Weekanerd NYC and Panel Discussion will be back on their usual schedule after New Years. Enjoy your last day of '07 and here's to the promise of 2008: may the comics be engaging, the games be innovative, and the movies be thrilling. *TINK*
That Batman panel is from the excellent Batman Adventures Holiday Special, which can be read in it's entirety thanks to those hardworking crazies at Scans Daily.
Monday, December 31, 2007
Sunday, December 30, 2007
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If you haven't already OD'ed on year end Top Ten lists, here for your categorizing pleasure are your Geekanerd Editor's picks for the Top Ten Video Games, Comics, and Movies of 2007.
For the top ten games, keep in mind that Albo's only systems as of the writing of this list were PS2, DS, PC, and Wii.
AHR's Top Ten Comics
1. Shortcomings - Funny, true, and exceedingly painful. It's been obvious for years that Adrian Tomine is a talented writer and artist, but this is his first masterpiece.
2. Blue Beetle - Somehow John Rogers has discovered a formula for comic book story-telling that ensures I will cry at the end of every issue. Beyond the emotional punches, this series consistently delivers great action and sharp writing with LOL moments to spare. Long live Jaime Reyes.
Related: Our reviews of individual Blue Beetle issues.
3. Notes From A War Story - An older book by Italian artist Gipi that was just published in English this year. A crime story about three teens trying to make it big as gangsters in a warn torn country, this book has none of the graphic violence typical of mainstream American crime comics, but is still the most unsettling thing I read all year, with an ending that haunted me for days.
4. Batman - The Batman and Son arc is all well and good, but the highlight of Morrison's 2007 run was his Club of Heroes muder mystery, in which GM once again takes some long-forgotten DC basement bin heroes and turns them into fascinating, true to life characters. Also worth noting is issue #663, a one-shot that consists of page after page of pulp horror prose that gives the reader a deeper look at Batman and the Joker than could have ever been put across in mere world balloons.
5. The Umbrella Academy - A stunning debut from Gerard Way, bolstered by art and colors by top of the field artists Gabriel Ba and Dave Stewart. Funny, dark and exciting with a distinctively young voice, here's hoping this is the start of a long career in comics for Way.
Related: Our reviews of individual UA issues
6. Shazam! The Monster Society of Evil - Jeff Smith retells the Capitan Marvel story with sensitivity and artistry, while also achieving a classic, high spirited feeling of golden age DC superheroism.
7. After The Deluge - Jeff Neufeld's non-fiction webcomic tells the stories of five very different people surviving the biggest natural disaster of our lifetime. Neufeld's beautiful single color illustrations manage to capture first person experiences of Hurricane Katrina more poignantly than any article or documentary I've seen.
Related: Our past coverage of AD.
8. Welcome To Tranquility - A great new series by Gail Simone, with an memorable cast of characters who we come to know extremely well through highly stylized backup stories told via comic genres ranging from 1920 adventure serials to modern day manga. Inventive and funny, with killer art by Niel Googe.
9. Avengers: The Initiative - You may have gathered I'm not a big Marvel fan, but I loved this series, particularly the first several issues. A low to the ground look at what the future of superheroing could look like in a post-Civil War world, again with a great new cast of characters.
10. All Flash #1 - The one-shot that brought back Wally West as the Flash and introduced the world (or me, at least) to artist Karl Kershel, aka the talent to watch in 2008.
Related: All Flash scans in Panel Discussion
(Dis)Honorable Mention: The Irredeemable Ant-Man - Great series with pitch black humor, featuring an anti-hero (get it? ANT?) so deplorable that one of the most enjoyable moments of the series was when he finally gets caught and tortuously beaten by the "villain" of the series. Too bad it had to end, but I guess even Marvel readers can't stand someone who's that much of an asshole.
4. Children of Men - Another one that came out elsewhere in 2006 but only hit our shores in '07, I can't remember another movie that evoked such an intense sensation of danger in me.
1. Sweeney Todd - Smart choices abound; Burton cuts what wouldn't have worked on screen, gets tightly wound, intimate performances from his stars, and does cinematic justice to the most brilliant musical ever. Read my review for lots more.
2. Juno - As stylized as the script is, the characters in this movie reminded me more of the girls I knew in high school than any movie I've seen. Ellen Page makes the most of the best comedic part written for a teenage girl...ever.
3. Lars and the Real Girl - This movie quickly transcends it's jokey premise with a painfully convincing performance by Ryan Gosling, as a man whose social anxiety takes him to some strange places. Also notable for featuring a small town in which people are believably portrayed as basically good at heart, a rare thing and difficult thing to pull off in a non-hollywood film.
4. I'm Not There - Daring and masterful. While the brilliant/boring ratio is just a hair too close to be totally excusable, breathtaking moments abound, and a three minute music videoesque sequence set to Ballad of a Thin Man was the most exciting cinematic passage I saw all year.
5. King of Kong: A Fistful Of Quarters - The most consistently entertaining movie on this list. A careful study of the twin demons of disappointment and ambition, with thrillingly innovative editing and storytelling techniques.
6. There Will Be Blood - Not my favorite P.T Anderson movie by a long shot, but a solid showcase of taught, artful filmmaking that speeds by in what feels like much less than two and a half hours. Daniel Day Lewis's final monologue will be performed by boys in acting classes for years and years to come.
7. The Host - The action movie of the year, that will change how you think about being chased by a monster. The child in peril subplot is almost unbearably grim, but the tension and empathy you feel for these characters must be experienced to be believed.
8. The Lives of Others - This movie actually only reached American shores this year, so I'm putting it on. Hard choices and heroism on display in a way that never feels manipulative, even in the final tear-jerking moments.
9. My Kid Could Paint That - The monster of televised fame reached new heights of horror this year, and this very personal documentary shows how the talks shows giveth and the talk shows taketh away, as a six year old child prodigy goes from celebrated human interest story to suspected fraud.
10. Paprika - Twists and turns without ever losing the thread of coherence. A beautiful challenge to watch.
Honorable Mentions: Persepolis, No Country For Old Men, Grindhouse, 300, Wristcutters, Enchanted, Hairspray.
Saturday, December 29, 2007
- The upcoming Street Fighter movie (?) netted itself a big chunk of nerd cred by casting Lana Lang as Chun Li. Well played, Street Figher movie. Andrzej Bartkowiak is directing, who as you may have guessed from his name, is primarily known as a cinematographer. But he did direct Romeo Must Die, and er, Doom. An early script review can be read here, which says no on Ryu and Ken, yes on Vega and Balrog. Works for me. The movie is due out in 2009, but we should at least have a trailer in '08.
- Round One of the brilliant Street Fighter Rock Opera was released for free online by Arlington powerpop outfit Man Factory. Covered by Gnred in detail here, it is highly recommended.
- And most recently, game play footage from the new Street Fighter IV game was released. The graphics are surprisingly ugly; Ken and Ryu have wild eyed, mashed in faces and chunky, veins o poppin' arms that verge on the pornographic. But it looks like they left well enough alone with the gameplay, which seems to retain the quick-moving, side scrolling, button mashing fun of the original. More hadokens than you can shake a stick at, after the jump.
Another, even fuglier game play vid at 1Up.com. Bare in mind this is still in developement. Hope springs eternal.
Thursday, December 27, 2007
Intrepid Wii mod genius Johnny Lee is at it again, this time implementing precise head tracking control using a Wiimote and sensor bar. The effect when seen from the first person is incredible (about halfway through the video for all you impatients). We can only hope that some brave developer gets this tech into a shooter, and quick! Check out more of Johnny Lee's brilliant Wii hacks at his website.
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
So by now maybe you’ve all run out and purchased or rented the new Futurama movie “Bender’s Big Score.” If you haven’t, congratulations! You’ve won the honor of getting to read a review before you see it. So here we go:
The first in a set of four films the Futurama team is putting out, “Bender’s Big Score” picks up where the series left off more or less, as much as an episodic animated show with only a vague story arc and minor continuity between episodes can pick up. Scamming Alien Spammers are able to trick the Planet Express crew, as well as Farnsworth himself, into giving up personal information, and gain ownership of the business. The spammers (who look like the offspring of a human and one of Dr. Suesses “Sneech’s” melted in a microwave would), thrive off of information, and discover a code hidden in a PE crewmember’s tattoo that allows them to go back through time. The aliens load Bender up with a virus and use him as their errand boy to hop through time, pick up priceless treasures, and wait out the thousands of years it takes for time to catch up under the Planet Express building.
Once again the Futurama team delve into the insane and entertaining realm of time travel. With characters jumping back and forth multiple times, creating more and more duplicates of themselves running around, the paradoxical hilarity grows exponentially (rimshot!). If you thought the team did a good job playing around with time during the series, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet. Fry is eventually stranded in the past, and we get to see how his life would have played out, had he never been frozen in the first place. Meanwhile, Leela gets engaged to the man of her dreams (much to Fry’s chagrin) and Bender continues to hop around, screwing up time and creating paradoxes that Nibbler warns could destroy the Universe. OH THE ANIMATED DRAMA!
The whole of Earth now owned by the Scammers, Earthican’s launch a “Star Wars: ANH”-style attack on the aliens solid gold Deathstars and attempt to halt the wave of paradoxes that will soon destroy the Universe. That’s about as much of the story as I want to give you without starting to running your viewing.
The Good: The crazy time travel storyline is great, and the movie handles it in the same confusingly bizarre and hilarious way as the series did. The film had a lot of strong gags, and the sideline plots were, for the most part, funny and relevant to the characters and the series. The return of various characters was also a nice touch. Just a sampling include: Fry's ex-girlfriend Michelle (Sarah Silverman), Cubert, Barbados Slim, the Harlem Globetrotters, Al Gore (of course voiced by Gore himself), the Nibblonians, Fry's dog Seymour, Fry's family, including his brother and nephew of the same name, the Santa. Hanukkah Zombie (Mark Hamill) and Kwanzaa-bot (Coolio), and the Mob-bots. The animation is high quality, and the characters are the same as you knew them in the series.
The Bad: Unfortunately, as the film is highly self-referential, many of the appearances, jokes, and bits of the storyline aren’t very accessible to people who haven’t followed the series. At times it comes off as fanboy homage, with a lot of “hey remember that character, here he is again!” Much of this probably comes from the fact that the movies are going to be quartered and aired as episodes, so they will be referencing previous seasons as shows, and when aired on TV, won’t seem so “packed full of fan favorites.” The writing also seems to have suffered slightly. Whether this is because of the team’s first foray into feature length writing of the show, or due to the long break and possible rustiness of the writers I don’t know. Many (but not most) of the gags fall flat, and the musical numbers, while somewhat funny, seem a little out of the blue. While a lot of the fanboy-esque problems are probably pluses in most die hard Futurama fans’ minds, for a standalone movie they can be a bit much. The lack of a full-orchestrated score is also a bit disappointing, but you most likely won’t recognize it all that much with the reprising modifications to the theme that are used. None of this, however, should dissuade you from seeing the film, especially if you’re a big fan of the series.
Overall, the first Fururama movie is quite enjoyable. It can stagger in a couple places, but for Futurama fans it’s necessary viewing. Go out and get it right now! Or, you can wait for it to air next year. I get the feeling that it will make for four very good episodes. The downside to not buying the dvd is the lack of special features, which I will list below and then bid you adieu.
Obligatory Grade: B/B-
- Commentary track on which writers and producers Matt Groening, David X. Cohen, Ken Keeler and Claudia Katz, director Dwayne Carey-Hill and voice actors Billy West, Jon DiMaggio and Phil LaMarr
- An animated and terrifying message from the 2000 Ex-Next President and Futurama guest star Al Gore makes thinking about the environment so much cooler (complete with video commentary with Gore, Groening and Cohen)
- 22 minute episode of “Everybody Loves Hypnotoad” complete with commercials
- A math lecture with Dr. Greenwald of Appalachian State University that explains some of the more nerdy jokes and references in Futurama to the Futurama cast and crew
- First Draft of the Film’s Script
- A number of character sketches and 3D models show what's been designed for the new movie, while three deleted scenes (not fully animated) show what had to be cut
- The complete five-minute trailer first shown at ComicCon 2007 and a "Futurama returns!" comic book reading with the voices of the Futurama characters are included
That’s all folks!
Tuesday, December 25, 2007
True Venture Brothers fans probably already know that series creators Doc Hammer and Jackson Publick have released Christmas classics as performed by VB characters every December since 2004. But if this is news to you (it was to me), Merry Xmas! You get to sift through four sometimes hilarious, sometimes unlistenable holiday tunes - they're all available as MP3s at Quickstop Entertainment.
This year, happy couple Monarch and Doctor Girlfriend absolutely murder Fairytale of New York by the Pogues. It starts out well enough, as Doctor Girlfriend's deep, heavily accented voice is not radically different from the original version. But once Monarch starts in on the Kristy MacColl part...let's just say that if you add this to your Christmas party playlist, you will in fact ruin the holiday, possibly for years to come.
Speaking of Fairytale of New York, remember the opening titles of Basquiat? That's a good holiday movie. I mean, it doesn't take place during the December holidays, but....s'pretty.
Posted by Albo at 9:19 AM
Monday, December 24, 2007
It's Christmas Eve! Guess what you Gnerd readers are getting? Not our regular Monday Panel Discussion, that's for sure. Sorry about that, but the Geekanerd editors have been scattered across the country, away from from the scanners and fast internet connections of our Manhattan home base.
But we wouldn't completely leave you hanging, at least not those of you who live in NYC. Here's a very last minute Fun Size Xmas Edition Weekanerd, featuring only one Christmas event and two events specifically for those not celebrating Christmas. Which makes sense, because we can't exactly put "Playing Video Games With Your Teenaged Relatives" on there, which is what I assume most of those celebrating Christmas are are doing.
Event picks after the jump...
Monday, December 24th
This annual non-Christmas party centers around a screening of Wet Hot American Summer, the best movie by sketch comedians since Life of Brian. A cool $10 gets you in the door, plus free Chinese food, guest DG Cosmo Baker, and the first 100 people get Michael Showalter's CD, "Sandwiches & Cats." Plus, FREE BOOZE! Almost; 2 for 1 vodka special for the first hour and a half.
Monday and Tuesday, December 24th & 25th
Those who do want to celebrate Christmas but not with good cheer can check out Terry Swigoff's longer, dirtier version of his 2003 hit, Bad Santa.
Tuesday, December 25th
The Princess Bride (!) at 4pm, When Harry Met Sally at 6:30, and a Chinese Food buffet in the middle. $15 bucks for both movies and another $15 for the food, but you can dice it up however you want, as long as it includes The Princess Bride and Chinese Food.
Friday, December 21, 2007
Our man Fred, who brought us the controversial MST3K Cash-In Race article, gives an update on the plans and projects of the segmented MST3K alumni...
Last time we checked in, the former cast and crew of Mystery Science Theater 3000 had split into three distinct camps, each embarking on a new MST3K-related project in a phenomenon we're calling either "The Renaissance of 2007" or "MST3K: The Great Cash-In Race," depending on our mood. For a quick primer on the players, click here. To see what what our friends are up to now (and to see who the current frontrunner is), read on...
On December 6th, Joel and his posse (Coniff, Beaulieu, Pehl, Weinstein) debuted Cinematic Titanic as a live show for a closed audience at Lucasfilm headquarters. There were a few accounts of the night posted throughout the MST3K webworld, and while most of them were big sloppy wet fanboy kisses (OMG, JOEL IN PERSON!!!), it bodes relatively well for Team Joel that their first outing was a success, even a softball success. Even more encouraging are the production stills posted at cinematictitanic.com. One shows Trace Beaulieu examining a promisingly good-looking prop (revealed, in the caption, to be a "TimeTube"). Another shows an impressive green-screened soundstage with the new silhouette setup. While it's hard to make solid judgments based on these, they firmly put to rest any notion that Team Joel will be half-assing it.
Still, not all is baked goods in the Titanicville: the initial release date of XMas 07 has been pushed back, with no new date announced. Sez Joel: "...there will be slight delay on the delivery date...once we got this curious new show on its feet, and were finally able to see it manifest in the real world, we realized we wanted to have a bit more fun playing with some of the creative ideas that emerged in the process." Translation: they got trigger happy with the release date. So while things are looking pretty good (this uninspired Frank Coniff strike video nonwithstanding), the delay is going to cost Hodgson and Co. the holiday gift-giving rush, and further delays will mean they'll miss out on the current media interest in all things MST3K.
Midwestern Nice Guy(tm) that he is, Mike Nelson came out of the gate with cries of "the more the merrier," jokingly suggesting in an interview with MSNBC that the various MST3K camps establish professional wrestling-style rivalries to increase the audience. However, a close reading of the transcript reveals some minor discomfort, with Mike offering up the occasional "we got there first" statement ("the more people doing the RiffTrax thing, the better") and calling the new MST3K.com "cute." Note also his telling omission when referring to "the new [site] that Jim and my buddy Paul put up." Mike, is Jim not your buddy?!
But we kid Team Mike, which, despite the aw-shucksing, has been quite busy. A number of new Rifftrax have been posted, including one for the infamous Star Wars Holiday Special, which coincidentally (or not?) was rumored to be Cinematic Titanic's first movie (it turned out to be 70's monster flick "Brain of Blood"). Mike and
the Bots his RiffTrax friends Bill Corbett and Kevin Murphy have also put together a holiday greeting video which is actually pretty funny until Murphy shows up and the whole thing takes a turn for the scatological. All of this is well and good, but the most significant developments have been two serious improvements to Rifftrax's content delivery scheme, which (aside from, let's face it, the occasionally mediocre writing) has always been its Achilles heel. First up is the free Rifftrax player, which will automatically synch up the film you're watching with its accompanying commentary track. Bravo! Now I won't have to sit there desperately fast-forwarding and rewinding to get that annoying toaster to synch up with Princess Amidala. Secondly, Rifftrax is teaming up with DivX to offer downloadable versions of the films that Legends owns, complete with pre-synched riffing (to entice fans to register, they're offering a free driver's ed short, "Signal 30"). In other words, despite all the doves and olive branches, Team Mike is streamlining its approach and battening its hatches. And in the midst of all this, someone has quietly added the tags "cinematic" and "titanic" to Rifftrax's YouTube previews.
Initially promising a new animated webisode posted every week, we're almost two months into the new MST3K.com and Team Jim has only delivered three (four if you count the short snippet of Crow/Servo dialogue posted on Thanksgiving). Hard to say exactly what's causing the delay, but fifty-foot waves of fan outrage can't be helping. While bringing original series writer Paul Chaplin on board to voice Crow was a good (if possibly cynical) decision and it hasn't hurt Mallon any, so far it hasn't shielded him from a healthy dose of messageboard ire (my favorite photoshopped piece of hate mail featured Mallon's face affixed to the Incredible Hulk's body). And while the generally tight-lipped Mallon doesn't seem like the type to bend to fan pressure, it's hard not to imagine that he and his minions are scrambling to come up with something to turn the tide. Perhaps the surest sign that this is the case: about two weeks into the new site, when the messageboard derision was reaching fever pitch, a poster claiming to be on Mallon's production team (his unfortunate psuedonym: "SHAD") took to the web to defend the new cartoons. He acknowledged the clumsiness of the site, avowed the team's Mistie cred, and generally offered promises that "If it doesn't get a heck of a lot funnier...we're out of here." Fair enough. I'll give them points for open communication and an obvious desire to improve the quality of the webisodes (not to mention the Space Mutiny-themed T-Shirt now sold in the store). But, as we all know, the path to Internet Webcomic Hell is paved with good intentions. And just in case you're wondering, the latest video sucks.
The Frontrunner: Team Mike!
Predictably, Team Jim has stumbled right out of the gate. Team Joel is showing good promise, but blowing its Xmas release date has cost it this lap. It's Mike's race to lose.
Special Prize: Satellite News. Revamping it's format and offering more regular updates, the unofficial (in name only) MST3K news clearinghouse has been on top of the '07 renaissance every step of the way. Despite the site's occasionally cloying "Guys! It's not a competition you guys!!!" appeal for peace, love and understanding, it's still the best thing going for Misties the world over. Kudos.
Honorable Mention: YouTube "Shreds" Videos
My vote for the most innovative internet adaptation of the MST3K concept.
Thursday, December 20, 2007
Has SantaBot snuck up on you this year? Have you found yourself empty handed with visions of crying geeks dancing in your head? Well don't let it come to that, get your ass on the internet and get some genuine geek shit shipped to you ASAP.
Mii Figurine - $50-100
Take a picture of your Mii of choice, send it out to these guys and you or someone you love will soon be the proud owner of a 3 or 5-inch replica of yourself/him/herself. And if my overzealous forward slashing isn't enough to make your head spin, these prices ($50 for the 3in., $100 for the 5in.) will.
Custom World of Warcraft Figurine - $100
If the Wii isn't your giftee's thing, and he or she is more into, say, World of Warcraft, boy have we got a figurine with his or her fake name on it! FigurePrints is offering great-looking replicas of Warcraft avatars for 100 bones. These things are extremely accurate, down to the low polygon count you see every time you log on. So accurate, in fact, that they'll only construct you with armor and weapons you actually possess in game.
Emoticon Magnets - $15
For either the chat addict or Welcome To Tranquility fan in your life. The designers have made the controversial decision to include the "nose" punctuation for maximum anthropomorphization, but at least they didn't include any of those bullshit ones like :# or :$..... I mean, what the hell is that?
GlaDOS Litograph - $35 ($90 Signed)
Of course, the more obvious item would be the Weighted Companion Cube toys ($30 fuzzy dice versions available, or $100 bucks for the standard plushie), but I'm holding out for the inevitable solid versions. I mean, plush isn't weighted. Nor particularly cubic. So if you have a crazed Portal fan in your life (and who doesn't), why not class it up and get them some expensive art that says, "I'm obsessed with a four hour video game"?
Original Lettering Overlays - $10
Wanna give the gift of original comic art but don't have hundreds to blow on eBay? Hot shot letterer Todd Klein is offering his original handwritten overlays for books ranging from Batman to Tom Strong. $10 will get you FIVE of these suckers. He actually has a ton of cool affordable stuff available at his store, so check it out.
Threadless.com T-Shirts - $10
T-shirts from Threadless are great gifts for dorks, because internet-cool people will approach the wearer and be like, "Oh, is that from Threadless? I love that site!". Instant cred. Plus there are plenty of geek-oriented shirts, from this saccharine moment of nerd nostalgia to typical nerd refrains.
PacMan Belt Buckle - $13
If you can't get laid wearing this, you're hanging out with the wrong crowd.
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
The new Persepolis movie (Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud’s adaptation of Satrapi’s popular comic book) begins with a grown Marjane staring at the departures board in a French airport. She’s looking at a listing for a flight to Tehran. It’s a color scene in a black-and-white cartoon, but you don’t feel like it’s because Marjane is finally alive on the inside or in Oz or anything like that. Marjane looks dismal. She goes through the motions of boarding the flight, but stops short of doing so.
It’s made difficult for certain peoples to see themselves in the representations of other certain peoples. Satrapi’s simple, colorless drawings present an opportunity for overcoming this disability.
The story is told through several long flashbacks, the first of which has Marjane, in late 70s Iran, as a cute, round-faced and extremely self-assured child intoxicated by the glamour of political turmoil. Her parents (Catherine Deneuve and Simon Abkarian) are progressives who worry about their friends and family members being held as political prisoners.
Dealing with an audience who will know at least a little about what will happen, Satrapi and Paronnaud still manage to make the family’s hopeful anticipation of a post-Shah Iran feel immediate and gripping. When the Islamic revolution changes their way of life, the adults in Marjane’s life, vignetted in charcoal, rationalize the situation directly to the camera– half the country is illiterate, religion and nationalism are the only ways the people can come together, things will improve. But Persepolis depicts life in Iran as increasingly repressive and rife with public dishonesty. The movie is very funny, and much of the humor comes at the expense of the most iconic results of the Islamic revolution. Iran sent Cannes a peeved note for showing the film this year, and had it pulled out of Thailand recently.
The social model for women in post-revolution society intrudes on Marjane’s coming-of-age, which is a whole big piece of this story, and the filmmakers are funny and unflinching in telling it. The black head covering and chador – new and bothersome to Marjane’s cosmopolitan family – are used to great effect in scenes at school (a crowd of teenage girls, their differences wiped away), on the street (two old harpies shift and bend around Marjane, offended by her homemade Punk is Ded jacket and Michael Jackson button (“western decadence!” ))
As Marjane grows up, she becomes incompatible with her country. Her grandma (Danielle Darrieux) bolsters her fierce independence, and acts as an external conscience. That sounds maudlin and predictable, but this grandmother isn’t your sweet and dim movie stereotype. When Marjane has a man arrested to distract Revolutionary Guard officers from noticing that she is wearing makeup, her grandma berates her like nobody’s business. And Grandma makes references to the “small dicks!” of various men, a determined and strident reversal of objectification. And when Marjane pretends to be French at a school party in Vienna, Grandma appears as a shadow stalking her home.
The film is beautiful to look at. It employs some familiar old-school cinematic tools – magic-lantern-type animations, silhouetted and expressionistic renderings of ruination and fear that reminded me, in flashes, of a wide range of black-and-white directors, like Murnau and de Sica. Olivier Bernet’s score is wonderful (and it doesn’t feel fake “Middle Eastern” like you’d hear in a Hollywood movie), and it’s super important in Persepolis, which tends toward an almost episodic structure, at times ending sequences with an iris out to black.
Persepolis doesn’t neglect to tell the story of Western tampering with Iranian affairs, and it doesn’t gloss over European xenophobia. Marjane seems like a misfit everywhere on Earth, and she directs her anger outward, at the Khomeinians who have her people in a headlock, at a cheating boyfriend, at bourgeois Europeans. Only during a trippy, drawn-out sequence in which she takes anti-depressants (she ends up in the clouds with god and who I assume is Marx), do we get the sense that she ever struggles with her reaction to her situation. She has not a moment of self-doubt.
Each main character rejects the Islamic revolution totally and completely, which left me wondering about those who would have their private resistance eaten away by time. I was curious about what is was like for Marjane’s parents to optimistically consider something like the Islamic revolution as a brief downtick in the national soul, only to see its grip on your culture tighten. In one of the movie’s last moments, Marjane is in an Iranian airport with her family. Her parents’ black and white oval faces take on the familiar expressions your parents usually have when you’re about to board a plane without them, but she’s never coming back.
This video from Funny or Die has Justin Long, Jonah Hill, Paul Rudd and Craig Robinson sitting around getting their Rock Band on, playing through the Pixies' "Wave of Mutilation." Stick around for some jokes.
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
Own a T206 Honus Wagner tobacco baseball card? Or a copy of Action Comics #1 in gem mint condition? How about a Van Gogh painting or a first edition print of the King James Bible? If you do then you probably think you've got it all. But you don't because you don't own an original copy of the Magna Carta and tonight, Sotheby's is going to be auctioning one off. It's ridiculous that a historical document, in many ways more important than the Constitution, is going to be privately owned by the highest bidder when it really belongs in a museum. I mean gosh, it's the freaking Magna Carta.
Valued at around $35K a word, I'm placing bets that C. Montgomery Burns will just barely outbid Scrooge McDuck and right as the auctioneer slams the hammer down, Carmen Sandiego will break through the window and steal it at the last minute.
Update: It sold for $21.3 million. A pretty good deal if you ask me.
Will Smith's upcoming movie about an aging, jaded superhero named John Hancock looks... pretty good, actually. They roughed up pretty boy Smith, and he plays the character with a snarly weariness that is an exciting departure from his usual debonair schtick. In fact, he looks more eroded here than he did as a homeless man in "The Pursuit of Happyness." The only thing that could go wrong with the flick is if it's just a goofy comedy, and the "...and then there's Hancock" line hints that may be the case. And as we all know, goofy superhero comedies are awful.
UPDATE: The douchebuckets at Sony Pictures Entertainment do not want me to promote their movie for them. For free. The world makes no sense.
Source: Obsessed With Film.
If I hadn't gotten a Wii at launch I can't imagine I would have ever bought the first Rayman Raving Rabbids game. But at the time there wasn't much out and I had to have something to play with my friends. That game was a mixed bag with a few good minigames but a seriously broken multiplayer component. The game was good for laughs but not much else, and I sold it as soon as I had a couple of newer games (WarioWare, Mario Party) that filled the party game requirement in my apartment.
So does the sequel have more staying power than the original? Hit the jump for our full review.
Rabbids 2 ditches the overly restrictive story mode from the first game and lets you pick one of six "trips," each loosely representing a different region of the world. You can do these trips either alone or in a group, an improvement over the original which required you to unlock the minigames in single player mode before they became available in multiplayer.
Also available is the option to string as many of your favorite games as you'd like together to make custom trips, which is really important because...
...there are some really bad minigames in the mix. Far too many of them rely on the "shake the Wiimote as fast as you can" mechanic, which gets really old really really fast. There are other complete duds, like the chess game which requires you to hold your hands to your temples as if you're concentrating really hard. I get it, it's a joke, chess is hard and rabbids are dumb so this is how they play it, but that doesn't make it a minigame you're going to want to play more than once.
Another blemish on the game's record are the on-rail shooting levels. These were the best part of the original game, but they flop here. The big change is that instead of a fully 3D environment the levels are based around full motion video shot on location in New York, Paris, etc. It's actually a well done, nice looking effect, but it makes the game much more static than the original. The environments don't have any of the dynamism they had in the first game, and the rabbids actions are much more limited because they can't actually interact with their surroundings. It comes off less like an energetic shooter and more like an old shooting gallery game (think Lethal Enforcers.) Add to the equation that there is a significant lag between your trigger pull and the gun firing and you're left with a game so tedious you'll be wishing it would just end. Thankfully these levels are separated from the main game, so you don't really ever have to play them (but we both know you will anyway, you completist.)
These bad games don't matter much in the long run, however, because once you make a custom trip with your favorites you'll never have to see them again. And for ever dud in the game there is a real star. Among the best:
The theater game will fill you with more glee than you might be able to handle.
One of the bigger disappointments of this game is that the graphics are really sub-par. We've seen much better out of not only the Wii, but the GameCube and even the PS2. Hopefully Nintendo has schooled everyone with Mario Galaxy and third parties will put more effort into future games to try to reach that bar.
Realizing no one cares a flying flip about the "Ugliest and Most Uncompelling Gaming Mascot of All Time Award" winner Rayman, they took him off the cover and made the Rabbids playable. And not only playable but fully customizable, from their heads down to their toes. There's also a jukebox where you can listen to unlocked songs, which is a feature that pops up in a lot of games and I can't help but ask why do developers think we care about this shit?
Despite it's shortcomings, I remain very positive about this game. The bad minis are disappointing, but there are enough good ones to construct a custom trip that will keep you and three friends entertained and laughing for hours. And since that's all I could ask for out of a party game, I place Rayman Raving Rabbids 2 above every other party game on the Wii with the exception of Wii Sports, if you even include that in the category.
THREE out of FOUR stars!
Monday, December 17, 2007
Sometimes blood everywhere is the only way a situation is going to go. From Titus Andronicus to Travis Bickle, there's a rich dramatic history of individuals alienated to the point of insanity who, to paraphrase Patrick Bateman, "just have to kill a lot of people."
The story of Sweeney Todd comes from Victorian England, which as all young Americans learn, was not the place to be unless you were an actual queen of England named Victoria. Composer Stephen Sondhiem has Sweeney sum up his opinion of 19th century London with these lyrics: "There's a hole in the world like a great black pit/and it's filled with people who are filled with shit." Tim Burton sets his adaptation of this nearly flawless Sondheim musical in a a gray, vile world to match this sentiment. The only thing that gives color to the world, and relief to the protagonist, is blood. Lots and lots of blood.
Todd's antagonist is the snakely Judge Turpin (Alan Rickman), who had him carted off to a penal colony in Australia, then stole away his wife and infant child. Fifteen years later, Todd returns. He is put up by the pie-shop proprietress Mrs. Lovett (Helena Bonham Carter), and one complete mental breakdown later, the two hatch a scheme that is as grotesque as it is practical. Soon the blood is flowing in full force: squished between gears, gracefully seeping, cataracting down necks, shooting out like geysers from the necks of some of our favourite British performers.
Stage productions of the musical have traditionally put Todd's boiling rage at the forefront of his character, but Johnny Depp gives a more sorrowful, repressed performance of a man who makes a constant effort not to feel anything at all. With a chalk white face and dark eyes, he looks like he has no blood left in him. He only brightens up when he's actively planning his revenge, and the only time he seems to be truly part of the living world is when he's slashing someone's throat (by the middle of the film, not an infrequent occurrence). Otherwise, he seems so haunted by death he is virtually dead himself. Sweeney's consumption with death is put to great effect in Burton's staging of the song "By the Sea," in which Lovett's fantasizes about a life of bourgeois paradise with her shattered maniac - bright, surreal scenes are undercut by a catatonic Sweeney, staring blankly ahead through beachside lounge-abouts and dinner with friends.
Mrs. Lovett, as played by HBC, is intensely driven by her desire for domestic comfort, and ghoulish in her easy acceptance of the horrendous path that takes her there. Carter's comedic timing helps her fly through her first musical number, despite her weak singing voice. Her lack of diction proves to be a real problem with some of the more up-tempo songs, which is a shame since the lyrics in this show are some of the best in all of musical theater. Depp handles his songs by going back and forth between a unembellished but effective tenor and a somewhat misplaced rocker's growl, which he gets away with because of how completely believable his portrayl is otherwise. The best voice in the film belongs to newcomer Ed Sanders, who plays a young urchin who strikes a maternal chord in Mrs. Lovett, at least until he be becomes an inconvenience to her. When he does, Carter's Mrs. Lovett suffers the loss acutely, unlike the Patti LuPone Lovett in the recent outstanding Broadway production, who was a fierce sociopath. It's a good choice for this quieter Sweeney and Lovett duo, if a little predictable and Hollywood.
There is a subplot revolving around Todd's grown daughter Joanna and her starry-eyed lover Anthony, played by Jayne Wisener and Jamie Campbell Bower. Together, they look like a pair of waifs who may have fallen from the pages of Burton's sketchbook. Bower has a pleasant and emotive voice, although the cuts in material leave him with only one chance to show it off. Wisener's singing is less noteworthy. It would be my guess that these actors are singing at less than their full capability so as not to contrast too strongly with the bleak, ugly world of the film, but Wisener's strained performance of her aria, "Green Finch and Linnet Bird", makes a beautiful song come off inert. Alan Rickman is awesome, as usual, and his singing voice is as nice to listen to as his speaking voice. So we're talking really nice. Sacha Baron Cohen, as the rival barber Pirelli, is gigantic in every way.
Sweeney Todd is in many ways a return to form for Tim Burton. For the last decade, his work has exhibited some of his distinctive visual touches, but often overall they were characterized by stale tableau, unimaginative camera work and clunky attempts at humor. Much of humor in Sweeney Todd comes from from how people can remain unbothered by the most unspeakable crimes, and Burton wisely lets these moments play straight, accenting the absurdity.
The film's final moment is a striking image that exemplifies why revenge might not in fact be a great idea after all. The quiet nature of the ending may leave you surprised that it's over, but as with several other key points of the film, an eerie, almost frozen image is made majestic by the expertly orchestrated score. No one could have expected this film to end cleanly, as revenge stories rarely do. There's no redemption to be had, unless you count Tim Burton's success in bringing us another brilliant portrait of a doomed outsider, and his darkest one to date.
Obligatory Letter Grade: A-
The previous review is a joint effort between AHR and Gnerd contributor Sarah B.
- The Orphanage Preview
- 7pm @ AMC 34th St, 312 West 34th, Manhattan
Bendis & Bru, more screenings and movie trivia, after the jump...
Tuesday, December 18
- 20% Off Sale
- All Day @ Jim Hanley's Universe, 4 West 33rd St., Manhattan
Wednesday, December 19
- An Evening With Danny Glover
- 7pm @ The Times Center, 242 West 41st Street, Manhattan
Thursday, December 20
- Movie Geek: Tournament Of Champions
- 8pm @ Ars Nova, 551 West 54th Street, Manhattan
Sunday, December 16, 2007
Albo is shirking his blogging responsibilities this week, so Panel Discussion this week is all AHR, which roughly translates to all DC. Hoo boy. Get ready for some goofy, wacky, and bizarrely violent crap! Also, huge spoilers for last week's comics after the jump...
Meme Alert: Countdown - Arena #2
That's Earth 32's Bruce Wayne, and of course what he means is "I'm the goddamn green lantern." Putting damn in bold won't make up for the PG rated swears, DC.
Enough Already! - Countdown #20
So on his blog, Paul Dini said that since Trickster recently died of a smashed face, "Piper won't have to listen to gay jokes anymore". He LIED to us, readers! Unable to cope with the loss of his boorishly gaycist non-friend, Piper has resorted to talking to Trickster's corpse and making gay jokes about himself. Make it stop.
The Banana Randomizer Award For Achievement in WTF: Wonder Woman #15
Silly nazis; if you go poking around in an Amazonian horse stable, don't look surprised when you find a vagina-with-teeth tentacle monster. Try to die with dignity.
Less Is More Award - Simon Dark #3
Comics have the habit of cluttering up the frames with extraneous sound effects and non verbal exclamations like "Wh-" or "Hhn?". A good facial expression and a sharp panel composition can speak volumes all by themselves, as shown by this completely "silent" sequence which perfectly evokes Simon's unnatural stealth. The art in this book has been fantastic for all three issues, I hope it finds an audience soon.
Beatdown of the Week: The Joker vs Booster Gold, Booster Gold #5Booster time travels into the Killing Joke to try to save Barbara Gorden's spine (and make a lot of comic fans very happy), and succeeds only in getting beat across the face with his own adorable robot pal. Where is your futuristic artillery now, Skeets? Even AI gets flustered around the Joker.
Biggest Set Up: Green Arrow - Black Canary #3
Ollie, please! "Safe"? Don't say things like that. You're a Superhero. A DC Superhero. Your loved ones are not safe. Oh well, it's not as if some sort of hand-of-god lightning bolt is going to come down and...
...right. As much as I usually love Cliff Chiang's smooth cartoony art (not to mention Trish Mulvihill's exquisite colors), the horrified expressions here are a little reserved given the situation. Canary and Speedy seem to be wearing looks of "Is he alright?" His ribcage is showing, ladies, that's a bad sign.
Here's the 7-minute scene that Warner Brothers screened for press and prize-winners. Geekanerd's invitation must have gotten lost in the mail. The scene follows a bank heist pulled by the Joker's henchmen. We don't see much of the J-Man himself, but his character is revealed by the way the thugs talk about him, and the machinations of how the heist is carried out. Plus character actor extraordinaire Fred Wolf shows up with a big old shot gun. All in all it's a pretty sweet scene, and if you have any will power at all and are really looking forward to this movie, I'd recommend restraining yourself, as the quality of this trailer is truly wretched. Muddy sound, only half the screen at times, and some audience member douche making inane comments like "That's him!" Still, it's after the jump if you want it, at least till WB takes it down. (UPDATE: They did, but I added a new one)
Update 12/15: Newsarama reports the new Dark Knight trailer finally hit the net in beautiful officially sanctioned high res. Check it.
UPDATE: They keep taking the video down, and people keep posting new ones.
Good stuff. It's a solidly entertaining scene, though with more of an action movie than comic book movie feel, which could be said of Batman Begins in general. Hey, if it works, it works. The build-up to the Joker is more exciting than his actual appearance, but I was pleased to see him casually shoot a henchman, a classic Joker gag that gets me every time.
Saturday, December 15, 2007
Lisa: The rich are different from you and me.
Marge: Yes, they're better!
-Scenes From The Class Struggle In Springfield
It's December, and that means it's time for those MBA squares at Forbes to pull out their carefully buried geek cred and run down the Top 15 Richest Fictional Characters and 25 Largest Fictional Companies. As something of an amateur design nerd, I was happy just to see all these fake company logos in one place. I'm a little surprised that Soylent Corp made the cut, though; don't they adjust for future-dystopia inflation?
At the top of the list is Scrooge McDuck, up from his third place spot in last year's list, with a net worth of 28.8 Billion. Gold is up, apparently. Cartoon characters made a good showing in the newcomers category, with Mom from Futurama at #4 and Carter Pewterschmidt of Family Guy at #7. Mom is a great addition (although again I have to wonder if they're adjusting for inflation), but I've always thought of Lois' family as being genericly rich New Englanders, and not above the likes of Bruce Wayne (#8) and Tony Stark (#10).
Sad news for gamers; Lara Croft is gone, and our favorite video game plumber suffers a triple indignity: first, he's off the list, having apparently divorced from Peach (WHAT?). Second, Princess Peach is on the list. Third, the announcer in this video wrap-up segment pronounces his name "Mer-ee-o." Rough year indeed for Mario, but at least he'll have a chance to expel all that pent-up rage and humiliation when Super Smash Brothers Brawl comes out.
The shaky-cam bootleg trailer is after the jump, but for those who don't want to buy a ticket for I Am Legend but do want to see a high quality Dark Knight trailer, Ain't It Cool News has word on the site where the official trailer will be debuting. It's yet another Dark Knight viral site; atasteforthetheatrical.com, which features a Gotham Times classified ad for a mobile camper, or trailer. Looks like it will be up there on Sunday, but who can wait? Bring on the handicam...
In his big close-up, Joker looks like one of the killer clowns from outer space. Or Sweet Tooth. Too much pancake make-up, not enough teeth.
We get to hear the "why so serious" tag line in action, and Heath's reading is oddly...serious. This trailer indicates we'll be getting a Joker more on the brooding side, and where's the fun in that? I personally like my Joker more upbeat; I understand Nolan is set on making these movies set in gritty, pseudo-realistic world, but it would be a shame to sacrifice the more enthusiastic side of Joker's insanity for the sake of making him more grimly frightening.
I can't quite pin down what Heath is going for with that voice. The back-of-the-throat growl brings to mind Jack Nicholson's version, but without the air of sophistication. Heath's laugh is passably creepy while also coming off somewhat forced, but it's hard to judge fairly when we've already had the best of all possible Joker voices provided by the untouchable Mark Hamill.
Of course there is the school of thought that says, "Look, these are new movies. Nolan and Heath are trying something different. If you want to see the animated series Joker, watch the damn animated series." Fine, hypothetical blog text, I think I will. While we're waiting for the Hi-Res trailer, perhaps you'll join me in enjoying some classic animated Batman vs Joker escapades courtesy of the flashback segment from Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker (the much more grisly unedited cut, of course). Psychological pwnage starts at about 4 minutes in.
Friday, December 14, 2007
- Marjane Satrapi
- 7pm @ McNally Robinson, 52 Prince St., Manhattan
Saturday, December 15th
- Super Smash Bros. Melee Tournament
- 12pm@ web2zone, 54 Cooper Square, Manhattan
Sunday, December 16th
- Beyond Wiseguys: World Premiere w/ John Turturro and Producers
- 4pm @ The Museum of the Moving Image, 35 Ave at 36th St, Queens
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
It's been months since our last glimpse of this film, and I still can't overstate my excitement about the project. Staying away from CGI for these monsters makes them so tangible, and I trust Jonze to make Maurice Sendak's story into something more than a throwaway adaptation. I'm getting shivers here.
Cinema Blend via /Film.
If you woke up this morning aching to find something that would challenge your threshold for Geekanerdiness, today may be your lucky day. This session of Anime Parliament took place at the New York Anime Festival over the weekend, and the main argument of the day concerned the rights of Pokemon. And as if the video alone wasn't enough to make your feeble mainstream mind squirm, hit the jump for resident Pokemon expert AHR's analysis of the argument...
The "Is Pokemon Training Animal Abuse" question is one I can remember debating on the playground. While I'm glad the Parliament saw fit to offer some protection against Pokemon abuse, it seems to me they reached their conclusion through a flawed argument. One reason offered for the establishment of Pokemon rights is that Pokemon can, through no extraordinary circumstances, reach human level intelligence. The only real evidence offered is the existence of Psychic Pokemon, as if innate psychic power could be equated with intellectual capability. Sure Psychic Pokemon can bend spoons with their mind, but can they understand math and science? Can they communicate abstract concepts and feelings, or produce art? Can they create functioning societies? As we've seen numerous times on the series and in the games, when left to their own devices Pokemon pretty much behave like regular animals do. The major difference between animal and Pokemon intelligence is that Pokemon can loosely understand English, and can therefore more or less communicate their wants and needs to humans. However, I don't see any evidence that their desires extend beyond food, shelter, kinship and a vague inclination towards either excitement or passivity. Accepting this, the laws that govern a Pokemon's right to self-determination need to be formulated along the lines of animal rights legislature, as opposed to imagining Pokemon are in some way the intellectual equal of human beings. I mean, people EAT Pokemon in that series. Those burgers and sushi the characters are always stuffing their faces with can't all be made of tofu.
The first annual New York Anime Festival took place in Manhattan this past weekend, and Geekanerd was on the scene. While our allegiances lie more on the Western side of comics and cartoons, I dare say you'd be hard pressed to find a serious geek who hasn't at least dabbled in anime's seductive fandom. And speaking of seductive, how about this Wolverine sketch, hmm? While you can find fanart like this by the pound on DeviantArt, this particular sketch is actual concept art by Anzu for the upcoming Del Ray/Marvel manga series starring the X-Men. They're obviously going for the highly-profitable teen girl market, although I don't know that anyone wants their Wolverine looking that pretty.
Crazy cosplayers and more after the jump...
So many kids were dressed as Naruto it hardly seemed worth documenting, and we quickly learned other Naruto-related characters could be spotted by their belt buckle head band thingies. At least 45 percent of the people at the festival had to bewearing them, and if they weren't they were wearing a hat with animal ears.
Many impromptu fights could be witnessed in the halls of the Javits Center, but thankfully no one was killed.
Most of the cosplay was obviously anime stuff, but video games were getting some love, too, as evidenced by this shockingly accurate Travis Touchdown (an otaku assassin from the unreleased No More Heroes) and a full on Smash Bros. Brawl:Also, those damn Star Wars nuts show up everywhere, but this one made a strong effort to be relevant to the Japanamaniacs:
Those expecting to fill their backpacks with free manga and swag were sorely disappointed, as almost all of the booths were occupied by sellers with nothing particularly exciting to promote, and hardly a freebie to be seen. In the last hour of the last day, however, the Central Park Media booth abruptly started throwing their books and DVDs at passerby, quickly attracting a massive, uncontrollable crowd that was probably still there by the time the Javits Center people turned the lights off. I managed to snag one book, and here it is:This is one them there sci-fi romantic comedy mangas, with a plotline that concerns a schoolgirl who is also an alien, and her light-hearted junior high adventures. My favorite story mostly involved the main characters chasing after a mouse.
I also enjoyed this disclaimer that came at the end of the book.
Way to stop those continuity hounds in their tracks!
Some shots from the the title sequence of the upcoming Domo stop-motion series, to be broadcast on Nicktoons Network....
A gang of Citibank vultures camped out in the middle of the sellers floor, presumably to prey on any desperate otaku who needed a quick credit card to buy another giant sword.