Saturday, August 15, 2009

The League sees: District 9

It's been a pretty lousy summer for movies.

In the wake of the superhero and teenaged wizard tentpole summers, Hollywood has once again misconstrued the obvious (people like movies that aren't stupid) and has now transmorgified the evidence to suggest that no movie should exist unless based upon an existing property, be it old movie, TV show, novel, comic book, back of a Wheaties box, etc...

I consider myself exactly the target audience for a summer movie. But perhaps now that I'm a male on the far end of the 18-35 age bracket, that's no longer so. I did not see:

Transformers 2
GI Joe: Rise of Cobra
Terminator: Salvation
Angels & Demons
Land of the Lost
Taking of Pelham 1-2-3
Public Enemies
Funny People

I also did not see: Moon, 500 Days of Summer, and a few others I'd consider seeing. I get out to the movies far less frequently, and find trips anywhere but The Alamo to be sort of nightmarish, so... Hollywood can count me as a casualty. I am not helping them.

And I do still want to see "Julie & Julia", "Zombieland", and "Inglourious Basterds". And Maybe "Ponyo", if the mood strikes me.

One movie that did not appear to be based on a toy, book, cartoon, or bar of soap had some trailer at The Alamo this spring. I'd also seen the posters for "District 9", and was pleased to see director/ producer Peter Jackson's name attached. I saw "Dead Alive" in the theater, thank you. And later, much to Jason's chagrin, "Meet the Feebles". Jackson was "presenting" District 9, and I figured even if all he was doingw as distributing the movie, it was worth a look-see.

if only this poster had existed for my bedroom in high school...

And then, not so long ago, JimD called me from his mountaintop lodge to instruct me to see the movie. So, of course, I did so.

It is not that the plot for District 9 isn't something that feels familiar from other films. Most definitely, there are elements of other sci-fi films and just other movies in general. And sort of like when I saw "The Host" a few summers back, I was anticipating that the twist of the film would have less to do with the plot than the filter of the film's country of origin. And in many way, that's true.

But where I felt that "The Host" simply didn't wind up telling a very compelling story (and there are some interesting parallels between "The Host" and "District 9" in regards to those in power, and a few other plotpoints I don't wish to spoil), I felt "District 9" told an engaging story, and absolutely did not skimp on action.

The story hinges largely upon the likely fallout if an alien species arrived in much the same manner of immigrants as we get reports of here in the US, but which is an uncommon practice as of the mid-20th Century. These are a labor class of immigrant, uneducated, inarticulate, and because they are unplanned visitors, the government of South Africa sets up a minimum standard of living and then all but abandons them to their slums. The slums, making the occupants of Johannesburg nervous, are to be leveled and the "Prawn" moved to a new location.

And here our troubles begin.

One sign of what we would have called in my college days "a foreign film", was usually that, in particular, FX were half-baked and were often more or a stage prop the audience had to use their willing suspension of disbelief to enjoy. The FX of "District 9" were absolutely phenomenal, with seamless CG and human interaction. If and when puppets were used for the film, I wouldn't have known.

Adding to the challenge is that much of the film is constructed to appear as if its part of a documentary and includes a large portion of "found footage". Shots are handheld, lighting uneven, etc... and it all still looks remarkable and seamless.

The DP, FX team and director wisely place the enormous alien mothership in many shots, simply floating over the city as something matter-of-fact, that the residents don't even look up at any more, its been there so long. Its a bizarre but necessary detail to the framing of the story.

The story movies at a rapid clip, and I give credit to both lead actor Sharlto Copley (this is, bizarrely, his only acting work to date) and the FX crew for still being able to develop the characters of Wikus and Christopher.

The world writer/ director Neill Blomkamp has created feels remarkably likely, much more so than what I'd consider to be District 9's American counter-part, "Alien Nation", which basically just boiled things down to a new, slightly unknown ethnic class living in the US. The very alienness of two cultures creates massive disturbance, and its not hard to believe that locals probably would want to resettle the "Prawn" out of their city, no matter how open minded.

Hey, Mr. Alien. You've been served!

But I did wonder, occasionally, what I might be missing allegorically from Blomkamp's perspective as a South African. Clearly the slum conditions and co-habitation of South Africans plays out in the movie, but it seems I might have missed some other elements.

From the set-up, the story does, as I mentioned, take a familiar turn, but I don't think its anything that feels overly contrived. Its well-structured. And if you're just looking for an action movie, here you go.

I should mention: The movie is rated "R" for a reason. Don't worry about seeing a boob or anything, but Blomkamp also doesn't shy away from finding new and inventive ways to demonstrate alien technology.

Anyhow, in an otherwise mostly disappointing summer (now I wait another year for Iron Man 2? Booooooooo), I recommend checking out "District 9".

If I were the producer's of NBC's new version of "V", I'd be very concerned right now.

Good call on a movie, JimD.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Too Many Questions.

I have nothing better to do, so you can suffer.

Found at Calvin's Canadian Cave of Coolness.

1. First thing you wash in the shower? Myself!
2. What color is your favorite hoodie? Burnt Orange
3. Would you kiss the last person you kissed again? I better. I'm married to her.
4. Do you plan outfits? I call them costumes, thank you...
5. How are you feeling RIGHT now? Meh. Sort of proud of Scout for getting on the couch.
6. Whats the closest thing to you that’s red? A dog toy.
7. Tell me about the last dream you remember having? Steven was learning archery as part of his initiation with the Freemasons. Also, I do not ever remember my dreams five minutes after I wake. Thwas weeks ago.
8. Did you meet anybody new today? No. Unless you count the new waitress, who kept calling our usual waitress "Ninja". It was weird.
9. What are you craving right now? Waking up on my own. No cats, dogs or alarms involved.
10. Do you floss? Not as often as recommended.
11. What comes to mind when I say cabbage? A Bruce McCullough character from "Kids in the Hall" who had a cabbage for a head.
12. Are you emotional? I get hungry sometimes. Does that count? Sure. Why not.
13. Have you ever counted to 1,000? As a kid who could never fall asleep, I would break it up into sets of hundreds, but yes.
14. Do you bite into your ice cream or just lick it? I don't eat ice cream. But lick, I guess.
15. Do you like your hair? No. Never could pull off the perfect Kirk Coif.
16. Do you like yourself? I don't know how to gauge this question. I like myself more than I like, say, Michael Vick.
17. Would you go out to eat with George W. Bush?. Sure. he strikes me as a man who knows a good bBQ joint.
18.What are you listening to right now? My black lab snoring. And the Beverly Hillbillies Theme that plays in my head on a perpetual loop.
19. Are your parents strict? I'm 34. So not as much anymore. Mother often lets me choose my own pants now on weekdays.
20. Would you go sky diving? My mass at the standard acceleration for gravity is a mighty force, indeed. I do not wish to test the durability of any parachutes.
21. Do you like cottage cheese? Yes. But not this awful "diet" Cottage Cheese I bought at HEB. Salt is not a substitute for delicious.
23. Do you rent movies often? No. OnDemand, movie channels, cable and some NetFlix at home, and we go to the theater regularly.
24. Is there anything sparkly in the room you’re in? It's a fairly low-sheen sort of room.
25. How many countries have you visited? Four? Five? Not many.
26. Have you made a prank phone call? Not in the 21st Century. But we used to make up surveys and call people after my voice changed in middle school. Good times.
27. Ever been on a train? No.
28. Brown or white eggs? I'm no egg racist. Either is great.
29. Do you have a cellphone? Blackberry.
30. Do you use chap stick? No. It's habit forming. I have enough ridiculous habits.
32. Can you use chop sticks? On a 2nd grade level. But could not until JAL demo'd in Winter of 1993-94.
33. Who are you going to be with tonight? Dinner with Jason and Jamie. Visit Cassidy. Wind up with Lucy and Scout.
34. Are you too forgiving? I'm still talking to you, aren't I?
35. Ever been in love? Married 9.5 years.
36. What is your best friend(s) doing tomorrow? Whatever she wants. I will probably drive.
37. Ever have cream puffs? I have to believe I have.
38. Last time you cried? Like a good jag? Not just a little weepy at "Up"? Off and on for a few weeks after we lost Melbotis.
39. What was the last question you were asked? What time should I wake you up to walk the dogs? Answer: Do not. Let a brother sleep in once in a while.
40. Favorite time of the year? Halloween - Thanksgiving.
41. Do you have any tattoos? Not on the outside of my skin.
42. Are you sarcastic? Great question.
43. Have you ever seen The Butterfly Effect? In action? Yes.
44. Ever walked into a wall? Define "wall".
45. Favorite color? A certain spectrum of blue.
46. Have you ever slapped someone? Sort of. It ended poorly.
47. Is your hair curly? Define "curly".
48. What was the last CD you bought? CD bought? Hurm. I have no idea. It's all iTunes and gift certificates in recent memory.
49. Do looks matter? This question is bull@#$%. I don't care how charming you are. If you have a squid head, I'm not into you.
50. Could you ever forgive a cheater? Cheating on me? Unlikely. Cheating on others? Hilarious.
51. Is your phone bill sky high? Who has a high phone bill?
52. Do you like your life right now? It's pretty @#$%ing charmed, all things considered.
53. Do you sleep with the TV on? No.
54. Can you handle the truth? I usually have to.
55. Do you have good vision? Awful.
56. Do you hate or dislike more than 3 people? Nobody I know. Just people on TV.
57. How often do you talk on the phone? At work, often. At home, rarely.
58. The last person you held hands with? Imaginary Superman is a person, right?
59. What are you wearing? Surprisingly: jeans, maroon t-shirt, socks, watch, boxer-briefs.
60.What is your favorite animal? The turkey. For it is delicious. And I guess I'm a "dog person"
61. Where was your default picture taken at? What?
62. Can you hula hoop? No, and its been requested I never try again in public.
63. Do you have a job? One for which they pay me, and many which I do for free.
64. What was the most recent thing you bought? Coffee.
65. Have you ever crawled through a window? Yes.
66. When was the last time you’ve been to church? Its been a while. If I say how long, my mother will cry and we'll all end up in church when she's in town.
67. What’s your least favorite meal? Nosebleed Soup, Roasted Orphan, with a side of broken bottles.
68. Did you ever steal anything by mistake? An entire shelf from Ikea. Don't worry, they'd already made their money off of us.
69. Have you ever won anything? A Dirt Devil at Project Prom. Which I would not remember if the girl who got her raffle ticket in line in front of me hadn't won a cruise for 4.

Someone let me come over and play on your X-Box

Back in high school I picked up a Batman original graphic novel called "Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth" that, honestly, freaked me out as I was reading it.

The concept of Arkham Asylum had always been a creepy one (a madhouse jail full of Batman's lunatic villains), but this writer guy I hadn't heard of (Grant Morrison) took the idea and amped it up to 11.

As with many other standalone projects (The Killing Joke, Dark Knight, etc..), the series did have an impact upon the mainline books, not just in informing the history of Arkham, and the terrifying atmosphere, but in taking the psychosis of the villains as something truly unsettling.

Add in the mixed media of Dave McKean, and you have a unique comic experience on your hands.

Anyhow, its worth reading at some point if you haven't taken a look.

I don't believe the new videogame of Arkham Asylum is based directly upon the comic, but it does revolve around a riot at Arkham, and it does seem they didn't steer away from the comic, either. It's got the comic's look, to an extent.

But clips seem to indicate a Batman game that focuses on "What Would Batman Do?" over just Kung-Foolery and stunts. Looks like its got some interesting strategy, etc...

But I'm also not really planning on buying an X-Box, so its all moot for me.

Unless, of course, you own an X-Box, were planning to buy the game and have a little mercy on your good friend The League and maybe invite him over. He can bring pretzels.

Thanks to Shoemaker for the link

My Worlds Collide: Big Bang Theory and Power Girl

There's a new comic out featuring the mostly obscure character of Power Girl.

PeeGee is about a female superhero with all the powers of Superman, with the added power of Super Curmudgeonliness.

In the next episode, it appears artist Amanda Conner has decided she should meet the cast of "The Big Bang Theory". BBT is on CBS and features former-high school drama chum, Jim Parsons.

Anyway, my worlds collide.

Here's the page.

Here's the full preview.

Thanks to Pop Candy
for finding this and pointing it out.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Preview released for "Superman: Secret Origin"

It is most likely that my colleagues who grew up in the 1980's and knew much of comics take it as common knowledge that the reboot of Superman by Marv Wolfman and John Byrne is a superior and better imagined version of The Man of Steel. As with all kids, we looked upon the old with contempt and the new with a belief in its obvious superiority as the new that it may not always have earned.

Unfortunately, the attitudes we pick up as kids are often not reflected upon again in a way that perhaps older eyes might look upon a bit more kindly (and, well, maybe spending as much time as an adult as I pondering upon Superman is not something you do). In the 1980's re-boot, much was lost in regards to the 48 years of comics which had painted a vast history for the Man of Steel. No membership in The Legion of Super-Heroes left the concept of the super-teens of the future adrift. Smallville became an idyll oft referred to, but seemed to hollow out Lana Lang and reduce the point of Pete Ross immeasurably.

And, of course, the 1980's reboot greatly aged Lex Luthor and dropped any notion that Clark and Lex may have known one another in their formative years.

All of this will sound "wrong" to my fellow Gen-X'ers, and that's okay, I suppose. However, there's a kind of mythology the Superman comics began working with, especially beginning in the 1950's, that drove a thousand stories.

Almost as quickly as Wolfman and Byrne had launched their version, the comics began trying to rebuild the mythology, only with the trick of keeping the new rules in place (Lex was older, Superman was the only Kryptonian, etc...).

In 2006, the Superman comics were more or less re-touched once again, with elements of the old and new co-mingling very well. However, no definitive origin ever surfaced.

It was just as well. The origin, told before the creative team had made a few creative stabs one way or another, could have once again accidentally painted DC into a corner from which they could not be free to return to favored ideas, find new concepts, etc...

But three years on, there is a new mini-series coming, once again from one of DC's top-flight talents, and one with no small skill at reinterpreting DC Comics for a modern audience.

The team which brought you "Superman and the Legion of Super-Heroes" and "Brainiac" of Geoff Johns and Gary Frank is soon bringing the re-telling of the first days of Superman's career with "Superman: Secret Origin".

Check out some preview pages here.

As much as I enjoyed "Superman: The Man of Steel" as the first Superman reading I ever took seriously, and Mark Waid and Yu's "Birthright", I'm glad that someone will have the opportunity to do what was unthinkable until three or four years ago and restore the classic mythology in a context which will work for today's reader. Just as I sincerely hope that in 20 years' time, the story will be told again for that generation of readers, returning to the bits that work, and making way for new ideas, tweaks to characterization, etc... which will make the story work for that generation of readers.

Super-hero comics are a unique medium, paralleled only by the soap opera, with an ongoing story that depends upon audience engagement to continue. But unlike soap operas, the origins of each character are as important as Arthur's pulling the sword from the stone, Robin returning from the Crusades to discover his land bespoiled, Hercules' parentage, Achilles' propensity to take a dip... Without those elements as moorings, the "why" of the character gets lost, and we wind up with the 2D cartoon cut-outs of geeks in tights that so often make up the public's idea of a superhero.

Superman could have disappeared into the folds of audience disinterest, but his alien origin, idealized Rockwellian childhood and move to the most modern of American cities is a simple enough story (and is often bandied about when the elbow-patch crowd describes Superman as the ultimate immigrant analog). And while those elements re-appear in no small measure in the pages of the monthly comics, its a good idea to return to those roots, to reach back and see the highlight reel.

And we're lucky enough that DC has put a crew of its most talented on the project.

Should be fun.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

A Reminder (about Wednesdays and Comics)

Comics come out on Wednesdays. Sometimes I get distracted and forget to post.

Also, Action Comics, Superman Secret Files and Adventure Comics? All good.

Action was wall-to-wall Super goodness, Superman Secret Files was a good "let's check in, because we know this is complicated" moment. And, of course, Adventure Comics was both lovely and promising as an ongoing.

Off to read Blackest Night and GL stuff.

G4 fans will have a good laugh at this month's Booster Gold cover.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Keanu, Superboy, Superdogs

Randy Wants For You To See This.

Randy is wise.

Adventure Comics #1

Tomorrow sees the release of the relaunch of Adventure Comics. For decades, Adventure Comics was up there with Action, Superman, Detective and other National/ DC Comics. It carried a lot of stories, but became well known for the Super-Family and Legion stories. Somewhere along the line they ended Adventure Comics, and added the Super Family title and gave Legion its own title.

After several Legion relaunches in the past few years, I am hoping this stabilizes the futuristic "Legion of Super-Heroes", which is contained as a back-up feature.

The main feature will contain stories of the modern Superboy, Conner Kent. And Krypto, the Superdog. And for that, I am very glad.

Add to it, the writing of Geoff Johns and art of Francis Manapul, and this series has as much potential as any new series from DC in years.

Link here.

Also, it's been this sort of week:

Just, you know, with two dogs.

Here's some more Superman stuff, too.

Dog Days - Day 3

Scout is very smart.

We adore Lucy. She is a sweet and loving dog, and she tries very hard, but we've always known that maybe she wasn't going to be getting into dog-Harvard.

But Scout just decided this evening to know how to fetch. Just sort of watched Lucy and decided "well, I can do that". She is learning her name. She knows where we're trying to guide her. She's cluing into the hints of dwelling with the family.

And, knock on wood, she really seems potty-trained. She just stood at the door and waited for me a few minutes ago after sniffling at my hand for attention.

I know that in a week or two, she and Lucy will not be growling at each other. And we'll be able to introduce her to Cassidy soon enough (I need to do some reading on best practices there).

Monday, August 10, 2009

Day 2 with NuDawg

We are working out the dynamics of the pack.

Lucy and Scout are not really getting along as they jockey for dominance or something. Really, the issue is that Scout has certain ideas about personal space, etc... that Lucy completely does not have. Lucy is also a ball of relentless affection, and I sort of think she is confused by Scout's stand-offish, new-to-the-pack, let-me-get-comfortable stance on this whole thing.

For good or ill, this is how Lucy sleeps every night. Inverted.

-Lucy is tired. That's something.
-Scout likes people pretty well so far. Jason sat with her this evening, and she was very calm and comfortable with him.
-The two dogs get along totally fine in the backyard. So its a "are you cornering me?" growl that we're getting. Lucy is cornering her, but Lucy corners everyone all the time by climbing onto the couch with you, sitting on you, etc...
-There have been no actual fights.
-Scout has this stuffed bunny we brought from the pound, and she likes it enough that we can use it to get her to follow us when she's otherwise anxious.
-Scout was pretty excited to see me this evening, so I'm taking that as a good sign.
-I'm probably hoping for too much, but it seems like Scout came pre-house-broken. Granted, we have stained concrete on the first floor, and she's been gated off the stairs, so who knows what will happen once she steps foot on carpet.
-And she totally ignores Jeff so far.

Scout enjoys a poolside flair to her bedding. And that's her bunny. She really loves Bun.

Anyway, its tiring. I'm tired. Both dogs conked out around 9:00. Jamie was clearly wiped out when we spoke as I was leaving work. And it's 10:10 and I'm calling it a night.

So there.

Have a good one, Leaguers.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Newest Leaguer: Scout

Leaguers, I would like for you to welcome the newest member of The League of Melbotis.

This, Leaguers, is Scout.

this pic stolen from Jamie's post

Scout came home with us today from the ASPCA. We don't know very much about her, but she's about 1.5 years old, and we understand she's from Bastrop. Taking a look at her makes me believe that she's got some Shepard in her, and most likely some yellow lab. And she seems to have a good, mellow disposition.

We need to be patient. She is a kennel dog, and often kennel dogs have funny backgrounds that you need to work with. I don't believe Scout had any kind of particularly tough go of it before she joined us, and it's still the first 24 hours. We've got some work to do with her so that she understands how she fits in here, particularly with Lucy.

I am more than optimistic, but I am trying to be realistic about the work that a new dog will take.

Our trip to the kennel was not terribly spontaneous. We've been discussing when we'd bring a new dog into our family for a while. We also had a lot of discussion about what sort of dog, how old, breed, etc...

Scout was, of course, not named "Scout" at the pound. She'd been called "Babette", but it was fairly clear that "Babette" wasn't a name she knew in any way. Jamie and I knew a name would be an issue, and so went back and forth for quite a while prior to actually picking up the dog. I am happy to say, I think we did okay in the end. We won't have a name that I see hitting the top 10 in popular dog names (this is something I find irritating when we take Lucy to the dog park. Do you know how many Lucy's there are? Answer: At least two more, everywhere you go.), and I don't find it to be too dainty.

I confess to a certain concern that somehow things won't work out. Sometimes these things do not. Jamie and I briefly tried to have a dog at one point, and it completely did not work out with our work schedules, lifestyle, and apartment dwelling at the time. And, of course, before Lucy we attempted to adopt, and were never able to bring the dog home because she developed a sudden, grave illness. In short, I really want for this to work, and I think it will. But we can't expect Scout to be Lucy or Mel overnight.

So here's to us and what will most likely be a reduction in sleep for a few days while we all get sorted out.

Of course, yes, we still miss Melbotis. He's still discussed around here almost every day. But we like being a two dog household, and we hope that Scout and Lucy will work things out quickly. And I still think about Melbotis every time we head to the spillover, the dog park, and when a hundred other things remind you of the guy.

We're looking forward to life with our new crew, and I am so happy to have Scout here with us.