Saturday, August 02, 2008

The League considers movies

Me am smrt 2! Me like Hulk movie!

Have you seen this new ad for "Brideshead Revisited?"

The one that says "The movie intelligent filmgoers have waited for all year!" by Rex Reed.

Wow. Isn't that kind of an insult to anyone who enjoyed any other movie this year? I mean, its one thing for Reed to make the statement (and he did like the movie), but isn't this a weird way to appeal to a mass audience on TV?

I'm not even disputing that the movie is good, or that Reed isn't right. But how many stories of Victorian-style class issues am I supposed to sit through, watching a middle-aged, respectable actress do her passive-aggressive thing over tea while our Pip stand in sits there and squirms?

I read "Great Expectations". I get it. You can't crack the upper class in Britain, and you don't want to, because Victorian stuffiness rots you from inside. Got it. Thanks.

I mostly just don't really think that it makes me a genius for going and seeing yet another Merchant-Ivory knock-off with lovely period outfits.

You know, I kinda sorta thought this would be a good one to go do for a matinee sometime next week, but I don't now if I really want to see a movie when the marketing team decided to suggest was my only intelligent choice this year.

Step Brothers

Which is why I went to go see the new John C. Reilly/ Will Ferrell movie, Step Brothers.

Which, is NOT going to be for everybody. Or most anybody. It's dumb and juvenile, and it made me want to buy a Wookie mask. And maybe hit a little close to home sometimes... But I don't think you can go wrong seeing a movie that makes you laugh until you get those little tears coming up. Mostly because what you're seeing on screen is so very, very wrong.

Step Brothers is part of the Apatow collective's steady stream of comedies (I am looking forward to "Pineapple Express"), and having others playing along certainly helps Ferrell. I liked the man in "Semi-Pro" and "Blades of Glory", but I felt like he was doing it all himself. In an Apatow movie, everybody gets to play. It's not the Robin Williams comedies of the 80's where a coked-up Williams was wound up and set loose on the squares. Part of the comedy comes from everyone's participation.

I think Mary Steenburgen is a lovely woman and fine actress, but she's never made me laugh before this movie. Not that I can recall. And the whole cast pitches in. Especially Kathryn Hahn, who plays Ferrell's sister-in-law.

Anyhoo, I was slightly appalled that a ticket this summer at Westgate is now $9.00, so that seemed a little steep, but I think its definitely worth a matinee, or rental.

Doesn't live up to the hype

The other day I took a gamble and DVR'd a movie off cable. "They Came from Beyond Space". Here's the description: Caped spacemen need slaves on the moon; a physicist and his girlfriend deal with them.

What isn't awesome about that?

Well, pretty much everything. And the caped aliens aren't really wearing capes, its more like neon colored robes. And they don't even show up until the last five minutes. And then they're represented by this old British character actor who really could have done without all the cigarettes and tea, if the color of his teeth is any indication.

I gotta say, when you're thinking of watching 1967 Brit Sci-Fi epic "They Came From Beyond Space", you might want to just skip it and save yourself the trouble.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Watching "Watchmen"

I'm a bit stunned by the popularity of the Watchmen trailer that's tied to Dark Knight. It seems there are two distinct audiences for Watchmen, the comic geeks and the general public. But upon further review and from observation, it looks like there's the general public, comic geeks who've read Watchmen, and then comic geeks who have somehow managed NOT to read Watchmen.

My assumption, when it came to Watchmen, was that after two decades in print, isn't it likely that Watchmen will have saturated the market of potential buyers?

The other day I popped into Austin Books and it seems that the demand for the book is extremely high. This is a comic that is 22 years old, that's never been out of print for any serious duration, and which is one of the usual perennial favorites on the shelf of bookstores and comic shops alike. Add in multiple years of Watchmen making "best of" lists for both comics and regular old books, and I'm sort of amazed that the interest in the trailer is high enough to push the kinds of sales we're seeing. Watchmen was #6 (NUMBER 6!) on the Amazon books lists when I just checked sales rankings.

That said, Austin shoppers will want to hit Austin Books rather than Amazon for their Watchmen/ Dark Knight needs. There's a display at the counter, I believe, and plenty of copies.

Brad pointed out some figures to me on the audience for the comic thus far, versus the millions of eyeballs that have seen The Dark Knight, and thus the Watchmen trailer. The numbers are simply exponentially larger. But its still curious. I don't think the original novel of "I am Legend" sold through the roof despite the millions who saw the recent Will Smith adaptation.

Buy our book

Part of me is a bit disappointed with the masses of comic readers who've been raised on a generation of manga and graphitti style art, and who didn't see enough enormous eyes, mecha, boobs or guns or bloody swords enough, page per page, to get them to crack the comic before. So if it takes a movie trailer to get them to understand the significance of uttering "Hurm" under your breath... so be it. But, hey, hopefully this will be enough to convince them to give the comic a shot.

Its also apparently sold out at the printer or distributor for the time being, but DC is printing 200,000 more copies (thanks to Simon for that info), so that's a lot of copies of Watchmen that could move by Christmas.

Part of my joy in this whole illogical exuberance over a movie trailer is that it will give so many readers a chance to say "The book was better than the movie". And to sample the material before the movie ever hits (Miller's "300" had a bubble after the movie was released, but it was AFTER, not several months before). I'm not saying the movie won't be good or great, but with so few people ever really turning to the source material after watching a comic-book inspired movie, and taking the movie as cannon, its a novel opportunity. If not for comics, DC, etc... than for readers to discover Alan Moore (as copies of his "Killing Joke", the classic Batman/ Joker one-shot, have also been selling like hot cakes, 20+ years later).

If I can be allowed a bit of an aside here: This is the perfect opportunity for DC to attempt to make amends with Alan Moore. He's simply too important to DC and Warner Bros. at this point to allow a silly dispute over his work to continue. Clearly DC doesn't need to have Moore on board to exploit his material, from "V for Vendetta" to "Watchmen", but moving forward, it couldn't hurt DC and Moore to be on friendlier terms, and at least establishing a first-look relationship between themselves and Moore. I believe that right now, that's how he's working with Top Shelf, and maybe that's a good home for him (I doubt DC would have published "Lost Girls"). But old family squabbles need to be resolved at some point.

The comic movies don't seem to be simply finally exploiting some of the material that saw the superhero genre move from kid's entertainment in the 80's to entertainment for older readers, but that the movie industry may see with The Dark Knight and Watchmen as the turning point for the possibilities for superheroics that comics have seen since the 1980's.

Let's just hope that the movies don't have to suffer through the same post DKR-hangover/ chromium age/ extreme make-over that the comics had to suffer through. Watchmen and DKR succeeded for a reason, and it wasn't because blood + guts + boobs = entertainment for older readers.

get your vote on

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Comic Geeks

I was reading this post at The Beat, and it gave me a moment of pause. Apparently comic fan Steve Marmel has taken exception to how some of the newer, non-comic-fan attendees regard the Con. And how it chaps his hide.

Really, I was with the author until:

I love this form of story telling. For those of us who weren’t the “winners” in high school, there was always something wonderful about comic books (or gaming) because those were morality tales where good and evil was clear, outcasts were respected…

…the good guys won, even if they weren’t popular.

And the San Diego Comic Con is their super bowl. Their prom. Their homecoming. If you don’t know that Wolverine is supposed to be short, and that Batman doesn’t kill, you are a welcome guest. But somebody let YOU past the velvet rope, not the other way around.

I've mentioned a few times before how I don't really understand the constant reinforcement in comics of jocks picking on geeks and other convenient stereotypes.

The post says so very, very much about comics, their fans and their creators. The fact that Marmel so closely relates his love of superherodom to a painful adolescence doesn't really do a lot to shake the image of the lonely comic geek living in Mom's basement, or why the rest of the population looks at us comic fans a bit cockeyed. How many years on and this guy isn't just romanticizing outsider status, but he's drawing a clear line to some sort of moral superiority?

Do we ever really escape high school?

And is it really the majority of comic readers who felt they were having a rough time of it between gym class and Algebra? Or is it just Con attendees?

Look, I'm not going to try to play up my vision of myself at age 17 one way or another, but I certainly never felt drawn to comics because they reflected some way in which I felt I'd been kicked to some social curb. But in some ways, I feel like Marmel is speaking for comic geeks and he's making a lot of assumptions that have nothing to do with my reality.

When I use the term "comic geek", I use it lovingly. Because "fan" doesn't really do it, and enthusiast makes it sound like I should somehow be using model glue and be wearing lures in a fishing hat. Calling myself a comic geek is co-opting the derogatory and owning the term, stripping the words of the negative. I know my fellow comic geeks are folks of all different stripes, of different backgrounds and with several different brands of social dysfunction. Some of them living in a world where squeezing into a homemade Flash costume when you are far from a Barry Allen physique makes the costume less than practical. Others are folks who wouldn't be caught dead in a unitard.

Does that make it okay for the Hollywood suit to show up and roll his eyes at the guy in the Flash costume? Well, if comic fans want to see comics come back out of the basement, they're going to have to know that not everyone embraces the spirit in which such a costume is donned.

The thing is, I do agree with many of Marmel's points. It's probably right to be suspicious of the suits there trolling like sharks, trying to figure out how to, literally, exploit an as-yet-unsigned comic property for development in some other medium.

But as long as the geeks keep couching things in terms of some hurt feelings from 10-20 years ago, the longer the stereotype of the guy in the ill-fitting Green Lantern t-shirt will persist. And as a guy with a closet full of Superman shirts, I'm not asking anyone to change how they're living, but I am suggesting that Marmel quit worrying about something as ludicrous as high school popularity and working through some misplaced mix of entitlement and persecution complex.

Comics have always taken heat for their black and white morality portrayals, so when I see someone pairing their LOVE of guys in white hats vs. guys in black hats, juxtaposed, perhaps unconsciously, with their own feelings regarding the suits as "bad guys", and outcasts living in a world where they get the respect they deserve...

Many people are geeks in one way or another. And, honestly, people who aren't geeks sort of creep me out in a Stepford Wives sort of way. What kind of a life are you living if you aren't passionate about something for yourself, be it comics, airplanes, hunting, movies, lawn maintenance or even some crazy-bizarre conspiracy theory you're trying to propagate? And many of those guys and girls you sneered at in high school... they weren't so bad (and some of them were)... but, honestly, who cares?

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Well, Nicole is at our house for the evening. And maybe until Friday. I'm not sure.

It seems Nicole had herself a very rough night last night and wound up in the ER feeling ultra-funky. The thinking is that it were a kidney stone that done it. Unfortunately, much of Nicole's support crew is out of town (Matt's at a family reunion, Letty and Juan G. in Boston), so we've opened up the doors of League HQ to our ill amiga.

It's a packed house. We've got Nicole, but we've also got Judy (Jamie's mom) who is here for an appointment with Jamie. And, to top things off, Cassidy is here, too. Jason dropped her off while he's in San Antonio for some sort of continuing legal education conference.

To make things work, tonight I am crashing on the couch. And I am looking forward to the 5:00 AM decision Cassidy will surely make to begin licking my nose. It's funny the things I'll tolerate from Cassidy that would end poorly if Lucy made the same decision. And how weirded out I'd be if it were Nicole who were licking my nose.

Anyway, I'm glad we can put Nicole and Cassidy up, and I'm glad Judy is here to help out with Jamie's appointment. I'll let her cover all that on her blog, if she so chooses.

The Peabo/ Onion/ Al Gore/ Jor-El/ Superman connection

Last fall, Peabo sent me an e-mail regarding his theory on an Al Gore/ Superman/ Jor-El connection. You can go here for Peabo's thoughts.

Well, Mr. Harms made my morning by sending me this article from The Onion. And, later, Jim D sent it as well.

I think The Onion owes Peabo a dollar.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Comic Fodder

I've got a post up on Comic Fodder. I discuss my inner feelings about ComicCon International.

Unemployment Chronicles: The Great American Novel

Despite the crippling unemployment, I'm trying to keep a bit busy. As I posted last week, a good part of my day during the week is spent looking for employment. I'm doing less reading and writing in my evenings than I feel I should be doing. Being unemployed has led to the discovery of a truckload of shows I probably wouldn't notice, and a whole network (Channel 250 on my dial) which shows nothing but hour long documentaries about serial killers. Seriously. 24 hours a day. I don't even know what the name of the network is, but its "DTMS" in my cable info. Watch more than one of these in a row, and you'll find yourself tucked into a ball in a corner and weeping for the evil that brews in the heart of man.

I wish I spent more time writing. At one point in my life I'd started something of a lengthy prose thing, but I cant ever seem to really get going past the first major story turning point. I think I can understand the appeal of writing workshops at this point. Forcing you to turn in pages at least keeps you going, even if its not in the right direction. You can't just freeze up and start second guessing yourself, nor can you tell yourself "it's going to be awesome... if I ever finish it" because you've got pages out and feedback coming in.

The funny thing is that it's something I've touched on and off since college, and while the beginning and end have always been pretty solid in my mind, as well as many of the characters, it still hasn't exactly gushed out onto the page. Even funnier to me is that the story does take place in a pretty specific time and place when I started writing it, and I'm glad I have a few tidbits in there, like the price of certain items such as the $2.00 caps you used to be able to buy at Fiesta, because it reminds me of details of my 20's that I'm pretty sure would otherwise now be gone forever. It also takes place pre-cellphone, and just as the world was becoming networked and computers moved into the workplace on everyone's desk, and its hard (already) to remember what it was like to find a phone. Or that answering machines used to have tapes in them.

While I'm unemployed, I should really take a greater stab at it, but part of me is also older and more cynical than when I started. Not that it effects the story, but I'm no longer graced with the college-kid naivete and ego that makes you think you're going to be the next big thing. 10 years on, I know now that I'm not some undiscovered diamond in the rough. I'm a dude, like 6 billion other dudes, and even if I finish some "book", it doesn't mean anyone would want to pay for the privilege of reading a word I wrote. I think five years of losing money on LoM is evidence enough that if you build it, nobody will come.

But it seems like a good goal. Finish what you start. Let the characters at least finish the journey you started instead of leaving them hanging at the end of the first act. Give them some closure, if not yourself.

And, more than anything... how many words do I need to burn online criticizing the work of others but being too sheepish to make anything myself?

Anyway, I guess I'll go off and take a look at this thing again. It isn't going to write itself.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Alamo Drafthouse Trailers

No post tonight. Going to do other stuff.

Not all of you live in Austin, so you might not have been able to enjoy the Alamo Drafthouse as your movie venue of choice.

JasonC pointed to the Alamo Drafthouse preview pieces on Vimeo. Every month they make a new trailer highlighting some of the month's big events, and its always fun to sit through. And its always amazing to see how much stuff they cook up every month. I think I make it to about 1/8th of the stuff I would gladly attend.

Anyway, they're usually cut together pretty well, so check out the trailers for July and August.

July's Alamo Previews from Henri Mazza on Vimeo.

August's Alamo Montage from Henri Mazza on Vimeo.

Rocket Racing League at Oshkosh AirVenture

As I mentioned, there's some news coming out of Oshkosh that I'm pretty excited about. The Rocket Racing League is going to demo at AirVenture on Tuesday.

The Rocket Racing League is an all-new, very high-tech sport with all sort of individuals involved, from Richard Branson to Burt Rutan to Cousin Jim, who happens to own Bridenstine Rocket Racing, one of the teams in the RRL.

I highly recommend jumping over to the Rocket Racing League website to get a feel for how crazy this sport is going to be, in a very George Lucas sort of way. Pilots will essentially be strapped into a rocket powered craft, and will fly a 3D course in the sky.

Here's a video on YouTube:


Sunday, July 27, 2008


Got some Sun

Yesterday we took Lucy, Mel and Cassidy to the spillover yesterday. I need to take them during the week when there are fewer dogs. Its nice to see them play with other dogs, but I think they're more tired from excitement than from the actual activity of swimming, chasing balls around in the water, etc...

I love the Barton Springs pool, but the spill over is really fun, too. Its a bit like taking the kids to Chuck E. Cheese. You get the pizza and can watch the floor show, and just hope the kids don't hurt themselves in the ball crawl.

Oshkosh is Next Week

It's been a long, long time since I've been to an airshow. But were I a man of limitless wealth (I can't say "and limitless time" because, honestly...), I would like to go to Oshkosh. It's an enormous air show in Wisconsin. I believe the biggest in the US. Sort of like ComicCon for plane geeks (such as The Admiral).

Anyway, its also in the hottest part of the Texas summer, so walking around Wisconsin and getting some sun and checking out both classic and cutting edge aircraft sounds like a pretty decent few days to me.

Plus, I think in a day or two I may be able to make an observation about AirVenture.

Two Movies

Last night I ended up watching two movies. "Be Kind, Rewind" and "Murderball".

We think our DVD player has blown up on us, which is problematic. So we strayed up to the Pay-Per-View realm.

I didn't know "Be Kind, Rewind" was a Michael Gondry film. It turned out not to be the yuckfest I was expecting, and was, in fact, better than I'd expected. Funny and sweet, and a genuine love for movies and film making. There was probably a deeper message about the creative process I missed, but, anyway... wortha view.

"Murderball" is a doc on the US Paralympic Rugby team. I had meant to see this movie for what seems like years, and I'm glad I finally quit watching "Tori & Dean" long enough to finally make time to watch it through. Great, compelling subject matter, with great personalities.

If you have any preconceived notions about Paralympians, check them at the door before watching. The titular sport is rougher than anything I've played.

The only problem with the movie is that I really wanted to know a bit more about more of the people in the movie, but there just wasn't time. Also, I wouldn't mind an update on the team. But I guess that's what the internet is for.

Shark Week is On

Discovery Channel's annual tribute to our fishy friends has started. I, myself, watched two hours of Shark-themed Mythbusters this evening. Not a single explosion, and I learned something about night diving, sharks and flashlights that makes me never, ever, ever want to us e a flashlight anywhere near the water.

ComicCon Last Thought (I Promise)

Well, Comic Con drew to a close with a whole lot of bluster about Dark Knight and Watchmen (a lot of hype for a trailer, I think). Despite 125,000 comic geeks sequestered in San Diego, Batman still managed to pull in a record setting total of $300 million. Yowza.

I confess to being a little disappointed that there was no announcement of additional DCU related movies. It seems like it would have been a good time to learn we're getting a Flash movie, etc... Or Bryan Singer is done dinking around with Tom Cruise's Nazi movie, and that we're getting that second Superman flick. Didn't happen.

There were some picture of some neat upcoming toys and whatnot (don't worry, Jamie, I won't buy all of them. Or even most of them.). And, of course, the DCU MMO game that I'm very excited about. But there was a surprising lack of information about the upcoming year for actual comics. But I think that's actually okay.

I never understood the push in the last four years or so for Marvel and DC to try to outline all of their moves for the next 6 - 12 months during the summer convention season. But in a way, it also sort of points to the possibility that DC is still recovering from the Countdown debacle, and unsure of the final shake out from Final Crisis. Add in that they're probably struggling not to give away the conclusions to "Batman R.I.P." and "Final Crisis", and perhaps the less said, the better.