July 28, 2010

Reviews...more media...all summer long

It's the beginning of the end of summer, so I'm trying to fit in as much missed media as I can...

Zombieland - Surprisingly entertaining...it's nothing heavy or tense or serious, just an entertaining bit of fluff road movie in which four characters - three of whom are never given names more than the cities to which they're headed or where they're from before the zombiepocalypse: Columbus, Tallahassee, Topeka, and Wichita.  Things start off with our main character, Jesse Einsenberg, who does an entertaining job of narrating the film off and on as he recounts his rules for surviving in what he's come to dub Zombieland, wandering through Texas and being picked up by Woody Harrelson's Tallahasee a zombie killing machine who wants little to do with talking about his past and seems to be on a quest to find the last surviving Twinkies.  They get conned out of their car and gun by two girls - Emma Stone and Abigail Breslin - who eventually become the other pair in their cross-country jaunt, headed for Pacific Playland, the last remaining zombie-free enclave - according to Wichita, anyway.

The film has a speaking cast of no more than six people and must've been filmed on a fairly low budget, using CGI for most of its more gruesome scenes, but this low budget doesn't do anything to blunt the quality of the film.  There are a few slightly more emotional moments - revelations of the past, connections made between the characters - and a few tense moments - particularly the concluding sequence in which things at Pacific Playland go predictably wrong, but the film is primarily a chance for the four main characters to spend time together bonding and living in their new world.

Certainly worth matching...solid, not ground breaking stuff...Harrelson's most entertaining role in years...

The Road to the Dark Tower - The isn't anything to read until - unless - you finish the entirety of the seven-volume Stephen King Dark Tower series.  The meat of the book is a one-chapter per book recap of the series, helpful for me having finished up the series a few years back.  I was a little surprised to find tears welling up - allergies, I swear - when two of the four main characters died toward the end of the recaps, but that just tells me that the recaps were well-written.

The more impressive parts of the book for me came after the recap as Vincent explored the origins of the idea of Roland and the Dark Tower - coming from Shakespeare's King Lear and Robert Browning's poem "Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came" as well as the chapter exploring the cyclical nature of Roland's quest.  The ending of the series was something that I'd struggled to understand - not to understand what happens, that's actually pretty straight forward - but to understand on a more emotional basis - why was this the correct ending, and Vincent's book did a wonderful job of helping that come to conclusion for me.

Strong recommendation...but only if you've read the full series already...

Scott Pilgrim 1 & 2 - They have actual titles, but those don't really matter, do they?

I'm a lot late in coming to the Scott Pilgrim party - the first book having been published in 2004 - and am really only getting there in advance of the movie's impending release and the fact that The Girl has all six books on reserve at the library.  They're coming in scattershot now - #5, for example, has been on her hold shelf since Thursday last week - but things are rolling along nicely enough in that volumes 1 & 2 came in within the first week.  Kinda helps that our library system is like the best in the world.

But I digress...

This thing is awesome.

The first two volumes are hilarious but filled with a hugely surprising depth of characterization for comics without much artistic shading anywhere.  The fight scenes in the first two volumes probably don't take up twenty of the combined almost 400 pages, so anyone thinking this might be all about the battles would be sorely mistaken.  It's a comic about a twenty-three year old guy trying to get through the world, maybe find a little companionship and falling madly, head over heels in love with an American in Toronto, a girl who rollerblades through his subspace dreams as a short cut to get her Amazon.ca orders to the customers in the shortest possible time.

There's a magic here that's hard to describe but would be amazingly easy to grab hold of since the reading of the two volumes combined didn't take me an hour but that I'd like to revisit because the level of detail in the comics is impressive, and I'm thinking there's a lot of stuff there that I missed.  For example, when Scott's sister shows up and asks how he met Ramona, Scott answers "read the first volume".

It's a trip, man.

Highest possible recommendation all around.  Grab 'em cheaply over at Amazon - less than $43 for the full series.

Yeah, it's tough to get dark brown hair in their avatar maker.  Shut up...

Batwoman: Elegy - Collected Editions has been raving about the Batwoman character and story for a while now, and I noticed that the library - did I mention that pretty much 90+% of the media I intake comes thanks to good of PLCH? - had finally gotten Elegy in so I went for it in a heartbeat.

The initial feeling that I had was absolute shock at how impressive the artwork on the series is.  JH Williams takes the comic page and absolutely blows it up in a way that we haven't seen before.  His layouts trade in the typical squares and rectangles for arrows, lightning bolts, and irregular shapes guiding the eye clearly while providing an amazing sense of movement.

I'll admit to a little initial trouble identifying the out-of-costume Kate Kane (seen above with the ghostly white skin and the blood red bob) as Batwoman and not some freakish Joker-esque new villain when I first saw her, but this actually plays well into the revelation of the new Big Bad of the story arc.

I'd heard all the news coverage of the initial announcements of the new Batwoman character being a lesbian, and that's a very clear, strong part of Kane's identity - something briefly but importantly explored throughout the series - particularly in the second half of the arc when Rucka reveals the background of our Batwoman and her reasons for putting on the cape and cowl.

Another really strong recommendation here.  It's not the best comic I've read, but it's one of the finest strong female protagonists that we've seen in comics.  I'd actually put her above Wonder Woman in terms of quality of the current ongoing series.

And far better than what I've heard about the new Batgirl.  Blech...

Across the Universe - I'd seen this one in the theater a while back - reviewed back here - and found it a muddled mess, but I gave it another try and found pretty much the same thing this time.  The first half is entertaining.  The second half was watched with one finger on the fast forward button.

Some entertaining musical numbers, though...


Anonymous said...

Not sure I'll be into Scott Pilgrim, but I'll get vol 1 from the library and see how it goes. Won't see the movie until it comes on cable, probably, so plenty of time to read the trades.

Agree that Across the Universe is just a bad movie, but the musical numbers are worth the time. When we saw it, didn't know Bono was in it and spent many minutes questioning, "Is that really Bono?"

PHSChemGuy said...

Feel free to go for the books first, man. They're outstanding and only should take like half an hour to read each one. The Girl has ordered the full series - shipped this morning from Amazon.

I could tell who Bono was because he's such a ham. It's pretty much when he steps out that the entire movie goes right to hell.