Saturday, August 18, 2012

Reed Richards Is the Biggest Asshole in Comics

I'm reading through old Marvels again. Here I am, four issues into Fantastic Four and one page into Fantastic Four #4, and I've already had enough of Reed Richards' highhanded style of leadership. I know, I know: what do you expect from a guy who names himself Mr. Fantastic?

My favorite character from the FF has always been the Thing. Of course: he's easy to sympathize with and if there's one emotion I certainly understand, it's frustration. But one thing that's really standing out to me lately is this: no one calls Ben Grimm by his name. Everyone calls everyone else by their first names--Reed, Sue, Johnny--but they're always calling Ben by his code name, "Thing."

So, it's bad enough that he's been literally dehumanized by being turned into this monstrosity, but now he's got Reed Richards calling him "Thing" all the time, like in this rocky form he's not even worthy of having a name. And then Reed is always yelling at him and ordering him around like a helper monkey. Jesus, Reed; first you disfigure him, then you browbeat him, and then you turn him into your servant and take his name away? Give it a rest, you yob. Poor guy can't even masturbate anymore, fer chrissakes. Can you imagine the stress he's under?

I'd be smashing tables and throwing cars around all the time if I were Ben Grimm, too.

Ciaran Hinds as Mance Rayder

This is a fantastic choice.

Ciaran Hinds is going to play Mance Rayder, King Beyond the Wall, in the third season of Game of Thrones. That's not only great casting, but it's a real bright spot for me in what is, for me, the absolute least interesting storyline in all of those books: anything involving Jon Snow. Since I find Jon Snow insufferable and Ygritte far, far worse, at least I know Hinds will be there making things interesting to watch. I can imagine him being as dominant a presence as Charles Dance is; Dance is so excellent as Tywin Lannister, a character I had no lingering interest in on the page (he always seemed more like a plot device, a force of narrative rather than a fully-realized person), that he somehow remains a presence in episodes he's not even in. Rayder is such an interesting character, I can't wait to see what the writers do with him and how Hinds embodies the role.

This is one of three pieces of casting for next season that I'm really excited about, the other two being Clive Russell as the Blackfish and Diana Rigg as the Queen of Thorns. (Thank you for not casting Maggie Smith, because I kind of wanted to puke every one of the roughly 3000 times I heard someone mention that.)

Please put Vladimir Kulich on this show somewhere...

Friday, August 17, 2012

This Makes Me Sad That I Still Owe $55,000 On an English Degree

For the Love of All That Is Good, Will Someone Please Make Dave Mustaine Shut the Fuck Up?

Seriously, Dave? Fucking seriously?

Look, I know that Megadeth hasn't been relevant in about 25 years, but is this really the best way to get back into the public eye?

Jesus Christ. You used to be a guy who wrote rocking metal songs about how crazy it is to start wars based on religion. You used to be the smart guy in heavy metal who actually put social commentary into his music about how we were going to all kill ourselves if we didn't just try to get along. Endorsing Rick Santorum was bad enough (um, don't kill for religion, just endorse the politician who wants to bomb the fuck out of Muslim nations?), but this newest bullshit of yours is beyond the pale.

You stood on stage and went on a rant about how President Obama "staged" the gun massacres in Aurora, Colorado, and the Sikh Temple in Wisconsin because he wants to force a gun ban through Congress.

I can't believe I'm even writing that. A human being somewhere actually thinks that. And, for some reason, he actually wants to say that, in public, in front of a live audience. Yeah. That happened.

Someone, please, have a talk with this asshole before he launches into his 9/11 theories or something.

Dave... you total fucking idiot shitbag whiny douche fuckwit entitled pigfucking thoughtless right-wing fundamentalist nutjob shit-for-brains demented shitstain hypocrite son of a bitch asshole. I'm asking you, please, with all politeness, just shut the fuck up. Don't be another fake tough guy like Ted Nugent.

Oh, and 'Stain, don't worry about a gun ban. As much as one might actually help a country where the mentally ill can legally amass a small arsenal in the name of liberty, I don't see enough Congresspersons ever waking up to it. But then, it increases the chances that you or the Nuge might be involved in a gun accident, so it evens out.

(Okay, sorry. That last line went too far. I would never wish death on someone just because they use their Constitutionally-guaranteed right to free speech to say incredibly stupid, dumbass things about conspiracies and guns. I just use my Constitutionally-guaranteed right to free speech to complain about what stupid fucking assholes they are, because that's also how the First Amendment works, despite the current right-wing mindset.)

(Still, if Dave Stain or the Nuge shoot themselves in the thigh by accident, I won't be shedding tears over it.)

(Okay, that probably went too far, too. I won't celebrate it, either. I'll try really hard not to giggle.)

(Also, Nuge is a coward. He literally shit his pants to get out of going to Vietnam. Was he joking about that, like he claims? Personally, I doubt it. It's always the people who are too cowardly to face that kind of thing who end up dressing up in their macho-white-hunter-he-man drag when they're older and know they won't be asked to put up or shut up anymore. It's really easy to be brave when no one's challenging it, isn't it, asshole?)

(Seriously, though, Dave Mustaine: go fuck yourself.)

Kate Upton

Wow, do I love looking at Kate Upton. I've been reining it in; this entire blog could very easily slip into nothing but a Kate Upton appreciation blog. Which is kind of about 33% of what my Tumblr has been this year...

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

MasterChef Observations

I have to love Frank.

After losing the week's challenge and saying that, hypothetically, he would cook in the elimination because, as team captain, he was ultimately responsible for the loss, he then decided to save himself from elimination. And you know what? I would've done the exact same thing. Here's why. Frank is a pretty stand-up guy (I admire the way he would've given David Martinez rice because, as he rightly pointed out, people should go home on their cooking and not making stupid mistakes that benefit everyone else). But when it comes right down to it, he was the best person on his team. Josh and David couldn't even make the bread for the croque-madame before he bailed them out on his own. Sure, he may be responsible as captain, but the other two dragged him down. It was smart to take the immunity and just go with it.

I'm still calling him to win.

Other observations:

:: Joe fawns over what a good leader Becky was, how wrong he was about Christine's blindness being too big a hurdle in the kitchen, and Monti... Nope, nothing good to say about Monti.

:: I think this week's challenge was pretty lame. This isn't So You Think You Can Line Cook. That's Hell's Kitchen. This competition is supposedly about finding the best amateur home chef and letting them write a cookbook. Boiled down, that's what it is. Eliminating someone with absolutely no experience being a professional line cook on how good a professional line cook they are is not only shitty and cruel, it's not creative. What's next, making them wait tables?

:: Back to Monti: holy fuck, does she look good in blue. Jesus, what a woman. I am going to miss her...

:: At least I don't have to watch David sweating anymore. Good for him for scoring a job with Graham Elliott, though. I was a little amused by the tone, I admit: "Too much garlic! How would you like a job in my restaurant?"

:: No, Wal-Mart does not have the highest quality of steak, and eat shit for saying so. Or eat Wal-Mart steak, same diff.

:: The show's momentum was totally destroyed by taking two weeks off to hide from the Olympics (and for a show that thinks it's as important as the Olympics, or at least the crowning of a monarch, that's pretty damn funny). Hard to get caught up in, which shouldn't be happening with so few people left. The competition should be ramping up, not trotting along lazily. The temperatures here have been down in the 70s and 80s for the last week or so, and college kids are moving in, so it's starting to feel like summer's over and autumn's just starting, and now I'm just feeling a bit annoyed with this reality competition that, without the two weeks off, would probably have been over by now.

Hell's Kitchen had the same problem for me. Hard to get back into. It was nice having Dana in a bikini, though. That was pretty fantastic. But then you realize, jeez, this is 16 episodes in to this show and it just seems to refuse to end. And now it's going down to one episode a week, because why not drag this shit into October and long past the point of caring? Bringing back chefs I barely even remember just helped hammer home the fact that I barely remember who wins or even appears on this show, anyway. It's not like it has a legacy that anyone cares about; it's just a fun diversion in the summer, and one that's been running on fumes for about half of its lifespan, giving us the same formula over and over.

:: Oh, and now there's Hotel Hell, which is somehow the most histrionic of the Gordon Ramsay Fox series to date. Breaking in two didn't really help it; it seems like it could have just been on for two hours and been just as inconsequential. It seems like there was once a time when a show like this would have been about the process of rehabilitating a hotel instead of just yelling at a rich jerk for being such an incompetent snob. That said, the yelling scene that closed out the first episode was glorious in its insanity. The over-the-top Hans Zimmer-style music coupled with Gordon just tearing into that guy jacked everything up into total madness. Why is no one writing an opera about this? It was positively Wagnerian.

Eh, I'll watch Gordon Ramsay do whatever until I get tired of it. I'm just not tired of it yet. The shows could try a little harder but, honestly, does it really matter?

100 Years of Julia Child

Julia Child was born 100 years ago today. I remember watching her on TV when I was very little; my memories are vague, but she was certainly there. My Mom used to watch her on TV, probably either Julia Child & Company or Julia Child & More Company. I would watch them with her, too, or play while she had them on. The reason I like cooking shows is not only because I find cooking fascinating, but because I remember how their relative calmness would soothe me when I was little. And actually, not just when I was little. I remember one occasion with my friend Carl when we had decided to just watch TV all day one summer when we were teenagers. We were flipping channels, ripping on absolutely everything, when suddenly we hit The Frugal Gourmet. Suddenly, we were very quiet, wrapped up in the show, watching Jeff Smith cook. The world just seemed so much calmer, so much less insane. We didn't even realize until about 20 minutes or so had passed that it had happened. It was a nice little moment.

Thanks, Julia, for helping me to appreciate what the gentle quiet could make me feel.

Film Week

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

MARTY (1955)
A real gem about a single butcher (Ernest Borgnine, who won an Oscar) who meets a plain social outcast (Betsy Blair) and falls in love. It's an interesting study of loneliness, taking place over one night and into the next day. I liked that the film delved into different kinds of loneliness, different reasons for it, and how your family can crush your spirit just when you think you're finding something so simple and daunting as personal happiness. Compelling, beautifully acted. ****

B-flick based on the Alex Raymond comic strip, with Johnny Weismuller still in the jungle but speaking normally now. Mostly it's done in a sort of serial style; every few minutes, like clockwork, there's Jim in an action situation, having to fight some animal (most of which don't actually live in Africa except in these old B-movies where every exotic animal ever lives in Africa, including Florida alligators, orangutans from Borneo, and, here, sea monsters). A lot of the barely-over-an-hour running time is taken up with cute antics from Jim's dog sidekick and his crow companion. George Reeves is an interesting villain. I want to say it's fun, but, honestly, it's surprisingly tedious. **

Jungle Jim finds a lost tribe, men in ridiculous gorilla costumes, other stuff. *1/2

Jungle Jim, little people... things. I think. *

Sacha Baron Cohen gives it a pretty good try, eschewing the documentary format that made Borat so good and Bruno so repetitive. The problem is, as committed as Cohen is to the character, most of the jokes seem pretty obvious, even a bit dated. His character could have walked out of an old Road to flick... in fact, making something along those lines might have been something I'd rather watch. This seems like it would have been the comedy hit of 2003. Now I've seen enough attempts at satire about Middle Eastern dictatorships to create a syllabus. Anna Faris is also truly irritating in this movie, and I've actually never said that about her before, ever. **1/2

STARLET (1969)
Sub-Russ Meyer sexploitation film that spoofs the skinflick industry a little too heavy-handedly. Also: not very sexy. **1/2

High school slut (Juno Temple) and gay outcast (Jeremy Dozier) go on a road trip to find her biological father in the 1980s. This one was surprisingly effective; not a knock out of the park, but a surprise double, at least. Once you get past all of the over-the-top Southern accents and the "golly, everything in the South is so cartoony" attempts at comedy, there's a genuine emotional core that makes this girl's journey resonate a little more than I expect in a lot of modern movies. ***

Interesting film about the planning of a robbery, the robbery itself, and the aftermath. It's a noir film, but it's got a sort of caper feel at times, too (and not in a silly way). I especially liked Sam Jaffe as one of the masterminds; I just sort of felt for the guy. Louis Calhern is great, and Sterling Hayden is good, too, as a criminal who wants in on the robbery so he can buy the ranch his family lost in the Depression. And Marilyn Monroe makes a real impression in a small but key role. The tension never really lets up the entire time. One of John Huston's many great films. ***1/2

Claude Rains is excellent in a film so derivative of Laura that you already know everything that's going to happen in it. But Rains is so damn good, as always. **

Abigail Breslin plays a young girl whose mother dumps her with the father she's never known, a singer played by Alessandro Nivola. It's sweet and a little hard-edged, and Breslin is quite a little actress. ***

Better and more fun than I expected once you get past the first half-hour. I think a lot of it is due to Antonio Banderas, who doesn't play Puss as cute or funny; there's a sort of integrity to his take on the character that makes a lot of the adventure plausible and palatable. By contrast, Zach Galifianakis doesn't really add much as Humpty Dumpty, probably because so much of his screen persona involves a physicality and presence that his voice can't convey on its own. I don't really need to visit the Shrek universe again, but this one didn't make me sorry I had. Much, much better than the wretched, embarrassing Shrek the Third. ***

Works for me. Xander Corvus actually isn't a bad Spider-Man for what could have been a really cheap movie; Peter O'Tool isn't a bad Kingpin, either. The film's take on the iconic upside-down kiss scene--Capri Anderson giving Spidey an upside-down blowjob in the alley while serious, romantic violin music plays--is funnier than a lot of things I've seen this year. ***

THE HOURS (2002)
And as I was watching it, I lamented the end of an era. They don't really make movies like this anymore; it's like the last great movie of the 1990s. A great cast, an interesting central concept, and economical; it's not overlong, but it gives itself the space to breathe and let us into the characters and consider what it's about without self-consciously overwhelming us with dialogue and pretensions of wit. It's also a great example of how one piece of art can comment on another without becoming didactic. Here we have cross-cutting between three stories: Nicole Kidman is Virginia Woolf, writing Mrs. Dalloway and slowly feeling a fatal dissatisfaction and instability creeping in; Julianne Moore is a housewife in 1951, reading Mrs. Dalloway and feeling so tragically that she doesn't fit in to her own life that she's contemplating suicide; and Meryl Streep, fifty years later, living Mrs. Dalloway--planning a reception party for her dying, AIDS-riddled friend and lost love (Ed Harris), and who is beginning to wonder if her life has meaning or merely momentum. I think this was the right time in my life for me to see this film, having read Mrs. Dalloway in college and having gone through the years of depression and anxiety and instability. I understand with every fiber of my being the way life can stop making sense and you can become more and more disconnected from your happiness, the people who love you, and even your sense of self. I understand the desperation it can make you feel. I identified more than I would have if I'd seen it back in 2002. I thought it was a masterpiece. ****

Oh, fuck you, American Pie wannabe. *

Engaging adaptation of the Flaubert novel. It compresses some of the events of the book, but gets across the core feeling of Madame Bovary's dissatisfaction with life. Jennifer Jones is very good in the title role; I realized as I was watching it that I haven't liked her in movies very often, but I really did here. Van Heflin is very sympathetic as Dr. Bovary, trying to humor his wife's extravagant fantasies even while she hurts him, and not realizing until it's too late just how much her desire for the finer things strains her emotions. It's deeper than just "Oh, she couldn't tell the difference between fantasy and reality," and although Madame Bovary isn't always sympathetic, director Vincente Minnelli avoids making her a monster. The framing device, with James Mason as Flaubert defending the novel in court, is a tad heavy-handed. ****

Michael Palin wrote and stars in this film as Victorian Era missionary attempting to save the souls of prostitutes and navigate an affair with Maggie Smith. Surprisingly unfunny and a tad on the tedious side. **

THE LORAX (2012)
You know me: I'll see it if it's animated, even when I know I'm not going to like it. Hollywood once again trades Dr. Seuss' sincerity for heavy-handed confrontations, an action formula, terrible songs, and star voices. (I am so sick of Ed fucking Helms right now that I can taste my annoyance.) Beautiful to look at, very well animated, and I loved the character of the Lorax himself. Danny DeVito is so good in the role, and lends a roughness and gravitas that the film never earns or lives up to. The forest animals are hilarious, too. But it never justifies itself; it's so unnecessary, and at its heart it's yet another anti-corporate message brought to us by one of the biggest corporations on Earth. Fuck you. **1/2

One of the most fascinating films I've ever seen detailing the creative process. It's surprisingly powerful and riveting, even at four hours long. And once again, I'm just going to hand this over to Roger Ebert. ****

3:10 TO YUMA (1957)
Tense, suspenseful Western about a farmer (Van Heflin) trying to do the job he was hired for and escort a charming outlaw (Glenn Ford) to meet the train that will take him to prison. Ford thinks he spots a weakness in Heflin and tries to exploit it and talk, bribe, or threaten his way out of the situation. And all the while, his gang is looking to rescue him. In its way, it's a study in masculinity and what kinds of male attitudes society demands; is Heflin a coward because he doesn't just shoot Ford dead, a fool because he doesn't agree to take thousands of dollars to let Ford go, or admirable because of his resolve? I was wrapped up in this one, even as I knew what was going to happen because I've seen the remake (a movie I liked when I saw it, but which hasn't stayed in my mind over the years, probably because it seemed less personal and suspenseful than this one). ****

EAT (1963)
BLOW JOB (1964)
SLEEP (1963)
KISS (1963)
Some of Andy Warhol's "anti-films." They're not designed to be films people would watch, so I don't feel compelled to rate them. I mean, how do you rate a five and a half hour film of a person sleeping that's intentionally designed to be unwatchable? At the same time, I admire the point Warhol is attempting to make about what people will watch and the differences between narrative and observation. I found Eat the most interesting, but it's also the shortest of the four.

Part of Columbia's Musical Novelties series, but also the first short starring the Three Stooges. It's all done in verse, with Larry, Curly and Moe joining a woman-hating society. The trouble is, Larry gets married that very night and tries to secretly go on a honeymoon. When Moe and Curly find out, they follow along and also fall in love with Larry's new bride. It's all done in verse, which is fun. ***

Every time I think Cameron Crowe can't get more cloying, silly and obvious, he puts out another pile of saccharine that makes me wish I'd never even bothered. This is American filmmaking now, in all of its overwrought preciousness, and it has a goopy soundtrack and close-ups of men crying because oh my god the specialness of children and cute niceness and emotions and stuff. Jesus Christ, Cameron, rein it in a little; when you have a character having his emotional revelation breakdown scene in practically the opening credits, where else is there to go? How about telling a story and earning some of those tears, alright? Everyone wants to go right to the meaningful payoff without bothering to put the meaning into the goddamn thing. An embarrassment. Compared to this overly-earnest, unbaked mess, Big Miracle is a freaking William Wyler movie. Zero stars.

The Martian Sky

That's our planet up there, along with Jupiter and Venus, as seen from the surface of another freaking planet. But sure, media, I guess you can bitch some more about how you don't like Miley Cyrus' haircut.

UPDATE 11:54 AM: Bastards! (Thanks, Bob.)

My point above is the same, but can I just say that it's astonishing to me the amount of fake photos of Mars I've seen going around. Guys, we have actual photographs of actual Mars coming in right now. Isn't that breathtaking enough for you? Or has society really devolved to the point where it only understands things that happen in memes and pop culture-saturated Photoshop jobs? Yeah, the first 8000 pictures of the TARDIS on Mars were kind of half-amusing. But seriously: Mars.

UPDATE 2:33 PM: NASA's Mars page. (Thanks, Chris.)

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Why I Hate Being a Star Wars Fan on the Internet


ME: I always thought Boba Fett was pretty overrated.


Oh, Lamour

The Wolverine: A Standalone Movie

What Hugh Jackman said: "We've deliberately not called it Wolverine 2 because we want it to be placed and feel like a standalone picture."

What I heard in my head: "This is a standalone picture, as much as a franchise entry based on a licensed property can actually be a standalone picture, especially when you take into consideration that I've played this character four times before. Five, if you count my overrated cameo in X-Men: First Class that Total Film can't shut the fuck up about."

He also said that the movie wouldn't be overloaded with mutant characters, something that no X-Men-related movie has ever managed to achieve (though, to be fair, that's a pretty accurate representation of the comic books). Since I don't want to see the flick but know I'll watch it when it hits HBO, I'll be very surprised to see just how many totally unnecessary characters they shoehorn in because, yeah, Deadpool really belonged in a Wolverine movie.

Monday, August 13, 2012

I May Not Be a Comic Book Fan Anymore

John Seavey has an interesting post in which he talks about giving up on comic books. He raises some points that, at this stage in both the industry's history and in my personal life, are very pertinent.

In the post, he realizes that he's no longer a comic book fan. I got what he was saying right away, and I share this attitude. As much as I will always love certain characters, I really don't care what's going on in either universe anymore.

I've talked at length about giving up on comics and I won't rehash it now. The only Marvel book I currently read is... well, I was reading Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz. The Oz adaptations by Eric Shanower and Skottie Young are wonderful. The Road to Oz is supposed to start up next month, so I'll be there for that, too. And if they want to finally do another Lockjaw and the Pet Avengers, I will read the hell out of that. As for their more cynical mainstream comics, I don't give a shit. They lost me. I got more enjoyment out of the Avengers movie than I've gotten out of one of Marvel's superhero comics in at least 15 years.

The only DC book I read now is Vertigo's Fables, and even then I just wait for the latest volume to come in at the library. Oh, and I'm still reading Demon Knights and the occasional issue of Aquaman or Green Lantern. DC poisoned the well for me with Identity Crisis, but being a huge fan, I did try to check in on things by getting collections from the library. I tried to read Infinite Crisis, I tried to read 52, I tried to read Blackest Night, I tried to read Flashpoint, I tried to read all of that Prehistoric Batman and Return of Bruce Wayne garbage... all of it was just utter unreadable nonsense. I read a lot of apologia online for how there were good points to each of those stories, but I didn't see any redeeming factors. A lot of that fan reaction read to me as "Well, but how else am I going to keep reading about these characters?" My reaction a couple of weeks ago was: if this is what the New 52 has to offer, who cares?

I get more enjoyment now out of self-contained comics for kids or great standalone issues of, say, Marvel stuff from the 70s. I love nothing more than a great issue of Marvel Team-Up or Howard the Duck. I follow a number of blogs that post issues of old comics and I love to read the older stuff, back when story was the point. Continuity is not a story. Is it helping the New 52?

You know what I read that's new? Garfield, over at Boom Studios. Also, Boom's Peanuts and Popeye. I followed their all-too-tragically-short-lived Muppet Show comics religiously. I read Bongo's Sergio Aragones Funnies and any Archie books that look good, particularly Kevin Keller. When Boom had Mickey Mouse, Uncle Scrooge, Donald Duck and Friends, and Walt Disney's Comics and Stories, I was enjoying the hell out of them. Who has those now? When can I read them again? Mouse Guard and Owly are two of the most wonderful things I've ever read. Any time a new Hellboy or BPRD collection comes in at the library, I'm all over them. I was in heaven when the second Castle Waiting omnibus finally came out.

I wish I could get that excited over reading a new Spider-Man or Superman story, but it's just impossible. And I don't want to be one of those people who just holds his nose and hopes that the good outweighs the bad. That way is just frustration.

At this point, both companies inspire no feeling in me. They are totally ineffectual where I'm concerned.


T. Swift

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Joe Kubert 1926-2012

Reports are just coming in that the great Joe Kubert has died. I'm very sorry to hear that. His Sgt. Rock stories are some of the best work in the history of comics. And I suddenly feel the need to read some of them again.

Song of the Week: "Paranoid"

The Dickies were awesome. So I had to steal this video from Drake. Here they are covering Black Sabbath in 1979.