Showing posts with label superheroes. Show all posts
Showing posts with label superheroes. Show all posts

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Oscar Winner Watch: Birdman - Or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) - 2014

Man.  I really struggled with this one.

Let's make no mistake, Birdman: Or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (2014) is a technical marvel, and the sort of thing you have to give a tip of the hat just for its audacious approach to style and technical function.  It wants to be a melding of cinema and theater (or: theatre), and I'm not one to say that doesn't occur.  It's also a movie that's going to demand repeated viewings, something Pauline Kael refused any movie, and I think she has a point (asking someone to watch your movie over and over to "get it" shouldn't be a point of pride.  But rewarding viewers who catch something new on the second viewing should be a life goal.).  Our actors are all good, all on point, and the performances are not lacking - even when one character is supposed to be a bad actor, he nails his line delivery of line delivery, demonstrating to everyone that this is going to be a disastrous performance.

Birdman won the Oscar for Best Picture in 2015, and, of course, it's a movie about Hollywood's self-loathing and a desire to produce something better, something that matters as much as a well-written novel or beautifully produced play, and which isn't about superheroes and celebrity, even when that's exactly what Hollywood is exactly about on a good day.   Hollywood loves nothing so much as movies about itself (see: The Artist and it's Oscar win - and immediate dissolution in cultural memory after the fact - and how Argo made filmmakers into courageous action heroes), and even more so when Hollywood feels like a movie is doing their job for them and baring the artists to the public, as if to say "this is how Hollywood really feels, and what we really want to make if only there weren't so much money in making dumb shit for the flyover states.*"

The movie both criticizes and indulges in pretension in such a rapid fire, alternating current that it's hard to know what's satire and what writer/ director/ producer Alejandro G. Iñárritu actually thinks.  All of which makes a movie nigh-critic proof, because something is going on here, clearly, and if you get it wrong... well.  And, my god, the references and name-dropping.  Didn't you read Borges in undergrad?  No.  Shame on you.  You'd understand this scene and it'd be hilarious.  Otherwise you might mistake this as just a scene from yet another backstage dramedy about yet another at-his-wit's-end actor in crisis going through the motions you've seen before.  But, hey.  Good camera work.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

TL;DR - why, no, I'm not going to see "Fantastic Four". Or "Deadpool".

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, we got a comic book-related movie maybe once every year or three.  Marvel had, basically, no feature films at the theater, and even their attempts with The Punisher (1989) and Captain America (1990) went to home video or less.  Superman IV came out in '87, and Batman came out in '89, and as we entered the 90's, it seemed like there was a gradual increase as stuff like The RocketeerThe Phantom and The Shadow got movies as well while the Batman franchise metastasized.  But it wasn't a full genre of tent-pole movies quite yet.

Circa 2000, I remember being shocked not just that someone made an X-Men movie, but that it wasn't absolutely horrible (it's not actually that good, really, but it's very watchable).  Really, that was the expectation.  If you went to see a comic book movie, you were going almost as an investment, not believing it would be good, but that if the movie made enough money, it would pave the way for better superhero movies.  And, in a way, it was a novelty.

People forget, movies like the Affleck Daredevil were way more common even then than a watchable Ant-Man is today.

And then Sam Raimi's Spider-Man demonstrated how you could do this if you really wanted to for the first time since Donner's Superman: The Movie.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Electra Wut? There's a new Electra Woman and Dyna Girl show coming. Because of course there is.

Oh, Deidre Hall.  You and your magnificent coifs.  And Judy Strangis of the gigantic eyes.

They may not have had Lynda Carter's budget (nor been Lynda Carter), but they had their own thing going on, including an amazing vehicle and the finest special effects you could produce using video overlays in 1976.

Electra Wow!

Seriously, only Lynda Carter may have rivaled Deidre Hall for amazing hair in 1976-1977, and both knew how to make a superhero outfit work.

I have only the haziest memories of Electra Woman and Dyna Girl from my own youth.  The Sid and Marty Kroft shows were still on in rotation around 3:00 in the afternoon in the 1970's and early 80's, but it's hard to say what I remember as snippets and flashes of memory and what was what I caught later in college (and afterward) on basic cable.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

So, What Have I Been Up To?: Movies in 2013 and 2014

I guess the last time I checked in was just after seeing Man of Steel (2013), and, frankly, if I wasn't already about to bail on blogging for a while prior to seeing the movie, the third reel of Zack Snyder's Super-Opus might have gotten me to throw in the towel.

My movie-going is probably slowed a bit.  That's been partly a monetary decision and a work/life/occasionally-being-home balance issue.  And, I don't feel the need to see everything new that comes to the theater the way I might have once felt.

If you want to get me talking, ask me about this fellow

The curious thing about getting older is the mix of feelings that (1) you aren't really going to miss anything if you miss a movie, even a super popular one, and (2) you've kind of already seen this before in some form or another.  In fact, one of the most baffling things I keep reading is how crazy Guardians of the Galaxy felt, how staggeringly original.  Look, I loved GotG, but "a rag tag group of lovable scoundrels get together and stop a menace/ save the day" hasn't been a fresh idea since before The Magnificent Seven.  And if you need a space version - I point you to a dozen low-budget sci-fi movies from the 80's.  But... I guess they really haven't had one in a while, so it felt new to the current audience.

We'll talk a bit about the changes in audience expectations at some other point, but I saw a newish article today that outright stated that trying something that wasn't a complete cookie cutter picture was "trolling" the audience, that it was the studio's "hubris" to try something that didn't already have widespread pre-awareness, vis-a-vis Guardians of the Galaxy.

Y'all, that's just a @#$%ed up thing to say as a pop culture or movie writer.

As per my movie watching habits: I'm still watching movies off Turner Classic, cable, Alamo Drafthouse screenings of older movies, the Paramount Classic Film Series, BluRay, NetFlix streaming and now Hulu.  The Alamo Drafthouse even hosted Noir City Austin, a multi-day Film Noir Fest with Eddie Mueller.  Lots of channels for taking in movies.  And I've seen some great stuff that way.

And, honestly, I've missed writing about it.  And I miss being able to look at this site and review what I said about a movie I've seen (or even to check if I've already seen something I'm about to watch off cable).

To make the post overly long, I'll go ahead and talk about what new movies I saw in the theater with a sort of quick, judgey statement for each.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Signal Watch Review: Masks & Mobsters (from MonkeyBrain Comics)

One of the great things thus far about MonkeyBrain Comics has been the wide variety of genre content coming from the publisher.  Last week saw tweaky hipster/ swords & sorcery strip Wander hit the internets.  This week MonkeyBrain rolls out Masks & Mobsters, a book that's pretty well set on the Signal Watch Venn Diagram as it's crime/ gangster comics set in a 1930's-era urban center with wiseguys starting to feel the heat from mystery men with strange powers.

The book's title page promises that this will be less of a straight narrative, issue after issue, as it announces it's an anthology title (ie: a fresh story with each issue, I'm guessing), so we'll see where the creative team is taking it from here (or if the same creative team will even stay around).

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Does a superhero have to have tragedy in their past to be interesting?

Well, it certainly doesn't hurt.

I have long admired the work of Heidi MacDonald at The Beat  Heidi had a neat column a while back on her blind spot in geek culture when it comes to The Green Lantern.  This may not seem surprising to you, but to those of us in the online comics-fan world, that's surprising to the point of being funny.  Being around that much and not knowing much about GL in that context just seems sort of impossible.  It seems her knowledge of GL was, apparently, about equal with my knowledge about... oh...  Hunger Games or Breaking Bad.

In regards to Hal Jordan's origin, Heidi says, and I quote:
Let it be noted, this origin story is notably lacking in drama or conflict. And it was only recently that Johns even retconned in the dying dad thing, which is still not a great motivator (I just learned that yesterday!) Not like dying Uncle Ben or Thomas Wayne or Krypton. No Hulking out, no Iron Man with a bad heart ready to blow at any moment. It’s pretty straightforward…  probably just too straightforward for my tastes. Over the years, I didn’t get why so many guys identified with Green Lantern, but I think now it is just this simple storyline: cocky guy gets great powers. Who wouldn’t identify with that?
Firstly, I think it odd to insinuate that being a jerk and still wanting a flashy ring that will give them whatever they want is strictly a guy thing.  I have seen Sex and the City: The Movie.  (thanks, I'm here all week!  Try the veal!).

Monday, July 12, 2010

Old, Cranky Comics Fan

I started this post before reading about Mark Waid's Twitter post from the other day.

Annnnd today was the day I stopped reading super-hero comics. One that I won't name finally broke me. Collection stops as of now. No joke.

Mark Waid, the forefront in fans-turned-pro, the guy who became known for not just writing great superhero comics, but his encyclopedic knowledge of superhero comics, has decided to quit reading superhero comics.

Well, maybe. I kind of think maybe Mr. Waid was having a particularly bad day and used a smidge of hyperbole, but...

It wasn't actually one comic, by the way. He later explained it was his basic dislike of so much he'd read of late in the superhero mega-genre. Unlike the trolls on Newsarama, it seems unlikely Waid made any impotent proclamations regarding stopping reading comics if, say, DC didn't acknowledge Jimmy Olsen was the one, true, original Flamebird or that they didn't like some turn of events in a Captain Marvel mini series and so were done with DC... forever*. Instead, you get the feeling Waid is just weary of the state of things. Of course, one could make the same claim when he wrote Kingdom Come in the mid-90's.

...then there was that time in the dystopian future where Superman got the JLA back together and quit taking any BS from the 1990's...

Waid has since further elaborated, stating specific writers he feels are doing a good job, and that he's a bit worn out on what he sees as cynicism in the creation of superhero comics, or messages of cynicism in the comics. In general: cynicism. He doesn't like it.

At first blush, its a bit of a bitter pill to swallow from the guy who is writing the power Irredeemable series about a Superman proxy gone amuck, but Irredeemable is about what happens when hope turns to horror and our heroes turn on us. A bit different, I think, than what Waid is describing.

But he also describes that he's tired of seeing the same thing done over the 100th time (perhaps cynical recycling of stories?), and that's an idea I can get behind.

I started the post around the fourth of July. I was in a mood.

On the Fourth of July, a favorite comic shoppe posted an image to Facebook from The Dark Knight Returns as a sort of wink and nod to the holiday, patriotic fervor, all hat good stuff. Those who've read The Dark Knight Returns will recall the image immediately.

If you were a kid in the mid-80's (and I was), it wasn't so much just that Dark Knight would turn out to be the most influential comic book of the next 25 years. At the time, if you read comics and hadn't read it, you would. It was just done. Like owning jeans or trying to moonwalk when nobody was looking.

But the first comment read:

Never read the Dark Knight Returns (art isn't my style, therefore it's hard to get past it and stay interested) but there is something INCREDIBLY errie about that....

Nevermind the type-o's, but this was enough of a comics fan that the person followed this favored comic shoppe on Facebook, and didn't think it odd that (a) he hadn't read Dark Knight Returns, and (b) that the art not being his cup of tea was a reasonable excuse for shrugging off one of the essentials of the past three decades for enthusiasts of the genre and medium.

Kids today. I swear.

But it is a reminder that the breakthroughs of Dark Knight and Watchmen will be forgotten by subsequent generations, just as breakthroughs in cinema television, the visual arts, etc... are absorbed, reprocessed, and ignored as archaic or strange when the subsequent enthusiasts of the medium become the audience.

I also can acknowledge that a lot of what seems popular with the kids these days just doesn't... do a lot for me as a reader.

The X-Men (the supposed stand in for minorities, but, really, the superheroic embodiment of teen-geek alienation since at least the late 1980's) plus vampires? Yeah, I know vampires are the new zombies/ monkeys/ whatever...

But I can't do it. And I guess at least Neil Gaiman appears to agree with me. But the kids like their memes in comics, too, these days. But jumping on these memes is certainly popular with the kids, or at least it appears to be. And it certainly stinks of a certain bit of that cynicism from the publishers (seriously, Marvel, hoping to get Twilight spill over is just embarrassing, I don't care what mopey teenagers are picking up X-Men.).

After 70-odd years of superheroes in comics, with thousands of characters, with some characters popping up multiple times in a month... I'm not at all surprised that Mr. Waid has detected a certain repetition in superhero comics. I'm stunned that Law & Order ran for as long as it did and spawned a half-dozen spin-offs and countless imitators, as that seemed to more or less be the same show every time I watched it, but there's certainly a comfort factor in repetition, and some of it I can get behind. I was interested in, for example, what DC wanted to do with Brainiac in a post Infinite Crisis DCU. But I could barely muster the energy to turn the pages of the recent Tony Daniel written Batman series when, once again, the inmates of Arkham were loose in Gotham, and, once again, Gotham was experiencing gang war. That may be the third time that's been used since 2005.

But too often it does seem a bit mind boggling, when I'm reading a superhero comic from the big two and realize that was what they decided to put out there. Either the story was pointless, or the plot seemed generic and recycled... and when reading some of the recent excuses DC has had for Justice League and Justice Society comics... it all feels like filler until they can get someone with a vision on the books once again. And in a worse case scenario, you wind up with ridiculousness like the recent "Rise" and "Fall" storylines spinning out of the abysmal "Cry for Justice".

I'm certainly not sure I am ready to quit reading superhero comics, but the number of them I do read seems to be on the decline. My plans to move to largely trades and collections seems to be a smarter move every week that I get away from the comic shop habit. We'll see.

There really is quite a bit out there that I do find worth my time with superhero concepts and ideas. Grant Morrison's Batman has been nothing short of terrific for about four years. Geoff Johns' Green Lantern is a sleek jet fighter of a comic that may not be the most complex reading you're likely to do, but always stays interesting. His Flash is also promising. Rucka's Batwoman and Question stories were a highlight of 2009. Amanda Connor worked wonders with Power Girl for 12 issues. Sterling Gates fully rehabilitated the modern Supergirl title, and saved the character. I've liked REBELS that I've read in trade. Levitz's new Legion books seem like the real deal. And its going to raise some eyebrows, but I'm actually a bit enthusiastic about JMS coming on Wonder Woman and Superman.

I'm nowhere close to Mr. Waid's assessment, but I also want for superhero comics to try to do more with themselves and start working toward fulfilling the promise of the 1980's, and quit tracing back to the lazy and bad habits of the 1990's.

*comic nerds: when you pick some arbitrary thing that's going to mean you will no longer ever, ever, ever read a company's comics, like, ever... it makes you look kind of crazy. Go ahead and stop reading, but, you know, keep it to yourself or bounce it off a friend or two before making bold proclamations. Honestly, your opinions in the comment sections? Nobody cares. It makes you look a little nutty.