Thursday, September 30, 2010

Meet the Spartans

Yeah, I watched this one too. What can I say? It was a Wednesday night and it was on FX. What, am I not gonna watch it? Well, if it had been up to my girlfriend Shannon, I guess I wouldn't have watched it, because she kept yelling at me to change the channel. But when nothing else was on, she finally relented. And I thought it was kinda funny. She disagreed, saying that it was, more or less, the worst movie ever made. I think we're both probably right.

When it comes to comedy movies, many people might mistakenly assume that I have "bad taste." I can understand this point of view (I did just admit to watching -- and liking -- Meet the Spartans), but I don't think it's entirely accurate. When it comes to comedies, I have an unspoken agreement with filmmakers: If all you want to do is make me laugh, chances are good I'll laugh. I guess what I'm saying is that I have a broad sense of humor and watch comedies because I like to laugh and enjoy jokes. I just don't understand why movies like this piss people off so much. Because they are bad? Because they aren't all that funny? Whatever. Then don't watch them. But, seriously, mention you watch a movie like Meet the Spartans, and 99% of the people who hear you will react like, "Why the hell did you watch that piece of crap?!" And those people, of course, never actually saw the movie.

Well, I saw it, and sure... it's a piece of crap. But it still made me laugh -- sparingly to be sure, but laugh I did -- and it mostly kept a smile on my face. It was just a dumb, silly, raunchy movie filled with poop and fart jokes. Anyway, I'd rather watch this again than something mean-spirited and pretentious like Juno or most Judd Apatow movies. There were enough fun little scenes that kept me laughing that I kept on watching -- like the scene where the Spartans go up against a bunch of street kids in a Yo mama contest, or where the Spartans take a break from fighting by getting some drinks at a Starbucks type shop in the Pass of Thermopylae.

Most of the jokes didn't work, of course. There were way too many references and "parodies" that were little more than copying (or merely mentioning) characters and scenes from popular culture with no real context or point of view other than just repetition. Like the scene where Venom and Sandman fought. How was that a parody of Spider-Man 3? All that happened was Venom and Sandman fought. There was nothing funny about it, although I'm not going to complain about seeing Carmen Electra in a skin-tight Venom suit. Shannon said that Electra looked old and bad, but I told her she was crazy. Then there were dozens upon dozens of characters showing up just to do bad impressions of popular figures, almost all of which were so bad the other characters actually had to say things like, "Shut up, Dane Cook," so you'd know who was being impersonated. There was one scene where king Xerxes (played by that gross fat guy from Borat -- kinda funny) brought out a monster to fight the Spartans, and it was actually a guy dressed up like Rocky. They panned the camera down to his trunks, where the name "Rocky" was printed on them in big letters, as though we didn't know that it was supposed to be Rocky. Thanks, guys who made Meet the Spartans. You really think your jokes are going to go over most people's heads?

And now I'll talk about the cast quickly, who didn't do anything all that spectacular or funny (like I said about, Carmen Electra was one of the main stars), but they still managed to walk away from this movie with most of their pride intact. The star of the film (who later starred on that awful Comedy Central show Krod Mandoon, or whatever it was called. See, even I have standards!), should've received an Oscar or something for all of the terrible dialogue he had to read, horrible jokes he had to recite, and embarrassing situations in which he found himself while still managing to get some laughs out of the audience. I don't know his name and I certainly don't think he was a great leading man or notable comic talent, but he made me laugh. I liked him. Just check out his delivery of this wookie joke and try to tell me you didn't laugh.

And then we had Kevin Sorbo, who is always funny and charming, but I'm mostly mentioning him to say that, at age 52, my boy still looks amazing and has a rockin' body. Nice work, Kev!

So, yeah. Meet the Spartans. Don't seek it out, pay money for it, or even sit down to watch it if you have anything the least bit pressing or engaging that you could do instead. But if you find yourself bored on a Wednesday night and it happens to be on FX, you could do worse than check it out. Just don't blame me for it!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

IMDB

Is it just me or was the recent redesign to the IMDB the worst thing that's happened to the internet since Goatse?

That's all.

MacGruber

This one was all right. It was definitely funny, and there were a few times where I actually laughed out loud pretty hard, but it just wasn't so funny that I'd feel comfortable recommending it to anybody else. It wasn't as funny as I was hoping it would be, but it was probably as funny as I was expecting it to be. Anyway, long story short, it was funny. I paid a dollar to rent it and I felt satisfied that I got my money's worth. But had it been two dollars, I might've had more renter's remorse.

For those unaware, MacGruber was a film based on the long-running SNL skit where Will Forte plays a character based on MacGyver, only McGruber is mostly incompetent and a total asshole. It was a funny skit, that usually lasted about thirty seconds or go, and almost always (or just always?) ended with MacGruber blowing himself up somehow. Funny and often very clever. When adapting that concept to the big screen, they made the decision to expand it beyond just a McGyver parody and making it a lampoon of all big, 80s action movies. Just about every cliche is in here, from having the reluctant hero living out his life in a monastery to an absolutely brilliant montage sequence where MacGruber goes around the country, assembling his old of mercenaries. This was funny stuff.

Even more funny were the scenes where Will Forte was just allowed to talk and go off on tangents that served zero purpose. Forte is a gifted comedian who brought a lot to such a stupid, one-note character. And his chemistry with Ryan Phillipe and Kristen Wiig was great, although this was definitely Will Forte's movie which gave Wiig very little to do. This was unfortunate because Wiig is a hilarious performer, so she should've been given a bit more screen time, or at least been casting as something other than just another straight man to the crazy MacGruber. This movie was basically just Will Forte acting crazy while everybody else just looked confused and said he was crazy. A few more funny characters would've added a bit more comic interest.


But, at the end of the day, I laughed a lot. Maybe not as often or as hard as I wanted to, but laugh I did. MacGruber is a funny character, Val Kilmer gave a pretty good performance as the villain, and the jokes were really strange and raunchy and outrageous. Here's a sample piece of dialogue from the IMDB memorable quotes page:

MacGruber: Looks like you're keeping your bod pretty tight.
Frank Korver: You're looking pretty good yourself.
MacGruber: Well, everday's a workout when you gotta carry around a 20 pound python in your jeans.
Frank Korver: You and your dick comments.
MacGruber: It's fun to say them.
Frank Korver: It's fun to hear them.
MacGruber: That's why I say them.
Frank Korver: And that's why I listen.

If you thought that was funny, you'll think this movie was funny. I don't judge, because I thought it was funny. I also learned from the audio commentary that the above dialogue was all improvised. I'm not sure what that says about the people involved, but it probably says something.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Classic Review: Avengers West Coast #s 42-57

In March of 1989, John Byrne took over The West Coast Avengers as writer and penciller. This run (that spanned a year and a half and 17 issues), saw the death of the Vision, the resurrection of the original Human Torch, the total mental breakdown of the Scarlet Witch, the creation of the Great Lakes Avengers, and so much more. There was also a title change (to Avengers West Coast) and a couple of inter-company cross-over tie ins here and there. All in all, it was a fantastic comic book run that definitely holds up as one of my favorite runs from the early 90s, as well as one of my favorite runs by John Byrne in general.

Issue #42 starts with the disappearance of long-time Avenger The Vision, who at that point in his life was happily happily married to the Scarlet Witch and the father of her twin babies. That happiness didn't last long for either character, since he the Avengers quickly learned that he was kidnapped and dismantled completely. This was the start of the Witch's turmoil, and it was her descent into madness that really set the entire tone for Byrne's run. She was definitely at the forefront of every major storyline, and it was all brilliantly set up and well handled until, well, until Byrne was forced off the title and replaced with another creative team who mostly aborted his storyline. But we'll probably get to that later.

Byrne used the dismantling of the Vision not only as the catalyst for his storyline with the Scarlet Witch, but as an excuse to do some serious housecleaning as well. It was always firmly established that the Vision had been created from the body of the original Human Torch (who fought with Captain American in the Invaders way back in the 30s and 40s), but Byrne cleverly managed to retcon that and bringing the character back and having him join the team. It was clever and mostly well done, but all of the expository dialogue used to justify and explain how this came to be was somewhat awkward and heavy-handed, and it never really made sense why he was so quick to join the West Coast Avengers so soon after coming back to life after having been "dead" for decades. He doesn't want to go back home or look up any old relatives? He doesn't want to reconnect with Namor or Captain America? He's really fine with just shacking up in a house with Wonder Man, Hank Pym, and a bunch of other people he's never met or even heard of? But, whatever. It managed to work over all because Byrne is a clever writer and he did such a good job of making the Human Torch fit in, not only as an Avenger the others would want around, but as a character the reader wanted around as well.

An even better inclusion to the team, in my opinion, was having the US Agent forced on the West Coast Avengers by the US government. US Agent was also a favorite character of mine, and having him assigned to the team against the wishes of the other members created a lot of fun tension and friction. Also, I'm the kind of guy who likes to follow rules and has high expectations of those around me, so I always sympathized with US Agent's role in the team. I always liked it him and thought he was a great hero. Unfortunately, there was just too much else going on during this run, so US Agent didn't get time to shine as much as I would've liked. And then it wasn't very long before the next creative team got rid of him all together, a decision I never liked very much.

Also, if you are a huge fan of Tigra, Hawkeye, Mockingbird, or Vision, you wouldn't find a lot to love about these stories, since those characters are mostly pushed to the side in favor of the Scarlet Witch, Wonder Man, and Hank Pym. They got the most "screen time" for sure, which is fine with me because I love all of these characters, especially Pym and Wonder Man, but it did suck to have Hawkeye quit the team so abruptly and most vanish from the book. It was awesome seeing him as the leader of the Great Lakes Avengers, but that storyline went nowhere fast. I wonder if they wanted to spin that off into a new series. I can't remember whatever happened to that team, but I always enjoyed their stories. And Tigra was almost nonexistent, spending most of her time in cat form in a subplot that went absolutely nowhere. But that's ok because nobody's favorite character is Tigra.

One major problem with trying to read any extended run from the 90s is all of the inter-company crossovers that keep intersecting with very little intersection. One issue began after the events of the Atlantis Attacks cross-over ran through the entire Marvel Universe, effecting all of the characters, which made for a seriously abrupt shift between issues with very little explanation. And then, just a few issues after that, there was a major tie-in to the Acts of Vengeance company cross-over that wasn't set up at all and yet had its resolution in an episode of West Coast Avengers. If you aren't familiar with Acts of Vengeance or Atlantis Attacks, you'll be very confused, and the editors didn't help matters by attempting to add any footnotes or references.

But these comics work and remain well worth reading because John Byrne is a fantastic writer and one of the greatest comic book artists of all time. There is just something right about the way he draws super heroes. He gives them a sense of grandeur and personality, and his sense of pacing and design is perfect. The inking on these books is something of a mixed bag, however, with some really poor work done by Mike Machlan. His inks range from being ok to being down right ugly. Byrne finally inks himself on issue 49, and the contrast between his line work and Machlan's is striking. After that, Paul Ryan takes over, and he proves that he is just as good an inker as he is a penciller. The combination of Byrne's pencils and Ryan's inks is beautiful.

Byrne is also a wonderful comic book writer who keeps things interesting, exciting, and fresh. Byrne stories are always interesting and unique and wonderfully entertaining. I remember one letter writer in one of his books once referred to him as the master of the subplot, and it's very true. His stories are always full of foreshadowing and subplots that often don't play out until months down the line. Obviously, this is a problem when he is only on a book for a year or so and is unable to finish any of the subplots he sets up, but they are still fun to read. There was one subplot in this run that I'm pretty sure set up a plot that he later wrote for the regular Avengers comic. I'm not sure if he was planning on using it for West Coast but he left the title so soon, or if he actually intended to have a subplot in this book that played out in a different book.

Anyway, I loved this books as much now as I did when I first read them. John Byrne is a master of comic boo storytelling, and his run on West Coast Avengers was one of the high points of his career in my opinion. Check 'em out. This is good stuff.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Video Clip of the Week: OK Go White Knuckles

I'm going to go ahead and say that this is, probably, the best music video I've ever seen. It's simply extraordinary. In fact, it's too good, because I don't even notice the music.

The Event

I watched the first episode of this new NBC show over the weekend, and I thought it was pretty entertaining. I mean, it had to be entertaining, since it seems to be a show based purely on "WTF?!" moments with no real answers anywhere in sight. Every scene built up to some mystery that ended on a cliffhanger at a commercial break, until the final moment of the episode that ended on a real cliffhanger. I have no idea what this show is going to be about, received no real investment in any of the characters, or have any faith that answers will be all that forthcoming any time soon, but, again, I liked it. It was exciting and clever and a lot of fun to watch.

I really don't have much to say about this show, if only because nothing happened yet. A girl got kidnapped (maybe), a plane got hijacked, and there was an attempt to crash it into the president's press conference. And that was the entire episode, but it was all told with shifting time lines and changing points of view, so the same ten minutes or so of storytime was extended across an entire episode. After every scene, some other scene would begin with the title "Ten months earlier," "Five minutes earlier," or "13 months, two days, and six minutes before last Tuesday." Considering all the shifts in times and locales, they did a really good job of keeping the story simple and easy to follow. The cast seems to be pretty good, with especially memorable performances by that little latino guy (or maybe he just has black hair, I dunno) and Blaire Underwood as the president. Just as an aside, now that we actually have an African American president, can't we go back to having a white man as president again in our movies and TV shows? I'm not complaining here, but when was the last time you saw a president that wasn't either a black man or a white woman? I guess the next step would be a black woman president.

Anyway, the Event was neat, but it did seem a little by the numbers, as though it was based around the concept of keeping people in suspense at that's it. Which is fine, because people love suspense, but let's hope the story and the characters prove to be worth it.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Image Comics: Odds and Ends

The other day, I wrote a little bit about the founding of Image Comics and gave my brief, personal opinions and reflections on the main titles put out by the main Image partners, but that was just the tip of the iceberg. Right away, Image attempted to establish itself as a major publishing house, so they began recruiting as many popular comic artists as they could and put out dozens of titles, some of which were successful, and some (probably most) were not. Just because I've been thinking about Image lately, even going so far as to rummage through my old back issues, so a lot of these titles are on my mind and I may as well get this out of my system for good.

And, anyway, this is my blog and I just want to talk a little bit about Image Comics. When you get your own blog you can discuss tort reform or the economy or whatever the hell it is real adults care about. Until then, let's talk Image Comics. By no means is this going to be any kind of exhaustive or complete list of early Image titles. These are just a small handful of the titles I remember reading or think are notable. In no particular order:

The Maxx: What a weird, perplexing, challenging, awesome comic. The Maxx was the brainchild of Sam Kieth, who I had only really been aware of as a fairly prolific cover artists and for his brief stints on Sandman and The Incredible Hulk. But straight away, it became clear that The Maxx was what he was born to do, or, at least, that kind of weird, alternative, non-superhero comic book.

The Maxx is a difficult comic book to describe. It was a series about a social worker named Julie Winters and a homeless man, who was also an enchanted bunny in human form who was able to cross between our dimension and a parallel world similar to the Australian Outback. Together they fought against Mr. Gone, a serial killer and rapist with supernatural powers who is linked to Julie and The Maxx and can also travel between both dimensions. Or something. It's been a long time since I've read through the entire series (although I still own every issue), and even then I didn't really understand most of it. It was drawn and plotted by Sam Kieth, with dialogue supplied by the always very good Bill Messner-Loebs. The Maxx was unique among Image Comics in that it was hard to follow and difficult to understand not because it was poorly written or ill thought-out, but because it was actually brilliant.

It never really fit in at Image, if only because it was somewhat subversive, extremely challenging, and could only be considered a "superhero" comic in the most limited sense imaginable. It lasted for 35 issues, which is actually very impressive for an early Image comic, most of which were lucky to make it past issue 4 or 5. Its success was probably due to its story finding a devout cult following, while its gorgeous, over the top art made it popular with the Image fanboys. Cool comic, and it was later turned into a fairly mediocre cartoon on MTV.

Trencher: Trencher was even weirder than The Maxx, if that's even possible. Anyway, it was weirder for different reasons. Trencher was written and drawn by the always interesting Keith Giffen and detailed the adventures of a repo man who had to reclaim souls that had been accidentally reincarnated into super-powered heroes and villains. Or something like that. It was basically just a showcase for Giffen's brilliantly funny dialogue and off the wall artwork. It was so off the wall and so poorly received by critics and readers that it was yanked after only four issues, but I thought it was awesome.

Trencher was just an incredibly funny, clever comic book by one of the industry's best writers. Giffen was a very funny writer on Justice League and Ambush Bug, but this was the title that really let him go crazy and cut loose with every wild idea he ever had. Over the four issues, the main character found a guy with super-powered nose hair, an eldery woman who was also a Nazi cyborg named Cher Noble, and too many other oddballs too crazy to describe here. And the artwork was just insane and so full of detail that your eyes would hurt after finished just a few pages.

Anyway, I thought it was all great fun and I was sorry to see it get canceled. I'm mostly alone in my opinions, however, since I've met very few people who even remember the comic, and of those most thought it was awful. But I liked it.

Shaman's Tears: One of the things I respected about the Image founders was how they gave jobs to some of their idols who had hard times finding jobs in the 90s. They hired and solicited titles by such guys as Keith Giffen, Walter Simonson, Alan Moore, and countless others, including Mike Grell, who was a major comic star in the 70s and 80s. Of course, one of the things for which I have zero respect for the Image founders was how they fired most of those guys and canceled their books because weren't selling enough.

Mike Grell's Shaman's Tears was one such fatality, that never had a chance of surviving as a "hot book" in that climate, even though it had the Image logo to generate that much more interest. It was just too thoughtful, too slow paced, and too intelligent to make it on the stands alongside titles like Lady Death or Spawn or a million X-titles. But it was a very well done book with a cool story and wonderful artwork. But even I'll admit that it was a bit too boring and unfocused. It had heavy sci-fi elements against the backdrop of Native American spirituality and mysticism. Neat idea that was pulled off fairly well, but it just didn't hook me all that much. But I was still sorry to see Mike Grell get the boot by Image, since he was (and still is!) a great comic book talent.

1963: This was a fun homage to the early Marvel Age of comics written by Alan Moore and drawn by a bunch of different artists for each of the six issues in the mini-series. The art work, dialogue, and tone were all pretty much perfect pastiches of those early comics by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, and company, but they were also fun enough and so well done that they worked on their own as good stories in their own right. This was just a neat, fun title with good stories and fun art.

It wasn't all in good fun, however, since some of the fake ads and made up letters to the company had some jokes that were a little too pointed and mean-spirited again Marvel's early days, and of Stan Lee in particular. I don't really too many of the jokes, but I do remember there being a real smugness to them, and thought that Moore was judging Lee and his company far too harshly and somewhat unfairly. But the stories themselves were great fun and seemed to be done in the right spirit.

WildStar: Rounding out the short list of books created by noted comic book icons that were quickly canceled, was WildStar by Al Gordon and Jerry Ordway, two of the finest comic book creators of all time. WildStar was a really cool, sci-fi take on traditional superheroes, featuring time travelers, aliens, monsters and characters who wear organic costumes that give them super powers. High concept and a lot of fun. Of course, it didn't sell as much as something with Jim Lee or Rob Liefeld art on the cover, so it got yanked.

It was a very cool comic, however, with a neat storyline and some stellar art by Jerry Ordway. Ordway is up there as one of the most perfect comic book artists the industry has ever seen. He just has impeccable drafting skills and perfect storytelling acumen.  It was also masterfully inked by Al Gordon, who also wrote the comic and created the characters.

This was a good one that only lasted a few issues, but it's worth checking out if you can find it on ebay or something. I'm sure it will be cheap.

Stupid: This comic was stupid. I guess Image wanted to prove that they had a sense of humor about themselves, so they published this along with another spoof comic called Splitting Image by Don Simpson. Neither was very funny, but probably because the company lacked the bite needed to truly mock their own titles as viciously as their critics were. It had some cute art by Hillary Barta, but it just wasn't all that funny, nor was the company really established enough to offer that much to parody.

Also, why make a comic parodying books by people like Todd McFarlane and Rob Liefeld when their books were already the laughing stocks of the comic book industry?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Mist

This movie took me by surprise. Considering how poorly it was received upon its original release, how little money it made, and the bad word of mouth I've heard from friends who saw it, I expected it to be pretty awful. I've had it on my Nextflix queue for months now, moving it up and down as I found myself more interested in other films or TV shows. I wanted to see it, but something kept holding me back. Also, it's a Stephen King film, and those are rarely good, right? But it was a Stephen King film directed by Frank Darabont, and those are always good, right? So I finally decided to go ahead and watch it, and it was awesome. Maybe it was because my expectations were so low, or maybe... just maybe... it was just awesome.

The story couldn't be more simple: A mysterious mist blows into a rural Maine town, and it brings monsters along with it. The main characters are trapped in a supermarket as they try to weather the story and survive until the mist passes and the monsters go away. It was a very cool novella by Stephen King, about which I remember very little other than that I loved it when I read it years ago. This film changed a lot and had a completely different ending, but it was still very faithful in terms of plot and character and overall tone. The ensemble cast of characters definitely all seemed as though they walked right out of a Stephen King novel. And the monsters were fantastic.

This movie was just plain scary, and I say that as an admittedly jaded horror buff who has seen it and and usually can't be fazed anymore. But this film was really scary and suspenseful and riveting. This is the kind of movie where you find yourself curling your legs up on the couch because you're afraid something under your coffee table is going to climb out and chew your feet off. The characters in this movie don't just get eaten by monsters, but they sufferer some of the cruelest and most grueling deaths I've ever seen. It's awesome. There is one scene in particular where the characters sneak next door to the pharmacy in hopes of finding medicine or other survivors that had be chewing on my blanket in abject horror. I'm not going to give anything away, but what they found in there was one of the most unsettling and outright terrifying scenes from any move I've seen in years.

The acting was also very good across the board, although some of the dialogue and performances felt a little staged and unnatural. This was a film that could've benefited from overlapping dialogue and a few less one liners. When faced with unspeakable horrors like you'll find in this movie, it's hard to believe that every character has such great jokes slipping from their tongues. But Thomas Jane in particular was fantastic as our hero, and Marcia Gay Harden gave such an amazing performance that it kept her character from being too much of a cliched stereotype of an evangelical christian. Another criticism: if you are going to get Andre Braugher, use Andre Braugher. Don't just have him vanish at one point never to be seen again. I spent the entire movie wanting more Andre Braugher. I sure hope I spelled his name correctly.

About the ending, I can say very little other than that it wasn't what I was expecting, nor was it what I would've wanted. It certainly had nothing to do with the original ending as written by King. But it did work, without saying too much, with the overall dark, almost nihilistic tone of the film. After rewatching the ending with the director's commentary turned on, I understood what they were going for, but I'm still unconvinced that they were all that successful. But it didn't matter at that point because the movie had kept me so entertained, any movie would've been a let down because I just wanted it to keep going.

Image Comics

In the year of our lord 1992, I was living in Thalwil, Switzerland and turned 15. That same year, our country's president vomited on some Japanese dignitaries during an official visit, the Winter Olympics opened in Albertville, France, serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer and John Gotti were both sentenced to life in prison, Johnny Carson retired as host of the Tonight Show, and the city of L.A. broke out in massive riots after the acquittal of the police officers who beat Rodney King. Also, Image Comics was founded.

The founding of Image Comics, for those who don't know or just can't remember, was a a seminal moment in comic book history. For good or ill, the creation of this company changed the entire comic book industry. It began as a "creator-focused" company founded by seven of the most popular comic book artists who were currently working in the late 80s and early 90s. My friend and fellow blogger Justin recently wrote a post about Rob Liefeld that made me take another look at some of my old comics from that time, and reflect on Image Comics and their place in comic book history.

I'm going to break things down here and talk about each, individual Image founder and the projects they put together. To keep things short, Imagine was founded by seven artists who left their high profile positions at Marvel to start their own company where they each wrote, drew, and owned their own characters. I'm not going to get into the politics involved or make a huge effort to put their actions into a larger perspective. I'm simply going to give my own, first hand (and historical) perspective on each creator's work. Let's just get into it.

(Oh, and just as a disclaimer, if you aren't a comics fan or have never read anything by Image, you'll be bored to death...)

Whilce Portacio: We'll talk about him first because, all things considered, he didn't really do anything. He was one of the founding members who left his job at Marvel to start Image, but his book never came out. Portacio was a fantastically talented artist who rose to fame on X-Factor and the Uncanny X-Men. His art typified the over the top, fantastic style of the 90s, but his was a talent better and more refined than most. Unfortunately, for whatever reason (I believe "family issues" was the reason given at the time), his promise title Wetworks never debuted with the other Image titles and he never actually became one of the company's founders. Wetworks finally came out a few years later, but it was a little too later after the Image explosion to really matter. Anyway, I never read it so I can't comment on its quality. I do remember being excited about its original release, however, and getting impatient after years of delays.

At the end of the day, he was a very talented artist who probably hurt his career by leaving a high profile job to found a company he never actually committed to. Still, he's a great talent who's work was always fun to see.

Jim Valentino: Always an odd choice as an Image founder, Valentino was never really a popular comic book creator. I loved his work on Guardians of the Galaxy, but more because he was a good writer than because of his artwork. When he was announced as an Image founder alongside such "hot" artists as Todd McFarlane and Jim Lee, most people were confused. I still don't really know why he was included in the exodus, but I seem to remember reading interviews with McFarlane and Rob Liefeld where the called him an old friend.

Valentino's main contribution to the launch of Image was Shadowhawk, which was ok. It was never one of the more hotter comics, but I think it was of the only ones that shipped on time and followed any kind of overall storyarc. Also, it was notable for starring the first HIV positive superhero, for whatever that's worth. I remember Shadowhawk as being a fairly decent book that never really excited me or hooked me all that much. I still consider his work on Guardians of the Galaxy as the high point of his career, but I still respect him as an artist and as a storyteller. Even though he wasn't a very popular creator at the time, I think his inclusion as an Image founder gave the other creators a legitimacy or credibility that would otherwise have been even more lacking.

Jim Valentino later took on a more editorial position at Image that took the company to greater success and prosperity, a role that, I believe, he still holds at the company.

Marc Silvestri: I was never a huge fan of Silvestri's work at the time he left Marvel and founded Image comics, but only because I had never really seen much of his work before then. When he did found Image and release Cyberforce, I remember being blown away. Out of almost every Image comic, Cyberforce seemed to have the strongest storyline and one of the best singular visions. That isn't to say it was all that well written, but that it was very entertaining and fairly engaging. Believe me, if you've never read any of those old Image comics, "entertaining and fairly engaging" is about the highest compliment you can give one of them.

As a publisher, Silvestri also proved himself to be one of the more savvy and talented of the Image seven. He helped to create such titles as Witchblade and to discover such artists as Michael Turner. Although Cyberforce no longer exists (right? Maybe it does. I dunno.), Silvestri's Top Cow Studios is still going strong putting out Witchblade, The Darkness, and other titles. Silvestri also pencils the occasional titles here and there (the last few were for Marvel), but I'd love to see him on a regular, monthly title again. He is still a fantastically talented artist. He is almost unique among the Image founders in being one of the only members about which even their most vehement critics couldn't say anything negative.

Erik Larsen: When I was a kid and heard about Image Comics, Erik Larsen's inclusion among the founders was what excited me more than anything. I loved Larsen's artwork and thought he was among the coolest comic book creators I'd ever seen. When he took over Amazing Spider-Man after fan favorite Todd McFarlane, most people complained, but I thought he was way better. And then he took over writing and drawing Spider-Man after Todd left that title too, and I thought he was better there too. He wrote and drew a fantastic Spider-Man, so I was excited to see what he could do on is own, creator-owned title. All things considered, The Savage Dragon was a huge success.

Savage Dragon had the over the top art for which Larsen was famous, but it also had one of the more understated storylines and low key characters. The Savage Dragon differentiated itself from the rest of the Image titles by being centered around a character and not just a concept. It wasn't brilliant or groundbreaking, but as far as these things go, it was fairly well written and very engaging. And it's still going, which makes it one of only two of the founding Image titles (along with Spawn) that is still being published, and the only founding Image title to still have the same writer/artist at the helm. Writing and drawing the same comic for the past 18 years has to be one of the most impressive runs in comic book history. I haven't picked up an issue lately, but the last time I did, it was still just as cool and fun as I remembered. Larsen later spent some time as the publisher of Image Comics, but then stepped aside and went back to solely writing and drawing Savage Dragon.

You can read the first issue online, and it still holds up fairly well.

Jim Lee: Jim Lee is one of the greatest comic book artists of all time. Along with Liefeld and McFarlane, he was one of the first superstar artists of the 90s, and one of the biggest names among the Image founders. He was a huge talent before the founding of Image, and is still huge today, so much so that his time at Image is almost just a footnote in his overall career. He was kind of just there for the founding of Image, giving them that much more popularity and a sense of credibility, before selling his studio to DC Comics and taking his carer in another direction entirely.

WildC.A.T.S. was the title he premiered at Image, and it was ok. It was better than most Image titles, but maybe not as good as Savage Dragon or Shadowhawk. The artwork, of course, was phenomenal. It maybe wasn't as stellar as the work he had produced for X-Men, but I enjoyed it and still appreciate it when I take those back issues out of my collection and read through them. Jim Lee was one of the few Image creators who took on a writing partner to help out, although Brandon Choi wasn't exactly Shakespearen in his talents. Still WildC.A.T.S. was a cool title with an attempt at a epic storyline that was fun to read. That's all that matters.

Jim Lee was also notable for being one of the first and most talented Image creators at setting up a studio and publishing various titles under his own imprint. Lee created WildStorm and put out such titles as Gen 13, Danger Girl, and Battlechasers. He later sold Wildstorm to DC comics and achieved a new level of fame by doing art there for Superman and Batman. It was recently announced that he was promoted to co-publisher of DC Comics. He is still one of the most popular comic book artists around, and his business decisions probably made him millions of dollars. Good for him.

Todd McFarlane: The problem with talking about Image Comics, is that at some point you have to talk about Todd. Todd isn't just a comic book creator, but a phenomenon within the industry. I have tremendous respect for Todd as both an artist and as a business man, but I do think that his art got somewhat lazy over the years and that some of his business practices have been somewhat questionable and, according to the courts, actually illegal.

But just talking about Todd the creator, there was probably no artist more popular during the mid 90s, with the possible exception of Jim Lee. His runs on Amazing Spider-Man and the Incredible Hulk were so legendary and so popular, that Marvel created the title "Spider-Man" just because he wanted to start writing as well as drawing. Todd was such a superstar artist, that this new book sold millions every month even though it was awful. And then, having proven himself to be a truly terrible writer, he went on to help create Image Comics by writing and drawing Spawn, which still sold millions of copies. The artwork was beautiful (or, at least, I thought so at the time, and still come away mostly impressed when I reread my old back issues), although messy and lacking in classical techniques, but the plots were incredibly dark and so poorly written they were almost impossible to follow.

He was one of the first Image creators to stop drawing his comic all together in favor of creating and running a company devoted as much to merchandising, toys, and films as it was to comics. After Todd removed himself as penciller of Spawn, there was little reason to keep reading it, although Greg Capulo was a very competent replacement who may actually have been a better technical artist. Spawn never became as popular as Todd had hoped, despite how it was adapted into a film, a cartoon, and a bunch of different videogames. It is still being published, however, although I haven't read an issue in years and have no idea what kind of involvement he has in the title anymore. But he's still a major power player in the industry and insanely rich.

Rob Liefeld: And then there's Rob, who went from being one of the most popular comic book artists of all time to arguably the most reviled and despised. His artwork typified the look of 90s comics: characters with huge muscles, huge boobs, and huge guns, dressed in garish outfits covered with spikes, chains, and pouches. In a word: terrible. But I still liked this stuff and thought it was "cool," and so did the millions of people who bought his stuff. But, yeah, he was a terrible artist who put out a lot of unreadable books that sold millions, so everybody else put out the same kind of crap. Image was founded on that crap.

So far as I can remember, Liefeld's Youngblood was the first true Image title. It may not have been the first title released under the Image logo, but it was the first one that was announced (as a stand alone title for Malibu), and it eventually led to the creation of the entire company. So if you hate Image, blame Liefeld, since his was the idea that led to the whole company and the exodus of Marvel's top talent. For good or ill, we have to give him credit for that, which was a bold move that changed the industry forever. But still, his comics were awful. He was just a bad writer and a poor draftsman who was let loose with no editorial guidance when he created his own studio and put out his own comics. Perpetually late (much of the stuff that was announced and advertised never even came out at all), unreadable and ugly, and most titles only lasted a few issues before vanishing from the racks all together. Liefeld's studio was a model of inefficiency and stood out as everything that was wrong with 90s comics.

But still, he seems like a nice guy and his artwork was kind of fun.

Conclusion: Image Comics managed to do the impossible by going up against the big two comic companies, taking a huge chunk of the market, and staying profitable and relevant all these years. Their place in history is debatable, of course, as is their overall impact on the comic book industry. Those are topics I don't want to get into right now, but I will say that they manged to put splash over substance and downplayed good, well written stories in favor of flashy artwork. However, they probably did a lot for creator rights (or, at least, their rights), pioneered coloring techniques and upgraded paper stock, all of which is now standard.  Over the years they mostly switched their niche from superhero copies of Marvel and DC characters to an incredibly diverse line of alternative comics of all genres.

But boy did a lot of that old stuff suck, but I still feel a real sense of nostalgia and fun when I look back at them.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Hawaii Five-0


I watched the pilot episode online this morning, and I liked it ok. It was fun, clever, full of action and charm, but there were some fundamental problems that kept it from being must-see TV... at this point, at least. But as pilots go, it was good enough to recommend checking out, and had enough potential that I'll probably check out the next episode to give it a better chance to win me over completely. Anyway, I probably liked it better than my friend and fellow blogger Justin did.

This remake (or "reimagining" as studios have obnoxiously started referring to their remakes) updates the original series (which ran for an amazing 12 years between 1968 and 1980!) by changing the "O" in the title to a "0" and by transforming the main group of police officers into an elite squad of special operatives who act above the law ("without red tape") to fight terrorists... or something. In other words, this has absolutely nothing to do with the original series other than the title, some character names, and the theme song that is still amazing. And that's fine, but the idea that they are some nebulous group playing by their own rules and without any restrictions makes the entire thing seem more fantastical than it should be. I would've advised them to let the setting and the characters be fantastic while grounding things in reality by having actual police procedure and guidelines in place. Also, I'm just the kind of person who likes rules and regulations (I don't speed, I stop at yellow lights, and I will say something to a strange who tries to get into a ten item or less lane with eleven items), so I have little interest in watching characters who go above, around, and outside of the law. But it's TV so I can't complain too much. Following the law would allow for much less car chases and explosions.

The cast is a bit of a mixed bag so far. Lead actor Alex O'Loughlin is no Jack Lord, whose time on the original show was so good and so indelible in the public conscious that he became a TV icon. Maybe he just needs time to grow into the role, but in this pilot he was stiff, uncharismatic, and downright boring. He certainly acquitted himself well in the action sequences, performing some spectacular stunts and performing in some exceptional fight scenes, but his performance otherwise was just blah. Also, he just looked like a more badass version of Jeremy Piven, which isn't all together a bad thing, but it was distracting.

Much better was Scott Caan as O'Loughlin's sidekick Dano. He was charming, funny, sympathetic, and just plain fun to watch. He stole every scene he was in, and was the only actor on the show who was able to find chemistry with the otherwise uncharismatic lead actor. This is going to sound pretentious, but Scott Caan is one of those actors who is always "present" in every scene he's in. He was just always doing something interesting, and gave his character a great mixture of good humor and quiet sadness. Justin didn't really love he pilot, but he told me it was worth checking out just for Caan's performance, and he was right.

Rounding out the rest of the cast are Daniel Dae Kim and Grace Park, both of whom are wonderful actors who should've been given more to do. Considering the ensemble nature of the cast, this show felt more like a buddy cop movie than anything else. Kim and Park were introduced too late in the pilot and then shoved off to the side too much. Kim's major contribution to the story was his interrogation of a major informant, which was done off camera. Instead of showing his character interrogating this guy, they showed some comic interest scene of the two other cops hanging out in the parking lot. Dumb. And within the first ten minutes of Park's introduction, she is given two scenes where she has to strip down to a bikini or her bra and panties. This is Hawaii Five-0 so we definitely need some bikini scenes, but having both scenes so close together seemed beyond gratuitous and really poor characterization. Kim and Park were both fantastic on Lost and Battlestar Galactica respectively, so let's hope future episodes give them more to do.

And can somebody tell me why none of the main actors in this cast are actually Hawaiian? We have an Italian American, an Australian, and two people of Korean descent? Really? Even the original series from the 60s was more progressive in its casting than this 21st century update. They couldn't have put Jason Scott Lee or Tia Carrere in there somewhere? Obviously, this odd choice in casting doesn't take away from the quality of the show, but it does seem like a missed opportunity.

So I liked it, but I recommend it only slightly, and with a few reservations. The setting was fantastic, the cast was mostly stellar, and the fun storyline allowed for a lot of great action set pieces. But in the future they need to have the lead lighten up and spread the spotlight a bit more around the ensemble cast. Also, get my boy Jason Scott Lee in there already.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Friday, September 17, 2010

Happy Yom Kippur

Blessed are the Geeks wants to wish a happy and holy Yom Kippur ti all of our Jewish readers. In honor of this high holy day, here is a clip of Red Buttons (my all time favorite comic) doing a variation of his classic "never got a dinner" routine at the Chabad telethon.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Comic Book Movie Round-Up (Part III)

Here is the third -- and hopefully last -- installment of the Blessed Are the Geeks Comic Book Movie Round-Up. Feel free to check out parts one and two before reading this, or just get right to it:

Superman: Despite its many fundamental problems, the 1978 Superman film is absolutely wonderful. It works for two reasons:

#1. The tone is serious and respectful of the source material. There is a lot of broad comedy here and there, but almost none of it pokes fun at the comic book or the character.

#2. Christopher Reeve is amazing as Superman. His was far and away the greatest performance as a super hero in movie history. He just was Superman.

But he didn't really pull of Clark Kent, but that was because the script called for him to act like a complete buffoon. At least Reeve was still charming and funny even though he was being kind of annoying and nonsensical. The idea that Clark Kent lives his civilian life purposefully as a fool and a clown is completely contrary to the comics and the other portrayals in TV and film serials that came before.

I also didn't understand why they made Lex Luthor so comical and nonthreatening. This is Superman's archnemesis, not some fool living in a sewer hatching schemes that even a schoolboy would know make no sense. Also, Otis just wasn't funny, wasn't charming, and sucked the life out of every scene. And I have nothing bad to say about Miss Tessmacher.

And don't get me started on the whole going back in time nonsense. Or that scene where Lois Lane narrates their fly sequence with that weird poem. Or numerous other story details and plot points that made no sense. It's still a great film because of Reeve's performance as Superman.

Superman II: Now this is one of the best, straight up, no nonsense comic book films of all time. Well, ok, there is some nonsense, but it's still all in good fun. This is just one of those perfect sequels that improves almost everything from the first film and expands on it exponentially. I love this movie. It's big, it's epic, it's funny, it's action packed. Oh, and it's also pretty dumb in places, but it's also very sweet and very poignant as well. And it gave the world Terence Stamp as Zod. How cool was he?

They later released a recut version that was supposedly closer to director Richard Donner's original version, but I haven't seen it. I liked it well enough that I didn't think it really needed too many changed. Also, considering how dumb the first film was, I tend to give some credit to Richard Lester for this film's success.

Superman III: Wait a minute... what did I just say about Richard Lester? Did I just give him credit for making Superman II better than the first film? Because, in reality, Superman III was Lester's only solo effort at directing a Superman movie, and it's terrible. Maybe they should've had Richard Donner come in at the end for reshoots. Richard Lester is a fantastic director of madcap comedy movies (rent A Hard Day's Night to see his talents used for good and not evil), so he always seemed ill at home with these Superman films. You only have to watch the opening credits of Superman III to see how apparant this is. It's a long, madcap, slapstick sequence featuring prat falls, paint cans falling on people's heads, car crashes, and a surprising absence of Superman. However, taken on its own, it's brilliantly choreographed and very funny. But it has no place in a Superman movie.

And neither does Richard Pryor. And don't even get me started on this scene.

Superman IV: On paper, a better film than Superman 3. It's about Superman fighting another super villain instead of a wealthy industrialist with a self-aware super computer (or whatever the hell that movie was about). Also, Lex Luthor is back! Too bad the script was terrible, the plot made no sense, and the special effects were awful. And while it doesn't have Richard Pryor (who is funny), it does have John Cryer (who is not).

The plot is some nonsense about Superman taking all of the world's nuclear weapons and throwing them into the sun, based on the recommendation of some kid. Now, obviously, if there really was a Superman, this would be a logical expectation. But there are some pieces of logic that simply have to be glossed over in order to make a fantasy film like this work. He really took all of the nuclear weapons? What if he missed one? What if some terrorists decide to make just one bomb on their own and then take over the world? Is Superman going to keep grabbing them and tossing them into the sun? Whatever. Anyway, none of that would matter if Nuclear Man was a cool villain (he looks like the guy from White Snake) or if the action and effects were good (just check out this.) Awful movie. It all but destroyed the film franchise and made such a joke of the character that they had to kill him in the comics before he could become cool again.

Superman Returns: Here's a lesson in irony for any would-be filmmakers out there: If you decide to make a film in a film series that ignores the ones you thought were bad, chances are good you'll make a film that's even worse. Intended as a sequel to the first two Richard Donner films (and not the awful third and fourth films), it just ended up as a huge mess that pleased almost nobody. Now, I'm not claiming that Superman Returns is a worse film than, say, Superman III, but if both films were on TV right now and I had to make a choice... Superman III it is! At least Richard Pryor is good for a few laughs and things actually, you know, happen. Superman Returns is just a boring, pretentious, piece of garbage.

You can read my full review of that film here, but keep in mind that I had just scene it and didn't come to hate it as much as I do now after having seen it a few more times.

Swamp Thing: I remember seeing this as a kid and loving it. I watched it over and over again. It was exciting and horrifying. Other than that, I remember next to nothing about it. I think I definitely need to give it another look, considering how much I remember liking it and considering how much I like the original comic by Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson. They made a sequel called The Return of Swamp Thing, but I never saw it.

Tales From the Crypt: Demon Knight: Should I talk about this film now or wait until I do my round-up of comic book based TV shows? I guess I'll talk about it now since it was a film based on a TV show that was based on a comic book. Anyway, this is a cool movie. As adaptations go, it really has nothing to do with Tales From the Crypt -- the comic or the TV show -- aside from the name, an appearance by the Crypt Keeper, and the fact that it ostensibly takes place within the horror genre. Tales From the Crypt was an anthology title that was more like Twilight Zone than anything else, featuring horrific morality tales. This movie is little more than a supernatural slasher film. But it is fun, has a lot of laughs, and some decent scares. And it has Billy Zane and William Sadler who are always fun.

Tales From the Crypt: Bordello of Blood: Now this one just sucked. Who thought it was a good idea to have Dennis Miller (playing, of course, Dennis Miller) fighting a coven of vampires? Does that sound entertaining to anybody? Well, ok, maybe it did back in 1996, but it wasn't. I mean, it's not unwatchable, and Dennis Miller does get a lot of good lines here and there, but if that's all you want, go watch the Dennis Miller show. This movie was just a comedy that happened to have some vampires as comedic fodder for Miller's one-liners. Skip it and watch something good instead, like Demon Knight.

Tank Girl: I'm going to break my own rule and talk about this movie even though I haven't seen it. In fact, I did see the trailer, and that was enough to keep me from seeing it for the rest of my life. Just the sight of Ice T in that dog mask was revolting enough that my skin crawls just from thinking about it. Also, Lori Petty. Thanks, but no thanks.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: If you were a kid growing up in the 80s with a love for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, you probably thought this was the best movie ever made. It was a near perfect adaptation, with amazing costumes, incredible fight scenes, and a dark moody tone that was inspired more by the original comic book than the animated TV series. Personally, I never really liked the Turtles too much and thought the cartoon was annoying and too silly. But this movie was pretty cool because it was brooding and hyper-violent, probably because it came out right after Tim Burton's Batman. Cool movie, and while the costumes may look silly today, they were ground-breaking at the time.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze: Remember how I said that first film was hyper-violent and incredibly dark? Well, most parents didn't like that too much so it caused a little bit of a controversy. As a result, this film is little more than a live-action cartoon, with corny jokes, slapstick humor, and a surprising lack of the Turtles using their trademark weapons. Oh, and there's also a cameo by Vanilla Ice. So this movie is pretty dumb, but I liked it and I would watch it again if it was on right now. Go Ninja go Ninja go!!

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: Ugh. This movie was just awful. It's sad when a valid criticism of a film is that it needed more Vanilla Ice. Skip it. The Angry Videogame Nerd did an amazing review of this movie a few years ago that's well worth checking out.

Timecop: According to the IMDB, this movie was based on a Dark Horse comic book. Who knew? Anyway, this movie is awesome. It's classic Van Damme trash. Go rent it just to watch him do the split on the kitchen counter.

V For Vendetta: True story: The other day I rode my bike past some Scientology center in downtown Minneapolis and saw a (very small) group of protesters outside. They had banners with slogans against Scientology, they were blaring that song "What is Love?! (Baby Don't Hurt me!)" on a boombox for some reason, and they were all wearing masks like that guy from V for Vendetta. I wonder how many of them knew they were actually wearing Guy Fawkes masks. Anyway, that was weird, but it was more entertaining than this movie was. All in all, it was a very faithful adaptation of the comic, but the comic was little more than a reworked adaptation of 1984. I found it boring and pretentious, though some of the performances were very good.

Wanted: This movie was neat, but I didn't really love it or anything. I've never read the comic, but the movie was clever and full of cool, original ideas. But the cast was kind of lackluster and lacking in charisma. But the action set pieces were mostly off the hook. 

Watchmen: Read my full review here, but my basic impression was that it was a very cool movie that wasn't as good as the comic. It was way too over the top and muddled some of the more important themes from the comic, but it was a fairly faithful adaptation all the same. I liked it and thought it was really entertaining. Same director as 300, which I thought was more successful if only because the original comic needed a lot less condensation and reworking. But, visually, Zack Snyder always delivers something amazing.

Weird Science: This really wasn't based on a comic book. Somebody just bought the rights to the old EC Comics title "Weird Science" and made a movie that had nothing much to do with it. I mention it only because it really is a very good movie. It's an 80s comedy classic.

X-Men: The first X-Men movie blew me away. Considering the huge cast of characters and ridiculously labyrinthine plotlines from the comics, I was expecting the worst... so maybe that's why I was so pleasantly surprised and honestly loved it. It was a little too simplistic and the overall plot was pretty stupid, but it worked because the cast was great and most of the characters were captured fairly well. Hugh Jackman stole the movie and made himself a movie star in the process.

But the costumes really did suck.

X2: Bigger and better than the first X-Men movie, director Bryan Singer outdid himself by making one of the best comic book movies of all time. This was just an awesome, badass, comic book movie that felt very faithful to the comics (for the most part) and stood on its own. I loved it and so did all but the most die hard comic fanboys.

X-Men: The Last Stand: Bryan Singer left the franchise in order to make Superman Returns (and we all saw how well that turned out) leaving this film in the hands of auteur Brett Ratner. This change didn't help the careers of either director, since Bryan Singer hasn't made a good film since X2 and Brett Ranter just proved to the world that he can't make a movie that isn't Rush Hour. This movie was just a huge, colossal, mess. Some of the action scenes were neat and we got decent performances from the stalwart cast, but the plot was unfocused and the script was terrible. Main characters were killed off willy nilly (some of them offscreen!) while new characters who weren't even in the comics were introduced for no reason. All in all, just a boring, bloated, bomb.

X-Men Origins: Wolverine: Lots of people hated this movie, but I enjoyed it. Check out my full review here. I absolutely understand and agree with most of the complaints and criticism leveled against this movie, but I got so much enjoyment out of watching Hugh Jackman as Wolverine that I didn't really care that it was such a stupid movie. And it is stupid, make no mistakes about that. But, again, I liked it ok.

And that's it. Every comic book movie I've ever seen. Coming up next I'll look over the list and create my top ten best and worst lists. Until then, I'm going to go decompress by watching Steel Magnolias or something.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Video Clip of the Week: Orson Welles Salutes Jimmy Stewart

Remember when I used to do a "video clip of the week" way back when, that lasted about two weeks? Anyway, I'm bringing it back. To inaugurate this, I'm posting one of the greatest moments in television history (at least for me): My all time favorite film director giving a tribute to my all time favorite film actor. This is good:

Comic Book Movie Round-Up (Part II)

Welcome to the second part of my round up of every comic book movie I've ever seen. Click here for the first part.

Iron Man: Nobody expected this movie to be as big or as good as it was, but there you go. I liked it a little less than most people, but maybe because I love Iron Man a little more than most people. All in all, it was a well done film with some awesome sequences, a good performance by Robert Downey Jr. (although not all that accurate a depiction of the character, in my opinion), and a great visual presentation of the main character. It didn't have a great villain or much of an ending, however, but it was still a lot of fun and one of the better Marvel Comics movies. I liked it, but I didn't love it so much that I saw the sequel. I'm waiting for DVD on that one.

Judge Dredd: Was this a good adaptation of the comic book character? Don't ask me. Ask somebody from England. I'm guessing no, but I have only read one or two issues of the comic. What I can speak to is that this movie sucks.

Kick-Ass: Fairly decent if overrated comic that was adapted into a fairly mediocre, justly overlooked film. Without the awesome artwork by John Romita Jr, the cliched story tropes and character types just seemed annoying. Skip it unless you loved the comic, since it wasn't really a bad adaptation all things considered.

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: One of the most despised comic book films of all time, but I'll never understand why. I thought it was really good. No, it doesn't compare to the brilliance of the comic book, but it was still a really fun, good looking, exciting comic book movie in my opinion. It had nothing really to do with the comic other than that it was Victorian age period piece featuring literary characters teamed up to fight crime. But I liked it and thought it was fun. It was the second comic book film by director Stephen Norrington (after Blade), but it was such a huge flop that it all but ended his career. According to the IMDB, he is directing another adaptation of the Crow set to be released in 2011. I'll see it.

The Losers: You can see my full review here, but here's my opinion: This movie was pretty fun, but not entirely all that great. Worth watching.

The Mask: This movie, along with Ace Ventura, made Jim Carrey a star. It's a pretty funny movie, but I can't comment on its status as an adaptation because I've never read the comic. But the movie was cute and clever and a lot of fun. But I haven't rewatched it since, and I never saw the sequel. And neither did anybody else.

The Men in Black: Another movie nobody knew was based on a comic. I haven't read it. Have you? Anyway, awesome movie. One of the best from the 90s. A true classic of the action/sci-fi genre. I loved it. No sense talking about it since you've seen it too and feel the same way. Who doesn't?

The Men in Black 2: Not nearly as good, but still entertaining. But if you haven't seen it by this point, don't bother.

The Punisher (1989): Dolph Lundgren as the Punisher seemed like inspired casting at the time that got everybody excited. Sure, the Punisher in the comics doesn't talk with a Swedish accent, but who cares about the little details like that? But then we it turned out he wasn't going to wear the costume, we all got worried. And then it came out, and we all hated it. It's just not a very good movie and most of the action sequences were pretty lame. No budget, no script, and a bad performance by Dolph (sorry!).

The Punisher (2004): Fifteen years later they made another version of the Punisher, this time starring Thomas Jane and featuring the skull costume (!!), but it still sucked. All things considered, the Punisher just isn't an interesting enough character to carry a movie in my opinion. He just goes around shooting people. Not a whole lot of depth. Even his comic book series got real old real quick. He was a character best served as a guest star in the comics starring other characters. Anyway, this movie had the costume and a bigger budget, but Dolph was more fun than Jane, even though neither was very good. They also made another Punisher movie after this one with another actor, but I didn't see it.Life is too short to watch three different Punisher movies.

Road to Perdition: Maybe a good movie -- certainly a lot of people like it -- but I thought it was a huge bore. Great performances by Tom Hanks (playing against type as a gangster), Paul Newman, Jude Law, and Daniel Craig, but it just went nowhere and seemed more like an exercise in cinematography than in storytelling. Also, I never read the comic.

The Rocketeer: I love this movie. I know very little about the original comic book series other than that the art by Dave Stevens was wonderful, but this movie feels like a very authentic, heartfelt adaptation. It's a period piece that captures the feel of the 30s and 40s perfectly, has an amazing cast featuring Timothy Dalton as one of the best villains in movie history, and great special effects for its time. Just a great, fun, exciting movie that, unfortunately, was a huge flop. This film's director Joe Johnston is currently directing the upcoming Captain America film.

Sin City: Good movie based on a pretty good comic. Visually, this film is stunning and one of the greatest technical achievements in the entire genre. However, it falls a little flat acting wise and the stories written by Frank Miller are so dark and nihilistic it's really hard to care about anything that happens or any of the characters. But if you like that kind of thing, you'll like this. Incredibly faithful adaptation, especially since Frank Miller himself is credited as a co-director. I find a lot about this film to respect and admire, but little to love or even enjoy watching.

Spawn: In order to understand Spawn, you have to understand what was going on in the comics industry during the mid 90s, and that is something far too complicated and detailed to go into here. Let's just say that when Todd McFarlane created the Spawn comic book, it was a given that he would someday adapt it into videogames, toys, t-shirts, and movies. When Todd created Spawn, he wasn't starting a comic book, but an empire. Unfortunately, the comic was mostly unreadable and this film is mostly unwatchable. This film wasn't made because anybody loved the character nor because the story was so rich and full of ideas. This film was made because the comic book sold millions of copies. But what nobody seemed to understand is that the comic book sold millions of copies because Todd McFarlane was drawing them. Take away Todd's art, and all you have is a dumb character and a really stupid story. Throw into that John Leguizamo dressed up as a midget clown munching on maggot-covered pizza he found in a trashcan and you have just about the most unappealing movie ever made.

Spider-Man: Fairly good adaptation except for a few things: The awful depiction of Peter Parker, the terrible performance by Tobey Maguire, and the fact that Spider-Man now has organic webshooters. But the film was fun and the special effects were great. Also, the Spider-Man costume looked awesome. It's just too bad Tobey Maguire was so bland and annoying.

Spider-Man 2: Better than the first film, but still not that great in my opinion. Sam Raimi is a fantastic director of action and comedy, but I don't think he gets the best performances out of his actors, nor is logic or proper storytelling things he seems to care too much about. And still Tobey Maguire sucks. I didn't like this one very much so I never saw part 3. But a lot of people loved it.

The Spirit: Frank Miller followed up his Sin City film with this horrible piece of crap. Visually, it looks just like Sin City. In terms of story, dialogue, characters, and acting performances, it was also just like Sin City. Too bad it was based on Will Eisner's The Spirit. Horribly unfaithful as an adaptation and just weird and off-putting as a film. Skip it. In forget, forget it even exists.

Steel: Another film that's hard to understand why it was even made. After Superman died in the comic books, they introduced four different Superman-type characters who may have been his resurrected spirit... one of whom was Steel. Taken away from that context, he didn't have much of character all his own. Instead, they made him a generic superhero and cast Shaq. It was better than Kazam, but not by much.

Supergirl: Man, I haven't seen this movie in years, but I seem to remember liking it. Helen Slater was as good a choice as any to play the titular character, but nothing could've saved this film from feeling like an afterthought. Afterall, who really cares about Supergirl? No offense to the character, but even she has been retconned and changed and recreated so many times in the comics that I don't even know who she is anymore. But still, this is a cute, fun little movie that's worth watching if you can overlook the fact that it sucks.


And that brings us all the way the Superman films, which seems like another good place for a break. Tune in later for the third -- and I'm guessing final -- installment in my comic book movie round-up.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Comic Book Movie Round-Up (Part I)

Just because I can, I'm going to give my brief thoughts on every movie I've ever seen that was based on a comic book. I'm guessing this will be multi-part, take forever, and probably go unfinished. But let's see how it goes. I'm only going to talk about the films I've seen, obviously, and the list will be in alphabetical order because I'm going off of this -- except for when I talk about a series, in which case I will discuss them in chronological order.

Feel free to chime in with your own thoughts, or just to let me know if I missed anything. Also, I'm only going to discuss live-action movies. I'm not a big animation fan, and I will leave TV series for their own post some other day.

Let's go:

30 Days of Night: I didn't love this. Great premise about vampires living in Alaska where nights can last months at a time, but it just wasn't all that fun or scary. I've also never read the comic book. I've glanced at it, but the artwork seemed too abstract and off-putting.

300: Cool comic, even better movie. This seems to be one of those love it or hate it movies, but I loved it. It had a cool story, fun actors, awesome action sequences, and incredibly visuals. This is why I go to the movies.

Barb Wire: Remember this movie? Remember the comic? This was a bad comic that premiered at the launch of Dark Horse's failed superhero imprint "Comics Greatest World." This one got a movie because it had a main character with big breasts. Not a whole lot to hang a plot on, so it sucked. The comic book -- and entire line -- vanished as well.

Batman (1966): This was the Adam West film based off of the 1960s TV series. If you loved the show, you'll love this movie. I did and I do. It's very campy and very tongue in cheek, but it's also very funny and very entertaining. Great movie.

Batman (1989): Tim Burton's Batman film was probably my generation's Star Wars. It was huge, it was everywhere, and it transcended cinema and comic books. It was a phenomenon even more than just a movie... but it still holds up in my opinion. There were some wacky ideas that didn't really make sense or fit the character, but all in all it was a gorgeous movie with an amazing cast and awesome set pieces. This is probably my favorite comic book movie of all time. And, yeah, I think Michael Keaton was the best Batman and Jack was the best Joker.

Batman Returns: After the phenomenal success of the first Batman, Tim Burton was able to do whatever he wanted with the sequel, so he just went insane. This is seriously one of the weirdest films ever produced by a major Hollywood studio. How else can you explain how the Penguin went from being a character who was short and fat and wore a tuxedo... to a disgusting fish man who drools bile and lives in a sewer? I just don't get it. But I still like this movie because it's funny, great looking, and has a cool cast. But boy is it weird.

Batman Forever: And then Tim Burton passed the franchise over to Joel Schumacher and things got ever weirder. All in all, I like this movie ok. Jim Carrey is fun to watch as the Riddler and Val Kilmer was a fairly decent, if bland, Batman. But it's pretty dumb.

Batman and Robin: This movie is not without its charm, but you'll never hear anybody else say that. This is probably the most reviled and despised comic book film of all time -- not only because it was so bad, but because it all but ended the Batman film franchise for the next decade or so. It's a bad film, it's completely over the top, moronically stupid, and George Clooney sucks as Batman. But still... I kind of like it. It makes me smile. And Arnold as Mr. Freeze always makes me laugh.

Batman Begins: It's me against the world on this one, but I didn't enjoy this movie at all. I'm not a fan of Christian Bale's performance and I just didn't buy director Chris Nolan's interpretation of the character. Also, the story was dumb and the action sequences were some of the worst I've ever seen. Still, it was a huge hit and people loved it.

The Dark Knight: I liked this one even less than Batman Begins, but it went on to be one of the most successful movies of all time so what do I know? I just know it was pretentious, over written, and featured a main character that wasn't anything like the Batman from the comics I grew up reading. Still, the action sequences are better this time around and Heath Ledger's performance as the Joker is deservedly well praised and worth watching. Still... I dunno. I'm not a fan.

Blade: After Batman, this is my favorite comic book film series. Actually, this is probably my favorite comic book film series, considering how they are all great while only the first Batman film was actually all that good. Anyway, this movie is awesome. It stars Wesley Snipes as a vampire slayer. It has kick ass action, a great cast, and a dark, moody tone that really sucks you in. Pardon the pun.

Blade 2: This movie is amazing. It took everything that made the first Blade so great and kicked it all up ten million notches. The special effects are better, the fight scenes are among the best I've ever seen in any movie, and the story is epic. It's also kind of dumb and makes no sense, but who cares because it's so damn fun. This is the best movie in the Blade series and one of the best comic book movies ever.

Blade Trinity: This movie was a step down after Blade 2, but I still like it a lot. It's funny and entertaining, but the story is weak, the guy who plays Dracula was so lame, and the ensemble cast downplayed Blade way too much. Still, Ryan Reynolds is funny and Jessica Biel is super hot... but where's Blade?! Long-time series writer stepped in as director, and he maybe wasn't the best choice. Still, I like it.

Bulletproof Monk: Fun movie. Never read the comic. Worth checking out, but don't run to the videostore or anything.

Captain America (1990): I remember reading about this film's production in Stan Lee's Bullpen Bulletins when I was a kid. According to him, it was going to be just about the best movie ever made. Well, it wasn't. At some point, Stan just stopped writing about it and it just disappeared. I don't know if it ever came out, but I finally saw it years later on TV. And it's awful. This is pretty much the vanguard of bad comic book movies. Captain America was played by Matt Salinger, who was more famous for being the son of J.D. Salinger. I'm pretty sure this film was the reason why his father became such a notorious recluse.

Catwoman: Now this is a bad movie. I have it on this list if only because it shares a name with the comic book character, but the similarities certainly end there. Nothing else about this film is even remotely based upon any comic book featuring the character called Catwoman. And even forgetting all that, this is just a terrible movie.

Constantine: I've always been more of a Marvel guy than a DC guy, so I don't know a whole lot about John Constantine. I've seen him in a few comics, but I've never read any issues of his solo comic Hellblazer. Having said that, I liked this movie. I thought it had a cool story and some neat ideas. Still, had I been a huge fan of the character, I probably would've been annoyed with the casting of Keanu as the blond, British John Constantine. It's worth checking out.

The Crow: Overrated but still pretty entertaining. The Crow is notable for being the last film by Brandon Lee, since he died accidentally during the film's production. As legacies go, this was certainly a better film than Showdown in Little Toyko. It's a good film that is better than the comic upon which is was based, in my opinion, but it's still a little overrated. But it's well worth checking out, and it is sad that Brandon Lee came to such an early end, because he was a really talented, likable actor. They also made a whole bunch of sequels with different actors, but I don't think I've seen any of them.

Daredevil: What a mess. How did they screw up Daredevil this bad? What makes this film so bad is that it's really not that bad of a film. It's just a huge mess with almost every major character detail done wrong. But you could tell they really tried to treat it all seriously, and Ben Affleck could have been good as Matt Murdock. But the story was bad, the script was terribly, the costume sucked, and the action scenes were appalling. Awful movie.

Elektra: This was actually better than Daredevil, but it was still terrible. The best thing I can say for this movie is that some of the action scenes were neat and Jennifer Garner is very pretty.

Fantastic Four: Although it's relatively unknown among most non-comic fans, the Fantastic Four is maybe by favorite comic ever, so it was with some trepidation that I saw this film in the theater. And while it was pretty bad and had made some wacky character changes, I mostly enjoyed it. But it wasn't all that great and could've benefited from a much better director. Still, Chris Evans was fun as Johnny Storm, and Jessica Alba sure was pretty, even though she was way miscast.

Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer: More or less the same movie as the first one, just with a slightly more epic plot. If you liked that one, you'll like this. If you hated that one, well... skip it. I thought it was still ok, but maybe more satisfying if only because they did so well with their interpretation of the Silver Surfer. But why no Galactus?

From Hell: Never read the comic, liked the movie ok. It's about Jack the Ripper. Johnny Depp. Kind of boring, but worth checking out.

Ghost Rider: Rented it, but it was so bad I never finished. Why make a Ghost Rider film anyway? The character hasn't even been able to keep a comic book series profitable so they really thought he could carry a movie? Not a bad visual design for the main character, but where was the script?

Hellboy: I'm a big Hellboy fan. It's my favorite current comic book and I think it's one of the most brilliant things I've ever read. I also thought this was a great film. It's another one of my favorite comic book movies. Director Guillermo Del Toro (who also did Blade 2) made it as a labor of love and it really shows. The visuals are amazing and the casting was perfect. Still, the script could've used some work and it kind of lacks a real ending. But I still love it.

Hellboy 2: The Golden Army: I prefer the first Hellboy film if only because the ensemble cast is better and it is a little more rooted in reality while this one is all out fantasy, but it's still a great movie. Del Toro is a brilliant director and this is one of his best bar none.

History of Violence: I liked this movie, even though I was only mildly aware of its origins as a comic book. Worth checking out.

Howard the Duck: One of the most notorious bombs of all time. It really is a terrible movie that is going to be be unwatchable for most people. Still, I've probably seen it a few dozen times. If it was on TV right now, I'd watch it again. But don't let that fool you... it's a terrible movie.

Hulk: I liked Ang Lee's Hulk film, even though he probably wasn't the best choice to direct a big budget comic book action film. Most people hated this for being too cerebral and too slow and too full of psychological mumbo jumbo. And they're all right, but it's still fun to watch the Hulk smash stuff. There just isn't nearly enough scenes of the Hulk smashing stuff.

The Incredible Hulk: This really wasn't a sequel to the first movie. It was just another Hulk movie. All in all, it was a much better, more action packed, more satisfying film than the original. But still, I preferred Eric Bana to Edward Norton and I liked the visual design of the first Hulk more than the giant monstrosity found in this film. But it's a pretty kick ass action movie, with the final fight being one of the coolest action sequences I've ever seen. I'm sorry it was a flop because I love watching the Hulk smash stuff.


And that seems like a good place to stop and take a break. Stay tuned, true believers, for part 2 of our astounding round up of comic book movies!