Since the big red guy first appeared in John Byrne’s Next Men #21 back in 1993 (and I am proud to say that I read that issue when it came out!), I have been hooked on Hellboy. The creation of writer-artist Mike Mignola, Hellboy is, on its simplest level, about a monster who keeps the world safe from all the other monsters. But there’s so much more to it than that! To borrow some text from the back of the recent Hellboy Companion, “since 1994, Mike Mignola’s Hellboy has been one of the most evocative comics on the stands, slowly revealing a bizarre world of Victorian occult societies, prehistoric gods, arcane Nazi experiments, and layer upon layer of enigmas.” Yeah! Beautifully illustrated, very literate and a heck of a lot of fun, Mignola’s various Hellboy limited series that have been released over the years are some of the best American comic books out there.
For those of you who may have discovered Hellboy through Guillermo del Toro’s two recent films, there are so many great comics out there for you to enjoy. Seed of Destruction is the first miniseries, and while one can see that Mignola is still feeling things out, this is a great introduction to the world of Hellboy. The first movie drew a lot of its inspiration from this tale. But Hellboy really starts to become the Hellboy that I know and love in the next bunch of (superior) stories. First there’s Wake the Devil, in which a murder in a wax museum leads Hellboy to vampires, Nazis, and possibly the end of the world. Then there’s The Right Hand of Doom, which is probably my favorite Hellboy collection. This volume actually contains a ton of terrific short stories (most notably the classic “Pancakes,” about young Hellboy in 1947 eating breakfast), and two tales that are absolutely to the Hellboy saga: “The Right hand of Doom” and “Box Full of Evil,” both of which shed a lot of light on questions of Hellboy’s origin and ultimate destiny (storylines also hinted at in del Toro’s two movies — in particular the scene with the Angel of Death in Hellboy 2). All that back-story rushes front and center in The Conquerer Worm, which to me is one of Mignola’s masterpieces. A remnant from the Nazi space program causes trouble in present day, as a space capsule launched back in 1939, containing something very, very bad, makes its return to Earth. This series also introduces one of the great characters in the Hellboy world, the enigmatic World War II hero Lobster Johnson, whose full story remains untold (although we’ve gotten a LOT more information lately).… [continued]
A trailer for the fifth and penultimate season of Lost has made its way onto the internet. Check it out here. Nothing earth-shattering, but its enough to get my anticipation building for the return of the show in ’09.
Speaking of building anticipation, some new footage from Watchmen aired recently on Spike TV and is now, of course, up on YouTube. Check it out here. The first half is mostly familiar to those of us who pored over the amazing first trailer, but the second half is mostly new stuff. Visually, this footage is incredible — Zack Snyder has really nailed a number of iconic moments from the acclaimed Graphic Novel. Will the film live up to our hopes? We’ll find out on March 6th…
Finally, due to nothing more than my own incompetence, yesterday’s cartoon (recapping Pirates of the Caribbean 2) went up pretty late in the day, so if you missed it just click on Comic Archive to check it out.… [continued]
As I’ve mentioned once or twice in recent posts, over the past few weeks I’ve been making my way through a whole slew of films by one of the best writers working in the film industry today: David Mamet. Mamet’s works are always known for their intricate plots — many of his films revolve around some sort of con. He is also known for the distinct style of his dialogue — a fast-paced back-and-forth, rat-a-tat rhythm that, in the hands of a talented actor, is pure gold.
After purchasing Redbelt on DVD, I decided to go back and revisit several earlier Mamet works. This is in no way a complete trip through Mamet’s work. In fact, let me first start by telling you a bit about two films which I didn’t re-watch this past month. Not because I didn’t care for them — quite the opposite. These are two of my favorite films, and they’ve been in my DVD collection for years.
Glengarry Glenn Ross (1992) — Unlike all the other movies that I’m about to list, this film was written by Mamet but directed by someone else: James Foley. But like all the Mamet-directed films, the appeal is not due to the directing. Its the acting, and the beautiful, beautiful words. (Can you believe I’ve just described as beautiful the incredibly curse-laden dialogue in this film??) Take a gander at this cast: Al Pacino, Jack Lemmon, Kevin Spacey, Ed Harris, Alan Arkin, and let’s not forget Alec Baldwin. Baldwin is in only one scene, but he gives possibly the greatest movie monologue of all time. There are more memorable lines in his one scene than there are in most entire films. (One of my favorites: “Only one thing counts in this world: get them to sign on the line that is dotted.” And, of course, there’s the title of this piece.) The film follows one night and one morning in the lives of a group of real-estate con men. Many have described it as a modern Death of a Salesman, and I’m not one to disagree. Jack Lemmon’s sad-sack Shelley “the machine” Levine is such an iconic character he’s even been written into The Simpsons (as the hapless loser Gil). Al Pacino is the man that Shelley was twenty years ago — a young, slick salesman at the top of his game. (“You ever take a dump made you feel like you’d just slept for twelve hours?”) Ed Harris is the angry and profane Dave Moss. (“What is this, courtesy class?”) Alan Arkin is the quietly despairing George Aaronow. (Are we just talking about this or are we talking about this?”) And Kevin Spacey is the man in … [continued]
Holy cow! Paramount has FINALLY released some stills from J.J. Abrams’ upcoming Star Trek re-launch/re-boot/re-make whatever the heck it is!
Above is a shot of most of the crew. From left to right, its Anton Yelchin as Chekov, Chris Pine as James T. Kirk, Simon Pegg as Montgomery Scott, Karl Urban as Dr. McCoy, John Cho as Mr. Sulu and Zoe Saldana as Lt. Uhura. For a larger version, click here. This is a really exciting shot, as the actors all look great. I love those uniforms! They really capture the “vibe” of the colorful uniforms from the Original Series, while not looking ridiculous.
Click here to see a great shot of Spock getting all “Vulcan death grip” on someone (is that Kirk?). Cue the Amok Time music! (Let me say again that those uniforms look great. You can really see the textures in this shot.)
Or click here to see a shot of Kirk and McCoy on the bridge of the Enterprise! This is probably the most controversial shot, as while the bridge looks cool it doesn’t bear a lot of resemblance to the classic Enterprise bridge from the Original Series. It is more similar to the sleeker, white and gray bridge of the Enterprise from the movies… although this version is a lot funkier.
Or click here to see… I don’t know what, exactly. Looks like Kirk crash-landed on some sort of icy something. (Is that some sort of escape-pod? It is labeled NCC 1701…)
Or, finally, you can click here to see the U.S.S. Kelvin running into some trouble. (Don’t know what this ship is or how it figures into the plot, and I’m happy not knowing for now.) They are still not letting us see a full-on shot of what a Constitution class starship (like, of course, the U.S.S. Enterprise) is going to look like in this movie, but from this picture the exterior seems to be more similar to the Enterprise from the movies than that of the Original Series (because of the look of the hull plating, and the lettering). That’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Great stuff!! Now when will we get to see a full trailer???… [continued]
Here are some of the DVDs that have been spinning recently in the Edelglass abode:
Recount — This HBO film chronicles the tumultuous 36 days that followed the contested 2000 Presidential election. The cast is stupendous across the board: Kevin Spacey plays Ron Klain, Bob Balaban is Ben Ginsberg, Ed Begley Jr. is David Boies, Laura Dern is Katherine Harris, John Hurt is Warren Christopher, Dennis Leary is Michael Whouley, Tom Wilkinson is James Baker, and Mitch Pileggi (A.D. Skinner!!) is Bill Daley. For those of you out there who followed every minute of this political morass, most of those names are probably very familiar to you. I’ll also add that Derek Cecil (Push, Nevada) plays Democratic lawyer and my former camp counselor, Jeremy Bash. Although the film is at times heartbreaking to watch for a Democrat like myself, it is a terrifically well-told tale. There’s a lot of very detailed information covered in its under two hour run-time, but the film never becomes a boring talking-heads history class. Its dramatic and extraordinarily well-paced, bouncing back and forth between the Democratic and Republican camps trying to bring home the election for their candidate.
The Band’s Visit — An Egyptian band (the Alexandria Ceremonial Police Orchestra) arrives in Israel to play at a cultural event, but find themselves stranded in the tiny Israeli town of Petach Tikvah. Stuck there for the night, the film follows the different members of the band as they interact (or don’t interact) with the local Jews, and vice versa. This is a quiet film. There is no great action — nor is there loud conflict or histrionics. Instead, its a small, personal story about a group of Egyptians and a group of Israelis, each with their own problems and demons, and their efforts to find common ground for one lonely night. Nobody LEARNS A BIG LESSON or FALLS MADLY IN LOVE and I respect the film for that. This is a movie about ordinary people leading ordinary lives. Occasionally it might be a little TOO slow for some tastes, but its worth a viewing.
The Good German — My wife Steph recently read the book (by Joseph Kanon), so we decided to check out the film. I’d wanted to see the movie when it came out in 2007, but never got to it, so I was excited to give it a try. Unfortunately, it was a disappointment. The film boasts a top-notch cast that includes George Clooney, Tobey Maguire, and Cate Blanchett, but I never engaged with the story being told. Part of the reason for that may be that the film has been molded to the style of a 1940′s film like … [continued]
Vicky Christina Barcelona — Yes, like most of you I prefer Woody Allen’s “earlier, funnier” works. But this is, I think, one of the strongest movies that Woody has written & directed in the last decade and a half. Vicky Christina Barcelona follows two girls, Vicky (Rebecca Hall, who must have felt bad at being left off all the posters) and Christina (Scarlett Johansson) on a summer holiday in Spain. The girls are close friends but are very different in nature: Vicky is practical and responsible, while Christina is more spontaneous and emotional. Their lives quickly become entwined with that of strapping Spanish artist Juan Antonio (Javier Bardem) and his ex-wife Maria Elena (Penelope Cruz).
While Johansson has appeared in several recent Woody Allen films, Hall, Bardem and Cruz are all welcome additions to Woody’s repertoire of actors. Bardem and Cruz, in particular, bring an energy that’s been missing from many of Mr. Allen’s recent works. Indeed, they both play characters (and sympathetic characters, at that) that are quite different from the more intellectual romantic leads that characterize Woody Allen movies. There isn’t really an Alvy Singer to be found here. (The closest approximation would be Vicky’s fiancee Doug, who is depicted not as a hero but as someone rather boring and close-minded.) While we’re blessed to have a new Woody Allen film almost once a year, sometimes his films can seem to blend together. (For instance, while many loved Match Point, I couldn’t stop comparing it to what I saw as the similar but superior earlier film, Crimes and Misdemeanors.) But Vicky Christina Barcelona is quite a unique creation, unlike any previous Woody Allen film, and I really enjoy it for that.
It’s not perfect. I didn’t care too much for the use of narration throughout the film, which seemed in many cases to spell out for the audience events and motivations that could more easily and elegantly been shown to us through the action. And as with most stories of love triangles (or, in this case, a love rectangle), I found the set-up to be of more interest than the resolution. But still, this is a strong new work from Woody Allen that I recommend.
Towelhead — I adore American Beauty, so when I heard that Alan Ball (the author of that film), had a new movie that he was writing and, for the first time, directing, I was immediately interested. Towelhead tells the story of Jasira (Summer Bishil), a 13 year-old Arab-American girl. At the start of the film, Jasira’s mother (Maria Bello) sends her to Houston, Texas, to live with her father Rifat (Peter Marcdissi), a strict man of Lebanese descent. With the … [continued]
After my lengthy series of posts about Star Trek novels from last month, I bet people think that’s all I read. And, its true, sci-fi novels make up the bulk of my regular reading list. But every now and then I do branch out, and I’d like to share several great books I’ve recently read that peak behind the scenes of Hollywoodland.
What Just Happened?, by Art Linson — Mr. Linson has been a producer in Hollywood for a few decades now, and this book covers a period of several years in the late ’90s in which he went to work for 20th Century Fox and proceeded to produce a large number of bombs. Now, did these movies bomb because of bad luck and ridiculous studio politics and lack of support (as Mr. Linson contends), or is Linson just bereft of talent? Well, I don’t know the man, so I can’t really judge. But either way, this book is relentlessly entertaining as Linson takes us through the making of several movies that, to put it gently, did not do well. Linson is a good storyteller, and in the book he focuses on anecdotes — putting the reader right in the middle of a series of hilarious (and painful for the people involved in them) situations. We join Linson as he tries to deal with Alec Baldwin who, tapped to play the young and handsome photographer in the David Mamet-scripted The Edge, shows up to the set overweight and bearing an enormous mountain-man beard which he refuses to shave. We see him trying to respond when studio head Tom Rothman asserts that they absolutely positively cannot cast Gwyneth Paltrow in Great Expectations because she has no chin. We see him flummoxed the day he finds out that a central scene in that movie, that of a young man sketching his female paramour in the nude, is also a centerpiece of another soon-to-be-released Fox movie, James Cameron’s Titanic. And we’re right there with him the first time he and David Fincher screen Fight Club for a room full of horrified Fox execs.
If there’s any weakness to the book, its the framing device that Linson uses for these anecdotes — that of a series of lunches he has with a former studio head. There are some funny interactions between these two, but each time the book cut back to their lunches, I kept thinking “let’s get back to the real stories!” Despite this, Linson’s book is really engaging — and at less than 200 pages, you’ll breeze right through it. Its a lot of fun.
By the way, this book is being adapted into a film starring Robert DeNiro. … [continued]
After much debate, I decided to skip the animated Star Wars Clone Wars movie that was released to theaters in late August. It is almost unimaginable to me that I wouldn’t rush out to see a new Star Wars ANYTHING on the big screen. But as I read bad review after bad review, claiming that the Clone Wars movie was chock-full of all the worst aspects of the prequels — stupid, juvenile jokes, wooden characters, etc. — that, in short, it was a movie clearly made for KIDS and not adults, I decided to pass. Why go see something that it was certain I’d hate?
When the Clone Wars TV series began this past week, I again had a decision to make. Should I tune in? (You see, the Clone Wars movie was the first three episodes of this new show edited together. It was really just a splashy launch for the new, half-hour weekly animated show.) But this time, the decision was much easier. These shows were on TV — it was free, after all, and if they stunk I could always turn them off.
So I checked out the first two episodes, which Cartoon Network aired back-to-back. Things started off strong with the first episode, “Ambush.” Yoda and a group of clone troopers head to the planet Toyndaria (the species to which Watto of Episode I belongs) to negotiate for permission to construct a Republic military base. Of course, Count Dooku and the separatists are interested in the planet as well, and Yoda and three clone troopers quickly find themselves on the run from a horde of Battle Droids. This was a solid episode — very fast-paced, with a ton of great Yoda-vs-droid action, and surprisingly good characterization for Yoda, Dooku, and the clones and Toyndarians. With almost no human characters to be found, this episode also showcased what the computer animation does best — droids, ships, and actions. (As became apparent in the second episode, the animation of humans is rather weaker, displaying a lot of the same problems seen back in the first Toy Story movie — the humans wind up looking rubbery and weird.)
The second episode, “Rising Malevolence,” reintroduces us to many of our familiar characters — Anakin Skywalker is the focus, but we also see R2D2, Obi-Wan, Mace Windu, and others. Anakin and his padawan apprentice Ahsoka (a young girl apparently introduced in the Clone War movie — and how young Anakin has a padawan of his own is a mystery to me) investigate a new ultimate weapon that Dooku and General Grievous are testing. We also spend time with Jedi Knight Plo Koon (a character seen but not given much to do … [continued]
There are a few writer/directors whose new films, which we seem to get on a pleasingly regular basis, are always a must-see for me. I’m thinking about talents like Woody Allen, David Mamet, and the Coen Brothers. With artists like that, I know that a new film will always be interesting. Sometimes I might love what I see, sometimes I might be disappointed, sometimes I might be indifferent — but I always know that what I’m watching will be a unique, personal vision.
I’ve been a bit of a late-comer to the films of the Coen Brothers. Their first film I saw was Fargo, soon after it came out in 1996, but I didn’t quite “get it” back then. I think it wasn’t until a few years later when I first saw The Hudsucker Proxy on tape in college that I really started to take notice of these filmmakers. (I just re-watched Hudsucker last week, and it remains one of my absolute favorite films. More on this below.)
It always seems for me that the Coen Brothers films that everyone likes, I don’t — and the ones that get passed over are the ones I really dig. Everyone went crazy about O Brother Where Art Thou?, but I found it to be a dull, rather obvious take on the storylines of The Odyssey. Conversely, I think I’m one of the few people on Earth who really dug the screwball comedy and rat-tat-tat dialogue of George Clooney and Catherine Zeta-Jones in Intolerable Cruelty. And as for No Country for Old Men, which got such acclaim last year… I was thoroughly engrossed in the film for most of its run-time, but ultimately I felt it just didn’t earn the message given by its title, and Tommy Lee Jones’ monologue in the last scene. What was it about the death of Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin) that so affected Sheriff Bell (Tommy lee Jones)? For a man who had clearly been involved in other cases that involved murder and death, what was it about this particular event that shook the Sheriff so deeply? The film’s title — No Country for Old Men — and the way the end of the film focuses on Tommy Lee Jones, while we never get to see Llewelyn’s tragic end, indicates that the film was really the Sheriff’s story, not Llewelyn’s. But I, as a viewer, was invested in Llewelyn! And having the end of his story cut off by the finale (we never see Llewelyn’s final confrontation with Javier Bardem’s Anton Chigurh) really pulled me out of my enjoyment of the film.
Which brings me to Burn After Reading, the newest film written … [continued]