Thursday, August 25, 2016

That Was Quicker Than I Expected

So I did get to see Ant-Man. It wasn't easy. You know, because he's small.

First things first. It is strange the movie spends so much time insisting the Hope (Evangeline Lilly) is in practically every way more qualified to steal the Yellowjacket suit than Scott, but then goes ahead and puts Scott Lang in it anyway. They really harp on that with his struggles using the suit, controlling the ants, not being able to fight worth a damn. She has to help her dad, Hank Pym, teach Scott all this stuff, when she's right there, already knowing how to do it. Scott's primary advantages seem to be he's a thief, and he's not Hank's daughter, which makes him expendable. Except Scott has a daughter of his own. Maybe he's been in jail for much of her childhood, but that's better than him being dead.

If I'm willing to take the movie at face value, that it needed to be Scott doing the thieving because he has the experience in that area, and the crew, it was OK. Decent little heist movie, had some humor in it. I didn't really find Scott's partner who can never get to the point funny like I was supposed to, but that's not a big deal. The various gags with tiny things suddenly becoming huge worked pretty well, and the fight between Scott and Cross on the train set was solid.

Pym mentioned concerns that Cross' formula with mess with brain chemistry or something if you used on people, and I wondered if we were meant to take it that Cross selling the suit to HYDRA was a result of that. I also wondered if we were meant to see the direction Cross went as partially a failing on Hank's part. Cross at times really seemed as though he wanted Hank's approval, wanted to work with him and build this together. And Hank, partially out of grief over losing Jan, and partially just out of good common sense about the potential for abuse with his inventions, rejected that.

I doubt that's the case. Cross was probably always going to do something unscrupulous like sell to HYDRA, and if Hank had gone along, it would have simply resulted in selling to HYDRA when they were still hiding within SHIELD. But the film has this strong sense of dads trying to make things right, with Scott trying to go straight, trying to be a positive influence in his daughter's life. And you've got Hank, who lost control of his company, lost control of his protege, and is largely estranged from his daughter (who really ought to have been his protege), and he's also trying to fix things before it's too late. Obviously he needs to repair his relationship with Hope, but if there isn't the idea he could have done so with Cross at some point in the past, I'm not sure what he was supposed to do to avert that problem. Kill Cross? Never invent the suit or the Pym Particles, I guess.

Anyway, I'm not generally a Paul Rudd guy, but Ant-Man was fine. I enjoyed it more than the latter two Iron Man films, or either of the Thors, I think. They probably all fall in that category of movies where there are parts of them I enjoy, and others I wouldn't bother to sit through. Go watch something else, come back for the next part I like.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

I'm Game For Another Rocketeer Movie

This news is a couple of weeks old, but there was a story going round that Disney is planning a new Rocketeer movie, and with the lead being an African-American woman. Fortunately, I guess there aren't enough dudes with an unhealthy childhood attachment to The Rocketeer, so it hasn't led to the eruption of stupid bullshit we got when the recent Ghostbusters film was announced and which continued all the way up to. . . what time is it now? Maybe the film is too far away to get that response, or maybe it'll never happen at all. Fingers crossed.

I like the first movie quite a lot, as well as Dave Stevens' comics which were the source material (although I didn't read them until many years after the film came out), and at least some of the mini-series IDW released over the last half-dozen years. I'm curious about how it will play out. Will the new one be set during the late 1930s/early 1940s like the first film and the comics, or will they move it to the modern day? Or somewhere in between? I think it could still work in the present, seeing as we don't have any jet packs on par with what's in the movie. Will the lead, whoever ends up playing her, also be a top-notch pilot, or will they maybe build the rocket pack themselves? There are black women who fly planes and are engineers now, and there were back then as well, so whichever.

I'm wondering how similar or different her personality will be from Cliff's. Part of the reason he keeps the rocket pack is insecurity and jealousy with regards to his relationship with Betty (or Jenny in the movie). He does love using it, but he's also excited at the prospect of making big bucks and being a success because he worries her head's going to get turned by some pretty-boy actor. You could go that route in the new version, although when guys get portrayed as jealous, it usually makes them look like jerks, while ladies seem to get jealousy run through a "crazy" filter. A lot of screaming, throwing stuff, generally presented as being unreasonable, but in a different way from jealous guys. Not always, and the film wouldn't have to do that even if they did want that sort of relationship conflict in there, but it doesn't really seem a great direction to go. I definitely hope the new character has a similar impulsive nature, though.

The film is probably a couple of years away, at least, if it even gets made. So I'll have to wait and see.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

A Few Quick Thoughts On Two Movies

I only saw parts of Gravity and the seventh Fast & the Furious, so I'm lumping them together into this post.

Gravity made outer space seem terrifying, so mission accomplished if that's what they were going for. Was surprised Sandra Bullock's character managed to not throw up during that extended sequence where she's tumbling end over end. I guess that wouldn't have fit with the tone of the film, but it really seems like something that would happen. I was getting nauseous just watching it.

I watched the movie up to the point Bullock's character made it to the Russian shuttles and Clooney went drifting off into space. So my lasting image of the film was that shot of her having discarded her spacesuit, and then floating curled into the fetal position in front of the hatch with sunlight streaming through the window. The tube/hose thing that just so happened to float in the proper position to look like an umbilical cord was too much. Fine, yes, she survived this incredibly traumatic experience and has been reborn, and now will try to rescue Clooney. Too on the nose, snapped me out of the story when my eyes reflexively rolled out of my head and down the hallway. What I saw up to then was good, though. Not something I'd actively seek out, but if there was nothing I was more interested in, sure, I'd watch it again.

As for Fast & Furious 7, I really just wanted to watch Jason Statham fight Vin Diesel and/or Dwayne Johnson, so I mostly kept checking back in for that. It took a grenade blowing him out a 3 (5?)-story window and landing on the roof of a car to incapacitate Hobbes, but looking at Dwyane Johnson, I can buy that.

Some disorganized bad guys, though. During the whole final action sequence, it seemed like Statham's character is the only one who cares about killing Dom (Diesel). The guys in the chopper just want to secure their hold on that "God's Eye" program by killing the hacker lady who made it or whatever. Yet, while they're under attack from a minigun-wielding Hobbes, they decided to divert half their firepower to trying to blow up Dom and his car in a parking garage. Even though, as far as they know, he can't do anything to attack them (he has a satchel of grenades, but those were useless until the damage they cased to the garage created a ramp he could jump towards their chopper). Focus, bad guys! One problem at a time.

I know, logic is not really a thing that exists in that franchise, it just seemed particularly stupid. I enjoyed the sequence at the party in Abu Dhabi. Jumping the car between buildings, Statham appearing and just attacking everyone in sight, the Rousey/Michelle Rodriguez fight, Tyrese trying to keep the partygoers and security distracted. Fun scene.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Kyle Rayner As An Artist

Kyle Rayner was, at one point in his history, a comic book artist. What was his art style like?

I know that in Morrison's first JLA arc, Kyle describes himself as a 'manga nut with a power ring,' although the giant mech construct he builds doesn't look much like one I'd expect to see in a manga. But maybe I was watching different mech animes than he was. Beyond that, I don't have much to go on. I never read Green Lantern during the time it was Kyle's book (or at any other time, for that matter). I'd expect in any given issue where he was shown drawing, it'd resemble the style of whichever artist is drawing that issue (depending on their ability to vary their style).

During Mark Waid's time as writer of JLA, there was an arc where the Leaguers (except Wonder Woman and Aquaman) were split into their superheroic and civilian identities. While GL Kyle ceased to use the ring for anything other than just blasting stuff (as he entirely lacked in creativity), Artist Kyle went slowly mad because the ring had been the first instrument that could actually make the things he pictured in his mind look exactly how he envisioned them. So we could try to use the style of his constructs as some sort of guide, but there's a difference between how he was make a teddy bear look and how he'd lay out a panel or page. Plus, we fall back into the issue of the constructs appearance varying with the artist again.

Granting that Kyle was a comic artist during the '90s, I can't see him aping Liefeld or his imitators with the ridiculous musculature and pouches. Just doesn't seem to fit Kyle (if Guy Gardner tried his hand at art, I could see that style having great appeal to him, though). I tend to picture Kyle having too strong a grasp of the fundamentals to adopt that style of wildly varying proportions and out of whack perspectives. For whatever reason, the late Mike Wieringo's style strikes me as one that would match Kyle. Not exactly that necessarily, but in a similar vein. Clean linework, expressive, can be exaggerated with with anatomy where necessary, but it works in context. Capable of handling quiet scenes, humor, big action, crazy cosmic stuff.

I'm curious what other people, especially those who read more of Kyle's adventures and have more to work from, think.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Zorro 3.2 - Adios, El Cuchillo

Plot: Picking up where the previous episode left off, El Cuchillo and his gang return to town, still short of funds. While the rest of the gang go on a spree of breaking into various businesses to rob them, Cuchillo and Chato break into the tailor's shop - so Chato can repair Cuchillo's vest again. But Zorro is hot on their heels, and he and Bernardo repeatedly stymie the bandits' attempts at robbery. Just as Cuchillo and Chato leave the shop, there is Zorro, who ruins Chato's hard work again. But Sergeant Garcia and the lancers come marching along, and Zorro bails, giving Cuchillo and Chato the chance to flee.

The next morning, Diego and Bernardo ride into town and find Cuchillo and his men, hungry and grumpy in the tavern. Cuchillo is calmly sketching Chulita on the back of a wanted poster for Zorro, but once Diego arrives, he starts questioning Diego about Zorro while sketching Diego. As he does so, he convinces Chulita to bring food and drinks for his men (despite his lack of funds), and Bernardo bumps into a bandit and spills food over the sketch as Cuchillo was starting to add a mask and hat to it. This nearly gets Bernardo in hot water, but Diego is able to fend off the bandit while fighting semi-clumsily. Enough to confuse the bandits, if not Cuchillo.

In Sergeant Garcia's office, Diego plainly states his belief Cuchillo is the man who tried to steal the silver service, but Garcia believes there is some personal feud between Diego and Cuchillo. Meanwhile, Bernardo notices Chato visit Vibora in the jail, and then news comes that Cuchillo robbed the tavern in broad daylight. So Garcia and the bulk of his lancers ride after them. Cuchillo sends a few of his men on down the road, and doubles back with four of them to the cuartel. Chato and another bandit try to use a ladder to go over the wall, but find Zorro at the top to push it over. Two more make it inside and overpower the guard, but Zorro pulls off a very nice rope swing, which he parlays into running momentum to slam the bandit's head into the gate. The other bandit tries to fight Zorro with a dagger. You can guess how well that goes. Cuchillo is waiting outside, and Zorro kindly lets him in, so they can resume their fights from earlier. About then, Garcia and his men return, and their shouts bring out the sleeping lancers, so Zorro and Cuchillo flee again, hiding in a tent in the square together until the soldiers pass. Then they resume their fight until the lancers double back, and which point they scatter. Cuchillo flees into the tavern, and Chulita helps him avoid capture. Tsk, tsk, young lady.

The next morning, Diego and his father discuss the situation at home, but Cuchillo and his entire gang show up. They've decided to spend their time waiting for the ship from Boston to arrive here. Diego and Alejandro are free to leave, one at a time, the other remaining there as a hostage. Bernardo is hiding in the secret passage for the moment, biding his time. Then Sergeant Garcia arrives with word that the ship arrived early, and he's going to get the money now. Which means there's no need for Cuchillo to hang around, but also no reason to keep the de la Vegas alive. He lets Chato do the killing, but only after Cuchillo is sufficiently far away. Fortunately, leaving one guy to handle it gives Bernardo the chance to intervene and save the day. Alejandro is sent to gather the dons, while Zorro rushes to save the sergeant. Sure enough, the sergeant and the lancers are on their way back when the bandits begin giving chase. Garcia leads his men across a small bridge, and declares they'll make a stand there. They do their best, but Cuchillo is able to clear a path through for Vibora, who steals the wagon. Garcia gives chase, as does Zorro, as does Cuchillo. Zorro's able to overcome Vibora and rides the wagon all the way to the cuartel, where he overturns it and awaits Cuchillo so they can resume their fight for like the 6th time at this point. Sergeant Garcia tries to keep the revived Vibora from stealing the money, a somewhat difficult task as he's stuck between the gate and the wagon. The battle is pitched, and Zorro is driven off the railing at one point, narrowly avoiding falling by grabbing a ladder. When Cuchillo tries to rush down to help Vibora, Zorro rides the ladder down on top of him.

The next day, the sergeant and two lancers prepare to deliver Cuchillo to the authorities in Mexico. Cuchillo is pretty calm, considering he expects to be shot. But the quartet is hardly out of sight before the soldiers come riding back in backwards, hands tied behind their back. Then Cuchillo rides in, sweeps up Chulita, and rides off again. But his escape is cut short by Zorro, who ropes the lovebirds and leads them to a shrine where a padre waits to marry them. Apparently Zorro figures married men can't spare the time to be bandits. Sure, Zorro, that'll work.

Quote of the Episode: Garcia - 'Well if you had kept out of his way any harder, you might have killed him!'

Times Zorro Marks A "Z": 0 (3 overall).

Other: Last week I mentioned I thought the front garden area of the de la Vega hacienda looked different, but this week, it seemed the same as always. So I'm prepared to write it off as me being unused to seeing it from that particular angle (and during the daytime). I still think I saw a wall across the road, though. . .

I was prepared to congratulate Sergeant Garcia on a solid episode this week. He and his men stood firm at the bridge against something like 3-to-1 odds. Even after Zorro (on the wagon), and Cuchillo pulled away from him on the mad dash back to the cuartel, he kept in hot pursuit, and was able to keep Vibora from absconding with any money. Then he managed to let Cuchillo escape within roughly two minutes, despite having two armed soldiers with him. It's especially galling because just before they rode out of town, Alejandro had to once again show absolutely no confidence in the sergeant, to his face.

Amazing that of all the foes who have been stymied by Diego and Bernardo using the secret passages without ever figuring out what was going on, Chato is one of the few who figured it out. Not that it did him any good. That poor guy. Maybe he can repair some of the soldiers' uniforms in Mexico and earn a pardon, then open a tailor's shop of his own. He's not much of a bandit.

Nice of Zorro to let Chato get a firm grip on the ladder before knocking it over, I guess. Might have been better to push himself away from it and be able to tuck and roll.

At a certain point, the way Zorro and Cuchillo kept trying to resume their fight around the interruptions got ridiculous. They fight in the cuartel, the soldiers are alerted and two hide in a tent together. Then they start fighting inside the tent, until the soldiers return and they split up. And once they've briefly eluded the lancers again, the two men start trying to call each other out. It's nuts. I know they're supposed to be enjoying the challenge the other poses, but the unwillingness to call it a night started to be a bit much. You guys are supposed to be clever outlaws. The sword-fighting scenes were very good, though. And I liked that at the beginning of the episode, as Zorro's followed them back into town, he had already ditched his cape. He's all business right from the start.

The bit with Zorro swinging on the rope, hitting the ground running, and driving that bandit's head into the gate was an especially smooth piece of work.

Friday, August 19, 2016

What I Bought 8/16/16

I finally got to see Ant-Man. Some of it, the first 30 minutes. And I was flipping back and forth between it and One-Punch Man at the time. But what I saw seemed OK, I guess. I'm sure I'll catch the rest of it eventually. These are the other two comics I got earlier this week, one of which is closer to two months old. I've only had two books come out in the last two weeks, though. Stupid five Wednesday months.

Wynonna Earp #6, by Beau Smith (writer), Lora Innes (artist), Jay Fotos (colorist), Robbie Robbins (letterer) - And that was how Wynonna learned the hard way not to stand on graves and fire guns into them as a way to celebrate New Year's.

Wynonna is forced to confront Johnny Ringo, who has managed to trap Doc Holliday, and is therefore sure he can handle this girl. He's wrong, and winds up with a bullet in his head and gets dragged back to Hell. Agents Dolls and Valdez took care of the remainder of the gang menacing the tourists, in spite of Valdez being quite unhappy that her gear changed to a period-era dress when they entered city limits. So Wynonna is ready to go forward with the special revolver, and possibly Wyatt's spirit is along for the ride, according to Valdez and probably Holliday, anyway. Which is the sort of development I could find concerning, depending on how active a presence he is. If it's simply a case of additional power to her, fine, but if he starts offering advice, eh, that could get annoying. Have to see how it plays out.

I had kind of expected Wynonna to have to fight her way to the final confrontation with Ringo, but that would have spoiled the surprise for him of her having the Peacemaker. Although I was also surprised all it took for her to get that was for Doc to give it to her last issue. Beau Smith: Subverting my expectations of traditional narrative structure! Which is fine, since I suspect it was a given this is how it would turn out, so why waste a bunch of time on it? Get the stuff you have to and move forward to what comes after.

Smith puts a lot of little humor bits in his writing, and Innes' style seems to work well for them. Valdez' irritation at that dress she got stuck with, and Agent Dolls' amusement with her (also how pleased he is with the clothes he got). Although Dolls (whose first name is Xavier), has a personal license plate of "X8VR", which is just, no. Never have a personal plate of your own name.

Also, the full-page spread of Wynonna preparing to have her showdown with Ringo. The last panel of the previous page was Ringo, feeling cocky and drawn from a relatively low angle looking up at him. Supposed to make him look imposing and dangerous, especially after Holliday's warnings (and the fact the panel next to Ringo is Doc struggling futilely, unable to help). Then you go to the next page, and here's Wynonna, shot from an even more extreme upward angle, calm, ready, the ghost of Wyatt behind her. Big, impressive shot, completely dwarfing Ringo's just before, and showing how out matched he is.

Roche Limit Monadic #4, by Michael Moreci (writer), Kyle Charles (artist), Matt Battaglia (colorist), Ryan Ferrer (letterer) - Fun with the Cosmic Spirograph. And I'm guessing on the credits because I can't read the damn things because of the stupid choice they made for text color against a black backdrop on the inside cover.

OK, human souls are poisonous to the creatures from the other side of the Anomaly, which is why they're ejected from any bodies that try to enter. So you have the one group that eventually manages to kill Moscow and capture his soul, then try to trick the big monster in the tower into taking the deceased Alex' soul instead. Independent of that, you have Sasha and her daughter who are going to pilot a ship full of all those ejected souls into the midst of the alien fleet and detonate it, killing them by human soul exposure. And both these things work, I think. There's a definitely an explosion of the ship that results in a bigger explosion that destroys the planet, which I assume would solve those problems. Although in the second mini-series, everyone pretty much assumed there were already some of these creatures back on Earth (which is why doomed missions kept being sent to the colony secretly), so I don't know what's happening there.

The art really doesn't help. In previous issues, there were stretches where Charles would seemingly stop inking over his pencils, and the work would have a rougher feel to it. I tended not to like those parts, because the visual clarity of things declined sharply. This entire issue is like that. Near the end, when Bekka and Sonya manage to force feed Alex' soul to the Final Boss, he reacts by barfing a stream of purple energy into the sky. On the next page we see Sasha's ship heading towards seemingly empty space, and then an orange beam strikes it from behind and triggers the explosion. I don't know if that's meant to be read as deliberate, a dying effort by the creature to stop her, but it doesn't understand her plan, or just a freak coincidence that doesn't matter because she was going to blow up the ship anyway. Or if that was something entirely different striking the ship, or not even something striking the ship, but something else entirely. Not exactly ideal, as you might imagine. There are points in the book I would almost say Charles is going for a later-period Frank Miller look (the panel of Bekka decaptating Moscow in particular), but I'm not certain that's true, and I don't think he's quite pulling it off.

Ultimately, the aliens are defeated by the human willingness to sacrifice ourselves for others. Which is a trait the aliens had scorned, and were pretty vocal in pointing out how they were going to exclude it from themselves when they took over as humanity. It's strange to me that they seemingly understood it existed in people, understood it was a compulsion that can propel us forward, but either didn't recognize it was at work in all this people confronting it, or didn't recognize the danger it presented. They understand humans will give their lives to save others. These humans in front of them seemed determined to stop them. So perhaps they, too, are willing to die in the process, and them should take this a little more seriously? Is the point that the concept is ultimately so alien to these beings' way of thinking that even if they think they grasp it - and can thus dismiss it - they don't really get it? Or that for all our screw-ups, all the selfish decisions we make that the creatures were able to exploit up too that point in the story, that capacity for self-sacrifice is intrinsic to us, and by excluding it from their attempt to be us, they fail at their goal?

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Relationships In Movies Are Too Much Work

OK, one more movie with Jean Harlow. Hey, Myrna Loy's in it, too. And Jimmy Stewart! Oh crap, so's Clark Gable. Will Wife vs. Secretary make him unlikable to me?

Clark gable runs a publishing house for some magazine that tells women they need to buy whatever to be happy/please their man/stave off time/whatever. Harlow is his indispensible secretary, whom everyone assumes he's fooling around with. "Everyone" even includes his own mother, but not his wife, played by Loy. Harlow is engaged to a young Stewart, who works in some job where he just got a raise to $75/week, and expects that because of that, Harlow will quit her job.

Wife vs. Secretary is one of those films where a lot of conflict could be avoided if people were just honest with each other. The funny thing is, the characters do try talking some things out, it just isn't effective enough because there's one big, stupid thing being kept secret. Also, when Stewart's character tries to explain why he wants Harlow to stop working, he frames it less as his being insecure that he'll look shabby compared to gable and his socialite friends, and more that Harlow is getting greedy. You can tell the insecurity is there, but he presents it to her as a failing on her part, not his.

But the big problem is Gable decides to buy this weekly magazine, and worries that if a rival publishing house gets wind of it, they'll make an offer he can't match. So everything must be hush-hush, even from his wife. This despite the fact he came up with the idea in a room with his secretary and his board of directors, and you know those schmoes probably go drinking at the same clubs as the boys from the rival publisher. So not only does he decline to tell Loy what he's doing, he actively lies. He goes to the home of the magazine owner, bringing Harlow along to help practice his spiel, but tells his wife he went to the club for a swim all afternoon. Which she soon learns is a lie, and it spirals down from there. It just seems like such a stupid thing to hide from her. He can't explain he needs it kept secret and trust her to do so?

So it's frustrating. Loy gets fed up enough to leave him, and Harlow actually goes to her and convinces her to come back, even though she points out that if Loy leaves, Gable will turn to Harlow on the rebound, and she's not going to rebuff him. But at the end, all couples end up back together, and I don't know how I feel about that. Gable hadn't been unfaithful, hadn't even considered it apparently, until he became aware of the fact everyone thought he was being unfaithful. Harlow seems more than willing by the end of the film to start up with Gable, but once he and Loy are reunited, she quietly leaves and there's Stewart, dutifully waiting (after having been almost entirely absent the second half of the film).

Just not really my speed, as movies go.