Tuesday, December 23, 2003

Note Before The Actual Post-

I went out on a kind of blind-date kind of thing tonight. It wasn’t the Vegetarian Yada-Yada Episode, certainly, because I don’t see myself getting too much comic mileage out of tonight, but still: I was invited out to a local restaurant by one of the guys I drink with for karaoke. His wife works with a single girl, who my friend said was shy… This girl was beyond shy. It’s like looking at a prism and saying, “And, if we could only see it, that would be ultraviolet.” The girl was noncommittal towards everything. Favorite musical genre, favorite band, favorite movie, food, you name it. She’d just smile and say, “I don’t know.” Pissed me off, because I felt like I was talking to a brick wall.

I know I don’t talk about myself too often, but here’s what I’m looking for: I’m looking for a girl who has guns and is willing to stick to them when pressed on any particular subject. I’m looking for a girl who will say, “Fuck you, Umgawa, you’re just fucking wrong.” In closing, I wish the best for this girl, that she will find a man just like herself so that they may both starve to death when one asks the other, “So, what’s for dinner?”

Second Note:

I got Buffy Season 5 yesterday with money I made babysitting the rugrats (my niece and nephew). I immediately watched “Into the Woods” (one of my favorite episodes) and “The Body.” Basically, out of about ninety minutes’ worth of TV-show, I probably sobbed for more than half of that. I’m just saying that because sometimes I talk about movies that suck because they don’t get to me either intellectually or emotionally, and here’s a TV show that manages to do both at least a few times a season (except the first season, which didn’t do anything for me).

Sick and Tired of Hearing Things From Uptight Short-Sighted Narrow-Minded Hypocrites:

Over the past, say, fifteen years, lots of things have become extinct. All you have to do is go to a wildlife or rainforest-preservation website and they’ll give you some statistic that says, “On average, one-hundred thirty-two species go extinct every day.” Most of the time, it’s something most of us regular folks has never even heard of; after all, most of us won’t even take notice until the domestic housecat goes the way of the dodo.

But the guitar solo is certainly on the endangered list, at least as far as contemporary music goes. Hell, given the Billboard charts these days, maybe the guitar itself is on its way out. Chalk up one more musical instrument to be devoured and spat out by the suits at the music conglomerates, who realize –in their infinite wisdom- that it’s easier to produce, market and maintain a pretty face and pair it with a producer who knows what he’s doing.

But we all know these faces, most of the time, aren’t artists, because there’s a line to be drawn between ‘performer’ and ‘artist.’ It’s a rarity to be both attractive enough to get a demographic’s attention musically talented enough to put together either a catchy song or one that captures some piece of an individual’s heart, mind or soul.

For example, let’s take my Holy Trinity of American Rock and Roll: Bruce Springsteen, John Mellencamp and Tom Petty. They’re about as great as any artists out there, but you’ll never see them on MTV, VH1 or pretty much anywhere else because they’re average-looking guys who are about twenty or thirty years older than the mass-marketable audience.

Now, as an example: Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera and Pink: All are pretty damn good looking (when not dressed like total whores), but they don’t hold a candle to the kind of songwriting capability of the aforementioned artists. Furthermore, while they may be good (or mediocre, in Britney’s case) singers, Celine Dion is a good singer, but she’s no artist; she’s a tool. Good carpenters are given credit for building a good house, not the contents of their toolbox. As a sidenote: Given this example, Pink makes music that is qualitatively better than Britney or Christina, elevating her to the level of quasi-artist, largely thanks to the fact that much of her better work is co-written by the singer of 4 Non-Blondes, who happens to be an artist and anything but a face.

It’s a rarity to be both. As far as hugely popular music goes, the Beatles… Okay, actually Lennon and McCartney were good-looking and good songwriters. If you don’t believe me, just ask any woman who was a teenager in 1963-65. After they picked up with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, sure, they didn’t look as good, but they sure got better as artists. I suppose the drugs helped, too, in both their artistry and their looks; or maybe they just got older, which happens to help those sorts of things along, too.

Back to talking about suits: It’s easy to manufacture individuals. Target a demographic and just drop a musical atomic bomb on them. For example, Britney Spears’ first video was driven like a freight train at anyone who gets turned on by Catholic schoolgirls; a demographic which encompasses all heterosexual men over the age of ten. We hadn’t seen a video like that since the (infinitely superior) Billy Idol’s “Cradle of Love” video, which was directed by David Fincher. This audience may not buy into her music, but give the girl a couple of years and larger breasts and they’ll buy cases of Pepsi because she said so.

I’d like to think –and I might be wrong, here- that my readers go for artists over faces and listen to music that never gets played on TRL (back in my day, it was called Dial MTV), which is the only chance you get to see videos anymore. I’d like to think that at least one of you has heard the song, “Gimme Some Truth” by John Lennon, which is my song of the week, because as I write this, I’m listening to the three-disc Pearl Jam Live at State College, PA (May 3, 2003) album, which I got for all of fifteen bucks. Yes, Pearl Jam, which many of you probably gave up circa 1992, when they made their last video (“Jeremy,” which was probably my least favorite song off that album). Outside this particular CD, all I’ve listened to today are Five Year Jacket, Ben Folds and Bruce Springsteen: Artists one and all.

Really, it’s a miracle that Pearl Jam’s stayed together this long. I talked about the ease of managing individuals, so here’s a group that’s stayed together and has regularly been recording and touring for over a decade. By this point in a band’s life, internal politics, arguments over direction and arguments over money generally get the best of a band, let alone the outside influences of record-company suits saying, “Your album just isn’t commercial enough.” Apparently, Pearl Jam has managed to weather all of these forces, although they manage to burn through drummers like Spinal Tap. I’d like to say I knew something about the band’s arguments, but the best data I’ve gotten comes from reading interviews with Stone Gossard, who answers questions with the sort of “dance around it” capability of professional politicians.

The whole drummer thing aside, none of the members of Pearl Jam are dead (as in the case of Nirvana), or were victims of high-profile drug convictions (Stone Temple Pilots) and none of them ever caused their keyboard player to overdose on heroin (Smashing Pumpkins). Oh, and none of them married Yoko. Beyond that, my only theory is that Pearl Jam is more than the sum of its parts, and the individuals in the band realize that fact. Pearl Jam without Eddie Vedder is like Creedence Clearwater Revival without John Fogerty, and Vedder without Pearl Jam would be like Robert Plant without Led Zeppelin. It’s entirely possible that they stay together because they need each other, both commercially and musically.

I just asked myself, why the hell am I listening to Pearl Jam? I mean, seeing how I haven’t listened to one of their CD’s since I bought Vitalogy. First, I like the live stuff a lot better. I’m a sucker for concert CD’s, because it’s generally a better look at how a band actually is when not encumbered by a producer, engineer, mixer, and about a dozen suits who get ‘input,’ when it should really just be five guys and a tape-deck. This is the same reason why I used to pick up Grateful Dead bootlegs: Hated the music, loved the concerts. Live music has imperfections, and that makes it real (at least when it’s not horrifically fucked-with, as Rush did with their live album).

The other reason brings this post full-circle: Guitar solos. Mike McCready’s guitar solo’s on “Ten” are largely representative of the blues-oriented solos that I’ve always loved; indicative and derivative of Stevie Ray Vaughan and Eric Clapton… lacking the sheer genius of it all, but clearly in the moment of the music. Between McCready and Stone Gossard, you get a lot of the great melodic guitar playing that’s been absent in rock and roll since the dissolution of Guns ‘N’ Roses.

Which is what I’m going to close with: If we ever do see the release of “A Democratic China,” which is the playful name the next G’N’R album goes by, it won’t have Slash, who’s the reason I bought the guitar I did (a black Les Paul). For my money, he’s one of the great guitar-players, and I still listen to the “Use Your Illusion” discs just to hear him play. Sure, a lot of people might say that “Appetite for Destruction” is a better album –and they’re entitled to their opinions- but I don’t think that it can be argued that Steven Adler is a better drummer than Matt Sorum. For straight-up rock that borders on AC/DC cock-rock, “Appetite” is a better album. The “Use Your Illusion” discs showed them evolving as artists, and it’s too bad Axl had breakthroughs in therapy, the band split into factions and they ultimately broke up.

I’m not saying that they could’ve been the Beatles, but it’s just a crime that “The Spaghetti Incident?” was their swan song, and that (“Use Your Illusion”) G’N’R lineup ends up being just another case where the band was more than the sum of its parts, but that just didn’t matter. Why do I still listen to them? Because they’re artists, not faces.

AIM: therbmcc71
ICQ, MSN, Yahoo: Yeah, right, like I use those.

Friday, December 19, 2003

Upon Identity – Flips, Twists and General Exercise

Y’know, I actually don’t blame James Mangold for the movie Identity. I don’t. It’s not his fault that I paid attention to the audio during the title sequence and managed to figure the movie out. I guess that it’s my fault that … no, wait, I was paying attention. That’s what I should’ve been doing. I blame the writer. Yes, it’s his fault.

See, I feel that it’s entirely possible to predict whether or not a movie will be either a box-office dud, or simply a steaming pile of crap. As far as the former goes, you can basically tell from the reaction of an audience to a film trailer. Regarding the latter, there are a couple of ways: One, if the Chicago Tribune film critic enjoyed the movie, then it’s either Lord of the Rings, or it’s a steaming pile of crap. Two, systematically look at the production team, starting with the writer, then the producer, then the director and take a look at their resumes. If they have made crap in the past, they will make crap today.

***Understand this: Actors never make a movie good. You can put the best actors in the world in a Roger Corman film, and it’ll be crap because it’s a Roger Corman film. Actors can make a good movie bad, but they’ll never make a bad movie good.***

Which brings me back to Identity. I’m going to talk about the writer last, and I’m not going to talk about the producer at all, but first I’m going to talk about the director: James Mangold first attained critical success with the movie Heavy around the same time Paul Thomas Anderson did Boogie Nights. Heavy was about a fat guy and Boogie Nights was about porn. It’s no wonder Paul Thomas Anderson is the one who gets final cut. … not to mention that Anderson actually has talent. Heavy, on the other hand, was a steaming pile of crap, regardless of what the critics said. From there, Mangold made Cop Land, starring big names like Stallone, DeNiro and Liotta, but was more famous for how little they were paid than for how good the movie was. .. basically because it wasn’t that good. And then there was Girl, Interrupted. Didn’t see it. In my opinion, all women are insane, so why would I want to watch a movie about insane women? And then there was Kate & Leopold, which I didn’t watch for the reason that I was told that it’s a largely unremarkable romantic comedy. James Mangold has made lots of crap leading up to helming Identity.

Since I’m too lazy to look up the producer, I’m just going to cut to the writer. You start with the writer for the reason that I’m about to outline, and I’m not going to explain it now. I’m just going to put down Michael Cooney’s filmography as a writer, and you can draw your own conclusions: Tracks of a Killer (1995), Murder in Mind (1997), Jack Frost (1997), Jack Frost 2: Revenge of the Killer Snowman (2000), Identity (2003). … Have you concluded yet that this guy has made complete and unadulterated shit so far? If you have, give yourself a pat on the back. If you haven’t, what are you doing reading my site?

Basically, Identity falls victim to its own design. The final act of the film is set forth by what Brent Hanley, the writer of the movie Frailty, would call “the flip.” While there may be hints of what’s coming, the flip basically takes everything you know about the movie and flips it so that now you realize that it’s either partially or entirely bullshit, or maybe it just requires the audience change its point-of-view for the remainder of the film and for any time they might watch it in the future. The greatest flip of all time takes place in The Usual Suspects (and The Sixth Sense takes second-place), and the worst takes place in Devil’s Advocate.

Given that Usual Suspects and The Sixth Sense are terribly good pieces of cinema, you understand why the flip at the end of each serves to tie up the story and adds an extra dimension to watching it the next time around. Devil’s Advocate is one of those horrifically bad flips, where it says, “It was all just a dream,” after Keanu Reeves commits suicide to get out of a pact with the devil. It was one cop-out after another, and served as one giant, “Hey, fuck you!” to the intelligence of the audience. Had Reeves simply committed suicide and actually died, it would have been a down-ending, yes, but it would have served to elevate Reeves’ character to a sort of Christ-figure, since the whole film was about fighting temptation, anyway. But it was all just a dream, which is the worst flip you can throw at an audience, because it says, “What you just watched was bullshit and doesn’t matter at all.” And then, just before Sympathy For The Devil starts playing, the flip gets twisted into an, “It was just a dream… or was it?” thing, and at that point, it’s gotten so goddamn annoying that I stop paying attention.

So, that’s the Flip. I’d like to thank Brent Hanley’s commentary on Frailty for explaining that one. By the way, the flip in Frailty is a little shaky, but it’s nothing too bad. Had that flip not occurred, then even having Powers Boothe’s character in the film would have made no sense, let alone the fact that Matthew McConaughey’s character could have been lying the entire time. The flip brings the film around, in my opinion, and ends up forcing the audience to drop any belief that the McConaughey’s bullshitting the FBI-guy (Boothe). Also, Hanley serves up an opinion I agree with, which is, “Anyone who says they saw the flip coming in Sixth Sense or Usual Suspects the first time they saw the movie is lying.”

So, Identity is a case like Devil’s Advocate, where the flip served to piss me off. I’ll say that the cinematography of Identity is pretty good, all things considered, but the fact that it’s a psychological thriller that ends up genuinely (or not, as the case may be) ends up being a “psychological thriller.” *shrug* I don’t know, maybe it’s just that I agree with Charlie Kaufman that the only greater cliché than serial killers in cinema is multiple-personality disorder.

Given that this post got way, way longer than I was initially planning, I’m going to talk about The Hulk another time. In short, it’s yet another Marvel superhero adaptation that managed to pleasantly surprise me, like Daredevil (yes, shocking), Blade, Spider-Man or the X-Men films. Furthermore, the movie Amelie has no plot, but I guess I should’ve expected that, seeing how it’s French, and they don’t really require that sort integral filmmaking element in France. Hell, by the end of Identity, I’d discovered that it’s not really necessary here in America, either.

AIM: therbmcc71
ICQ, MSN, Yahoo: Yeah, right, like I use those.

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

I'm Such A Geek

It's a bizarre manner of getting from Point A to Point Z, but I -myself- am strange and unusual, so this is another interim, which won't address the manner of video games which I've been spending copious amounts of time playing, lately, in my unemployed state. However, it does have to do with video games, and -at this rate- I'm never going to get around to talking about movies again. Actually, I will, but that'll be when I summon the rage that was my reaction to the movie Identity. Fucking Mangold, bastard.

Anyway, somehow I went from reading about Peter Molyneux's next opus, The Movies, which is actually going to be a video game about making movies, from the creator of Black & White, which wasn't much of a game beyond the Tamagotchi-factor. From there, I ended up reading about a guy who got banned from The Sims Online (which I'd always regarded as a glorified chat-room), because... well, it's retarded, the actual reason, but it pointed me to the Alphaville Herald, which is essentially a blog that reports upon the seedy underbelly of a Sims Online community known as Alphaville.

It's totally fucked up. For example, here is an article about a girl -who actually turns out to be an adolescent guy in real life- who runs a series of brothels or some such thing. ... In a game in which the closest you can get to actual sex is talking about it. Now, that struck me as being completely and utterly fucked-up beyond all recognition (actually, genuinely fucked-up, not a shameless plug for FUBAR). Anyway, it got me thinking about how much I detest people who play these games like Everquest and such, where that's all they do, and then they just eBay out the stuff they picked up in-game, to sell for actual real-world cash.

It's no longer virtual-reality, folks. It's emergent reality, and the line between you and the Matrix has just been blurred that much more. Me, I think it's sick that there are people who can buy groceries and pay their rent by playing these games, but that's mainly, well, because I'm not one of them.

My fascination with this stuff, I guess, goes back to about ten years ago when I was playing this text-based sci-fi game called Hemlock. Why it was called that is completely beyond me, but there were about a hundred registered (and most of us were certifiably insane) players, and it made for a nice little community. Basically, it was small, it was persistent, and there was someone to hang out and play with at all hours of the night. Since the player-base was so small, you actually felt like an important member of the community, which is a feeling that gets utterly lost in Everquest, Star Wars Galaxies, et cetera. I'd pay $12.95 a month to play that text-based game again, but not any of these new ones. They're just not personal enough.

Which then brings me to Second Life, which seems fairly interesting, if not all that graphically pretty. On its face, it seems a lot like The Sims Online, but without Big Bad Electronic Arts running the show. I'm tempted to give it a whirl, but I don't have broadband at my house (which it basically needs), and my friend's computer is stuck with a six-gigabyte hard drive right now, since he somehow destroyed his thirty-gig over the course of the last week. I don't know how, but he did, and at first he thought it was a stick of RAM that was causing his problems, so he threw it against a wall, which ran him back another sixty bucks to replace. Dumbass. Anyway, for lack of storage on his computer, I can't really try it out. But I want to.

So, after a couple more clicks of the mouse, I ended up at Terra Nova, which is a blog site about this Emergent Reality sort of thing. I'm a geek, so I started reading this stuff, and I figured it was worth throwing a link to, even though maybe three people a day read my site, and two of those are probably completely and totally accidental. Terra Nova doesn't read as that geeky a thing, but more like a commentary on the geekiness of the Massively Multiplayer arena. For those of you who have never tried these games, even the commentary probably reads like stereo instructions. I especially enjoyed the commentary on inflation in Everquest, basically because I'd like nothing more than to tell people who make money by playing these games to go jump in a lake. Note that I mean a real lake; not one of those in-game ones where you might get attacked by a Level 22 Kraken or something.

I'm just going to stop now, because I hate my friend's keyboard. I doubt that I'll comment further on this particular issue unless I read something fairly humorous.

AIM: therbmcc71
ICQ, MSN, Yahoo: Yeah, right, like I use those.

Saturday, December 13, 2003


I’m not going to get to super-villains yet. Matter of fact, I haven’t gone to my comic book stacks to go and find any particular villains; although it would be kind of pointless to do so, since the vast majority of my comic books come from a very dark era in Marvel Comics’ history, and I don’t mean ‘dark’ in a Frank Miller kind of way.

I’ve been reading a fair number of these comic books in the past couple of weeks, and I realized –damn- I had really bad taste in reading material back then. Just two days ago, I was reading an issue of Uncanny X-Men, which featured the first appearance of (the bane of my comic book existence) Gambit. Now, what the fuck a Cajun was doing in Cairo, Illinois is completely beyond me, but all the fanboys instantly fell madly in love with him, thus leading the lot to question their own sexuality. I think the artists realized this and tried to swing these fanboys back into the realm of heterosexuality by increasing the breast-size of all of the superheroines by at least two cup sizes, or maybe the artists had simply never seen a naked woman outside of a strip-club, which isn’t the best place to get an idea for the female form.

But I digress. Actually, that’s a good jumping-off point: Right around the era of Uncanny X-Men number… 267 or so and New Mutants #87, you had these new artists (actually, Jim Lee and Rob Liefeld, respectively, though not respectfully) who drew with a new kind of style that was completely unseen before. It was like an offshoot of the kind of style guys like Todd McFarlane and Erik Larsen brought to the Spider-Man books, but these guys brought it to the mutant-books, which was what I primarily read. So, it was a new kind of artwork, and I was like, “Wow, I’ll read anything as long as these guys draw it!” Well, what ended up happening was the artists ended up taking up primary roles in plotting the direction of the comic books, seemingly so they could create their own characters and use them willy-nilly. This, everyone, is how Cable got invented.

So, over the next couple of years, these guys basically drove perfectly good franchises into the ground by coming up with silly plot ideas that had to be extended upon by the following authors, if solely for the sake of continuity. Great, thanks to you, Rob Liefeld, now Cannonball is an immortal. No, wait, he’s an “External,” which I think is the silliest fucking name in the history of silly comic book names. “Externals” is the Pussy Galore of comic book names. I mean, “External” is already a fucking word that means, “On the outside of,” but I guess dumbass Liefeld decided that if you add an X to any word, it’s just a given that it has something to do with mutants. This managed to confuse the shit out of me about a year later when the X-Games premiered and I’m like, “What the fuck does snowboarding have to do with mutants?”

By the way, can I just say this: Anyone who abbreviates the word Extreme down to the letter X should be shot. X is for Xylophone. Always has been, always will be. Extreme starts with an E, folks.

So then these artists who seemingly had the power to triple the sales of their books at Marvel… well, they all jumped ship and started their own comic book company, Image, and created some truly horrible comics. Okay, actually, I’m leaving McFarlane and Larsen out of that group, because Spawn and the Savage Dragon (respectively and respectfully) are pretty good books. But Liefeld started out with a book called Youngblood, which was about a group of superheroes with really tiny feet, tiny heads and shoulders that were about eight feet wide. Might I add that the book sucked ass. Then he created books like Brigade and Bloodstrike, which were drawn by guys who draw exactly like Liefeld, and the books sucked ass. And then there was Prophet. And it sucked. Jim Lee, to my recollection, only did one book called WildC.A.T.S., which was an abbreviation for something I’ve completely forgotten, but it simply wouldn’t have been cool if there wasn’t an abbreviation to explain why these people were doing what they did, even if it didn’t explain why the book was really pretty, but the plot blew.

Ugly women were not allowed in the Image universe. In fact, average women were barred from it, too. The only women allowed in Image comic books were C-cup or better and had to have a fan the size of my house blowing on them, so as to make their long, amazingly-conditioned hair do interesting things. That’s right, these were the years of the Marvel Illustrated Swimsuit Issue and the Image Swimsuit Spectacular: The perfect thing for fanboys to look at and get completely and totally depressed by what they’ll find in the real world when they finally crawl out of their caves and into the post-adolescent light of day.

And reading these comics really made me realize, “Fuck, did I have bad taste,” back then. I should’ve been reading Alan Moore’s “Watchmen” or anything I could get my hands on by Frank Miller. Or Matt Wagner’s “Mage,” or any number of other books where the writing was significantly more important than the pencils. To equate it to movies, I’m ashamed that there was an era where I’d go see a movie because it was directed by Michael Bay, rather than going to see a movie that was written by Scott Frank or Lawrence Kasdan (the movie Dreamcatcher, notwithstanding). As close as I actually got to good writing was Captain America, because the late Mark Gruenwald wrote it to expose its readers to some of society’s ills, and I don’t specifically mean the ones that wear colorful tights and rob banks. The six-issue Streets of Poison series of Captain America raised some good points about drug-use and actually got Captain America to dump the Super Soldier Serum for good. It was a funny exchange that made him do it, too, as he was berating one of the Avengers’ staff for taking drugs, and the staff member retorted, “What do you think the Super Soldier Serum is? Kool-Aid?”

It was funny at the time, anyway.

So, coming back to comic books ten years later, it’s kind of a culture-shock, and I want to read some good books, but I don’t know where to start. Actually, I do, but I’ll save that for a moment from now. The nice thing about comics these days is that the female form seems to be getting back to a more normal proportion, since I don’t think the fanboys should be set up for such an enormous disappointment forty years from now when they finally get it together enough to talk to an actual woman who doesn’t charge sixty-nine cents a minute for the privilege of talking to her. Second, the writers are finally getting top-billing and top-recognition. Granted, there’s still one or two artists out there that I’d pick up a book just because of their art (Alex Ross, for example), but it seems like the books have gotten more mature on an across-the-board kind of level. In the early Nineties, the comic books were –except for the sexually suggestive artwork- generally the same as they had been in the Eighties. Today, they read like… well, they read like today, and I love it.

So, what I’ve gotten over the course of the last six months is a pretty fair amount of Brian Michael Bendis’ writing; notably the fantastic graphic novels, Jinx, Goldfish, and Torso, plus two trade-paperback collections of his Image book Powers. While looking around the comic book store today, I considered what to get next, and I came to an impasse: Do I get Fire (his other graphic novel), one of the two remaining Powers books, one of three Daredevil trades, Ultimate Daredevil & Elektra, or one of the Ultimate Spider-Man books? Basically, I had my choice of almost a dozen books and I was just walking around the trade-paperback section for an hour trying to convince myself, “Dude, just go back to reading Cerebus. Just get the Cerebus books, because the series only has four issues left.” And then I saw what I bought today and immediately snapped it up:

I bought Fray, which is a trade-paperback version of the eight-issue miniseries by Joss Whedon. Yes, Joss Whedon wrote a comic book, and not just any comic book: A comic book that takes place in a future-version of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer universe. I read it in about an hour and a half and I think it’s great. It’s a good, fun book. It’s not the kind of book that’s ever really emotionally affecting in the way I get when I read some of Bendis’ stuff… okay, actually, at one point it is. Nevertheless, it’s really fantastically … Joss. See, Joss Whedon has a way of writing that you can tell which episodes of Buffy or Angel are written by him. It’s getting a little tougher to see his direction, since it’s really changed a lot over the last seven years, but his writing is still largely the same (Alien Resurrection notwithstanding), and it’s got a certain tone that really seems to shine in this book. Sure, it would be easy to go and make a Twenty-Third Century Buffy-clone, but the girl in this book is fundamentally different, on the sort of level that Faith is a different character than Buffy.

Anyway, I’ve been up for twenty hours now, the last ninety minutes of which have been spent rambling about comic books, when this site’s supposed to be about movies. Oh fucking well. If and when anything ever gets done in Hollywood with Fray, then you can look back on this and go, “It all makes sense now.” Until then, it’s a project that might well languish for a good amount of time in Development Hellmouth. … That’s a joke, and I know I heard one of you Buffy-watchers laugh.

I’ve also been playing a lot of video games lately, and maybe next time (if I don’t actually get around to compiling that list of shitty villains for comic-book film-adaptations) I’ll talk about what insanely addictive games I’ve been playing. Until then, let me just say that Final Fantasy X-2 is by far the girliest game I’ve ever played. Maybe it’s tied with DOA Beach Volleyball, but lacks DOA’s cartoonishly-enormous breasts and the physics engine that makes them bounce like a Superball. What can I say? The fanboys just move from one medium to the next.

Before I go to bed, though, I’m going to finish reading an unused draft of the X-Men script that was co-written by Whedon. If you’re curious, just go Googling for it, and you ought to find it fairly easily. And, if you can’t, then that means you didn’t want it enough.

Saturday, December 06, 2003

Another Marathon Post About A Totally Asinine Topic

Cinema Fact: At the current rate of expansion, all films released in the year 2018 will be adaptations of comic books. Okay, so maybe that’s not actually a fact, but only because I’m too tired right now to break down the math and figure out the rate of expansion versus the total number of films released in a year. But it really seems like there are more and more comic book adaptations coming out every year. It seems that way, basically, because it’s absolutely true.

After all, in 2005 we’ve got at least two that I know of: The (very obvious) Spider Man sequel, which will no doubt make obscene amounts of money, which Fox will then filter around in such a manner as to disguise any profit and prevent Stan Lee from enjoying royalties. Yes, those monkey-fucks at Fox tried to screw over Stan “The Man” Lee in much the same manner as… why, I do believe it was Fox who released Forrest Gump and then claimed it didn’t make any profits and therefore Winston Groom (author of the book) wasn’t entitled to his back-end royalties. And, in both cases, the creators of the source material sued, and I have no idea how either trial came out. How, exactly, a film can come out and gross Star Wars kind of money and then claim to still not have made profit is completely beyond me. But that’s Hollywood for you.

Before I get to the next movie, I’m going to plug a couple of books. The first is “Milk It!” by Jim DeRogatis, rock critic for the Chicago Sun-Times, and the world’s definitive source on Lester Bangs (which is why Cameron Crowe thanked him something like three times during the commentary track on the Almost Famous Bootleg Edition DVD). In any case, “Milk It!” which is named for a song off of In Utero (if you have to ask, you weren’t listening to rock ten years ago), and goes over the alternative rock evolution, revolution and devolution of the 1990’s. It’s an absolutely fantastic book in which Courtney Love’s insanity is dwarfed by the idiocy of the singer from Third Eye Blind.

The other book, well, I’m not actually sure if the book’s any good because I haven’t had a chance to drive out to the mall and pick up a copy, but the book-jacket description was pretty good. Apparently, Jamie Kennedy has written his memoirs, so I’ll give ‘em a read. After all, here’s a guy who created the Jamie Kennedy Experiment, which was soon ripped off by Ashton Kutcher, whose spin was pranking (I’m sorry, but I refuse to call it ‘punking’) celebrities. Oh, sure, Kennedy’s ripping off Candid Camera, but the difference is that he takes an active part in each prank, and no one ever seems to notice. I’m sure people would recognize him more often if his show was anywhere but the WB.

The other comic book movie I’m sure is slated for next year is Guillermo Del Toro’s adaptation of Mike Mignola’s comic book, Hellboy. I’ve never, ever liked Mignola’s artwork, since I think he relies way too much on thick shadows and puts way too much black on the page, as though he’s trying to draw a comic book with a Magnum 44 marker (the fumes from which would be the only way I’d ever be able to enjoy his artwork). However, I have to say that I like what I’ve seen of Guillermo del Toro. I don’t love it, exactly, but it’s alright: Cronos, Mimic, Blade II… I think I’m probably missing one, but I’m not sure. (Actually, that was all of them. -Ed.) Anyway, the trailer for Hellboy is up in various places (notably the Apple Quicktime trailer site), and it looks fantastic. Ron Perlman looks exactly like a comic book character, and not even exactly the way Mignola would’ve drawn him, which put me over the top in wanting to go see it.

In other comic book adaptation news, I noticed on the IMDB (if you don’t know, why are you reading my site?) that Nicolas Cage is slated to play Johnny Blaze, and I went, “Huh?” I mean, shit, first he signs up to be Superman, and then that falls through, so he marries Elvis’s daughter, divorces her, and now he’s going to be fucking Ghost Rider? I mean, give me a break. Okay, so maybe I’m being a bit harsh because Ghost Rider hasn’t been good since the late-70’s or early-80’s. I mean, Marvel tried to make him cool again in the early 90’s, but Blaze wasn’t Ghost Rider anymore, so I didn’t catch on. Then they brought back Blaze along with Ghost Rider in the same book, but it was absolute shit-to-the-Nth-degree in a year that the vast majority of Marvel books were merely floundering in shit. Not surprisingly, that was right around the year that the execs at Marvel decided that it would be a good idea to hop in bed with Fleer… which also happened to be the same year baseball players went on strike and just about killed the baseball card market. The only good thing to come out of that was a 1-800-Collect commercial with Larry “Bud” Melman as one of the replacement players.

But I digress. There’s another Batman movie on the way, and I don’t mean the vaunted Batman vs. Superman project that made all the headlines a couple of years back. Congratulations, Wolfgang Petersen, you now have another film to join Ender’s Game in development hell! My friend Scott said it best: “Batman versus Superman? That movie will last all of five fucking minutes.” But, no, I’m not talking about that movie. The next Batman film is supposedly going darker in tone, like a sort of Frank Miller kind of Batman: Year One kind of thing. Yes, more Frank Miller than Tim Burton did.

Now, if they could just go for that “R” rating, then we’d all be good to go. Put it this way: Stack a PG-13 superhero movie against an R-rated superhero movie and see which one wins. … Daredevil versus Blade. Not even a fucking contest. Okay, I’ll grant that X2 was a pretty darn good movie and had an opening sequence that played on the big screen almost as well as Blade’s opening (that rave ranks as the best opening scene ever)… okay, actually Blade ends up losing that contest because I love making fun of Kris Kristofferson’s death scene. Seriously, though, think of how good all of these movies could have been with an R-rating. Or how good the Superman films could have been if they’d just not done the third and fourth installments!

New Superman film. I gotta say this: As long as it doesn’t have any of the putzes from Smallville, I’ll go see the movie. Okay, actually, it could have Bo Duke, but that’s just for kitsch value, and only on the requirement that he drives for at least one scene in the General Lee. Yes, he has to honk the horn. -- I’m starting to wig out now, because I’ve been awake for twenty-two hours and all I’ve had to eat in that time is cake. But the report must go on! –- I mean, I actually do like the show Smallville, but I can’t stand any of the characters, except for probably Lex Luthor, since it’s just a nice little spin to have Lex and Clark Kent as friends. Yeah, so it’s a two-year investment for the inevitable payoff that they will become mortal enemies, but that’s okay, because the show’s written fairly smartly, except for whatever deus ex machina they bring in every week to keep Clark’s secret identity (or lack thereof) … well, a secret.

Seriously, why does the Incredible Hulk get a movie, and probably a sequel, when the Silver Surfer gets absolutely nothing? I mean, okay, so the notion of a butt-nekkid, anatomically-incorrect silver, very reflective dude flying through the cosmos on a surfboard…. so that might not be the coolest idea in the world, but the comic book was always really good. … Okay, so it was pretty much only good when either Jack Kirby was drawing or when Jim Starlin was writing and Ron Lim was drawing. But he’s a really great character with powers on the cosmic scale! Try to measure up to that, Wolverine! Honestly, now that I’ve described the Silver Surfer as I just did, now I want to burn all of his comic books and forgot that I ever read them.

And then you’ve got another X-Men movie going into production next year for release in 2005. They’ll probably throw Gambit into this one, just to give every 90’s X-Men fanboy a wet dream that will last for two whole hours. I’ve never understood the fanboys’ thing for Gambit. I just don’t get it. The dude’s French or something, which gets points off right there, he throws energized cards at people (ooh, what a power) and he smokes fuckin’ Virginia Slims. Seriously, you look at him smoking in the comic book, and they’re those toothpicky little cigarettes. And the only reason why he claims to want to fuck Rogue is because everyone knows he can’t, and that’s how he can stay in the closet, because –even if he gets the girl- everyone would understand why he’s not fucking her.

I mean, seriously, what the fuck? Howard the Duck got a movie back in the 80’s, which happens to be easily one of the WORST films of all time, and all the Fantastic Four can get is the Roger Corman treatment. I have to get out to the Comicon next year to catch that one. But, why can’t they give a movie to Iron Man or something? I mean, other than the fact that his best enemy was the Mandarin, a bad guy who might just be classified as politically incorrect in this day and age. And, if not, at least worthy of a name-change, given that China’s got a lot of money to spend at the box-office for those twenty-three seconds before the bootleg hits the streets. Or an Avengers movie, since the closest they ever got to the big screen was Thor’s appearance in, I think, the “Death of the Incredible Hulk” TV-movie, and he didn’t even say, “I say thee nay!!!” in that one, so I felt cheated.

I think that I’m now going to cut this one off and start working on my next post, but that one requires a bit of research... That is, if I actually end up going with the topic I’m planning, which is, “Villains To NOT Feature In A Superhero Movie.” And now that I look at the title, I’m thinking that this is going to be a very long list, because I’m going to have to make separate lists for the real ones and the ones I make up. I think a screenplay snippet is also in order, but that’s really asking a whole lot, though I’m chuckling to myself as I think of one.

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