Monday, August 30, 2010

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Astonishing X-Men #35


The team comes face-to-face with the evil genius who's been hunting them, but Kaga isn't exactly what they expect. The character interplay works very well, and the story's dynamic more than makes up for the lack of action over the second-half of the issue (which is basically one long conversation). Fun story, featuring a particularly slutty version of Emma Frost's costume drawn by Simone Bianchi, from writer Warren Ellis. Worth a look.

[Marvel $2.99]

Friday, August 27, 2010

Takers


I love heist flicks and I'm usually willing to cut them an awful lot of slack. On my DVD shelf alongside of Heist, To Catch a Thief, and Sneakers, I own copies of The Newton Boys, How to Beat the High Co$t of Living and After the Sunset. When a new heist flick comes along I'm willing to give it several chances to prove itself. After seeing Takers I might have to reevaluate that position.

It took four writers to put Takers together, and it shows. The film is a mediocre mess of both shots and storylines best left of the cutting room floor. I'm sure the attempt here was to merge the coolness of the Ocean's Eleven franchise (without Clooney, Pitt, and Cheadle) with the feel of Michael Mann's Heat (without DeNiro, Pacino, and Kilmer). Not surprising, it's a disaster in every sense of the word.

The story follows an exceptional (beyond all belief) crew of thieves (Chris Brown, Idris Elba, Paul Walker, Hayden Christensen) fresh off their latest score when an old member of the group (T.I.) rolls out of jail and presents his old pals with a plan to heist an armored car. At the same time the script gives us the storyline of the two cops (Matt Dillon, Jay Hernandez) attempting to track the crew down, as well as subplots involving the cop's families, an Internal Affairs investigation, the crew's personal lives, and the Russian mob.

Director, and co-writer, John Luessenhop also throws in random, and at time inexplicable, shifts in tone raging from everything from a caper film to brutal action. Takers also is responsible for some of the shoddiest camera work you'll find in anything claiming to be a feature film complete with shaky cam, out-of-focus shots, and near-unwatchable blurry, juggled action scenes. The movie is exactly as unfocused as it sounds.

It should come as no surprise then that the film's conclusion is as fractured and incomplete as the rest of the film. Given the nature of it's script problems it's unlikely that a suitable ending could have been reached, but what we're given feels rushed, phoned-in, and incomplete. Had I still cared about what was occurring on-screen I might have felt cheated (I guess its a blessing the movie had already taken that from me).

Despite spending an inordinate amount of time and effort to convince us the crew are too cool for school, the film can never decide if it wants us to root for them. The script includes moments celebrating the crooks nobility and heroism (complete with insulting music cues) as well as dramatic (or as close as this film comes to true drama) moments of the cops fighting the good fight. Do we want the crooks to succeed or for Dillon and his partner to get their collar? If the director his other writers can't decide, how can we?

And, on the subject of cool, as any 10 year-old knows, you either have it or you don't. And whatever you do, you can't force it. And no film in recent memory has done just that with less results. Paul Walker and company might enjoy playacting that they're Danny Ocean and friends, but wishing doesn't make it so.

The film also loses points from me for namedropping better films (such as The Italian Job) and squandering what little it has going for it. The most egregious example of this is the use of Zoe Saldana, who is completely wasted in a small role as one of the crew's girlfriend - a part which could have been played a number of forgettable actresses.

Takers fails by any measure. It's a below average action flick. It's a ridiculous heist flick (and not in a good way). It's a laughable drama. And it's a very bad film. If you're in the mood for a heist flick I can recommend several (including some I mentioned in this review), but, if I could offer one piece of advice, do yourself a favor and don't let Takers take a single dime from you.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Batman #702


The days leading up to Batman's "death" are finally explored. See, if you wait long enough Grant Morrison will give you an explanation. Maybe not a great explanation, but at least something. You only need to needlessly wait months until the story in question is long over and it doesn't really matter anymore. As it stands the story is a solid one, and downright linear for a Morrison tale, but the real question behind this "Missing Chapter" of Batman R.I.P. is where the hell has it been for all these months? There are also a couple of really good lines describing Superman, his abilities, and his larger world, from Batman's point of view. Better late than never, and worth a look.

[DC $2.99]

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Indiana Jones 5 is a go

Sad but true. Steven Spielberg and Geroge Lucas are teaming up on the fifth installment of the Indiana Jones franchise. The Playlist is reporting that the script is currently being written and that Shia LaBeouf thinks "it sounds really cool." Really? Cooler than mummy aliens made of crystal living deep in the jungle? (We can only hope!)

The script may be being penned but as yet the project still doesn't have a title. Maybe we can do something about that. Take a gander at the poster for my humble recommendation.


What do you think? Too on-the-nose?

Doctor Who Flight Controlled Tardis


A remote control TARDIS that Doctor Who action figures fit in? Yes please.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Kristen Bell and Odette Yustman in "You Again"


"Successful PR pro Marni (Kristen Bell) heads home for her older brother’s (Jimmy Wolk) wedding and discovers that he’s marrying her high school arch nemesis (Odette Yustman), who’s conveniently forgotten their problematic past. Then the bride’s jet-setting aunt (Sigourney Weaver) bursts in and Marni’s not-so-jet-setting mom (Jamie Lee Curtis) comes face to face with her own high school rival. The claws come out and old wounds are opened in this crazy comedy that proves that not all rivalries are forever."

Genre: Comedy
Rating: PG
Studio: Touchstone Pictures
U.S. Release Date: September 24, 2010

Covert Affairs - Houses of Holly

Kudos to USA for some character development and letting the lady stand on her own. In the most recent episode of Covert Affairs, "Houses of Holly," our heroine (played by the lovely Piper Perabo) encounters a situation much like the end of the Pilot episode. In the Pilot Annie is overwhelmed by the week's baddie and knocked near unconscious only saved by her mysterious former flame (the one storyline of the series which still isn't working for me). In the new episode Annie overcomes the situation herself and is able to take down the hired killer on her own.


I don't know how long the series plans to run with the love story, but I'm fine if they put it far, far on the back burner and concentrate the bulk of their time on Annie growing into her role as a CIA operative.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Batman Beyond #3 (of 6)


The Hush storyline continues. Barbara Gordon and Tim Drake (well, a amalgam of Drake and Jason Todd) made their way into the Batman Beyond universe along with references to other classic characters and many new versions of heroes. This issue give us the death of Calendar Man (and not even in his classic costume! sigh) and a growing schism between Bruce Wayne and Terry McGinnis.

Although I'm still not sure about this new Catwoman, this issue does give me the one thing I always wanted from Batman Beyond - Dick Grayson. And that's enough for me...as long as they don't screw it up. Worth a look.

[DC $2.99]

Friday, August 20, 2010

Hubble 3D


What is it about space that so captures our imagination? Is it the vastness that seems to becon, almost tease us, upward and outwards to explore its seemly endless wonders, or is it simply how it allows us another perspective in order to see how small and relatively unimportant one tiny blue dot is in the grand scheme of things? Whatever the reason, since man first turned his gaze to the sky we've been captivated with that final frontier just outside our grasp.

Since it's launch two decades ago the Hubble Space Telescope has been responsible for several breakthroughs in the areas of astronomy and an increased understanding of the known universe. The new IMAX documentary Hubble 3D gives us a short history on the telescope, and its early struggles, before exploring the final service mission of to repair the telescope by the Atlantis crew.

If you aren't a science nerd before seeing the film, you will be afterwards. The documentary blends footage from multiple Hubble service missions, taken with IMAX cameras (including the 3-D camera taken on this final mission), along with the launching of Atlantis and footage from Hubble itself. Although only 45 minutes in length the documentary delivers more than most films three times its length.


The subject of 3-D is often debated. Now that it's back in vogue Hollywood is taking some heat for several films which have used the concept of 3-D to try and cash-in at the box office without really asking the most important question: Will 3-D make the film measurably better? The answer with Hubble 3D is a resounding yes. From shots of the Earth to the creation of new stars deep inside the Orion Nebula, it's breathtaking.

Not since Avatar has the use of IMAX and 3-D technology been used to so completely immerse the viewer in a fantastic world (and in this case it has the added benefit of being real!). Although the footage of the crew doesn't really shed any new insight into the space program it does ground the film with a needed necessary human element. And although Leonardo DiCaprio might not have been my first choice as a narrator, his enthusiasm and referential tone provide just the right note for the documentary.

It may be short in terms of running time but there's no short-changing the audience here. Informative and awe inspiring, Hubble 3D shows us just what we're capable of, and how much further we have to go.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Batgirl...


...thinks you're sweet.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Batman doesn't lie...


...unless it suits him

Friday, August 13, 2010

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

Bryan Lee O'Malley's graphic novel series Scott Pilgrim relies heavily on video game style and super-hero fantasies built over an emotional story between a slacker Canadian and, quite literally, the girl of his dreams.

Eric and alphamonkey have a few words of their own to say on the subject of the new film from director Edgar Wright, so I thought I'd take things to another level putting the film to the test in the form of an old school video game review.

The Hero - You're Scott Pilgrim, a 23 year-old unemployed Canadian bass guitarist with awesome fighting skills (who looks remarkably like Michael Cera). Aside from his mastery of various video-game fighting styles he is seriously lacking in the skills department. He plays bass guitar (badly) for his band Sex Bob-omb (who also kinda stink). He has the emotional core of a 14 year-old, is incredibly lazy, self-centered to the point of being completely unaware of how his actions effect others, and will often choose the easiest path when presented with any obstacle.

Supporting Characters - Scott's world is populated by a large group who tolerate his presence, but whose affections vary greatly. This includes his gay roommate (Kieran Culkin), his gossiping sister (Anna Kendrick), and the other members of his band Sex Bob-omb (Alison Pill, Mark Webber, Johnny Simmons). Our hero is also dating a 17 year-old Asian Catholic school girl (Ellen Wong). On an emotional level Scott and Knives might be a good match, but Scott's real reason for dating her is the lack of effort he must put into the relationship.

The Story - Scott's lazy existence is turned upside down by the arrival of a cute American girl (who bares a striking resemblance to Mary Elizabeth Winstead) who skates through his dreams and then shows up at this door. In order to win the heart of Ramona, Scott must defeat all seven of her evil exes. He must also contend with the appearance of his own ex (Brie Larson), as well as the demands of the band and his teenage girlfriend.

Gameplay - The original comic series is spread over the course of six lengthy graphic novels. These events, and the battles with the exes, have been condensed into a more streamlined story - which turns out to be both good and bad. At times the comic would wander off into periphery storylines and flashbacks. Here many of those subplots are forgotten. This means the film moves much faster, with the help of Wright's quick-cut style, but it also means we don't get to know the other characters as well as we should - especially Ramona. It will be fun to play, but don't expect Scott Pilgrim vs. The World to take you more than a couple hours to beat the game.

The Bosses - Each of Ramona's evil exes present a different type of problem for our hero to solve.

  • Matthew Patel (Satya Bhabha) - The first boss is the weakest of the bunch, but that doesn't mean he doesn't have a few tricks, and some demon hipster chicks, hidden up his sleeves.

  • Lucas Lee (Chris Evans) - The action star and former pro-skater may be too tough for Scott, but that doesn't mean he can't be outsmarted.

  • Todd Ingram (Brandon Routh) - Like Scott, only better. The former flame of Ramona and current love of Scott's ex has an almost super quality that comes from his vegan powers.

  • Roxanne "Roxie" Richter (Mae Whitman) - Can you hit a girl? You'd better! From Ramona's "sexy phase" this hard chick is ready to beat you down, but she does have a hidden weakness.

  • Katayanagi Twins (Shota Saito and Keita Saito) - You'll need the help of the band to take down the twins at their own game.

  • Gideon Gordon Graves (Jason Schwartzman) - The final villain, and mastermind behind all of Scott's struggles. To beat him our hero will have to dig deep, make insights about about his character and hard decisions about his life.



Graphics - The graphics and special effects are a great mix of old school and new. The fights are epic (though the last few battles should have been spread out). Whether it's sound created creatures or the desert of Scott's mind, each level is packed with both big and small eye candy for the player. You will also be given graphic representations when you've earned major points or unlocked new abilities as well as info boxes to clue you into important characters and objects. (Don't forget to grab that extra life. It's sure to come in handy.)

Sound - The entire soundtrack was composed by Beck, with the exception of the songs by Broken Social Scene for Crash and the Boys. For a story about a rocker (even a lame one) the music isn't awful but it is remarkably forgettable - and that's the point. These bands aren't supposed to be great. They're average at best and they know it. During one level you will get to strut your stuff in a battle of the bands between Sex Bob-omb and Katayanagi Twins (Shota Saito, Keita Saito). And, in a rather nice touch, the film also includes several classic game sounds including the use of the Legend of Zelda theme during a dream sequence.

Final Verdict - In all Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is a fun and a fair adaptation of the source material. It might not have quite the emotional core I had hoped, Ramona's story takes an unfortunate backseat to that of Scott, and the film's final level, last battle, and epilogue is less satisfying than I'd like, but that doesn't mean I didn't have a good time. No, it's not all I hoped, but it is worthy of playing more than once - even after beating the game.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Batgirl #13


This Batgirl is reminding more and more of classic Peter Parker stories, always getting into more trouble than she can handle, but jumping in anyway with a positive attitude and snappy comeback for each situation. We've even got the insightful but self-deprecating narration.

This single-issue storyline puts our heroine up against Clayface (who is used very well here) and his attempt to rob a Gotham bank, but not for what you might expect. Throw in the seamless addition of Proxy (who just might be an okay replacement for Oracle), the early scenes of Batgirl at college, and Stephanie's conversations with Detective McHandsome (great nickname), and you've got yourself a really good read. Definitely worth a look.

[DC $2.99]

Green Lantern: Emerald Warriors #1


Ummm... Don't get me wrong, I'm all for a Green Lantern title featuring Guy Gardner. Especially one where I mercifully don't have to put up with Kyle Rayner. But does it have to be this comic? More Blackest Night/Brightest Day nonsense? Can't we just move on, already?

As first issues go there's nothing remarkable here other than to set up the main story which will involve Guy's pact with Ganthet and Atrocitus and involve the Unknown Sector (oooh, spooky) of space. And, surprise surprise, it seems the Red Lantern isn't to be trusted. Really? Wow, thanks Peter J. Tomasi for spelling that out for me in multiple panels! Yes, it does give you plenty of Guy Gardner in all his glory but the rest...meh. Hit-and-Miss.

[DC $3.99]

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Monday, August 9, 2010

Scott Pilgrim...


...asks the tough questions.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Red Robin #15



Tim Drake's been shot! Or has he? Plenty of twists and turns have been packed into "The Assassination of Tim Drake." Although I like the idea of showcasing how far Drake will go to protect his legacy I do take some issue with a storyline that has him pretending to be severely injured by a gunshot in an issue that mentions, but doesn't include, Barbara Gordon. It's just a little...unseemly. I'm assuming Babs will weigh-in on this elaborate plan to throw Vicki Vale off the scent of the Bat-family, and I'm hopeful that the moment will be given the time and weight it deserves. At the same time, if he had weighed the effect of such a plan on one of his closest allies and went forward anyway, it does help push Red Robin further into a morally ambiguous gray area which should give plenty of opportunities for new stories. Hit-and-Miss.

[DC $2.99]

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Shadowland #2 (of 5)


The man's got a point. Don't get me wrong, he's totally around the bend, but he's got a point. I'd like my crazy Daredevil a bit more conflicted (anyone else feel a "he wasn't in control of his actions" twist coming soon?). And what's up with his call out to the Hand to kill all his old pals at the end of this issue? On a positive note: I enjoyed the Kingpin's attempts to turn the situation to his advantage by enlisting the help of Luke Cage and Iron Fist. As to his other call for assistance...I'm willing to wait to see how it plays out before passing a final judgement. Worth a look.

[Marvel $3.99]

Guy Gardner...


... is a hopeless romantic

Sunday, August 1, 2010

The Return of Darkwing Duck


Darkwing Duck #1 (of 4)- Darkwing Duck is long retired, the city of St. Canard is now protected by overzealous robots known as Crimebots. Since shunning the public spotlight our hero has taken a job as a "Data Accounts Networking Officer" spending most of his time dealing principal calls concerning Gosalyn's latest antics at school and daydreaming about his glory days when he fought a giant monster rabbits or when had his arm was transformed into a snake. Ah, those were the days.

Good first issue from the folks at BOOM! Studios setting up the world of Darkwing Duck and reminding us all why it needs a hero who quacks in the night. Ian Brill has captured the humor of the old cartoon and the art by James Silvani is near perfect. Definitely worth a look. In fact, response was so good BOOM! decided after one issue to forgo the initial concept of a four-issue mini-series and immediately green-lit Darkwing Duck as an ongoing monthly series. Hopefully the terror that flaps in the night will continue to do so for a very long time.

[BOOM! $3.99]


Darkwing Duck #2 - Guard flamingos? Yes! As Darkwing Duck investigates the Crimebots and attempts to spring Honker from the slammer for downloading music, four of his oldest villains (Megavolt, Liquidator, Quackerjack, Bushroot) have banded together and come out of retirement to get revenge on the idiots they've been forced to work for since getting regular jobs. Worth reading? It has guard flamingos! 'nuff said.

[BOOM! $3.99]