Monthly Archives: June 2012

Red Equinox

You remember those Deathlands guys, with their gender equality and their gun fetishism and their occasional mutations and their ability to teleport around the shattered ruins of the United States trying to find that perfect settlement for forever but otherwise righting wrongs while they keep ending up in the wrong place? Well, in Red Equinox, they got a callback to the second book in the series, which you undoubtedly remember is the one where they teleported for the first time, and ended up in Alaska where they could run into some invading Russians at the land bridge.

How can such a callback exist, you ask? See, this guy got to report on first American contact in the hundred years since the nuclear war, and so he got promoted home to Moscow. And meanwhile, Ryan Cawdor and company got to learn that the American embassy in Moscow has the same teleportation capability as so many of the hidden redoubts scattered around the Deathlands. None of which sounds so terrible, because you just leave, you know? Moscow is like the most dangerous place for an American to be! …too bad they broke the door you need to close to trigger the teleport sequence, eh?

Ted (2012)

I have a theory, which is that Ted is probably not the movie you think it is. The previews play it up as a black comedy where an evil bear corrupts the youth and continues to ruin his life years later while doing darkly hilarious things to everyone else around. Instead, it’s a bog-standard romantic comedy where the buddy is the sticking point between the boy and the girl. Except, that’s not fair either, because it’s so much funnier than that. Also, I think it had maybe a little more heart than that.

Which is really all I can say, because funny is different to different people. All I know is, I and the two other people I saw it with quoted lines to each other all through dinner, cracking up all over again the second time around. Oh, and the CGI bear is pretty great, if you’re into that kind of thing. (I mean, not into it. Jesus, keep that to yourself!)

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

There was a time when I said about the book of the same name that its premise, while potentially pointlessly silly, was not required to be so. Having gotten that out of the way, I must acknowledge that it is certainly possible to go the pointlessly silly route instead.

Except that’s not entirely fair. Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter was incredibly silly, don’t get me wrong. It was, in fact, exactly what you would expect from the title, drawing elements from as many as many genres as its name implies, and when you are crossing a biopic with a balls out action movie with a period horror, things are just naturally bound to get a little bit messy in the tone department at least, and probably in the continuity department as well. But that’s my point, I guess, is that while it was a far sillier enterprise than the book, it still took itself seriously and told a coherent story, and y’know, I can’t find anything pointless in that.

Plus, it was just stupidly awesome. I believe it is fair to say that if, in any given scene, you are going to ask if they went over the top, my answer is that you cannot actually see the top from where they were filming, because of how very far below there the top was. …still, it was no Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter.

(No, I kid. It was so very much better. If you were comparing them, the conclusion that AL:VH is a legitimately good movie in context would be inescapable.)

The Hunger Games

I’ve already told you what The Hunger Games is about, back when it was a book. See, in a dystopian future (or alternate sci-fi world if you prefer, the movie makes no indications either way), twelve production districts are held in thrall of a totalitarian Capitol, partly by the extensive number of shock troops monitoring each district and partly by the annual sacrifice of their children to a televised arena deathmatch. And then there’s our heroine Katniss Everdeen, and the beginnings of possible change, and maybe a hint of a love triangle, but mostly just a really cool arena deathmatch and generally interesting characters.

Which is to say, it is extremely similar to the book in almost every respect. Sure, some scenes were trimmed back like always happens, but pretty much, this was a dead-on translation of the story. With one important exception! The story is not told in first-person, which is on one hand obvious, since what movie could be?, but on the other hand, I’m saying there’s not even any occasional narration. I’m also saying this is great news, as it makes Katniss far more likable than when you can never escape from her head, with its anger and its self-doubts. That wasn’t actually so bad in the first book, but I think it will make the next pair of movies far better than the books were.

The Walking Dead: A Larger World

I’m thinking that there are two things going on in The Walking Dead as an overall series. One of these is the occasional moment of plot shock. You may remember opening a certain door in the prison and learning exactly why a certain prisoner had been imprisoned, for instance, or more recently the outcome of a certain gunshot. Clearly these moments, while meaningful to the characters and their lives, are the simplest parts of the story creatively. So I’ve been trying to figure out what else is going on, especially after the mislead regarding a cure that kind of caught me off-guard and left me wondering if the series is even still worth reading. I do like the shocks and to see what happens next, don’t get me wrong, I just need to know that there’s some kind of plan to what happens next, and I’ve had my moments of doubt on that point.

As of A Larger World, I think I finally know what’s going on. This is… something I already said in the last review. And now I’m already halfway in with nothing more to say. Unexpected! See, my point had been that the series is basically Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs, with zombies. Our heroes started out just trying to not die, and then to find shelter and food and love, and now they are nearly at the end of the journey. There is safety, some amount of acceptance, and the promise of other survivors out there in the, er, larger world. Does this mean that communities can be built and the world return to normal? Yeah, I dunno, but I do know that you can’t carry the story farther than the outcome of that question. There might be one more book to the series, or there might be two, but I cannot believe there can be much quality literature beyond that point.

(I’ll still read it, because there will still be characters I care about struggling against zombies. But the story, such as it is, will be over.)

Ultimate Comics X-Men – Volume 1

It is frustrating to realize that the first volume of the Ultimate X-Men relaunch[1] is set entirely before Ultimate Hawkeye. (It is more frustrating to remember that this is a trend, with Ultimate X having been set before (and released well after) a certain recent Spider-Man storyline as well.) But except for timeline and mild spoiler woes[2], I am in the same position I was last time, grateful for a story that cuts the tension and doesn’t try to be everything. Which, when you consider that the driving force behind the current X-Men is the imprisonment or death of all mutantkind, is saying kind of a lot.

Anyway: in addition to giving me more time with Kitty Pryde, Rogue, and Iceman (and for now at least, Johnny Storm), there were hints that a good number of other folks are still kicking around, waiting to be re-introduced. And there were hints that this is a long haul story that will continue to focus on human interactions instead of that spate of “Look, this is big! And important! And explodey!” that I was just complaining about from the Ultimates yesterday. And since I know I can trust Bendis to keep doing right by Spidey, that means I should expect to like two-thirds of the current Ultimate storylines. I accept!

(Plus, despite my annoyance, the Ultimates are following a character I really want to see the next few steps from, so at least they have my interest, if not yet my entertainedness.)

[1] I cannot bring myself to say reboot because this is in no way a jettisoning of any continuity.
[2] And honestly, they may have each been written after the other events in the first place. I have no way (short of exhaustive and uninteresting research) to tell!

The Wind through the Keyhole: A Dark Tower Novel

Long ago, near the very beginning of Shards of Delirium, I made note of Stephen King’s retirement. I cannot think what made me believe, at the time, that it really might be true. I know intellectually that he will die someday, but since I barely believe that, what could have possibly made me believe the books would stop beforehand? Of course, I’ve written some significant number of King-based reviews since that time, in theory without making any further reference to this oddity. But this time, my Constant Author has taken things a step farther and added another entry to his already completed Dark Tower cycle, putting big lie to the long-existing small lie.

The Wind through the Keyhole picks up very near the center of the series and, of necessity[1], adds nothing to the progression of the events already chronicled. That right there will be enough to give a certain class of reader fits of disinterest, and while I don’t agree, I do understand. An argument could be made that it provides some deeper insight into Roland’s character and his history, but you will not find that argument here. What came varied, in my opinion, between obvious and facile. (Unless I am wrong and it is the indication I sought in vain in footnote one. I could accept that and would then retract both indictments.)

Here’s what the book does: it provides a mythology for Mid-World, which lack I had never precisely felt before. After all, Mid-World is already its own kind of mythology, and it had already contained its own stories,  some barely hinted at, some told in extensive detail. But stories are not the same as myths, and King has not written much in the way of mythology. It seems to me that perhaps this should change.

[1] In fact, there are spoilery reasons why I was keeping a careful lookout for this not to be true. But alas, no evidence presented itself to me.

Turn Coat

Usually when I go camping, I bring a trashy post-apocalypse book because they are quick easy reads and I won’t be horrified if my copy falls in the mud or something, I guess? This time, I brought the Kindle, though. Which makes no sense given my prior criterion, but I think I figured what with the case it’s in and the non-delicacy of the electronics in general, probably it would be fine. Plus also, in case I had read a lot, there would be more books present without having had to carry them in my already significant pile of stuff.

That said, I did not read a lot, but since what I read was Turn Coat, the next book in the recently horrible-in-paperback Dresden Files, it’s just as well I had it in a format that did not cause me to hurl it in the mud in disgust. (Technically, I have not cracked open my physical copy of the book, and maybe it was only Small Favor that was done poorly, and all subsequent entries in the series, despite their similarity in construction, look like normally proportioned books inside. But I doubt I’ll find out.)

So, right, Harry Dresden. This weekend, he must face a traitor at the heart of the Wizard’s Council, his oldest enemy, the White Court of Vampires (as, okay, happens every book or three), and a Native American nightmare. Also, he has to acquire a little more power, juggle his sporadically successful love life, and continue to have two awesome pets and an awesome apprentice who could at any moment spell his own death. So, you know, it’s pretty much a book in the Dresden Files, and after a dozen or so, I suppose you know if you like them. I know if I do, and the answer is yes.

I wonder if I will make a more solid attempt to to review these when I am reading the current one? I’d like to think so, but I would have the same problem with bloat in the ongoing storyline (not a pejorative; it’s just that after multiple years and multiple books, if an author is trying for continuity, there will be a kind of a lot of it) and spoiler avoidance whether everyone else had read the book yet or not. Possibly, these problems would even be amplified.

Men in Black 3

It needs to be said, right up front, that MIB^3 was an entirely unnecessary movie. Even if there was no other reason, it is troubling that this is the movie that tells the world a) that Tommy Lee Jones deems himself ready to retire or b) that the studio figures he cannot cut the mustard fighting aliens and/or quipping deadpan against Will Smith. Let’s be honest, both of these are crimes against humanity. Plus, blah blah blah Hollywood sequelitis, nobody can write well about time travel, et cetera.

But the thing is, a movie doesn’t have to be necessary to be fun, and probably I will not ever get tired of watching the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air tackling his way through alien goo, incomprehensible technology, and Tommy Lee Jones’ deadpan to save the world yet again from the latest space-borne menace. Mind you, I will probably have the good grace to feel bad about it before I walk into the theater, and in direct proportion to the amount of missing Tommy Lee Jones. But I’ll still like it. We’ll all still like it. I mean, come on.

Ultimate Comics Ultimates – Volume 1

I think it is clear by now that I’m not going to be as timely with my updates as I used to be. It’s been maybe two weeks since I read the first volume of the new Ultimates series? And yet here I am, only now finally remembering that I ought to have reviewed it. (And I think I didn’t see a movie since then? I know I haven’t finished a book, but the lack of certainty is a very sad thing. Man, I miss the normalcy of just reviewing everything right away.) (But in the subsequent week or two since I wrote the rest of this paragraph, I have seen a movie and finished at least (and hopefully at most) two books. So you can see that this is really not going according to my master plan.)

But, so anyway, those Ultimates guys. They are having bad times, which I suppose is pretty much always the way, since they are Nick Fury’s protectors of Earth, like, the whole planet, rather than just fighting random supercriminals like Spider-Man does. In addition to the really crappy turn of events surrounding Hawkeye’s run-in with the latest batch of mutants and Captain America’s recent retirement into shame and seclusion, now it’s time to face a society in an impenetrable fortress who has come from nowhere with the agenda of smacking Earth’s mightiest superheros around like piñatas. To give you an idea of just how bad things are, the first thing that happens is an overwhelming assault on Asgard. You know, the one where all the gods that Thor pals around with come from.

If you’re not entirely clear on when everyone decided to accept that Thor’s divinity is real and not just a matter of cool tech and personal insanity, well, you’re not alone. But why should that stand in the way of amping everything up to 9,000? I, uh, I maybe miss the way the Ultimate universe was being written in 2004, it turns out. Except for Bendis, it looks like any hint of subtlety or human stories is well out the window under the Ultimate Comics imprint. But then again, maybe the first X-Men volume will surprise me?