Monthly Archives: March 2006

Liefeld Dislocates Shoulder

I don't hate Rob Liefeld. In fact, I love reading interviews with him just because he's always positive and never slams anybody though he's often on the receiving end of criticism, whether deserved or not.

But the guy's art astounds me more and more with every new piece I see. So this is my new favorite example of skewed Liefeld perspective:

I'm not talking about the dissimilar sizes of Hulk's two shoulders, or the fact that if your right arm is that big you couldn't have a shoulder that small. That's just the usual Liefeld style, a kind of parody of comic book art.

Those could be filed under mere Distorted Anatomy but the way the center of Hulk's right shoulder attaches to the FRONT of his bicep reminds me more of a mind-warping MC Escher drawing. Now it looks right, now it doesn't!

As for where the picture is from, apparently Liefeld is doing a new Marvel project on the tenth anniversary of Heroes Reborn. I admit I was one of those Loeb mentions in the interview whose first Fantastic Four comic was the first issue of Jim Lee's Heroes Reborn series, and whose first Captain America comic was Liefeld's #1 at the same time, though it soon led me to the trades of Waid and Garney's previous runs including "Operation: Rebirth" and "Man Without a Country."

I had just rediscovered comics for the first time since childhood and the Heroes Reborn event accomplished just what it was supposed to, providing an ideal jumping-on point for someone like me. So even though I can't comprehend Liefeld's stylistic idiosyncracies, I don't know why I should be ashamed of my personal collecting and education history.

THE PINK PANTHER

Maybe it's because the last "comedy" I saw was Date Movie (undoubtedly the least funny movie of 2000-2100, and it's relatively early in the century) but I actually found the new Pink Panther kind of funny. (My Pink Panther credentials are a box set of the MGM features, in VHS — with gaps filled in like the Universal Studios' "Return of" — and most of them memorized. Yet, at risk of forfeiting that credibility, I will continue.)

Fortunately, it's not a remake of the best lines of Clouseau strung together and re-enacted by Steve Martin. Unlike Geoffrey Rush who uncannily played Peter Sellers playing Clouseau and other characters in his biopic of the actor, Martin wisely doesn't play Sellers and instead plays Clouseau. So once you quit trying to mentally paste Peter Sellers' face onto Steve Martin (which admittedly takes a few minutes) and think about it as seeing somebody playing Clouseau instead of seeing Clouseau himself — perhaps it's been on Broadway for twenty years and you're seeing the twelfth cast — your suspension of disbelief just might take over and let you enjoy yourself.

I mean, let's face it, we watch PP movies for two things: funny talking and extreme slapstick, preferably involving property damage.This one delivers enough of both, and even continues a few of the recurring gags without repeating them exactly. The only thing missing is an elaborate disguise (though there is a kind of simple one).

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Credit goes to Emily Mortimer and Jean Reno for playing it straight, which helps make up for Kevin Kline's slightly overdone performance (though it's hard to say Herbert Lom was never over the top). The only wasted time is a few moments when we're supposed to feel sorry for Clouseau when he's taken off the case: this isn't supposed to be drama and no one watches Clouseau because they sympathize with him! It's all about laughing at him, not with him.

One of the good bits was Clive Owen playing Agent 006 in a glorified cameo. I can hear you thinking, "Well it really says something about a movie when its best bit is parodying another franchise" but I think it is in the spirit of the Blake Edwards movies which regularly sent up other popular movies, both contemporary and classic. And since Sellers himself played a James Bond in Casino Royale (and Roger Moore had a shocking cameo in "Curse of" while filming Octopussy), it's not an unnatural connection.

Oh yeah, the other thing missing is Cato, Clouseau's Chinese manservant, making me wonder if the prospect of having a character addressed as "my little yellow friend" over and over might have been one of the motivations to make this a sort of "prequel" about Clouseau becoming an Inspector for the first time before Cato had been hired (he wasn't introduced until A Shot in the Dark).

I'm not saying it was necessary to make this movie, but since it was made it's worth a dollar or a rental if you like silly stuff. All I'm saying is, I did laugh. More than once. It's a thousand times funnier than Date Movie. But if you want something to remind you of Sellers, then rent The Life and Death of Peter Sellers.

Remember, it might have been worse: before Martin was hired, Chris Tucker was scheduled to be the new Clouseau! And if nothing else, I can guarantee it's better than the last three Steve Martin comedies (and I haven't even seen Bringing Down the House, Cheaper by the Dozen, or Cheaper by the Dozen 2).

THE WEATHER MAN

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The UK posters for The Weather Man inexplicably advertise it as A Comedy To Brighten Your Day. The US trailer is similarly deceptive, blasting Iggy Pop’s upbeat singalong The Passenger for its last 60 seconds while portraying several feel-good moments which in the movie do not feel good (for another example of trailer deception see The Shining redux). Though it contains many humorous ironies, it is hardly a comedy in the usual sense. It might be considered comic in the classical sense if its catiously stoic ending could be extrapolated as “happy.” But I don’t think it’s surreal enough to be stereotyped even as a “dark comedy”, and that’s why I think it is one of the best movies of the year: though this is artistically accomplished The Weather Man is heartbreakingly realistic.

It is Cage’s most naturalistic acting, without the gimmicks of Adaptation, the manic ticks of Matchstick Men, or the irrepressible charm of Lord of War. Cage never tries to make you like his character despite his faults; he is likeable exactly because he is absolutely pathetic. His unending series of screw-ups, no matter how avoidable, make him sympathetic. The disappointment after disappointment experienced by Cage, often of his own doing, feel not contrived but uncomfortably credible.

Michael Caine also gives a complex performance. The trailer highlights his criticism of his son, but though he is sometimes hurtful to Cage, however unintentionally, he has genuine concern for both his son and grandchildren, and that concern is the cause for his equally genuine embarrassment and disappointment, which leads to the criticism.

The movie feels like a short story, with moments of crisis from ordinary situations and a few surprising plot choices, but they seem organic rather than clever. The problem facing his daughter has an element of rude humor to it but is too sad and widespread a problem to laugh at. Similarly, Cage’s pathetic attempt to cuss out his ex-wife’s boyfriend would be comic relief in most movies, but our understanding of his frustration and the wide camera angle turns us into spectators of a tense moment awkwardly made public, and we feel the shame he heaps on himself.

Other family afflictions are, like the weather, partially out of his control, such as when his unavailibility as a father opens the door for a gut-wrenching menace to threaten his son (the star of About a Boy who has grown a couple feet in three years). It all adds up to the frustration that builds in him — like an upperclass Travis Bickle — but has no release until he adopts some cathartic activities, like archery.

Speaking of catharsis, Verbinkski even manages to turn a cheesy Bob Segar song into a tearjerking moment. And speaking of Verbinski, he seems to be on a genre-conquering roll, having mastered arty horror (The Ring), action adventure (Pirates of the Carribean and sequels), and now drama-with-humor (the adjective “humorous” seems too flippant).

Finally, one of Verbinski’s most striking accomplishments might seem minor but I think is fairly major. For a movie with a good deal of strong language, The Weather Man is the only one I can remember in which every obscenity has bite. It’s the first time I’ve ever “felt” the language in a movie, because every curse word is uttered in such desperation. So that’s just another factor which I think contributes to it being one of the most successful dramas in recent memory, whether “serious” or “comic”.

INSIDE MAN

I saw a sneak preview today of the new Clive-Denzel-Jodie “perfect heist” thriller. I was skeptical of what Spike Lee would do with a genre picture but he acquits himself well and delivers at least the most memorable if not the best hostage negotiation flick of recent memory.

The film dabbles in multiple genres and Lee evokes noir numerous times: Denzel’s detective wears a hat for cyring out loud, and the posey final shot almost makes the entire picture. Denzel’s character is not the usual righteous crusader but a cop who isn’t above making deals that will advance his career as much as solve the case.

Clive Owen reprises his American — yet unmistakably his own — accent from Sin City, and his delicious monotone is perfectly cast for a movie in which we hear most of his lines from behind a half-balaclava (thus providing a coincidental comparison with the other masked antihero I saw in cinema today, played by Hugo Weaving).

The biggest surprise and most interesting role is Jodie Foster’s, playing a new character for the first time in a while. Glad to see her actually utilized as an actress rather than simply hired to add gravitas to a lame role.

Perhaps as expected, its New York location figures heavily in the movie, with lots of locals providing a mix between authenticity and comic relief. However stereotypical, they give their movie the personality every other contribution to the genre lacks. And the couple of times a racial issue is addressed, a disarming joke is made before approaching preachiness.

As for the concept, it seemed convincing enough and I found a few spoken references to previous hostage movies honest rather than self-concscious because the comments reflected exactly what I was thinking as a viewer.

So I think there’s enough else to recommend Inside Man regardless of what you think of Denzel.

Don’t Doubt My Instincts: Part II

Earlier today on the Collected Editions blog, I commented on the 2006 predictions post:

I’m definitely looking forward to trades of both 8-issue stories in the current Batman and Superman titles. I also hope DC is not discouraged to collect “This Is Your Life, Superman” just because it would be a thin volume with only three issues’ worth — maybe they’ll find something else to put with it.

Within hours the June solicitations were released, and it turns out (though it won’t be released till July 12) I was right about “This Is Your Life” getting padded out with other material, to make a 128-page volume for $19.99:

SUPERMAN: INFINITE CRISIS TP
Written by Joe Kelly, Marv Wolfman and Jeph Loeb; Art by Ed Benes, Lee Bermejo, Howard Chaykin, Ian Churchill, Karl Kerschl, Phil Jimenez, Dan Jurgens, Ed McGuinness, Jerry Ordway, Tim Sale and various; Cover by TK

The Earth-2 Man of Steel saw his world fall apart during the events of the original CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS, and now the secret is finally revealed about what happened to him, Lois, and the other remaining survivors of the Crisis – Alex Luthor of Earth-3 and Superboy from Earth Prime!

In this collection including SUPERMAN #226, ACTION COMICS #836, ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN #649 and stories from INFINITE CRISIS SECRET FILES 2006, relive the arrival of Kal-L, the Last Son of Krypton! Learn how he grew up to be the greatest hero of Earth-2. Then watch as Superman is caught by the one person he can’t defeat – Lois Lane – and witness the undying love story of the greatest couple of Earth-2, and how their love could bring about the end of the universe.

This volume also includes a special origin album by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale, the creative team behind SUPERMAN FOR ALL SEASONS!

I’ll still get the IC Secret Files anyway, since there’s no way to know what parts of it will or will not be included in later trades.

First final Kubert image

I like Andy Kubert’s cover for Batman #655:

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It kinda reminds me of Scott McDaniel’s cover for Batman #600:

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