Monthly Archive for September, 2013

Fantastic Four by Jonathan Hickman, Vol. 6: Foundation

Fantastic Four by Jonathan Hickman, Vol. 6: Foundation (9/30/13) Comics (2012 **1/2) Written by Jonathan Hickman, illustrated by Ron Garney and Mike Choi. Originally published as Fantastic Four #605.1 and #605-611. The Fantastic Four and their extended family travel to the past, the future, Africa, underground, alternate realities and even to a universe in which Doctor Doom is God. This “family trips” volume concludes Jonathan Hickman’s run on Marvel’s Fantastic Four titles, which began with issue #570 and continued through the strange bifurcation that was FF. The “Doom Universe” near the end of the collection felt more like reading Cliff’s Notes than normal continuity, and there was a sense of Hickman trying to sketch out an abbreviated version of a planned storyline, knowing his time with the series was coming ton an end. As I’ve indicated in my previous reviews, Hickman’s writing has never particularly thrilled me, as he spent more time introducing ideas than seeing them through or telling exciting stories. And, as I’ve mentioned before, I’m sure he has legions of fans who would be happy to disagree with me.

Homeland, Season 2

Homeland, Season 2 (9/29/13) Netflix / Showtime (2012 ***1/2) Series developed by Howard Gordon and Alex Gansa, based on the Israeli series Hatufim (Prisoners of War), created by Gideon Raff, starring Claire Danes, Damian Lewis, Mandy Patinkin and Morena Baccarin. 12 episodes, originally aired 9/30/12 – 12/16/12. Hero turned secret terrorist Nicholas Brody is groomed for public service while Carrie is torn between her love for him and uncovering the truth of his true mission. Meanwhile, a mysterious agent named Quinn joins Saul’s team and Brody’s daughter Dana is involved in a hit-and-run accident. This series continues to impress me with its balance between interesting, complex characters, original dramatic situations and a real sense of high stakes on both a personal and mass scales. Claire Danes and Damian Lewis kept their winning streak of delivering the acting goods. I am still very impressed with Danes’ willingness to show an unusual degree of vulnerability with her deeply flawed, yet still sympathetic lead character. Without giving anything away spoiler-wise, Homeland‘s first season ended on a highly surprising note, and the second season did as well. Nicely done.

The Lumineers

The Lumineers (9/28/13) Greek Theater (2013 ***1/2) After an appearance by The Lumineers on SNL back in January 2013, they quickly became one of my wife’s favorite new bands. They certainly have been getting a great deal of airplay. As a birthday present, I bought these tickets to see them live at The Greek. Though our seats weren’t the best, the concert was great fun, including the opening acts, Nathaniel Rateliff and Dr. Dog. The Lumineers played “Ho Hey” and all their hits (I had familiarized myself with their album ahead of time) and a high point for me was when lead singer Wesley Schultz and the rest of the band took up locations in the middle of the audience for a couple of songs. Another favorite moment of mine came when they performed a cover of Bob Dylan’s “Boots of Spanish Leather.”

Fantastic Four by Jonathan Hickman, Vol. 5: Forever

Fantastic Four by Jonathan Hickman, Vol. 5: Forever (9/23/13) Comics (2012 **1/2) Written by Jonathan Hickman, illustrated by Steve Epting and Barry Kitson. Originally published in Fantastic Four #600-604. It’s the end of the world as we know it, as the Fantastic Four teams up with damn near everybody to fight competing invasions by The Kree Army and Annihilus and his Negative Zone legions. This volume also includes the return of a teammate who had been thought dead, an appearance by Galactus, and a mysterious stranger who helps Franklin Richards learn how to be a god. According to Wikipedia, after FF #11, the Fantastic Four comic series resumed its original title and numbering with a 100-page “spectacular” #600. Rather than rehash my previously-espoused bitching about Hickman’s writing, let me say that “Remember,” his Farel Dalrymple-illustrated mini story about Franklin and his baby universes was really quite sweet.

Heroes of Cosplay, Season 1

Heroes of Cosplay, Season 1 (9/22/13) SyFy (2013 **1/2) Unknown series creator, featuring Yaya Han, Riki LeCotey, Monika Lee, Victoria Schmidt, Chloe Dykstra, Jessica Merizan, Holly Conrad, Becky Young and Jesse Lagers. Six episodes, originally aired 8/13/13 – 9/16/13. In this reality series, eight female costume designers and one token dude travel to science fiction and comic conventions around the country, competing in the cutthroat world of… costume play. I started watching this series with the second episode, but that was a mistake. It made me feel very middle-aged, but, with the exception of the spectacularly-endowed Yaya Han, I had the damnedest time keeping the female participants straight. They all seemed to look, sound and act alike, and without exception, I found all of them highly annoying. But I stuck with the series, because, after all… cosplay. By the time I reached the final episode, I’d finally managed to tell them apart, though I also had become more than a little suspicious of the “reality” of the supposedly reality series. In real life, it seems unlikely that serious cosplay contestants would put off finishing their costumes until the night before the competition… every… single… week. Will the show return for a second season? Apparently (according to the internet), the first season has been lambasted for playing fast and loose with image copyrights. This may explain why I haven’t been able to find any evidence of the show’s creator(s) online.

FF by Jonathan Hickman: Vol. 4: You Are Whatever You Want to Be

FF by Jonathan Hickman: Vol. 4: You Are Whatever You Want to Be (9/20/13) Comics (2012 **1/2) Written by Jonathan Hickman, illustrated by Nick Dragotta, Gabriel Hernandez Walta and Andre Araujo. Originally published in FF #17-23. This volume, which concludes Hickman’s run in the series, begins with Spidey/Torch roommate squabbles and ends with a child being taught by his future self how to use his godlike powers. For the most part, the stories in this collection were stand-alones, though I found myself having the same complaint about Hickman’s writing I’ve had for some time: It’s sooo boring. My feeling is that at times he strived to create a narrative voice akin to Neil Gaiman, but he was apparently incapable of ascending to Gaiman’s status. It was clear, however, in the last story in this volume, that he tried damned hard. Having said that, I’m sure Hickman has plenty of fans who will disagree with me vehemently, but I’ll stand by my opinion. But then, why should you listen to me? My main two reasons for reading this book were A) it was loaned to me by a friend and B) I needed a pleasant, mindless diversion.

FF by Jonathan Hickman: Vol. 3: All Hope Lies in Doom

FF by Jonathan Hickman: Vol. 3: All Hope Lies in Doom (9/18/13) Comics (2012 **1/2) Written by Jonathan Hickman, illustrated by Juan Bobillo and Nick Dragotta. Originally published in FF #12-16. Valeria Richards and the Future Foundation have teleported the top stories of the Baxter Building to Latveria, and then things get really confusing. I’ve got to be honest: It’s been several months since I read the previous volume and reading this one I didn’t really know what was going on most of the time. Hickman’s writing still suffers from lots of dialogue that reads naturally on the page but is actually pretty oblique. This is punctuated by action scenes with supposedly high stakes but they don’t feel like high stakes. To add to the confusion, most of this volume excluded the Fantastic Four, except at the end when they’re return, bringing with them Johnny Storm, who (kinda sorta spoiler alert) I thought was supposed to be dead!

Invincible, Vol. 18: The Death of Everyone

Invincible, Vol. 18: The Death of Everyone (9/17/13) Comics (2013 ***) Written by Robert Kirkman, illustrated by Ryan Ottley. Original published in Invincible #97-102. Mark Grayson’s powers return just in time to face a planetary menace he’s partly responsible for unleashing. If you’ve been reading my reviews, you know I detested the previous volume, but this collection, which included the series’ issue #100, was a definite improvement. Having said that, the volume was definitely front-loaded quality-wise, and after the halfway point, it began to sag once more. I remain a fan of the series, even if I’m not quite as effusive as I was at the beginning. Quite honestly, I just don’t trust Kirkman to take the series in a direction I want to follow. On a lighter note, one of the highlights contained in this volume was Kirkman’s self-deprecation in the form of a fictionalized version of himself when Mark Grayson attends a comic convention and meets the creator of Science Dog, only to learn his idol is kind of a dick.

Clue

Clue (9/15/13) Netflix (1985 ***) Directed by Jonathan Lynn, starring Tim Curry, Eileen Brennan, Madeline Kahn, Christopher Lloyd, Michael McKean, Martin Mull, Lesley Ann Warren and Colleen Camp. A seemingly-random collection of strangers gather for dinner at a spooky mansion, where they confront their blackmailer and before long, as the kids say, one murder leads to another. Clue has apparenty become something of a minor cult classic in the fashion of Curry’s Rocky Horror Picture Show. I learned this fact via an interesting article I read about the film’s production, and that article is what inspired me to add the film to my Netflix queue. Clue didn’t do particularly well at the box office when it was originally released, and it’s not hard to figure out why. Even in the mid-1980s, its humor was decidedly corny and old-fashioned, more akin to the screwball comedies of the 1930s and 1940s, but — to be honest — not nearly was well done. The film was helmed by first-time director Jonathan Lynn, and while the cast evidently had a good time, I wish the film had been stronger. A personal note: In addition to playing the board game a few times in my teens, I had a previous relationship with the source material: My former company produced two computer games based on the Milton Bradley property, and a good friend of mine provided the voice of Miss Scarlet.

Night Shift

Night Shift (9/14/13) Sundance (1982 ***1/2) Directed by Ron Howard, written by Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel, starring Henry Winkler, Michael Keaton, Shelly Long and Richard Belzer. Two colleagues working the… well, “night shift” at the city morgue decide to become pimps for a bunch of hookers. I realized about halfway through this film that it was actually one of the best comedies of the 1980s. Not quite at the same level as Tootsie, but it’s up there. I guess I’d forgotten just how good it was. I did have a few minor criticisms/observations, however: (1) It was fairly obvious that Henry Winkler was doing his best to distance himself from his Fonzie persona by channeling Woody Allen; (2) It was also apparent that sometimes Ron Howard slipped into a very sit-com-ish directing style; and (3) The resolution of the story’s main conflict was resolved via an equal mixture of coincidence and deux ex machima. Having said all that, it was still a fun film, and while I don’t want to take anything away from Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel’s script, much of the movie’s juice came from Michael Keaton’s breakout performance. Shortly after Keaton’s Bill Blazejowski appeared onscreen, my wife said, “You know, there are times when I feel like I have that same energy.” I nodded in agreement, recognizing the similarities. Then, about a half hour later I said aloud, “My God, I married Michael Keaton!”