Last week, we discussed our favorite TV series of the last year. This week, we turn to the big screen.
PAUL: 10. DJANGO UNCHAINED (dir. Quentin Tarantino)
With Django Unchained, director Quentin Tarantino takes us once more back to a terrible moment in our history, and once again asks us to indulge him his little anachronisms and revisionist revenge fantasies. This time, instead of Nazis and baseball-bat-wielding Jews, we get slavers and bounty-hunting dentists. Set in the pre-Civil War Deep South, Unchained is Tarantino’s homage to the Spaghetti Westerns of Leone and Corbucci, which he prefers to call his Spaghetti Southern. I’ll say that the absence of editor Sally Menke is sharply felt here, though. If I, of all people, notice the nearly three-hour runtime, then there could’ve been some tightening. The cast is great across the board, including a list of hidden cameos longer than my arm (among others, original Django Franco Nero makes an appearance). Jamie Foxx is great in the title role, though I imagine what Will Smith could’ve done with the part, as was the original intent. Leo DiCaprio, Samuel L. Jackson, and Walton Goggins all shine in their respective roles. Kerry Washington was reduced to little more than the damsel in distress, however, which is unusual for a Tarantino picture. But the standout here is Christoph Waltz. He is every bit as charmingly heroic and admirable this time as he was charmingly repulsive and hateful in Basterds.
AJ: 10. MOONRISE KINGDOM (dir. Wes Anderson)
Wes Anderson’s films often have a childlike quality about them, whether it be his colorful storybook compositions or the petulance of many of his characters. So it’s fitting that he’s finally made a film about children, one in which the kids are on the run from what’s expected of them and their adult guardians are forced to accept the roles they’ve played in their children’s abandonment of them. Newcomers Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward, both in their first screen acting roles, give perfectly awkward performances. Anderson regulars Bill Murray and Jason Schwartzman are in their element here, while Frances McDormand and Tilda Swinton join the auteur’s troupe with ease. Perhaps most encouragingly, Moonrise Kingdom is the first sign of life in years from Bruce Willis–who, with a movie soon to appear on our lists, proved later in the year that he’s most definitely still kicking–and Edward Norton, two actors who really needed a movie like this.
Gobbledygeek episode 95, “Assemble,” is available for listening or download right here.
It’s here. It’s finally, really, actually here. The Avengers is in theaters. Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, and the Hulk assemble into one giant superhero-palooza under the watchful eye of Joss Whedon. We hope it doesn’t spoil the episode very much if we say that the film more than lives up to our expectations. Paul and AJ discuss the film’s impressive structure, the insane giddiness of watching our heroes rumble with one another, and what Joss Whedon puts these iconic characters through. Among other things. There’s a lot of talking going on; there kind of had to be. Plus, the boys pay tribute to Adam “MCA” Yauch.
Next: Paul and AJ sit down with Ready Player One author Ernest Cline.
(Show notes for “Assemble.”)
Four years ago, two films gave the superhero genre a much-needed kick in the pants: Iron Man and The Dark Knight. They were on opposite ends of the spectrum–the former bright and funny, the latter dark and gloomy–but both felt honest, and honesty’s something the genre needed in order to mature. This summer sees the release of two films which seem destined to revitalize the genre yet again, and it’s only fitting that they are The Avengers, the end result of Marvel’s first wave; and The Dark Knight Rises, the last of Christopher Nolan’s Bat-flicks. The Dark Knight Rises is still a couple months off, but just as that one looks like it’s angling to be even darker and more despairing than its predecessors, The Avengers aims to be more colorful, rousing, and exciting than those leading up to it.
Any superhero movie that wants to be even semi-successful has to on some level examine the nature of heroism. When one doesn’t, which was a big problem in the period between Spider-Man 2 and Iron Man (give or take a Batman Begins), you wind up with something like Catwoman or Elektra or Batman & Robin. Marvel’s pre-Avengers efforts, which I’ve mostly enjoyed, have excelled at asking just why each of their heroes feels the need to suit up and take action. With The Avengers, an even bigger question is posed. Why would such disparate people, each with their own sets of skills, hang-ups, and needs, come together to form a team? Writer-director Joss Whedon, a veritable geek god, is the one tasked with providing the answer to that query, and he does so brilliantly.
Welcome to Last Month’s Comics, in which I discuss, uh, last month’s comics. I get my comics in bi-monthly shipments from Discount Comic Book Service, and as such, I can be a little behind. So here we are.
This column is later than usual, as I was a little preoccupied earlier this month, but for all those still madly wondering about what October 2011′s comics had to offer, here we go…
Writer: Brian Azzarello
Art: Eduardo Risso
I’ve read only a fraction of Azzarello and Risso’s acclaimed 100 Bullets, which ran for ten years from 1999 to 2009, but one needs no familiarity with their past work to be immediately sucked in by the opening chapter of Spaceman, their new nine-issue mini-series from Vertigo. It takes place in a weird, sad future, just a few monsters and flying cars away from the one in Joss Whedon’s Fray. Our protagonist is Orson, a monkey-ish man genetically engineered to travel to Mars, a trip the human race never got to make. Orson and his low-class friends speak in bizarre, disjointed slang; “okee” is how they say okay, and they actually say “LOL LOL LOL” instead of laughing. In this first issue, Orson has ominous spaceman dreams and becomes involved in the kidnapping of the adopted child of reality TV stars. Eduardo Risso’s art is terrific, Brian Azzarello’s storytelling immediately compelling. Choice line, as Orson’s alarm chirps “New day, new day, new day” while he opens the door on a bleak, cloudless future: “Why, you lyin machine…it’s the same fuck old day it always is.” (Plus: $1!)
Ladies and gentlemen, I bring you the first full trailer for The Avengers:
Okay…have you gathered yourself? Now then, let me remind you that this is not only the first trailer for The Avengers, but the trailer for the first filmed Joss Whedon work since that last run of Dollhouse episodes early last year. I guess it depends on what kind of geek you are, but that’s sort of what’s blowing my mind right now.
Though there’s plenty to blow your mind in the trailer itself. Being the first trailer for the hugest action/SFX movie of 2012, there’s not much in the way of plot or character, but we do get to see a lot of taxicabs getting blowed up real good, Captain America and Thor sparring, Bruce Banner Hulking out, and Loki looking pissed. There are also some fantastic, very Whedon-y lines of dialogue, delivered exclusively by Tony Stark. (I’m sure the other characters will have awesome things to say as well, but this is only a trailer, and Robert Downey Jr./Iron Man is pretty much the marquee name here.)
“Dr. Banner, your work is unparalleled and I’m a huge fan of how you lose control and turn into an enormous green rage monster.”
Oh, yes. I have a feeling that after this movie, it’s going to be hard to remember a world in which RDJ wasn’t always speaking Joss Whedon dialogue. If I’m going to disengage from drooling fanboy mode, I really only have a couple of quibbles: Scarlett’s sexy poses seem out-of-place, and Hawkeye locking and loading his bow looks kinda silly. Still, I’m penning in a big red “A” on my calendar for May 4, 2012.
No-Prize to the first person who can tell me the name of the Buffy episode from which I took this post’s title. Extra-Special No-Prize if you spot the other line of Buffy dialogue, which in its original form references Captain America, that I paraphrased here. Nerds assemble!
Welcome to Last Month’s Comics, in which I discuss, uh, last month’s comics. I get my comics in bi-monthly shipments from Discount Comic Book Service, and as such, I can be a little behind. So here we are. This feature started last month.
So, September 2011, what kind of havoc did you wreak? Let’s find out…
BEST RETURN TO FORM
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 9 #1
Writer: Joss Whedon
Art: Georges Jeanty (pencils), Dexter Vines (inks), Michelle Madsen (colors)
Publisher: Dark Horse
To say that I was pleased upon finishing the first issue of the new “season” of Buffy is an understatement. Season 8 started off very well, with Buffy leading an army of 500 Slayers and trying to unmask the mysterious foe Twilight. And to tell the truth, it was great for much of its run, with an occasional stumble (vampires being outed to the public wasn’t handled with much finesse). But the last story arc, with the reveal of Angel as Twilight, cosmic sex, and general batshit insanity, was so damaging that even someone who considers Buffy the Vampire Slayer to be the greatest piece of entertainment ever given us by man had come to the conclusion that it might be for the best if Ms. Summers was finally laid to rest. The final issue of Season 8, though, was a dramatic 180 from the pace and structure of the last few issues leading up to it, and the Season 9 premiere continues in that vein. With Giles gone and magic vanquished, Buffy is depressed and adrift, working as a waitress and getting blackout drunk. It’s all done with Whedon’s razor-sharp wit and keen sense of twenty-something angst. The final “shock twist” is so humdrum and everyday it’s hilarious. In many ways, the metaphorical “party” is over for our Scoobies; now what? I can’t wait to find out.
Welcome to Last Month’s Comics, in which I will discuss, uh, last month’s comics. The past couple episodes, we’ve pimped Direct Comic Book Service, which I’ve recently started using as a way to return to regular comics reading. The only downside is that I only get bi-weekly shipments (the weekly option is there, it’s just more expensive), so I won’t wind up reading all of my comics from one month until the beginning or the middle of the next. So I figured it’d be nice to sum up my thoughts, frustrations, and surprises about each month’s comics in a single column. It should be noted that, of course, I’m only reading comics that strike my fancy, there are some books I won’t get started on until a couple months from now, and that I also skipped out on all of DC’s books this month…with one exception.
Let’s get started with August 2011…
Angel & Faith #1
Writer: Christos Gage
Art: Rebekah Isaacs (pencils/inks), Dan Jackson (colors)
Executive Producer: Joss Whedon
Publisher: Dark Horse
Last year, Gobbledygeek called Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season Eight the Worst Comic Book of 2010. It was more a symbolic award than anything: there were worse comics, but none that were more disappointing. Season Eight had a very strong first two-thirds, but in the last third, things went awry more than they went a-right (please forgive me). It all culminated in the bizarre, confusing, contrived “Twilight’s Last Gleaming” arc. However, the final issue was a stellar return to form, and Joss Whedon has promised that Season Nine will be smaller, more character-driven, less prone to jump-the-shark-ness. Judging from Angel & Faith #1, the first piece of Season Nine, I’d say he’s kept that promise. Though I still don’t fully understand what Angel was up to last season–”Your whole Twilight phase makes about as much sense as a David Lynch movie,” so says Faith–watching him again struggling with remorse over his actions and back in help-the-helpless mode is refreshing. Where once Angel was Faith’s mentor, the roles have reversed. Faith is now there to help Angel deal with his grief, though based on the last-page shocker, she’s got a lot of work to do. Christos Gage has all of the characters’ voices down pat, and Rebekah Isaacs’ art might be the best to ever grace any Whedon comic. Can she draw Buffy too?
(Paul and I reviewed Angel & Faith #1 in “Talking Turkey.”)
Look out, Josey!
Gobbledygeek episode 61, “No Country for the Outlaw Josey Wales,” is available for listening or download right here.
For the latest Geek Challenge, the boys challenged each other to watch two very different Westerns: Clint Eastwood’s classic 1976 outing The Outlaw Josey Wales for AJ, and the Coen Brothers’ 2007 award-winner No County for Old Men for Paul. One is an epic tale of revenge, filled with Indians and shoot-outs and starring the Spirit of the West himself. The other is a bleak modern Western featuring a frightening force of nature ripping through anyone in his way. How does the Challenge turn out? How often does Josey Wales spit? How dorky is Anton Chigurh’s hair? These questions, and probably not others, will be answered in this week’s gobble-rific Geek Challenge! Plus: news, the boys’ joint review of Captain America: The First Avenger, and too many Formspring questions!
(Show notes for “No Country for the Outlaw Josey Wales.”)
Welcome to the final week in our analysis of Chris Claremont and John Byrne’s run on Uncanny X-Men. The first four weeks can be found here, here, here, and here.
Fearless readers, we have come to the end of Claremont/Byrne’s classic run on Uncanny X-Men. There are some very emotional points in these issues, but on the whole, this doesn’t feel like an ending so much as it does yet another springboard for future storylines. And that’s what it is: after all, Uncanny X-Men is still going 30 years later, and even with Byrne’s departure, Claremont had another ten years left on the title. What’s more, Claremont and Byrne had things planned out for a further seven issues until Byrne decided to leave. But more on that later. For now, we’ll dive headfirst into the final eight issues of their run together.
When last we left our merry mutants, Dark Phoenix was preparing to return to Earth, her appetite for destruction not sated by consuming a whole star. In advance of her return, Lilandra’s Grand Council plans her demise, President Carter (for whom Claremont brings back his regrettable dialects) tells Jarvis to assemble the Avengers, and Beast devises a “mnemonic scrambler” which the X-Men can place on Phoenix to limit her powers. The first place Jean goes upon re-entering Earth’s atmosphere is her family’s home in Annandale-on-Hudson. Claremont’s captions say that “[t]his is Jean Grey’s home, not Dark Phoenix’s,” “[y]et Jean Grey is Dark Phoenix.” Her parents, and her sister, are woken from their beds in the middle of the night, their minds now an open book for Jean to unwillingly read. She senses their fear of her, and lashes out, turning a potted plant to crystal as an example of her terrible power. And she would have done more were it not for an unnatural fog produced by Storm that draws Jean out of the house, allowing Kurt to slap the mnemonic scrambler on her.
Gobbledygeek episode 59, “The Good, the Bad, and the Bat-Nipples,” is available for listening or download right here.
Captain America has arrived to some very positive buzz, but not all superhero adaptations fare so well. Paul and AJ are here with their official list of the 5 Worst Superhero Adaptations…but to console your inevitable sense of despair, they’ve also got the 5 Best Superhero Adaptations. Tights, capes, laser beams, and nipples are all on display. Merely a day’s work for our intrepid Gobblers.
Next: Comic-Con 2011! ‘Nuff said.
(Show notes for “The Good, the Bad, and the Bat-Nipples.”)