Category Archives: Movies

Review: Comic-con episode IV: A Fan’s Hope

There have never been any really great documentaries on comic book fandom.  There are many great documentaries on the industry, the medium or specific characters or creators, but nothing about the fans themselves that I can recall.  After viewing Comic-con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope on PPV last night, I can safely say that there still are not any really great documentaries on this subject.

Not so say this isn’t a good documentary, it just does not have that much to do with comic fans, much like many cons today.  THE comic-con in San Diego has been around since 1970, and for most of that time, has been about and for comics and comic fandom.  In the last 10 years or so, that has changed.  Now the con is a platform for the other entertainment media to showcase or preview their genre properties.  Comics have been pushed to the side.  There are many great comic-cons, this is just not one of them anymore.  At this point I should mention that I have not yet been to this convention.  It is one that I one day hope to go to, just for the experience, just not yet.

The film follows a fairly well established and unfortunately predictable formula.  Most documentaries are about a thing or an event either done after the fact, or as that thing or event is happening.  This film is the latter, and to get that on film, much has to be done before hand.   To achieve that, there is a lot of casting for the people who you will follow.  This is the greatest weak point in the film.  The people cast are done for the appearance of variety, but they do not really hit that mark, and the events that we will see are telegraphed and very easy to predict.  Two of the people followed to the con are would-be comic artists, and you know before they get there that one will succeed and the other will fail.  There had to be some pretty tight vetting to preview what would happen to these guys, and it shows to some degree.  You do feel for them and are excited for them, but it falls short of any real human interest or drama.

The only “fans” that they follow are a young couple that met at the previous year’s con and are together for this one.  But rather than show the con experience, we get to see the guy’s attempt to ask his girlfriend to marry him at the Kevin Smith panel.  There is nothing about the con, this could have taken place anywhere.  The guy keeps trying to get away to set things up and get the ring, while the girl is just a cligy pain.  Another instance of the production setting things up to make it camera worthy, is the fact that he actually gets to ask the question with Kevin Smith watching.  The odds of that happening for real to just any guy at the con are low.

Another group being followed is a group of costume designers.  Their story is interesting and well realized here.  You grow interested in what they do very quickly, and the events they experience are shown clearly.  A toy collector is also shown briefly, but the effect created here is that he is there for one thing and one thing only.  He gets to the booth carrying his desired toy, and then his con appears to be over, his goal met.  It comes off as kind of pathetic.

The last person followed for this documentary was Chuck Roganski.  Owner and founder of Mile High Comics, he is one of the most significant figures in the comic collecting world.  He is shown all too briefly preparing for and going to the show to sell books, including the very rare and valuable Red Raven from the early Atlas/Marvel days.  Chuck redefined collecting in the early days with his finding and selling of a pedigree collection collectively known as “The Mile High” books.  The Mile-Highs were a huge collection of extremely high-grade golden and silver age key books.  These books changed the face of comic collecting forever and made Chuck a major player in the comics retail and collecting industry.  None of this is mentioned and he comes off as just a tired old guy trying to make a buck off of fans.  Even the description of Red Raven #1 comes off poorly, as though he is trying to sell some bit of trumped-up crap for far more than it is worth.  Someone of Chuck’s fame (or infamy, depending on who you ask) deserved better.

There are several brief snippets of comic creators and people like Kevin Smith and Joss Whedon (credited along with Stan Lee, as Producers), many stating that comic-con isn’t really about comics anymore, but nothing else of substance.  This film is about Comic-con, and does show an accurate, if cursory view of the show.  There is nothing of any depth here which is a shame as there are some really interesting things to see at this and other shows.  Artist’ alley and the dealer floor can be amazing places to visit even if you are not a fan, and they are not represented at all, the only play the dealers get is through Chuck, and that is not much.

What this film does show is that Comic-con is an entirely different beast than it once was.  Not really for comic fans anymore, it is an all-encompassing multi-media showcase.  It is neither good nor bad; it just isn’t what a lot of the old timers want now.  The movie will feel very much the same.

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Why not these comics as movies & TV…?

With all the effort and money being spent on movies and TV shows based on comic book properties, I was thinking about some of the untapped potential out there to convert comic properties into either movies or TV series.

The first one that seems to get the most regular fan service is Sandman.  Personally, I think this would make an awful movie, or at least need to be so changed to translate, that it would offend every fan of the book out there.  Make no mistake, I am a fan of this book, but this is just not going to make a good film.  It would make a great TV series though.  I know they are working on American Gods and I hope that it translates well giving Gaiman and the producers the desire to try it with Sandman

Another book I would really like to see done for TV is Mage by Matt Wagner.  The style of this story would lend itself well to the format and be a very fun series.  Despite the need for some serious special effects in the story, they are manageable; the cast would be a relatively small one.  To be honest though, I would just be happy if the final book of the 3 book series would show up before I die.  Wagner’s other property; Grendel would also make for a pretty decent ongoing TV series.

Something that might make a fun all ages film is Joe the Barbarian, by Grant Morrison and Sean Murphy.  It could be done as light or as dark depending on what the film makers want.  The story is something that could be very malleable without wholesale changes and is a touching and involving story that can reach any audience.  Another good potential source for another all ages film is I Kill GiantsThis is still one of my favorite books and I cannot imagine this one failing if it were done by someone good.  Hey, Pixar, jump at it!

Why Strangers in Paradise has not been done as a TV show is beyond me.  Terry Moore’s masterpiece has it all.  Drama, complex relationships, sex, violence and plenty of room for melodrama of the prime time soap variety.  It crosses most of the adult target demographics and still manages a very powerful and intense story.  This would most certainly need to be on a network like HBO, as the content would need to be fairly adult, but this show just screams “must watch”.

Paul Chadwick’s Concrete might translate well to either medium, really.  It is such a well told story that just about any way you decided to tell it, could work.  There is the sci-fi/fantasy element and the dramatic aspects that could really set a show based on this one of the coolest offerings in either medium.

Am I the only one out there that would love to see another Rocketeer movie?  Slap Zac Effron or Taylor Lautner in the helmet and that is a movie that makes a pile of cash. (The wife unit agrees strongly on this one)

Since Hollywood is doing so much rebooting, it would be nice to see some of the books that were ruined back in the day, be given a proper treatment.  Dr Strange could be super cool now and Marvel is said to be working on it.  The 1978 made-for-TV movie starring Peter Hooten was so cheaply done that it is actually a little trippy and cool, but with all the play sparkly vampires and young monster hunters get these days, just make him a 20 something (or a very youthful and cool 30) and this film sells itself.

I would like to see another try at Isis too.  The Saturday morning Shazam/Isis Power Hour was fun for the mid 70’s and could probably be well done today.  But that is just me wishing. 

A failed attempt to bring Wonder Woman back last year shows that the mainstream is not ready for this one yet.  Either David E Kelly tanked it or a Linda Carter-less show is just not going to fly .  Speaking of failed tries, Global Frequency had lots of potential but Warner Brothers soured on it when they failed to grasp the viral quality of fans on the internet. At least the pilot is out the to be downloaded.

These and all the great series that have made good cartoons series like FF, Justice League etc; there are piles of worthy material waiting to be tapped.


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The Comic Book films of 2012

In 2011 the comic book movies were quite a mixed bag, really. From the tent pole films (Thor, Captain America etc.) to stuff that even the diehard fans didn’t know about (Priest, Dylan Dog). In 2012 things are a little less diverse, but that is not a bad thing. There are almost certain hits and a few that are not likely to do all that well.

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (February)

This one came out recently and has underperformed at the box office. Marvel/Disney was looking for something in the area of 33 million and ended up with an opening weekend more like 22 million. Maybe it’s just me, but was anyone really looking for this film? This one is getting better reviews and cost less than half what the first one did to make, so it is already more likely to be a money-maker for the studio. My issue is that it didn’t really have a built-in audience waiting for it, so why bother? This is not the kind of film that will draw lots of casual viewers. I would expect this to clear a profit and end its initial theatrical run with 80-90 million, so we can expect a third one if the studio thinks the overall result is positive.  The Negative press that Marvel has been getting this year could affect this film and possibly the other 2 Marvel character releases.

The Avengers (May)

This should be a huge hit. I imagine Marvel is thinking something north of 60 million for the opening weekend. The set up for this has been the previous 5 Marvel films, all of which did well at the box office, so the fans will be making squeeeee noises all the way through it. Even if this is a great shining turd of a film, which is unlikely given Joss Whedon’s involvement, this thing makes at least 150 million. If it turns out to be what most are expecting, tack on another 100 million.

Men in Black III (May)

A long time in coming, this one is pretty likely to have the broadest appeal on this list. The first 2 were monster hits and there is no reason this will be any different. The premise looks really fun and is likely to be fertile ground for the director Barry Sonnenfeld to go wild and make this and even bigger hit than the previous 2 films. $200 million. Easy.

The Amazing Spider-Man (July)

This has had an impressive build up, and the excitement is high. There are some changes being made to the franchise in this reboot. Some of them are returning the character to something more closely resembling the books. This time there are actual web shooters instead of goo from his body. However some of the changes are being met with grumbles from fans. Having Peter’s parents involved in the story at all, let alone being pivotal to the plot, is not going over well. If they fail to kill off Uncle Ben, then that will be what really drives the wedge in for fans. This film is the one that is most likely to end up like last year’s Green Lantern, highly anticipated but met with no real enthusiasm for the film once the end credits roll.

The Dark Knight Rises (July)

Oh God, please don’t suck. This is the film that will break the record for opening weekend currently held by the last Harry Potter film (just under $170 million), which took that away from the Dark Knight ($158 million). No comic book film franchise has put together a 3 film run that was good all the way through. Some people count the films like Iron Man and Thor because they are leading into the Avengers franchise, but I do not. Even if I did, Iron Man 2 was not great. Christopher Nolan will not let us down, and yes, we will be able to understand Bane. So relax, we are in for a huge and fantastic movie. Warner Brothers will have another Batman cycle started up within a few years, and that will have a tough act to follow. Dark Knight made just over half a billion dollars domestically, in part due to the Heath Ledger factor. This film can only hope the people who went to that will want to see this as well. I don’t really see this hitting the same mark without that. More likely this one breaks the opening weekend mark on its way to somewhere just north of $400 million.

Dredd (September)

I hated the first try at Judge Dredd. So did everyone else that saw it. I loved Dredd growing up in the pages of 2000 AD and his own book from Eagle Comics, but the only thing that has me interested here is the fact that it looks like it will be REALLY dark and true to the comics. Karl Urban is an interesting choice to play the lead and I am excited. Unfortunately this film will die a quick death, not because it won’t be good, but because it will just not reach the audience and be seen by anyone not actively searching for it. I will be pleasantly surprised if this film hits $75 million.

G.I. JOE 2

Really, who cares? The first one was exactly what was expected. It was harmless fluff. A clown in an expensive suit. While this one looks like a more serious attempt at a good film, it still has more restrictions on it that any of the other films on this list. The toy company will be strict and want the most family friendly product they can put in theaters. While that does not guarantee a bad film, it does make it likely that this film will fail to hit the $100 million mark.

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A Quick Format Update…

Just for those who might be interested in the reviews of the books and films without slogging through every last post, the Review Page has been updated with a list of and links to every complete review I have done.

Some of them make me cringe a little given that I was not always as diligent about proof reading as I should be, but I’m not changing them now, so deal.

Anyway, there they are.

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Batman: Year One animated movie review

The latest DC animated feature, Batman Year One is out and I have finally gotten a chance to watch it.

The DC films have been something of a mixed bag.  Some have been nothing short of brilliant (New Frontier) others much less so (Emerald Knights).  While this is clearly not a work of brilliance, neither is it junk.  I would say closer to the former though as the source material alone is one of the finest works in DC’s long and rich back catalog.  While that has never been a guarantee of a quality final product with DC, it is the best possible place to start.

The original Year One miniseries ( it was actually in the regular Batman monthly book from issue 404 to 407) was a backhanded way to reboot and update the origin of one of the oldest and best in the company’s long history.  While it was more of an update that a re working, much of it has become canon since, and it is one of writer Frank Miller’s finest works.  It was done as a bookend of sorts to The Dark Knight Returns and is far different in tone and style to that landmark work.

The film, like the original, is more s story about Jim Gordon.  His struggles in his new job with the Gotham City PD, his wife and baby on the way and the attractive new detective Essen that he works along side are there from the book, mostly intact, and serve to make his arc in the story far more interesting than that of Bruce Wayne.  There is not much you can jigger about with Batman’s origins, and there is almost nothing new there, save for the style in which it is told, but that style is what has defined the character for over 2 decades now.  The movie shows the same style of storytelling and similar pacing.  The book is as faithfully adapted as it can be, sometimes to the movie’s detriment.  As an example, the Selina Kyle subplot is not much use here.  In the book it provided a touchstone for the longtime reader, but did nothing to move the story along other than to flesh out the universe a bit.  I did not see the point of it then, and still do not.  The universe should start out as small as possible and THEN grow.  That is the function of the mention of the Joker at the end of the story, one of the few parts that never really worked in canon, assuming that the Killing Joke IS canon.

The animation is excellent, and never strays far from the style of the source material.  As is usually the case in these adaptations, there are lots of key iconic shots pulled from the source and they work well here.  There is a bit too much color, more than the book at any rate, and that could be a bit distracting at times, but only really at the start.   As the film gets going, things get much more subdued.  That could be by design though, to more slowly immerse you than the book did.  the quality of the disc is also very nice.  I have not watched the main featurette, but I can say that the Catwoman short is bloody awful.  Style substituting for any kind of story.  And since the style is a bit salacious, I felt dirty just watching it.  Fortunately, I did not buy it for the short. 

The voices are well cast with Bryan Cranston’s Jim Gordon being the real treat here.  I miss Kevin Conroy as Batman though.  Even when I read a comic with Batman, that is the voice I hear in my head.

Overall, this was very good, and as faithful to the source.  This is adult fare and I doubt younger viewers would even enjoy it, but longtime fans should.  I would have liked the Catwoman element to go away and be replaced by more of the Gordon and Wayne stories as this seemed a bit short for the material.  Ultimately, if you like the original, I would say that this will please you.

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A few thoughts on an upcoming art film…

Now that the Marvel movies are done for the summer, all attention has turned to The Avengers.

All of the Marvel movies buttons (that is what they call those post credits sequences at the back of the films) have been seen.  The hype is growing for a movie that will not hit theaters for another 9 months.

Some assembly required.

Once the lights came up at the end of Captain America, the crowd in the theater cheered.  At D23 this last week, Disney’s Entertainment and Fan Expo, the reaction was the same with a buzz reel shown to a secured crowd.  There were no laptops, camera or phones allowed for the event,  Though the reports have been circulating.  It is safe to say that this will be a huge event in 2012.  The issue is, will this movie live up to the hype?

Expectations about the content of this film aside, as we can only guess as to the specifics, the problems or issues this film may face are many…

1.  In the film’s favor is a fairly weak slate of films in the weeks and even months before we get to see this group save the world.  The only comic book film before this one is Ghost Rider:  Spirits of Vengeance, which will be as successful as the first, which is not saying much.  The new trailer looks good though.  The only other big action film of note releasing before The Avengers is Clash of the Titans 2, so it is very likely that the demand for a big action genre film will be high.  This is the reason that studios stack what they call the tent poles in the summer season, and the first releases in May usually have a good shot at big money whether they deserve it or not.  Deserve is a fair point here.  X-Men First Class is still considered the weak Marvel film of 2011, and it simply does not deserve that title.  True it is the least successful of the 3 this year, but it was far from a failure.  It has a $55 million opening weekend (10 less than Cap and Thor) and has done $145 million in domestic release, and had mostly good reviews and fan reaction.  With DVD and Blu-ray coming in September, it will do fine.  But none of that matters as it is PERCEIVED as a weak entry.  So there are lots of intangibles that could help or hurt The Avengers.

2.  The weeks after the release are a little bigger as you would expect, but not staggeringly so.  The latest crappy toy tie in movie, Battleship, based on the Hasbro game opens two weeks after, and looks like it will not be the next Transformers, but you never know.  At the end of May is MIB 3.  So May 2012 could be a very good time for Marvel.

3.  The hype, if not controlled very carefully could hurt this film.  Green Lantern suffered from this.  A very good marketing campaign raised expectations and the film failed to meet them.  Big time.   If this film stumbles and pushes the fans away, it will kill future big Marvel projects and with only Iron Man 3 at any meaningful stage of development, they may choose to step back and re-evaluate the properties in the pipeline.  A major failure could even affect Warner’s further DC Comics film plans.  There is a not unjustified fear that the market is becoming overstuffed on comic book adaptations and every release, particularly big budget ones, are under a microscope.

4.  Then there is the Joss factor.  So loved by his fans is Joss Whedon, that his name alone as the film’s director will carry a small but very devoted number of fans in the seats.  The other side to this, is that the studios know his track record.  His projects do fine, but they are not blockbusters in any genre they appear.  His TV projects have been a mixed bag (Firefly and Buffy being the most well know at each end of the spectrum)  an and far from anything more than genre popular.  The movies are another matter.  This will be only his second time in the director’s chair.  His first, 2005’s Firefly sequel, Serenity was a moderate success, but far from what the studio had hoped.  Other high-profile projects he has been associated with have been largely seen as less than great.  His turns at writing movies, both credited and uncredited have been a mixed bag, but the negatives always seem to come up more often.  If this film fails, his poison pill status will be cemented, I’m afraid.

5.  Then there is the all important opening weekend.  The studio almost certainly has a number in mind.  Since the films leading up to it all hit the $50 million mark, that is the minimum they will expect.  They are much more likely thinking that this film should open to something north of $100 million, which puts it on par with the first Iron Man.  A more likely figure will be $80 million.  That is where I will put my money down for the betting.  I have heard a few doofus types on the internet saying that it could unseat HP7.2 which set the mark this summer at $169 million for the all-time opening weekend record.  Sorry guys, IF that record falls in 2012 it will be either The Dark Night Rises or the last of the Twilight entries that will make that a short-lived record.

I am hopeful.  I want to see this movie and I want it to be a success.  But to be fair, I will do everything I can to keep my expectations in line.

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The 2011 Comic Book Movies.

The summer 2011 movies season is winding down.  At least as far as comic book films is concerned.  Here are a few thought, not that you asked, on the good and the not so good for 2011…

In review, the main list for 2011 is…

1.  Green Hornet–Oh holy God!  Did anyone really take this movie seriously?   Seth Rogan?  Really?  I know the original TV show was pretty camp, but i would think we would be past that and want to make a good adventure movie.  There was a lot of potential for this one that was simply lost once they didn’t take the casting seriously.  You cannot spend $120 million to make a movie and do it as a comedy adventure based on a 40+ year old TV show that few really remember and expect to make money.  This was a bad idea from the start.  Also, it is not a comic book film strictly speaking.  The Green Hornet started life as a radio program in the 1930’s.  Comics came later, but today’s journalists are just plain lazy and like to group this in, so here you go, for what it’s worth.

2.  Priest–Based on the Korean comic of the same name, this one was never going to make much of a splash in the box office.  Having made $76 mil WW, this technically did clear a profit, but not much of one.  Since the cost figures do not always include promotion (it depends on who is doing the math) there is nothing on the face of this Earth that makes this movie a success.  It is on video in a couple of weeks, maybe it can bring in enough money from the overseas markets to make this one a little better for the studio.  My thought was, why go see Paul Bettany in a role that I have seen him do a few too many films now.  Go back to the artsy comedies Paul. 

3.  Dylan Dog–So obscure, most people (even fans of the book) didn’t even know it was being made.  Based on an Italian comic.  This on e looked fun and I do like Brandon Routh and Sam Huntington.  I have yet to see it and plan on at least giving it a rental.  The real fault here was that there was very little marketing on the run up.  Really, I spoke to several comic fans and some were fans of this book, they had no idea that there was a film.  Too bad, this one might have found an audience, had the potential audience been aware of its existence.

4.  Thor–The first big release in the genre and a great film.  (see review posted May 17)  As of this post the film has a WW gross of just under $448 mil.  The US gross was a little low according to some at $180 mil, but a sequel has been greenlit and even without Kenneth Brannagh directing, I will be there.  This film met every expectation for me and exceeded some of them.  This was a treat from start to finish!

5.  X-Men:  First Class–This was the best of the year for me, but only by a slim margin.  (see review posted June 5th)  There is almost nothing I could find to fault this film.  There were some possible continuity issues with some of the other films, but since this is the better film in those cases, I will defer to this one.  I like the casting of the leads and of most of the supporting cast, and I thought this one hit all the right notes.  Somehow though, this film is not being viewed as a success.  At $100 million less in total WW grosses and an opening weekend that was just shy of expectations, I suppose I can see the issue.  But I am willing to be this film does very good business on video.  Come on FOX, give this one another chance!  I would have put the poster up for you, but the posters campaign (all the marketing really) for this film was crap!

6.  Green Lantern–Ugh!  This was a HUGE disappointment.  It wasnt that this film was bad, just that it failed to be what it should have and could have been.  Ryan Reynolds, while good, just was not right for the role.  I know, I know, the studios want the film to skew a little younger, but maybe a better casting choice would have saved this one.  that and a script that committed to the premise instead of skirting around it.  there is a lot of money and talent up on the screen, it just failed to gel into a decent movie.  The money this film has made tells pretty much exactly that.  At a WW gross to date of $154 million, this film will have to rely on its video release to cover the rest of its $200 million dollar cost.  Remember when Titanic was the first film made for $200 mil, and we all thought that it was way too much to spend on a movie and that it would surely fail?  Ah, the good old days!

7.  Transformers 3: Dark of the Moon –IS NOT A COMIC BOOK MOVIE!  I wish all the reviews that think they know what they are talking about would do a little research!  Lazy pricks!  I will see this on video, but only to be a completest.  But that was my thought on the second and third Pirates movies and I regret seeing those crap sandwiches to this day!

8.  Captain America:  The First Avenger–Another winner!  This film did not disappoint in any way, other than that it just left me wanting more!

9.  Cowboys & Aliens–Looks like this one will end up disappointing at the box office too.  Another one with great potential that will be largely unrealized.

10.  Conan the Barbarian–ALSO not technically a comic book film, but almost everyone familiar with the character today either knows it from the Ah-nold movies or the comics so this one I will give a pass to.  (If you have not read the original Robert E Howard stories, you are missing the best Conan stuff available)  When this releases, I would expect about a $35 million dollar opening.  Anything less and the movie will be considered a failure.

This year has been a mixed bag, more than most.  From the varied performance to the movies left standing  like the ugly girl waiting for someone to dance with, to a real lack of fan support in some of the cases, I am left asking if the bubble has not burst for the comic book films.  There was plenty of deserving, quality stuff that failed to perform, so the old chestnut about putting a good product out there will be enough to fill the seats just does not hold up.

Yet to come later this year and into next are…

Deadpool –Don’t really see the point, but whatever.
Ghost Rider 2: Spirit of Vengeance–See previous note.
Men in Black 3 Potentially very cool, potentially very bad.

The Avengers–I SO want to see this movie!!!!!!!!

The Dark Knight Rises–I don’t think Harry Potter 7b will hold the record for opening weekend for more than a year.  Sorry Muggles.

Spidey re-boot–Ugh!  Costume looks good though.

In the end, we all need to support the good films and ignore the crud.  Now get out there.

to get you ready, an image of Tom Hardy as Bane…

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