Subtle Changes

Batman: Earth One

Geoff Johns, Gary Frank, Jon Sibal (Does he give everyone the weird teeth in Gary Frank comics?), Brad Anderson, Rob Leigh. Batman created by Bob Kane & Bill Finger

DC Comics, 2012

This reads like Geoff Johns notebook of ideas for what to do with Batman after Christopher Nolan leaves.  He might be able to have one or two more of these books out by the time Warner decides it’s time to reboot and he can go, “here you go, make this.”  What Johns does well, what he has always done well, is reset character concepts and tighten up connections.  His universes are pretty internally airtight.  His stories in the long term unfurl with clockwork precision, new information at the right time.  It is his actual issue to issue storytelling that has been a problem since he quit The Flash the first time.  Given the expanse of pages in Earth One you’d hope he could surmount this problem.  Not so.  Page after page I was agreeing with the resets of characters and base ideas he was putting out, “that’s a good idea, that’s a good idea, that’s a smart choice” ideas I could only acknowledge contrasted against what I knew already because I read Batman comics.  I can’t help, I always do this, but to think how a new fan would read this.  If the fan doesn’t know what new ideas are being brought to the table it just leaves the story. This is the story of Batman and some cops fighting a body-builder child molester and the mayor.  It’s a little boring and badly paced.  A lot of short scenes that needed more space and long scenes that could’ve been clipped, the Arkham stuff was odd and then easily dismissed, the “fight” between Alfred and Bruce could have been much shorter…I don’t think the new fan would like this. Especially in a world where Batman: Year One exists. Tell them to read that.

This and “Amazing Spider-Man” had a lot of structural similarities I realized after I put it down.  The difference between why I loved that and was lukewarm to this was that it, Spider-Man, had rounded out it characters as a trade-off to the plots it had left for resolution later, and Batman: Earth One doesn’t. Amazing had a plot we’d seen so many times before but characters that were enjoyable and a story that clipped along.  Earth One, it’s just positioning of characters into modified roles or starting them in modified roles and getting them closer to their regular roles and that’s not a story. That’s a plot and character descriptions. It’s an idea notebook.

It’s a bad comic book with character ideas used better elsewhere.

-Daniel Von Egidy, 2012

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They’ll Never Give Him Web-Pits in Any Movie.

The Amazing Spider-Man

Marc Webb Sexin’ Up the Shaft, 2012

I was rooting for this before it came out.  Spider-Man is my favorite superhero. I truly have come to dislike Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man movies.  So I wanted for this reboot.  It really worked for me and works for me the more I think about it.  Choices they made are smart and seem pretty considered against both staying true to the source material and what will work in a movie.  Complaints lodged against the movie have been that we did all this in 2002’s Spider-Man.  True.  It retreads an origin told so many times that if the origin was a squirrel hit by a car and then backed over and over and over and over so many times that it’s a blood soaked dishrag by the time you pick it up to eat it. Anyway, Spider-Man 2002 Go America was superficial and emotionally stupid with dull leads.  This is not, so better. I’ll always prefer the non-stupid version of something.   It also took the risk of having Marvel (Jim Shooter) plot design.  It sets up a villain A-plot that gets paid off here and 2 or 3 subplots that will get paid off in the next movies.  It’s a very confident move when you realize that’s what they are doing and easily confused with laziness if one doesn’t.   Because Marvel superhero comics are, to me, as the disposable products of fun they are, carried by the charisma of the star and a narrative based on momentum.  This is the stuff Amazing Spider-Man wants.  Andrew Garfield’s Spider-Man is likable, fallible, funny, rash, intelligent, biting, angry, whiny and a screw-up.  He thinks things through half the time (the web-snare in the sewer) and unthinkingly fucks up the other half (having his real name on his camera.) Just like any teenager/anybody.   I wanted for this thing and I was happy to be able to buy in.

-Daniel Von Egidy, 2012

Four Movies: A Cool Beverage to Wash This Face Down With

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

Tomas Smiley Smile, 2011

In the story I’ve created in my mind Tomas Alfredson gets the job to direct this around the time he sees “Munich” and figures I don’t have as much neat stuff going on but I can try to make it look that good.  This movie has a simple plot of trying to find the Mole at the top of British Intelligence. The story that comes from that is quite dense. I gave this thing as much attention as I could but keeping track of everybody and the information they were expounding, and that is how this story gets told its people sitting around exchanging information so you have to make that look good, its work.  When the traitor is revealed I could easily pick the bits of information of how it could be that character not from the spy jargon info but from the little personal stuff…this is very subdued and kind of boring like a good 70s spy thing and it doesn’t hand you everything. But it has its morsels to chew on like flecks of beef that fall out of your mustache into your mouth…I respected this movie I respected the hell out of it.

The House of the Devil

Hope He Didn’t Forget to Pay The Fixx, Ti West, 2009

This movie is about waiting around, anticipating the scare that’s coming.  For half an hour a pretty girl walks around town wondering if she is going to get a job at a house. Then for 40 minutes she explores the house. It is a lot of atmospheric looking into rooms. Around the edges of this is a creepy chain smoker, a lunar eclipse, and a slaughter. It all pays off and I’d like to say I enjoyed it more but it looked a little too cheap and not in the 70’s/80’s aesthetic way they were going for. The digital camera biffed the whole thing in a way that film wouldn’t have maybe.

Moneyball

Just make up somebody to love me Aaron Sorkin, 2011

This went down much smoother than “The Social Network” which was very at odds between what the director and the script was trying to convey.  Like “The Social Network” the best part, more than his dialogue yes, is how Sorkin breaks down another language into something understandable and chewable.  This time it’s Baseball Stats, last time it was Computer Code.  It has the same weakness as other Sorkin scripts whenever its not two people at odds or explaining something…the structure is very transparent in a way that screams out “look, craft! artistic licence!” and I don’t want to deal with it and all the parts of this about Brad Pitt’s kid sucked anyway.

The Shadow

We’ll never see Margo Lane in nuthin again, 1994

This movie has some of the weirdest dialogue of the people have never talked this way ever variety. But I actually enjoyed it. They were these little yummy bits sprinkled into a pretty terrible movie.

-Daniel Von Egidy, 2012

 

Essential Avengers Vol. 8

The back-cover blurb calls this collection of issues the height of Space Opera Avengers and it’s correct.  Jim Shooter and David Michelinie write/plot these guys. Shooter is doing some double reverse engineering here using the ongoing sub-plot building structure he swiped from early Marvel for Legion of Super-Heroes, which became that books calling card Paul Levitz, and bringing it back to Marvel with the Legion cosmic stuff and bureaucracy attached. Co-starring the Guardians of the Galaxy who are literally Marvel’s Legion rip-off.  “The Korvac Saga” (the bulk of the book) is totally an unused Legion plot and I’ll never be convinced otherwise.  Structurally when a given issue’s main plot is a thudder Shooter is so adept at sub-plot juggling that the interest going forward is always there.  Despite the book’s Space Opera Avengers theme the best stuff is the three parter at the  beginning where Count Nefaria steals the Lethal Legion’s powers leading to the fucking of shit up and the stuff at the end where Michelinie takes over completely and pays off the sub-plots introduced in those issues almost two years later.  The former set  is the first three issues of the book and the latter is the last four bookends of John Byrne art and knowing how John Byrne is I can see him getting caught up on the year+ a half’s worth of issues he didn’t draw and saying, “nothing got done with the old man on the boat? Fuck that this is Avengers not Chris Claremont goddamnit.” and him and Roger Stern had a good laugh while they secretly hi-jacked Avengers and Uncanny X-Men in 1979.

-Daniel Von Egidy, 2012

Drive

Nicholas Winding Refn, 2011

Drive set out with the goal of being a stylistic exercise that was indebted to Bullit, Le Samourai, and Michael Mann’s Thief.  It wanted to have that quiet European pacing, so people don’t talk a lot or very fast. When violence happens it is extreme especially compared to the quiet that preceded it.  The opening 10 minutes before the credits are better than the whole rest of the movie.  It’s a good movie that meets the criteria it wants to meet without transcending the movies it derives from and that is fine, you don’t have to go above and beyond to do it.

-Daniel Von Egidy, 2012

Julia Holter-Ekstasis (or “I’m not coming up with goofball titles for short posts like these”)

This is a fabulously breathy record.  Between sections of plucky pop and chamber electronica Holter is doing some breathing exercise style singing that makes her crystalline beats a lived in space. Here’s the best of the record. Goddess Eyes II which begins with her electronically coded voice peeling away till it’s just her. It should be too clever by half but her voice is just tender enough, just authentic enough, the chant so perfectly and simply constructed that she pulls it off.

-Daniel Von Egidy, 2012

Fasty Fast

Going to play around with lots of smaller posts again for a while. This one is about upcoming music.