Black Panther Is Awesome Part 2: Wild Kingdom

2009-02-25
8:38:59 pm

Part two in my argument why Black Panther is an awesome comic.

X-MEN/BLACK PANTHER: WILD KINGDOM

(Black Panther #8-9, X-Men #175-176)

Written by Reginald Hudlin & Peter Milligan, drawn by David Yardin & Salvador Larroca

X-Men/Black Panther: Wild Kingdom isn’t exactly the best example of why Black Panther is awesome. As I mentioned last time one of the big reasons I like this book so much is that it feels like it’s firmly entrenched in the Marvel U without getting too detailed or confusing. That all gets hindered when you bring in the X-Men. I know a lot of people are all about the X-Men, but I still find them to be the most difficult franchise to get into thanks to the incredibly dense history. It’s not even that Milligan’s story is all that confusing, I just have a hard time placing this story in the long history of X-Men. You’ve got Gambit and Rogue on the same team, but what’s their deal? Emma’s there too, but is this still when Astonishing was going on? None of this really matters to the story, but it is distracting. I do like how both writers handle Storm and Wolverine though, two characters who will be important in their own ways coming up.

The story of this book is that the Red Ghost wants to start a new commie ape society in Africa. There’s something about mutant animals, which gets the X-Men interested. BP of course gets involved too because this is his turf. For those of you unfamiliar with the Red Ghost, he’s a communist scientist who can turn intangible and has created super powered apes who talk. There’s another scientist guy in the story who can absorb mutant powers.

I’ll be honest, the larger story here isn’t all that interesting unless you’re a huge Red Ghost fan (and I know some people out there are). What is cool about this story is seeing Storm and Black Panther together. Like I said before I don’t know much about either character aside from what I’ve read in this book, so I’m not sure if there were any previous hints of their relationship or if this is the first readers saw of it, but I like how they are around each other, especially considering how adversarial they tend to be towards one another. It’s cool to see the beginning of their love story (even if it’s not the chronological beginning).

Oh, Dragon Man’s in the book too which is pretty cool, but, again, the overall story isn’t all that interesting. As far as my collection goes, I’m not all too concerned about adding this one to my collection, unless I can get it on Sequential Swap (a great site to get rid of some of your old trades as well as get some cool new ones). But, don’t let that deter you from checking out my future installments of Black Panther Is Awesome, as Part 3 will focus on Bad Mutha, the arc that got me interested in this book in the first place.

They Can’t All Be Winners

2009-02-25
2:06:36 am

I haven’t been having a ton of luck lately when it comes to watching movies. Aside from falling asleep about a half hour in exactly no matter how cool the movie, I’ve been picking some duds (though still a few good ones). I couldn’t even get into watching Repo: The Genetic Opera for some reason. I’m not going to pass judgment on that one now because I was really tired, but I wanted to keep our Netflix queue going so I sent it back.

I did not however like an action movie I tried watching last night called Kiltro (2006). I made it about a half hour into that one before I fell asleep. I was hoping for an awesome action movie (as advertised), but instead I got a story about a guy who likes to fight and has a crush on a girl who blah blah blah. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I want my action movies (and my giant monster movies for that matter) to be less talking and more destruction, unless they happen to be actually funny like Police Story 1 and 2. Again, I don’t really consider this a review, because I didn’t watch the whole movie, just letting you action fans out there know not to waste your time.

I also watched most of a movie called Hickey and Boggs (1972) which has a lot going for it in that The Warriors writer Walter Hill wrote it and Bill Cosby stars as a tough guy private detective along with Robert Culp who also directs. I didn’t have any problem with this movie, though it is a bit slow, I just haven’t finished it yet because it’s kind of long and it expires from Netflix on March 1. It’s in the same vein as Dirty Harry and is pretty cool, so I might finish it up today. Oh, and if you were wondering, yes it’s kind of weird seeing Bill Cosby as a tough guy, but he also pulls it off really well. It’s fun to watch. Again, not a real review, but just some thoughts.

That being said, I do have four ACTUAL reviews:

POPCORN (1991)

Man, the 90s were a weird time for horror movies. You’re looking at a time after the slasher glut greatly hindered the genre, but before Scream made them cool again. Popcorn is kind of a weird movie. The basic premise is that a college film club decides to hold a movie marathon to raise some money. But this isn’t any movie marathon, they’re showing movies with a gimmick like smell-o-vision or shock-o-rama. As such, they need an old movie theater to show their flicks in and a crazy old guy to help out (and then completely disappear) in the form of Ray Walston (My Favorite Martian). If you really liked the beginning of Scream 2 where there’s all kinds of craziness happening in a movie theater, then this is right up your alley as it seems as though a counterculture guy from back in the day wants his weirdo movie to be seen so much he’s willing to kill people for it (that’s not exactly the plot, but I don’t want to give too much away). There was enough quirky charm to keep me watching even though the movie isn’t awesome by any means. So, if that sounds interesting (oh and the fact that someone gets killed via giant fake mosquito), check it out.

THE ROCKER (2008)

I was really surprised with how much I liked this Rainn Wilson flick. I was also surprised with the huge number of cast members I not only recognized, but knew by name (for the most part). Wilson stars as a drummer who got kicked out of what became the biggest band of the 80s right before they blew up. Now, in modern times, Rainn’s down on his luck, but ends up joining his nephew’s band, which garners its own huge levels of success. Aside from the cast that includes Christina Applegate, Emma Stone, Jeff Garland, Jane Lynch (from 40 Year Old Virgin and a hundred other things), Jason Sudekis, Will Arnett, Fred Armisen, Jane Krakowski, Bradley Cooper, Lonny Ross (30 Rock), Demetri Martin and Aziz Ansari, I was really impressed with how well they pull off some moments that could have come off as cheesy. There’s also one part where Rainn offers up the emo lead singer some songwriting advice (paraphrase “let’s speed it up and switch it to I’m NOT bitter) and he actually takes it without flinching. Sure it’s kind of similar to a scene in That Thing You Do, but in this case the lead singer just decided to go for it instead of being a d-bag. The Rocker is one of those flicks that seems like it either went up against some huge other movie or their producers didn’t have the juice to put much/any advertising cash behind it, because there’s no reason that this shouldn’t have done way better (though I said the same thing after seeing Speed Racer, which I still really enjoyed, so what do I know).

I also watched a couple movies all the way through that I wasn’t really into and those were Bangkok Dangerous (2008) and The Crazies (1973). I’ll be honest, the only reason I wanted to watch BD is because I’ve laughed a million times at the Best of The Wicker Man video on YouTube starring BD’s Nic Cage. Man that’s a funny video. You can get to it here after reading an AWESOME article I wrote about horror movie remakes for ToyFare. Unfortunately, BD was no where near as ridiculous as I was hoping it would be (I mean, COME ON, it’s Nic Cage as an assassin!). Instead, it’s a pretty run-of-the mill story about an assassin who has all kinds of rules, but is starting to not want to be an assassin anymore. You’ve seen it a million times and this doesn’t really offer up anything new, unlike Grosse Pointe Blank which is completely awesome.

The Crazies (1973) is the first non-zombie George Romero movie I’ve ever seen. It was okay, but not all that interesting. Instead of focusing on characters and how they react to these crazy situations, it seemed like Romero was more focused on showing a lot of dudes in white hazmat-type suits rounding people up after a virus that makes people go bat-poop nutso, gets released in a small town. There’s nothing all that wrong, really, it just didn’t grab my attention like my favorite Romero (and horror) flick Dawn of the Dead does.

Four Movies I Dug

2009-02-21
5:28:59 am

It may come as a bit of surprise, but my movie intake has almost trickled to a crawl lately. The movies in this post have been vied over a period of almost months. I’ve been a lot more tired lately and haven’t been staying up as late, but I’m still watching for you, my faithful readers (also because I’m half-addicted to movies, I think). So, here we go:

 

NICK AND NORAH’S INFINITE PLAYLIST (2008)

I didn’t LOVE Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, but I liked it about as much as I thought I would. I’m a sucker for told-in-one-night movies like Can’t Hardly Wait and the like. Plus, this one stars Michael Cera and Kat Dennings who is crush-worthy in my book (don’t tell Em). The basic story isn’t all that mindblowing, it’s your basic “two people who are dating other people meet each other, fall for each other, have a few difficulties, but SPOILER get together in the end” flick, but what’s fun for me is in the details. Aside from the solid performances and guest spots by the likes of Andy Samberg, Seth Meyers, Jay Baruchel, I like the New York club setting and the smaller details like Nora’s dad SPOILER owning Electric Ladyland studios. I have no idea if the club/band life the movie puts forward is accurate, but I think the idea of following a mystery band around town to be really cool, though familiar (I can’t quite put my finger on why/where from). I also had music geeksplosions when they went to Electric Ladyland. And, I gotta say, I was surprised that this movie, which is based on a book that I haven’t, but now want to, read not only had a sex scene but also a number of gay characters (oh, and the creepiest stripperish dance scene involving an actual girl that I can remember). I guess teen movies have changed a bit and I think it’s pretty cool.

THE HOUSE BUNNY (2008)

I can’t exactly say The House Bunny surprised me, because, well, I kind of thought I would like it. You’ve got Anna Faris starring in a Fred Wolf (SNL, DIRTY WORK!!!) directed movie that mixes Playboy and sororities on a college campus in which the main point of the flick is to turn nerdy sorority girls (including Kat Dennings, Rumor Willis and Emma Stone) into hot chicks. I’d say that’s a pretty killer combination. And, as far as I’m concerned, it lived up to my expectations. Oh, plus it had Colin Hanks who I haven’t seen in anything but Orange County, but I liked that flick and he’s good in this too. Really, if the above description doesn’t tickle your fancy, you won’t dig this movie. If it does, dive on in and have a good time. I wouldn’t rank it in my top five comedies or anything, but it’s still worth a watch.

ALIEN RAIDERS (2008)

Alien Raiders is one of those movies that makes its way into the Wizard building and somehow found it’s way to my hands, probably because everyone knows I’m the horror guy in the offices. Anyway, I knew nothing about this movie and had absolutely no expectations (in fact, I can’t even remember why I watched this instead of something else like, say, Triloquist, which is in my “to be watched” pile). So, I was pleasantly surprised by this mix of Thing and The Mist (basically, “who’s the alien in a grocery store”). I was surprised with how in to this movie I got (I even put a comic down to watch it). For a much better review than I could give, check out my favorite blog on the web Horror Movie a Day. Also check out the comment section for what will be a now reduntant comment, plus a comment from the screenwriter!

DISTRICT B-13 (2004)

Compared to the rest of these flicks, B-13 here is an oldie, but it’s still a goody. Man, I had a great time watching B-13. It’s directed by the guy who just did Taken which I hear is pretty rad and want to check out. Anyway, the story is set in the near future, something about a ghetto in France where undesirables live. The intricacies of the plot escape me at the moment, but there’s an undercover cop and a crook working together to both get a bomb back and save one of the guys’ sister. The story itself isn’t the cool part though, I was a fan of the action scenes, many of which involved my personal favorite YouTube search of free running (or parkour if you’re nasty, or French). I caught this on Netflix’s amazing instant watch and can’t recommend it more to action fans. Seriously, go check it out NOW.

Okay, hope you enjoyed these brief movie reviews. Look for more trade and movie reviews soon!

Book vs. Movie: The Real Animal House/Animal House

2009-02-18
8:41:32 pm

I must admit, I have not seen Animal House (1978) as many times as I should have. My dad was always a big fan, but I’m guessing he didn’t want me to watch it considering the questionable moral content. I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t have wanted me to read one of the Animal House writers Chris Miller’s book The Real Animal House (2006).

The story is that Miller wrote a bunch of stories about his fraternity experiences at Dartmouth for National Lampoon (yes, it used to be a magazine). At some point the NL folks wanted to make a movie so Chris, Harold Ramis and Douglas Kenney pooled every story they ever experienced or heard about fraternities and created Animal House, one of the greatest comedies of all time.

Well, Miller’s The Real Animal House collects all of his memories and stories. Part autobiography, part oral history, Miller switches from first to third person as he gets to college and becomes Pinto. The shift is a bit distracting, but once you really get into the tales of Adelphian lore, you don’t really notice it anymore.

And let me tell you, there are some gross stories in here. If you thought the movie had some risque moments, you might not want to check the book out, but if that kind of stuff doesn’t bother you, I really recommend this book. Aside from being highly entertaining and funny, it’s really interesting to be transferred to the wild world of fraternity life in the early 60s as rock and roll was really taking root and students were trying everything they could to make the cold New Hampshire winters pass in the at-the-time all male world of Dartmoth. I’m not saying this was necessarily how all college life was in the 60s, but it’s a cool look. Plus, it reminded be a little of my fraternity days back at Ohio Wesleyan. We were never as crazy as either the book or movie fraternities, but there are definitely some characters and moments that echoed my experiences, though, luckily I never got stuck with a flattering nickname (we pretty much called everyone by their last name all the time, with a few exceptions).

Anyway, if you haven’t seen Animal House you really should. It’s the rare movie that doesn’t really have one central character and yet you never really seem to notice. All the actors deliver stellar performances and there’s something new to laugh at every time you check it out. I also recommend viewing the special features, one of which catches up with the characters, the other interviews many of the actors a few years ago about their experience with Animal House, even Kevin Bacon.

I picked the book up at my local Barnes and Noble in hardcover for around 6 or 7 bucks and I highly recommend it if you can find it for that price, otherwise the hardcover is $24.99. I tend not to buy new, full price hardcovers because I’m pretty cheap, but the low price, the subject matter and the super cool cover (Google it, uploading pics is a pain) all encouraged me buying it and I recommend you do too.

Trade Post: Thor & Dark Phoenix Saga

2009-02-13
4:45:30 pm

Today we’ve got a pair of Marvel trade reviews for your reading pleasure:

THOR VOL. 1 (Marvel)

Written J. Michael Straczynski & drawn by Oliver Coipel

On paper, I didn’t think I’d like JMS’s Thor. I’ve never been a big fan of the character and JMS disappointed me with Rising Stars after which I kind of stopped reading his stuff (also because I’m not a big FF or Spidey fan, though his Midnight Nation is rad). Also, I remember reading in Wizard a bunch of years back (I think right before I got my job) that Mark Millar and Steve McNiven were going to work on a Thor book where all these different Asgardian weapons started falling to Earth and new people were picking them up and becoming Don Blake/Thor-like pairings. That sounded pretty rad, but it never happened. Then that Thor clone thing happened in Civil War, so I was pretty much done with the idea of Thor.

Even with all that, I still started reading Thor when it came out and I was shocked to realize that I really liked it. I can’t even really describe why I like it so much. I think it’s the basic simplicity of a character that’s been around for decades. Even though Thor’s trying to find his fellow Asgardians in human form, it doesn’t feel too bogged down in continuity. I also really like how he just decided to set up shop in Oklahoma as a floating castle-city. It’s a really cool visual which is made all the cooler by Coipel’s slick art. I can’t remember if I’ve read any books he’s drawn before, but I’d definitely make a point from here on out.

Unfortunately, I missed one issue in the first six and got off the story, which is a bummer because now I’ll either have to find all the issues in the Wizard library (a veritable wasteland) or just read the trades as they come out which will take a while. Oh well, I’m still down with the book and from what I hear it’s still doing well, so hopefully it’ll be around for a while.

X-MEN: THE DARK PHOENIX SAGA (Marvel)

Written by Chris Claremont, co-plotted and drawn by John Byrne

I’ve talked a lot of X-Men trash over the years. Partly it’s because I’m a dyed in the wool DC fan. Part of it is that I’m not a big Chris Claremont fan because of his run on Gen 13 (I was a HUGE fan of that book back in the day). And partly because I’m kind of sick of people saying how great it is.

But, all that being said, I figured I should at least give it a shot and see how it is so I can make an educated argument as to why I don’t like the book (if in fact I don’t). Well, I was surprised that I didn’t hate the book. I don’t think it’s anywhere near the level of Dark Knight or Watchmen, books that I’ve heard it compared to before, but it’s pretty good for a comic from 1979-1980.

Part of the problem is that I knew exactly what was going to happen and there were very few if any surprises. I guess I can thank my beloved X-Men animated series and reading various reviews and write-ups in Wizard for that. Anyway, sometimes you know how something’s going to end, but the ride is still fun. Unfortunately, I kept getting let down by moments that I’ve heard were supposed to be awesome. The one that really sticks out in my mind is the couple of issues in which Wolverine gets knocked through the floor of the Hellfire Club and then comes back and kicks ass to save his teammates. Sure there are a couple of cool moments, but most of the issue is spent watching a Revolutionary War era Cyclops fighting in mind space or something. The final fight with the Imperial Guard is kind of boring as well. Plus John Byrne’s very pretty art is often covered with dialogue that explains exactly what you’re seeing the characters do on the page.

Like I said the story’s not bad, especially if you haven’t had nearly every beat of the story ruined for you and also if you have a predilection for Silver Age-type stories, but it doesn’t really make me want to read the rest of this era of X-Men, though X-fanatic and Wizard World guru Brett White suggested I read From the Ashes which is on my list. We shall see I guess.