After pausing in my reading of Marvel Comics’ Dark Tower mini-series to read Stephen King’s Dark Tower short-story, “The Little Sisters of Eluria” (click here for my review), I was ready to resume my reading of Marvel’s Dark Tower comics.
The Little Sisters of Eluria – Adapting a short-story into a five-issue mini-series makes a lot more sense than squeezing an adaptation of a lengthy novel into a seven-issue mini-series (as happened when this Marvel Comics series of mini-series began, with the publication of The Gunslinger Born, an adaptation of much of Stephen King’s fourth Dark Tower novel Wizard and Glass). The pacing of this adaptation works well, and the art by Luke Ross is extraordinary (particularly in the exterior “cowboy” sequences in the first issue). They make a curious mis-step by revealing, right away at the start of issue #2, the true nature of the sisters (something Mr. King wisely kept in reserve until later in his short-story). Spilling the beans on that mystery so early in the tale takes away a lot of the energy and drama of the story. Since we know Roland will survive this story set in his youth, one of the most compelling aspects of the original story was the mystery of the sisters and the mounting dread felt by Roland as he begins to discover their true nature. Giving all those answers right away to the reader, as this comic book adaptation does, spoils all of that suspense. It’s a perplexing choice.
The Battle of Tull – This might be my favorite of all the Dark Tower mini-series, primarily because of the absolutely perfect artwork of Michael Lark and Stefano Gaudiano. Michael Lark is one of the finest comic book artists working today, and his gritty but incredibly detailed artwork is absolutely perfect for the rough-and-tumble “world that has moved on” of The Dark Tower. His depiction of the now-adult Roland is absolutely perfect, presenting Roland exactly as I had imagined him. I love his choice to leave Roland’s face in almost-constant shadow throughout the mini-series. This gives Roland an air of mystery and menace that is critical to the character, even though he is the “hero” of the tale. The one thing that gives me pause is that there’s a weird jump between the Roland we have seen in all of the prior mini-series, and the Roland we see in this one. This Roland is not only visually different — even in the previous mini-series, The Little Sisters of Eluria, Roland was still a boy, whereas here in The Battle of Tull he is unquestionably a man — but also a different character, much harder and tougher. In Eluria,… [continued]
Earlier this week I wrote about Tony Scott’s 1993 film True Romance. The second part of my little personal Tony Scott in memoriam double-feature was his 1995 film, Crimson Tide. I saw Crimson Tide back in theaters when it was originally released, but I haven never re-watched it since. I remember being really excited to see it, but I also remember that I was a bit disappointed by the finished film. It just wasn’t nearly as good as The Hunt for Red October, a submarine film that I adored, and to which I was constantly comparing Crimson Tide in my mind while watching the film. I’ve never seen Crimson Tide since then, but I know a lot of people who love the film, so I’ve been meaning to re-watch it for quite some time.
The film is better than I remembered it being, but I definitely agree with high school me in thinking that, when compared to the masterful Hunt for Red October, it doesn’t compare favorably. There’s something a little too simplistic about Crimson Tide, a little too action-movie silly as opposed to truly dramatic. The film isn’t a check-your-brain-at-the-door piece of Hollywood stupidity, but there are definitely some choices (in the pacing, in the editing, in the music) that indicate that the film wants more to be an exciting action-adventure than a realistic drama. Now, that’s not necessarily bad — I LOVE a great action adventure! But that also puts a ceiling on the film’s potential right from the get-go.
The heart of the film is in the conflict between Gene Hackman and Denzel Washington. Both men are terrifically cast, and the whole film rests on the idea of these two powerhouses colliding with one another in the middle of a potentially world-ending nuclear showdown scenario. Mr. Hackman plays Captain Ramsey, commander of the U.S. nuclear sub the U.S.S. Alabama (and was it Mr. Scott or Quentin Tarantino, who performed an uncredited re-write on the film’s script, who chose the name Alabama, which was also so memorably the name of Patricia Arquette’s character in True Romance?). Captain Ramsey is an experienced veteran of naval combat, experienced in the ways of war, and conditioned with a fairly simplistic soldier’s mentality of following his orders without question. Denzel Washington plays the Alabama’s newly-assigned X.O., Lt. Commander Hunter. Hunter is an intelligent and well-regarded officer, but he’s never been in combat and his analytical approach puts him into immediate conflict with Captain Ramsey. Things come to a head when the Alabama receives orders to launch a nuclear first-strike on Russian rebels, but then receives another message that is cut off when the sub comes into conflict with a … [continued]
The recent passing of Tony Scott prompted me to pick up two films, both directed by Mr. Scott, that had been sitting for quite a whole on my “to-watch” shelf: True Romance and Crimson Tide. I hadn’t seen True Romance since college, and Crimson Tide since it was originally released back when I was in high school, and I’d long been thinking about re-watching both of them. As my own personal little memorial to Mr. Scott, I sat down for a fun double-feature last week.
I can’t decide if True Romance’s title is meant to be ironic or genuine. It’s a jump ball to me. But the story works either way you look at it. The movie is a fairy tale, albeit a blood-soaked, crazy, fever-dream of a fairy tale. It’s totally implausible from the very beginning to the very end, but it’s so endearingly insistent in maintaining a tone of over-the-top madness that it’s hard not to get swept away by the story. It helps that the two leads, Christian Slater as Clarence and Patricia Arquette as Alabama, are so likable. You can’t help but root for this crazy couple to survive all the drug-dealers and double-crosses to find themselves a happy ending. Watching this film, I can understand why Christian Slater was once a big star. He’s electric in the role, manic and dangerous but with a hundred-watt smile and such a huge amount of cheerful affability that he’s incredibly lovable, even when the movie dares you to turn your back on him. (We’re not too far into the film before he decides to hunt down and kill a dangerous pimp, spurred on to do so by a vision of Elvis. You read that right.) And I’ve never enjoyed Patricia Arquette quite as much as I do in this film. Yes, she’s written as a comic book nerd’s idea of a perfect woman (sexy and tough and into kung fu triple features), so that of course makes her hard to resist, but she brings so much life to the role. She’s street-wise but also innocent, naive without being a dim bulb. Her chemistry with Mr. Slater is magnetic.
True Romance was written by Quentin Tarantino (it was released the year after his directorial debut, Reservoir Dogs), and the film is dripping with Mr. Tarantino’s particular wit and influences. Like most of Mr. Tarantino’s work, the film is intense and very violent, but also incredibly funny and filled with characters discussing their love of film and music and other geeky things. Clarence and Alabama meet in the middle of a Sonny Chiba triple feature, what more do I need to tell you? It’s interesting to see Mr. Tarantino’s … [continued]
Look! Photographic evidence of new Arrested Development!
I love that George Michael is riding a segway in that photo.
But wait, more!
Can’t wait to see these new episodes, I hope they don’t let me down…… [continued]
Raiders of the Lost Ark is being re-released to theaters!! IN IMAX!!! I am so there. Here’s a trailer!
My mind is reeling with the possibilities of Days of Future Past, the newly-announced upcoming X-Men film. I agree with every suggestion on this list of 10 cameos that would be great to see in the X-Men sequel.
They’re really making Kick Ass 2?? And they’re courting Jim Carrey to appear in the film?? I am so happy.
While I’m on a role with super hero movie sequel news, this is a great idea.
I loved the early seasons of The Office, but I’ve been dissatisfied with the last few years and I finally gave up on the show about halfway through the last season. But with the recent news that this coming season will be the show’s last, I’m considering tuning back in to see how things wrap up. We’ll see… (Here’s some more info on the end of the show.)
Looks like Ron Howard’s proposed TV-and-film adaptation of The Dark Tower has hit another snag. I have nervousness about the idea of Akiva Goldsman being involved in the scripting, but boy would I love to see this incredible property done right. I agree 100% with Devin’s opinions in that piece (both about wishing fervently that Viggo Mortensen would take the title role, and feeling that a cable TV series adaptation is the best way to go, rather than a film trilogy…).
Sad news that actor William Windom, who played Commodore Matt Decker on the Classic Star Trek episode “The Doomsday Machine,” has passed away at age 88.
“Meanwhile, at the Legion of Doom…”
Wow, that is targeted exactly to my funny bone. Can’t wait!… [continued]
Between the publication of the fourth and fifth Dark Tower novels, Stephen King wrote a short story that was set in Roland’s younger days, after the Battle of Jericho Hill but before the events of the first Dark Tower novel, The Gunslinger. This short story is called “The Little Sisters of Eluria.” It’s been sitting on my bookshelf for a while now, a lingering piece of unfinished business. After recently getting re-engrossed in Marvel Comics’ Dark Tower mini-series, I decided to finally read this story.
I don’t know what possessed me to wait so long!
“The Little Sisters of Eluria” is a fine addition to the over-all Dark Tower saga, and a terrifically entertaining story in it’s own right. It puts Roland right in the middle of a horror story of the type that I have always associated with Stephen King. What a clever idea!
The story finds Roland, alone, riding a sickly horse through difficult terrain. The ka-tet of Roland’s youth are all dead, and he has not yet fully seized upon the purpose that would eventually grip his life: the pursuit of the Man in Black and, beyond that, the quest for the Dark Tower. Though his life has been shattered and his heart hardened by tragedy upon tragedy, this Roland is not yet the stone-cold killer of The Gunslinger who we will meet in the opening pages of Mr. King’s first Dark Tower novel, The Gunslinger. As a result, Roland finds himself defeated by a group of slow mutants, and he is only saved from death by a group of nun-like healers. No surprise, these healers wind up being far from altruistic, and Roland finds himself in an escalatingly horrific situation.
No one can tell a monster story quite like Stephen King, and “The little Sisters of Eluria” finds the master in top form. I loved the slow reveal of the sisters’ true nature — we know immediately that they’re up to no good, but we don’t know exactly what they are or what they are doing — as well as the slow tightening of the screws on poor, injured Roland, unable to move.
The story stands on its own, but there are some powerful callbacks to the events of The Dark Tower novels, particularly to Wizard and Glass. The most powerful sequence in the novel is when Roland finds himself drawn, as he always is, to the painful memories of his doomed true love, Susan:
He thought, as always, of Susan.
If you love me, then love me, she’d said… and so he had.
So he had.
It’s a short, simple, section, but one that powerfully draws upon the epic story Stephen King has … [continued]
For a moment last week it looked like Joe Carnahan was going to direct a new Daredevil movie… and that it would have been a gritty, street-level crime film set in 1973. Now it seems that is not to be. But for a glimpse at the awesomeness that we might have had, take a look at the “sizzle reel” that Mr. Carnahan had put together to promote his proposal for new Daredevil film…
Aw man that is spectacular. Oh well…… [continued]
After reading for the first time the first few years’ worth of stories from the old West Coast Avengers comics (in the handsome new collected editions that Marvel has been publishing for the past few years — click here, here, here and here for my reviews), I decided to complete the story by digging into my longboxes and pulling out John Byrne’s run on the series, which ran from issues #42-57.
Mr. Byrne’s run on West Coast Avengers (the title of which changed to Avengers West Coast with issue #47) was one of the first times, as a kid, that I fell deeply in love with a comic book series. It was also the first time I had my heart broken by something I loved in pop culture. Mr. Byrne’s abrupt departure from the series just as his story seemed to be reaching its climax still remains a deep disappointment to me, even so many years later. But I’ll get back to that later.
Even as a kid, it was obvious to me that Mr. Byrne’s issues on the title were dramatically better than the previous issues, and also dramatically better than pretty much every other comic book I was reading at the time. I still remember being at camp during the summer of 1989, and the feeling of extraordinary delight I had when my parents mailed me an envelope with the next issue of the series. When I hold issue #48 in my hands (in which the Scarlet Witch gets turned to evil by a creepy mysterious black alien force and easily defeats stalwart Avengers Captain America and the She-Hulk), I remember like it was yesterday reading that issue for the first time, and not quite knowing how I’d be able to wait four more weeks for the next issue to arrive!!
Mr. Byrne kicked off his run on the series in issue #42 with “Vision Quest.” This story-line is still shocking to me today. In retaliation for the Vision’s previous take-over of the world’s computers (which happened in an older issue of The Avengers), government agencies from across the globe band together to kidnap and disassemble the android Vision. Although the West Coast Avengers and the Vision’s wife, the Scarlet Witch, quickly discover the abduction and are able to track down the bad-guys, the Vision has essentially been killed. Genius Henry Pym is able to re-assemble the Vision’s body, but without his mind and his memories, the android is once again a soul-less robot. (I will freely admit that I still get a small chill when looking at the opening spread of issue #44, titled “Better a Widow…” in which we see a beautifully-detailed rendering … [continued]
Over the course of the last two summers, I made my way through Stephen King’s magnus opus: the seven-book Dark Tower saga. It was magnificent, and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. But somehow I knew when I finished book seven that I wasn’t quite done with the Dark Tower series.
My original entry-point into the world of The Dark Tower was Marvel Comics’ prequel series, The Gunslinger Born. I read and enjoyed Marvel’s series of miniseries, chronicling the tragic back-story of Roland Deschain, the Gunslinger who was the central protagonist of Stephen King’s novels. After reading the books, I was eager to go back and re-read the comic series, to see what I made of it after now knowing the full story that Stephen King had written. But somehow I never quite got to it this past year.
When summer arrived, though, I started to get a Dark Tower jones (since I’d spent much of the past two summers reading the Dark Tower novels), and so I decided to pull out those comic books and dive back in. It was certainly fun to read through these stories now knowing the full picture of the saga. I enjoyed being able to identify the disparate scenes, story-threads, and references from Mr. King’s seven books that the Marvel team (including Mr. King himself, Robin Furth, and Peter David) were able to pull together for this chronological re-telling of Roland’s youth.
I still feel that the first mini-series, “The Gunslinger Born,” is way too crammed with material (adapting such a long chunk of Mr. King’s hugely-lengthy fourth Dark Tower novel, Wizard and Glass), while several of the other mini-series (particularly “The Long Road Home”) are far too leisurely paced for my tastes.
I also remain disappointed by the story’s conclusion in “The Battle of Jericho Hill,” as ten years are packed into six issues, making me feel like we skipped a lot of good stuff. I also felt that, after surviving for a decade on their own after the fall of Gilead, Roland and his men are far too easily defeated at the end. And that no real explanation is given for Roland’s miraculous survival of the slaughter is a real jaw-dropper. (The novels implied that he was wounded but mistaken for dead. But the comics show him getting shot up all to hell, and the bad guys seeing that he is dead, before he somehow awakens/resurrects. Really weird.)
Still, I love the idea of weaving different scenes/moments from the books into a chronological presentation of Roland’s youth, and I admire the ambition of telling the full story of what Stephen King merely hinted at in his books: the Fall of Gilead and the … [continued]
I’ve written lots about my enjoyment of the Star Trek fan film series Phase II. At a rate of about one new episode a year, the Phase II gang have been releasing extraordinarily well-made new episodes of the original Star Trek. The idea is that they’re creating the fourth season of the show that we never got because of it’s cancellation in 1979. Phase II apparently has about four episodes still in their production pipeline (filmed but not yet edited and released), but they’ve been making a lot of noise about a new direction the series will be taking after the release of the next three episodes. Fans of the fan-series got a jumping-ahead tease of that new direction with their just-released vignette, “Boldly Going”:
The early going of this new vignette is quite slow, and feels more like something made for Phase II’s production team, rather than its fans (since several of the Enterprise crew-members being mourned are actual Phase II participants who recently passed away). Still, I love the look of the newly-refitted Enterprise, a cross between the Original Series design and that of Star Trek: The Motion Picture. (Creating a hybrid version of the Enterprise was an idea that the Phase II team had floated several years ago, and then abandoned. I guess they changed their minds! I think the idea of this hybrid half-refit Enterprise is a bit of a kooky notion, since it seems clear to me that TMP suggested that the Big E had just been through a complete refit and redesign, but I can go with it.) I ADORED the transition from Original Series music to James Horner’s wonderful Star Trek II heroic theme. I was THRILLED to see the CGI realization of Arex, a character from Star Trek: The Animated Series. And I loved the transition between James Cawley’s narration to seeing Phase II’s new actor playing James T. Kirk, Brian Gross. I am far from sold on Mr. Gross’ performance (his voice is so high, it seemed very un-Kirk to me), but we’ll see how he grows into the role in future episodes. It’s nice to get a little dose of Phase II, though I eagerly anticipate their next full episode, the Klingon-focused “Kitumba.”
Meanwhile, a new fan series has emerged that is also setting out to create a fourth season for The Original Series. It’s called Star Trek Continues, and features several actors and behind-the-scenes folks formerly associated with Phase II. They’ve just released their first short film:
I think it’s super-cool that they begin by recreating the final shots of the final Original Trek episode: “Turnabout Intruder.” … [continued]
Surprising myself most of all, I’ve been really enjoying Marvel’s recently-published hardcovers collecting the early issues of their Avengers spin-off, The West Cost Avengers. (I wrote about my thoughts on the collection of the original West Coast Avengers mini-series here, and about the first collection of the West Coast Avengers ongoing series here and the second collection here.)
So, when a third collection was released, I eagerly snapped it up. Lost in Space-Time collects West Coast Avengers # 17-24, written by Steve Englehart and illustrated by Al Milgrom and several different inkers. This collection draws its title from the multi-part “Lost in Space-Time” story that ran through those issues. It is, for the most part, a fun romp through Marvel history as the West Coast Avengers find themselves zapped into the past by a super-villain, using Dr. Doom’s old time-machine (first encountered way back in Fantastic Four #5). The time-machone is damaged, so that it can only travel backwards in time, not forwards. Wonder Man hatches a scheme to use the time machine to keep jumping further back in time, all the way back to ancient Egypt, where they know dwells the Pharaoh Rama-Tut, really the time-traveller Kang in disguise (as seen in Fantastic Four #20). Of course, the team encounters one snag after another, and as the story continues the team becomes split amongst several different time-periods. Although the story is quite dated by today’s standards , I thought it was a fun adventure, and I enjoyed the connections with many famous aspects of Marvel universe history. (I also appreciated the collection’s containing the full story of Rama-Tut from Fantastic Four #20, as well as Dr. Strange’s time-travel-trip back to that same period — an adventure also referenced by Mr. Englehart’s story — in Dr. Strange # 53.)
But the most intriguing aspect of the stories in this collection were the two more serious story-lines. Picking up on the last issue in the previous collection, this story begins with Hank Pym contemplating suicide. It’s heavy stuff, though I was impressed at how that development seemed perfectly in keeping with Pym’s character, especially as Mr. Englehart had been writing him. I was quite engaged by the issue (West Coast Avengers #17) that dealt with Mr. Pym’s readying himself for suicide, though I was a bit disappointed that Mr. Englehart seemed to walk Pym back to heroic normalcy pretty quickly. The second serious story-line in this collection concerned Mockingbird. I was particularly interested in this aspect of the story, because it sets the seeds for her divorce from Hawkeye, which occurred in the very first issue of West Coast Avengers that I picked up as a kid. … [continued]
In response to this summer’s lousy Spider-Man reboot, The Amazing Spider-Man (click here for my review), comes this great article on 10 Remakes that Got it Right. There are some really intriguing films on this list that I have never seen, but have been immediately placed on my “to-watch” list…
It’s old news by now, but I haven’t yet waxed poetic on this site about how excited I am that Peter Jackson has expanded his adaptation of The Hobbit from two films to a trilogy! Very exciting. The hints of obscure bits of story from the Lord of the Rings appendices that Mr. Jackson is going to be filming in order to flesh out the story are even more exciting still. The battle of Dol Goldur?? Awesome!!
The new X-Men film is going to be Days of Future Past??? That’s hugely exciting, but also very worrisome. Days of Future Past is one of the greatest X-Men stories (heck, one of the greatest comic book stories) of all time. The idea of that being adapted into a film is extraordinary!! Bravo to Bryan Singer and xx on taking on this iconic story. But the thought of a BAD version of Days of Future Past would be horrifying. I was burned by X3′s brutalization of the Dark Phoenix Saga (probably THE greatest X-Men story of all time), and that’s a pain not easily forgotten… I am crossing my fingers and toes about this one…
Speaking of Bryan Singer, why the heck is he still developing a Battlestar Galactica movie? Do we really need another version of Galactica, after Ron Moore’s fabulous TV series…? The only place to go is down…
I am excited to see DC’s upcoming animated adaptation of Frank Miller’s seminal “Last Batman Story” The Dark Knight Returns. (DKR was a strong source of material for Christopher Nolan’s final Batman film, The Dark Knight Rises, as I noted in my review.) However, this first trailer leaves me underwhelmed in the extreme. This trailer should have been slow, spooky, and reverent, selling us on a world that had moved on without Batman. Instead, it seems to be selling a zippy animated adventure. I hope this doesn’t reflect the tone of the finished product.
In happier news — Larry David, Dave Mandel, Alec Berg, Jeff Schaffer (key players on Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm) and Greg Mottola (Superbad, Adventureland, Paul) are working together on a new movie for HBO? Can’t wait!!… [continued]
I really loved Christopher L. Bennett’s first Department of Temporal Investigations novel (click here for my review) that fleshed out the Federation’s timeline-policing agency, first seen in the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode “Trials and Tibbble-ations,” so I was excited to see the release of a follow-up novel: Forgotten History.
This new book is a sequel, but really it’s a prequel, as the novel focuses on the origins of the DTI. I love Mr. Bennett’s enthusiasm for asking the logical follow-up questions to aspects of the Star Trek shows. In this case, Mr. Bennett was clearly intrigued by the idea of how an agency like the DTI (which was used for mostly comic effect in “Trials and Tribble-ations”) might have come to be, and this wildly entertaining new novel is his attempt to answer that question.
One of the DTI agents comments, early in the book, that the beginning of most time-travel stories somehow always seems to wind up back with James T. Kirk. The origin of the DTI is no exception. In the early part of the novel, probably my favorite part of the book, Mr. Bennett retells aspects of various Original Series episodes that involved time travel. In the book, we see how Kirk’s early misadventures through time planted the seed for the necessity for a time-policing agency. But more interestingly than that, I loved how, in re-telling the stories from those Classic Trek episodes, Mr. Bennett found a way to explain away the ridiculous fake-science and inconsistencies of every single one of those early time-travel episodes.
It’s an extraordinarily fascinating and entertaining feat, and I really delighted in reading Mr. Bennett’s explanation for why, for instance, Spock might have lost his emotional control when traveling back in time through the Atavachron in the episode “All Our Yesterdays.” (The explanation given in the episode, that Spock had traveled back to before the time when Vulcans had mastered their emotions, hence he could no longer control his emotions, was totally ridiculous.) Or, for another example, Mr. Bennett’s explaining of the opening of the episode (“Tomorrow is Yesterday”) which begins with the Enterprise having (seemingly with no effort) traveled back in time to the 1960′s to observe a pivotal moment of Earth’s history. I also loved his willingness to address the totally-unexplained appearance of a duplicate Earth in “Miri” (a plot point that I still find unbelievable that it wasn’t really explained or much-discussed in that episode) or the Earth-like planet seen in “The Omega Glory” (in which the United States of America and the people’s Republic of China apparently formed just like they did on our planet, only thousands of years in the past)…
Forgotten History,… [continued]