Casting Internets

Well, between traveling for Christmas to New Hampshire, getting a flat tire ten minutes from home and surviving the Snowpocalypse of last night (we got 18-24 inches), I haven’t had a lot of time for blogging. Anyway, I did read a few things here and there and wanted to pass the goodness along. Sure it’s a little late now, but Scott C posted a Showdown from Elf and I just had to link to it. That’s one of my all time favorite Christmas movies and possibly Will Ferrell’s best performance.

Tim Bruckner’s DC Dynamics Joker statue looks amazing, check out some of the shots over on Pop Sculpture.

I don’t think I knew that George Romero and Marvel were working on a project together. Thanks Comic Books Legends Revealed!

Hugh Hefner got engaged again? Wonder if Bridget or Holly are pissed. The missus and I were big fans of Girls Next Door.  (via Esquire)

I really enjoyed Jonathan Hickman’s early issues of Fantastic Four, but fell off the wagon along with a lot of other books a while back. I’ve heard good things about it still, but this whole “killing off a member of the FF and putting it in a polybag” reeks of 90s moneygrubbing. Reed’s already “died” once, right? Ah well, I’m sure I’ll catch up on the trade eventually. (via Robot 6)

Finally, Archie Comics released this mysterious teaser that lots of places, including Robot 6, think might be a way of announcing a new Mega Man comic. Depending on how they handle this book, it could be either a really good kids comic or an interesting look at a character with a deep, deep mythos just waiting to be explored by a great comic book writer. I’m available for either, even though I’m not technically a comic book writer. Just wanted to throw that out into the internet ether.

Friday Fisticuffs: Lock Up (1989)

Sylvester Stallone’s Lock Up is not a good movie. I’m actually not sure whether to put it firmly in the “Bad” category or not, but as of now it’s getting spared. The plot revolves around Stallone, a guy who went to jail for beating up a guy who roughed up his father figure. While serving that sentence, Stallone broke out to see the old man before he died, which rubbed the warden, played by Donald Sutherland the wrong way. We learn all this later and start off with Stallone being taken by guards in the middle of the night and transferred to Sutherland’s jail, a real shithole. Apparently Sutherland holds a mean grudge and sets his sites on tormenting Stallone throughout the flick, using all sorts of devilish tricks from leaving him in the delousing fumes for too allowing a convict to threaten Stallone’s girlfriend. As if that element of the movie wasn’t ridiculous enough, we’re treated to some truly strange scenes of Stallone hanging out with some of his prison friends (like Tom Sizemore and Sonny Landham) in a garage where they not only get to work on a car and have paint fights (seriously, it feels like something out of an 80s car wash movie, but with sweaty dudes) but also be completely unsupervised.

Sutherland’s warden character comes off as one dimensional as possible. We’re not talking about a complex villain here, his ego is bruised because Stallone broke while under his watch. In the usual form, his friends become either victims or turncoats and Stallone has to exact his vengeance on his own. Being the good guy that he is, he only tries to break out again once he thinks his girlfriend is in danger. I’m not sure why his girlfriend didn’t try to get a lawyer, but I guess that’s some of that suspension of disbelief stuff.

Anyway, the point of Fisticuff Fridays isn’t to discuss the merit of a movie’s artistic integrity, but to talk about what’s really important: the action scenes. This flick has a few some of which are pretty intense actually. We start off light with a pretty rough and tumble football game to show that Stallone can hang with the prison’s big dogs (the main one of which is played by Billy from Predator). It’s pretty rough, but the cartoonish sound effects don’t help matters. Later, Stallone has a full-on brawl with Billy that’s pretty enjoyable as is the near-end battle between Stallone and the asshole guards you’ve been wanting to see dead since the 15 minute mark. The trick they pull is making Stallone SUCH a nice guy (in the beginning he’s playing football with kids, we see him try to stop a murder without calling attention to it and he even gives his cake to a prisoner trying to take it from another and no that’s not a euphemism) and then making the bad guys SUCH assholes, that you can’t help either rooting for him or getting a headache from so much eye rolling (and there’s a fair amount of that, trust you me).

So, if you’re into full-on action movies, this isn’t the Stallone movie for you. I’d go with Cobra, First Blood 2 or Expendables, but if you really dig on spray paint fights, weird male bonding, the occasional prison fight, muddy football scenes or movies that make you crave revenge then Lock Up will be perfect for you. In the end, I guess I’ll leave this one off the “Bad” list but might consider a “Cheesy” category for it and its ilk.

Casting Internets

Hey gang, this’ll be the last Casting Internets for the week as we’re traveling to New Hampshire for Christmas. It’s kind of a light day, but there’s some goodies in here.

Lucasfilm has been sending out rad Christmas cards for 33years and now you can see them all on StarWars.com! The missus literally laughed herself to tears reading the latest Hyperbole and a Half which recalls Allie’s recreation of the nativity story when she was 6. My favorite quote is “Jesus loves Kenny Loggins” followed close by “Kenny Loggins is immortal.” Check out Gentle Giant’s new series of Doctor Who Masterpiece busts starting off with Matt Smith’s Doctor and Amy Pond.

Mattel sent out Gray Ghost figure holiday cards to places like Fwoosh? That’s awesome. Mine must have gotten lost in the mail…I’ve had the black & white one volume version of Bone sitting in my to-read pile for years, but now I kind of want to wait for the fully colored version. (via Robot 6)

Trade Post: Shortcomings

SHORTCOMINGS (Drawn & Quarterly)
Written & drawn by Adrian Tomine
Collects Optic Nerve #9-11
Adrian Tomine is a creator I’ve heard a lot about from my more indie-oriented comic friends. I even remember when Shortcomings came out in trade format in 2007. Actually, I remember when it was announced the book was coming out a few months before. I was working in the research department at Wizard at the time and if memory serves my buddy Sean Collins was going to write about the book for Book Shelf (the monthly trade review section of Wizard at the time). I loved writing for Book Shelf and reading it, but I also hated that section because it meant a full day of me sifting through boxes in the hot, stuffy comic book library trying to track down certain issues. For the most part we didn’t get advance copies of the trades, so we would just get the issues together and read them all together, asking the companies if there were any extras of note. I developed a bit of a system, writing the cover date month on many of the long boxes, which worked out pretty well, but it was never an easy task, especially if the books were sought after by other folks which meant they would be all out of order. It might surprise some that the Wizard library did in fact include Optic Nerve, but since the book had a non-traditional shipping schedule it took the longest to track down. For whatever reason, possibly bitterness, I didn’t wind up reading the book.

Until now, thanks to a D&Q sale that I took advantage of, ordering Shortcomings along with the first Walt & Skeezix Tinpan Alley volume. The book stars Ben Tanaka a generally caustic dude in a relationship with Miko who winds up heading to New York for an internship. His friend Alice, a skirt-chasing lesbian, seems okay with his general assholeishness because she’s used to it, but it comes as no real surprise when he starts having trouble getting a hold of Miko and tries to start flings with his punky coworker Autumn and later Alice’s friend of a friend and “fence-sitter” Sasha, neither of which are destined to go anywhere. Alice heads out to New York in order to clear her head, finds something that Ben just has to see and the pair of them find out what Miko has really been up to in the Big Apple.

After reading the book in a single sitting, I’m not really sure what to think of Shortcomings. It’s not bad, by any means, but it left me slightly flat. I think one of the reasons for that is that the comic has a lot of echos back to Kevin Smith’s Clerks and Chasing Amy. Ben works at a movie theater, hates his job and seemingly everything else, but doesn’t want to leave it, he doesn’t have any further career aspirations and seems unable to make a real change in his life. He also starts dating a lesbian who has a more varied sexual history than him and things work out until something happens and they break up in a big fight. I don’t want to imply that Tomine borrowed those elements from the movies, but I have trouble thinking of anything else when those elements are put into place in close proximity. I have seen those movies a LOT by the way. One of the guys at the movie theater even notes that Jay and Silent Bob Strike back is one of his favorite movies. I can’t tell if that that’s a subtle form of what the Lost writers called “hanging a lantern” on the festivities (i.e. drawing attention to something in-story that the reader/viewer might be commenting on in the real world) or a dig at Smith (is the soon-shushed guy who also likes Fight Club and Reservoir Dogs being silenced because he’s one of those dudes who never shuts up about movies or because his favorite movies suck?). I’m probably thinking way too much about all this.

I’m also getting a little tired of reading indie books with unlikable characters as the leads. I’m trying to get through Jimmy Corrigan and am having a ROUGH time of it (he’s such a sadsack loser, I’m having trouble caring about him whatsoever). Ben’s nowhere near that annoying and he does remind me of a younger version of myself and plenty of my friends, but that whole “bitching about everything and thinking it’s clever” mentality has been annoying for years to me at this point. Luckily, I don’t equate an annoying and hard-to-like character like Ben with bad writing and Tomine does a great job of turning things around, getting me to actually wind up on Ben’s side by the end of the book. He might be kind of an ass, but at least he wasn’t a huge liar. That’s way worse in my book. Plus, I dug the character of Alice and even more so, her lady friend Meredith, who winds up being the most likable, non asshole-ish character in the bunch, probably because she’s slightly older and definitely more mature than the others.

On the positive side, the story is well told, the characters well rounded for all their craggy exteriors and the art well done in a simplistic but expressive pen and ink style. Had I not seen some of the elements previously, I think the story might have hit me a little harder in the heart or gut. As it is, I dug the story, laughed a few times here and there and had a generally good time with the proceedings, but I wasn’t overly wowed. It felt like an indie movie, but, again, not one I loved, just one I liked.

Speaking of movies, I have a lot of respect for Tomine for having a story in mind, writing it out and turning it into a comic book. Anyone with that level of creativity and follow-through is aces in my book. I wish I could do something like that. He’s actually a lot like the aforementioned Kevin Smith in those regards in that he took something he loved and turned it into his job, something that I think many people want to do, but much like Ben Tanaka, don’t have the guts to drop everything and actually attempt. In Tomine’s case, according to his bio on the D&Q page, he actually started Optic Nerve when he was 16 and has turned it all into a career. I love that kind of ingenuity and spirit and even though Shortcomings didn’t floor me, I like the story and the artist enough to give some of his other work a try. What should I read next?

Just Finished Bones Season 5

Well we finally got caught up with Bones. Well, the Bones DVDs to be specific. They actually came out a while back and the first one went to the very top of our Netflix Queue and there it sat not until we got said disc, but until the show became available on Netflix Instant like the four previous seasons (which I talked about here). The show’s sixth season is currently on TV, but we haven’t been watching because 1) we hadn’t seen Season 5 and 2) it’s on Thursdays, the busiest TV night of the year (I already have to choose between Big Bang Theory and Community, so adding Bones into the mix would make things even more difficult.

As readers and fans of the show will remember, the fourth season ended with Booth discovering he has a brain tumor and going through surgery before an episode featuring an alternate universe where Bones and Booth are married all of which played heavily into this season. As Booth gets approved for active duty again in the opener we find out that he’s having trouble doing some of the things he once did, but he’s also dealing with feelings of love for Bones. One theory is that he feels that way because it’s leftover from the dream world, which he apparently spent quite a deal of time in while he was unconscious. The other is that he’s always had a thing for her and it’s just coming to the surface. I know I said I like that the writers had kept Bones and Booth strictly platonic for so long, but I actually liked how they handled this idea for the most part (more on that in a little bit).

Meanwhile Bones and her gang have been doing their regular jobs as scientists while Booth’s been away and are all pretty excited to get back into the murderer-finding game. One thing that surprised me about this season was that it seemed as though the gore got quite an upgrade. I’ve seen hundreds of horror movies of all shapes and sizes, yet there were a few moments that made even me cringe (at one point, a body that had been soaking is lifted up and it’s skin slides right off! The same thing happened within the first three or four seasons of CSI if memory serves. It didn’t bother me, I was just surprised with some of the blood and guts stuff they were able to get away with on TV. Well, it IS Fox.

The season had a few stunt episodes, though, I’ll be honest, I didn’t even notice one of them. “The Gamer in the Grease” does the ol’ “what would it be like if someone killed a famous person” idea, but with the stars of the amazing old school video game documentary King Of Kong. Essentially someone killed the Steve Weibe analog and everyone thought it was the Billy Mitchel guy. As if that wasn’t geeky enough, there’s also a subplot with three of the male characters waiting in line to see Avatar, one of which is played by Joel Moore who was in that movie (something I didn’t remember while watching). There was also a Simpsons-themed episode called “The Dwarf in the Dirt” that apparently featured Homer’s skull as an X-ray, which I didn’t notice. Actually, it’s not really Simpsons-themed, but more so filled with Simpsons references, like the inclusion of Homer voice provider Dan Castellaneta as a cop and one of the midget wrestlers going by Bumblebee Man. While both might sound rather gimmicky, they didn’t really come off that way because, as with most aspects of the show, the writers offer enough other elements to latch onto aside from the gimmicks.

Okay, back to the Booth and Bones relationship. Here be SPOILERS if you’re behind. Early on in the season we discover that Booth is in fact in love with Bones, but he doesn’t let her know it yet. For several episodes it’s near agonizing as they still work together and yet nothing is ever mentioned. And then it is. Booth comes out and tells Bones how he feels and then, like a flash, it’s over. Bones quotes that old chestnut about how crazy people keep doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results. I really didn’t quite understand what she was saying. Was she implying that they had tried being together? She also said it’s against the rules for them to continue working together if they’re dating. Bones seemed to really throw her walls up and now Booth has to as well. I wish this scene had been handled better with a little more time explaining exactly what was happening because it was a little confusing.

If you are the romance lover, though, there were a few things for you to latch onto. First off, Angela got with Bones’ intern Wendell before finally getting back together and marrying Hodgins towards the end of the season, though not telling their friends for a few more episodes. We’re also shown a time when Bones and Booth ALMOST hooked up in the episode “The Parts in the Sum of the Whole” which also happened to be the show’s 100th. It’s kind of a Year One type thing showing the very first time Bones and Booth teamed up, which was a year before the events of the very first episode. It’s interesting to see how they both influenced each other, even back then and how they almost hooked up one night.

Overall, I really liked the season, still think it’s leaps and bounds better than the getting cornier-by-the-episode Castle and once again find myself wanting to get caught back up again. Now we just need to get Zach back into the picture and I’ll be super duper happy!

Casting Internets

CubeDude creator MacLane‘s got a new series of ‘Dudes based on Battle Beasts. Awesome!

My former professor Rebecca Steinitz runs down her favorite books of the year over on Literary Mama. Her column makes me want to read Jonathan Franzen’s latest even more!

Hey look, I got mentioned on What If Kirby’s Twitter feed. Not bad for a guy who can’t bring himself to join the service correctly (I’ve tried and failed TWICE).

This happened?!

Cranberry Zero over at IHC is right, Spoiled Rotten is a crazy-addictive holiday themed game!

Holy crap, did you know sex therapist Dr. Ruth used to be a freaking sniper? Learn that and more over at Esquire.

Finally got around to reading Joe CASEY’s interview with Tom Spurgeon and it’s amazingly honest and candid.

Christmas Stories: Batman Returns (1992)

While I do love traditional Christmas movies like White Christmas, Holiday Inn, Elf and even Love Actually, I’m also quite fond of genre flicks that happen to be set around the holiday like Gremlins (in fact, I wrote a whole list about just that over at Topless Robot). All of which reminded me that Batman Returns–the movie I almost wore out on VHS from watching so much–is set around Christmas time with major moments revolving around tree lighting and other festivities. It’s been a while since I watched this flick and the first thing I was surprised by was how well I know this movie. I don’t just know scenes or lines, but how people are posed in scenes. I knew the exact way that Michelle Pfeiffer was holding herself when she used the taser on her would-be attacker. It’s kind of crazy.

The next thing that stood out to me was how unlikely it would be to see another Christmas-based superhero movie. Even though this one, directed of course by Tim Burton who readers will remember I think is Awesome, doesn’t get into any of the religious aspects of the holiday, it still seems like the kind of thing that studios would shy away from now (what would foreign markets think?!). Heck, I’m surprised they did it back then, frankly.

Anyway, I love how cartoony this movie is without ever being too silly. It really is a comic book movie with a gang of evil circus performers, a mutant being carted around as a mayoral candidate and penguins with rockets tied to their backs! What Burton does, though, is that he makes it all seem real and plausible by creating a world like our own, but clearly different. Yeah Penguin’s kind of ridiculous, but the scenes of him researching his background are pretty heartfelt and you can’t help but be on Selina Kyle’s side because she’s being bullied by the real villain of the movie: corporate crazy asshole Max Schreck played pitch perfectly by the one and only Christopher Walken.

The action’s not as cool as you might see in a recent Batman flick (though you can always tell what’s going on at least) and it might seem kind of over the top, but I would completely recommend this movie if you haven’t seen it and you’re a big fan of Grant Morrison’s run on the book. I highly doubt there’s someone out there reading Morrison’s Batman who hasn’t seen this movie, but I guess it’s possible for people who missed out the first time around or might be younger. Anyway, this is an all time, childhood favorite of mine that I will always cherish, but I think still holds up as a particular kind of movie that will probably never get made again. At least I’ve got it on DVD, plus a butt-ton of toys so I can recreate it on my own if the world ever looses power. I’m pretty sure I could recreate at least 75% with little trouble.

Toy Commercial Tuesday: Monkees Nerf Ball

Whoa. This is pretty amazing. I had no idea The Monkees used to do commercials for Kool-Aid and their partners Nerf. I grew up with Nerf balls, so I can only imagine what kids in the 70s thought when they first saw these soft balls you could play with inside. Well, that didn’t sound very good, now did it? Anyway, I loved the Monkees as a kid and they were even my first concert in the early 80s on one of their reunion tours, so this commercial brought back a lot of memories even if I don’t remember the spot itself.

Christmas Stories: Gentle Giant’s 2009 Yak Face Christmas Bust

For a few brief years, I was on Gentle Giant’s holiday bust gift list. These very limited statues go out to some folks in the collectible community and are also sold to members of their collectors club. Last year, I took pics of the 2008 piece, which was an awesome Commander Cody wearing a scarf and holding a light-up snowman. While that piece was limited to 1500 pieces, last year’s Saelt-Marae (better known as Yak Face) bust only had 200 made (I’ve got #173). Yak Face here seems like your basic bust t first, but it comes with magnetic antlers and a candy cane to go in place of his regular cane to liven up the festivities. It’s a really fun piece with a furry beard which kind of creeped the missus out, but I can’t get enough of. To get an idea what the regular bust looks like, check this link. I think I got Yakky late in the season last year so this is the first time he’s made his way into our Christmas decorations. I think he fits right in!