Category Archive: Reviews

Reviews of all kinds

Jul 29 2014

Notes for a War Story – Gipi

Gipi tells a make believe story about someone making a movie about those who fought in a war (which Gipi made up for a make believe country) in such as way that it might as well all been true (and is probably based on the Yugoslavian civil war). We follow the lives of a group of kids–and they really are just kids–as a war shatters their lives and leads them into a world of crime and back to war again, which is Gipi’s ways of pointing out that the two are really the same thing. The art is unusual, very sketchy with a splash of ugly color, and not something that I would not normally care for, but then again I normally don’t like war stories where everything is based on something fake to make a statement, yet everything works together so well here that I got sucked in. Oddly, I will also be the first to say that the story is a little slow and boring at times, but, again, that’s what life in war can be: incredibly dangerous one second coupled with periods of mundane nothing. I liked it, and considering you can read it in a very short time, I strongly suggest you do. [Note: My thumb is not actually part of the cover.]

Jul 28 2014

Girl Genius: (Book 8) Agatha Heterodyne and the Chapel of Bones – Phil & Kaja Foglio

For absolutely no good reason this volume was not written up by me and instead I skipped to book 9. So here it is far after the fact: The heir to the mad scientist family that at various times was loved and feared throughout Europe, has returned to her ancestral home and the (once) all powerful, mechanical castle. Unless she can use her (mad) scientific genius to get the castle to acknowledge her lineage and fix the castle’s defenses, her enemies shall destroy everything. This section of the series (where Agatha is in Mechanicsburg) becomes the longest of the series as the story will continue in this setting for many volumes to come. Is that a good thing? Well, it depends. I do love the story and this one is still great and the setting still exciting and new. 

Jul 27 2014

The Jeselnik Offensive

By the time you read this the show will be entering it’s 3rd season (as I like it so much, I’m sure it will still be on). I’ve always liked Anthony Jeselnik’s stand-up and roasting and glad to see his offensive and straight-faced hilarity in it’s own show.

Jul 26 2014

Facts in the Case of the Departure of Miss Finch – Neil Gaiman

A stand in for Neil Gaiman tells the story of going out with friends and the unusual events that come out of what at first seems to be a very dull, mundane evening. Not a bad little tale, although I’m pretty sure I had read it before so, apparently, it didn’t stay with me very long. I do HATE the plot devise of an author writing a story about a character that clearly is the author–what? as an author you don’t have what it takes to come up with a character that isn’t you?! 

Jul 25 2014

Batman Incorporated (vol. 1-2): Demon Star & Gotham’s Most Wanted – Grant Morrison & Chris Burnham

Ug, more from the “new 52″ to disappoint. What a sloppy comic that introduces us to this idea that the crime fighter, Batman, is using his money and influence to assemble a world wide network of people who work for Batman to solve crime and protect the innocent, only that doesn’t work out very well and the daughter of a villain (and former lover of the Batman) seeks vengeance through the use of the son they had together. Explosions, action, betrayal, pain and suffering, people die, aargh, oh wow, etc., but there are so many characters in this story who I both do not know anything about or care about in the slightest, action that is motivated by stuff I am vaguely told about, and plot that is just F/X on a still page. So, what I’m saying is that while Morrison is considered a god to so many, I find nothing redeeming about this comic as there is really nothing here. “A tale told by an idiot…” 

Jul 24 2014

Dave Attell: Comedy Underground

I’m a huge fan of Dave Attell, which is why I’m so disappointed with this show, which just has him being an MC for live stand-up shows that are half assed at best. It promotes itself as being edgy but if I laughed ten times in about as many shows I’d be shocked.

Jul 23 2014

Batman (vol 1): The Court of Owls – Scott Snyder

Somehow unknown to the world’s smartest man and greatest detective in history, the vigilante, the Batman, a group of people calling themselves the Court of Owls have really run his home city of Gotham for generations. Why? How? And more importantly, why do they decide now is the time to come out and exert their power and make themselves known to the Batman? I have no idea as not much really happens in this comic except that the Batman kind of gets stomped, which I suppose is comic talk for “wow, how tough!” Wow, how about explaining some motivation? The only thing that really interested me was the very brief exposition that the newly orphaned, pre-Batman, Bruce, actually did some detective work to search for the Court of Owls as a kid. That actually sounds like it could have been a fun tale. Instead, we have this with art that makes about four characters all look like Bruce, and a motiveless mystery. So much for the new 52. 

Jul 22 2014

Heck – Zander Cannon

Hector discovers that his house has an entrance to Hell. Naturally, he opens a business wherein he goes to visit damned souls and get information for those they left behind. This story is simply drawn and, in a way, simply told (in that the exposition given in chapter one could have been three graphic novels, it was so flush with interesting material). There were elements I did not like in this tale, for example, Hell is based on Dante’s Catholic version so probably everyone you ever met is going there; and there were elements I thought were missing, for example tons of backstory about Hector’s earlier visits to Hell; yet when it is all said and done, Cannon wants to tell a very specific story about loss, redemption, and false appearances and in that he does a nice job. 

Jul 21 2014

Justified

As I wait for season four I urge you all to check out this television show about a US Marshall who, after killing a mobster in Florida (he claims the murder was “justified”), is sent back home to Kentucky. Here, he picks up his Marshall duties and we learn about his world. The show is funny and gripping as we are introduced to a part of the country I’d like to avoid. We see a cornucopia of racists/nazis involved in drugs and other crimes, various intrigues of criminal groups, and the work the US Marshall organization attempts. Our main character, Raylan, deals with a complicated love-life and an even more complicated family dynamic (his dad is a notorious criminal). My only complaint is that too many of the characters are model attractive (junkie hookers don’t have that type of body or that many teeth and Raylan gets with another one every season)–although it makes a nice contrast for the ones that capture the redneck look. I’m currently waiting for season 6 and this show is still pretty strong.

Jul 20 2014

Ender’s Game

Poorly acted, and a poorly directed/written script for the film version of this book (which was written by a bit of a homophobic nut, so there’s that) makes it so that it just doesn’t work. For a sci/fi movie about a genius kid who is taught command armies so he may fight off a second alien invasion, there is very little in terms of impressive battles, F/X, or much of anything interesting. To make matters worse, if I hadn’t read the book I’m not sure I would follow all that was going on–in terms of what character’s were doing and why. The first hour had at least 15 minutes that could have been cut and I’m thinking that those who know the story might just want to jump to the end 1/3rd. Better still, skip the whole thing. Apparently, while I reviewed the sequel some four years ago, I never did a write up for Orson Scott Card’s original Ender’s Game… sorry. 

Jul 19 2014

Americus – MK Reed

Ok, here’s the pitch: This kid–Neil–is growing up in a crappy little town in middle America. Raised by his divorced mom, he struggles to fit in but his best/only friend (who is gay) is sent off to military school because of their interest in a fantasy series. Now this book series starts a controversy and some of the town folks want to ban it, but reading is like the only thing that keeps Neil sane, so what’s going to happen?! Yes, it does sound like a great pitch and deals with a lot of controversial issues of book banning and the role of libraries, etc., and Neil growing into himself, but the pitch and the actual story are not the same thing and the heavy handed book banning issue, Neil’s outcast status, and the idea that all these young guys are interested in reading a series with a female protagonist (teen girls will read about a boy hero but not the other way around), just isn’t very interestingly written despite the interesting idea. Sorry, it should have been up my alley but wasn’t. 

Jul 18 2014

Nowhere Men

Imagine a world where scientists are revered like rock stars. Scientists Ellis, Grimshaw, Dade, and Strange are the equivalent of the Beatles, not only in their popularity with the public but also in their genius and—ultimately—their inability to remain together.

Interweaving faux advertisements, books, and magazine articles with the comic pages, writer Eric Stephenson shows us how thoroughly this alternative Fab Four have affected the cultural mindset. The story is compelling, but I wasn’t quite sure where it was going. While I certainly appreciate not having all my plotlines telegraphed, I had the nagging feeling that this could be one of those books that has a great set up but crashes and burns in the third act. Stephenson focuses so heavily on the personalities of the main characters that he leaves little room to show any actual science—I’m not entirely sure what they’ve actually accomplished much less why they rate the “super genius” label. Similarly, although artist Nate Bellegarde does some fine character work, his settings and backgrounds are sparse at best. Where are all the gadgets and, you know, science stuff? How is this world any different from our own? Is it only the choice of pop icon?

Nevertheless, Nowhere Men 1: Fates Worse Than Death is certainly worth a read, and I’m happy to see it alongside the other amazing work Image Comics is pumping out in its (gasp!) third decade. I’ll certainly seek out book two.

Nowhere Men by Eric Stephenson (w), Nate Bellgarde (a), Jordie Bellaire (c)

Jul 18 2014

The Grand Budapest Hotel

This is a very bizarre, oddly filmed, and rather funny movie about a hotel manager who is framed for the murder of his (one of several) octogenarian lover, and the new lobby boy who teams up with him to prove his innocence. There are rarely laugh aloud scenes, but the film is very quirky and rather sweet, which makes me a big fan. 

Jul 17 2014

Wonder Woman

I vaguely remember seeing this animated movie of the Amazon Princess that leaves her mystical home to see the world of men and right some wrongs. Seeing it again reminded me how much I liked it. It’s definitely not for kids considering the massive death toll. There are great scenes like Amazons having their version of storming the beaches of Normandy and fights with the Vietnam memorial in the background, and no one’s done a better version of Hades. Question: If the voice actors are all gorgeous and tough, why can’t you have a live action version? 

Jul 16 2014

Gunnerkrigg Court vol 4: Materia – Thomas Siddell

Finally get to add to my prior post on Gunnerkrigg Court with this fourth collection to an amazing web comic series. I explained the premise behind this wonderful comic in the original post, so I don’t want to rehash here, and only wish to say that the story is still coming along nicely and I feel more confident that there is a complete story being worked on–which was my only real concern. I will say that there is a lot of sexual activity that is hinted at in this volume which might make it a bit much for some of the really young readers (in other words, I no longer feel comfortable promoting the title to my nieces), and I am concerned that too many characters are falling in love with their soul mates and pairing up into couple that will be together forever, which, if memory serves, is EXACTLY how high-school works (and let’s face it, it’s really a tale about high-schoolers, and the generation’s prior high-schoolers (perhaps one of my most hated plot devices, because we all went to high school with the children of people who went to that high school, and who also coupled up, really!?)). If Siddell get’s back to the main story by cutting down on this romance element some, I think all will be well. 

Jul 14 2014

The Amazing Spider-Man

Too soon, too soon. If this Spider-Man movie came out before the Toby version did it would be considered an OK movie. However, the world didn’t need a remake … yet. The story (re)introduces the teenager who gets bitten by a mutant spider and gains its abilities, with this version focusing on the Lizard and Gwen and Captain Stacey–for those of you who know the canon. There are plenty of flaws: the movie is slow, the dialogue often dull, there’s a villain that seems unknown and pointless, and I always have a problem with good-looking people being high school nerds (sorry, it’s the law of teenagers that that never happens (and when was Gwen ever a science chick?)). 

Jul 13 2014

Bend It Like Beckham

In honor of the World Cup (brought to you by one of the world’s most corrupt organizations), I watched this movie (missed the beginning) about an Indian girl in a traditional household that wants to be a football, AKA soccer, player. Along with her gorgeous best friend, the two play football, hit on their coach, and try to get their parents to understand them. Oddly, the football scenes were the poorest done for a movie with a low budget but a lot of fun and laughs. Sure, it is a little too feel good, and sorry [spoiler] but a cute girl never gets the guy over the future supermodel [end spoiler]. Still, it was an enjoyable movie; did I mention that I played football in elementary school and kicked Pele’s son’s ass at it? Well, I guess I peeked at 9.

Jul 12 2014

The Harlem Hellfighters – Max Brooks

I heard that the very smart son of the famous (and also very smart) comedian wrote a comic to celebrate the achievements of the most decorated group of Americans of WWI–just in time for the anniversary of that terrible event–who just so happen to be a group of black soldiers: segregated, set-up to fail, and discriminated against, despite their dedication to helping our country. I was sure that Brooks would do a good job. This title, with art by Caanan White, was incredibly disappointing. The story would have been much better served to simply recount events rather than fictionalize them as the reality is amazing and the fictionalizing does nothing. Brooks presents absolutely no characters or personalities of any sort and White’s illustrations are horrible in that the b/w run together making the images difficult to see and filled with gratuitous violence (and yes, I am very aware it is a war story). This should have been a cake walk to produce a great graphic novel on such a topic; it feels like it actually took effort to produce such a poor work. 

Jul 11 2014

Inside Amy Schumer

It must be hard when all your friends are funnier and better looking then you (not a good choice for your show). Ok, that was harsh, but I have to say that I’m disappointed in this series as, while I like the stand-up of Schumer, I feel that every sketch–if I was only told about them–sounds really funny, but always falls short of potential and tends to end about ten second too late.

Jul 10 2014

Captain America vol. 4 – Ed Brubaker

After more than 100 issues, Brubaker’s run of the super soldier who embodies America comes to an end. I didn’t manage to read all the issues in order, and not even sure if I managed to catch them all, but in any event I will firmly declare that Brubaker’s was the best Cap writer I’ve ever read. It was so good to take him away from cosmic threats and have him deal with terrorists and the like with a focus on interesting plots and characters. This is not to suggest his run was flawless, for example, this closing volume about Cap trying to deal with the machination of a political commentator bent on causing chaos is a great idea and came out extremely poorly, not really presenting much of a story at all. Not the best way to end a great time, yet these things happen. 

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