost all of its appeal to me when I finally found romance again with a member of the opposite sex. All that anger I had reserved for the page got smooched out of me, and while it's still a really good idea and I am likely to return to it someday, I'm just not in the mood anymore right now.

(Great book. Maybe I'll finish it one day.)

13. UNFINISHED BOOK #102398 - HOMICIDE: A YEAR ON THE KILLING STREETS by David Simon. I loved THE WIRE and almost meant to read this thing, so I picked it up from work and fell in love with it... then got distracted and forgot to read it for a while. I may not get back to it anytime soon, which bugs me. I also picked up Shirley Jackson's WE HAVE ALWAYS LIVED IN THE CASTLE, which I'm excited about because I love her work and it's short enough that I may actually finish this one.

(I have judged this book by it's cover, and it is very, very good.)

14. Had my first run-in with "image retention" on my plasma-screen TV. I just about had a heart attack. Luckily, the problem was relatively minor and I was actually able to fix it(!) using the "SCROLL BAR" function on the TV's menu screen. It took about an hour longer than it was supposed to, but at least I got it to work. Thanks for thinking up a solution to that little SNAFU, Panasonic.

(I approve.)

15. Loving the t-shirts coming out of the ASTROBASEGO website for the new VENTURE BROS. season on Adult Swim. Well, most of them. I ordered an ORDER OF THE TRIAD shirt and that ugly grey one with the brown letters that says DEAN! on it. Fans of the show may remember that shirt being mentioned on one of the commentary tracks for the DVD releases. I thought they were just spitballing, but I'm glad they remembered it because it was and still is a pretty funny idea. Now if they'd just arrive in the damned mail...

16. I figured MOTHER OF TEARS would be in theaters for more than a week, so I missed my opportunity to see it on the big screen. As an Argento fan who has never been able to see his work in the theater, I'm pretty danged bummed about it. I'm still hoping the New Beverly will have a double-feature with INFERNO or SUSPIRIA sometime soon so I can fix that problem, however.

17. Everyone's talking about the WATCHMEN trailer, and while it does look a lot like the book, I do have some reservations, but also some potential for forgiveness. My initial concern arose when I recognized the SMASHING PUMPKINS song from the trailer. Did anyone else catch that it's from the BATMAN & ROBIN soundtrack, and was used in pretty much every commercial for that film? Is that really what Zach Snyder wants to evoke here? And the Joel Schumacher-esque quality of Ozymandias' uniform is pretty disturbing, although almost thematically appropriate given that he's the hero who sold out and made himself into an action figure. If that's where they're going with it, I can cut them some slack.

Monday, March 31, 2008


I was once among you, living and breathing in blissful ignorance of the true power of my DVD player... until this weekend.

Having come into some money recently, I decided that I would finally find myself a nice HDTV and settle down. I had been enjoying a standard tube-based television, a gift from a close friend who moved a few years ago and didn't need it anymore. The screen was pleasantly large, and my DVDs appeared just fine via a standard red/white/yellow video/audio cable. Over the past few years, however, standard wear-and-tear began to appear. The power button on the front of the set broke, but the remote control was all we ever used and worked fine, so I ignored this as a cosmetic deficiency and, hey, the price was still right. More annoying were the speakers, which had begun to blow out creating a noticeable but ignorable hiss whenever the TV was set to a reasonable volume.

Then I got myself an HDTV, and the difference is remarkable. DVD is nothing when it isn't connected via component cables - this is a simple fact. I had no idea the image from my seven year old DVD player could look so good. So it's nice to know that even though a PS3 is in my near future, I don't actually have to replace my already massive DVD collection (which was annoying enough when I had to convert from VHS to DVD in the first place).

So, standard DVD player looking great. Took me about a day before I realized that I hadn't reset my DVD player to display anamorphic (I thought the formatting looked off). The real joy has come from my XBOX 360, now displaying at 1080i. HOLY FLURKING SHNIT. Bioshock is now the prettiest thing I have ever seen that wasn't a woman.

As a test, I downloaded episode 2.01 of Lost off of XBOX Live and borrowed a friend's DVD to compare the image between standard, already impressive anamorphic DVD and HD displays. The reduction in digital noise and deep, rich blacks are the biggest eye-grabbers. It's a marked improvement, even at only 720p on a set capable of 1080p, and cements my need to get a Blu-Ray player soon.

I was going to wait, but God bless the Best Buy Rewards system. After buying my TV, I checked how many points I was awarded (accumulate a certain amount of points and receive a coupon for X dollars off). Lo and behold, I'm getting a $250 coupon. That PS3 is practically payed off already. This in addition to the ridiculously low price I received on the TV (about $600-750 off comparable sets elsewhere), and Best Buy's policy of matching and improving upon price differences between local competitors (knocking off an additional $360), and boy, can you get a good deal on these things.

To make a long story short (too late), HDTV is completely worth it. There are a lot of fantastic deals you can find for yourself with a just an hour or two of research online, and the difference in quality is intrinsically obvious with even your existing DVD player. I knew I wanted one, but I didn't fully realize how much until I got one home.


1. DON'T FORGET TO ADJUST THE DISPLAY MODE ON YOUR DVD PLAYER TO ANAMORPHIC. It's easy to fix, and easy to forget about if you've had a standard 4:3 television for years and never had to fiddle with it. While you're at it, don't forget to adjust the settings on any videogame settings as well. They'll automatically look better already, but they'll look at least twice as good using their maximum output.

2. CUSTOMIZE YOUR VIDEO DISPLAY YOURSELF. When I purchased my HDTV, I asked about the video displays at the store. They're automatically set to factory default setting that pumps up the contrast and the color to a degree that is literally painful to watch when you look at it for too long. When I asked about configuration, the salesperson offered a service in which a professional comes to your home and adjusts them for you... for 300 dollars extra. I didn't pay for this extra, but was slightly concerned when I got home that I wouldn't be able to get the display to look right. WRONG. There are several settings available automatically on my set, and it only took the slightest tweaking to get the image to look as natural as can be.

3. GET AS MANY COMPONENT/HDMI INPUTS AS POSSIBLE. Trust me, once you see the difference, they're all you'll want to use.

If I discover any other extras or defects I'll update later, but if anyone reads this who doesn't think there's a difference in video quality between your standard TV and HDTV, you genuinely don't know what you're talking about.


Monday, March 24, 2008

Dreamcasting 1.01 - The Fantastic Four

I'm avoiding work on this comic book script, and not the one I'm supposed to be working on either. So that's twice as much procrastination as usual! Anyway, I think dreamcasting is always kind of fun, so here's the first installment.

According to Chris Evans, it looks like Fantastic Four 3 is out of the question now, and since Marvel has no qualms about restarting even the most recent of franchises I figure someone over there has to be thinking about doing FF correctly. I think we can all agree that whether you hated or tolerated Tim Story's two "Fantastic" films, neither of them were anywhere near as fantastic as they could have been.

The rules? No actors can return from the original films, even if they were good the first time around (sorry Chris Evans and Michael Chiklis). Also, no actors who have starred in prominent roles in other superhero movies (sorry Christian Bale and Tobey Maguire). And since this is an ensemble cast, no huge stars can be present, as they would either distract from the team dynamic or become too cost-prohibitive to cast en masse.

Let the dreamcasting begin!


Paul Bettany has played a number of intellectuals already, is considered reasonably attractive though never quite the leading man, making him kind of perfect. And he's lanky enough to be called "Stretch" before his powers even kick in. Although older than Hollywood would perhaps like to make Mister Fantastic, the character was kind of an old stick-in-the-mud when he appeared, and was popular enough to sell more issues in a single month than most Hollywood movies can sell tickets these days. So there has to be something to the "old charm."


Beautiful, intelligent and a plausible blonde, Claire Danes fits Susan Storm to a "t." She's also about 8 years younger than Paul Bettany, which once you reach your late twenties is just enough age difference to be a plot point, but not a creepy one. She's got her action movie chops (the under-rated Terminator 3), but most importantly she has a strong, confident on-screen presence that will help prevent her character from being the token, damsel-in-distress woman that basically happened to Jessica Alba in the first two movies.


Slightly younger than Claire Danes, check. Same ethnicity so they actually look like they could be siblings? Check. Blonde? Check. Bad-ass rising star who should have been nominated for an Oscar for 3:10 to Yuma? Check. Foster's going to be one of the hottest commodities within the next few years if talent is any indication, so the time is now to snatch him up to play the flighty, flamboyant and flambe Johnny Storm. And yeah, he already played Angel in X-Men 3... for about two minutes. And pretty much every human being has strived to forget that movie anyway, so I think the slate's fairly clean.


Adam Baldwin redefined "rough on the outside, cuddly on the inside" in Joss Whedon's Firefly, and has continued that career path on the surprisingly entertaining series Chuck. Sure, we've never seen him attempt a genuine Yancy Street accent, but he's a professional. Hell, he's worked with Stanley Kubrick. He has it in him.


Alicia Masters is lovable, pure and simple. Naturally beautiful (that is, I don't think she spends too much time in front of a mirror), but she has to have a quality that makes everyone immediately recognize what a wonderful person she is. It is this quality, after all, that eventually saves the damned planet. Can't think of anyone better than Zooey Deschanel, the adorable star of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and Tin Man. Though perhaps a bigger name than the role suggests, she's still not getting any major lead roles at the moment, so instead of distracting the audience with her smaller role, she should instead make audiences see her as a more intrinsic part of the core dynamic.


The trick with casting Victor Von Doom is that, as much as you'd want to cast Gary Oldman, Viggo Mortensen, or any of those other wonderful actors with a bigger-than-life presence, he still needs to be the same age as Reed Richards. They were, after all, in college together. So who, then, has a dark charisma, and preferably a career of being an also-ran despite an enormous amount of skill to help the actor stay in character? Karl Urban, so charismatic in The Two Towers, yet so incapable of finding a decent starring role (Doom, The Pathfinder), is perfect. And we already know that he's comfortable wearing a full suit of armor.


A minor villain, but when the Fantastic Four reveal themselves to the public for the first time, they certainly can't A) defeat Doctor Doom, because the FF can never really defeat him anyway, and to do so in the first act would utterly diminish him as a franchise villain, or B) fight some chump, or faceless group of terrorists. The Mole Man's appearance, tied in directly with the Negative Zone portal built by Richards (we're using the Ultimate Origin, incidentally), as a wrangler of inter-dimensional monsters kicks the action off with a bang, and allows Ray Winstone to go nuts as the underlord of Manhattan.


At the end of Fantastic Four, Doctor Doom can't be defeated or his presence over the sequels won't hold any weight. So instead, he has to be set back. The best way to do this is to use a villain that even Doom wants to defeat, forcing an uneasy alliance between our heroes and their greatest nemesis. After a perceived "first strike" by the Fantastic Four against the Negative Zone, Annihilus invades Earth in retaliation. And the only way to top a well-written Doctor Doom is to have the top villain in Hollywood, Gary Oldman, play his greatest threat.

What do you think, sirs?

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Meet Snake-Eyes in What is Apparently a Dark Alley

My response to the new stills of Snake-Eyes in Stephen Sommers' G.I. Joe?

Well, at least Snake-Eyes looks right. It's nice to see that filmmakers have realized that it's important to see costumed live-action characters in interesting lighting when introducing them to an existing fanbase. Remember those X-Men pics that everyone hated, with flat lighting, flat backgrounds, that made some eventually really sweet costumes look like utter crap?