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Monday, April 30, 2012

Game of Thrones 2x5 - "The Ghost of Harrenhal"

Utterly stunned by this week's shocking turn of events: There was no nudity. There wasn't, was there? No whores cavorting about, no breasts wantonly on display. Daenerys and her handmaidens kept their knickers on. I didn't think Game of Thrones had it in them. Now, let's not make a habit of it.

When that dark thing full of terrors smoked out of Melisandre's nethers last week, poor Renly was a goner. It didn't waste time. But in typical Game of Thrones fashion, a terrible death happened right after something good was achieved that could have made the world of Westeros a whole lot brighter: Renly and Catelyn reached an accord that, like Robert Baratheon and Ned Stark before them, Renly and Robb would be allies against King's Landing. Renly would have been happy to let Robb remain King in the North as long as he got the Iron Throne. That would have been pretty terrific. Then the smoke monster put the old smoke knife (did it look kind of like Stannis as Brienne claimed?) in Renly's heart. And that was that. RIP Renly Baratheon, would be King, and there goes Baratheon/Stark Alliance II.

Littlefinger talked Margaery and Loras Tyrell into high tailing it back to Highgarden before Stannis arrived to take over Renly's army. Margaery made it perfectly clear she wants to be the Queen of Westeros. She's already a widow of a would-be king, but she can always try, try again.

Brienne is on the run with Catelyn and swore alligence to her, while Catelyn again expressed a proper desire to go home to Winterfell and mother her two youngest kids. If they ever actually make it to Winterfell, there's a strapping young lad named Hodor who might make a match for the Maid of Tarth. (But that's just wishful matchmaking.)

Davos has a tough job trying to be the voice of reason for Stannis, but he did talk him out of bringing Melisandre with them when they attack King's Landing. I was thinking actually whether Stannis would actually try to covert all of Renly's men into worship of the Lord of Light and whether that would go well. Probably not that well.

Tyrion learned of Joffrey and Cercei's crazy plan to catapult thousands of jars of incendiary wildfire into Stannis' fleet when they attack. Bronn probably had the best speech of the episode (as usual) when he tore apart the logistics of that plan, noting that the odds are they'd end up burning King's Landing to the ground in the process. But would that happen before or after Bronn gets to kill Lancel Lannister if anything happened to Tyrion?

Theon met the crew of his new ship, The Sea Bitch, and that went as well as everything else has gone for him since returning home to Pyke. Meanwhile, Bran Stark told Osha of his dreams that "the seas came to Winterfell", effectively foreshadowing the crazy idea Theon thought of.

In Qarth, we saw some dragons and a marriage proposal to Daenerys from Xaro Xhoan Daxos. Daenerys is the most eligible single young hot queen with dragons on any continent.

At the First of the First Men beyond the Wall, we met Quorin Halfhand, who is pretty awesome. A lot of talk about Mance Rayder, the King Beyond The Wall and what to do about him.

That's actually what kind of weighs down this episode. Except for Renly dying, it's a lot of set up for what's going to come, laying down the groundwork for the second half of the season. It's all necessary but not very exciting.

Finally, Arya seems to be doing a great job as Tywin's cupbearer, only occasionally alarming him. "Anyone can be killed." And this is absolutely true, especially after Jaqen H'ghar cuts the deal with Arya that he'll kill three people for her, no more no less. First one down, the Tickler. Maybe Arya should be more selective with the next two.

Friday, April 27, 2012

The People Vs. George Lucas


"Let the hate flow through you."

The People vs. George Lucas is an entertaining, surprisingly fair-minded (considering the title) documentary exploring the relationship between George Lucas and Star Wars, Star Wars fans and Star Wars, and Star Wars fans with George Lucas. Dozens of nerdy talking heads, and some famous ones like fantasy author Neil Gaiman and director Francis Ford Coppola, provide myriad perspectives on Lucas and Star Wars, creating a fascinating, if predictable patchwork of opinions on their conflicting devotion to the franchise and their enmity towards its creator. 

The history of the creation of Star Wars and George Lucas' early years as a young avante garde filmmaker are whisked through at lightspeed before the real meat of the hostilities toward Lucas are confronted. It boils down primarily to anger over three things: the permanent alterations Lucas made to the original films when the Star Wars Trilogy: Special Edition was released in the 1990s ("Han shot first!"), Lucas' refusal to release the original Star Wars trilogy the way they were theatrically seen in the 1970s and 1980s, and of course, the quality (or perceived lack thereof) of the prequel trilogy (embodied specifically by Jar Jar Binks). 

The People vs. George Lucas lets the nerds rip on Lucas to their hearts content, some of it is entertaining, some of it true (from a certain point of view), and some of it is just hilarious, over-the-top nerd rage from some marginal people who, in William Shatner's wise comedic words to his own Star Trek fanbase, need to get a life. However, the nerds do have a point. For instance, the paradox that George Lucas successfully campaigned before Congress in the 1980s against the colorization of black and white films, yet feels complete justification in continually altering his six Star Wars films as he sees fit is a major sticking point. The  self-hatred felt by many fans, who see themselves as addicts to (true) and victims (false) of Star Wars, and the generation gap between fans of the original trilogy and their offspring, who don't necessarily take issue with the quality of the prequels, are amusingly touched on (the latter with help from a furious Simon Pegg).

What's pleasing about The People vs. George Lucas for supporters of Lucas, and perhaps this incited some more nerd rage, are the sympathetic perspectives shown towards Lucas as an artist, as the creator of Star Wars, and for his right to do (or not do) with Star Wars as he sees fit. There's also a good bit of deserved mocking for some of the more ridiculous nerds devoted to Star Wars, including some who love it so much they've come to hate it. The documentary winds down with a lot of love and gratitude expressed, ultimately, for Lucas and for Star Wars, with a conclusion reached that if Lucas ever saw fit to simply release the original, un-altered trilogy of films remastered on DVD or Blu-ray, much would be forgiven. Keep waiting. Some nerds will never be happy regardless. Probably because they know, deep in their geek hearts, the Force is not with them because they lack midi-chloreans.

Smallville Season 11 #3 - "Guardian"



Last issue ended when Clark heard a BRRRIIIINNNGGG! onomatopoeia that pulled him away from his sidewalk tete-a-tete with Lex, right before Lex saw the ghost of his dearly murdered sister Tess.

Back from that week-long commercial break for act three, and we're now in the midst of a robbery in Metropolis Port. Luckily, our hero The Green Arrow is here to foil this dastardly deed. We may have forgotten that Oliver Queen is still publicly known as The Green Arrow (when he "came out" in 10x3 - "Supergirl") and he's publicly known to be married "to that little nobody", as he's taunted by the heavily armed thieves. Wait, so what did the Daily Planet society pages say when it announced Oliver Queen tied the knot? Just "identity of his new bride unknown"?  But they do know she's little.

Green Arrow doesn't seem to mind the eleven-to-one odds and takes out his attackers with what look like electrical taser arrow bombs from above. But wouldn't you know it? Oliver is sloppy. He's always sloppy. He doesn't notice the guy with the RPG rocket launcher behind him. He doesn't have an RPG disposer-of-er arrow in his quiver. Thus he's a goner. If only somebody would save him.

Wait, so it seems like it's night-time now in the Metropolis Docks when this happened. But it was morning when Clark Blurred away on Lex. So that must have been an unrelated thing that Clark went to go deal with last issue.

Anyway, everything's tied up in a nice little bow. Literally. Superman tied up all the attackers in a design Oliver couldn't help but admire and then, in their mild mannered guises as Oliver Queen and Clark Kent, the two founding members of the Justice League get caught up. Oliver needles Clark on his new methodology  and his new attire. Clark: "The last thing I want to do is look like a show off." After all, Clark was a guy who adamantly avoided wearing a costume for ten years. Now you can see his junk through the blue if you look real closely. Oliver and Chloe are still planning on relocating to Star City, which they've delayed for six months since Superman's debut. Who wouldn't want to stick around to see Clark fly around like a caped wonder and routinely stun the city? Oliver laments how much he'll miss the action in Metropolis, like "exploding babies". Clark: "Where ever you go, I guarantee trouble won't be far behind." Soothing words of goodbye from Clark Kent to his best guy friend.

Alas, leaving town is hard to do, and Chloe has delayed packing up Watchtower and starting on with her new life working for the Star City Gazette (a job she took over six months ago and hasn't started - her editor must be very understanding.) Chloe's been busy trying to get similar Watchtowers online in the home cities of the other Justice League members. When Lois arrives with coffee (how much coffee do these people drink?) Chloe's even more distracted by hacking into the camera feed of the Russian space station Korolyev, the very same station Lois' "forever-fiance saved without breaking a sweat", she notes proudly.  So when is the Lois and Clark wedding back on, Chloe wants to know?  Lois: "When the world isn't exploding, and he's not trying to stop it from exploding, and I'm not writing about him trying to stop the world from exploding."

When Chloe does get the Korolyev cameras online to the moments after Clark stopped "the Rift" (she should check with Clark, he already named it the Aurora), they see trouble with a capital S - for space craft. "Something..." "...Or someone..." "...came down in that storm..."

Actually, I'm curious who it could be. Zod? Seen him. Brainiac? Seen him. Darkseid? Dead. Maxima? I wish. Mongul -- hey, Mongul! We haven't seen him yet. Lobo? Haven't seen him. It's probably neither of them. Back in a week...

Monday, April 23, 2012

Game of Thrones 2x4 - "Garden of Bones"

"There's no cure for being a cunt." - Bronn, re: Joffrey

Certainly not, in King Joffrey's case. We'll get to that in a bit.

For what comes out from between Melisandre's legs is dark and full of terrors. That ending was all kinds of messed up. I mean, that moment - Melisandre giving "birth" to that black, shadow thing - was incredibly messed up in the book, but to see it on television is something else. I think that topped Mae Young giving birth to a hand and Stacy Kiebler giving birth to photos of Shawn Stasiak. But Melisandre finally called Davos the Onion Knight.

Also messed up was Littlefinger making a play for Catelyn in her tent. "It seems we've been given a second chance!" Amazing. That man has no shame. He's one of the people directly responsible for Ned Stark's death by betraying him, then he tries to come onto his wife, then he presents her with Ned's bones. Plus lies right to her face that the Lannisters have both Sansa and Arya to trade.

I also really liked the banter between the two Lannister soldiers discussing the Mountain Gregor Clegane and then revealing that it's common knowledge in the realm that Renly Baratheon is gay and Loras Tyrell "has been stabbing him for years and he's not dead." Then Grey Wind ate their entrails. Dire wolves must not like fart jokes either.

I have to say, the woman performing battlefield amputations Robb Stark met totally threw me. Because it seems like this is going to be his love interest (even though he is promised to marry one of Walder Frey's daughters as a condition of letting Robb's army cross the Twins last season), but her name is totally different from the woman in the books.

Meanwhile, I believe this week marks the first appearance of Roose Bolton, Lord of the Dreadfort, whom Robb was speaking to while surveying the Lannister dead on the battlefield. He's important, or will be, and I fucking hate him. And he's not even the worst person named "Bolton" who will appear in this series.

The less than brotherly failed negotiations between Renly and Stannis was one of my favorite scenes in the book and it was also great on the show. The Baratheon brothers, including Robert, are an interesting study because they are all completely different kinds of people. You'd never know they were brothers by their character and behavior.

"A good act does not wash out the bad, nor a bad the good." Also, Davos, it's "fewer" fingers, not "less" fingers. Stannis Baratheon, king of grammar, if nothing else.

Tyrion had two great moments: rescuing Sansa and then completely cutting off Lancel Lannister's balls, such as they are. Lancel - not exactly one of the shining lights of the Lannister family.

Across the Narrow Sea, Daenerys finally got a great moment this season and it was my favorite bit of the episode. Starved and desperate, with only one bargaining chip but suspecting (rightly) that as soon as she shows The Thirteen of Qarth her dragons, they'd take them from her, she still threatens them with death by dragonfire unless they let her Kahlazar in the gates. "You are a true Targaryen!" She sure is. Great to see Xaro Xhoan Daxos too.

Qarth was awesome. "Greatest city there ever was or will be" indeed. It sure looks it. That's the first city this show has shown that I'd actually want to live in. I can say the exact opposite of Harrenhal, the worst castle in Westeros, and that's saying something.

Tywin Lannister is no fool, and not a fan of the old rat in the bucket gnawing through your chest game. He took one look at Arya/Arry and deduced she was a girl disguised as a boy. Loved Arya's prayer: Cercei. Illyn Payne. The Hound. Joffrey. A list of no one's favorite people.

All right, Joffrey. Joffrey and his damned crossbow and his penchant for having Sansa publicly beaten. Poor Sansa. "Garden of Bones" gave us a disturbing look at what Joffrey actually finds exciting, and it's not sex, or whores, or whores having sex. He gets off on sheer brutality because he absolutely hates women. It's been strongly hinted but he's really a monster. One thing about that King Joffrey Baratheon - he's horrible to the whores. He could learn a lot from his uncle. But that's not likely.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Smallville Season 11 #2 - "Guardian"



Back from commercial, and the Remy Zero "Save Me" opening credits playing in your head... oh, what the heck, let's play it here too:

Issue #2 of Smallville Season 11 feels just like the television show. Time to get a lot of exposition out of the way as Smallville further checks in on where our heroes and villains are six months after Superman pushed Apokalips out of orbit.

Lois and Clark have settled into easy domestic bliss. They're still not married (and we know they won't be for another seven years), but they kept all the wedding presents from their aborted wedding in the "Finale" that Darkseid had an Omega-possessed Green Arrow interrupt. Though the art by Pere Perez moves into more cartoony caricactures than last issue so that resemblance to Tom Welling and Erica Durance is only passing, Brian Q. Miller's script easily captures Smallville's patented snappy Lois and Clark banter.

We learn the Nexxus space ribbon last issue, which Clark has dubbed the Aurora, suddenly disappeared as mysteriously as it appeared. The Russians have already commissioned a Superman statue (for their "Red Son", according to the Daily Planet headline - wink) because Superman saved them earlier that morning. Lois' Superman shirt with the Superman Returns logo is now outdated with a different looking "S" shield ("It's impossible to draw it the same way twice!") and Clark's new suit has a lead-enforced "S". (Clark: "If you'd been shot with Kryptonite bullets as much as I have, you'd want lead over your heart too.") Clark Kent and Bruce Wayne have the same ideas about their logos protecting their hearts. And hey, is that a WayneTech brand laptop Lois is misspelling her interview with the UN Inspection team on? Why, yes, it is.

Clark wants Lois to interview Superman (maybe not with the headline "I Spent The Night With Superman") to further inspire hope among people that despite the recent alien planet nearly colliding with Earth, not everything from outer space is dark and scary. Some things from outer space wear bright red and blue spandex. Lois doesn't think it's a great idea since images of Hunger Dogs and Parademons on Apokalips leaked before Superman pushed the planet far, far away from Earth.

Meanwhile, at Lexcorp, Lex Luthor (mysteriously wearing a black glove over his right hand), meets with General Sam Lane over matters concerning outer space and the planet's security. Lex either believes or has proof the Russians Superman saved are actually planning to place weapons in orbit. Lex wants the US Military to accept the contract to place Lexcorp's own Guardian weapons platforms into space. General Lane, remarkably prudent for an established hard ass warmonger, questions exactly in which direction Lexcorp's weapons will be pointed at (and at whom, maybe someone zipping by in a red cape?) Lex trusts Superman about as far as Lex himself can throw Apokalips.

The best stuff comes next as Clark drops by That One Cafe on that One Street in Metropolis and runs right into Lex buying coffee for the next 80 people who show up. This is the first time Lex and Clark have met since Lex died in the Fortress of Solitude collapse at the end of season 7 (not counting the various Lex clones that have dropped by the show in seasons 8-10). We learn Lex has no memories of Clark but read some past news clippings (he poured over old issues of the Smallville Torch edited by Chloe Sullivan?) that informed him he and Clark were friends when they were younger.

Lex especially wouldn't recognize Clark now with the dark suits, slicked back hair, glasses, and bumbling demeanor. Also lacking are the blatant homosexual overtones between Lex and Clark from the peak of their friendship, like when they used to share long, passionate, both-their-eyes-closed embraces. Maybe this is for the best. Clark notes that Lex's half-sister Tess Mercer's death was labeled a suicide and they quip back and forth about Lex's plans to go into orbit and snide jokes about Superman, until Clark hears a siren and Super Blurs away. Just in time for Lex to hear and see:

Tess! And thus, along with borrowing the actors playing Dr. Emil Hamilton and General Slade "Deathstroke" Wilson from Battlestar Galactica, Smallville borrows the idea of Dr. Baltar haunted by Six. Not coincidentally, Lex Luthor will be President one day.

To be continued next week...

Monday, April 16, 2012

Game of Thrones 2x3 - "What Is Dead May Never Die"

"They are the Knights of Summer, and Winter is Coming" - Catelyn Stark to King Renly Baratheon

That episode was unspeakably good. Well, not unspeakably. We will speak of it, in great detail. But you know what I mean. An amazing, amazing episode (and Daenerys wasn't even in it). As masterful a book to screen adaptation as any ever done.

The cliffhanger to last week, when Craster bonked Jon Snow in the noggin after Jon caught Craster giving up one of his infant sons to a White Walker resulted in... Jon having a bonked noggin and the Night's Watch banished from Craster's Keep. All that really happened was some egg on Lord Commander Mormont's face. But there's the revelation that Mormont has known for a long time that Craster has been trading his sons for safety for a long time. Is this how the White Walkers have been regenerating their numbers?  Plus Gilly took a thimble from Sam.

We got to see Bran's wolf vision, seeing the world (and Hodor) through his dire wolf Summer's eyes.  Maester Luwin tried to talk Bran out of the idea that magic still exists in the world, and for his generation it doesn't exist. But magic has been seeping back into Westeros little by little whether the people of Westeros want to believe it or not. Maybe the magic never really left, people just stopped wanting to see it.

There was a pointed effort by the show not to refer to Renly's Kingsguard as the Rainbow Guard as George RR Martin does in the books. But where Martin coyly teased Renly and Loras Tyrell as gay, Game of Thrones just goes all fucking out, doesn't it?  Margaery Tyrell is totally in on who her husband and her brother are.  Renly had trouble wrapping his head around her invitation to have a brother and sister three way with him. And so did I.  Another form of incest.  This show, man. This show.

Brienne the Beauty was perfect. Perfect casting, perfect performance, just perfect. That wench. Looking so forward to all the things she's going to be involved in.

Meanwhile, poor Theon, caught between his loyalty to Robb Stark and his actual blood family who thinks he sucks. I did feel bad for him when he yelled at Balon Greyjoy for giving him away when he was a child.  I guess old Balon didn't hear about the horseback diddling between brother and sister. Or maybe he did.  We Do Not Sow (worldwide trending topic on Twitter).

There's definitely a hardy, swashbuckling aspect to Asha Greyjoy in the books missing so far from Yara Greyjoy. Right now, Yara is mainly being used as a tomboy, "favored son" contrast to Theon. Yara has plenty more to do in the story, though, so we'll see if she gets to show a bit more verve when she's captaining those thirty ships.

It's a wonder Sansa Stark isn't a complete emotional wreck.  Is every dinner conversation with Cercei, Myrcella and Tommen Lannister all about when she's going to marry Joffery and when and how Joffrey will kill her brother?  The fact she can still function is because she's a Stark.  At least she isn't being beaten every day like in the book.  I totally forgot Shae was installed by Varys and Tyrion as Sansa's handmaiden. (Or was she in the book? I just don't remember.)

By the way, for everyone who noted how tall Joffrey has grown since season one, Sansa made Shae look like she was Tyrion.

This was one of the best Tyrion episodes, and that's saying something. The montage of him planting three different "Marrying Myrcella off" stories to Grand Maester Pycelle, Varys, and Littlefinger was brilliantly done. "The Queen mustn't know." Dorne is the real gambit Tyrion planned, so it's ironic(?) Pycelle, who heard the Dorne story, was the one who ratted out to the Queen.

Littlefinger was pissed Tyrion played him and offered him Lordship over the Riverlands and Harrenhal. But then, everyone's been offered Harrenhal. I think even I was offered Harrenhal once or twice.

I love how Bronn really enjoys all the assignments Tyrion gives him, like rousting and imprisoning Pycelle for ratting Tyrion out to Cercei. Plus Shagga is back, and called Tyrion "half man". One thing about that Tyrion Lannister: He's always so good to the whores.

Cercei's reaction to her realization that Tyrion is ultimately right to send Myrcella to Dorne to foster an alliance between their families, rather than risk leaving her in King's Landing to be raped and killed if Robb Stark sacks the city, was probably the most relatable Cercei has been. No matter her many faults, Cercei does love her children. But man, look at those cheekbones.

One thing I do remember from the book: Varys provided the answer to his riddle about The Three Great Men and the Sellsword. The show left it ambiguous. "A very small man can cast a very great shadow."

The origin of Yoren was well done. Like Syrio, Arya loses another very interesting fellow who is briefly her mentor and then dies trying to protect her. Sucks to lose Yoren, he was really great. Like most people in Westeros, his life story of how he ended up on the Wall is bloody and depressing.

Rest in peace, Lommy Greenhands, stuck with Needle's pointy end. We hardly knew ye. In fact, if we only watched the show and didn't read the books, I don't think we'd even know your name. So, thanks to some quick thinking by Arya to protect the real Gendry, we'll just call the late Lommy Gendry 2.

Three great men sit in a room: a king, a priest and a rich man. Between them sits a common sellsword. Each great man bids the sellsword kill the other two. Who lives, who dies?

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Smallville Season 11 #1 - "Guardian"

Almost a year ago, Clark Kent completed his ten year journey to become the Man of Steel and flew out of our lives, triumphantly concluding the longest-running and most successful superhero show in the history of television. Smallville's "Finale" saw Clark fulfill his destiny as he finally learned how to fly, destroyed Darkseid, and saved the world from the planet Apokalips about to collide with the Earth. To quote Chloe Sullivan, "And that's how the boy grew up and became...





Smallville is back! (In comic book form.) Smallville: Season 11 picks up six months after the day Superman pushed Apokalips back into space, far, far away, presumably never to darken Earth's skies again. The Daily Planet has never sold more copies and according to news reports in Metropolis, Earth has never been safer. The first appearance of Superman proper (as we know, Clark had patrolled his city for years from the shadows as The Blur) is referred to as "Contact". I would have preferred "Caped Wonder Stuns City", myself.

No one has interviewed Superman yet either, I gather. That would be the most important interview since God talked to Moses.

Anyway, it's a bright, sunny day in bright, sunny Metropolis. Smallville: Season 11 #1 checks us in first with the happily married couple of Oliver Queen and Chloe Sullivan-Queen, enjoying take out coffee (from what looks like that one cafe on that one street in Metropolis where Chloe and Lois always bought coffee) and waiting on the balcony of Watchtower. I guess they never did go back to Star City?  "Long night," Chloe asks. "Nah," Oliver responds, wearing his Green Arrow leathers. "Quiet as always." Looks like Clark keeps the world so safe, Oliver wears his green leathers for nothing. The Queens wait in their loving embrace, "just to see him..."

In Lois and Clark's apartment, Lois Lane, wearing a blue Superman T-shirt (the same shirt that made Marlon Brando give Margot Kidder the evil eye in Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut), is dozed off and jabbering in her sleep quoting Alice in Wonderland, I think. The other side of the bed is empty. 

Meanwhile, in the Lexcorp tower, Lex Luthor, whom we last saw had murdered his sister Tess but was stricken with amnesia as a result, listens to the news reports and watches from his office window for Superman. But he's not alone, he has a new henchman: Otis! A younger Otis, it looks like, but once again Smallville flaunts its status as the rightful inheritor of all things from Superman: The Movie. Man, what a shame Tess was killed off, we could have had Lex, Tess and Otis reunited, maybe hanging out in an underground pool that looks like Grand Central Station.  

When a familiar red and blue blur streaks across the Metropolis sky, observant Lex can tell right away: "He changed his costume."

Where is Superman going? Why to space, of course. Because Clark can do that now, any time he wants. His reason today is because the Russian space platform Korolyov is under attack by what looks like the Nexxus from Star Trek Generations. (The return of Smallville is like being inside... joy...)  A cosmonaut free floating outside the space station is saved, and seconds later, heat vision seals in the damaged hull saving the other cosmonauts inside. "Look, up in the sky!" one exclaims in Russian, never mind that A) they are in space so there is no sky and B) they are all currently sealed in the space station. Sigh.  But no matter, somebody saved them. Who? No one has to actually say it, but it's more fun if they do. Yell it out, even. In Russian.

Yes, Superman. Strange visitor from another planet. Note the new costume, everyone. Red underpants are gone as per DC Comics new rules that ...uh... red underpants are gone.  But you know what, this suit is way better than the ceremonial Kryptonian armor Superman wears in the current The New 52 comics in DC continuity. Interesting they chucked out the Brandon Routh Superman Returns suit so quickly, the top of which Tom Welling wore in the very last shot of Smallville the television series.

But now here he is, our television Clark Kent as Superman. And the art by Pere Perez amusingly and gratifyingly makes it clear this is Tom Welling as Superman. It's him, all right. Look, the hair. The lips. The chin. Perez got it all.

When the Russians start jabbering to him in their native tongue, Superman admits he hasn't gotten around to learning Russian yet. (You should get right on that, Clark.) Then comes the best part of the whole issue, the moment that makes all of this truly, uniquely Smallville. Superman asks the cosmonauts where he can find the nearest airlock. (Clark, the station's not that big. Also, how did you get in in the first place?) But then this happens:

That's right: Superman Super Blurred away... a distance of about three feet! And then he goes to open the airlock at normal speed! Amazing. This is followed by the second best, and first hokiest, moment in this entire issue: When Clark informs the cosmonaut who tells him that his son looks up Superman "Your son already has a hero to look up to, Cosmonaut. His father." Cosmonaut! At least ask the man his name, Clark!

Superman is thanked once more by the cosmonauts for his tireless efforts in saving them from being forced to meet Whoopi Goldberg or maybe getting asked by Captain Picard to go back to Veridian III and help him stop Soran, but he assures them he needs no thanks. Superman: "That won't be necessary. I'm just doing my job." And up, up, and away, Clark flies down to Earth and soars over some unidentified body of water to end the issue. What a hero. God, he's great.

To be continued... (Pony up a buck for next week's continuation. I sure will.)

Smallville: Season 11 #1 was extremely brief. For $.99 it was the equivalent of the teaser of an episode of the television show. In fact, it should have come with an audio file that played "Save Me" at the end. But here's the thing: It's Smallville. It's totally effing Smallville. These couple of dozen panels completely invoked the goofiness and famous level of quality established by the previous ten years of the television series. For a buck, getting a quick download of Smallville silliness is a lot of fun if you love Smallville. Brian Q. Miller, a former writer for Smallville the television series, totally gets the tone of Smallville and delivers a jaunty mix of familiarity and fanboy servicing, like Otis joining the Smallville universe.

Fridays are for Smallville again.

Welcome back, Clark.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Darkest Hour



The Darkest Hour is a cross between 28 Days Later, Red Dawn, and... pick any lousy alien invasion movie. War of the Worlds? No, lousier. Skyline? There you go. Two twenty-something software developers from Seattle, Emile Hirsch and Max Minghella, arrive in Moscow to sell their app for "finding the hottest clubs anywhere in the world" on your cell phone. They get screwed over by their rival, Joel Kinnaman from The Killing, who plays the most cowardly Swede in Russia. While drowning their sorrows at one of those hottest clubs their app located for them, they meet fellow American Olivia Thirlby and her Australian mate Rachael Taylor.  Next thing they know, orange lights fall from the sky and people start getting incinerated by orange tendrils of energy. They're caught right in the middle of an alien invasion by invisible aliens. 

There are effective moments of dread in The Darkest Hour. When this makeshift Scooby Gang wanders out of their hidey-hole after the aliens lay waste to the city, they explore an eerily empty Moscow. Some impressive sights are offered, like an airplane crashed into a shopping mall. Yet the more questions the characters ask about the aliens, and the more answers the movie provides, the exponentially less satisfying or interesting The Darkest Hour becomes. The aliens can "see" humans by our "bio-electric shit" (the "alien's vision" looks like PlayStation 1 level graphics) but not when humans are pressed up against glass. Later, the Scooby Gang meets a Russian electrician who explains the aliens emit and are vulnerable to microwaves. Luckily, he's built a makeshift microwave rifle.

Hirsch takes it upon himself to become the alien expert and philosopher. "The aliens had a plan," he muses. "What's ours?" Answer: shut up.

When the Scoobys learn there's a Russian nuclear submarine conveniently waiting to pick up survivors in a river across Moscow, their mission becomes to make it to the sub, with the help of local Russian street toughs-turned-alien fighters. Not all of the characters survive to the end of The Darkest Hour, but by the third act, when Hirsch demands the nuclear sub not launch so he can go rescue Thirlby from the aliens, The Darkest Hour really pushes it by asking us to accept Hirsch as some kind of rifle-toting action hero. Bits and pieces of the global war against the invisible aliens are scattered throughout, with Hirsch and Thirlby teased as now part of the resistance against the aliens. "This is how it begins," snarls Hirsch as the last line in the movie. Oh no, it isn't.

Disclosure: I almost watched The Darkest Hour on Christmas Day. I was this close to doing it. Instead I watched a double feature of War Horse and The Adventures of Tintin because sanity arrived.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Game of Thrones 2x2 - "The Night Lands"

It's been almost a year since I read "A Clash of Kings". Of the five "A Song of Ice and Fire" books, it's the one I read the fastest and for some reason, the one with the details I remember the least (until the events that conclude the book, which I remember very well). So season 2 of Game of Thrones feels kind of new to me, like I'm constantly rediscovering things I'd learned and then forgotten. But as such, I'm less capable of pointing out the details of what is new/different on the show from what was in the books.

One thing I was aware of from the outset was the show changing the name of Theon Greyjoy's sister from Asha to Yara Greyjoy. Theon is in full horny swagger mode, but he seems to me now like a full-sized Warwick Davis from Life's Too Short - a self-deluded asshole who's more convinced of his own importance than anyone he meets ever is. Plus his groping and molesting his sister, though he was unaware at the time that was his sister, takes that kiss Luke and Leia shared on Hoth to a far, far more disgusting level. But then, incest is old hat in Westeros.

Not to belabor this point, but Theon went to second and third base with his sister while they were riding that horse. Now, Theon didn't know who she was. But Yara did know who Theon was, and she let him finger mow her lawn and reacted with pleasure to it. Even on this show, with Jaime and Cercei and the Targaryens, I find that messed up. 

And how about that Balon Greyjoy, huh? What an a-hole. Not quite a Walder Frey-level a-hole, but he's right up there. I've never cared much for the Ironborn in the books. You can already see the wheels turning for how he's going to screw Robb Stark over. I do like the implications that the Northmen are "dressed like whores", that they wear "skirts" since the Northmen are kind of analogues for the Scottish.

I loved the scene with Davos Seaworth (has he been referred to as The Onion Knight yet? I don't recall from last week) and Sallador Slan the pirate. "You Westerosi are strange. A man cuts off your finger and you fall in love with him!"

No Robb Stark, Catelyn Stark, Sansa Stark, or Bran Stark this week. Very, very light on Starks, but a lot of mention of the dearly departed and sorely missed Ned Stark.

Speaking of Starks, the interplay between Gendry and Arya/Arry is spot on, especially his teasing her about being a lady. Considering the lifelong friendship between Robert Baratheon and Ned Stark, I really dig a similar friendship being forged between Ned's daughter and Robert's bastard. Plus the formal introduction of Jaqen H'ghar. Just so.

Tyrion is fantastic feeling out his power as (acting) Hand of the King, banishing Janos Slynt to the Wall and installing Bron as lord commander of the City Watch. Best line in the episode for me: "I'm not questioning your honor. I'm denying its existence." Tyrion's scenes with Cercei are also great. "You've perfected the art of tearing up papers." Tyrion is so very smart and Cercei is so very not smart. The Tyrion/Varys/Shae stuff was also very good.

Not much for poor Daenerys this week, or last. The Blood of her Blood she sent off to scout come back with his head in his horse's sack. No sign of the dragons this week, either.

But my, Ghost has grown. Grey Wind was huge last week when he stared down Jamie in Robb's camp, but Ghost might even be a bit bigger. There weren't enough of the dire wolves last season, so it's great the show has worked them in these first two episodes.

The episode also made time to show us the trials and tribulations of Littlefinger trying to run his brothel. And Stannis banging Melissandre on his Map of Westeros table, with action figures dropping all over the floor.

Finally, above the wall, Sam and Jon Snow met Gilly, whom I seem to recall is kind of important. I wasn't clear if that was her baby that was left out as a sacrifice to the White Walkers at the end. I don't think it was; but again, I'm really soft on the details of the third and fourth tier ancillary characters in this saga.

Friday, April 6, 2012

The Cabin in the Woods



The Cabin in the Woods is a gleefully Joss Whedon-y genre mashup (co-written and directed by Drew Goddard) where five unsuspecting college-age friends are caught up in a camping trip from Hell involving a bunch of throwback Whedon supernatural concepts from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel and Dollhouse. We're introduced early to and spend a lot of time with Bradley Whitford and Richard Jenkins, who look like they could be 1960s NASA eggheads but actually work for a blend of the Dollhouse and Angel's sinister law firm Wolfram and Hart.

Their organization, one of several around the world (a lot of fun is poked at Japan and their penchant for creepy long haired girls as monsters like in The Ring), serve The Ancient Ones, the original gods that once walked the Earth but are now perfectly content to remain deep in the bowels of the world if they get five specific souls sacrificed to them every once in a while. Seems like a reasonable dealio to prevent the annihilation of all human life on Earth, unless you're one of the five people chosen to be served up to the monsters from beyond. 

The five poor campers, a knowingly typecast Scooby Gang consisting of an uber hero jock (Thor himself, Chris Hemsworth), a "whore" (Anna Hutchison), a scholar (Jesse Williams), a "fool" (Fran Kranz from Dollhouse, amusingly stoned the whole movie), and "a virgin" (Kristen Connolly), all trek to Hemsworth's "cousin's cabin" in the woods, which is actually located in a virtual reality version of The Truman Show (there's even a security guard named "Truman"), and built above a vast complex housing dozens of varieties of horror movie-staple monsters. They are finagled into a basement loaded with supernatural talismans and inadvertently choose the monsters by which they will die (a family of zombies, it turns out, to the chagrin of Whitford, who desperately wants to see a Merman.) 

Who lives and who dies, and how the organization Whitford and Jenkins work for gets its viscera-soaked comeuppance, is where the fun comes in. The Cabin in the Woods laudably presents a bonanza of feints and surprises; I especially liked Hemsworth's Hero Moment where he jumps a gorge on a dirtbike with hilarious results. Whedonites are treated to cameos by several Friends of Whedon, like Tom Lenk from Buffy and, most welcome, Amy Acker from Angel. The final act involving a monster mash gone wild feels like the final moments of the series finale of Angel followed through to its goriest, earth-shattering conclusion, only without Angel himself, sword in hand, ready to go slay a dragon. 

Monday, April 2, 2012

Game of Thrones 2x1 - "The North Remembers"

Season premieres for a sprawling saga like Game of Thrones are always a bit weird because of the need to check in with everyone and re-establish where they are and what they're up to. At first watch, you're just in a "Wow, it's great to see you (Arya, Robb, Jon), you (Daenerys, Sansa, Jaime) and YOU (Tyrion) again (but not you, Joffrey)!" mode. Upon second watch, I was deeply impressed by how much story was handled in the episode, setting up the dozen or so major events to come.

Best Tyrion zingers to Cercei: "You love your children. It's your one redeeming quality. That and your cheekbones." and "How does it feel to be the disappointing child?"

The sequence with the Night's Watch beyond the Wall was probably my favorite, and now that I've seen episode 2, "The Night Lands", the set up for everything, all the little details were tremendous: The mystery of why Craster was able to exist in his Wildling village while all the other Wildlings disappeared, "If he marries his daughters, what happened to all his sons?", etc. Man, Craster is an asshole. It amazes me how every corner of Westeros our beloved characters can travel to has an appalling scumbag there waiting to be met. And there's Gilly too, whom I keep thinking is Ygritte every time she appears.

As I recall from the books, Jaime was left in a dungeon in a Stark/Tully loyal castle (I forget which one. Harrenhaal? But then, I think every castle in Westeros is called Harrenhaal) and not dragged around from camp to camp. But we get the scene with Robb and Jaime specifically addressing why Jaime is being dragged from camp to camp and not left in a castle, with a rather logical explanation of Robb not trusting his bannermen not to succumb to a Tywin Lannister bribe. But the real reason is, Jaime is too awesome and important a character not to have on the show at every opportunity. Even beaten up and chained up, he's incredibly rude and funny. One day, Jaime and Tyrion should travel around Westeros and do the Lannister Brothers Comedy Act.

One thing I don't quite recall from the book, and maybe someone can clarify, is whether in the book Catelyn volunteered for the mission to go to the Stormlands and negotiate with Renly, or if Robb sent her as the episode depicted. Because in the episode, Catelyn finally expressed a proper motherly desire to return to Winterfell and see Bran and Rickon, which I don't remember her expressing in the book (one of the reasons I hate her). No seriously, I hate Cercei less than I hate Catelyn, for different reasons. I'm not sure what that says about them or me.

One thing I can't fault Catelyn for: not trusting Balon Greyjoy. Or trusting Theon to be able to pull off his plan to get his father to join Robb and loan him their Iron ships to assault King's Landing, defeat Joffrey, and rescue his sisters. What a fanciful plan that is! In some other fantasy story, such an exciting gambit would work! But this is Game of Thrones, where no one's plans ever turn out like they want, if even.

My other favorite scene was Stannis rewriting the letter that would be sent out via ravens to all the lords in Westeros exposing the incest between Cercei and Jaime. "My beloved brother? I didn't love him and he didn't love me." "Jaime Lannister, the Kingslayer. Make it Ser Jaime Lannister. Whatever he may be, he's still a knight." I appreciate Stannis' thoroughness as an editor.

Grey Wind is huge. I couldn't help note how big his head is. Why mention that? No reason. Come back in a couple of years, around season 4.

Oh, and I love the red comet in the sky. That's an omen for Bad Shit is Gonna Go Down in Westeros.