Saturday, April 28, 2012

Review: Superman: Secret Identity

Superman: Secret Identity
Superman: Secret Identity by Kurt Busiek

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow. I love books like this. Stories about people dealing with super powers is such a real way, with such real reactions, I can't get enough of it. Busiek writes an optimistic "Chronicle" here and it's great. The emotion of Clark as he deals with his power and changing life is written with a realistic tone that never breaks the believability of the story, Superman or not. Watching Clark get his powers reminds me of all the things I would want to do with that same gifts. Flying around the world, breaking atmosphere, living above the clouds, it's all well done. Watching Clark age as real emotion to it, as his powers weaken, as others fill his place, as he looks back on what really mattered. This is a story about life, not powers.

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Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Review: Iron Man: Armor Wars Prologue

Iron Man: Armor Wars Prologue
Iron Man: Armor Wars Prologue by David Michelinie

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This volume is still as fun as the previous but not as memorable. The term "Prologue" is used liberaly here, these stories taking place before the Armor Wars but having little to do with that story. There were some good moments with Justin Hammer and his group of villains (poor Blizzard can never catch a break). This book also had the introduction of the Ghost, who I'm enjoying in Thunderbolts. Good, solid storytelling, just not much to tell.
I hope the Armor Wars lives up to the hype.

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Review: Batman: The Cult

Batman: The Cult
Batman: The Cult by Jim Starlin

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I had never heard of this story until it was lent to me. It's pretty gruesome throughout and has one heavy 80's vibe. Batman is put through painful moments in this book and the lack of the comic code worked in it's favor, or at least most of the time. The biggest issue I had with this book is that it's heavily influenced by Frank Miller's "The Dark Knight Returns". The content, the violence, the mood, it's all reminiscent of Miller's book. Even the Batmobile gets a Miller take in this.
The more I think about this book, the less I like it. Batman seems ineffective and easily manipulatable and the book seems like it's being dark for the sake of being dark. Interesting but not a powerful success.

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Wednesday, April 4, 2012

On Apocalypse Now

I finally got around to watching Apocalypse Now. When I took my Art and History of Film class a while ago, we only watched clips of this movie in class but the assigned viewing went to Francis Ford Coppola's Godfather and Godfather: Part II. Having seen all three of these films I can now say that Apocalypse Now is the superior film by far. I enjoyed the first Godfather movie, even if it wasn't the greatest film ever, but I found the second one to be one of the most over-hyped movies I've ever seen. The plot was dull, the best actors had been killed in the first film, and it went on for far too long. There's a lot of people out there that would be very angry to hear that, but I just can't see what they see.
Apocalypse Now? It's a movie that lives up to its legend. With "The End" opening the movie and the sound of the helicopters flying overhead, the film gripped me from the beginning and never let me go. It's a long movie, about 200 minutes, but I never felt bored. Coppola shoots the movie in a chaotic, trippy fashion, exemplifying the whole war. There's no escape from the anarchy that ravages the movie, the soldiers without command or the battles that erupt out of twitch trigger fingers. Watching this movie reminded me of Aguirre: The Wrath of God, even though the two are completely different stories. But both movies force the characters down a seemingly never-ending river with little hope of victory against the jungle, the people defending it, and their own madness.

Martin Sheen is amazing in the film. Throughout the entire story he seems to be both containing the insanity around him and allowing for it take him over. He's reserved, but farther gone than he would like to admit. The scene with the passing crop boat, and the wounded woman, tells you how much the war has effected him. Marlon Brando is great as well, much better than he had been in the Godfather films. He's completely out of his mind but you want to believe there's something there at the end.

The real star of the movie, though, is the color. Coppola made a movie where color is everything. The scenes at night, passing by bridges filled with machine gun fire and explosions, is almost carnival in its color scheme. The blues are cold, the reds are mad, and the greens are either the beauty of the jungle or pure insanity. The skies, the landscape, the villages, all of these seem to be painted with such purpose and care that I can't even imagine how Coppola got every scene to look the way he wanted. In such a chaotic film, there is such purpose to the shadows that it almost defies my belief.

Definitely a great film, the best of Coppola's I've seen. I also preferred this over Stanly Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket, another trippy Vietnam film. I don't know if I have the energy or insanity to watch it again, but I know that if I walked into a room with Apocalypse Now playing on the television, I wouldn't be going anywhere.

Monday, April 2, 2012

On The Tree of Life

I just watched The Tree of Life last night. Terrance Malick is an interesting director, at least. He doesn't really make movies, he makes experiences. When I watched The Thin Red Line last year, I was struck by how beautiful the cinematography was and how much the battle in the village felt like I was there. 

His new movie, while going through the creation of the entire universe, is the story of growing up. Jack, the main character we focus on, is a young boy dealing with his father. He goes through it all, being the loved only child, the strangness of dealing with a new sibling, wanting to be like your father, hating your father, hating your family, learning to like girls, hating yourself, hating God, coming back. It's all there and the camera never stops moving. With that, the experience of life never stops in the movie and you feel the pull and confusion of growing up.

Brad Pitt is great as Jack's father, split in his love for his sons and his inability to relate to them. You can see his awkwardness when hugging them, you can see his own frustration with his actions but his inability to stop. Jessica Chastain doesn't have many lines, but her non-verbals cue you in on everything that she's dealing with as Jack's mother. Sean Penn, as the adult Jack, is fairly useless. 

Which leads me to the biggest issue. This work, being an experience, is not a movie. There's a story in there, but the resolution is how you make it. My problem? I don't like abstract art. Call me out on that if you want, but I don't get it or it's appeal. The story of young Jack? Perfect, in all most every way. The "maybe this is really happening or maybe it's just a metaphor" ending? Keep it to yourself, Malick. With that said, I will admit to being moved almost to the point of tears during the creation parts, but that was pretty straight forward. Universe begins, forms, and then we watch the small American family. The possible "heaven" scene at the end with a shambling Penn? It doesn't need to be there.

That said, I could have used some more dinosaurs.

Review: Extra Lives: Why Video Games Matter

Extra Lives: Why Video Games Matter
Extra Lives: Why Video Games Matter by Tom Bissell

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Considering that the title reads "Why Video Games Matter", you would think Bissell would try and prove that point. Unfortunately, he misses the mark. In it's essence, this book is a series of reviews to games the writer has played. Very little is talked about in regards to video games being art or culturally significant. Maybe I've just been out of the gaming scene for too long but it was hard to get into this book and read the loving memories of someone else playing video games. His chapter on playing Resident Evil for the first time was good, and made me feel that I missed out on something back in '97, but that chapter is the only standout. I half-expected each chapter to end with an official grade of the game, but Bissell must have been trying to tell us why his book mattered more than the subject matter.

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Review: Iron Man: Iron Monger Premiere HC

Iron Man: Iron Monger Premiere HC
Iron Man: Iron Monger Premiere HC by Dennis O'Neil

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The second book in my attempt to read through Iron Man and I liked it. Iron Man is a fun hero and the writers of the 80s seemed to realize that. Similar to the Demon in a Bottle collection, Iron Monger is really only present for the last issue, while the ones leading up to it are slow progressions to the ultimate showdown. Stark has to deal with the fallout of his drinking and how weak it made him feel to be Iron Man. Those stories are okay, but the constant whining of Stark gets old fast. But the interplay between him and Rhodes is fun and the last issue is a winner. Stane is villain who mostly works, even when he veers on the silly, but his final move at the end proves he's an interesting guy. Really, it's just fun to read these issue for the 80's vibe but the story is good too.

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