Sunday, February 28, 2010

New Avengers #62

Like every other Marvel Siege tie-in this week New Avengers fails to take the opportunity move any of the story forward but instead try and get all the storylines caught up on the same page. Yeah, it's a little disappointing that the main story is still on the back burner, but what are you gonna do?

This issue could easily been released last week because it sure as hell isn't going to give away anything about Marvel's big event (which seems to be stalled before it ever gets started).

As a stand-alone there's not a lot here other than a couple of forgettable battles with Spidey and Spider-Woman, and Bucky-Cap and Steve Rogers. There is a nice joke between two soldiers joking about the inability of anyone, or anything, to kill Captain America. And yes, eventually everything leads to this great moment, but it's definitely a flaw that the comic ends just when the story was getting good. Especially with a $4 price-tag.

[Marvel $3.99]

Spider-Man: Clone Saga #6 (of 6)

Much like the original Clone Saga this mini-series brought us a few good moments but soon went off the rails. This issue includes two Spider-Men, two Goblins, strange allegiance changes, and a rather unsatisfying ending. However, I will give this version credit however for having the balls to do what the original did not: keep Ben Reilly around and promise the possible return of The Scarlet Spider.

[Marvel $3.99]

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Flash: Rebirth #6 (of 6)

For good or ill, Barry Allen is back. Geoff Johns wraps up the mini-series with the Reverse Flash's defeat at the hands of Flash and friends and Barry Allen finally accepting the new life he has been given.

Taken in its entirety The Flash: Rebirth a far cry from Green Lantern: Rebirth. As a standalone issue the end to series works fine but there's nothing here anyone is going to drool over.

Barry Allen is one of my favorite characters and I guess I'm glad to finally have him back, though I had long ago accepted his death as one of the few permanent moments in DC history. Was it necessary to bring him back now? No, not really. Was his return handled in good way. No, not really. But he is back and at least that's something.

For better or worse, welcome back Barry!

[DC $2.99]

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Top 10 Badass Olympic-style Moments

Okay, this list began as a list of Olympic movies for obvious timely reasons, but due to the fact that would make for a very lame list, I broadened the topic. Instead, I'm focusing on training moments, montages, competition, pommel horses that appear magically in the middle of a chase, and a double dose of Dolph Lundgren. This ended up being a lot more than I originally thought it would be. Let the badassery begin!

10. Superman III (1983)

Everyone seems to be slobbering over the news that Christopher Nolan ("Batman Begins," "The Dark Knight") has been granted "Godfather" status over the next Superman film. Are they really hoping for a darker Man of Steel? Really? If you don't remember, that was tried once with limited success. In his most badass moment from the theatrical fiasco known as "Superman III," Superman--wait for it--blows out the Olympic torch in the middle of the opening ceremony. Why? Because he's mother fucking Superman and he felt like it! Seriously--what a dick!

9. Balls of Fury (2007)

The most unlikely Olympic hero hits our list here. Dan Fogler stars as Olympic ping pong washout Randy Daytona who gets a second chance at redemption by beating the German who knocked him out of the Olympics (Thomas Lennon) and get revenge on Feng (Christopher Walken), the Triad leader who ordered the death of his father. The badass moment comes at the end as Randy--with the help of Def Leppard--defeats Feng in a ping pong death match, winning revenge for his dad and the love of the daughter of his guru (James Hong), young Maggie (Maggie Q).

8. Cool Runnings (1993)

"It's not whether you win or lose, it's how you play the game." Sometimes schmaltzy expressions such as this one actually ring true. Disney's adaptation of the Jamaican's first bobsled team might not kick as much ass as some of the other movies on this list, but it has its moments. In the film's final scene, the four members of the team prove just how badass they are by carrying the broken bobsled over the finishing line and finally earning the respect of the other Winter Olympians (even those a-hole Germans).

7. The Cutting Edge (1992)

It's an Olympic list so you knew ice skating had to show up somewhere. Sure, I could have gone with something like "Blades of Glory," but it lacks the heart of this film. Plus, here you get some D.B. Sweeney and Moira Kelly action. C'mon, admit it, you like this film. The badass moment comes after ice queen Kate (Kelly) slapshots a puck, nearly taking off Dorsey's (Sweeny) head. The hockey player overplays his hurt before smugly claiming his victory with two words: "toe pick." Take that, bitch!

6. Stick It (2006)

Okay, it's not technically an Olympic movie, but it is about a sport we only really think about every four years. There are many positive things I could mention about writer/director Jessica Bendinger's forray into the world of gymnastics. Here you'll get the film's major training montage (with star Missy Peregrym's voiceover--who earns the "badass" title all by herself) as well as a look at some of the film's kick-ass photography in pulling back, cutting together, and showcasing the young girls' training.

5. Rocky IV (1985)

Is there anything more stirring than a battle of wills against a hated foe? Here Rocky Balboa takes on Soviet legend Ivan Drago for his fallen friend Apollo Creed, for his own honor, and for his country. And what does he do? He's Rocky freakin' Balboa. What do you think he does? He knocks the 'roid rage Commie out! Lots of badass moments here including the training montage, but it's Ivan's simple "I must break you" that is the most memorable badass line in the film (and of Lundgren's illustrious career).

4. Miracle (2004)

Speaking of the Russians... do you believe in miracles? If not, you will after seeing this film. Arguably the biggest upset in the Olympics history occurred in 1980 when a young and mostly unknown American hockey team under coach Herb Brooks (Kurt Russell) took down the best damn hockey team in the world. Two days later, the team took the gold and completed their improbable run. Coined a "miracle" by play-by-play broadcaster Al Michaels, it's a near perfect real-life badass moment recreated on film. The rest of the movie's not too bad either.

3. Pentathlon (1994)

On this list, the bronze medal goes to Dolph Lundgren who makes his second appearance here as an East German Olympic gold medalist pentathlete who decides to defect to the West, where after a short uneventful time as a short-order cook he once again trains for the Olympics. Understandably his old neo-Nazi coach (David Soul) and his Aryan army won't take this lying down. Seriously, this film has Dolph Lundgren, neo-Nazis, Soul's super-villain speech (which leads to the coach's downfall), and the kind of twisted logic you'll only find in badass flicks like this.

2. Gymkata (1985)

The silver medal goes to a film so ridiculous you'll likely lose a couple of IQ points just by watching it. Real-life triple Gold medalist Kurt Thomas stars as Jonathan Cabot, an Olympic athlete who enters a deadly underground fighting competition in the country of Parmistan in order to help the Special Intelligence Agency and save a princess. (I swear I'm not making this up!) The film's badass moment comes when Cabot, while running from crazed villagers, just happens to find a pommel horse in the middle of a square which he uses to show of his gymnastic karate-style moves.

1. No Retreat, No Surrender (1986)

That last one certainly sounds hard to beat, doesn't it? Luckily there's one more film ready to grab the Top 10 Badass gold medal. This film involves a young karate student wronged by a criminal organization, a brutal beatdown, Jean-Claude Van Damme, a quest for revenge, the ghost of Bruce Lee, and an East vs. West showdown of Olympic-level importance (at least to the characters in the film). Now I ask you, how do you get more badass than that? Here's the film's batshit crazy training montage to give you a little taste of the insanity that is "No Retreat, No Surrender."

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Atomic Robo v4 #1 (of 4)

Imagine this: You go into a prestigious job interview for a position you're not even sure you want only to find the entire building attacked by vampires from another dimension. That would suck, right? Bet your ass!

Well that's what happens to poor boring paleontologist Bernard Fischer when he shows up at Tesladyne (a thinktank dedicated to exploring the fringes of scientific inquiry)for his interview with Atomic Robo. When his competition is killed by the invading vampires Bernard is immediately hired. That's the good news. Now all he has to do is stay alive from the invading horde of vampires who want to kill every living soul in the building. Yeah...that's the bad news.

The team of writer Brian Clevinger and artist Scott Wegener return to their characters in the first issue of this new Atomic Robo mini-series, and, if this first issue is any indication, it should be a fun ride.

[Red 5 $3.50]

Deadpool #19

I'm not sure why this Deadpool/Spider-Man team-up story found it's way to the main Deadpool title instead of Deadpool Team-Up, but I'm glad it did. Daredevil finds his way to New York to search out Spidey only to have the Web-Slinger mistankenly believe Deadpool killed a few friends of Peter Parker just to get his attention.

Of course this gives us the old comic book misundertanding that allows two heroes (well, if you count Deadpool as a hero) to fight it out for a short time before they come to realize the truth.The truth behind the killings is a bit more, uh, complex.

Writer Daniel Way proves once again that if you only read one Deadpool title a month, this is the one.

Spider-Man, Deadpool, and a Hit-Monkey. What more can I say? Overall a very strong issue that you should definitely pick-up.

[Marvel $2.99]

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief

Not every book deserves to be made into a multi-million dollar movie. Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief attempts to mix Greek mythology with the modern day problems of teens into an epic adventure. The results are mixed.

Shortly after learning his son had be diagnosed with both Dyslexia and ADHD, Rick Riordan created a series of bedtime stories which would eventually become the Percy Jackson & the Olympians young adult novel series.

At times the story is all adventure, at others however it devolves into a pseudo-pop-psychology self-help manual with all the subtlety of a sledge hammer. Our hero, young Percy Jackson (played here by Logan Lerman) suffers from the same ailments as Riordan's son, as well as some serious daddy abandonment issues, but turns each of these into a strength over the course of the film.

When Zeus' (Sean Bean) magic bolt is stolen the god blames a young boy with no knowledge of gods, his own paternity, or the bolt. Why Zeus blames Percy is one of the many plot issues which will drive you crazy (such as the characters inability to count to four) if you let it. The film offers no plausable explanation (or any explanation) for Zeus' suspicion of Percy, but the entire story relies on this rather dumb mistake by the omnipotent father of the gods. Oops! Anywho, this puts Percy in danger and forces his mother (Catherine Keener) to reveal the truth to her son: he is the son of Poseidon (Kevin McKidd).

For his own safety Percy is taken to a camp for demi-gods (regretfully named Camp Half-Blood). Taking a page from the Luke Skywalker training method, Percy leaves well-before his training is completed to save his mother who has been captured by Hades (Steve Coogan) and taken to the underworld.

The rest of the film revolves around Percy and his companions, a satyr named Grover (Brandon T. Jackson) and Annabeth (Alexandra Daddario) the daughter of Athena, as they travel cross-country, not to find the bolt, but in search of other magical items which may help them save Percy's mother.

There are quite a few problems with the script itslf including the perplexing issue of why entitle it "The Lightning Thief" when almost none of the film (at least until the final battle) actually deals with the theft of Zeus' bolt? The film is also saddled with some less than crisp dialogue in places that doesn't help you take the situations these characters find themselves in seriously.

That's not to mean the film's a wash. The script does a fair job of weaving several parts of Greek mythology into the tale including a Hydra which makes the dragons from the fourth Harry Potter film look like a cuddly kitten. And, at one point in the film, there's a minotaur who throws cows and cars at our young heroes. Now that's kinda cool.

The acting is fair. The three young leads come off well even when forced to deal with the script's sillier moments. Bean attempts to add some gravitas to the proceedings even as the film stubbornly paints him as constantly wrong and rather dim. Although Uma Thurman's appearance of Medusa doesn't work as well as it should, Pierce Bronson has a nice turn as one of Percy's teachers and Coogan and Rosario Dawson have a grand old time hamming it up as the rulers of the Underworld.

Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief is a fair step down from even the least of the Harry Potter films. I'd also rank it behind the recent adaptaion of Eragon. That doesn't mean it doesn't have an audience. Based on the reaction of those in the screening I attended, as an adventure for kids 6-10 it should work well enough. It's far from a must-see, but it does have its moments for those who enjoy this sort of fantastical tale. (Hey, at least it's better than Legend of the Seeker). And, did I mention, there's a minotaur who throws cows?