Sunday, May 28, 2006

Alex Toth 1928 - 2006

If you've ever laughed your ass off at HARVEY BIRDMAN, ATTORNEY AT LAW or SPACE GHOST: COAST TO COAST, you have Alex Toth to thank for that. If you've ever watched Boomerang on a Sunday afternoon and caught episodes of SUPER FRIENDS or FANTASTIC FOUR, or even of BIRDMAN and SPACE GHOST sans funny edits, you also have Alex Toth to thank for that.

Toth was an artist/designer with a distinctive style that has been influencing artists for years. Bruce Timm, Michael Lark, Stefano Gaudiano, David Mazzuchelli, Klaus Jansen. All of these artists and more owe something to Alex Toth. He designed Space Ghost, Birdman, and others. He also acted as the principle designer for the original SUPER FRIENDS series. If you have never heard of Toth, you should google him. His style is cartoony yet realistic, simple yet complex, and wholly distinctive. I cannot get enough of looking at his work.

Alex Toth passed away at his drawing table on Saturday morning. He was 78.

That's all.

Saturday, May 27, 2006


Yesterday was opening day for the third X-Men film, X-MEN: THE LAST STAND. I've decided to put down some thoughts on the film, partly because I like reading reviews for movies and think others might like to see what I have to think, but mostly so that I can organize my thoughts and try to come to a definite conclusion on the film.

I will do my best not to ruin anything, but regardless,

Here There Be Spoilers.

If you don't want the movie ruined, or if you just don't want your opinion of it tainted before you even see it, turn back. Come back after you've seen the film.

Okay? Okay.

The Good:
- Like the first two X-Films, for a comic book movie, this film was remarkably grounded, and when I say this, I'm mostly referring to the explanation for Jean's manifestation of the Phoenix powers. Those familiar with the Phoenix saga of the comics know that it deals a lot with space travel and cosmic forces and an alien race called the Shi'ar. None of those things are present in this film. The explanation for where the Phoenix came from is an interesting one, and it makes sense. Admittedly, I had a terribly obnoxious comic dork moment as the explanation was laid forth and I stared in disbelief before uttering, "What the fuck?!" But as I think about it now, I can think of no better explanation for where the Phoenix came from (although the explanation for her miraculous resurrection stays pretty true to the comic, and the comic explanation was lame, so...).
- Sex appeal. Okay, let's get something straight. When I'm watching a movie, I don't normally sit there and drool over actresses that I find attractive; in fact, I know a lot of people that do do this, and it has always sort of annoyed me. But I'll make an exception for this movie (maybe not the whole movie, but certain scenes...). My thing for redheads aside, Famke Jannsen is just amazingly hot, and she has never been hotter than she was in this film. There is a scene between Jean and Logan that is, quite honestly, the hottest thing I have ever seen. I'm sorry if I'm weirding the readers out, but it's true. This movie is just damn sexy.
- That said, this movie has a lot of heart. Once again Wolverine is placed front and center (and if Hugh Jackman never played anyone else ever again, I would be okay with that), and the ways in which the character has developed over the course of the series are obvious ones. He's the rough-housin' Canuck with a heart o' gold, he is, and it shows in this film. There are moments in the film (not necessarily Wolverine moments, but just moments) where I almost wanted to cry, and in a good way.
- The Beast. Kelsey Grammer is excellent as Dr. Hank McCoy. 'Nuff said.
- Iceman vs. Pyro. I got what I wanted out of that fight, and while it was a brief battle, the payoff was fantastic.
- Fastball Special. For those that don't know, the Fastball Special is a combination move in which Colossus picks up Wolverine and throws him at a target. It's one of my favorite X-Men things, and we get it in this movie, and not just once.
- The Danger Room. Perfect, though I wanted to see more of the enemy they were fighting in there (that's one surprise I won't ruin for you).
- Kitty Pryde, Angel, and Colossus. Three of my favorite X-Men, along with Iceman and Beast, all are featured prominently in this movie. If only Nightcrawler had stuck around.
- Jamie Madrox. A-freakin-mazingly perfect casting. He looked JUST like his comic book counterpart.
- Olivia Williams as Dr. Moira McTaggert. I've been in love with Ms. Williams since Max Fischer fell in love with her in RUSHMORE. Perfect casting for Moira, too.
- The special effects were stellar.
- There's a lot going on here. The sheer amount of stuff that happens in this film is ridiculous, and it all moves fairly briskly. It felt short (which it is, it's less than two hours long), but I say that in a good way. When it was over I wanted to watch it again. That said, we turn to...

The Bad:
- There's too much going on here. Brisk pacing is nice, but not at the expense of character development. There is so much happening and there are so many new characters bopping around that I don't really feel like I get to spend any time with anyone outside of the already established characters (Logan, Jean, Magneto, Charles, Scott, Storm). Angel and Colossus are wasted in this movie, as is a certain multiplying member of Magneto's brotherhood, and a Rogue/Iceman/Kitty subplot is underdeveloped at best. Kitty does get some nice moments on her own, in particular a fight with Juggernaut that is just damn cool. Overall, though, it felt like a four- to five-person movie, with one of those people being the most boring X-Man of all time, Storm. Thanks a lot for your years of service, Halle Berry. Don't call us, we'll call you. But hopefully not.
- It didn't build to anything. I think this is a result of the pacing, but you never get a chance to sit and breathe and recover, which I think is always important if you want a movie that has any sort of rising action. If the movie is just one non-stop fight, you never get that chance, and as a result, it doesn't feel like anything ever escalates.
- One word: camp. One-liners abounded in this movie, and it was distracting. I hate bad writing, and the dialogue needed help here.
- The pacing. It's worth mentioning again.
- Colossus was too shiny. Sorry, I like Colossus, and that bothered me a little.
- Jean never Phoenixes-out. You all the fire stuff around Jean in X2? The fire bird in Alkali Lake at the end? Any of that? We never see any of that in this movie. As faithful as this movie is to the comics, it completely ignores the 'phoenix' aspect of the Phoenix, and that disappointed me.

The Other:
- I don't know if this is a complaint or what, but the solution to the problem at the end did not seem to me to be the most obvious choice. I had a problem with the ending of X2, though, which I will explain. X2 ends with Jean saving the team and sacrificing herself against a wall of on-rushing water. So here's my beef with that ending. A significant portion of the movie was centered around Rogue and Bobby, their relationship and their development as mutants/X-Men. I don't think it's unreasonable to think that X2 would've had a greater ending if, instead of Jean dying, Bobby had stepped off the ship and used his powers to freeze the onrushing water. It would've been an amazing 'rite of passage' sort of scene, and the scene in which Bobby lives up to his potential and becomes a full member of the team. Plus, it would've grown organically out of the rest of the movie. Instead, though, Jean limps off the ship and saves the rest of the team. Okay, so sure, it sets up the Phoenix stuff later on, but I still think that Iceman saving them all would've been far more effective, and a more obvious choice.
Okay, so HERE'S A BIG SPOILER for the end of the film. Seriously, you can't avoid having the film ruined if you read these next few sentences. IF YOU DON'T WANT TO KNOW THE END OF THE FILM, SKIP THIS PARAGRAPH.
In one of the final scenes of the film, Jean-Phoenix is essentially destroying everything. She's using her powers to un-make people (seriously, they just disappear into little bits) and to destroy everything around her, and this is taking place outside of the facility where the mutant cure has been developed. The source of the mutant cure is itself a mutant, a small boy whose power is to 'deactivate' a mutant's mutation. The X-Men are there to save the kid, while Magneto's brotherhood is there to kill him and end the cure. So Phoenix is destroying everything with her powers, and Kitty and Colossus have the kid whose power it is to shut down people's powers. ...Hello? Is it just me, or do you use the kid whose power it is to shut down people's powers to stop Phoenix? ...Nah, that's a stupid idea. Let's have Wolverine do it instead! Now, admittedly, Wolverine stopping Jean was powerful, but it was also just illogical. The argument was made for me that Wolverine was the only one who could get close enough to Jean without being unmade because of his healing factor, and I can buy that, I suppose. Still, the kid was a handy plot device that they ignored at that crucial moment in favor of giving Wolverine the spotlight. But then, these have all been essentially Wolverine movies. At what point in history was it decided that Wolverine was the most popular X-Man? I say, why not Colossus? But that's just me.

The Overall:
I enjoyed the hell out of this movie. It has obvious problems, but the geek moments and the special effects extravaganza make up for it. I would say that the first two films are better than this one, though. I read a review that said that Brett Ratner (X3's director) lacks the subtlety that Bryan Singer (director of X-MEN and X2) brings to his films, and I think that's absolutely spot-on. Singer does character and impact like it's nobody's business, which is part of why I cannot wait for SUPERMAN RETURNS (I'm sure I will talk more about this one as it approaches - we've only got FIVE WEEKS, and I'm already freaking out with anticipation). X-MEN: THE LAST STAND is a decent comic book movie, a solid action flick, and an entertaining sequel to the stellar X2.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Well, alright, then.

So in my last post, I said I was going to be writing a lot more and posting a lot more on this thing. And I think I made that post...what, three months ago? So sue me. It's my blog, I can do what I want.

I'm going to break one of my cardinal rules of blogging and write about myself today. Not an essay about myself, just about myself and what I've been doing. Hopefully this will get me back into the swing of blogging, and I can come back and be better than ever. Probably not, though. But it's a nice thought. This is mostly a status report for the five or six people that read this blog, and for the one or two people that read this blog and that I don't talk to regularly. On with it, then.

Part of the reason I haven't been blogging is that I've been excruciatingly busy. For months it was with a job search which had, effectively, sucked away my will to live. Now, though, it's with an actual job itself. I started work a few weeks ago as an editor for a company that does editing and design work for textbook publishers. It's a temp job, for now anyway, so who knows how long it will last, but it's something. It may be enough for me to get out of my parents' house. That's really my goal at this point. I wouldn't mind of this job became permanent at all, not only for financial reasons, but also because I genuinely like what I'm doing. I like the people around me and I have a good time when I'm at work. (And I really want to move out.)

Other big stuff: I just had my first comic put out. A few friends and I put together an anthology of short stories. We're called Buyer Beware Comics, and the book is called (wait for it) Buyer Beware Comics Anthology #1. I have a three page story in it that I wrote and that my friend Jason drew. It's called "A Minor Obstacle," and it stars Rex Driver, Man of Action, a character that I created with my friend Julie. It's a fun short story. If anyone cares, I'll scan the pages and put them up for you to see. Having this out there has got a lot of new things flowing through my brain, and I'm really excited. The next few months should be a really fun and exciting time.

So that's more or less what I've been up to lately. I'll try and get back onto a more regular schedule for this, but who am I kidding, honestly. It'll never happen.