Saturday, August 06, 2011

100 Years of Lucille Ball

A century ago today, one of the funniest people who ever lived was born. I've been watching I Love Lucy since before I can remember. It was a staple of my days as a child, and I still catch it now. (And boy, if only Netflix were streaming this series... that would be perfect.) I think everything I originally liked in humor begins with her. Thanks for everything.

Friday, August 05, 2011

This Is the Cutest Thing Ever

I know, I know, every animal on the internet is the cutest thing ever, but this well and truly is. This may have ruined my ability to appreciate cuteness for an indeterminate length of time.

I mean... damn. Wailing away like Fats in the Rock-A-Fire Explosion. I have been in an unbelievably shitty mood tonight, and this really, REALLY helps.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

My 15 Favorite Wildstorm Comics

As of this week, Wildstorm is no more. Most of it is being folded into the DC Universe proper, I guess... shit, most of this DC Crisis of Infinite Reboots seems like it's turning the whole place into Wildstorm. I was never a huge fan of the Wildstorm Universe (The Authority, Stormwatch, whatev--not for me), but here are 15 comics they published that I really dig.

15. ThunderCats

Except for a couple of lapses in taste, this series was everything the ThunderCats should be--cool, fun, exciting, adventurous. Hell, it was even funny and managed to avoid the fantard temptation to shit all over Snarf.

14. Danger Girl
It took way too long to publish a mere seven issues, and it's incredibly dumb, and it's little more than an amalgamation of everything the creators liked in every spy movie they ever saw, but it was FUN. It seems like DC is going to be short on fun for a while (whither Plastic Man, Metamorpho, the Marvel Family?), and even thought it aspired to nothing more than coolness, that was pretty much all you'd want from it in the first place.

13. Ball and Chain
I thought it was a funny idea: a screwball comedy about a divorcing husband and wife who can't stand each other, then are given super powers by an alien that only work when they're near each other. Scott Lobdell really got the screwball tone right, too.

12. Tomorrow Stories
I adored the America's Best Comics line. This one could be hit or miss, as most anthology comics are, but Jack B. Quick and the First American were always hilarious, and I love the Cobweb.

11. High Roads
Wonderfully crazy. Again, it doesn't aspire to--nor does it achieve--anything more than to be a silly adventure story about Nazis and samurai and little people and fighter planes... but it did it well.

10. Ex Machina
I'm not the biggest fan of Brian K. Vaughan, but I always enjoyed this series about a former superhero who saved one of the World Trade Center towers on 9/11 and was elected mayor of New York City. Very thoughtful and realistic in its handling of political pressures with, you know, superheroics.

9. Ocean
Warren Ellis is the best writer of science fiction in comics. This is one of his most interesting and, I think, underrated stories about contact with another intelligence (that can't be immediately comprehended). Very good stuff.

8. Speed Racer/Racer X
Again, these two series were just a hell of a lot of fun. I really wanted to see more of these.

7. Tom Strong's Terrific Tales
With the ABC line, Alan Moore did less deconstructing of comic books and more aping older styles that no one bothered with any more. I liked a lot of the stuff he did in this book, with homages to Heavy Metal, Winsor McCay, CC Beck, and many others. My favorite part of this all-too-short-lived series, though, were the Jonni Future stories of Art Adams. There's a perfect movie waiting to be made in there, but no one would get the tone right.

6. Promethea
Yes, Alan Moore has a tendency here to ignore the plot for the sake of dissertations on the history of comparative religions, mythologies, and magic, but it's endlessly fascinating. A lot of people dismissed this as a Wonder Woman rip-off, but I think what he's really doing is delving into what makes Captain Marvel work.

5. Top 10
More Moore, about cops in a town where everyone has superpowers or is made of magic or something or other. Lots of great references (look for annotations online, it's amazing), and the spin-off miniseries Smax and the prequel graphic novel The Forty-Niners are also excellent. Of everything Alan Moore did at ABC, this felt the freshest.

4. Planetary
Warren Ellis' series is just pure pulp goodness. I know the supernatural/paranormal investigator shtick has been done to death, but for my money it was never done so well. Ellis and John Cassaday strike an interesting balance in this series, celebrating our pop culture legends (Godzilla, Japanese ghost stories, Doc Savage, Tarzan, Batman) even as they deconstruct them. Brilliant reading.

3. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen/The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Vol. 2
Classics. Alan Moore here throws together every Victorian fiction reference he has any affection for and tells some of the best adventure stories in comics.

2. Astro City
Every issue a treasure, with Kurt Busiek exploring the basic humanity of the innocent and not-so-innocent bystanders in a city of superheroes. Rightfully acclaimed and one of the best comics of its time.

1. Tom Strong
My personal favorite comic that Wildstorm ever published, with Alan Moore just telling fun, wholesome, enjoyable superhero stories (again with the Captain Marvel tint). Timeless and just waiting to really garner the appreciation it deserves.

For these comics and others that didn't quite make the list, I thank you, Wildstorm. You had a lot to offer for a guy who loves comics but doesn't care about WildCATs, and I really appreciate that.

So, Where Are We Going Here, George?


:: So I've finished this now, and it feels less like a rushed half of a story than A Feast for Crows did, but I still feel like surprisingly little happened in 959 pages of narrative. I can feel a vague goal that GRRM is working towards, but he just keeps throwing in more distractions and red herrings and sudden new plot threads for the sake of keeping the drama going, and everything feels like the longest tease. Ever since A Storm of Swords, these books have each felt like prologues for another book that never manages to materialize.

:: Which is not to say that I didn't like the book. I like the characters and I like the world, but it feels like GRRM is just losing his narrative inside of it. This novel combined with FFC comprise one book together, and it feels like over 1600 pages of "Meanwhile..." After I finished FFC, I remember joking with Becca that a more fitting title would've been Meanwhile, in Dorne... This book could easily be called Meanwhile, in the Free Cities...

:: It becomes painfully obvious in the Daenerys chapters that GRRM got stuck and didn't know where to go. I know this for a fact because he's been talking about getting stuck in Meereen for the last six years, but unfortunately the novel also reads that way. The first Dany chapter is striking and pulls you in. The next six or nine feel awkwardly like they written by someone just marking time trying to decide which direction to go in. We do get a lot more of Ser Barristan Selmy, a character I like being inside the head of, but Daenerys just gets lost, which sucks because she used to be my favorite character.

:: Thank Christ we finally find out what happened to Varys. Sure, it's in the last three or four pages, but at least we know...

:: The more time goes on, the less I care about Jon Snow. Every time we went back to that damned Wall, I got fitful and bored. He's got the same problems as Ned Stark--making stupid decisions because he feels bound by honor--without being as dynamic or three-dimensional as Ned.

:: In Ramsay Bolton, GRRM has created a truly memorable, disgusting personification of evil. I hate to say it feels like GRRM has gotten a little sick of his characters, but when it comes to some of the newer leads who have been less focused on, he's still capable of creating great, compelling characters. The Bastard of Bolton is a formidable villain and truly scary.

:: We're going somewhere with all of the Bran stuff, right?

:: After everything he goes through, I think Theon Greyjoy has successfully redeemed himself. After A Clash of Kings, I hated him and wanted him to die. After what we see in this book, I just want someone to kiss him on the forehead and put him into a warm bed.

:: We barely see King's Landing in this book, but when we do, I get excited. I'd really like it if the whole world of the novels just narrowed its focus again. I'd like to get out of the Free Cities, get Dany and her court, and Tyrion, and Arya Stark, back across the Narrow Sea to Westeros and get back to the original plot, which is political intrigue in King's Landing. I appreciate the widened scope and the history we've been given, but it still feels to me like GRRM has lost sight of the narrative. I know that, as a reader, that's incredibly presumptuous of me to say, and maybe even a little ungrateful, but A Song of Ice and Fire is something I've been very excited by, and the whole FFC/DWD combo just feels like endless delaying. It's muddied the story, and now with winter descending and the characters where they are, and the Griffin back in Westeros, it seems like it's time to get back to the Seven Kingdoms and really start to move.

DWD didn't necessarily rekindle my enthusiasm for the series--not as much as the HBO series did--but I'm definitely in this for the long haul. I just hope it's less of a slog from here on out.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Film Week

A review of the films I've seen this past week.

The series of animated DC Universe films does an incredible job with its depiction of kinetic action sequences, doesn't it? This movie barely even cares what its plot is; it really just wants to show Superman and Batman engaged in powerful action sequences fighting seemingly half the DC Universe. And you know what? It works. It's a lot of fun. It's also wonderful that Kevin Conroy, Tim Daly, and Clancy Brown reprise their roles from the TV series as Batman, Superman, and Lex Luthor. Kevin Conroy just is Batman. When I read Batman comics, it's his voice I still hear in my head. *** stars. Batman and Superman seem more homoerotic than ever. Bats is clearly jealous of Lois.

Beautiful animated film about magic, the changing world, and growing up from the genius Sylvain Chomet. Very sad in the end, and bittersweet, but beautiful. **** stars.

Great idea, but the execution doesn't live up to it. It's supposed to be a docudrama about a London where the Nazis have won World War II, but it just doesn't grab the viewer. ** stars.

Interesting adaptation of the Hesse novel about Siddhartha, a young man who walks the path of materialism but eventually--as they always do--learns the importance of spirituality. Involving, and beautiful to look at. Gorgeous photography by Sven Nykvist. **** stars.

BODY SLAM (1986)
An 80s movie that needs a lot more cheese to work. It's about a sleazy, down-on-his-luck agent who tries to start a rock 'n' wrestling show. I always like to see Roddy Piper, but this movie needed a LOT more of Captain Lou Albano. Tanya Roberts and Billy Barty pop up, too. Could've been fun, but really isn't. *1/2 stars.

Surprisingly awesome low-budget Shogun rip-off has American sailors in the 1800s trying to make a deal with the Shogun to build a railroad in Japan. When the titular sword is stolen by a warrior, the Americans try to get it back. Fantastic cast for a flick like this: Richard Boone, Toshiro Mifune, Mako, Sonny Chiba, Laura Gemser--and James Earl Jones shows up for an all-too-short cameo as a philosophical whaler. Fun as hell. Nothing I would've sought out, but I sure did enjoy watching it. ***1/2 stars.

Nice little anthology about the Corps; your mileage may vary based on how involving you find the stories. I particularly dug the one about Kilowog (of course!), and the story about Bolfunga the Unrelenting (Roddy Piper again!) trying to fight Mogo is wonderful. I would really love to see more of these, especially with Nathan Fillion and Jason Isaacs as Hal Jordan and Sinestro. Could've used more Tomar, but I was having too much fun to care. *** stars.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Common Snapping Turtle

I was looking at pictures of animals indigenous to Illinois, when I came across this one. It made me realize that the baby turtle I saved years ago from the Walmart parking lot and released over by the pond was a common snapping turtle. I saw him last year scrambling along the road and recognized his bumpy shell and long tail. That was what had confused me when he was small enough to fit in a little basket: his long, long tail. Now I know why he had it: he was a common snapping turtle.

They're dangerous animals, but I don't care, I think they're pretty. There's no way I could pick him up now, but I'm glad I saved him when he was a baby and about to get run over by a semi.

I still wonder how he got into the garden section of Walmart, though...

The Meme Invasion of Earth

A Doctor Who meme slightly modified from Heck Yeah Tumblr Challenges

1 - Your Favourite Who Quote

"I tolerate this century but I don't enjoy it."

2 - Your Favourite Classic Series Episode

"Genesis of the Daleks"

3 - Your Favourite New Series Episode

"The Unicorn and the Wasp"

4 - Your Favourite Doctor

It used to be the First, but nowadays it's been the Fourth.

5 - Your Favourite Companion

Donna Noble.

6 - Your Favourite Piece of Music

That middle-eight section of the theme!

7 - A Who-Related Photo That Makes You Happy

8 - A Who-Related Photo That Makes You Angry/Sad

I don't know, anything with Amy Pond kind of annoys the shit out of me lately.

9 - Your Favourite Season (Classic or New)

The "Key to Time" season.

10 - Your Favourite Villain

The Daleks.

11 - The Villain Who Scared You the Most

The Weeping Angels were genuinely terrifying.

12 - Your Favourite Who-Related FanFic

I don't do fan fic.

13 - The Scene That Made Your Cry the Most

In "Vincent and the Doctor" when Vincent Van Gogh gets to see his legacy.

14 - Your Doctor Who OTP

None. I think the romantic nonsense on the nu-Who is tedious and obvious.

15 - Favourite Who Actor

Roger Delgado.

16 - Favourite Who Actress

Alex Kingston.

17 - An Episode You Wish Hadn’t Been Made

I don't think there's an episode I wish hadn't been made. I mean, I can ignore them just as easily. Episodes like "42" are best left ignored.

18 - Who You Think Should Be the Next Doctor

I've wanted to see Patrick Stewart as the Doctor for about the last 15 years.

Monday, August 01, 2011

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Song of the Week: "Sometimes a Fantasy"

Billy Joel, 1980, with a wonderfully daft video as they only were in the eighties.

You Have Been Found Wanting