Search This Blog

Thursday, May 31, 2012


After an agonizing twenty months between full-length volumes, Adam Warren's EMPOWERED returns and proves more than worth the wait. Much like the previous volume, this one's hard to review without spoilers so I won't even try, but I will cite some particulars of interest and ask regular readers of the series to bear in mind that the new books takes up more or less where Volume 6 left off. Here we go:
  • The current volume surprisingly shifts the majority of its focus away from its titular character and spotlights Ninjette, Empowered's hard-drinking kunoichi best bud, as she handles her New Jersey-based ninja clan's escalating efforts to kidnap her, remove her feet and relegate her to an horrific existence as a martial arts broodmare. 'Jette's my favorite character, so this huge helping of her was a real treat for me, and we get a few intimate looks the family history that made her both incredibly tough and more than a bit of an emotional basket case who relies on alcohol to perpetually numb her considerable pain.
  • The martial arts fights scenes involving Ninjette against her clan are truly spectacular and read like the most blistering live-action examples of this kind of stuff that I've seen to date.
  • The already creepy Oyuki-Chan's creepiness goes up several levels by the time this volume concludes.
  • The entire volume is pretty much framed with Ninjette's in-the-moment-versus-her-family narrative that skillfully weaves its storytelling between past and present without ever once becoming confusing. It's compelling and a testament to Adam Warren's skills in his chosen medium.
  • Some of my previously-cited theories about the Caged Demonwolf in regard to suspicions raised in earlier volumes have proven to be more correct than I would have predicted...
  • Empowered's abuse at the hands of her team, the rather douchey "Super-Homies," continues, but this time Empowered discovers she's gained an unexpected ally.
  • The "counter-factual scenarios" that occasionally crop up are both psychologically revealing of the characters and more often than not rather funny.
  • I continue to relate to Thugboy as the superheroine's nurturing boyfriend that I imagine I would be, provided such a situation were to present itself in my reality.
  • Any appearances by Mindfuck are always a welcome element.
  • Sistah Spooky's understandably dire current mental/emotional state bears close watching.
All of this is laced with the series' signature lashings of comedic bondage, semi-graphic sex, blacked-out-but-obvious profanity, rich characterization and stunning black & white artwork that culminates on rather an ominous note that's sure to make the fans howl with frustration until whenever the next installment hits. I, for one, will DEFINITELY be there with bells on. HIGHEST RECOMMENDATION.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012


After an agonizing wait of nearly twenty months with only a one-shot special — "Ten Questions for the Maidman" — to tide us over, the new volume of Adam Warren's superb EMPOWERED hits comics shops today and I will be there with bells on to snag my copy! I'll get back to you with a review as soon as possible.

Monday, May 21, 2012

"EL MONSTRUO" by Los Shains

Talk about a find from out of nowhere...

Here's the Spanish version of "The Crusher" as performed by Los Shains, and I would like to give special thanks to Vlad and Creighton of GHOUL A-GO-GO for hepping me to it. Now all I have to do is obtain it on vinyl, so I can have it in the real jukebox I fantasize about someday owning.


...I just crank "The Crusher" by the Novas, and all is once again right in my world.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


Really, what more need be said? (Special thanks to good old Topless Robot for this one.)

Saturday, May 12, 2012


When I was but a wee Bunche, the weekday afternoon soap opera DARK SHADOWS (1966-1971) was the first teevee series I was aware of that had a considerable and very visible cult following. The show was a real odd duck of a program, initially designed as a cathode ray analog to the then-popular gothic romance potboiler novel genre and yet quickly failing in the ratings after less than a year on the air. Legend has it that since the show was on its way out anyway, the showrunners felt they had nothing to lose and said "Fuck it, why not?" as they shifted the focus from mundane moody soap proceedings to introduce Barnabas Collins, an 18th century vampire who was an ancestor to the Collins family, the show's original focus. Barnabas' presence turned the soap concept on its ear, allowing a dashing and tortured undead suckface the spotlight, a gamble that took off and led to massive ratings, overnight stardom for the actor who breathed un-life into Barnabas — Canadian thesp Jonathan Frid — an avalanche of merch, and two spinoff theatrical films before the whole thing wound down without an actual conclusion in 1971. (There have also been a couple of attempts at revivals that both died a swift death.) What was a loony piece of innovation born from desperation looks creaky and campy some four-plus decades after the boom, as the shows betray cheap sets (admittedly atmospheric though they were), storylines that were often stretched past the breaking point thanks to the daily serialized format, and the simple fact that the series was a soap and thus heir to the myriad flaws that the genre has built into its basic storytelling DNA. But nostalgia and cult fandom are powerful forces and DARK SHADOWS retains its first-generation loyalists as more join the cult with each passing year, thanks to them discovering it via daily reruns on the SciFi Channel some twenty years back, the Internet, and availability on DVD. (The entire series was recently reissued in a coffin boxed set that retails for a few pennies shy of five-hundred bucks, which is actually a great deal when you do the math and consider that there are just over 1200 episodes to be had.)

With its cult and name-recognition firmly in place, it was only a matter of time until DARK SHADOWS got the big-budget Hollywood remake/re-imagining treatment, and that task ended up in the hands of acclaimed/overrated director Tim Burton, the man who gave us the 2001 version of PLANET OF THE APES, which is widely and justly hailed as one of the worst major motion pictures in recent memory. Remembering some of his earliest films, I was not too bothered by the choice of Burton for the DARK SHADOWS remake/re-imagining because he has proven he can bring a solid eerie flavor to such material. What resulted is a good and fun effort that's nonetheless something of a rather mixed bag, so as of this point this review gets pretty specific, so HERE THERE BE SPOILERS (including a really major one).

Johnny Depp as Barnabas Collins, an 18th century vampire set free in the Maine of 1972.

In 1775, wealthy Maine fishing empire scion Barnabas Collins (Johnny Depp) rejects the fleshly charms of lover and servant girl Angelique Bouchard (Eva Green) for the beautiful Josette du Pres (Bella Heathcoate) and discovers the spurned charwoman is in actuality a skilled and vindictive practitioner of the black arts. Moved by her obsessive desire to possess Barnabas body and soul or else, Angelique embarks on a spree of supernatural murder, using her evil witchcraft to crush the Collins elders beneath a large piece of statuary and compel Josette to through herself from a nearby and very steep oceanside cliff. For his part in all of it, Barnabas ends up cursed to suffer for eternity as a full-fledged vampire and Angelique rallies the locals to capture him, chain him up and bury him alive/undead inside a coffin, where he remains for just shy of two-hundred years. Disinterred in 1972 during a construction dig, Barnabas feasts upon the unfortunate workers who unearthed him and immediately sets off to his family's once-grand estate of Collinwood. There he finds his 2oth century relatives and moves in with them, passing himself off as an eccentric uncle, with only family matriarch Elizabeth (Michelle Pfeiffer) knowing his secret, which she agrees to keep when he reveals a long-hidden treasure trove that he intends to use to restore the family to its lost state of wealth and success. This he must do while dealing with the considerable dysfunction of his family and attempting to cope with being a fish-out-of-water anachronism, along with weathering the grave and very aggressive threat of Angelique, who has survived, un-aging, for the past two centuries, re-inventing herself every couple of generations while maintaining a fish cannery empire that has reduced the once-mighty Collins cannery to a shadow of its former self. Further complicating matters is the presence of newly-arrived Collins family nanny Victoria Winters (Bella Heathcoate again), who's a dead ringer for Barnabas' lost love, Josette, and who is also gifted with the ability to see ghosts. Will the Collins family survive Angelique's increasingly vicious efforts, and will Barnabas once again find happiness with Victoria, who may be the reincarnation of Josette? And will Victoria be able to handle the fact that he's an undead suckface?

I have long expressed my severe dislike of much of Burton's filmography while simultaneously acknowledging his gifts as a visualist, and it's his repeated falling back on his now-tired signature stylistic tropes at the expense of story that drives me nuts in regard to the majority of his films. I adore PEE-WEE'S BIG ADVENTURE, BEETLEJUICE, and ED WOOD, and depending on my mood I will also champion EDWARD SCISSORHANDS, but in my estimation all of his other films run the gamut from visually beautiful yet hollow exercises in pretentiousness to the just plain awful, so it was a refreshing change of pace to sit through a Burton film that concentrated first and foremost on its characters and their narrative. DARK SHADOWS is the least Tim Burton-like Tim Burton film in terms of its overall feel, despite its dark and eerie trappings, and that's what I enjoyed most about it. At its heart the film strives to be a 1930's/1940's Universal-style horror film, attempting to replicate that classic dreamlike atmosphere-drenched style, with touches of humor thrown in for flavor. Its leisurely pacing cements the dreamy tone and effortlessly sucks the viewer into its world. However, with all of that said, the marketing casts the film as a straight-up comedy/parody, when in actuality the film's straight horror content outweighs its humor by a good 85%. Its humor is more of the subdued Edward Gorey variety than the laugh-out-loud gruesome/weird stylings of a Charles Addams or Gahan Wilson, and moviegoers expecting a flat-out comedy full of yucks are very likely to be disappointed.

The film's performances vary greatly in quality, but the ones that really matter to the story come off quite well. Serial Burton-collaborator Johnny Depp is great fun as the tragic Barnabas, and his spin on the character often feels like an elegant vampire from an old black & white film was transplanted into this era of pussified suckfaces like those found in the works of Anne Rice or the plague that is the TWILIGHT media juggernaut. And while Barnabas has a manner that's simultaneously 18th century gentlemanly and morose/emo, he's still a vampire and needs to feed, which he does after sharing a great scene full of introspection with a campfire gathering of stoned hippies whom he came to like but must nonetheless kill in order to survive. He's quite sympathetic and likable because he in no way deserved the over-the-top sadistic treatment and curse he received from Angelique and when all is said and done, we care about Barnabas because Depp succeeds in making the classic character his own.

Every guy's very worst nightmare: Eva Green as the witch Angelique.

Eva Green is terrifically unhinged and irredeemably evil as the witch Angelique. At first we can understand her ire at being the sexually-used hired help who gets kicked to the curb when a bit of higher-class tail comes along, but when we see how she's spent two centuries in a state of tightly-focused rage directed as ruining the the Collins family for generations thanks to Barnabas' admittedly shabby treatment of her, it's quite apparent that Angelique is out of her fucking mind. Obsessed, immortal, wielding powerful forces of black magic and totally insane is a bad combination indeed, and she's still bent on Barnabas loving her (which he wants no part of) at any cost, so she's twenty-seven flavors of bad news and a fun character as a result of it.

Chloe Moretz as gloomy/bitchy Alice Cooper-lovin' rock 'n' roll freak Carolyn Stoddard — Barnabas' many-generations-removed niece — is the personification of every dour, spoiled fifteen-year-old girl you've ever encountered, and as such she's a hoot. My only complaint about the character is that during the final, apocalyptic battle with Angelique, Carolyn gets this weird look on her face and retreats from the fray to her room. When Angelique ends up thrown into the girl's quarters, she's seen perched in the rafters, covered with fur and with pronounced teeth and claws as she growls "Get out of my room!!" at Angelique. When she drops into the fight between Barnabas and Angelique (things are going badly for the vampire), Carolyn attacks the witch with full-bore lycanthropic fury and at one point turns to her mother, Elizabeth, and flatly states, "Yeah, I'm a werewolf. Deal with it."

(brief pause for that to sink in)

WHAT THE FUCK?!!? Up until that point in the story there was absolutely nothing in the narrative that in any way points to Carolyn being a werewolf. During the fight, Carolyn's hitherto-unhinted-at lunar changes is given a tossed-off explanation by Angelique, who states it's the result of the infant Carolyn being bitten by an Angelique-dispatched werewolf while the baby was in her crib. Once that explanation is out, it's never questioned and is immediately forgotten. What about what must have been at least a few years of Carolyn wolfing-out every month (and I don't mean in the expected sanguinary manner common to females)? Surely someone would have noted numerous signs that there was a werewolf in the household, but that potentially interesting plot thread was simply not dealt with at all. The werewolf reveal literally comes from out of fucking nowhere and the entire audience in the theater responded with very vocal cries of "What the fuck???" and "Get the fuck outta here!!!" I laughed out loud at the sheer absurdity of it, but it was a really sloppy plot gimmick that brought nothing to the table, especially not that late in the story.

The film has a number of fun set pieces and gags, including:
  • Burton regular (and wife) Helena Bonham Carter as psychiatrist Dr. Julia Hoffman, teaching Barnabas the particulars of doctor/patient confidentiality. (She's also upstaged throughout the film by her ridiculous day-glo red wig that would have been right at home on a children's party clown.)
  • An ill-advised and destructive tryst between Barnabas and Angelique that carries them all over the confines of her company's office, with gravity not being a concern.
  • Barnabas as a fish out of water in 1972 could have gotten old very quickly, but that seemingly worn-out plot device works quite well here and is quite amusing and far more subtly handled than one might expect.
One of Barnabas' many head-on collisions with the weirdness of the 20th century, in this case a Troll doll.
  • The floating spectre of a drowned woman whose eerie beauty is occasionally offset by crabs that crawl over her body and out of her mouth when she speaks.
  • Christopher Lee turning up in an amusing cameo as a fishing boat captain whom Barnabas hypnotizes in order to further his own agenda.
  • An appearance by good ol' Alice Cooper, whom Barnabas describes as the ugliest woman he's ever seen, and who was indeed already so visually heinous that he could easily portray himself as he was four decades ago and display little sign of having aged.
Alice Cooper as himself, rockin' Collinwood with "No More Mr. Nice Guy."

The movie also features a soundtrack loaded with period-appropriate pop hits that do a good job of evoking the story's bygone era. Though not all of the tunes date accurately to 1972, they work very well in concert with the film's images, particularly the Moody Blues' mournfully romantic "Nights in White Satin" (of 1967 vintage) as used over the opening credits' footage of Victoria Winters' train making its way to Maine.

So, for me the bottom line on DARK SHADOWS is this: It's an uneven, lugubriously-paced throwback to an older flavor/style of horror film that has some fun performances and is visually pretty to look at, all while Tim Burton thankfully reigns in most of his usual annoying tropes. It's an okay way to pass two hours but it is not worth paying the full ticket price, so I recommend waiting for cable or DVD rental.

The film's theatrical poster.

Thursday, May 10, 2012


For those of you who find Sid Vicious in any way glamorous, I urge you to watch this. And I say that as a Pistols fan.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012


The handsome hardcover THE ART OF AMANDA CONNER gets reviewed at the Good Versus Evil website, so click here to read all about it!

Monday, May 07, 2012

Marvel's THE AVENGERS (2012)

Our stalwart heroes, deep in a moment of pondering the eternal questions of man's purpose for being, the quantifiable meaning of our existential ennui and the search for one's own Zarathustrian sense of self. (Wow! Am I ready for a job with The Village Voice, or what?)

By now I'm sure you've heard about the near-universal rave reviews garnered by MARVEL'S THE AVENGERS — yes, that's the actual full title — and how it's come out of the gate as a massive box office juggernaut with the biggest opening weekend of all time (which I'm assuming factors in its grosses from opening overseas a week or two ago). By now the movie will have been discussed to death and every possible facet of it pored over by professional critics, comics nerds and bloggers, but I saw the film twice in less than twenty-four hours — once at the first midnight showing and then again on Friday evening — so here's my two cents on it anyway, and I'll just break it down to what you need to know. Are you sitting comfortably? Here we go:

The plot, in a nutshell, finds Loki (Tom Hiddleston) fresh from getting his ass kicked in last year's THOR and now bent on conquering and enslaving the Earth with the help of a massive extra-terrestrial army and the backing of a mysterious figure of apparent great power. That scheme is facilitated by the theft and deployment of the Tesseract — better known to us longtime comics goons as the Cosmic Cube and last seen in last year's CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER — so, knowing that the world is fucked unless this threat is swiftly and decisively dealt with, S.H.I.E.L.D director Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) rounds up a disparate group of supers from the previous Marvel-based movies that audiences cared about (which automatically excludes DAREDEVIL, the two PUNISHER films and the two horrible FANTASTIC FOUR flicks) and pits them against the oncoming shitstorm. Comprised of Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Dr. Bruce Banner/the Incredible Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), super-spy the Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and master bowman/assassin Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), the Avengers somehow manage to get their shit together, set aside their considerable dysfunction and work together as a team to just barely save the world.

Steve and Tony's whip-out contest came to a screeching halt when the Hulk and Thor walked out of the shower.

It's a basic superhero team story given the big-screen treatment and helmed with loving care by screenwriter and director Joss Whedon, who long ago proved himself on projects such as BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER and the TOY STORY movies, and it's an epic blast of kickass superhero fun. That's basically it, but then again we are not talking about Dostoevsky over here. And the points of note are:
  • After years of buildup that began with the mostly-excellent IRON MAN (2008), THE AVENGERS — I won't bother with add the "Marvel's" declaration of ownership, thank you very much — is the satisfying payoff to the groundwork that's been laid down. It's the first true epic in the live-action superhero genre in so much as it's the first flick with this much superheroic shit going on in it that had the benefit of the budget and special effects technology that enabled it to bring the wonders commonly found on the four-color page to at times breathtaking life. In terms of sheer spectacle, this can be considered the BEN-HUR of superhero movies, and I genuinely pity the other studios who seek to make superhero adaptations in its wake. Marvel Studios has proven several times that they know how to bring the goods to the screen, so movies produced by them are not a worry. It's everyone else who seeks to step up to bat who should be filling their boxers with hefty turds at the moment...
  • Though fun on its own terms, THE AVENGERS is definitely a movie that requires its audience to have seen what preceded it, specifically IRON MAN, IRON MAN 2, THOR,CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER and, to a lesser degree, THE HULK and THE INCREDIBLE HULK. With that in mind, I wonder what the audience member who comes into this without the prerequisite viewing will make of it.
  • We are once again reminded of Tony Stark being a metalhead — see what they did there? — this time proclaimed by his constant representing in a Black Sabbath tee and his commandeering a S.H.I.E.L.D. aircraft's public address system so it plays AC/DC's "Shoot to Thrill" when he arrives to assist Cap with the Loki smackdown in Stuttgart.
Tony Stark, representing in a Black Sabbath t-shirt for most of the film's running time.

Personally, I think the use of AC/DC is tired and I would like to see them give Tony some really metal tunes for accent. How awesome would it be to see him take on a squadron of enemy aircraft/spaceships/what have you while flying around and blowing shit up as Motorhead's "Bomber" explodes from the theater's speakers?
  • And while we're on the subject of Tony Stark, I know many moviegoers wanted to see Tony and Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) get together — my mom sure as hell did and was quite vocal about it when the first IRON MAN movie ended — and in this film they look to have settled in quite nicely as a couple. But — and this is a rather large "but," in my opinion — making Tony Stark monogamous does the character no favors and removes one of the most fun aspects of his addict's nature. Tony Stark is first and foremost a genius inventor, with the function of world-class pussy-hound coming in at a close second, and part of the fun was seeing him merrily seduce a swath through half of humankind as Pepper rolls her eyes at his relentless tomcatting. In the comics Tony has even gone so far as to bed a number of the Marvel Universe's female supers, including (most impressively for surviving it) She-Hulk, and that whole sub-plot of his signature soap opera would be great if allowed to carry over into the movies. And since not terribly much is made of the current state of the Tony/Pepper connection, maybe it will prove to be as transitory as the vast legion of Stark's boudoir adventures...
  • The entire primary cast — with one exception whom I'll get to shortly — is given the opportunity to rock more life into roles they've previously essayed. All of the returning characters are fun and the team's non-powered members, the Black Widow and Hawkeye, are given plenty of opportunity to prove they can hold their own, and then some, alongside the likes of Thor or Iron Man. My only gripe in this department is that Captain America, the perfect and natural leader for this ragtag assortment, is given surprisingly little to do when considering what's going on, but his part in all of it still works. Steve Rogers' issues with being a "man out of time" will presumably be explored on CAPTAIN AMERICA 2, and they really would not have been appropriate to focus on when the world is literally about to be taken over by heavily armed forces under the leadership of a bitter Asgardian deity.
  • Speaking of whom, Tom Hiddleston's Loki is a triumph of villainy that strikes the perfect delicate balance between petulance over his daddy issues and resentment over living for eons in the shadow of his adoptive brother. I love him in the role and hope he essays the character once more in a THOR sequel.
Tom Hiddleston as Loki: One of the very best comics-to-screen translations of Marvel-style dysfunctional villainy.
  • After unexpectedly evolving into a supporting character of considerable popular renown over the course of appearances in previous Marvel movies, Agent Phil Coulson of S.H.I.E.L.D. returns, once more played by Clark Gregg. This time around we get to know Coulson a bit better and we end up loving him all the more for it. (Turns out he's a huge Captain America fanboy and much mileage is gotten from that character bit.)
    Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg), hanging with Thor (Chris Hemsworth).
    • While much can be said for Jeremy Renner's Clint Barton/Hawkeye, for me the breakout star of the film is Mark Ruffalo as Dr. Bruce Banner — he who was famously "belted by gamma rays" and consequently rendered "un-glamor-ays" — and the latest motion-captured CGI iteration of the Incredible Hulk. Ruffalo's take on Banner is quite different than what we've to expect from the character as seen over the past five decades and I totally welcome it. (Yes, you read that right; this month marks the Hulk's fiftieth anniversary.) To say more would give away some interesting character bits best left for you to witness for yourself, so I'll leave off talking about that and move on to how the big green guy looks this time around.
    Mark Ruffalo, turning in an unexpected and refreshingly interesting take on Dr. Bruce Banner.

    By simple virtue of his physical stature and density, both of which alter in accordance with his level of stress and anger, Hulk's a character that's simply impossible to convincingly portray using a live actor, even one fitted with prosthetic makeup appliances.

    The Hulk as seen in the comics: anatomy that defied Hollywood...until now. (art by Bryan Hitch)

    He's just too damned large, so thank the tech gods that CGI and motion-capture exist and that there are special effects wizards who have finally sussed out how to make the Hulk look like, well, the Hulk. We finally see him all of his raged-out jade awesomeness a little over halfway through the film and the wait is absolutely worth it. He's exactly what he's supposed to be, an implacable force of nature in the form of a semi-coherent and fucking utterly out-of-control monster, and when Hulk gets loose it's a comics fan's dream come true. In short, Hulk steals the movie and I hope they use this film as the launching pad for better Hulk movies than we've previously seen. In the wake of THE AVENGERS, there is literally no longer an excuse for not bringing the green Goliath to cinematic life in proper fashion.

    Best. Hulk. EVER.
    • The film hints at a very interesting, danger (and possibly romance)-laden past for Hawkeye and the Black Widow — and they do have a history together in the comics, back in the days when they were both bad guys and lovers — and I would love to see them featured in their own stand-alone spy thriller. Jeremy Renner already proved himself quite adept as such stuff in MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: GHOST PROTOCOL (2011) and Johanssen owns the room when she puts boot to ass, so I say make it happen.
    • As has become standard for the films produced by Marvel Studios, THE AVENGERS continues the practice of featuring "Easter eggs" that set the stage for subsequent sequels during the film's end credits, but this time there are two treats for those with the patience to wait. The first occurs just after the main cast has been credited and it features a reveal that will make anyone who's been reading Marvel comics since circa 1973 shit a Humvee — non-comics readers will no doubt be confused by the faithful's reaction when it happens, so brace yourself and have a go-to geek at the ready to answer your inevitable questions — while the second Easter egg happens at the very last, ass-end moment of the credits and it's a signature Joss Whedon-style character gag that is every bit worth hanging around for. And seriously, it really is all the way at the very end, so bear that in mind.
    • I cannot overstate the importance of seeing this one on the big screen. It's truly is an epic and it will lose a lot of its visual grandeur if you wait for Netflix. Trust me, if you have any interest in seeing this movie, you'll regret it if you give it a theatrical miss.
    So there you have it, but bear in mind that the individual viewer's mileage may vary with this one. It's just shy of two and a half hours long (excluding trailers) and it may be too violent for the tastes of some parents in regard to what they would let their kids sit through. (There's no showering arterial spray or scenes of the Hulk ripping anyone's spinal column out through their asshole, but the blows are pretty damned devastating and one almost feels like they were on the receiving end of some the more memorable ones.) And while there has been much gushing and raving over this being the purported "perfect superhero movie," no superhero movie is perfect. That's an impossible task to set before filmmakers because no matter how good a resulting film may be, there will inevitably still be those in the audience who are dissatisfied for any number of possibly valid reasons. The majority of adapted characters and their situations have had decades in which to be developed and come to resonate with readers to the point where we've come to absorb it all as part of a shared, ongoing, ever-evolving pop culture tapestry/lore, and that kind of neo-mythic richness simply cannot be captured in a two-hour film. I loved THE AVENGERS but I took it on its own terms as exactly what it is, specifically a cinematic iteration of the characters as removed from their four-color templates and re-jiggered for the screen and the average non-comics-reading civilian, who is, let's face it, where the money really is. With that in mind I had a great time, though I could have done with more of Pepper Potts running around barefoot in her shorty-shorts, but that's just me.

    Yer Bunche, representing at the Friday night show...

    ...and at the pub afterward.

    Sunday, May 06, 2012


    All my life I've been firmly against organized religion, a stance set in place by my being unwillingly dragged every Sunday for years to church and being fed incredibly boring and fantastical tales while having to endure getting choked-out by incense while getting subjected to interminable songs of praise. During my childhood I was especially annoyed at how it was repeatedly driven home that superheroes and monsters and other such spawn of the human imagination were absolutely NOT real, yet I was expected to believe that exactly the same things as found in the Bible were as factual in their existence as the sky itself, a contradiction that even by the age of five I called "bullshit" upon. If some of that kind of stuff is not real, then in my book NONE of it is. Anyway, I finally put my foot down when I was fifteen and told my churched-up mom that I refused to waste another moment of my time with religion, basically because I just did not believe in it, so why should I bother attending? It may work for other people but it served me no purpose then and it serves me no purpose now.

    For the past fifteen years, I have lived in Brooklyn's Park Slope, a neighborhood best defined as something of a haven for starter families and trust fund kids and a place that has changed drastically from its genuinely dangerous "Wild West" days of the late-1980's/early-1990's. Gentrification has rendered the neighborhood into a cozy place for those who can afford to live here — the only way I can afford my studio is because I moved in as long ago as I did and the apartment is rent controlled — and it's usually quite quiet and tranquil (excepting for the uncouth old school black and Hispanic stereotypes living in the building next door, but don't get me started ion them). That is, quiet and tranquil until it's a religious holiday for the local Mexi-Catholic contingent, and this morning happened to be one of those dreadful days.

    As seen from my second floor apartment.

    Whenever one of those accursed days rolls around, it's guaranteed that President Street, the block I live on, will be invaded by loud and annoying processions of the faithful, bearing full-scale replicas of the Blessed Virgin and ever-so-slowly meandering down the street as the voice of their female spiritual leader blares from the PA system speakers mounted to the roofs of the processional SUV's.

    One of the unconscionably loud PA vehicles.

    While she yammers away in Spanish, the procession's live musicians make with the trumpets and establish a mournful, dirge-like rhythm and tone that's sure to catch the attention of the area's residents, whether they want to take notice or not. I can only imagine being the poor bastard who's worked all night long on some thankless service or municipal shift and returns home with nothing in mind other than hitting their bed for a few hours of blissful, uninterrupted sleep before they are once more thrust into the hell of their daily routine, only to have that slumber rudely interrupted by a pack of refugees from a Jodorowsky movie suddenly showing up to proclaim their devotion right outside the innocent party's window.

    It would be annoying and rude enough if the procession merely strolled by and woke folks up, but they have to give the knife an extra little twist and allow the marchers to walk for maybe five or ten feet at a time before stopping dead and letting the priestess or whatever she is drone on and on and on in Spanish in a voice and tone that could be interpreted as either sheer boredom or having recently come back from the grave as one of the more articulate harbingers of the undead apocalypse.

    And I'm not certain, but I presume the start/stop cadence of the procession is to allow one of the full-scale Blessed Virgin inaction figures that they haul around to be parked in front of each building that they pass, in order for us heathens to gaze in what they hope will be reverence at an image of an ancient Judean woman whose iteration in this instance looks like one hell of a fabulous drag queen.

    Correct me if I'm wrong, but doesn't this kind of showy gaudiness act in direct counterpoint to the humble beauty that the nativity was supposed to impart and therefore inspire the people with? Then again I suppose a realistic depiction of a sweaty, exhausted, vaginally-sundered woman who's just given virgin birth — don't get me started — in what was no doubt a redolent, possibly vermin-infested stable in the Middle East would not necessarily be the kind of image the Church would find appealing enough for a couple of millennia of P.R. Then again, they've done pretty well with assorted glammed-up depictions of a victim of horrible torture, the crucifixion, for just as long, so what the fuck do I know?

    So the bottom line from me on this, despite my admitted ranting on my own personal distaste for religion, most especially that of the Christian/Catholic flavor, is this: If you want to practice your faith and if that helps you to be a better person and make the world a better place for everyone, I will not begrudge you that. In fact, I support your right to your beliefs/faith. Just don't inflict it on me. Especially not by parking a cacophonous parade of it right in front of my fucking building on a day when I just want some peace and quiet.

    Friday, May 04, 2012

    MARVEL'S THE AVENGERS-Not a review, but a few pertinent notes for opening weekend moviegoers

    My dear Vaulties-

    I saw MARVEL'S THE AVENGERS — yes, that's the actual title — at a midnight show and I will be seeing it again this evening so I can assess it without my fanboy in overdrive, but I wanted to take a moment to fill you in on a few pertinent things that give away nothing of the movie. Please take all of these points into consideration when venturing to see the film this weekend:
    • The film is nearly two-and-a-half hours long, excluding the inevitable commercials and trailers. It's never dull or draggy but it may tax the attention spans of the under-10's when things ain't a-splodin' or when the heroes aren't beating the shit out of assorted menaces (or each other), so gauge your kids' mileage well before you decide to bring them.
    • It's violent — very violent — but in a way quite expected for a superhero movie, although the scale and percussiveness of the superhero action in question is unprecedented. Some of the blows in this film are so utterly KABOOM! that you'll swear you were on the receiving end of them, but there are no dismemberments or showers of arterial spray or the Hulk ripping anyone's spine out through their asshole. (Sadly.)
    • The material is in no way unsuitable for kids and the profanity is quite mild, limited to occasional "damns," "hells," "bastards" and a "son of a bitch" sprinkled judiciously. I assure you, your kids hear far, far worse every day on the schoolyard or in your own home.
    • Though I went to a midnight show, the ticket holders' line started just after 9pm and we were not admitted into the foyer until 10pm and allowed in for seating about an hour later. The point being, make sure to get there early during the first week this flick is out. The geek presence at the midnight show was very strong and rabid, and I'm betting that's going to be the case across the nation for at least the next week or more.
    Lastly, the most important point:


    No, seriously. I mean it. Don't leave the theater until you see the huge red Marvel logo, the screen goes blank and the lights go up. Trust me on this.

    And with that, I'm going to bed and resting up until I hit the movie again in a few hours.