Monthly Archives: July 2006

Recreating

Sorry to say I’ve come down with a bad case of hiatus. Doctor says I should be better in a week or so. See you in August!

Superman (Is Murdered and Ben Affleck) Returns

Only in Hollywood!

When I first heard about this project I thought it was going to be fairly cheesy, like a made for TV movie, and my hopes weren’t improved when I heard Ben Affleck was cast as the guy who played Superman in the 1950s TV show. But now that I see the trailer, it looks much better than I expected, with Bob Hoskins, Diane Lane, and Adrian Brody.

Originally titled “Truth, Justice, and the American Way” (too cynical even for Hollywood I guess), the story of George Reeves’ suicide or unsolved murder now calls itself “Hollywoodland”, a great title to match the very L.A. Confidential-type story. I pretty much hate Ben Affleck’s hammy acting (no matter what Kevin Smith says) but there’s a possibility the return of Affleck after two years of wound-licking and baby-making could actually be worthwhile (though there’s admittedly only one shot of him saying anything in the trailer).

Paris 2054

reniaissance.jpgWhat do you get when you cross Sin City with A Scanner Darkly?

A Sinner Darkly? Nope.

You get Renaissance.

Unfortunately, Daniel Craig’s voice (and even Jonathan Pryce’s) is so distinctive that it’s really hard for me to visually reconcile it with an animated face that doesn’t look like his. Otherwise, the trailer looks pretty cool.

IRON WEST

ironwestcover.jpgI read Iron West in a single sitting. Not because it’s short, but because Doug TenNapel tells the story visually foremost, using dialogue only when necessary. I would love to list my favorite moments (the use of “engines” for instance) but they are good enough to warrant me not spoiling them for you.

Iron West represents TenNapel’s most streamlined storytelling. It is pure story. Gone are his trademark digressions on hobbyhorse issues that, whether you agreed with his point or not, sometimes interrupted the narrative a bit. Perhaps because this is a period piece, such references to our culture were simply impossible. But whatever the reason for their absence, the result is TenNapel’s most efficiently told tale, whose implicit applicability to current politics remains completely subtextual.

It’s also TenNapel’s best piece of extended sequential art for two reasons. First, his style (I believe) has improved, in both drafting and inking. His cartooning is better (compare Iron West’s lead female character to her counterpart in Creature Tech) and his shading technique sometimes resembles the look of a woodcut (particularly appropriate for a Western-themed comic).

Secondly, his unmistakable style matches the story better than any of his previous graphic novels. Though none of his comics can be categorised within a single genre, TenNapel seems to have been born to draw whatever genre Iron West belongs to.

Though it includes them, “Cowboys and Robots” is not a sufficient description of Iron West, and I was surprised a number of times by the ingredients TenNapel adds at regular intervals to his wonderful stew. My only reservation about reading Iron West: don’t read the blurb on the back cover in which Moriarty spoils the magical recipe, because it’s best discovered in the course of experiencing TenNapel’s confection firsthand.

DETECTIVE COMICS #821

I wasn’t going to buy the new issues of Detective Comics by Paul Dini and J.H. Williams III but, like Jon Cormier, when I discovered their debut was a single-issue story I no longer had a good reason not to get it. As both Cormier and warlock note, Detective Comics used to be about mysteries requiring Batman to do some actual detecting, and with #821 Dini puts the Detective back in DC. Furthermore, Batman exploits his connections as Bruce Wayne, as well the persona of Bruce Wayne “himself”, to draw out and discover the villain du jour.

The story begins with a strong narration on the first page that turns out to be Batman himself, and is continued throughout in a tone that sounds very natural to the character. Chalk it up to Dini’s years of experience on Batman: The Animated Series and its subsequent spinoffs. And I haven’t even mentioned the visuals.

But what is there to say except relish the JHWIII art, reminiscent of Jae Lee’s style but made great due to Williams’ sophisticated sense of design. As Tom Bondurant advises:

Savor its done-in-oneness, and remember the years of line-wide crossovers. Notice the painted scene transitions, the deco-font captions, the fact that Robin (!) gets a dramatic reveal. Ponder whether the opening two-page spread, with its judicious use of white impact marks and sound effect, is an homage to the Adam West show. Everything about this comic feels right.

The Prestige footage

The Prestige is bound to be the best movie since . . . the last Christopher Nolan movie:

CHRISTIAN BALE

HUGH JACKMAN

SCARLETT JOHANSSON

PIPER PERABO

and

MICHAEL CAINE

with

DAVID BOWIE

It looks like the Prestige trailer isn’t online yet but some trailer footage was shown on Entertainment Tonight apparently.

UPDATE: The full trailer is online now. And what do you know, the poster looks almost exactly like my overdramatic cast list above!

theprestige_smallposter.jpg

PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: Dead Man’s Chest

Having re-watched Pirates 1 tonight for the first time since seeing it in the theater originally, I am reaffirmed in my opinion of it as slow and overlong… especially the final battle which must last a half hour or so but in which nothing happens till the end (what’s the point of a swordfight if neither party can be injured?!).

However, I never felt that way about Pirates 2 last night even though I was tired. I expected to fall asleep during it but it kept me engrossed throughout. It does the smart thing by putting the pointless action scenes that have no plot relevance at the beginning of the movie when we haven’t started to care yet (and by “we” I mean “I”). I thought Pirates 2 was paced much better, didn’t have the slow start of Pirates 1, was funnier, and the long fight at the end which bored Ryan to death at least changed scenery unlike the swordfight in Pirates 1 which stayed in that same damn cave the whole time! It was nice to see a swordfight on a totally flat beach for a change before the obligatory multi-level hijinks.

Furthermore, Pirates 2 was a much more artistic movie, with many more interesting shots. After liking the style Verbinski used in The Ring, I was disappointed that Pirates 1 was very conventional photographically speaking, but in Pirates 2 he has finally injected a needed bit of style into the franchise. More interesting things are done with the camera from the outset, like the initial 90-degree overhead shot of the ocean which seems to quote Hideo Nakata’s opening shot of The Ring Two. Even the action scenes look better. The last time Captain Jack draws his sword in the movie was cooler than cool and the sideways shot immediately following it was also a thing of beauty.

Though much of Depp’s acting was simply mugging for the camera (moreso than in the first one, that is), he did not exhibit sequelitis on the level of Will Smith in MIB2. In every other way, however, Pirates 2 is a vast improvement over the original. It doesn’t take itself as seriously, Mackenzie Crook and Lee Arenberg almost steal the show with their metaphysical reflections, and now that Orlando and Keria are together there’s no need to waste any more time with the earnestness of their love story. Furthermore, while the first movie seemed intent on proving itself a real movie and not just a theme park advertisement, the sequel finally embraces its derivative nature and revels in references to other movies, from the most recent (Jackson’s King Kong seemed to pervade the first act) to the most classic (20,000 Leagues being the heaviest influence, from the pipe organ to the submersible vessel to the kraken). Tom Hollander is also good to see rejoining Keria after their anti-chemistry in Pride & Prejudice.

I had heard everyone moaning about how long Pirates 2 was, so I was expecting another half hour at the end. I didn’t expect the movie to end until another appearance by Jack, so the appearance of the director’s credit instead took me by surprise. For me, it never felt interminable as the first one did and does. In short, Pirates 1 is still fairly slow and not very fun to rewatch, while Pirates 2 is more interesting with a much higher rewatchability factor.

I am a huge nerd

Not that the fact was ever in doubt, nor that I ever denied it. But I’m now a card- receipt-carrying member of the superhero-statue-owning community.

But not just any statue, mind you! One based on the designs of art god Mike Mignola (he of Hellboy fame). Behold!

mignola.jpg

More Than Meets the Eye

Don’t know how this one slipped by me but there’s a teaser (emphasis on tease) out for the Transformers movie coming out exactly one year from now. (I imagine it’s been shown with Superman since Wednesday but I obviously am out of that loop.)

If ever there was a movie Michael Bay was born to make (besides the perfect-in-every-way The Rock of course) I suppose it’s a live-action realization of the Transformers.