The Walking Dead: A Review

 Most of the time, zombie movies are thrilling because of the blood and carnage that the zombies create. Running after humans, eating brains, and just being walking, bleeding piles of flesh has, for the most part, been the main draw towards this genre. Rarely has there been a zombie movie that concentrates not on the dead, but on the living.

Robert Kirkman wondered why this was and decided to remedy the situation. Known for his popular comic series Invincible, Kirkman wrote a new story, one based in a zombie infected world, but paid attention to the characterization of his survivors, instead of the growling and snarling of the dead.

The Walking Dead became so popular that it was picked up by cable channel AMC, the company that brought you such dramatic hits like Mad Men and Breaking Bad, and developed into a weekly television series. And, in a fit of marketing genius, it debuted last night, on Halloween.

If you had the chance, and the bravery, to watch the first episode last night, then congratulations. Not only were you able to see a shining example of television, but you took your first steps into something huge. Though the action was minimized to only a few key moments, the characterization was set up for the rest of the series. We see the confusion that Rick Grimes, the main character, faces upon waking up n a hospital after being in a coma for an indeterminate period of time. With no one around, and the world eerily quiet, with the exception of the guttural noises from behind a few corners, he needs to piece together just what the hell is going on.

He eventually runs into Morgan and Duane, who have holed themselves up in a house in Rick’s old neighborhood, fighting off the advancement of their own demons. Morgan’s wife died and was brought back by the zombie disease, and now she haunts him and Duane. They are paralyzed with emotion whenever they see her, and with good reason. When a loved one comes back for you, wanting to eat the flesh from your bones, how would you react? Morgan tries to do what’s necessary to free him and his son from the curse that they face. It’s a touching scene, not one that you would find in any recent George Romero-branded movies.

The half-a-girl zombie added emotional relevance
to the premiere of The Walking Dead
With a pilot that was written and directed by Frank Darabont, who also brought us classic movies like The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile, then it’s easy to see how the emotion and characters are the focal point of the series. Granted, this was the creator’s intention since the beginning of the series, but to have a man like Darabont get behind that notion shows that AMC believes in the series and its direction. Darabont also maximizes the tension in the scenes by minimizing the background music. Not swelling concertos or quirky, single-note piano score. When the danger lurks around the corner, the silence becomes the scariest thing. I really wish some of those big-time movie directors would take a cue from Darabont and realize this. (Yes, I know Darabont is a big-time movie director. But it seems his work isn’t studied enough.)

Too often I am let down by a show or movie that has me so excited for such a long period of time. However, The Walking Dead really delivered on what I was expecting. It stayed true to the source material while managing to take a few artistic liberties of its own. There were a few scenes I was disappointed in, such as the cut to the camp, but I’d be willing to overlook this because of how well the rest of it was. I look forward to a long life with The Walking Dead, and hope that it gets the same respect and dedication that AMC’s Mad Men has gotten. Because it’s that good.


How Mercury Falls Changed the Business of Publishing

Maybe that's a bit of an exaggeration, but the story behind the novel is interesting nonetheless.

 Robert Kroese, the author of Mercury Falls, began his writing career as a satirical blogger. He started the blog Mattress Police and posted many humorous stories about his life, some of which were actually true. He was able to gather a handful of faithful readers and, eventually, used the blog to leverage his first full-length novel, Mercury Falls.

As he garnered more and more support for Mercury Falls, he approached a number of publishers and literary agents, in hopes of getting his grand opus published. Well, each one of them basically told him to hit the bricks. But did this reaction stop Kroese?


He decided to self-publish.

Despite being told that self-publishing is a poor route to travel (though mostly by those who have not yet been published, and felt that self-publishing would denigrate the quality of their writing), Kroese blazed forward. He made Mercury Falls available through Amazon.com, and also provided a downloadable e-book through Smashwords.com.

But his work didn't stop there; Kroese knew that he had some hard work ahead of him promoting his book. After all, what good is publishing a book if no one reads it?

The biggest task Kroese committed to included scouring Amazon for books in a similar vein to Mercury Falls. He went through the reviews and comments on the website for each book and made a list of email addresses. He contacted every person on the list, offering to send them a free copy of Mercury Falls if they would review it on Amazon. Though he got only a few takers, he did manage to get the word out about his novel. (You can read about how he promoted Mercury Falls in depth here.)

Kroese also leveraged social networking sites like Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads to get the word out. He would offer a few download of his book to his Twitter followers that would retweet certain messages. It may seem strange that he is giving books away after spending his own money to produce them, but his marketing techniques garnered over 4,000 books sold, and more than 100 5-star reviews. And these numbers attracted the attention of Amazon Encore.

Now, Amazon Encore is an in-house publishing company started by Amazon. So, basically, what it means to be picked up by Encore is that Kroese, after all the years of hard work and dedication to a novel that he believed in, managed to find himself a publisher that believed in his material as much as he did. Of course it helped that the novel already had sold 4,000 copies and had so much positive press in the form of reviews, but it is still quite an achievement.
Robert Kroese - he writes

Having read Mercury Falls, I can attest to it's quality. Kroese's humor is unique and works with the material and storyline that he has created. His take on the Apocalypse is incomparable to anything else, and his dry humor and sarcastic wit will have you chuckling and, at times, chortling. I recommend picking it up, which is available at Amazon.com here, and supporting an author that has worked as hard as Kroese has for his success (after all, overnight success is easy to come by). I would also recommend you follow Kroese's blog, Mattress Police, as it is filled with humorous essays and stories, as well as tips and suggestions for novice authors. You can also find more information about Kroese, Mercury Falls, and his sophomore publication, The Force Is Middling In This One (another book I highly recommend) here.


Bad-Ass Pumpkin Line-Up 2010

With Halloween coming around, I wanted to do a post showing off some cool and unique pumpkin-carving patterns and where to download them. However, as I began to scour the internet for these templates, I found one thing -- most of the sites offering the templates refuse to show them to you until you pony up some cash to purchase them. I can't really get mad at them; I mean, good for them if they've found a business that works and they can actually make some money. But I am upset that my blog post idea is now all shot to hell.

So instead of patterns, I'll go ahead and show you some really cool, already been carved pumpkins.

The Death Star and R2-D2
Who wouldn't like a pair of Star Wars themed jack-o-lanterns? Though there are probably millions on the internet, these were two of the best that I found.

Yvette's Inner Geek

The Derring Dos

Twitter's Fail Whale
In my opinion, if you're not on Twitter, you may as well not exist. And here is Twitter's unofficial mascot, at least during the times that it isn't working right (which, unfortunately, is quite often.)
Aurelle In Accidental Position

Pan's Labyrinth
Pan's Labyrinth was one hell of a movie, and, apparently, the characters make one hell of a pumpkin.
Barton's Blog

While not really bad-ass, as most of these entries have been, the technical aspect of this carving is amazing, which is why I included it here.

Predator and Alien
Separately, they make great movies. Together, not so much. But in pumpkin form... They have reclaimed their awesome-ness
Unreality magazine
Unreality Magazine

Nightmare Before Christmas
What list would be complete without a Nightmare Before Christmas entry? Well, not this one.
Adventures in Dullness

The Lantern Corps
Plixi wouldn't allow me to download the image to put up a preview here, but trust me. It's worth the click.

Now, bear in mind, this selection is only a smattering of the cool jack-o-lantern's out there. If I missed your favorites, then I apologize. But feel free to send them my way and I'll put them up at the Tumblr site.


Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes

If you were lucky enough to be in front of Disney XD yesterday, then you were lucky enough to catch the premiere of the new Marvel animated series, Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes. Since hearing about this show many months back, I have been excited about it. And last night's premiere did not disappoint.

The story was based on the first New Avengers storyline, with some unknown threat causing a total systems failure in four super-villain maximum security buildings; the Cube, the Vault, the Big House, and the Raft. Due to this, the super villains break free and begin to cause chaos, and only the super powered heroes of the city can stop them.

What I liked most about the new series is the way they brought together the original members of the Avengers. I mean Iron Man, Thor, the Hulk, Ant-Man, and the Wasp. Though cameos were made by characters who will no doubt go on to join the team, like Hawkeye, and Black Widow, but in the end, it was the core members that made the cut.

It was also good to see the way the characters acted when not part of the team. The Hulk and Bruce Banner both struggle with each other, trying to find a balance between man and monster. Iron Man acts like a cocky son of a bitch who can take the world down between cocktails. Thor marvels at the strength that men have, a trait that they are unaware of, and spends some time with Jane Foster, which was a nice little addition. I'm not really sure if the series will remain true to the characters of Ant-Man and Wasp, as, at least in the first two episodes, he never once backhanded the shit out of her, and she never stood in as his punching bag. Well, I'm sure the show will have a long enough run to flesh this out.

The climax of the show was ridiculously insane, and I mean that in the best possible way. The main bad guy turned out to be a scientist-victimized-by-his-own-experiment (will comics ever run out of those types?) by the name of Graviton. His powers are complete control over gravity (obviously), and he uses them to immense satisfaction. He tosses Thor around quite a bit, and launches Iron Man into space. About the only lone Avenger who can take him on is Wasp, who stings the shit out of him constantly (but honestly, she's probably dealt with worse blows from Ant-Man). It's only when the Hulk shows up and begins to put a hurt on Graviton do they begin to work as a team and bring him down. The most insane part comes in the form of a bolt of lightning Thor calls down, taking out nearly half of the city. The action is so intense that it is rivaled only by the animated film Ultimate Avengers that came out a few years back.

But I can't say that the show is perfect. While I love the animated style and art direction, the animation itself seemed choppy to me. It paled in comparison to recent animated shows like Spectacular Spider-Man and Wolverine and the X-Men. By no means is it bad, just not up to snuff with some of Marvel's other work.

I somehow made the mistake of missing the micro-sides that Marvel released a few weeks prior to the shows premiere, and I really regret doing so. Had I known that the show was going to be this awesome, I would have gobbled them all up and asked for seconds. But I will be trying to hunt those down as I await the third episode of the series, and I would suggest you do the same. In the vein of most of Marvel's recent work, Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes is a winner. Let's just hope it makes it past one season (I'm looking at you, Wolverine and the X-Men).


War Is Heck: A Serial Drama, Or Something Part 2

So, as I was doing a little updating on the blog, I realized that it has been over a year since I posted the first strip from my serialized-war-drama-web-comic, War Is Heck. Seeing as how Halloween is a few weeks away, and my comic strip has nothing to do with Halloween, the occult, or anything even slightly scary, I decided it's a great time to post the second strip. (That, and I needed something to update with.)

So, here it is.

I could add some insight as to the creative process of this strip, or even explain the punchline, but I won't. Just like the writers and producers of Lost, I will allow you all to infer whatever deep meanings you would like.

I only have one strip left to show you, so maybe sometime in 2011, you will see it. Once I find these action figures, I will get to work (maybe) on making more. Until then, feel free to check out my sometimes updated, illustrated comic, Clit & Pecker.


How Marvel and Stan Lee Almost Destroyed My Love Of Comics

Ah, New York Comic Con. For months, you have been the source of my excitement. With each passing day and additional news article, I grew more and more anxious to visit you, to see what all the hub-bub is about. I only go to about one comic-based convention a year, and never getting the chance to visit San Diego, which house the Mecca of comic book conventions, I figured New York would be the next best thing.

Well, I was right and wrong.
Originally, I couldn’t wait to write-up my experience of NYCC 2010. At the very least, it would be something to update my blog with, and at the most, I would have all kinds of pictures of the cool swag I acquired and the cosplayers that attended.

But instead, I have a story of how NYCC almost made me quit the hobby of comic books after 20 years. It’s almost unfathomable that a comic book convention would turn one of its attendants against its very nature. But it almost happened. And even more ironically, it stems from both Marvel and Stan Lee. Here’s what happened.

One of the reasons I attended New York Comic Con 2010 was because of the appearance of Stan Lee. Now, if you don’t know who Stan Lee is, he is the creator of a number (if not most) of Marvel Comics’ properties, including the X-Men, Spider-Man, and Iron Man. For years, I have had a reprinted copy of the Amazing Spider-Man issue number 1, signed by the artist of the book, Steve Ditko. And for almost as long as I have had that comic, I have had the desire to search out Stan Lee and have him autograph it right next to Steve Ditko. So, hearing that he would be at Comic Con, I decided that I needed to attend.

Well, a few days before the show, Marvel announced how the Stan Lee, meet-and-greet and signing would be held; via a blind lottery. My hopes were dashed; I am not lucky enough to win a coin toss, let alone a random lottery against hundreds of other participants. (In fact, the only prize I’ve ever one in recent history was never sent to me. By the way, fuck you PIX in Philadelphia. Give me my Smallville Season 8.)

Anyway, this didn’t stop me from going to Comic Con. I also brought the comic I wanted signed with me, in case I ran into Stan Lee in the bathroom or something I could always be that creepy guy and ask for a signature that way.

Friday happens, and Lauren and I had a great time. We met a whole bunch of cool people, got some stuff signed and got a few sketches. It was great.

Saturday was less so. After being herded through the building like cattle to be given a bag of stuff (which could have been given out at the door and saved everyone forty-five minutes of their day from being wasted) Lauren and I muddled our way through the conventions halls as best we could, which was almost impossible from the number of people there. We had heard that the Saturday of the show was completely sold out, and the crowds of people indicated that this was true. This made the day completely miserable because there was no opportunity to enjoy anything. It became nearly impossible to stop and browse any of the tables, and it you managed to do so, the crowds kept bumping into you, knocking you off balance and sweeping you away into their mix. Absolutely insane.

Anyway, I’m digressing. So a few hours into the show, Lauren and I head out of the main convention room to get some space, when we see a sign at one of the booths advertising a Stan Lee signature with “package purchase.” We inquired about this particular package and were told that it is $150 for a t-shirt and sweatshirt, and, of course, the signature. We were also told that Stan would sign one piece of memorabilia. For the chance to make an 18 year-old dream come true, we decided to purchase the package. However, as we were handing the people the money, Stan was being whisked away to make it to the Marvel booth for his scheduled signing.

The people at the POW! Booth (Purveyors Of Wonder, Stan Lee’s newest business venture) gave me a receipt for my purchase, and told me to rush over to the Marvel booth to speak with Max. I was told to explain to Max that I purchased the package and show him the receipt, and I would get my signature. So Lauren and I braved the crowds of the con floor and made it to the Marvel booth, and waited on line.
A gentleman by the name of Tim, one of the guys from Marvel, approached me, seeing that I did not have the required ticket to wait on line, and questioned me. I explained to him the situation, and he seemed cool with it. He said that it any of the Event Staff gave me a hard time to tell them that Tim said it was OK for me to be there. I shook his hand and waited patiently and excitedly.

As I got to the front of the line, I was greeted by two Marvel Event Staff guys who were trying to keep order. I explained to them why I was there without one of the “golden tickets.” The guy to my left was decent enough. When I mentioned Max’s name, he turned to try and get his attention. But the guy to my right leaned into my face and spoke to me as a mother speaks to her petulant child.

“I am telling you that if you don’t have the ticket, then you can’t be here.”

Anger flushed my face. After paying $150 for a package just to get a signature, not to mention 20 years of collecting comics and countless dollars that I have given to Marvel, I did not deserve to be spoken to like that. I get that they were there to keep order and that they have probably dealt with a number of line cutters already, but I had a reason to be there, I was told to be there, and I don’t appreciate some snot-nosed fuck getting in my face condescendingly. It was clear to me that this guy didn’t work for Marvel, that he was a temp hired on to help with the event, as he wore a shirt that said “Event Staff”, meanwhile, Tim and some of the other Marvel employees that I did recognize were dressed in regular clothes. But Marvel should be aware of how there temps are speaking to their fans. This guy represented Marvel, so, at that moment, he made Marvel look like dicks.

Anyway, the other guy got Max’s attention for me, but when Max turned around he said “That’s a POW thing. They need to deal with it.”

Again. More anger.

I stood at the front of the line for a minute, refusing to move. I eventually did, and Lauren and I rushed back to the POW booth to tell them what happened. I explained that Max is a dick, a fact that they were apparently aware of, and that he turned me away. They asked me to come back around a half hour later to speak with someone of management. These two people were really cool about the whole thing. They genuinely seemed like they wanted to help me, so I said OK, and Lauren and I went outside for a little bit.
About 30 minutes later, we returned to the POW booth and were met by the woman we were supposed to see. Lauren began to explain the situation, and it went downhill from there. Apparently, this woman, whose name I did not get, went to the same school that retail managers go to, because she spoke to us like we were returning a defective DVD to Best Buy.

“I understand your frustrations completely.”

Oh, really? So you have been seeking out the autograph of a man for 18 years, only to find yourself so close and was told to fuck off? Because that’s my frustration right now.

She said that she could either give me a refund or get me a signed shirt. Now, let’s examine the Freudian undertones in her choices. By offering me the refund first, she clearly just wanted me to go away. It wasn’t about making money or placating a fan. It was about not having to deal with the problem any longer. She didn’t care about what I wanted, or even, despite her claim to “understand.” I worked in retail for eight years. I know the feeling of saying “Here’s your money. Now get out.”

I considered the second part of her offer for a moment. A signed t-shirt. Then I realized that I didn’t give a shit about the shirt. Yes, I wanted the man’s signature, but it meant almost nothing to me if it was not on my already signed-by-Steve-Ditko comic book. At this point I will admit that I want what I want on my terms, but who doesn’t? I didn’t care about the t-shirt or sweatshirt that was part of the package.

I told her I wanted my money back, which she couldn’t care less about. She told the other two people, the ones who were helpful, to refund my money and walked away. I gave them the two shirts back, and I could tell that they were sympathetic to what I had just been through. (Sadly, I didn’t get their names, but I wish I had gone back to them and thanked them. They were the only two descent people, besides Tim from Marvel, that I dealt with throughout this entire ordeal.)

All in all, this entire situation ruined my Saturday. For a few hours after that, I questioned my devotion to the hobby of comic books. How could a fan be treated with such derision and condescension? Without fans like me, these people and businesses would not exist to the extent that they do. I understand that they can’t placate each fan, because it is impossible to make everyone happy. But to treat them like shit is a different story.

Thankfully, we still had Sunday of the show to go to, and even though I was dreading it, I managed to have a good time. It helped to reinvigorate my fandom, especially talking with a few more of the creators and having a good time. After meeting Buddy Scalera, author of the Comic Artists Photo Reference line of books, I realized that not everyone in the business is a self-centered asshole. When I told him how much I loved his books, and how great the layout and product was, he shook my hand, seemed genuinely touched by words, and told me to email him some of my finished artwork. This certainly wasn’t something that I expected from anyone, but it was great to see someone care that much.

He wasn’t the only one, either. There were so many artists and writers that were happy to meet and talk to they fans, mostly because they realize that their fans are there to meet them. It’s just sad that two of the biggest entities in comics, Stan Lee and Marvel, both had representation that failed to grasp the idea of what a fan is.

While I toyed with the idea of doing away with my hobby, I’ve settled on the fact that nothing will change. I will continue to purchase my comic books on a regular basis, mostly because I’ve invested so much into the characters already and I care too much. However, I have come to realize that I no longer hold Marvel or Stan Lee in the same reverence that I once did, given the impact that they had on me this past weekend. And it’s a sad thing.

The ten-year-old boy in me is feeling a sense of disappointment that he never has felt before.


The Right To Mutilate Thy Flesh

Has anyone else heard about this?

In Clayton, NC, a 14 year old girl was suspended from school for having a nose piercing. Now, I do not disagree with this; the school has a rigid dress-code that they are adhering to, and this girl’s nose piercing violates that dress code. Had I tried to pull some shit like that when I was in school, I’m sure that I would have been suspended as well, until I agreed to remove the offending object. However, this girl and her mother are fighting the school board’s decision by saying…
Are you ready for this?

The school board’s decision violates the girl’s first amendment rights.

Oh, and it gets worse.

Apparently, the nose piercing is a religious symbol. That religion?

Nope, not Hindu. The girl belongs to the Church Of Body Modification.

If this is not the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard of, then I don’t know what is. This “Church” has its own website (so it must be a real thing!!!) on which it declares its Statement of Faith, which includes “We believe our bodies belong only to ourselves and are a whole and integrated entity: mind, body, and soul. We maintain we have the right to alter them for spiritual and other reasons.”

OK, so the backbone of your religion is your desire to deform yourself through piercing, tattoos, and needless implants?

Where is the actual foundation of this religion? According to Wikipedia, religion is “the belief in and worship of a god or gods, or a set of beliefs concerning the origin and purpose of the universe.” How does a nose piercing concern the origins of the universe? Does it represent the Earth, while the left nostril is the sun, and the placement of the piercing represents the rotation of the universe in the cosmic soup that is a 14 year old girl’s face?

These people are freaks. They should be treated as freaks and looked down upon with shame and derision. To assemble themselves under a common goal of altering their physical bodies and proclaiming that desire as a “religion”… there is something seriously wrong with these people (if they can still be called that).

With that said, I have decided to help them out. Since a religion needs a deity to worship, I have collected a small sample from which to choose; people who represent the ideals behind body modification.

Henry Rollins

With an immense amount of tattoos, Rollins is unafraid to change his body’s appearance and add some sort of adornment to his skin. However, with the Church of Body Modification’s flair for anything painful, even Rollins, despite his badass-ness throughout his career, may be considered too tame.

Christina Aguilera

This bubble-gum pop star has 11 body piercings and a few tattoos… and we all know that those aren’t her only “body modifications.”

Jocelyn Wildenstein

The epitome of body modification, Jocelyn has undergone numerous plastic surgeries to make herself resemble a cat. Many religions (most of them recognized as real religions) worship some sort of animal totem, such as the Hindi god Ganesh, or the Roman god Faunus. Clearly, Wildenstein exemplifies the CoBM’s ideals in the sense that she is no longer human, and she has the power to scare small children. The best of both worlds!


The Back Up

Last month, I posted a list of some of the dumbest inventions on the market. Unironically, many of these products were originally marketed via television Infomercials. A short time after that post, I saw another infomercial that I figured should have been mentioned within that post.

The Back Up is a device that you place between your mattress and boxspring, which adds two hooks to the side of your bed, giving you a place to store your shotgun. According to the website, 70% of people consider their shotgun as a form of home protection. Thus, the Back Up Plan is way to stay safe in the case of a home invasion while you sleep.

I understand its purpose, but I think this is one of the dumbest things I’ve ever seen. This is clearly the kind of product that would be popular in the South. It’s the bedside equivalent of having a gun rack in a pick up truck. I mean, really? A shotgun attached to my bed? What kinds of accidents does this thing create?

But seeing the Back Up got me to thinking. What other ways can it be used? It seems like a handy device, but since I don’t own a shotgun, I can’t really relate to it. I’ve listed here a selection of other products that can be used with the Back Up.

What if you wake up in the middle of the night with a joke in mind? Well, worry no more. Now, your humor props are always on hand.

Do you get hungry in the middle of the night? Are you 700 pounds and bed ridden? Then the Back Up is our solution.

How about some hot, on-the-spot, lesbian action? Here ya go!

So I guess the Back Up does have some practical uses. I just feel that the creators are not marketing it correctly. If they through some of these uses into their advertising, I can guarantee that they will sell so many more units.

Think they will offer me a job for this?


The 82nd Academy Awards

I’m not a fan of award shows. I never have been. I feel that anyone who can accomplish the things that I can’t deserves accolades and that isn’t something that can be quantified. Yes, there are bad movies and musicians, but they have done something that I haven’t, so good for them. To have their faces rubbed in the fact that someone else did things better than they have is just mean.

Regardless of this, my girlfriend made me watch the 82nd Annual Academy Awards last night. Strangely, I enjoyed the experience more than I thought I would.

Don’t get me wrong. It was an overly excruciating experience. But there were a few highlights.

Watching the tag-team comedy of Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin was painful. Alec Baldwin just seemed to be in a fog through the entire show. Steven Martin proved himself capable to host the show alone, so I question the inclusion of Alec Baldwin. However, I did laugh harder than I expected to at their Paranormal Activity spoof. Between that and Ben Stiller dressed as a Na’vi from Avatar were about the only two things I laughed at. But not the entire Ben Stiller act. The premise was amusing, but got less funny each time he mocked himself. It wasn’t until his outburst with the special effects guy controlling his tail that I really cracked up. After that, though, it all went to hell.

It’s a well known fact that the Oscars have issues with time. More often than not, the show runs over its intended time slot, due to the number of speeches, tributes, and “comedy” acts that they work into the show. Well, this year, a lot of that was cut out, including the full musical numbers for the Best Song category. Yet it somehow managed to last until midnight, making it a half hour longer than it was intended to be. And they ended it abruptly, with jarring results.

Prior to the announcement of the winner in both categories of Best Actor and Actress , a short tribute was given to each of the nominees from people close to them. While this was very touching in a unique kind of way, it was also unnecessary. It used up so much time that when it came down to Best Picture, the category that most people care about and the one that means the most, in my opinion, Tom Hanks literally came on stage and read the winner. There was no introduction or recap of the nominees. It was basically “I’m Tom Hanks. And the winner is…” What? Granted, they did take time throughout the show to showcase each of the nominees in the category, but over the course of 3 plus hours, I had completely forgotten who was in the running. I think, also, the decision to include 10 nominees in the Best Picture category was definite overkill. Let’s face it; most of those chosen had no chance. So what was the point? To say that it’s the first time since 1943 that 10 films were nominated? Clearly, there’s no precedence, so clearly there’s no need.

I was glad to see that Avatar did not win Best Picture. In fact, it won fewer awards than I expected it to. I’ll admit that I haven’t seen Avatar and I really have no intentions of doing so. I am probably one of the few geeks on Earth who will say this, but I’m really tired of James Cameron. From everything I’ve read about it, Avatar is nothing original. It seems like a CG remake of Disney’s Pocahontas and really unnecessary. For it to win the Best Picture award would have been a travesty. I’m glad our society hasn’t come to that.

A couple of shockers happened as well. Sandra Bullock won Best Actress. Who saw that coming? While I don’t necessarily think she deserved it, a claim I can’t make not having seen her performance, I’m not mad that she won. I may not be a fan, but Bullock is a hard working actress and all I have to say is good for her. I was also surprised to see Sean Penn at the Oscars. In the past, he avoided the Academy Awards like the plague, so to see him there was quite strange. Has his opinion of the academy changed over the years? More than likely, he lost a bet to someone. We will see next year. Also, why wasn’t Farrah Fawcett part of their ‘In Memoriam’ tribute? Michael Jackson was included, and he isn’t known for his acting skills. That was an unforgivable mistake.

Other than that, the Oscars were pretty much what I expected. I hated the dance sequence for Best Original Score. I felt it lent nothing to the music and actually detracted from the fantastic scores it was meant to pay homage to. There were enough self aggrandizing speeches, such as Sandy Powell’s proclamation of “I already have two of these…” after winning for Best Costume Design. She did her best to back-pedal by trying to dedicate the win to all of the costume designers who get overlooked every year, but the damage was done.

Two things really stuck out and moved me in a way that I couldn’t expect from the Academy Awards. The first was the tribute to John Hughes, presented by Matthew Broderick and Molly Ringwald. The honor they bestowed on Hughes was very sweet and sentimental. After a short video homage, Broderick and Ringwald were joined onstage by Jon Cryer, Judd Nelson, Anthony Michael Hall, Ally Sheedy, and Macauly Culkin. They each related a memory of Hughes, and it was almost heartbreaking to see Macauly Culkin on the verge of tears. But my favorite moment of the night was Michael Giacchino’s acceptance speech after winning Best Score for his work on Up. He told a short story about how his parents never told him his hobby of movie-making when he was younger was a waste of time. He relayed this message to everyone who doesn’t have the same support system that he did. His point was that if you love what you do, then it’s not a waste of time. I thought this was the most touching and self-sacrificing acceptance speech that I have heard in years.

I don’t regret watching the Oscar’s. However, I probably won’t be doing it again; at least not of my own volition. But I am glad that there was very little that morally offended me. Granted, most of the show’s winners were fairly obvious, but the few that came out of left field were enough to shake up the academy. And it’s about damn time.
Images courtesy Newszine and Huffington Post. Click images to visit respective stories.


Alice In Wonderland

When Tim Burton steps behind the camera to direct a movie you know that you’re in store for a visually stunning, well directed epic with a few touches on the macabre and deranged. Just look at his canon: Edward Scissorhands, Big Fish, Pee Wee’s Big Adventure and many others. So to hear that he is helming a project like Alice In Wonderland, which is already known for it’s strange imagery and insane characters, then clearly this is a marriage made in cinematic heaven.

Burton’s take on Alice In Wonderland deviates slightly from the premise of the books, in that it stars an older Alice, around 19 years old, who has no recollection that she visited Wonderland as a little girl, making this more of a sequel that an adaptation. This may bother a few Alice aficionados, and truthfully frightened me slightly upon first hearing of it, but it leads to a great new story that creates more closure than what was provided by Through the Looking Glass.

From the beginning, Alice is portrayed as being a little odd. She has an active imagination and flouts common tradition. After discovering that she is on the receiving end of an unwanted engagement, she runs off after a curious little rabbit and finds herself tumbling down a large hole. After reaching Underland (as it’s referred to by its residents) she meets a few interesting characters, like Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee and the White Rabbit. They take her to see the Blue Caterpillar, who informs them that this is not “the Alice.” A prophecy states that on the Frabjous Day, ‘Alice’ will be the one to slay the Jabberwocky. It was the White Rabbit’s mission to go top-side and find Alice so that she can fulfill the prophecy.

Most of the Alice In Wonderland lore is well-woven into Tim Burton’s vision. From the meeting of the Mad Hatter and the March Hare, to the introduction of The Cheshire Cat, Burton’s interpretations ring true to the source material. But Burton puts his own twist on things by using some bizarre imagery (a tiny Alice using floating heads as stepping stones to cross a grotesque moat comes to mind). But these are the sorts of things we have come to expect from Tim Burton. He pulls it off quite well.

Much of the film’s success will likely be due to Johnny Depp. In recent memory, Depp has been able to bring depth and charm to even the shallowest of characters. He has even shown audiences that he can play grand and twisted characters like Willy Wonka and Sweeny Todd. So Burton’s choice of Depp as the Mad Hatter seems to make sense. And for the most part, it works. Although there were a few things that I questioned, such as Depp’s numerous outbreaks into a Scottish accent. I assume this was intentional to help drive home the point of just how mad the Hatter is, but most of it seemed unnecessary. I also failed to see the humor in the Hatter’s dance at the end of the film. It worked for Bruce Willis in The Last Boy Scout because of how downplayed and comical it was. But the other characters took the Hatter far too seriously at this point, and it just lacked whatever Burton and the writer were trying to accomplish.

The other actors manage their parts fairly well, although nothing overly spectacular. Helena Bonham Carter really shone as the Red Queen, bringing to life her maniacal instability with aplomb. Anne Hathaway didn’t do much with the role of the White Queen, adding very little other than being a mechanism to move the plot forward. I was slightly surprised to see Crispin Glover in the film, and, in the end, could have done without him. His character served merely as a villainous foil and most likely could have been written out of the script. Alan Rickman and Stephen Fry provide their voice talents to the roles of the Blue Caterpillar and the Cheshire Cat respectively. Though their roles are merely spoken, they manage the characters well and add a little extra credibility to the cast lineup. Mia Wasikowska plays Alice nicely, though she really is up against no other competition in the role.

I can’t comment on the 3D of the film, having seen it in standard 2D, which is fine with me. The fact that so many movies are being released in 3D lately is beginning to annoy me since I see very little redeeming qualities in the choice. I was, however, worried that by seeing Alice In Wonderland in 2D would be just as irritating with all of the distracting 3D elements, but that wasn’t the case. The editors and special effects guys must have done a fantastic job with the 3D so that it doesn’t detract from a standard viewing, and I much appreciate that.

Though not perfect, Alice In Wonderland is a brilliant movie. Guided by Tim Burton’s vision, it’s a fantastic reimagining of the classic tale. Burton weaves the wonderful scenery with some grisly imagery which makes me wonder about its suitability for children; but all in all, the bright colors and wacky characters will manage to draw and hold their attention. If you’re a fan of Burton or the Alice stories, you will enjoy this.


Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths

Ever since Justice League: The New Frontier, the animated movies from DC have just disappointed me. Don’t get me wrong; I enjoyed them, but they didn’t really live up to my standard or the standard set by New Frontier. However, just as I was beginning to lose faith in DC, they release Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths. While it still doesn’t meet the standard that New Frontier set, Crisis on Two Earths has been the best full-length animated feature DC has put out in a while.

Despite its name, Crisis on Two Earths is loosely based on the 1999 series Earth 2, written by Grant Morrison, as well as a short storyarc from 1964. It was originally planned to be released years ago under the title of World’s Collide and meant to bridge the gap between the television series’ Justice League and Justice League: Unlimited. However, due to staffing issues, it was shelved and later reworked to what we have here.

The story itself is fairly straight forward, serving as little more than a device to string together overblown fight scenes. A heroic Lex Luthor travels through to an alternate Earth to seek help from the Justice League to bring down his world’s Crime Syndicate, whose members happen to be evil versions of the Justice League. However, Crisis gets into some of characterization that was sorely missing from DC’s other animated outings, most specifically with the Batman counterpart, Owlman. Through this character we see the kind of person that Batman could have been, and in many respects should have been, given the trauma of his past. Unfortunately, Owlman is the only character that is privileged with any sort of depth, which is disappointing.

The voice actors were mostly well played. James Woods performed Owlman superbly; though I’m not a fan of Woods, his talent lent a nice touch to the character. William Baldwin also surprised me. Cast as Batman, Baldwin was able to portray the brooding hero as I never expected him to. I’m sad to sad I was disappointed with Mark Harmon. I love Mark Harmon and his work on NCIS, but I don’t think his voice was a good pick for Superman. Though he did what he could with the character, he failed to command the admiration and authority that other actors were able to depict. My favorite, however, was Brian Bloom in the role of Ultraman. With the Crime Syndicate being a super-powered version on the Mafia, Bloom brought the right amount of commanding resonance of Superman with the New Jersey-cynicism of Tony Soprano. A very nice touch indeed.

Where Crisis on Two Earths falls flat is in the characterization. We are given a set of six all-different characters that are similar to heroes we know, but completely different, yet the writers go into no detail about them. DC continues to choose action over exposition and it’s becoming dull. What happened to these characters to make them choose the wrong path? Owlman explains that the multiverse sprang forth from all outcomes of every possible decision; so what decisions did these villains make? Why is Super Woman the psychopath she claims to be? At what point did Ultraman decide that humanity should fear him? Ultraman is the perfect example. Judging by his accent, he more than likely landed on the New Jersey Turnpike as opposed to Smallville, Kansas, and didn’t have the small-town, do-gooder upbringing that Jonathan and Martha Kent could provide. So, what happened to him? The writers don’t care to go into it.

Even though it surpasses the features that preceded it, Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths could have been so much more than what it became. It’s a good movie for anyone who is not a huge fan of the characters (admittedly, myself) to jump on board and enjoy. Since it doesn’t tie into any continuity, viewers aren’t likely to get lost or confused. But this also should have been the excuse the writers needed to actually do something with the characters.

While it was better than the rest, Crisis on Two Earths, for all intents and purposes, should have been better.

DC used the release of Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths to present a sample of their newest series, DC Showcase by adding a short feature of The Spectre to the disc. After everything I’ve seen, I’d have to say that this was a good choice.

The animation for The Spectre is the most interesting thing DC has put out in a while. Clearly styled like a Japanese anime, is has a lot of quick cuts and obscure close-ups. The style also imitated a damaged film reel, with lines, dirt, and watermarks superimposed over the image to make it look much older than it is.

Clearly DC was looking to create some sort of throwback animation, an aspect that shows through the music as well. The soundtrack sounds like it was taken from a Blacksploitation film from the 70s, with some funky reverb straight out of the old-time horror movies. I certainly approve.

The Spectre is also a lot more graphic than I would have expected from a mainstream animation studio like Warner Brothers. It caught me by surprise somewhat, but I liked seeing a grittier side to DC. Judging by this, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that the PG-13 rating on the disc is because of The Spectre.

The inclusion of The Spectre on Crisis on Two Earths really salvages the special features section, which has been lagging on their past few films. The other special features include first looks at Green Lantern: First Flight and Superman/Batman: Public Enemies (first look? We’ve already seen these) and trailers for Naruto Shippuden: The Movie and Halo Legends (no, thanks). The only other original content is Wonder Woman: The Amazon Princess, which shows a history of the character of Wonder Woman, and a first look at Batman: Under the Red Hood. Judging from this featurette, Under the Red Hood looks awesome. I just hope DC doesn’t screw it up.

Though I would recommend Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths to anyone interested in these kinds of movies, the inclusion of The Spectre really makes the purchase worthwhile.


Shutter Island

Originally, I was excited to see Shutter Island based on the crew creating it. This isn’t a run-of-the-mill Martin Scorsese movie, which definitely intrigued me. Add to the mix some Leonardo DiCaprio, who I’ve grown to respect over the past couple of years, and Mark Ruffalo, an over-looked, under-respected actor in my opinion, and you have the recipe for a good movie.

And for the most part, Shutter Island was good. Scorsese does a great job building suspense throughout the entire film. He gives his characters understandable motivation, and evokes believable performances from his actors. But even with all of this, something is missing.

DiCaprio plays Teddy Daniels, a detective who goes to Shutter Island, home to a mental hospital for the criminally insane, to investigate a missing persons report. Mark Ruffalo accompanies him as his newly assigned partner. During the investigation, things start getting bizarre for Daniels. He begins to have weird visions/dreams of events that occurred in his past, and these visions begin to take their toll on him physically.
Scorsese makes Daniels an interesting character. As a World War II vet, Daniels has seen some of the most horrifying events. Couple that with the violent death of his wife, and he becomes a tortured man. However, he has a mission that he intends to fulfill at any cost. DiCaprio gives Daniels that touch of human he needs in order to be believable and not just another theatrical caricature.

Shutter Island wasn’t written for a director like Scorsese. Scorsese has managed to make brilliant films from even the most boring premises (has anyone else seen Kundun?) but he lacks something in Shutter Island. Toward the middle of the film, you begin to wonder if it’s Scorsese behind the lens, and by the end of the film, you’re convinced it was actually M. Night Shaymalan. Unfortunately, this is what Shutter Island feels like. The movie thinks it comes to a respectable conclusion, but it doesn’t. Its finale answers questions, but then forces the audience to questions some things that made sense earlier.

While I can’t say that Shutter Island was bad, because I did enjoy the build up and the suspense, I can’t say that it was good, either. It was meant to be the kind of film that makes you say ‘whoa,’ but sadly, it’s a film that makes you say ‘wha…?’


5 Useless Inventions

Have you ever stayed up late at night watching infomercials on cable? Have you ever seen some of the useless shit out there? I have, and it irritates the hell out of me. Here are the 5 most annoying products being sold on TV.

5: Shoe Stands
While maybe having some validity to help organize the bottom of your closet, Shoe Stands just look ridiculous. While I concede their practicality, I feel that Shoe Stands are more of a nuisance than a help. Imagine having to take something out of your shoe each time you want to wear them. Then, at the end of the day, you have to place the thing back into the shoe. Where do you store that thing until the time you need it again? It’s just too much work just to wear a pair of shoes. Go with the Shoes-Under or one of those things that hang on the back of the closet door with pockets big enough to put the shoes in. This makes more sense to me.

4: Pasta Pronta
The act of boiling water too difficult to master? Like using just one cylindrical tube to make your dinner? Then the Pasta Pronta is for you. Put the pasta in the tube, add boiling water, and dinner is done. Seriously? It’s too difficult to boil the pasta in the water? See, I have to boil the water to add to the tube. So, if I’m boiling the water, I can make the pasta in the water. What do I need the Pasta Pronta for? It seems like a middle man to me. But what if I need to make sauce? I can’t add boiling water to my sauce in the Pasta Pronta; that would water down the sauce and ruin the flavor. So do I need to buy the Sauce Pronta too? How much will this cost me? I mean, besides my self-esteem and rationality. But, if I can’t cook pasta then I must not have these things to begin with.

3: The No-Touch Hand Soap System from Lysol
According to Lysol, makers of quality germ killing products, there are hundreds of bacteria living on my soap dispenser. Their solution to this problem is that I purchase a motion-activated soap dispenser that ensures I don’t have to touch anything and transfer those nasty bacteria to my hands. Is this supposed to make sense? Because it doesn’t. By touching the soap dispenser, I have pretty much committed to the act of washing my hands. Were I to transfer and bacteria to my hands through physical contact with said dispenser, those bacteria would then be killed by that act of washing. So why do I need a touchless soap dispenser? Easy answer; I don’t. This is clearly Lysol’s bid to cash in on the anti-bacteria hype/psychosis spreading throughout the country.

2: The Grill DaddyYet another invention playing on the fears of the American public. The Grill Daddy claims, by filling it with water and spraying it on the grill, that it will sanitize the grill as it cleans away the grime. Now, correct me if I’m wrong (which I am not so there is no need to correct me) but doesn’t water turn to steam at 212 degrees? Meanwhile, a grill can heat to 600 degrees and above. So it is not the steam that sanitizes the grill but the grill that sanitizes the grill. So why does the Grill Daddy insist on misleading me? Yes, it ma clean my grill wonderfully, but don’t lie and say that the steam will sanitize my grill. That’s just wrong.

1: The Snuggie
Yes, I’ll admit there are plenty of good features about the Snuggie. Having your hands free to do things is useful, as opposed to them being trapped under a blanket. So why is it on my list? Because it’s designed to be a backwards bathrobe, a nifty piece of clothing that has been around for years. So what’s the deal with this Snuggie craze? One idiot decides to wear his bathrobe backwards then sells his idiot friends similar bathrobes, instructing them on the intricacies of wearing them backwards? I mean, I guy John Q. Snuggie, or whatever the guy’s name is, all the credit in the world, seeing as how he probably made a mint by reversing an already existing patent. I just wish that people would be able to recognize the Snuggie for what it is.


Butler Toilet
I don’t even want to know why someone thought of this. Also comes in Flamingo.


Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes

In November of 2008, Marvel announced to the world that they will be producing a new animated series starring the Avengers. After the last animated Avengers outing, “The Avengers: United They Stand,” it’s difficult to wonder why they would try again. But, with popularity of the Avengers in the comics, as well as the Avengers movie coming in a few short years, it seems Marvel feels that the franchise is strong enough to try again.

I think they are right. It seems that they are putting a lot of effort into Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, as it’s officially being called. For starters, Marvel is taking a lot better care of their animated properties. Just look at Wolverine and the X-Men, for example. The animation is much more fluid and cleaner than in past incarnations. And the storylines are more comprehensive, being more exciting and attention-grabbing, as well as staying open-ended enough to add possible details in the future. Past cartoon shows were just entertaining for a half-hour, and left it at that. But now, Marvel wants to give viewers a reason to tune in next week, which is a model that I enjoy.

Secondly, Marvel decided to stick with the core team of Avengers. Avengers: United They Stand was full of B- and C-list team members; basically, characters that the audience couldn’t really care about. Wonder Man? Vision? Yeah, these are the faces the fans like, but your not gonna get a lot of newer viewership with characters no one knows about. But Earth’s Mightiest Heroes takes a different turn. The team consists of Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Giant Man, Wasp, and the Hulk. All of Marvel’s heavy hitters. And though I’ve said in the past that I’m getting tired of the Hulk, I think he will be a good fit here.

Take a look at the trailer for the show.

The animation looks good. Nothing spectacular, but definitely on par with Wolverine and the X-Men, which is a style that I’m pleased with. There’s been talk that the core team will consist of 8 Avengers, but the trailer only shows us six. I’m excited to see who else will round everything out. I would like to see Hawkeye and Black Widow.

I’m not sure how Marvel will approach their storytelling style on this show. I would like to see as a serial drama, with a deep, over-reaching story arch weaving its way through each episode. But if they decide to go with full-encapsulated, half-hour long stories, I hope they treat the show like DC treated Justice League: Unlimited. If they story is being told in thirty minutes, there’s no need to be concerned with continuity. Introduce new characters. Have a villain blow up a building. Ignore everything and make it fun. Granted, I don’t prefer this style, but if I’m stuck with it, I want it to be fun.

Anyway, I’m very excited for Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. From the looks of the trailer, it’s a show I can get behind. I’m glad to see that Marvel is upping their game in the animation department. They are really giving DC a run for their money.


Smallville: Absolute Justice not absolute.

Though I haven’t watched Smallville in about 3 years, I was totally excited when I saw the commercial for the two-hour Absolute Justice special. What excited me the most was the possibility of seeing all of the super heroes, the entirety of the Justice Society of America, in action in the span of two hours.

Well, I didn’t get that.

Absolute Justice was written by Geoff Johns, an excellent choice for the special since he began writing the JSA comic in 2000. Since then, Johns has worked on a plethora of comics for DC, including The Flash and Green Lantern. The irony of this is that neither of these characters, in either their Golden Age or Modern versions makes an appearance in Absolute Justice, much to my chagrin.

The episode begins with the murder of two people, who appear to have some kind of connection with each other, but not much else. As Clark and Chloe do their research, they discover a team of “criminals,” whose ranks include the two dead guys. They call upon Oliver Queen to help dig a little deeper, and find that they have discover may not be the full truth.

The search leads to Carter Hall and his not-right-in-the-head friend, Kent Nelson. Hall runs a museum of some sort, though one can pretty much guess what it contains way before the big reveal later (it was in the commercials, remember.) Hall is pursued by Courtney Whitmore, a pesky blonde girl who has some sort of connection to one of the dead guys. At this point, things are a little cloudy, but everything gets explained in time.

Carter Hall is Hawkman. Kent Nelson is Dr. Fate. Courtney Whitmore is Stargirl. All of them are annoying in their own right, but some less than others.

Hawkman plays a central role in the episodes. As the original leader of the JSA, Hawkman is the most conflicted as to the decision to get the team back together. He feels guilty for the deaths of Sandman and the Star Spangled Kid. After all, he ignored their warnings of the return of one of their enemies. Hawkman also feels guilty over the death of his wife, Hawkgirl. He chooses to air his guilt in the form of raspy speech and stupid one-liners (“Revenge is a dish best served cold.” Really? You’re going to dredge up that old line?) And even though is delivery is more annoying than Tom Welling’s jaw-clenching in almost every episode, I have to say that Hawkman was played rather well. In the comics, Hawkman is an arrogant dick. Well, he’s the same here. So, all in all, this was rather spot-on.

Dr. Fate, on the other hand, was nothing but irritating. He speaks in the cryptic tones about everyone’s involvement in the future. He serves very little to the storyline besides convincing Clark to don the mantle of Superman (not in so many words, mind you) and to open a few doors with his spectacular powers. OK, maybe he does a little more than that, but not much. Even if I wanted to, I wouldn’t have been able to stifle a smile after he took an icicle through the chest.

He looked stupid, too. The design team takes artistic license when it comes to the costumes. Green Arrow has a very sleek look. They outfitted Clark in an all-black number, a far cry from his blue and reds. Even tertiary characters like Black Canary are given slight makeovers so as not to come off as tacky. So why directly translate Dr. Fate’s look straight from the comics? The helmet looked good, I’ll grant that. But the rubber suit and cape? It really gave me flashbacks to Shuemacher’s Batman and Robin.

Surprisingly, Stargirl was the least annoying of the JSA. Headstrong and impetuous, she was everything that I expected her to be. She had quite a bit of dialogue, but not enough to give her an excuse to formulate a particular speech pattern, which kept the frustration to a minimum.

Johns chose these characters for a reason, but these weren’t the characters I wanted to see. What I wanted were the more commercial characters, like Flash or the Green Lantern. Hell, I would have taken Wildcat or the Spectre. Sadly, none of these guys make a super hero appearance, but the gears start turning for a possible future development. And, to be fair, I’m not going to complain about the lack of characters. I do understand that to have twenty super powered people would be severe overkill. Including the entirety of the JSA, as well as Clark’s team? I wouldn’t even want to think of the carnage.

Most of the story fit into place. Johns does a fantastic job of creating a noir-style whodunit mystery for Clark, Chloe, and Oliver to muddle through. What I especially liked was the way the fall of the super heroes back in the day paid homage to the fall of the super heroes from DC’s Watchmen. Johns does well having Hawkman struggle with his guilt, paralleling him with Clark and the differences in leadership. Johns even wraps up the Icicle storyline nicely, and how the death of Dr. Fate basically means nothing. But he does bring up a number of questions.

First of all, what is Checkmate? As I admitted earlier, I haven’t watched the show for almost 3 years, so this may have been something that I missed. But, from the set-up, it doesn’t seem like it. So how does this secret group fit into the future? And when did Foxy Brown put on all of that weight?

I know it sounds like I’m tearing Absolute Justice apart, but I’m really not. I have a few issues with it, but I did enjoy it. Of course, it was corny, but, so far, the entire series of Smallville has been corny. I like how they decided to take the risks by adding the other super heroes into the mix. And I can’t wait to see where the writers go after this, and who else they will introduce. Will I finally be placated with The Flash or Green Lantern?

I frigging hope so.


Planet Hulk and the future of Marvel Animation

Marvel has hit quite a few homeruns with their direct-to-DVD animated movies over the past few years. Starting with the Ultimate Avengers films, through Iron Man, and Hulk Vs., it seems like Marvel keeps upping the ante with each consecutive movie. Their latest outing is Planet Hulk, an animated interpretation of the comic storyline of the same name.

I started this post with the intention of giving a review of the movie, but, as I wrote, I found myself at a loss for words. This isn’t because I have no opinion on the film. Anyone who knows me knows that I have an opinion on most everything. And while I did enjoy Planet Hulk, I don’t feel it’s as good as some of the previous Marvel animation movies.

Anyway, I found myself being pulled more toward writing about how I am tired of the Hulk. I know that he is one of Marvel’s more popular characters, but it seems he has been the focus of most of their latest animated movies. He was in the first Ultimate Avengers movie. He made a major appearance in Next Avengers. Hulk Vs pretty much speaks for itself.

Now, I’ll admit, I’m not a fan of the Hulk. I’ve read a bunch of the comics. I’ve seen the movies. I know the origin. But he’s just not a character I can get behind. (Although, the Planet Hulk movie did get me interested in the comic, so I will check that out some time in the future.)

Marvel has so many characters at their disposal, but they keep choosing to showcase the Hulk. I can understand why, but I want something different. I would love to see some X-Men or Spider-Man stories, but Marvel probably won’t do something like that. Spidey and the X-Men both manage to be successful with half-hour cartoon series’ so there is no point to showcase them in animated films. Hulk and the Avengers, on the other hand, have been proven to be less successful in the Saturday Morning venue.

There are likely legal reasons why Marvel won’t make animated movies based on Spider-Man or the X-Men. While I am not 100% sure of this, nor am I knowledgeable of things such as movies rights, I feel this is a major factor in the issue. (I would love an X-Babies movie. Please, please, please that would be so awesome.)

But, Marvel has an entire library of characters to choose from. Why not do something a little different? They took a chance by giving Dr. Strange his own full-length film. Yes, Dr. Strange is one of Marvel’s oldest characters, and while he does have a decent fan base, he isn’t very popular. So why not take a chance on another character?

Moon Knight certainly deserves his own movie. He has a rich background and is a very interesting character, and the recent revival by Charlie Huston gave him an edge and showed how marketable he can be. Though the new Moon Knight is extremely violent, it wouldn’t be anything that Marvel couldn’t pull off. Between Planet Hulk and Hulk Vs, I think Marvel would be willing to tackle some of that violence. Most people think of Moon Knight as a Batman knock-off, but perhaps a film can prove them wrong. By delving into the issue of multiple personalities and how it affects his relationships, Moon Knight can have a depth that Batman never had.

Another adaptation I want is Cloak and Dagger. I know I’m definitely in the minority here, but Cloak and Dagger are two of my favorite Marvel characters for reasons I can’t explain. Though their history has been little more than a PSA for drug awareness, Cloak and Dagger have an intensity that hasn’t been fully evolved yet. Their main goal is to fight back at the people who hurt them, the people who gave them their powers through the experimental drugs. They don’t ask for help from anyone and would rather become fugitives than team players. Though they treat each other as siblings, there’s a weird sexual tension to their relationship. Cloak and Dagger have starred in some shitty stories in the past, like when a police officer becomes a ghost and helps them take down a drug cartel. But, given the right writer, there could be some substance to the characters, not only in a film but also the comics. If Marvel were to make a movie, and make it good, they could revitalize their property in the comics, and open the characters to a new audience.

I want to see Marvel take a few chances. Yes, they won’t do anything if there isn’t the possibility of profit. But, let’s be honest; they took a chance with Next Avengers. They introduced a bunch of new characters with only Iron Man and the Hulk to tie them together. While it didn’t do as well as their other movies, the DVD grossed over $3 million in sales, which isn’t bad for a completely new idea. (Meanwhile, Dr. Strange, a character almost as old as Spider-Man, grossed $3.8 million.) Would it make sense for Marvel to try something different rather than dredge up the same old characters time and again? I certainly think so. Not everyone will be interested in the Hulk. Or Thor. Or even the Avengers. While these movies are made for the fans, there is also the opportunity to convert a non-fan or two. Why wouldn’t they take that chance?


Witch and Wizard by James Patterson

A couple weeks ago, my girlfriend decided to pick up James Patterson’s new novel, Witch and Wizard on a whim. She finished it in a matter of two days and, since I had nothing to do, I picked it up to read.

In a way, I wish I hadn’t.

From the very beginning I had a difficult time figuring out if Patterson is making fun of the other magic-themed books out there, such as the Harry Potter series, or if he is trying to cash in on the phenomenon with no clue on how to go about doing that. Having Patterson’s name on the cover lent it some credence and I truly believed that it would be good. But after reading the first couple of chapters, I had a difficult time believing that Patterson wrote it.

OK. Get ready for some angry spoilers.

The book starts In Media Res with the Allgood family (seriously? That’s your symbolism?) about to be executed for the crime of being a wizarding family. Patterson then takes the time to flashback to the events that brought his characters to this situation. This wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t for the fact that the ending had absolutely nothing to do with this beginning. Yes, Patterson eventually revisits this point in time, despite having skipped over a couple years from the end of the narrative. However, when he does return to the execution scene, he decides to give the reader a life lesson instead of a story, as if he suddenly changed his name to Aesop.

The second major flaw with Witch and Wizard is that it is told from two perspectives. The narration cuts between the brother/sister team of Whit and Wisty. Sadly, they both sound exactly the same. Patterson must have realized this at some point in his writing process because he chose to designate each chapter by its narrator. I couldn’t help but to think of how incredibly lame this made him seem. Patterson’s dialogue is also ridiculous. Unless teenage girls in the 21st century still use the phrase “far out.”

Patterson introduces characters without giving us any reason to care for or revile them. One example of this is the Byron character, who is clearly an antagonist, but later goes on to help Whit and Wisty. His motivation for changing sides was nothing more than being changed into a weasel, which makes the reader leery of his intentions, until they realize that Patterson hasn’t put anything else forward to show that he is actually a bad guy, other than Whit and Wisty not liking him. And this type of characterization plays out with all of the secondary characters, making the betrayal of the siblings later in the novel by someone they trusted completely not shocking.

If Patterson is trying to create a new magical series to cash in on the genre’s popularity, which is all this book feels like, then he needs to figure out how to do it properly. I doubt he is going to open himself up to new readers if he insists on writing as if they are morons, as he has done in Witch and Wizard. I do believe that the premise of the novel could have been good, but his execution is insulting. He blurs over plot points and instead concentrates his efforts on making up a new, “witty” language to separate his characters from the hundreds of other similar books out there. I would have liked to have some more backstory on how the New Order became to be so powerful, but all the reader is given is that they were elected into power. Why does The One Who Is The One have the abilities that he does, and why is he persecuting magical beings when it seems like he, himself, is magical? We get none of these answers, Instead, Patterson makes a huge production of events that the reader has realized fifty chapters earlier (“You mean that magical drumstick is really a magic wand? And that magical book is really a magical book? Wow, Mr. Patterson, I would never have understood that without your needlessly sentimental ending!”)

Now, I know that there is nothing I can say about Witch and Wizard that will affect its sales in any way. Hell, James Patterson could bind his used toilet paper between a hardcover and it will spend at least 14 weeks on the New York Times Best Sellers list. Like I said earlier, the only way this book can be enjoyed is if you take it to be farcical rather than serious. Sadly, with the tagline on the dust jacket that reads “this is the story I was born to tell,” I don’t think Patterson meant it that way. I just wish he had had more respect for his audience and for the genre writers that came before him before sitting down to tell this story. The public is, clearly, more intelligent than he gives them credit for. A word of advice for Mr. Patterson; stick to Alex Cross. You’ve got a winning formula there.
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