Thursday, May 31, 2007

Tarzan's New York Adventure

Tarzan's New York Adventure follows the formula of all the previous Johnny Weissmuller Tarzan films and has a group of civilized folks come into the jungle to take something back with them. The last movie had switched up the plot a little to have them wanting to nab some gold instead of Jane or Boy, but here we're back to kidnapping.

This time it's some circus folks (led by Charles Bickford, who played Major Terill in my Favorite Western of All Time) who've flown in to trap lions. They take a liking to Boy's talent at communicating with and commanding wild animals. The twist is that they actually succeed in getting Boy to go back home with them. When Tarzan and Jane suffer an accident that appears to be fatal, the trappers take Boy to New York, leaving Tarzan and Jane to follow and try to get him back. So the movie starts off formulaic, but then goes somewhere interesting by showing Tarzan's introduction to civilization.

There are even some nice bits about Civilized Law vs. Jungle Law. The circus people have legally adopted Boy, but Jane trusts the legal system enough to expect a successful custody suit against them. Unfortunately, the hearing reveals that Tarzan and Jane aren't Boy's biological parents and when things look bad, Tarzan snaps and physically assaults the circus' lawyer.

I loved where the movie seemed to be going. Much discussion had been had by that time about Tarzan's trusting Jane to guide him through the civilized world and there's some great pathos as she realizes that the system (and she by association) have let Tarzan down. Maureen O'Sullivan really does a nice job with those emotions and Johnny Weissmuller's helpless grief over losing Boy is heart-breaking. I really rooted for him to blow off Civilized Law and just rescue Boy as he would have in the Jungle.

And for a bit, that's what happens. There are some great scenes of Tarzan -- still in a suit -- swinging from rooftop to rooftop and climbing bridges and whatnot. Unfortunately, the movie's not as willing to advocate anarchy as I was. Tarzan does rescue Boy, but there's a final courtroom scene in which the Law suspends sentence on Tarzan's contempt and assault charges and happily sends him back to Africa with Jane and Boy. See? You can trust the Law.

Not that I'm anti-establishment, necessarily. Okay, I am. But not dramatically so, and I would've been fine had the Law supported Tarzan the whole way through and the message been that Civilization isn't so bad after all. But once the movie went down the path of pitting Tarzan's Law against Civilization's, I wanted to see that played out to its conclusion without a quick, easy, fake resolution.

I didn't watch this movie with my son and the result was that I got a little tired of Cheetah's antics without David's giggling there to make them more fun. Or maybe it's the fact that Cheetah was acting up in civilized society here instead of in the jungle where her shenanigans weren't quite so destructive. I hate Chaos and found Cheetah's damage of property more disturbing than funny. I'm sure David would've disagreed.

Another possible explanation for my cooling on Cheetah is that it's obvious that the series is spending more and more time on her being a funny chimpanzee. Maybe the joke's just getting old. I'll have to have David watch the next one with me and see how that affects my attitude.

One last thing that disappointed me: Tumbo, the African boy whom Boy befriended in the previous movie and who appeared to have joined the family when his mother died, is not only absent, but never mentioned. It doesn't bother me from a continuity standpoint, because it's easily explainable, but I do think it's too bad. That would have been a cool development for the series. But maybe that's too much to expect for 1942.

The good news is that the next entries in the series may be getting away from the Civilization Bad; Jungle Good plots in order to focus on such wonderful topics as jungle princesses, Nazis, prehistoric monsters, amazons, leopard women, huntresses, and mermaids. Now we're talkin'!

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End

I've seen At World's End a couple of times now, and I think the best way to go about talking about it is just to do a simple list of likes and dislikes. It feels pretty review-proof; meaning that no matter what I say, you've probably already made up your mind whether or not you're seeing it. But a list might start some interesting discussion, so if you've seen it already, read on...

MAJOR SPOILERS BELOW

What I didn't care for so much (in no particular order)

  • Some of the switching alliances and motivations were hard to keep track of, but I might have had less problems if I'd watched Dead Man's Chest recently.
  • I'm not exactly sure why Will's heart had to be cut out to replace Davy Jones'. Didn't Davy Jones cut his out specifically because his love for Calypso and betrayal by her hurt too much? What does that have to do with captaining the Flying Dutchman?
  • I get that Lord Beckett is a businessman and not necessarily a competent military commander, but the defeat of the Endeavor played out much too much like "We're running long; we'd better wrap this up quickly."
  • As much screen time as Norrington got in Dead Man's Chest, I would've liked to have seen him get more in this movie. And I'm not sure that I'm convinced about his final change of heart, but I need to see Dead Man's Chest again before I claim that it was out of character.
  • The sea turtles joke isn't funny anymore.
  • I'd rather have seen Elizabeth continue her pirate career at the end of the movie, but maybe that's just me.
What I Liked (in no particular order)

  • An appropriate alternate title might have been Pirates of the Caribbean: Keira's Legs.
  • Geoffrey Rush as Barbosa. I was thrilled to see him at the end of Dead Man's Chest and he damn near stole this movie.
  • Except, of course, that that's impossible to do when Johnny Depp is playing Captain Jack Sparrow in it.
  • But still, Barbosa's accent alone is everything a pirate is supposed to be.
  • This trilogy has totally killed any lingering interest in writing a pirate novel any time soon. Why would I when the perfect pirate story has now been told?
  • Chow Yun Fat. He makes everything better just by being in it.
  • Elizabeth's becoming the Pirate King made me even more attracted to her. Didn't think that was possible.
  • And then her shouting orders and motivating men in the sea battle? Even hotter.
  • Keith Richards' cameo was a gazillion times more awesome than I'd dreamed it would be. I think I had pretty low expectations though.
  • I didn't think I'd like Will Turner as the new Davy Jones, but I really really do. The scene where the Flying Dutchman surfaces to save the day with Turner at the helm was freaking awesome. And how cool was that bandana? He's finally embraced his inner pirate. I've been growing to like him more and more as the trilogy progressed and that capped it off right there.
  • Even since Dead Man's Chest I've had a hard time getting a grasp on who Tia Dalma is and now I understand why. I totally get her now. Davy Jones was a fool to cross her, but an even bigger fool for falling in love with her in the first place.
  • And I like that about him, too.
  • Davy's change of expression when he realized that his heart had been brought back on board. From sadness to rage in two seconds and wonderfully acted by Bill Nighy, mostly just with his eyes.
  • My heart's being broken by Elizabeth's helpless grief at seeing her father amongst the dead and not being able to save him.
  • Jack the Monkey. I swear he's been taking acting lessons.
  • The Song's being sung at the beginning.
  • Ragetti's releasing Calypso from her human form.
  • The reason Ragetti's been chasing that wooden eye around for three movies.
  • Elizabeth and Will's wedding.
  • Jack and Barbosa's battles of the spyglasses.
  • "It must be a little bitty thing somewhere behind the Pearl."
  • "Shoot him, cut out his tongue, then shoot his tongue!"
  • "Wonder what would happen if we were to drop a cannon ball on them."
  • "The Nine Pieces of Whatever We Happen to Have in Our Pockets at the Time."
  • "Larry."
  • "Do you think he plans it all out, or just makes it up as he goes along?"
  • "Keep telling yourself that, darling."

Friday, May 25, 2007

Shrek the Third

Saw Shrek the Third last night and laughed a lot. Apparently the critics aren't liking it, but like I told someone at lunch today, I like talking about comedies because I don't have to give any thought to my reviews. I either laughed or I didn't. It was funny or it wasn't. And though there are a couple of groan-inducing jokes, it's a funny movie and I had a good time watching it. Plus: Puss 'n Boots. He's awesome.

Other than that (okay, including that), this is a lazy post day. I'm off to meet my sometimes co-writer Alex Ness for dinner and talk about some projects we're working on, then I'll stop by the comics shop and maybe the bookstore. Tomorrow Diane and I are going out to see Keira Knightley rescue Johnny Depp. At some point I will find those Phil Jimenez Wonder Woman issues so that I can finish Part Two of that post.

Tuesday is my birthday, but we'll be celebrating with a big cook-out at my folks' house on Monday since everyone has the day off. I'm not planning on doing any posting on either of those days, so I hope all my US friends have Happy Memorial Day weekends and every one else just has great weekends in general. See you Wednesday.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Day of the Dolphin, Lost Horizon, and Tarzan's Secret Treasure

Day of the DolphinThe Day of the Dolphin

This was one of those movies that I've heard about for most of my life, but had never gotten around to seeing. The premise -- dolpins being used in an assassination scheme -- always sounded delightfully cheesy, but not compelling enough to put it high on my To See list. Had I known that it was a Mike Nichols film, it would've been higher. Regarding Henry and Wolf are two of my favorite films, and the rest of his credits aren't so bad either.

Anyway, Nichols takes the cheesy premise and gives it weight by casting George C. Scott in the lead role as the scientist who's been training the first dolphin ever born in captivity. Scott was just coming off of a couple of Oscar nominations (for Patton -- which he won, of course -- and The Hospital) and his talent is undeniable here. His character, Jake Terrell, is a nuanced, tortured man who connects more with his dolphins than he does with other people, even his own wife. We're not hit over the head with that though. There are no huge, impassioned speeches from the wife about it. We just see it in Scott's performance and the performance of Trish Van Devere (who would later marry Scott in real life) as his wife Maggie.

That's the beauty of this movie. As we were watching it, my wife observed that it would never get made the same way today. It moves too slowly. Modern producers would want to get to the assassination quicker so that we could have more cool boat chases and gunfights and explosions. They'd make do with Maggie's making a speech about her sorry marriage, and maybe another one by Jake about how much he cares about the dolphins and how much the dolphins rely on him. Nichols, on the other hand, took the time to show us Jake's relationship with his dolphins in long, thoughtful scenes. So by the time the dolphins are kidnapped and tricked into helping the assassins, we're not just detatchedly observing action sequences, we're sickened and worried right alongside Jake. It's a powerful film.

And because it's so powerful and emotional, the scene where the dolphins get their payback at the end (oh, you knew they would) is cathartically humorous. More drama than thriller (though is certainly is that too) it's just about a perfect movie.

Lost HorizonLost Horizon

Another film I've been meaning to get to forever. I've got the book on my shelf, but I've never gotten around to reading it either. Always heard of Shangri-La; never experienced the story that created it.

The plot's pretty simple. Ronald Colman plays a British diplomat named Bob Conway who's working to get British subjects out of a violent Chinese province. He and his brother George get everyone else out before hopping on the last plane themselves, but instead of traveling to Singapore where their ship is waiting, they and the rest of their party end up hijacked and taken into the Himalayas. There they find the hidden valley of Shangri-La, a utopian community that they initially distrust. When some of the group (including Bob, thanks to the attentions of a young woman played by Spock's mom) begins to get comfortable with the place, George gets even more suspicious and angry.

The conflict is all about whether Shangri-La is as good as it seems or whether it's actually hiding a dangerous secret. Is George right to be suspicious, or is he going to ruin a perfect society in order to escape? It's an effective conflict because we'd all like to believe that such a utopian society is possible. We want it to be real as much as Bob does and hope that it's not a sham, so we're invested.

The only thing that doesn't work in the movie is towards the end when the story sort of runs out of time to play itself out. Rather than following the climax ourselves, we get a character who comes in to explain to us a bunch of stuff that happened off camera. A bunch of really interesting stuff that we'd love to see. I'm more curious than ever now to read the book and see how it handles the end. The off camera events could've easily made a whole separate movie or even a series.

Tarzan's Secret TreasureTarzan's Secret Treasure

Now that I've completely adjusted to the new tone of the Weissmuller Tarzan movies, I'm enjoying them a lot. With this one, they've settled into a comfortable status quo with Tarzan, Jane, and Boy living in their Swiss Family Robinson treehouse with Cheetah and a baby elephant.

Tarzan's Secret Treasure breaks the formula of having someone from civilization show up to try and drag one of the family members back to the real world. Sort of. In this one, Boy discovers gold and accidentally lets some unscrupulous members of a scientific expedition know about it. So, it's gold and not a person that they want to take from the jungle, but the result is the same. Tarzan still has to fight them off and protect the sanctity and tranquility of his jungle home.

Like the last movie, I watched this one with my five-year-old son. Before we even started it he was excited to know if Boy and Cheetah were going to be in it. And like in Tarzan Finds a Son, he giggled a lot, especially when Cheetah was the focus. And so did I.

Not that it's entirely a kids' movie. David got bored at the end when the conflict ramped up between Tarzan's group and the villains, but I'm glad for that section. It was a nice bit of suspense sandwiched between some fun jungle antics.

My only complaint comes from watching it with a 21st century perspective. Early in the film, Boy saves the life of a young African boy named Tumbo and they become friends. When Tumbo's mother dies, he goes to stay with Boy and his family. I like that Tumbo isn't played for laughs as an incompetent sidekick for Boy. At one point, he actually saves the day for everyone. My problem though is with something Boy says later in the movie.

Boy speaks English and Tumbo speaks whatever African dialect his tribe uses. Since we're all English speakers watching the movie, it makes sense that Tumbo learns some broken English in order to communicate with Boy so that we can understand him. Boy doesn't learn a word of Tumbo's language (though Tarzan seems to speak it well enough). But when Boy introduces Tumbo to Jane, he jokes that Tumbo doesn't speak very well. And maybe I'm overly sensitive, but I get the feeling that we're supposed to laugh too. Haha, poor little kid doesn't even know how to speak English. Only I'm thinking, "But at least he's trying, you jerk. How much of his language do you know?" Boy's just a kid though, so I excuse his ignorance, except for the part where I really do think that we're supposed to be in on some kind of joke with him. But, honestly, maybe it's just me.

I don't want to end a review of an otherwise fun movie on a sour note, so let me finish up by saying how nice it was to see Barry Fitzgerald (Father Fitzgibbon from Going My Way) as one of the good scientists. Sometimes with these comic-relief roles there's a thin line between endearing and annoying, but Fitzgerald always stays well into the "endearing" side.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Reviews: A Distant Soil, Elephantmen, and Rocket Girl

Spent all my free time today catching up on news and writing some reviews for Comic World News. A Distant Soil and Elephantmen are both scifi comics, though A Distant Soil reads more like a fantasy and Elephantmen like a noir mystery. Rocket Girl is an indie superhero comic.

Tomorrow I hope to get around to talking about a couple movies I've seen recently: Lost Horizon and Day of the Dolphin.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Links: Joker pic, Flash Gordon news, and the Money Shot

Mystery
  • I don't know Christa Faust, but we have some mutual friends, so I was immediately curious about her new novel Money Shot coming out next year from Hard Case Crime. The cover is amazing (as Hard Case covers are), but the sample chapter and the plot description are what got me: "It all began with the phone call asking former porn star Angel Dare to do one more movie. Before she knew it, she’d been shot and left for dead in the trunk of a car. But Angel is a survivor. And that means she’ll get to the bottom of what’s been done to her even if she has to leave a trail of bodies along the way..."
  • Not really sure what category to put this under, but since it's a shirt that spoils the twist endings to a lot of movies and books, I'll put it here. Careful about clicking the link though. Even though most of the movies are older, there are a couple that I haven't seen yet, and you might not have either. And if you're watching the Harry Potter movies, but haven't read the books, well... you've been warned. Still, it's a great shirt and worth checking out, even if you'd have to be kind of jerk to wear it around.
Science Fiction


  • Disney-MGM has some awesome ads for their Star Wars Weekends event this June. Fer instance:


  • The Barbarella remake has a director and he's a good one. Now I just gotta get in touch with him about having Duran Duran do the theme song.
  • Entertainment Weekly has some dirt on the Sci Fi Channel's Flash Gordon show. I'm undecided about some of the changes they're going to be making. Earth and Mongo's being connected by a wormhole instead of spaceships will take some getting used to, but it does make a lot more sense than having Mongo flying all over the galaxy under its own power. I'm glad to see that Ming will be fleshed out into a villain with deeper motivations than just Wants to Rule the Universe. I'm disappointed though that Flash and Dale are exes. One of my favorite parts of the old serial was watching them fall in love (especially with Princess Aura around to complicate the process) and I feel cheated that we're not going to get to see that in this version.

Superheroes

  • I wasn't sure whether or not to link yesterday to the site with the image of Heath Ledger as the Joker from The Dark Knight. There was some question about the site's authenticity, so I just let it go. Shouldn't have though, because apparently it's for real. I've read some criticism about the makeup and how it's not accurate to the comics, but whatever. This is far scarier than anything the comics have ever been able to convey. Congratulations to Christopher Nolan, the make-up artists, and Heath Ledger. I'm still a little creeped out.
  • I haven't done these comics meme things before, but I've wanted to. The Invincible Super-Blog is responsible for this one:


Writing is Hard

  • One of the most useful (and entertaining) blogs for writers for the last two years has been Miss Snark's. I've only discovered it in the last few months, but I was still very disappointed when I visited yesterday and learned that she's closing it down. I'm going to miss her daily wisdom and humor, but I totally get her reasons for needing to call it done. At least she's keeping her archives open for those times when I really gotta know something.
  • Maybe The Rejecter will be able to fill the Snark-sized hole in my Reader.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Link: Jericho to get closure, Eli Stone looks really funny, and I gotta read The Cage

Countdown to AdventureMystery
  • Taking the sting out of Jericho's cancellation, Nina Tassler, President of CBS Entertainment, responded to huge fan outcry by saying, "Thank you for supporting Jericho with such passion. We truly appreciate the commitment you made to the series and we are humbled by your disappointment. In the coming weeks, we hope to develop a way to provide closure to the compelling drama that was the Jericho story." No word on if that means a mini-series, a TV movie, or something else, but it's cause for hope.
Fantasy

  • I'm trying not to comment on any of the promised Fall TV shows yet, because I'm still not over some of my favorites getting cancelled this season and I'm certainly not ready to start welcoming in their replacements. But I've mentioned before that I'm curious to see Victor Garber's new show, Eli Stone. Even though the premise didn't immediately grab me, it's Victor Garber. His Jack Bristow from Alias is the one guy I'd put up against Jack Bauer and not immediately know which to bet on. But anyway, any hesitation I had about the premise is now completely gone thanks to this trailer. Oh, man, I can't wait to watch this show now.
  • Jason Brannon's crytozoological thriller The Cage sounds really really good. Sort of like Day of the Animals meets The X-Files. "A Wendigo, Bigfoot, El Chupacabra, The Jersey Devil (think horned horse and awfully mean), The Dragon of Bone Island and a little somethin’ somethin’ called The Beast of Exmoor" attack a small, family zoo and everyone in it.
  • I liked Pan's Labyrinth pretty well, but I don't think I'd consider buying it if the special edition didn't have "animated DVD comics (one-page stories with floating captions), beautifully illustrated by Guy Davis, Jason Shawn Alexander and Mike Kaluta, that provide interesting back stories to the mythical characters Ofelia encounters in the labyrinth: The Faun and Great Toad (Davis), Pan (Kaluta) and The Fairies (Alexander)."

Science Fiction

  • This could also have gone under Superheroes, but I'll keep it here. I really liked DC's 52 series, but one of my regrets about it is that I wanted more Adam Strange, Starfire, Animal Man stories. DC read my mind and launches Countdown to Adventure this August.
  • Lucasfilm has released a look at the art from its upcoming Clone Wars CGI series.
  • My local theater had a showing of the first Terminator movie on the big screen last week. Seeing Linda Hamilton even as the whimpy version of Sarah Conner made me less excited about FOX's upcoming The Sarah Conner Chronicles, but maybe my prejudice will ease off between now and next January when Chronicles kicks off.

Superheroes

  • If you read superhero comics at all, you're aware that Mary Jane Watson's first words to Peter Parker were, "Face it tiger, you just hit the jackpot." But if you're like me, you don't know the context of where that line came from. I've been confused for years about why those would be the first words out of someone's mouth when she's meeting you for the first time. Fortunately, Comics Should Be Good helpfully recaps the story for us.
  • Fox and the Franklin Mint have teamed up to release a limited edition Silver Surfer quarter to promote the new Fantastic Four movie.
  • I gave up on Heroes about six episodes in and decided that if I was missing out, I could always catch up on DVD. Well, now the DVD is scheduled for release on August 28th and I'm still having a hard time mustering excitement for it. Some of my friends tell me that it got better as the season progressed, but I haven't yet read a thorough review that acknowledges the show's early flaws and explains how it corrected for them. I need convincing.

Other Comics

Writing is Hard

  • Bestselling author Brad Meltzer shares some tips for getting published. Some of it's old news if you already read agents' blogs, but there's some good, new info too, like the caveat to Miss Snark's "Query widely" advice where Meltzer suggests you only query ten agents at a time in case you decide to rework your query letter after the first go-'round.
  • Another good advice list. This one on developing effective writing habits.
  • I suck at titles, so any source of ideas for them is welcome. I totally want to write a comic called Stab!

Friday, May 18, 2007

What I learned from Barnes & Noble and The Mark of Ran

Today has sucked. Way too busy, so no time for a big links post. All I got for ya is a pirate novel update.

I've had Paul Kearney's The Mark of Ran (the first book in his Sea Beggars series) on my To Read list for a while now, but hadn't gotten around to it yet. Yesterday, a friend sent me a link that linked to this announcement on Kearney's message board: "Things have been rather busy as regards the future of the Sea Beggars series. I'm sorry to say that sales of both books have not been brilliant, both in the UK and the US, and so both the UK and US publishers have decided to pull the plug on the series. In the conventional sense, there will be no more books..."

He goes on to talk about his plans for the series and his feelings about the publishing business and it's heart-breaking. It also adds to my thoughts from a couple of weeks ago about the viability of publishing a pirate novel.

My friend's reason for sending me the link was to get me to go buy The Mark of Ran and review it here in hopes that if enough people did that, maybe we could get some kind of buzz going for it and save the series. And because my friend asked, I was happy to scoot over to Barnes & Noble on my way home last night and pick up a copy. Only guess what? No copies. Which is really the problem, isn't it?

It's not that the book's sitting on the bookstore shelf and no one's buying it. It's that the bookstore didn't buy any copies. Or, if it did, they didn't sell so now they've been sent back to the publisher. It sucks.

And it again brings up the question: considering how popular the Pirates of the Caribbean movies are, why aren't pirate novels selling? The closest answer I can come up with is that there's no crossover appeal. Just like everyone who likes the Spider-Man movies doesn't go looking for their nearest comic book store, people who like Pirates of the Caribbean aren't necessarily going to go looking for novels that are similar to it. First of all, the novels wouldn't have Jack Sparrow in them, and Jack -- or Johnny Depp anyway -- is the big attraction with the Pirates movies. Sure, there's a small group of pirate fans (like me) who'll eat up whatever piratey goodness you put in front of them, but they're a niche market.

Barnes & Noble did have a whole display of pirate books right on the main aisle between the front entrance and the Starbucks in the center of the store. All of it was non-fiction. You'd think that Mark of Ran and Crystal Rain would've gone nicely on that display, but nope. And honestly, I'm not complaining. I'm just making an observation that I can hopefully learn from. I don't blame Barnes & Noble. Obviously, it's in their best interest to sell books and for whatever reason, they don't think that pirate fiction, even old pirate fiction that they publish themselves, will sell off of that display. I don't get it, but I accept it.

And part of accepting it means that I've got to lay off Le Corsaire for now. It's time to think about something else as a first novel. 'Cause like I said before: lots of other ideas.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Tarzan Finds a Son

As my buddy Joe told me when I reviewed it, I hit the wall with Tarzan Escapes as far as Weissmuller Tarzan films go. The first two were imaginative and fun, but by Tarzan Finds a Son, the fourth in the series, it looks like the producers have found a formula and are just replaying it over and over: Tarzan and family live happily in the jungle until "civilized" folks intrude to drag someone back home with them.

In this case, the "someone" is a baby whom Tarzan and Jane found when a plane crashed near their home. They raise him as their own, but the boy's relatives soon (okay, five years later) come looking for him because (like Jane in the last movie) he's heir to a fortune.

But even though it's formulaic and features the first appearance of Boy, a character I always thought was a stupid idea growing up (he's sort of like Tarzan's "Scrappy Doo," though I guess to be fair that Scrappy was really more like Scooby's "Boy"), I actually enjoyed Tarzan Finds a Son a lot. Part of it was knowing what to expect. Tarzan Escapes took me by surprise with how watered down it was from the first two installments, especially Tarzan and His Mate, but with my expectations lowered, I was able to get into Tarzan Finds a Son as the juvenile, Saturday matinee fare that it was designed to be.

To help me see it through a child's eyes, I watched it with my own five-year-old boy. As I've mentioned before, David's a big animal fan and he's recently been getting into Tarzan comics and had watched a few episodes of The New Adventures of Tarzan with me, so I knew he'd enjoy this one. It was especially helpful that he and Boy are the same age. David identified with the baby elephant in the movie more than any of the human characters, but he loved giving the play-by-play anytime Boy was getting chased by a lion or a croc or whatever other trouble Boy would get himself in. He was genuinely worried about Jane at one point -- almost to tears -- and I've never seen him giggle as hard as he did during the climax when a shrewdness (yeah, I know it's weird, but that's the term; look it up) of chimpanzees on elephantback attacked a village of cannibals. He absolutely loved that part. And so did I.

I also liked how Tarzan doesn't seem dumb in this one. Or at least how Jane doesn't treat him like a child. She disagrees with him about Boy's fate, and acts on her conviction that she's right, but unlike Tarzan Escapes, she doesn't seem to have the attitude that Tarzan would agree with her if only she could explain it to him in simple enough terms.

Also, Boy's not nearly as obnoxious as I remembered. Maybe he gets that way later in the series as he gets older, but he's actually cute and charming in this. I hope that the rest of the series gets away from the formula plot, but I'm actually looking forward to watching them now. Tarzan Escapes was certainly the wall of the series, but once you're over it, it's not bad on the other side. Just different.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Links: CBS fall schedule, Elephantmen: the puzzle

So, yeah. I only have a couple of links in my folder, so I think I'll just put those up and spend the rest of my time reading stuff for tomorrow.

Mystery/Scifi/Action/Stuff Nobody Cares About/Whatever

I was seriously considering writing a full post on Jericho because of how much I've fallen in love with the show the last few months. It started off "okay" in the Fall, but not great and I admit that when it came back in the Spring I let a few episodes stack up in TiVo before I dug into it again. In other words, I wasn't exactly sitting on the edge of my seat waiting for it to return. And apparently, neither was anyone else. Even though it's been an amazing show in the second half of the season, the winter hiatus killed it. And the finale was a great cliffhanger too. Between this and Drive, I'm starting to hate TV. I hope Skeet Ulrich finds another show quickly. The world needs Skeet Ulrich TV shows, even if it doesn't know it.

In that same link above, CBS also announces that The Unit has been picked up for another season, which is excellent news. I don't think it's as strong a show as Jericho had become in terms of the plot's direction and consistently making me anticipate the next episode, but the missions are always exciting and I love Scott Foley even more than Skeet. And The Unit's finale was an even bigger nailbiter than Jericho's was.

Also in that link: The Class has been cancelled, but Rules of Engagement has been renewed. I laughed harder at The Class than Rules, and I liked its plot and characters better, so I'm sad to see it go, but I'm glad that I'll be able to keep getting a weekly dose of Patrick Warburton and Megyn Price. Oliver Hudson was just starting to get comfortable in his role towards the end of this season too, so it'll be nice to see if that continues. David Spade's character needs some attention in the writing department, but Spade's doing a good job with what he has to work with.

And if I need to laugh really hard, I still have The Office and Scrubs.

Science Fiction

I mentioned this at Comic World News, but it's pretty cool so I want to share it here too. Image Comics is putting out a jigsaw puzzle of one of the covers of the Elephantmen comic. Even if you don't read the comic, you have to love this image of a trenchcoated hippo walking through the rain-soaked streets of a cyberpunk city.

Comics reviews

I've had a busy morning and it may interfere with Links today, but I'll see if I can get caught up. Also, I'm having to dig out my Phil Jimenez issues of Wonder Woman and remind myself why I quit reading it before I can finish part two of the Wonder Woman article. I'm pretty sure it had to do with Trevor Barnes, but I don't remember if it was a good reason or not. Need to revisit it.

In the meantime, I just posted some genre comics reviews at Comic World News, so please go check those out. I review a mystery/crime comic (The Killer), a fantasy comic (Eberron: Eye of the Wolf), and four scifi comics (Gødland, Retro Rocket, Blind Mice, and Fireblast).

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Links: Lost pirates, Han Solo candy bar, and that Mary Jane statue

Pirates
  • Just when it doesn't look like Lost can get any better, Grant Gould goes and offers reasonable speculation that it may involve pirates now.
  • And speaking of pirates, Disneyland is offering lots of Pirates art and merchandise in celebration of the 40th anniversary of the Pirates of the Caribbean ride.
Mystery
Horror
  • Just because Rachel Weisz isn't coming back for Mummy 3 doesn't mean that her character, Evelyn Carnahan O'Connell, isn't. She'll just be played by Maria Bello (A History of Violence, World Trade Center). I'm going to miss Weisz, but I don't know Bello very well. Maybe I'll like her.

Fantasy

  • Today is L. Frank Baum's birthday. He would've been 151 years old.

Science Fiction

Superheroes

  • There's a large brouhaha going on in the comics blogosphere over this statue. And it certainly deserves some hullabaloo. The problem though, as this blogger points out, is that "while it is undeniably offensive, there are too many opinions on why for it to be of any use." For instance, a couple of bloggers find the very notion of Cheesecake demeaning to women and want to prove it by calling for illustrations of men in cheesecake poses to show how ridiculous it looks. My problem with that is that there already is a male equivalent to cheesecake, so there's nothing particularly insightful about turning the tables. Also, I agree with Kady Mae that Cheesecake itself isn't the problem: "Cheesecake has a certain playfulness, a certain light-hearted mischief to it that pandering lacks ... The subject of cheesecake is always a person." That fits girlontheleft's description of Adam Hughes' concept drawing for the statue: "MJ looks cute and human and a bit goofy, and I can imagine she's just teasing an unclad Spidey who's just out of frame." In other words, it isn't that Mary Jane is in a sexy pose that's the problem with the statue, it's that -- unlike Adam's version -- she doesn't appear to be in on the joke. Her eyes are lifeless and her smile is uncomfortable, as if everyone around her is laughing and she's pretending to understand why. Those features, plus the elongated body make the statue look like it's not based on the Hughes drawing, but on a Michael Turner re-imagining of the Hughes drawing.
  • The colorist of DC's upcoming Black Canary mini-series is showing the covers to all four issues and there's at least one, huge spoiler amongst them. Go take a look before someone gets wise and makes him take them down.

Stuff Nobody Cares About But Me

  • It's official. Studio 60 is done.
  • I talked before about how TiVo and other new ways of watching TV are screwing around with the Nielsens and advertisers. According to the New York Times, it looks like the networks and advertisers are getting smart: "'They have control,' (ABC 's executive vice president for marketing Michael) Benson said of viewers, 'and we’re not going to fight that. We want to make it easy for them to get what they want, where they want, when they want.' At the same time, ABC and the four other big broadcast networks are working on methods to hold the attention of TV viewers throughout the commercial breaks that interrupt the shows they want to see ... One way that many networks hope to engage viewers during commercial breaks is by wedging original content into the blocks of advertising time, so that viewers will anticipate seeing something fun if they sit through a few ads." I'm all for it. I don't mind watching commercials at all as long as they're entertaining. In fact, I'll often rewind the TiVo and watch one that catches my eye as I'm fast-forwarding through it.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Links du Jour: Flash Gordon casting, Jungle Girl, and the Terminator franchise lives

Gina HoldenPirates

Jungle Tales

  • Dynamite Entertainment is starting a new comic series called Jungle Girl. I love the jungle hero genre, so I'll definitlely be giving it a look. My only apprehensions are that the Frank Cho cover they're showing a) has some wonky anatomy going on, and b) looks completely interchangeable with any of his covers on Marvel's Shanna the She Devil. Still, I liked Shanna and it's a jungle comic. And it has dinosaurs. Worth checking out.

Horror

  • Skottie Young has posted unlettered pages on his site from his Monster of Frankenstein backup story in Legion of Monsters: Werewolf by Night. I'd somehow missed that this story existed, but I went out and bought it after seeing these pages.
  • A Dutch producer has acquired the rights to the Hammer studio's library as well as the ability to produce new movies under the Hammer name. According to Sci Fi Wire, "the plan is to produce two to three horror movies or thrillers a year."

Fantasy

Science Fiction

  • The Sci Fi Channel has cast more actors for this summer's new Flash Gordon series. Gina Holden (Blood Ties, Final Destination 3) will play Dale Arden, Jody Racicot (also from both Blood Ties and Final Destination 3) will play Dr. Zarkoff, John Ralston (Life with Derek) will play Ming, and Anna Van Hooft (that one episode of CSI about the foot-fetishist fireman-impersonator and the reality crime show) will play Princess Aura.
  • FOX has picked up The Sarah Conner Chronicles, which means that it'll be really good, but will only last six episodes. Also: NBC has picked up the Bionic Woman remake show.
  • In other Terminator-related news, a new film development company has picked up the rights to the Terminator movies and plans to "quickly put together" a new trilogy sans Arnold Schwarzenegger. That just screams "quality," doesn't it?

Superheroes

  • Chris's Invincible Super-Blog has infected me and now I'll also be hunting back issue bins for a copy of World's Finest #187. How can you not want to know what happens next? Thanks a lot, ISB.

Other Comics

  • It's been a while since anyone has been crazy enough tried to introduce a whole, brand new superhero universe to the marketplace. Conventional wisdom is that only Marvel and DC can do the superhero universe thing successfully anymore. This latest go at it should be interesting to see.

Friday, May 11, 2007

You're a wonder, Wonder Woman: part one


I've been promising this post for a while now, but have been putting it off, knowing that it was going to be big and complicated to write. It's bugged me for years that I really really want to like Wonder Woman, but don't. At least, not as much as I want to. Pretty much every time DC announces a new writer on the series, I pick it up hoping that maybe this will be the time that I connect with the character. But it hasn't happened yet. I think I've finally figured out why, but it's going to be a long discussion, so I'm going to break it up into sections.

I think that maybe the way for me to approach this is to first figure out why I want to like her so much. I obviously have some connection to her that I want to see strengthened. And even if that connection is just untapped potential at this point, identifying it will mean that I've figured out what I want to see future writers do with her.

Let me start by saying that it isn't that she's hot. Yeah, Wonder Woman is gorgeous, but if all I wanted was to read about a beautiful woman in a skimpy costume, well, there are thousands of other options for me. So, I'm going to start with the postulate that my interest in her is more than physical.

Since I grew up reading Marvel Comics, my introduction to Wonder Woman was through the Lynda Carter TV show. But... I don't think my real fondness for the character started there. I think I liked that show because I was nine and she was a beautiful superheroine in a bathing suit. That was physical. But maybe not only that.

It's hard to separate childhood memories from thoughts I've had in later years, but it's undeniable that the main reason people still think fondly about the show was due to how honest Lynda Carter's portrayal of Wonder Woman was. She completely sold Wonder Woman as a real person and she was every bit as heroic and strong (not just physically, but spiritually and emotionally too) as Superman or any other superhero. And I think the memory of that completely strong, comfortable, confident character is what I keep hoping to recapture in Wonder Woman comics.

Several years ago, before the Wonder Woman TV episodes were released on DVD, I joined one of Columbia House's VHS clubs where every month they'd send me a new tape with a couple of episodes on it. Whenever I'd get a new one, I'd get in touch with my brother-in-law and we'd sit and watch them and laugh at the bad German accents, or the fakey gorilla suits, or especially at how sad of a character Steve Trevor was. He was especially hilarious during the IADC years when his solution to everything as head of an international spy organization was to call the police. But I'm digressing. My point is that we never laughed at Wonder Woman. As silly as the rest of the show could be, she was always an impeccable hero.

I think this touches on what Ragnell was saying about Wonder Woman and confidence. Wonder Woman should be the Sean Connery of her gender: men should want to be with her and women should want to be her. When Connery played Bond, he walked around every setting he found himself in as if he owned the place. Didn't matter if it was his office, a hotel, or the villain's headquarters, he was completely comfortable with himself. That's how Wonder Woman should be.

Not aggressively so. Not, as my friend Alex would say, "strident." Connery never had to convince anyone through aggression that he was competent. You knew it by just looking at him. Wonder Woman should be the same way.

I don't know if this is a secret or not, but men find feminine confidence incredibly sexy. The best, most iconic depictions of Wonder Woman totally get that. Yeah, she's got great hair, big boobs, and long, long legs, but so does every other superheroine. What sets Wonder Woman apart -- when she's written and illustrated correctly -- is that she's able to walk around in a frickin' bathing suit and be completely at ease. She's like Marvel's Sub-Mariner that way, only she's not a jerk about it. Sub-Mariner is another character who oozes confidence and so gets away with swimming gear as a costume. It's not the skimpiness of the outfit that's attractive; it's the way she carries herself in it.

This is why I don't care for George Perez's run on the series. It gets praised a lot for its attention to Greek mythology and its strong characterization, but Perez's Wonder Woman isn't the strong, confident heroine that I want to read about. His Wonder Woman is a fish-out-of-water. She's the new kid on the superhero block. She's wide-eyed and innocent. When Perez draws her flying, for example, she has an expression of joyous rapture. "Whee! I'm flying!" Which I guess a lot of people liked, but seems really... I don't know, girlish? to me. I much prefer this image of her flying. She's still smiling and enjoying what's going on, but she isn't so "yipee!" about it. She's more mature. Comfortable.

I even enjoy this downbeat depiction of her. She's being led away in handcuffs and she's not happy about it, but she is calm and in control. There's nothing happening to her that she isn't letting happen and it gives you the feeling that indeed nothing could happen to her that she doesn't let happen. That's not true, of course. Stuff happens to Wonder Woman outside of her control all the time. It has to in order to keep things interesting. But she creates the illusion that she can handle anything. Just like Bond.

Enough about the art. Next time (whenever that is), I'm going to focus on the writing, starting with Perez and moving all the way up to Picoult. I may touch on pre-Perez, but I haven't read any of that stuff, so my discussing it will be limited to what I've heard other people say and that's going to be limited in its usefulness. In talking about the writing though, I'm reminding myself right now to talk about Wonder Woman's critical "mission" in Man's/Patriarch's World and how that's been (mis-)handled so far.

And as long as I'm reminding myself of stuff: this is a reminder to eventually talk about how all this relates to two of my other favorite superheroines: Rogue and Black Canary. 'Cause it does.

Read Part Two here.
Read Part Three here.

Update: As I've been informed in the comments: Al Rio drew the Header Image for this post, Thomas Mason colored it, and the Wonder Woman Archives owns it.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Links du Jour: Hulk and Shazam casting, a Children of Hurin review, and some really great marketing advice

World's Mightiest Mortal
I almost didn't do a Links entry today, 'cause there's not a lot to talk about. But there are a couple of timely items, so...


Fantasy

  • I was pretty sure that I didn't want to read Children of Hurin out of fear that it would be more Silmarillion than Lord of the Rings. Here's a very well-written review that confirms that.
Superheroes

  • Yesterday, I linked to an article that revealed the villain in the next Hulk movie. Today, a link to an article that reveals who plays him. And some mighty fine villain casting it is, too.
  • It's not a done deal or anything, but it looks like there's a very strong possibility that Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson will be in the live-action Shazam! movie. If he even knows who he'd play (presumably it would be either Captain Marvel himself or his arch-enemy Black Adam), he's remaining coy about it. But I agree with the poster in the link who says, "The guy is the right choice for either role. He’d make a killer bad guy, having fun with it, and he’s certainly got the look to pull off Black Adam. But there’s also a decency to him that’s almost immediate when you’re talking to him, this open quality."

Writing is Hard

  • I said before that I was going to have to come up with a marketing plan for Dust to Dust. The indespinsable Paperback Writer has some excellent thoughts on the subject. This is something I'll be referring to again and again.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Links du Jour: Land of the Lost movie, Lost Boys 2, and “Woo hoo, Black Canary! Whoopee!”

Horror
  • The world so does not need a Lost Boys 2, with or without Corey Feldman. In fact, since I have no plans of ever seeing it, let's just pretend I never saw that announcement and that it doesn't exist.
Fantasy

  • Today is Peter Pan creator J.M. Barrie's birthday. He would've been 147.
Science Fiction

  • Whenever I occasionally revisit Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy, it's never as good as I remembered it from childhood. But Nuno Plati reminds me that visually, Yondu is one of my all-time favorite comic book characters. It's the sail-head. Same reason this is my favorite dinosaur.
  • I love Robert Rodriguez, but I'm concerned about his next couple of projects. The closest that Will Farrell should get to a Land of the Lost movie is his Marshal Willenholly character from Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. Yeah, Land of the Lost was kind of silly, but it wasn't meant to be and a fun, but straightforward treatment of it would be much better than a comedy. I just hope the live-action Jetsons movie is better than the Flintstones one.
Superheroes

  • Wizard has a great round-table discussion on the topic of Green Arrow's upcoming proposal to Black Canary. They have comments by everyone from Denny O'Neil and Neal Adams to Andy Diggle and Tony Bedard. It's a pretty comprehensive look at a complicated subject and, as you'd expect, not everyone agrees. A couple of interesting things from Green Arrow's history that I didn't know: 1) though Chuck Dixon's always been vocal about not particularly liking Ollie, it was DC editorial and not Dixon who decided to kill Green Arrow back in the day, and 2) Judd Winick was always supposed to have followed Kevin Smith as Green Arrow writer, but DC thought they needed a "buffer" to keep fans from eating Winick alive after Smith, so they brought in Brad Meltzer.
  • This report from a comics-movie roundtable is heavily skewed towards movies based on Marvel Comics, but that's to be expected when three of the four panelists are Thomas Hayden Church (from Marvel's Spider-Man 3), Zak Penn (who wrote the X-Men movies), and Marvel EiC Joe Quesada. But while it may not be balanced, at least it's got some interesting news about the villain from the new Hulk movie. Hint: he may not be a snowman, but he's certainly abominable.
  • As a Christian, I find the idea of Spider-Man's lending a hand in treasured Bible stories to be absolutely hilarious. Especially the bit where the Hulk helps to part the Red Sea.
  • Grant Morrison points out one of the wonderful possibilities to come out of 52: "We all wanted to do something new with the multiple Earths so what you've already seen in 52 is simply the tip of the iceberg - each parallel world now has its own huge new backstory and characters and each could basically form the foundation for a complete line of new books. If you like the ongoing soap opera dynamics of New Earth, you can watch Mary Marvel turning to the dark side as her skirt gets shorter and shorter, or you can buy the Earth 5 line of books featuring more iconic versions of the Marvel Family." I hope so, Grant. I hope so. 'Cause honestly, I'd read both. There's much, much more in the link. Easily the best of Newsarama's "exit interviews" of the 52 creative team.

Stuff Nobody Cares About But Me

  • Speaking of exit interviews, there's a really nice one with Lauren Graham at TV Guide. She talks very candidly about Gilmore Girls and why it's ending, as well as her plans for the future.
  • One of the reasons I don't talk much about TV shows here is that I TiVo them all and watch them at my convenience. That means that I'm not up on the latest spoilers and whatnot, but I'm also not at the mercy of TV programmers when it comes to my schedule. I'm perfectly happy with that trade off. And, apparently, so are a lot of other folks, which is totally screwing up the Neilsen ratings, because they aren't doing a great job of taking TiVo and other DVR systems (not to mention iTunes) into account. The article in the link paints a gloomy picture, as if TV is dying as a medium, but reality is that the measurement system is just going to have to take a few years to catch up to new trends, at which point everything will balance out. Interesting article.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

The Comic Book News Network

Lois Lane could have a show too; especially if she could get Wonder Woman.
So, I was visiting my friend Gary one day and we were talking about comics. He had ESPN on the TV for background noise, so during a lull in the conversation, I watched a few seconds.

Now, I am not at all a sports fan. I enjoy going to games the same way your average person enjoys going to Spider-Man movies, but try as I have, I just can't make myself care about stats or who's moving to what team. I'm doing good to name even three guys who play for any of Minnesota's four professional sports teams. To me, folks who are more into sports than that are nerds, plain and simple.

So I voice that opinion to Gary who's something of a sports nerd himself, though not a hardcore one, and he agrees with me. As supporting evidence, he explains that we're not watching ESPN, but ESPNews, one of ESPN's nine affiliated channels (not counting ABC). And we're not watching the NFL draft as I'd first thought. We're not even watching the pre-draft show. We're watching the warm up to the pre-draft show, and I'm thinking, "Holy crap, how do nerds this hard make it out of high school alive?"

And, because Gary and I are comics nerds, we start talking about how comics and graphic novels are becoming more and more accepted today in popular culture, and how it's not inconceivable that one day we might be able to watch a Comic Book News Network on cable. And because we're hardcore comics nerds, we start trying to figure out the programming for our fictional station. (Hey, I escaped high school alive by being bigger than everyone else. I can't explain how Gary did it.)

Since most cable news channels repeat the same news over a period of time, we figure that we really only need about 12 hours of new programming a day. A lot of the day would be spent keeping up with comics news and interviewing publishers and creators. For instance:
  • The Marvel Show (1 hour)
  • The DC Show (1 hour)
  • The Manga Show (1 hour)
  • The Dark Horse/Image Show (1 hour)
  • The Indie/Alternative Show (1 hour)
  • The European Comics Show (1 hour)
  • The Newspaper Comics/Editorial Cartoon Show (30 minutes)

We could also have specialty programming, like:

  • The comic book movie news/interview/review show (1 hour)
  • A graphic novel review show (30 minutes)
  • A comic book trivia game show (30 minutes)
And how about shows that feature reviews of comics from various time periods, as well as interviews with creators and experts on those periods?
  • The Golden Age show (30 minutes)
  • The Silver Age show (30 minutes)
  • The '70s show (30 minutes)
  • The '80s show (30 minutes)
  • The '90s show (30 minutes)
That takes us up to 11 hours without even thinking hard about it. And because I don't want to think hard about it, I'm filling the last hour with re-runs of The Incredible Hulk, Wonder Woman, Shazam/Isis, and any other comics-based show I can think of (live action or cartoon; superhero or otherwise).

Oh, and once a year, we'd totally steal Tom Spurgeon's idea about doing a Shawn Hoke-hosted draft of graduating students from comics-focused art schools.

Links du Jour: Infinite Shrek, Spider-Man 3, and Lushbians

Gambit and Rogue by Clio ChiangSwashbuckling
  • A commenter was nice enough to give me some more info on the Captain Alatriste movie: "Alatriste is done and released, at least in Spain, South America, Mexico and several other places. You can get the DVD (region 2) at DVDgo.com. It has shown at a few festivals in the U.S., but there is no scheduled release date here." Thanks! I'll be keeping my eyes open for US release dates, and Amazon's going to send me an alert when it's available on Region 1 DVD.
  • Last week I mentioned that Antonio Banderas as Puss 'n Boots was the main reason I'm going to give Shrek 3 a look. It looks like I may soon be able to enjoy him without having to also endure the annoying ogre. Not that Dreamworks won't ask me to do that some more too.

Spies

  • Mike Myers is planning another Austin Powers movie. God help us. My five year old son is learning that -- no matter how funny it was the first time -- you can't just tell the same joke over and over again and have it stay funny. Maybe he and Mike Myers should have a conversation.

Mystery

  • ABC and the Lost producers have a schedule now for doling out the remaining episodes of the series. Basically, they'll be doing three more, shortened seasons of 16 episodes each. That sets the series to end in 2010. Earlier this year, Damon Lindelof was saying that they wanted to quit at four-and-a-half seasons. This new plan pads that out to about five full-length seasons (the equivalent of three full-length and three shortened ones). That means we'll get some filler, but I'm okay with that.

Fantasy

  • I like talking animals. I'm not what you'd call a fan of the genre -- hell, I didn't even know it was a genre -- but I grew up watching Bugs Bunny and Disney cartoons, so of course I like talking animals. Didn't know there was a whole award program specifically for them though.

Superheroes

  • Clio Chiang is one of my favorite artists and now she's got some superhero sketches up on her blog. That's her version of Gambit and Rogue illustrating this post. And that's exactly how I like to see Gambit and Rogue. Him: all flirty cockiness. Her: having none of it. Worst thing that ever happened to that couple was their going past flirtation into an actual relationship. Sam and Diane, man. Sam and Diane.
  • They finally went and made it official. It's been true for years, but now it's right there in the title: Wolverine and the X-Men. Coming soon to a Saturday morning near you.

Writing is Hard

  • I saw Spider-Man 3 over the weekend. I don't know if I want to write a full review of it, but the short version is that I was pretty disappointed. One of the reasons is that Venom just felt kind of forced into the whole thing. There was a great story in the film, but it got crowded out by the Venom parts. And here to explain why is Sam Raimi: "I had worked on the story with my brother Ivan. Primarily, it was a story that featured the Sandman. It was really about Peter, Mary Jane, Harry and that new character. When we were done, Avi Arad, my partner and president of Marvel at the time, came to me and said, 'Sam, you're not paying attention to the fans enough. You need to think about them. You've made two movies now with your favorite villains and now you're about to make another one with your favorite villains. The fans love Venom. He is the fan-favorite. All Spider-Man readers love Venom. Even though you came from '70s Spider-Man, this is what the kids are thinking about. Please incorporate Venom. Listen to the fans now.'" Worst advice ever.

Stuff Nobody Cares About but Me

  • Lady, That's My Skull has coined an ingenious new word: "Lushbian, n., a woman who usually acts heterosexual but becomes all kissy-face with other women when they are all really drunk." You know you know one.
  • This is why I don't get into anime. The Sci Fi Channel is starting a new feature called Ani-Monday. Great, says I. It'll be a chance for me to try out some anime from the ground floor instead of trying to jump into the middle of some ongoing series. But just look at some of the titles they're opening with. Ghost in the Shell: Solid State Society is a perfect example of how inaccessible these things are for new people. It's obviously a continuation of the Ghost in the Shell series, but which part is it? None of them are numbered so that you know what to go back and watch. They never are. Or if they are, it's like another Ani-Monday offering: Street Fighter II V. Are you freaking kidding me? And people say that comics are hard to jump into.
  • Why, oh, why didn't I know there was a 2007 Keira Knightley calendar when it could've done me some good?

Friday, May 04, 2007

New Adventures of Tarzan, Flash Gordon, and the Undersea Kingdom: Part III

Undersea KingdomNow that I've finished all three of them, it's time to wrap up my reviews of these three serials.

The New Adventures of Tarzan stayed pretty strong throughout. Like I said last time, they had a great storytelling engine that let them keep it going as long as they wanted without its getting tiresome. The character of Ula Vale stayed kick-ass through the whole thing and managed to save Tarzan and the men a couple of more times before the end. Seriously, I want to write an Ula Vale novel and I'm going to buy this serial on DVD mostly because of her.

The only major criticism I have is that they ran out of story (or maybe budget) about five minutes into the last chapter. They shouldn't have because of that story engine, but they did and they had to fill the last ten or fifteen minutes with the movie-serial equivalent of a clip show. Basically, Tarzan and the cast have a big party to celebrate their victory and retell the whole serial to the other guests who weren't along for the adventure. Lame, but if you think about it as a long epilogue to an otherwise great tale, it's okay.

Flash Gordon stayed strong throughout. I'm buying it on DVD partly because Jean Rogers is beautiful, but mostly because it's such an amazingly faithful (considering the state of movie effects at the time) adaptation of the comic strip. It is absolutely tons of fun and if Netflix is correct, the first disc of the sequel, Flash Gordon's Trip to Mars should be arriving today. I'm betting I end up buying it too. This has got me way excited to see what The Sci Fi Channel does with the franchise.

Unfortunately, Undersea Kingdom never did get better. For all the good stuff like Crash's dressing up like a robot to infiltrate Unga Khan's headquarters or his getting tied up to the front of a floating tank and rammed into a city wall, there was something awful like Crash and the girl reporter's announcing their engagement at the end when there wasn't the teensiest hint throughout that they were even interested in each other. It's like they had to get engaged because that's what heroes and girls do in the movies, nevermind the fact that the writers completely forgot to lead up to it at all. I'd dearly love to see Mystery Science Theater's ripping into a couple of the episodes (they did the first two in Season Four, but they're not available on DVD as far as I can tell), but that's the only way you'd get me to revisit this one.

Read Part I of this review.
Read Part II of this review.

Links du Jour: Alatriste the Movie, a new Betty Ross, and another Tarzan gone

Adventure

  • Holy crap! They're making a Captain Alatriste movie and it stars Viggo Mortensen! And it's in Spanish! (And so is the website, but it's pretty easy to navigate and the trailer is worth the effort.)

  • We just lost a Tarzan recently when Herman Brix died, and now we've lost another. Gordon Scott played Tarzan in six different movies in the late '50s. I didn't think I'd seen any of his until I dug around a little and found out that he was the Tarzan in one of my favorites: Tarzan's Greatest Adventure, which features a 29-year-old Sean Connery as one of the villains. Unfortunately, that and most of Scott's others aren't available on DVD right now. He was 80 years old and died of complications after a heart surgery. There's a very nice obituary in the link.

  • Related to Gordon Scott's passing, I also got an email from artist David Burton about a fundraiser he's doing to help offset Scott's funeral expenses for his family. According to the email, "I had originally planned on this to help actor Gordon Scott with his living expenses. But unfortunately I wasn't able to get things up and running in time due to a flood that killed our phone service (and thus internet) for nearly two weeks ... To honor him I created a site at Cafe Press. I wanted to let everyone know that I've heard from Mr. Scott's niece, Jane Tyler and she would like my help. This is the official announcement that everything sold at my Cafe Press site will help his family with funeral expenses. Unfortunately time is of the utmost and we need anyone who's interested in helping to visit the site and make a purchase. All profits from this site will go towards helping his family. Or if you would like, donations are being accepted at this address, please make all checks and money orders out to Jane Tyler: Gordon Scott/P.O. Box 335/Germantown, MD 20874." I don't know Mr. Burton, so obviously I can't vouch for him, but my personal belief is that he's legitimate, which is why I'm posting this. So... not telling you to give, but if you're moved to, now you have the information.

Fantasy

Superheroes

  • You know, even though I knew that the new Hulk movie was going to have all-new everything, it never occurred to me that that meant I was also going to have to give up Jennifer Connelly as Betty Ross. I'm not complaining that Liv Tyler is the replacement; just expressing my unjustifiable surprise. I like Liv, but I've had a crush on Connelly ever since someone pointed out to me how much she looks like Julie Adams.

  • Geek Monthly has an interview with Greg Weisman, writer of next year's Amazing Spider-Man cartoon.

Stuff Nobody Cares About But Me

  • Gilmore Girls is done. At least they saw it coming and made a season finale that'll also act as a series finale. And honestly? They were running out of ideas. Better to let it go now while it's still good and halfway believable.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Reading List

So, after my mini-freak-out yesterday I went to Amazon and quickly decided that it's not a great resource for what's current in the marketplace. I absolutely love Amazon and it's my primary source for buying books, movies, and music, but for browsing? Not so hot. Nothing is categorized by genre and there's not an easy way to search for, say, recent pirate fiction. There's not even a great cross-referencing section so that I can find books similar to ones I already like.

Take Crystal Rain by Tobias Buckell, for example. I mentioned it yesterday because it's got a pirate theme to it, even though it's set on another planet. Amazon will show me other books bought by people who also bought Crystal Rain, but that's of limited use. Those recommendations are all for other scifi books. Not at all what I'm looking for. You can also search for other books with particular Key Phrases, but those tend to be proper nouns or what Amazon calls "statistically improbable phrases." "Pirate fiction" isn't a statistically improbable phrase.

A little more useful is the Customer Tags feature, but if I search that for "pirates" I get 229 items including Pirates of the Caribbean movies and a book called The Alphabet of Manliness. There are also reference books, pirate dictionaries, The Goonies... but it's hard to drill down to what I want.

A quick Google search for "pirate novels" was also unhelpful. There's actually a book called Pirate Novels, so I got a lot of links for that. Wikipedia has an entry on Pirates in Popular Culture, but of the six books they list, only three of them were written in the last decade: a Tween series, a self-published print-on-demand deal (not that there's anything wrong with that, but it's not a good indicator for what publishers are currently buying, you know?), and a series that looks absolutely hilarious but isn't at all like what I'm trying to do. Of the six books on Wikipedia's Pirate Books page, the most recent was published in 1988 (although that one sounds very much like what I'm trying to do with Le Corsaire).

After reading yesterday's post, my friend Shara suggested that I also search LibraryThing, which is a great idea. Searching their tags is going to be a little easier than searching Amazon's because there aren't any movies and CDs to filter out, but it'll still be challenging.

All is not lost though. I went to Barnes & Noble yesterday to do some browsing. I checked out the Young Adult and the Fantasy/SciFi sections to see if there's anything new there that looks like me, but there isn't. What I did see though, in the Fiction and Literature section, was something that reminded me of an Arturo Pérez-Reverte book, and everything clicked for me.

Comparing myself to Pérez-Reverte is pretty frickin' arrogant, so let's just say that he's the guy that I dream of sitting next to on a bookshelf. I may never be that talented, but he's writing exactly the kind of stuff that I want to write. A little swashbuckling, a little mystery, a little fantasy... I've already got The Club Dumas and The Flanders Panel at home, so I left the store with a copy of Captain Alatriste. And that reminded me that there is actually a sub-genre that's doing what I want to do. For the last year I've been Wish Listing what I call Historical Mystery titles off of Bookgasm. Stuff like Napoleon's Pyramids, The Conjurer's Bird, The Poe Shadow, and The Historian. And as I'm perusing my Wish List to remind myself of these books, I also remember that if I want something specifically pirate-themed, there's always The Mark of Ran. And, of course, Crystal Rain.

So now I just have to start reading them.

Links du Jour: Iron Man armor, Wonder Woman villains, and "Oh, Mighty Isis Isis Isis Isis..."

Superheroes
  • The big news is that Entertainment Weekly has a look at the red-and-gold Iron Man armor from the upcoming movie. Dang, that's beautiful. I don't even like Iron Man and that makes me want to see this movie yesterday.
  • There's a longish Wonder Woman post in me wanting to get out. I know that because I keep talking about her and I find stuff like this rundown of obscure Wonder Woman villains fascinating. I completely agree that Circe is way overused in Wonder Woman comics and I wonder if maybe whatever it is that keeps writers from exploring the rest of her rogues gallery is the same thing that keeps them from realizing her full potential as a character.
  • One of my favorite shows as a kid was Isis. It was a live-action Saturday morning show that ran alongside the live-action Shazam!. The two shows even crossed over occasionally. I remember having a huge crush on JoAnna Cameron, who played Isis. Anyway, rumor has it that the entire series is being released on DVD July 24th.

Stuff Nobody Cares About But Me

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

My genre (or "I need stuff to read")

Speaking of marketing, Lit Agent X has a great post on the subject as it relates to prose. The whole thing is worth reading, but this bit especially stood out to me: "Knowing where your book fits into the marketplace is very important. Good writers are readers. For fiction, you should read as much as you can in your own genre."

Which got me thinking about what my genre really is. For the last few years I've been of the opinion that genre doesn't matter; that I should just write the story I want and let the marketing people figure out how to label it. The problem with that view is that it's extremist. If I don't figure out how to attract an agent or sell my book to a publisher, there won't be any marketing people to put labels on it. A more balanced approach -- and I'm a huge fan of balance -- is to be aware of the kind of people who'd be interested in my book, but not to the point that I feel constricted by a bunch of creativity-stifling genre "rules".

To that end, Lit Agent X has a follow up post to the above in which she says, "You should know where your book fits into the marketplace. I'll believe you if you name two or three books that truly would be on the same shelf as yours. I won't believe you if you compare your book to Catcher in the Rye, 1984, and Harry Potter. Comparing your work to bestsellers or classics that don't have much in common with yours won't serve you.

"But if you list three recently published authors/books and I know them all or I can quickly look them up, then I get a better sense of where your book fits and I know you're savvy enough to see your book as a product on a shelf sitting next to similar products."

The problem is: I don't know any recently published authors or books who's stuff my work-in-progress might sit next to on a shelf. Tobias Buckell maybe? But not really. Le Corsaire has a fantasy element to it, but it's very much set in a version of our world, rather than a completely fantastic one.

I haven't exhaustively researched this to know if they are or aren't, but if no one's currently writing anything remotely like my book, does that make me avant-garde or just really, really out-of-touch? Some superficial similarities between my book and the Pirates of the Caribbean movies make me suspect that it's the latter. Considering how popular the Pirates movies are, why is no one publishing books about pirates and supernatural creatures? It can't be that they're too derivative, because though the artiste in me rebels against that label, the publishing industry certainly wouldn't. I mean, look at all the Harry Potter and DaVinci Code look-a-likes and tell me that publishers are afraid of cashing in on a hot fad.

Here's something else that tells me how out-of-touch I am. Lit Agent X says that "good writers are readers." And I am a reader. But I'm reading old Conan novels and re-reading Burroughs and Robin Hood. Those are fun, but they're not teaching me anything about the current marketplace. I need new stuff to read. Hell, maybe there is a whole pirate-fantasy sub-genre that I don't know about because I've been too focused on the classics. I don't want to be the literary equivalent of the guy who quit listening to any music released after Boston's last album.

So, that's my mission for this week. I'm going to start surfing and searching Barnes & Noble for new stuff to read that looks like it might be in my genre. And if there's really nothing out there, I need to rethink whether Le Corsaire is a marketable first novel. 'Cause Lord knows I've got other ideas.

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