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Comics – Batman #50

7 Jul

There will be spoilers in this review, for the end of Batman #50 as well as the two previous storylines, “The Gift” (Batman #s 45-47) and “The Best Man” (Batman #s 48-49). I will make some non-spoiler observations prior to those discussions.

Tom King took over the Batman title with issue #1 of the current volume, which began its numbering as part of DC’s 2016 Rebirth event. I’m a huge fan of his run, which is illustrated by a number of artists with a less-cartoony, somewhat photo-realistic style (or at least more realistic than what is generally considered comic book art). I have especially sung his praises on Facebook for the storyline “The War of Jokes and Riddles” (issues 25-32), in which Batman tells a story from Batman’s early days, a time when the Joker and the Riddler united all of Gotham’s underworld behind one or the other of them and waged war for control of the city.

King is not afraid to feature pages where people are just talking, not in some action figure “I’m about to leap into violent action at any second” contortion, but rather simply sitting or standing or laying, as people are wont to do. His prose is often quite literate and sometimes moving, and I truly can’t recommend it highly enough.

Way back at the end of Batman #24 (August 2017), Batman proposed to Catwoman, and she accepted, and much of the storytelling since then has focused on them preparing for the wedding. There’s a wonderful two-parter  (#s 36 and 37) where Batman tells Superman about the engagement, then Bat and Cat (their pet names for each other) go on a double-date with the Man of Steel and his wife. The aforementioned “The Gift” comes from superhero/screwup Booster Gold, and is a rather unorthodox wedding present. I wasn’t particularly enthused by the length of the storyline, but it lays important seeds for both “The Best Man” and the actual wedding issue. “The Best Man” depicts the Joker’s reaction to not receiving an invitation, and the second of the two parts is a textbook example of a comic book which is primarily dialogue; there’s action in the first few pages, then 11 pages of two characters simply talking to each other without moving hardly at all, followed by some motion (I wouldn’t exactly call it action) to end the issue. And it’s thoroughly engaging throughout.

I highly recommend picking up King’s entire run. Issues 1-37 have been collected in 5 volumes, available from Amazon in both print and digital form, and from your local comic book retailer. Volume 6 (issues 38-44) will be available on July 31. Or you can get most of the more recent issues at cover price from the aforementioned retailer.

I give Tim King’s Batman run 8 Cheeseburgers

SPOILER DISCUSSION STARTS HERE

 

 

 

I’m only a passing Booster Gold fan, so The Gift was not in my wheelhouse, nor was a recent, similar appearance in the Superman books. The Gift took as its jumping-off point the fact that, by his nature, Batman is grim, due to the death of his parents. So Booster determines that he will go back in time and save the elder Waynes from their fate, thereby showing Bruce how much worse things would have been had his parents lived. A truly misbegotten idea. And it does not unfold anywhere near what Booster expected. In the end, he manages to restore things to the way the always have been, but then tells Batman and Catwoman what he’s done, “how [Bruce was] happy, and the world wasn’t”.  Bat and Cat don’t react, but Booster keeps on talking, and it’s clear that what he’s done has affected one person…him. The issue ends with an “out out damned spot” Lady Macbeth riff that almost makes the storyline worth it. Almost.

“The Gift” introduces a key question, however, one that becomes more explicit in “The Best Man”. The Joker, miffed that he hasn’t received an invitation to the wedding, so he crashes another wedding and kills everyone except one hostage, to draw Batman out. This works, but Joker being Joker, he can’t contain himself and kills that hostage too. He then takes, alternately, Batman and himself as “hostage”, before an explosion renders the Bat unconscious. Catwoman, hearing the explosion, enters the church and, in the action to start issue #49, she and Joker end up critically wounding each other, causing them both to lay still, lest they bleed out. The ensuing conversation occupies the main portion of the issue. They discuss the upcoming wedding, the fascination of Batman’s rogues gallery for their common foe, and both Catwoman and Joker’s relationship with Batman. Near the end of the conversation, he reaches his ultimate point: “He can’t be happy. And also be the Batman.”

Issue #50 is nothing short of a masterpiece.

It follows a repeating structure: two (for the most part) full page “posters” featuring Batman and Catwoman together (each by a different artist), followed by a page of traditional storytelling featuring one of them preparing for the wedding, and a page of traditional storytelling featuring the other. Again, there’s very little action, as the pair decide to elope, Batman retrieves a hard-drinking judge to preside over the ceremony (under the operating theory that he’ll be too drunk to remember it), and Catwoman breaks in to Arkham Asylum to free her longtime friend and partner in crime, Holly Robinson, to serve as her witness. The text on the poster pages alternates between a letter written by Bruce to Selina declaring his love for her and from he to him explaining…

well, if everything went to plan, there’d be no need for spoilers, would there?

The Joker’s sentiment from the previous issue is restated by Holly, when she says “He always seemed to need his misery, y’know. Like it was how he did what he did.” And this restatement (from a person who’s presumably not certifiably insane, even though she’s just been broken out of Arkham) takes root with Selina who, despite her deep and lasting love for Bruce, does not show up for the wedding.

This conclusion, in retrospect, appears to be the only logical way to end this storyline. As stated twice here, and in many many other comics (in which Batman smiling or cracking a joke is usually noted as a jarring aberration), a happy Batman is not Batman. But the handling of the resolution here is handled beautifully, and I’ll be eager to see what Tom King does next.

This is not a perfect issue. There are a number of pieces that don’t quite make sense on inspection: The bit about the judge doesn’t quite work for me; with the vast array of heroes in the DC Universe, they’re saying that they couldn’t find one who was ordained in some church? Heck, I’m sure Booster Gold would be more than willing to get one of those internet ordinations, to make up for the crummy Gift he got. And since it’s already been established that they’re on the eve of the wedding (due to tie-ins depicting the bachelor and bachelorette parties–see below), you’d think they already would have arranged for a minister. Why couldn’t they just swing by (pun intended) and pick him or her up? These quibbles are there, but don’t ultimately detract from the story.

One note: Even though the ultimate end to the story thread was pretty much preordained, I don’t take issue with DC billing it as a wedding issue and playing it up the way they did. What I do take issue with are the five one-shot “Prelude to the Wedding” books that were released, featuring a heroic member of the bat-family versus a bat-villain, While the story titles were cute (each one a line from the traditional wedding vows), is Red Hood vs Anarky really a story the public was clamoring for? Written by Tim Seeley and drawn by a number of artists, the stories felt less a part of the main story and more a cash-grab with tangential wedding themes.

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Movies – Ant-Man and the Wasp

7 Jul

Marvel’s third and final movie of 2018 (fourth of you count Deadpool, which is part of the Sony/X-Men universe rather than the main Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU)), Ant-Man and the Wasp is the follow-up to 2015’s Ant-Man, and bridges that character’s appearance in Captain America: Civil War (2016), his non-appearance in this year’s Avengers: Infinity War*, and his confirmed appearance in next year’s Avengers 4 (title still unannounced).

This movie takes place two years after Civil War, and Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) is nearing the end of a two-year House Arrest agreement he reached after siding with Captain America’s rebels in that movie. All indications are that he’s been behaving himself, spending time with his daughter and starting a business with his burglary crew from the first Ant-Man movie. He’s also fallen out of touch with Hank Pym and Hope Van Dyne (Michael Douglas and Evangeline Lilly), who aren’t happy that he took the Ant-Man suit to Europe without asking.

Hope and Hank have been busy as well, working on a tunnel device that will allow them to access the Quantum Realm, where Janet Van Dyne (Hank’s wife and Hope’s mother, played by Michelle Pfeiffer) disappeared while on a mission as the Wasp years earlier. They’d always assumed that a person who entered the Quantum Realm would be lost forever, but Scott proved in the first film that it was possible to come back, Given this hope, they’ve been working on a way to safely accessing the Quantum Realm.

Scott, Hank, and Hope are pretty quickly reunited, to try to rescue Janet, while simultaneously trying to evade Scott’s FBI monitor Jimmy Woo (Randall Park), a black market arms dealer (Walton Goggins), and a super-powered adversary called Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen), all of whom have something they want from the trio. They receive varying levels of support from Scott’s buddies (Michael Pena, T.I., and David Dastmalchian) and Bill Foster (Laurence Fishburn), one of Hank’s old colleagues.

The tone of Ant-Man and the Wasp is similar to the first Ant-Man movie, skewed to the humorous side of the Marvel Universe, but without a lot of the snark that comes through in the Guardians of the Galaxy movies. It’s a gentler, goofier form of humor which plays to Rudd and Pena’s strengths. Lilly is given a bit more to do here than in the first movie (in which she primarily served as a wet blanket to Rudd’s goofiness), and she’s appealing and has good chemistry with both Rudd and Douglas. Douglas is fine, and Rudd and Pena have fine-tuned their respective personas to a fare-thee-well, so they deliver exactly what’s expected of them.

If there’s one problem with the movie, it’s that of the three main plotlines in the movie, only one seems to have any urgency (the hunt for Janet Van Dyne). The other two (Ghost and the black market guy) simply serve to throw hurdles in the way of the first. Woo’s dogged pursuit to prove that Scott is violating the terms of his house arrest, provide some good comedic situations, and give the only real reason for Scott’s ex-wife and her new husband (Judy Greer and Bobby Cannavale, both of whom should have been given bigger roles in the MCCU than these throwaway supporting parts) to appear.

All in all, Ant-Man and the Wasp won’t likely bring any new viewers into the Marvel Universe, and it won’t change the minds of folks who didn’t like the first installment. There are a couple of throwaway lines/concepts involving the Quantum Realm which many observers are thinking will come into play in Avengers 4, and that’s quite possible, given that the first post-credit sequence ties this movie directly in to Infinity Quest.

I give it 6 Cheeseburgers

 

*Many reviews have indicated that this movie explains why Ant-Man doesn’t appear in Infinity War, but there were a couple lines of dialogue in that movie which explained it; when one of the characters is getting Bruce Banner up to speed on where everyone is, they say “Scott is under house arrest” (or something like that). Banner replies “Scott who,” to which he’s told “Ant-Man” and he observes, “So there’s an Ant-Man and a Spider-Man now?”

Movies – Blade Runner 2049

8 Oct

Blade Runner 2049 is the long-awaited sequel to the 1982 science fiction classic. The new movie takes place 30 years after the original and stars Ryan Gosling as “K”, a new-model replicant (a.k.a. android) Blade Runner — a police officer tasked with hunting down and “retiring” older model replicants. The movie also features Robin Wright as K’s boss, Jared Leto as industrialist Niander Wallace, Sylvia Hoeks as Wallace’s right-hand woman, Luv, and Ana de Armas as K’s girlfriend. The main cast is rounded out by Dave Bautista as a replicant who puts the main action of the movie in motion, and Edward James Olmos and, of course, Harrison Ford as Rick Deckard, returning from the original movie.

I haven’t seen Blade Runner for years, but I remember it as an action sci-fi movie with some “what does it mean to be human” philosophy mixed in. This one…isn’t. It’s a visually beautiful, slow, talky movie with a few action scenes tossed in.

Ryan Gosling is good as a downtrodden cop trying to do his duty while battling his own personal questions. Screenwriters Hampton Fancher and Michael Green almost immediately take away one major (unresolved) subplot of the original movie, Deckard’s “is he human or replicant?” by immediately identifying K as a replicant, but that adds a new level of explicit questioning in terms of K hunting his own. De Armas as Joi, the one bright spot in K’s life, is beautiful and effective, and Wright bookends the summer with another strong woman warrior role (following her turn in Wonder Woman). Harrison Ford is…well, Harrison Ford, and dominates the relatively small portion of the movie he’s in. Jared Leto delivers a strange, Jared Leto-ish performance.

The visuals are stunning, both digital and practical effects. The neon-and-video-lit streets of Los Angeles from the original movie reappear in fleeting glimpses, though the city is mainly glimpsed from on high, from the rain-slicked windscreens of flying cars.

I really want to like this movie based on the visuals and a number of nice touches, including some callbacks to the original, but it feels much more like a Denis Villeneuve movie that shares some DNA with Blade Runner than a straightforward sequel, even though it hits a lot of the plot points you’d look for in a sequel. In the end, I think the movie succeeds in creating a vast visual pallet and a couple of interesting characters, but falls short due to a too-dense plot and muddled motivations.

I give Blade Runner 2049 6 Cheeseburgers.

 

TV Shows Premiering September 18 – 24

18 Sep

Continuing our quick rundowns of which shows are returning or premiering in the upcoming week. Check your local listings for times. Note: As more shows premiere week-to-week, I’m not going to attempt to comment on all of them, just the ones I watch, or have something to say about. Others I’ll just note with the season and anything else that’s noteable.

source: The TV Addict

Monday, September 18

Dancing With the Stars (ABC). Season 25 Premiere.

Tuesday, September 19

Jerry Before Seinfeld (Netflix) Special. A Jerry Seinfeld comedy club special featuring never-before-seen material and childhood videos.

Wednesday, September 20

Channel Zero: No-End House (SyFy). Season 2 Premiere. The horror anthology series that isn’t American Horror Story kicks off its second run of six episodes, subtitled “No-End House”. From the SyFy Wire: “When four friends enter the house, they learn that it is more than a haunted mansion. Confronted with strangely personal horrors in each room, they must try to find an escape.” Based on the first season, this is a strong recommend.

The Good Place (NBC). Season 2 Premiere. The off-kilter sitcom featuring Kristen Bell as a venal woman who ends up in the wrong afterlife finished off its first season with a game-changing twist that totally flipped the script. Probably one of the returning series that I’m most looking forward to.

Big Brother (CBS). Season 19 Finale. The winner of Season 19 is crowned.

Thursday, September 21

Gotham (Fox). Season 4 Premiere. The Gotham City before Batman edges closer to Bruce Wayne becoming a vigilante in the Season 4 Dawn of Night sequence.

The Orville (Fox). Timeslot Premiere. After a number of airings on Sunday nights following football, the Seth McFarlane space comedy moves to its regular timeslot. I still haven’t watched it, but my daughter found it funny.

Friday, September 22

Fuller House (Netflix). Season 3 becomes available.

Transparent (Amazon). Season 4 becomes available.

Sunday, September 24

60 Minutes (CBS). Season 50 Premiere. The venerable news magazine starts its 50th season on the air.

Star Trek: Discovery (CBS). Series Premiere. Like last year’s The Good Fight (the well-reviewed spinoff of The Good Wife), the latest installment of the Star Trek franchise debuts on the network’s broadcast channel, only to have its remaining episodes air weekly on its CBS All Access subscription service. So if you watch the premiere and get hooked, it’s gonna cost you to see the rest.

Movies — MOTHER!

17 Sep
I saw Mother! today. It’s not the movie the trailers make it seem like (the second movie this year to be radically different than its trailer, after It Comes At Night), but I’m not sure how it could have been promoted more accurately.
Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem play a May-December couple who live in an enormous house in the middle of a clearing in the woods.  He is a poet struggling with writer’s block and she is an artistic type who is absorbed with restoring the house. Their solitude is disrupted one evening when a doctor (Ed Harris) appears at their front door. He is, he claims, a doctor at a nearby hospital, and has been told that their home is a bed-and-breakfast where he might find a room. The situation becomes even stranger the next morning when his wife (Michelle Pfeiffer) arrives. To say much more would be to give away the twists and turns of the first half of the movie.
It’s an unusual movie, an extended metaphor or allegory. 
 
Lawrence is very good throughout, channeling the viewers utter confusion at everything that happens around her. Bardem, Pfeiffer, and Harris are also good at doing what they’re asked to do.
I think its problem, though, is that it can’t decide which allegory or metaphor it is. There are a bunch of different things thrown in together, and the movie takes an abrupt left turn a little past halfway through. At one part during the extremely chaotic second half, I wondered if it was trying to be a viciously funny satire but wasn’t landing its humor, but it was being played so straight that I don’t think that was it.
I think the problem starts with Darren Aronofsky’s script and ends with his direction. He gets points for going bold in the middle of the movie, going way off the rails in a way that doesn’t make sense given what’s come before it, and doesn’t really follow from anything that has come before it. I don’t doubt that he knew what he was trying to do. But I think he fell short of communicating that to the audience. And when he did, explicitly, at the end of the movie, my reaction was “But that wasn’t one of the multiple metaphors I considered while I was watching the $*(%*%$ thing.”
I’ll give Mother! 6 Cheeseburgers for audacity
5 Cheeseburgers for the first half
and 2CB overall.

TV – Shows Premiering September 11-17

10 Sep

Continuing our quick rundowns of which shows are returning or premiering in the upcoming week. Check your local listings for times.

source: The TV Addict

Monday, September 11

Carol Burnett’s Golden Anniversary (MeTV). Celebrating the 50th anniversary of the premiere of The Carol Burnett Show, MeTV will be airing episodes of Carol Burnett and Friends (the show’s half-hour syndication version) featuring iconic characters and/or sketches. Monday features the classic Gone with the Wind sketch, Tuesday an Exorcist parody, Wednesday is Mr. Tudball and Mrs. Wiggins, Thursday highlights one of the sketches that eventually spun off into Mama’s Family, and Friday is an homage to Sunset Boulevard. And yes, I remember most of these from their original airings (or reruns during the series’ first run), and yes, I feel old. CBS, the series’ original home, will air a star-studded anniversary special in December. SPECIAL EVENT

Tuesday, September 12

The Mindy Project (Hulu). The Mindy Kaling vehicle airs its final season, its third on Hulu and sixth overall (it started out on Fox). I’ve never watched it, but understand it has quite a fan base. If you’re a member of that base, you probably already know about it. FINAL SEASON 6 PREMIERE

Wednesday, September 13

South Park (Comedy Central). The animated sitcom featuring foul-mouthed kids enters its 21st season. I’ve watched and enjoyed particular episodes, and think the spinoff movie is one of the most brilliant musical parodies ever, but have never been a regular viewer. Again, if you are, you probably don’t need a reminder. SEASON 21 PREMIERE

Broad City (Comedy Central). The much-acclaimed, female-centric sketch show starts its fourth season. Regarding my viewership: lather, rinse, repeat (never watched, heard very good things). SEASON 4 PREMIERE

Thursday, September 14

Better Things (FX). Pamela Adlon’s single-mom sitcom. Second season. Heard good things. Don’t watch. SEASON 2 PREMIERE

Sunday, September 17

The Emmy Awards (CBS). The second holiest day of the year at our house, after Oscar Sunday. The Emmys traditionally mark the start of the new television season. This year’s host is Stephen Colbert, which should keep the evening lively. With Game of Thrones not eligible due to the lengthy break between seasons, the path is open for a number of quality shows including This is Us, The Handmaid’s Tale, Westworld, and Big Little Lies. With the number of A-list movie stars appearing in Big Little Lies alone, the night should be even more star-studded than usual. What most people don’t know is that this will actually be the third night of Emmy presentations, with the first two (called the Creative Arts awards, but including acting awards for voice overs and guest stars) having taken place this weekend. Creative Arts winners are listed at the EW Online links below. SPECIAL EVENT
2017 Creative Arts Emmy Winners Night 1
2017 Creative Arts Emmy Winners Night 2

VICE PRINCIPALS (HBO). The second season of the HBO sitcom starring Danny McBride and Walton Goggins. Unlike the shows above, I’ve heard absolutely nothing about this show. Like the shows above, I haven’t watched it. YMMV.  SEASON 2 PREMIERE

TV – Shows Premiering September 4-10

4 Sep

In an effort to post more regularly as the summer television season runs down and the fall season starts, I’m going to try to post quick rundowns of which shows are returning or premiering in the upcoming week. Check your local listings for times.

source: The TV Addict

Tuesday, September 5

American Horror Story: Cult (FX). The latest season of the popular horror series features politics, clowns, and, apparently, bees. As the title suggests, a cult will develop around one of the main characters. AHS is considered an anthology series in the more modern sense, in that each season stands alone, with new characters and storylines, so if you haven’t watched previous seasons, you can surely jump on now. (IMO, more traditional anthology series change from episode to episode…think Twilight Zone or the current Room 104 or Black Mirror). SEASON 7 PREMIERE

Wednesday, September 6

You’re the Worst (FXX). The FXX anti-romantic comedy starts its fourth season a while after the end of the third. The characters are self-involved and rude, but I find the show extremely funny. Previous seasons and episodes have dealt realistically with such topics as depression and PTSD, but don’t let that put you off. Give it a try. SEASON 4 PREMIERE

Friday, September 8

Bojack Horseman (Netflix). An animated comedy which revolves around Bojack, formerly the star of a family-oriented situation comedy, now a depressed and jaded alcoholic, as he attempts to make a comeback. Oh, and he’s a horse. I haven’t tried this series yet, but it’s on my (way-too-long) “too watch” list. SEASON 4 PREMIERE

Sunday, September 10

The Orville (Fox). The latest from Seth McFarland (Family Guy, American Dad) is a live-action science fiction comedy which riffs on the original Star Trek. Early reviews indicate that the show can’t decide whether it’s a spoof or a send-up, but I’ll watch at least a couple of episodes. SERIES PREMIERE

Outlander (Starz). The time-travelling historical romance returns to its faithful fans. I haven’t watched it, but know a number of folks who swear by it. SEASON 3 PREMIERE

The Deuce (HBO). A new series which charts the rise of legalized porn in the 1970s. Early reviews are good for the series and stars Maggie Gyllenhaal (Jake’s sister) and James Franco (Dave’s brother). Franco plays twin brothers. The first episode is currently available on HBO’s streaming platforms and on-demand. SERIES PREMIERE

Fear the Walking Dead (AMC). The second half of the third season picks up where the first half left off. If you’re not watching now, this isn’t a particularly good place to start. HALF-SEASON PREMIERE