Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Movie Review - Speed Racer

I thought it was about time I put my money where my mouth was and see the film I predicted would be the second biggest movie of the summer, Speed Racer. I actually enjoyed it much more than I expected. Granted, my hopes were not terribly high after seeing how poorly it was doing at the box office and reading folks blogging away about how bad it was, However, I'm pleased to report the reports of Speed Racer's crapiness have been greatly exaggerated, IMHO.

As is the blogging custom, a brief bit of personal history... I do recall occasionally watching the cartoon as a kid. It was not one of my faves. I actually remember very little of the series. However, it was an early gateway to anime and manga. While watching the movie, I had very little to compare to in terms of whether it was true to the original source material. But I will say the film had this energy throughout that felt very much like Saturday morning eating a big bowl of sugary cereal (my fave was Fruity Pebbles) and watching the toons.

Much has been said about the style and colors of the film, especially in the trailer. Indeed, you could say it looks like someone threw up some Fruity Pebbles all over the screen. I was skeptical myself. But like my initial thoughts about Cloverfield, once the movie started, I found myself completely immersed in the experience. The world that the Wachowskis created on screen is vibrant and detailed and yes at times overwhelming, but I give them credit for the achievement. The film is well over two hours, but I was never bored and I left the theater wanting more.

Perhaps the biggest surprise was the cast and characters. Each was perfect in the role, with the one exception of Susan Sarandon as Mom Racer. It could have just been the fact that I've seen her in too many sexed-up roles, but I had difficulty believing her as the wholesome mother figure. At times, I couldn't help but think she was hitting on her own son which was a tad creepy. But others who have seen the movie did not feel the same, so it is probably just my experience (lucky me). All the other actors and actresses were great and I was especially impressed by Emile Hirsch in the lead role. Dare I say, it does appear that some young talent such as Shia LaBeouf have been forced down our collective throats recently, but Emile is the real deal. I see great things ahead for the kid.

But perhaps I should stay far away from any more predictions regarding Speed Racer. Now that I've seen the movie, I'm even more puzzled as to why it did not perform better. I suggest giving it a try before it disappears from screens. Else, it would make a great Blu-Ray DVD to show off your new HD TV. Perhaps the best compliment I can give the movie is that after it was over, I felt the need for more speed and satisfied the urge by playing some racing games on my Mac when I got home.

Cool beans!

Monday, May 26, 2008

Movie Review - Indiana Jones & the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

I went into seeing Indy IV expecting a good fun flick, but not a classic. I figured it would rank third among the other Indiana Jones films with Temple of Doom behind it, Last Crusade just above it, and the original waaaayyy above all. To that end, Indiana Jones & the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull did not disappoint. Now that I have seen it, that is exactly where I would rank it in the series. However, I have realized more than ever that my notion of the character of Indiana Jones seems to differ from that of George, Steven & company.

I don't have the nerve to proclaim that I am an expert on the Indiana Jones franchise, though it is no secret that Raider of the Lost Ark is my favorite movie of all-time. In fact, I would say that seeing it changed reaffirmed my life. Many folks from my generation point to Star Wars as the defining moviegoing experience of their lives, and I was wowed by it as well. However, Raiders opened the door to film, entertainment, and storytelling that inspired in me such purpose. It was as if I had seen the Holy Grail.

So yeah, I loved it. And I have followed the character of Indiana Jones through sequels, books, comics, and a television series. None have managed to recapture the same magic as the original, but I do not hold it against them. Moreover, what I have noticed is that I don't feel the character has been as consistent throughout the franchise. My biggest beef with the second movie is that it did not feel like the same Indy to me. There were moments I recognized the adventurer from the first film, but they were few and far between. The third was better and I particularly liked the interplay between father and son. However, I hardly could identify the character at all in the TV series no matter what age he was depicted.

I did see some real authentic Indy moments from the new movie and those are easily worth the price of admission. There are other moments that feel I'm watching the character from the TV show, but they overall did not detract too much from the experience. It was nice to have Indiana Jones back again, even if it was only for a moment.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Worst "Worst Person in the World" Ever

Countdown with Keith Olbermann on MSNBC is a show I tune in to nearly every night. Lately however, I have become tired of his endless obsession with Bill O'Reilly. It has truly surpassed "Moby Dick" proportions. I realize it is all part of the battle of the prime time pundits, but last night Keith proved that one doesn't have to be big in the ratings to get his attention. Apparently, anyone who dares utter the name "Olbermann" is now worthy of his wrath.

Last night, Keith named neo-conservative radio talk show host Hugh Hewitt as the "Worst Person in the World." What did Hewitt do or say that warranted the title? I'll let Keith tell it...

That's right...the "sports guy" took offense to being called out by a "comic book guy!" While I am always excited to hear comics mentioned in the mainstream, I admit I took a little offense to Keith's rant on a number of points. First, just because Hewitt referred to Bizarro, does not automatically make him Jeff Albertson. For example, many Seinfeld fans can easily recognize the character from the Superman comics. Second, is dismissing Hewitt's comments because he may be a "comic book guy" any different than his initial shot at Keith as a recognized "sports guy?" I think not. Third, it is just one more example of the geeks being bullied by the jocks. And fourth, are "comic guys" not allowed to have opinions??? Keith seemed to be willing the comment slide until he thought he might have just been dissed by a comic nerd! The horror! The horror!

But perhaps the biggest disappointment in Keith's decision to call this alleged "comic book guy" the "Worst Person in the World" was that there were no less than FIVE other candidates who made news earlier that day. BP America Chairman Robert Malone, Shell Oil President John Hofmeister, Chevron Vice Chairman Peter Robertson; ConocoPhillips Executive Vice President John Lowe, and ExxonMobile Senior Vice President J. Stephen Simon all testified before a Senate hearing on oil prices. The only answer they offered as to why the price of gas has been skyrocketing (up 17 cents in the last two weeks) while they have been recording record profits was the following:

"The fundamental laws of supply and demand are at work,” said John Hofmeister, chairman of Shell Oil Co.

Worst persons indeed!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Congratulations Kristi!

Congratulations to Kristi Yamaguchi for winning this season's Dancing with the Stars! And she didn't just win the trophy, she dominated the floor with nearly flawless routines since week one.

I'm not sure it helps or hurts my "geek cred" and my "machismo" admitting I watch Dancing with the Stars, but I don't care. I've always enjoyed watching female athletic events such as tennis, skating, and Olympic events. I watch more than my share of baseball, football, and pro wrestling to balance it out. And I had a personal interest in watching celebrities take to the ballroom this season.

Back in 1992, I had the pleasure of working security on a practice rink for the U.S. Figure Skating Championship in Orlando, FL. It was there I first saw what Kristi Yamaguchi could do on the ice, and I've been a big fan of hers ever since. I was disappointed that she went pro soon after getting Olympic gold (I maintain that she could have had herself another gold medal and it would have saved us all from the "Tanya Harding incident"). I have missed seeing her compete on any level, so it was very nice to see her appear week after week executing challenging athletic moves and entertaining the crowd. So difficult to do, but she makes it look effortless.

Now that Kristi has won the Mirror Ball trophy, I do not know what her next move will be, but she says she won't stop dancing. Be it on the ice, the dance floor, or wherever, I look forward to seeing her perform in her next endeavor.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Amazing Donation

Puzzled as I was yesterday (and still am) over the high prices of various art pieces, I just learned that a couple of weeks ago, an anonymous donor gave the U.S. Library of Congress all the original artwork by Steve Ditko for Marvel Comics' "Amazing Fantasy #15" the first ever appearance of Spider-Man.

Let that sink in for a moment. The original 24 comic pages drawn by Steve Dikto and and written by Stan Lee in 1962 that introduced one of the most famous superhero pop culture characters of all time.

And someone donated them to the Library of Congress.

Donated = gave them away for free.

Wow! I can only imagine what the pages are worth on the open market. Recently, there was an eBay auction for Bob Kane's personal copies of Batman #1-3. The asking price was $67,5000 (which was not met), but these were not the original drawn pages (wonder if those exist?).

Nothing is known about the donor, though it has been reported that this was done with Dikto's blessing. Oddly enough, Stan Lee has been quiet on this subject. I can only deduce that who ever he/she is, they can afford giving away this priceless piece of comic pop culture history. Kudos to him/her for this selfless act.

With great artwork comes great responsibility.

Monday, May 19, 2008

No No No, Jonny No!

Congratulations to Jon Lester for throwing a no-hitter tonight against the Kansas City Royals. It may sound cliché, but it really couldn't have happened to a nicer guy!

Not-So-Free Art

Recently there has been some works of art sold at some extremely high prices. For instance, the highest amount ever spent for a single comic page is now $200,000, which a major collector has paid for Wally Wood's original cover art for Weird Science #16 (1952). Definitely a classic piece by a master at his peak!


Also recently a 1962 painting of Green Lantern by non-comic artist Mel Ramos was sold at $600,000. It is odd to me that this particular picture of Hal Jordan would generate more interest than any art drawn by any of the actual comic artists who worked on GL throughout the years. This piece was created by a "Pop Artist," and like some of the works of Warhol and Lichtenstein, I really can't decide if it is tribute or a satire. Perhaps it is both and that's why it was able to get such a high sale. Two for the price of one!


However, what astounds me is a painting auctioned off last month that sold for a whopping $34 million - the most expensive work ever spent on a living artist. The 1995 oil on canvas piece by Lucian Freud is titled "Benefits Supervisor Sleeping."


Now far be it for me to make any jokes about the size of the lady pictured. In fact, if it were me as the subject instead, you wouldn't see much of the couch! And I have no problem with the style or technique. But 34 MILLION FRELLING DOLLARS!?!?!?! Even if I could fathom having that much in the bank and in some weird Brewster's Millions scenario I had to spend it all on a piece of art, this painting would be far from my first choice. I just don't get it.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Great Books - Free Sketches!!!

This month, DCBS has Jetta/Shi: Arrow of Destiny available for pre-order. The book is a prelude to the upcoming War of the independents comic event which features various characters from a ton of indie books. In this particular crossover, Jetta partners with the legendary Shi to to honor an age-old promise to protect the sacred Arrow of Nobunaga, an item capable of unleashing unspeakable evil.

If all that is not enough for you to order the book, how about this: all orders placed through DCBS, will get a FREE sketch from Martheus Wade as well as a 45% discount off the cover price! You may recall that I got a sketch earlier this year from the Wades at Con Nooga and I strongly recommend that everyone take advantage of this deal. There's just no reason NOT to order this book!

The fine folks at DCBS have encouraged similar promotions recently, and I happily fall for it every time. A couple of months ago, I got the above FREE sketch of Kimoyo by artist Dave Beaty with the third issue of Bushi Tales.

And if you order the trade collection of Horrorwood via InStockTrades.com (a sister site of DCBS), you can get a FREE sketch of your choice by Brent Schoonover. It made a perfect addition to my Dracula collection:

So now you don't have to wait for a con to get a sketch! Though I would always recommend attending not only to get sketches, but to meet these talented and friendly folks in person! Help support them by ordering their books.

And did I mention you get a FREE sketch!?!?!?!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Go Speed Racer Go

It has become an annual tradition - the Box Office Summer Movie Challenge. It began many moons ago between my cousin and me and it has persevered throughout the years and gained the attention of contestants around the globe. To successfully predict the results of the blockbuster movie season requires knowledge, skill, and a bit of luck. I am proud to say that I have had the good fortune of holding the trophy a few times in the history of the event.

But not this year. That Speed Racer flick has mucked up everything...

I admit it was a risky pick. So much so, that I did not feel confident enough to pick it to win, only to place. I really thought it had potential. Yeah many of my friends were not excited by the trailers, but they are not the target audience anyway. As it turns out, who ever is the target audience was not interested either. The film opened in third place with $18.6 million and was beat by Ashton Kutcher and a second strong week of Iron Man.


Such a loss places my entire bracket in serious jeopardy. My 2008 picks were the following:

1. Indiana Jones & the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

2. Speed Racer

3. Wall-E

4. The Dark Knight

5. Iron Man

Whatever happens with for the rest of the summer, it'll be nearly impossible to recover from this loss. Here's some advise, if Robert Meyer Burnett offers you some Kool-Aid, go get a Coke.

Though I may have lost the summer, I'll throw this prediction out there: Both of Brendan Fraser's movies (Journey to the Center of the Earth 3D & The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor) combined grosses will be less than any single entry in the top five when the summer is over.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

NLM News Stew

  • Last weekend's Free Comic Book Day was a fun time, despite the no show by Sean and the Batlanta Crime Cruiser (Mr. Tayler had family obligations and the Batmobile does not do rain). Nevertheless, I had a great time talking comics with the fine folks at Galactic Quest (as always), and it was an absolute pleasure meeting artist Wilfredo Torres. If you have not yet done so, I strongly recommend checking out Salem: Queen of Thorns - an interesting story with some great art. It was one of the many freebies I walked away with, and one of the best. Others of note include Project Superpowers: Death-Defying 'Devil, the debut of Ursula Wilde in Ape Entertainment's Cartoona Palooza, Tiny Titans, the EC Sampler, Atomic Robo & Friends, and the "Comics Go Hollywood" book put together by TwoMorrows Publishing.

  • Speaking of low-cost comics...I am pleased to report that Terrence Bernard's Sophia: Awakening #1 is now available for download at the incredibly low price of $1.50! Now you can see what all the fuss was about at this year's NYCC! Visit Parasite Publishing and secure your copy today!

  • This Mother's Day, I honored the "mom" of our feline family with dinner and and a movie. She has a fancy for wuxia films, so we checked out The Forbidden Kingdom. I cannot call it great, but it had plenty of fun moments, and the fight scene between Jackie Chan and Jet Li is reason enough to spend money on it.

  • Re: last week's episode of Doctor Who. Forget classics like "The Two Doctors," "The Three Doctors," and even "The Five Doctors." "The Poison Sky" features two Marthas! That's the stuff dreams are made of!!!

  • Late last month, BOOM! Studios announced that it has acquired the rights to produce Farscape comics! The creative team has yet to be announced, but you can believe I'll be watching this project with a keen eye. It's about frelling time!

  • It has been a long time since I cared about the NBA Finals, but if this year's features the Boston Celtics vs the Los Angeles Lakers, I'll be watching every game.

  • Last but certainly not least, legendary artist Gene Colan has liver failure and Clifford Meth is organizing an auction on Colan’s behalf. More details can be found here.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Kit Fisto Lives Again!

Earlier this week, the theatrical trailer for the animated adventure Star Wars: The Clone Wars made its debut and it looks like all kinds of awesome. If you have not already done so, you can check it out at StarWars.com.

For those wondering why Lucas chose to make a series set during the time between Episode II & III, the answer is very simple...

Monday, May 5, 2008

Movie Review - Iron Man

This past weekend, the 2008 Summer Movie Season began with a BANG! Iron Man is a fun ride, mainly due to the top-notch performance of Robert Downey Jr. and his super-cool suit of armor. Downey takes the role of Tony Stark and makes it his, so much so that is difficult to imagine anyone else needed to audition. It has been a long while since I've seen him in a leading role, but he plays the part with such confidence and charisma, well worth the price of admission. And he gets one of the best props in movie history - a super suit!

IMHO, Adi Granov's armor design is the best in the character's 45 year history and it looks amazing on the big screen! The action sequences in this movie made me understand for the first time the appeal of this character. You will believe a metal man can fly!

I found most of the other aspects of the movie to be adequate. The modern interpretation of the origin works very well and seems quite fresh, though the main conflict is fairly by-the-book. The supporting cast is fairly one-dimensional, particularly Gwneth Paltrow, who often looks lost in the role of Pepper Potts (not sure she is as much to blame as the writers though). Jeff Bridges wonderfully chews up the screen in his over-the-top performance as Obidian Stane and it left me wanting more confrontational scenes between him and Stark outside the suits.

My only other complaint is the music. The score was dramatic enough, but once again I lament the loss of character themes in recent movies. Did the fine work of John Williams and Jerry Goldsmith teach today's film composers nothing? How lazy is it to not have a powerful new Iron Man theme during the end credits, but instead rely on classic Black Sabbath to do the work for you?

And speaking of the end credits... The "bonus" scene was well worth the wait! A very awesome fanboy moment which gave me goosebumps! I hope it comes to fruition during my lifetime!

As the first entry in this summer's blockbusters, Iron Man delivers and sets the bar for this season. Not only did I enjoy it a lot, but my girlfriend who is not a superhero fan, was absolutely giddy leaving the theater. I would hardly call it the best comic movie ever, but it is a fun ride. And here's a fun fact: one of the executive producers was Peter Billingsley (Ralphie in A Christmans Story).

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Free Stuff!!!

For many (like my girlfriend), The First Saturday in May signals the most exciting two minutes in sports. However, for fanboys and fangirls everywhere there's a whole day of excitement with FREE COMIC BOOK DAY!

I'll be spending most of the day at my LCS, hanging out with comic writer Sean Taylor and artist Wilfredo Torres, and may even take a ride in the Batlanta Crime Cruiser.

If you can't make it to a comic store on Saturday, fret not! You can still get some freebies online. According to Tom, the editor of the super cool magazine Hogan's Alley, everyone who sends him an email on Saturday will be sent a FREE issue!
"No obligations, no strings attached; the only thing it will cost you is several hours as you enjoy the issue. (This offer is valid for all U.S. residents, whether you’re a current subscriber or not.) Remember the one condition - we must receive your e-mail request on Free Comic Book Day, not the day before or the day after. The email address is hoganmag@gmail.com."

You can also get a FREE Star Wars book for a limited time! The ninth and final book in the Star Wars: Legacy of the Force series will go on sale May 13th and to celebrate, Del Rey is offering the first book, Star Wars: Legacy of the Force: Betrayal, as a FREE downloadable PDF, audio book, and eBook. This promotional offer will run for two weeks, from 9:00 a.m. Tuesday, April 29, until midnight on Tuesday, May 13. The free download, which can be shared, e-mailed or printed, will be available on www.legacyoftheforce.com.