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Iron Man

I waited ’til yesterday to see the “Iron Man” movie — I hate watching big blockbusters on their first weekend, mostly to avoid the crowds. And I really enjoyed it. Obviously, Robert Downey, Jr.’s performance as Tony Stark is probably one of the best comics-to-screen interpretations of a character ever, right up there with Christopher Reeve’s Superman, Tobey Maguire’s Spider-Man, and Ron Perlman’s Hellboy. Jeff Bridges as supervillain/corporate-PR-whiz Obadiah Stane is also great fun to watch — but that’s kind of expected, because Jeff Bridges is a seriously fantastic actor. Gwyneth Paltrow and Terrence Howard are pretty good, but they’re really not that important to the movie. Stan Lee has the best cameo he’s ever had in a movie. The action is good, the superheroics are good, the humor is completely awesome.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Go see this movie, whether or not you like “Iron Man” comics. If you want to see an extra scene with Samuel L. Jackson, stay ’til the end of the credits, but if you wanna skip it, it’s not that important, or that great. Yeah, I went and said it, so there.


Batman #675

Weird issue. Bruce Wayne is dating a woman named Jezebel Jet — someone I’ve never heard of, but apparently, this has been going on for a while. Jezebel is sick of Bruce’s frequent disappearing acts, and she’s ready to call it off. Terrorists led by the Ten-Eyed Man attack and try to kidnap her, and Bruce completely unleashes on them.

Thumbs up, but just barely. The action parts of the story are good. But who the heck is Jezebel Jet, and why haven’t we seen her more often, if she’s really that important?


Green Lantern #30

In the re-telling of Green Lantern’s origin, Abin Sur crashes on Earth and gives former jet pilot Hal Jordan his power ring. Hal saves a crashing plane, he and Carol Ferris make eyes at each other, and we meet Hector Hammond.

Verdict: Thumbs up, but again, just barely. We already know the story of how Hal got his ring, and this re-telling isn’t showing us much that’s either new or interesting. On the other hand, it’s cool to see Hector Hammond before he got his oversized cranium.


Number of the Beast #2

The Paladins are in a panic because they can’t figure out what caused the disappearance of 90% of the city’s population. They suspect that the evil Dr. Sin had something to do with it, but everyone suspects the truth — the Rapture has occurred, and the end of the world is coming. And right on cue, a meteor storm comes up out of nowhere — fire from the heavens. A guy called the Eidolon visits Dr. Sin in the brig and starts telling him that none of this is real, it’s all happened before, someone BIG is coming. And those government agents in their high-tech HQ are up to no good.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Mysteries galore! Weird religious references! Sinister conspiracies! Love it!

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Summer Knights

Hey! We’re back! Huzzah!

So here’s the thing that caught my eye this morning — the UK’s movie posters for the Dark Knight movie.

For example, here’s the one spotlighting Christian Bale as Batman…


Not bad. Very cool looking. Very iconic. Does seem a bit like there should be a caption that reads “Lookit! I gots a batarang!”


This is quite good — Heath Ledger as the Joker, obviously. Again, very iconic and cool. Probably a better poster than the one with Batman on it.


And this is the one that really rocks. Aaron Eckhart as district attorney Harvey Dent — my all-time favorite Bat-villain, the duality-obsessed Two-Face. I think this image here is the reason the other posters look the way they do. You get excellent foreshadowing about what’s going to happen to Harvey before the movie’s over. I approve wholeheartedly.

We got a lot of comic-themed movies coming out this summer — Iron Man this weekend, plus movies about the Hulk, Hellboy, and more. Which ones are you looking forward to?

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Justice League: The New Frontier

As promised, here’s my review of the new direct-to-DVD animated movie “Justice League: The New Frontier.” Obviously, it’s based on Darwyn Cooke’s extremely popular miniseries “The New Frontier,” featuring DC heroes making their debuts in the 1950s.

Well, let’s just get it right out there — I loved this movie. The plot is pretty much just like the plot of the miniseries/graphic novel: Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman are joined by new superheroes like the Flash, Green Lantern, and the Martian Manhunter, as they face an alien threat that could wipe out human life on Earth.

Of course, the movie has a limited run-time, so lots of stuff had to be cut — some of the stuff they removed really shoulda been left in, because it was awesome, and some of the stuff they left in really should’ve been removed. I wish they’d been able to include more of the Losers, Karin Grace, and the Challengers of the Unknown, I wish they’d left Hourman out entirely (Nothing against Hourman, but when Superman says “Hourman is dead,” what the viewer hears is “Our man is dead.” What? Who’s their man? It’s confusing). Those are the dangers of adapting comic books to film, I guess — it’s impossible to include all the keen stuff that you wish they’d kept from the book.

But those nitpickings aside, this is really a glorious movie. The animators do a great job of replicating the artwork from Cooke’s comic. The animation is just gorgeous — by now, Warner’s has a lot of experience animating superheroes, so the action is downright dandy, and they do a stellar job of replicating the stylized look of the ’50s, from casino design to retro rockets to clothing and hairstyles.

They’ve got voice work by a lot of recognizable stars — David Boreanz is Green Lantern, Neil Patrick Harris is the Flash, Lucy Lawless is Wonder Woman, Kyle MacLachlan is Superman, etc. Honestly, I usually dislike movies that do this — it’s usually just stunt-casting, where actual voice actors could do a better job. But I thought everyone in this did a great job. The only person you could really identify was Lawless, ’cause she has a very distinctive voice. With everyone else, you completely forget the characters are being voiced by famous people — as far as I’m concerned, this means they do a darn good job of getting the characters down.

Listen, if you’re planning on getting this for your kids, think again. There’s a sticker right on the front of the case that says “First ever Justice League animated movie rated PG-13.” And they ain’t kidding about the rating, either. The first scene in the movie ends with a guy putting a gun to his head and blowing his brains out. Not long after that, Hal Jordan, his plane shot down over Korea, shoots an enemy soldier, and a nice big splatter of blood hits Hal in the face. This is definitely a movie worth seeing, but don’t traumatize your kids with it, okay?

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Iran from the Inside



If you haven’t heard the news yet, “Persepolis” was nominated for an Academy Award yesterday for Best Animated Feature Film, so this seems like a pretty good time to review the graphic novel that the movie is based on.

“Persepolis” is a story written by Marjane Satrapi about her youth in Iran during the post-revolution era. She writes about the weird fundamentalism of life there, about having to learn the right things to wear to keep from angering the authorities, about buying punk rock on the black market, about meeting your heroic uncle for the first time and later hearing that he’s been executed unjustly as a spy. She also writes about her parents sending her to high school in Austria to get her away from the fundamentalists, about living her life alone in a strange country, and about later returning to her home country.

This is a really excellent book, very engrossing and fascinating. Satrapi tells so many interesting stories, sometimes as simple throwaway anecdotes — her friend from school who gets killed by a missile during the Iran-Iraq War, another friend who’s been crippled by the war, her many roommates during her stay in Austria. Some of the most interesting moments come when you realize that Satrapi had been ostracized in Iran as a dangerously outspoken woman who reads books about politics and philosophy, and was later ostracized in Europe solely because she was an Iranian and “everyone knows those Iranians are crazy fundamentalists.”

Satrapi’s artwork is really wonderful, too. Like a lot of autobiographical comics, the book uses a deceptively cartoonish style — the artwork looks simple, but it’s great for showing emotion and building drama — and yes, for spotlighting funny stuff. There really is some funny stuff that goes on here — at the very least, the goofy surrealism of trying to live in an autocratic society that actually freaks out about the right way to wear a headscarf. Satrapi’s teenaged angst is also written about very humorously.

Verdict: A very big thumbs up. Iran is in the news a lot these days — apparentally, some folks think we should go bomb ’em a bit, maybe because we ain’t involved in enough pointless Middle Eastern wars on brown people yet — and I figure it sure won’t hurt you to learn a little bit about an unfamiliar culture. Plus, with the movie out, they’ve released the entire four-volume series in a single book, so it’s a lot more affordable. Go check it out.

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Why So Serious?


Why so serious? Probably because Heath Ledger’s dead.

Heath Ledger was found dead Tuesday at a downtown Manhattan residence, and police said drugs may have been a factor. He was 28. NYPD spokesman Paul Browne said Ledger had an appointment for a massage at the Manhattan apartment believed to be his home. The housekeeper who went to let him know the masseuse had arrived found him dead at 3:26 p.m.

The Australian-born actor was nominated for an Oscar for “Brokeback Mountain,” where he met his wife, actress Michelle Williams, in 2005. Ledger and Williams had lived in Brooklyn and had a daughter, Matilda, until they split up last year.

Ledger was to appear as the Joker this year in “The Dark Knight,” a sequel to 2005’s “Batman Begins.” He’s had starring roles in “A Knight’s Tale” and “The Patriot,” and played the suicidal son of Billy Bob Thornton in “Monster’s Ball.”

So from the looks of it, the last time you’ll be able to see Heath Ledger in a movie is going to be in the Batman sequel this summer. You’ve seen him in the trailer for “The Dark Knight,” right? Looks incredible. It’s a bummer that we won’t be able to see him in anything else — I had him picked as picking up his first Oscar in the next coupla years…

Any of y’all see this coming? I sure didn’t. Ledger seemed like a guy who’d gotten his act together. To go out as a disposable bad guy in a comic-book movie just doesn’t seem right.

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This is the greatest thing in the history of the universe.

“The Machine Girl.”

Wow, I think I need a cigarette.

And yes, it’s a real movie.

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The Great Cloverfield Mystery


History shows again and again how nature points out the folly of man

Cloverfield. Bad Robot. The Untitled J.J. Abrams Project. That weird trailer before the “Transformers” movie.

If you know what any of that means, then you’ve been successfully targeted with one of the neatest marketing maneuvers since “The Blair Witch Project.”

For the rest of you, here’s the rapid summary. Viewers of the “Transformers” movie have been treated to an untitled movie trailer (some folks think it’s called “Bad Robot” but that’s just the name of the production company, which is flashed on the screen as the trailer begins) in which a handheld camera records a small going-away party in an apartment in New York City. The party breaks up when there’s an apparent earthquake accompanied by a strange roaring sound. The partygoers go up on the roof to see if the view is any better, and they see a terrific explosion, again accompanied by the monstrous roar. As debris rains down, everyone flees in a panic into the streets, where we overhear someone say something along the lines of “It’s alive, and it’s huge.” After the head of the Statue of Liberty is flung into the street, the trailer ends with “From producer J.J. Abrams” and “In theaters 1-18-08.”

People seem really electrified by this trailer. The working title is apparently “Cloverfield” but no one expects that to be the final title. The mystery about the title, the monster, and everything else is helping to really ramp up online speculation and interest, and Paramount is doing their part by having the trailer pulled every time someone posts it on YouTube. (If you want to see it, you can try the version I just watched… if Paramount hasn’t had it pulled again. If so, do a search for “Cloverfield” and see what you come up with.)

J.J. Abrams is pretty darn good at this sort of thing. He’s kept viewers coming back to “Lost” over and over for a couple of years, and a lot of that show is all about perpetuating the ongoing mysteries. And Abrams is pretty well known for both action and character work, so folks are hoping that it’ll be an action movie that won’t get lost in expensive special-effects sequences, like so many sci-fi/action flicks do these days.

A lot of people are guessing that it’s a new Godzilla movie, or else a Rodan movie, or Gamera, or even Cthulhu. Those don’t make a lot of sense to me — the last Godzilla remake was a colossal flop, and I can’t see Hollywood revisiting the franchise. Rodan, Gamera, Ghidora, and the rest are also-rans compared to Godzilla, and I can’t see anyone paying for the rights to those characters. If it’s a Cthulhu movie, I’m gonna have to fight someone, ’cause I love H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos stories, and I’d hate to see Hollywood screw it up this badly. The eldritch monster-gods those old stories were more about blasting humanity’s sanity and less about destroying cities.

There aren’t a whole lot of giant monsters in comics that could carry a movie either. Maybe Galactus, but he’s reserved for the Fantastic Four. I’d love to see Fin Fang Foom in a movie, but I doubt that’ll ever happen. And hey, if it was going to be a comic book movie, we would’ve seen a Marvel or DC production stamp at the beginning of the trailer.

I’m betting it’s an all-new monster. Probably something that landed from outer space, judging by that big seismic “whump” that gets everything started off. That way, the studio doesn’t have to pay royalties to anyone else.

A better question may be whether the entire movie is going to be shot with hand-held camcorders. If so, you’re going to hear a lot of the same complaints about headaches and nausea that you heard from people who didn’t enjoy the camerawork in “The Blair Witch Project” back in ’99. However, if they decide to shoot it traditionally, a lot of the people who are excited about the immediacy and drama of the trailer are going to be extremely disappointed.

So let’s let the speculation run completely wild. What are the best stories you’ve heard about the secrets of “Cloverfield”?

UPDATE: If you’ve got Quicktime, you can see the official trailer right here.

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