Category Archive: Reviews

Reviews of all kinds

Mar 08 2015

The Count of Monte Cristo – adapted by R. Jay Nudds

Ok, you know I had to read a comic version of the story after I read the original. This adaptation isn’t bad, and gives a relatively good summary of the events. However, there are many characters and a reader can lose track of them not having spent fifty pages on any one of them and instead simply remembering who is who by their illustration. Additionally, the power and depth of Edmund’s revenge plans and the feeling of empathy for him (and even the “victims”) are difficult, again due to the necessary shortness of the comic version. 

Mar 07 2015

The World’s End

The duo who brought us the quintessential zombie parody, and a very funny cop buddy parody, bring us this exceptionally bad parody of sci-fi alien invasion bodysnatchers etc. etc. It revolves around a group of friends, one of who has never really grown up, that get together to do a pub crawl and inadvertently discover replicants amongst us. I could go on but the movie is just really pretty poor so why bother talking more about it?

 

Mar 06 2015

Samurai Jack

Stylishly drawn and beautifully painted, this cartoon by Genndy Tartakovsky who points out that cartoons people like us grew up with (I’m looking at you Super Friends) actually had very little action, so he wished to make one with plenty of it, but at the same time not being a spastic mess. He definitely succeeded. This is a story of a samurai with a magic sword dedicated to destroying a great evil named Aku (Japanese for evil). When originally fighting the creature, the shape changing alien Aku used his magic to send the young samurai into the future, thereby ensuring there was nothing to stop him from world domination. Now the samurai, who goes by the name Jack, travels the world righting wrongs, fighting the forces of Aku, and seeking a means to return to him own time and defeat Aku, thus undoing all his evil.

Here are the huge problems I have with the cartoon: Jack often sacrifices himself to do good deeds at the expense of accessing time portals, but the whole point is that if he can return home the future he is in will not exist, making the sacrifices meaningless. But hey, it’s a cartoon. That’s what brings my second problem and I don’t remember seeing this now common trope before this point. Just about all the bad guys on the show are robots and Jack chops them up relentlessly. All that’s fine, after all, they are just robots and so violence against them doesn’t really mean anything. The trouble is that these same robots have personalities and survival instincts much like anyone else (and often look more human than the life forms now running around our planet), so doesn’t that make them “real”? I wonder if seeing constant violence done again others under the excuse that they aren’t “real” as it’s just a cartoon might have negative consequences. It reminds me of the Star Wars’ prequels wherein robots and clones die en mass but they all have distinct traits just like any individual. Anyway, it is a fine cartoon and I wonder why it ended.

Mar 05 2015

Iron Man and Captain America: Heroes United

Or should it be Heroes United: Iron Man…? Anyway, it seems that Marvel is making a series of poorly computer animated, straight to video (is that even the expression any more?), films (is that even the expression any more?). This one takes our title characters and pits them against (besides each other (which is a staple of Marvel)) the Nazi/Hydra leader Red Skull and Taskmaster (who can copy anyone’s combat moves). I do like that these films seem to include some lesser known characters–although Taskmaster is the main, behind the scenes, villain in the cartoon Ultimate Spider-Man, so maybe he has risen to B lister. The obvious problem is that these low budget movies are sort of thrown together in, I suspect, a day, at least the writing seems to suggest that, which mean that the movie just isn’t very good, but, again, with a low budget, I’m sure no one in the industry cares. I do like that Drs Fump and Cruler seem to be comic repeat characters for this series.

Mar 04 2015

Cast Away on the Letter A: A Philemon Adventure – Fred

Apparently, Fred is a big shot in France but this is the first of his works that I read. It is an absurdist comic about a young boy that gets sent to a magical world and must figure out a way to get back home. There’s obviously more to this plot, and the art is quite good; however, I can’t say I was particularly moved by it. The very factors that would make someone enjoy this comic are the things that kept me away, such as the surrealist storyline and the over-stylized art. It’s not for everyone but it may just be for you. 

 

Mar 03 2015

Gravity

So here’s a movie I should have seen on the big screen due to wonderful F/X. Dr. Stone is on her first space mission while commander Kowalsky is on his last, and just when everything seem fine, utter disaster strikes destroying their station and leaving them trapped in space. Very strong and disorienting visuals coupled with some fine acting makes it worth watching, and makes me second guess any desire to go into space.

Mar 02 2015

The Punisher (vol 8): Widowmaker – Garth Ennis

I liked this collection about the vigilante, The Punisher, better than most. Probably because Ennis had to work with his secondary characters to make them have motive and personality to explain why one group of women are getting together to take out The Punisher, another woman who appears to be crazy is tailing them, and a cop who should be a hero is caught up in the middle of it. Still, typical Ennis Punisher stories have to have the following: black people speaking Ebonics, women have to be almost exclusively crazy and/or slutty, rape victims, most of the backstory has to be given in exposition, and there must be a major body count. 

Mar 01 2015

The Last Apprentice: Revenge of the Witch – Joseph Delaney

Book one of a series of who knows how many young adult tales about 13-year-old Tom, a boy who, like his mother, has supernatural gifts, such as being able to hear and see the restless dead. Being the seventh son of the seventh son in classic fairy tale lore, makes him a fine choice to be sent off to be trained by a Spook, a person whose job it is to deal with ghosts, witches, and other supernatural problems. The story itself is fine enough, decently written with interesting characters, drama, suspense, and enough problems and actions to keep you interested. Can I say that I’m intrigued enough to want to continue reading the series? I haven’t decided that. 

Feb 28 2015

The Spectre: Tales of the Unexpected – David Lapham

A former cop is now the human inhabitant of the spirit of vengeance, The Specter, and is tasked in Gotham city to kill various people involved in a gruesome murder. I just made this comic sound much better than it was. It was very short and I still did not enjoy it. 

 

Feb 27 2015

John Constantine, Hellblazer: Papa Midnite – Mat Johnson

What a long title for a book that didn’t do what it should have. It is a great idea to tell the 1700’s origin of the Voodoo hood, Papa Midnite, and to learn about his powers and immortality, within a historical context. However, I am uncertain if the NY slave uprisings Johnson writes about have a factual basis (and I need to feel it in the text, not by looking it up), but more to the point the story itself was all over the place, never painting a full picture or truly providing depth of character. 

Feb 26 2015

Blink – Malcolm Gladwell

Gladwell’s book is based on the idea that most decisions can and are made unconsciously and correctly almost instantly. Don’t misunderstand, the reason why this can and does happen is largely due to training and certain universals. If a person spends their entire life working in art history, there is a good chance they might recognize a forgery instinctively before they are able to communicate why they consciously believe a work is a forgery. This is due to an abundance of training. Likewise, it is suggested that all humans have certain facial expressions in common and some people can instinctively recognize these expressions and thus learn information about people without ever actually having to meet them or interact with them (such as just seeing a silent video of a person). While the information is very interesting in this book, I’m also concerned about it. It seems like people could hear about these theories and decide that instincts will serve them better than thinking through various processes (like how Republicans appeal to gut reactions to promote their agenda despite evidence to contradict their claims). Additionally, there seems to be an awful lot of examples of where these instincts go horribly, horribly wrong, to the point where I feel the examples used are rather hit or miss, in that you can look at any situation and find evidence to support this theory and find evidence of where this theory has gone wrong through “inappropriate” use of instinct. (And since this is my gut feeling about the situation I must be 100% correct.) There is also a section in the text wherein he discusses how the mind can be manipulated, for example how making margarine the same color as butter allows the mind to think it taste the same as butter. But later on he gives the example of how people’s biases made them think that women do not play classical music as well as men. But based on his earlier example, isn’t it then possible the people’s minds did actually make them hear women playing worse than men because their minds have been conditioned and not simply due to some silly bias? He seemed to have missed his own concept.

Feb 24 2015

Luke Cage: Noir – Mike Benson & Adam Glass

Luke Cake, AKA Power Man, the man with steel skin, gets out of prison just in time to investigate the murder of a white woman in Harem during Prohibition. I enjoyed this noir tale of Power Man, and agree with Cory that it is the best of the series, even if I thought there were a few points where the story slipped (eg you can’t dent a metal door by pulling a man’s face into it by his nose, the nose would rip off first). 

Feb 23 2015

Mike Tyson’s Mysteries

Yes, you read that right. It’s a 60s style cartoon about a gay ghost, a human in a pigeon’s body, an adopted Chinese girl, and of course Mike Tyson himself, who all go around and solve mysteries (sort of). Yes, it is ridiculous, and not particularly great, but do I laugh out loud during this 12 minutes show? Yeah, and that’s what makes it worth it. Take a look at the show here.

Feb 22 2015

The Tipping Point – Malcolm Gladwell

This example isn’t in the book but might as well be: by the late 80s, glam metal bands were the rage. At the same time, a small music scene almost unknown outside of Seattle called Grunge existed. By the early 90s, with Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” (the band’s frontman is mentioned in a quotation, once) exploding onto the world scene, Glam Rock was passé and a dozen Grunge bands flooded the airwaves. Soon the most popular band of the world was Pearl Jam, and high-end fashion shows featured the (once) cheap, dirty–but warm–flannels, that were the mainstay of grunge fashion. According to Gladwell’s book, Grunge hit the tipping point. The idea is that a number of very small factors (i.e. situational context) or individuals (e.g. those who know their stuff (Mavens) or know tons of people (Connectors)) create massive impact that shape events in the street, politics, culture, etc. The book discusses in easy to read language, saving citations for the end as to not scare off readers, numerous examples of the tipping point in action and goes step-by-step and explaining the various types of people and situations that are necessary to cause a tipping point.

Here’s the problem: the book gives the impression that there might actually be mathematically or perhaps culturally devised ways to make something such as an economic or social trend tip, while if such a thing were possible you would probably have an awful lot of people and companies doing just that. Additionally, a problem with the text is that it further gives the impression that if something tips in remains tipped. This is honestly absolutely ludicrous; trends come and go, empires rise and fall etc. With only one weak example as an exception, there are no trends mentioned that tipped and then eventually fell by the wayside into obscurity (or at least admitted to in the book), and the example given is of a company that undermined itself. Perhaps that is why Grunge is not discussed–it is a trend that tipped and was un-tipped or overshadowed and thus would not fit within the book’s model. The work is very interesting and informative, but it is likewise misleading, filled with cherry picked examples that never become un-tipped, and thus in the end it is somewhat disappointing, despite the fact that numerous pages are dedicated to the tale of the incredible and intellectual Mark Alpert—sadly that is not me, but just another namesake pushing me farther down of Google search result list. 

Feb 21 2015

Batman: Assault on Arkham

This is an extremely strong movie, not so much about the Batman, but about a group known as the Suicide Squad. This group of convicts are sent by a secret government agency to find and destroy proof about the secret government agency sending convicts out on suicide missions. Where is that information? Deep in the insane asylum of Arkham. The movie is rather edgy with its bloody death toll, sexual situations, and “harsh” language, making me a big fan. Still the movie doesn’t quite fit in with the Batman universe based on events that take place and actions I feel the Batman would or would not have done. Still, I highly recommend it as a well animated action story that will thrill fans of the Joker, the Riddler, Harley Quinn, and especially, Deadshot. 

 

Feb 20 2015

The Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas

How long has it been since I reviewed an actual book? It seems all I do is read academic essays for work and comics for fun. And yet it is pure fun to engage in this classic novel of betrayal, intrigue, revenge, and romance(!). Edmond Dantes’s life looks like it is going to be awesome. Still a teenager and he is captain of a boat and marries his beautiful love. Naturally all his “friends” betray him and he is sent to the dungeons of France during the restoration of the monarchy (it helps to know a little about Napoleon in French history). There he meets the seemingly insane Abbe Faria who tells him of an incredible treasure they could share should they escape. All Edmond can think about is how he would use the fortune to manipulate events to horrifically punish those who have stabbed him in the back. What a great story, but a long one and I’m not sure those who would be most thrilled by the tale have the patience to get through it all.

Feb 19 2015

The Tao of Statistics: A Path to Understanding (With No Math) – Dana K. Keller

In a desperate attempt to learn something about stats that doesn’t involve complicated formulas (which are all done with computers now anyway), I read this short and cute book with little sayings and drawings. Sadly, while it does give some basics behind what stat people do and why, it is too little for my too late. 

Feb 18 2015

Son of Batman

So what’s really in it for the League of Shadows? I mean a bunch of ninjas dedicate their lives to serve some madman who hasn’t been able to take over the world in like 500 years and it’s not like they get money, women, power, or even modern weapons. Anyway, somehow Batman has a son even though that would put Batman in his 30s and the kid is a lunatic but also impossibly skilled and Batman lets him run off for no reason at one point, even though it means either he or someone else will probably get killed, and his mom doesn’t seem to care about him very much and DeathStroke is involved and I don’t know, the whole thing just wasn’t very good and all to introduce yet another Robin. Skip it. 

Feb 17 2015

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

I really enjoyed this film that takes the super soldier, Captain America, and former KGB-current SHIELD agent, the Black Widow, throws in a little super-spy Nick Fury and introduces the high flying Falcon (who was always one of my favorite superheroes growing up) and pits them against the nefarious plans of HYDRA and a mysterious kick-ass assassin (guess what he’s called). The film is largely a merger of comic stories from Ed Brubaker and Jonathan Hickman (although I didn’t see their names in the credits) and maybe that helped me follow everything–I can’t say if others might miss out on some plot and ideas, but the main things I liked about the film was a streamlined–but not un-complex–story/cast of characters and plenty of very good action scenes that makes me wish I’d seen it on the big screen. Then again, maybe I just was thrilled to see Batroc (the Leaper!!). Seriously, I thought it was a well done film and rather surprised I haven’t heard that much about it (as opposed to Guardians or Iron Man).

Feb 16 2015

Adventures in Cartooning – James Sturm, Andrew Arnold, & Alexis Frederick-Frost

Cej got this book for me some time ago with the hopes that it will help me learn to draw. And for anyone else it probably would. It tells a cute little story about a knight fighting a dragon while a magical elf explains the fruitfulness of comics as a story telling method as well as giving ideas on how to draw and create comics. 

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