Sunday, March 4, 2018
Hey, it's an all-new podcast!
AmyC and I got together and talked Black Panther. Join us as we chat on the movie and cultural force! Sort of Guest Starring Scooter, the very nice kitty.
Folks are generally really enjoying this movie, as did we, and that's uncharted territory here at the Signal Watch Podcast.
Tuesday, February 27, 2018
Watched: 02/15/2018 and 02/25/2018
Format: Alamo Slaughter Lane/ Alamo Village
Viewing: First/ Second
I'm supposed to schedule with AmyC to do a podcast on this film. I need to get that done. In the meantime...
Writing about Black Panther (2018) is, perhaps, not terribly useful at this point. The movie is a legitimate phenomenon in box office and in cultural conversation. Both of these things are yet another sign among many of the past few years that we're undergoing some tectonic shifts in Hollywood, unlearning the rules of the industry when it comes to what audiences actually do want. As of this writing, Black Panther had raked in $700 million worldwide, and, if my sold out 7:00 on a Sunday show was any indication, shows no signs of stopping.
As a white dude who is as much of a white dude as you're like to meet, I get the basic contours of what this film has meant to a Black audience, in America and abroad, but I won't pretend to have been more than an observer.* By this late date, it's possible or likely you've seen photos of people who've "dressed" for the movie, watched video of kids attending crowd-funded screenings... and more than likely you've read one or five of the dozens and dozens of think pieces circulating. So I don't know what new I can add, and I'll try not to belabor those points.
Thursday, December 28, 2017
Say what you will about cheesy hucksterism, but I grew up knowing who Stan Lee and Marvel were years before I read a comic book. Back in the 70's and 80's, Stan didn't just have his name on every Marvel comic ("Stan Lee Presents:"), and his name on every Marvel cartoon, he was also providing editor's note voice-over to episodes of The Incredible Hulk and other cartoons. I knew what it was to be a "True Believer" before I ever read a word-bubble of Spidey's inner monologue.
Speaking of: he also wrote the Spidey daily newspaper strip (in theory), which I read in collections as I got into comics.
Of course we can go back and forth all day about the Kirby/ Ditko/ Lee contributions that made up Marvel starting in '62. But none of them would have done it without the others. And, more than that, the longterm effect of Lee's boosterism of comics and comic-book characters is utterly incalculable in a landscape littered with superhero films, TV shows, cartoons, merchandise, toys, clothing, and where even Dr. Strange is now a household name.
I know Stan has made mistakes and not always made decisions that make sense to idealistic fans. That comes with the territory of being a walking icon and making mistakes as you go.
But I'm grateful he's had a chance to see the world embrace his creations, watched his comic empire flourish for going on six decades, and become a household name himself.
Wednesday, November 29, 2017
Friday, November 3, 2017
Marvel is at an interesting point in it's movie making history. We're, what, 20 movies in? Now that they're past origin stories, they seem to have embraced two things:
- tone can vary
- letting creators with a vision go a bit nuts means you aren't necessarily repeating yourself (as much)
Guardians of the Galaxy demonstrated that audiences wanted a bit of balance to grim-dark superheroes, and the abysmal approach to DC's slate of films up to Wonder Woman showed what *not* to do - so it's a bit rewarding to see Thor bounce back from what was arguably one of the weakest Marvel movies with Thor: The Dark World* and come back with the pop-corniest Marvel movie since... well, this summer's Spider-Man: Homecoming and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 were both pretty solid entries as well. Let's just agree it's been a good year to be a Marvel movie fan.
Marvel's movies have reflected or echoed an arc not dissimilar to what has happened with the printed comics. Hitting the stage with a surge of quick hits that were better than what we'd seen of late in the same genre, an expansion of the universe with a diversity of types of comics/ movies that reflect the milieu of each character, pulling them back together with Avengers comics/ movies as mega-events that never quite work, exactly, but do ground everyone in a single reality, then push everyone back out into their own books/ films.
Monday, October 16, 2017
This is the most excited I've been for a Marvel movie (beforehand) since Guardians of the Galaxy. Everything about this surpasses what were my biggest hopes for a Black Panther movie.
Sunday, August 27, 2017
You're going to see the names Jack Kirby and Jacob Kurtzberg a lot today. Jack Kirby is the pen-name of the greatest comic artist and creator to grace this orb we call planet Earth.
Here, on the centennial of his birth (August 28th, 1917), it's possible to suggest that Jack Kirby may be one of the most important artistic and literary figures of the past 100 years. The recognition came late, decades after his passing, and, still, his name is hardly a household word. But the creations he unleashed upon popular culture from the 1940's to the 1990's would either be taken up directly by the public (at long last), becoming part of the parlance, or influence generations who could never produce that same spark of imagination, but built either directly or indirectly upon what he had done before.
There are Kirby bio sketches out there a-plenty (but no definitive monograph that I'm aware of), a magazine dedicated to the study and fan-splosion around his work, and Mark Evanier - who apprenticed under him - has become the living memory of his professional life while his grandchildren have taken up the cause of preserving the memory of the man. Now there's a virtual museum (which deserves a physical location), and a charity it's worth considering giving to sometime. And a slew of collections and books celebrating Kirby's influence and work.
Kirby was not first in when comics became a way for kids from the rougher neighborhoods of New York picked up a pencil or ink brush to start bringing in bread, but he was there really early. He was a workman who put everything he had into the work, comic by comic, year by year, becoming better and better. As they tell you in art-school, master the rules before you start breaking them - and that's what he did, finding his own unique style, his own way of creating action and drama, and eventually shattering what it meant to create a comics page.
Taking from mythology, from science-fiction, from films, from his colleagues and the bottomless well within, Kirby created whole universes, pockets within those universes, and held the lens to each character, bringing the internal life of gods, men and monsters to life.
Friday, July 7, 2017
So, I hadn't actually paid all that much attention to Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017) prior to showing up to see it in the theater Thursday night. Sure, I'd watched the trailer and was pleased they went with The Vulture for a villain.
At this point, I'm fine with just noting the release date of a Marvel movie, paying my money and showing up. Marvel hasn't always knocked it out of the park, but I'm generally guaranteed a pretty good time out at the movies, and some of the films have been spectacular, reminding me both why I love superheroes and a trip to the movies.
It wasn't too hard to figure out that this Spider-Man film would stick to the high-school years, abandon comic canon (all the Marvel movies have done that), but stick to the core of what makes the character work (also, all the Marvel moves have done that). After feeling let down by Sony's reboot of Spidey with The Amazing Spider-Man - so much so (gulp) I never watched the sequel - I was thrilled that Marvel and Sony saw the light (and potential for profit) enough to bridge differences and make it work.
I'm pleased to say I enjoyed myself as much as I did at Guardians of the Galaxy 2, and many other Marvel films of the past decade. And, while there are huge changes from the comics, Spider-Man: Homecoming reminded me why I ever liked Spider-Man, his world, and his niche in the Marvel Universe. And, that I am very much not alone in wanting to see Peter Parker swinging from a web and trying his hardest.
Saturday, June 10, 2017
Monday, April 10, 2017
Look, I go and see every single Marvel Studios movie in the theater. I just dig what they're up to, in general. Point being - there was never any question whether or not they were getting my $12 for a ticket.
Things I knew before the trailer came out:
- Thor would get a haircut
- Jeff Goldblum would play a major part
- the movie would have the Hulk in it somewhere
That's about it. Nobody told me it ALSO had Cate Blanchett.
I don't know how many of you saw Ghostbusters (2016), but one thing that was absolutely true was that Chris Hemsworth absolutely held his own with four of the funniest people working in TV and film, and, in fact, got the biggest laugh of the film from me. So letting him do more of that here - that's welcome.
Thor was never my favorite comics character - and I've tried. But I have enjoyed the Marvel Studios version a great deal and pretty much everything about the movies, even though they're generally considered less than the best in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Sure, the second one is most forgettable, but it does have some good stuff in it, but I couldn't tell you the plot now if I tried.
Anyway, this looks fun, right? High stakes. Big, big story. Guest stars. Cate Blanchett.
This could be more than okay.
Sunday, April 2, 2017
I generally don't pay attention to this stuff anymore, because it's usually a fire that burns itself out and the world keeps on spinning, but...
The Comics Internet has been in meltdown over the weekend as word got out about the first Marvel retailer summit in two decades, which - with the best of intentions, Marvel (God bless their hearts) decided to invite in ICV2 and let them report out on some of the conversations between their senior staff and retailers.
and the part that set the internet ablaze
I'm the first person to nod and acknowledge that sometimes the unicorn dreams of the world don't add up to financial success and security for all, no matter how much we want the opposite to be true. But...
The sentence that is getting all the play:
We saw the sales of any character that was diverse, any character that was new, our female characters, anything that was not a core Marvel character, people were turning their nose up against.
I would point out, it seems like folks are ignoring all the "we like our diverse characters, and we were doing okay with them until just now" commentary surrounding that sentence. In context (and you can see the article in that third link above), it sounds more like a guy trying to grasp market forces that changed super rapidly, is looking at what's not selling and making a statement that reflects his spreadsheets. And he made some insensitive remarks in illustrating what they saw happening. Which is why you don't do that.
Honestly, I cannot believe a wing of Disney opened the door to the amateur-hour world of comics press during frank conversations. Off-the-cuff-on-the-record convos have never been the strong suit for most comics folks. In the end, the same guy had to come back and admit that some of those new characters are popular or are doing fine and he undermined Marvel's significant efforts to diversify their character base and their fan base. And that just makes Marvel, clearly, look awful.
My intention is not to protect Disney/ Marvel so much as to say - "Marvel, that was kind of bone headed on a multitude of levels" and to also say "My fellow progressives, it's possible many market forces are in play that are impacting sales on books featuring newer characters, which in Marvel's case of late, are those diverse characters because those are less established characters who don't have the foothold of, say, Spider-Man."
I'd argue that that there's probably a much more realistic reason Marvel is having issues than a sudden public disinterest in diversity.
None of this is news - but this is my "how I wandered off from Marvel" journey.
Friday, March 17, 2017
I'm late to the game on Logan (2017), the third stand-alone movie for Hugh Jackman's portrayal of the X-Men's conflicted brawler, Wolverine. Most of you who wanted to see it have seen it, so you won't need me pushing you toward the theater.
While the series began strong and is one of the films responsible for the past twenty years' worth of exploding growth in superhero films, more recent entries have been less than required viewing and - to this viewer - disappointing. Enough so that I never bothered to watch the second Logan/ Wolverine/ James Howlett movie, The Wolverine, and only caught the most recent X-Men movie via a borrowed BluRay.
It's an interesting movie to see on the heels of Kong: Skull Island, both fantasy actioners intended for an audience with pre-awareness of existing tropes. Both borrowed and nodded to existing media outside their genre.
But Logan remembered that a story is about character first, plot second, and - arguably - you can care about everything going on in this movie whether or not you've seen any X-Men movies before. And, really, that's not something just superhero movies struggle with, it's something comics struggle with year in and year out.* And while I'll argue that the Marvel movies, both stand-alone and Avengers group efforts are heavier on character than plot, in exiting the safe confines of a PG-13 rating, Logan is free to explore much about the character that's hinted at but always seems frustratingly, perhaps hypocritically, absent in most portrayals of a man who has lost track of his kill count and whose own body is the weapon which has taken so many lives.
Thursday, December 15, 2016
Well, this is fun! and Merry!
Steve's Apartment (wide angle):
Steve's Apartment (closer in - and wisely with a portrait of his best girl there on the table):
Marvel has produced several of these, including Iron Man, Thor, Groot and more!
Steve's Apartment (wide angle):
Steve's Apartment (closer in - and wisely with a portrait of his best girl there on the table):
Marvel has produced several of these, including Iron Man, Thor, Groot and more!
Monday, December 12, 2016
I had no intention of watching either of these movies this weekend, but we have basic cable and they were on. I have no further real explanation for what happened. I guess after watching X-Men: Apocalypse, it was just x-destined to x-be.
At this point, watching these early X-films serves as an interesting view of the state of the art for superhero films circa 2000 and 2003.
One mission I have for this site is to be the old guy telling the kids how it was back in the day - and if you're not pushing 40, you're not old enough to remember what breakthrough movies the first two X-films were for superhero comic books moving to the big screen. It's hard to understand in a universe with an Ant-Man movie what it was like to see Marvel's cinematic efforts suddenly take off after decades of embarrassing and half-assed attempts. It still wasn't Iron Man, which would totally change the game, but it was significant.
X-Men (2000) arrived shortly after Blade (1998) made a little-known (even by comic fans) character into a pretty great cinematic action hero. It didn't hurt that Wesley Snipes was pretty awesome in the role and he killed so, so many draculas. I still remember how nuts the crowd went for Blade when I saw it opening weekend, cheering and yelling in all the right places.
I was cautiously optimistic about X-Men. I knew director Bryan Singer from his 90's-classic Usual Suspects, a crime thriller that had garnered good reviews and rode the hip-crime-movie wave started by Tarantino to pretty great box office. It seemed inconceivable a superhero movie would receive a director of that sort as "serious" directors did not take on superheroes, or - at least they made it clear it was a lark for a paycheck.
But clearly X-Men was different.
Saturday, December 10, 2016
In many ways, the entire point of this movie is to show how Charles Xavier lost his hair. I mean, they had to do it sometime, so why not at the two-hour, ten minute mark of a very, very long movie where nothing really works very well?
I got into superhero comics when I was about 11 or 12, right about the time of the Mutant Massacre storyline in X-Men, X-Factor and New Mutants. Of the literally 10's of 1000's of comics I've read, the comics I read in that first year or two are pretty well burned into my brain. Just before I got into comics, the villain Apocalypse made his first appearance in X-Factor, and would show up again to exploit the injured Warren Worthington III, aka: Angel, and make him into the 1980's requisite "Wolverine of the group" when he returned to X-Factor. I actually really liked those comics.
The movie is set in it's own version of events, but that isn't so much a bug as a feature. While it's not the worst movie I've ever seen, it's just so weighed down with characters and not-terribly-interesting plot developments and a runtime it doesn't earn, it's hard to get excited about the movie.
Thursday, December 8, 2016
Sunday, November 6, 2016
It's safe to say that Doctor Strange as a Marvel character has never been much in my wheelhouse. As a kid, the comics always held a certain visual appeal, but I felt like the character was all mustache and cape, dealing with, yeah, world-threatening dilemmas, but always in that vague way of magical characters that didn't hold the immediate familiarity of "oh, Joker's going to kill all those people" or "Magneto is up to his old tricks." I was pretty well into college before I embraced the abstraction of world-ending calamities on a metaphysical scale, mostly by way of Jack Kirby's 70's-era work and Grant Morrison's JLA. But I still never drifted back to Doctor Strange over at Marvel. I'd enjoy his guest appearances everywhere from Spider-Man to The Illuminati-type stuff, but didn't think it was something that needed to be in my monthly "buy" pile.
Really, the only Doctor Strange comics I ever purchased were back when the character was double-billing in Strange Tales with Cloak & Dagger, which I was picking up because I dug Cloak and Dagger. Figuring out what the hell was going on with Stephen Strange, MD, wasn't particularly something I was losing sleep over.
But, the Marvel movies are, for me, an ideal way to engage with the Marvel U in a non-invested sort of way with stuff I was vaguely interested in, but didn't care to get too immersed in. Starting with Iron Man and including everything from Thor and The Avengers to the current incarnation of Guardians of the Galaxy in the comics, I prefer how these packages are presented in movie-form.*
Doctor Strange (2016) is - yes - another Marvel origin story. This is both a reality and problem for Marvel as it rolls out it's ever-broadening line of characters in television and film, as the origins of these characters are, in fact, of great importance to establishing the characters and their motivations for films to come. If not for Iron Man and Captain America as origin stories, how interesting would Civil War have been, really? Or, hell, Winter Soldier? DC Entertainment is finding out the hard way via Suicide Squad's terrible story problems that even an ensemble piece needs a bit more fleshing out.
Wednesday, October 19, 2016
I want to say that I loved Luke Cage. Because for a full 6 episodes, I was ready to stand up and say "this is the best Marvel TV series to date, even better than Jessica Jones or Season 1 of Agent Carter". But, man, the back half of this series feels rough. It's still watchable, but as early as the beginning of the seventh episode, the wheels start coming off, and it's only in fits and spurts that the show reclaims the excellence of those first six episodes, seems to remember its mission statement, and doesn't feel like it's a throwback to 1990's-era superhero movies. I have a few hypotheses as to what may have occurred, but that doesn't save the overall project anymore than headcannons or fan theories (neither of which this blogger recommends you indulge in). What matters is what winds up on the screen.
What does retain it's consistency, as surely as the cells in Luke Cage's body bounce back from a bad day, is the strong character put forth in Luke Cage, the grounded, human force of a man trying every day to do right. In Luke Cage we get that rarest of characters which are slowly climbing their way back from two decades of think-pieces to the contrary, the good guy who doesn't need to be called an anti-hero to work in a modern context. For Marvel, and maybe for the mass audiences, up to this point we've relied on our sepia-toned notions and the uncomplicated moral battle of the Allied fight against the Axis to gain access to the point of view of our upright hero in Steve Rogers - AKA: Captain America. But in Luke Cage we get a modern man who has known the compromise all his life and despite what's past, he's moving forward in a world that broils and churns with moral compromise as the "smart" move, the only way to get things done. And we have a hero who isn't living in a hypothetical world of cops and robbers, but in a world that reflects a lot of our own, with Trayvon Martins and the Black Lives Matter movement.
Monday, September 26, 2016
I re-watched Captain America: Civil War because I bought the BluRay.
In general, I like this movie quite a bit. But I've written on it twice this year, so that seems like plenty.
The image above appears on a t-shirt my mother purchased for me. She's generous to a fault, but she usually is on the side of "you have plenty of Super-America Man stuff" which is usually followed by an unprompted "Poor Jamie" and a look of pity tossed Jamie's way.
But... My mom bought me this. I wear it all the time because - yeah, I like it fine on its own, but sometimes it really is the thought that counts.
Sunday, July 24, 2016
Randy suggested I take a look at the trailers that came out during Comic-Con, and while I haven't looked at every one of them, and some of them I have no opinion on in general (like the new Harry Potter), I guess I can do this fairly quickly and painlessly.
I've already been asked how accurate this is to the original comics, but as one always has to say with DC comics and characters, in particular, the specifics aren't that important. Especially trying to bring the character to the big screen in 2017 versus what the characters were like in their 1941 original first appearance.
The question needs to be: how did they handle the origin in general (do the producers understand the character well enough to understand the importance and resonance of the most important details of the character), and what did they do to demonstrate that the character is not a new character masquerading as the titular character?
I am not expecting the poly-sexual, bdsm subliminal antics of the original comics to ever make the big screen (we can make arguments about Season 1 of the Lynda Carter show some other time). This is the Wonder Woman of the Greg Rucka era, who still carries the lasso, but is like to pick up a sword and shield. To avoid comparisons to her contemporary creation, Captain America, the origin story has been transported to WWI instead of WWII, a change which I feel doesn't exactly make sense for a downed aviator to find Themyscira by accident (the range on those flyers was not putting them out over the mid-Atlantic, and aircraft carriers barely existed at the time).
But, ignoring the logistics of aviation history, I have to say I'm as excited by this trailer as I likely am to be about anything spinning out of DC/WB's theatrical efforts. Gadot isn't my first choice, but she seems fine in the part. The action looks like it's not softened in the slightest and the Amazons are living up to their potential from the comics if this trailer is to be believed.
Like Captain America, the action is likely to move to the modern era for any sequels, which kind of begs the question "why set it in WWI when it's going to draw so many comparisons to Captain America?" It's not like we've lacked for military conflict in the past 20 years.