Thursday, June 26, 2008

Movie Reviews: Iron Man And Hulk

"I'm starving...Give me a scotch."

Iron Man is that good. Best super-hero movie to date, no question. Hulk is great but not as good, and should warrant a better sequel (think the first Superman).


I've tried to post the video, but you can't. So click here and enjoy.
Imma [sic] do the things that I wanna do
I ain't got a thing to prove to you
I'll eat my candy with the pork and beans
Excuse my manners if I make a scene
I ain't gonna wear the clothes that you like
I'm fine and dandy with the me inside
One look in the mirror and I'm tickled pink
I don't give a hoot about what you think
Hail Weezer!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

EJP's Comics Primer, Pt. 2: Hellboy, Y: The Last Man

Mike Mignola's Hellboy
OK, so Hellboy isn't all that obscure anymore thanks to the movies by Guillermo del Toro, but if you're only exposure to this character is through the movies, you're missing out. It's impossible to summarize the story of this comic without making it sound pretty out there: A demon baby is summoned from the netherworld by a secret group of Nazis during WWII. The plan goes awry and the demon baby (Hellboy) is raised by a US government group, the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense (BPRD). Hellboy becomes the star agent for the Bureau, traveling the world, alone or with some equally freakish agents, hunting down monsters and ghosties of all kinds.

That summary really doesn't do the comic justice though. Though there are a lot of self-contained story arcs throughout the series (which is ongoing...sort of), there's also the broad arc of finding out just who Hellboy is. Is he the son of Satan? Is he destined to destroy the world, or to save it? And what's up with the big rock fist? Besides creating a lot of memorable characters of his own, Mignola draws deeply from history and folklore for other characters and stories in general. Rasputin and Baba Yaga make frequent appearances. H.P. Lovecraft is a major influence. I wouldn't call this a horror comic--it's pretty hard to classify, actually. There are aspects of horror, but also adventure, superhero, mystery, and occasionally, comedy. Think of the old Hammer films and you're getting close.

Besides the excellent writing, the art really sets Hellboy apart from any other comic I'll mention in this primer. Mignola very much created a style of his own. With a very limited color palette and a minimalist style, every panel of these comics speaks volumes. Mignola is a master of setting a mood and leaving a lot to the imagination. He often lets the art tell the story for him, sometimes going pages without a line of dialog. His style is instantly recognizable by anyone who's read the comics, and I never get tired of looking at it.

There are several TPBs out there collecting the last several years of Hellboy, starting with "Seed of Destruction." There are also a number of spin-offs, including BPRD and the more recent Abe Sapien. Though these spin-off series are entertaining, Hellboy--and most importantly the sense of humor Hellboy brings to his own stories--is sorely missed. Also, though the art in the spin-offs is quite good for the most part, it's not Mignola. Get hooked on Hellboy first, then see where that takes you.

Brian K. Vaughan's Y: The Last Man

In a fit of laziness here, I'm just going to let the good people at Vertigo (the branch of DC Comics that deals with a lot of non-superhero fare) explain the plot of this one:

"When a plague of unknown origin instantly kills every mammal with a Y chromosome, unemployed and unmotivated slacker Yorick Brown suddenly discov
ers that he is the only male left in a world inhabited solely by women. Accompanied by his mischievous monkey and the mysterious Agent 355, Yorick embarks on a transcontinental journey to find his girlfriend and discover why he is the last man on Earth. But with a gang of feminist extremists and the leader of the Israel Defense Forces hunting him, Yorick's future, as well as that of the human race, may be short-lived."

In the wrong hands, a premise like that could have been a disaster. Instead, Vaughan has created an entertaining comic that is in many ways a huge thought experiment. Usually when something like this scenario is presented in sci-fi, it devolves into some sort of male fantasy: "I'm the only man on earth! Every woman will want to sleep with me!" But Vaughan has really put some thought into what would happen if in this world if all the men died instantly and simultaneously. Planes (the majority of pilots are still male) drop out of the sky. Tractor trailer trucks and other cars instantly crash and shut down nearly every road. Most of the world's soldiers are gone (except for Israel's, of course). Most of the US governement: gone. Suddenly, every musical group comprised of male musicians will never produce a single note again. And this all comes up in the first TPB. Far from a sexual utopia, Yorick Brown's world quickly becomes a nightmare.

I'm only halfway through the series, which just wrapped up with its 10th and final TPB this past month. I can't say I like every single issue, but for the most part it's a compelling adventure story, and I'm definitely at the point of no return. I have to know what caused the plague, how Yorick survived, and what's going to happen to him. Though the art isn't as cutting edge as Hellboy, artists Pia Guerra and José Marzá, Jr are certainly competent. But I'm really into this comic for the writing, and Brian K. Vaughan is one of the best talents out there right now. I've already read his take on the Buffyverse in a recent Season 8 story arc, and once I'm done with Y: The Last Man, I'm sure I'll move onto one of his other series.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Let's All Go to the Lobby

I have no idea what compelled me to post about this now, but I watched Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters several months ago. I see movies so infrequently that I nearly always blog about them, but I didn't write about this one at the time because I pretty much wasted 80 minutes of my life watching it. It was pure shite and I don't encourage anyone to view this movie. Ever.

That said, the first three minutes are comedy gold. I honestly think this short should be shown before every movie rated PG-13 or above. Enjoy (and please note that there is some adult language here):

Friday, June 13, 2008

Meat on a Stick

OK, I consumed my maple-bacon lollipop while I watched the latest episode of The Venture Bros. (Two, two geeky things at once!). I really like maple syrup. REAL maple syrup--not Mrs. Butterworth or whatever that stuff is at IHOP. But I gotta say, sucking on a maple syrup candy for 20 minutes...the novelty wears off. I never really got to my delicious bacon chunks until the very end. But as I'm fond of saying, bacon makes pretty much everything taste better. I overheard a woman talking on the subway the other day. A very close paraphrase: "I recently stopped being a vegetarian after 7 years of being meat-free. It was bacon. Bacon turned me."

If I could pick one of these up at Whole Foods (good lord, I'm so white), I might actually buy one of these once in a while. It beat the hell out of the absinthe one. Not so sure I'd take the trouble to order it over the internet again. How boring of me. I'd prefer to have my maple syrup on pancakes with a strip of bacon on the side.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

EJP's Comics Primer Pt. 1: Intro, The Sandman

Many moons ago, Evelyn Is Not Real mentioned that he doesn't know where to start when he enters a comic shop. I'm trying to remedy that. My primer will take three or four posts since one would be too long, so let's just start...

First, some simple explanations. "Comics" is a pretty general term for illustrated stories. I think when a lot of people think comic book, they think of the 30-page books you could get on the wire rack at your local corner store when you were a kid. Then there are the "graphic novels", which is basically a novel length story told in pictures. I won't talk too much about those, though I've posted on a few good ones in the past. "Trade paperbacks," or TPBs, fall kind of in between. These are collections of serial comic books, usually gathering anywhere from 5-10 regular comics into one book for easier consumption (in my opinion). Though there are a couple series I still buy in comic book form--notably the Joss Whedon scribed comics I've posted about on this blog before--I buy most of my comics in TPB form. Some of the series I like finished a while ago, some are ongoing.

All of those I'm mentioning here are for adults, or at least young adults. I went through my Archie and Richie Rich phase when I was a kid. It's fair to say that the vast majority of comics these days are written for an older audience. I should also say that I am by no means an authority on comics in general, especially not super hero comics. I know the back stories of most of the famous supes from Marvel and DC, but even I don't know how to delve into some of these stories that have been going on for 40+ years. The comics I'm talking about here are relatively contemporary. They wouldn't be considered underground by anyone who knows anything about the comic world, but the general populace who only knows about comics through movies probably isn't aware of them. So let's start with one of the most important ones:

Neil Gaiman's The Sandman
Any geek worthy of the name has read, is reading, or will read The Sandman. In brief (very brief), this is the story of Dream, one of The Endless. Along with his immortal siblings, Destruction, Destiny, Despair, Desire, Delirium, and Death, Dream goes on many adventures.
That's the easy description. The reality is more complex. Though the central characters are all Gaiman's original creations, he also weaves in characters from super hero lore, mythology, folklore, classic literature, etc. The first TPB, "Preludes & Nocturnes," serves as an introduction. It's a bit rough at first as Gaiman finds his groove, but the series improves immediately with the next installment, "The Doll's House." The best advice I can give you if you want to start this series? Pay attention, and don't try to re-sell the early TPBs before you get to the later ones. I read The Sandman over the course of about three years, and seemingly minor characters or scenes from very early on tend to become more important later on in the series. It's as least as complex as a mid-level novel. I won't hesitate to say that the series as a whole is one of the greatest fantasy stories ever put to paper.

Of course, it doesn't matter how good the story is if you can't stand looking at the art. The Sandman used several artists over the course of its 75-issue run. I can't claim I liked all of them, but for the most part the art is very easy on the eyes, and sometimes it borders on incredible.

A post this short really can't do this comic justice. Just read it. It's awesome. If you only try one of the comics I recommend in my half-ass little primer here, try this one.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

The Green Tooth Fairy

So I'm currently sucking on the absinthe lollipop I got from Lollyphile. Clyde Squid and Evelyn Is Not Real (and Wife of EINR) also got these when I visited them last weekend. I have yet to brave the maple-bacon pop yet, but I will. In fact, I think I have to soon. Since those contain real bacon, they do actually have an expiration date on them I believe.

Never having had absinthe, I didn't really know what to expect. I know when EINR had his when we went to see Iron Man (awesome movie, btw), the smell alone almost made me gag. It basically tastes like a black jellybean, which makes sense since apparently wormwood is a member of the anise family. I'm muscling my way first it made my tongue numb, but now it pretty much just tastes like sugar. I can't imagine what it's going to take to wash this flavor out of my mouth.

What have we learned? When a candy store or website describes its wares as "interesting and unique", do not interpret this as meaning "tasty." Also, absinthe is gross.