Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Three 2 Five Questions: The Twins

Finally I have another installment for my interview series. Apologies for the delay. I'm flattered by how much support I have for this series and how many people have told me how much they like the idea of it. Although I think that the majority of my interviews will feature people that work in the arts there really is no rhyme or reason to some of the people that I'll choose to interview, case in point, below I have my six year old nephews. I hope you dig it. Special thanks to Tom Kratz for additional inspiration on some of the questions. Enjoy!

Dear Cyclists - Another Rant

It's raining this morning. And that sucks for a lot of people, in particular people commuting. Despite the fact that our bodies are made up of about 70% of water people seem to have a real problem with having water on the outside of it. However this rant is not about the rain.

For those of you who don't live in Toronto, in addition to stop lights, we have cross walks in the city - intended for people walking - you push the button and a bunch of flashing lights dance above you, and the vehicles are meant to stop so that the people walking may have safe passage to the other side of the street. Just like with yellow lights as soon as these things start flashing motorists speed up to get through them. There are a lot of dangerous drivers in this city, I know that. This, however, isn't about them.

This morning while at a cross walk, the button was pushed. I looked both ways (because I know better than to blindly assume people are paying attention). And about half walk through my journey from street to street a cyclist tears in front of me and runs over my foot. That's how close the asshole gets. And then he has the nerve to tell me to watch where I'm walking. I know that this guy isn't in the majority of cyclists who are very good people, and mindful, but I still have to rant about the small percentage of them who don't think that the normal rules of the road apply to them. Much like having a child, there is no license or test that has to passed for someone to ride a bike as a transportation device in the city - and yet these people are expected to follow the traffic rules despite not having to prove that they can handle that privilege. And yes, I believe that driving any kind of vehicle, motorized or not, is a privilege and not a right. I had an argument on my blog here back a few months ago when I was complaining about people riding bikes on sidewalks, and he argued that it's not safe on the street with the 'crazy motorists'. I think that if you actually feel that way, that you're not safe, then you probably shouldn't ride your bike. The same way I wouldn't recommend someone skydiving if they didn't feel that it was beneficial to their health. Driving any kind of vehicle inside of a city is stressful to some degree and I think it's safe to say that not everyone can handle the stress. Luckily not everyone has to. There are a lot of other affordable systems in place to get you from point A to point B.

I know the picture I used above is a bad example of the average cyclist. I know that most of you are good intelligent people who take the responsibility of riding a bike seriously. This isn't for you. This is for the asshole that drove over my foot. I'm not a violent person, but next time I'm shoving your ass onto the street.

Have a lovely day.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Kill Shakespeare

I love lit-comics. Fables is one of my all time favorites and I pan it off on others as much as possible. In general I quite enjoy the idea of playing with established worlds and characters - we've seen it a lot these days, it's almost a genre unto itself. And here we have it being done to Shakespeare. It's a brilliant idea, the kind that most people are probably scratching their head and saying "Why didn't I think of that?"

As a rule I don't think it's fair to compare things when reviewing them, however in the case of this comic they've specifically written on the back:
What Fables does for fairy tales, Kill Shakespeare does with the greatest writer of all time.
This isn't a quote from a review, this is what the creators and/or publishers themselves are saying about the book - and therefore, in my opinion, it's completely fair game to compare. Fables succeeds in a large way because of it's scope. It encompasses ALL fairy tales in all cultures, and it does so under the guise that the stories that we've all grown up hearing are just versions of their stories - therefore Willingham (the creator of Fables) gives himself proper license to do, more or less, whatever he damn well pleases. He follows a set of rules and it makes sense. This is just the beginning of where this book fails. Seemingly we're in an alternate universe where all of Shakespeare's plays take place. Awesome! I can SO buy into that. The book starts off at the ending of Hamlet. Sweet - I'm in. Instead of Hamlet going back to Denmark he's sidetracked and grabbed by Richard III, okay... I'm with you. But then... we continue... and we start to be surrounded by other characters from other works... Juliet is among them... but she's not a teenager which means... what exactly? She's alive? WTF?! And now, I'm officialy confused, lost, and... out. What's the logic of the world? What are the rules? Where are we in these stories? This is just the beginnings of the problem with this book.

The writers claim to have done their research, what that consists of, I don't know. Shakespeare is known to be boring as a cliche, and they don't seem to do a lot to help that. I've seen and read enough Shakespeare to know that he's a funny guy, he's entertaining, and then man knows how to spin a story. I've seen productions of Hamlet and Romeo & Juliet that are downright hysterical, but this is played dry as bones. And the writing in this is pretty bland and obvious. Iago appears on the villains side, and then is later seen switching to the good guys side, and then the big twist on the final page is... he's double crossing the good guys! What a surprise given that he's Iago! Come on! Do something original, make it Othello that's playing the sides this time. Maybe the next volume will show that Iago isn't actually double crossing, but it doesn't matter 'cause I can't imagine I'll continue on with this series.

When Darwyn Cooke spends the majority of his introduction writing about how difficult it is to create comics, as opposed to how exciting and interesting the story we're about to read is, you know that you're in trouble. I'm sorry, but I just can't recommend this.

Friday, November 26, 2010

1470 - Weeds: season six

If absolutely nothing else you have to give this series some credit for having the balls to throw caution to the wind and do something else consistently. Ever since the Botwins fled Agrestic at the end of season three, things have continually gotten stranger and worse for the clan (which is saying something). Weeds does amazing season-ending-cliff hangers and last season's was no slouch. In fact it resulting in this ENTIRE season dealing with the fallout from it - and that will actually continue onto the next season, understandably so. If you aren't up to date on Weeds stop reading now - spoilers to follow:

Shane has been going off the deep end for some time now and last season ended with him snapping completely, and in a fantastic fashion. So this season saw the Botwins fleeing, scraping by trying to come up with a plan to flee the country in general. Just as that becomes a possibility Nancy has to put Plan C into motion - and what a plan it is - it's the kind of plan that will, once again, change this series in a major way. But not just as a plot - it was a huge character move for her - it was her (besides saving her own life) doing something completely selfliss (which is saying something considering that Nancy is a borderline sociopath).

Mary-Lousie Parker is brillint here. You couldn't stick with her character otherwise. The stand-out for me is always going to be Justin Kirk - damn it I love that guy. I thought that they did a pretty great job this season and I look forward to where our team takes us next, and hope that the gang isn't apart for too long.

1469 - Brewster's Millions

Lord knows how it happened, but I somehow got through my entire childhood without ever seeing this film. I know the premise, this is one of many adaptations of the original novel. If memory serves I think this film did quite well at the time, but from someone watching it fresh - this film does not hold up over time. Granted I've never been a Richard Pryor fan (although it should be noted that I have nothing against him either - I just don't think he's funny), but I do adore John Candy (whose role is the one-dimensional side-kick here).

For those that don't know, this film has one of those great high-concept angles - a man stands to inherit $300 million dollars from an unknown relative, BUT only if he can spend $30 million dollars in 30 days along with a laundry list of rules - especially one stating that he can't tell anyone about the conditions of his inheritance. Sounds ripe for comedy, doesn't it? I think this film is just rife with missed opportunities to the point where it's actually kind of sad. My mind just spins with the things you can do with this concept. I don't think I laughed once through-out, and because Pryor is such a one-note actor in this I had a hard time giving a shit about him at all.

So in terms of premise and idea, it's great - but they got that from the book, and honestly, they don't do enough with it. If you've never seen this film, I have a hard time recommending that you check it out now. Stay tuned for when I do my re-make "Brewster's Billions"!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Whacked! script reading

Tonight I was lucky to be surrounded by a group of extremely talented and intelligent actors to do a reading of a script of mine, Whacked!. It's an ensemble sex-comedy, and it's gotten to the point where I really just needed to hear it out loud and throw a bunch of other opinions at it. As a filmmaker I believe strongly in collaboration and bringing in ideas from the outside, and so I bring that to my work as a writer as well. I try my best not to be precious about anything unless I'm absolutely certain, without the shadow of a doubt, that it's working - and readings like this really help to shine a light on strengths and weaknesses. I've got pages of notes, some big picture, some nitpicky, but all working towards making the script as strong as possible. It's getting there, and this will help enormously. So anyone reading this that had a part - thank you from the bottom of my heart. There's a special place for people like you.

If all goes well this will be my next film that I make, and so in turn you'll be hearing a lot more about it. So say a little prayer for me that you're going to start hearing more about it! :)

1468 - Diary of the Dead

I've categorized this film below as being Canadian, money-wise I'm not sure if it's true, but I think that there are enough elements in it to deam it true.

As you can see looking over my last months worth of entries that I've been on a bit of a zombie-kick. It has a lot more to do with reading The Walking Dead more than anything, but I saw this was on netflix, and I've always enjoyed the old Romero flicks so I thought I'd give it a whirl.

Use the format of fictional documentary is a fresh and realistic approach to making a zombie flick, and it's nice that it came from Romero himself, probably in a desire to get back to his low-budget roots. As always Romero uses his zombies to creates metaphors for aspects of our society. Here it's about truth and the media. It's about how the media and the gov't withholds information, filters it. That's the strengths of the film. It doesn't really have any scares, or jump out of your seat moments. You don't dislike the characters, but they are more caricatures than anything and so it's hard to really get attached to it. The self-referential nature is often amusing, but it gets pretentious in the moments where they go on and on about how important what they're doing is. As if it'll make a difference - the problem is that there's no way for the audience to know if it will or does. I believe that the filmmaker believes that the film he's making is important, but I don't believe for a second that it is important at all.

The film is okay, if you're a Romero zombie fan you'll probably dig it a lot - there are some fun jabs to the fast-moving-zombies idea. Over-all it's not a great film, but it's interesting. I'd recommend it to fans of the genre, but it's not going to convert anyone.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Walking Dead - Vol 13: Too Far Gone

I was pretty happy to realize that, while going through my Walking Dead marathon a few weeks ago, that there was a new volume coming out very soon. Of course now that I blazed through it I've got to wait again... :(

This volume picked up right were the last left off. Rick and his band of merry followers are still in the gated community and the question comes into play as to if the place is really all that safe from the people that live within the walls, and Rick starts to wonder if he and his friends should arm themselves just 'in case'. Rick is starting to lose it - he knows it - a lot of this volume is about that. The rest of the characters are just kind of there in this volume, nothing major happens with them. There is a shift in the dynamic of the characters here, but this volume feels more like a hallway to something different. An altercation with an outside faction (which felt a little anti-climatic) is going to surely lead to an army of the dead heading towards the gated community - so we'll see just how strong all of those walls are.

In a series known for it's trademark disturbing content the last two volumes have been surprisingly tame. I can't help but think that this is the calm before a major storm coming. Rick continues to be plagued by what he's had to do to survive. A fellow-editor I'm working with has just started reading the series and he's on volume four and he asked me today if someone gives Rick a good kick in the ass, that he's not sure he can keep reading them because he doesn't like Rick. Rick, to me, is like the biblical Job, he's there to be tortured and punished. I have no doubt that Rick will survive as long as the series goes on, and that is more punishment than if he'd die. I don't think that there's any spoiler in saying that - it's just my theory.

Looking forward to see where Kirkman is heading us with this story, world, and characters.

Monday, November 22, 2010

1467 - Parenthood

When you become a parent, it changes how you watch movie. It changes what you want, and when. And what you want to watch. You go from being the kind of film connoisseur who just wants to consume everything that there is, to someone who realizes that there are only so many hours in the day - and therefore only so many movies you can watch. This is a film worth watching over and over again.

It's been years since I've seen this, but I recall it from my youth, back when I used to watch the same films over and over and over again, not realizing that I was studying them, building a language I would use decades later. This is a film about how messy families and relationships are, and how you have to learn how to deal with that. A quick glance above lets you see just how impressive this ensemble cast is, including a young Joaquin Phoenix, recognizable only by his upper lip here.

This film could easily have slipped into melodrama but instead it balances between comedy and drama better than most do. Whether it's a couple over or under-parenting, a teenager couple ready for marriage, and the guys that have been in it (maybe?) too long. I'm in the midst of developing a film in the same ensemble nature as this and so I wanted to check out it to see how they work with the tone, the balance, the visuals, to get it all to blend together. It's a pretty admirable job from a pretty admirable filmmaker, Mr. Ron Howard.

This is one of those classic films where if you haven't seen it, you really need to get out there and find yourself a copy right away. I can't imagine that there isn't something in this film for everyone. If I could recommend it higher than I would.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

1466 - Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows: part one

It's a pretty impressive thing to have a series this big that's not only good, but that keeps getting bigger, richer, and more intense with each installment. And to be able to retain the entire cast (save some necessary recasting due to a lack of real Deathy Hallows) throughout the entire series. Not only that but to grab three nine-year-olds and be lucky enough that they all turn out to be damn fine actors in their own rights. I know not everyone believes this, and a lot more people are coming around to them, but I've always enjoyed and defended them, in particular Emma Watson whom people have said particularily nasty things about. I've always adored her and I do still here.

I wasn't surprised that they split the final book into two films - and maybe it was a bit of a way for Warner Bros to milk the series for a few more dollars, but I'm more surprised that they didn't split these stories up more. I always thought that they'd work better on the small screen, to give the chance to flesh out a lot of the little things that we just don't have time for in a compressed period of time. That being said I think that they did a really impressive job of making this part of the final story stand on it's own. It doesn't have a super strong climax but it ends at a really great moment. Shit is about to get REAL.

Without ruining anything, this film is full of moments that are chilling, as well as really quite lovely. Harry and Hermoine share a nice little affectionate moment right at a time that they both need it most, and it's the kind of scene that never would have existed had the film not been split into two. There's also a similar beat where we get to see all of Ron's inner-worst fears on display. It's really well done and affective.

Yates has really done an admirable job of making the last sections of this over-all story continue to ramp up and intensify. I love how the real world gets more and more integrated here. As much as there is going on here, it's still the calm before the storm. I expect the storm to be nothing short of magnificent given what's come before.

Leading up the final film I plan to revisit the series one film at a time, so be sure to look out for that if you're at all interested.

I don't need to tell you to go see this film, either you will or you won't. But if you haven't already been accustomed to this series, don't start here, they don't even bother to dumb it down for you and make it stand on it's own. You're right smack dab in the shit, and that's what makes it pretty damn awesome.

1465 - Big Fan

This film had been on my radar for quite some time through both friends who'd seen it and through hearing about it in connection with The Wrestler. The one thing I'd heard over and over is that I had to see the film, if for no other reason, than for Patton Oswalt - who I've been a fan of for some time. He does a variation on Travis Bickle here that's quite interesting to watch. It's a film about a man who lives and breathes sport, in particular the New York Giants. She spends his evenings listening to a call-in sports talk show, scribbling down thoughts, and then calling in and pretending to 'wing-it'. They go to the game's tailgate parties and sit outside the stadium watching the game on a television whose power is jerry-rigged to their car's battery. Then one evening he and his best friend are out and they happen across our Big Fan's favourite player. They follow him to a club to be able to say hello and end up on the receiving end of a rather large beating when the Athlete thinks he's being stalked. What follows next is the question of how far will someone go to protect something they love? The player is suspended for the incident and the Giants start a losing streak, which Oswalt's character feels responsible for.

The film is, intentionally, a bit sad and pathetic. All the more so because I'm pretty sure that I know people that would go to these extremes. I believe that Oswalt's character would go to the extremes that he does and I want to reach out and shake the guy, but it would be a fool's errand when he won't even listen to his own family. This film isn't for everyone, that's for sure, but it's well worth checking out if you're curious about it at all.

1464 - Greenberg

I struggle with Baumbach's films. He really enjoys exploring characters that are arrogant and self centred intellectuals. I really didn't like Squid and the Whale, but this film I actually kind of enjoyed it. I think it has a lot to do with the supporting cast that surrounds Greenberg - in particular Greta Gerwig as Florence. She's really just lovely, and flawed just enough to feel real and human and crazy enough to be around someone that's as big of an asshole as Roger Greenberg. It's a film about a man in his forties who has just gotten out of some kind of mental institution and is going to housesit for his, much more successful, younger brother, and build them a doghouse while he's there. That is, essentially, the plot going into it - and coming out of it, really as he navigates traces of his former life and realizes that no one really wants anything to do with him, save Florence - who probably doesn't know any better. Stiller is great here, and I believe that he changes because of the events in the film - which is a step up for Baumbach in terms of his lead characters. I like films where characters have at least a bit of an arc, it doesn't have to be major, but if they're the same person at the end as they are at the beginning I just don't understand the point of spending time with them. I was worried halfway through that Greenberg would remain an insufferable ass, but I was pleasantly surprised.

I'm curious to see how far Baumbach can go with his 'character'. He's changed it up enough over the last three films, but I'm curious what other stories he has in him with some variation. He's a talented story teller, I just want to see him stretch himself a bit more.

Friday, November 19, 2010

How Should A Person Be?

If you read this blog with any regularity you know how seldom it is that I actually pick up a book to read. I guess I always assume that it's going to take forever for me to read - and I look around and I see how much content there is, and I figure that in the time it takes me to read a book that I could easily read several graphic novels, or watch that many films, etc... But I'm trying to rectify that, especially when it comes to local authors that I dig, and Ms. Heti is in that camp.

Sheila first came to my attention with my, now, wife gave me The Middle Stories to read and I fell in love with it. I even e-mailed her to tell her so, at the time I thought about turning one of them into a bravoFACT, we were going to meet for coffee and chat about it, but then it just never happened. Probably my fault. Alas.

This is an interesting book because it's more of a memorial of a time in Sheila's life, unless it's a complete work of absolute non-fiction (and if so, then even more kudos). Reading this book one would imagine that Sheila has a pretty lovely bohemian-esque lifestyle, surrounded by artists and art and living for passion. The way she describes it, it makes you want to live it too. At it's heart the book is about her relationship with her friend Margaux Williamson, an artist. It's about how it's difficult to be friends with like-minded people, especially artistic types, because you're always going to be influenced by one another, but when does that become harmful? When do you start exposing something in them that's really only for them to expose?

Sheila writes with such a flair and an honesty that strips the reader down. She has a pretty emotionally and physically graphic relationship with a man, Israel, that is written in a way that should be sexual and attractive, but she handles it perfectly, making it a bit repulsive in a way that's really quite nice to experience. The form, if it has one, is one that evolves over the course of the book - and for reasons that make sense by it's end. It never bothered me one bit, and I actually quite enjoyed the variety of styles that she wrote in.

Clearly this book is a meditation on a period of Sheila's life, but it also serves as a meditation for all of us in the creative class. I'd be surprised if this didn't strike a chord with most, if not all, creative types.

It's books like this that make me realize I need to read more books.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Cinderella: From Fabletown With Love

I'm a big fan of Fables so the mere mention of this made me pretty excited. We've seen very little of the Cinderella character in the past so it was nice to see a complete mini-series devoted to her. She's very much the James Bond of the Fables community. This series appears to take place in the extremely short period of time between the end of the Great War and the destruction of Fabletown, but I can buy that no problem.

Like all great Fable arcs this include characters from other stories and it does it well, it also pits Cinderella against some people from her own past and cleverly integrates them in it. The artwork takes a little getting used to, and the writing doesn't feel that far off of Willingham's, so kudos to that.

Fables is a series that could have unlimited spin-offs so I respect how few they do, and how great they are so far. I've still got the Fables novel gathering dust on my shelf - I swear I'll get around to it ASAP.

If you're into Fables you'll dig this a lot - if you're new to the series... I'm not sure how well this stands alone...

Monday, November 15, 2010

1463 - Duplicity

I love a good con-artist film and when it's in the hands as someone as skilled as Tony Gilroy you really can't go wrong. This is a film that, at it's core, is really about trust and relationships and it examines that theme in depth amidst the backdrop of a big corporate con. And it does it with flare.

Clive Owen and Julia Roberts are ridiculously charming here. The deeper their relationship is revealed the better it gets. Their moments in the final scenes of the film are just fantastic.

I could talk a lot more about this film but it's filled with so many wonderful twists and turns that I don't want to ruin the surprises that await the lucky viewer. This is a film that's as fun as it is smart. It keeps you on your toes and does a good job of keeping you entertained whilst it keeps you guessing and asking yourself - who can you trust?

Sunday, November 14, 2010

1462 - Confessions of a Shopaholic

Romantic comedies get a pretty bad rap - mostly because they aren't generally all that funny. They're more like extremely light dramas that are amusing.
I happen to think that Isla Fisher is pretty damn fantastic and so it didn't take much for me to want to see this. She delivers the goods - she's gorgeous, funny, smart, and charming. She's got some pretty big flaws, but we care for her, we feel bad when things don't go well for her.
I quite enjoyed this film, it's pretty smart and inventive. Sure it's pretty by-the books, it's a bit over-the-top, but it all works to it's charm. The plotting is pretty tight, and when shit hits the fan it's pretty skillfully done orchestrating all the plots to come to a head in, more or less, the same scene.
Now to my earlier point - this isn't a ball busting laugh-fest by any stretch of the imagination - however I found myself smiling the whole way through - and Emily, who has no movie-attention these days was glued to it. So for me, it's earned it's genre title. I look forward from more to Ms. Fisher - she's a gem.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Death: The High Cost of Living

Inside of Gaiman's Sandman series are loads of fascinating characters, one of my favorites is his sister Death. She's got the sunniest disposition of them all. She loves Disney movies, she's a sweetheart really. And with witty little remarks like "It takes just as much effort to be nice as it does to be creepy" she's my kind of girl. So you can imagine how excited I was to learn that there was a spin-off in which she is focused upon.

This book plays with the oft-used idea that once every century Death takes a day to live as a mortal, to remind her what the people she takes life from go through. Today she's spending the day with Sexton, a teenager who has decided that life is just too 'meh' to bother living.

I have to be honest and say that I was kind of let down by this. I still love Death here, and if you're a fan of her it's worth reading for her alone - she's done justice here - but the story that she's in, I could really care less about. It could be that this book is now over a decade old and the teen-angst-woe-is-me thing has been really over-played, but I just found this story to be underwhelming. It was surprising to learn that Gaiman had planned to make a film version of this as well. One particularly interesting thing about this book is that, at the back of it, there is a comic-PSA where Death speaks directly to the reader about AIDs and HIV and it instantly took me back to being a teenager in the early nineties when it seemed like every celebrity was doing some kind of PDA to promote awareness of the desease. Pretty fascinating, definitly a product of it's time.

There is another Death spin-off, but I can't see myself rushing out to buy it. I'll pick it up eventually for my love of the character and Sandman in general - but I just, like Sexton, felt a bit 'meh' about the whole thing.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

1461 - The Big Bang Theory: season three

I know that I'm well behind on this series. I got a half-dozen episodes from the end of this season as they were airing on television and... life got busy and I kind of forgot to catch up. Thank you DVD!

Before this show I would have bet for the argument that the three-camera-sitcom is a thing of the past - but it's clearly found new life here. Geeks are sexy. I love how much of a hit this show is. The writing is ridiculously sharp, the characters are diverse and interesting. Jim Parsons is a break-out star, although one wonders how much if a range he could play - he's absolutely pitch perfect as Sheldon so perhaps I'm just unfairly making assumptions. Kaley Cuoco continues to grow on me - she's quite charming and cute. And of course I love Johnny Galecki to piece.

This show continues to stay fresh and they really do deal with relationships, both of the friend and romantic variety, well. I don't want to spoil anything whatsoever - but I have to tell you, if you've never seen this series and find yourself even remotely curious, please do youself a favor and check out a few episodes. As Sheldon might say, "It's a real hoot and a holler!"

Asterios Polyp

I was given this graphic novel for my birthday almost a year ago by a good friend, Mr. Scott McLaren. In fact I can attribute his enthusiasm (and collection) to my renewed obsession with comics. It's safe to say that had I not met him, I probably wouldn't be reading them as much as I do. Now I can't imagine not reading them.

This has been hailed as the best comic of 2009 - it was hailed that before it was even released. It would be easy to say that this story's plot relies upon the same cliches that a lot of indie films about intellectuals do. An academic walks away from academia and surrounds himself with a simpler life and finds deeper meaning that he couldn't have found otherwise. So there is that, however David Mazzucchelli has us in store for a much larger treat - because it's what makes his work of art stand out among the others that sets it apart.

I don't have any kind of Masters in English, so I can't pretend to comprehend the vast intellectualisms of this piece, but there's a lot to digest here and I imagine that a few readings are required to even start to see all of the pieces that David Mazzucchelli is playing with. At it's heart it's about duality - the story itself is narrated by Asterios' twin brother, who died in the womb, and throughout duality is explored visually as well as emotionally and intellectually.

What struck me about this the most is how, out of almost nowhere, come this quite heart breaking moments of honesty and emotional realism, in particular involving the scenes with our hero and his one-who-got away.

The art work itself is quite inspired and impressive. Seemingly simplistic there's a lot of thought that's going into it, with the color scheme in particular. I imagine that this is something I'll return to from time to time as there is a great deal of inspiring stuff, despite the simplicity of it's plot.

Much recommended!

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

1460 - Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World (commentary)

If you've read my blog at all you know that I absolutely love the comic series this is based on, and you know that I had a luke-warm response to the film. I still haven't revisited it to make sure it wasn't just because I was too close to the series at the time. Regardless of that I still picked up the film today when it came out - and on BluRay no less! Look at me!

The reason? I love everyone involved in this project? I think Edgar Wright got his ass handed to him a bit when this film performed poorly at the box office, and because I think he's a gifted filmmaker I want to show my support for him by voting with my wallet. Hopefully others do the same. It wasn't hard to convince myself to pick this up given how loaded to the tits it was with special features. At this point with my netflix and zip it's really the only thing that's going to keep me buying new films and adding them to my collection.

So I listened to the filmmaker commentary with Wright, O'Malley, and Becall. I have to say that it was a little 'meh'. Not horrible by any means, but I didn't really learn to much about them or their process other than what I'd already read or heard in interviews. It was a bit lackluster. I have no idea what I was expecting, but it just felt a little basic.

So I will re-watch this film as a film at some point in the near future and see if my opinions have changed any. Who knows - I'm an inconsistant bastard.

The Walking Dead - Vol 12: Life Among Them

Spoilers, of course, are ahead.

This could be the most bizarre volume so far. Nothing crazy happens in this volume, which is an interesting choice for Kirkman to make. The gang comes across a group that offers them to come live in their community. And it all sounds a little too good to be true...

But it isn't. At least not so far. I kept waiting for something to happen, for the new people to show some crazy signs. Nothing. Which actually made everything all the more unsettling. This is the life they've all wished they could get back, but they can't handle it now that they have it. The volume ends with Rick enlisting Glenn to retrieve their weapons for the armory, which worries me. The worst thing that could happen is that Rick does insane with worry for no reason and ruins this perfect community - which is probably where this is going. Ironic if something is too good to be true and the gang destroys it because they just can't believe that it's possible. Watching Carl especially is heart-breaking. He should just be able to be a kid, but he can't. He's seen too much, he's done too much - the last book had his father telling him that he would never be safe again, and now he's telling him to not worry about anything. Poor messed up kid...

I'm so damn curious to find out where this is all going - luckily I only need to wait for two weeks to find out. I've read these so damn fast, it's going to be annoying to have to wait inbetween volumes now. Alas. Good thing I have a stack of other stuff to dive into!

The Walking Dead - Vol 11: Fear The Hunters

If you're been reading my reviews on this series you know damn well there will be SPOILERS.

Some of the reviews of this series, ever since about mid-way through when stuff started to get really fucked-up have accused Kirkman of trying to be shocking just for the sake of it. I have to admit that nothing else I've ever read or seen has shocked me, and made me as uncomfortable as this series. If anything this series has made me realize that I'm still somewhat grounded and I can still be offended. I haven't lost all hope!

Early on in this volume something extremely disturbing happens. It was set up just mildly in the last volume, but it rears it's ugly head here. And it throws down the gauntlet for something even more fucked-up to happen later... and boy does it ever. The group starts to be haunted and stalked by cannibals. Without revealing some extremely satisfying twists and turns, it's also grotesque in an emotional way. One of the Cannibals explains that a bear, in the wild, will eat it's own cub if it runs out of food - the rationale being that if the bears dies from starvation that the cub will die anyway, but if the bear survives, it can make another sub. Then the Cannibal explains that... there were children here at the beginning... and once you justify that to yourself, it's really not all that hard to do it to strangers.

Not surprising our rag-tag group deals with them efficiently, but with it, and the way they do it, are they ever-more showing signs of losing their own humanity? Are they any better or worse than the dead that hunt them?

I've mentioned before that Kirkman set out to write the zombie film that would never end. And he's doing it. Someone else has stated that every film you ever see would be a tragedy if you let the story continue. I guess my worry about this series is that it's going to get to a point where all the characters are just so past-the-point of no return that we stop identifying with them. I trust Kirkman enough to hope that he'll find someway to balance it.

Only one more left on my stack, and then another will come out at the end of the month. Very curious to see where this is heading and how the Washington D.C. story plays out...

Monday, November 08, 2010

1459 - Croupier

This is one of the films that I picked up under the recommendation of Mr. Scott McLaren while we were raiding the closing sale of the Blockbuster at Queen & Spadina. Finally got around to watching it.

This film has two things that, automatically, make it a film worth checking out - Clive Owen - and a pretty damn strong narration throughout. The film, other than that, works well enough. It's about a croupier, a black-jack dealer, who really wants to be a novelist so he takes the job as research and let's himself get as involved as possible while still trying to keep his hands clean. But then... he's made an offer for an even bigger paycheck.

I found my mind wandering off here and there as it wasn't the most engaging film, but it's enjoyable enough to watch, particularly if you're into gambling at all and how casinos work (to some degree). I don't have a strong recommendation feeling about this either way - if you love Clive, check it out - if not - your call.

The Walking Dead - Vol 10: What We Become

You can bet your sweet-ass that there are SPOILERS ahead...

Kirkman always does a good job of setting the tone for these volumes with his titles, but this one in particular is perfect for almost, if not, all the characters in the series who are still with us. After butting heads with Abraham, Rick has a heart-to-heart on the road with him where they realize that they aren't too far away from one another. They've both seen horrible things, and done horrible things because of it. They've had to become something that their former selves would not even recognize.
Each character has some kind of change in this book, which is fantastic because we're moving into a new story arc here. Maggie, grieving the death of her entire family, faces death and comes back wanting to live even more. The twins are starting to show signs of becoming sociopaths, Dale doesn't trust Rick at all, and the most heartbreaking of all for me, was when we met back up with Morgan, the man that Rick holed up with in the very first book, whom didn't want to come with Atlanta with Rick. Now we finally find out what happened to him and his son and... it's pretty heart-breaking.

On the road back we get to see the herd that Abraham warned about in the last book. While running away from it our heroes stop over in a house where we see what another family man had become once shit hit the fan and it could just be one of the more disturbing moment of the series. Although in this particular volume there is another bump in the road-trip where we get a whole other level of disturbing when we see what Rick will do to keep his son from being sodomized by a group of skinheads.

This series is not for the faint of heart - and while I absolutely love it - I think by the time I get through the next two volumes I'll be ready for a break from it for a bit. It's intense and takes a toll on the emotions. Think I'll watch something light tonight to cleanse the palette.

The Walking Dead - Vol 9: Here We Remain

Of course, SPOILERS ahead...

After the devastation of the last volume this one serves as both an epilogue for what's past, and a prologue for what's to come. And what it does really well is it sets up unlimited possibilities for the series.

After The Governor, more or less, destroyed their prison homestead and killed a good chunk of our beloved cast, the survivors are scattered and struggling. They manage to find one another and are greeted by a new group of survivors - and given a proposal to start a new mission.

So although this volume was a bit of a hallway, linking two different arcs, it was so much more. Watching Rick and Carl deal with their loss is really quite heartbreaking and wonderful. Carl becomes ready to go off on his own, but the kid inside him reminds him that he can't quite do it. There's a moment where he gives up hope and you just want to reach inside of the pages and hug him and tell him that everything's going to be all right. But luckily he has Rick for his father who, wisely, lets Carl know that everything isn't going to be alright. They are always going to be in danger, they will never be safe. And Carl has to keep that in mind. It's bizarre advice, but in this world, it's the best that Rick could give his child.

I look forward to where this series is going to head, it's almost a fresh start. But danger lurks around every corner and the zombies are starting to become a force of fear again.

So. Damn. Good.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

The Walking Dead - Vol 8: Made to Suffer

Spoilers ahead!!!!

Just when you thought this series couldn't get any darker...

I mean... fuck. What happens near the end of this battle puts the ending of the forth season of Dexter to shame. It's jaw dropping insanity - thank you Mr. Kirkman for making me realize that I am not completely desensitized. I can still be messed up by shit like that. I won't go into immense specifics here, but damn. Kirkman runs a sword through the cast here and really cuts down their numbers. Absolutely nothing is going to stop me from reading this series until the bitter end, but I could understand how some people could drop out after what happens in this book.

The nice thing about the ending of this volume is that our surviving characters (few that there are) are actually able to move on and make a fresh start somewhere else.

You're a bold man, Mr. Kirkman. I like it.

The Walking Dead - Vol 7: The Calm Before

As usual, spoilers below, start from the beginning!

The Calm Before is certainly that, the next volume will be read later tonight, however given how this one ends I can only imagine that shit is going to hit the fan in a major way, and not all of our (now) old friends will be walking away from it.
This volume had very little to do with the zombies/biters/lurkers/roamers, whatever you want to call them - and had far more to do with the relationships between the people and them getting ready for an inevitable attack from Woodsbury. This volume has it all, deaths, births, and even a wedding - AND we learned how to survive a zombie bite!
The beauty of this series is that when it does get peaceful and calm it gets uncomfortable, because you know that it can't last. And we're heading for a big down, you can just feel it - the series has been leading up to this...
At the rate I'm reading these I'll be desperate for the newest volume by the time it comes out on the 23rd. Alas... I think I'm going to surprise myself and try to read an actual book in the mean time! Surprise, surprise!

The Walking Dead - Vol 6: This Sorrowful Life

See... the problem is this... I pick it up to just read a few pages and then BAM! I can't put it down - and we're having a lazy weekend around the house. So what if I've read six volumes of this series in two days (and will probably read a few more before the day is out)?
Like the last post, potential spoilers below...

Last time we left, three of our crew were imprisoned by the Governor, a sociopath that is running a camp not far off from where the prison camp is. The guy is... well... he's insane. This book sees a continuation of that story as our friends try to break themselves out and get back to the prison camp without the Governor or anyone from the town following them. So how does it turn out? Well it's The Walking Dead, so there is going to be some pretty damn devastating stuff that goes on. Some catharsis amidst the brutality. Like all the volumes this one ends on a great note. Nick realizes that he's not the man he used to be, he's changing, and he's not sure if it's for the better or not. This volume leads off with our gang of travelers preparing for a potential battle for their home. Like them, we know it's coming, and it's just a matter of how long... and what will happened in between... I'm sure Kirkman has some twisted delights up his sleeves...

The Walking Dead - Vol 5: The Best Defense

Okay - to start off - there will be some minor spoilers ahead, more about what's come before this book - so here's a quick summary - it's awesome - read it - buy the others - read them all.
Now, onto a proper review.
When we left the group last they were just starting to make sense of their new way of life. Vol 4 ended with an awesome proclamation from Rick about their situation and I dug it. Life was getting controlled, they were forging on. But this is Vol 4 and there is practically a dozen more books in the series so far - so we KNOW that shit has to hit the fan - and does it ever.
The group notices a helicopter crash in the distance and three of them go to investigate, thinking that they can either save the passengers, or at the very least figure out where they came from. I love the idea of this expanding world and that there are other people out there doing similar things to the group that we're following.
All of this leads the group to discovering another camp nearby - and it's run by a man named The Governer, who is probably one of that most fantastic villains I've read in comics. This comic is pushing the boundaries in major ways, and maybe I'm just desensitized but it's not bothering me in the least - perhaps because the book is so well written that I understand why people, even the sociopaths, do what they do.
This series continues to be wonderful and make me want to read that much more. I know I'm going to be thirsting for more once I finish the stack I've got.
Kirkman writes this series because he hates that zombie films end and so he wanted to create a series that wouldn't. Who knows what tricks he's got up his sleeves, but if he can keep churning them out as good as this, I don't doubt it could go on a very long time. Based on the books I've read thus far AMC easily has enough material for at least three seasons depending on how they want to spread it out.
Long live The Walking Dead!

Saturday, November 06, 2010

1458 - Following

This film has been sitting on my shelf for, literally, years. That's part of the problem with being a movie geek - you amass an ass load of films and there is always a certain percentage that you haven't seen. I'm doing my best to get through that percentage :)
This film centers around a guy who "wants to be a writer". He has a habit of following people around just for kicks - as an excuse to study human behavior - until one day when he's caught following someone and leads down a criminal path that he did not expect.
It's amazing to see how far Christopher Nolan has come in a little over a decade (somewhere in the middle of the film there is a door with the Bat signal on it. Foreshadowing anyone?). This is an impressive film to begin with, but when you consider the budget it really is a well made film and as much as anything it's the writing that makes it special. "Take someone away from someone and they'll realize what they've got". Having been broken into, I can understand Nolan's fascination with this story idea.
Like most of Nolan's films this one has the kind of ending that makes you want to re-watch and reexamine the film you just saw - which is a big plus I think for it. It's a bit late and I'm a bit tired so a reviewing at some point would be a grand idea.
A nice little film, made for next to nothing, that properly announces an important filmmaker to the masses. Thank goodness they listened!

The Walking Dead - Vol 4: The Heart's Desire

I swear I'm not just reading this non-stop. I'm hanging with my family as well. It just so happens that these are pretty quick reads - that and I'm a little ravenous about them! So this volume continues to see our heroes (a term I use lightly) still in their prison fortress that, in theory, should keep them safe from the threat of, what they are now officially calling, zombies.
Without giving away any plot I'll just say that this continues to be quite the ride. As I mentioned in my previous post zombie stories aren't just about the horror and watching people die - it's about watching how society reacts to a problem that they can't control. This book is a continuation of that struggle and with it comes the realization that these people will never return to the life they knew before. It simply doesn't exist - it can't exist - it has to become something else. What that is we'll find out in the upcoming volumes I can only assume - which I'm sure I'll be writing about sooner rather than later!

The Walking Dead - Vol 3: Safety Behind Bars

I wasn't kidding when I said that I was going to blast threw these. Ephraim took a long nap so I was able to cozy up with this. I realize now looking back as some previous reviews I've done that I do a really bad job of telling people what I'm watching/reading it about. So I apologize for that. For those who doing know The Walking Dead is a zombie comic. I think Zombies are a great subject matter. For me they represent the idea of society as a whole, and the zombie represents the uneducated portions of society - and I mean uneducated in the worst possible sense - people that refuse to learn about how to make themselves and the planet a better place, people who are more than happy to live in ignorant bliss than make themselves and the world a better place. And those people, on their own, aren't all that harmful - but when you get them as a group, and the group starts to grow it can destroy an entire society. That to me is at the heart of Zombie stories.
So this series is about a group of survivors of, whatever it is that caused all of this, and the group is lead by policeman Rick Grimes who is surrounded by a rotating cast - people come and go quickly here, which is nice because it really does give you the sense that anything can happen. Anyone can die. This volume finds the group discovering a prison and seeing if they can make a go of starting a new life there. This series is pretty emotionally graphic. There's violence and gore - sure - it's a horror comic, but what's really effective is more about how harsh some of the stuff is that happens. Part of the problem with that is, like the characters in the comic, we the readers start to get a little desensitized to it.
One of the criticisms of this series I've read is that the characters and their relationships start to veer into the territory of soap operas. That hasn't quite happened yet but I could easily see how it might. So far so good. Excited to keep moving forward. So far there are twelve in print, and if I'm correct I actually think that there is a new one out very soon, maybe even this week. Huzzah!
If you like comics, you like zombies, this is a no brainer. Get this series.

Friday, November 05, 2010

The Walking Dead - Vol 2: Miles Behind Us

I swear I only intended to read a few pages... Despite a stack of movies on my desk and other things to read... The obsession wants what the obsession wants. I just know that I'm going to burn through these books too damn fast and then be left wanting more... luckily I have the TV Series to satiate me (just watched the first episode - goddamn is it good - I won't go into details, but they honor the book well so far and add nicely to it).
There is a real momentum with these books and a real human connection. With the exception of, perhaps, our hero Rick Grimes, I don't imagine that it's safe to get too attached to any one character man, woman, or child. I devoured this volume and I have to stop myself from starting another one tonight. The story, and the world, just continues to build - the differing opinions of people expand and contract. It's fantastic and I'm glad that I've got a lot more of it to look forward to!

The Walking Dead - Vol 1: Days Gone Bye

I bought the entire run (thus far) of this series in one shot because I'd heard so much good stuff about it - and now that they're starting to air the TV series I figured that I really needed to get in gear and start reading it - but I needed to finish Sandman first.
First off, this book just flew by. It's the kind of reading where, if like me you read in transit, suddenly time has disappeared and you almost miss your stop. The books themselves aren't super huge, but regardless it just flies. I'm going to burn through this far too quickly (not that it's a bad thing given how large my reading pile is these days).
I loved this. The characters get established quickly and effectively. You give a shit about these people. Kirkman does a really great job of putting you in their position, seeing the world the way they do, and wondering what the hell you would do in that situation. This is just the beginning of what promise to be an epic story and I can't wait to keep reading - and now that I'm through this I think it's safe to watch at least the first episode of the series. Can't wait for more - I'm a fan!

Thursday, November 04, 2010

1457 - Swing Vote

I liked the premise for this film and that's the main reason I wanted to see it - one guy gets to decide who becomes the next President of the U.S.A.? I'm in!
I expected a certain degree of campiness, a little sappy, and the film certainly has that. Luckily it's kept, more or less, to a minimum. I have to say that I would have chosen a different ending than the film has - I won't spoil it, but I think that they could have done something similar but on a much smarter and interesting level.
I don't have a hell of a lot to say about this film. It's good, but not great. It's trying to tackle a huge issue but it's really only doing it on a surface level. I was hoping it would be something a little different - it's not quite satirical, and the message is muddled. Despite his character being slightly-above someone whose child should be taken away by social services, Costner manages to make the character work on a pure entertainment level. If you dig the premise, by all means check it out, but don't expect it to blow your mind or shed any real light on the political system.

Sandman Vol 10: The Wake

And so it ends - although there are a bunch of spin-offs and epilouge type books - in fact I think that there is officially an eleventh book that Gaiman made years later, and perhaps I'll get around to it one day, but for now I'll take a break from Sandman - that is after I read the Death spin-off that he did (well one of them anyway). Although I'm quite eager to start The Walking Dead...
I was pleased with how this wrapped up - although if it were I, I would have put the actual wake part of the book after the individual stories - it ends so perfectly well and then there are the tangents (which are quite nice). I like the idea that this world continues on in a new direction - leaves me with a smile on my face. The art work in this book is unlike any in the volumes that preceed it. It's gorgeous and it makes it feel quite personal and a bit delicate. The art involved in Sandman has always been quite impressive and unique but this book stands on it's own in that regard.
This series often frustrated me with it's tangents, despite them being well written - but like I've said elsewhere it's probably because I loved the main story with Dream so much that any time we were away from it I just wanted to get back to it. I'll miss that character - he's wonderful. I have to give a big thanks to Mr. Scott McLaren for loaning me this series to read.
If you're a comic fan, and especially enjoy fantasy and sci-fi then it's a no brainer - you absolutely must read this series. I'm sure that I'll even pick it up one day should I find it used.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Sandman Vol 9: The Kindly Ones

And after my previous complaints the series comes back in fine form and fighting shape. This is a phenomenal volume - and rightly so - it's essentially the end of the series, save a wrap-up volume, which I'll read next and probably very quickly. I don't want to give away any of the ending of this great story arc. This is where Gaiman goes above being a masterful storyteller, which he always is, to being a master storyteller. He's weaving several storylines together effortlessly and finding them all meeting up in the end.
I'm not one to go into specifics because I don't wish to spoil things for people. Just know that, if you're like me, and often you find that Sandman often has too long of tangents in-between the main, awesome, story - know that every now and then you'll be rewarded with the brilliance that is this volume.
Also I was tickled a bit at how many characters from previous volumes found their way into this one. Very much looking forward to the conclusion!

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

1456 - Saw VII (3D)

First off, I hate that this film is technically called Saw 3D. What a stupid name for a franchised film. Personally, I could give a shit about 3D - I don't believe that it actually adds much of anything to the art of storytelling. It's just a gimmick and if I'm wrong, well... I don't know - but I don't really care for it.
I'm a fan of this series despite everything. I'm not a torture porn guy, and I don't think that this series is that - although perhaps I'm just completely desensitized. There is an ongoing narrative and greater story at play and this (final?) installment goes a great distance towards filling in most, if not all, of the gaps. I particularly enjoyed how they finally let us know what happened to Dr. Gordon - and it was along the lines of what I thought happened to the poor guy.
I won't say too much more as to not spoil (except to say I enjoyed seeing my buddy Carlos Diaz in the film! woot woot!). If you like these films you're going to really love this installment, and if you don't give a shit then it won't matter to you.

Monday, November 01, 2010

1455 - Wet Hot American Summer

This film has been on my life to watch for some time now and I actually can't recall who told me that I should check it out. I have to say that I had an issue with the tone. It danced a weird line, but then as it went on it got more and more over-the-top, but the tone - outside of a few examples - wasn't as 'off' at the top of the film. It should have been crazier earlier. It's full of great comedic moments and an amazing cast full of people that I would love to work with one day. A laundry list, really - especially Paul Rudd who is just brilliant in this film. I love that all these actors are playing teenagers despite not even being close to those years anymore - it adds a fun dynamic.
I wanted to like this film more than I did - but it's worth recommending if you're given the tone warning up front and if you love even half of this fantastic cast. An interesting film that should have been just a little bit stronger. Look forward to director Wain's other work - especially The Ten (which is on netflix!!!)

Sandman Vol 8: World's End

This volume did very little to appease my desire for this series to get back to it's main story-arc. It's another collection of other stories that, more or less, do not really involve Dream besides being a very-side character in some stories and not involved in others at all. There's some great stories going on here, and sometimes stories within stories within stories but, in this volume especially, I found myself wondering what the hell was the point? Gaiman is a master-storyteller in terms of story itself, but I'm growing tired of these tangents. If I was buying this series on a monthly basis I don't think I would keep coming back. There are two volumes left so I'll finish it up for sure - but I have to say that as much as this series delights me it frustrates me all the same. I imagine it's because I love the stuff with Dream and The Endless so much that when we're aware from it I just want to get back to it. So I suppose that's a good thing.