Monday, October 31, 2011

Oscar Watch: Part 2

The world of predicting the Academy Awards is always shifting. As Fall moves along, more and more hopefuls fall off the radar into obscurity while a few here and there maintain the anticipation, and some even overcome any preconceived ideas of quality to be real contenders in the Oscar race. Today, I wanna catch up on my thoughts as to how the Oscars are shaping up at this point. We are still about four full months out from the actual ceremony, but only three from nominations day, and this is generally the time where campaigning starts to kick in full force.

So far, many of the movies I predicted to not stick their landing very well, have done just that. Clint Eastwood's J. Edgar, while still could surprise in Best Picture, will be lucky if it can wrangle Leo a Best Actor bid. Where as another biopic, My Week With Marilyn, starring Michelle Williams as Marilyn Monroe, has found traction, not just for Williams' performance, but for Kenneth Branagh's performance as screen legend Laurence Olivier. This would be a perfect way to cap off a big year for Brannagh (having directed Thor), and I am gonna go ahead and say it, the way My Week With Marilyn has been playing and pleasing crowds so far, this is the dark horse Best Picture contender of the year. This does not make it a lock, this flick still has a long way to go, but I just wanna let it be known that it is slowly bubbling on the outside of the pack.

As for the movies that are still holding strong: The Artist is still a bona fide contender, same goes for The Help, as well as The Descendants starring George Clooney. There is still question marks about Clooney's The Ides of March figuring into Best Picture, I don't buy into it, but I am starting to warm up to the idea of Moneyball squeaking in there. With so many movies failing to meet lofty expectations, a safe bid like Moneyball could fill up a 6th or 7th slot in the Best Picture ballot, just saying. As for Stephen Daldry's 9/11 flick, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, there are still too many variables to consider before slinging it into the Best Picture race. While a Daldry film has never missed out on a Best Picture nod, there is always a first time for everything, so I'd toss this in the same hat as My Week With Marilyn.

As it is, the year of Steven Spielberg seems to be gaining momentum as we get nearer to year's end. The Adventures of Tintin recently opened across the UK to fantastic reviews, creating the thought that this might squeak into the Best Picture category like so many of Spielberg's populist flicks have done in the past (Raiders of the Lost Ark, E.T., need I continue). Now, being animated, and not by Pixar, may hold it back, but right now I am saying yes to a Best Picture nod. As for War Horse, it continues to grow in anticipation, still looking like typical Oscar bait, but the kind of Oscar bait that will stick around come the end of the year -- plus it just looks like a really good Spielberg movie.

Recently, Martin Scorsese's Hugo finally showed its face at the New York Film Fest., and the initial reactions were lukewarm at best, which is a shame, since I loved the book so much. As it is, I think Scorsese's latest may have found itself out of the race here, same going for Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. Reviewers call Tinker a well-crafted British production, but seeing the Academy, who tends to vote toward sentiment, vote for a slick, reserved spy movie, is almost impossible at this point, though I wouldn't count it out just yet (besides, it's pretty much a given this one will sweep the BAFTAS -- Britain's Academy honors).

So there you have the race as I see it right now. I only mentioned here the movies that were contenders at one time or still are, so is it possible something like The Tree of Life could get a last minute push in campaigning? Yes, but it is rare. Now, if you remember, last time I only predicted a scant five Best Picture nominees, this time I'm widening the field a bit to six. Here are my predictions at this juncture, with Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close and My Week With Marilyn waiting in the wings:

The Adventures of Tinin: The Secret of the Unicorn
The Artist
The Descendants
The Help
War Horse

As the race continues and I see more of these movies, I will get more in depth in the acting categories and tech. fields, so just stay tuned for my first predictions in the next month or so for Best Actor, Best Actress, and maybe even Best Director. Till then, I leave with the trailer for My Week With Marilyn. See what y'all think about its prospects:

Friday, October 28, 2011

Comic Book Reviews!

Sorry for the long hiatus, it has been a busy few weeks, but I have still been reading many of the latest comics, but since I've missed a week of reviewing, I'm gonna try and do two weeks' worth of reviews in one post! In what I am gonna call, Rapid Fire Reviewing! I've never done this before, so let's see how it goes.

First off, the releases from the week of Oct. 19-25:

Batman #2 - Scott Snyder introduces a new villain that ties in with Gotham City's history and the Wayne family's past, evoking Bruce Wayne's intense detail-oriented mind in revealing internal monologues, proving why he is still the right man to write The Dark Knight. A+!

Justice League #2 - Geoff Johns' voice for Batman still feels uncomfortable, but he is clearly having fun here, with the way he is bringing the JLA together feeling fresh and exciting. B+!

Green Lantern, Corps. #2 - Peter J. Tomasi is one of my favorite writer's in comics, he entertains while putting the pieces together as to who is chopping off the fingers of Green Lanterns and stealing natural resources from unsuspecting planets, but he forsook some of the strong character work from issue #1. B!

Nightwing #2 - I feel no shame in saying Dick Grayson is one of my favorite comic book characters of all-time, and I am really loving Kyle Higgins' run here, delving into Dick's past with the Haly's Circus to take him into the future with tons of action and emotion; not to mention, highly magnificent art, and I rarely say that. A+!

Next, the comic book reviews of this week, Oct 26-Nov. 1:

The Amazing Spider-Man #672 - Dan Slott's hit-and-miss Spider-Island event finally comes to a close here that recaptures some of the magic from the first few issues of the event, while still feeling a bit too focused on the entire Marvel Universe rather than just on Spidey (but hey, MJ's confession of still being in love with Petey at issh end was magnificent). C+!

Superman #2 - While not as strong as the first issue, George Perez continues to show Superman's great wit as he has to outsmart a villain everyone can see but him, making this run entertaining so far, but where is the character development? B+!

Wolverine and the X-Men #1 - Jason Aaron redeems himself here after Schism, with Wolverine back in New York, reopening the school. Wolvie is Headmaster with Kitty Pride as his Headmistress. There is a ton of humor here and some nice focus on the struggles that mutants have in trying to run a school, which manages to find a few unique strides we've never seen before, but the art by Chris Bachalo often jumps around so much in angles that it is disorienting and hard to find your place. A-!

Green Lantern: New Guardians #2 - I am still waiting for some development in Kyle Rayner's character that has been promised, but this book is so entertaining so far with such a great hook at the end, I wanna read more. B+!

The Incredible Hulk #1 - Since I was so cool on Jason Aaron's Schism, I didn't know what to expect with him writing Hulk, but he has created a great starting point for new readers to come to the Big Green fella. Hulk and Bruce Banner have literally been split in two, with Banner supposedly gone mad according the gov. and they want to enlist the Hulk to stop him. A nice turn of events, showing us how the Hulk actually thinks rather than how Banner thinks. Not to mention the amazing art from Marc Silvestri that keeps the reader focused at all times. Best book of the month! A+!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

New Comics: Oct. 12-18

X-Men: Regenesis One-Shot

We saw the X-Men split in two with Schism, and now it's time for the mutants to choose whose side they will be on: Wolverine or Cylcops. Ultimately, the issue is just an overly long book that gives obscure mutants a page each to decide where their loyalty's lie. It's dull and tedious work just to reach the final moment where we know who goes where. Any dramatic emphasis that could have been placed on this situation is lost because the story is constantly speeding by just to get to the next mutant's decision. As well, who are some of these mutants? Unless you have read every X-Book over the past two decades, will you know who these mutants are, their importance to the X-Men universe, or even simply, their powers? Cause I don't. I mean, would it have hurt them to give us the emotional reactions of the mutants we all know, like when Beast sides with Wolverine rather than Cyclops? How does Cyclops take it? Regardless, there was some potential here, especially with the constant visual references back to tribal caveman days, but like Schism, Regenesis lacks any believability in it's character's motivations. Ultimately, this whole idea of splitting the X-Men in two may have just been either too ambitious to tackle, or too haphazardly put together, choose your position. Grade: F!

Green Lantern #2

The story continues with Hal Jordan's arch-nemesis, Sinestro, having been chosen to wear Hal Jordan's Green Lantern ring after Hal had it stripped away from him by the Guardians. The whole interest of this run has been seeing Green Lantern's greatest villain as a Green Lantern once more and seeing whether or not the ring made the right choice in choosing him or if it has indeed made a mistake and there is a greater conspiracy afoot. The thing about Sinestro is he seems to really want to make a difference in the universe, but he sides with whatever power will help him to do that (which is why he originally left the Green Lantern, Corps. to form his own). Often his agendas are extreme, even if at the core there is a genuine desire to make things better, and I think this is what writer Geoff Johns is showing us here. He is adding new layers to Sinestro that I did not even know could exist, such as when Sinestro saves a collapsing bridge, albeit Sinestro does so by nearly jeopardizing the lives of every person on that bridge. Right now, it's hard to tell whether or not Sinestro will return full-time as a Green Lantern or not, but the deeper exploration of the character is what is truly fascinating by this current run. Grade: A+!

Ultimate Comics: X-Men #2

Right now, the new volume of Marvel's Ultimate line is failing to do anything for me. The government has been ousted for creating the X-gene in the first place that created the first mutants, and with the recent flooding of Manhattan by Magneto and the death of Spider-Man, mutants and heroes are more feared than ever. Great premise, but so far it has been stale. What Marvel is trying to do here is give us the younger X-Men: Kitty Pride, Iceman, and the Human Torch (wait, he's not a mutant!), and try to show how these younger mutants will bring back the X-Men. As of right now, it's just tedious work and is nothing I haven't seen before. The mutants are hunted by Sentinels, they are feared by everyone and must be in hiding, blah, blah, blah. For a new volume promising to be a new chapter in the X-Men, this is going nowhere new right now, even if the action is crisp and the writing is solid. Grade: C!


Batman & Robin #2

Writer Peter J. Tomasi remains to be one of my favorite writers currently working in the industry. His expertise at crafting action-packed stories mixed with character development continues to excel in this issue. The whole issue follows Bruce Wayne as he tries to curb his son, Damian's aggressive behaviors, while trying to be a good father to him. So far, Tomasi has gone the angle of a father-and-son story with his latest run, and I am digging it. With Bruce questioning his own fatherly skills, Alfred trying to mentor Bruce to be a father, and Damian actually trying to get past his bloodlust and be a good Robin and son, it feels fresh. What is so fresh about this is that we've seen Bruce as mentor, as older brother, and as father figure before, but we have never seen him as biological father and witnessed him questioning his own abilities as a father. While the larger story arc of this villain hunting down members of Batman, Inc. has been underdeveloped in the first two issues, the cliffhanger at the end of this issue promises to finally flesh out this story in issue #3. Grade: A!


Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man #3

New Spider-Man, 13-year-old Miles Morales still lacks the overpowering character personality that made Peter Parker the true-blue Spider-Man; three issues in and I have no real clue as to Miles' character. I was always able to predict Peter's reaction to a situation, and I don't know how Miles will react, which is okay for a first issue, but troubling by issue #3. Even still, one has to commend Marvel for trying something new here. Brian Michael Bendis is scripting these stories in a very realistic fashion, and is introducing us to some nice new characters, like Miles' best friend Ganke, and is trying to make this story more grounded in how real kids act (as opposed to the over-the-top antics of most teens in comics). It's a different interpretation on Spider-Man, which so far has been entertaining and exposes some intriguing social commentary, but is nothing on par with the energetic first three issues of the initial volume of Ultimate Spider-Man. Grade: B-!


Batgirl #2

Gail Simone's run on Batgirl has been a great character piece so far, with heavy emphasis on what happened to Barbara Gordon at the hands of the Joker. Arguably the biggest change the New 52 has ushered in is the fact that Barbara Gordon, the original Batgirl, can now walk again, after being shot and paralyzed by the Joker over two decades ago. In the new continuity, she was in a wheelchair for three years, but now she is not. This still has not been explained, how she can now walk again, but the psychosis that Simone has brought to the character in her fears of getting shot again and trying to cover up the fact that she was once paralyzed to her new roommate has been nice touches. The new villain, Mirror is highly intriguing, and I am extremely interested to see where Simone goes with him. I just have one question, why hasn't Bruce dropped by to see how Barbara is doing? Surely with her being like a daughter to him he would have talked to her about her accident and how she is now able to walk again. Grade: A-!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

KIng of the Zombies

With the premier of The Walking Dead fast approaching, I have decided to watch some of my favorite zombie flicks, as well as a few that I have not seen. George A. Romero is credited with being the man who invented the modern zombie. By this, I mean the "walking dead" that feed on flesh and a single bite can infect the victim and turn them into a zombie. Before Romero terrified audiences with his now iconic Night of the Living Dead, zombies still existed in film, but they looked a lot different. In earlier zombie films, the creatures were not the by product of infection or alien virus, but rather were magically created through the use of voodoo.

Lets take a look at the 1941 film, King of the Zombies. Rather than being a straight horror film, King of the Zombies mixes the genre with a generous portion of comedy, thanks to actor Manton Moreland, the token black character. While it was not outside the norm to have black characters play to such strong stereotypes, it is still disconcerting to see played out on film nonetheless. While some reviewers would compliment Manton on his comedic timing, his comedy is still built upon the fact that his character frightens easily and is less intelligent that his caucasian counterparts. Don't get me wrong, he is a great actor, but it is shameful to look back on the way we wrote, and at times now, still write minority characters.

What is actually more interesting about this film is the fact that the films villain is obviously Germanic and the the story flirts around the idea that he is a Nazi. The plot focuses on the antagonist Dr. Miklos Sangre, as he tries to zombifies prominent war officials to gain military knowledge. Since the film was produced and released before America's involvement, you don't see the characters fighting in the war, but you do see some sentiments that old Hollywood and most of the US already had about Nazi Germany.

The film can be viewed for free here. It is worth watching if you enjoy campy old horror films or exceptionally racist films.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

New Comics: Oct. 5-11

A new series on the Review, I will be reviewing all of the latest comic book releases of each week here on the Review. Now, obviously I cannot read everything, but I usually read at least three to five books a week, so I will review what I can, and hopefully manage to sell or not sell you on a particular title. So let's get going!
Batwing #2

This second issue detailing the adventures of Batman, Incorporated's latest Batman -- Batwing, the Batman of Africa -- proves that last month's #1 was not a fluke, Batwing continues to be one of the New 52's strongest titles. Writer Judd Winick scripts a fascinating story as Batwing hunts Massacre, a mass murderer hunting down the members of a disbanded African team of superheroes, the Kingdom. I especially love how Winnick is constantly slipping in flashbacks and references of how Bruce Wayne, the original Batman, trained and still aids Batwing in his early days under Batman, Inc. As well, the action is crisp, the dialogue is far better and more believable than what Winnick usually delivers, and the art by Ben Oliver mixes gritty realism with a painterly sensibility, resulting in some of the best art in any comic currently on store shelves. Grade: A+!
X-Men: Schism - Part Five of Five

Schism has been Marvel's latest X-Men event. Unlike many events in comic books, I definitely feel that the changes that Schism has brought to the X-Men universe will stick for a long time, at least until the next big event, but the end results were somewhat disappointing after the kickfire start of the series. In Part 5 we finally see the X-Men split ways, as Cyclops and Wolverine finish their epic battle started at the end of Part 4 and decide to get a divorce (bad time for some humor, I know). Writer Jason Aaron should be commended for attempting a change to the status quo as drastic as this is, but the believability started slipping through the cracks in issue Part 4 when the reason for Wolverine and Cyclops' battle is an argument over sending the X-Men's students into battle (which haven't they been doing for over three decades of comics now). It's just hard to see how after years of far bigger conflicts between the two characters, that that was the straw that finally broke the camel's back, leaving me feeling emotionally cold when the split finally happened because I did not believe in the why. So what can I say, a disappointing end to what was a promising event. Grade: D!
Detective Comics #2

Tony Daniel's second issue of Detective Comics does more of the same that the first issue did, with some awesome grade action and a nice hint at the new villain, but lacking in the great character development that Scott Snyder is currently bringing to Batman. Daniel's artwork is again his greatest strength, giving Gotham luscious detail and the characters, ranging emotions. As for his writing, I am loving how he is portraying Gordon and Bat's relationship, as well as Bats and Bullock's. The hints at the new villain, the Dollmaker, show a potentially creepy, Hannibal Lecter-type villain for the Bat, with enough questions left unanswered to keep the reader coming back next month. Even if Daniel simply puts his foot on the gas and doesn't let off, he nails the excitement. Grade: B+!
Action Comics #2

Grant Morrison's stories are always divisive, you either love 'em or hate 'em, there is no in-between, and luckily I am in the former category in regards to Action Comics. Grant Morrison has re-invigorated the Superman character, and continues to show us the new, "angry" Superman, so to speak. Morrison's young Superman is rash, impulsive, a little cocky, but still has that perfect moral compass that guides him. He has no shame in smashing up the baddies, which I like, and Rags Morale's art really works to evoke the Golden Age-era Superman with so much clarity. While Morrison's Lois Lane still seems vastly underdeveloped, his Lex Luthor gets some more shades in this #2, and anyways Morrison has always been known for the slow burn story, letting things develop over time. In my history with Morrison, his work is best when not looked on an individual issue basis but as a larger collective, so the real impact of Morrison's Action Comics probably wont be seen till at least a year from now, but as for now, it is an entertaining ride with a fantastic cliffhanger at issue's end. Grade: A!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Movie Review: "Real Steel"

It is rare, when there is so much smashing of metal against metal, to actually find some humanity and a story to go along with it, and Real Steel does this to great effect.

In the near future where humans no longer box against fellow humans, robots do the boxing for them. This leaves the human boxers as washed up robot trainers, like Hugh Jackman's Charlie Kenton. Down on his luck, forgotten his passion for the sport, and an absentee father, Jackman plays the role honest and true, making Charlie the kind of scumbag that doesn't deserve good luck. But when Charlie's ex-girlfriend dies and his son, Max, is thrust back into his life, Charlie's bad luck is turned around.

The real charm of Real Steel is how Dakota Goyo's Max uncovers an old sparring bot named Atom in a junk heap. You believe that Dakota Goyo actually thinks that Atom has a soul. As Max fixes Atom and Charlie trains him, the two embark on a journey to the Championship Ring as father-and-son. This just highlights the true charm of director Shawn Levy's work. The story mixes these great human elements with fantastical action. There is genuine drama, drama in the strained relationship between Max and Charlie, drama in the ring as Atom fights, not because we believe that Atom is a magic autonomous being, but because Max does, and he is the one we root for.

Real Steel's robots are brilliantly designed, with it unnoticeable when the filmmakers switch from the real, on-set animatronics, to the CG-robots. This coupled with the acting from all involved, from Hugh Jackman selling this sport with conviction and Dakota Goyo having that glint in his eye of Atom's magic, to the brilliant effects work, it suspends the viewer's disbelief and allows one to be wrapped up within these metal slug fests as if they were two humans duking it out in the ring.

Ultimately, Real Steel is all about redemption. Charlie Kenton redeems his relationship with his son, his relationship with his oldest love, Bailey (played charmingly by Evangeline Lily), and he redeems himself, finding his passion for boxing once again. Call it hokey, sentimental hogwash, but this is the kind of story that makes me love movies. Time is taken to create emotional investment. The story starts slow, lays it pieces, rather than bombarding the viewer with action, and then when it reaches the action, we are invested. From the watered eyes to the shivers shooting down our spine, we care, because the story took time to develop itself before rushing a pay-off.

Simply, Real Steel pulls no punches, leaves nothing in the ring, every blow lands and succeeds in making me feel like a 7-year-old kid again, when there still was wonder left in the world.

I give Real Steel a perfect A+!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Movie Review: "50/50"

Adam is an ordinary 20-something: he has a job that he is passionate about, he has a girlfriend that his best friend despises, and he just happens to get diagnosed with a rare cancer that leaves his life chances at 50/50.

50/50 is a rarity of the cinematic landscape. It deals with cancer in not a sentimental, Bucket List kind of way, but rather in a way that feels authentic. Adam does not embark on a vast journey to live his life to his fullest, he actually deteriorates before our eyes, having moments where he is happy due to the rapport and humor he has with his best friend Kyle, and at other times he is exceedingly grumpy.

To be honest, the real star is writer Will Reiser, who wrote the story from his own personal battle with being a guy in his mid-20s diagnosed with cancer. This is what makes the story authentic. The dark humor that is sprinkled throughout, only a person who experienced this would be able to write from such a real perspective, rather than making everything dramatic. The thing is, in real life, no matter how bad the situation, there is still levity, there is still smiles and laughter, and Reiser captures that while also stirring the emotions through his screenplay. But don't go thinking 50/50 is a writer's showcase. The film sports a truly fine acting ensemble that brings Reiser's words to life.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt gives not his most controlled performance, but uses his everyman charm to make Adam a character worth rooting for. The biggest thing, is it is rare for me to see something with Seth Rogen in it and like it. He is perfect as Adam's friend, Kyle, who thinks the cure to cancer is using it to pick up chicks, but you really see how true a friend he is as he stands by Adam every step of the way. Anna Kendrick shines as Adam's young, 24-year-old therapist, who knows everything a book can teach but has no life experience, while Angelica Houston manages to steal the few scenes she is in as Adam's doting mother who is trying to deal with her son's cancer diagnosis whilst taking care of Adam's father with Altzheimer's (who Serge Houde makes the most out of simple reactions). And I know he's not an actor, I just wanna mention Michael Giacchino's magnificently refined score. Giacchino, known for big, verbose scores that sweep the viewer up in masterful uses of strings, keeps it simple here with soft electric guitar and piano, resulting in a soothing musical score that fits the piece perfectly.

Now, being fair, 50/50 was not without its faults. This is director Jonathan Levine's sophomore effort, and one can tell he is still young. There are times where his use of soft focus overpowered the performances of his actors, and he drew attention to his directing trying to create the emotion through the shot rather than through the actor's performances and the shot just being an aid. This is seen throughout the movie as he rarely sits on a close-up long enough to give the audience some time to read the actor's facial expressions and feel their performances. This is a weakness to the story, but one that does not keep Reiser's screenplay and the fabulous ensemble from pulling the viewer through, thanks to the sheer emotional landscape going from laugh-out-loud humor to tear duct-filled drama.

I give 50/50 an A-!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The New 52, Here to Stay

So taking a break from the movie action for a moment to delve into the world of comic books. September has come and gone, and the first month of DC Comics' New 52, relaunching all of their comic book characters, from Superman to Batman to even Aquaman, has come and gone. All of this has been a reboot of sorts for the entire DC Universe, trying to streamline the characters to where there is not so much baggage weighing them down, so a new reader could pick up the book and know exactly what is going on and who this character is. But let's get some history on the event first.

In the past, DC has always operated with three separate parallel universes; in each universe there were subtle, and sometimes even, major differences in the origins of characters and whatnot. What the New 52 is doing, is taking the best parts of all three universes, then getting rid of what no longer fits, and consolidating it all back into one universe, so there are no more parallel realities. The idea, as said above, is to make the comics less confusing and more accessible. So even though it is a reboot, it is a reboot that DC has needed to do for nearly thirty years now (after their first attempt at simplifying, Infinite Crisis, ultimately just created another Universe rather than expunging the old). So obviously, certain characters have changed a lot, in particular Superman, who is more in line with his initial appearances in the late 1930s. Even so, certain characters, like Batman, simply pick up where they left off when the old DC Universe ended in August. But where is the New 52 going, now that it is not so new, and has it succeeded?

I have become a comic book junkie as of late, trying to read as many of the New 52 number one issues as possible, even still I have only collected 18 out of the whole. The comics have been flying off of store shelves, and if you snooze, you lose. I mean, you seriously have to make it to the comic book store within its first few hours of operation if you wanna get the comic before it sells out, these things have been selling so well. Even still, I have read everything from the Green Lantern books, to the Superman books, to the Batman books, and I even gave some things a shot that I never normally would, like Wonder Woman, Animal Man, and Swamp Thing. I still haven't managed to get my hands on The Flash and Aquaman, but I'm working on it.

The first thing I've noticed in reading, is that the New 52 books are some of the more exciting I've read in a long time. Even if DC doesn't manage to succeed in ultimately consolidating everything back to one universe, the quality of the stories and the sheer energy that the writers and artists have been bringing to the books has been the best I think I have ever seen in my lifetime. I mean, each week there are at least three treats waiting for me when I head on over to the comic book store. But what is so brilliant, is that DC has not just consolidated these books, but they are re-exploring and re-introducing these characters.

The two seminal books of the New 52 are Action Comics and Justice League. Action Comics is highlighting the tales of a young, brash Superman who fights against social injustice, and protects the little guy, while still a mystery to Metropolis. The story of Action Comics takes place a few years before Justice League, and Justice League takes place five years before the rest of the New DC Universe. What Action Comics is showing is the rise of the superhero, through the eyes of Superman, because as is alluded to in Justice League #1, superheroes are still a new phenomena and are feared by most. And Justice League is promising to show the rise of the superheroes as Earth's protectors and how the Justice League ultimately forms. These two comics are the history for the New 52, so they are the two must reads of the New 52, if you can only afford two.

After that, everything is business as usual in most of the other books. I mean, in Batman, Batman is Bruce Wayne, Robin is his son, Damian Wayne, Dick Grayson is Nightwing, and Tim Drake is Red Robin. It's almost as if Batman wasn't even restarted, aside from the fact that Dick is no longer in the cape and cowl, even though in Batman & Robin, they allude to the time that Dick and Damian spent fighting crime together as Batman and Robin, so Batman's death is obviously still included as a part of the New 52 Universe. And you see a lot of this in the other books. I mean, Blackest Night still happened, and The War of the Green Lanterns still happened, as Green Lantern picks up with last month's surprise of Hal Jordan being stripped of his power ring by the Guardians and the ring choosing Sinestro as the new Green Lantern of Sector 2814.

I think the greatest thing about the New 52 though, is it is not just re-imagining these characters or re-enforcing their greatness, it is also expanding on their universes. Green Lantern: New Guardians proved to be the most entertaining read of the New 52, with noble, pure of heart Kyle Rayner (my favorite Green Lantern of Sector 2814) tapped to head up a team bringing together six other Lanterns from the six other emotional spectrum's (Red, Orange, Yellow, Blue, Indigo, Purple). Or DC steering ahead with Batman, Inc. by introducing Batwing, the Batman of Africa, in quite possibly the most surprising book in the New 52 line-up. And Supergirl was a genuine delight, with the book promising to serve up the Kryptonian history for the New 52 that Action Comics seems to be avoiding in order to focus more on the human aspects of Superman.

The biggest detractor of the New 52 simply is, it doesn't feel that new. With the exceptions of Justice League and Action Comics, it feels like business as usual in the DC Universe. There and again, DC tends to favor the slow burn approach nowadays with their stories, so more will be revealed in time as to what all has really changed and what has remained constant. I for one have enjoyed every minute of it simply because one can tell the writers are jazzed about essentially having a blank slate to go from, but as I said earlier, we'll see where things go from here. So with September over, I've decided to drop down my top 10 faves of the New 52, so you guys can check 'em out if interested:

10. Supergirl
9. Justice League
8. Detective Comics
7. Superman
6. Batwing
5. Green Lantern Corps.
4. Batman & Robin
3. Batman
2. Green Lantern: The New Guardians
1. Action Comics

Sunday, October 2, 2011


Contagion is a star studded film that unravels a story of international turmoil, as a deadly virus sweeps across the globe, indiscriminately ravashing populations and morphing peoples psyche's to points of hysteria usually reserved for zombie flicks. Much like Crash and Babel, Contagion's plot is approached from multiple vantage points, giving the viewer a more complete picture of the catastrophe at hand. While this method of storytelling is useful in this way, it results in a choppy storytelling that leaves much to be desired in terms of character development. Just as soon a character begins to take shape you are thrust into a new story arch. This also results in a high amount of musical montages. With a such a large cast to command and the film already running over 100 minutes, it is only natural that such measures would be taken. The cinematography in Contagion is excellent, and does wonderfully at drawing the viewers attention to every mundane action that results in touching the various items we all touch in our day to day lives. What makes Contagion worth watching is how it frames the human race when faced with such an epidemic. While the films stars are given such limited screen time, and their characters have such little time to develop, this allows the virus itself to exist as a sort of esoteric character in and of itself. From start to finish, the virus is a sort of drifter with a mysterious past, passing through our planets history with a an agenda to challenge our planets resolve. My final conclusions about Contagion is that while it is generally flat, and missed several opportunities in character development, it is a much more relevant and impressive film than most of what is in theaters right now.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Movie Review: "Drive"

The guy just likes to drive. Is that too much to ask for? Why can't gangsters let him be and get with the girl? Well, so is the life of the Driver in Drive, the tale of a Hollywood stunt-car driver by day and a getaway driver by night.

Drive is relatively simple filmmaking that is complex and complicated due to the depth of the performance from Ryan Gosling and the psychological directing of Nicholas Winding Refn. The Driver falls in love for his next door neighbor, Irene, portrayed by a refined Carey Mulligan, but yo ho, complications arise when her husband is released from prison and the Driver must aid this family that he has grown to care for when Irene's husband must pull off a heist to pay off a debt. Refn and Gosling work in tandem to do so much with so little. Gosling does not show much emotion, but rather his eyes show that he is thinking about the events transpiring, and Refn just keeps the camera on him, letting us as the audience meditate whilst slowly dollying in at all of the right moments to bring us into the Driver's mind. The cinematography by Newton Thomas Siegel is definitely a highlight that helps all of the proceedings, and Refn and Siegel are in for potential Oscar noms.

However, Drive is a tale of two halves. The first half deals with the Driver living his odd life simply wanting to drive no matter what he is doing, whilst getting to know Irene and her son, which was a lot stronger in terms of character; where as the latter half forsakes all of the strong character work in the first half for gratuitous violence. While Refn and Gosling manage to keep it together in the few quiet moments near the end, the action often overwhelms the characters and they get lost in the shuffle. So what? Even if Drive shifts from a spectacular contemplative drama to fairly standard thriller midway through, Refn delivers the thrills in pulse pounding, Hitchcock fashion to make Drive a thrill throughout.

I give Drive an A-!