Sullivan’s Sluggers (2012)

Sullivan's Sluggers

The comic about a team of downtrodden baseball players fighting zombies in some backward town is more known for the attached kickstarter drama (the creator unwisely calculated international porto wrong, overprinted and then had no money to send the printed comic out to a lot of backers) than its content. I’ve always wondered if it was worth destroying a career over.

Kinda not. If this were a movie, I would say a weak B movie, maybe even a C title. It has one seemingly good gimmick and initially compelling art, probably the reason it was so successful on kickstarter, but beyond that there’s not a lot going on. The team arrives in town. They start a game, the monsters come out, everything goes to hell and they start dying until only a few are left, on both sides. Fifty pages in and knowing it would go on for a 150 more, I felt the whole thing had already outstayed its welcome.

I like me some good action and there’s a lot of it here, but all of it felt like a never ending call out to 80ties action movie coolness and those characters without any identity of its own. Instead of first establishing its own ensemble of likeable losers and then mowing them down, it felt like watching cheap and badly done copies of those guys I liked in better movies getting killed, which became tiresome really fast. Shoot, kick, flippant speech, blood and gore, monster and player dead. Repeat ad nauseaum for a long time.

There’s really not much substance to it, even on a simple actioner level and everything felt so halfhearted and boring. Even the art got more lazy as the comic went on.

The Colonel (2014)

thecolonel

Bite-sized story piece that bridges the gap between Blindsight and Echopraxia. Not exactly essential but well written and does what it sets out to do: acting as a primer for the later novel while reminding you of the strengths of the former and where it left things. Has inscrutable hive minds, power games and an old baseline human trying to do what he can to save both his son and the rest of us monkeys. The ending is pretty much left open and I expect Echopraxia to clear things up.

The Devil You Know (2006)

TheDevilYouKnow

1st in a urban fantasy series where the dead have risen in large numbers (mostly ghosts, some zombies, were-monsters are also explained via ghosts) and exorcists have risen as well to counter that development. Felix Castor is one of them, and while he tried to get out of the profession due to a botched job in his past, it’s the one thing he does best and he has to pay his bills after all. Compared to similar male-centric urban fantasy series, the focus is less on romance and more on noir style-tics and detective work. It feels a lot more down to earth and even with all the magic, it’s less about big fireballs being thrown around and more about learning where ghost have come from and how to make them leave.

The plot of the first part of the series is about a previously harmless ghost in library who suddenly becomes more vicious. And while this still seems pretty harmless all around, it leads Felix down some very dark corners. It’s rare that any of the deaths in an urban fantasy series feels as devastating and horrifying as the one that lies at the core of the entire mystery here and the true villain is entirely mundane and because of that feels more evil than if it had just been a big bad monster from some fairy tale.

Very intense overall and I like how the small difference make this one feel a bit different from other urban fantasy series.

JLA Adventures: Trapped in Time (2014)

JLA_Adventures-Trapped_in_Time

Another recent DC animated movie that is the complete opposite of most of their recent offerings. Violence is on the same level as the original animated DC universe, but together with all the gore and visual violence they also threw all the mature characterization and plotting overboard. What’s left is a simplistic and very short adventure that might appeal to some kids (those not smart enough to know they are getting fleeced), but lacks anything vital to make it more interesting for grown-ups.

Animation is so-so, still okay but nothing really as distinctive as the old animated universe or most of the well-drawn new movies. If the writing would have been a bit better, this could have been a keeper, but at this level it’s merely annoying (the most distinctive sign for bad writing is looking at how smart Lex Luthor talks and acts, that is always a good measure at whom things are targeted, the stupid or the smart kids).

Batman: Assault on Arkham (2014)

batmanAoA

The DC animated movies had an interesting trajectory since the days of the animated universe, from pretty harmless (limited amount of blood and violence, no gore) but mature content to extremely violent and gory movies that seem to swing from smart and mature to childish and stupid at a whim. Assault on Arkham, which is less a Batman and more a Suicide Squad movie with Batman as an important guest character, is an interesting mix, with a lot of violence and death, but drawn with very limited amounts of blood and next to no gore.

What makes it odd, because sometimes when characters die, the blood and gore is pretty good visual marker of how final an event is. Here, sometimes you’re not sure if someone died or just lost their head (like a lego or playmobile figure). Violence without blood and gore is still violence for violence sake and not better than the other DC animated movies who went full gore without needing to.

Content-wise it’s more on the mature side, with the Suicide Squad doing their usual thing and with the mission soon leaving the original mission parameters. I dislike how disposable all the characters actually were in the end and how little any of the villains cared about their team members, and while that just reinforced their bad nature, I found it a bit unrealistic, as humans are still humans and even among criminals not everyone is full-blooded sociopath.

Codex Born (2013)

CodexBorn

2nd in a urban fantasy series about magicians who can materialize any object from books, real and imaginary ones, and their organization that polices the magicians and magic creatures of the world. This time, an alliance of unlikely enemies (the father of a killed member, enemies from when the order was founded hundreds of years ago) is controlled by the creatures living inside magic itself, trying to destroy Gutenberg and his order for various unfathomable reasons.

Nearly as good as the first book, even if I dislike that due to the nature of the hidden enemies it ends similarly unresolved in that meta-plot regard (they are still there, still waiting to come out and destroy everything).

A lot of the book is focused on Lena, the fictional dryad brought to life and how she manages to circumnavigate the murky waters of her own mind, which is always bound to her closest friends and to some extend, due to the imperatives written down in her fictional source material (written as a fuck-puppet who enjoys it), not really her own. This was always the one aspect of the first book with the biggest potential for fail, but I think Hines managed it more or less.

The Intouchables (2011)

The_Intouchables

Based on a real-life story of a quadriplegic rich guy and his caregiver who become close friends. Became a hit in France and Europe in 2011 and it’s easy to see why. Sure, the story, even if partly based on true events, doesn’t seem all that original, but the two main actors are pitch perfect, with Omar Sy as the stree-smart and empathic but inexperienced help and Fran├žois Cluzet as the world-weary, helpless rich guy who still longs for more than what life has to offer at the moment. Both complement each other perfectly and the chemistry those two actors convey on the screen is just phenomenal. Has also a tearjerker ending (one of the good, positive ones) that feels earned and not just added to make the audience feel happy.

Now You See Me (2013)

Now_You_See_Me

What this movie boils down to is a not very convincing revenge story via four young magician hired by a mysterious stranger to do various big tricks to scam one person in the final trick. While it’s pretty obvious not too long into the movie against whom the revenge will be enacted and the why is sort of explained (though I do find the reasoning pretty flimsy and the overall revenge pretty petty and small-minded), the reveal of who was actually the mysterious stranger was a complete WTF moment. Not one of those where you’re blown away by its brilliance, but more by its basic inanity. Overall, has the look and feel of a TV movie (less impressive overall and cheaper on all fronts), not one made for cinema.

Libriomancer (2012)

libriomancer

1st in a urban fantasy series about magicians who can materialize any object from books, real and imaginary ones, their organization that polices the magicians and magic creatures of the world and one former member who has to deal with a sudden attack by vampires that turns out to be the opening gambit of a much larger game.

This could have become rather tiresome with all the references to old and new fantasy and science fiction books (the main character relies mainly on them to power his magic, since he’s mostly a scifi geek), but instead it feels like a love letter to the genre and still manages to establish its own identity instead of being merely a collection of references to better books. Also, I really liked the smart world-building (the difference between real and fictional vampires, Gutenberg and his secret history, etc.) and the clever choice for the big bad.

Arbitrage (2012)

Arbitrage

Movie about a rich guy trying to save his wealth by selling his company, which has had problems because of a risky investment in Russia that hasn’t panned out in the time frame required to get all the money back he borrowed for the investment. Over the course of the movie he accidentally kills his love affair, conspires to keep her death under wraps and lies to his family and close friends, all in the name of saving his wealth and family. At the end he gets his money, but all his actions has driven his family apart.

Can’t say I really liked the movie, if I wanted to watch assholes ruining other peoples lives because of their arrogance and lack of empathy, I wouldn’t need to watch movies. Good acting, though.