July 24, 2012

This is what summer's for

Summer is all about watching movies, reading comic books, and reading movies, so that's what I've been doing. Some of the media, of course, has been better than others.

Some of these reviews have been sitting a while, so I'll be quick...

Green Lantern - This one's a frickin' mess, failing to merge the cosmic scope of the Green Lantern Corps with the Earth-bound story of Hal Jordan - love with a rewritten Carol Ferris and a battle with Hector Hammond.

We get the obligatory Abin Sur crash, sending his ring off to find the most fearless replacement on the plant. We get the oath and Hal's first trip to Oa. We also get a reworked Paralax - now agent of fear having taken over a wayward big-headed Guardian of the Universe.

But none of it really works. We don't spend enough time on Earth focused on the Hal/Carol relationship (Hal reveals his identity almost instantly, something that felt wrong). We also don't get enough time in space with Hal learning anything from the rest of the Corps - especially anything from Kilowog or Sinestro (a Green Lantern Corps member as the movie starts).

The space scenes also look a lot like cartoons while the Earth-bound scenes are entirely believable with well-done CGI. The film is a Brat, an El Camino of a film. Stay away...

Mockingjay - Finished off the Hunger Games trilogy and was pleasantly satisfied with the story's wrap-up. We mostly get rid of the inner monologue of a sixteen-year-old girl and replace it with actual action, hitting the story's sweetspot for me.

The whole Panem vs Capital conflict elevates to full-out war, and our titular Mockingjay (Katniss) finds herself in the mess of being used as the face of the revolution. She finds herself as soldier and figurehead, being pulled along toward what turns out to be a fairly satisfying end.

I'm never reading this series again, though, because I don't know that I can put up with the craptacular first half of the second book.

GI Joe/Cobra - I'm digging the ongoing mess that is the IDW GI Joe/Cobra Civil War comic series that started a while back with Chuckles's story of infiltration of Cobra.

I do wish, however, that the story wasn't being told over three miniseries and three separate stand-alone issues. It's frickin' impossible to tell in what order I'm supposed to be reading the thing. So what I got was a bit of the story in order and a whole lot of the story out of order. Good for comic collecting business but bad for trying to read it after the fact via trade.

Story good...publisher very bad.

Nation X - It's been interesting to drop in and out of the Marvel universe and see the X-Men fracturing off into their own entire world with pretty much no overlap at all with the rest of the 616 Universe - especially in spite of the fact that two of their members (Beast & Wolverine) have been off and on Avengers along the way.

Here we see the X-Men taking the entirety of the remaining mutants to a rock off the coast of San Francisco and creating the nation of Utopia - which appears to be within the maritime borders of the United States even if it it a rock that didn't exist before and that is populated by walking, talking weapons of mass destruction. This, then, is what happens within the first few weeks of the creation of Utopia - Magneto brings Kitty back to Earth as a show of goodwill, the island started sinking, Emma Frost became unlocked from her diamond form, and the world of mutants had their lives roll onward.

The best of this volume is the Nation X series, four volumes of short stories from various authors and artists. We are given gorgeous, human, interesting tales of the mutants who remain on the mainland, came to Utopia, and even were depowered and have to deal with the repercussions of that. The first part of the collection is good. The last part is great.

X-Men: Schism and Prelude to Schism - Oh good God, just get on with it. We all know that the X-Men aren't going to split into two teams for long. Cut it out already...

The attacks from the new, pre-teen Hellfire Club are interesting and kind of fun, but having Wolverine advocate not fighting just rings false. 

Move one...

This Means War - every interesting part of this movie was in the preview. The rest is poorly done rom-com formula. Interesting, though, that the filmmakers filmed all three possible endings - shown on the DVD extras - with the girl choosing each of the guys and even choosing neither of them. For a movie whose female character works at a Consumer Reports analog, choosing to film every option and probably run them each through focus groups just seems too ironic.

Watch the trailer...avoid the flick...

Bamboozled - This one's a tough flick to review... Lemme start by showing you the trailer...

I appreciate the position of the review to which I linked just above:
Spike Lee's latest film, Bamboozled, is a 135-minute rant against racist images of blacks in popular culture and the complacency with which the public accepts them. According to Lee, white America is all too happy to see the black man put down - as long as it occurs in a socially acceptable, non-threatening manner, such as on television. And, while those ideas have merit, Lee's heavy-handed approach turns Bamboozled into a tedious and overlong polemic. This is sledgehammer satire. 
Throughout Bamboozled, Lee has a knack for underestimating the intelligence of his audience. As if afraid that movie-goers will somehow miss the point, he opens with a verbal definition of satire (it goes something like this: "Satire: the use of ridicule, sarcasm, irony, etc. to expose, attack, or deride vices, follies, stupidities, abuses, etc."), then proceeds to demonstrate that making a good satire is a more difficult task than adhering to the definition. Bamboozled is neither humorous nor subversively clever. It is too obvious to engage the intellect or stimulate discussion. The only ones likely to be challenged by anything presented here are the painfully naïve or sheltered - and they're unlikely to see the film in the first place. Subjecting everyone else to a soap box oratory masquerading as a satire is an act of ego worthy of Oliver Stone.
That just about says it all. I understand - I think - what Spike Lee is trying to say here: that our actions have consequences, that the line between satire and cultural damage is a tough line to walk, that both extremes of an issue are often equally ridiculous and dangerous. What I don't understand is why Spike couldn't find a more nuanced way to make his point without beating us over the head again and again with his message. This is work that has something to say but that is a drastically flawed effort to say it from a great filmmaker.

The worst part of the film is the lead performance of Damon Wayans who affects an accent and speech style that would have worked for a three-minute In Living Color skit but that grates after the first few seconds on screen here. 

Spike is better than this.

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