Monday, November 29, 2010

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Justice League: Generation Lost #14

The latest issue of Justice League: Generation Lost is one of those alternative future tales both DC and Marvel love to dish out from time to time. After Captain Atom becomes lost in the timestream he arrives more than 100 years in the future with a brand new Justice League battling legions of OMACs. He manages to make a small contribution to the ruined world, and learn the event which must be stopped, before he's returned to his own time.

The new team consists of Batman (Damian Wayne), a Black Canary (a "descendent" of Hawk and Dove), a Plastic Man clone, a sword-weilding Shazam, J'onn J'onzz, the Creeper, a Blue Scarab, a descendent of Dick Grayson, and Power Girl.

Like most of these futuristic snapshots, this one offers little more than a chance to dream-up new characters or design new costumes for current ones (none of which are all that memorable). One thing we do learn is Maxwell Lord will attempt to kill Wonder Woman unless Captain Atom and his League can stop him (guess Max is holding a grudge over that whole 'broken neck' thing).

[DC $2.99]

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Thunderstrike #1 (of 5)


Okay, so the Scarlet Spider is still gone but Marvel is bringing back Thunderstrike? Thunderstrike? Really? Sigh.

It what appears to be Marvel Comics' attempt to write a Shazam! story, the angry young son of the fallen hero is bequethed with the Thunderstrike mace by Steve Rogers. Almost immediately he finds himself in a situation where heroism is called for, and whala, the angry young teen is transformed into the visage of his father with all the power the mace offers.

As hero origins go the story isn't bad (though hardly original), but the idea of of Steve Rogers handing over a mystical weapon (whatever its current state) into a violent, angry, dangerous young teenager who hates heroes isn't exactly the best idea Cap's ever had.

With this issue it appears Marvel is following DC's lead in over-cluttering their universe with extras heroes, whether their needed or not (and charging an extra buck an issue for their pleasure). Hit-and-Miss.

[Marvel $3.99]

Friday, November 26, 2010

Astounding Wolf-Man #25

The final issue of Robert Kirkman and Jason Howard's tale of CEO turned werewolf turned super-hero wraps things up with a bloody battle between Wolf-Man and the Elder, leaving only one standing.

As conclusions go issue #25 does what it needs to do but even with extra-pages feels a bit rushed. The vampire Zecheriah's final fate is far from satisfying (blink and you'll miss it), and the amount of exposition jammed into Wolf-Man's battle with the Elder comes close to ruining the series final big fight. For a comic that's been centered mainly around character-driven issues we're given an overabundance of plot.

That's not to say I didn't enjoy the issue, I did. The final few pages present several new opportunities should Kirkman and Howard ever decide ever decide to return to the character. And just the thought that they've unleashed an army of werewolf covert opps into the Image universe, answerable only to their new leader, does make me smile.

[Image $4.99]

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Turkey Day Entertainment

Although not as numerous as Christmas themed programs, there quite a few Thanksgiving specials and movies worth a look. Aside from some NFL football, Thanksgiving always makes me pull out some old favorites to watch. There are two things I make time to watch two things every Thanksgiving. The first is a very special episode of WKRP and the second is Home for the Holidays. Here’s a little about them and some other Thanksgiving themed fun you might enjoy.

Continue reading Turkey Day Entertainment

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Tangled


During it's heyday, Disney made a name for itself by turning out classic tales about princes and princesses, true love, and triumph over evil (usually with a few songs and cute creatures thrown in). With the studio's 50th animated film, Disney goes back to the well with Tangled, based on the fairy tale Rapunzel by the Brothers Grimm.

To save the life of their unborn daughter, the King and Queen steal a magical flower from the evil witch Mother Gothel (Donna Murphy). As revenge, the witch kidnaps the young baby whose hair had captured the healing powers of the flower which has kept Gothel alive for years. Her hair holds the power as long as it allowed to grow.

As the story opens, Rapunzel (Mandy Moore) who has grown up in a secluded tower her whole life believing the old witch to be her mother, convinces a young thief, Flynn Ryder (Zachary Levi), who breaks into her tower while fleeing the palace guards, to help her sneak out and see the world on her birthday.

Despite her mother's warnings of the danger in the outside world, Rapunzel hopes to see a little of what has been denied her and discover the meaning of the beautiful lanterns which she feels a connection to (as well she should since they are sent into the night by her real parents every year in remembrance of their missing daughter).

Being a Disney flick, we get the usual trappings of course: several Alan Mencken songs (nice, but mostly forgettable), and a fun animal character - Maximus, the Captain of Arms' horse - who befriends Rapunzel while chasing Ryder for his theft of the crown. Of all the princess films Disney has done over the years, this is perhaps the silliest; I mean that in good way. The film feels much closer to the tone of a Muppet adventure than that of Snow White or Sleeping Beauty. It's also the first since The Emperor's New Groove that Disney has embraced the zany quite so completely. And, you know what? It works.

Levi is well-cast as the cad with a buried heart of gold, and Mandy Moore turns in a good vocal performance as the sheltered girl who only wants to see the world. Throw in the horse and you've got three strong, vibrant characters to base the story around. Although Mother Gothel doesn't rank high compared to classic Disney villains, her sly maneuvering behind the scenes to crush the dreams of Rapunzel for her own ends are exactly what the story calls for.

The screening I attended was not 3D, but the movie didn't suffer from being constrained to two dimensions. Tangled is an easy recommendation and following up last year's The Princess and the Frog, another step in the right direction for Disney honoring their past and providing something new as well. The magic may not be all the way back, but Walt Disney's legacy looks to be in good hands.

Faster


After spending 10 years in prison for his part in an armed robbery a man who is only ever referred to as "Driver" or "Ghost" (Dwayne "Stop Calling Me The Rock" Johnson) walks out of the big house and immediately begins to hunt down the men (including Courtney Gains, John Cirigliano, Lester Speight) who robbed his crew and killed his brother (Matt Gerald).

If you've seen the trailer for Faster you might assume that's the entire story. It's not. Not satisfied with simply delivering a good ol' revenge tale filled with an ever increasing body count, screenwriters Tony Gayton and Joe Gayton give us not one but two more stories.

The first involves a burned-out detective (Billy Bob Thornton) who is days away from retirement, has a nasty drug habit and an estranged wife (Moon Bloodgood) and son (Aedin Mincks), and who is assigned to the case - much the dismay of the lead detective (Carla Gugino). Most of this plotline deals with chasing down "Driver," but we also get several unrelated scenes of the cop's screwed-up life.

The last storyline involves a hitman (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) who may have had polio as a child (the movie cannot stop showing us pictures of him as a child on crutches) who is hired to stop "Driver." There are a few tense confrontations over the course of the film between "Killer" and "Driver" (anyone else wondering how long it took two screenwriters to come up with those names?), but most of this story has more to do with his relationship to his girlfriend (Maggie Grace) and their future together than actually stopping The Rock's character.

Faster isn't an awful film, but it bites off far more than it can chew. The three separate stories never really fit together, and the attempt to merge them during the film's climax is the worst kind of late-movie twist. The script is constantly moving between the three plotlines and comes off unfocused at times. This isn't one main story with several subplots. This is three separate tales only loosely connected to each other, all of which could use a full-length feature to flesh out completely.

And the film wastes much of what it has going for it. I wanted more of Grace's character, who is really only used here as a simple plot device and some yummy eye candy (appearing in scenes in sexy lingerie or nude, covered only by well-placed bed sheet). Tom Berenger has small performance as the warden in the film's opening sequence, but quickly disappears. And Gugino, the cop we actually want to see, is given far less screentime than Thornton's phoned-in performance. These are all characters which a smarter film would make better use of and develop.

The action scenes are adequately done, and the first murder "Driver" commits is the best of his kills, simply due to its immediacy and shock value. That said, there's nothing all the special, memorable, or fun going on here. The script is without humor or style. But the cars are nice. That's something, right?

Faster never tries to be more than a cheap B-movie action flick--the kind better suited to a brooding, ultra-serious action star like Jason Statham or Vin Diesel. The Rock, who has infinite amounts more charm, is limited by the small amount of dialogue and emotion he gets to showcase here. (I think Stallone had more lines in Rambo III.) The film's ending is also extremely anti-climactic, leaving much to be resolved in what appears to be the inevitable sequel. Hopefully it will be more entertaining.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Luther

DCI John Luther (Idris Elba) is a brilliant detective but a flawed man. As the series begins Luther allows a child killer (Anton Saunders) to fall to his death rather than save him. The killer survives in a coma, and after a lengthy suspension and investigation Luther is allowed back on the force.

While working a different case every week Luther must also deal with his estranged wife Zoe (Indira Varma) and her boyfriend (Paul McGann), and the attentions of psychopath Alice Morgan (Ruth Wilson) who takes a shine to him after he is unable to prove she killed her parents.

Created by Neil Cross Luther is a character driven procedural drama that works because of the flaws of our main character. He's intelligent, driven, but also moody, reckless, and far too likely to put himself in the line of fire by offering himself as a target (a decision which triggers his unusual relationship with Alice). The final two episodes take a dark turn involving his close friend (Steven Mackintosh) and the fallout over a robbery and kidnapping gone horribly wrong.

The two-disc set includes all six episodes of the first season but not much in the way of extras. Still, for those who like cop dramas with a twist, and a fair share of strong performances, Luther is worth a look.

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Comic Rack


New week, new comics

Human Target – Ilsa Pucci



Human Target returned this past week with Christopher Chance (Mark Valley) and Guerrero (Jackie Earl Haley) quickly wraping-up the cliffhanger from Season One by saving Winston (Chi McBride) from the evil clutches of Psych's Timothy Omundson. After a short break Chance is convinced to put the team back together by new co-star Indira Varma as Ilsa Pucci, a wealthy widow who needs his unique skill set to keep her alive.

The episode much more concerned with starting fresh than picking up the pieces of last season's cliffhanger - no mention is made of Armand Assante's character or any reason given for writing him out of the story. As a new starting point it works well, though it looks like we're in for a change in the dynamic this season.

I kind of liked the woman of the week the first season gave us (including Moon BloodgoodGrace Park, Tricia HelferCourtney Ford, and Emmanuelle Vaugier), so it will be interesting to see how much the inclusion of Varma and the new recurring character of Ames (Janet Montgomery) changes things. Even with changes, and a couple of nagging loose ends, I'm glad to have it back.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Spirit #8

It begins when the Spirit catches sight of Ophelia Ottoman at the funeral of her husband, gangster Jimmy Bauhaus. Concern for the attractive widow, and a nagging suspicion that everything isn't quite as it seems, lead the hero to shadow Ophelia and try to uncover the secret she's hiding.

After she kills the son of one of the other crime families tensions immediately rise and our gallant hero steps in, only to discover that the death of the accused rapist and the apparent death of Jimmy might not be what they seem.

Aside from the cover (ugh, can we get rid of these "First Wave" bars at the top and bottom, please!), there's much to enjoy here. David Hine has gotten better over the series and here seems to have gotten the tone and humor of the character just right, and the art by Moritat proves to be seductive, humorous (I love the Sprit's smirk!), and a little bit naughty. The comic also includes another b&w Spirit adventure by Walt Simonson. Worth a look.

[DC $3.99]

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Batman: The Return

Leave it to Grant Morrison to give us the worst opening and one of the worst final panels of the Dark Knight's career both together in a single issue for the extra-special price of $5.

This Batman: The Return one-shot further sets up Grant Morrison's latest pet project Batman Incorporated by defining roles for the rest of the Bat-crew. Or that's what it should do. For some reason almost all of those conversations take place off the printed page. The glimpses we get, such as the dialogue between Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson is actually pretty good, but sadly it's drowned out by mutated killers, terrorists, and a secret organization operating around the world known as Leviathan.

And then there's the mindbogglingly bad opening which gives us Frank Miller's iconic bat through the window scene from Batman: Year One...from the bat's point of view. That's right - FROM THE BAT'S POINT OF VIEW! Wow, just...wow.

There are short sequences here that work between the bookends of sheer crapola, but without a doubt everything could be handled better. For the increased price we're given several pages of concept design for a comic that's better off forgotten.

Joy.

At least the cover is kinda cool.

[DC $4.99]

Avengers #7

The recent launch of several new Avengers titles, and new teams, has been a mixed success. The characters I like seem stretched across multiple teams, and the dynamic I enjoyed in the old New Avengers still has yet to be replicated.

I wasn't impressed with the first story arc of this title involving time travel, Kang and futuristic versions of Tony Stark and the Hulk. The story didn't work for me, and it seemed the team was missing something. Maybe they've found it.

Issue #7 introduces the Red Hulk as a possible new member of the team. Okay, I'm intrigued. I'm a little less intrigued by the villain which will force the team to accept the Red Hulk's help - Parker Robbins, who it seems Marvel Comics is insistent on making a cosmic level bad guy, again. His latest ploy is to collect two of the Infinity Gems (with unheard of ease, by the way) giving him immense power and the ability to bend reality.

If the story moves forward Parker should be a match for the Avengers, and a villain worthy of the team needing all the help they can get. I just hope writer Brian Michael Bendis isn't set on putting all the gems in the hands of this two-time loser.

[Marvel $3.99]

Friday, November 19, 2010

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1

There is a point not too far into Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 where Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) informs Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) that everything going on, the sacrifices being made, the world falling into darkness, isn't only about him. This is a sentiment backed-up by the rest of the film. Harry might still be the most important character, but he's certainly not the only character.

There are several telling differences here. The first scene in the film doesn't involve Harry at all, but Hermoine (Emma Watson) and the difficult choice she makes with respect to her "Muggle" parents (Ian Kelly, Michelle Fairley). If this dramatic opening isn't enough to clue you in we're in for a far darker Harry Potter then scene directly following will leave you no doubt.

Fair Game

Although Fair Game has the dubious honor of sharing a title with a truly awful Cindy Crawford/William Baldwin flick, thankfully that's all the two movies have in common. Based on the true story of Valerie Plame, Fair Game focuses on the consequences of one man standing up for what he believes in, a talented woman who loses her job and reputation by no fault of her own, a government hell-bent on destroying the lives of two respectable citizens simply to change the news cycle, and how easily one piece of information can change everything.

Naomi Watts stars as CIA undercover operative Valerie Plame. After her husband Joe Wilson (Sean Penn) takes an information gathering assignment to discover if Iraq is buying yellow cake uranium from Niger, he's horrified to learn the truth of his findings have been perverted to help justify the United States going to war with Iraq.

Unwilling to keep quiet, Wilson's struggle for the truth puts the White House in a bind. They used his intelligence, along with that of a disgruntled CIA operative whose opinion had been shot down by his superiors, as proof of Iraq's nuclear proliferation. Unable to side-step the issue Scooter Libby (David Andrews) decides to change the story by disparaging Wilson's character and outing his wife as an agent for the CIA.

The focus on the film is the resulting chaos which ensues. Not only are Plame and Wilson put in the middle of a never-ending news cycle, the the family also receives death threats and struggles with a growing tension of how best to handle the situation. Wilson believes in standing up and not letting the White House paint them as liars and fools, but Plame is more concerned with attempting to weather the storm and not attack the country she's served loyally for almost two full decades.

There are three groups of causalities identified in the script by Jez Butterworth and John-Henry Butterworth: The reputations of Wilson and Plame (along with the added stress to their marriage), the American people who were deceived into going into war by questionable intelligence, and those assets around the world who were disavowed, ignored, or killed after Plame's identity became a matter of public record. Although the third might be the least discussed it provides the only tense moments of the film. In particular the scene involving a doctor (Liraz Charhi) used to convince her brother to defect comes to Plames' home demanding to know what has gone wrong.

I've never been accused of being Watts biggest fan, but she's used well here and does a commendable job in showcasing the character internalizing what has been done to her. Penn plays up the ego and pomposity of Wilson, but helps ground his need for the spotlight with a basic morality of doing what's right for his country and his wife.

If the film has any real limitation its the narrow viewpoint which we're given. The script was adapted from the book written by Wilson and Plame which gives us great insight into their ordeal. This is a strength of the film, but it also means the film doesn't spend time on any issue not addressed in those pages.

The movie makes some vague suggestions but never really addresses the involvement of the Bush White House, other than Libby. Did it honestly believe the data or simply use it to deceive the public and get the war they were clamoring for? Did Libby act alone in outing Plame, with only the possible approval of Karl Rove (as the film suggests), or did pressure come from higher up the food chain? Was Vice President Chaney's need to find WMDs in Iraq based on an honest fear or something far more devious? The film doesn't have any answers to these questions.

On a related note, the choice of Penn for the role of Wilson, given his political views, adds a layer of partisanship that doesn't hurt the film but nevertheless does frame the argument in a slightly different way. It also allows half of the country an easy out to simply dismiss a film that should be seen.

I could have done with far less of the marital troubles on-screen (particularly the couple's trial separation late in the film), but Fair Game does what it sets out to do. It examines the effects of a series of decisions on two people at the eye of the storm. It's a solid dramatic film strengthened by the performances of its two leads. There are a few nice touches along the way, the last of which might be the best (the redacted names in the credits of anyone whose real name couldn't be used in the film).

Fair Game isn't a great film. It's far less tense than I expected from director Doug Liman, but it does work as a solid drama. And the film's message about how information is gathered and how easily it can be misused or corrupted is an important one that people should take to heart.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Sometimes Batman's life...


...is pretty cool.

Cars 2 trailer

Okay, I loved me some Cars and now Disney and Pixar have released the first trailer for Cars 2 which centers around the inaugural World Grand Prix, a spy plot involving mistaken identity (North by Northwest?), and plenty of awesome animation. Cars 2 will race into theaters, in both 2D and 3D, next June.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Psych returns, and Shawn and Juliet get busy

Psych returned last week with guest-star Cary Elwes as the art thief Pierre Despereaux, a return to Canada for Shawn (James Roday) and Gus (Dulé Hill), and Shawn and Juliet (Maggie Lawson) finally finding the right moment. It's about time.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Doctor Who – The Complete Fifth Series

With the departure of David Tennant in "The End of Time Part 2" a new Doctor (Matt Smith) takes control of the series.

The season starts strong with "Eleventh Hour" which introduces us to the Doctor's new companion Amy Pond (Karen Gillan), and ends with a great two-parter ("The Pandorica Opens" and "The Big Bang") involving the end of the universe, but it does have some ups ("Amy's Choice," "Vincent and the Doctor") and downs ("Victory of the Daleks") over the course of the season. I also thought the other two-parters from this season (apart from the finale) with the Silurians and the return of the Weeping Angels weren't as strong as the episodes which introduced the characters.

Although it's not the best season of the rebooted Doctor Who, it's not a bad place to start for those unfamiliar with the show, and there's plenty to enjoy here. Matt Smith makes a fine Doctor (especially when wearing a Fez) and Amy, especially after she's reunited with Rory (Arthur Darvill) is good companion. It's also nice to get a fresh start - the only character from the previous seasons to make an appearance is River Song (Alex Kingston).

Both the DVD and Blu-ray sets include all 13 episodes of the season as well as video commentary for a couple handpicked episodes, monster files, deleted scenes and the short "Doctor Who Confidential" featurettes. Both sets are six discs (odd, seeing how this should all fit on three Blu-rays), and you aren't getting any extra material by shelling out for the Blu-ray set.

The Comic Rack


New week, new comics

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Atomic Robo and the Deadly Art of Science

Atomic Robo is back! The first issue of Volume 5 finds a very bored Robo stuck helping Nikola Tesla with his latest experiment only to jilted out of his malaise by a car chase and gunfight involving gangsters and a six-shootin' vigilante.

It may be going too far to say Robo befriends Jack Tarot, Gunfighter, and his daughter Helen (after all the guy does shoot our robotic pal right in the face), but he does leave an impression (mostly by asking a series of only slightly less annoying questions than Nick Frost asked of Simon Pegg in Hot Fuzz). As to the mysterious scientist and the secrets of the mysterious skull, we'll have to wait until the next issue to lean more.

Fans of Brian Clevinger and Scott Wegener's off-beat character should feel right at home. Worth a look.

[Red 5, $3.50]

Friday, November 12, 2010

Batgirl #15

Okay, if Stephanie Brown's retelling of Bat-history doesn't tickle your fancy there's really no hope for you. Sorry. In-line with other Bat-titles, Batgirl gets back to basics with the return of Oracle, Stephanie's struggles in college (and lies to her mother), and some zany antics.

Batgirl's latest case involves the death of a student at the hands of a cult of robed figures, a missing flash drive, a new Gray Ghost, and Batgirl framed for murder.

That last part troubles me a bit as it seems were in for the proverbial "prove my innocence' storyline all too many characters have to go through. Hopefully this two-issue arc will wrap things up as quickly as it began since there's really no chance DC's going to let Batgirl go full-vigilante and drawing it out serves no purpose.

Not as good as some recent issues of Batgirl, but the trademarks that make the character and comic work are still here. Worth a look.

[DC $2.99]

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Red Robin #17

I love almost everything about this issue. The epilogue to "The Hit List" gives us a little of everything that's made Red Robin such a great read in the absence of Bruce Wayne along with a promise that things aren't going to change.

We get the both the return Cassandra Cain and Batman in his fancy new costume as well as a Tim making a difficult decision to trust Lynx (perhaps not entirely made with his brain). Marcus To's art is terrific (I honestly can't pick out a favorite panel: the hug? the kiss? the discussion about Damian?), and Fabian Nicieza once again delivers yet another strong story without trying to rewrite the character of make some grand statement (something Grant Morrison could learn).

My only real complaint with the issue is the obvious slight to Stephanie Brown in Tim offering the role of Bagril back to Cassandra. Aside from the fact it's not his to give, it's just one hellova a dick move to make. I'm glad to see her pass on the opportunity, and it seems like there may be a new role for the character in the expanding Bat-family that feels more her own. Must-read.

[DC $2.99]

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The new Muppet movie, starring everybody in the world... and Jason Segel

Filed under the category OH HELL YEAH: Disney has released the first photo for The Muppets triumphant return to theaters next Christmas.

Scott Pilgrim vs. the Blu-ray

Based on the comic series of the same name young Canadian slacker Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera) meets the girl of his dreams (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) only to learn he must face-off against, and defeat, all seven of her evil ex's (Jason Schwartzman, Chris Evans, Brandon Routh, Satya Bhabha, Mae Whitman, Keita Saitou, Shota Saito). Director Edgar Wright's take on the comic is an awful lot of fun and holds up well to multiple viewings. For more check out my original review of the film.

The Blu-ray version of the movie is loaded with extras including multiple audio commentary tracks, featurettes on the making of the film as well as its look and sound, alternative footage, deleted scenes (with director commentary), bloopers, along with standard BD Live extras, a copy of the film on DVD, and the ability to stream either Pitch Black or Tremors for free.

My two favorite extras are the optional pop-up panels which allow the viewer to compare the film to the original comic (very cool, although they take up slightly too much room on the screen), and the film's original ending. I commented in my review of the film how I felt Wright, in several key moments, pushed the Scott/Knives relationship by playing on the two characters similarities. The theatrical ending, although more in-line with the comic, felt slightly out-of-place. It seems I was right. I think both endings work for different reasons, but the inclusion of Knives in the final fight with Gideon, along with a couple key lines from Ramona about the pair, make the original ending feel a little more natural to me.

Whichever ending you prefer, if you enjoyed the movie in theaters you've got to pick it up on Blu-ray. Packed with action, comedy, and tons of extras, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is even better on home video than it was in theaters.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Sarah Walker Sizzles

NBC might not have delivered a new episode of Chuck last night, but they did give us this video compilation of CIA Agent Sarah Walker (Yvonne Strahovski). Enjoy!



...and now part 2

Kung Fu Panda 2: The Kaboom of Doom teaser

Are you ready for the return of awesomeness? I loved the first Kung Fu Panda and I know I am! This teaser gives little insight into the sequel about the search to uncover Po's mysterious origins, but I'm glad the look and spirit of the original seem to be alive and well. The awesomeness of Kung Fu Panda 2: The Kaboom of Doom returns to theaters return next May.

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Comic Rack


New week, new comics

Captain America: Man Out of Time #1 (of 5)

What if Captain America didn't sleep for twenty years, but 60? What if the Avengers found him today and not at the dawn of the Silver Age? These are the questions Captain America: Man Out of Time, a new five-issue mini-series from Mark Waid and Jorge Molina sets out to answer.

This first issue gives us Steve Rogers and Bucky Barnes spending time with a group of soldiers the night before both are lost. Then Rogers awakes to the Avengers standing over him and a world with ATMs, cell phones, sports cars, and teenagers packing guns.

The idea is interesting, though I'm not sure we need five full issues to fully explore it. I enjoyed the look of the world and Waid's decision to present everything from Roger's perspective.

For $4 it's definitely not a must-read, but fans of the character or of Marvel's various What If...? stories may want to give it a look.

[Marvel $3.99]

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Batman and Robin #16


Guess who's back under the cowl? Grant Morrison's Black Glove story arc mercifully comes to an end here as Simon Hurt's plans are stopped by Robin and not one but two Batmen.

On the plus side we finally get some explanation as to who Hurt is and how he's managed to survive for so long. We get to see Batman finally smashing this annoying character's face in (something I've been waiting months for). And Morrison delivers an ending which changes Bruce Wayne's relationship to Batman permanently and sets the stage for Batman Incorporated.

Morrison does make a few mistakes. Dick Grayson's injury (he was shot in the back of the head last issue) comes and goes as the great amount of story jammed into these pages calls for. And Bruce Wayne suiting up and his reaction to seeing his ward and son as Batman and Robin doesn't jive with the rest of the Return of Bruce Wayne books DC has been putting out the last few weeks. There's also the "end" of Simon Hurt at the hands of the Joker which feels more like a tease than a true end to the character.

For a comic that's been the least of all the Bat-books since issue #2 this one's not half-bad. Given it's ending it also marks an important milestone in Batman's career and is definitely worth a look.

[DC $3.99]

Secret Six #27


The cover has Bane riding a miniature Tyrannosaurus Rex, do I really need to give you a reason to pick this issue up? Okay, how 'bout Catman as the new Warlord riding a giant freakin' cat through the armies led by his former teammates? In three words: Oh Hell Yeah!

The story itself is a little messy. Bane's recovery and Scandal Savage's guilt take up quite a few pages, as does the dance between Amanda Waller and Spy Smasher (which ends satisfactorily with Waller turning the tables). It's also unclear what changes the minds of Catman's squad from seemingly abandoning their mission to going right to the palace and joining the army.

By the end of issue #27 we're still left with two separate squads and only one issue left to conclude this fun, but bizarre, story arc. It's not the best issue of Secret Six, but it's a hellova lot of fun. And, did I mention it has Catman riding a giant freakin' cat and mauling an entire army. Yeah, that's pretty cool.

[DC $2.99]

Friday, November 5, 2010

Megamind

"Our battles quickly got more elaborate. He would win some, I would almost win others! He took the name Metro Man, defender of Metro City. I decided to pick something a little more humble - Megamind, incredibly handsome criminal genius and master of all villainy!"


What makes a hero? DreamWorks latest animated feature Megamind, scripted by Alan J. Schoolcraft and Brent Simons, and borrowing heavily from the Golden and Silver Age of comic books (most notably a certain Man of Steel), asks that question. The answer they deliver is highly entertaining.

Metro Man (Brad Pitt) is the beloved hero of Metro City. Shot into space as a baby to escape a dying world he arrived on Earth with good looks, great hair, and abilities far outreaching those of the average man. He's a hero with the powers of Superman and the ego of Booster Gold. But he's not who this film is about.

There was another shuttle, another dying world, and another orphaned alien child who took his first steps on the planet we call home. He wasn't as good looking (being blue and all), and lacked the cool powers that made others swoon for Metro Man. Always painted as the bad boy, the trouble maker, this child would grow up to accept and cherish the role by becoming Metro City's greatest menace: the super-villain Megamind (Will Ferrell).

After a brief introduction to the early lives of our two characters we're thrown into the latest plot of Megamind (Will Ferrell) to ruin the opening of the Metro Man Museum by kidnapping of intrepid female reporter Roxanne Ritchi (Tina Fey), and laying a trap for the city's hero.

Then the unexpected happens - the villain wins! Megamind's plan succeeds in killing Metro City's champion leaving him and his friend Minion (David Cross) in complete control.

Megamind quickly tires of new freedom and absolute power over the city. With no hero what is the purpose of being a villain? What follows is a hero's journey as Megamind is forced to create a new place for himself in the world. Also complicating things is his new found friendship with Roxy, while disguised as the museum's curator (Ben Stiller), and his responsibility in the creation of Metro City's new threat.

The film's second-half deals mainly with Megamind's friendship with Roxy and his disastrous attempts to transform her nerdy camera man into the city's new hero Titan (Jonah Hill). If Megamind is a perfect example of a Silver Age villain (not too threatening and still playing by an unspoken set of rules), Titan represents today's sociopathic villain drunk on his own power and obsessions. When the world is threatened who will stop the new threat?

What makes Megamind work so well is it understands the secret of Superman and uses it to its full advantage - Superman is dull. Metro Man has an important role in the film (and there's a great sequence playing on the idea of how much he can get done in an instant with super-speed), but Megamind's character, not the God-like buffoon, is the interesting one.

There are several small touches that add to the film's charm, many inspired by comics including Minion's ridiculous robotic gorilla body, Megamind's penchant for mispronouncing words such as school and always referring to Metro City as Metrocity (rhymes with atrocity), Metro Man's secret lair, and Megamind's various inventions and traps. However, it's where the film turns the classic take on its ear, such as Megamind's relationship with Roxy that provides some of the film's best moments.



My only real complaint with the film is the size of the role it gives Jonah Hill's annoying Jimmy Olsen-style character. He's supposed to be annoying, and his role helps move the Megamind/Roxy subplot forward, but he did get a little on my nerves and he's not nearly as entertaining as the rest of the film.

It likely won't be the best animated feature you see this year, but you're in for an enjoyable ride. Those with a love for comics, especially Silver Age tales, may get more out of the film than others, but either way Megamind should provide plenty of humor, action, good tunes (the soundtrack includes AC/DC, Guns N' Roses, George Thorogood and the Destroyers, and Elvis), and fun for the entire family.

A final note: The film's 3D isn't spectacular (I'd compare it to this Spring's Despicable Me), but it does enhance a few scenes. You certainly don't need to see Megamind in 3D, but if you can (without spending more money at the box office) it would be worth it.

Due Date


The one constant thought that kept running through my head while watching Due Date was how much it reminded me of a film I would much rather be watching - Planes, Trains & Automobiles. It's almost as if director Todd Phillips and the four screenwriters attributed to the film (really, it took four of you to write this?) set out to make a more intense, edgier, dumber version of the film more closely resembling the adolescent tone of Phillips earlier work - Road Trip.

Now you may think to yourself, as I did, "Gee, that sounds like the dumbest idea ever." And, no surprise here, you'd be right.

As the film opens Peter Highman (Robert Downey Jr.) is on his way home to his loving wife (Michelle Monaghan) but his course is derailed before he even steps inside the airport by the incredibly obnoxious Ethan Tremblay (Zach Galifianakis). What follows is a predictable Odd Couple mismatched pairing as the two are forced to travel cross country together in order to get Peter home in time for the birth of his first child.

Much like Planes, Trains & Automobiles, this film is filled with gags, misunderstandings, arguments, and craziness between the pair of strangers thrown together by fate. Unlike the John Hughes's film, we are stuck with two intensely unlikable characters. Downey's Peter is a complete bastard and Galifianakis is incredibly odd and annoying, it seems, for the sake of being odd and annoying. Unlike Steve Martin and John Candy, this pair of extremely unlikable characters deserves to be stuck in the middle of nowhere. The only possible positive ending the film can give is to allow them to brutally kill each, leaving their rotting corpses on the side of the road, and saving the audience from any more of their antics. Sadly, as in every other aspect, the movie disappoints.

Over the course of ninety minutes Peter and Ethan will be put on the No-Flight list, pick a fight with a handicapped veteran (Danny McBride), score pot from a hippie (Juliette Lewis) in Birmingham, AL (and smoke it on the highway), get arrested in Mexico, steal a Mexican police vehicle and escape back into the US, drink a dead man's ashes, wreck two vehicles, masturbate in a car, and spit on a dog. If there's a cheap joke to be had you can bet you'll find it here.

Since the pair as so unlikable, and the comedy so outrageous and cheap, when the film attempts to slow down for a serious dramatic moment concerning Ethan's recently deceased father or the questionable paternity of Peter's child the film simply implodes. Phillips and his writing team don't know how to be deep. They only know how to go for the cheapest joke possible before moving on to something just as inane two seconds later.

If I can offer any compliment to the film at least it isn't dull. Even though the humor is cheap and forgettable there are some scattered laughs to be had. It's ridiculous, incredibly stupid, a waste of time, talent, and money, does its absolute best to turn two funny and charismatic actors into people you want to see slowly (and painfully) tortured to death, but it's not dull. Sadly, it's also nowhere near as funny or entertaining as Phillips' last film The Hangover.

Unless you're a huge apologist fan of Phillips other work (Road Trip, Starsky & Hutch, School for Scoundrels) I'd recommend forgetting Due Date and finding a copy of Planes, Trains & Automobiles. There's a comedy with heart and humor - two things in short supply here.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Will Ferrell shares first five minutes of Megamind

You'll be able to check out my review for the film tomorrow morning, but for now check out the first five minutes of Megamind courtesy of Will Ferrell and DreamWorks.

Will Ferrell and a surprise

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Chuck Versus the First Fight

This week's episode of Chuck really does have it all: Sarah Connor, James Bond, explosions, betrayals, more twists than an M. Night Shyamalan flick, and a surprise or two. "Chuck Vs. the First Fight" centers around Chuck (Zachary Levi) and Sarah's (Yvonne Strahovski) first fight over her turning his mother (Linda Hamilton) over to the CIA. While I'm not sure this actually qualifies as their first fight (didn't they go a few rounds about Sarah not hanging up her clothes a few episodes back?), this does give plenty of opportunities for Chuck to discuss the situation with everyone from Morgan (Joshua Gomez) to an MI6 operative he just met (Timothy Dalton - great casting!). This episodes also gives quite a few twists (including a couple you should see coming), Ellie (Sarah Lancaster) finally getting to talk with her mother, the appearance of this season's big bad - Frost's boss Alexei Volkoff, and an ending that gives us as many questions as answers. This is the strongest episode of Season Four so far.



Chuck Vs. the First Fight