Monthly Archives: April 2008

Iron Man (2008)

mv5bmtcznti2oduwof5bml5banbnxkftztcwmtu0ntizmw-_v1_sy1000_cr006741000_al_Going to a sneak preview is a thing that… well, okay, I’ve done it pretty damn recently, but I haven’t been to an advance preview for a blockbuster that everyone in the world is going to see, at least not in a while. However, I have an awesome friend named Kara who has that skill where she knows every single person on the planet, and can therefore get into clubs or crowded restaurants sans reservation, that kind of thing. As a result, she received an astonishing number of passes to Iron Man last night. Enough to fill more than an entire middle row with people that she knows (many of them people I know as well, and not incidentally including me). And this is just not an unusual event around her. So, yay Kara!

And then, on top of being surrounded by awesome, there was the whole ‘crowd of people who all love this idea too’ that I’ve mentioned liking from time to time. The energy of a theater full of real fans, in a big event movie like this, is something I really dig. (Even though, sometimes, I felt a little like our row was appreciating everything on a more visceral level than the rest of the crowd. I don’t know if this is factual or just proximity to what I could hear best, and if it is true, I don’t how much to blame on the huge press section just below us in the middle.) The downside of crowds is that, even in shorts and a t-shirt, I was dying of heat by the final act. Too many people and lack of air-conditioning spells consequences, my friends. But they did sell me a milkshake, so that was pleasant.

The careful readers among you may be noticing that I haven’t said very much about the actual movie yet. There’s a good reason for this, which is that I don’t wish to set anyone’s expectations at an unfortunate level. Realize that my Iron Man experience essentially consists of the first couple of years of him in the comics, plus the first many years of his time with the Avengers, and whatever odds and ends I’ve heard about his doings in the Civil War thing that just happened, but my feeling is that the latter has no real bearing on anything for these purposes. But, with the amount of Iron Man experience I have, I’m prepared to say that this is the best Marvel movie that wasn’t Spider-Man.

Contributing factors to this claim include the awesomeness of Robert Downey Jr.’s portrayal of Tony Stark, more special effects than you can shake a pointed stick at, the tastefully understated but always clear and heartfelt interactions[1] between Tony and his friends (which casts a wider net than you may initially think), the ease with which origin story and Iron Man versus a bad guy were shoehorned into the same two hours, and I’ll have to reiterate how great Robert Downey Jr. was. Even though I’m only familiar with the 1960s versions of the characters, it’s instantly apparent that at least Tony Stark and Pepper Potts were meant to grow into these two characters when adjusted for modernity. There’s no way to ask for more than pitch perfect characterization in a comic book adaptation; if you have that, the rest is guaranteed to work, says me. And this? Did.

[1] Later, you’re going to realize that this is hilarious.

Zombie Strippers

mv5bmti5mtm4nta5mv5bml5banbnxkftztcwnzc0mtu2mq-_v1_sy1000_cr006681000_al_It’s probable, I think, that having provided the name of the film, there’s really nothing left to say. I mean, when a movie is named Zombie Strippers, is there really any other factor that’s going to go into your decision-making process? On the off-chance that there is, though, here I am!

But seriously, it’s pretty great. Okay, the acting is a little wooden towards the beginning, and okay, there’s a brief interlude after the initial outbreak during which both comedy and zombification are lacking, in favor of plain-jane stripping. But other than these things, there’s a lot more to like than you’d probably think. I mean, you’ve got stripper rivalries, a goody two-shoes girl forced to strip by circumstance, a philosophical zombie, a jawless zombie, a goth zombie, a zombie head, literal zombie-stripping, and even a lesbian zombie, plus Robert Englund as the awesomely sleazy strip club owner and some Transylvanian chick as the proprietress.

Mix all that with over-the-top political humor, deep (well, shallow, but still present) philosophical underpinnings, and more naked mayhem than you can shake a pointed stick at, and clearly this is one for the ages. I weep that all of these kinds of movies are direct-to-video these days; even with a mere handful of people in the theater, it was a clearly moving group experience for us all. You should’ve been there too!

The Forbidden Kingdom

True confessions time: I never really got deeply into kung fu movies. I mean, I watched Bruce Lee movies when I was a kid, because they were just there for the taking on weekend afternoons on the UHF channels, and how could you not watch them? And it was awesome to see all the ass-kickery as Bruce (or whoever) made his way through an army of lesser men and then took out some bad guy or other in an ultimate confrontation. But I never really got into the storyline, just the chopsocky. And then later Jackie Chan appeared with his death-defying stunts of pure awesome but the same kind of storyline. And then Jet Li and his hidden snapper brought wuxia to my attention, with its emphasis on magical realism and Chinese folklore, and finally there were plots that I could get into, but I knew there was a ton of background to it that I somehow managed to miss on those long ago weekend afternoons, and I’ve felt kind of out of the loop ever since. It’s very tragic.

The thing about The Forbidden Kingdom is that it felt just like an introductory guide to the genre that didn’t assume you would know everything that was going on. A kung-fu-obsessed teen gets caught up in an armed robbery gone wrong, ends up with a magical staff, and is transported to historical China, where the staff must be returned to the Monkey King, lest the land be held forever under the tyranny of the Jade Warlord. Luckily, he has help in the form of traveling drunken scholar Jackie Chan, laconic monk Jet Li, and really hot chick-in-search-of-revenge Sparrow. He’ll need all their help, considering that the Jade Warlord has an army nearly as unstoppable as he is all by himself, plus a newly hired witch. (Upside of Chinese witches: they are also extremely hot, not bent and crone-y like lame Western witches. Downside: in addition to the magical powers, they also know kung fu. But, well, it’s historical China: everyone knows kung fu, is what I’m trying to say here.) And so our hero has to live out years of daydream fantasies, but with the complications that real life is a lot harder than imagination, and also a lot more deadly.

I got sidetracked by plot just now, but my point is, the hero-kid’s eyes gave me the window I needed. This was slightly ironic considering that he should have understood everything that was going on, what with his obsession with the movies.[1] But the huge blindspot between the movies and the reality (if you will) left a lot of room for explaining things to the audience. So if you’re like me and you accidentally missed this boat, or if you’ve got a kid that is in serious need of some Eastern cinema, The Forbidden Kingdom is a really great place to start. And if you’re not like me and you have been involved in these genres all along, well, my highly unscientific survey of one person says that it was pretty great through an old hand’s eyes as well.

[1] Or I guess it could be that in the movie’s reality, not unlike my apparent own, wuxia didn’t exist as a genre for him to have watched? If so, this was unclear at best and I think disproven by modern movie titles.

Fables: Animal Farm

I really am reading slowly lately. How else to explain a four month turnaround to cycle through my graphic novel serieses? At long last, I’ve made it to the second Fables volume, Animal Farm. As alluded to in the initial book of the series, not all of the exiled fables can mix with the mundanes in New York City. Talking pigs, just to toss out a random example, would be remarked upon in ways that a high-powered businesswoman, no matter how coal-dark her hair or snow-pale her skin, would not. And so, the giants and the dragons and the Three Bears and Louie from the Jungle Book and Chicken Little and pretty much anyone else you can think of along these lines are kept in a spacious preserve upstate.

As the arc opens, Snow White is off north to perform her biannual inspection of the farm, addressing the residents’ concerns and the government’s alike. She also hopes to reconnect with an estranged family member. What she does not expect is what she finds: a populace tired of being caged away, on the verge of full revolt, and planning an armed insurrection against the Adversary who has driven them from their original homes. An insurrection that, notably, hopes to keep its secrets until the plans have ripened. And thanks to his lack of popularity among the quadruped populace, there will be no Bigby Wolf to protect her this time.

Although the storyline flowed directly from the events of the first book, the tone was quite different. Rather than breezy noir, Animal Farm was packed with political rhetoric and literary references and a fair bit more darkness; thinking about it now, in fact, it was dark on a scale that you’d expect to see in the original fairy tales, before Disney and Charles Perrault took to clean them up. As much as I enjoyed the noir tone of Legends in Exile, Animal Farm pulled all kinds of strings with my more firmly entrenched literary scholar side. Good stuff, and I’m once again looking forward to volume three.

88 Minutes

So I saw 88 Minutes, starring Al Pacino and Leelee Sobieski and a fair number of recognizable TV actors. (Oh, and the serial killer guy is also mostly in movies, but I can’t remember his name. You’d know him if you saw him.) Anyway, Al Pacino is a forensic psychologist for the FBI who testified to get the serial killer locked up, but it’s questionable whether his testimony was completely accurate or fair, and maybe that guy actually isn’t a serial killer at all, y’know?

Therefore, come the scheduled day of execution, things go wonky. There’s a copycat killer in town for the first time in 8 years, unless it’s the real killer? And evidence points to Al, who meanwhile has been warned that he has 88 minutes to live by someone using trademark phrases the convicted guy used during the trial. And anyway, maybe Al really is the serial killer, in which case it’s the convicted guy and not the real serial killer threatening him? Plus, there has to be an accomplice, which might be his TA, or one of his students, or the creepy motorcycle guy who’s stalking around everywhere.

That right there is where the movie excelled. It ratcheted up levels of paranoia, both in Pacino and in the audience who couldn’t be sure about his real role in events, on a non-stop basis. And there were layer after oniony layer of new questions continuously being exposed. The problems I had weren’t really enough to bring me down from that high, but they were real problems.

For one thing, the script was often wooden. I would normally blame this on the actors, but I’ve seen these actors excel elsewhere, and I know that when you’ve got a Pacino on set with you, your game is naturally raised up anyway. So I listened to the lines themselves divorced from intonation, and hotty Alicia Witt bemoaning her choice to fall for her professor while he sits beside her in stony silence, almost as if she’s supposed to be having an internal monologue, that was a terrible scene. But I can’t believe it’s because she or Pacino are terrible, which leaves few options. I suppose the directing may have been bad instead; or perhaps they colluded, partner-style, one from prison? Oh, oops. Forget I said that. Anyway, that was an occasional issue, plus the ending kind of stalled out for me. But since I can’t point to any specific complaint, it may just tie back into the original issue, that the villainous monologue had the same kinds of problems as at other script-points.

But I’m seriously about the paranoid tension. They hit that one out of the ballpark.


41zwvtAmaML 51VSfzZ9TcLThat’s that, then. The Sword of Truth series is officially over, marking, what, the second open-ended series in my adult life to be completed by its author? (The only other one I can think of is King’s Dark Tower series, though it technically predates my adult life.) The final book, Confessor, very nearly drew me in. Despite the inevitable lecturing on the nature of good and evil as they relate to objectivism, there were some really solid moments. I’m thinking especially of the climactic rugby[1] game in the middle of the book and the events that followed after. I know that sounds like a ridiculous (if not outright parodic) thing to say, but I’m sincere on this point. There were 5 or 10 chapters of non-stop action that was probably as affecting as anything I’ve seen Goodkind write; my pulse was up, I was excited to see the outcome of the events (not just the game), I basically couldn’t put the book down. So, hooray for that.

My complaints, alas, outweigh that moment. I mean, I’ve accepted that objectivist screeds are an inevitable side-effect of the series, but there’s more to it than that in this book. It’s that the first screed was performed between two of the good guys, and since the good guys are all on the side of objectivism, it was required that one of them act angrily out-of-character so that the other could calm him down with the clear truth of things. It’s that a later one was performed by a (let’s say) 10 year-old girl, explaining to a (let’s say) 14 year-old girl that it was the teen’s own evil choices that had led her to this fate and she had nobody to blame but herself, moments before her flesh was devoured from her bones. It’s that the climactic screed was performed to an audience of, literally, every person in the entire world. (That’s right. Literally.) Plus, on a non-screed topic, it’s pretty clear that in the last 200 pages Goodkind still had about another book’s worth of story to tell, but was either out of screeds or tired of the series or wanted to stand by his promise that it was the final book, and so he had to rush things to a degree that was certainly all out of pace with the entire rest of the series, but that also[2] genuinely felt like important explanatory events were being left out. Plus plus, I’m nearly positive that elements of the series’ conclusion were lifted from Atlas Shrugged. But this last is not something I’m willing to elevate to the level of complaint, partly because I have thusfar failed to finish that book and partly because I’m pretty sure it would properly be called an homage, anyway.

If you’ve made it this far[3], you may as well finish the series out, right? Plus, that middle part of the book was, I reiterate, genuinely good.

[1] I mean, it’s not exactly rugby. But close enough for the purposes of this review.
[2] Because, and let’s be honest, it’s hard to see that as a negative at first blush. Objectivist screeds kind of break up narrative momentum, is what I’m trying to say here.
[3] And let’s face it: you haven’t.

Run Fatboy Run

Way back at the dawn of Delirium here, I watched a fantastic movie called Shaun of the Dead. It was a satirical zombie-laden romantic comedy which was also hilarious, and I cannot recommend it highly enough. Later, I watched Hot Fuzz due to it sharing some of the same actors, including the lead actor and co-writer, Simon Pegg. Hot Fuzz was a satirically over-the-top action movie, and it was also hilarious as well as highly recommendable.

At this point, it is fair to say that I am essentially sold on Simon Pegg. Therefore, it is no surprise that I’ve been to see his most recent starred and co-written movie, Run Fatboy Run. It’s maybe a little surprising I waited this long to see it, but sometimes life jumps in the way, all scary and monster-like and you have to run through the woods while it plods implacably behind you. You know, the kind of metaphor that would be pitch perfect if I were using it to segue into Shaun of the Dead? It maybe seems a little more out of place describing a straightforward romantic comedy about marathons; I suppose life doesn’t always do what we’d like, though, and there’s no help for that, and you just have to keep on putting one foot in front of the other nevertheless. (Oh, neat, the metaphor fixed itself!)

There’s no denying that this is exactly what Run Fatboy Run is. No satire of sports films here; the montage scene is even played straight. But there’s nothing wrong with these guys doing a normal romantic comedy, as long as they promise to remain hilarious. And, hooray, they have. If my heart was warmed at the same time, so be it! Plotwise, Simon Pegg leaves his extremely pregnant girlfriend at the altar, and 5 years later he’s finally starting to realize what a tremendous mistake that was, by virtue of spending time around her as they do the friendly visitation thing around their son. Only, now he’s an out-of-shape slob who hasn’t accomplished anything worthwhile in that same 5 years, and his ex- has a new boyfriend (will he turn out to be a prat?). So he decides to prove his love by running a marathon. Hijinx, as they say, ensue.

In review: yay, Simon Pegg, for being an awesome writer and actor both. Everyone should be watching all three of these movies!

Ex Machina: Tag

When I read the first volume of Ex Machina, I wasn’t very impressed. The story just failed to grab me, which was a pity since I like the author so much. But it got reasonably good reviews in the comments, plus my graphic novel buddy liked it, so I proceeded apace, which pace is more akin to a crawl these days, but I digress. The important part is that I’ve read the second volume, Tag, and now I’m sold.

It still has all of the high-level (and very occasionally, the nitty-gritty) politics of running New York City that Mayor Mitchell Hundred has to deal with, that I found simultaneously so well-written and so non-involving last time. But instead of a somewhat lifeless origin story holding the politics together, they threw in a solid plot with far-reaching ramifications that I’m excited about seeing further investigated, and the moreso since this is the same author as the superb Y: The Last Man series. He’s pretty well proven his ability to have a destination in mind for his world-spanning mysteries, which would be my only remaining concern at this point, the art having been solid. (Well, I could take or leave the faces, but everything else is dandy.) The mystery in question, interspersed among Hundred’s dating life and dealings with school vouchers and gay marriage, goes to the heart of his power over machines. Because whatever it was that gave him those powers appears to be cropping up in other places in New York now, and affecting other people in dire and possibly diabolical ways. Mysterious!


I hate writing this kind of review, because it will look like I’m complaining when in fact I really rather liked Leatherheads. George Clooney is always a delight with his charisma and spot-on comedic timing, Jim from the Office is, if not quite as awesome as on the Office, certainly a fine addition to the cast, and Renée Zellweger, okay, her face kind of looks like a lemon to me, but as this has no real bearing on her talent, I should probably not have brought it up. Plus, it was in general a highly amusing film that also managed to be sweet and occasionally dramatic.

Of course, that last bit is what my complaint-sounding statements are all about. The movie almost seemed to have multiple personality disorder. At times it was a straight (albeit made-up and played comedically) representation of the coming of age of professional football. At times it was a romantic comedy, triangle-style. At other times it was one of those sports underdog movies, complete with the Big Game in which Everything is On The Line. At still yet times it was slapsticky in the style of the 1920s era in which it was set, complete with a Keystone Kops chase scene. And there were odds and ends of other things besides these. To be clear, it made a pretty good show of every genre it tried to hit upon, but the gestalt was nevertheless a little off-putting, not unlike this abrupt ending.


In the book of Revelation, we finally discover what’s been going on with God’s plan for Creation, plus there’s a lot of drama involving trumpets and earthquakes and some prostitute from Babylon 5. I don’t want to give away the ultimate climax, but, spoiler alert, Jesus is finally back, after we’ve all been waiting for what seems like millennia at this point. What I can’t figure out is how, if this is the penultimate novel of the Legacy of the Force series, they’ll have anything remaining for the last one.

Oh. Um. This is embarrassing. It turns out that the book I read is also called Revelation, but just that title by itself. Oops! So, right, completely different plot, but it fits much better as a next-to-last book, so on the whole I have to approve. (Sadly, no Jesus.) We’ve come back around to another entry focussed on Boba Fett, except this time it finally ties into the overall plot of the series, leading me to care a lot more. Plus, Mandalorian society and Fett’s personality are both a fair bit more interesting than they were in the previous such volumes, making this easily the best of Traviss’ three entries to the series. In addition to the superior character- and society-building being done, the plot that has to do with the new Sith Lord’s ascendancy that we’ve been examining over the past eight books now is also returning to the quality form of the first couple of books in the series.

Unfortunately, I’ve reached the point where anything I could say that holds meaning will be a serious spoiler for the first half of said series. I doubt this will really bother anyone, but on the off chance, look below the cut.

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