Tuesday, July 25, 2006

POWERS Online and STUDIO 60 News

POWERS is a series from ICON Comics by Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Avon Oeming. The lead characters, Christian Walker and Deena Pilgrim, are homicide detectives specializing in "powers-related" cases - cases involving people with superpowers. It's one of my favorite series, and I've been trying to get people to read it for years.

And now those people have no excuse. They can read it daily for free. The first page was posted yesterday, so read that one before you read the second one (obviously).

I cite Brian Bendis as one of my favorite writers and biggest influences. His dialogue is second to none in comics, in the vein of playwright/screenwriters Aaron Sorkin and David Mamet.

Speaking of Sorkin, his new series, STUDIO 60 ON THE SUNSET STRIP, premieres on NBC on Monday, September 18th, at 10 PM. It stars, among others, Matthew Perry, Bradley Whitford, and Amanda Peet (I ask you, where is Joshua Malina? I'm still waiting to hear who he'll be playing, but you know it's coming...). Also, if you want to read the pilot, don't bother asking me, because I don't have a copy and I would never e-mail it to you even if I did. It's not fantastic, and doesn't have everything you like about Aaron Sorkin. Wink. Wink. Wink.

Go read comics now.

Sunday, July 9, 2006

Movie Musings

After long and careful consideration, I have determined that I am unable to write any sort of review for SUPERMAN RETURNS, at least not in the same way that I analyzed X-MEN: THE LAST STAND. I cannot maintain any sort of objectivity regarding SUPERMAN RETURNS; I just love it too damn much. I know there are things in the film that are problematic (tell me again why Lois decides to take her kid with her onto the mysterious yacht?), but I can't get over the way it made me feel. I grew up with the original SUPERMAN movies. One of my earliest memories is of watching SUPERMAN IV: THE QUEST FOR PEACE with my dad on HBO on a Sunday morning. An equally early memory is of watching SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE at my uncle's house. I can't remember much about my pre-7-year-old years, but I distinctly remember Superman being a part of them. So when the opening credits for SUPERMAN RETURNS rolled. And they were exactly the same style as the opening credits for the original two films. And the John Wiliams Superman theme began to play. I was weak. I was ten years old again. It was the most religious experience I have ever had.

So yeah, that's why I can't write any sort of objective review of SUPERMAN RETURNS.

That said, I saw PIRATES OF THE CARRIBEAN: DEAD MAN'S CHEST today, and I would LOVE to rip that film to pieces before your very eyes.

If you're planning to see the film and haven't done so yet, or you just don't like to have stuff ruined for you, you should look away. HERE THERE BE SPOILERS! And detailed ones, at that, revealing plot points and the ending of the film. So, yeah, run along now. Go read that thing I wrote a few years ago about dog poop. That was a good one.


What I'm going to do now is tell you every way in which PIRATES OF THE CARRIBEAN: DEAD MAN'S CHEST is similar to THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK. Some of the parallels may seem like a stretch. But, really, they're not. Just go with it. The format for these comparisons will be: "[element of DEAD MAN'S CHEST] = [element of EMPIRE STRIKES BACK]. Brief explanation, if necessary." You with me? Let's go.

Will Turner = Luke Skywalker.
Elizabeth Swann = Princess Leia.
Jack Sparrow = Han Solo.

Once you've got those three, the rest of it is cake.

Developing love triangle between Will, Elizabeth, and Jack = developing love triangle between Luke, Leia, and Han. Only the third film will tell if Will and Elizabeth are really brother and sister.
Davy Jones = Jabba the Hutt. 'But Jabba doesn't appear in EMPIRE!' you say. His presence is felt in the form of bounty hunters that are after Han, just as Davy Jones is after Jack to repay an old debt.
The Kraken = Boba Fett. Boba Fett was an ever-present threat in EMPIRE, same as The Kraken is in DEAD MAN'S CHEST. EMPIRE ends with Boba Fett, in the service of Jabba the Hutt, in possession of Han Solo. DEAD MAN'S CHEST ends with The Kraken, in the service of Davy Jones, having eaten Jack Sparrow.
'Bootstrap' Bill Turner = Yoda/Obi-Wan Kenobi. Think about it. I suppose he's more Obi-Wan than Yoda, given the whole 'ghost' connection, but who does Will learn how to be a pirate from/who does Luke learn how to be a Jedi from? I'm not saying that pirates = Jedi; the parallel is in learning to fulfill your destiny, that which is in your blood. For Luke, it's being a Jedi. For Will, it's being a pirate.
"I would give anything to bring back Jack Sparrow!" = "When we find Han and that bounty hunter..." They end almost exactly the same way, with the remaining principle characters getting ready to go save their lost buddy. There's a twist at the end of PIRATES, though, that would be like Grand Moff Tarkin appearing on the Rebel's Medical Frigate and agreeing to help Luke and Leia save Han. More on this later.

Unfortunately, I cannot end it with "PIRATES OF THE CARRIBEAN: DEAD MAN'S CHEST = THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK," because whereas EMPIRE is a classic, an amazing story that builds upon and expands the universe created in the first film, DEAD MAN'S CHEST is mostly just a rehash of the first film with a couple new elements added in. Also, there's no Lando Calrissian in DEAD MAN'S CHEST, so it is, sadly, sorely lacking.

There's a lot more to DEAD MAN'S CHEST than just what I've mentioned above, but the rest of it is pretty pointless. No joke. I'm not just saying that because it doesn't fit into the EMPIRE comparison. I'm saying that because it does nothing to advance the actual story of the film, which doesn't really present itself until about halfway in. There is a sequence with a tribe of aborigines that Jack has somehow become the leader of, and the whole thing is just bad, and completely irrelevent in the grand scheme of the film. It's a long movie made longer by wasted, wasteful scenes. A subplot with Will and his father aboard the Flying Dutchman is thrown in and underdeveloped. The love triangle aspect is, put bluntly, ridiculous and horribly forced. The comic relief characters from the first film are back for no reason at all but to be comic relief in the second film. And sadly, the comparison between Jack and Han doesn't ring completely true. At least Han was likeable in EMPIRE, whereas Jack is just a dick and almost wholly unlikeable in DEAD MAN'S CHEST. It's not enough to think the guy's mannerisms are funny (and kudos to Johnny Depp for an amazing performance. I don't blame you for hating Jack, I blame the four people it took to write the script [Anyone else familiar with the phrase 'too many cooks in the kitchen'? Something to think about...]); if he's unlikeable, he's worthless.

I'm not saying DEAD MAN'S CHEST wasn't enjoyable; I'm just saying it was kind of boring at some points and fairly predictable at others. There are a few standout good points to the film, though, mostly having to do with the special effects. Davy Jones looked amazing, with tentacle hair that was alive and moving at all times. Equally as amazing was The Kraken. Aside from maybe one or two instances (and I'm talking split-second cuts here), the CG on The Kraken was seamless. I really believed that both The Kraken and Davy Jones (who, yeah, I know there was an actor in there, too, but the majority of him was CG) were, as my friend Steve put it, 'inhabiting space in the film'. In other words, it looked real and not digital, and that was fantastic. The appearance of the undead monkey from the first film was just stupid and totally random; the appearance of the undead monkey's master, Barbossa, at the end of the film was also totally random, but foreshadowed subtly and incredibly brilliant. Barbossa was a likeable bad guy in the first film, and he will bring a charm to the third film that was seriously lacking in this second one. Let's just hope they don't spend half the film trying to explain how he came back from the dead (of course, of his undead monkey is undead again, perhaps Barbossa is again as well? Who knows).

If you liked the first PIRATES movie, you'll probably enjoy this one, though not as much. It's full of forced references to the first film that are amusing on the level of sitting in the crowd and saying to yourself, 'Hey, I get that! I'm smart!' It has a darker feel to it (just as EMPIRE did compared to STAR WARS), though, and I thought it lacked a lot of the fun that was present in the first film. If you're on the fence about seeing it in a theater, watch EMPIRE STRIKES BACK instead and wait for PIRATES OF THE CARRIBEAN: DEAD MAN'S CHEST to show up at a cheap theater. I hesitate to say wait to rent it, if only because the Kraken looks so damn cool on a big screen.

Still, there's no Billy Dee Williams in it, so how good could it really be?