Monthly Archives: January 2012

The Unwritten: Tommy Taylor and the Bogus Identity

The first thing to say about Tommy Taylor and the Bogus Identity is that it is undeniably a rip-off of Harry Potter. The second, more important thing to say about it is that while the first thing I said is not particularly true, I do have the sense that Mike Carey was trying[1] to pull off a comfortable homage before he yanked the carpet out from beneath the reader’s feet, in much the same way that The Wheel of Time rips off Tolkien for about 100 pages. Which is to say, I have started (and more importantly, will be continuing) a new graphic novel series, this time on loan to me instead of on loan from me. Still, I may well buy them too, ’cause, they’re good.

Unfortunately[2], I don’t really know enough to say where The Unwritten is going as a series. I know it is playing with the role of literature in life, in a mysterious and (to me, but I’m a sucker for lit-as-pop-culture) exciting way. I know that the main character is a little boring right now, in the way that characters who stand in for the audience always are, but I am extremely interested in two of the secondary characters and also I trust that Tom Taylor will coalesce into a real person once he gets his feet back under him[3], so that doesn’t bother me right now. And I know above all that I want to know more. Plus, perfectly satisfactory art if you care about that kind of thing. The introduction by Bill Willingham of Fables fame (while overselling the book to the point that I got halfway through it before I was sure if I was in or not) indicated I should know who Peter Gross is, but I don’t. Possibly you do?

[1] and I daresay succeeding
[2] at least in one sense, completely awesomely in another
[3] After all, Carey pulled the rug out on his audience-stand-in at the same time he did the audience, pretty much by definition.

Underworld: Awakening

I had to rewatch Underworld first, plus also read a Wikipedian summary of Underworld: Evolution, because it turns out that my review of that movie didn’t tell me a damn thing about what happened in it. Which I think is more good than bad, but in the moment it was decidedly inconvenient. And then I still didn’t have to watch the third movie, since the other two already explain in flashback everything that happens in it. Between a wholly retreaded plot and no trace of Kate Beckinsale in skintight leather, I really can’t figure out what someone was thinking when they made it. But the upshot of all this is that I was able to go into Underworld: Awakening without being confused at all. Mind you, probably none of it was necessary, since they had a brief synopsis at the beginning of the movie, as if to acknowledge that not everyone has the films readily available and it’s been like six years since one that mattered.

I guess what made me think I needed to watch them in advance was previews that talked about Kate’s vampiric Selene having been imprisoned for twelve years, and I couldn’t really remember anything like that. Well, it turns out that it’s because there was no such imprisonment; instead, the movie starts off with Selene and Michael Corvin on the run in the aftermath of humanity discovering the existence of vampires and werewolves and reacting, well, predictably. And then she gets captured, and then twelve years pass, all in the prologue of this movie. So, oops. Still, Underworld is not a terrible movie, so it’s not like I am filled with regret. Anyway, she eventually gets free, as implied by the time limit on the imprisonment, finds her leathers and then starts looking for Michael again. I suppose Scott Speedman is holding out for the next sequel, because there were lots of sidetrackings that happened, including some kind of big conspiracy! Which is about all there is to say about that without spoilers, but I’d just like to add that this, as with the first and probably the second movie, was not terrible. And also, I really kind of dig ruthless Selene. (Not that she was chock full of ruth before, but I’m confident there was some there, as how else to explain the contrasting dearth today? (Well, okay, yesterday is when I saw the movie, and the series is set in purposefully non-specific modern day, anywhen from 1990 to 2020.))

The Adventures of Tintin

You know that guy Tintin? Because The Adventures of Tintin definitely assumes you do. Anyway, I gathered that he’s a reporter who has accidental adventures, I guess? I also gathered that he’s significantly smarter than everyone around him, except for his dog, who is as much smarter than him as he is than the other people. This is irritating only because he should be smart enough to notice how smart the dog is. But I digress.

So this guy Tintin goes on the slowest adventure ever, accompanied by his dog, a few model ships, the descendant of a sea captain, the Perils of Alcoholism, oh, and some bad guys, because they want the treasure (probably) too. Perhaps objectively, or perhaps because I had been given miscalibrated expectations, the movie was just way way way too slow for me to maintain interest. That said, there’s a five or ten minute sequence in Casablanca[1] that was worth the price of admission, if perhaps not sitting through the rest of the film.

Or, maybe if I knew and therefore cared more about Tintin, the rest would have worked out? But mainly I just wanted the dog to take over. And, while I’m here, the animation was pretty dang okay. More realistic than not, but no uncanny valley moments. So that, at least, was entirely awesome.

[1] Well, I think so? Probably Morocco anyway. I forget.

Ultimate Hawkeye

Like Ultimate X and Ultimate Fallout, Ultimate Hawkeye is serving as a bridge to the latest realignment of comics in the Ultimate universe. I don’t think of it as a reboot precisely, although perhaps I should, because no continuity has been jettisoned. (Well, that’s not entirely true, I should reserve judgment on the Spider-Man question.) Plus there’s just a whiff of backstory on Clint Barton, who really hasn’t had much happen to him (besides be a consistently reliable superhero) since his family was murdered one of the times the Ultimates were betrayed from within. Although I think I have been underrating this Hawkeye up ’til now, simply because it’s easy to do that to someone who isn’t flashy or wearing a weird purple costume in favor of just being predictably competent. Which is to say, I found a new appreciation for him in the book, and what more do you need?

But, and here’s where the bridge thing comes up. Because Hawkeye (along with some assistance in the second half of the story, but I won’t spoil things by saying from whom) is sent to a fictional alliance of southeast Asian countries who are being attacked by superhumans. You know, like happens kind of all the time these days. Of course, before you’re halfway through the first issue, he has uncovered a conspiracy to remove the X mutation from humanity and simultaneously create an army of similar folks (probably stronger if no less predictably powered) with a secret formula, only it blew up in basically everyone’s faces and is quickly turning into a big, world-changing event. And Nick Fury explains to him that (save the forthcoming assistance), Hawkeye is on his own, because there are two other, much bigger and more important, problems that he, the Ultimates, and the Avengers have to deal with instead of helping out with this thing. Details to come in upcoming Ultimate Marvel books, it is implied, but seriously? This is the sideshow nobody cares about? I fear I may be in for some major-league exhaustion from these stories, if they’re as all-action and no-time-for-character-development as I am reading in, between the lines!

Naamah’s Blessing

Hey, I was right. Moirin did go to America! (Also, wow, I was annoyed at that book.) Luckily, I was not annoyed at this book, which is much more of a sequel to the first book of the trilogy than it is to the second. The downside is, after nine books in this series and countless more in its genre, I’m out of things to say. Moirin headed off to America and hung out with Incans and Mayans and Aztecs (probably only two of these, but which two?) and also resolved her destiny with a certain demon-summoner of her former acquaintance, and there were battles and politics and magic, and all of it was mostly predictable, but who cares, they were travelling to new places and meeting new people, and if you’re into that, you already know it after nine books. Nothing stands out as new and amazing, but since the last thing that stood out was an aggravation, I don’t mind so much.

So, would I recommend Naamah’s Blessing? No, for a number of reasons. But I would recommend Kushiel’s Dart unreservedly, and if you eventually got here, I’d nod to you in shared recognition, and we’d say “Cool.”


When the credits rolled on Haywire, I immediately felt kind of dumb for not having already realized it was a Steven Soderbergh movie. It just filled that obvious space in my head, the moment I knew. Not that he writes a lot of action, but when he does, it is exactly this kind of kinetic, stylized to the point of nearly being its own character, loudly impactful action. And certainly the characters are all Soderberghian ciphers, begrudgingly giving up any hint of motivation that you do not fill in for yourself. And the plot is I think Soderberghian too, in that it is easily summarized in one line that doesn’t exactly belie hidden depths, even though they exist. Upon reflection, I’m not sure why I like his movies. On paper, it seems like I would hate every one of them, but somehow they’re always engrossing. I should try to figure that out sometime.

Oh, as for the one line plot, there’s this awesome spy chick who gets burned (a la Burn Notice the TV show, obviously, but with a completely different mentality) and then goes on a hunt through every person involved in her last mission, including her superiors, to find out why and take her revenge. …okay, technically that was more than one line, but I bet if I were the kind of person who was actively interested in terse editing, I could have trimmed it down.

Fables: War and Pieces

717LwHDwIOLA little bit hard to believe: I am still more than three years behind on the Fables series. There are just a lot of these, you know? It’s not that I mind being behind, especially when I compare with having to wait six months for every new Walking Dead. It just caught me by surprise that it’s as far as all that. I suppose it caught me even more by surprise when twinned with the realization that this book marks the climax the stories have been building towards since basically the very beginning.

Yep, true story. The Fables of Fabletown, around a brief spy-heavy interlude that I kind of loved, have launched their long-planned war against the Empire that drove them out of their homelands lo these many centuries past. And as you can probably see from the title, War and Pieces, that is the main focus of the entire book. Which is as it should be. So I guess what really surprises me about being three years behind is that this is the kind of war where it’s hard to envision what comes next. Either Fabletown loses, its back broken and our mundy world now ripe for plunder while the survivors fight a desperate holding action and things get really grim, or else Fabletown wins, and, well… this is what they’ve been working for all along. What comes next? Apparently, three more years’ worth of stories, minimum, either way. When I figure out more, I suppose I’ll let you know.

Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood

acrom_360_mI wonder if there’s a new season of The Borgias starting on Sunday or so, or whether it instead got cancelled. I wonder this primarily because of my current familiarity with the characters and some of their life events, courtesy of my completing Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood over the weekend. Because, see, after the happy ending in Assassin’s Creed II, the first thing that happens is the Borgias destroy Ezio’s home in revenge for that golden apple fiasco under the Vatican. It’s a whole big thing that won’t make enough sense to be spoiler if you haven’t played the first game and, if you have, basically it’s an excuse to get him injured and friendless so that he starts off the game not a god walking among men. Whether this is a good decision is left to the individual player, but I suppose it is at least an understandable one since someone could plausibly pick up this game first.

After that, it’s pretty much the same game, which is an entirely good thing. You climb and run and sneak and murder your way through early 16th C. Rome in an attempt to stop the Borgia and their Templar allies from controlling the fate of the world, with all kinds of side missions and secret explorations and memories of Ezio’s buried past along the way, not to mention the near-future modern day shenanigans in which it’s apparent that someone is helping Desmond Miles from afar, because he may not be able to trust all of the people helping him explore Ezio’s memories. To put it simply, this the best serious sandbox series ever, and the prettiest sandbox series ever regardless of plot seriousness. (The best non-serious sandbox series is Saint’s Row.) If you like to look at the beauties of the past, and you like to climb around on everything, you will love this game. If you like conspiracy theories and dark futures, you will also love this game. If you like both, this is your candy store right here. And there’s already another sequel out!

A word or two about the multiplayer: extremely fun among friends who have played the same approximate amount of time as each other, suffers from the modern theory that playing online a lot isn’t enough of an unbalancing reward, so we will also give you levels and new toys with which to crush newcomers who for some reason can’t play online 12 hours a day for the first month of release. I’m not sure how to solve this problem, and realistically there is no way beyond me accepting that multiplayer online has passed me by for the most part. (But yay for friends.)


I gotta say, that movie Kick-Ass? Was an extremely faithful adaptation of the comic that spawned it. I can’t even think of much new to say. Ultra-violent? Check. Extremely funny? Also check, and probably often at the same time, which I suppose says something about me.[1] While it was not nearly as much of a meditation on the place of costumed heroes in the world, I do not know if that’s because the movie actually did something overt on the topic or because, having already had the thought, it wouldn’t make any sense to think of it again for exactly the same reason. The art was cartoonish, which both softened and emphasized the massive quantities of blood and also gore.

Yeah, sorry, I even tried talking about art, but that never gets me very far, and the truth is, they really are this much the same on story/character. So I can either cut and paste or else leave you here. But to be clear, I would recommend either unreservedly (there’s the violence, but I already mentioned it and now trust you to take it into account your own damn self), and I am looking forward to the sequel! (To the book for sure; I think there’s a movie sequel coming too, though?)

[1] Not anything new, but still.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011)

MV5BMTgwNjEwODcxNF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNjU3MDY5Ng@@._V1__SX1217_SY911_You know those Swedish books everyone has read and Swedish movies everyone has seen, and now there’s an American version of the same stuff? Yeah, I never did any of that, so I showed up for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo knowing nothing except what was in the previews, that an investigative journalist and a punk hacker join forces to solve a forty or fifty year old murder. I will add for the purposes of anyone who did come in like me with no idea of what was going on that said team-up, while natural and organic, took a good long while to accomplish, so it was kind of unsettling (from a story balance perspective) to watch Daniel Craig all embroiled in plot progression while this justifiably angry chick was just kind of living her life and developing her character and seemingly completely uninvolved with anything else in the other scenes.

The pay-off, of course, is that Lisbeth Salander is Incredibly Cool. So, totally worth it, just briefly unsettling. Speaking of unsettling things, I should mention every other part of the movie, because I assure you it does not pull any punches. You will see things nobody should really ought to see, and you will meet a spectacularly dysfunctional (yet entirely plausible, just like the eventual team-up was from earlier) family, and you will probably care about what happens to any and all of them. Which is part of why the “no punches pulled” part of the movie is even rougher than you think it is. And you will find that research can in fact have dramatic tension. You may find that Trent Reznor’s soundtrack, while every bit as meaningfully atmospheric as the act of filming a scene outside in Sweden is, sometimes drowns out the dialogue. So that’s unfortunate but it’s really the only thing I didn’t like. Rumor has it that the book is pretty hard to read, so I suppose I’ll just stick to the sequels.

One thing I wonder, though: are we meant to care that she has a dragon tattoo? Other than its existence, I could not find any underlying purpose for it, neither in subtext nor plain text alike. It’s cool if it was just an identifier, but I can’t help wondering. (Another thing I wonder is whether it is possible for a Swedish film to be non-bleak? Is it like a climate thing, or does the happy stuff just never get exported?)