Thursday, March 22, 2018

Get Out

I watched this with a friend who didn't know the reveal, while I had read about it online last year. It worked really well for both of us. I want to try not to spoil too much about this in case you haven't seen it.

If you know what's coming, the way things keep getting progressively stranger and more ominous has you sitting there dreading the moment it stops being odd and starts being deadly. If you don't know, the things are sufficiently weird that you know things are going to go badly (plus the title of the movie is Get Out, so. . .)

Daniel Kaluuya did an excellent job as Chris. He's already uneasy, meeting his white girlfriend's family the first time, and things are awkward. But awkward in a way that Chris is unfortunately used to, so you see him trying to put it aside, while also trying to find anyone that he can feel more comfortable with. Which only proves to create more strangeness, and makes him even more uneasy. Kaluuya conveys that sense of isolation that produces nagging uncertainty, that distinct awareness that he's vulnerable.

And I like how the movie handled LilRel Howery's character, Rod. It would have been easy for him to just be the goofy best friend character, and Rod is the source of a lot of humor. But he isn't only that. I feel like we're supposed to underestimate him, but he tries to be smart about things and help his friend, even though he's operating in the dark about what's really happening.

The film builds the tension well, and just in general, the threats and tools are presented in an intelligent fashion. I never felt like the movie was cheating. It sets up our expectations, then twists them or blasts them to pieces in ways that work. It's a very well-done film.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Planetary Volume 1

Rather than shell out for those big collections of Planetary I saw in the solicits a few months ago, I bought some of the trades they released 15 years ago, since used copies were so much cheaper. I'm not too worried about missing out on the various crossover mini-series that I don't think are included in these. Do I really need to see the main cast interact with the Justice League, when Ellis and Cassaday are using various knockoff versions of them already?

(I was going to call them thinly-veiled, but in some cases the veil is practically diaphanous.)

The first trade, containing the first six issues, pretty much set the tone for the book. Planetary investigates strange things, all of which are variations on stuff from our popular fiction. A team of pulp heroes, kaiju, superheroes, etc. Usually things have gone disastrously badly, machines that create universes to search for answers before destroying them, or an endless cycle of murdered Hong Kong cops who become spirits of vengeance.

The book is entertaining. The stories have all been done-in-ones, with a larger subplot taking form in the background. I like the strange ideas in the same way I enjoy them in Atomic Robo (although with a very different tone), and with each issue being a different adventure, it creates its own momentum as I want to see what the next issue will bring. The writing isn't bad; I knew Ellis could do snappy, sarcastic dialogue already.

But it feels light. Like I'm just skimming the surface, playing "spot the reference" and seeing how John Cassaday draws weird stuff. The answer to that second part is, "better than I expected". I thought his style would be a little too stiff or realistic to draw things other than extremely good-looking people, but that actually seems to work in his favor. When he draws the corpse of a giant monster, it stands in stark contrast to the people around it. He can draw gleaming alien structures, and decaying ruins that suggest a long (and probably dark history). Laura DePuy's colors suggest things so bright they're blinding at times, but goes dingy or faded when needed.

The are and the general concept of the book are carrying most of the water. I wouldn't say I particularly care about Elijah Snow, Jakita, or the Drummer. I don't dislike them - well, the Drummer annoys me a little, but he also seems to have gotten the least focus so far - but they mostly serve as a way to get the story to the weird stuff. Maybe provide exposition for what take Ellis is going with as necessary.

It's working for me as an adventure story, which is fine. A good one of those is a pleasure to read.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Man Vs.

A horror movie about a guy on one of those survival TV shows. He's left in northern Canada, and starts to feel as though something in the woods is messing with him. Robbing his traps, stealing his satellite phone. His crew had been giving him a hard time, because he's kind of a prick, and the crew is hoping their show gets picked up by a major network. And he was kind of a prick to their guide when they first met, so he can't rule out that one of them is playing a joke.

We can, because something fell out of the sky nearby his first night there, and we know how these things go, but Doug doesn't make the connection for a long time.

Like a lot of horror movies, this one works best when it only shows hints of what's after him, or shows its handiwork. The way it's copying his survival techniques. Near the end, they start showing a lot more of it, which is not to the movie's benefit.

It wasn't clear what its motivations were, even once the film unveiled its surprise twist at the end. I wasn't sure why it didn't just kill him, or why, if it wasn't going to kill him, it kept after him, even once he decided it was time to get the hell out of there. The surprise did solve my concern about how Doug, if he survived, was going to explain his dead crew. You can never rule out the cops (or Mounties, I guess) showing up and gunning down the "dangerous maniac" in these things.

The first hour plus wasn't bad on the suspense, the last 10-15 minutes kind of flubbed it.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Catch a Demon By His Heartstrings

In the last issue of Demon: Hell is Earth, Jason Blood and Madame Xanadu had a conversation in the lull in the middle. Jason admits to fearing that Etrigan is going to overwhelm him, which isn't a new for him. He mentions that the two of them - Blood and Xanadu - seemed to drift apart after he stopped letting Etrigan out, and her response is essentially that yes, that's true. Because she saw it as Jason not trusting that the two of them could control the Demon. Jason was treating it as his burden to bear when, if they were a couple, it was a responsibility they'd share.

Although I figure there's a decent chance Jason was worried she'd decide she liked Etrigan better and Blood would become the third wheel. You know Etrigan would try his damndest to make that happen, just because. Which makes me envision Jason and Etrigan as Betty and Veronica, which leaves Madame Xanadu as Archie, my apologies to her. Which makes Merlin Reggie Mantle, or Jughead?

That wasn't really where I was going with this. A less charitable interpretation of Xanadu's comments would be she liked having both boys interested, and resented Jason for cutting Etrigan out. Seems unlikely, but as Drax might say, it might sound like the Madame Xanadu I know. I haven't read that many comics with her in them, and DC characters are an unfathomable mystery!

Shortly after the conversation, as Etrigan tears apart mutated horned lizards, Jason and Xanadu observe and discuss how a sword is never safe, but it can be managed, controlled. Tying in to Jason's concerns of losing control, and Xanadu's remarks that the two of them together could handle the situation. That's a dangerous assumption to make.

Setting aside that Jason can't count on Madame Xanadu always being there to help him, Etrigan is not a sword. Swords can't think for themselves, don't have their own motivations. Etrigan is no genius, but he's old, and cunning, and spiteful. You can't rely on the situations where they need Etrigan being ones where he'd always want to help, or have no choice but to do so. And as long as he has to option to refuse to help simply for the sake of being difficult, or out of spite, "controlling" him is going to be hard to do. A sword, when you go to draw it from its scabbard, doesn't typically refuse to be drawn. But Etrigan might. He might simply repeat the phrase and revert to Jason Blood, or turn around and go do something else.

Granted, if Blood dies, Etrigan dies, but underestimating the demon's potential for spite seems dangerous. The two of them have both certainly contemplated doing that often enough. Madame Xanadu could try using approval/disapproval as a carrot/stick situation, but that's only going to sour things over time. Unless demons enjoy being played with like that, and assuming she's actually willing to do so (doesn't really seem like her style, but like I said, it might be).

There are going to be times they need Etrigan, and it would certainly help to be able to convince him to help. But thinking they can control him just seems like the first step in setting themselves up for an unpleasant surprise down the line. Still, seeing if the can pull it off for the duration of this adventure is the main thing keeping me invested in the mini-series.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Sunday Splash Page #12

"A typical Tuesday for Spider-Man" in Amazing Spider-Man #231, by Roger Stern (writer), John Romita Jr. (penciler), Jim Mooney (inker), Bob Sharen (colorist), Joe Rosen (letterer)

The Roger Stern/John Romita Jr. run on Amazing Spider-Man is a little before my time, so I've doubled back around to it after the fact. I generally like Stern's writing, and Romita Jr. is drawing in a style more similar to Romita Sr. still at this stage, which is fine. 

(How much I like Romita Jr.'s later work seems to depend heavily on the inker, colorist, and just the project in general. Some books it works better to my eye than others.) 

I own bits of this run. This two-parter against Mr. Hyde, and the two issues before that, the iconic fight with the Juggernaut. Two issues when Stern brought back the Black Cat (although it seems like they mostly left that relationship to be handled in Spectacular Spider-Man). One issue where the Mad Thinker takes an interest in Spider-Man. Stern's last few, when the Hobgoblin tries a major extortion scheme and neutralizes Webs' spider-sense. Stern didn't get a chance to finish revealing the mystery of who the Hobgoblin was before he was off the book, though. 

Stern and Romita Jr. work the Spider-Man formula pretty well, mixing and matching the romance/job/school troubles with the superhero fisticuffs. I'm a fan of stories where Spidey has to punch out of his weight class, and they added a couple of solid entries to the list, the Juggernaut story being the more well-known. Romita Jr. knows how to draw a fight scene cleanly and with impact, and show off Spider-Man's combination of speed and agility.

Friday, March 16, 2018

What I Bought 3/14/2018

Two books this week, both from Marvel, both wrapping up storylines. And for one of them, it's the end of the line for me. At least for a couple of months. Gee whiz, I wonder which one that is?

Deadpool #296, by Gerry Duggan (writer), Matteo Lolli (artist), Ruth Redmond (colorist), Joe Sabino (letterer) - I would say Wade should be careful what he asks for, making the "bring it" gesture, but even if Cap pummels him into the ground, Wade would be OK with the pain.

Wade fights with Captain America, yelling at him and blaming him a lot. Cap grows increasingly frustrated, playing into Deadpool's hands. Most of this is Wade coming up with ways to make Cap look bad in front of the public, which I love. I laughed at least three times during this issue. They end up in Deadpool's subway hangout, where Wade makes a request/demand of Steve, escapes by threatening civilians, and vows to continue pissing off the entire world.

I know Deadpool needed Cap alive to make that request, but I also like to think he knew killing Captain America wasn't happening, so he might as well crap on his rehabilitation tour. Steve Rogers gets to play the "it was an evil doppelganger" card, and it's three cheers and second chances all around. Wade can't play that card, and combined with the crapstorm his life has become, that has to be maddening. I wonder if he also left Rogers alive to annoy Stevil Rogers, since the reverse is true.

It's an interesting fight, with Cap holding back (except maybe when Deadpool suggests the evil Cap is the one who really represents the U.S.), while Wade is using it as another chance to air grievances. Lolli tells it in a straightforward manner, the flow from one move to the next is easy to follow. Plus, he made sure people were looking in the right direction for Wade's first trick to work. Wade looks left while Steve looks down, and it's only when Cap finally looks to his left he realizes he's been played. That's basic stuff, but we've all seen miscommunication between the creative team ruin things like that. It was a good gag, so getting the set-up right was important.

I do wish Lolli wouldn't draw Cap's eyebrows as being visible in the eye holes of the mask. I suppose they would be, and he's hardly the only artist who does, but it's always bothered me. Ruins something about the mask somehow.

Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #30, by Ryan North (writer), Erica Henderson (artist), Rico Renzi (color artist), Travis Lanham (letterer) - What is everyone looking at? It must be something sorta cool, but not that cool, since Drax is ignoring it.

Our heroes avoid death from the missiles and then Doreen is able to figure out how to fix all the old beefs the various ripped off alien species had with each other. While all that is happening, Nancy and Tippy get the bit of Power Cosmic the aliens were using for their weapons to try and deal with the grifters. Tippy's attempt to make it so no one believes anything they say has too many loopholes, and the grifters' utter lack of remorse nearly gets them killed by a cosmic-powered Nancy, only for Doreen to give her a big speech about not being a bully by beating up these guys just because she can and wants to (and they deserve it).

Ehh, I don't know if I agree with that, but I'm a grudge-holder.

Until the book screeched to a halt for that discussion, I was enjoying it. Henderson and Renzi make a cosmic-powered squirrel look cool, and the panel of Tippy's impressive landing on the planet Chitt-crrt. I imagine it might have looked less impressive if we had seen the feet of the various characters standing there, but they were smart enough not to include that detail. And the blur lines on the "KRA-KOOM" sound effect were a nice touch.

Doreen and Nancy not letting the Surfer off the hook with his "it would be impossible to describe the Power Cosmic to those without it" was amusing, and Doreen trying to figure out how to solve all the aliens' conflicts with white boards and markers as well. Although my favorite moment was the excuse Nancy was forced to us as a distraction for Tippy. And that North had it work, but in a way that mortified Nancy even more. I hope she didn't touch anything in that restroom, though. Both for her benefit and the other species. You can't tell which way the War of the Worlds effect is going to run.

Thursday, March 15, 2018


Of course my dad wanted to watch the other Winston Churchill movie that came out last year. Unlike Darkest Hour, this one is set in the days leading up to D-Day, when Churchill (Brian Cox) is trying his best to scuttle the Normandy invasion. He sees it as helping to prevent a massacre, as Gallipoli looms large in his memory. Failing at that, he tries to get himself on one of the landing ships, partially because he doesn't like sending men to their deaths while he sits at a desk in London. And partially because he thinks of this as his war to run.

So it's a lot of him acting a bit like a petulant child. Storms off when Eisenhower and Brooke tell him they are not wasting forces on diversions in the Aegean Sea or Norway. Yells at his wife, berates his secretary for not double-spacing a draft of a speech. To the extent this is him dreading what he fears is going to be massive casualties, it's understandable. He's under a lot of strain, it's taking its toll. To the extent he's just mad because he's WINSTON CHURCHILL, damnit, and that means he should be able to have his way, it's not a good look.

The movie doesn't take the creative liberty Darkest Hour did with that scene where Churchill decides to use the subway to poll the regular Joes on their thoughts, but it does have a scene where he prays at his bedside for a massive storm that will cancel D-Day. I'm guessing that didn't really happen. There's a few things like that, probably not accurate, but they make for entertaining dramatics.

The two movies make for an interesting contrast. Darkest Hour has an uncertain Churchill being undermined by Chamberlain and Halifax, whereas Churchill has Winston certain that Operation Overlord in a mistake, and he's trying to interfere with them. The former movie references Gallipoli, but Churchill is more defiant about it, still just angry at the Navy for half-assing their side of things. This movie paints it less as something that makes others doubt him, and more something that haunts him and influences his judgment. Churchill spends a lot more time on the interaction between him and his wife, Clementine, the sometimes strained nature of their relationship, whereas Darkest Hour spent a lot of energy on him and his secretary. Darkest was trying to play with the idea Churchill isn't sure how much he can ask of the populace (the whole uncertainty of his position), which she represents. While Churchill is him having to accept that his place in things is changing and he has to move forward, and the person who's been with him that whole way has to help him, if he'll stop being such a mule about it.

Darkest Hour had a few more bits that made me laugh, but I don't know which I'd say was better. Should have asked my dad, as the resident Anglophile.