Thursday, January 31, 2013

Mr. Belvedere

I remember the Mr. Belvedere TV show. I never really watched it. I was never really a fan, but I was never really not a fan either. It was just one of those shows that for awhile seemed to always be on. No matter when you turned the TV on, at any moment, on some random channel Mr. Belvedere was probably on, like Saved by the Bell or The New Adventures of Old Christine or Law & Order. Nobody really watches these shows, they're just always on... somewhere.

Well, except for Saved by the Bell, everybody watched that show, because that show was awesome.


Anyway, the main thing I remember about the Mr. Belvedere show--whenever I would cross its path while flipping through the channels--is wondering how he got there. He's an English butler, right, and he's living with Bob Uecker and his middle class family in Philadelphia but... why? Why is he there? How the hell does the world-traveling butler, Mr. Belvedere end up in a middle class neighborhood home run by a single dad? Neither Bob nor Mr. Belvedere seems to want him there, so what's the deal? Is he being forced to live there like some kind of punishment? How the hell does Bob Uecker's character afford a classically trained English Butler, isn't he a sports writer or something? It doesn't make sense! Of course, by the time that rich gravy train of important thoughts reached its station, I would have long since changed the channel, so I never found out, and honestly... who cares?

But then there's this. I love it so much. So funny. It starts out weird and then gets crazy. It's genius. Plus: the wonderful Phil Hartman. Enjoy!


Monday, January 21, 2013

Defiance: Worlds Away

So now that Fringe is over, what's a sci-fi tv fan to do?

Way back when, long before the Sci-fi channel changed its name to the stupidest new name ever Syfy, you could have easily looked there, but times change and the joke has now become: Syfy hates Sci-fi. They hate Sci-fi and they loooooove wrestling, apparently. I don't get it.

The Sci-fi channel was purchased a few years back and in the time since, the new owners have made a few changes. They decided to change the name of the channel to something terrible and they have canceled pretty much all the actual sci-fi on their channel, opting instead to add more of the endless variations of crappy reality-game shows in its place. Shows like Faceoff, where they compete like Project Runway, except with Special Effect Make-up and hope the viewing audience doesn't fall asleep from all the tension, or Total Blackout, where they apparently put stupid people in a dark room and then scare them for money. They also can't seem to get enough of perma-blue ball "reality" shows like Ghost Hunters, where as far as I can tell nothing ever happens, but they add lots of dramatic music, or shows like the completely out-of-left field Ghost Mine, all about miners and ghost hunters in a haunted gold mine... yes, really.

And while there are occasional potential bright spots like Robot Combat League, for the most part the ass-faces behind Syfy have been working very hard to try to change an obviously super-nerd-niche TV channel into... I don't know... the TLC channel or something. I imagine there's a lot of nerd self-loathing going on at the executive level of Syfy. It's like they really wanted to buy VH-1 really, really badly, but they just didn't have enough money, so they ended up with the Sci-fi channel instead and they're still upset about it.

But I seem to have wandered a bit from my initial point, so I digress...

So, what I was saying was: You used to be able to find Sci-fi on the Sfi-fi channel, but then it became Syfy and it sucked, but recently... things are changing again. I don't know what happened, maybe everyone who used to make all the crappy decisions all got fired. Or maybe they were all finally forced to admit that only huge nerds watch a channel called the Sci-fi channel, no matter how you spell it, and as a result they have started to tentatively add some science fiction back onto the channel formerly known as the Sci-fi Channel.

There's shows like Lost Girl which is... ah... nevermind. It's terrible. There's one called Continuum, all about a Canadian cop from a corporate controlled Canadian future hunting Canadian criminals who have escaped to the Canadian present and are attempting to change future Canadian history. I haven't watched it yet, so we'll see, but it sounds generally kind of pleasant.

But I digress again...

Anyway, to make a long story short (too late), one of the new shows starting this spring is from the mind of Sci-fi TV luminary Rockne S. O'Bannon, the guy behind Farscape and Alien Nation and... well... SeaQuest 2032... can't all be winners, I guess. Regardless of all that, his new show is called Defiance. It's got a whole video game MMO tie-in thing that I don't give a shit about and probably won't catch on, but the show itself sounds kind of neat.

Here's the synopsis:

"In the near future, a collective of aliens known as the Votans come to Earth seeking a new home after their own solar system was destroyed. However, despite prolonged negotiation, the Votans are not welcome, the leaders of Earth turn them away. A war begins, vicious and brutal, scaring the very Earth. After decades of fighting, a ceasefire is finally declared, neither side able to withstand further losses. Jeb Nolan was only ten years old when the Votans arrived. He fought in the war. Now, the fighting done, he returns to his hometown of St. Louis to discover it is no longer the city he left; it is little more than a refugee camp. Jeb becomes its Chief Lawmaker, maintaining the tenuous peace between the humans and aliens who occupy the wild new-world town."

And here's the trailer:

See? Looks all right, right? Sure, it could be silly, but at least it looks like they're trying. I like the alien designs, the frontier aspect, it could be interesting. We shall see.

Big geekin'

Friday, January 18, 2013

Oscars 2013

Oscars, huh? Whadda ya' want? Amirite?

I can already tell this is going to be one of those years. The nominees are out and it would be awesome if the ones I wanted to win would win, but... I can already tell it's not gonna happen and too bad, so sad, because the rest of the field is pretty fucking meh, know what I mean? But... y'know, me and lists, right? Plus, it is the Oscars, and as we all know, the law requires everyone in the U.S. to make a yearly Oscars prediction. It's the law, people, and I am nothing, if not a good citizen, so let's get my version over with. I should let you know though, I'm only going to do the big awards this time, because like I said: meh. Also, in the spirit of full disclosure, I should admit that I may not have seen more than half of these films. With that in mind: Tally ho!

Best Picture
Beasts of the Southern Wild
Django Unchained
Les Misérables
Life of Pi
Silver Linings Playbook
Zero Dark Thirty 

I think nine nominees just for Best Picture is stupid, mostly because it's the only one, but also because it has become obvious that Director and Picture usually go hand in hand, so four are out right away. What does that mean for Argo? Tough Titty, Ben Affleck! Suck it! Amour? Yeah, no, the Academy did arty fluff no one really liked last year, so no. Same with Life of Pi. No one saw it, less people liked it. And most importantly: No buzz. So it's out. Beasts and Silver Linings? In order to have any hope of winning, they're going to have to capture some kind of media story in the next few weeks to overcome the apparent triumphant return of Oscar darling, the supposedly Non-crappy Spielberg.

Who should win: Beasts of the Southern Wild (Maybe not "should", but it's who I want.)
Who will win: Lincoln (Oscar Porn)

Best Director
Ang Lee, Life of Pi
Benh Zeitlin, Beasts of the Southern Wild
David O. Russell, Silver Linings Playbook
Michael Haneke, Amour
Steven Spielberg, Lincoln

Like I said above: Picture and Director are one, they are really pulled asunder. And even that aside, all the other reasons stated above apply.

Who should win: Benh Zeitlin (creating movies like Beasts out of nothing? That's directing)
Who will win: Senor Spielbergo (He knows what the Academy wants and he gives it to them... hard.)

Best Actor
Bradley Cooper, Silver Linings Playbook
Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln
Denzel Washington, Flight
Hugh Jackman, Les Misérables
Joaquin Phoenix, The Master

Hugh Jackman is Wolverine. Bradley Cooper is a smug, fratboy looking douche. They're both out. Joaquin Phoenix is too weird and he once quit acting, making him a blood traitor, plus his movie is "secretly" about L. Ron Hubbard and Scientology, that pisses off a lot of Academy Voters. So this is really a tussle between two of the Academy's favorites. Now, some would say Denzel is out because he already got both his "we're not racists" Oscar AND his "sorry we used you to make ourselves feel better" Oscar. Others might say he's in exactly for that reason. I say he's out because besides his performance, Flight is a considered to be a God awful crap-fest of a movie, but when has that ever stopped the Academy? Daniel Day-Lewis is also a two time winner and God knows, the Academy loves a super devoted method Actor, it validates them all. BUT... Lincoln has a lot of nominations and it looks like it will be Lincoln's year and that usually means a nominated Actor losing, just to try to make the Academy Voters look discerning. So who will it be? Questions, questions.

Who should win: Pppppppppppppbbbbbbbbbbhhhhhhhhhhtttttttttttttttt (fart)
Who will win: Daniel Day-Lewis (ACTING!)

Best Actress
Emmanuelle Riva, Amour
Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook
Jessica Chastain, Zero Dark Thirty
Naomi Watts, The Impossible
Quvenzhané Wallis, Beasts of the Southern Wild

Naomi Watts is out. People hate her. It's true! Don't pretend like it isn't. Everyone hates Naomi Watts. She just... wants it too much, y'know? Jessica Chastain is out, her character work can too easily be dismissed in Zero Dark Thirty and besides, the Academy wants to skirt the whole stupid controversy that comes with the film. Emmanuelle Riva and Quvenzhane Wallis both have a good story, one of them being super old and the other one being super young. The Academy loves to trumpet that shit in a: "Look how good they are despite their handicaps!" kind of way (rolls eyes). Their problem is Riva doesn't have the obvious and much loved body of work behind her to put her over the top and the same reason applies to Quvenzhane Wallis, plus very few people can pronounce her name. Jennifer Lawerence on the other hand, she is widely regarded as extremely talented, she is cute with just the right amount of awkward quirkiness, and she's a box office draw. The people love her. She's a lock.

Who should win: Quvenzhane Wallis (She's just so god damn adorable)
Who will win: Jennifer Lawrence (She is also just so god damn adorable)

Best Supporting Actor
Alan Arkin, Argo
Christoph Waltz, Django Unchained
Phillip Seymour Hoffman, The Master
Robert De Niro, Silver Linings Playbook
Tommy Lee Jones, Lincoln

Tommy Lee Jones is out, most likely because he's the Lincoln Award Sweep sacrifice. It's always the Supporting Actor. It seems like the Academy is a little mad a Tarantino, snubbing him for Director and Picture, so Waltz is also probably out. Phillip Seymour Hoffman dared to play a thinly disguised Hubbard, so he's out. Rober De Niro would be a shoe-in because he's Robert De Niro and he's not appearing in one of those crappy Meet the Parents films, except for the fact that Alan Arkin went for what is one of Hollywood's mostest favoritest of all roles: The Inside Baseball role that upholds the Magic and Myth of Hollywood. He plays a charming and funny successful Movie Producer in the know who is funny and charming and successful. The Academy is going to lap that shit up with a spoon.

Who should win: Phillip Seymour Hoffman (He's just really good)
Who will win: Alan Arkin (He's also good, but he's winning for another reason.)

Best Supporting Actress
Amy Adams, The Master
Anne Hathaway, Les Miserables
Helen Hunt, The Sessions
Jacki Weaver, Silver Linings Playbook
Sally Field, Lincoln

I don't really have any reasons why anyone specifically would be out of the running, except for Amy Adams and a pissed off Scientology Faction of Academy voters. Helen Hunt is kind of a random shot across the bow. Sally Field still has that embarrassing quote hanging over her head. Jacki Weaver? I got nothing. It doesn't matter, really, because this is Anne Hathaway's year. She's a lock. She has all the buzz. Apparently her performance is amazing and the people really seem to love her despite a few recent... ahem... slips...

Who should win: Anne Hathaway (whatever)
Who will win: Anne Hathaway (why not?)

Best Animated Film
The Pirates! Band of Misfits
Wreck-It Ralph

The Pirates movie is dumb and it doesn't belong on the same list as the others. Frankenweenie and ParaNorman might be hindered by their horror movie bend, which the Academy does not recognize as a valid genre. Wreck-it Ralph is supposed to be fun and cute, but it might be too modern of a topic, most of it's jokes and settings lost on the aging Academy voting base. But all that aside... Brave is awesome. Plus, it's Pixar.

Who should win: Brave (Because it's awesome)
Who will win: Brave (Because it's Pixar)

Best Original Screenplay
Amour, Michael Haneke
Django Unchained, Quentin Tarantino
Flight, John Gatins
Moonrise Kingdom, Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola
Zero Dark Thirty, Mark Boal

I have no idea why Flight was nominated. Amour is out for lack of familiarity, the nomination here is just to validate the Best Picture and Director nominations. Zero Dark Thirty? Too much controversy, but they're probably more afraid of what Tarantino would do on stage, if he won and because of that, they're out too. At least, Zero Dark Thirty is out, Tarantino may not be. Be that as it may, I'm betting on Moonrise Kingdom here, it's a film that maybe should have gotten a nod for Best Picture and this will be it's conciliatory prize. Also, it's a good film.

Who should win: Moonrise Kingdom (It deserves some accolades)
Who will win: Django Unchained (Potential trouble or not, Quentin brings the people)

Best Adapted Screenplay
Argo, Chris Terrio
Beasts of the Southern Wild, Lucy Alibar and Benh Zeitlin
Life of Pi, David Magee
Lincoln, Tony Kushner
Silver Linings Playbook, David O. Russell

This one is a little tougher. First off, Silver Linings is out. Its strength is in its actors, not its script. Life of Pi has nothing, no buzz, no appeal, it's a non-starter. Beasts of the Southern Wild may have an in, simply because it won't win any other awards, but the same could be said of Argo, especially in the wake of its Golden Globes surprise wins. But then there's Lincoln. It's pretty much the movie to beat this year, isn't it?

Who should win: Argo (It does a good job of distilling real life events into movie events)
Who will win: Lincoln (snore)

So what do you think? Nailed it? I did, didn't I? Yes? No? Want to bet me?

Huh? Huh? Come at me, bro!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

13 comics in '13

I know what you're saying. You're saying: "Okay sure, you've talked about some good movies, Jon, and you've talked about some bad ones. But what about the comics, Jon? Why won't you think of the comics?" Well, rest easy, gentle readers, I have heard your cries and so, for your reading pleasure... (And in no particular order)

1. Saga

Saga is an epic space opera that draws a lot of "it's this meets that" type descriptions using some pretty recognizable properties, but I find those limiting, so forget that. Instead, Sage is an epic space opera about two young lovers from opposite sides of intergalactic war. Alana and Marko are generally kind of fuck-ups and they're also brand new parents. The baby, Hazel, occasionally narrates. Both of them have gone AWOL from their respective armies and they are now on the run with their baby, just trying to get away from the endless war between their races, ducking authorities from both sides, a robot royal class who have TVs for heads, several bounty hunters, and even their own parents. Artist Fiona Staples (whose art really grew on me) and Writer Brian K. Vaughn (who for a brief time made the TV show Lost not stupid) have created an original and funny, ridiculously imaginative and frankly awesome new series. If you claim to be a comic fan, but whine incessantly about superheroes, well then, here's a fantastic alternative.

2. Batman

Ah, the classic. Batman needs no introduction. He's maybe one of the most, if not the most recognizable superhero ever, you all know him and his story. For clarification purposes though, we are only specifically talking about the Post-New 52, Scott Snyder written, Greg Capullo drawn series simply titled: Batman. All the others books can go screw. You see, as a general rule, I have no use for regular Batman books. In my opinion, Batman only really works in self-contained stories with a beginning, middle, and an ending. The endless serial, mostly due to the fact that it is endless (Going on, what? 70 plus years now?), generally ran out of gas along time ago. It just got stupid and convoluted. Hello, Ouroboros. So anyway, Snyder's Batman, as it is usually referred to, has been a breath of fresh air in an otherwise stodgy and well-established corner of the comic world. It features a new and younger Batman, with stronger stories, clearer character moments, and much more danger. Snyder has taken a character that is in the meta-sense basically immortal and invulnerable and made him interesting again. Plus Capullo draws the hell out of Batman.

3. Prophet

Prophet was one of the stupidest characters ever, created by one of the worst creator in comics ever, during one of the lowest points in comic book history, especially in terms of new character creation. It was just the awfullest of the awful. Dumb. Poorly drawn. Derivative. Ugly. Pointless. Terrible. It eventually died a well-deserved death due to either apathy on the part of the audience or because the fanbase all ended up winning Darwin Awards and sales ended up suffering. Over a decade later, the property was revived and has since proven that even a really stupid idea can be made into a good one, a brilliant one even, in the right hands. Writer Brandon Graham has taken the character of Prophet and spun an incredible, star-spanning sci-fi tale 10,000 years in the future, a story of fallen Empires, of old warriors returning to battle, of armies of clones still doing the bidding of their masters, of all the crazy and endlessly weird variations found in the far flung corners of the galaxy. Awesome and so well done. Highest recommendation.

4. Star Wars

This is maybe one of the best ideas ever. I am ridiculously jealous that I don't get to work on it. Brian Wood writes this and the basic premise is the continuation of the Star Wars story immediately following the original film, Star Wars (now called: A New Hope). Everything else, Empire, Return, the crappy prequels, the even crappier Expanded Universe books and games and comics may or may not happen. I mean, I'm sure Vader is still Luke and Leia's father and all that, but apparently, the idea is that everything before that first opening crawl and everything after the credits roll is up for grabs. How awesome an opportunity is that? Sure, sure, it's a little fan-fictiony, but I'm gonna say that the official endorsement kind of moves it out that realm, so it's all right. Anyway, there's only been one issue so far, but I'm excited to see where it goes.

5. Danger Club

Danger Club has a great premise: All the adult superheros and most of the villains left the planet to deal with some huge, unknown threat... and they never came back. No one knows what happened. They left one day and never returned. All that's left are the teen sidekicks, young people outside the law, some with the power of gods. Things quickly spiral out of control. There's a lot of recognizable pastiches, but with some good twists. It has a really nice Silver Age suddenly plunged into the dark feel. Lots of fun. This is a good comic that is published way too infrequently (timeliness being the main failure of most comics, for some reason), but I read recently that the latest issue is on the way, so hopefully they can get back on track.

6. Locke & Key

Locke and Key is by writer Joe Hill, a man who carries what is most likely a blessing and a curse career-wise, the fact that he is the son of Stephen King. I've always heard good things about his work, but until this book, I haven't gotten around to any of them. The premise really intrigued me: After their father is murdered, the Locke children move with their mother across country and into the family's ancestral home, a rambling old New England mansion known as the Key House. There is a horrible legacy locked up in that old house, a legacy of magic and murder and betrayal that happened to their father and his friends when they were younger. There's a monster trapped at the bottom of the well waiting to escape and exact its revenge. When the monster finally does escape, a race soon begins to find a series of keys, special keys for special doors, all with strange powers, that can unlock all the secrets and mysteries of Key House. All in all, I was so impressed with this book, such a great set up, so inventive, so well done. A lot of this series can be picked up in trade paper back form, so check it out.

7. All New X-Men

The All New X-Men is kind of like the Batman series I mentioned above and kind of like the Avengers books I mention below. In a nutshell, there is always one version or another of these books availlable and ongoing. You can walk into your local comic shop (1-888-COMIC-BOOK, if you're looking) any week and pick up the latest issue of of one of those titles. They are constant and never-ending. So, when you're recommending one of them to someone, you're really recommending specific runs or specific creators. Like if I were to recommend Thunderbolts to you, I would recommend issues #110 to #121. I would not endorse any issues outside these numbers. See how it goes? So... All New X-men is a new series written by Brian Michael Bendis and drawn by Stuart Immonen. I'm a big fan of Bendis and Immonen and I love the set-up: In the wake of the most recent big bruh-haha which ended with a possessed Cyclops killing Professor X (among other things), Dr. Henry McCoy, in an effort to cure his debilitating mutation and to stop Cyclops' jihad, travels back in time and brings the original five X-men forward, hoping to gain help from his younger self on his medical issue and to shock Cyclops into inaction when confronted with his younger, more idealistic self... it's a comic book, all right? However, once arrived, the original five find a themselves in a future world much worse than any dark future they could have ever imagined, so they stay to try to make a difference. And a new adventure begins...

8. Avengers Arena

Oh, controversy... with the popularity of Battle Royale and Hunger Games and yadda yadda yadda, Avengers Arena is Marvel's version. Arcade is a villain known for making killer amusement parks that he traps superheroes in and from which they later escape and then beat him senseless. Well, now he's back and upgraded somehow and he has a bunch of teen heroes trapped in a brand new Murder World and he's told them that, in order to survive, they have to kill each other and be the last one standing. The controversy in the comic world? Two kids are dead so far, one surprising, one not so surprising. The real surprise of this book though? It's really well done. I'm not familiar with either the writer or the artist, but they are doing good work, building tension, creating characters, adding a real sense of danger. All in all, so far they are telling a great story.

9. Wonder Woman

Yes, I know. This is the big shocker, isn't it? Wonder Woman is easily one of the top three most recognizable superheroes ever (Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman), but the really odd thing about her? Outside of her outfit and her accessories? No one knows anything about her. Origin? Okay, sure, maybe some people outside the comic world know it, but compare that to how many people know Batman and Superman's origins? I realize they are more exposed, but I'm just making a side point here about recognizability vs. known character traits. My larger point? She has no good stories, almost no note-worthy supporting cast to speak or, and at best, second rate villains. She's never really been an interesting character... and yet, world recognized. Weird, huh? Anyway, Brian Azzarello comes along, tangles her up with Greek Gods and adds a good splash of horror and a bunch of really cool new character designs and suddenly she's a real character with a real story, suddenly she's interesting, proving yet again, it's all about the script, folks (and art, as well, in the case of comics), which is why Avatar was so terrible.

10. The Manhattan Projects

Jonathan Hickman might currently be my favorite comic book writer. He didn't just make the Fantastic Four cool and fun again, but he wrote maybe the best run since Stan and Jack. He also penned the best run of the Ultimates ever, easily the best. Secret Warriors, super hero espionage? Excellent. I want more. The guy does good stuff. The only downside is, when it comes to his creator owned stuff, while they are uniformly highly imaginative and interesting, they also have a tendency to wander and usually flub the landing a bit. In short, with a firm editorial hand, the guy writes the shit out of books, but on his own...? It can get iffy. The Manhattan Projects is a brilliant exception. It is the story of a slightly different Los Alamos where everything goes wrong. It's a place fraught with conspiracies and weird technologies, packed with insane super-scientists, ex-nazis, and space aliens. It's fantastic. Two Albert Einsteins? One good, one from an alternate dimension and evil? This comic has it. Where else can you see Yuri Gargarin and Wernher Von Braun fighting off an insane AI powered by the personality of FDR? How many other places show you Oppenheimer machine-gunning a bunch of Japanese Kamikaze Robot Samurais down?

Not many, kids. Not many. Get on board.

11. Ultimate Spider-man

The Ultimate universe is a side universe, a pocket universe. It's different from the one most people know. In this universe, Peter Parker is dead. He gave his life protecting Aunt May and Mary Jane from a bunch of super villains, a moment truly embodying his credo: With great power, comes great responsibility. And with Peter dead, a new Spider-man has taken his place. That's what the new Ultimate Spider-man is all about, young Miles Morales is thirteen and trying to learn the superhero ropes. It's classic Spider-man stuff, problems with family and girls and leading a double life, but with new twists. Written by Brian Michael Bendis and drawn by Sarah Pichelli, it's fresh and fun. Bendis was on this book over ten years with Peter and it was consistently the best superhero book out there, month after month, and so far, the new title is keeping up with the tradition.

12. Thor: God of Thunder

Jason Aaron is writing the hell out of Thor and Esad Ribic is drawing the hell out of him. I love it. Thor is a character that's never really blown my skirt up, but in just four issues this book has moved to the top of my pile. The first story arc features three time lines: a young Thor carousing and fighting, long before receiving his enchanted hammer Mjolnir, the present day Thor, and a old Thor, missing an eye, missing an arm, scarred by battle, at the end of time, all of them facing off against a terrifying entity known as the God Butcher. It is a being that has been traveling the cosmos and killing gods. Thor is in a race to track him down, following the trail of bloody bodies, before Asgard falls victim. It is brutal. The sight of the dead gods from the various pantheons across the galaxy? Seeing a desperate Thor pin a beserker down and beat it to death with his hammer? It's fantastic and dark. Well done. Love it.

13. Avengers/New Avengers

These are both Jonathan Hickman again and I love both titles. One is the Avengers, and like the movie it is big and widescreen, all wild adventures and saving the day. It's marvel's biggest and best facing huge problems. It's legends, basically, legends making legends. The other book is the New Avengers, which features what is called the Illuminati. They are Tony Stark, Reed Richards, Black Bolt, Namor, and Dr. Strange. They've been secretly meeting for years and the consequences of the secrets of these powerful men and secret kings have rocked the marvel universe. Now, they're adding Hank McCoy, Black Panther, and Captain America and it looks like they're going to be fighting big problems from alternate earths. I love the imaginative scope and the amazing art. I'm such a fan.

Okay, that was a long one, so I'll wrap things up here, but before I do, here's an honorable mention title that didn't make the cut (I could only choose 13, after all) and some books I'm looking forward to, but haven't had a chance to read yet:

The Massive: (The honorable mention) A Brian Wood penned story of a world where the ice caps have melted and a ship of eco-warriors searches the wide new seas for their sister ship.
Young Avengers: Right now, just the art is attracting me, but it sounds fun. The title is self-explanatory, really.
Uncanny X-men: Bendis' companion title to the All New X-Men.
Guardians of the Galaxy: Also Bendis, featuring the space team that has an upcoming movie.
X-Men: Brian Wood again... jesus, I guess it's a trend... anyway, it's an all female team of X-men. Click the link. I like the art.
One Trick Rip-off/deep cuts: The new Paul Pope book, which is all the reason I need.


Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Best films of 2012

As I said yesterday, 2012 was a great year for film.

Sure, sure, it may not have been 1982 or 1984 or 2006, hell, it wasn't even a 2009... okay, maybe it was a 2009, but either way, you know what it was without a doubt? A pretty good year. Actually, I'm just kidding, 2012 was phenomenal year in film. I have probably saved myself a lot of headaches by just going ahead and making this list despite having missed several films that I know would be trying to crowd their way on. Because even with all those films missing (Django Unchained, The Master, Holy Motors,Save the Date, I Declare War, Zero Dark Thirty, The Ambassador, Wreck 'em Ralph, Central Park Five, Killing Them Softly, The Island President, The Man with the Iron Fists, Perks of being a Wallflower, Jack Reacher,Lincoln, to name a few...), it was still a really hard list to get down to just ten.

That being said, this list is in actuality--as always--my top ten favorite films of the year. Yes, I know the title of this blog is "Best", but before you get hung up on that particular semantic, let me explain. "Favorite", not necessarily "Best". Get it? They may not be award winning or even all that insightful, but they are the films I will most likely end up buying and I will definitely watch again and again.

Let's do this.

Top Ten Best Films of 2012

10. The Raid/The Dead

I'm starting off with a little bit of a cheat here. If that's a deal-breaker for you, well, I guess I'll just have to learn to live with that. Moving on, The Raid: Redemption is an insane Indonesian film about a good cop in a high-rise apartment building filled with criminals. It is the new definition of what makes an Action movie. It is relentlessly kick-ass. The Dead, on the other hand, is a pared down zombie apocalypse movie filmed in West Africa. It's premise is simple: A zombie outbreak happens and a mercenary is just trying to get off the continent and back home to America, bad shit happens. Both films are fantastic examples of the genre, perfectly delivering exactly what they set out to. Fun, new, inventive and yet automatically classic. I loved them both, I couldn't possibly choose between them, so they share a spot.

9. Bernie

For a long time, I looked forward to the new Richard Linklater films. It took me an even longer time to start wondering why. Eventually I realized that, besides Dazed and Confused, I haven't really liked any of his movies (well, Slacker, I guess), not really. I haven't hated them or anything, but... meh. So here comes Bernie and it stars Jack Black and Shirley MacLaine and I wasn't going to bother. But the premise intrigued me: A true life murder story from East Texas. Did the nicest man in town kill the meanest old lady? Why? Using actors and actual residents of the town, it is a charming, funny, dark, and seemingly effortlessly accurate portrait of small town life, half documentary/half true crime/half comedy film. Jack Black really is great. It's worth your time.

8. Cloud Atlas

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell, the novel, is an incredible book. An amazing voice. Incredible prose. The Wachowski siblings and Tom Tywker took it's themes of power and control and the inter-connectivity of lives and added a healthy splash of the power of Love. Seems silly, doesn't it? It is, a little. Cloud Atlas is the story of multiple lives and the same souls, spinning up through history, from the days of tall ships, up through the present day, and on, past dark futures and beyond, forever wrapped together. Yeah, it's a little silly, but only because Tywker and the Siblings were trying to paint a big, honest message in big, honest, gooey open-hearted strokes. It's exciting, hilarious, surprising, tense, and sad. All you need is love may be an unfair, over-simplification of the message, but it's apt enough. Are there some issues? Sure, but they did not interfere with my enjoyment of this film. It was ambitious and audacious and even though it failed a bit, it was still great in the attempt.

7. Moonrise Kingdom

After Darjeeling Limited, that was it. I was done with Wes Anderson and his bullshit, his white suits and his daddy issues, his Vespas and his overwhelming, unstoppable fetish for an era that never really was. Ugh, I was so tired of it. Where he was once a Director of promise, I had begun to feel like he had taken that promise and stomped it into the mud due to his refusal to try something new. But Moonrise Kingdom was innocent and sweet and funny and sad. It had everything that is a hallmark of Wes Anderson, but somehow avoided seeming so cynically purposeful as his last few films. It is a storybook tale of the intensity of first love, the impossibility of young love, of summer camp love. So as innocent and sweet as it was, it was also mean and dark, teetering on the edge of adulthood, inevitable in its ruin. I loved the balance. This movie reminded me of the promise of young Wes Anderson, it was fun and full of heart. I hope he can keep it up.

6. Detention

This movie is the best. It is the best. A send-up of teen films, of slasher films, of time travel films, and so much more. That's not to say that it's another one of those awful Scary Movie type movies either, because it's not. Detention is the type of film that a lot of people are not going to like and let me tell you, I am glad I am not you. I thought it was genius, crazy weird genius. The mother and daughter switching lives? "How hard is it to be popular in 1992?" The time traveling space bear? Taylor Fisher's guide to not being a total reject? The scene where the kid who has been in detention for 19 years (not the point of the film) is remembering all the long years, the different music and styles of the time as the camera spins, spins, spins back through the years? Genius. So funny. So crazy. I loved this film.

5. Looper

How great a year was this that Looper is only number five on my list? Super tight, clever and inventive, this film is like the sci-fi of old. It is bold and awesome and totally unafraid of its weird new world. It throws you in, explains very little of the side bits, and demands that you keep up. Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis are fantastic as younger and older versions of the same man, a hit man trying to pull off one last job, but does that surprise you? It shouldn't? What else do you expect from them? No, the real heart of this film is Emily Blunt as the mother willing to die for a son who might grow up to be the Scourge of the World. She is great. Incredible. She's strong and determined and still completely believably feminine. A fantastic performance. Seeing her here now makes me sad she wasn't able to be the Black Widow in the Marvel movies. So, so, so one of my favorite films of the year. A pure pleasure. And yet... only number five? What lies ahead, you wonder?

Read on, kid.

4. The Cabin in the Woods

Slasher films bore me, they're mostly populated with stupid characters doing inexplicably stupid things. Why do people still go to Camp Crystal Lake, do they not have newspapers or TV? You're driving away from a house where all your friends have been massacred, you run over a giant bloody weirdo wielding a chainsaw, why do you stop the car and check on him? Stupid and predictable. Cabin in the Woods is aware of all of these things and it embraces them, creating a film that is part clever commentary on slasher films, part terrifying slasher film with plenty of twists you won't see coming, and hands down, all awesome. I highly recommend this movie. You're not a fan of slasher films? It doesn't matter, it's not that type of film, it's better than that. You should watch this movie. Also, it's by Joss Whedon, so extra thumbs up.

3. Beasts of the Southern Wild

At first glance you might not think Beasts of the Southern Wild would belong on this list, if not tonally, then perhaps in intent and quality. You would be wrong. The touching fable of a father and daughter and a young girl's journey, this film is all storybook. It's sweet and funny and odd and sad. It was beautifully shot in New Orleans and the little girl, Quvenzhane Wallis, is a local, as is most of the cast. She's fantastic. They all are. And there's something to be said about the grassroots/locally-sourced/family created way this film was made, there's a feeling of magic to the whole thing. Will the Director be able to reproduce something of similar beauty and style and heart going forward? Time will tell, but for right now, you have this. Enjoy.

2. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Now, there are those who will stomp and mutter and rage, claiming my top two spots do not deserve their positions, shouting a litany of reasons. To those people I say, too bad, so sad, nothing you say is going to overcome my deep rooted love for this film and the one in the number one slot. Concerning The Hobbit? I loved it. Is it goofy? A little, but isn't the book a little goofy? Or at least, goofier than the Lord of the Rings? That's how I remember it. Does Jackson maybe stretch a few sequences out a little long? Maybe, but wasn't The Lord of the Rings movies a little long as well? And for those complaining about things like Gandalf ex Machina, the confusingly similar cast of characters, or the episodic nature of the story... talk to Tolkien, man, because that's all him. In Jackson's favor, he fleshed out the book and added dimension to it. He managed to make Thorin's party of Dwarfs into a much more specifically distinctive group of characters than Tolkien ever bothered to do. He also took a lot of the side pieces and explanations for things that happen in the Hobbit, but appear in the Simillarion or The Lord of the Rings and he added them back in at appropriate moments. Did these things bother you? Sorry, pal, because none of it bothered me. Fun, exciting... the word that occured to me most was: Adventure. Pure adventure.

1. Avengers

I was going to like this movie no matter what (see: Iron Man 2, Captain America, and Thor). It was made for me. I'm a fan. The Avengers is a film that I have always wanted, but assumed it was so impossible that I didn't even bother to wish for it. Any fan will tell you the same. Before this film came out, even as the Marvel Movies were really getting underway and headed toward this film, I didn't believe it would happen. And if it did happen, I had no hope that it would be any good. It's too big. It has too many characters. It will cost way too much.

There's no way it will work.

Then I saw it... in a really crappy theatre too, and it worked. Oh man, did it work. Oh man. And that's all I can say. If you don't get, I can't explain it to you. Sure, I can point you to extremely well-written articles that lay it all for you, (This one is written by Hulk himself, ignore the ALL CAPS and read the content, it's extremely well done) but honestly, if you didn't love it on first viewing, then you probably won't ever. Sorry, buddy. Sucks to be you.

This is easily--hands down!--my favorite film of the year. I will watch it forever, over and over. It's Joss Whedon kicking ass in the best, most true, and unapologetically comic book way without crumpling under the weight of continuity minutiae, the inherent silliness of the genre, or attempts to "broaden the demographic". It's the best summer film I have seen in years. Loved it. Every moment.

I can't wait for more.

'Nuff Said.

So there you go, my Top Ten films of 2012. And like I said at the beginning of the post, it was really difficult to get down to just ten. Here's a quick list of some of the films that I liked, but ultimately got edged out: Argo, Brave, Dredd, Skyfall, Chronicle, 21 Jump Street, Juan of the Dead, Sound of my Voice, and War of the Arrows. They're all worth checking out too.

So how about you? What do you think?

FRINGE - Enemy of Fate

It looks like Fringe is going out in style. Super-science. Cortexiphan. The Other Side. The Observers. Dark Futures. A shattered Statue of Liberty. Olivia. Bolivia. Peter and Walter and Astrid.

I can't wait. 


Monday, January 14, 2013

Worst films of 2012

All right, let's get this done.

2012 was a great year for film. This actually made it kind of difficult for me to make this list. Not because there weren't very many bad films this year, because there were, there were a ton, in fact. No, this list was difficult mostly due to the fact that very little this year really stood out from the feculent slurry of mediocrity that seemed to mark the average film. More so than usual, a lot of this year's crap seemed to be actively engaged in a contest with each other to see who could be the least memorable.

So this list? A little difficult.

Also, it needs to be said that I avoided a lot of obviously bad films. Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter? Ah, yeah... I was dumb enough to read the crappy book. I learned my lesson. The new Red Dawn? The latest Ghost Rider? Why would anyone go to those films? Seriously? You might as well throw your money directly into the toilet. That's My Boy? Come on, man. Come on. Taken 2? No, I don't believe I'll let you take me to anywhere, thank you very much. So these won't be on my list. Would they be had I actually bothered to see them? Probably. Duh.

So with that, this is my own personal "worst" list. What does "worst" mean in this context? Well, you can define it however you want. It could mean: "most disappointing". It could mean: "most disliked". It could just mean "bad". I guess it doesn't really matter, in the end, however you define it, they all come out the same: They're "the worst".

Top Ten Worst Films of 2012

10. Dark Knight Rises

What? The third film in Christopher Nolan's beloved Bat franchise? Am I sure? Yes. Good Lord, yes, I am sure. I did not like this movie. I did not like it for a myriad of reasons too exhaustive to go into that I don't really care about that much and honestly just add up to the fact that I just didn't like this movie. In a nutshell: There's barely any Batman in this Batman film. Heath Ledger's death obviously derailed Nolan's original plans. It is also obvious that Nolan would have rather been making a cop movie with Joe Levitt (understandable). The sound mix on Bane's voice was awful. The whole "class war" thing was inane. Batman looks silly in daylight. I just can't believe the SEC wouldn't just null Bane's trades made during the raid on Wall Street. The Pit Prison was stupid. They have Batman broken and recover TWICE? In the same movie? Batman's whole goal is to some day finish his war and then retire? What? I have so many problems with this film. Wholly and completely disappointing.

It deserves this spot.

9. The Campaign

Usually the Will Ferrell formula works somewhat. He takes a job, adds a haircut, and riffs. Talladega Nights? Hilarious. Anchorman? It's kind of a big deal. Even when it doesn't totally work (Blades of Glory), it still kind of works a little bit, usually. Usually. This film? I was actually a little excited. Ferrell and Galifanakis are two really funny guys who can riff like crazy, and they're being set loose into an arena where you rarely have to bother even making up ridiculous stupid shit, because it happens every day in politics. But the end result? No heart. No comedy. Unwatchable.

8. The FP

Usually I avoid including movies like this, movies that have very little resources or talent available, movies that pretty much have zero chance of being actually good. In fact, with home made films like this, the best you can hope for usually is a nugget of talent and ability that a little support and some resources might be able to nurture into something. So I usually don't bother putting films like this on my worst lists, because a crappy film made by generally untalented people with no real resources turning out to be bad? Duh, y'know? However, this film was a special case, because to me, this film represents the darkside of the democratization of film. This movie, the story of a dark future where rival gangs face each other in Dance Dance Revolution Video Game fights, ends up seeming like nothing but an in-joke taken too far. I'm sure it was really, really funny when the group of them were all at their house on a boring night, drunk, making up funny WWE type names and outfits and then dance battling on DDR for shits and giggles, but on film? It's horrendous.

7. Total Recall

There are so many films that could have stood in this spot this year. Battleship, Wrath of the Titans, Resident Evil: Retribution, on and on. Soulless, unwanted, CGI explode-fest garbage. So many. But Total Recall is the worst of a terrible bunch. Dumb, loud, boring, nonsense. The type of film with some gobblety-goop ending of noise and computer graphics that you're not even paying attention to by the time it rolls around. It's the classic type of nu-cinema from the last decade or two seemingly made for people who have no discerning opinion about film. Supposedly this version sticks more closer to the original Phillip K. Dick short story than the classic Schwarzenegger/Verhoeven one, but who cares? The film is a complete and total waste of time, and I saw it for free in the comfort of my own home. It's just dumb. And for a movie so packed with action set-pieces, special effects, stunts and shoot-outs, it is completely unremarkable or memorable. How the hell does Len Wiseman keeping getting work?

6. Killer Joe

I hadn't even heard of this film until it started appearing on people's best of lists. I thought to myself: "Self, you like McConaughey and Gina Gershon, right?" Sure, I do. So I checked it out. About 10 minutes in, after listening to the dialogue, I had a realization: "Oh no," I thought, "This is based off a play, isn't it?"

Sure enough, it was based off a play.

The lesson? Sometimes plays shouldn't be movies.

5. Snow White and the Huntsman

I fell for this movie's trick. When I first heard about it, it was just a new Kirsten Stewart movie and I wasn't interested. Why would I be? She's awful. Then I heard that it was an action-y adaptation of the Snow White story and I really wasn't interested. Why would I be? That idea is awful. But then I saw the trailer and some of the fantasy imagery, the inclusion of the guy who played Thor throwing axes? I was confused. Could this movie turn out to be okay? I mean, sure, no matter what Kristen Stewart would still be in it, tucking her hair behind her ears, chewing on her bottom lip, and just... sucking all the good out of everything, but what if the rest is kind of fun? It looked fun. It looked kind of cool. So I watched it. And it was dull, so, so dull. So dull. What a boring movie. I was actually shocked at how boring the film was. So boring. Also, Kirsten Stewart was awful.

4. Seven Psychopaths

I don't get this movie. Some people looooove it and I just don't get why. I can see what they were attempting to do, the whole switch-a-roo of expectations of the type of movie it is, fine, but when they announced exactly how the movie was going to end early on in the film, I groaned out loud. I was like: "Please, no," but... yep, that's exactly what they then went and did. And it just didn't work for me. Too much meta-self-awareness is a bad thing, man. I loved In Bruges, in fact, if you haven't seen that film, I highly recommend it. Highly. But this? The Director's next film? I did not like it. I don't think it worked at all. Too much self awareness is a bad thing.

3. Amazing Spider-man

What a mess. What a failure. A complete misunderstanding of Peter Parker as a character. A complete screw up of maybe (outside of the Waynes) the most famous death of a superhero's (surrogate) parent. A completely unnecessary reboot of a superhero's origin with a side effect of screwing up the character's story. And to make this abysmal failure even more "amazing", they decided to include a story from the comic books that even the comic books themselves have silently distanced themselves from: Peter's parents were secret agents/super scientists on the run. What? You'd never heard that before? You know why? Because it's dumb. It's pointless. And best forgotten. THEN? Then, at the eleventh hour, the geniuses behind this mess of a film realized how stupid a story line it was, so they cut it out of the film. The problem with that? They didn't have enough time or didn't realize that cutting pieces out of the story without adjusting the scenes around those cuts, is a little like cutting stains out of a dirty blanket instead of washing it. All you get is a blanket full of holes that no longer works, which is exactly what happened to this film. The most interesting part of this film? They actually included a lot of the cut scenes as extras on the DVD, just to show off how hodge-podge and hacked up the film was. It's crazy. The only upside of the film? Emma Stone.

2. Dark Shadows

Tim Burton is awful. He makes awful films. Sure, sure, the new Frankenweenie is cute with some clever little classic horror movie nods, but cute and clever in no way makes up for this awful... awful... AWFUL... film. It's just ugly and obnoxious and stupid. There is nothing good here. Tim Burton should take a break and ask himself if he even enjoys making movies anymore. I don't think he does. In fact, after seeing this film, I think he actively hates movies.

1. Prometheus

I really wanted to like this film. I really did. But I just can't. It's terrible. It's beautiful to look at, absolutely beautiful, but it's a terrible film. Michael Fassbinder is fantastic, as always, he sells David the Android so well, but the movie? Terrible. Terrible and dumb. So dumb. Woof. Remember the guy and the alien snake? The guys that got lost? So dumb. The whole problem lies in the script. Well, and some of the directing too. So disappointing. So, so, so disappointing. Beautiful. But Good Lord, so disappointing. What a shame.

So there you go! Thoughts? Responses? Did I miss any?

Tune in tomorrow for my Best of List,