I discovered this little gem while looking for a completely different commercial and just had to post it. I vaguely remember seeing these Rock Em Sock Em Robot type Big Time Action Heroes in the 90s on toy shelves, but never really got into them. I love how 90s this commercial comes off with the pointlessly black and white town and the EVERYTHING IS AWESOME voiceover. But the best part? Wolverine would be straight up murdering Spider-Man in this fight. His claws are out! One punch to Spidey’s face and his shish kabob. That’s not even fair. Not cool Toy Biz, not cool.
Alfred Hitchcock once said that you shouldn’t make a movie out of a good book. That’s what he supposedly did with The Birds and that worked out pretty well, right? Well, apparently Steven Spielberg did the same thing with Peter Benchley’s Jaws. The book, much like the movie, finds a resort town terrorized by a great white shark. Sheriff Brody, shark scientist Matt Hooper and grizzled fisherman Quint are the only three people willing to go out and put a stop to all this.
I spent most of the day listening to this book while doing work and watching our daughter and have to say, I was pretty bored. Things start off interesting, with Brody trying to figure out how to handle this unusual problem. While, in general, I think the movie is all around better than the book, I will say that the complexities of keeping the beaches open are more deeply explored in the book and make more sense than “the mayor’s a jerk.”
Speaking of the mayor, he’s a far more detailed character in the book, but I’m not sure if that’s such a great thing. The overall problem with the book is that it spends far too much time away from the shark. As you may or may not know, there’s an entire subplot the finds Brody’s wife having an affair with Hooper, whose older brother she dated in high school. There’s a whole dinner party scene and then one where they go to dinner. All of this took about an hour in audiobook form. AN HOUR! Even worse? It didn’t really have much to do with the story other than to make us feel a little better when SPOILER Hooper dies in his shark cage (something Spielberg was supposedly going to keep in the film version, but changed for a bit of a happier ending). At the end of the day, when you’re writing a book about sharks, write about sharks.
I know I shouldn’t be comparing the book to the film as much as I am, but it’s nearly impossible because I’m so familiar with the movie and it’s one of the best films ever made. Still, there are some interesting meta elements that I noticed while listening to the book. First and foremost, the movie kicked off huge interest in sharks that we’re still experiencing today. In a roundabout way, that makes the shark action in the book much easier to picture. In fact, with the ending, I was basically watching a slightly edited version of the film in my head while it was going on.
I don’t think Jaws is necessarily a bad book — it sold like gangbusters when it came out in 1974 — but I do think it’s a less focused version of this story than Spielberg’s. In fact, had the affair subplot been excised or shortened, I would have liked it a lot more. I even enjoyed some of the characters who aren’t in the movie like Hendricks and Meadows, though completely understand why the nicer version of Hooper in the film was able to carry a lot of their weight. At the end of the day, if you’re interested in both the book and the movie, I’d read the book first and then watch the movie, which is the exact opposite thing I would suggest if you’re interested in The Shining.
Finally, I absolutely loved Brody’s line, “I’ll never be as old as I feel today.” I feel like that at least three times a week.
I’d like to tell you that I wasn’t drawn to The Lifeguard because of the obvious reason: the shot of star Kristen Bell sporting a Baywatch-esque red bathing suit on the cover/poster. But, to be honest it was. Not so much because of the image’s intended sex appeal, but because it featured an actress I’m fairly familiar with doing what seemed like an indie movie. That tends to imply a more serious or personal story because why else would a somewhat big deal actress get involved?
As it turns out the movie, written and directed by Liz W. Garcia, stars Bell as Leigh, a 29 year old working as a reporter in New York City who gets fed up with her gig and heads back home to a small, yet beautiful town in Connecticut. While there she moves back in with her parents, reunites with her high school pals Todd (Martin Starr) and Mel (Mamie Gummer), takes a job as a condo lifeguard and meets some high school skaters who want nothing more to do with school.
At this point it seemed like somewhat standard 30-something drama. It’s the kind of thing any of us who follow our passions think about: is it better back home? In Leigh’s case, she figured the answer was yes and went back, but things get way more complicated than you might have thought after she starts hooking up with one of the high school guys, Little Jason (David Lambert). It’s a crazy, passionate, dangerous, morally complicated relationship that seems to be the exact right thing for both of them at that moment.
But, nothing that glitters is gold, of course and things don’t stay so sunny. Things happens between friends, people lie about what’s going on and desperation takes over for more than one character. It’s the kind of film that has a few moments that seem like they have to happen and others that genuinely surprised me, but you knew from the beginning that these two people couldn’t stay together.
I really enjoyed this movie, as much as something so sad can be enjoyed, but like I said, I think that Leigh and Little Jason gave each other what they needed when they needed it even if it wasn’t the most legal thing in the world. Both Bell and Lambert give incredibly strong, powerful performances and they have a kind of animal magnetism that makes them an obvious couple. In fact, I thought everyone in this movie really brought their A games and delivered killer performances.
The more I watch movies and think about stories, the more I realize that I enjoy ones that focus on relationships that society might deem inappropriate. I don’t necessarily mean sexual relationships, but combinations that might seem odd to outsiders. Even if Leigh and Little Jason weren’t hooking up, their groups hanging out with one another, drinking and smoking weed in the forrest would be considered wrong or weird by many people. I like seeing those kinds of relationships on film. There’s actually a bit more of that in the next movie as well!
I’ve been hearing bits and pieces about Colin Trevorrow’s Safety Not Guaranteed. It’s about a guy named Kenneth (Mark Duplass) who places an add in the paper asking for someone to go back in time with him. Jeff (Jake Johnson), a reporter for a nearby magazine pitches the idea for a story and his editor sends him off with a pair of interns, Darius (Aubrey Plaza) and Arnau (Karan Soni). Darius winds up talking to Kenneth and getting drawn into his wildly intense plan to go back in time to see an old girlfriend.
Things get intense for all the characters as the film progresses. Turns out Jeff just wanted to do this story because it’s close to an old flame of his he wants to rekindle things with. Meanwhile, Darius gets really involved with Kenneth to the point where she helps him steal for the mission. Finally, Arnau, the shy bookworm type, has some new life experiences with Jeff after Jeff’s plan doesn’t quite go the way he wanted.
The big question that courses through the entire film is whether Kenneth is a mad genius or just crazy. Darius runs the gamut, going from skeptic to believer and then confused after talking to some agents who really are following him. Even so, up to the very end, it still feels like there might be the possibility of time travel and that makes for a really intense, complicated story.
The Derek Connolly script laid some awesome groundwork while Trevorrow’s directing added greatness to the proceedings, but the performances by everyone involved — including a small part by Kristen Bell as it turns out — were just fantastic. Plaza and Duplass both play against the roles you know from Parks & Rec and The League respectively, both coming off as very complicated, emotional and ultimately likable characters trying to change their lives albeit in a way that doesn’t seem to make much sense as far as science goes. I love Johnson on New Girl and while Jeff shares a few traits with Nick, this part is also a departure for him. Even though all three leads get to explore more emotional depths than their TV characters, they also feel familiar in a way that pleased me as a fan of those originals hows.
There were a few interesting similarities between these two films. Tone-wise, they’re both pretty serious with funny moments throughout. They’re about people trying to figure out what they’re doing with their lives. Like I talked about with The Lifeguard, this movie also features two characters you wouldn’t normally find hanging out together. Finally, they both take place in pretty gorgeous locales which makes for some awesome scenery to pan across. All of those elements reminded me of another recent indie favorite, True Adolescents which I’d love to watch again, but isn’t on Netflix Instant anymore.
Every morning I go through my RSS feeds for my day job. My main goal is to figure out what will make for good stories over on Spinoff, but I also keep an eye on toy news and look for fun stories to read later. I have a ridiculous backlog right now that I’m slowly going through, so you’ll see a few older interviews and news bites here, but I’m still jazzed about them.
The Raid 2 is getting a US release! We don’t know when yet, but that’s awesome! (via Variety)
TVLine put together a list of 15 questions they’d like to see How I Met Your Mother answer before ending this year. I agree with about 10 of them, but still a fun rundown.
I’m a big fan of the Ramones anthology that Rhino put out several years back, but I’ve got to say, this box set that Rolling Stone talks about bringing their first six records into one package for under $40 is awfully appealing.
I’m a big fan of the National Treasure movies, so when I read this brief interview on Collider with director Jon Turteltaub about one filming in the next few years, I got pretty stoked.
New Led Zeppelin tracks? That’s not enough for me to re-buy all the records, but I’m definitely intrigued by this Rolling Stone story about songs with John Paul Jones vocals.
I’ve become a big fan of the Duplass Bros. in the past few years, so I enjoyed this interview with them about what they’re up to these days over on Variety.
It would have been pretty cool to be at that small, career-spanning Blink-182 concert they talked about in this Rolling Stone interview.
Dave Grohl opened up to Rolling Stone about the waning days of Nirvana. I’m alway up for a Nirvana interview, you guys.
Halloween is one of those movies where you’re never quite sure which version to buy, so I’m glad that HMAD got around to not only reviewing the latest offering, but saying that it’s the one to buy. Much appreciated!
Little Ms. Sunshine was a really emotionally honest film, so I think it’s directors are great choices to make a Mister Rogers biopic. (via TheWrap)
I discovered this old Mental Floss article about the 10 coolest Disney park attractions that never got made while doing some research for a story. Fun stuff!
Whoa, Rolling Stone is reporting that Norah Jones and Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day have joined forces to cover an Everly Brothers record. It’s called Foreverly and I’m incredibly intrigued.
The CW sounds like the perfect place to set a drama revolving around California’s emerging surf scene in the 60s. Scheduling conflicts aside, I’m…on board. (via Deadline)
It’s been a crazy-long time since I’ve talked about TV here on UM, but that doesn’t mean we’re not watching. It’s an interesting season because there are a good deal of shows I’m really into, but also a lot of slots in the schedule that are left open. For what it’s worth, we’re still in the dark ages when it comes to cable and don’t have DVR, so all of our viewings are done the old fashion way, “live.” Read more…
Months ago I was looking through the two longboxes of unread trades in my closet and realized I had a lot of post-Infinite Crisis Justice League collections. I’d read many of the issues as they came out, but not since then. It seemed like enough time had passed that I could give them a re-read. I started with Brad Meltzer’s two volumes, then moved on to Dwayne McDiffie’s four books and am now up to the first two James Robinson offerings called Team History and Dark Things.
Guys, this trade is an absolute mess and it has nothing to do with the stories. When I wrote about McDuffie’s last book, I noted that there was zero context offered for what the heck is going on in the larger DCU. If these trades were only sold in comic shops to fans, that would be fine, because they would essentially be written for existing fans. But because trade paperbacks are out in the world, I feel like there should be some way to catch new readers up on what went on before it. I also fully support adding a few pieces of text between issues if something huge happened in a different book. Basically, these TPBs need to be as timeless as possible and they’re not.
Team History deals with all kinds of huge events that aren’t centrally located in Justice League Of America, so it’s super confusing. You’ve got an already depleted League that has to deal with Blackest Night and the Cry For Justice storyline, none of which are explained outside of quick dialog recaps in the books themselves. I read those other comics when they came out, but that was a while ago, so even I was confused when I got to Team History. And then, BANG, you’ve got the Cry For Justice team along with fill-ins for the Big Three. To be fair, Robinson does a great job of recapping past events in #41, but that’s already four issues deep in this trade.
All that being said, Robinson did a good job with what he was given. Can you imagine taking over the most iconic superhero team of all team and it consists of Plastic Man, Vixen, Dr. Light and Red Tornado? Sure Zatanna and Gypsy show up to help fight Despero, but that’s still about as far from a headlining team as you can get. But, they do make for an interesting group to deal with evil returned loved ones in the Blackest Night event. Like the other BN tie-ins that I talked about before, though, the problem with these stories as a whole is that, even though many of them figured out smart ways to deal with the Black Lanterns, none of it was used in the larger story so what’s the point?
Finally, towards the end of the book, Robinson finally got to do his own thing and it was…interesting. The League finds itself dealing with a group of New God wannabes and some devices found throughout the history of the DCU which offers some fun looks at the Metal Men, the Challenges of the Unknown and other heroes and groups. At the end of the day, though, it felt like a bit of a confusing ending that has to take time to explain why several heroes left the team and then move right into the next book, a crossover with Justice Society Of America.
Unlike the previous JLoA/JSoA crossover handled by Meltzer and Geoff Johns, this one was written and drawn completely by Robinson and Bagley. The team in this book is a much smaller version of the one seen on the cover of the previous volume. You’ve got Batman (Dick Grayson), Donna Troy, Congorilla and Starman with Supergirl and Jade showing up as the story progresses. Basically, this story finds the JSoA teaming up with the tiny JLoA because Jade has returned to Earth and brought the Starheart with her. Its presence winds up driving her dad Alan Scott crazy and the rest of the book has the teams joining forces to first take care of some of the magic- and weather-related backlash and then stop Adam’s rampage.
There’s nothing wrong with this story, but it also didn’t blow my mind. This story has loose ties to Brightest Day, the Blackest Night follow-up that focused on some of the returned-from-the-dead characters like Jade, but it didn’t feel like there was too much information left out. At the end of the day, I think I’ve just read enough of these kinds of stories to be a little bit bored with them. I really enjoyed how this book incorporated the effects of the Starheart on the rest of the DCU with all kinds of cameos, but at the end of the day, this is another team-up based around, basically, the same heroes doing a lot of the same things they’ve done before. That’s less a complaint about the quality of the story and more about my general feelings about Corporate Comics these days.
And yet, I was still disappointed by both of these books for a few reasons. First off, I’m not quite sure why this team exists other than to sell Justice League comics. I don’t necessarily need to be inundated with “team business” type stories, but there seemed to be very little of that. Heck, there’s hardly a team throughout both of these trades. Additionally, I was disappointed by both creators. Robinson penned one of the greatest superhero epics of all time in Starman and this doesn’t even come close to that. Maybe my expectations are too high, but I just can’t separate my love of that book from my expectations for this one. It’s not fair at all, but that’s how it is. Meanwhile, Bagley’s art didn’t wow me nearly as much as I thought it would. I was as excited as anyone when I heard he was moving over to a Justice League comic as the regular artist. But the results just seem a bit too slight and sketchy. These are supposed to be big, bold heroes and that doesn’t always come across.
At the end of the day, I’m not sure what to think about these books. They’re important pieces of the post-Infinite Crisis, pre-New 52 Justice League series of books, but are they shelf or collection worthy? I’m going to hold on to them for now and see if I can get my hands on the last few to see how they work as a whole, but I’m not so sure these are worth holding on to.
Back when I was still at ToyFare, I got a pretty epic box of books including the first two volumes of Dark Horse’s Creepy Archives reprints. I’m a bit embarrassed to say that they’ve been sitting in my closet pretty much ever since. I might have pulled volume one out a few times, but never really dove in properly until this year. Not only was I excited to get into these stories as part of the Ambitious Halloween Reading List, but I was also able to make some money off of it by working on a fun list over at Topless Robot called The 10 Best Stores from the Early Days of Creepy.
I talked about some of the history over there, but basically, back in the mid 60s Warren Publishing figuratively picked up the mantle of EC Comics and rekindled quality horror anthology comics with books like Creepy, Eerie and Vampirella. Many of the old school EC guys came over and did art while most of the stories in this volume were written by editor Archie Goodwin. After reading a few EC collections, I wasn’t quite sure what to think of Creepy, but I’m glad to say I had a wonderful time reading these stories.
The big problem I had with the Tales From The Crypt and Weird Science books I’ve read is that, while the art is often amazing, the stories are hokey, boring or built in such a way that the twist ending is just so obvious it’s not even entertaining. I was worried that the Creepy tales would be along those lines and was delighted to find that that wasn’t the case.
In fact, this book had some incredibly unique stories that I’ve never seen anywhere else which is really saying something. In that regard, these stories reminded me of The Twilight Zone because there was such a variety of stories being told, which is all the more impressive when you think that one guy was writing most of them.
But, the real eye-opening aspect of this book was introducing me to some classic comic book artists that I’m not very familiar with. Classic guys like Al Williamson, Jack Davis, Angelo Torres and Joe Orlando came in ready to rock as did Frank Frazetta whose gnarly style fits perfectly with those vets (not that he was any rookie by this point, but you get my meaning). The one artist that really blew me away, though, was Gray Morrow. His work has such depth and quality to it that you almost wonder if these were more modern stories slid into these others from the mid 60s. I’m so intrigued by him that I want to check out books like Orion and Space: 1999, which both happen to be on my Amazon Wish List if anyone wants to get me a little something.
Anyway, as you can tell, I’m pretty darn far away from reviewing these supposedly Halloween-themed books in a timely fashion, but I’m enjoying this mix of books still and will continue on until I find myself distracted by something else. I’m partway through the Wally Wood book and about a third of the way through The Fall right now, so maybe I’ll actually finish this one out before the end of the year (but probably not).