Saturday, May 24, 2008


Indiana Jones & the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull


Spectacularly mediocre final installment of a series that has been going steadily downhill since Raiders of the Lost Ark. The franchise feels old and worn-out, not unlike Harrison Ford who seemingly can scarcely contain his boredom. The plot, such as it is, is molecule-thin, even by Indiana Jones standards, and riddled with holes, dead-ends and sheer silliness. Showing a hero facing old age is good idea, but other than one or two references to his age, Indy is exactly the same superhero he was in 1937, though he seems to have lost all common sense when it comes to reading his friends. He gets caught in a nuclear blast, tossed ten miles in a refrigerator that slams into the Earth at high speed and is able to get up and dust himself off! Which brings up another point: the stunts have gone WAY beyond thrilling and deep into ludicrous territory. The villains here (the godless Commies) are completely indistinguishable from the Nazis in the previous films, save only for the accents and the uniforms. And the last quarter is cringe-inducingly racist (not that the previous three installments were exactly enlightened), with Indians portrayed as screeching naked savages (and, apparently, some kind of ninja) and far too stupid to have invented anything on their own, instead being dependent on the "benevolent" von Daniken-ite aliens to instruct them. Overall, a disappointing end to an era.

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Sunday, May 11, 2008


Speed Racer

Emphasis on "Speed." An insane combination of Rollerball (the crappy original, not the crappy remake), Death Race 2000 and some kind of neon-fueled acid trip involving lots and lots of Hotwheels track. Presented with a deafening sound and explosive visual intensity designed to induce seizures in Japanese schoolchildren. Edited and directed by a hyperkinetic ADHD Asperger's Syndrome five-year-old. On crack. And bizarrely enough, the movie is actually LESS violent than the original cartoon series thanks to Plot Device Super Balls that eject the drivers when their vehicles unconvincingly explode (perhaps due to the Treknobabble matter/anti-matter drives that run them) into a billion white hot fragments.

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Recent Comics I Have Read

Mighty Avengers #13: Shorter Bendis: "This'll show you all for not reading Secret Wars!"

New Avengers #40: Yeah, it's Battlestar Galactica.

Avengers/Invaders #1: Hmmm, okay. Not sure about this. Art okay, like seeing the actual Captain America back. Have to assume this is some weird hiccup of continuity seeing as how Cap never "remembered" any of this.

Batman #675: Bad art. Jezebel Jet is annoying and pointless. Plus, the eye-finger guys from 52.

Captain America #37: Red Skull is well-presented, as was the Hawkeye vs. Bucky America confrontation.

DC Universe 0: It was free. And worth every penny.

Detective Comics #844: The cartoonish artwork goes well with Dini's writing. Nice, creepy origin for the new Ventriloquist. I still liked the Goth look for Zatanna better.

Infinity, Inc. #9: Mediocre art, reads sort of like an X-Men for DC. How old is Mercy supposed to be?

Iron Man Viva Las Vegas #1: Jon Favreau makes his own continuity, which is cool with me. Liked the artwork, fairly snappy dialogue. Not sure how Tony Stark pulled off the whole bathroom change thing and still kept his secret identity, though.

Justice League of America #20: Another team-up, this time Flash and Wonder Woman. Pretty well-handled, nice art and good dialogue for Flash. This may be part of the set-up to retire Wally and reinstate Barry Allen, desecrating the last grave in the superhero universal cemetery. Heaven forbid that any meaningful death ever be allowed to keep its meaning.

Ms. Marvel #26: Agent Sum is more interesting and Machine Man way more creepy than I originally thought. Paranoia strikes deep.

Noble Causes #32: Picks up five years later. Artwork is vastly improved and the new characters are intriguing, though I missed Liz Donnelly.

Powers Annual #1: Sigh, more of the super-apes. And with fur thong bikinis.

Secret Invasion #2: Okay, this is WAY more interesting than the interminable exposition in the Avengers. Bendis is doing a good job of stretching out the suspense over who is really a Skrull.

Amazing Spider-Man #558: My first BND issue and it was intensely adequate. Given that the whole BND shtick was to bring back the "glory days," it's pretty disappointing that this storyline doesn't even remotely approach Roger Stern's run. Creaky dialogue, silly plot. And Peter Parker living with his aunt in his late 'twenties doesn't make him an Everyman, it makes him pathetic.

Superman/Batman #47: Return of a concept from Generations and JLU that really makes sense when you think about it, even without Luthor as President.

Uncle Sam & the Freedom Fighters #8: Black Condor has been leeched of all originality and reduced to a New Age-spouting, Tarzan-talking stereotype. Very sad.

Wonder Woman #19: Simone continues to grow into the role, developing an interesting take on the main character. Artwork slipping, though.

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Thursday, May 08, 2008



Absolutely great flick, one of the best superhero movies of all times. This is the kind of movie Superman Returns might have been, had Bryan Singer not been so obsessive/compulsive about remaking Superman: The Movie. Beginning with the inspired casting (some might say typecasting) of Robert Downey, Jr. as a rich, shallow, self-absorbed, substance-abusing womanizer, to Gwyneth Paltrow's wonderfully understated performance as Pepper Potts, to the smooth-without-being-overwhelming CGI, it's really hard to find fault with anything in the production. Iron Man's Cold War roots are skillfully updated, transferring his origin from Vietnam to Afghanistan and remaking his arch-nemesis the Mandarin (who was, let's face it, a pretty crude Fu Manchu stereotype in the comics) into a warlord with a Genghis Khan fetish. Obadiah Stane, a villain from the Denny O'Neil run in the 1980's, is played by Jeff Bridges, who resists the urge to chew scenery and delivers such an excellent performance, I really didn't even mind the cliched "villain who has it all together throughout the film only to lose it spectacularly at the last minute" ending. Director Jon Favreau (who also appears in a couple of scenes as Happy Hogan) takes his time with the pacing, making sure the audience gets to know Tony Stark long before he ever gets strapped into his metal union suit. The dialogue is snappy, the set-piece fight scenes are great, and Downey makes us believe that a man can become a reluctant hero after a personal epiphany. Highly recommended.

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