Tuesday Toy Commercial: Ghost Rider

I love the random times when adult-themed comics somehow spawn cartoons aimed at kids. Punisher appeared on Spider-Man in the 90s and got his own Toy Biz action figure, Swamp Thing had his own cartoon and media empire and even Savage Dragon scored his own toon. And then there’s Ghost Rider. Before he starred in his own movies, everyone’s favorite motorcycle-riding DEMON appeared on the Hulk cartoon and got two series’ worth of action figures and vehicles from Toy Biz. And, if this commercial is any indicator, it’s not like they tried to downplay the character’s comic book roots. That thing’s pretty intense and yet weirdly awesome. Kudos, Toy Biz!

Audiobook Review: The Bourne Legacy By Eric Van Lustbader, Read By Scott Brick

The Bourne Legacy is an interesting creature as far as stories go. First off, it’s one of the Bourne books published after Robert Ludlum’s death and written by an author named Eric Van Lustbader. This is the first Bourne book I’ve ever encountered, so I won’t be able to compare styles until I get to The Bourne Identity in my most recent Ambitious Reading List. It’s also interesting because, even though there was a film out earlier this year with this title, I’m fairly certain the two have nothing in common aside from names.

With all that out of the way, I actually really enjoyed this audiobook, which was read by one of my favorite readers Scott Brick (he does an awesome job on Nelson DeMille’s books and Brad Meltzer’s). From what I gathered and remember (it’s been a while since we finished this one actually, so some of the details might be a little fuzzy, Bourne has been doing his whole history professor thing for a while until someone tries to kill him and then takes out some of his friends. Bourne confronts the assailant, but neither kill the other. Bourne thinks he’s being framed and heads to France and Hungary to try and find out what’s going on. Meanwhile, the story also focuses on the assailant, a group of Chechen terrorists and a Lex Luthor-esque bad guy who, when not screwing with people in his secret, soundproof torture room, runs a global aid organization. In other words, there are a lot of pieces.

I liked the spy/adventure/Bond-ish nature of this story. The bad guy is a true, all evil bad guy, though some of the people he’s working with are more in the “I guess I can see where they’re coming from” vein. Bourne himself is a steadfast hero who wants to both clear his name and do the right thing. And, while I might have had a hard time following the details of the action in the fight scenes at times while driving, it was nice to listen to a book that wasn’t the usual crime, cop or PI drama. I dig those books and they work great for road trips, but it’s nice to read something different (I felt the same way when we listened to Kyle Mills’ The Second Horseman, which I now realize I never reviewed).

I want to get into some SPOILER territory here. I’m curious if other readers/listeners were tipped off to the relationship between the assassin Khan and Bourne? I felt like I knew he was Bourne’s son as early as the scene in the woods towards the beginning of the story. I don’t remember exactly what put the idea in my head, but it just clicked. I’m glad that we didn’t have to wait a super long time for them to bring it up in the story itself, but it still felt like a while.

All in all, I had a good time listening to this book. I didn’t feel like I was lost, even though this is the fourth book in the series. I just realized form looking at the series’ Wiki page that it’s actually the first one Van Lustbader wrote and the first one that came out post-Ludlum. It was a fun, taught ride that made me want to drive around even longer, which is the criteria by which I judge these things.

ARL3: Zombie Spaceship Wasteland By Patton Oswalt (2011)

I have very mixed, split-down-the-middle feelings about Patton Oswalt’s Zombie Spaceship Wasteland. Without going through and counting the pages, I think I liked exactly half of this book. It’s kind of a mixed bag of autobiography, faux greeting card explanations, epic poetry and comic stories all written by actor, comedian and long time book fan Oswalt. I’m a big fan of his stand-up, his ultra geeky character on King of Queens and the movie roles I’ve seen him in like the lead voice in Ratatouille and Young Adult.

When it came to this under-200-page book I got from the library for work purposes (I might be working on a list of Oswalt’s geekier non-stand up moments in the future), it didn’t take a long time to read and I’m not perturbed by the parts that I didn’t like, I just skipped or skimmed them. The parts I was drawn to were the autobiographical sections. Oswalt talks about the movie theater he worked at as a kid, how books and music influenced him, how his opinions on his crazy uncle changed over time, how different comedians dealt with their crafts and one terrible week he spent in Canada. My favorite part of the book was the title section in which Oswalt labels many of his fellow geeks, artists and angry young men as either a Zombie, a Spaceship or a Wasteland and how that relates to music, sci-fi and other artistic endeavors. It’s honestly brilliant, solid, well thought out and the kind of thing that everyone who considers themselves a geek should check out.

I was less interested in the epic poem he wrote about his Dungeons & Dragons character, the multiple pages of notes written regarding the punching up of a comedy screenplay or the explanations of fake greeting card artwork. There were definitely funny moments to these portions, but I didn’t want to read that when I wanted to find out more about Oswalt as a person. It wasn’t really fair of me because I was comparing my expectations to the actual product and down that path leads ruin. Oswalt even points out in the intro that the book is a hodgepodge and it really is.

At the end of the day, it only took me a few days to read this book, so my complaints are miniscule in comparison to the enjoyment I did get out of the book in a fairly short amount of time. If nothing else, it makes me like Oswalt all the more and hope that he takes the time to sit down and write more whether that’s a fictional story or an autobiographical one, I’ll be there to check it out. Essentially, ZSW is like a Patton Oswalt writing appetizer. You get an idea of what he can do in various styles and formats and probably have a good idea of what else you’d like to read of him in those styles and formats.

Friday Fisticuffs: The Three Musketeers (2011)

Hope everyone had a solid Turkey Day without eating too too much food and getting into too many awkward conversations with family members. I had a delightful time with my wife, daughter and parents. Anyway, I wanted to keep my not-nearly regular schedule of Friday Fisticuffs going even on this week of thanks because, well, I watched a cool action movie that I wanted to tell people about.

It’s not technically accurate to even call the 2011 Three Musketeers directed by Paul W.S. Anderson a Friday Fisticuffs because, while there is some hand to hand fighting, the movie hinges mostly on swordplay. But, since I don’t want to start Swordplay Saturday and have yet another regular column I can’t keep up with, we’re calling this one an FF, so just deal with it.

Like I said, I really liked this movie. It’s not brilliant or mind-blowing or anything like that, but it is super cool, bordering on awesome. PWSA is known for these big, bombastic, sleek looking action movies. For the most part, these movies are not well regarded. I myself have only seen Alien Vs. Predator (disappointing) and Death Race (don’t remember, but it’s got Statham), but with all that said, I greatly enjoyed 3M.

It’s just so damn fun. You’ve got a group of rogueish heroes including the wonderfully entertaining Ray Stevenson, a conniving woman who I can’t help but still like, period appropriate gadgets (or maybe not, who cares?), a series of villains ranging from pitiable to downright E-Vil and some of the prettiest damn action scenes I’ve seen in a awhile. Oh, and a blimp chase.

You know what, I’m calling this movie awesome. I had a ton of fun watching everything in this movie which did a great job of topping itself and upping the stakes as it went all the while keeping things light and fun enough. Again, this isn’t Citizen Kane with swords, but it is a gigantic ball of fun that I can spend a couple hours with on any given weekend. For what ti’s worth, my wife seemed to like it too (I’m guessing a big part of this was because Orlando Bloom was in it). She was also able to fill in some of the things I missed while cooking dinner as she’s seen an earlier version and knew more of the history behind the story. She’s rad like that.

Ad It Up: 80s Star Wars Video Game

 

Happy Thanksgiving everybody! I won’t be posting much today aside form this awesome ad for the home version of Star Wars The Arcade Game I got off the back of the second issue of the Machine Man miniseries from 1984. Look how excited that dude is! Hopefully you’re that excited about Turkey Day and/or Black Friday. I wish you luck in your endeavors, may the Force be with you.

Neighborhood Trade Post: District X Volume 1 & Deadshot (2005) #1-5

District X Volume 1: Mr. M (Marvel)
Written by David Hine, drawn by David Yardin, Lan Medina & Mike Perkins
Collects District X #1-6

I have a weird relationship with cop-oriented superhero comics. The first few volumes of Powers didn’t do it for me, neither did the equivalent of Gotham Central trades. Top 10 blew my mind the first time I read it, but it don’t hold up nearly as well upon re-reading. These things were going through my mind when I read District X Volume 1, a book that followed Bishop teamed up with a regular cop in the Mutant Town section of New York City. I was once again intrigued by this concept, but wasn’t sure if I’d dig it.

As it turns out, I did. See, one of my problems with the cop, crime or espionage comics is that I can just as easily see these kinds of stories in a movie or TV show. I know comics are versatile, but if you’re dealing with something relatively low budget like a revenge story, I’d kind of rather see that on a screen, unless it’s something with a ton of style like Sin City. District X understands that, while it is “NYPD Blue meets X-Men,” that doesn’t mean you can’t go bonkers with what happens and David Hine does that in these pages.

I mean, this book has a scaly fish lady who swims at a strip club, a woman who can make you see whatever she wants you too (also a stripper or hooker or something), a toad boy who secretes a substance used to get high off of, regular people turning into these cray branch-y creatures and a dude who can rearrange matter. I don’t know if I’d say that District X is better than those books I mentioned above, that’s obviously subjective, but I found myself liking this one a lot better. Still, reading this volume did make me want to give Gotham Central another try.

Deadshot #1-5 (DC)
Written by Christos Gage, drawn by Steven Cummings
Not a collection

I also happened to read the Deadshot miniseries from 2005, which also features comic book superheroics in a neighborhood setting. To be clear, this was not a collection, but individual issues my pal Kiel sent me that I’ve been waiting to dive into. In this five issue series by Christos Gage and Steven Cummings with Jimmy Palmiotti on inks, Deadshot discovers that he has an illegitmate daughter he didn’t know about. He visits the former-prostitute mother who has cleaned up her act and tries giving her money to move out of the slum they’re living in, but she refuses. So, Deadshot sticks around, kills a bunch of gang members and does a pretty great job of cleaning up the neighborhood.

It’s kind of a smaller scale Punisher that actually works. There are ups and down, but the way Gage handles Deadshot is so clear and concise with a well thought out plan that seems like it would really work in the real world. Kill some gang members and they’d be afraid to come back. If the gangs are no longer interested and the inhabitants start cleaning things up, that might attract new homeowners. A well placed threat to a slumlord will also keep the people in the neighborhood in homes.

But it’s not a cake walk. Deadshot has to deal with Green Arrow (the story takes place in Star City), a bullet proof bruised named The Closer and a small army of assassins like Deadline, Javeline and a bunch of guys even this one-time, die hard DC fan couldn’t name. All in all, this is a great series that I’m surprised isn’t collected yet. Gage is a pretty big deal in the industry and Deadshot got new life with Villains United, Secret Six and then the New 52 Suicide Squad. Seems like this series would be prime for a reprint. Actually, I’m okay with it not being. I have plans for an epic Suicide Squad binding project that will include all of that series, the 80s Deadshot mini, possibly the Giffen Squad reboot and this mini. I’m pretty stoked about it actually, now I just need to get like 50 more issues of Suicide Squad.

Toy Commercial Tuesday: Super Powers Super Mobile

I can’t believe it’s been two years since I posted a Super Powers TCT! Hopefully this one featuring the Super Mobile and the Lexor 7 (SP?) will make up for it. Looking back at that older post and then watching this clip remind me of how much I freaking loved toys back in the 80s. I used to have so much fun taking my guys (that’s what I called them) and having all kinds of crazy adventures around my living room, even building my own playsets and using whatever I could find to make things more dangerous for our heroes, just like the kids in this commercial. Do kids do this anymore? If not, they should be taught how to play based solely on Super Powers, Secret Wars, He-Man, G.I. Joe and Transformers commercials.

Ambitious Reading List III

 

Long before I finished Please Kill Me, I was working on creating my next Ambitious Reading List. As I said at the end of that review, I’m a big fan of this much-smaller version of my larger to-read pile. Helps me stay focused while also keeping my interest not only in reading, but in crossing one book off the list and moving on to the next. Most of the books in this pile are newer to that pile, but there are a few that have been sitting around for a while too.

From the top, I picked up Robert Ludlum’s Bourne Identity at a flea market out of sheer interest based on the Matt Damon movies. I can’t keep the straight, but I’m curious to see how this book compares to the movies as well as an audiobook version of The Bourne Legacy that we finished recently and will review soon. I’ve also got an Elmore Leonard book called Riding The Rap in there. I bought this for $2 at a used book store based solely on Leonard’s name. Love that dude’s books. After that is Hunger Games, which my wife read and liked. My last ARL got in the way of me reading this over the summer, so I included it this time. I hope to compare it to the movie somewhere down the line too.

I actually started reading Michael Chabon’s Manhood For Amateurs around the time our daughter was born, or maybe just before. It’s a great book of essays I’m looking forward to finishing. I’ve been living a lie with Wizard of Oz, keeping it on my shelf since high school without every reading the whole thing. I plan on remedying that and also telling a pretty great story about the signature I have in that book. After that it’s Patton Oswalt’s Zombie Spaceship Wasteland which I got from the library for a list I was working on before my pal Rob Bricken moved from Topless Robot to io9. I have no idea where that list will lie, but that’s the first book on the pile I’m reading because I’m lousy at getting books back on time.

From there I’ve got the illustrated version of the unfilmed Harlan Ellison script based on Isaac Asimov’s I, Robot,Marc Eliot’s book about Cary Grant which I got because George Hamilton made him sound really interesting in his book and Peter Ackroyd’s retelling of Geoffry Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales. I read parts of the original in college, but could barely get through it, man.

I got Raiders! thanks to a PR email letting me know about this book about the guys that made the 80s Raiders of the Lost Ark fan film. Then I’ve got It Happened In Manhattan, an oral history about the Big Apple by Myrna Katz Frommer and Harvey Frommer and finally Harvey Pekar’s graphic novel adaptation of Studs Terkel’s classic look at careers, jobs and Americans Working. As you can see, it’s another eclectic mix. I’m pretty jazzed to be adding a few different formats (screenplays, essays, graphic novels) and also think that this one might go a little bit quicker than the previous one, assuming I still have time to read. The next few months are going to be pretty busy/crazy.

Ambitious Reading List: Please Kill Me By Legs McNeil & Gillian McCain

A while back I asked some of my pals what books I should check out to learn more about New York’s punk scene in the 70s. I don’t remember what nudged me to ask the question, but the resounding response was, “Read Please Kill Me!” I think I had a gift certificate to Barnes and Noble, so I picked it up. That was quite a while ago now that I think about it. Anyway, it was sitting in my to-read pile for however long and then I set up this current Ambitious Reading List and decided that it would make a great caboose to this reading experience.

Please Kill Me was written by Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain in 1996, but the version of the book I has is from 2006 and includes a few extra odds and ends. The book is an oral history much like Live from New York and Whores where large blocks of quotes from the interviewees propel the story along. The beauty of PKM is the width and depth of that McNeil and McCain were able to go to get these quotes. This book starts off back with Andy Warhol and his factory as kind of the primordial soup that punk rock grew out of (once scene spawned another in a sense) through the Doors and the Stooges into the classic bands like the Ramones, New York Dolls and even a little, tiny bit into the British scene. The authors interviewed everyone from scenesters and photographers to surviving members from all the most important bands and many who are no longer with us at this point.

To paraphrase an MTV show’s intro, I thought I knew about punk, but I had no idea. I’ve said before that I wasn’t a rage-filled kid. I think I had a very practical viewpoint on the world which helped me avoid a lot of the disillusionment in the real world that fueled a lot of punk rock kids. I was into then-modern punk/pop punk but when I started getting into original punk it was after reading articles in Guitar World and watching Syd and Nancy in high school. It was almost more academic than anything. I think I started off with that Ramones anthology from Rhino that covers most of their history. I also picked up the Sex Pistols’ Nevermind the Bollocks (I liked that they only had one real record but had no idea how common that was for these legendary punk bands). My buddy Jimmy also hipped me to the MC5 as this protopunk band that was from not too far from where we lived in Toledo, so I got Kick Out The Jams and loved it.

So, I knew some stuff. I knew some of the bands, but my knowledge wasn’t deep. I heard about the Dolls, the Dictators, the Dead Boys and lots of others, but just never got around to checking them out. I also knew the scene was pretty messy, but you really don’t get the feel for how messy until you read these peoples’ experiences. Man, it was nuts. Everyone was drinking, doing drugs, whoring themselves out, having sex with anything that moves, stealing, using, abusing, the whole lot.

The interesting thing about delving into any scene like this is discovering the small ins and outs of it. I was surprised to discover that there were only about 100 people in total living this life. It was quiet for a long time and then when it started getting popular, that was kind of the end of it, which stands to reason. Reading survivors recount some of the amazing and terrible things they’ve done to one another is a pretty singular experience.

I will say that reading this book changed how I listen to the Ramones a bit. I mean, I knew they came from the same scene as everyone else, but I think the somewhat gimmicky nature of the band and the decades between their debut and when I actually listened to them made them almost cartoonish. An amazing band with crazy-catchy songs, but still one that practically wore a uniform, changed their last names to Ramones and appeared in Rock and Roll High School. Finding out that they were drug fueled hopheads and prostitutes who actually went through shock therapy changes how you listen to songs like “53rd and Third” (which I clearly never paid too much attention to lyrics-wise), “Gimme Gimme Shock Treatment” and “Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue.” I’m not saying I’m disgusted or will never listen to the Ramones the same way again, it just changes how I listen to them…for the time being until my crappy memory glosses over those details with something from a movie or comic.

My one complaint about Please Kill Me comes from a lack of context and full storytelling that happens throughout the book. In Live From New York, there are these short paragraphs in the beginning of a chapter that explain some details not covered in the interviews. In this book, you’re just kind of thrown in and have to figure out what’s going on. Since I was fairly uneducated on this section of rock and roll history, that got kind of confusing. There’s also some bands that get kind of glossed over or mentioned, but never much detail is given. Like, I know Debbie Harry and Blondie was part of that scene even if they were dubbed New Wave, but the band is only mentioned circuitously. Maybe that’s because they’re not the focus or maybe it’s because certain members wouldn’t allow themselves to be interviewed, but I thought it was a little strange how one of the biggest acts to come out of that area was more or less a foot note. There is a handy section in the back that explains who people are, but a few who were interviewed were omitted back there and that can be frustrating when you’re trying to remember so many names and add some context where there might not be some.

But aside from that, I really enjoyed this book. It’s definitely not for everyone, but I’m guessing if you’re already into punk rock, the tales you’ll read about in this book won’t be too surprising. Actually, if you’re not surprised by at least something in here, well, you’re a different person than I and that’s cool.

And with that, this Ambitious Reading List comes to an end many months after the summer. I really like this format because it takes a very large pile of books I have in my to-read pile (now a purple bin in our storage unit, actually), condences them down to a varied dozen and makes me focus on them. Overall, I’d say this group was greatly eclectic and very interesting. I might have quit on one book and replaced one with The Strain, but overall, I had a great time and have not only arranged my next ARL, but even finished the first book already!

Lockout (2012) Is Awesome

Ho. Lee. Crap. When I first started seeing trailers for Lockout earlier this year, I knew I’d like it. You know why? Because it was a little movie, not well advertised and yet it just looked so damn cool. It looked like the kind of movie that John Carpenter would have made in the 80s and, really, it is: “Escape From New York in a space prison.” That’s a very apt description, one that I used when explaining this movie to a friend the other day. Basically, Lockout is like a Neil Marshall or Neveldine & Talyor movie, the kind of thing you watch and say, “Man, they do NOT make movies like this anymore!”

Co-directors and co-writers James Mather and Stephen St. Leger know the kinds of films they like and made a movie that fits in with them without being too, too homage-y. In the future, prisons are actually these huge ships in Earth’s upper atmosphere. Guy Pearce’s Snow is a CIA agent who gets framed for murder and is offered the chance to make things right by heading into one of the prisons after a visit from the President’s daughter (Maggie Grace) incites a riot and breakout. From there, Pearce gets dropped into the prison, teams up with Grace and goes about trying to save her and clear his name.

It’s a pretty simple plot that gets a little more twisty and turn-y at the very end, but for the most part it’s a straightforward action movie the likes of which you just don’t see anymore. When I say that I mean that this is a pretty high concept film that did a surprisingly good job when it comes to special effects while still being fun and exciting. I did some looking over on Box Office Mojo, though, and it doesn’t seem like this movie was a huge success. It cost $20 million to make, but only made $28 million worldwide, so while it obviously made its money back, that’s not a huge return on investment.  Interestingly, Lockout actually grossed more then Escape from New York with that film making $25 million in 1981.

I want to see more movies like this and hope people keep giving Mather and Leger money to make flicks because, if nothing else, they showed that you can do a helluva lot with not a lot of money (in Hollywood terms). Also, I would very much like to play a video game based on this film, so if someone could make that happen, I’d be a happy dude.