Monday, August 16, 2010

Scott Pilgrim's Box Office Performance

(or, Joe Grunenwald & The Infinite Sadness)

So Scott Pilgrim vs. The World came out this past weekend. While I have not been talking much about it (or, really, much of anything lately) here, I have been talking about it pretty much everywhere else possible, because I'm excited. I love the graphic novels, and the movie looked awesome, and when I saw it (at a preview screening on Tuesday evening), I was not disappointed. The film is FANTASTIC. The translation of the material from page to screen is perfect, but at the same time the movie isn't hindered by an adherence to the source material (something that, save for the changed ending, I found to be one of Watchmen's big problems). The performances are strong - Michael Cera is less Michael Cera-y than he usually is, Ellen Wong is perfect as Knives Chau, and Kieran Culkin steals every scene he's in as Wallace Wells - the fight scenes are extremely entertaining, and the style of the film is unlike anything I've ever seen before.

So, naturally, it tanked. And I mean, HARD. To the tune of only making back 1/6th of its production budget in its first weekend. That sucks. That really, really sucks. And it makes me really sad.

I feel sad for Edgar Wright. Watching Scott Pilgrim, I got the feeling that Edgar Wright made exactly the movie he wanted to make. The movie is packed to the brim with pure creativity, and it flies off the screen, unable to contain itself, and it's wonderful. Wright is a fantastic director - Jennie and I watched Shaun of the Dead again this past weekend, and I'd forgotten both how funny it is and what a great zombie movie it is - and the movie is by no means a creative failure, but to see it fail so grandly from a financial standpoint is really a letdown.

I feel sad for the movie itself, because it is so entertaining and so well-done, and because not many people are probably going to see it. So I suppose I feel sad more for those people than for the movie itself. When I see something that is of such high quality as Scott Pilgrim, I want everyone to see it, because everyone should see things that are high-quality. But given this movie's poor performance, who knows how long it will be in theaters for people to see. Sure, it will enjoy a long life on DVD (where it will almost assuredly attain cult classic status), but a large portion of the population - people who would probably really enjoy it - will probably never see it. And that's depressing.

My hope for Scott Pilgrim is that it gets a lot of strong word of mouth (on that front, I'm trying to do my part) and that people go see it in the coming weeks before it disappears from theaters completely. I know I'll definitely be seeing it at least once more. If you haven't seen it already, I highly recommend it. Between it and Inception, there's a nice selection of highly creative movies out there right now.

Or, I guess, if you like explosions, you could go see The Expendables. Whatever makes you happy.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

I'm a slacker. Here's a quick catch-up.

I'd just like to run down a short list of events that happened between my last post and this post:

- I moved in with Jennie and it was awesome
- A bunch of great movies came out (Iron Man 2, Inception, other movies that begin with the letter 'I')
- There was an oil spill and it sucked (not my fault, I swear)
- Scott Pilgrim's Finest Hour came out (last night!)
- I read Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
- I took a work trip to Florida, where I read Ender's Game instead of working
- I wrote very little, but what I did was pretty quality
- Speaking of which, I wrote and drew my first 8-page mini-comic, and actually managed to sell some to people that I did not know
- I went to Big Fun, an awesome toy store in Cleveland
- Jennie and I watched seasons 2-4 of Buffy and season 1 of Angel
- Some other stuff that I can't think of.

And here's a list of things that are coming up:

- I'm going to a bunch of weddings for some good friends
- Then I'm getting married myself
- But not before I see Scott Pilgrim vs. The World on opening night (and probably some other movies, too)
- Wedding invitations will be mailed soon
- Jennie and I will finish Buffy and Angel
- Some other stuff that I don't know about yet.

So, in case I don't post for a long time again, at least you'll have something to hold you over, hopefully.

Friday, March 12, 2010

If pride is a deadly sin, consider me a deadly sinner.

Once again, I'm doing what The Collective tells me to do and writing about things that I am proud of. Buckle up, suckers!

I'm proud of the screenplay that I wrote in college. I set out to write this movie that my friends and I were going to make. It was an action/comedy/parody/funtime about a guy called Rex Driver. My friend Jason (of Buyer Beware Comics) was going to play 'I live by no one's rules but my own' loose cannon Rex Driver, and I was going to play his begrudging partner, the earnest FBI man, Agent Mark Chase. It was going to be spectacular, and it would spawn a series of spin-off movies, a TV show, several comic anthologies, and action figures (of course). I wrote the screenplay during the summer between my last two semesters of college, first as part of a screenwriting class and then just to finish it. Nothing has ever come of it - I've contemplated revising it and turning it into a graphic novel, but haven't gotten to that yet - but I am extremely proud of the 130 pages that I wrote, and of the fact that I finished it, unlike the dozens (hundreds?) of other things that I've started and never finished.

I'm proud of how much I've grown in the past ten years. I think of how I was at the end of high school and it appalls me. And I thought that was normal! What was I even doing? I was spiraling downward into oblivion is what I was doing, and I knew it at the time but I couldn't get out. And then something changed. I don't even know what it was. It's like I was a car on ice, spinning wildly, and then the ice thinned and my tires found traction again, and I don't know how but I am so glad that they did. My life is better now than it has ever been for a lot of reasons. I've been able to learn from my mistakes without regretting their existence, which I'm wildly proud of. So yeah. Sorry if it got heavy for a minute there. I'll follow up with some lightness, don't worry.

The thing I am the most proud of, I think, is the amount of useless comic book trivia I know. I know, that may not seem like something to be proud of, but do you have any idea how many comics I've read? The number is very, very high. I've been reading them since I was 6, and I've got a lot of trivia stored up in my brain. When my comic book nerd friends have questions about stuff, they ask me about it. I was once able to identify an issue of Uncanny X-Men based on a vague description of what was on the cover. Conversely, when I worked at Mavericks (my local comic store!), the aforementioned Jason and I would play a game where he would pick a random Batman or Superman comic out of a box (it had to be a post-1986 issue, as that's the stuff I grew up on) and he would give me the issue number, and I would describe, from memory, what was on the cover. My ability to do this has extended to Flash comics, and now reaches back into the '50s. Go ahead, look one up and rattle off the issue number. I might be a little rusty, but I'll give it a go. I don't mean to toot my own horn, but...well, I'm proud of my vast nerd knowledge. Some people may call it a sickness. I call it fucking awesome.

That's just a few things I'm proud of. I'll try to think of more. Oh, and I'm proud of my kick-ass toy collection, too.

(I'll pretty much take any opportunity to post pictures of my toys.)

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

On The Land Before Time

When I was in preschool, The Land Before Time was THE SHIT. It was, if memory serves, the biggest movie that had ever come out ever, at least to my five-year-old mind. The thing was, I didn't really have all that much interest in it.

Until all of my friends started talking about it. They talked about how amazing it was. They described all of the characters, and I didn't get it when the girls in my class kept saying "Yep yep yep!" They were all scared of Sharptooth, but that just made him the coolest of all of them (we were boys, after all). And most of all, whenever I told them I hadn't seen it, they implored me to see it.

I caved. I suddenly really wanted to see it. You have to remember that this was 1988, a year before Tim Burton's Batman was released and I learned what it was like to really, truly want to see a movie. As far as 5-year-old me was concerned, The Land Before Time must surely be the be-all and end-all of movies, and I knew this because all of my friends had told me so. I begged my parents to take me. Begged. And they wouldn't have it. Which, of course, meant that I would just beg even more and even more incessantly.

Then, one Saturday, they had a surprise planned for me. They were going to take me to see The Land Before Time. A joyful day for Joe, right? Well, not really, at that point. For some reason, I didn't want to see it anymore. I think, looking back on it, that the peer pressure that had made me want to see it to begin with had worn off. So when my parents told me that they were taking me to see it, I cried - cried - with not wanting to see it.

Boy, did I get in trouble that day.

Twenty-two years later, Jennie and I watched The Land Before Time. She was shocked that I'd never seen it, and I was pretty excited. And it was a decent, if not really, really short, movie. But I'll never be able to think of that movie without first thinking of what a total brat I was as a five-year-old. I can only imagine - and probably apologize for - how I was for Batman.

Friday, February 5, 2010

The Five Worst Fathers on LOST

It's "Five Worst" Week over on The Collective, so I thought I'd join in. Yeah, I pretty much exclusively write blog posts that are based on Collective topics anymore. They pick good topics and they tell me what to think, so why shouldn't I? Back off with your judgment! With that, I give you...

The Five Worst Fathers on Lost

J.J. Abrams clearly has daddy issues. I haven't seen a lot of the show, but I can tell you that Sydney and her father didn't exactly have the best relationship on Alias. Spock and his father got along alright in Star Trek, but only in their shared appreciation of logic - when it came to emotion, Spock appreciated it while his father saw it as a problem to be overcome. Those scenarios are nothing compared to the relationships between fathers and children on Lost. Read on to find out just how horrible the paternal units on this show really are.

*Also note that there are big spoilers in this post. If you haven't watched Lost at all and you plan to at some point, maybe think about not reading this. Not that I don't want you to read. I just don't want to hurt your feelings.*

Honorable Mention: David Reyes

Hurley's father may be cool now, but he wasn't always. When Hugo was just a kid, dear old dad told Hugo he was running to the store and then never came back. That is, until Hugo won the lottery, then surprise! Dad's back! Hugo and his father have since reconciled, but that doesn't change the fact that when Hurley was a kid his dad totally bailed on him.

5: Mr. Ford

As far as I can tell, Sawyer's father doesn't have a first name. He's not around long enough to be given one, really. The most he's ever been shown on the show is as a set of feet. James Ford was just a kid when his parents were swindled by a man calling himself "Tom Sawyer." After having lost everything to this man, James's father came home one day in a rage. His mother rushed to protect the young James, advising him to hide under his bed before going out to confront his father. It was then that Mr. Ford killed his wife, then came into the room where James was hiding, sat down on the bed, and shot himself, leaving James all alone to plot revenge against Tom Sawyer. His revenge would come much later, but we'll come back to that.

4: Michael Dawson

His shining moment was watching helplessly as his son, Walt, was kidnapped. Okay, not really. His shining moment was murdering Ana Lucia and Libby in order to free Ben and thus (hopefully) get his son back. That's the most monumental of his fuck-ups, really, but it's indicative of a larger problem. From the start, Michael just didn't know how to be a father. He was protective of Walt, but overly so to the point of just looking like a jerk. He forbade Walt from talking to Locke, who was teaching the boy valuable survival skills. And then, when Walt was kidnapped, he went about rescuing him the only way he knew how: by doing stupid shit like agreeing to help the Others save Ben from the castaways. Sure, it got he and Walt off the island, but at what price, Michael? Libby. That's what price.

3: Christian Shepard

With a name like that, he's got to be a good guy, right? Well, Christian's not exactly a bad guy, but he's sure not a model father, either. Christian was never as supportive of Jack as he could have been. Sure, he taught Jack that 'take a deep breath and count to five' thing, but not before totally undermining Jack's abilities during his first major surgery. Jack could never live up to the monumentally high expectations that his father set for him. Later, Christian attempted to perform surgery while drunk, and lost his job as a result of Jack ratting him out. Sure, Christian was proud of Jack for telling on him, but he never said as much to Jack's face. And then he died, and Jack had to cart his body back to the U.S. from Australia on a flight that just so happened to crash on a mysterious island. Jack is only there because his father was a dick. Way to go, Christian. Oh, BTW, you're Claire's father, too, even though she never knew you. And you totally banged Ana Lucia. Creepy old guy.

2: Wayne Jansen

Wayne Jansen is better known as Kate's father. Sure, she was raised by Sgt. Sam Austen, but he's not her bio-dad. That honor belongs to this bastard, who knocked up Kate's mother (presumably she was cheating on her husband with him) and then let the kid be raised by some other guy. Way to be a deadbeat dad, Wayne. Later, Kate's parents got a divorce, and her mom married old Wayne here. He beat the crap out of Kate's mom on a regular basis, to the point that Kate eventually blew up Wayne's house - with Wayne inside. But not before a drunk Wayne tried to hit on Kate. Classy until the very end, sir. Another honorable 'bad parenting' mention goes to Kate's mom, who turned in her own daughter for the murder.

1: Anthony Cooper

In real life, Anthony Ashley-Cooper was a mentor to John Locke. On Lost, however, Anthony Cooper is the worst father you could ever hope for, and probably the worst person to ever appear on the show. Cooper always knew he had a son, but never bothered to find him and was content to have the boy put up for adoption. That boy grew up into John Locke, all-around sweetheart of a guy. In the meantime, Cooper, who was a fairly successful con man, had adopted the name of Tom Sawyer and used it to swindle poor James Ford's parents out of all of their money. That's right. Anthony Cooper is responsible for Sawyer's parents' deaths.

Years later, Anthony Cooper learned that he was sick. He needed a kidney in order to survive. So he tracked down his son. He manipulated Locke into starting a father/son relationship with him. He broke the news that he needed a kidney so that Locke would donate one of his. And after the surgery was completed, while Locke was still under anesthesia, Cooper took off. No note, nothing. He literally stole Locke's kidney and then just left. But that's not the biggest of his dick moves. No, that came when Locke, who continued to hound Cooper, tried to break up another of the old man's cons. So Cooper pushed him out of an eight-story building. To recap: fathered Locke and then left him; caused the orphaning of Sawyer; stole Locke's kidney; pushed Locke out of a window. He got his comeuppance when the Others kidnapped him and brought him to the island so that Locke could kill him. Locke didn't do it, but Sawyer did. Still, though, this guy did a lot of damage in his time. Is it possible that he's the worst father to ever appear on TV? I really think so.

Monday, January 25, 2010

I dream in 2.35:1

I had a dream last night that was totally crazy. I will tell you the details of the dream in the order that I remember them occurring in the dream.

For starters, I lived in a hidden apartment in the back of an elevator shaft. I lived there with my parents and younger brother (note: they were not my real parents, and I do not have a younger brother). It was sort of like a hidey-hole, with a few smaller rooms and a really low ceiling. The building that the apartment was in was some sort of retail store on the ground floor, with apartments on the upper floors. There was a girl on one of the upper floors that my younger brother had a crush on. We would see her near the elevator and I would rib him about it. And then we would wait for the elevator to go by and then climb down into the shaft and open the doors to your apartment. It was bizarre.

Anyway, at one point in the dream I went out of the apartment and out into the store and got geared up to go out and be a police officer, because apparently I was a police officer, and the police headquarters was a part of this store. I put on all of this bulky stuff that made me twice as tall and muscly as I really was in the dream, so that I sort of looked like a really awkward-moving body builder. And then I went out in search of drug dealers and such to bust up.

At this point, the dreaming me realized that the dream-world me was in some weird variation of the plot of The Terminator. Don't ask me what made me realize this, because obviously what I've just described has nothing to do with The Terminator at all, but I just knew that's what was going to happen: I was going to go out and encounter this unstoppable killing machine that looked like Arnold Schwarzenegger. And that is exactly what happened. I was out busting up drug dealers and such in my mecha-esque gear when I encountered a Terminator. Well, I didn't encounter it, but I knew it was there and that it was coming for me. I spent the next 20 minutes or so running and trying to find a hiding place from this thing. The number of dreams that I have in which I am running and hiding from scary things is inordinately high (I once had a dream that The Joker was chasing me through Gotham for one reason or another - the last thing I remember about that dream is hiding in the corner of a friend's apartment while The Joker slaughters people looking for me. It was traumatic). Does anyone know if this is some sort of a common dream scenario?

Anyway. At one point I ditched the weird techie gear I was wearing and, somehow eluding the Terminator, I took off back to the police headquarters/big box store. Somehow on the way back there I managed to interview witnesses who had seen the Terminator and identified what it was wearing and what it looked like (it was wearing cowboy boots and jeans, among other things that I don't remember exactly). I went to the dispatch and asked her to patch me through to my partner and fellow lawpeople so that I could let them know to be on the lookout for the Terminator, and meanwhile as I'm there I'm still hiding from this thing because who knows if it's coming for me. Then, as I'm hiding, these crime boss-looking guys come in in their fancy suits and well-kept hair and what-not, and they drop a bundle of money on the desk in front of the dispatch (who is now apparently my boss) and tell her that this is a payoff of $600,000 so that they can do whatever they want. My boss starts to protest this when the Terminator arrives. He shoots the crime bosses and I take off running again, leaving my boss to who knows what terrible fate.

I run home. The apartment I live in is basically a hole in the wall behind an elevator. Who would think to look there? Certainly not the Terminator, I think, or at least I hope. So I get to the apartment and I seal up the entrance (which is basically a set of sliding elevator doors that meet in the middle) and I sit there next to it and I'm shaking. My family is there and they're freaking out and I don't remember if I tell them anything or not but the whole thing is very tense. And then something starts pounding on the door. The Terminator manages to bust a fist through the door. And that's when I woke up.

Seriously. What the hell? I haven't watched or even really thought about a Terminator movie since Salvation came out last Summer, and this dream bore more of a resemblance to the original Terminator movie than that one. It was like some weird cross between The Terminator and RoboCop. My favorite part was definitely the apartment in the back of the elevator shaft, though. That was pretty weird.

So what does it mean? Maybe I just watch too many movies.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Guilty Pleasure Friday

Over on The Collective (where I am routinely told what to think and how to think it), they've been talking about guilty pleasures this week. Rather than simply post a comment there today, I thought I would share some with you, the loyal and/or occasional reader. So here they are, in no particular order.

1. Gilmore Girls. 'But Joe, that's a girl show!' Shut it, ass. They talk fast, they make obscure pop culture references, and Lauren Graham is one of them. There was never any doubt that I would love this show. I watched the first two seasons on DVD, and became so invested in the characters that when I disagreed with their life choices at the end of season two I vowed never to watch again. And I haven't. Yet. It's really only a matter of time.

2. System of a Down. I go back and forth on thinking that these guys are actually a good band and thinking they're awful, but no matter if they're good or bad I still really like them. I will rock that shit out. I can't listen to them at work because when I do it looks like I'm having a seizure, I rock out to this band so hard. Or I would imagine that that's what it looks like.

3. Flatulence noises. I'm not talking about actual flatulence, I'm talking about the sound of it. Yes, it's childish, but it's also fucking hilarious. A well-placed farty noise is always welcome as far as I'm concerned.

4. The Star Wars prequels. Yes, I know the dialogue is awful and the acting is wooden. But did you see all those Jedi? And Darth Maul was so cool! Lightsaber fights just work on me. Don't you dare judge me.

5. Superhero action figures. Heh, just kidding, I don't feel guilty about this at all. Just try and feel guilty when you've got this sweet-ass display in your apartment!

I know, right? Amazing. You hear that, grade school bullies? Your asshattery towards me has worn off! I hardly ever wake up crying anymore!

Those are just a few of the many, many guilty pleasures that I have. What are some of yours, dear reader?

Thursday, January 14, 2010

On Comics' "Big Events"

I love superheroes. I have since I was little. I don't know what it is about them that I liked when I was younger, but as I've grown up I've become attached to the characters. Which is why what I have to say next is so difficult: I might be done with them.

Well, not superheroes as a genre, but the big two superhero publishers, DC Comics and Marvel Comics. For the better part of twenty years, mainstream comics publishing has functioned under a 'big event' structure, wherein once (or sometimes more than once) a year there is some sort of company-wide crossover that affects all of the books that company publishes, and if you want to understand what's going on/follow the story you have to buy the main event comic plus a bunch of ancillary tie-ins that may or may not really matter in the grand scheme of things. And usually, as a result of these big events, the publisher makes a bunch of money. That's just how it works.

It wasn't so bad ten years ago. Ten years ago there was *just* the event series and *just* the few tie-ins, and for the other six or seven months a year comics were independent of each other. That all changed around 2004 (I think it was 2004). DC Comics took the idea of a shared universe in which all of the titles coexist with each other - and idea that I absolutely love - and started actually doing something with it, which led to the countdown to Infinite Crisis. The countdown lasted for six months, and I have to admit, I lapped it up. The writing was FANTASTIC, the stories compelling, and it was all leading towards this one series that would resolve everything. I was hooked. And then Infinite Crisis hit, and it was a huge disappointment. I didn't realize what a disappointment it was until it was all over. Sure, some of the pictures were pretty, but nothing happened in the story. At all. Then came 52, DC's weekly series, which was brilliant. And then, immediately after 52 ended, Countdown to Final Crisis began. And it was awful. Then Final Crisis itself, which was pretty cool, if not nearly incomprehensible. And now, right now, DC Comics is in the middle of Blackest Night. But wait, after Blackest Night, they're starting another, bi-weekly series called Brightest Day. Which, I'm sure, will lead into the next big event.

The past six years of DC Comics has been one long event. And that's just DC! Marvel saw DC's success with Infinite Crisis, and they've followed suit, with Secret Invasion and the current Dark Reign/Siege storyline.

It occurred to me earlier, as I looked at the teaser image for Brightest Day, the hard truth of the situation: it's never, ever going to end. Event will string into event, which will lead to the next event, and so on and so forth for the rest of my comics-reading life. And I just don't care to keep up with it anymore. Especially when the events are boring. Sure, Blackest Night might seem like a fanboy's wet dream, but nothing has happened. Nothing. And it's been six issues. They have two issues to wrap everything up, and I'm already fairly convinced that this would have been MUCH better as a four-issue series. I just can't take this anymore.

There are plenty of other books out there to read, from plenty of publishers, but DC and Marvel just make me tired anymore. I want a story to end at some point, not just springboard into the next big story. I know that's how an ongoing series has to work, but until the quality improves, I'm out. I've already dropped most Marvel books, and I'm pretty close to following suit with DC (I was already leaning that way now that Barry Allen is back as The Flash, but that as a topic for another ranting post). I'll miss the heroes that I've grown up with and come to love, and I'm sure I'll check in on them from time to time, but it's over.

Sorry, superhero comics. I think we should just be friends.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010


There will be multiple timelines in the new season of LOST. Not multiple time periods, multiple timelines.