Tag Archives: black comedy

Krampus

MV5BNDc0ODk4MjMzNF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNjU3NzkzNzE@._V1__SX1859_SY893_Bavarian Alps folklore speaks of a being who, rather than merely dumping coal into stockings, takes a more… biblical approach to the annual judgment of naughty children. Fast forward a few hundred years and cross an ocean to where the super-jerky versions of the Griswolds and their in-laws are preparing to deck the halls and/or each other in stereotypical horrible family style, and who wouldn’t expect Krampus to drop in for a visit? Well, besides most of these folks, and boy are they in for a shock!

The confusing thing about this movie is that by all rights it should be terrible. It felt like, and bear with me here, because this next statement defies legitimacy. It felt like Troll 2, except if that movie had a talented acting pool and a script that made sense. To which there are three possible responses, I think. Lack of reference knowledge, disbelief in the possibility of those words existing in that order, or realization of what very high praise that is, in the unlikely world where it’s possible to be said. Mostly, if you’re lucky, lack of reference knowledge.

Long story short: as Christmas horror goes, this rises well above the pack. I don’t even resent the PG-13 rating, except for how it would have allowed more realistic language if rated R.

The Boys: The Innocents

boys_vol_07I find that the triumph I should have felt at the second half of Ennis’ The Boys beginning with the plot turn I had been awaiting since pretty much the first book has turned to ashes in my mouth, since it simultaneously removed my empathy for usually likable lead Hughie, who was of course twice as likable for being based on Simon Pegg.

Since reviews should last longer than one sentence if you are not Mighty God King, I will add that despite my belief that any redemption from Hughie’s horrible actions will feel contrived or else insufficient, I’m going to continue with the series for a few reasons. There are still a handful of characters who I do not despise, and a handful more who I am interested in learning more about. Also, there’s something big brewing in the superhero sphere, and the plotting has been good enough so far that I could probably choke past my dislike of humanity’s erstwhile saviors to find out how the actual savioring works out.

Then again, I need to shop for and buy the remaining volumes, since my free supply has run out as of this one, so who knows what I’ll actually manage? Because, ashes, I tell you. Ashes.

The Boys: Self-Preservation Society

boys6My research indicates that, having finished Volume 6 of  Ennis’ The Boys series, I am halfway done. (Also, that all of them are published, so that’s nice.) This particular volume is pretty much just going through the motions, with no real plot development to speak of.

Which, okay, it’s not an especially fair claim, but I can’t help being disappointed in a book which, when all is said and done, provides no real movement. Sure, the author has ticked off his “I’d better parody the Avengers” checklist, including the spectacularly over-the-top inclusion of a Nazi super-soldier as their leader.[1] And yes, it’s nice to get origin stories on the three supporting members of our titular band of ne’er-do-wells. (Except for how I found the Frenchie’s origin to be actively annoying. But I could be biased.) But that’s just not enough.

It’s strange to realize, I guess, that the most interesting story and character development occurred among the bad guys this time, is all.

[1] Probably I’d be less irritated if it hadn’t felt exactly like a tickbox instead of an actual event. Also, if it hadn’t seemed so nakedly steeped in shock-value. Also, if there had been consequences.

The Boys: Herogasm

the_boys5In its way, Herogasm is pretty clever. See, it starts off with the concept that big superhero crossover events are all faked, and while the various teams are off “fighting off the alien menace” (or whatever it is this year), they’ve really taken a week or two off at an orgy resort, to recharge their batteries. And since the biggest conceit of the Boys series is how superheroes are basically all horrible people who make the world a consistently worse place, I can appreciate what Ennis is doing here.

Of course, then he and his artist take this premise as a challenge to draw and write the filthiest scenes they can come up with, and they keep throwing it at you nonstop, and at some point even my prurience threshold was overcome. I like to hope this was the point, but I imagine I’m fooling myself there.

But then (and here’s the clever bit), suddenly there’s all kinds of deep politics, both in the present-day and flashback portions of the story, bubbling up around the non-stop porn, and before you know it really big events have occurred and you were still trying to figure out if you were tired of the nipple parade and you almost missed it. I’m definitely not saying that Ennis was trying to slide some mocking social commentary over on his readers here; like I said, I’m not even sure he was trying to make the point that I should have been getting tired of it in the first place. But I am saying that it was an artful job of playing to his strengths.

The Boys: We Gotta Go Now

618Jw8k7spLIf it looks like I’m reading slowly, it’s because I’ve been hyper-focused on old Marvel stuff, both the ongoing acquisition and consumption thereof. But I finally read the fourth volume in Garth Ennis’ The Boys series, so that’s nice at least. It occurs to me that this is an incredibly aptly named team, insofar as its one female member (cleverly named “The Female”) never speaks and has yet to actually do anything that was her own event on the side, unlike all the other team members. I pretend to myself, each new book, that we’ll suddenly learn something about her. Maybe a name of some kind. (I will say that she’s not also sexualized, so that’s… something?)

But anyway, though, the ongoing war between Butcher and his team versus the supes continues on, this time extending to Ennis’ X-Men parody, with its vast number of teams and splinter groups. Which made a fine, albeit occasionally horrific, story. But I’m really ready for the meat of this series. Our main character, Hughie, who I probably mentioned is based on actor Simon Pegg? He and his girlfriend have been carefully concealing themselves from each other this whole time, and it’s a ticking time bomb, and I really want to see what happens when the truth gets revealed. Downside: probably that will start the roller-coaster ride toward a series climax, and Ennis probably isn’t done poking fun at superhero comic tropes and standards just yet.

So, okay, but at least give me some character development on the Female and the Frenchman. ‘Cause seriously, especially that Female thing I mentioned back at the start? It looks bad. (It probably is bad instead of just appearing that way, and probably having the whole plot laid out in front of me would not change that, but since it isn’t yet, it feels premature to judge. He tricked me on the homophobia. Sort of.)

The Boys: Good for the Soul

Each volume of The Boys (okay, out of three, so what do I know?) has gotten better by, er, leaps and bounds. Good for the Soul was exactly that, for Hughie who is finding a little peace in the midst of his overturned life as a member of the Boys, the group of folks who watch the watchmen; for Annie, who is finding some small sliver of the same peace even as her eye-opening stint with the world’s premiere supergroup, the Seven, is leaving her more and more jaded; and especially for me, who is relieved to find that Ennis was not a one trick pony and can still plot with gradual subtlety instead of just gay hamster jokes. (Man, the first book in this series really didn’t sit well with me, did it?)

Also: cool backstory sequence! But mainly I’m excited to watch the endgame I can already see coming, when it’s Romeo and Juliet against both the Montagues and the Capulets; and just like Shakespeare’s tale, neither side has exactly covered itself in glory, which makes it all the more pleasant that Hughie and Annie are actually good people in the eye (for now) of this still-brewing storm, and not just flint-and-tinder angsty teenaged plot-devices.

The Boys: Get Some

Lastly, I read the second book in The Boys series. Considering that I’ve also finally started reading old Marvel comics again (April, 1978 presently), three graphic novels between every book may very well be too many comics in a row. ‘Cause, I mean, jeeze. I was actually getting tired of the whole shebang last night, and I don’t think it was because I disliked Get Some.

For one thing, Ennis seems to have listened (through time!) to my complaints about the presentation of homophobia in the prior volume. The book is still 100% definitely written (as the name perhaps implies) for teenage boys smoking behind the dumpster[1], but at least the joint got classed up a bit. The downside is that this series feels really episodic, at least right now. Yes, there’s no question that an arc exists, and in the style of Joss Whedon where every episode has some callback to either the ongoing plot arc or ongoing character arcs rather than the Chris Carter style where three times a year the Smoking Man shows up in the credits and you can multitask through every other episode. And I was okay with both episodes presented in this book (although the Batman / Nightwing knock-off was pretty trite overall), but after how excited I was to see multiple sides of the “superheroes are all destructive, narcissistic douchebags who need to be controlled, or better yet, killed” argument that was set up last time, having the relevant characters only show up a couple of times on the far end of a phone definitely knocked the wind out of my sails.

Contrariwise, that was the pilot, and these are the early days. Preacher taught me that Garth Ennis can plot big, so he gets a pass for now. (Plus, despite having never smoked behind a dumpster, I am secretly still 13 some of the time.)

[1] Or more likely for the significantly older males in arrested development[2] that said teenage boys eventually become, considering the age warnings that must surely exist on anything Ennis has ever written
[2] This month!

The Boys: The Name of the Game

It’s not that it’s unusual for me to start a new series now and again. But it’s highly unusual for me to read three graphic novels between actual prose books; still I’ve had a batch of these books on loan for a good long time, and it seems the fairest thing to do is burn through them as quickly as possible. Which is to say, you know, not literally all in a row, that’s crazy talk. But one per graphic novel break? Most definitely.

Way back at the beginning of my time in graphic novel reviews, I read Garth Ennis’ Preacher series. It would be fair to say I enjoyed it, with the despite / because-of dichotomy of the hyper-violence and the hyper-sacrilege alike to be left to the reader to decide. I think I’m correct in saying that The Boys is the first thing I’ve read by Ennis since. Not to worry, it is still pretty violent, at least going by The Name of the Game[1], and sacrilege is less relevant this time around anyway. Also, it made a nice companion-by-contrast piece with Powers, since that is also about people dedicated to dealing with super-powered persons in the world, those times when they fail to police themselves. (Which, in my long and still-stalled history with classic Marvel, not to mention a sizable number of other volumes over the years, computes to practically always.) The difference is that this particular policing group is comprised of people who really dislike and distrust the super-powered community, and are not afraid to show it, whether via blackmail, veiled threats, or bloody violence.

So, yeah, I’m prepared to keep going. The superheroes are mostly horrible people, and I am so far enjoying that contrast with the normal situation. Plus, there are hints of a Romeo/Juliet scenario in the works, and I do want to see how that goes and if I will end up hating some of the nominal protagonists of the piece when it all shakes out. (This seems more possible than it might otherwise when you learn that a sizable portion of the Boys are psychotic.) But I’m pretty disappointed by the homophobia in this one. I can deal with the misogyny, because it serves the plot in a meaningful way, and I expect there to be a payoff. But the homophobia was not only puerile[2], it was irrelevant. Am I really supposed to believe that, in 2005 or so, someone would have to take a leave of absence from their supergroup because he had decided to out himself as gay?

[1] If anything, I anticipate that Volume One is going to seem light and cheerful by comparison to future events.
[2] And believe me, it was. Gerbil jokes? Seriously?

Bad Teacher

It is hard to think about writing when you are reading all the time! Well, when you are reading with a purpose, and there are discussions to be had, and all that. But still, I’m two reviews behind right now, and things can only get worse from here, so it’s time to suck it up and not turn the page for the next ten minutes or so. (I mean, some of these reviews take a long time to write, don’t get me wrong, but the rewriting is never more than five minutes, and this one just doesn’t have the feel of difficulty or for that matter length, is all I’m saying.)

So anyway, I saw Bad Teacher last week. (I’ve been really good about the summer action epics, but falling a little behind on the comedies I guess? Anyway, only three movies I need to see right now, so it’s all good in any event.) First of all, it made me laugh, so that’s your answer to that question. Second of all, I’m pretty sure it didn’t have the troubling sexism in Hollywood’s comedy genre at large, making this a surprisingly good year if you’re into that kind of thing.[1] Third of all, you should avoid this movie if you have a problem with bad people, because the title is not lying. Cameron Diaz is shallow in the worst way, which is not enough I suppose to make for a bad person by itself, but when you watch the lengths to which she is willing to stoop in order to achieve her personal MacGuffin[2] while avoiding any amount of accountability toward the children she’s teaching, well… I suppose the part where we expect teachers to be better people than the common stripe is working against her, but be that as it may; she really, really is a bad teacher. Yet somehow, I ended up rooting for her. Script or charisma? Beats me! (Also, Jason Segel is awesome, as always.)

[1] Because, Bridesmaids, right? And I know, I know, how do two datapoints make for a good year? By comparing to the past, yo.
[2] Breast implants. Seriously.

The Hangover Part II

The Hangover Part II is the perfect sequel, in that the exact same movie was made for a second time. Everything I liked about The Hangover, I liked here too. It’s not that I like humor based on other people’s discomfort. I do sometimes, but to a pretty limited degree. What I really like is humor based on situations that are spiraling out of control. And if waking up in a room in Bangkok with no memory of the previous night, a severed finger, a missing wedding party member, and a stray monkey isn’t out of control, not many things would be.

Still, after that, the untangling what actually happened and trying to make sure the wedding goes off and finding all kinds of hilariously horrible situations along the way, like I said, same movie. So there’s hardly anything to add. I just dig the genre, is all. (And I hope that I never have anyone like Zack Galifianakis’ character in my life, ever. I like the idea of inexplicable, out of control adventures in my life, I do. I just want them to be accidental. And not involve frozen mountain passes or blood-thirsty, one-eyed warlords. Already covered those.)