October 26, 2012

Things I sawheardwatched

Quick hits here...

The Descendants - Cooney's flick about a family in Hawaii falling apart...great acting from Clooney as a man whose wife is injured and falls into a coma...he then finds out that his wife was cheating (finds out from his elder daughter)...at the same time Clooney is in charge of a decision of what the family (the eponymous Descendants) is going to do with a gorgeous piece of unspoiled property on the island...

In the board strokes, it's a very predictable plot: father has lost touch with his two daughters, has to get closer with his girls, has to figure out what to do when he finds out his wife was cheating. In the narrower strokes, the acting is outstanding, and Clooney in particular really shines. So does the elder daughter, Shailene Woodley. Ending is a bit predictable, but the experience of getting there is well worth the watch. Descendants easily earned its Oscar nomination for Best Picture.

Somewhere - I'd only seen one of Sofia Copola's films: Lost in Translation. Loved it...slow grower but well worth the watch. This - my second one - is also a slow grower, but this one never really gets anywhere at all. Actor is divorced and sees his daughter infrequently while doing actory stuff - going out on junkets, getting a monster mask mold made, getting awards in foreign lands. The actor realizes he's living a hollow, meaningless life and needs to become a better father to his daughter.

The whole thing goes nowhere...and it goes there slowly.

In watching the DVD extras, I got something out of this being Copola's film commentary on the lives of actors and Hollywood people, and maybe they liked/loved/appreciated/tolerated the film. I did none of that.

Rocket Science - There are a few actors who I will see in just about anything. Anna Kendrick's one of them. She's a cutey, and she can act the heck out of most roles.

Here she's a hugely successful high school debater looking to recruit a stutterer to become the master debater that she thinks he can be. But then things take a different turn when Kendrick's character ditches for a private school, leaving the debate team to flounder onward with the team of misfits that she recruited.

Good to see the stutterer start to come into his own, but the climax that we're looking for never develops, and the one that we get as a replacement isn't terrifically satisfying. The path to get there is worthwhile and enjoyable enough, though, that it's worth taking. It's a surprisingly honest portrait of high school hierarchy.

Sleepwalk With Me - I'd requested this one from The Neon in Dayton, the Esquire, and the Mariemont Strand. The Neon got things first, but before I had to take the arduous drive north, the Mariemont folks messaged me that they had acquiesced to the demands of the public (public here being defined as slightly liberal public who listens to This American Life on NPR) and brought Sleepwalk to the Strand.

The Girl and I hit Terry's for a burger - I'm thinking I need to try the chili next time. Then onward to the Strand to pay up on the begging that I'd done in trying to get Sleepwalk to town.

Mike Birbiglia's stand-up career has heavily mined his real life, particularly the part of his real life in which he sleepwalks - to the extent that he even jumps out a second-story window in hopes of escaping the rocket aimed at him in his dreams. Birbiglia told the story on This American Life, the producers of which helped turn the story into a stunningly honest movie starring Mike Birbiglia as an only slightly-fictionalized version of himself named Matt Pandapiglia, who tells the story of Pandapiglia's commitment issues, developing stand-up career, and dissolving relationship (and engagement).

Birbiglia doesn't pull any punches - even going so far as to say before one particularly unflattering part, 'Before this next part, I want you to remember that you're on my side.' In the process he tells a great story.

Worth hunting down.

Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay - Dumb...stupid...entertainment...

Fun stuff all the way through...not as awesome as the third one, but pretty close.

Well worth a few dozen chuckles.

Some Nights by fun. - Great album all the way through. I'd heard the first single - "We Are Young" - a bunch of times but really decided to take a second look at the band after seeing them perform and absolutely killing it on Colbert's StePhest Colbchella.

Turns out it's a great album from front to back, one of the better ones that I've heard in a past couple of years. Killer from front to back.

Looper - Just a heads up if you have any interest in seeing this one: the entirety of the trailer comes and goes in the first twenty minutes or so. The movie you get is not that one that you're expecting. Instead, you get a movie that's far better than that.

Instead of a fairly straight forward action film with man chasing his older version, we're granted with an outstanding time travel film that reveals itself in a perfect, meticulous pace, turning out to be a far deeper and richer even than the trailer - which impressed me, by the way - presents. I won't give you more than that because the revelations left me literally slack jawed.

It's a pretty stunning and outstanding film. Go see it.

Nextwave: Agents of H.A.T.E. - I went with the full twelve-issue Ultimate Collection, not that I knew there was a difference, but apparently there is...

This one's an absolute blast. Hilarious, full of action, great characters that make for a thoroughly entertaining team of super heroes that have gone AWOL from HATE (Highest Anti-Terrorism Effort) as they have found out that HATE isn't as purely good guys as they claim to be. In the process the hero team follows back through a series of biological weapons of mass destruction hidden across America: Fin Fang Foom, broccoli people, homicide crabs, each more ridiculous than the last. And in the process we see just how stupid, silly, and foolish the leadership of HATE really is.

Great read...one to pick up for a fun lark

Uncanny X-Men/Steve Rodgers: Super Soldier: Escape from the Negative Zone - ...needs a shorter title, sheesh...

This seems to be a trio of annuals collected in a single story. Three issues for a collection? Seems a little money-grubbing, even for Marvel. Plus, having the three issues from three separate art teams makes for a jarring pair of transitions between the various issues.

Luckily the story's a fun read with the X-Men's science team accidentally ripping open a portal to the Negative Zone, sucking through Hope, Cyclops, Dr Nemesis, and Namor, who are soon followed by Steve Rodgers on a rescue mission.

This one's worth reading mostly for the interplay between Hope and Cyclops. Nice interplay between the overprotective father figure and the ready-for-the-world youngster, future of mutantkind.

X-Men: Origins - This is land that has been tread a hundred times before - origins of Marvel Girl, Colossus  Beast, Sabertooth, Wolverine, and Gambit. Luckily it's retread fairly well, particularly the tales of Sabertooth and Marvel Girl. Nothing here that you need to see, but the Sabertooth story is easily the best, tying him in playfully with Logan/Wolverine in a summary of their relationship pre- and post-Weapon X.

You could avoid this entire collection and not have missed a thing other than some well re-told tales.

New Avengers: The Reunion - See, Hawkeye was dead and isn't any more. Same with Mockingbird, Hawkeye's wife. She was abducted by aliens, replaced, and her duplicate killed - only nobody knew it wasn't her. He, on the other hand, straight up died and was resurrected by Scarlet Witch.

Comics, everybody!

This volume explores the rebuilding of their relationship and revelations that the real Mockingbird was going to divorce Hawkeye before she was abducted. Her duplicate never went through with the plan, though. Neither can now trust the other, and these issues ply that land somewhat successfully. Sure, SHIELD continues to be whatever each author wants it to be - strong, weak, full of traitors, the highest agency, the second-highest agency, whatever. Dumb...

Not a bad read but nothing special.

Delirium's Party: a little Endless storybook - This is apparently the second Little Endless storybook from Jill Thompson, and it tells a tale of the seven Endless siblings (from the Sandman world) as Delerium tries to cheer up Despair by throwing a party.

The art is cute - Chibi-style versions of the Endless planning and attending the party in the vain hopes of getting a smile from the archetype of Despair. The writing is cute, too, with Delerium being particularly front and center with her cute pup, Barnabas. The tale, however, seems a little too adult in the end for the enjoyment of children, as the resolution finds the siblings doing what they can to cheer up their sister but ultimately failing. Despair then (spoilers behind the black) smirks only when every other sibling, Delerium in particularl, is finally miserable as their attempt at cheering her up has failed miserably, leaving everyone else as miserable as is she. It's a cute resolution but one that might be a little dark for most young readers.

Wolverine/Captain America - Dumb...dumb...dumb...

I'm fine with suspending my science knowledge in almost every case, but the science here is phenomenally stupid-sounding as well as stupid...

To whit...The plot is put into motion when a computer chip mutates and gains sentience, so the X-Men have to protect it...and destroy it.

Wolverine is nearly killed when 'magnetized bullets...attached themselves to his adamantium skeleton...plus the magnetic pulses prevent the wounds from healing around them...(and if they don't do something) soon, Wolverine's heart is going to explode'.

Dumb...dumb...dumb...and the artwork stinks, too, especially every facial expression drawn in the book.

Avoid this one...

X-Men: First Class: The Wonder Years - fun read kept together by the thematic arc of Angel leaving the team to live in a cave behind the world's largest waterfalls. It's not believable, but it's at least fun to read. Each issue is drawn by a different art team which actually works here, letting the tone of the issues shift fairly drastically but never being weighed down by being anything more than a book about teenagers.

I particularly enjoyed the Continui-teens issue that lead off the collection. Worth a read for that issue alone.

Archer - Big apologies to GRob who's been telling me I have to see this one for a year or two. Mea culpa, G'Rob.

Archer's a blast, an animated, vulgar, sexist (hitting men and women evenly, though), thoroughly offensive skewering of the spy genre - particularly if James Bond worked at a spy agency with rampant drug use, drinking, sleeping around - on the job, in the office, in the elevator at the office, in the break room, on the rooftops around work, on screen, off screen, halfway on screen. The characters are alternately drunk, high, murderous, vulgar, incompetent, at each other's throats, and between each other's legs.

It's not one for the kiddies, but it's definitely one for the rest of us.

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