Comics Ate My Brain

May 12, 2005

Special Guest Movie Reviews

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tom Bondurant @ 7:07 pm
As regular readers know, my wife and I are living apart temporarily while we go through this laborious move to Virginia. To pass the time, she has seen a couple of movies and wanted to share her thoughts with you. They’re not comic-book movies, but remember, she commented on Sin City a few weeks back. Without further ado….

Best Wife Ever here has used the unfortunate time away from Tom to preview movies to make up for her loneliness. In the last week I went to see Ridley Scott’s Kingdom of Heaven and Sidney Pollack’s The Interpreter.

Sydney Pollack is one of my favorite directors and B-list actors. (Tootsie, of course, is Exhibit A for his acting.) He has done an impressive job with a story that makes the UN setting a character in itself while also showing us how seemingly isolated problems like genocide and dictatorship abroad can quickly become US problems when ignored or dealt with in only simple terms. Sean Penn plays a foreign dignitary’s security officer assigned to investigate Nicole Kidman’s charge that she overheard a plot to kill a visiting African dictator accused of genocide. Both deliver impressive performances. The movie takes the audience through the intricacies of a fictitious African country that fought colonialism only to find its freedom fighter turn against his own people. That story is told as the current mystery unfolds at the UN. Unfortunately I felt suckered into a trite and unlikely climax followed by a supposedly happy ending that didn’t deliver. The audience would have been better served had the movie presented more profound questions about the world today. However, there is enough thought and entertainment to make an enjoyable movie. Not a must see, but well worth the popcorn.

Kingdom of Heaven invites us to picture Orlando Bloom in medieval costume standing on the edge of a fortress making inspiring speeches to new recruits about to receive on the job training; shouting military orders; and flinging swords and bows and arrows while fighting for the good of man against all odds. Sound familiar? I think I liked this scene better when it was called the Battle of Helms Deep. Don’t worry — if you get tired of watching LOTR, you can watch another Ridley Scott movie, Gladiator, instead of this one. Bloom’s character is offered the opportunity to be the heir of a royal line, fights a few gruesome battles in stop frame fashion and overcomes an assassination attempt from the bloodline heir. And finally, we are told all of this is not for just the fighting, it’s for “the people.” Scott deserves some credit for portraying a complex view of the Middle East and Europe in the 1100s, and linking those politics to a few modern themes. But I missed the realism and historical motivation of Gladiator and the personal relationships of LOTR. I got lost in side stories seemingly designed to link the story together but which in hindsight didn’t relate to anything. (One sword fighting lesson from Jedi Master Liam Neeson transforms Orlando from simple blacksmith to a wise and skillful knight; and a chance encounter with a future enemy is the result of a shipwreck that seems out of place with the larger story.) However, if you like historical adventure, a few good battle scenes and Orlando Bloom, you got yourself a movie that beats TV any day.

Hmmm … historical adventure, a few good battles, and Orlando Bloom? Sounds like Pirates of the Caribbean too!

I’ll second that TV comment. I know from experience that hotel TV gets mighty dull after a while. (I watched more “Lilo & Stitch: The Series” in Virginia than I ever have in my life.)

Thanks, sweetie! Unfortunately, I think this might commit you to reviewing Revenge of the Sith, Batman Begins, and Fantastic Four….

New comics 5/11/05

Late-arriving comics first:

Green Lantern Rebirth #6 (written by Geoff Johns, with art by Ethan van Sciver) gives us lots of pyrotechnics and attitude. There are dueling ‘tudes, in fact, between the skeptical Batman and the so-full-of-himself-it-hurts Hal Jordan. Those sequences bookend a big Green Lantern Corps vs. Parallax fight which looks better than it is. It’s not very exciting, because it has neither choreography nor much in the way of danger. This issue may work better in the context of the overall story — which has been a surprisingly efficient and effective revival of Hal — but on its own it’s so far in the tank for Hal and the Green Lantern Corps it’s laughable.

Also late (and also a concluding issue) was Adam Strange #8 (written by Andy Diggle, with art by Pascal Ferry). While it sets up The Rann-Thanagar War, it also works on its own to wrap up the Omega Device plotline. In fact, if you didn’t know (or don’t care) about RTW, the ending is very much in the tradition of movie serials pointing the way to their own sequels. I have no doubt that DC will market this as the prelude to RTW, but it was a good miniseries on its own and a nice look at a classic DC character.

Actually, the “sequel” Adam Strange sets up isn’t The Rann-Thanagar War (#1) (written by Dave Gibbons, with art by Ivan Reis and Marc Campos). The immediate aftermath of Adam Strange is told by Adam in flashback to Hawkman and Hawkgirl in the opening pages of this miniseries. Reading the two back-to-back, I didn’t notice any missed beats, and the flashback was a good way to bridge the two miniseries. Most of the action takes place on Rann, and Reis and Campos do a fine job portraying global war, but there are a couple of problems. First, everyone in the Rann military wears a uniform similar to Adam Strange’s; and every Thanagarian wears hawk-gear, so it’s kind of hard to tell in the crowd scenes who’s who. Second, there’s the whole Hawkman continuity boondoggle, complicated here by Shayera Thal a/k/a Hawkwoman. Gibbons needs a paragraph or two listing all the players before we get too much further. Green Lanterns Kilowog and Kyle Rayner also show up to say that no way will the Guardians let them get involved in the conflict. Anyway, this was a nice continuation of the politics touched on in Adam Strange, and it may be the most enjoyable of the pre-Infinite Crisis minis.

Action Comics #827 wasn’t late, but judging by a footnote Superman #217 should have come out first. This issue introduces the new creative team of writer Gail Simone, penciller John Byrne, and inker Nelson. While Byrne’s cover makes Superman look rather stocky, inside is a different story. Nelson takes the scratchy edges off Byrne’s work, and combined with colorist Guy Major the book looks very good. Simone also gives us a happy, well-adjusted Lois and Clark, which is a very pleasant change from Chuck Austen’s simmering Lois/Lana catfights. There’s a bit at the beginning featuring Superman in an African village, which I suppose might be in Superman #217. Anyway, the main story is nice and suspenseful, featuring a villain who can really sock it to Superman. So far, so good.

Judging by last month’s cliffhanger I thought Gotham Central #31 (written by Greg Rucka, with art by Stefano Gaudiano and Kano) would have picked up with a big Bat-fight, and while Batman is around for the first few pages, in the end it’s the GCPD detectives who wrap things up. Most of the issue involves Montoya dealing with Dr. Alchemy, her father, her colleagues, and her girlfriend. Rucka obviously likes Montoya and does well with her, so the issue flows together effectively. My one problem with the art is that Montoya’s father looks too much like ex-Commissioner Gordon, and I have to keep reminding myself otherwise.

Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #191 (written by J. Torres, with art by David Lopez and Fernando Blanco), the conclusion of a Mr. Freeze story, is hard to pin down. It has the trappings of a conventional Batman-vs.-Freeze fight, but it’s told in flashback by Bruce and it takes a different look at Freeze’s relationship with his wife. On the whole I liked it, although it doesn’t amount to much in the larger scheme of things. Still, importance to continuity isn’t everything.

Wonder Woman #216 (written by Greg Rucka, with art by Rags Morales and Mark Propst) continues Diana’s journey through Hades. Along the way she, Wonder Girl, and Ferdinand encounter Ares, Medousa, a lamia (which I vaguely remembered from my old D&D days), and other assorted nightmares. It all intersects with Athena’s takeover of Olympus, in which Ares was not on Diana’s side. Rucka has done about as much with the gods as George Perez did, but Rucka has taken things a step further, almost giving the book a Sandman feel — and that ain’t bad.

Fantastic Four #526 (written by Karl Kesel, with art by Tom Grummett and Lary Stucker) concludes the Diablo two-parter. This was an entertaining little story which at the end turned out to have more to do with the team’s subconscious desires than it did with Diablo. A bit with Johnny and Sue at the end of the issue was especially good. Anyway, onward and upward, as J. Michael Straczynski and Mike McKone take over next issue.

Finally, Astonishing X-Men #10 (written by Joss Whedon, with art by John Cassaday) continues the “sentient Danger Room” scenario. Most of it revolves around the Danger Room’s dialogue with Professor X, but since I don’t know what happened to him and the book never really tells us, it left me flat. I will say that the Danger Room’s fight with the X-Men was fairly clever, and the story has gained a bit more stature in my mind than the fill-in “Buffy” episode it felt like originally.

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