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In one of my earliest posts on the site, I wrote my own follow-up to the famous Comics Journal article “Martin Wagner Owes Me Fifty Bucks,” in which I listed several comic book series that remained tragically never-completed by their authors.  At the top of the list was David Lapham’s magnificent series Stray Bullets.  This independently published, black-and-white comic book blew me away as a teenager.  I still think it stands as a magnificent achievement, which makes the fact that the series stopped publication in the middle of a story tragically painful.  Mr. Lapham is still working in the comic book industry, and for years and years I have been hoping that he would some-day return to this series and complete his story.  It looks like that day has finally arrived, as Image Comics has listed Stray Bullets on their publication schedule for March, 2014.  I hope this is real!!!

Devin Faraci at badassdigest.com has listed his Ten Most Disappointing Films of 2013, and at the top of his list is Star Trek Into Darkness.  What Mr. Faraci wrote about the film so perfectly sums up my feelings that I don’t think I ever need to write another word about that terribly disappointing film.  Here is Mr. Faraci:

This isn’t technically a ranked list, but I saved this for last on purpose. There were many months leading up to Star Trek Into Darkness that allowed me to roll with the movie’s punch, but even still this broiling heap of nonsense left me deeply despondant. JJ Abrams had totally proven me wrong with Star Trek 2009, a movie that while not great was filled with heart and adventure and managed to work despite extraordinary script flaws. Star Trek Into Darkness brought back both the cast who made the first film live and the script flaws that almost sank it, except this time the script flaws were not going to get upstaged. Into Darkness is dumb, it’s complicated for no reason, it features reveals that are meaningless to the plot and it pisses away Star Trek‘s most name-brand villain in a plotline that disrespects hardcore fans while being meaningless to the coveted new audience. Star Trek Into Darkness is a movie so bad that it fails on almost every conceivable level, including mewling fan service. This isn’t the worst film of the year… but it’s without a doubt the film that squanders the most talent, money and good will. 

Amen.  (If you’re interested, here’s my review of Star Trek Into Darkness.)

Love this trailer for Christopher Nolan’s new film, Interstellar.  I don’t have a clue what the film is about, and that’s just the way I want … [continued]

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The Top 15 Movies of 2012 — Part Three!

In Part One of my list of the Top 15 Movies of 2012, I listed numbers 15 through 11, and in Part Two I listed numbers 10 through 6.  Let’s bring it home with the final installment of my Best Movies of 2012 list!

5. Django Unchained Quentin Tarantino’s fierce, fiery, take-no-prisoners assault on the institution of slavery in America is at once a very serious attempt to look this great evil of American history straight in the eye, while also being a phenomenally entertaining, funny, exciting, action-packed and blood-soaked Spaghetti Western adventure.  That Mr. Tarantino’s film succeeds so wildly on both counts is a testament to his enormous skills as a filmmaker.  Django Unchained is unquestionably the product of Mr. Tarantino’s wonderfully distinct cinematic vision.  The film is filled with astoundingly beautiful dialogue, incredible tension, various (very funny) anachronistic touches, spectacular (and very bloody) action, and a glorious musical score — all of which are Mr. Tarantino’s specialties.  Jamie Foxx and Christoph Waltz are both absolute perfection as the twin anchors of the film, totally commanding in their roles, with each creating iconic, memorable cinematic characters.  Leonardo DiCaprio and Samuel L. Jackson are both equally spectacular as the film’s abhorrent villains.  Django Unchained feels transgressive, it feels dangerous.  It is without question fiercely alive and engaging from the very first frame to the very last, and I found it to be one of the most fun, visceral, intense experiences I had in a movie theatre this year.  (Click here for my original review.)

4. Zero Dark Thirty Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal have together created an astonishing cinematic document that powerfully brings to life not only the complex, often seemingly hopeless decade-long search for Osama bin Laden, but also the vast human cost (on all sides) of that pursuit.  For almost three full hours, I sat riveted by the drama on-screen as CIA operative Maya (Jessica Chastain), assigned to the U.S. embassy in Pakistan, worked — together with other operatives, interrogators, and analysts — for year after long year, trying to piece together a chain of evidence that would lead U.S. forces to discover the hiding place of Osama bin Laden.  This film revels in the details, in the minutia of Maya’s world, without dumbing anything down or over-explaining anything to audiences.  This is a film that assumes a lot of its audience: that we are decently well-versed in the historical background, and that we are capable of paying close attention to the film as it unfolds.  Jessica Chastain does magnificent, star-making work as the driven but haunted Maya.  The action sequences are phenomenal, particularly the climactic assault on bin Landen’s compound in … [continued]

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“Our Lives Are Not Our Own” — Josh Falls in Love with Cloud Atlas

Well, my friends, I have a new front-runner for my favorite film of 2012: the magnificent, heart-breaking, life-affirming Cloud Atlas.

I was never a rabid fan of The Matrix, but I certainly loved that film and felt it represented a bold promise of continuing great work by Andy and Larry (now Lana) Wachowski.  At last, thirteen years later, I feel that promise has been fulfilled as the two, working with Tom Tykwer (who directed the phenomenal Run Lola Runclick here for my review), have written and directed a film that feels to me like a masterpiece.

Adapted by the Wachowskis and Mr. Tykwer from the novel by David Mitchell (which I have never read), Cloud Atlas tells a series of connected, over-lapping stories.  In 1849, a young man faces great peril as he crosses the sea in an effort to deliver an important contract to his father.  In 1936, another young man talks his way into an apprentice-ship with a great but aging composer, hoping the old man will be his sponsor and partner as he works to create what he believes to be a great symphony.  In 1973, a young woman puts her life at risk to investigate the claims made by a now-dead whistle-blower at a nuclear power plant.  In 2012, an elderly book publisher runs afoul of gangsters and his own brother, eventually finding himself committed to an old-age home where he feels he does not belong.  In 2144, a genetically-engineered fabricant created to do nothing more than serve fast-food to the “consumers,” her customers, discovers a chance for freedom from the life for which she has been designed and built.  And 106 winters “after The Fall,” a primitive but good-hearted tribesman is visited by one of the “Prescients,” the few-remaining technologically advanced humans on the planet, and he joins with her on a momentous quest.

Each one of these stories is fabulous and compelling, but the way they weave in and out of one another is nothing short of astounding.  I cannot imagine the challenge of editing this movie together.  There isn’t a simplistic pattern of regularly cutting from one story to another.  Instead, the stories dance in and out of each other.  Sometimes we might cut away to one story for nothing more than a quick shot, or a line of dialogue, before moving on, and other times we linger in one of the time-periods for an extended amount of time.  Sometimes I felt like the film would circle through all six of the main time-periods, while at other times it felt more like we were just traveling back and forth between two or three of the tales, letting those stories play … [continued]