To My Mind, Amazing Spider-Man Is Superior

amazing spider-man poster

Like a lot of people, I was dubious when I head about plans to reboot the Spider-Man film franchise so quickly after the previous installment (there’s only 5 years between Spider-Man 3 and Amazing). I’m also about the only person on Earth who doesn’t like Spider-Man 2 (too overwrought) and one of the many people who actively disliked Spider-Man 3, so more Spidey on the big screen wasn’t something I was interested in whatsoever. So, why’d I wind up watching it last night? Pretty simple: we’ve got a Starz’ family movie channel replacing the absent CBS on our cable and it happened to be on. With a general feeling of, “Eh, why not?” and our daughter loving Spider-Man, my wife and I figured we’d give it a shot.

And, you know what? I really enjoyed this movie. I’ll say right now that it’s been years since I watched Spider-Man and my memories of that film have absolutely been tarnished by the sequels, but Amazing compared favorably to that other film as far as I’m concerned. I liked the “figuring out his powers” scene a lot for instance and not just because it included skateboarding.

While still doing the origin thing (which I actually missed as we turned the movie on about 10 or 15 minutes late) the movie focused more on Peter Parker as a high school kid. Before Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) inevitably passes away, but after Peter discovers his powers, he embraces his new abilities as well as the scientific projects he gets to work on with the one-armed Dr. Connors. They’re working on a limb regeneration experiment that Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans) winds up using on himself, which turns him into the Lizard, a process that drove him so crazy that he utilized a device to try and spread the lizard-izing chemicals all over NYC. Meanwhile, Peter’s flirting with Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) and meeting her dad (Denis Leary) who doesn’t like the vigilante running around his city.

First and foremost, I adored Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker and Spider-Man. I’d only ever saw him in The Social Network and wasn’t sure how he’d play as one of the world’s most iconic superheroes, but I thought he killed it. He nailed the darkness that comes from the loss of a loved one along with the general high school angst. This isn’t just the story of Peter Parker becoming Spider-Man, but the story of a boy dealing with the loss of his father figure while also working through actual parental issues and you feel that throughout the film. Then, a few minutes later, he’s doing the whole jokey thing which is clearly his way of embracing his new life. Some people complained that there wasn’t enough joking around, but that made sense with this story which gets pretty intense pretty quickly.

I also appreciated what they didn’t do in this movie. There’s no “With great power comes great responsibility” or wrestling match or Mary Jane or J. Jonah Jameson or Norman Osborn. Those elements are there in various forms, but after seeing those things done already, it was nice to see them skipped over this time around. My biggest concern going into Amazing was that it would be far too much of a rehash. Sure, director Marc Webb ((500) Days Of Summer) makes nods to the comic book and movie origins but also puts a spin on them that makes sense within the context of this film.

amazing spider-man poster 2

I should also note that I’ve never read Spider-Man comics aside from an Ultimate Spider-Man binge-read I did years ago that got me up to around the #100 mark (I didn’t dig it). So, while watching this version of the story I wasn’t concerned with “Hey, that’s not like the comic” or constantly comparing it to the hundreds of comics I’ve read (like I did with Dark Knight Rises and Man Of Steel). Thanks to that disconnect I was able to just sit back and enjoy the film.

Oh, the special effects are rad too. I know they did as much practically as they could, but even the super CGI-y scenes made sense and looked pretty good on my TV. I’d still like to watch the movie on Blu-ray at some point to really see how good or bad it looks.

I dug the movie and so did my kid actually. It’s funny the little things here and there that she picks up on. There’s a part where Peter’s supposed to pick up eggs but gets sidetracked. My wife and I both joked that he forgot the eggs when he got back to the house and our daughter kept asking about the eggs throughout the movie. Unfortunately, she fell asleep before that was all wrapped up at the end of the movie, yet another reason to watch the movie again!

Trade Post: Marvels, Atlas Volume 1 & Gotham By Gaslight

marvels Marvels (Marvel)
Written by Kurt Busiek, painted by Alex Ross
Collects Marvels #0-4

Going into last weekend, I pulled out a random sampling of mostly one-off trades that I wanted to make my way through this weekend. Some I had experience with, others were brand new to me. I’m splitting the experience between two posts, but here’s how the first three went over.

When I was a kid in the early-to-mid 90s Alex Ross blew everyone’s mind in comics. He might not have been the first guy to paint comic books, but he seemed like it to me at the time. His figures were so iconic and classical looking that you just couldn’t help but pour over his pages. The fact that he and the writers he worked with liked hiding pop culture easter eggs throughout the panels also helped. Kingdom Come was the first book of his I read and it blew me away. I even picked up his next work, Uncle Sam, which I didn’t understand at the time, but definitely want to dig out of my longboxes when I have access to them. I did eventually pick up the four issues of Marvels at a garage sale where a woman was selling off her son’s collection for a buck a book.

I don’t actually remember much about that original reading experience, but I can imagine it was pretty revelatory to me. I was a hardcore DC guy growing up, so my main exposure to the Marvel U was through trading cards, action figure bios, pieces in Wizard and cartoons. At the time, I was a novice when it came to Marvel’s Golden and Silver Age history which we see through the literal lens of photographer Phil Sheldon. He’s there from the beginning, when the original android Human Torch first gets shown off to a suspicious crowd and, as a NYC journalist, sees the beginnings of the superhero world and the way people react to what he labeled Marvels.

Unfortunately, the story wasn’t nearly as fresh this time around. I’ve read a ton of Marvel comics in the meantime and even a few books about the company, so the big action scenes are pretty well-worn for me even if they were presented by Ross in his heyday. I know that’s not what the book is ABOUT, but it is what drives things forward. I appreciate the man-on-the-street perspective that Busiek uses with Sheldon, especially the way his opinions of the “mutant menace” evolves, but I felt like he did all this much better in Astro City (a complaint I realized I also had when reading Busiek’s Web of Spider-Man #81). It’s interesting to see how the writer has wanted to work with specific themes throughout his career, tried them out with Marvel books, but, in my opinion at least, was really able to nail them down in his creator-owned book.

I can’t move on without talking about Ross’s art in this book. It’s as big and bold as you’d expect, though far less pastel than you might expect if you’re more of a recent fan. You can also tell, though, that this is the guy who will evolve into the Kingdom Come painter. The characters here seem a bit lighter and less dense than they do in KC, which is still one of my all time favorites and I’ve got the itch to read it again, so look for that review soon.

atlas return of the three dimensional man Atlas: Return Of The Three Dimensional Man (Marvel)
Written by Jeff Parker, drawn by Gabriel Hardman, Giancarlo Caracuzzo, Ramon Rosanas & Parker
Collects Assault On New Olympus Prologue, Incredible Hercules (back-ups) #138-141, Enter The Heroic Age & Atlas #1-5

In writing about Agents Of Atlas: Dark Reign, AoA: Turf War and pretty much every other Jeff Parker comic I’ve reviewed here on the site, I’ve talked about how much I enjoy his ability to play within the Marvel sandbox while still adding something new to the characters. It’s a skill set that I’m always impressed by, especially in the days when it seems like creators at the big two don’t have as much freedom thanks to huge events and/or other external circumstances that have nothing to do with creating. Of course, it helps when you’re dealing with characters that are only really cool because you made them that way.

Parker launched AoA as a miniseries back in 2006 based off of an old issue of What If?! that posited a team of characters created back in the Atlas days of Marvel’s history actually became the Avengers. Forgotten by most, Parker dusted these characters off, gave them unique voices and personalities and, in the course of telling thrilling stories, hooked me forever. Since that first outing, the team has appeared in a few failed ongoings (I always said I’d like them to simply take the Hellboy/B.P.R.D. series-of-minis approach, but that wasn’t in the cards), minis and back-ups. This trade collects the team’s back-up features in Incredible Hercules which were going on at the same time as the Assault On Mount Olympus story. The team then got another shot at an ongoing simply titled Atlas, but it only made it the five issues collected in this volume.

Anyway, this volume continues all the elements about Parker’s team that I enjoy while always moving the individuals and the team itself forward. The thrust of the main story revolves around Triathalon and the gang figuring out why beings are trying to kill the original 3D Man and his brother (who was a part of that What If?! issue but no subsequent iterations). The book ends with the team searching for and finding a resolution that actually winds up helping everyone involved instead of going the easy route, which is a nice touch. At this point, I believe this is the last AoA book around. I still haven’t gotten my hands on the Gorilla Man or Marvel Boy minis, but I’m hoping somewhere down the line Parker gets to bring these guys back again and show the world why they’re rad.

gotham by gaslightGotham By Gaslight (DC)
Written by Brian Augustyn, drawn by Mike Mignola

Gotham By Gaslight is the kind of book I’ve heard about for years. Though not labeled as such on the cover of this original GN version, this was the first of the Elseworlds tales, stories taking iconic DC characters and putting them in different settings throughout time, space and, oftentimes, literature. Back in 1994 when I was 11, DC gave every ongoing book the Elseworlds treatment in that year’s annuals. It was a lot of fun, spawned one of my all time favorite stories and also sparked my imagination in a general way. So, as a fan of Elseworlds and artist Mike Mignola, Gotham By Gaslight was easily on my to-get list.

After working out a Sequential Swap, I wound up with a copy in hand and while I’m not sure if it deserved so much anticipation, it’s still a pretty good story. The idea here is that Bruce Wayne became Batman back in 1889. As it happens, he comes back to Gotham just in time to take on Jack the Ripper who has also relocated after committing his infamous crimes in London.

I think this book sounds cooler than it actually is. Batman versus Jack the Ripper drawn by Mike Mignola? That was a much different animal back in 1989 than it is today. The book isn’t bad by any means and dodges many of the elements that made some of those Elseworlds books annoying — like every single DCU supporting character coming into play in these alternate universes — but also doesn’t do a great job of creating a compelling mystery. The looming question over the story is, “Who is Jack the Ripper?” {If you want to completely avoid SPOILERS, skip the rest of this paragraph.} We’re offered a few potential suspects, but the actual culprit is really the only person it could have been, right? We’re thrown some red herrings like the creepy British people on the boat and this world’s version of the Joker, but neither of them come up ever again. Had those characters recurred more throughout the story, I would have questioned my original guess at who the killer was, but as it was, I had it pegged from that character’s first appearance in the comic.

Still, I enjoyed the comic and would be interested in checking out the follow-up which features art by Eduardo Barreto called Master Of The Future. While the main character of Bruce Wayne and Batman is basically the same as you’d expect as even a casual Batman fan, it’s cool to see how that character interacts with a world that reminds me a lot of the one seen in Sandman Mystery Theatre. Plus, that costume is just rad!

Binding Trade Post: Guy Gardner Warrior

guy gardner warrior 17 Guy Gardner: Warrior Volume 1 (DC)
Written by Beau Smith & Chuck Dixon, drawn by Mitch Byrd & others
Binding Order: Guy Gardner: Warrior #17-24, 0, 25-28, Green Lantern #60, GGW #29, Action Comics #709, GGW #30-31, Guy Gardner: Warrior Annual #1, Detention Comics #1 & Showcase ’96 #1

This one’s a little bit of a cheat because it’s not an actual trade that you can go out and buy, but a pair of hardcovers I had made through Houchen Bindery. I had gotten some extra cash for Christmas and my birthday that I put aside for a binding project and got to work amassing whichever books I was missing, having my parents bring out stacks from home and getting everything together. I soon focused in on two areas: the Kyle Rayner Green Lantern comics and Guy Gardner: Warrior, both books that had a huge impact on me in my formative comic-reading years that I continue to enjoy this day. I spent a good deal of time designing three different covers for the GL books, but decided to go with the more traditional, solid-colored covers for the Warrior books partially because I was tired of staring at computer screens and Photoshopping like crazy (something that proved very difficult with most of the GGW covers) and because I got a kick out of the idea of seeing my Guy Gardner comics covered in a way that makes them look like classy library books.

For a book that I love so much, I don’t actually remember why I picked up my first issue of Guy Gardner. I think I had read an adventure or two of his in random issues of Justice League I’d acquired along the way (this was before my massive post-Crisis JL collection idea), but wasn’t overly familiar with the character. Anyway, some time in 1994 I picked up Guy Gardner: Warrior #17, 18 or 19 and was instantly hooked. This was towards the end of Chuck Dixon’s run on the character where Guy — who was sporting Sinestro’s old yellow ring at the time and no longer a member of the Green Lantern Corps — was going through all kinds of costume changes from the leather-loving dude in the cover above to a ringless armor-wearer to the eventual morph meister he would soon become. These are all concepts that probably seem silly now, but were like crack to an 11 year old.

So, I’ve been a fan of the character going back nearly 20 years at this point and, aside from some of the Geoff Johns-era Green Lantern Corps, most people don’t seem to get the character. Many have the impression of Guy that he’s just a jerk with powers, but if you’ve read Dixon and Beau Smith’s run on the book, you know that it’s a lot deeper than all that. Sure, he’s kind of a jerk, but these writers also got to the underlying bedrock of the character, examining why he was a jerk and also showing all the ways that he’s so much more than that by getting into his relationship with his mom, dad, brother and on-and-off-again girlfriend Tora (better known as the superheroine and fellow Justice Leaguer Ice).

guy gardner binding

Smith has talked about how his run on the book came about in a two part post over on Westfield Comics’ blog, how it began life as a DCU-hopping adventure featuring Buck Wargo and the Monster Hunters and soon turned into that but with a sci-fi/fantasy element incorporating morphing abilities like the ones seen in the then-popular Mighty Morphin Power Rangers series. The books that I put in this volume feature Guy dealing with those new powers, questioning his origins in regards to the newly discovered Vuldarian DNA doing its thing inside him and also setting up his new life which includes funding from Wargo (a scientist-adventurer-millionaire) and a bar called Warriors that’s equal parts hero hangout and headquarters which happens to be the most long-lasting element of this run.

I decided to include a few crossovers like Green Lantern #60 and Action Comics #709, but also the first annual which was part of the Year One line that year. It’s an interesting take with some not so great art that shows how Vuldarians used to do their intergalactic policing back in the day. I also threw in the Detention Comics one-shot which features Guy substitute teaching as well as two other stories featuring Robin (Tim Drake) and Superboy and Showcase ’96 #1 which includes the first part of a two-parter featuring Guy teaming up with Steel where we learn that they used to play football at the same time. Fun stuff. The second half of that story kicks off the next book.

Guy Gardner Warrior 34 Guy Gardner: Warrior Volume 2 (DC)
Written by Beau Smith, drawn by Mitch Byrd, Marc Campos & others
Binding Order: Showcase ’96 #2, GGW #32, Justice League America #101, Hawkman #22, GGW #33, JLA #103, Hawkman #23, GGW #34-36, Darkstars #37, GGW #37-44, GGW Annual #2, & Mr. Miracle #7

Towards the end of the previous book Guy realizes his Vuldarian powers are going out of control because his peoples’ natural enemies the Tormocks have returned to the cosmos. In an effort to save himself and his planet from the impending invasion, Guy goes to the Justice League (who he’s pissed at for their shoddy treatment of him when Ice died fighting the Overmaster) and asks them for help. They agree to help him which launches into a seven part crossover called The Way Of The Warrior that also included Justice League America and Hawkman.

Unfortunately, this story is a bit of a slog because it felt like three different, yet concurring stories being told at the same time featuring some of the same characters, but not necessarily mattering so much to one another. The JLA are dealing with all their internal bickering while also facing off against some space bad guys while Hawkman returns to Thanagar for the first time in a long while. It’s all stuff that makes sense within the contexts of those books, but doesn’t really have much to do with Guy’s mission which eventually gets wrapped up so he can return home, but only after a few more issues where he appears in Darkstars and one where his clone attacks his pals at Warriors. Basically, it felt like it took way more time than it should have to return Guy to the setting and supporting cast that I find so enjoyable. Still, it’s cool seeing Guy fighting alongside fellow badasses like Lobo, Probert, Hawkman and Wonder Woman, even if the latter two appear in guises that might not look familiar to modern readers.

The rest of the run focuses on those elements by doing the traditional superhero stuff and other fun stories like a superhero-filled Christmas party and the end of the book which accumulates most of the bad guys Guy’s faced during his time as Warrior and throws them at him all at once. He also deals with his mother moving in, a possible romance with Ice’s best friend Fire and Buck’s decision to turn Guy into both a cartoon and an action figure. While there were some plot lines that were left dangling as the series came to an end with #44, I still really enjoy what Smith did with his whole run and how he set Guy up to be a bit of a different kind of hero in the DCU. Of course, that didn’t really happen, but he tried.

My book ends with a Legends Of The Dead Earth annual that features tales of post-Guy Vuldarians throughout the galaxy long after the Earth has ceased to be. This one actually makes a really good bookend to the Guy Gardner: Warrior story that I hadn’t read before putting this book together because I never really understood what the point of LOTDE was. Finally, I included Mister Miracle #7 because I saw online that Guy appeared and he does, but it’s not really important to anything. Had this one costed more than a buck or two, I probably would have skipped it, but I was doing okay within my budget and had enough space, so there it is.

Back when I had the first 20-or-so issues of Peter David’s Aquaman bound I actually read through all the issues before sending them out which I actually regretted upon getting the books back from the bindery. I wanted to make sure I still liked the comic, but when I got the actual books in the mail — something that’s always super exciting — I knew I wasn’t going to dive right back in because I just read them a month or so ago. I’d actually read through this run back in college so I knew I still liked it and didn’t go through it again before mailing them off. This time I was able to carry the excitement of getting the package in the mail over to actually reading the books, which I probably did in about a week (subtracting the week we were in Disney and I didn’t have much time to read).

Late To The Xbox Live Party: The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)

amazing spider-man xbox 360 I’m probably starting to sound like a broken record here, but Spider-Man 2 for the PS2 is still one of my all time favorite video games. It did the open world/mission-based thing incredibly well while also offering all kinds of Spidey-based add-on powers and moves to keep things interesting as you swung through NYC, stopping occasionally to kick a criminal’s teeth in. There was a connection to the movie of the same name, of course, but not a huge one, which is great for me because I think the middle of that movie stinks

As I mentioned when I talked about the trailer for Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions — which I erroneously referred to as Dark Dimensions for some reason — I really wanted to like Ultimate Spider-Man which took many of its cues from Spidey 2, but also seemed to dumb things down more than I liked. Since then I’ve kind of shied away from the franchise after not hearing great things about games like Friend Or Foe and Web Of Shadows. But, when some of my friends who are far more into video games than I started telling me that Amazing Spider-Man — based on the film reboot I still haven’t seen — might just be the next Spidey 2, I was definitely interested and actually got a copy of the game for Christmas. 

And it’s close, but it didn’t really hit all the same notes for me. In fact this game, while a lot of fun and challenging at times, really didn’t seem to offer much in the way of new gameplay experience. I’m far from an unbiased voice in this conversation, but the game itself really just felt like an updated version of a game that’s nearly a decade old. There’s nothing particularly wrong with that, but I was really hoping for something that would take a great game, update it for a new console and also add a lof of new goodness on to it. I mean, the open world style of games have been around for a long time and yet this one didn’t seem to add much to the sandbox. 

And yet, I still had fun with the game. I’ve mentioned plenty of times here and there that my daughter Lucy actually really got excited about this game. For a few weeks she liked watching the old 60s Spider-Man cartoon, but then lost interest but still liked the character. She saw me playing Amazing Spidey and really dug it. In fact, one of the reasons it’s taken me so long to finish this game is that I basically stopped playing it when the kid wasn’t awake. Also, not for nothing, but when a toddler is yelling at you to play a game, it can take away some of the fun. 

So there was an added level of doing something cool with my daughter that she dug while also going through a game that I liked for the most part. Again, it’s not a bad game by any means, but I was just hoping for more. Even though it didn’t do everything I wanted, I still had a great time web-swinging around a digital New York City, trying to figure out where I’ve been and where I can throw down with some bad guys. I even enjoyed the main storyline which does a cool job of mixing a zombie outbreak story and some crazy big mech robot stuff. That’s all aces in my book. 

I’ve already moved on to my next video game which actually happens to be Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions which is much more of a straight-ahead action game than an open world sandbox. I think I’m getting the hang of it and it’s a lot of fun to mash buttons while kicking bad guy butt and also hopping from timeline to timeline while experiencing one cohesive story. Fun stuff so far. I’ll probably review it when I finish, which might be another five months, we’ll see! 

Friday Fisticuffs: Lionheart (1990)

lionheart I’ve watched a lot of Jean-Claude Van Damme movies, to the point where I’ve given him his own category, something I’ll be doing for actors and actresses I find myself watching over and over again. While I’ve made my way through a good deal of his filmography, there are still plenty of movies I either haven’t seen or haven’t written about here on UM. Lionheart actually falls into both categories, so I was pretty excited when I saw it added to Netflix Instant recently.

This time around, JCVD’s brother gets in some trouble in the States. He tries to leave the French Foreign Legion by the books, but they’re jerks and don’t let him, so he kicks his way out. Once he gets to America he’s disheartened to learn the boat he’s on is going to New York and not California, where his brother lives. After wondering around awhile he finds his way to a street fight run by a guy named Joshua Eldridge (Harrison Page). JCVD wins handily and eventually decides to team up with Eldridge who knows where all the highest paid fights are. With each fight he wins, our hero gets a few dollars closer to being able to afford transport to LA.

Or at least that’s the set-up your given. You expect him to go through a series of fights across the country or something, but instead Eldridge sets up one fight for an uber-80s business lady who takes a liking to JCVD. Soon enough they’re in LA and doing awesome trying-on-clothes montages. But the goodness doesn’t last forever as Jean-Claude eventually has to throw down with a guy who’s considered one of the best around. Will he win? Well, yeah, of course he does. He’s gotta help his brother’s wife and kid after all.

As far as fight scenes go, these definitely aren’t some of JCVD’s best. It’s not really his fault though. You can see he’s got the moves, but it looks like his adversaries aren’t nearly as good as him. Also, the choreography and editing are a little iffy in the beginning. But, the street fights were all pretty convincing, so that’s a plus.

It’s interesting to note that JCVD has worked with writer/director Sheldon Lettich on several occasions. Lettich wrote JCVD’s breakout hit Bloodsport. He then wrote Rambo III and then got the chance to write and direct this film. Lerrich then went on to direct Van Damme again in The Order, but also wrote the scripts for Double Impact, Legionnaire and The Hard Corps (apparently he specializes in JCVD movies I haven’t reviewed). However, he also directed Dolph Lundgren in The Last Patrol (haven’t seen it, but want to) and the Marc Dacascos high school capoeira fight film Only The Strong which I have seen and even wrote about!

All in all I’d say this is a pretty good entry in the JCVD’s filmography. It’s kind of a small little story that pits him against some interesting characters along the lines. It’s not the ultra-slick fight film you might want, but it delivers on what it is. I also like the time capsule aspect. Even though this movie came out in 1990, it certainly feels like it shares the sentiment of Gordon Gecko 80s NYC.

Friday Fisticuffs: Safe (2012)

safe poster I think I just fell in love with a movie and it’s called Safe. Of course, being a huge Jason Statham fan, I wanted to check this flick out with a quickness after seeing it had been added to Netflix Instant. And, as it turns out, it might actually be the quintessential Statham movie. Not only does it include the kind of ass-kickery you’ve come to expect from franchises like Crank and The Transporter, but it’s also got some pretty sick driving, gun play and the dramatic gravitas I think Statham brings to every role, but is more well-featured in films like The Bank Job, War and even Blitz. I fully believe that Statham is a really fantastic actor who also happens to be awesome at kicking dudes in the face, so the latter wins out over the former. Safe happens to be the the kind of film that lets him show off his many facets.

This time around, Statham plays a one-time cop turned cage fighter who doesn’t take a fall when he’s supposed to and winds up peeving off the Russian mob. They kill his wife and tell him he better go on the run, but add that they’ll be watching and will kill anyone who’s even remotely nice to him, a threat they make good on. Meanwhile, there’s a young girl named Mei in China who’s super good at math and winds up getting kidnapped by the mob. The mob boss, played of course by James Hong, sent her over to the States because her memory doesn’t leave a trace like a computer would. She gets thrown into this crazy gangster world which is not easy on her. The Russian mob finds out about her and starts a war with the Chinese to get her and whatever secrets her brain holds. As it happens, Statham meets Wei in the subway and decides to keep her safe.

When I heard that Safe was about Statham protecting a kid, I worried that it would be pretty boring, like one of those awful levels in a video game where you have to constantly watch out for some useless person, but it was actually a lot more interesting than that. When he tells her to hide, she actually does! When he tells her to run, she runs. It felt like a much more realistic take on the idea than you tend to see in these kinds of things.

And the story’s pretty solid. In addition to all the players I’ve mentioned, you’ve also got a group of dirty cops in play. Statham used to work with them, but didn’t want to be dirty himself so he tried to do the right thing which only lost him his job. As we discover from the mayor, though, Statham was brought in in the wake of 9-11 to be a kind of under the radar super cop who would take care of NYC’s more nefarious elements. I thought that was a cool little touch, something I didn’t expect. While all this is going on and Statham does his best to take down the various mob factions, he runs into a guy who had, basically, the same super cop job as him. I’ll be honest, I was hoping for a real drop down drag out fight between them, but what wound up happening felt a lot more real.

Like I said above, this movie lets Statham do everything he’s good at while still keeping everything grounded. This isn’t Commando or something where emotions rarely come into play. Take the scene where he comes home to find his wife dead, other filmmakers would have had him immediately get into a fight, but instead he’s devastated by what he just discovered and basically gives them the opportunity to kill him. By bobbing when you expect it to weave, Safe offers a good deal of surprises for action movies fans while still offering plenty in the way of hand to hand combat, shoot outs and chase scenes.

I did a little looking into director Boaz Yakin’s filmography and saw a couple interesting bits. First off, he also directed Remember The Titans, which is a pretty great movie if memory serves. Before that he was a writer though, penning the Dolph Lundgren Punisher movie, the Charlie Sheen/Clint Eastwood joint The Rookie and also From Dusk Til Dawn 2, Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights and Prince Of Persia, a pretty ecclectic group to say the least!

Casting Internets

Pretty sure my buddy Sean T. Collins perfectly encapsulated what made me love He-Man as a kid and look at it sideways as an adult over on Vorpalizer.

I think I plugged Alex Kropinak’s excellent new blog already, but I’ve actually had time to read it. Dig his posts about What The?!, Twisted ToyFare Theater and his love of Marvel Legends.

 

I can’t accurately describe how freaking excited and nostalgic I was when I saw this trailer for Capcom’s upcoming DuckTales Remastered. I adored that game as a kid — it’s easily in my all time top ten — and have had a blast playing it here and there as an adult too. Adding to the excitement is that fact that my daughter is an in-the-works DuckTales fan!

That Patton Oswalt has a lot of interesting stuff to say, as he did in this Esquire interview with Scott Raab.

Not a fan of his movies, but I love that Rob Zombie plays and headlines giant music festivals just to hang out with his musician friends. That’s why I go to NYCC. Well, that and the freelance. (via Rolling Stone)

I still have no idea what Dub Step is supposed to be, but I was a big fan of Fatboy Slim/Norman Cook/Pizza Man back in the day, so it’s cool to see him getting some recognition for being at the forefront of electronic dance music by way of this Rolling Stone interview. I’m glad they stopped calling it electronica, but all the other names are dumb too.

Recalling 1993 sounds like a really interesting project. Head to any pay phone in NYC, dial 1-855-FOR-1993 and hear someone specific to that area telling you about the place you’re standing back in 1993.

Here’s hoping they can get Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo back for the new Vacation movie. They don’t need to have huge roles, but it would be nice to see them together in something other than a commercial for pants. (via THR)

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.

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!