Monthly Archive for May, 2005

Carnet de Voyage

Carnet de Voyage (5/31/05) Graphic Novel / Sketchbook (2004 ***½) Written and illustrated by Craig Thompson. Thompson is the writer/artist of Goodbye, Chunky Rice and Blankets. I was touched by this autobiographical sketchbook journal of Thompson’s, which chronicled his 2004 travels through France, Morocco, and Spain. Though he’s ten years my junior, as a fellow Midwesterner, I could truly relate to what he wrote about and to his point of view. It was inspiring to see his drawings, which depicted what he himself was inspired by along the way. Works like this make me hopeful about the potential of comic books and graphic novels. Appropriately, I finished reading Carnet on a long airplane ride returning from vacationing in Mexico, the first time I’d left the United States in ten years.

The Da Vinci Code

The Da Vinci Code (5/30/05) Novel (2003 **½) Written by Dan Brown. Yes, it’s true. I’m the last person in the WORLD to read this amazingly best-selling book. And you know what? As I read, I was flabbergasted it has sold as well as it has. It was a real letdown. Without a doubt, Angels and Demons is a superior book, especially in terms of pacing and action. Dan Brown is the master of the end-of-the-chapter cliffhanger and The DaVinci Code started out following that pattern, but then the cliffhangers became less and less engaging. I still don’t know what motivated some of the characters to behave the way they did. All in all, it was still entertaining, because Brown is a decent writer. But God (or Jesus) only knows what inspired the massive rolling snowball of sales.

Old School

Old School (5/24/05) Netflix (2003 **½) Directed by Todd Phillips, starring Luke Wilson, Will Ferrell and Vince Vaughn. I was in the mood for a mindless comedy with a bit of gratuitous nudity thrown in and this film delivered. I watched it over a couple of evenings following an exhausting move to my new house. There’s nothing special to recommend this movie, but like I said it was dumb enough for my worn-out brain. Watching Will Ferrell’s bare ass running down the street was about as funny as I expected. The guy’s got guts, I’ll give him that.

Madagascar

Madagascar (5/21/05) DW Screening — Universal City Cinema (2005 ***½) Directed by Eric Darnell and Tom McGrath. Seeing how I worked on Madagascar for nearly two years, there’s no way I can be objective. I gotta say though, it all came together pretty damn nicely. It took me long enough to see it, even though it’s not coming out for general release until the 27th: I didn’t make it to San Francisco for the wrap party a couple weeks back and I could have seen it then. I really did enjoy it, though, and the humor and animation style worked nicely. I’m proud of the role I played in it. Now, I can only hope it does well at the box office, even though it opens in the shadow of guaranteed blockbuster Star Wars: The Revenge of the Sith.

Star Wars Episode 3: Revenge of the Sith

Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (5/18/05) DW Screening (2005 ***) Directed by George Lucas. It was an honor to get to attend an industry screening of the film the day before it opened. Fox/Lucas didn’t have to do that, of course. I had heard mixed things about the film, but mostly good. Good ol’ Ebert and Roeper gave it two thumbs up on this past weekend’s show. I liked it more than I disliked it, though that’s not saying much, I know. I can’t say I was ever moved emotionally, but I never expected to be. There was certainly plenty of action to make up for it. Looking back, I could swear 25% of the screen time was devoted to some form of swordplay. Surely that can’t be correct, right? Some of the dialogue was absolutely dreadful, though, and had the audience laughing aloud. Far more clever writers than I have skewered Lucas for choosing the names “Count Dooku” and “General Grievous,” which unfortunately came into play frequently in the first act. Finally, I’ll offer my pet theory about why Samuel Jackson’s acting was so stiff: He was trying not to laugh!

Y: The Last Man, Vol. 1: Unmanned

Y: The Last Man, Vol. 1: Unmanned (5/16/05) Graphic Novel (2003 ***) Written by Brian K Vaughn, illustrated by Pia Guerra. After hearing good things about this series, I finally broke down and bought the first book, which collected the first six issues of the comic. The premise seemed a bit lame: What if there was a plague that wiped out all men on the planet except for one? It sounded like a weak Twilight Zone episode. And yet the execution made it feel fresh. This wasn’t great comic fiction, but it was certainly entertaining. Was I captivated enough to buy more volumes? Not quite, but I might be willing to pick them up on sale.

Cats

Cats (5/12/05) Fred Kavli Theater, Thousand Oaks (2005 **½) I can’t remember the last time I’ve been to see a live musical production. Don’t get me wrong; I love them but never think to buy tickets. My friend Jennifer offered me two tickets which her parents (season ticket holders) had given her. I didn’t relish the thought of driving all the way to Thousand Oaks, but one of my co-workers went with me and he did the driving. I had seen Cats twice before: Once in London in 1988 or ’89, the second time at the Winter Garden in NYC. Both those shows were in smaller theaters, and the “cats” were able to climb around through the audience. The touring company performance was performed on a normal stage and so it was limited in that sense, and it wasn’t nearly as effective. There were a number of musical interludes where the performers were engaged in their cat-like choreography and it seemed so “flat”; it was very different when it took place all around me. I remembered a real “magic” that was missing in this version. Quite frankly, the cast was made of reasonably talented individuals (some more so than others) who could either sing or dance but nobody could really do both exceptionally. The sound levels also seemed weird, as if some of the singers were electrically enhanced and others were not. When the show ended, only half the audience stood and applauded. I applauded but remained seated. The show’s lasting impression? It made me want to plan a trip to New York City to see some real Broadway shows.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (5/8/05) Los Feliz 3 (2005 ***) Directed by Garth Jennings, based on the books by Douglas Adams, starring Martin Freeman, Mos Def, Zooey Deschanel and Sam Rockwell as Zaphod Beeblebrox. I’ve been waiting for this movie for a long, long time. Hell, I even remember when John Landis was slated to direct. I was understandably concerned when Ebert and Roeper both gave it downturned thumbs that it might… er… suck. But I was pleasantly surprised. I liked it well enough, though that may have been because my expectations were appropriately set. It was a good, sweet tribute to Douglas Adams, actually. The casting was perfect, and I enjoyed the cameos from the old BBC series too, including Simon Jones and the original Marvin the robot.

Countdown to Wednesday

Countdown to Wednesday (5/7/05) Netflix (2004 ***) Directed by Hal Long. This was a documentary about the modern comic book production process and featured interviews with a dozen or so professionals, including Stan Lee and Marc Silvestri. Countdown painted what I would imagine to be an accurate picture of the dedication and hard work it takes to succeed in various roles in the system. In fact, the film was organized by job description: Writing, Penciling, Inking, Lettering, Coloring, Post Production. This documentary definitely wasn’t for everybody. I would imagine 95% of the general population would find it terribly dull. For me, an aspiring graphic novel creator, it was an excellent resource, underscoring much of what I’ve been reading about recently. I suspect this DVD was produced primarily for sale at comic conventions. The production values (especially the lighting for the majority of the interviews) were solid for the most part, but I did find the “pop-up” crawls on the screen bottom a little distracting.

Monk, Season 1

Monk, Season 1 (5//7/05) Netflix (2002 ***½) Series created by Andy Brekman. I finished watching the 4-DVD set of the first season of Monk, starring Tony Shalhoub as the former police detective with obsessive-compulsive disorder. This show airs on USA and I’ve been aware of it but never really watched it. A great thing about Netflix and the current state of the DVD industry is it is possible to watch all these shows I missed because I was too busy doing other things when they originally aired. One of the first things I noticed when I started watching the show was how great the premise was. The obvious literary predecessor for Adrian Monk is Sherlock Holmes. Monk’s OCD drives the show and is, as they state a few times during the course of the series, both a blessing and a curse. It allows him to identify and solve these difficult cases, yet it is also the source of constant anxiety. While I don’t have OCD, I certainly have certain OCD traits, so I could readily identify with this conflict. The OCD also provided a rich source of comedic potential, allowing Monk to work both as a police procedural and a comedy program.