Friday, June 05, 2009

Metropolis Sunday at Alamo South

I am going to the Alamo on South Lamar on Sunday evening for a special presentation of Fritz Lang's "Metropolis". The show is at 7:15.

There's a new score by the Golden Hornet Project. Should be fun!

For more info, look here.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

some other quick links

From Johnny Cash's biography:

“I’ve had a lot of loves over the years: Gospel, country, rockabilly. But my greatest passion is and always has been Donkey Kong.”


From Jason: More stuff on The Reals (real life superheroes). CNN tries to tie it to the economy somehow. Not sure that follows, but I am fascinated by the phenomenon.

Finally got my hands on Mark Waid's new series "Irredeemable" from Boom Studios. Its been sold out TWICE. Really liked the first issue. Here's a preview. (not for kids)

I assume someone will compare it to Miracleman at some point, but I've never had an opportunity to read that series.

A great reason to tune into TLC on Mondays.

New Buck Rogers comic from Dynamite! Enstertainment.

I'm reading a LOT of Boom! and Dynamite these days.

Oddly, reading almost no Marvel but Cap, Daredevil and the new Lockjaw and the Pet Avengers series.

Still recommending Superman titles, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman and the Dini and Morrison Bat-books. Booster Gold is good, but am looking forward to Blue Beetle being added in as a back-up feature.

Here's a video promoting that DCU Massive Multiplayer Game. When the @#$% is this game coming out?

Batman and Robin #1

Believe it or not, there has not previously been a comic entitled "Batman and Robin". Batman, Detective, Batman Confidential, Legends of the Dark Knight, Brave and the Bold, Robin.... sure. All of those. But on Wednesday, DC Comics released the first issue of "Batman and Robin".

the all-new dynamic duo!

Generally, for established talent, I prefer commenting on a storyline as it wraps rather than issue by issue, especially at the beginning. There's simply too much unknown in the early issues of a comic. Its not that you can't form an opinion (and a valid one at that), but in many ways its sort of like reviewing an album based on one or two songs, or running out of a movie after the first fifteen minutes and writing a review.

Grant Morrison took over the title "Batman" in late 2006 and proceeded to take two years to spin out what became clear was just part of a multi-year effort. He wrapped his run into DC's mega-event "Final Crisis" (in itself a 7-issue series with multiple tie-ins), culminating in the disappearance/ seeming death of Bruce Wayne.

Morrison then took a break to make room for what I'd consider to be some serious filler material in the way of the "Battle for the Cowl" storyline. Hey, at least I enjoyed Neil Gaiman's two-part stand in with "Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?".

Morrison is also the author of such highly recommended works as "Invisibles", "We3", "Vinamarama", "New X-Men", "JLA", "Animal Man" and the most defining work on the character in a generation, "All Star Superman".

Art is penciled by the amazing Frank Quitely, whose work with Morrison elevates both talents. He's probably now most famous for "All Star Superman", but his "New X-Men" run is pretty stellar. My personal favorite of his work is still "We3", but he made his real mark with "Flex Mentallo" with Morrison. The work has never been collected due to a law suit from the Charles Atlas company.

The first issue begins with the new status quo of former Robin, Dick Grayson, in the Batsuit. Those unfamiliar to recent events in the comics will be surprised to learn that Batman's bastard son (both literal and figurative), Damian, takes on the mantle of Robin. There's enough exposition to catch up a casual reader or possibly explain to someone utterly unfamiliar with Batman as to what's going on.

Dick and Damian go for a ride!

Morrison does what he so often does, and injects a relaxed cool to the high octane proceedings (these superheroes don't flinch over something like an explosion). Dick and Damian have put together the first flying Batmobile, and are in hot pursuit of a Mr. Toad (who both physically resembles a toad and who is on a wild ride).

There's much in the way of exposition to catch us up, but which also fills in gaps for the reader who may wonder how we got from the end of "Battle for the Cowl" to this point.

But nasty things are afoot in Gotham City as the issue wraps, unveiling the first glimmer of bizarre goings on with the newest additions to Batman's rogues gallery.

All in all, its a great start to the series, and should give those who were left scratching their heads at the end of Batman RIP and Final Crisis a huge jolt of faith in Morrison. One also realizes how much Morrison's work is enhanced or detracted from by the art talent with whom he's joined. One saving grace for Final Crisis was that I felt he was lucky to land two great artists (I really dig Doug Mahnke's stuff), and I'm not sure Tony Daniel really did much to carry his part of the load in Batman RIP.

For myself... I was not at all a fan of the continuity-lite six issue runs that came out of the early 2000's. I was raised on Claremont X-Men and Alan Grant and Co. dominating the Bat-titles. So I very much appreciate DC's decision to let Morrison spin his web across the Bat-titles (just as Johns, Robinson and Rucka are building a phenomenal, multi-year arc on the Superman titles).

This is going to sound odd, but something about the issue vaguely gave me the same charge as those old Alan Grant and Norm Breyfogle issues of Batman and Detective used to give me. I think because there was so little distraction. No Dan Didio harping about "Batman RIP" for a year in advance. Just a story, great art and characters. There's not too, too much else in common, but it reminded me of the relentless insistence on the "event" that's been going on in Bat-books for a long time.

The book ain't necessarily for kids. Just felt I'd remind our eager-beavers in the interwebs to be careful what they put in the kiddos' hands.

Morrison said something about trying to mix the psychedelia of the Adam West Batman with some creepier aspects. Whatever he said, fine. The first issue was downright fun. It really is a gorgeous comic to look at, and I'm excited its out there and look forward to the next issue.

David Carradine Merges with the Infinite

David Carradine, star of dozens upon dozens of movies and most famous for his roles in "Kung-Fu" and "Kill Bill" has passed.

The League of Melbotis wishes you Godspeed, sir.

The death was very much unexpected, and news is still breaking. From CNN.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Ghostbusters: 25th Anniversary

So this week marks the 25th Anniversary of the release of Ghostbusters.

I deeply, deeply love this movie, and I find it curious that I never think to include it in my profile lists when they ask me to name my favorite films. Well, today I put a flag in the ground and declare my love for the Ghostbusters.

Going to matinees in the summertime is an age old Steans-Clan tradition, and so it was that the KareBear took a fresh-faced League and Steanso to the cinema to catch the flick. I probably already knew the Ray Parker Jr. theme song (a Huey Lewis knock off that wound up getting somebody sued).

As a kid, I recall enjoying the more slapsticky elements (sliming), the sci-fi and ghostly elements, and the big finale. It was in middle school that I realized how quotable the movie is, to the point where the dialog works itself into everyday speech (when training staff in my previous, more technical jobs, I'd frequently wrap it up with "the light is green, the trap is clean"). And, I imagine, I'd do quite well at a Ghostbusters quote-along at The Alamo.

On the whole, its just a very tight movie. From a scripting standpoint, it does a great job of carrying its characters from the basement of a university to fighting Gozer the Gozarian for the fate of world to the cheers of New York City, the guy gets the girl, and the stick in the mud EPA guy gets his comeuppance.

And, it features this scene:

Maybe one of the most brilliant scenes ever put on film.

The movie plays so often on cable that I suspect its now taken for granted, becoming television wall paper in the manner of "Vacation" or "Fletch".

But I recommend going back and checking out "Ghostbusters", and I dare you to wish you weren't a little more like Dr. Peter Venkman.

The sequel was a little too cutesy, and missed the edge of the original. Once babies are involved and it lost the "working stiffs" element (as well as the uncertainty and shooting from the hip nature of taking on the actual ghost busting), there's just going to be a point where its not the same movie anymore. Still enjoyable, but...

There was also a Saturday Morning cartoon that ran for a few years and tried very hard to keep the spirit of the original series, although toned down for kids (who were going to be surprised when they'd watch the movie years later, slapping themselves on the head when they figured out the whole "gatekeeper/ keymaster" deal).

One of the great things about the original is how well the entire cast clicks. Not just Murray, Aykroyd and Ramis... but Ernie Hudson, Annie Potts, Rick Moranis and Sigourney Weaver (and poor William Atherton who became consigned to a career or playing schmucks after nailing the role of Walter Peck in Ghostbusters). No doubt Moranis is hilarious (and who has the greatest closing argument in legal history in Ghostbusters II*), but Ernie Hudson's blue collar guy who's just in it for the job and Sigourney Weaver's bemused high class NYC musician all really draw from a world of New York that seems very ground in reality. Juxtaposed against three jobless professors hunting ghosts... it just works.

I can't think of a big budget, more or less all ages comedy like Ghostbusters coming out in recent memory. Especially one that mixes genres so seamlessly. For some reason, the only thing that comes to mind is stuff like "Pluto Nash". I'm probably wrong, but its been a while since something like Ghostbusters hit.

There are rumors of the original cast reuniting for a sequel (I am neither for, nor against, a sequel until I know more). There's also a long-in-development video game coming in a few weeks, and featuring most of the original voices (I hear Moranis was a hold out).

At any rate, it would be nice to see the movie remembered as more than a sexy Halloween costume.

*Your Honor, ladies and gentleman of the audience, I don't think it's fair to call my clients frauds. Sure, the blackout was a big problem for everybody. I was trapped in an elevator for two hours and I had to make the whole time. But I don't blame them. Because one time, I turned into a dog and they helped me. Thank you.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

52 weeks later

So, apparently its been a year since I did anything to organize my comics. I consume a lot of comics (a LOT of comics), and I've gotten sort of good at hiding various piles around the house or briskly walking people past the piles so they won't notice them.

But I knew they were there.

I know its been a full year as I realized I had the entire run of "Trinity", which wraps this week, unbagged and unboarded in my stacks. Trinity ran weekly for a year (52 issues).

Anyway, I'm now taking on the monumental task of sorting, bagging & boarding, indexing and boxing a year's worth of comics. It's going to take a while. So if I sort of disappear on you, its because I am geeking out and trying to get a handle on chaos in my own home.

I did notice that my diversity of floppies has reduced to a lot fewer categories. I'm clearly not quite as adventurous as I was in that direction. I think I've refocused those energies to graphic novels and collections.

Anyhow, I'm off to nerd-out once again.

some quick links

From Shoemaker: Goth Cruise (The Movie)

From Randy: The Secret Life of Superheroes and Villains

I need to learn to talk to people on airplanes.

When in Tulsa, try The Tulsa Air and Space Museum. A longtime family friend is now running the joint.

An End to Hate

For a few hours today I had up a post that was part of a meme started by Calvin. It detailed 18 things I "hated".

I've made the decision to pull the post.

The bottom line is that I don't really "hate" most of those things. I don't "hate" bands, cities, people, TV shows, etc... I dislike them. I find them unpleasant or not to my taste, but I'll keep "hate" in my back pocket for things upon which I feel a certain passion.

They asked the question "What technology do I hate?" I hate the technology that allows the NSA to listen to my phone calls without a warrant. I hate that we're in a place where intelligent people feel that its necessary to do their job, and that if something akin to 9/11 happened again, they would be held responsible. I hate that. I don't "hate" the little switch box and recorder server farm.

I do, however, hate brussell sprouts. God intended them as food for rabbits and garden moles, but not for people. At least not for this people.

So if you saw the "hate" post here, and you're wondering where it went... I hope its okay that a better nature prevailed.

I think NTT, who commented upon the post, will understand.

Monday, June 01, 2009

The League Watches "Up"

I had today off, and so Jamie and I took the afternoon to go see Pixar's latest, "Up".

This post is going to be short as there is not a laundry list of gripes and complaints that I'd spend paragraph after paragraph cataloging. In fact, this was my favorite movie since last year's "Dark Knight". All though... this movie has less punching and fire. And its probably my favorite Pixar movie since Incredibles (and, Leaguers, I loved Wall-E. This one just pushed all the right buttons).

Pixar's focus on story and character is generally much better than most movies in general, and is light years better than most all-ages entertainment. And the impetus for the story here is not what you'd normally sell as a kid's movie, just as I'm not sure kids would really get their heads around the existential dilemma of Bob Parr in "The Incredibles" that leads him to re-don the spandex.

The characters are very well defined, and the script features none of the relentless mugging that's mistaken for jokes in the average Dreamworks project that's the legacy of Robin Williams' "Genie" and trying to recapture the lightning in a bottle that was the first Shrek movie. Instead, the humor (and tears) come straight from the story and characters.

Our protagonists. I really liked that bird.

The animation is fantastic, and I guess you can see this thing in 3D in the right theaters (we didn't miss it). But the character design, etc... all feels spot on, as do the various set pieces.

I would forewarn parents of kids under 7 or 8 that we had a scared kiddo sitting behind us. There's nothing too threatening popping out at the heroes, but I sort of think that because the movie does a good job of wrapping you up in the proceedings that when danger does occur, the kids may get a little more spooked than normal. There is a little more "life and limb" sort of danger than in Wall-E.

Two of our protagonists are not human. There's a huge bird whose name is actually a punchline, so I don't want to give it away.

And, of course, there's Doug the Dog.

I have just met you, and I love you!

For all the tear-jerking and hilarious moments in the movie, the parts with Doug were my favorite. (If you like dogs, this is really a good movie for you.) But it was also a little sad, given our year, only because Doug was, more or less, Melbotis.

I was surprised by developed Karl's storyline was, and how gently Russell's storyline was conveyed, when both could have been standard kid's faire, heavy-handed stuff.

There are some great action sequences, and I know I was never bored, and neither did the kids ever seem like they were growing impatient (just wait for the little planes to show up).

Anyhow, I don't have much else to say, other than that I hope you Leaguers see it, and hope you enjoy it as much as I did. Its also great to know that Pixar's collection of talent is so deep. While I love Brad Bird and the rest, these guys really knocked it out of the park.

Nathan on Local News in San Antonio

Leaguer Nathan Cone is on TV promoting the Texas Public Radio film screenings they run in the summers. See him do the Pee-Wee Hermann dance!

Here's Nathan.

Happy B-Day to Norma Jean

So, apparently today Marilyn Monroe would have turned 83.

In high school, I was unlikely to hang a poster of Kathy Ireland or the other favorites of the day on my wall, but somehow I decided that it was perfectly acceptable to hang a poster of Marilyn Monroe. Actually, several images of Monroe, if memory serves.

I did watch a few Monroe movies (although my favorite still only really has her in a small part, John Huston's crime drama, "The Asphalt Jungle"), and read up a bit about Monroe in the way you did before the internet made that sort of casual interest all too easy.

Monroe's fame comes far more from her all-but-confirmed extra-curricular romances with JFK and possibly Bobby Kennedy, her downward spiral and the mysterious events surrounding her death than her film career, although she was in a few classsics. She also managed to marry not one but TWO American legends in Joe DiMaggio and Arthur Miller. (You put all this in one place, and its sort of mind-boggling.)

Her early death, of course, froze her in time in the mind's eye of America. And, I am certain, there have been many a theses and dissertation written on what it means that the American gold standard for WASPy beauty and sexuality is represented by Monroe.

Her contemporaries haven't enjoyed the same household name status, and its hard to think of anyone in the past 40 years who has attained her status as American Icon, even if stars such as Jane Russell and Jayne Mansfield enjoyed similar film careers. Moreover, it's difficult to imagine the entertainment industry of today creating another Monroe, either by intention or blind luck.

In the past twenty years it does seem that Marilyn (like Elvis, James Dean and others) has become such a part of the cultural landscape that it can be forgotten that she was ever more than a Halloween costume, or a caricature for failed starlets to dress as, standing out in front of Grauman's Chinese Theater for the tourists.

Maybe that's okay. The films will always be returned to by enthusiasts, and enough ink has been spilled for those willing to read up on the person behind the soft-lit photos. And that's far more than most can expect out of even such a short life.

Happy birthday, Marilyn.

Probably Monroe's most famous sequence:

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Happy B-Day to Mangum

Happy Birthday to League Pal Matty Mangum.

I met Matt circa 1996 when he moved with a crowd of friends from Colorado to Austin. I found his directness refreshing (the first conversation we had was him criticizing the album I was listening to when he walked into my apartment), and quickly found his curmudgeonly ways endlessly entertaining.

We wound up both working as students at the same office on campus, and both parlayed our student gigs into full-time gigs, and consequently spent no small number of hours together inside and outside of work.

Mangum thinks tigers are greeeeeaaat!

Obviously I enjoy the man's company as I was happy to have him crash here for a short while during the renovation of his condo. He's a frequent guest to Steans-Family holidays, and we enjoy having him around on game day, etc... He's the guy i actually will hand the tongs to over the grill, and defer to for food choices every time. Matt's a traveler (he was recently in Thailand, and is prone to head to Europe or wherever the wind takes him), a blackbelt in some form of karate, and is now a scuba diver.

He's a longtime pal, and I wish the dude the best of birthdays.

Denby, Matt and Nicole (Nicole is tucked under Mangum's arm there).

The League Watches "The Spirit" So You Don't Have To

I just finished watching the 2008 film "The Spirit" on OnDemand, and I think its safe to say... it's not very good.

Written and directed by comic superstar Frank Miller, its curious to consider how the movie wound up the way it did in the first place.

Eisner first launched The Spirit as a roughly 8 page weekly newspaper insert pre-World War II, trying to find a way to get away from the superhero fads and other things he didn't like about the conditions at many comic publishers. The strip ran for years, and attained great popularity, retaining cult status among a certain breed of comic aficionado, seeing occasional revivals and reprints.

Frank Miller (Dark Knight Returns, 300, Sin City) became friends with Will Eisner at some point, and the two put out a book of interviews and discussions, which I actually bothered to read a few years back. While Miller may idolize Eisner, the two have very different approaches to character and storytelling.

from some Spirit reprints

Following the groundbreaking success of Dark Knight Returns, Miller did some work in Hollywood, including screenplays for Robocops 2 and 3. However, the adaptation of Sin City by Robert Rodriguez, which maintained the look and panel-by-panel pacing of Miller's work, and cited Miller as a co-director, opened new doors for Miller on a much bigger scale than what modern comics affords. Paired with Zack Snyder's adaptation of Miller's original graphic novel, "300", someone in Hollywood felt that Miller could handle his own film project. And Miller, it seems, received the approval of the Eisner's to let him handle Will Eisner's most popular character for a big screen adaptation.

would have been totally cutting edge if he hadn't done this already

It should be mentioned... there was a 1987 television movie of "The Spirit". I missed it. I had a basketball game or band concert or something.

Oddly, Miller more or less abandoned the look, feel, story and everything about the comics that makes them interesting, and inserted a sort of sci-fi/ fantasy take on the events from the comics. Miller's worldview permeates the movie, with the Sin City look overwhelming Eisner's gritty but still friendly cartoonish feel to a stand-in for a North Eastern City, circa 1940ish that The Spirit seemed to perpetually inhabit.

Further, Miller doesn't bother to ever even make a nod to the kind of groundbreaking work Eisner did in page layout and as a master of his craft in managing the comic page.

The Spirit comics became often much more about the crooks and the stories around the people in the comics other than The Spirit, something in the manner of a lot of cop procedurals. The Spirit was cool, two-fisted and had a peculiar relationship with luck, but that was more or less a wink and a nod as a storytelling device. Tracking the past of Sand Serif, Wild Rice, or even a toy machine gun was much more likely to fill the pages of a Spirit story than following Denny Colt around.

The Spirit is a Peeping Tom

I do think its kind of a neat idea to include a handful of the femme fatales of the Spirit comics into the movie. After all, Eisner loved drawing women and found many-a-way to set them up as the equal to The Spirit (not entirely common in strips of the time). While I felt that the movie could have used P'Gell, I didn't get hung up on it. It would have been worth exploring, however, how and/ or why The Spirit of the movie engaged all women as sexual objects when the back story suggested the opposite.

I find it puzzling that Miller would have been such a fan of Eisner's work, routinely complained about how Batman is portrayed on the screen, and then saw fit to take Eisner's creation and manhandle it. That doesn't begin to get into the problems with pacing and story telling that Miller runs into (let alone technical issues such as camera placement and that every shot in the movie looks as if Kevin Smith were DP, selecting mid-range, static shots that don't ever seem to move). One has to assume pride or ego are the culprits here, but I have no idea. I'd have to hear more from Miller.

a good reason to watch the movie, but not good enough

Miller's sense of humor may also not jive with that of his own movie. The Looney Tunes-like fight sequence at the beginning seems less funny and more like a dip back into the post-Adam West-era of comic movie making where nobody seemed to be able to keep a straight face if they knew the source material were a comic.

Scarlett Johansson seems just happy to be there, even if she is rightfully lost as to what is actually going on. Eva Mendes is a lovely woman, but there are places where even in this mess, she seems a bit out of her depth. I do give credit to Gabriel Macht for probably being as solid a portrayal of Denny Colt as you're likely to get. And I can only hope that the set makers could keep up with all the scenery chewing Samuel L. Jackson was responsible for as The Octopus.

All in all, I'm not even sure its a renter. The look is no longer experimental, as we've seen it elsewhere to better effect. The pacing is grueling and the whole thing just feels like maybe someone should have stepped in and stopped this mess before they ever rolled video.