Thursday, December 26, 2013

Grant Morrison Cover Band

Ah, the holidays.  A wonderful time to remember the important things.  Like spending time with family, enjoying old traditions, and catching up on egregious amounts of comic book reading.

I had the opportunity to catch up on Grant Morrison's recent run on Batman and Robin.  I loved it.  It was a lot of fun, and also a sort of coda to the pre-New 52 continuity of Batman.

But I also enjoyed reading Grant Morrison's run on New X-Men in the early 00's, and I couldn't help but notice a few... similarities.  Perhaps he thought there wouldn't be enough Marvel/DC readership crossover to notice?

Like I said, I enjoyed the run.  But I also enjoyed these plot points the first time around in New X-Men.  Below is an infographic of a few of the plot similarities:

Friday, December 20, 2013

Love/Hate/Try Friday

LOVE IT:  James Covenant's delightful Star Trek TNG "let it snow" edit:
"Shut up, Wesley!"

HATE IT:  The death of Peter O'Toole.  Rest in peace, you magnificent eccentric.  The first two minutes of the video below is literally all you need to know about the man... but the rest is great too.

TRY IT:  The moody existential teaser trailer for Christopher Nolan's 2014 film Interstellar.
Okay, just kidding.  We love this too!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

New Trailer for Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

I was a large fan of Rise of the Planet of the Apes that came out a few years ago.  I liked the special effects, the actors, and enjoyed the story.  Here is a teaser trailer for its sequel and it makes me very excited.


Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Goodbye Before Hello

We don't review music all that often, but every once in a while something truly new and exciting drops into our laps, and we have to share.

The 21st century has been a boom time for aficionados of alternative folk.  Starting with Ani diFranco's quick witted debut in 1997, we were then introduced to the twanging Avett Brothers and the pining Damien Rice in 2002, the stirring Brandi Carlile in 2005, the incandescent Basia Bulat in 2007, and the rockstar Mumford and Sons in 2009.  Well, we can now add to that list the soulful Will Lowe.

In his stunning debut album Goodbye Before Hello, we are treated to ten songs that run the gamut from ballad to elegy to anthem.  Lowe sings and plays these songs with passion and poise, and his voice has both the strength of a lion and the tenderness of a lamb.

Lowe also makes daring and unusual choices with his lyrics.  In the song Perfect Blend, he sings: "Through the years its been my honor to call you my wife / a P and J for balance to grow / patience to soften the edges."  As Mr. Lowe points out in his liner notes: "The 'P' and 'J' in the song come from the Myers Briggs Temperament Analysis inventory and are not peanut butter and jelly."  Given our affection for the applications of Myers-Briggs® personality chart, we had to point out that lyric.

From the liner notes, Lowe also gives an unusually detailed level of detail about his inspiration for the songs.  From Nicole Brown's mother dealing with the loss of her daughter, to two songs inspired by his own daughters, his wife, horses, Chinese medicine, and seeing two shy people in a bookstore who say goodbye without ever first saying hello.

Our favorite songs on the album are "Goodbye Before Hello," a beautiful bittersweet ballad, and "You're Just Magnificent," a snappy 2 minute anthem that I wish existed as a 20-minute long Meatloaf-esque mini rock opera.

We're in a golden age for alternative folk.  Will Lowe's Goodbye Before Hello is a shining addition.

You can check it out on CD Baby or iTunes.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Joseph Gordon-Levitt to direct and star in 'Sandman'

I'm one-third really excited about this.

It was just reported that Joseph Gordon-Levitt, he of Dark Knight Rises and Don Jon, will direct and star in Sandman---a title over which has gushed extensively---based on a treatment from David Goyer.

The one-third I'm excited about is Gordon-Levitt as Morpheus. He should absolutely nail this part and I could not be more thrilled that they cast him.

The two-thirds I'm tentative about are his direction and Goyer's treatment. This film will have to feature major visual effects, which Gordon-Levitt is unexperienced in wielding. Can he handle it? Sandman is a complex story which requires a clear visual vision. Can he pull that off?

Also, why is Goyer writing a treatment of Neil Gaiman? Why not get Gaiman himself to do it? Goyer's Dark Knight trilogy is of course excellent, but his Man of Steel script underwhelmed me, Jumper was no good, FlashForward fizzled, and let's not get into Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance or Blade Trinity.

So basically, removed from Christopher Nolan's direction, it's been 15 years since Goyer wrote something I loved. And I want to love the Sandman movie. So whoever they bring in to write this thing…I hope Goyer has some distance from it. That's all.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Burn Notice: Retrospective

It's been a few weeks now.  The air has cleared from the towering finale of Breaking Bad, and the stink has dissipated from the finale of Dexter.  And so this might be a good time to look back at Burn Notice, which also took its final bow this year.

Ever since Lost re-introduced mainstream TV watchers to the addictive quality of episodic storytelling (I say "re-introduced" because the serial was a popular mode in cinema before the advent of TV), "procedural drama" has become something of a dirty word in this Golden Age of Television.  (the distinction for drama is important - comedy requires each episode to have a discrete conclusion).

And sure – when we point to the shows that commit that greatest of entertainment sins, being uninteresting, most are indeed procedurals (or they're The Walking Dead... but that veers us too far off track).

But the procedural drama can a rewarding mode of storytelling too.  House was anchored with a leading performance that were so engaging, the show was delightful even when the writing sagged; The Blacklist is following closely in those footsteps, to much success.

But for my money?  No show in the last ten years has done the procedural as well as Burn Notice.

Thank God terrorists never watch Die Hard.
I can point to no other show on television which, week after week, writes its characters into impossible corners, and finds entirely plausible ways to extract them – usually with the ingenuity of Angus MacGyver, the tenacity of Marshal Dillon, and the cockiness of David Addison Jr.  (no, please – take a moment and go to Wikipedia.  I'll wait.)

The success of the show was in how firmly it knew what it was:  a group of reluctant heroes-for-hire who needed cash up front, usually gave it back, and had a devil-may-care attitude along the way.

It's great fun, and if you didn't dive into it while it was on the air, you can start burning through episodes on Netflix.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Six Superhero Stories

Any time the word "postmodern" enters a conversation, it's likely that people have been reaching for bourbon, or are about to be reaching for aspirin.  So take your pick, and let's proceed.

For many genres of literature, you can spend an entire academic career arguing the precise moment that a postmodern reflection forever changed the landscape of the form.  For superhero comics, not so much:  it was 1986.  The Dark Knight Returns and Watchmen exploded the entire concept of superhero fiction, and things have never been the same since.  Okay, that's settled.  I'm going on break.

Mmm, this bourbon aspirin is delicious.

The reality, however, is that ever since that watershed year, comic book writers and readers have been struggling to both stuff the genie back in the bottle, and allow it to wreak creative havoc in the form.  (To my mind, only Mark Millar's inaugural run on The Ultimates managed to have its cake and eat it too, but that's a discussion for another day).  Comic creators and comic consumers struggle with a balance between allowing these mythic characters to slowly evolve, while also keeping them the same.

So today, 27 years after The Dark Knight Returns and Watchmen, in the post-postmodern era (hang on... need more aspirin...) art is reflecting not only on the form itself, but also our modern reaction to its evolution.

Enter Robert T. Jeschonek's delightful Six Superhero Stories (available this week as an audiobook).

Jeschonek, who has written for DC Comics, writes with both a love of the superhero medium, and also a wryly critical eye of its form.  These stories, set in the fictional Isoceles City, offer a stunning collision of classical superhero concepts with postmodern sensibility.

Jeschonek pits his heroes against things they can't hit.  Alzheimers, global warming, superhero conspiracies, crazed fans, shrinking hero snuff porno, and marriages that have been ret-conned out of existence.

It's a good time.  Maybe even as good a time as 1986.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Vampire Tchaikovsky Ballet? Um…yes, please.

There are just waaaay too many vampire things in fiction today. Twilight. Tru Blood. Vampire Diaries. Even Dracula is back. Vampires are wildly over saturated to the point that I'm pretty blasé about the genre.

But a vampire ballet? Ok…I admit…that got my attention.

It seems that a seriously talented ballet choreographer named Matthew Bourne’s has spent several decades creating ballets set to the music of Tchaikovsky. Apparently he remade “Nutcracker” in 1992 and “Swan Lake” in 1995.

And now? He's created a vampire version of "Sleeping Beauty."

Bourne took the story of a young girl cursed to sleep for one hundred years as a starting point to create a show with fairies, goths, vampires, and basically time travel because Aurora ultimately wakes up in the modern day.

I'm not a huge ballet fan…but I think I'd sign up to see this show.