Friday, December 29, 2006

Link du Jour: Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

I had dinner with a buddy last night and the 100-page Rule came up in conversation. We talked about how there are too many great page-turners out there and not enough time to read them all, so we've got no business forcing ourselves to read books that aren't grabbing us. I offered Preston and Child's The Relic up as a recent book that I couldn't get through fast enough. It's too bad the movie that was made from it was so average, but the book is exciting and chilling and just keeps pushing you forward until you're done.

That, plus the fact that Preston and Child have inter-connected their stories by having characters and organizations crossover from book to book, makes me very interested in reading more by them.

To Read: For Edgar

You all know how much I love the historical and/or literary mysteries. For Edgar is in the latter category since it's about a serial killer called "The Raven" who bases his or her crimes on gruesome deaths from Edgar Allan Poe stories.

That's a great premise, but it doesn't tell me anything about the execution. Fortunately, Bookgasm's Rod Lott takes care of that when he calls it "a worthy successor to Silence of the Lambs."

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Turbines to speed.

Wow. I sucked at posting over Christmas. Sorry about that.

This isn't even a real post here, but just a quick, engine-revving note to let you know that I'm back, and to remind me that now I also have to write reviews of The Dust Factory, the Spy Kids movies, and The Polar Express.

I'll save my whining over the loss of Rose Tyler for another occasion once I'm back up to speed.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Happy Spielberg Day!

Today is Steven Spielberg's 60th birthday. I'm not a hardcore fan of his, but when I think of movies like Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and Schindler's List, I wonder why not. The answer is in movies like E.T., Empire of the Sun, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, and A.I., but there's still no denying the man's talent and I'm glad that for all of that, he's still a horror/sci-fi guy at heart.

In other news, I'm on vacation this week and am likely to blow off posting some. I'll try to keep up with movie reviews (next up: Timeline and Interstate 60) because if I get behind in those, I'll never catch up. But I'm definitely letting Link du Jour go until after Christmas.


I'll also try to find time to tell you why I gave up on Armageddon's Children after only 50 pages and how that's probably the last nail in the coffin as far as me reading any more Terry Brooks goes.

Friday, December 15, 2006

30 Days of Night Movie Update: Another Still

Another image from the 30 Days of Night movie. This one's via Ben Templesmith's blog.

Review: A Sound of Thunder

You might expect that a movie based on a Ray Bradbury short story might not live up to its source material. But if it's got a gun-toting, chiseled hero leading an expedition across a futuristic, jungle-covered city that's inhabited by sea serpents, giant bats, and baboonosaurs... well, that's got to be awesome, right?

Not so much.

I've never read Bradbury's original version of "A Sound of Thunder," but I've read comics adaptations of it, so I'm familiar with what happens. Even though Bradbury's story says that changing history by altering the past can't be undone, I figured that the movie would mostly be about just that. And that's okay. Really, Bradbury's story makes its point and then just ends at a rather unsatisfying place, so I've got no problem with the idea of continuing from there and having the heroes try to fix things. Especially if doing so involves futuristic, jungle-covered cities and baboonosaurs.

Unfortunately, the special effects in the film version of A Sound of Thunder are beneath bad and into "laughable" territory. The dinosaur in the prehistoric sequences looks like it was created for a video game, and the blue screen work -- which puts the characters into the setting of futuristic Chicago -- is ridiculous. Thanks to flat imagery and goofy lighting, you never for a second believe that the characters actually inhabit the backgrounds in the exterior shots of the city. There are even a couple of shots of characters walking through the city where the actors are very clearly walking in place as the scenery moves past behind them. The baboonosaurs and other monsters are all well-designed, but no more realistic than the prehistoric dinosaur.

The acting by the main cast is absolutely fine (I mean, it's got Ben Kingsley in it, for goodness sake, and Jemima Rooper from Hex), but I actually gasped at how poorly some of the bit part actors delivered their lines.

It's a shame, because this could've been a fun, simple, adventure movie, even if it wasn't an intelligent adaptation of Bradbury's story. Glaring parts of it are so amateurish though, that I was never able to just sit back and enjoy the cheese.

To Read: The Further Adventures of Beowulf

Bookgasm comes through again with another reading recommendation. This one's about a character that I always felt, as did Rod, would be really cool to read about if only I could decipher the story in all the archaic language .

The Further Adventures of Beowulf helps do that in three ways. First, it presents the original story with a reprint of a translation that Bookgasm calls "accessible and even exciting."

Next, it offers new stories about the character, ranging from adventurous and comical to bloody and sexy. I don't recognize all the authors, but I do have fond memories of reading Lynn Abbey's Thieves' World stuff as a kid.

Finally, The Further Adventures of Beowulf lays out a "a partial but annotated bibliography of Beowulf translations, spin-off novels, movie and TV adaptations and even comic books" for those interested in yet further Beowulf adventures. Bookgasm mentions the Christopher Lambert movie and a DC Comics series. I wonder if the Gerard Butler movie and the done-too-soon Speakeasy series are also on the list.

Comments? Part Two

Apparently, Google is taking over Blogger, which is ultimately going to be a good thing. They're still ironing out bugs in the transition though and unfortunately, I agreed to switch over before everything was resolved. That affects not just this blog, but also any group blogs that I've created, so I apologize for the frustration.

I'm trying to figure out how to ask questions directly of the Beta team, but in the meantime, I found this unresolved issue in Beta's Known Issues log:

Logging in with an old Blogger account to post a comment on the new Blogger is giving a “please try again later” error. Until we fix this, it may work to log in first at http://www.blogger.com/login.g, and then go to the comments page on the new version of Blogger in beta.

I also understand that folks are having trouble commenting even anonymously, but I haven't found anything about that amongst the Known Issues. I'll keep looking for a way to communicate directly with the people in charge.

In the meantime, thanks for your patience and please keep letting me know what kind of problems you're experiencing.

Update: Someone was able to comment on the Constantine post, so it looks like it may be an issue with old vs. new Blogger accounts. The new Blogger accounts are actually Google accounts, so if anyone who's been having problems is interested in signing up for one (if you have a Blogger blog, you're eventually going to have to anyway), I'd be interested in seeing if that solves the problem for you.

Also, I just thought of another workaround. This blog is syndicated on LiveJournal, so if you want, you can always comment there.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Link du Jour: Jeff Parker

This'll be a short one. I don't personally know Jeff Parker and I don't know much about him except that I really really like Agents of Atlas, which he's writing for Marvel. It's not so much a superhero comic as it is a strange, adventure-spy comic with talking gorillas, robot-men, aliens, and mythological women for spies. You can't get anymore awesome than that.

No. You can't.

30 Days of Night Movie Update: First Still

This is the first still that I've seen come off the set of the 30 Days of Night movie.



Scanned from the Wizard 2007 Movie Spectacular. That's Billy Kitka as Manu, Melissa George as Stella (cannot wait for the Dark Days movie, assuming this one does well), and Josh Hartnett as Eben.

Review: Constantine

Being a Hellblazer fan, I resisted seeing Constantine for a long, long time. Pretty much universal consensus among other Hellblazer fans (who were masochistically more willing to take a chance on it than I was) though was that if you watch it not as a Hellblazer movie, but as a generic monster-hunter movie, it's pretty good. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to do that.

I tried, but the problem is that the movie actually gets pretty close to the comic in some key places. Setting aside the fact that he's American and has dark hair, Keanu Reeves actually makes a pretty good John Constantine. The attitude, the way he carries himself, the way he lights a cigarette... the character is there and intact. Contrary to some early, troubling production art that got passed around the Internet, there is no Constantinemobile and John doesn't drive at all. And, like in the comic, he's taxied around by a cabbie named Chaz (although the movie version is a much more enthusiastic sidekick than the comics version. There's also an attempt to work in Garth Ennis' famous "Dangerous Habits" storyline.

So, as I'm watching the movie, trying to pretend it's about someone else, I keep getting reminded that, no, this is a Hellblazer adaptation. To judge it purely as something else would mean that I'd have to ignore some things I liked about it, like how Keanu lights a cigarette. But if I let myself count those things into my final estimation, I also have to count stuff that I didn't like, like the crucifix-gun, the magic tatoos, and John's switching to gum.
And seriously, I doubt I'd have liked the crucifix-gun no matter what the name was of the guy carrying it. Really, Constantine is a pretty average monster-hunter flick with decent special effects. It's only in comparison with Hellblazer fans' original expectations of it that it looks good.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Link du Jour: Josh Ortega

It's not uncommon to find a story where the execution isn't as good as the concept. It's much more rare to find one where the execution exceeds the expectations set by the concept.

When Top Cow announced a new comic called Necromancer, I got to read a preview of it in a sampler book they put out. Unfortunately, the preview was just enough to get across the concept, which sounded like a demon-hunting version of Buffy, only where Buffy wears a cheesy costume with lots of unnecessary buckles and stuff. Reviewing the preview, I wrote, "It's a tired concept and there doesn't seem to be anything new about it here."
Thankfully, writer Josh Ortega didn't take offense, but wrote me and candidly asked me to take another look at the actual comic when it came out. He arranged a review copy for me, and sure enough, I liked it a lot better in context. Josh had taken a tired concept (not one he'd come up with, if I understand correctly) and made gold out of it. My reviews of the actual series said stuff like, “A story that’s genuine, both in its portrayal of teens and in its horror... Ortega’s building an epic here. You can see it in his pacing. The book doesn’t drag at all – each issue I read had important revelations and plenty of action – but there’s an ease about the way the story unfolds. It’s taking its time, yet doing so in a very entertaining way, if that makes sense. It’s kind of like LOST that way.”
Unfortunately, I don't think enough people got past the concept to actually try the book, and it was cancelled. Last I heard, Top Cow was trying to figure out a way to build an audience for it so that they could relaunch it. I hope they succeed, as long as Josh gets to write it.
In the meantime, Josh is working on a comic about Frank Frazetta's classic Death Dealer character, as well as a Battlestar Galactica mini-series for Dynamite Entertainment.

To See: Bridge to Terabithia

Like Arthur and the Invisibles, here's another kids-go-to-fantasy-realm movie. As cool as Arthur looks, there's no getting around that the CGI is very cartoony. Sort of a cross between Pixar and The Dark Crystal. Bridge to Terabithia, on the other hand, is going for a realistic, Narnia -- if not Lord of the Rings -- feel.

Looks amazing.

Comments?

I've been told that Blogger's acting a little wonky and not letting folks comment on my blog. I just switched to Blogger Beta, but I don't know if that's the problem or not. I'll try to figure it out with the Blogger people, but in the meantime, if you're not able to comment could you shoot me an email to michaelmay@michaelmay.us and let me know?

Thanks.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Night Watch



I finally saw Night Watch. I couldn't remember why I originally wanted to see it until I went back and read an old blog entry about it, but it turns out, it was everything I hoped for.

Dark? Check. Creepy? Check. Adventure-oriented? Check. Artistic? Double-check.

Everything about the movie is artfully done, even the sub-titles (it's a Russian movie). The sub-titles are actually part of the movie. They appear and disappear around the actors and change style depending on how they're used. If characters are using a computer while talking, the sub-titles take the appearance of text being added to a computer screen, complete with cursor. When a character screams in protest of something he sees happening, the English words "NO!" and "Stop!" literally fly out of him. When a vampire summons her victim from across the city, her whispered words appear in red and almost immediately dissipate, like blooddrops in water.

I mean, really, the movie's worth seeing just for the sub-titles. But it's also worth seeing for other reasons. It's very different from most movies that deal with vampires. In fact, it's not a horror movie at all. More of a fantasy. The vampires are just one of many supernatural creatures (called "Others") in the story. The plot revolves heavily around them, but it could have easily been another kind of creature. There are also witches, psychics, and were-creatures in the film, all choosing either the side of Good/Light (the Night Watch) or Evil/Darkness (the Day Watch).

What's cool is that people from opposite sides don't necessarily hate each other. They're less warriors than rivals. Light Others can live in peace in apartments across the hall from Dark Others, and the leaders of the two groups may not hang out together, but one can safely lounge in the office of the other without any apparent animosity.

Unfortunately, the rivalry is about to get more serious because a prophecy about a powerful, balance-upsetting Other seems to be coming true. That's the plot of Night Watch: each side trying to find this special Other and coerce him or her into joining their team. It's the first of a planned trilogy and it ends like one. Not like Star Wars, where you could really either stop or keep going without any difference. Like Fellowship of the Ring, where you have to keep going to see what's coming up next.
The critics were pretty divided about this movie, so your mileage may vary, but I found Night Watch to be a snazzy, fast-paced, visually beautiful, artistic, fun, exciting movie, and I'm definitely going to keep watching to see what happens.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Link du Jour: Steve Niles

When I first moved to the Twin Cities about fifteen years ago, it took me a while to find a decent comic shop, but eventually I discovered the College of Comic Book Knowledge in Uptown Minneapolis. One of the things that I liked about it was that it had a whole, separate room just for back issues. Every week I'd go in and get my new comics, then head back to the back issue room to browse their shelves full of cool, old comics.

The guy who worked back there was this quiet, but friendly guy who was good to chat with and who'd occasionally give me discounts on issues of John Byrne's Next Men. I learned that he was a writer and I was just starting to get to know him when he told me that he was moving to California. That sucked for me because I really did enjoy our brief, weekly visits, but what are you gonna do?

A while later, the College had an illustrated novella for sale by a "former employee" named Steve Niles. By then, I couldn't remember if that was the same guy whom I used to talk to, but the name sounded familiar, so I bought the book. It was called Freaks of the Heartland and it was very good.

Fast forward several years and I'd started hanging out online at the DC message boards. Someone came over to some Vertigo forum or another and started talking about this great new horror comic called 30 Days of Night. There was a link for more information, so I followed it and learned that 30 Days of Night was written by a guy named Steve Niles. Browsing his site, I learned that it was indeed the same author of Freaks of the Heartland, and after talking to him, I eventually learned that, yeah, he was the guy I used to chat with on New Comic Book Day.

The rest, as they say, is history. 30 Days of Night was as good as I'd heard and its sequel Dark Days was even better. I've been a fan of his work ever since, and I'm pleased to also be able to call him a pal.

Friday, December 08, 2006

To See: The Holiday

For all the fun, actiony, spooky stuff that I talk about on this blog, there's really nothing I like better than a good romantic comedy. That's why I dig shows like The Gilmore Girls, Grey's Anatomy, and Men in Trees.

Anyway, The Holiday looks like it could be a good romantic comedy. There's a shot of Jack Black laughing in the trailer that looks really contrived and forced, but it's out of context and the rest of it features people I like falling in love with each other in great, picturesque settings, so my fingers are crossed.

Revisiting Casino Royale

I went to see Casino Royale again last night. It's still perfect.

I bring it up only because I've been wanting to share Steven Barnes' review of it with you, and this is a good excuse.

Barnes gives labels to the two types of Bond fans that I've long known existed, but have never thought to name. "Serious" Bond fans -- like me -- usually have read the Fleming novels, prefer Doctor No and From Russia with Love to Goldfinger, and have a higher tolerance for Timothy Dalton than the other group. "Escapist" Bond fans, by far the majority of people I've met, dig Roger Moore (though usually not as much as Connery) and relish all the gadgets, one-liners, and over-the-top plots that the movies have come to be known for. Neither group is better than the other, but it's important to realize that both come to Bond movies looking for different things.

Escapist fans acknowledge that Bond may be a chauvanist or misogynist. Serious fans, as Barnes points out, know that he's really a borderline sociopathic misanthrope, "smoking and drinking himself into the grave, balancing on the edge of breakdown, capable of being wired together for one more assignment… maybe." Barnes also notes that Casino Royale is the first time we've ever seen that Bond, and that -- as justifiably revered as Sean Connery is -- he may have just been ousted from his throne as Greatest Bond of All Time:

"Connery wasn’t a great actor when he started the series. He never became a great actor, although he is a great star of fantastic virility and charisma. But Acting? Check him out in Diamonds Are Forever’s opening sequence, when he is pursuing the man who killed his dearest love. Does anyone believe the emotions displayed, even for a moment?"

Barnes calls Daniel Craig "the best actor ever to play the role" and I don't disagree. That takes nothing away from the joy of watching Connery's charisma and physicality in the part, it just means that we're on a whole, other level now.

Anyway, read all of Barnes' review. He's dead on.

Link du Jour: Christopher Mills

I discovered Christopher Mills back in my early days with Comic World News when a now-defunct website called AdventureStrips.com was nice enough to give me a comp subscription for review purposes. AdventureStrips specialized in pulp stories and I loved pretty much everything I read there, but a couple of my favorites were Gravedigger and Perils on Planet X, both by Mills.

Gravedigger is an excellent, hard-boiled crime thriller, illustrated by Rick Burchett, that's been collected into a one-shot print edition by Rorschach Entertainment. Perils on Planet X, illustrated by Jon Plante, was unfortunately never finished, but worked for me in ways that its inspiration, Edgar Rice Burroughs' A Princess of Mars, never had.

Mills' current work includes an online, pulp strip called Supernatural Crime that stars characters like Femme Noir, Brother Grim, and Nightmark. As Mills says on his site, "Blazing roscoes, weird menaces and dangerous dames... Who says they don't write 'em like this anymore?"

Review: The Brothers Grimm

As I was watching The Brothers Grimm, I developed a theory that maybe I don't like Terry Gilliam movies as much as I think I do. Brazil, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, The Fisher King, and now The Brothers Grimm are all visually wonderful movies that I feel like I should love and want to watch over and over again, but I don't.

What lets all the air out of that theory is the existence of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Time Bandits, and Twelve Monkeys; all movies that I do love and want to watch over and over again.

So it's not inherently Gilliam that I'm not connecting with, but I'm having a hard time deciding what it is about The Brothers Grimm that leaves me so unaffected. It's a vast improvement over the similarly themed Van Helsing, but that's not a very big compliment. Van Helsing made me cringe; Grimm just makes me shrug.

It's not Matt Damon and Heath Ledger. Those guys are both excellent actors and I'll watch pretty much anything that either one of them does. Ledger is especially good here in a role that's as much a surprise for him as Brad Pitt's was in Twelve Monkeys.

It's certainly not Monica Bellucci as the wicked Queen that bothered me. Yowza. I actually sorta found myself rooting for her a couple of times out of sheer enchantment.

It's not even the story itself that I dislike. The concept is a pretty good one: the Grimm brothers are a pair of travelling con men who prey on village superstitions in order to make money. They come into a town that's rumored to cursed by this ghost or that witch; perform an impressive, but fake exorcism; then scoot before anyone's the wiser. Wilhelm (Matt Damon) is completely pragmatic about their job and doesn't believe that spirits actually exist. Jacob (Heath Ledger), on the other hand, desperately wants to believe that he's part of a larger story involving the supernatural. That difference in worldview puts them in conflict with each other (though the movie unfortunately waits longer than it should to reveal it), especially since Jacob's "naivety" once cost them the life of their sister.

I put "naivety" in quotes, because of course Jacob's not naïve. When the brothers are captured by Napolean's invasion army and forced to put a stop to a series of kidnappings in a nearby village, they soon realize that something very spooky and real is going on. There's also a subplot in which the brothers find themselves rivals for the affection of one of the village girls (Lena Headey).

There's enough going on and enough dramatic conflict that The Brothers Grimm could've been a solid movie. None of the conflict is particularly inspired, but the right dialogue could've made it interesting. Unfortunately, that never happens and we get an X-Files-derived, but otherwise generic, romantic comedy. Although -- it can't be said too often -- a gorgeous one.

Even the fairy tale elements -- things that happen in the village that will supposedly one day inspire the brothers' stories -- fail to live up to the potential of the idea. One of the kidnapping victims happens to wear a little, red, riding cloak. Another, named Greta, gets lost in the woods with her brother Hans, in spite of having left a trail of bread crumbs. Another girl is sucked into a mud-creature of some kind, which then flattens itself and inexplicably refers to itself as a "gingerbread man." An enchanted woodsman turns -- again, without explanation -- into a wolf. It all seems very forced, as if the idea to have the brothers' tales be inspired by their adventure in the village was a late suggestion. The exceptions to that are the Queen, who has elements of Snow White and Rapunzel that make sense in her story, and a clever bit that humorously gives a possible real-world explanation for the Frog Prince story.

One last gripe I have is about the character of Cavaldi (Peter Stormare), an Italian torturer who's sent along to keep an eye on the brothers and make sure that they fulfill their obligation to Napolean's army. His accent is mostly indecipherable and he's sadistic to the point of ridiculousness, right up until the point where the plot requires him to suddenly change his personality so that he wants to help the brothers rather than menace them.

Still, the movie looks great and any imagination lacking in the script has been poured ten-fold into the visuals. Gilliam's created an enchanted place that's worthy of fairy tales. It's just maddeningly unfortunate that the story told there isn't worthy of the setting.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

To See: 300

I've intended on seeing 300 for as long as I knew it was being adapted to movie form, but that's more out of my interest in the actual historical event than the fact that it's based on a Frank Miller graphic novel. The half of Miller's stuff that I like (Sin City, Batman: Year One, Dark Knight Returns, etc.), I really like. The half that I don't care so much for (Spawn, Dark Knight Strikes Again, All-Star Batman and Robin, etc.), makes me not automatically assume that I'm going to like something just because it's got his name on it.

My anticipation of 300 has been pretty low-key until lately, because all the promotional imagery I saw for it was just a bunch of folks standing around in front of blue screens. What's changed and made me full-on excited for this movie, is that the trailer has come out. 300 is going to be a stunningly beautiful film.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

To See: Arthur and the Invisibles

I said before that I'm a sucker for stories about kids that get transported into magical worlds. Arthur and the Invisibles looks like a great example of that kind of story done perfectly as a movie. Arthur inhabits a beautifully photographed, live-action world until he enters the world of the Invisibles where he's converted to the same, stunningly detailed CGI that they are. The trailer's got a fantastic, storybook quality to it.

And David Bowie voices the bad guy.

Link du Jour: Brad Meltzer

When DC announced back in the day that Kevin Smith's stint as writer of Green Arrow wasn't going to last forever, I was as concerned as most other Green Arrow fans that the next guy be up to snuff. Smith's run on the book was a freakin' thrill to read, so who could possibly compare?

I didn't know who Brad Meltzer was, but when they announced him I was a little encouraged that he was a successful novelist who liked sneaking geeky comic references into his books. That meant he had both the talent and the passion to do a good job on what, at the time, was my favorite superhero. As I read his Green Arrow story, "The Archer's Quest," I wasn't disappointed.

Meltzer's story was very different from Smith's in feel, but it communicated that same love of What Had Come Before that Smith's did. And it ended with a shocking revelation about Green Arrow that, while completely in-character for the hero, completely changed the way I looked at him as well. Later, reading interviews with Meltzer, I learned that that was the point.

His effectiveness in doing so is hotly debated amongst comics fans, but I admire Meltzer's desire to leave characters profoundly changed by the stories he tells about them. The biggest weakness of corporate-owned superhero comics is the pressure to maintain the status quo, and even if I don't always agree with a particular point in his execution, I love that Meltzer has the desire (and the political clout) to tell daring stories with these characters.

I also love his attitude about genres. I got to interview him once and asked him about it. "I think they're a trap," he said, "simply because a 'genre' implies rules. And there's no greater restriction to writing than to say a certain story has to have 'rules.' A thriller needs nothing more than danger to the protagonist and a good story. You don't need a love interest, or a private eye, or a stunning courtroom scene. It needs nothing but a good story. It can be a Western with dogs -- but if it's good, it's good."

New Comics: 12/6/06

So, here's what's hitting comic stores today.

And here's what I'm planning on picking up:

52 #31
Witchblade #102
Agents of Atlas #5
Incredible Hulk #101
Athena Voltaire: Flight of the Falcon (Ape Edition) #3

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

To See: Time of the Apes (MST3K Version)

A local cartoonist wrote on his blog recently that there's a Japanese version of Planet of the Apes called Time of the Apes. I shouldn't be surprised, but I was. Unfortunately, it sounds like as big a turd as Frankenstein Conquers the World.

According to the Amazon plot summary: "Three bumbling morons accidentally stumble into a cryogenic freezer and end up in the future, where monkeys populate the Earth" and "are ruled themselves by a supercomputer named 'UECOM,' which is a malevolent artificial being created by humans."

It sounds unwatchable, except that Mystery Science Theater 3000 did an episode on it and that would be worth seeing. Unfortunately, as far as I can tell, that episode hasn't been released on DVD yet. Someday though. Someday...

Link du Jour: Neil Gaiman

I feel completely presumptuous and silly writing about how anyone should check out and love Neil Gaiman, as if everyone in the world hadn't already checked out and fallen in love with him.

But, I said that I was going to go through my links list and talk about each one, and so I will. Except that a month ago -- on his birthday -- I already said everything I want to say about him.

So, yeah. Neil Gaiman. If you don't love him, it's because you haven't read him. But, of course, you have.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Happy Nero Wolfe Day!

I was on the road for most of the day on my day job, so not much posting today. It is worth mentioning though that it's Rex Stout's 120th birthday.

I get my love of mystery stories from my mom, and Stout's Nero Wolfe character was one of her favorite detectives. Stout published 46 novels in the Nero Wolfe series, starting with Fer-de-Lance in 1934, which he'd written two years earlier at the age of 46.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Review: Tomb Raider movies



I remember being disappointed with the first Tomb Raider movie, though for the life of me I can't figure out how my expectations for it were high enough to merit disappointment. It must have been bad enough of an experience that I didn't rush out and see the sequel when it came out, but I guess it must have been good enough for me to keep the sequel on my To See Eventually list.

Or maybe it was just the thought of seeing more of Angelina Jolie running around in a tank top and hot pants.

Anyway, "eventually" finally arrived this week, and I even went back and re-watched the first one for context. They're similar enough that in reviewing one, you're really reviewing both, so I won't differentiate much between the two here.

They're not great films, but they're fun to watch. Basically, they've taken all the cheesy things that I hate about the typical James Bond movie and put them into a new franchise. And that's okay with me. Crazy gadgets and outrageous stunts aren't inherently evil; they just don't belong in a Bond movie. Give them to a beautiful woman with a great accent though, and I'm all for them. No one's going to complain that you're ruining the character of Lara Croft by adding that stuff. It's mindless and it's gratuitious, but sometimes you just want to see stuff blow up.

On the other hand, even when stuff is blowing up, it's not too much to ask that it happen creatively. I mean, look at Die Hard. It's the perfect example of an action movie that skillfully avoids being mindless. The Tomb Raider movies, on the other hand, follow a simple, uncreative recipe. Take an ancient artifact with immensely destructive power; add an organization of villains who hope to sieze that power and use it to take over the world; mix together with a complicated map that leads to the artifact; sprinkle with stunts, explosions, and cheap CGI.

Even though I don't mind the stunts-and-explosions sprinkles, I do object to the uninspired plot and the cheap CGI. A major peeve of mine is when directors drop in CGI for something that I've already seen done a zillion times with real actors and props. For example, in Van Helsing there's a scene where Hugh Jackman is supposed to leap from a speeding carriage onto the horses that are pulling it. How many times have you seen a real guy do that in ancient, low-budget Westerns? It's inexcusable to substitute a CGI cartoon character for an actual stuntman in that scene. Same thing with the scene in Tomb Raider: Cradle of Life where Lara Croft fights a CGI shark. If Sean Connery can go up against real sharks in Thunderball, Angelina Jolie can do the same thing. Using CGI for that kind of stuff is lazy and insulting and it looks stupid.

I also object to the fact that in both movies, Angelina Jolie wears hot pants a total of one time, but that complaint comes from an entirely different source of motivation.

Having seen both movies now, I remember why I was disappointed in the first one. It wasn't that I went into it with great expectations; it was that it was fun enough and sexy enough that I was let down when the plot (and characters, by the way) turned out to be unimaginative. And the sequel suffered the same problem.

To Read: The Mark of Ran

A friend told me about Paul Kearney's The Mark of Ran, so I checked out the Publishers Weekly review for it. They had me at "fantasy swashbuckler."

The rest of the description in the review isn't quite as compelling because it sounds like Kearney's world is overly magical. I like just a teensy bit of magic in fantasy stories, otherwise the magic becomes mundane; just a substitute for technology. One of the great things about The Lord of the Rings is that not everyone went around casting spells. Magic was special. The description of The Mark of Ran talks about witchcraft, magical gods, magical races, and a magical sword. That's a lot of magic for a one-paragraph review.

But then, it also talks about "the creak of ship's timbers and the flash of live steel," so I'm at least going to give it a chance to pass the 100-Page Rule.

Link du Jour: Matt Fraction

The other day I told you about the lovely and talented Kelly Sue DeConnick. Today's link is to the blog of her hubbie, Matt Fraction.

Fraction got a lot of attention as the writer of the graphic novel Last of the Independents, but it wasn't until his 30 Days of Night: Bloodsucker Tales story with Ben Templesmith that I read his work. That got me curious enough to want to try his next comic book series, Casanova, which turned out to be an insane dumping ground for idea after wonderful idea.

I wrote in a review somewhere that Fraction throws ideas onto the page like he's never going to run out. And, of course, he's not. But that doesn't keep a lot of writers from being stingy with their ideas anyway and I love that Fraction's not like that. It makes Casanova a brilliant adventure comic, and it makes me very interested in checking out Fraction's new stuff for Marvel: Punisher War Journal and The Immortal Iron Fist.

Missed it by not at all

So, Warner Brothers is making a movie version of Get Smart. I never watched the show, but my wife and her family are big fans, and I'm very sensitive to the difficulty of finding an actor who can adequately fill the shoes of someone as distinctive as Don Adams. I mean, that would be like trying to find someone besides Peter Sellers to play Jacques Clouseau.

Maybe it's because I'm a bigger fan of The Office than Get Smart, but I think they've done it in this case by hiring Steve Carell to play Maxwell Smart. He may not be interchangeable with Don Adams, but he's funnier. And at least he's not Matthew Broderick.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

New Comics: 11/29/06

Little later than usual with this, but out of all the stuff Diamond shipped today, here's the stuff I'm looking forward to getting:

Dark Horse Book of Monsters (eventually)
52 #30
Batman #659
Batman/The Spirit (maybe)
Rush City #3 (featuring Black Canary)
Black Panther #22
Captain America #24
Immortal Iron Fist #1 (Fraction!)
X-Men #193

Link du Jour: Mark Evanier's News from Me

If you've ever read Groo, you know that Mark Evanier is a very funny man. He's also a great student and follower of pop culture, all of which comes in handy on his News from Me blog, a place for him to collect and comment on news from a variety of pop culture industries, from comics to TV and movies.

The only problem is that Evanier blogs faster than I can read, but whenever I've got a few minutes of free time, he's always up on the latest stuff.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Link du Jour: The Alexandre Dumas père Web Site

One of these days, I'm going to have to sit down an make a bona fide list of my Top Five Favorite Novels of All Time. I'm pretty sure that The Three Musketeers is going to be on there though. It's got swashbuckling adventure, historical figures, believable (yet larger-than-life) characters, mystery, horror, humor, and tragedy. I'm amazed at how well Dumas worked all of that into a single story and did it so flawlessly.

I've wanted to read more Dumas ever since I finished The Three Musketeers, but haven't gotten around to it yet. When I do though, I'll be using The Alexandre Dumas père Web Site as a resource.

"Completely Cold" mention

Most folks don't review short stories that appear in the back-matter of comic books, but I found a mention of "Completely Cold" that refers to it as "excellent" in this review of the Angel comic that it appeared in.

Thanks to Karen Newman for not only reading it, but saying nice things about it too.

Review: Scoop

I like Woody Allen movies, generally speaking. Some of them are better than others, of course. Mighty Aphrodite and Anything Else, for example, are better than Everyone Says I Love You and The Curse of the Jade Scorpion, though those have their moments too.

The difference is in how well the movies' themes and I connect with each other. In Mighty Aphrodite, I could relate to Woody's desire to help Mira Sorvino's character and to his confusing that desire with romantic attraction. In Anything Else, I identified with Jason Biggs' desperate need to hold on to what he's already comfortable with rather than bravely pursue something better, but uncertain. In contrast, Everyone Says I Love You is about rich people who sing and dance while meddling in each others lives, and Jade Scorpion is a cool homage to noir detective stories. They're both good; they're just not great. And Woody Allen always has the potential to be great.

Scoop also fails to live up to greatness. It's got a great premise in which a dead reporter uncovers a huge scoop on Charon's boat to Hades and uses a magician (Woody Allen) to help him contact a journalism student (Scarlett Johansson) so that he can feed her clues to solve and ultimately report the story. The scoop concerns the identity of a serial killer who may or may not be Hugh Jackman. Scarlett investigates and of course starts to fall for Wolverine.

Like Jade Scorpion, Scoop is a decent mystery, but Allen spends more time making the dialogue funny (and it is) than he does filling plot holes. I won't reveal the ending, but let it suffice to say that all questions are not answered by the time the credits roll. I also found myself very aware of Allen's preference for letting actors ad lib their way through scenes. That doesn't usually bother me in his films, but I was sensitive to it here for some reason. Maybe it was me, but maybe this cast just wasn't as adept at it as some others have been. As much as I like the cast, I can't say that I liked the movie and I don't recommend it unless you're just really itching to see a new Woody Allen film.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Link du Jour: Kelly Sue

The first I ever heard of Kelly Sue DeConnick was in an interview she did with Steve Niles. It was a great, casual, fun read and when she started coming around Steve's message board shortly after, I learned that she was just as great and casual and fun a person, and we became pals.

Kelly Sue used to review graphic novels for ArtBomb.net (subject of a future Link du Jour even though it's no longer updated), and she helped me develop a working philosophy for just what it is I'm trying to accomplish in my own comics reviews.

She translates manga into English, and it thrills me more than it has a right to that she and I have in common that we've both had short stories published as back-matter in IDW comics. She's also married to one my favorite voices in comics right now: Matt Fraction (whom I'll also be Link du Jouring later on).

At the moment, Kelly Sue's co-writing a 30 Days of Night mini-series with Steve. It's called Eben and Stella and I can't wait to read it. I've always felt that the 30 Days stuff works best as a romance story wrapped in a horror blanket, so it sounds like Kelly Sue's story might play to that strength.

I Give Up: A Game of Thrones



Bookgasm has a rule that's changed my reading life. It's the 100-page rule: "If it’s not good by page 100, quit reading."

I gave George R.R. Martin's A Game of Thrones about 150 pages, and while no one could ever call it "bad," it failed to grab me. It's the first book in an epic, but it's epic itself in the number of characters that it asks you to keep track of and care about. Keeping track of them all isn't so hard -- Martin does a fine job of making them all memorable in some way -- but I can't care about them all. So I found myself impatiently reading about a spoiled little daughter of nobility and her tomboy sister, for example, when I really wanted to know what was going to happen to their bastard half-brother whose only future seems to be defending a bleak, wilderness wall against terrifying, unseen creatures (but you just know that bigger things are coming for him).

I don't want to suggest that Martin made a bad call in bouncing between members of his large cast. I don't want to suggest anything that makes it sound like Martin's a bad writer, because he clearly isn't. It's just that where my head's at right now, I need a tighter story. I don't know for sure where Martin's taking his Song of Ice and Fire series (of which A Game of Thrones is the first book), but it's obviously somewhere big. And probably somewhere interesting.

There's a lot of intrigue and political manouvering going on in A Game of Thrones and I'm halfway interested in seeing where it all ends up. But I'm much more interested in finding out what happens to that bastard kid and the crippled nobleman who accompanies him to the wilderness wall. I also want to read more about the former princess whose brother sold her to a barbarian warlord in return for military support in an endeavor to regain the brother's throne. Boy, I have a feeling that the brother's going to regret that.

I also have a feeling that I'll be coming back to A Game of Thrones when I'm able to be more patient with the parts that I'm not as into: the strained friendship, for instance, between a king and his right-hand man. Or the training of a young nobleman whose father has left the family holdings to fulfill his duty elsewhere in the kingdom.

But for now, I need something that moves faster and is more plot-oriented. I'm hoping that Terry Brooks' Armageddon's Children does the trick.

Updated to add: It didn't.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving!

And that's probably it for a few days. Hope everyone has a safe and happy Thanksgiving. See you Monday!

Link du Jour: Edgar Rice Burroughs at Scifan

I'm not so much an Edgar Rice Burroughs fan as I am a Tarzan fan. I gave Princess of Mars a couple of shots, but it never captured my imagination like the idea of a savage wildman with the breeding and manners of an English Lord. Tarzan's like the ultimate superhero with his amazing abilities and dual lifestyles, but he's tough enough that he doesn't need a costume or a secret identity. He can defend his loved ones just fine without having to hide them behind a disguise. Plus, he's always running into hot jungle babes and some lost civilization or other and I'm a total sucker for both of those things.

Which reminds me that I need to try At the Earth's Core one of these days. I also dig dinosaurs.

At any rate, Scifan's Edgar Rice Burroughs page has a great, chronological bibliography of his stuff, plus links to other ERB sites, so it's a valuable resource for anyone into Burroughs' stuff, or even just part of it.

To Read: Commissaire Adamsberg mysteries

Bookgasm comes through again with another cool recommendation. Their description of Fred Vargas' Seeking Whom He May Devour sounds just enough like Brotherhood of the Wolf to make me think it'll be cool, while being way different enough to make me want to read it instead of just watching Brotherhood again:

The Mercantour National Park lies in the provincial southeast of France, home to a pack of wolves that cross over the Alps from Italy on a yearly basis. This year, the wolves seem to get out of hand. Sheep are savaged in the area, killed without being eaten. An investigation reveals that an extremely large wolf has killed the sheep: an abnormal beast – indeed, a monster.

Lawrence Johnstone studies the wolves and takes their side. He is anguished when the populace decides to hunt the wolves down. But the town moves beyond that stage quickly. Soon, there is talk that the attacks are not the work of a wolf, but of a man and wolf hybrid, a werewolf. A local person is implicated, and that person goes missing. And then it’s not just sheep that are being savaged, but humans that fall prey to the slavering teeth.

Enter Commissaire Jean-Baptiste Adamsberg, the hero of Vargas' previous book, Have Mercy on Us All, who gets involved in the case after hearing about it on TV. Bookgasm calls the novel a "magical noir" and leaves open whether or not the killings are really the work of werewolves or something more mundane. Either way, I'm fascinated.

Just like I'm fascinated with the idea behind Have Mercy on Us All, about a self-appointed town crier in modern Paris whose announcements begin to take the form of medieval texts that predicted the coming of the Black Death. When backward 4s -- once used in Europe as protection against the Plague -- begin appearing on apartment doors, Adamsberg -- who sounds something like a French version of Colombo -- investigates.

Review: Dreamcatcher

I'd heard that Dreamcatcher was nothing like what the trailer made it out to be, but I needed to see for myself. I'm stubborn like that.

The trailer that I saw was about these four friends who go off into the woods and apparently unleash something evil. Morgan Freeman shows up later and seems to know something about it. The trailer and the movie poster focused on a strange woman, sitting alone in the middle of a snow-covered road, whom a couple of the friends nearly run over. Is she some kind of Native American mystic who brings all this down on the friends? The official site supports that interpretation with this description: "Four friends hung a dreamcatcher in their cabin. It's about to catch something it cannot stop." That's a movie I'd like to see.

Dreamcatcher, on the other hand, is Men in Black meets Stand by Me. I like the Stand by Me aspects of it: the four friends who've been a team since childhood and share a common secret. It's the Men in Black part that bugs me. Contrary to the website's claim, the dreamcatcher in the cabin catches nothing. It's an awkward metaphor for a mentally handicapped buddy of the four friends. Stephen King probably explains it better in the book, but the analogy is muddy in the film. Morgan Freeman does indeed know what's going on though, because he's the commander of a top secret military unit that's been protecting the Earth from an alien invasion for the last twenty years or so.

The movie's real problem is that the alien invasion twist comes out of nowhere. As far as you know, both from the marketing and from the first third of the movie itself, you're watching a story about Native American artifacts and people with mystical powers. Then, without warning, Morgan Freeman shows up and starts talking about stuff right out of Alien, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and War of the Worlds that we're supposed to believe has been going on for the last three decades.

I'd hoped that having been spoiled about the alien invasion twist, I'd be prepared for it and just be able to enjoy it for what it is, but even then, it's flawed. King's novels work better for me as mini-series than movies, and I think that would probably be the case here too. The story's too rushed. It does a nice job of letting you spend enough time with the four friends to like them, but everything that happens to them feels like it's happening too soon. There's some spooky stuff, but unfortunately the film doesn't build enough tension around it to make it powerful. Even the strange woman in the road, so heavily featured in the marketing, is only briefly featured; just long enough to move the plot along to its next point.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Review: La Belle et la Bête

Unlike Pinocchio, the story of Beauty and the Beast is one of my favorite fairy tales. I've always loved stories of monsters who are kind-hearted on the inside, whether it's Beauty's Beast or Quasimodo or Frankenstein's Monster or the Hulk or Chewbacca.

Jean Cocteau's 1946 French version is a classic and I really can't explain why it's taken me this long to see it. I mean, I loved the Hallmark version with George C. Scott and even Disney's take, so it was given that I'd love this version too. And I did, for the most part.

The make-up and effects on this thing are stunning. Seriously, Cocteau isn't afraid to show close-ups of Jean Marais as the Beast and the make-up is flawless. He looks like an animal, complete with moving ears. And I don't know if this was make-up or just Marais, but when people talk about eyes glistening like pools, they're describing Marais. That's not me being overly in touch with my feminine side, that's an observation of fact.

The Beast's castle is absolutely magical. Cocteau uses disembodied arms (reminiscent of Thing from The Addams Family) to simulate moving, inanimate objects. Rather than have a tea kettle pour itself,for example, an arm sprouts from the middle of the table to perform the service. Arms also hang on walls to hold up candelabras or to open curtains. Statues are scattered around the castle, played by living actors so that they can turn their heads and silently observe the goings on of the Beast and his reluctant houseguest.

The special effects are as low tech as you'd expect from a 1946 film, but Cocteau knows the meaning of the phrase "trick photography" and uses it wonderfully. By simply switching back and forth a couple of times between camera shots, Cocteau makes you marvel as the Beast carries an unconscious Beauty into her room and you see her raggedy maid's dress transform into a beautiful gown as she goes through the door.

Marais is excellent as the Beast too. He's tortured, desperate, noble, and feral, all at the same time. Exactly the hero that the piece needs.

Josette Day is as pretty as she needs to be, but doesn't do much to make Beauty overly likeable. Her attitude towards the Beast changes overnight and she's a very stupid girl when she goes home to visit her dying father. That's all pretty faithful to the fairy tale, but it just means that someone -- either the screenplay writer or the actress -- has extra work to do to make Beauty someone who's worthy of the Beast's affection. Unfortunately, no one does the extra work in this version. I'm not calling that a flaw of the film though. It's just presenting the story the way it is, without improving on it.

The only thing I'd call a flaw about La Belle et la Bête is the ending with it's odd, never-explained connection between the Beast and the handsome young rogue who's been courting Beauty back in the real world. Marais plays both characters, and I don't at all get why they look alike or why what ultimately happens to the rogue happens.

It's a weird enough ending that it almost makes me not want to buy the film, but I'm enough of a fan of the story and the sheer magic that Cocteau enfused it with, that it's going to be something I'll want to watch again and share with others.

Monday, November 20, 2006

New Comics: 11/22/06

Diamond's shipping list for the week is out. Whatchoo getting?

Adventure Comic
Casanova #6

Mystery Comic
Horrorwood #4

Horror Comic
Dwight T. Albatross' The Goon Noir #2

Fantasy Comic
Jack of Fables #5
Looking Glass Wars: Hatter M #4

Superhero Comics
52 #29
Creeper #4
Supergirl and the Legion of Super Heroes #24
Wonder Woman #3
Amazing Spider-Man #536
Daredevil #91
Heroes for Hire #4
Punisher War Journal #1

An animated Dragonlance? Really?

With Lord of the Rings paving the way for stuff like Narnia and Eragon, I'd think that something with the popularity of Dungeons & Dragons' Dragonlance series would be a sure thing for the same, live-action/CGI treatment. But nope. Animated movie.

Is it going to be direct-to-DVD too?

At least they got Lucy Lawless to do one of the voices, but telling her to just "do Xena" for it is pretty unoriginal.

I've only read the initial trilogy in the vast Dragonlance series, but it was imaginative and unique and had some great visuals, so this is all pretty disappointing news.

Link du Jour: Ed Brubaker

I think that the first thing I ever read by Ed Brubaker was Gotham Central. If you're not familiar with it, it was a realistic cop drama in the tradition of NYPD Blue that just happened to be a comic book set in Gotham City. So, instead of trying to catch a standard mobster or serial killer, the characters -- regular, everyday cops -- were trying to catch guys like Two-Face or The Joker. It was a brilliant idea for a comic and was brilliantly executed thanks to the fact that Brubaker and his co-writer Greg Rucka wrote the whole thing straight, as if it were a CBS TV show rather than a DC comic.

I'd also heard great things about Brubaker's work on Catwoman and the spy thriller he wrote called The Sleeper. So, when Marvel announced that he was taking over the writing duties of Captain America, I got real curious about it. Turns out, Brubaker was up to the hype. He turned Captain America into something that's as much spy adventure as it is superhero comic, and he's reminded readers about how lonely a man-out-of-time like Captain America must be. It's exciting, dark, touching stuff.

He hit gold again with Daredevil, proving that he was probably the only person who could successfully take over the crime title from former writer Brian Michael Bendis. Brubaker's take on it has gone from prison drama to international caper story. That's Brubaker's strength, I think: the ability to take superheroes and figure out how to tell fresh stories about them by abandoning the typical superhero formulas and using a completely different genre. The only time it hasn't worked perfectly for me has been his space operatic take on Uncanny X-Men, but I cannot wait for his and Matt Fraction's upcoming stint on Iron Fist.

Anyway, Brubaker's talented enough that I wish he had a blog in order to talk more about his process, but his website is still very helpful for keeping up with the latest news about his projects.

Review: Casino Royale

It's perfect. It's absolutely perfect.

That's the spoiler-free version. If you don't mind my talking about specifics and possibly ruining something for you, keep reading.

Spoilers Below

I've talked before about how the novel Casino Royale is my favorite Bond book. Actually, there are times when I think it may just be my favorite book of all time. It's definitely in the Top Five. So, how picky was I going to be about a straightforward adaptaion of it? Not very, it turns out.

Well, I guess I was picky on whether or not it captured the spirit of the novel, and I wasn't disappointed there. But as long as it managed that, I didn't care so much about most of the details.

The first half of the movie is all new story. The adaptation doesn't kick in until the second half. This isn't bad though because if the book has a weakness, it's that it takes a couple of chapters to get going thanks to some false starts that cover how the case came across M's desk and how he decided to give it to Bond. In the movie, Bond is led into the case more naturally, as the result of something else he's already working on. That gives the filmmakers lots of room in the first half to do some of the traditional stunt sequences that Bond movie fans are fond of. And they're great ones too. There's a footchase early on where you can't imagine how in the world Bond is ever going to catch a villain who employs Spider-Man-like acrobatics to get away. There were several times during that sequence where I couldn't figure out how Bond was going to make it out alive, much less get his man.

The one thing that the first half has that's straight from the book is how Bond gets his double-O status in the teaser sequence. You have to make two kills in the line of duty to get your "license to kill," and though the specifics of Bond's kills are a little different between the book and movie, the general idea of them is the same. One's neat and clean; the other is horribly, horribly messy. And the way that the teaser seques into the famous Bond-shooting-at-the-gun-barrel bit is so very, very cool.

The second half of the movie -- the adaptation part -- is also perfect. If I'm going to be picky, I'll express a little disappointment that the card game has been updated from baccarat to Texas Hold 'Em, but I'll live. The important things are the tension around the game, the character of Vesper, the torture sequence, the revelation of the story's real villain (the one that continues into the next several stories of the series), and what happens to Bond afterwards that changes his attitude about his work.

Daniel Craig is perfect as Bond. Just like in the book, he's a cold-hearted bastard who takes a little too much pleasure in his work at first. But, like in the book, that changes as the story progresses. Someone on a message board said that this was the first Bond he ever gave a crap about. Yeah, Connery was cool and the rest of the actors have had varying degrees of success at imitating that cool, but this is the first time that Bond has been a real character. Dalton gave us glimpses of this side of Bond, but it's fully explored in Casino Royale and Craig pulls it off flawlessly. I wanted to stand up and freakin' cheer at his response to the bartender who asked him if he wanted his martini shaken or stirred.

It's a Bond movie, so I didn't have a problem with the weird continuity of Judi Dench's having worked as M with Pierce Brosnan and now having to break in a new 007. Continuity has been weird with Bond films since On Her Majesty's Secret Service when George Lazenby gets beat up in the teaser and quips that "this never would've happened to the other guy." The only choices you have are to ignore it, or buy into the theory that the name "James Bond," like the 007 number, is something that England passes on from spy to spy. I hate that theory, so I choose to ignore it. As far as I'm concerned, this is the first Bond movie, with Daniel Craig as the real James Bond. In spite of my usual obsessive geekiness about this kind of thing, because it's a Bond movie, I can do that without taking anything away from my enjoyment of, say, Doctor No or Thunderball.

And as an origin movie: again, perfect. I loved seeing those first two kills and Bond's attitude about them. I loved seeing him get the Aston Martin. I loved watching him develop as a character. I loved how he doesn't introduce himself that way until the very end and how they save the theme music for that exact moment.

But the thing I loved most about the movie on any level; the most important thing of all: he said The Line. Not a line from another Bond movie, but the last line in the novel. The one that's my favorite line in the history of literature. The line that completely defines who Bond is throughout the rest of the series. I was nervous watching Casino Royale up until Craig said that line, but at that point, I knew that it was a perfect movie.

They'll never do it, but I wish they'd go ahead and remake the rest of the Fleming novels -- in order -- with Daniel Craig and the feel of this movie. Man, it was beautiful seeing "based on the book by Ian Fleming" in the credits again. If they could pull off an entire series like this, building the way that the novels do, it'd be better than Star Wars and Lord of the Rings combined.

Friday, November 17, 2006

To See: The Tripper

Written and directed by David Arquette. Starring David Arquette, Courtney Cox, Thomas Jane, Jason Mewes, and Paul Reubens. Executive produced by Steve Niles. About a serial killer who targets stoner hippies.

It doesn't get much more perfect than that.

The Tripper is coming out early next year, but according to Steve Niles, selected cities are getting a preview of it this Sunday and Tuesday. Check your theater for exact showtimes.

SUNDAY: NOV. 19th

Los Angeles: The Bridge Cinema Delux
Panama City: Regency 11
Atlanta: The Plaza Theatre
San Jose: Century Capitol 16
Birmingham: Brook Hiland 10
New York: The E-Walk 13
San Francisco: Century Plaza 10
Las Vegas: Regal Village Square 18

TUESDAY: NOVEMBER 21st

Memphis: Muvico Peabody Place 22
Cincinnati: Eaton Town Center 30 (closest)
Phoenix: AMC Dear Valley 30
San Antonio: Regal Fiesta 16
Orlando: Universal Cineplex 20
New York: Regal E-Walk 13
Atlanta: AMC Magic Johnson Greenbriar
Salt Lake City: Century 16
Birmingham: Brook Hiland 10
Minneapolis: Crown Block E
Tampa: Veterans Expressway 24
Boston: No theatre listed
Roanoke: Chesterfield Town Center

Link du Jour: Steven Barnes

I've never read Steven Barnes' stuff, but my pal Joe sent me a link to his blog as something he's been enjoying, so I'm checking it out too. So far I've learned that Barnes is not only a science fiction author; he's also a fan of The Unit. That makes him okay with me.

To Read: Grave Descend

I don't know what it is, but I am all into the '60s adventure lately. Casino Royale is playing right into that, but it goes much deeper. I've been buying comics from that genre lately and even music that evokes that swinging '60s sound. A lot of my favorite artists right now are guys who paint in a style that reminds me of those cool '60s spy posters.

So, the cover of Grave Descend with its fancy yacht and bikini girl immediately grabbed my attention. The praise lavished on it by Bookgasm puts it on my To Read list:

"...a wrecked yacht creates a mystery that attracts (thank God) all the wrong kinds of people, including our protagonist. If you want to study plotting 101, this is a book you should analyze for setting up a mystery that grows richer with each chapter."

" ...the hero is McGregor, a freelance diver hired to salvage secret cargo from the titular downed yacht, which he’s told went down mysteriously the day prior. Something doesn’t quite (add) up in McG’s mind, however, and when he does some sniffing around a few hours before an agreed-upon, pre-dive helicopter flyover, his suspicions are confirmed: The yacht hasn’t sunk at all."

"John Lange," by the way, is Michael Crichton's old pen-name from the '70s, when this story was first published.

Tonight!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Excuse me, Cownt. Do you have the time?

Because you demanded it! Cownt goodies!

I wanted the first items available to have the Official Cownt version on them, but I'm planning on adding more options, so check back every now and then to see what new items are up. I know I'm not going to be happy until a Grant Gould "Dirty Cownt" mousepad exists in the world.

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