Thursday, March 31, 2011

Intro to Comics: Sorcerer Supreme (Upgrade)

(I first wrote this back in June, this is an expanded version, so enjoy.)
            You more than likely haven't heard of Stephen Strange.  Dr. Strange is a Marvel comics character that was invented by Stan "The Man" Lee to be the number one go to magic guy for superheroes.  He comes from the school of convenient birth names that allow him to simply go by his real life moniker and still sound like he is possessed of a superhero code name.  Strange holds the distinction of also being the worst dressed Marvel Character of that era, not lacking at any moment a sufficient amount of garish jewelry, leopard skin gloves, sash belts, and porn star facial hair arrangement.  It does however look like he'll be getting a live action movie soon, so maybe you'll eventually find out about him.

Seriously, look at this fashion disaster.
            The origin of Dr. Strange is actually a simple one.  Strange was a gifted surgeon, living the high life of a wealthy doctor who delighted at his own smell until one day he was in a terrible car accident which damaged the nerves in his hands.  Unable to manipulate surgeon's tools any longer Strange spent his accumulated wealth searching the world for a way to reclaim his lost gift, wishing to return to his life saving work.

Not really making steps forward in the costume department Stephen.
            His search took him to the far East where he met the Ancient One, a master of mysticism and alternative medicine.  Pleading to be cured he was turned away, there was nothing the Ancient One could do to help Strange reclaim his old life.  Distraught Strange fled to the outskirts of the Ancient One's temple home and found Baron Mordo, who was the Ancient One's gifted apprentice.  Strange observed Mordo plotting to kill the Ancient One and went to deliver a warning.  The attack prevented and Mordo banished Strange was offered a position to learn the ways of the mystic arts, and guard the world against supernatural threats as the Sorcerer Supreme.

Apparently The Ancient One is more of a Yoda type figure in Marvel history these days.
            Strange from that point on began his studies, taking ownership of "The Eye if Agamoto", and took on a collection of allies in his effort to protect the world.  His bodyguard and manservant Wong being the first ally Strange found his greatest support in the super hero community.  Joining first the Defenders, a team with he Silver Surfer (cosmic space hero), the Incredible Hulk (gamma powered super scientist), and Namor (the Prince of Atlantis).  The Illuminati, a group that included Iron Man (technical genius and leader of the Avengers), Professor X (creator of the X-Men), Mr. Fantastic (leader of the Fantastic Four), Namor (again), and Black Bolt (king of the Inhumans, a super society that lives on the Moon)  Strange then joined the Avengers with Spiderman, Wolverine, Luke "Power Man" Cage, Iron Fist, and Spider Woman.  Strange also met his current girlfriend Night Nurse, a talented healthcare professional specializing in the treatment of superhero injuries.  "Dr. Strange and the Night Nurse," Spiderwoman says it sounds like a show she would watch, I think it sounds more like a porno, (but who am I to judge).

Defenders, responsible for the protection of the universe
Illuminati, Secretly running the Marvel Superhero community
Night Nurse, she cures what ails ya
            Strange fights mystical threats like Dormamu, a demonic prince of a dead parallel Earth who wishes to destroy our world as well; Mordo his longest arch rival for the title Sorcerer Supreme; Doctor Doom, who has spent as much time mastering the magic of Eastern Europe as he has spent building time machines; Nightmare, the living manifestations of all the worlds unconscious fears; Mephisto, the Marvel Universe's version of Satan; and lately he has battled his own insecurities, and as we all know, insecurities are the things that keep everyone from becoming a hero... The more you know.

Doctor Doom in his magical leather armor, made from the flesh of his first love.  Regardless of how sympathetic and cool Doom is, you must always remember how huge a bastard he is.
            Doctor Strange passed his title onto fellow magic hero Brother Voodoo recently (now Doctor Voodoo), unable to deal with the stresses of super-heroing any longer.... That lasted all of five minutes.  Doctor Voodoo had some problems.
            See Brother Voodoo was haunted by the ghost of his dead sorcerer brother, hence his moniker, the Brothers of Voodoo, not just that he was a black guy.  But the real problem with the character is that although he had a cool concept, a built in sidekick that may just be his own insecurities made manifest via his necromancy, and that he had sweet threads, he was even more obscure than Stephen, who at least had the title of "Created by Stan Lee" to fall back on.

You can give him this though: man could dress himself with a hell of a lot a style
            Sadly, the Brothers Voodoo met there end in an epic plot.  Agamoto, the magical god whose eye is the chief source of Dr. Voodoo's powers, wanted his eye back.  Turns out he is one of many cosmic beings playing chess with the multiverse and he had written off our world as sacrificial pawn.  The Avengers banded together along with Doctor Strange and Damian, The Son Satan and commenced to fight like the world was burning, because the world was burning, a hole had been ripped in the heavens and hosts of demons made of light started ripping shit up.  Voodoo, Strange, Damian, and the rest of the Avengers channeled their collective power into Wolverine and sent him into the rift to fight against Agamoto for the fate of the world.  When Wolverine, combined with Iron Fist's Kung Fu and Spiderman's sarcasm wasn't enough, Dr. Voodoo sacrificed himself to seal the breach and save the universe.  I think he had held the title of Sorcerer Supreme for about a year... Lame.

Wolverine with the Powers of Luke Cage, Spiderman, Iron Fist, Son of Satan, Dr. Strange, Dr. Voodoo, Mockingbird, Jewel, and the Thing... Well, maybe not the Thing, but he definitely got the Thing's wit to go with Spiderman's quips.
            So now Dr. Strange is on the Avengers, the Eye missing, and there is no Sorcerer Supreme for the time being, until the live action movie is inevitably made and they just have Stephen take up the role again as status quo is god in the Marvel Universe.

Seems to have figured out how to dress himself though, so there is something good to come out of this.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Intro to Comics: Green Lantern (Updated)

(Originally I wrote this last June for Facebook, this is the expanded version)
            Ever heard about Green Lantern?  Green Lantern is a comic book hero who is going through a renaissance as of late, and if you haven't heard of him yet, you will soon, as they are about to make a movie about him staring Ryan Reynolds (Van Wilder is going to be one of the noblest and most powerful superheroes in fiction).
Many others exist, but Hal Jordan remains the definitive iteration of the brand

            "But who is Green Lantern?"  You may be asking this having inexplicably not clicked off this blog for something else to fritter your attention away with.  Green Lantern is an Air Force pilot, Hal Jordan who discovered a wounded alien while out testing a new plane, the alien gave him a magic ring powered by its wearer's own will to do good and justice, more importantly it was powered by a giant battery of green energy that took the shape of a lantern.  For some reason Hal Jordan did what so many stupid people do when they get super powers, they named themselves after what gives them their power, assuring that any jerk off who wanted to kill him knew of at least one weakness right off the bat.

            The ring had the power to make force fields in the shape of anything Hal could imagine, allowed him to fly through space fast enough to journey among the stars, and the ring could translate alien languages.  All of this power was entrusted to him because with the ring their came a great responsibility, that to the Green Lantern Corp.  A paramilitary organization run by the oldest sentient creatures in the universe The Guardians (who I kid you not, look like not-cute, grumpy, blue skinned, Jewish gnomes).
Protectors of peace and justice, or cereal mascots?  You be the judge.

            In recent times other organizations devoted to other lanterns have grown into being, the red Lanterns are fueled by rage, and are led by Atrocitus, the last survivor of a massacred world, killed by the negligence of the Guardians.  Well, not so much negligence as murdered by one of them to prove a point.  See, there is a super villain, one of Green Lantern's most powerful enemies, called Krona.  Krona was a Guardian who wanted to explore the creation of the universe, the origins of life, and most importantly the power that came from emotion, in doing so he invented the Green Lantern rings and batteries.  The rest of the Guardians, being very much afraid of what an overly emotional guardian could do became devotees of logic and striped themselves of emotion, and tried to use their army of robots to make Krona submit to emotional cleansing.  Krona captured a robot and reprogrammed it to kill Atrocitus' world, and they did without question.  Krona cried for the loss of life, but he did it to prove the point that you need living beings to protect the universe, rather than those who would, do to a slight programming change, kill a planet.  I think he could have gotten his point across another way, but yeah... break some eggs I guess.
Rage, cause the first thing I think of when I see this guy is: wronged party.
How Krona escaped looking like a lumpy midget I cannot tell you.
Hal fighting a Manhunter robot, because apparently causing a planetary genocide wasn't enough to get all of them recalled from regular use.  Who knew the guardians run their organization like Firestone Tires.

            The Orange Lanterns consist of a single individual, Larfleeze who looks like a warthog crossed with Gonzo of "The Muppet Show", and he is greed manifest, his desire to own the whole of creation allows him to be the single member of his Corp but with a legion of enslaved ghosts of previous members at his disposal.  Essentially, everytime he kills someone, their spirit becomes his slave.  Sadly, it is implied that the rings energy makes him do this, that in reality he just wants his family back, and that desire is so strong it drew the Orange Ring to him.  He is the best character introduced in DC in the last 20 years.  Go read anything that has him in it.  Right now.
Seriously, best character in years.

            Yellow Lanterns are fueled by fear, both their own fears (be it inadequacy, death, failure, or of chaos) and the fears of those they fight, they are run by a former Green Lantern, Sinestro.  Sinestro was the brother in law of the alien who gave Hal Jordan the ring, he was highly decorated, but operated by a characterture of Machiavelli using his green light of will to spread fear.  Ultimately they threw him out of the Corp, and he founded his own army and tried to kill the bejeezes out of everybody.  Just so you realize how crazy self centered and powerful he is, his Yellow Lantern Corp, is officially called "The Sinestro Corp".

            Blue Lanterns are the heralds of hope, they are led by a Guardian who left the Green Lantern Corp because he feared that their will to change things for the better had left them blinded to visions of a greater tomorrow.  Currently they are mostly an army of individual prophets, the most powerful member being Saint Walker, who is able to sooth the soul of even Larfleeze and Atrocitus (it is revealed that both of them secretly desire to be blue lanterns).  These are the purest good guys out of everybody, sadly their powers are very limited.  Since they were created to help the Green Lanterns remember their mission to make a better tomorrow, they really only have the ability to fight when in proximity of a Green Lantern Corp member, though when they are they are juggernauts.
Only group that is unequivocally good guys.

            Indigo lanterns (because why throw out a color that was invented by Isaac Newton just so their would be seven colors in a rainbow, never mind the fact that 7 is a prime number and doesn't appear in any natural system)... Anyway Indigo is the lantern of compassion, they are a recluse society that have no names and seek to act as silent guardians to the whole of the universe.  Cause the first thing I think of when I think 'compassion' is a secret hidden base, a language that is coded so that even a Lantern Ring can't translate it, and the habit of brainwashing bad guys for a 'greater good'.  I think that they might be fibbing and might actually be the color of whatever emotion prompts you to join a cult.
Apparently this is what the color Indigo looks like.  Who knew?  I call it light purple in my day to day life.

            Violet Lanterns are powered by love, and are led by a group of women who wish to grant the healing light of love throughout creation, though they are a bit brain-washy about the whole idea, even more so than Indigo, they cage people in giant crystals that rewrite one's soul so as to be brimming with love.  They are also the weakest of the Lanterns overall, prone to infighting and always hard up to find a power source for their rings, as for some reason it seems that love is fading throughout the universe.  Probably because love shouldn't brainwash.  Gotta like the costumes though.
Also kind of a sexist organization, as the membership is entirely women.

            I like Green Lantern because he wears what he is supposed to be a metaphor for as his super power.  Green Lantern is the fictional personification of the idea of thinking of great things and bringing them into being through sheer will, through a desire to make the world greater.  I frequently joke that President Obama would be a blue Hope Lantern, that JFK and FDR would be Green Lanterns, and that other people throughout the world would serve as good examples in history of trying to reshape the world without magic rings.  Comic books are supposed to be parables, myths, and legend that we can use to talk about big aspirations and ideas in a very cartoonish fashion.  Green Lantern does that well.
Add caption
In brightest day, in blackest night,
No evil shall escape my sight
Let those who worship evil's might,
Beware my power... Green Lantern's light!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Intro to Comics: SHAZAM!

            The most iconic figure in Western civilization is a three horse race between Jesus Christ, Mickey Mouse, and Superman.  And if we were judging this by the number of commercially viable knock offs that each has produced, I am going to have to go with Superman who has been ripped off so many times it starts to boggle the senses.  The Sentry (of the Avengers), Gladiator (of the Shi'ar Imperial Guard), Majestic (WildCats), Apollo (The Authority), Hyperion (Squadron Supreme), Prime (Ultraforce), Omni-Man (Guardians of the Globe), Samaritan (Astro City), Blue Marvel (Marvel Universe), Miracle Man (Alan Moore), and the very first one that made news was Captain Marvel (Marvel Family).

This is Captain Marvel, or as he is sometimes called "The Big Red Cheese" because his naive nature makes him sound cheesy even by DC standards, whose masked vigilante, Batman won't kill a clown that murdered his son.
            Captain Marvel is very much a wish fulfillment character, rather than being the Alien god raised in the country struggling to fit in, he is instead about disaffected youth wanting to grow up.  Regardless, the design of the character, the powers of the character, and the nature of his villains made him very much a knock off of Superman to the point where his creators at Fawcett Comics were sued for plagiarism.  Ironically, Fawcett comics and their stable of characters were bought out by DC years later, Marvel sued DC for using the name Marvel, so the character was called Captain Marvel, the comic was called "SHAZAM!"  This naming problem is what most people point to as why the character is not as well known now, because when he started out, his sales beat Superman, which is why Fawcett was sued.

I couldn't find a picture of Superman fighting Mickey Mouse and Jesus, though I am sure such an image exists.
            Captain Marvel is in reality the teenage radio celebrity Billy Batson an orphan who lived on the streets with his sister, Mary.  Having a good heart and a brave spirit he was found by the mysterious wizard Shazam who took both Billy and eventually Mary to his home, the Rock of Eternity.  The Rock of Eternity it a magical constant in the universe, it exists deep in the ethereal world and is the prison for the original seven deadly sins that were freed from Pandora's Box, and the place to keep and store the numerous mystical hullabaloo and MacGuffins that the Justice League finds each and every year.  The Wizard was old, far older than any mortal should ever live and having never had a son wanted to create a legacy to carry on his good works, guarding the 7 Sins and Rock from the evil forces that would use them to harm the world.  Shazam had tried this before using the North African King known as Teth Adam turning him into a mighty warrior who brought great peace and prosperity to Africa, but was ultimately corrupted by the power.  So essentially Shazam learned what Willy Wonka had known all along, you need to find a child to impose your beliefs upon, or else they will do things their own way.

            Billy was told by the Wizard, "You have only to speak my name and you shall transform into my champion, Captain Marvel" at which point I imagine an awkward pause until the Wizard reminded Billy, "My name is Shazam."  "SHAZAM!"  Then being shouted Billy transformed into an adult version of himself, gaining the Wisdom of Solomon, the Strength of Hercules, the Stamina of Atlas, the Power of Zeus, the Courage of Achilles, and the speed of Mercury, the capital letters of each mythical being spelling out SHAZAM, because, you known, that is how branding works in the magical kingdom good thing this wasn't Norse myth with Skadi, Heimdall, Idun, and Thor.

I'm guessing they couldn't find gods whose initials spelled Merlin.
            Regardless of poor naming conventions Captain Marvel fought a series of villains that were laughably and uncompromisingly evil.  There was Doctor Sivanna, who makes Lex Luthor look subtle and cultured by comparison; Mister Mind a worm that burrows into your brain, steals your knowledge, controls your actions, and when he gestates long enough turns into a giant monster that eats time; Psycho Pirate, who has a magical mask that allows its wearer to control the emotions of others; and then there was Captain Nazi, who is exactly what you think he is.  Aside from the mad scientist, alien earworm, masked hypnotist, and Nazi, Captain Marvel also fought a lot of bank robbers, supernatural monsters, and cabals of magic users.

"I in no way resemble the popular antagonist of the DC intellectual property 'Superman', for one thing I am much more unlikable and complex.  Though I do have a hot wife and 4 kids."
Mister Mind, truly a foe to be feared and respected.
The single best iteration of Captain Nazi's costume.  Ironic that so many of them are just flat out stupid when the Nazi's as an organization have some of the most stylish and cool looking uniforms ever made.
            Eventually the Wizard granted Mary the power to turn into Mary Marvel, a teenage version of herself with all of the powers of Captain Marvel.  They also eventually drafted Freddy Freeman, a kid crippled by Captain Nazi, to be Captain Marvel jr, and a talking were-tiger named Tawky Tawny, who dresses like Jimmy Olsen.  Really, the talking tiger thing should push this into the territory of "Okay, now you are just making stuff up" but this is a universe where a character is named Detective Chimp exists and is awesome, so really you need to loosen up when you start going down these halls, as this way lies madness.

It was a different time, acid wasn't as stigmatized as it is now, people were more willing to throw out a new idea in hopes of finding a market, rather than just hoping to jump on bandwagons like they do these days.
            By far however the most interesting character to come out of this whole comic series is Black Adam, the original champion of the Wizard Shazam.  Unafraid to use lethal force against evil enemies, willing to work with both villains and heroes in order to further his own interests (which is a very barbaric vision of a utopia), and generally being looked at with both fear and suspicion by everyone in spite of helping to save the world on more than one occasion.  He is by far the most interesting character of Middle Eastern or African origin and if the Captain Marvel movie gets made, I really hope that Dwayne Johnson can do the character justice.  (Yeah, they cast The Rock as one of the most complex characters in comics.)

Black Adam Kills Psycho Pirate by pushing a mask through his brains, with the most oddly bad ass line ever, "No more silly faces".
            In the last ten years these characters have gone from irrelevant, to fascinating, to confusing, to... well... crap.  Black Adam got a family with Isis and Osiris, who were both killed, which made him crazy so he killed thousands in a roaring rampage of revenge (seriously, read "52" it's fucking metal), then Billy took away his powers, then Adam got them back, then he gave them to Mary who had lost hers, so he was just a guy and she turned evil for no good reason, then she was possessed by the dead god of mad science, SHAZAM was killed by God's renegade angel of Vengeance, so Billy became the Wizard, and then Freddy became Captain Marvel, but now he is called Shazam and he yells MARVEL to transform... yeah, it got shitty.  Sadly, it will stay shitty, unless the movie gets made.  Comics tend to reset the status quo a bit when a movie or cartoon is made for them, movies have a twin blade effect, cutting back on innovation made in good comics, and trimming fat and stupidity off of bad developments made to bad characters.  And holy shit is there a lot of bad development to these characters (do not read "Countdown", it did a lot of this to these characters).

Mary Marvel in both her good and evil outfits.  I might be mistaken, but I think that as a child with the body of a grown woman, that is both naive and corrupted by evil power, she might be the single most fetish inducing character in comics prior to Hit Girl.  (Important to note: the character is currently no longer underage, they had her grow up)
This is the little girl version of the character.  A Child from the streets with a good heart and the power to save the world.  She helps out a lot.  Read Jeff Smith's run on the characters, they are great.
            The best iteration of these characters in recent time comes in two flavors, Billy and Mary are at their best in "Shazam!: The Monster Society of Evil" by Jeff Smith (who is the best writer-artist in the industry), where as Black Adam was at the top of his game in "52".  Prior to that you'll have to track down a lot of "Justice Society of America" from back in 2002 back when Geoff Johns breathed new life into the characters like he did just recently (AGAIN!).

Hopefully they make him awesome again.  That's all I'm saying.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Some Movies I Haven't Seen

            I guess I can't trust for the time being.  They not only gave me the wrong time for the movie I was going to see, but the wrong times for the back up movie, and listed two films that weren't even advertised at the theater as being in show.  Seriously though, what the hell?

            Movie prime is "The Adjustment Bureau" with Matt Damon, who plays a prominent politician that thanks to an insanely intrusive and not at all below the board conspiracy group decided that his life in on rails to being president, and a woman he is interested in isn't part of that plan.  Sort of like "The Truman Show" but the bad guys seem more overtly sinister about the whole thing.  Looks good.
I want that hat.

            Beta movie is "Unknown" which has Liam Neeson playing "Taken" by way of "Bourne Identity".  The trailer makes it out that a doctor on holiday gets into a car accident and when he wakes up his life has been supplanted and his wife doesn't recognize him, another man has taken his place.  He then discovers he has spy training and that the imposter him is actually going to hurt a lot of people.  Here is my prediction for the movie's twist ending: Neeson is a spy who was possing as a doctor to carry out a mission, when he ended up in the hospital they called in his understudy spy to complete the mission, cause why let the cover/opportunity go to waste.  Faster than you can say "Total Recall" Neeson is now trying to stop the mission he was initially sent to carry out.  Boom.
Okay, yes, badass.  But if you glare all the time you'll get really bad worry lines around your eyes... Guess that is why this pic is so obviously photo shopped.

            The tertiary movies beyond that are "The Fighter" and "The Kings Speech".  And on that note, you know what I'm sick of?  Ubiquitous titles for movies, like "The Town" (Great Movie) or "The Fighter" (which I'm guessing is pretty good considering all the love it has been getting at award shows).  The gimmick is everywhere, and I don't think it is good at all, either the movie titles don't stick with the viewer, or it comes off as pretentious.  I'll tell you right now, "The Town" should have been called "Charlestown Heists" and "Inception" should have been called "Mind Heist: Inception" which has the added bonus of leaving the world open for sequels in the classic fashion, via a title with a colon (think "Harry Potter:" or "James Bond:" or "Star Wars:"; wide open for more stuff to be chapterized after it.
Okay, if your name is this dull and uninformative, then you at the very least should give me an interesting cover to look over.  To grumpy actors leaning on a rope in from of a black curtain... how evocative! *Bleh*

            But yeah, my original point.  Why aren't these movies listed at their correct times?  I'm guessing they are manually entered by someone, but wouldn't that be the same guy who is in the theater reading them off a list?  Did nobody give it a once over?  Lazy.
Now that's the trick.

Here is a video review from a guy I like to listen to but rarely agree with Moviebob Chipman
"The Fighter":
"The King's Speech":
And the Oscars:

Heroes of Humor

            As you all probably know I am a really big geek on many topics, not the least of which being Dungeons and Dragons.  I have been playing DnD since I was 14, more than 11 years now.  Beginning with 3rd edition, and gathering a collection of books astronomically large in the effort, much like Magic the Gathering and Lego before it, my semi-completionist mentality was really hard to suppress, not exactly helped by the fact that the game was actually very good.

But really, how could something like this not be addictive as all hell?
            Third edition was beloved at the time, Wizards of the Coast (the developers) were giving the gaming community a new system that they then freely allowed for use in the creation of other games.  The created the open D20 license, it allowed the rest of the publishers like Green Ronin (makers of "Mutants and Masterminds" another game I have and very much like) to use the D20 Dungeons and Dragons rules system and add their own rules to the skeleton.  The third party market for game supplies boomed, the creativity of the game community exploded, as did the population of said community.

            The reason I bring this all up is to draw on a particular group of releases that came about 8 years into the existence of 3rd edition which has currently been replaced by 4th edition and Pathfinder a third party game system which fixed all the lingering problems from 3rd that made Wizards of the Coast throw the thing out for 4th.  The releases were the "Heroes of" group.  This was a module that focused on setting your game in a particular fantasy genre, so "Heroes of Battle" set around war, and "Heroes of Horror" were the two most well received, I own the "Horror" entry.

            Thing is I had a suggestion to Wizards of the Coast about the series, I wanted a "Heroes of Humor" a book that helped with rules that made things less serious and more joke oriented, and for the creation of a setting more focused on jokey things like "Monty Python and the Holy Grail", the 100,000 web comics on the subject (see "Order of the Stick" and "Nodwick" for good examples) or "Kröd Mändoon and the Flaming Sword of Fire" (very unknown and rather under rated).  I was basically told by other forum members, "that wouldn't work," that humor, "has to evolve naturally from play itself," and it wouldn't work if you tried to 'force' it in (that's what she said).

Seriously, it was under rated.
            I disagreed with the assessment then and I have more ammo now.  I wrote about "Gamma World" the sci-fi action comedy role playing game, or SFACRPG, and it illustrates my point perfectly.  You emphasize the random aspects, the inherent weirdness of the genre and bam, you have comedy.  It is true of anything, and if you go into a session with that mind set you can not only find the funny, but generate the funny, and it wouldn't have been that hard to create such a thing in book form.  So I am a little confused why they didn't.  Would it have required too much original work?  That seems unlikely because every issue of the Dungeons and Dragons magazines that went out in April was about incorporating humor into the game, with Ninja-Pirates riding dinosaurs in one issue, and Phil Foglio in another (Google him).
           So yeah, why did this not exist?  I have no clue.

I have this on a T-Shirt

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Top Movies 2004

            Bucking the trend of writing lists that have easy to digest and follow numbering systems, in place of a top 5 for this year (and since I did 10-4 in my last top movies deal) this is the three best movies of 2004.  They won't surprise most people who know me or those who see eye to eye with me, though I imagine a good number of people will say something to the effect of, "yeah, they're all pretty good.  But the best?"  With that in mind here are what I consider to be some of my absolute favorite films of the last 10 years.

            While it is more and more a product of the experimental, let's see how true to the comics we can be, "Spiderman 2" was the best of its trilogy with 4.5 out of 5.  Doctor Octopus is a really cool classic villain and he is realized on screen very well.  Peter's decision to stop being Spiderman encapsulates a huge number of stories written about the character and it is well done.  The universe is really fleshed out and a lot of characters that could have been used in future movies are introduced with Doctor Connors (the Lizard) and John Jameson (Man-Wolf) both being huge wasted characters in the third installment.  Is it cheesy and over acted?  Little bit.  But that is sort of what makes it fun.
Nostalgia Critic's Top 11 Dumbest Spiderman Moments

            #2 movie of the year is another superhero movie, but was original to the film, it is my favorite animated film of all time "The Incredibles" with 5 out of 5, the first movie of the decade to get that title.  This movie touches on numerous issues concerning family, career, school, and is possibly the most clearly illustrated Objectivist Aesop that I have ever seen (give good people the freedom to explore and use their talents and they will save the world).  The characters are all complex, with possibly the exception of Syndrome who is just a bastard through and through, even extending to the supporting cast with Fro-Zone getting some great scenes.  I love this movie.
Confused Matthew Reviews "The Incredibles"

            My number one movie of the year is "Shaun of the Dead" with 5 out of 5.  This movie introduced me to Edgar Wright who is currently boxing Christopher Nolan as my favorite writer-director.  This movie defies genre in that it has comedy, drama, and horror elements.  Some memorable scenes are improv showing that Wright lets his cast throw out creative and interesting ideas, making him leaps beyond George Lucas (James Cameron more and more) and other directors who can't coax creative spark from their actors in genre films.  This movie is so good, if you haven't seen it, go watch it today.  Or since it isn't an instant stream movie I suppose you can wait for Netflix to send it to you, but watch it the day you get it.

For the Awards of 2004
Best Actor/Actress Nominees:
Simon Pegg ("Shaun of the Dead")
Matt Damon ("Bourne Supremacy")
Jim Carrey ("Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind")
Lindsay Lohan ("Mean Girls")
Rob Lowe ("Salem's Lot")
I think she is just happy to be here.
             The Winner is Jim Carrey.  The entire movie pivots on his performance which is really restrained for him.  It allows him to be intense but not in a comedic fashion.  I really think that Carrey doesn't get the respect he deserves in Hollywood, and this movie displays what he can do when he is put into a role he can act in.
You deserve it Jim

Best Special Effects Nominees:
"Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind"
"Spiderman 2"
"The Bourne Supremacy"
            The winner is "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" which does well blending dreamscape to make emotional impact with the audience, "Spiderman 2" has stellar special effects but they look like special effects by today's standards, "Sunshine" is more subtle.

Best Small Role
Dylan Baker ("Spiderman 2")
Bill Nighy ("Shaun of the Dead")
Julia Stiles ("The Bourne Supremacy")
Brad Bird and Pixar ("The Incredibles")
            This one was harder for me, but I'm going to give it to Brad Bird and Pixar for their creation of the superhero uniform designer Edna.  She has huge comedic weight in the movie and even though she doesn't have a single action scene and her part is limited to outfits and one pep-talk she is still incredibly memorable.  Bill Nighy has the most pathos driven seen in "Shaun of the Dead" and considering how much drama that scene has in a comedy it deserves some recognition.
Very memorable

Best Premise
"Shaun of the Dead"
"The Incredibles"
"Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind"
"Harold and Kumar go to White Castle"
            "The Incredibles" takes it.  While "Shaun" defies genre it was a zombie movie made in the context of the zombie deluge of... well it is still going on.  "The Incredibles" was an original take on the super hero genre in that it was a family and an original Intellectual property in an era of no original IP's everywhere, which is still going on today.

Best Quote
"Oh, ho ho! You sly dog! You got me monologuing! I can't believe it..."
-Syndrome "The Incredibles"
God, you are such an asshole.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Future of Video Games

            I would like to make a prediction right now about the future of one of my favorite hobbies, Video Games.  The next gaming system, be it the Playstation 4, Xbox 720, or the Super Wii Cube Virtual Revolution, will be as different from the current disk utilizing and motion control tom-foolery as the current generation is from the Cartridge utilizing systems of years long forgotten.

            My prediction is this: Video Game consoles will stop using game disks.  No more having to go to Game Stop, Best Buy, or Wal Mart to pick up the latest title, they will all be streamed to a large hard drive found in the system utilizing the Web connection you have.  This will give you what you want more or less on demand.  The game companies will sell new hard drives, but really they won't have to.  You will have an online account which will keep track of what games you have purchased and if you ever delete a game from your hard drive for space you can just download it again at any time from the internet, you essentially will be purchasing the right to play a game at any point you wish, forever.

            What in the world makes me say such a ridiculous portent?  Many things, not the least of which being that it already exists and is insanely profitable, efficient, and well liked by gamers all over the world.

            Currently there are services that do this very thing, and you have used them recently to rub yourself off with the pleasurable thoughts of nostalgia, and to add on fresh content to a title that was of particular interest to you.

            The Playstation network allows you access to movies, news, international multiplayer, and more importantly, downloadable content that takes the form of classic games and extra levels, weapons, maps, and just pointless bullshit like clothing all without having to leave your chair to get a new game disk.  Wii has the virtual store, again a source of news, multiplayer (which is balls), and classic games.  XBLA is the best of them as they get you to pay them for the pleasure of playing "Halo" against racist fat kids in Michigan, while downloading classic games.  All of them allow you to download independent titles that showcase new game mechanics, art styles, stories, and other risky ventures that major studios wouldn't put out for fear of loosing money.

            And forget those titans of industry, lets look at Gametap, the Netflix of games, allowing you to stream titles for a monthly fee, which is fucking awesome, at least in theory, my internet connection couldn't handle it I'm sure.  And there is also Onlive, the new system which much like a cable box allows access to games on demand using their own library.  And there is the mach daddy of services, "Steam" which is produced by Valve, makers of "Left 4 Dead", "Portal", and "Half-Life"; Steam has allowed the company to become the go to in online content acquisition for the PC, and I wouldn't be surprised if Valve did the reverse of Sega and moved into Hardware production, creating a system just for the utilization of the Steam network.

            Also, World of Warcraft, and the entire MMO style of play.  Or if you are really interested in throwing out internet related content, lets look at the huge number of flash games on, or the staggering number of bullshit available in any given ap-store for tiny little touch screens.  Oh, and Farmville.

            Why in the world would these companies do this?  Abandoning a business model that is tried and true?  Simple: they are getting screwed over by the retail system, and the used game marketplace.  Currently Gamestop is of the practice of buying back games and selling them at a discount, none of that second sale money goes back to the holders of the IP's, none of the coders, none of the development teams, none of the companies who made the games see any of that money.  Gamestop is making a killing as a fucking pawn shop, and none of that money is going toward the creation of new IP's and game technology.  The worst part, Walmart and Best Buy are planning on opening up a used game market themselves, using their superior store placement and technological culture to steal away Gamestop's customers (assuming of course that Best Buy just doesn't buy out Gamestop and use them as the front for this circle jerk).

            The only way to keep money flowing to companies like Double Fine, Bioware, Valve, and Bethesda, the real producers of what we want, is to cut out the retail companies altogether.  And they should.  Retail companies produce nothing, they fence the goods produced by others with a mark up, and pay employees very little.  They are fostering a dystopian future of a Libertarian ideal gone mad.

            I personally do not buy used games.  And in general I dissuade others from buying them.  Other people tell me that a used copy is cheaper but just as good, but fail to realize that it would be cheaper still if we just bought stuff direct from the creators rather than through a middle man who currently offers less and less.  I dream of a world in which we can buy things instantly, play them, and go back to working on creating things for others to instantly buy, be it entertaining junk, food, or clothes, or anything, rather than living in a world where we are all paid tiny amounts working shitty retail jobs, and have to buy used and repacked stuff because it is the only thing we can afford.

Friday, March 4, 2011

3 Vivid Dreams I had Recently

            I have found that as I chronicle impactful dreams that the frequency of such things increase.  For instance, I had over a period of 7 days, 3 dreams that I consider to be really on the tip of my mind.  Considering that I shared the last two of such things in blog format, I'm going to do such again here and now.

            The first dream had me interacting with a family.  This family was nice, but they were aging at an accelerated rate, only to boomerang back down to a youthful age, this cycle kept repeating every so many days.  I ate diner with them and I eventually learned the cause of this.  One of the members of the family had this tremendous influence over time, but as she aged her mind wore down and she would wish herself and her family young again.  But since time doesn't liked to be fucked with it would pull them all back to their proper ages as quickly as it could, since the family member with the time shifting abilities had long since gone mad with senility, she would just tug them back down the age timeline every time they got to a point where she felt old.  There was no malice in her actions, she did it reflexively and everyone else couldn't convince her not to, so they just whipped back and forth from youth to old age every week, in their own little personal hell.  That was the sad dream.
            The next is really more uncomfortable than the last, not in a sad way, but more of an unnerving way.  I was in a massive city at night, trying to get back to somewhere through streets that were crowded and aglow with traffic and lights.  I was wandering in cabs, and on sidewalks and taking short cut after short cut because wherever it was that I was going it was urgent.  Each short cut made things more and more claustrophobic and a little bit darker, after a while the noise of the street had faded away and I was left in a dark tunnel where I was met by... Me.  This other me had a hooded sweatshirt and glowing red eyes, and that was where the dream ends.  Kind of an artsy film school dream, but it left me with a feeling of dread, so there you go.
It reminds me of the Hunter from "Left 4 Dead"

            The third and last of the impactful dreams involved me either being, or thinking I was the fictional character Adam Warlock, and I was in a motel that allowed me to see out its windows into alternate versions of Earth that had the same motel.  I think it was actually called Everywhere Motel.  While I was looking out the window into a particularly bleak world the Silver Surfer approached the window and knocked so I let him in.  He said nothing, but glared at me, and so I tried to throw him back out into the universe he came from, and instead ended up out in that world myself.  The dreams ends with me as myself, in this world while it is about to rain.  I wonder if I'm actually that superhero from another world incarnated in this bland super-less universe unable to return due to simply being over powered and stranded.  Probably not.
In Marvel he actually seeks out and fights injustice instead of just circle jerking in the status quo.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Intro to Comics: "BEYOND!"

            If you are a fan of comic books then you might know that last week Dwayne McDuffie died do to surgical complications.  He was an acclaimed writer of comics, having created the original character of Static, and having written for Justice League, both the cartoon and the comic.  He was also a writer for Marvel on occasion and did one of my favorite miniseries ever for the company, "BEYOND!"

Buy it.
            A long while ago an event took place in the Marvel Universe that could have been penned by Gene Roddenberry for all the laziness of premise it presented, that comic was "Marvel Super Heroes: Secret Wars".  In it, a being from beyond the bounds of our universe called The Beyonder, uses his godlike powers to gather most of the heroes and villains of the Marvel Universe, along with the god called Galactus, to have a good old fashioned good versus evil game of war.  Doctor Doom, managing to keep his priorities straight through all the chaos manages to look past the conflict and instead of killing all the heroes by leading all the villains, he instead invents a machine that steals the Beyonder's powers.  Needless to say the power is too much for him and eventually the status quo is returned and the Beyonder disappears for a while only to return in a stupid outfit and squander any dignity that he had left in "Secret Wars II".

Seriously, this is the Beyonder.  *Sigh*
            Thing is "BEYOND!" took the idea of a godlike chess master and limited the scope, rather than getting everybody in the Marvel universe that has ever had an action figure and throwing them together so that no one gets adequate screen time for the fans to appreciate the story at all, "BEYOND!" instead grabbed only a handful of obscure characters along with Venom and Spider-man so casual readers would buy the book based on the cover, cause god forbid anybody buy a book that only has Hank Pym, Medusa, and Deathlok in it.

            The story's small cast allows each of them, especially Venom, Hank Pym, Medusa, Red Hood, Gravity, and Deathlok to all have moments of awesome and to really showcase characters that do not get enough time to explore the spotlight.  The overarching mystery of the book is who is holding the contest, as while they claim to be the Beyonder, the toned down and mysterious nature of the figure suggests that it isn't, because by this time the Beyonder was an ostentatious jackass.

Cameos Ahoy!  But since nobody but me knows who half these guys are,the idea of them being some name drop to get fans giggling seems unlikely.
            The action is fun, the characters are interesting, the setting is exotic and takes turns through the really out there, the art is one of my favorites as I think that Scott Collins doesn't get enough laurels for his work, and while the ultimate resolution is a bit of a weird "Who the Fuck is that?" moment if you don't read comics, there is an epic moment of sacrifice at the end that leaves the door open to more adventures down the line (and the story does continue when McDuffie wrote for "Fantastic Four")

            But here is the thing, shit happens in this book.  No name characters means you can kill people for pathos and editors won't knock the idea down because "you can't kill Spiderman, he makes us too much money."  Each of the characters is properly built up so that you want them to succeed, it doesn't just bank on you knowing them, even while it refers back to past adventures.  You are shown a glimpse into possible adventures from the past that sound cool, and that you can go and find, continuity bait as it were.  That is cool.

Heroes sometimes lose.

            This is one of my favorite miniseries and I recommend it highly as the best McDuffie work I have read in comic form.  Like I said before.  Dwayne, you will be missed.