Tag Archive for 'Comics-Related'

Dear Mr. Watterson

Dear Mr. Watterson (9/1/15) Netflix (2013 ***) Directed by Joel Allen Schroeder, including interviews with Berkeley Breathed, Seth Green, Stephan Pastis and others. This documentary is an examination of the work of Calvin and Hobbes‘ creator, as well as an unabashed love letter to the reclusive “J.D. Salinger of cartoon artists.” The documentary technique was solid throughout, with an appropriate use of motion graphics to break up the talking heads interviews. However, I found the narration to be a bit sophomoric at times, and had wished it were smarter and coming from a more authoritative position with respect to the history of American cartoons. Having said (written) that, the opposite could easily be argued, that it was in fact the perfect choice for the audience, assuming the audience was made up of grade school kids who had just discovered Calvin & Hobbes for themselves. As I watched the film, I kept wondering whether Bill Watterson himself might make an appearance, but (kinda sorta spoiler alert) sadly he did not. One historical note: Subsequent to the release of Dear Mr. Watterson in 2013, Bill Watterson did come out of his cave briefly, returning to the comics pages in a handful of panels in the strip Pearls Before Swine, created by Stephan Pastis, one of those interviewed for this documentary. One has to wonder what connection there might be, if any.

Daredevil, Season 1

Daredevil, Season 1 (8/8/15) Netflix (2015 ***1/2) Created by Drew Goddard, based on the characters created by Stan Lee and Bill Everett, starring Charlie Cox, Vincent D’Onofrio, Deborah Ann Woll and Elden Henson. 13 episodes, released en masse on 4/2/15. One half of the law team of Matt Murdock and Foggy Nelson is a blind, ass-kicking vigilante, but I’m not going to tell you which half. I had heard very good things about this series since its release earlier this year, and I can attest to it being a well-made series. I must confess that among the pantheon of Marvel Comics super-heroes, Daredevil was never one of my favorites as a kid. Like many people, I had seen but largely blocked out the 2003 film starring Ben Affleck, so that didn’t really affect my enjoyment of the show. The setting of the Drew Goddard series is the gritty Hell’s Kitchen section of Manhattan, though I’m not quite sure the neighborhood is nearly as rough in 2015 as it was back in the day. One of the tenets of good superhero storytelling is that the villain should be as interesting in or more engaging than the hero. In the case of this series, Vincent D’Onofrio’s Kingpin, though never identified by that name in the show, is… well, he’s just freakin’ awesome in every scene he appears in. By the way, Daredevil‘s Kingpin is not related to and should in no way be confused with the 1996 bowling comedy by the Farrelly Brothers. Just wanted to make sure you were all clear on that point.

Ant-Man

Ant-Man (7/30/15) Glendale Pacific 18 (2015 ***1/4) Directed by Peyton Reed, starring Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas, Corey Stoll and Evangeline Lilly. An ex-convict with a talent for breaking and entering is recruited by a scientist with a talent for miniaturization… and talking to ants. As Marvel Universe movies go, it was a given that Ant-Man was going to be relatively lightweight fare, no pun intended. I understood that, and was prepared to accept it for what it was, and not reject it for what it wasn’t. I was also well aware of the film’s production difficulties, with Shaun of the Dead‘s Edgar Wright’s departure as director. In the leading role, Paul Rudd was likable as ever, and he was well cast. I kept thinking of how he will “fit in” with the other Avengers down the line, and something tells me he’ll do just fine, providing ample doses of comic relief. As superheroes go, miniaturization is a pretty bizarre power. Not much was really made of that fact in the film, which was probably for the best.

The Avengers: Age of Ultron (3D)

The Avengers: Age of Ultron (3D) (6/8/15) DWA Screening (2015 ***1/2) Co-written and directed by Joss Whedon, starring Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner and James Spader. Earth’s Mightiest Heroes must re-assemble when Tony Stark’s attempt to protect the planet by cracking the Artificial Intelligence puzzle misfires in a BIG way. I had unrealistically high expectations going into seeing the Avengers sequel a month previously, so it was no real wonder that I was disappointed. Knowing that, even though I knew I didn’t enjoy it as much as the original, I wanted to watch it again, so that I could more fairly judge it. I’m pleased to report that I did enjoy it more the second time around. However, having watched the first film in the interim, it still doesn’t come close to matching the 4-star magic of its 2012 predecessor. The energy is just different. It’s also worth noting that my second viewing was in 3D, but like many 3D films, the effect was most noticeable for the first ten minutes (which made the opening sequence look like a video game), but then it blended away and I was barely aware of it.

The Incredible Hulk

The Incredible Hulk (5/27/15) FXM (2008 ***1/2) Directed by Louis Leterrier, starring Edward Norton, Liv Tyler, Tim Roth and William Hurt. General “Thunderbolt” Ross will stop at nothing to capture fugitive scientist (and potential military weapon) Dr. Bruce Banner. The weekend that Avengers: The Age of Ultron was released, I noticed that several channels were airing other Marvel Universe films. Unfortunately, this one wasn’t included and I really wanted to watch it. I had fairly positive memories of it, being the second film in the Marvel super-franchise that began with Iron Man earlier the same year. One of the scenes I enjoyed the most then and did so in this re-watching, was a fight (if you want to call it that) between The Hulk and Tim Roth after being jacked up on Super-Soldier serum. The fanboy in me loved that it was a semi-veiled reference to Steve Rogers (who wouldn’t get his own movie until three years later), but also a virtual showdown (at least powers-wise) between “The Green Goliath” and Captain America. And let’s just say it was a little lopsided. Anyhow, enough about that. Having also recently watched Ang Lee’s Hulk (2003), I appreciated the 2008 film’s deliberate incorporation of elements of the CBS Bill Bixby / Lou Ferrigno TV series that ran from 1978-1982, not counting the subsequent made-for-TV movie specials. It’s also worth noting that while I love what Mark Ruffalo has brought to the role in the Avengers films, Edward Norton played a pretty kick-ass Bruce Banner, and it’s interesting to consider what it would have been like if he’d continued in that role.

The Flash, Season 1

The Flash, Season 1 (5/19/15) CW (2014-15 ***1/2) Series created by Greg Berlanti, Geoff Johns, and Andrew Kreisberg, starring Grant Gustin, Candice Patton, Danielle Panabaker, Jesse L. Martin and Tom Cavanagh. A potent mix of lightning, police lab chemicals and a massive particle accelerator accident transforms Barry Allen into the fastest man alive. There has always been something about The Flash as a character that appealed to me, going back to childhood when I read the comics. And I really don’t believe it was about wish fulfillment regarding his particular powers. Super-speed is cool and all, but I think the thing that made me a fan of The Flash was more about the tone of the character. There was just an inherent “fun factor” in the comics, and the creators of the CW show have done a fine job of capturing that. Hell, I just loved that the TV series had the balls to embrace the “Scarlet Speedster” mythos from the comics, almost wholesale. In addition to that, I also was in for a treat in terms of the show’s storyline, which featured heavy servings of time travel, running (pun intended) throughout. I’m very much looking forward to the second season in the fall. How long will The Flash continue to run (not sorry)? Unlike Barry Allen, I can’t peek into the future, but my guess is a long time. After only one season, it has already taken the place in my heart left vacant by the end of The CW’s Smallville (2001-2011), which ran (last time, I promise) for ten seasons.

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Season 2

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Season 2 (5/19/15) ABC (2014-15 ***1/4) Series created by Maurissa Tancharoen, Jed Whedon, Joss Whedon, starring Clark Gregg, Ming-Na Wen, Chloe Bennet and Kyle MacLachlan. 22 episodes, originally aired 9/23/14 – 5/12/15. After the fall of the official S.H.I.E.L.D. organization and the apparent death of Nick Fury, Agent Phil Coulson takes over as director of a shadow organization dedicated to protecting the general population from super-powered freaks. One thing I’ll say about S.H.I.E.L.D. is that unlike a lot of weekly 1-hour shows, its creators don’t seem to care too much about maintaining the status quo. While that’s not necessarily a bad thing, there was a sense that the writers were continually trying various things to see what would work. In comparison to the first season (which also had its share of rocky passages), Season 2’s attempt to dovetail with Avengers: Age of Ultron wasn’t nearly as effective as the equivalent situation in first season with Captain America: The Winter Soldier. The connection was also weakened by the fact that Clark Gregg wasn’t in Avengers 2, which was actually by design: I read in an interview with Joss Whedon that as far as he was concerned, Phil Coulson was dead, having (kinda sorta spoilers ahead) perished in the first Avengers film. While I totally understand him taking that position, it also flies a bit in the face of Marvel’s “it’s all connected” party line.

Gotham, Season 1

Gotham, Season 1 (5/5/15) FOX (2014-15 ***) Created by Bruno Heller, starring Ben McKenzie, Donal Logue, Robin Lord Taylor, Jada Pinkett Smith and David Mazouz as young master Bruce Wayne. 22 episodes, originally aired 9/22/14 – 5/4/15. When a young boy loses his parents in an apparent robbery, he forms a relationship with one of Gotham City’s newest police detectives, Jim Gordon. As a lifelong Batman fan, and in particular a fan of Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli’s Batman: Year One, I was very much looking forward to this show. I saw its “show the legend before he becomes the legend” premise as a variation of Smallville (2001-2011). Consequently, I had no problem with the show’s format and liked seeing the pre-formed versions of Batman and one of the best-known rogues galleries. Robin Lord Taylor’s Penguin was a definite breakout, but I also loved Camren Bicondova, the young actress who played Selina Kyle, the future Catwoman. I know the show has been criticized for a variety of reasons, but I haven’t paid too much attention to that noise. For the most part I enjoyed the first season and look forward to the second.

The Avengers

The Avengers (5/3/15) FX (2012 ****) Co-written and directed by Joss Whedon, starring Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Jeremy Renner and Tom Hiddleston. The Earth’s Mightiest Heroes assemble to save the planet from an Asgardian demigod and his alien pals. After watching the somewhat disappointing Age of Ultron (2015), I wanted to test whether my memory of the first Avengers film was faulty. Well, as it turns out, even watching it with commercial interruptions, the 2012 film was every bit as good as I’d remembered: The story, characterizations, character relationships, villain and humor were all 100% rock solid. (Favorite)

Guardians of the Galaxy

Guardians of the Galaxy (5/2/15) Starz (2014 ****) Co-written and directed by James Gunn, starring Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista and the voices of Vin Diesel and Bradley Cooper. Scavenger/rascal Peter Quill is an unlikely hero to lead a band of misfits in a suicide mission to save the galaxy from an evil blue-skinned Kree baddy named Ronan. I figured as long as I was on a Marvel movies kick, why not give its first entry in the “cosmic side” of the cinematic universe a second watching? And it was well worth the time. This was the Marvel movie that was considered a big gamble, but according to Box Office Mojo it’s made $774 million bucks worldwide. The lesson? Some gambles pay off, Daddy-O!