Monday, June 30, 2008

Wall-E makes me happy.

Pixar, Pixar, Pixar.

Make no mistake about it, it is all Pixar and whatever magical aqua vitae they brew throughout their production process. And I know it's not all perfection in moviemaking with no cracks or flaws, but it is a hell of a diamond they crank out, leagues beyond the competition. This was made overwhelmingly apparent by the dreck I was forced to sit through for the preview trailers, each a sad offering in the 3D animated genre that Pixar itself created.

For Wall-E, it's just another reason to gush and laud over an unequalled level of art and creativity that never seems to stop coming from the parties involved. Some people like to talk about the solidarity of the story, others the characters, and others the technical proficiency of the animation and environments. Me, I tend to lean towards the art itself, and the design therein. Wall-E is a gorgeous film, finding an abstract beauty in the opening of Earth's sad legacy and evolving into a razor sharp Asimovian futurist paradise. The forced warmth of Wall-E's existence on a bleak Earth is told not only by character but by color, flawless in execution and full of endless lessons in mood and emotion told through palettes, lighting, and composition. Transitioning to the stark setting of deep space among the falsely active dormancy of the human society we are shown the cold but cool precision of an automated lifestyle; a design sense as detailed and coordinated as the robots that run it. God damn is it pretty.

The story is one that moves along at a steady pace and grows on you stronger and stronger, eventually moving into the trademark, frantic energy of a Pixar finale. The story is completely character driven, focused solely on the titular Wall-E and his appeal. This despite that fact that there is no dialogue for what might be the first hour of the film, such is the strength of Wall-E's personality, which I would think in the hands of lesser men would have come across as schmaltzy and cliché. Yet, man if that Wall-E isn't a cute little bugger.

Lastly I would hope-- hope with all my heart-- that the real message of the film sinks its teeth into the younger generations that watch it, keeping a death grip on their precious little psyches long enough to change The Way We Do Things. If that can be achieved, I will gladly accept the world of Wall-E as fanciful fiction instead of distinct probability.


On a supplementary note to Wall-E, the opening short, "Presto," may be one of the flat-out best cartoon shorts I've seen in my adult life. While drinking in the pure fun and comedy that is Presto, it really is a shame to think of what passes as children's entertainment these days. What with executive and marketing driven network fare that has sucked all the awe and joy out of the average, contemporary cartoon. Presto calls back to the days of Warner Bros. gold, where we must remember that cartoons were made for the primarily adult movie going audience, it's just that they were so good it was impossible for children not to enjoy them, too. Sadly it was all downhill from there (as John K. likes to say, "the hippies ruined everything"). Thankfully with Presto we see that the true cartoon is alive and well, and in very good hands. I can only look forward to more.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Hogs & Heifers

Whilst still in Vegas, I made my way Downtown with some friends to Hogs & Heifers, which is usually a straight-up biker bar (described as the original Coyote Ugly, bar-dancing and all) just so happened to be hosting some classic cars in the lot for the evening's celebration. There was a rather entertaining show by a 3-piece rockabilly band inside, but I did take some time to wander the lot and snap some cool pics.

Check out the car gallery here.

Friday, June 27, 2008

A night at the Double Down

It was actually last weekend that I made my way thru another Vegas bacchanal, and I'm just now getting to reporting on events. Friday night seemed like a perfect time to hit the doghouse staple, the Double Down.

There was a full slate of bands playing and a decent crowd, and I got to hook up with some old friends and have a few beers alongside the rockin'.

Above is my buddy Pete and the lovely Cassie. Pete's own band was not playing that night, seemed I just missed the timing of my trip for his next gig which is this weekend.

The highlight of the night was the performance by Dead Birds and Blind Kids, who tore it up real nice-like. Their set included the punk infused "Grandma's a Fucking Racist," Patrick Duffy," "Bill O'Reilly/It's Clobberin' Time," and the toe tapper "In Spite of All the Good Princess Leia's Done for the Rebel Alliance, She Still Made Out with Her Brother and That Makes Her an Incestuous Whore in My Book."

Good times, good times.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

New Comics Day

Would you like to know about the books I purchased this week? That's good, because I'm going to tell you.

New Avengers
What if this was the Fantastic Four?
Fantastic Four
Green Lantern
Umbrella Academy TBP

Umbrella Academy is the score of the week. I knew this would be a book I'd enjoy collected and this does look to be the case. It's a keen package and the art is even keener. Perfectly okay by me of Dark Horse stopped the floppies and just made these. A book at the level of quality of Umbrella Academy certainly would not need to "sell" most readers with the opening monthly installments.

New Avengers hops back with Jim Cheung drawing again and it is niiiice. And the ish has the "real" origin of Spider Woman! A intriguing and compelling tale with flashbacks that cover years of this Invasion in the making. Bendis, I don't know what to do with you sometimes.

What If--? is a tribute issue to Mike Wieringo, a bittersweet one at that. Apparently Wieringo started this story but it was left sadly incomplete upon his death. His pages are here, and the rest of the book is completed by an impressive list of his colleagues. Art Adams, Stuart Immonen, Alan Davis, and Mike Allred are only a few notables in the book's stellar lineup of contributors. The story itself culls from one of my all time favorite FF Arcs (#347-349), Wieringo's pages, while few, remain as fresh as ever. We'll miss that guy.

Over in Fantastic Four proper... dammit. I said I wouldn't buy the single issues any more. But then I did.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Vegas is Right.

The desert sun ain't so bad when you sleep through most of it. Night time is the right time to bypass the hipsters and feauxlitists, making way to the joints that don't care who you are and never will. The best times are had where the crust is anything but upper, in the dank and painted walls of drinking establishments that still let you soak your clothes with smoke and the booze that goes with it. Later still it's not hard to find oneself where the skin is plentiful and the clothes are few, attention garnered proportionate to reproductions of Andrew Jackson. With a brain swimming in the remnant bliss of intoxication by both imbibement and experience, a peek outside shows the faintest glimpse of dawn's sparkle edging just so over the horizon. That's the sign to find your way back before the degrees start climbing to match your Blackjack win, in hopes of a deep sleep and dreams of what the next evening will have in store.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Happy Accidents

Designers have a term called "happy accidents," when an unforeseen glitch somewhere in the production line produces an oddly pleasant result. One of the more common is offset plates, which happens on ginormously large print runs when plates of separate color inks gradually grow out of sync.

This paper cup from La Salsa- and presumably hundreds more-- fell victim to such a thing, but shows us a delightful unintended ghost drop and slight overprint.

Some designers even mock the look of offset plates or overprint on purpose, but I like it best when it happens "in the wild."

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Incredible Hulk: Smashy Smashy

What is weird about The Incredible Hulk is that it's not a relaunch, reboot, or a "requel" as it's been called, in suspect to "make up for" Ang Lee's 2003 version (which has its own batch of weirdness). What we got here is just another in a long line of Hollywood trends: turning and old TV show into a movie. This latest version of the Hulk doesn't even try to hide its roots in the Bixby series of days past, it's a flat out continuation. In some ways it's disappointing, namely the origin. I always though the Hulk had a great origin for film, but that's yet to be adapted at all. As has been noted in other reviews such as at The Beat's, the Hulk's origin is told in an opening montage that likens to a flashback, for a movie that never existed.

But going in with low expectations, as I did, has its advantages. The movie isn't that bad-- I was fairly entertained. I don't think it has the impact of Iron Man, but there is plenty for any action film aficionado or comics reader to like. Almost too much, I can't imagine someone who knows nothing of the Hulk following more than the broadness of the story. What I felt was that the fanboys finally got everything they could want from a comic book movie, but at the expense of having it be anything more than a by-the-numbers adaptation.

There is tons of "Hulk Smash." It's close to Transformers in the wanton destruction of property department. And you know, it's fun to watch the Hulk go all aggro and rip cars in half and throw tanks around. A nitpick of mine is that this movie had the Hulk use shrapnel as weapons more often than not, which to me is a transparent translation of things to make into toys, but whatever. Hulk doesn't need accessories, Hulk has fists!

So while it's neat to watch the ridiculous CG money pit Hulk against Abomination, what I missed was any attempt to actually define what the Hulk is and its relation to Banner. A huge part of the comics, when it was at its best, was the turmoil of Banner dealing with the Hulk actually being a part of himself, a gamma-born psyche that fights to be set free without limits. The movie treats the Hulk more as an unwanted super power that Banner is afraid to unleash not because of what it represents, but for the superficial damage it does. Maybe I am asking too much from the new wave of comic book films.

As for the Hulk itself, he's just a big, nice, expensive CG animation that bounces around and hits things. He doesn't have the pathos of Gollum nor the subtlety of Yoda. Sure they try to hit you over the head with their attempt at that in a couple scenes, but it's lacking. Strangely Abomination has more personality, due likely to his extra non-human deformities. Though I must say I am extra critical in this department, and for all intents and purposes 'ol Jadejaws is a commanding presence when roaring in full theater surround sound.

Clearly after Iron Man and now The Hulk, movies are the new Marvel. Which makes me wonder why the Fantastic Four movies are so awful. Talk about needing a reboot!

BONUS! Hop over to io9 for a look at some concept art of Hulk and Abomination. "Frankenstein Hulk" would have been awesome!

The Hulks that Almost Were

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

No Comics Day

I was going to pick up the new ish of Teen Titans Year One, but it so happens DC solicitations from the day before yesterday list the availability of the collected trade. This before the series is even finished! Fuck that.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Stan Winston

I read that Stan Winston passed away over the weekend (Tim Russert's passing did not go unnoticed, either). Because of Star Wars, I grew up devouring everything I could about film special effects, from the classics into the digital age. Winston's name was ever-present with the likes of Harryhousen, Dykstra, and Tippet. The list of groundbreaking and just plain awesome films under Winston's magical touch is simply amazing. Terminator 2 may be my favorite of his, but right up to Iron Man he went out with a hell of a bang. Film and how films are made is due in no small part to much of his work.

Stan Winston was the man. And if he wasn't, he just built one.

Special-Effects Pioneer Stan Winston Dies at 62

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

New Comics Day

Has it been a week already? What have I been doing with myself?

Green Lantern Corps
Wonder Woman
Young Liars
Star Wars Rebellion

This is a great week for art. I'll start with Wonder Woman, whose story has been melding our heroine into Beowulf mythology. But Aaron Lopresti is just kicking ass here. Each and every panel is of a level of detail rarely seen, and at the same time is clear and readable. Wonder Woman has not looked this good in a long, long time. I don't know how tight Lopresti's pencils have been on these pages, but Matt Ryan's inks are a wonderful match that really sells it, and colors by Brad Anderson are highly complementary to the scenes and story. The color transitions between scenes are well done, especially the more exciting hero-centric ones (as opposed to the distracting Nemesis sub-plot, but still gorillas=cool). I'm loving that ll parties involved are paying attention.

Patrick Gleason has worked his way back to full time on Green Lantern Corps, which is also awesome. Gleason just rocks, now paired sweetly with Drew Geraci on inks. Guy Majors colors, no surprise things are looking good in that department, too. Gleason, again... he's got to be one of my favorite new artists that's hit the scene recently. His faces and expressions are impossible to ignore and he's quickly owning the definitive look of Guy Gardner.

I've been enjoying Young Liars, due in no little part to David Lapham. It's a quirky, fast-paced story and the heavy brushwork on so many faces and bodies is wonderful to page through. Over on Star Wars Rebellion, I've been following the work of Colin Wilson, who handles both the character and tech of the Star Wars world equally well. I'm particularly drawn to his wardrobe choices, and this ish has a B-Wing dogfight that's pretty amazing.

Side Note: I did peruse through Skar: Son of Hulk, and yes it is a very good looking book. Ron Garney has really sunk into a loose and flowing style that makes it look effortless, when it certainly must not be. Tho the book itself is a likely collected purchase for me.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Two Comics Day

Just a couple Marvels.

Secret Invasion
Young X-Men

Ah Yes, Secret Invasion. The pic you see here is by the able pen of Leinil Francis Yu, it is a 1 in 50 variant cover. It was available for $50. Wow, we still do this? The thing is, it's a great cover, I find it more striking than the regular edition for obvious reasons, even if it's just a nice painting slightly related to the story. I would have liked the opportunity to purchase it for cover price. Alas... it is still beat out by the much more expensive Steve McNiven variant. Variant covers for Secret Invasion seem to be all the rage. It would be alot easier to get on board with (and cooler) if the covers were in fact unannounced, and you know, secret.

For the story itself: people yell at each other, the super skrulls attack, and someone we all know and love is a skrull. Maybe. Tho it sure is pretty. Plus... Nick Fury and the howling commandos?

I've already been talking about how much I like Paquette's art, but X-Story is already wearing thin. It is difficult to start caring for the new guys, and Cyclops by himself is a bit out of place. And there seems to be a ton of history I'm not privy to (big surprise). But you know it's been hard for me to follow any X book for a very long time, the X-Way is just something you grow out of I think.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Awesome Venture Bros. New Season is Awesome

"What say you in defense?"

"You guys are dicks."