When it comes to TDK I feel like I’m missing some crucial piece. I can’t say I disliked it, but neither can I say I really liked it. It was a competent action movie that, while entertaining at times, left me mostly indifferent in the end. That’s partly due to Batman being more of a supporting character than the focus of the movie. The Joker reminded me too much of Nicholson’s Joker and felt like a cheap surrogate.
As for Two-Face: I loved Aaron Eckhart in Thank You For Smoking, so I expected from him an excellent performance in TDK. Which, reading reviews all over the net, seems to have worked for many people, just not for me. The love between his character and Maggie Gyllenhaal’s one had no chemistry, his subsequent slide over the edge and transformation into Two-Face wasn’t realistic or emotional convincing at all. Maybe I like the third one better.
The same thing that stopped me from enjoying the first part too much rears its head again. Hellboy and his companions looks so much like their comic-counterparts, but characterwise the movie misses the mark completely. The comic-Hellboy is a smart and self-independent investigator, at times he feels like an old noir detective at work.
The movie hellboy is a goofy and not too smart buffoon. Sure, he can fight and looks impressive, but underneath there’s a teenager who hasn’t grown up yet. This sadly is also true for his companions. And what’s with this stupid the-BRPD-must-remain-secret idea. Nobody cared about Hellboy and the BRPD remaining a secret in the comics. That’s just stupid.
That said, when it comes to monsters and other fantastical creatures, Hellboy 2 is far more varied than his predecessor. There’s a certain opulence to the fantasy elements that reminds me of old, stop-motion fantasy movies. And while the characters never really worked for me, I did enjoy the movie to a certain extend for its pure entertainment value, a mindless but occasionally fun action-adventure. If they tone down the soap-opera elements a bit, the third part could be even more fun.
Black Summer opens with a shocker. Superhero John Horus kills the president of the US because he thinks he’s a criminal. But the book is not entirely about whether his action was justified or not, even if this is touched upon by many characters on both sides. What follows after this assassination is elements of the government hunting down Horus and his former colleagues. Up to the last issue everything is concentrated on violent action and the question whether the killing of the president was justified.
Black Summer can be placed in that regard in the tradition of superhero comics that try to mix serious issues with the concept of a world where superheroes exist. It didn’t started with Moore’s Watchmen, but it’s probably the most famous example. Ellis is no stranger to this territory himself, having made stuff like Stormwatch and the Authority. There’s a host of questions that have been and still get examined in such works, like what is justice in such a world, who watches the Watchmen, where to draw the line and others.
But while Black Summer touches on all these questions, the most interesting one surfaces finally at the end of the last issue and also makes clear where Ellis stands on the idea of Horus killing a president to make a finer world. With all the technology at his disposal to make a change, with all the nearly limitless potential to make a better world, all that John Horus could imagine was to kill a person. Which is an interesting meta-commentary on superhero comics in general, even his own Authority stuff and this series itself, which does sell mostly through the depicted violence and not through meditative thoughtfulness or peaceful and positive change.
The ideal situation going into a book would be to know nothing about it and don’t have any preconceptions. But the title or the name of the author can often be enough to void this ideal situation. And if the book doesn’t fit into the hypothetical mold you’ve created in your mind, what it should be about or what it should be like, things are off to a bad start. Few books survive this onslaught of preconceived notions about them well. But a few utterly defeat these preconceptions by giving you something even better.
American Gods was one of these books for me. The title made me expect a story about modern gods utterly rooted in modern, American culture, like a fast food god or a god of baseball or similar stuff. And to some extend some of these turn up and play a role, but they are far from the focus of the books. It’s about the old, European gods who went (or at least copies of them) with the first settlers to the shores of the new continent and have since struggled to survive in the new world.
It’s not what I expected, but in the end I liked it far more than what I wanted from it first. Part of that is that I really liked the main character, an ex-convict who has reached a kind of dead end in his life and is trying to figure out where to go from there. He’s the silent but thoughtful type of character, who doesn’t lament his personal tragedies out loud, but works through them in his own ways. Which can take time and may seem a bit cold from the outside, but Gaiman allows the reader an in depth look which makes him far more sympathetic.
Two colonies on the same world feasting on perpetual hate for each other, slowly sliding toward a violent eruption that will annihilate both. This dissolution is mirrored on the personal level of the main characters, albeit with less violence and less clear-cut reasons, at least to Giraut, whose marriage seems to break at the seams with him unable to figure out the reason why.
Where One Million Open Doors was just an excellent, entertaining, smart read, Earth Made of Glass is this bit better that makes it brilliant. One warning up front, Barnes can be a mean bastard and here he is full on in bastard mode. This book is a gut-wrenching, painful yet incredible compelling read. Near the end some parts of it make you feel like walking over broken glass. Part of it is that everyone is trying, and the possibility of success always remains, even if you see Barnes setting everything up for a big fall. The outcome is never clear and the reader always hoping that the worst doesn’t come to pass. And then it gets even worse. At times it’s painful to go on, but hard to put down.
Making Money sees Moist von Lipwig, the hero of Going Postal, on another attempt at renovating an old but barely working institution, a bank. The patrician has used Moist successfully in the past to install a modern information infrastructure, now he puts him up to create a functioning financing infrastructure to generate enough money for the modernization of the whole city. The book hints that next might be the tax system.
It’s always interesting to see how far the Discworlds novels have strayed from the fun but mostly harmless initial novels of the series, and yet remain as accessible and fun as those early parts. There hasn’t be a Discworld novel I didn’t liked, which makes me the worst judge of them. Pratchett’s style, his sense of humor, his philosophical musing, all that is part of his fiction, just resonates with my likes. Can’t wait for the next one.
At its heart it’s an unrealized DC Elseworld where the villains won and made everyone forget they did. All the superheroes are dead and the villains rule secretly from the shadows. But not everyone is content with this situation. This backstory is mixed with the revenge story of your everyday guy who is basically a loser and hates everything around him, all the people, himself, the world in general and so on, but doesn’t do anything about it.
And this guy gets the means to fight back. He becomes the perfect killer. There’s a little bit of story, basically he helps one group of villains triumph over another group of villains, but this is just a vehicle for getting revenge on everything. At the end, when he breaks the fourth wall and tells the readers how pathetic they are, he only reveals how pathetic he is. Instead of growing up, he becomes just another sort of loser.
Mind you, this is just how I’m reading the comic. Hyped up by some parts of the comic audience as the second coming, it’s a typical Millar comic, high on action, low on empathic characters and overall devoid of anything meaningful. It looks good on the outside, but it’s hollow on the inside. And I’m left wondering why so many people praise a comic whose main character is an asshole, whose main story is about empowering said asshole and whose finish is said asshole telling the reader something to the effect of I’m fucking you in the ass. But some people must like being abused, or they wouldn’t like this comic so much.
While Juno doesn’t feel like a realistic depiction of a young girl who is suddenly confronted with an unwanted pregnancy, because of how nonchalant she and most people around her react, it’s a fun and at times also inspirational movie. Perfectly played by lead actress Ellen Page, Juno is like a small tornado that flattens everything in her path.
Her snarky, self-assured manner, while just hiding a teenager who’s not as much on top of things as she tries to make everyone believe, makes for some extremely fun scenes and also makes her instantly likeable. The other characters are likeable too, the competent stepmother (it’s good too see someone portray a positive stepmother instead of the old-fairy tale cliche), the father, her girlfriend and all the others.
Not unlike the previous movie by Reitman, at times you might feel like the style of the movie is far too light for such a grave situation, but while it’s a fun and light movie, it doesn’t presents its main theme as a laughing matter. It’s a question of perspective, just because people aren’t spouting doom and gloom with every sentence, it doesn’t mean they don’t take it seriously.
It’s just that they haven’t lost the ability to see some of the absurdity that lives dishes out in it. And instead of feeling sorry for themselves (which makes far too many serious movie an experience in boredom and annoyance), they deal with the situation in their own way.
Another movie with a baby in a central role. Three homeless bums find a baby in a dumpster and try to find out why it has been abandoned and by whom, while fostering it for the time being. While the movie makes the life of homeless look far too easy at times, even if it tries to display some of its elements correctly, its an engaging piece that tries to make its main character seem genuine and human.
Those three have found in each other a second chance, a second family, after they left their original one for reasons of their own. During their odyssey through the city to find the mother of the baby, all these things come out and each of those three has to face their past. Mind you, this is not a movie about redemption, but about three people who are lost and get a chance to reconnect to some of those people from whom they are running away. While there’s too much coincidence involved to make the plot feel realistic, the reactions of every character and their stories ring all too true and make you feel with them. And it can be quite funny at times.
A highly violent action movie/dark comedy mix about a bum who eats carrots and shoots like the devil. When a women with a baby is followed by some gunmen, he helps her, only to get her killed in the proceedings. He flees with the baby and is followed on every step of the way by people who want to kill him, or rather the baby, to be more specific.
During his attempt to preserve the life of the baby, he slowly finds out the (completely inane) backstory and has to shoot somebody nearly every ten seconds. While I do like violence in my movies, its just a bit too overdone here to be completely enjoyable. Not just the action, also the attitude of everyone, gangsters and good guys. It feels like everyone is trying too hard to be cool and funny. And the violence is so numerous, so ubiquitous in every scene, that it becomes boring.