Aug 04 2015

Seabiscuit

This is the story about an abused horse that is too small for racing, a down and out kid too big to be a jockey, a horse trainer who is too old, and a very rich horse owner who is trying to get over the death of his son (and has a ridiculous generosity with his money). I’m assuming most of the story is true, and I kind of don’t want to know which parts, if any, are fabricated, as it really is a nicely done feel good movie that parallels well with the needs of the nation coming out of the depression that is its setting. seabiscuit

Aug 03 2015

Over Easy – Mimi Pond

This is a very strong tale, done in sketchy light blue, about a wannabe artist, who, after being forced out of college due to finances, takes a job in a diner. It is the late 70s in San Francisco and the characters are, to say the least, rather colorful. Drugs, sex and a hodgepodge of musical and artistic styles all come together for the backdrop of this tale of daily life. It is a long work, and even then feels rushed at times, with a variety of people all thrown together, so at times it may be difficult to keep track of who is who (and especially of who is having sex with who), and while I understand why it ended on a somewhat upbeat, if unfinished, note, I would’ve liked to see more of a conclusion, as, let’s face it, we are talking about a very specific moment in time. But I suppose it would leave things with too much of a downer, so perhaps it is best we have what we have. Definitely worth reading. over easy

Aug 02 2015

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2

The first half hour of the second part of the conclusion of the movies about the boy wizard, Harry Potter, and his fight against the forces of darkness is largely a mess. It moves slowly, like the first installment, and at the same time is jumpy. If you have someone’s wand and can use it as ID, why not show it? How did Luna get into Hogwarts when the main group had such an impossible time doing so? How many items are we looking for again? At the same time a lot of the character development and screen time is also lost. Thank goodness the movie has as many of the flaws as the book. Around the 40 minute mark things pick up and, honestly, you might just want to start watching this movie at that point (and skip the first entirely). If you do, you might find the experience more enjoyable. For the record: I still am concerned that kids will plow through the books/movies without actually growing up with them, Luna is the Lily to my Severus, and Neville is truly the character that develops and grows more than anyone else in the series. Like the book, the movie may not be the most enjoyable conclusion to what is arguably a generation shaping phenomenon, but it is a satisfying one, and perhaps that was the best we could have hoped for. Goodbye, Harry Potter; “the boy that lived” did so more than most of us.

Aug 01 2015

Nathan Hale’s Hazadous Tales: The Underground Abductor – Nathan Hale

I greatly enjoy these tales ostensibly told by America’s first spy, who shares the name of the author, who, just prior to his execution, is able to recount tales throughout American history. And recount them he does, mainly geared towards a young adult audience but I like them just fine. This one is about the escaped slave Harriet Tubman (as she would name herself) and her amazingly adventurous life shuttling slaves to freedom. Plenty of stuff I never learned in school, this is perhaps one of my favorite in the series so far. underground abductor

Jul 30 2015

State of Play

I had never heard of this movie, or perhaps I simply blocked it out, as it is far too filled with pretty people, but I greatly enjoyed it. Two reporters (well, one’s a blogger) are trying to unravel a mystery of a government intern suicide/murder, and what, if any, it has to do with a government probe of what amounts to the privatization of military forces (Think Blackwater). I was very impressed with the relationships between characters, commentary on the state of newspapers, and the fact that there was no gratuitous violence, only subtle romance, and no big action shoot them up scenes. Then again, perhaps that’s exactly what killed the movie and made it so I never heard of it. state of play

Jul 29 2015

Ant-Man: Prelude

In preparation for the movie launch, Marvel comics has a collection of several Ant-Man comics, a couple of which are supposed to relate, probably tangentially, to the movie. Personally, I like Ant-Man, I just think there’s something really cool about being ridiculously small, having all your natural strengths, controlling those annoying bugs, and popping in and out of places. Additionally, I think the original Ant-Man is pretty awesome as he’s a super scientist. This collection, however, isn’t particularly thrilling, and focuses on the new Ant-Man, who was some reformed criminal with an engineering degree or something. I hope the movie is a lot better than this collection. Ant-man

Jul 28 2015

In Real Life – Cory Doctorow

Anda, a somewhat average, nerdy, girl joins an online gaming group, but the sword and sorcery adventures quickly change as she’s confronted by realities she did not see or foresee. Doctorow brings us a comic that tries to open us up to a world where economics and gaming go hand-in-hand, remind us of the political life we are used to is very different just about everywhere else, and everywhere else is exactly where the Internet links us. There is a lot to like about this comic, as it can make us very aware of realities that most people would never imagine. My problems with it are that too much is trying to be done in very broad superficial strokes. Issues like female empowerment, female body issues, workers rights, child labor, bullying, the dangers of the online world, and school clicks (even gamers have hierarchies), are all touched on but not often developed. It is a good young adult book with very cute art by Jen Wang. In Real Life

Jul 27 2015

X-Factor: Happenings in Vegas – Peter David

I used to love Peter David’s writing and saw this as an opportunity to see what was going on in the world of mutants. The main story line had promise, wherein the mutant investigators get involved in some Norse god shenanigans that eventually takes them to Las Vegas, and there’s even a side story of interest where a soldier suffering from post-traumatic stress turns out to be suffering from something else entirely. However, everything else about this comic was pretty awful. There’s easily a dozen characters who I know nothing about (in terms of powers, personalities, background, motivations, etc. (and some of the characters I even know, so go figure)) even after reading the collection, lots of plot threads that made me feel completely lost and without motivation to try to find out what was going on, there were a few jokes none of which were funny in the slightest, and the art was so typically everyone is beautiful and all the women have ridiculously impossible bodies that I was simply bored and couldn’t wait to be done. What a disappointment. X-Factor

Jul 26 2015

Kolchak Tales: Monsters Among us!

I only saw maybe a half dozen of the original show, Kolchak: The Night Stalker, or as I called it: The Cheese Stalker as it was so silly only seeing them years after the X-Files, which was inspired by it (I can only imagine how much more dated it is now). But the show was inspirational for its time, recounting the tales of a reporter who always stumbles upon supernatural happenings that he never can get published, so I’m glad to see it back, albeit in comic book form. This collection of two stories about a zombie attack and a monster sighting and the truth behind it, by Christopher Mills and David Michelinie, respectively, aren’t exactly great, but they do capture some of the zaniness of the show and were a lot of fun (I especially liked how Mills has Kolchak dictating his report  into a recorder on a plane full of people who slowly get wrapped up and horrified by his tale). I’d like to see more. Kolchak

Jul 25 2015

Cowboys & Aliens

How did this get pitched? “Ok, so we got this cowboy, and he has this weird tech device on his wrist, but he doesn’t know what it is ’cause he has amnesia, right? and these aliens–space ones that is–are abducting people, and every single cliche you could think of is part of the plot, and despite the action it’s all really boring!” “Hmmmm, but does it make any sense?” “None!” “Then let’s make a movie.” If the comic this is based on is only partially this bad, the books need to be burned.

Jul 24 2015

Pithy Seedy Pulpy Juicy – Hilary B. Price

Perhaps this would be better recognizable if titled Rhymes With Orange as that is the title of the strips that make up this gag collection. In fact, it is a collection of 11 Rhymes With Orange books. The comic is a fairly typical gag strip with cute, if not detailed, art and often clever and even funny jokes. Still, it is a lot of the same style of comics in one collection and I could only deal so much with the self annotations Price adds (sometimes interestingly when discussing artistic inspiration, sometimes pointlessly when discussing how that specific joke was inspired) to just about every strip. Much better to just read a couple of these a week. rhymes with orange

Jul 23 2015

Sex Criminals (vol. 1-2): One Weird Trick & Two Worlds, One Cop – Matt Fraction

Seeing how incredibly popular and award winning this comic series is, it only made sense for me to want to find out what the buzz was about. The story revolves around Suzie and Jon (yes with a Z and without an H, because that shows how cool they are), who both have a bizarre magical power wherein when they orgasm they temporarily stop time. The plot begins when Jon suggest they use their power to rob an evil bank corporation to pay off the mortgage Suzie’s library owes to the bank. The problem is they’re not alone with their powers, and are now being hunted by those who would keep them in check. Now that we’re on the same page let me go through the various unfortunate reasons why this comic is an absolute pile of garbage. Fraction writes most of the comic with the two main characters, and sometimes even himself, speaking directly to the audience, which might’ve been clever once upon a time, but largely is a sign of laziness and inability to express character or conflict through dialogue or action. He does a fair job going into Suzie’s history, expressing her anger with the evil corporation, only vaguely amusingly called Bankcorp, who she blames for the death of her father, and the fact that it is shutting down her beloved library due to mortgage payments, showing her confusion during her years of sexual discovery and lack of information. This last part is the highlight of the comic as it captures confusion of adolescent years, but quickly undermines itself, as her best friend overwhelms her with misinformation about sexual positions when she starts by saying that she wishes someone had talked to her at an early age, so that she might not have contracted HPV. The undermining I’m speaking of is that this is the first, and only until a bit of a joke page in the second volume wherein birth-control methods are discussed, reference to STI (yes, STI not STD), aside from when Jon jokingly thinks he has HIV–people die from that, this is not a joke (and so why would a kid be wearing a t-shirt that makes fun of AIDs in volume two, I have no idea)–and there’s absolutely no indication that any of the characters are concerned about STIs, discussing such issues with their partners, or means of preventing them (e.g., condom use). Fraction also tries to give a similar backstory for Jon, but it is poorly done, or rather simply uninteresting. Suzie is obviously made a librarian to play with the fetish of the sexy librarian, but it would help if Fraction knew anything about public libraries, such as they are not owned by banks.

Suzie is drawn like an absolute bombshell, which is to be expected in comics, but Jon looks like an absolute nothing, and he wins her over only by reciting the opening lines of her favorite book (what he knew because he wanted to be an actor, a point that is never taken up again, such as why he gave up this dream, how he fell into his bank secretary job, how old he is, etc.), and then they proceed to stay together, presumably only because they share this magical power (and the ability to orgasm non-stop), as they don’t appear to have anything else in common, not that they really have personalities anyway.

Jon is depicted as having various problems (although he keeps getting hot women, so how severe can the problems be?) in that he failed in his career as an actor (again, did he even try? we don’t know) and now is stuck in a bank job he hates and also has various mental and behavior problems and doesn’t want take his medicine. This is the second time in a week that I have read a comic wherein not taking medicine that prevents mental disorders is depicted as a noble thing. I find this kind a statement to be incredibly dangerous and irresponsible. It is also his idea to rob Bankcorp in order to pay the library’s mortgage–because the bank won’t notice that their missing money is being used as payment.

One final note, it is not exactly commonplace that a couple will orgasm at the exact same time, especially their first time together. I just feel that Fraction knows as little about sex as he does libraries, and this entire comic is an exercise in fulfilling adolescent fantasy, which is fine, but not deserving of awards, best-selling status, or critical acclaim. For all its make believe to promote sexual expression, the comic does more harm then good by promoting misinformation or delusions about sex. It’s a fluff piece, making Fraction a Fluffer. sex criminals

Jul 22 2015

Forever Evil – Geoff Johns

Maybe I should start with the positives. This is a story about the super villain Lex Luther, who has no superpower other than genius and egotism. After evil doppelgängers of the Justice League invade our world (the world of The New 52) and declared themselves masters of it, Luther and a small group of B level villains decide to fight back. I do like stories the focus on the bad guys’ point of view, and especially those that involve second string characters. There’s enough action and characterization here to keep me entertained and so I will recommend reading this. However, time to deal with the negatives. First of all, I thought The New 52 was supposed to be a kind of jumping on point for new readers. I’m pretty well-versed in DC mythology, yet there was a lot here where I have no idea what’s going on, so for newcomers I can’t think they’ll be anything but lost. Additionally, there are really two directions to take a story like this in: Either you have it span over dozens of issues or more and allow the hundreds of characters that you pan over in the art and the first couple of issues to all have their say and matter in the overall story. Or, you accept the fact that the heart of the story really only involves a dozen characters and you immediately focus attention on them, so that you can work on character development and tell a good story. Johns try to play both ways, which accomplishes nothing more than wasting the first couple of issues. Did I enjoy it? Yes. Should it have been better? Definitely, and easily done. forever evil

Jul 21 2015

Jupiter Ascending

Often very pretty to look at, I’m not sure I can really tell you what this movie is about. Mila Kunis is very pretty and attempts (and fails) to play the title role of Jupiter, who is secretly queen of some intergalactic empire (that’s actually pretty much very evil), and some very pretty guy, who is in a lot of dance and stripper movies, runs/flies around on high tech rollerblades while trying to protect her, and really it all is very pretty, bad that is. It attempts to be an action movie, a sci-fi adventure, and a Cinderella story, all rolled into one, but what that “one” is I pretty much have very little idea.

Jul 20 2015

Iron Man: Industrial Revolution – Fred Van Lente

I really wanted to like this comic, but let’s just examine it–note there are spoilers here, but I really don’t think you’re missing anything: The brilliant inventor of the Iron Man robot armor has been outmaneuvered and thrown out of his company by a rival, and his superhero friends don’t want to give him any money because he won’t accept charity (fast forward to when they both given charity (in the form of “investment”) and help him out of a scrap; I’m not sure what the difference is). While living on the streets (because no one is eagerly trying to hire one of the most brilliant people on the planet) he makes friends with the lower classes (i.e., brown people, how’s that for turning cultural diversity into racism?), but runs afoul–completely unknowingly–of a crime syndicate known as The Pride (If you don’t know the Runaways comic this is largely meaningless; next time give some background so it’s not a 100% inside joke.). If the comic had strictly focused on the hijinks between an Iron Man trying to pull himself up by his bootstraps and The Pride trying to foil the “plans” he has for them, this could’ve been a hilarious and really fun comic; instead, it turns into this whole we can save the community by reopening the factory here (wasn’t that the plot to Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo?). Additionally, the portrayal of the Japanese seemed a little racist to me–I could be oversensitive–and I found it irritating that the school teacher love interest is given the job to run a company implying that she’s only a teacher due to lack of opportunity, and not because it is a wonderful and worthwhile career. It also has a very disturbing ending wherein a mentally ill man chooses a life on the street rather than take his medicine. Industrial Revolution

Jul 19 2015

The Land That Time Forgot – Edgar Rice Burroughs

The three part novel from 1918 should be classified as science fiction, but in our modern era it feels a bit more like fantasy. The creator of Tarzan brings us a very imaginative tale of evolution, mystery, (casual racism and sexism,) and action that is his trademark. A group of Brits, Americans, and Germans come across a hidden island filled with prehistoric people and animals and all the dangers such a place entails. There is certainly a lot to enjoy with this story, but I realize that I wish I read it as a younger man, when I could get more wrapped up in the excitement and less on the critique. As is, I was annoyed that certain parts (such as the trip to the island) are given dominance when I want to hear about others (such as the island!), and the ending of the third part kind of undermines major events of the previous two. To give credit where due, the novel is heavily influenced by other sci-fi works of almost the same name. Part of me wanted to read this as I have a vague recollection of watching on TV the 1975 movie version of this written in part by Michael Moorcock, which fascinated me even if I don’t remember much of it. I doubt I’ll ever see that movie as I’m sure to hate it and it is (perhaps) better to have the dream. 

Jul 18 2015

Alex + Ada (vol 1-2) – Jonathan Luna & Sarah Vaughn

The series is slow-moving and somewhat quiet (not a lot of words or actions on a page), which is not a criticism, but I’m still at a loss for how I truly feel about it. Alex is a nice, good looking, guy whose fiancé walked out on him without explanation, and his rather rich, and far too sexually open, grandmother buys him an android. Considering this world is filled with robots, it’s pretty clear this model’s purpose is purely sexual. True to sci-fi conventions, he unlocks her artificial intelligence, making her sentient, and true to the romance conventions they fall in love. I’m not sure what I expected, either the realistic thing would occur and the now sentient, never aging, beauty will run off and live her life: the end, or the fairy tale will occur where they fall in love (what is it about either of them that is appealing beyond physical attraction?) and the story has at least the possibility of continuing. The latter, naturally, had to take place and the story shifts to one that deals with robot rights (another sci-fi convention). I guess there just isn’t enough here that’s new, or different, or exciting to keep me interested. Which is a shame as the writing and art are fine, but as I said, not enough to entice me. I guess I do know how I feel.

Alex + Ada

Jul 17 2015

300: Rise of an Empire

Ok, I didn’t actually think this would be anything but a piece of garbage, and I was 100% correct on that fact, but I hoped there would be some interesting action sequences, and yet they were few and far between. It does pick up a point that was one of my many complaints against the original 300, and that is giving credit to the Athenian naval genius Themistokles fighting against the invading Persian army. Eva Green (who, apparently, I’ve seen in various movies and bizarrely do not have much memory of) is, of course, insanely good looking, and there are plenty of half naked men for eye candy, but perhaps the best part of this movie is dissecting the various negative gender statements it makes.

Jul 16 2015

Why Grizzly Bears Should Wear Underpants & My Dog: The Paradox – The Oatmeal

The Oatmeal (AKA Matthew Inman to his friends (and those that read the about the author page)) provides a well produced–with good paper and vibrant colors, even a free poster that someone stole from the library copy I read–book collecting various, on the shorter side, cartoons on different topics. While much of it is quite humorous and the art is silly, which I greatly enjoy, it is a random collection with no unifying theme and that can turn people off. grizzly bears

 

Additionally, I read the short book My Dog: The Paradox: A Lovable Discourse About Man’s Best Friend, which is worth reading if you have three minutes to spare. There’s not much to it other than cute art and clichéd reminiscing about how dogs are weird, but sometimes that’s enough. My Dog

Jul 15 2015

Men In Black 3

The super secret agents that defend against and hides from the world alien threats are back (well, this review is a little old). Unlike the second movie which, like the second Terminator movie, was the same plot of their respective originals, this third movie deals with agent J having to travel back in time to stop an assassination attempt against his partner, agent K. It’s Ok: some laughs, some fun, some weird aliens, but the series seems to have played itself out.

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