Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Comics for this week.

JSA Classified #34 (DC): A nice little one-shot tale of no consequence, but a lot of fun to read. The best part, however, is the "DC Nation" news page that announces a new Ambush Bug mini-series. Since Ambush Bug is my favorite DC character (for the uninitiated - Ambush Bug knows he is in a comic. It's also implied he's a human from our - the real - world who has managed to enter the comics realm. As such, he's insane, ignores all rules of characterization and plot, and his comics usually make no sense whatsoever).

Daredevil #104 (Marvel): What a depressing comic. Matt Murdock's blind wife has been driven insane by Mr. Fear and has been killing (or attempting to kill) people. Daredevil has become more ruthless than usual in tracking down those responsible. Very violent, this story shows why it is that most superheroes avoid getting married: the villains will go after them in order to get at you.

Fantastic Four #553 (Marvel): Of course, this married superhero couple does okay, since they both have super powers and tons of cool advanced technology. The story here is slight, as it's meant to be a farewell from the current writer (the excellent Dwayne McDuffie). Doctor Doom comes from the future, claiming that the Fantastic Four have, in the future, taken over the Earth and rule with an iron fist in order to ensure utopia. The future Fantastic Four come back as well and say that Doom is lying. But who to believe? Given Reed's less than stellar behavior during the Civil War (what a mess of a series that was), Doom may be telling the truth.

Project: Superpowers #0 (Dynamite): There's a Daredevil in this one as well, but this is the original Golden Age hero. There's a sense of deja vu with this comic, since Marvel is also putting out a series called "the Twelve" that resurrects several obscure Golden Age heroes by providing a plausible explanation for their unaging survival into the present day. The story here, as this is a zero issue, is all set-up with little action, but it is intriguing and I found myself interested in where it was going to go. I'm not sure what is up with the current comic book nostalgia for WWII heroes, but I'll be reading both this and Marvel's the Twelve.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Bollywood lite?

Bride and Prejudice.

As a semi-fan of Bollywood movies and a sucker for (almost) any type of Jane Austen adaptation, I probably went into this movie with higher expectations than it deserved. This movie should have worked, actually. The casting was excellent (except in the case of Darcy, who was far too bland), and the idea of mashing an Austen novel with a Bollywood movie (both of which are often obsessed with the idea of finding the right mate and getting married) is inspired. And I thought it was going to work. The initial wedding scene appears to drop any pretension at watering Bollywood down, with an excellent guys vs. girls song and dance number (“Kites Without Strings”) that could have a place in any good Bollywood film. But then the filmmakers decided to show they didn’t trust their audience, and far too much of that excellent little song was spent focusing on Darcy as someone translated the lyrics for him and tried to explain the culture on the fly as well.

And then the rest of the musical numbers were, frankly, too westernized. One (“No Wife, No Life”) was a bland, insipid mixture of hip-hop and reggae that combined only the most superficial elements of each. Others were plain love ballads or other bland songs that are more appropriate over the end credits of a movie, rather than as show stopping musical routines. Clearly, this was meant to be Bollywood-lite, a way to give western audiences a small taste of what a Bollywood film might be like. But, it really isn’t that at all. Instead, it’s a “Hollywood” (in the generic sense) film that borrows a few elements of Bollywood and waters them too far down. Perhaps it’s like cinematic homeopathy – the belief that the most effective dose is the one where the solution has been diluted so many times, the original substance is undetectable.

There are other problems. The Elizabeth Bennet character (Lalita, played by the drop dead gorgeous Aishwarya Rai) is not near as witty as the original, despite a yeoman’s effort. The wittiest lines she has come from slightly altered quotes in the original novel, but most of her supposedly witty remarks (“What do you have against books? They don’t leave enough room in your bag for make-up?”) aren’t all that clever or funny. Instead, she comes across as rather shrewdly mean and witlessly sarcastic.

Perhaps this might be a good film for those afraid to take their Bollywood straight up, but a better starter flick would be the award-winning Lagaan (if you can take the four hour running time). I can’t recommend this film at all, except for those who absolutely must see every version of Pride and Prejudice (including the Mormon one).

Friday, January 25, 2008

This week in Comics

Fine, fine. The e-mail and comments on the last post show there are at least six people who check this blog out once a month or so. Plus, my brain needs a break from the dissertation. Since today is my birthday (and I have some free time since I just finished two articles that will be published in a book sometime over the summer - more on that later), I'm going to make a return to blogging. And what's a more appropriate way to do that then review my comics haul for the week?

Ultimate Iron Man II #2 (Marvel): Well, Orson Scott Card's first Ultimate Iron Man series was a fun, if typical, well told Card tale (child genius with amazing powers and all that). This series is turning out a whole lot better, though. Card shows that he's learned from the first series and has now gotten a better handle on the form of comics (the last series had several clunky transitions and scenes that a veteran comics writer would have avoided, though none of those missteps were even close to fatal).

Card also manages to use the "War on Terror" in way that takes no sides and allows for humanity among all those caught up in it's terrible web. Rather than preach (which Card can be wont to do in his online essays), here he uses it as a backdrop and allows the story to go forward without any preaching. Given Card's strong views and the current spate of movies and comics that can't seem but to take time off from the story in order to preach to the audience about the evils of Bush, etc. this is quite an achievement on Card's part.

Plus, the story has guys in robotic armor duking it out. So it's cool.

Damage Control #1 (Marvel): So, the Hulk has returned from outer space and smashed New York (don't ask). Luckily, Marvel comics has an in-house explanation for why New York can get demolished several times and still remain intact - the high tech construction company, Damage Control. Previous versions of Damage Control have treated the company rather light-heartedly, with lots of slapstick and goofy gags. This version has its tongue somewhere in the vicinity of its cheek and silly situations abound. Yet the bizarre and out of place commentary on the War on Terror mixed with the rather depressing and all too serious Marvel comics has taken after their recent Civil War (please don't ask), this comic feel tonally off, as though it's playing a violin concerto in B flat Locrian while the rest of the orchestra is playing Indonesian Gamelan music with a slendro tuning.

Battlestar Galactica Season Zero #5 (Dynamite): This series is okay, though there's no suspense since you know which characters can't die or be seriously injured, and the other characters clearly aren't important since they don't show up on the show. Plus, the whole plot about quelling a potential revolt seems rather anti-climactic when you realize that this all takes place a few months before the entire planet gets nuked.

No DC or IDW comics this week.