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Why I Gave Up On The Protector 2

February 12, 2015

the protector 2I had a bit of a rough birthday last Friday. I was alone with the kids, had a hefty amount of work to get done and had just gotten over a pretty gnarly stomach virus. So, when they both finally fell asleep, I thought I’d treat myself to an action movie. After flipping through Netflix, I came to The Protector 2, the sequel to one of my favorite action movies, and decided to give it a shot.

It was a major disappointment.

I’ve written several times about how much I like Tony Jaa’s amazing, athletic, intense films. Ong Bak and Protector are top notch examples of modern action classics. I’ve even watched movies that he only cameos in and got pretty bummed when he retired to become a monk for a few years. So, when I saw this movie on Netflix I was incredibly excited, but it was a total let down.

My first problem came about 20 minutes in during the first major fight scenes that finds Jaa’s Kham once again trying to find an elephant by beating his way through street thugs. This particular one takes place on a series of rooftops and involves a variety of bad guys attacking on dirt bikes. The problem is that, as soon as you introduce an idea like that, action fans are going to start comparing it to the one from Rumble In The Bronx.

In theory, Jaa and director Prachya Pinkaew (Ong-bak, The Protector) had the potential to top Chan’s work, but they fall incredibly far from the mark. The green screen work is awful as are the explosions and shotty compositions that are supposed to make you believe that a motorcycle is that close to a person’s head. Even if I’m mistaken in what I thought were poorly done special effects, there’s something about the film quality that makes me doubt what I’m seeing. And the key feature to movies like this is believing everything that’s happening (something that this director and star have done easily in films past). If I find myself thinking, “Is that real?” instead of “HOW’D THEY DO THAT!!!” something’s wrong.

I hoped that might be the end of the film’s problems, but that wasn’t the case. A later fight scene is set in a room on fire, something that happened in an early Jaa offering (I really can’t remember if it was Ong-bak or Protector, it’s impossible to keep those movies straight). They seemed intent on upping the ante by making a TON of fire, but instead it looks goofy because it’s all CGI. Oh and did I mention the fight that takes place in a zeppelin hanger for no apparent reason? Ugh.

But worst of all was the fact that, in some of these scenes, Jaa looked bored. In his earlier films, this guy stomped through his scenes like a force of nature intent on avenging elephants. Now, that sounds silly as I type it, but this dude was INTENT. There are whole scenes in this film where he looks like he’s waiting for lunch. It’s too bad because I’ve often thought that disappointing is worse than bad, but in this case, I think this movie is both and didn’t even bother finishing it.

World’s Finest Trade Post: Batman Adventures & Adventures Of Superman

February 11, 2015

the batman adventures vol 1 The Batman Adventures Vol. 1 (DC)
Written by Kelley Puckett & Martin Pasko, drawn by Ty Templeton, Rick Burchett, Brad Rader & Mike Parobeck
Collects The Batman Adventures #1-10

In a recent post over on my dad blog PopPoppa.com, I reviewed the delightful Batman ’66 Volume 1, a series set in the same universe as the 1960s Adam West TV series. I noted that the series would be a pretty great place to start if you were looking to give younger kids a good jumping on point for Batman. While it does have a good deal of crime, it’s very much in-line with the tone of the TV series which means its lighthearted, fun and also very funny.

I’m always looking for comics that I can read to my daughter when and if she’s interested in going down that route, so when I was at the library, I also picked up the first volume of The Batman Adventures which was amazing, but not something I’ll be passing along to my kiddo at this point. I wasn’t super surprised because the cartoon this is based on — Batman: The Animated Series — is also kind of dark.

That being said, though, these are still some pretty great Bat-comics that would be great for an older kid or anyone interested in checking out the Dark Knight’s comic book exploits. The series kicks off with an already-established version of Batman running around Gotham putting a stop to hooligans like Penguin, Catwoman, Joker and the rest. I appreciated that writer Kelley Puckett avoided the tired idea of going through Batman’s origin in the first issue. Everyone knows who Batman is and why he does what he does, it doesn’t need to be reiterated and isn’t. I also appreciated that, even though the first three issues can and do stand alone, they also work as an overarching drama that pits Bats against some of his greatest foes.

These 10 issues show exactly why Batman is the kind of character that people have been reading about and following for 75 years. He does whatever it takes to save people while also showing that he has a heart. While reading these issues ostensibly written for children, I found myself thrilled with Batman’s exploits, worrying about people and even feeling bad for bad guys like Killer Croc and Clayface. These delightful adventures are brought to life by a quartet of artists who do a killer job working within the style presented by the TV series. I’m actually a big fan of Mike Parobeck who drew four issues going back to the Justice Society Of America miniseries’ he worked on in the early 90s that introduced me to a team I’ve loved ever since. If you’re looking for a continuity-light, easy access series of Batman comics to read yourself or pass to an interested party, I can’t recommend this collection more!

adventures of superman vol 1Adventures of Superman Vol. 1 (DC)
Written & drawn by lots and lots of awesome folks.
Collects Adventures Of Superman #1-5

I’m also giving Adventures Of Superman Volume 1 a big thumb’s up. This is a series that appeared digitally first, then collected into single issues before being brought together into a trade. Unlike The Batman Adventures, this book is actually an anthology with a variety of killer writers and artists doing Superman stories from a continuity-free place that has no connection to existing media (ie, it’s not based on a TV show or cartoon).

The beauty of these stories is that they come from such a creative place. When it comes to a hero like Superman who has been around forever and is an important part of DC’s publishing plan, you can get to a place where the comics and stories feel artificially manufactured or even half-assed. But, because these are short stories brought to you by some of the best and brightest this industry has to offer, you can feel that — even if you don’t necessarily dig the tale — it came from a truly creative place.

AOS is also nice for people like me who have a long-standing love of Superman, but don’t care for what’s been done since DC restarted the continuity a few years ago. I’ve said that “my” versions of a lot of these characters aren’t being published anymore (but thankfully still exist in the 20 longboxes sitting in my garage), but many of the stories in this collection have that feel which is really nice.

If you’re a Superman fan who feels like your favorite hero is constantly written off as a Big Blue Boring Boy Scout, I’d say that Adventures Of Superman Volume 1 is the perfect book to hand to someone as proof that that is not the case. Yes, he’s a great hero, but he’s also a great character whose adventures I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of reading.

Toy Commercial Tuesday: She-Ra Princess Of Power

February 10, 2015
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I’ve got more She-Ra goodness here on this week’s TCT. This time around the spot focuses solely on the Princes of Power herself. I’m still shocked by how restrained and gentle the girls in this commercial are, to almost Stepford degrees. Compare that ad to this He-Man one I wrote about last summer and they’re totally different! It’s too bad Mattel felt the need to go this route and I assume it didn’t represent how girls of the time actually played with these toys. My 3 year old started watching She-Ra and not a week later was chasing her Papa around the house with a wrapping paper tube craving an all-out battle. I’d guess that was far more the norm than distant fawning and adulation being bestowed upon a toy that’s literally put on a pedestal.

Spider-Man Trade Post: Big Time & Matters Of Life And Death

February 5, 2015

amazing spider-man big time The Amazing Spider-Man: Big Time (Marvel)
Written by Dan Slott, drawn by Humberto Ramos with Neil Edwards & Stefano Caselli
Collects Amazing Spider-Man #648-651

Want to know something? I’ve never really read Spider-Man comics. I’ve loved just about every incarnation I’ve seen on TV, some of the movies and really dig the idea of the characters, but every time I asked someone to recommend a definitive Spider-Man run from the modern era, there wasn’t much of a general consensus. That all changed in the past few years when Dan Slott took over the book. He was part of the rotation when the line was slimmed down to just Amazing Spider-Man after One More Day, but eventually took the reigns himself. I actually tried getting into the run with New Ways To Die, but it didn’t stick. Still, I wanted to give it a shot and Big Time seemed like the place to go.

And boy, was it! I think I’m in love with this run and have already requested the next six or seven volumes from the library. Much like with Jonathan Hickman’s Fantastic Four run that I love so much, Slott takes what the general public knows about the character while also incorporating new elements and (I assume) offering plenty of tasty bits for longtime fans. No, I didn’t know that Aunt May was married to J. Jonah Jameson’s dad or that JJJ had been elected mayor, but those details didn’t derail me at any point from enjoying the story. Even when characters with highly complicated back stories like Hobgoblin and Mac Gargan come into play, Slott conveys the exact right amount of information without coming across as a mega info dump.

But, you don’t stay on a book for so long just because you write stories that are easy for me to read. You stay on a book because you create great stories with characters readers can’t get enough of. I’m reminded of the love I had for Peter Parker when I watched the 90s cartoon. Sure he has the problems he’s always had (or new versions), but he’s also not a total sad sack about them as he was in Spider-Man 2. In fact, as these two books move along, things start going really well for Pete as he scores a killer new job. But these are comics and we’re talking about Spider-Man, so it can’t really last, can it?

amazing spider-man matters of life and deathThe Amazing Spider-Man: Matters of Life and Death (Marvel)
Written by Dan Slott with Fred Van Lente, drawn by Stefano Caselli, Humberto Ramos, Marcos Martin, et al
Collects Amazing Spider-Man #652-657, 654.1

The fun times start to decline for Spider-Man and Peter in this volume as Smythe attacks J. Jonah Jameson’s family and loved ones with an army of insect-enhanced people who share his distaste for the former Daily Bugle Editor-In-Chief. Unfortunately for everyone involved, Smythe makes good on his threat and offs someone Jonah loves and, even though I’ve only read these few issues with this character, I’d grown quite fond of them and felt pretty darn bad myself.

Though nowhere near as bad as Peter who shuts down a bit before deciding that he’s not going to let anyone else die. Leading up to that, though, we get Amazing Spider-Man #655, an issue that deals with death and loss in such a raw, real way that it’s easily one of the best, most honest comic books I’ve ever read.

There’s a lot more going on in these books as well including the first appearance of Flash Thompson as Venom (which spun out into its own series), Parker’s new workmates and what they think they know about Spider-Man and not one, but TWO different costumes for our hero. I’m a sucker for that kind of stuff.

Most of all, I love how fully Slott embraces Peter Parker’s intelligence. Before I worked at Wizard and was exposed to a lot more comics, I never really thought about how Parker fits up there with Banner, Stark and Richards, but he does and Slott goes right in for that idea. Smart is sexy and nerds are cool. We need more of that pretty much everywhere.

I’m also a big fan of the artwork in these books. Ramos is an artist I generally associate with horror comics like Crimson, but drawing Spider-Man is in his blood! He mixes the flexibility of the character with the ability to capture facial expressions perfectly AND kill it when it comes to the villains. I also quite enjoy Caselli’s style and have since I first saw him draw Secret Warriors. And, boy, I hope Martin won all the awards for Amazing #655. The script for that was top notch, but the art came up to the same level.

Toy Commercial Tuesday: She-Ra’s Crystal Castle

February 3, 2015
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My three year old daughter has discovered and fallen in love with She-Ra in the past few months. So, it seemed like a good time to go back and scope out some of the commercials Mattel made back in the 80s to appeal the young girls they wanted to sell these toys to. Growing up I was pretty hardcore into He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, but I honestly don’t remember much about his sister She-Ra. I not only didn’t watch the show, but possibly blocked out the whole franchise, which is odd because I have memories of other “girl-centric” franchises of the day like My Little Pony, Cabbage Patch and the like.

So, I’ve been looking at a lot of this stuff with fresh eyes and think there’s a lot of solid, interesting ideas here. In fact, I’m pretty sure She-Ra would make a better movie than He-Man, but that’s neither here nor there, really. I love this spot for all the usual reasons. I dig seeing kids play with toys and am a longtime playset fan. It is interesting to me how restrained the girls are in this commercial though. Were this a commercial for a “boy toy” the little guys would be going crazy for the new piece of play equipment, but these girls look at the Crystal Castle almost reverentially. They should have been able to show their excitement for such a cool toy!

Halloween Scene: My Halloween Watch List

January 29, 2015

Goodness gracious! I was looking through my unpublished drafts and found this post about the rest of the horror movies I watched during October. There’s some good stuff in here, so let’s jump back in time a few months and think scary thoughts!

dawn of the dead originalAfter a super busy September and October, I’m still catching up on all of the movies I watched for work and fun. After focusing on new films early on in the season, I decided to go through my movie collection and Netflix to make a list of films I wanted to watch leading up to Halloween. The list had a total of 26 films, though I wound up removing five. All told, I watched 13 plus the seven films making up the original Halloween franchise. I’m saving a few of them for another post, but I did want to throw out a few thoughts about what turned out to be a major rewatch experience.

As it turned out, zombies were a huge part of this year’s list. Dawn and Day Of The Dead easily made the list along with Dance Of The Dead, the Dawn remake and World War Z. I didn’t get to those last two, but I keep seeing more and more things in those two Romero movies that I love. I’ve been seeing a lot of people dump on the zombie genre lately. To them I say, watch those two movies. They are amazing films, not just horror flicks. Meanwhile, I still have a great time with Dance which is just super impressive when you take into account it’s a low budget film that doesn’t look it. This is easily one of my favorite zombie movies from the past few decades. Read more…

Books Of Oa: War Of The Green Lanterns & Aftermath

January 28, 2015

green lantern war of the green lanternsGreen Lantern: War of the Green Lanterns (DC)
Written by Geoff Johns, Tony Bedard & Peter J. Tomasi, drawn by Doug Mahnke, Tyler Kirkham, Fernando Passarin, Ed Benes & Ardian Syaf
Collects Green Lantern #63-67, Green Lantern Corps #58-60 & Green Lantern: Emerald Warriors #8-10

After the events of Blackest Night, the Green Lantern books had a little time to do their own thing before coming back together for the next big event, War Of The Green Lanterns. As it turned out, this also marked the end of this run in the old DC continuity as Flashpoint soon followed and everything was replaced with the New 52, though the GL books seemed to come through mostly unchanged (at least as I’ve seen in the first few volumes of Green Lantern and Green Lantern Corps). For reference, the volumes that lead up to War Of The Green Lanterns include GL: Brightest Day, GLC: Revolt Of The Alpha Lanterns and The Weaoponer and Emerald Warriors.

Alright, so the basics of this big event are that Krona, the being who looked back on the origins of the universe and accidentally unleashed evil is still around as a shrunken, crazy Guardian. He’s collected all of the emotional entities, trapped most of the main Lanterns in the Book of the Black, possessed the Guardians with the entities and put Parallax back in the main power battery to infect and control all existing GLs. Since they already had experience with Parallax, Hal Jordan, Kyle Rayner, John Stewart and Guy Gardner are able to resist long enough to ditch their rings and eventually put on new ones. Hal goes with Yellow, Kyle Blue, John Indigo and Guy Red.

From there it’s a matter of them figuring out how to master these new rings while also saving the galaxy from an army of mind-controlled Green Lanterns, including the biggest one of all, Mogo. Incredibly hard decisions have to be made, but in the end the heroes come through with a very hard-fought victory that results in one of them getting ousted from the Corps.

While the idea of yet another big GL crossover might not seem like the most interesting thing in the world, I will say that this one offered a lot that the others didn’t. For one thing, the rainbow of Lanterns is not around aside from our four main heroes. I also enjoyed how it focused mainly on the four Earth GLs working together, something that didn’t happen in the other events until the last few chapters. Also, while the universe might seem crowded with so many different and new Lanterns, this story really focuses on the GLs which is kind of nice.

war of the green lanterns aftermath War of the Green Lanterns: Aftermath (DC)
Written by Tony Bedard, Peter J. Tomasi & Scott Kolins, drawn by lots and lots of folks
Collects War Of The Green Lanterns Aftermath #1-2, Green Lantern Corps #61-63 & Green Lantern: Emerald Warriors #11-13

As you can imagine, the stories included in War Of The Green Lanterns: Aftermath deal with everything that happened in the wake of that story. There’s a plot to kill Sinestro who has a Green Lantern ring now, everyone hates John Stewart for taking out a major player in the Corps and the other Corps members seem to generally dislike Earthmen because they cause so much trouble. Of course, they also seem to forget that, without Earthmen like Hal and Kyle there wouldn’t be a Corps at all, but I guess small details like that are easily forgotten in the post-battle, post traumatic stress-filled Oa.

Overall, the tone of these stories is pretty down, but that makes sense from a story perspective. On the other hand, Guy gets to have a bit of fun as he goes on three one-off adventures in the final issues of Emerald Warriors, one of which teams him up with Batman. But, the sad tone actually makes sense on another level when you realize this is the very last Green Lantern Corps collection set in the old universe. As I mentioned above, the GL books made it through the change pretty unscathed, but there’s something to be said about closing out on something of a down note.

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