Saturday, August 23, 2008

Updates on Dear Frugal

Between obsessing over Doctor Who downloads, getting sick because I outright refuse to acknowledge at times I'm lactose intolerant, and having my legs start to hurt for no reason so I have to lay down (my computer can't reach the bed without unplugging the Ethernet cord), entries have been difficult to type up.

Do not fear! I have several movie reviews to put up. Here's an explanation for how it works.

For new movie reviews, I will use my "Expectation-What it is-Thoughts-Grade" format since that works for most movies that just come and go in theaters. For older, more timeless movies like The Day the Earth Stood Still, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Citizen Cane, etc., I will write reviews like I did for Batman: Dark Knight. The fact that I do not give it a grade means that I think it cannot be qualified by the usual standards of movies and I do not have the arrogance to appropriately grade it.

Example: I would give the Iron Man movie an "A" because it can be watched by everyone, fan of the source material and ignorant heathen alike. It's recommended that you like action films or at least tolerate violence in order to enjoy the movie, but it's a really good movie all round in every category. The special effects are well done and the science does not make you cringe if you pay that close attention (I do). My biggest fear for the movie was the romantic subplot since it seems that only a chosen few movies seem to realize it's a SUBplot, not the main plot, and you know what? Marvel Studios remembered how to handle a subplot by keeping it subdued and made the relationship realistic and healthy. The movie really exceeded all my expectations and even hopes! It was a fantastic time that was made down right euphoric with the clip at the end with Samuel Jackson (Is it me or is he doing a LOT more comic book movie work?).

However, if I were to give Batman: Dark Knight a grade, I would have to default to "A" or "A+" which I am not comfortable doing since it puts it at the same grade as Iron Man. Now, Iron Man is by no means a bad thing to be compared to as I just explained. It is that I really do think that while Iron Man is most likely the best "Comic Book-Based Movie," Batman: Dark Knight is a better movie. The words "instant classic" come to mind when I think of Dark Knight. (Whether Superman Returns is as good a movie as Dark Knight, I can't say. I'll have to re-watch since it's been too long for me to say one way or another.)

Therefore, the lack of a grade means that it exceeds an "A" and everyone should watch it at one time or another. I will most likely not give a grade to deeper/thinking films like In Bruges, since usually, those films are extremely difficult to fully describe without explaning at length what is about. I never liked spoilers so I will not post them without warning. Severe spoilers (things that I can't keep to myself), I will make the same color as the background so if you really want to see it, it is completely your choice.

SEMI-SPOILER WARNING (Sort of) like if you didn't know this, you're more socially reclusive than I am - and that's saying something.

On a random note, I am continually surprised on how Harvey Dent turning into Two-Face was a plot twist for people. I mean really. Tommy Lee Johns played Two-Face in one of the Batman movies with Jim Carey as the Riddler, though the origin stories in that movie were really subdued. But, anyone that watched the Animated Series would know and it would only be a question of how they handle the origin. One the one hand, it could mean that people are going to Batman: Dark Knight because they want to, not becuase it is a comic book movie, which means they're doing something right. Batman has to be one of the best superheroes in comics today. It is reassuring to know that these new movies are playing off the philisophical side of the Batman lore.

Deadpool remains my favorite though.

TTFN, Ta ta for now.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Screen and Page: Superman Birthright

Superman: Birthright - The Origin of the Man of Steel

Writer-Mark Waid
Penciller-Leinil Francis Yu
Inking-Gerry Alanguilan
Colorist-Dave McCaig
Original Series Covers-Leinil Francis Yu and Gerry Alanguilan

Superman Created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster

My Thoughts
Just to get things out of the way, let me say this: I never liked Superman. I have attempted time and time again to formulate a pathos-free argument against the Man of Steel, but it never seems to come. I've tried to find some ultimately redeeming quality to him so I can stop admitting to people that I really do like Lex Luthor more than Superman. As Toyman said in the brilliant Action Comics #865, "There are two types of people in the world -- Superman people and Batman people." I, myself, am a Batman person. I admire the Dark Knight for his dedication and discipline, both physical and mental. He made himself into the man he needed to be. He trained for years and sacrificed a normal life and normal happiness for his goals. Superman didn't ask for his powers. Superman never worked for it.

What Superman struggles with is the ability to be human.

With so many other character with this situation like Seven of Nine from Star Trek: Voyager, Red Tornado from the DCU, etc. that I do enjoy, I end up wondering again why I don't like Superman. It's not because he is an alien because I love J'onn J'onzz, the Martain Manhunter and all the Kirby space stuff. And it can't because he has so many freakin' powers because I'm pretty sure J'onn has him beat. He just always seemed to embody one of the things I do not like about America: it's arrogance. Unlike some superheroes, it isn't something obvious about the character because it comes from his, appropriately, steel-like morality. Granted, I'm no comic expert. I haven't read every comic there is, heck, I've barely read all the "ground-breaking" ones. But I do have a sneaking suspicion that if he saw something beyond his comprehension (ex: an alien ritual or magic) and it wasn't making bunnies and flowers rain from the sky, he'd punch first and ask questions later. So perhaps, I have misspoken. It is not his arrogance I disdain, it is his ignorance, if only because his knowledge is so much lessor than it can be.

The man has super-speed. That requires a brain to match. Superman could easily be one of the greatest intellectual minds on the planet. Maybe he can't beat Lex or King Faraday in a game of chess, but he could best them in sheer encyclopedic knowledge. Superman should be a genius and that's a bit why I like Superman: Red Son.

But that review is for another time. Birthright far exceeded my expectations for a Superman comic. Perhaps that is the point of the comic: to be beyond expectations, to take your breath away. It has to since it's forced to stand up against every Superman Origin story ever told. It has all your typical locales: Krypton, the farm, and Metropolis with an appropriate side/parallel story to help anchor the main theme. What is very nice that he mixes up the order of the settings that your typical Superman story would follow. The pacing is spot on and Lu did a great job with the art with McCaig doing stupendous colors. (By the way, there's a great little story waiting for you if you read the Biographies page about McCaig and Birthright; it's worth it just for that.) All in all, Birthright is wonderfully written and artistically well executed. Coming from me, this is high praise since I was very ready to be bored with it being a Superman comic and the one theme I hate most: coming of age. I really have no words for how tired I am of "coming of age" or "discovering of self" stories. School ruined them for me forever, but...

When I do find a good story, a story following a character coming into their own, I do appreciate it all the more. It usually becomes one of my favorites (which is why Dick Grayson will always be my favorite Robin despite his unfortunate first name).

Superman: Birthright is definitely a story to read. It made a Batman person give the big blue boy scout a second glance.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Avatar Rants and Rambles

Unfortunately, I was not able to actually attend Comic Con this year unlike my friend, Holic, who supplied the Avatar panel report last post. Now, when it comes to Avatar, Nick confuses me.

First of all, it should be noted that it is literally the most profitable animated series ever. Between the trading cards, the ani-manga (the medium which I am convince was invented by either the Devil to torture me or by God to test me) and other miscellaneous merchandise I have yet to see anywhere. Am I the only one that is not seeing all this merch that apparently is selling so well?

What I've heard from the rumor mill is that Nickelodeon is planning to air something Avatar related in the future, but will not continue the Aang storyline, but something else. IF this rumor has any merit, this is my dearest wish: it takes place either before the first Avatar or follows the first Avatar because it would be so cool. Remember the thing the completely awesome Lion-Turtle said?

"Before the time of the Avatar, we did not bend the elements, but the energies within ourselves."
Do you hear that? I believe that is the sound of unadulterated sweetness.

Back to the panel, I agree with Holic on the annoyance of the official word that Aang really is the last airbender. Um, so the reincarnations of the Avatar are kind of numbered, the balance of the world is forever off kilter and it makes the ending rather bittersweet if not unsatisfying.

Okay so now the Fire Nation is on its way to rehabilitation, and the war is over, but in the long run, the world is screwed. In roughly 160 to 200 years, there will be no more Avatar therefore, no one left to bridge the mortal world with the Spirit world and to help keep the now non-existent balance in order. What does it mean? Will this be an end to bending? If so, the Fire Nation will rise again as an industrial powerhouse and take over the world to ensure a progressive, mechanically powered future. In other words, the Fire Nation could be in the exact same position that it would have been if it won the war.

Now I realize this is a stretch, but it's because of the lack of information that I wonder the possibilities. All I want (if I am denied another series/season) is a 15 minute epilogue. I don't care about seeing Zuko and his mother on the screen together. I just want to know what she was doing all this time! Not to mention I didn't get nearly enough White Lotus action. There is now a total of, what? Four, maybe five episodes that mention the White Lotus. I'm also not okay with leaving Toph hanging with no real resolution. What is she going to do now? Will her family accept her? Where will she live? The Bae Sing Sae happy, happy "we're all bestest-best friends!" scene was more confusing than humorous or cute when I think about it. I really want to see how the royal historians put down that scene. "In his early years of reign, Fire Lord Zuko often spent his free time in Bae Sing Sae, serving tea in the Dragon of the West General Iroh's tea shop, the Jasime Dragon."

It's kind of like the President working in his parent's soda pop shop. It's just kind of awkward. Cute, but awkward.

One of the things I really loved about Avatar is that beyond all the jokes and slapstick, at its core, it was a smart, well down, well written story with a lot of talent and hard work put into it. It was a show of quality and detail. The finale felt a little, dare I say it, rushed and maybe a smidgen sloppy. Granted, who am I to say such things? I'm just a humanoid with internet access and a working knowledge of the English language. But, as a fan, I was initially satisfied with the ending, hook line and pathos-driven presentation, but I'm starting to have a very bitter aftertaste.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Comic Con Avatar Update from Holic

Avatar panel: So after I finally get into this giant (and crowded) room I had to sit through the ending part of the Prisoner's panel. I didn't really pay attention. The Avatar panel starts with Nickelodeon rep talking about the series, and how unexpectantly large the fan base is, and how they're going to be releasing Avatar: Legends of the Arena, a MMORPG game in September. You can make your own character and have it duke it out with other players. (Meaning, new crack!) Then he finally introduces Mike and Bryon who appear on screen as black and white sketched out chibi characters... lol They talked about the finale. How it was Mike fault that they didn't show Zuko finding and meeting his mom and how they know that they probably made half of their fan base mad with the final pairings. I'm pretty they sure that they talked about other stuffs that I can't remember. Anyways then they proceeded with the showing of the last hour of the finale. There was much applause for many of the characters as they came on to the screen. Applause for Toph and her metal bending, applause for Fire Lord (excuse me, King of the Losers) Ozai, applause for Iroh and the White Lotus group, you get the general idea... Half of the crowd went wild as Zuko jumped in the path of the lightning to save (stupid) Katara from harm. (Honestly why the hell was she standing there anyways?) And of course when the two now infamous "kissing" scenes came on half the crowd threw a hissy fit. (At least no one set themselves on fire...) Applause for the ending credits.

Chibi Mike and Bryon came back on and talked for a bit (I'm seriously blanking on what the hell they said... T_T Forgive me!) Then the real Mike and Bryon and Aaron Ehasz (who helped write the finale) finally made their grand entrance. (They came out from behind the giant screen.) They talked again, and then started the cosplay contest. Third place: Fire Lord Ozai (Phoenix King robes I believe...) Second place: Iroh (Earth kingdom robes with half balding head and the works lol XD) First place: Chibi Appa (Giant Appa head with cute dot eyes and faux fur pants I think...) Top winners got a bag full of Avatar paraphernalia with DVDs (Even Bryon forgot which ones it was) . I also forgot what was so special about the first place winner other than she got more stuffs.... Then came the fanart contest. Honorable mentions consisted of fanart that amused them such as Zuko in the Foggy Swamp Tribe attire. (I just thought it was kinda disturbing. >_>) The top ten and the results of the contest has been posted at the .

There was some discussion about how "creative" people were with their fanart, then they showed a super-duper special preview of "Book 4: Air"... It consisted of some more fanart...but not just any ordinary fanart no... they were crazy Zutara shipper fanart! So they did some silly voice overs of Katara and Zuko starting some "forbidden secret" relationship (with perverse "lowbrow" Zutara fanart), which then lead the breaking up of Katara and Aang, and Aang hooking up with Azula... Some Toph/Sokka was thrown in there too... Then it progressed to the break up of Katara and Zuko (their "relationship" was purely physical and actually had no substance I suppose... lol) and final fanart of Aang holding Katara with a voice over of them saying that they knew Mike and Bryon would put things in order again. (Igniting a riot from Zutara fans again...)

Then finally came the Q & A! It only lasted 15 mins though... =.= I would have gone up myself except for the fact that I did not want to be run over or possibly mauled to death by other fans. I forget some of the questions but what I know is this: There will be no Book 4. It was always planned to be a trilogy. Aang IS the LAST airbender (despite the fact that this would leave the Avatar world out of balance and no future Air Avatar... No one bothered to point that out and question it...which irked me.) However, there will be a live action film based on Book 1 with some "new twists". Honestly I would have been happier with a 15 minute epilogue... Ok well, this is all I remember of the Q & A.

Oh, and awesome T-shirts with the poster image of the movie finale on it were handed out at the exit doors. Thus concludes the 2008 Comic-Con Avatar panel. Sorry I couldn't get another shirt... >_< Only one per person.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

I'm Not Dead Yet!

Sorry for the unexpected hiatus. I've been traveling and seeing family and I didn't get any of the posts done in time. Here are a few comics that I've been reading from my local library. They've been out for a while so they might be harder to find in mainstream stores like Borders or Barnes and Nobles. Feel free to ask for more information!

The Books of Magic
-Burning Girl
Astro City: The Tarnished Angel
The 49ners by Alan Moore
Batman: Turning Points
Lucifer Vol. 1-7 (four more to go!)
Astro City: Local Heroes
The Sandman Book IV: Season of Mists

The Lies of Locke Lamora
The Power of Myth
Lucifer Effect

Related Movies
Batman: Gotham Knight
Justice League: The New Frontier