Wednesday, December 31, 2008

More Scenes From "Watchmen"

When I first heard that the classic graphic novel Watchmen was being adapted for film, I was skeptical. While Alan Moore's books From Hell and V for Vendetta ended up pretty good on the silver screen, the filmed version League of Extraordinary Gentlemen was terrible. The more I see of Watchmen, the more exciting I am getting about the release. It seems like the directors have a good grasp of the characters and the world they are living in.

Watchmen Exclusive

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Sunday, December 28, 2008

Where Art Thou, Hip-Hop?

Like a good portion of hip-hop fans, I've had an off again on again love and hate relationship with hip-hop. One day I'm criticizing its materialism, misogyny, glorification of violence and all around silliness. The next I'm listening to underground acts like Kool Keith or Grayskul and listening in awe to their brilliant verbal and musical tenacity. It's a bipolar affair if there ever was one.

My relationship with hip-hop went on again this winter. I bought a copy of Seattle area group The Gigantics' album Die Already and downloaded the new Kool Keith album, Dr. Dooom 2. I was impressed by both. I was also struck by the fact that both albums, which share no connection, both had verses about hip-hop being dead or on life support. If rappers from different sides of the continent can agree that the genre is hurting, perhaps it is.

Is hip-hop really dead? People said rock was dead for a long time, and before groups like The White Stripes brought real rock and roll back the genre was tagged with nu-metal monstrosities like Linkin Park and P.O.D. I hope that the genre is working itself out, realizing that the success of Barack Obama's candidacy, Oprah Winfrey's television show and conscious rappers like Common and Lupe Fiasco has proved that the black persona doesn't have to be interwoven with banana clips and bouncing butts.

The great combination of rhythm, melody and poetry that hip-hop provides is too creative to just go out of style like bell bottoms or long-collared shirts. It has drawn alot more people into it than just black males and should not just be cast aside as a musical presentation of post-Civil Rights black anger.

Whatever doesn't happen with hip-hop, I'll be listening with hope that I'll hear something I like. If I like, I might buy a CD or download and maybe even go to a show. That's only if I hear something good, though.

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Saturday, December 27, 2008

Review: "The Spirit"

Frank Miller's new film:

The source material:

If I were a comic book purist, I would be grossly offended by The Spirit. In this film, Frank Miller adapts Will Eisner's The Spirit comic book character into the more respectable and popular format of a major motion picture. In doing so, Frank Miller totally re-aligns the character's orientation, turning a goofy gumshoe/superhero more akin to Dick Tracy or Richard Diamond into a thinly disguised Sin City sequel.

The film style is exactly the same as Sin City. The pacing is the same, the look is the same, the characters are the same. Sure, we expect adaptations of comics to deviate from the original material, but this is ridiculous. I expected Frank Miller, as a comic book writer, to have more respect and creative distance than that. As Sam Adams wrote in his Los Angeles Times review, "Miller has simply transplanted his vision onto another costumed crime fighter."

Despite my harsh words, I do not totally disregard The Spirit. The similarity to Sin City makes for great visuals, and the blending of modern day gadgets with a Jazz Age look reminds one of how similar America is now to the Depression/WWII era. I appreciate Miller's effort to revive the noir style and hope that it is used by other directors. However, this is a lukewarm effort at best and not one that should be viewed as keeping with Will Eisner's work.

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Friday, December 26, 2008

"A Beer and a Bugger"

My heavens, I love British humor. You can hear more from Colonel Crabtree-Smythe by listening to the podcast "The Colonel Radio Show."

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Thursday, December 18, 2008

American Automakers Could Learn From Marvel Comics

Cross-posted at United Liberty

While searching through the comic book section at a Barnes and Noble in Emeryville, California, I was unsurprised to see that there were about five shelves dedicated to manga (the term for Japanese comic books) compared to only three for American graphic novels.

Like Japanese automobiles, Japanese comics and animation have infiltrated and taken over American culture. While American comic books and graphic novels still bring in more revenue than their Japanese competitors, with recent estimates showing the American market at $705 million compared to manga at $210 million stateside, the competition is fierce. DC Comics has started its own line of manga comics called CMX. The art of myriad American artists resembles manga, with artists like Chris Bachalo and Joe Madureira looking as if they stepped right out of the Tokyo scene. With the intense popularity of manga among younger generations, it is possible that American comics could be eclipsed by manga.

Like their American counterparts in the auto industry, the American comic book industry has been faced with bankruptcy. In 1998, Marvel Comics, one of the “Big Two” of comic book publishers along with DC, was operating under Chapter 11. In order to maintain its relevance, Marvel had to completely retool itself, changing editors in chief, involving itself deeper in film, toys and licensing and video games. It became a part of Toy Biz, a move that may have been humiliating to some involved.

The restructuring proved a lifesaver for Marvel. Only two years later, “X-Men” was released in theaters, bringing in $157 million in ticket sales. In an article released in 2003 on the website, it was noted that while Marvel’s shares traded at $6.75 in 1998, they were trading at $28.58 in 2003.

While I’m by no means a business expert, I think American automobile manufacturers could learn alot from Marvel’s experience. While Chris Matthews may have quickly dismissed Texas Rep. Jeb Hensarling’s assurance that going into bankruptcy helps a company reorganize as Milton Friedman rhetoric which clashes with recent events, that is exactly what happened for Marvel. Giving the automobile manufacturers a chance to do the same thing is not a bad idea.

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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Robert Llewellyn Goes Crazy

Robert Llewellyn is most famous for playing Kryten on the brilliant British comedy "Red Dwarf." In this video, he gets more angry and intense about renewable energy and "eco-cars" than anyone I've ever seen.

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Listen to the War

History can be an abstract thing on paper, and it takes immersion in it to really realize the extravagant things that happened in the past. The podcast "M Radio SIG" makes available hundreds of clips of vintage radio broadcasts, from drama to news. Recently it's been producing clips from World War II broadcasts that do better than any textbook or even a movie at bringing the war into real focus. The range of the clips is pretty long, with commentary from the non-interventionist Charles Lindbergh to clips of interviews with soldiers fresh from combat in Europe.

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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

United Liberty

If you like this blog and want to see more of my work, I am a regular blogger at United Liberty. Most of my work there is on the more political side, while most of what is here is more on the entertainment and cultural side.

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"The Crow" Flies Again?

MTV's Splash Page reports that, after becoming demoralized from the failures of his 2003 film "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen," director Stephen Norrington is looking at taking a crack at "The Crow." Norrington doesn't have a bad track record, having directed the successful "Blade" series. "Blade" is very similar to the tone I would envision for a good adaptation of "The Crow."

A personal note - As a very young 12-year-old comic book fan during the 1990s, I dressed up as The Crow for Halloween. I've never really been a fan of Halloween, that being the only time as a kid that I didn't either dress up as Batman, Thomas Jefferson or just not participate. With my then fairly long hair greased back and dyed black with the face paint applied, I looked pretty menacing. I'm not sure if it would work well these days.

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Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Sometimes Girls Blow It Too

Yes, that headline sounds pretty bad but it's true if you stop thinking dirty. Sometimes girls screw it up too. Here's an animated case-in-point:

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HULK VS. Trailer!

This is so awesome. I never thought I would see Deadpool in animated form. It's also cool to see Wolverine's 1970s era costume revitalized.

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Friday, December 5, 2008

A Mysterious Disappearance

Following is a brilliantly done video from the BBC, which illustrates the strange disappearance of a scientist in what looks to have been the 1920s or some similar period. The newsreel style adds alot of realism to the story.

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