January 24, 2013
Just saw Wes Anderson's MOONRISE KINGDOM (2012).
I was a big fan of the first two Anderson films I saw, RUSHMORE and THE ROYAL TENENBAUMS, and thought the earlier BOTTLE ROCKET was okay when I saw it after those two. I haven't been as impressed with his work since. I had to struggle to get through THE LIFE AQUATIC WITH STEVE ZISSOU, couldn't bring myself to care one way or the other about THE DARJEELING LIMITED, and thought his animated Roald Dahl adaptation, FANTASTIC MR. FOX, was just an entertaining diversion.
I'm happy to say that MOONRISE KINGDOM was a return to form for him, maybe not as good as RUSHMORE and THE ROYAL TENENBAUMS, but in their league, and both those films get better the more times I watch them, which I suspect will be the case here. It gets a little more absurd than those other two films in the second half, but in an endearing way, and I just loved some of the characters. Great work by all the actors, too, especially the two young actors Kara Hayward and Jared Gilman, playing the 12-year-old fugitives, who pulled off some pretty challenging work, especially with such a talented adult cast to keep up with.
Feels really good to really love a Wes Anderson movie for the first time in over a decade. Hopefully THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL (which looks like it has about half the cast of this one) continues the run next year.
January 21, 2013
At one point I wanted to do a weblog post series about the "Free 16-Page" preview comics DC used to do to launch new books (and sometimes new directions for existing books) back in the early 1980s, most famously the first one, the debut of the NEW TEEN TITANS by Perez and Wolfman in DCCP #26. Looking at each preview, and the subsequent series that came out of them. Never got around to it, but just came across this graphic I prepared for it, which I kind of like, so I'll just throw it up here.
January 20, 2013
A lapse in paying attention to my holds at the library meant I got a surfeit of Sherlock Holmes this week, with both the 2011 film SHERLOCK HOLMES: A GAME OF SHADOWS and the first season of the 2010 British TV series SHERLOCK.
My history with Arthur Conan Doyle's creation goes back to before I have any clear memories. It's always been a part of the cultural landscape in my lifetime. I read all the original stories back in 1983, when I was thirteen, and as I recall I really liked them, enough that I read them all a second time after I finished. I don't think I've read any of them since, despite buying a nice hardcover book of them a few years after that. Since then my exposure to Holmes has been in the cultural landscape and in a few adaptations, mostly unsatisfactory.
I was hoping for a bit better with these two more recent productions. The 2009 SHERLOCK HOLMES film, with the same director and stars as A GAME OF SHADOWS (but, I now see, different writers), was one of the more entertaining adaptations of Holmes I'd seen. Far from great, but watchable, with a lot of good scenes. And I'd heard a lot of praise for the 2010 TV series, which updates Holmes to the modern age.
Not too good, either one. A GAME OF SHADOWS almost completely lacks the charm of the 2009 film, except for a couple of brief scenes, and hardly feels like a Holmes film at all. It's very loud, and very brash, not very funny and not very smart (though it seems to think it is the last things). A shame, as those few brief minutes of quality do show a fundamental understanding of the concept that the rest of the film belies.
And that TV series wasn't much better. Three 90-minutes episodes, in that British way of doing TV shows, and I don't think any of it really worked. Even worse, a few times in every episode it would seem like it was going to come close to working, and then fritter it all away, giving me just enough hope to keep watching and hoping the next time they would get it right. That is a frustrating way to watch TV.
So back to the cultural landscape with Holmes, I guess (I actually thought the first two years of HOUSE, M.D. were a better adaptation of Holmes than either of these). Or maybe I should dig that long unread hardcover out of whatever box I consigned it to and see if the Doyle originals live up to my 30 year old memories.
January 20, 2013
For Todd Klein, a page from Scott McCloud's ZOT! #8  on the development of the character, including early versions of the logo that led to Klein's final finished version.
[finished Klein logo over here for comparison]
December 27, 2012
I don't go to see movies in theaters very often, but had some time today. So, Peter Jackson's THE HOBBIT EPISODE ONE. Wow. That was awful in ways I didn't think was possible. I rewatched the LORD OF THE RINGS films over the last month (original theatrical cuts), and while I don't think they were great movies, I thought they were very good movies with a few great scenes in each, and a minimum of clunkers, mostly understandable as necessary evils to fit in an especially tricksey plot requirement that worked better in prose than on the screen. They could have and should have been better films, but they were fine for what they were, pop cinema adventure focused adaptations of a very good children's novel. I should have known there was going to be trouble since many of the flat bits in RINGS that didn't feel like plot requirements involved the sole dwarf character. So now THE HOBBIT, with almost nothing but dwarves, is just a string of all the worst bits of RINGS. Flat, unfunny, overlong. Just not good. The acting was noticeably weaker. Ian McKellen was great in RINGS, and even he was rivaled by some of the other actors as the best thing on screen. By comparison, his performance in THE HOBBIT was uninspired, and sadly uninspired McKellen is better than anyone else in the movie.
Think it's time to accept that Peter Jackson just isn't my kind of filmmaker, as a writer or director. He caught lightning in a bottle by being hired to adapt an inspired piece of work after a string of fair-to-middling movies, and while he rose somewhat to the challenge, he didn't come close to rising to the level of the potential of the source material. The films he's done since have ranged from awful (KING KONG) to mediocre (THE LOVELY BONES), and now he hits a new low with what should have been as close to a slam dunk as possible in movies.
So, yeah, won't be watching the remaining two parts until I can do so for free, likely a library copy, and perhaps not even then. That's six hours I suspect I'll be wanting back.
On the plus side, new digital projectors at the nearest theater to my home since the last time I went there. Major improvement on the picture quality, makes me much more eager to see a movie there, if anything ever comes out that looks decent. Given the previews before THE HOBBIT, I'm not sure that's likely.