Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Surfboard art - "flee!"

My brother Josh had me draw this on one of the surfboards he recently shaped. I used Sharpie paint pens. It's based on this drawing.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Recent drawing - Animator monkey

Another friend commissioned me and several others to do some sort of portrait of his dad for Christmas. Here was my take. (Surprise surprise, a monkey.) His dad is an animator for Disney. I inked this one with a Winsor & Newton Series 7 #1.

Recent drawing - Maltese pup

A friend of mine commissioned me to draw a Maltese pup for him, for a possible gift for his mom. I had a heck of time getting the face right in the first several drawings, because they're so darn fluffy and shapeless head-on, but I finally came up with one I was satisfied with. He wanted it simplified, so I toned down the shading quite a bit. I inked it with a brush pen.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Dead Irons - new Western comic

I didn't read much of the article, but the covers captured my attention.

This first one is by Jason Shawn Alexander, and it's pretty great (wish that Dynamite logo would disappear, though). Nice composition and colors; overall good design.

This next one by Jae Lee is even better:

Great idea, great colors, great drawing. This cover would suck me in if I saw it on the rack. I'll probably check out the series, though Alexander's interior work didn't do a whole lot for me. I'd buy these two images as posters, though.

Auto-Tune! That's what it's called.

Remember when I complained about "voice modulating" in music? I found out what its technical term is: Auto-Tune. Watch this SNL clip for an example.

Now the object of my hatred has a name.

Spider as payment

This bit of correspondence is hi-larious.

I drew an awesome spider one time!

Monday, December 01, 2008

Recent movies - Sunshine, Speed Racer, Man with the Gun, The Alamo, Broken Arrow

Sunshine (2007) - I think I added this one to the queue a while back based on Nobody and Jeri's reviews, but I didn't remember what they'd said until I went back and read them again after finishing the movie.

Sunshine makes a very strong case for Blu-ray. The visuals and sound design are very impressive. It's funny that Nobody mentioned that passage from Out of the Silent Planet in his review, because by odd coincidence I had re-read that book just a few weeks before watching Sunshine, and was thinking of similar things as I watched the movie.

Using the sun as a character in a sci-fi film was a great move. The sun provides a strong visual, a host of problems, the ultimate solution, the dichotomy of giving life and destroying it. More powerful than any other physical thing we know, yet, in the story, tiny humans are needed to save it. The sheer scale of each of its attributes dwarfs everything else we can think of save for God Himself. To one of the characters, the sun becomes God. For another, it becomes at least an obsession, though I appreciated the distinction between "weirdly obsessed" and "absolutely crazy."

Some have written about the tonal turn the movie takes towards the end, but it didn't feel that jarring to me. Sure, there are several logical problems with the other captain's return, but I wasn't taken out of the experience by it. While we're on the subject, I expected a different ending. Boyle takes the conventional route, story-wise, and I expected something a bit more surprising, something a bit more philosophical about the Sun.

Overall, though, it was a unique experience, worth having for the visuals and sound design alone. And it had Hiroyuki Sanada from The Twilight Samurai!

Speed Racer (2008) - A lot of fun. I can't think of any complaints. The style of the film felt just right, the action was exciting, the acting was good (how's this for a paradox: the annoying kid didn't annoy me. I don't know how that works either), and the message was actually good and not watered down with the usual Disney "listen to your heart" crap. That last element in particular made me grateful. Usually in family fare such as this, I'll put up with "what does your heart tell you?" because it's part of the genre. But the sentiments expressed by the Racer family to one another were all worded well, and true to boot. There may have been a slight hint of "I'll support you no matter what you choose," but it was drowned out by better stuff. (Odd note: Hiroyuki Sanada was in this one, too!)

Man with the Gun (1955) - A pretty interesting western with a plot similar to Warlock and Appaloosa. I prefer those movies, but Man with the Gun has a lot going for it.

First of all, Robert Mitchum has become a favorite actor of mine. His voice, face, and demeanor are so iconic. He's perfect here as a "town tamer" named Clint Tollinger (cool name), hired to rid the city of a negative element who work for an unseen landowner named Dade Holman.

He's tougher than anything Holman can throw at him, and smarter too. Like Virgil in Appaloosa, Tollinger has a violent temper, and often provokes his enemies into fights so he can kill them. This plays into the morality aspect that Warlock and Appaloosa also address regarding giving civilians complete legal impunity to clean up the town as they see fit. Similar to Warlock, there is a civilian character (named Jeff Castle) who doesn't agree with the use of a man like Tollinger, and thinks the law should handle their problems. (Complicating matters further is his fiance who develops something of a crush on Tollinger because of his bravery.)

There is a romantic interest for Tollinger: a woman from his past who left him because of his violenct tendencies. Nelly Blain (played by Jan Sterling) is actually the reason Tollinger came to the town in the first place; his hiring as town tamer is incidental. They speak of a daughter they had. He wants to know where she is and how she is. Blain says she is safe in another part of the country, but there is more to that story that will come out by the end (a rather dark note for a 1955 Western).

A pretty good Western, different from your standard fare, and interesting as part of the sub-genre of Town Tamer Westerns that Warlock and Appaloosa belong to.

The Alamo (2004) - About as bad as everyone told me it would be. Not horrible, but nothing special either. Billy Bob Thornton as David Crockett was the only fun thing to watch. Everything else, including the battles, bored me. I skipped around quite a bit. Jim Bowie bored me, William Travis bored me, Sam Houston bored me. Ugh.

Broken Arrow (1950) - The true story is more interesting than the film, but Broken Arrow gets points for its sympathetic portrayal of Native Americans, even if they still cast Caucasians in the lead Indian roles. Of note is Jeff Chandler's Oscar-winning performance as Cochise, the Apache chief who becomes blood brothers with Jimmy Stewart's Tom Jeffords. As I understand it, this was one of the first movies to depict the Native American plight accurately. While the Apache in Broken Arrow are shown fighting and killing settlers, they are shown to have good reason for their anger and mistrust, and are played as human beings rather than savages. Chandler in particular brings a strong sense of wisdom, bravery, leadership, and rationality to Cochise that doesn't come off as cheap or artificial. On the other hand, the love story between Jeffords and an Indian maiden is lame and obviously added to the story "because that's what you do" in a Hollywood movie from the 40s/50s.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Ronin finally coming on Blu-ray, but...'s barebones. Single-layered disc, too, which means a potentially lower bit-rate for a 2 hour movie.

Ronin is one of my old favorites. I saw it in the theater with a friend in high school, and have loved it ever since. The pacing, the action, the characters -- everything is great. I'd love to have it in hi-def, but I'm not shelling out $35 for a disc that has fewer special features than the VHS (which at least had an alternate ending after the credits, if I remember right).

MGM, why you gotta make me hit you?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Superman Returns (2006)

(I wrote this review back in 2006. Since then, I've seen Superman II: The Donner Cut, which actually changed my opinion of a few things. See the end of this post for those reflections.)

Ok, so I liked it. I keep making the same mistake of reading reviews before I go see it so all I can think about is "Is this too long? Is Kate Bosworth that bad?" and I don't focus on having a good time at a movie. Oh yeah, and there were about 5 nerds behind us in the theater impressing each other every 10 seconds with Superman trivia and MST3K comments. I shushed them, I told them "Save it for the internet!", my roommate shushed them, but they wouldn't shut up. Go to your friend's house and download it if you want to talk during the whole flippin' movie. Then you can eat your Cheetos and Mtn. Dew and cast Magic Missile all you want. I love nerds as much as the next guy, and God knows I was remembering all the Superman trivia as I watched it ("OOooh! I know why he's doing that! He gets his powers from the SUN!") but I didn't whisper it to my friend next to me hoping he'd be impressed and make out with me. FEH.

Back to the movie. Brandon Routh did a great job as Superman. Had the right amount of confidence and charisma. I thought he was fine as Clark as well, though I'd like to hear why Curtis wasn't as satisfied with him in that regard. Perhaps it's because I haven't seen any of the original Superman movies in a long-butt time, and don't have Christopher Reeves' performance to compare to, I dunno.

Lex was great. Crazy ol' Lex. Not as vicious as I would have imagined him. I kept thinking, "Oh man, Kitty's gonna get slizzapped!" but she never did. Why does a maniacal super-villian willing to kill billions not smack around an annoying lackey? I guess I'm used to Bond villians who always demonstrate their ruthlessness by killing an incompetent underling. Lex, by contrast, surrounded himself with imcompetent henchmen and even paused for two seconds when they got squished. Geh wheh? Is that in keeping with the Lex from previous movies? Anyhow, Kevin Spacey is good. I loved when he met Lois on the boat in his bathrobe with toothbrush in his mouth.

Speaking of Lois, who watched Blue Crush and thought, "Eff yeah, Kate Bosworth! She's totally Lois!" She actually wasn't as bad as I thought she was going to be (she's a decent actress), but as Curtis pointed out, she didn't have much of a personality beyond "I'm a bitter independent woman who is still in love with Superman." She was almost feisty, but not in any really entertaining ways.

Why did Kal Penn get cast as a henchman? That was weird. "Hey, remember that funny guy from those funny movies? Yeah, we got him to play a henchman! ... I dunno, he stands around mostly. Why?"

Oh yeah, and Superman has a kid? He and Lois got it on? Disregarding any Mallrats-like discussions of the mechanics of such a feat, isn't that against the all-American mid-west ideals he was raised with? Now we really know why he left for Krypton for five years: he could hear Lois conceiving! Also, where in his morals is it cool for him to try and steal Lois back from uber-nice-guy Cyclops? That is contrary to his morality as well.

Superman never super-punched anything! I guess he didn't have any nigh-invulnerable super-villians to knock around, but I think that's the only "move" of his they didn't feature in the movie.

That wasn't anything like a review. Those were my nerdy observations that had nothing to do with story. I thought the story was pretty good, actually. A good plot for Luthor, as Curtis noted.

**end original 2006 review**

Having seen a Christopher Reeve Superman movie (the second one) more recently now, I can understand Curtis' objections to Routh. I had forgotten how great Reeve was. He was charming and affable, really felt like a kid out of Kansas, and brought great character to his performance, especially as Clark, where Routh was lacking. I dismissed all the Reeve love that went on for a while after his accident and death as mere pity, but now I know what they were on about: he truly was great in that role. Comparing the two performance, Routh's Clark didn't feel like a real guy with real history. He felt like a guy who showed up and played a part for two hours.

Margot Kidder also brought a lot more to the table than Kate Bosworth did. The rapport between her and Reeve felt more believable.

Of course, I also had forgotten that Superman and Lois knocked boots in number two, and that they had explained how that was possible.

The Devil's Backbone (2001)

(This review was originally written for BUBBS back in 2006.)

After reading an enthusiastic review of Pan's Labyrinth that ranked it "up there with his two other masterpieces, The Devil's Backbone and Cronos," I found a copy of the former at Blockbuster. And what do you know, it is indeed very good. Del Toro just nails everything that should be nailed. Great cast (the kids are really good), good direction (maintains several themes without disrupting the overall mood), good use of special effects (the kind you mostly don't notice), great cinematography. And, of course, some very striking and imaginative imagery (the bomb in the courtyard, the fetuses in the jars, Santi's ghostly wound and haunting ground).

Next up is Cronos, and then (hopefully) Pan's Labyrinth. I can't believe I'd only seen Blade II and Hellboy and liked del Toro; Devil's Backbone is a much finer film that demonstrates deeper talent.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Further notes on Rio Bravo

I picked Rio Bravo (on Blu-Ray, of course) for last week's movie night with the Prices. It was the second time I'd seen it all the way through. I posted some thoughts a long while back, but it was only a few sentences, so here are my further reflections.

- I don't know if it's because we watched it with friends and it was getting late, but it struck me as a little long this time. I think it could have been trimmed a bit.
- I'm still impressed with Dean Martin. I haven't seen anything else of his, but he did a wonderful job bringing a unique character to life and making him sympathetic and believable. Great performance.
- The opening scene is still fantastic. No dialogue for quite a while. The story is introduced via pure physical acting.
- Ricky Nelson's performance isn't very good. It makes it seem like he only got the part for the musical duet scene with Martin, and maybe for his teenage-girl drawing power. His line delivery is stiff and unnatural sounding.
- Angie Dickinson is still has a unique beauty and edge to her, though the games she plays in the movie would drive me nuts, and it's weird seeing her end up with Wayne, who must have been 30 years her senior.
- Viewing the movie as a companion piece to High Noon is fascinating. Hawks made Rio Bravo in response to High Noon; he disagreed vehemently with the idea of law enforcement seeking civilian help. Each little comment Chance the sheriff makes about getting help sounds like Hawks himself yelling at Zimmerman. It's also worth observing the fates of each of those who do get involved, and how they go about doing so. Chance waits a really long time to finally accept Colorado's help, and even then, it's only after he's fully warned him and Colorado has proved that he knows what's at stake. Hawks makes it clear that civilians who get involved with the Law's business are at great risk and shouldn't be doing so.

Screen-caps from two great Martin scenes:

Monday, November 10, 2008

Another concussion

Last Thursday I got another minor concussion. This time it was skating with a couple of friends at an East LA skatepark (in Belvedere). They hadn't adjusted the timers of the lights for Daylight Savings yet, so they went off early at 8pm. We could still see a bit by the lights of the surrounding soccer fields, so I kept rolling around a bit. I fell doing something really simple, and for some reason did not fall well. Whacked the back of my head.

While it wasn't as bad as the last time, I did have some weird memory issues the rest of the night. I watched The Office with Amy and I kept thinking that one of the characters on the show had had a concussion.

Helmet from now on at the skateparks. Kind of a "duh" thing, I know, but when almost no one else wears a helmet there, and you haven't had any bad falls yourself, you feel like you'll be all right.

Recent movies - Army of Shadows, Get Smart, Another Thin Man, How the West Was Won

Army of Shadows (1969)

An impressive film. Oddly paced at times (I was interested, but puzzled, by the inclusion of the lengthy night drop sequence). I took special notice of the sophisticated camera movements, which seemed innovative to me for a 1969 film (perhaps someone with a decent knowledge of cinematography can tell me whether or not Melville and his team were doing something ahead of their time). Despite the fancy camera work, the acting and mood of the film was subdued and objective, though there is a scene early on that forces the viewer to watch via several close-ups. I was reminded emotionally of a similar scene in The Wind That Shakes the Barley. The color palette was interesting as well. As you can see in the above screen-capture, everything has a tinge of blue and brownish purple.

Get Smart (2008)

Fun. Had enough funny parts to make it worthwhile. A couple groaners (David Koechner and Alan Arkin had all the worst lines, for some reason). I still anticipate a day when Steve Carrell's style will stop being funny to me, but for now, I still enjoy him. Anyone else notice that Anne Hathaway's voice gets a little nasal and nerdy-sounding sometimes?

Another Thin Man (1939)

Same enjoyable formula. New to the mix was The Baby. Notable scenes include an elaborate gun trick that is begging for a segment on Mythbusters, a couple brief appearances by Shemp Howard, and an impressive dance.

How the West Was Won (1962)

Really impressive visuals, really forgettable story-lines. Enough beautiful vistas to make John Ford jealous. The effort Warner Bros. put into restoring and cutting together the three separate images for the Blu-Ray should be loudly applauded. The image is spectacular. For those unfamiliar with the film, it was shot for Cinerama theaters, meaning three separate cameras were used to film each scene simultaneously, and the image was then projected by three different projectors onto a curved screen that simulated our field of vision that was a bit wider than the regular movie screen. I wish I could have experienced it. On Blu-Ray, the image is flattened into a very wide and a bit distorted picture. For the most part, it's not distracting, but occasionally characters on the sides of the frame will not appear to be looking at the characters in the center.

The plot concerns a bunch of different characters and their individual stories concerning westward American expansion. They all interweave eventually, but none of them were all that interesting, despite the impressive cast. My favorite was George Peppard's story towards the end, mostly because of a spectacularly staged shoot-out on a moving train with Eli Wallach's gang. There were some really impressive stunts! My favorite was a guy falling off the train and knocking over a giant cactus.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Movie Reviews, Alphabetically

Since I like this feature on so many other sites I read, I decided to make a permanent post that I will update as new reviews come in. (This is the sort of thing I wish I had for Jeri's, Nobody's, and Nate Bell's blogs! When I finally get around to seeing a movie they have discussed I have a heck of a time remembering who wrote it and then finding it.)

I'm not going to link to every post that mentions a movie; these will all be actual reviews or at least discussions about a particular aspect of the movie.

3 Days of the Condor (1975)
3:10 To Yuma (1957)
3:10 To Yuma (2007)
The 400 Blows (1959)
Adios Sabata (1971)
The Alamo (2004)
Alice in Wonderland (2010)
Amazing Grace (2006)
Another Thin Man (1939)
Appaloosa (2008)
Appleseed (2004)
Army of Shadows (1969)
Avatar (2009)
Bad Company (1972)
Bad Day at Black Rock (1955)
Batman Begins (2005)
Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker (2000)
Batman: Under the Red Hood (2010)
The Big Country (1958)
The Big Sleep (1946)
Black Dynamite (2008)
Blast of Silence (1961)
Broken Arrow (1950)
The Burrowers (2008)
The Call of Cthulhu (2005)
Castle in the Sky (1986)
Cemetery Junction (2010)
Changeling (2008)
Charlie Wilson's War (2007)
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (2009)
Conan the Barbarian (1981)
Cop Land (1997)
The Court Jester (1955)
The Cowboys (1972)
Dan in Real Life (2007)
Darjeeling Limited (2007)
The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)
Deja Vu (2006)
The Devil's Backbone (2001)
District 9 (2009)
Double Indemnity (1944)
Duel (1971)
Eastern Promises (2007)
Fire in the Sky (1993)
Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008)
From Russia With Love (1963)
Galipoli (1981)
Get Smart (2008)
The Good The Bad The Weird (2008)
Gremlins (1984)
Gunga Din (1939)
Happy-Go-Lucky (2008)
Hellboy II (2008)
The Hit (1984)
The Hour of the Gun (1967)
How the West Was Won (1962)
How to Get Ahead in Advertising (1989)
How to Train Your Dragon (2010)
Howl's Moving Castle (2004)
The Hurt Locker (2009)
I Am Legend (2007)
I Love You Again (1940)
Ichi (2008)
Inherit the Wind (1960)
The Invention of Lying (2009)
It's A Wonderful Life (1946)
Junebug (2005)
Juno (2007)
Kill! (1968)
King of Kong (2007)
The Kite Runner (2007)
Kung Fu Panda (2008)
La Strada (1954)
The Lady from Shanghai (1948)
Lake Placid (1999)
The Last of the Mohicans (1992)
The Last Rites of Ransom Pride (2009)
Layer Cake (2004)
Legend (1985)
Lifeboat (1944)
Little Shop of Horrors (1986)
Logan's Run (1976)
Lonely Are the Brave (1962)
Man with the Gun (1955)
The Matador (2005)
The Meaning of Life (2005)
Mon Oncle Antoine (1971)
Moon (2009)
Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936)
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)
My Neighbor Totoro (1988)
Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (1984)
No Name on the Bullet (1959)
The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976)
The Outsiders: The Complete Novel (1983)
Pale Rider 1, 2 (1985)
Paranormal Activity (2009)
Paths of Glory (1957)
Payback: Straight Up (2006)
Ponyo (2009)
Predators (2010)
Public Enemies (2009)
The Public Enemy (1931)
Quantum of Solace (2008)
The Quiet Man (1952)
Ratatouille (2007)
Red River (1948)
Red Sun (1971)
Redbelt (2008)
Rescue Dawn (2006)
Rio Bravo, 2 (1959)
Role Models (2008)
Rooster Cogburn (...and the Lady) (1975)
Samurai Rebellion (1967)
Serpico (1973)
Shane (1953)
Sherlock Holmes (2009)
The Simpsons Movie (2007)
Speed Racer (2008)
Stardust (2007)
State of the Union (1948)
Stoked: The Rise and Fall of Gator (2002)
Sunshine (2008)
Superman Returns (2006)
Surf's Up (2007)
Sword of Doom (1966)
Taken (2009)
The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974)
The Thin Man (1934)
The Thing (1982)
The Tin Star (1957)
To Be or Not To Be (1983)
To Catch A Thief (1955)
To Live and Die in LA (1985)
Tom Horn (1980)
Treasure Island (1950)
Troy (2004)
The Wages of Fear (1953)
Wall-E (2008)
Warlock (1959)
Watchmen (2009)
Wet Hot American Summer (2001)
Withnail and I (1987)
The Wrestler (2008)
Young Guns (1988)
Zodiac (2007)
Zombieland (2009)

Friday, October 31, 2008

King of the Hill cancelled


King of the Hill was one of the best written and funniest shows in the last decade plus. I love all the characters and will miss the show.

How about releasing the rest of the series on DVD, Fox? You won't keep my favorite shows on the air, but I know you'll take my money for the DVD sets.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Voice Acting: Low to High

I wonder if there's a reason character voices typically change from low to high. I was thinking about characters whose voices changed from season 1 to season 2, like Homer from The Simpsons, Chris from Family Guy, and Dale from King of the Hill. They all went from a bad-sounding low voice to a higher and funnier sound.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

From Russia With Love (1963)

Boy, I did not enjoy this like I thought I would. It was actually one of the few Bonds I hadn't seen yet, which I know is odd since it's one of the more memorable entries in terms of setting certain conventions. But the movie just didn't do much for me. It was cool seeing Robert Shaw as a blonde-haired sociopath, and the first 20 minutes or so were a great set-up, but the execution left me bored. Daniela Bianchi's character had less to her than the usual Bond girl. (What a beauty, though!) I had no sense of her inner motivations at all once she took up with Bond. I never could tell if she truly loved him or was merely playing the part, but since the issue never became a plot point, you were just to assume that she, at some point, loved him. I guess there was that one scene where she wavered between shooting Bond or Frau Farbissina, but the direction and/or screenplay took no other steps to detail her character up to that point.

Cool parts: the brutal fist-fight between Connery and Shaw in the dark was pretty unique for movies from that era. Frau sucker-punching Shaw in the gut with brass knuckles was funny. The whole opening sequence was well-staged and a good/cheesy "gotcha!"

By the way, I rented the Blu-Ray version, and it looked wonderful.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Mon oncle Antoine (1971)

Turns out, Mon oncle Antoine is not Mon oncle. FYI in case you thought you were in for a light-hearted, slap-stick French comedy.

My dad rented this through Netflix and I have no idea why. It was billed as a "bittersweet comedy." While there are a couple funny moments, most of it is a sad, uncomfortable, and unrelatable coming-of-age story set in rural Canada. It was really fun watching it with my family on a Saturday night.

I'm not going to give this a proper review. Not that it doesn't deserve it, but I can't think of anything worthwhile to say about it. The gag with the nail barrel was my favorite part, particularly when one guy ghost-steps over the place where it used to be while staring at a beautiful woman.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Appaloosa (2008)

Finally got to see it last Friday! Amy and I met Ian, Jeri and Ric at the La Habra Regal.

There are some spoilers, mostly minor, throughout the review.


The story of Appaloosa is very similar to that of the excellent Warlock. Two mercenary "lawmen" are summoned to a town being terrorized by a local band of cowboys (led by a powerful and particularly ruthless rancher -- in Appaloosa's case, Randall Bragg played by Jeremy Irons). These lawmen are close friends and have worked together for many years, moving from town to town killing bad guys for money. They are called upon when the town's previous sheriff is murdered. They agree to clean up the town, but only if the town agrees to grant them any power they wish to do so.

Here the stories of Warlock and Appaloosa diverge. Warlock makes great use of the idea that fighting outlaws with mercenaries is a morally questionable solution, while Appaloosa features only one scene that ponders the question, even though the setup seems tailor-made for further conflict. Harris' character, Virgil, has been made uncomfortable and embarrassed by a conversation with his romantic interest (played by Renee Zellwegger), so he takes it out on some workers having a drink at the bar. Though drunk, they are doing no harm, and Harris' explosive temper and sense of impunity are first exhibited as he viciously pummels one of them before being restrained by Viggo's character (Everett). One of the town's officials questions this behavior, but beyond that it is never addressed again.

Other story similarities include a confrontation at the jailhouse (though the specifics of the scene were more reminscent of one in Rio Bravo), a love interest that may lead to the retirement of one of the characters and the dissolution of their partnership, a final shoot-out that ends the partnership and that the title of each movie is simply the name of the town in which the action takes place.

Beyond those the story plays out in a very different fashion. There is no character equivalent in Appaloosa to Richard Widmark's outlaw-turned-lawman, Everett doesn't have any of the shadiness that Anthony Quinn's "Doc Holiday" had, and there is no betrayal among the old friends. The romantic interest also plays out very differently in Appaloosa.

Overall, the story is good, but there did seem to be a few too many Acts. I didn't mind that much, because I enjoyed all the possibly extraneous scenes, but it did feel a little long, a little less tight, even though the movie ran just under two hours. And there was one bone-headed decision that you see coming from a mile away. If you're a smart guy who has been cleaning out towns of bad guys for years now, what's the dumbest thing you can do? Very publicly fall in love with a girl who now lives in the town. I said out loud "liability and leverage" as soon as I saw Virgil go after her.

Other good points: Harris demonstrates a talent for writing (and delivering) comfortable, funny, and natural sounding dialogue. (Jeri said the dialogue at the beginning was bad, but I don't remember.) The relationship between Everett and Virgil is great. They effectively demonstrate respect, loyalty and love in subtle believeable ways. Renee Zellwegger's character surprises you several times and turns out to be as interesting as the two leads. Irons' character doesn't have much substance to him other than "I'm a jerk," but he does have some good moments of interaction with the Virgil and Everett.

Harris, along with his DP, has a good eye for the scenery. Everything is shot on location, and it looks great. He also shoots within these locales well; I always knew where the characters were in relation to one another (which sounds simplistic, but I'm thinking of the scene on the river with the Indians where Everett rides up to meet them). I appreciated the unique camera work in the scene on the train where Allison is brought out from underneath the bridge.

Of course, I have to comment on the action and perpetrators there-of. This isn't 3:10 To Yuma (2007) or Tombstone, so the gunplay is pretty sparse. But when it happens, it's well-staged, and often unique in consequence. Virgil and Everett rescuing the kidnappers from the Indians, for example, plays out differently than you might expect. Allison has been kidnapped in order to secure Bragg's release, and Virgil and Everett have tracked them to a canyon. Before they can act, they notice a party of Indians about to raid them. They allow this until the Indians start to take Allison. Rather than shooting the Indians, Virgil and Everett shoot the pack-horse that Allison is on, and fire up into the air to scatter the raiding party. Later, Everett offers the group Bragg's horse to make up for the one they shot. Another unique scene is the shoot-out in the Mexican town. It's close-quarters and over in seconds. It also leads to one of the funniest lines in the movie.

Virgil and Everett lie on the ground, wounded but alive.

Everett: That was quick.
Virgil: Yeah, everybody could shoot.

The sound design is excellent, right up there with Open Range in terms of power and realism.

And the guns! Well, The Gun, anyway.

As you may have read, Everett carries a very unique item: an 8-gauge double-barreled shotgun. Until Appaloosa, I didn't even know 8 was a possible gauge. I'd heard of 10-gauges, and only seen one or two at all the gun auctions I've been to. For those unfamiliar with the gauge system, the smaller the number, the larger the bore. 12-gauge is the most popular. My double-barrel is 12. So the 8-gauge that Everett wields is HUGE, and is mentioned specifically about five times in the beginning of the movie. There are only one or two scenes where Everett is without it, too. He lugs that honkin' thing around everywhere he goes. And you only get to see him use it twice! The other guns are all pretty standard, though I noticed Everett's sidearm is a Colt Open Top, which is also unique.

I recommend Appaloosa to Western fans and fans of Viggo & Ed.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Wipeout comic

I drew this last night and colored it tonight for use in my application to Wipeout (the show where you get mangled on an obstacle course for the amusement of others). Hopefully it'll sweeten the deal. I stole the colors from a Scott C. drawing. I like his color palette. Actually I love everything about his work. Have you seen it? It's great.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Dear Movie Studios

Please stop releasing great new DVD sets with no Blu-Ray counterpart. I'm so glad to see you're spending so much time and money producing these lavish new sets of great films, but I'm not buying DVDs anymore. I'm referring to the new Vertigo, Psycho, Rear Window, Touch of Evil, and Big Lebowski sets. All great films that I would buy, but not on low resolution standard DVD.

So please. It's like, come on. This is the end of 2008, and I have a hi-def TV and a PS3. I ain't be interested in no dang 480p.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

More Man with No Name art

No sooner had I finished the last post than I discovered preview art from issue 2 of the MwNN. And guess what? I have complaints! Hooray!

That's a weird pose to take, isn't it? He looks like he's sort of prancing. And his sarape looks way too long and flow-y. Its size and the way it's been rendered obfuscates any strong pose the underlying body might have.

Here I find two problems. The first is panel 3. Clint's hat looks perched on his head. Look how far away it is from his ears. Just look at his whole head in relationship to the hat. It looks silly.

The second problem is the guns. Most of their anatomy is handled well, but they frequently break down in the grip. It's most obvious in panel 4. Here's a picture of a Colt SAA:

Note how far the grip extends away from the body of the gun compared with the depiction in panel 4 above. Check out panel 3 as well: the grip appears to line up perfectly with the tip of the hammer.

Kudos to the artist (Wellington Dias?) for getting the rest of the gun right, but take a look at your reference for that grip.

Western Comic Art - Man with No Name vs. Jonah Hex

Remember a while back when I posted about the Man with No Name comic, and said that on paper it should have been an easy sell, but when I actually saw the comic (ironically also on paper), it didn't grab me?

See if you can spot the difference between these two bits of art.

From The Man with No Name: The Good, The Bad and the Uglier #4

From an upcoming issue of Jonah Hex:

Which piece grabs you more? The art from the first isn't bad, it's just kinda boring. Really boring compared to the Jonah Hex piece. Some of the art from the Jonah Hex series has been boring as well (or just plain bad), but man, they get some good artists from time to time.

It's too bad, because the MwNN comics get some good covers:

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Anthony Carney skating in Brea

This is one of several short videos I took with my little camera a while back of my friend Anthony skating in Brea. He's the guy I designed the bearing package for.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Update to "Stop sagging"

While browsing Superpoop this morning, I found another perfect image for my "Stop sagging" post.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Stop modulating your voice

You guys know what I'm talking about? Those pop-y techno-y dance-club songs with male vocalists that use a computer to raise and lower the pitch of the vocals? I remember when I first heard a song that used this a few years ago. I thought, "Huh, that's unique." The next time I heard it I thought, "Hey, they're copying whoever that other guy is." The time after that I thought, "Oh good, this is a trend, isn't it?"

There's a new CD we're playing in the bookstore by a group of super hipsters called Family Force 5. The picture of the five of them on the inside features them all wearing their most ironic-est clothes and best worst haircuts. Their songs are a Very Ironic throw-back to 80s pop with modern computer modulation and mixing. Some of them are also boring yelly modern "rock." So they combine my two favorite musical trends. EXCELLENT. I hope the CD comes packaged with a gun so you can shoot yourself in the liver 30 seconds into the first track. That would be considerate.

(While we're at it, "Stop getting the same horrible-on-purpose haircut as everyone else in your band.")

I really thought something as gimmicky as this modulation thing would die off faster. It's been several years now and it's still around, which means teenage girls are still buying these CDs. Stop it!

**update** I've identified two of the worst songs on the CD, having listened to it about a million dozen times now at work: track 2, "Get Your Back off the Wall" has the lame screamy stuff, and track 8, "Share It with Me" has the stupid modulation stuff during the chorus. I read the lyrics, too; track 2 is about getting angry or pumped up or dangerous or something, and track 8 is the whiniest cry-baby "she left me because I stole her jeans and make-up" song ever. EVER.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

My Xbox died

While watching an episode of Seinfeld at lunch yesterday, my Xbox 360 froze and then started flashing the dreaded "Red Ring of Death."

I've only had it since January. So, while it is under warranty and Microsoft will be fixing it for free, that's pretty poor product performance (alliteration unintended). My friend Sean had to send his in this summer, and I think Brendan recently did as well, if I remember correctly, which points to something crappy going on in that box. While I appreciate Microsoft stepping up and fixing it, I wish it had been better designed in the first place. Especially if I bought it new in January! I know they were aware of the problems before then, so why didn't my Xbox have new internals that avoided the problem?

Fortunately I'm not knee-deep in a game at the moment, and we have another DVD player, but if this had happened a few weeks ago when Castle Crashers came out, I'd be pretty mad. My customer service rep "Jason" said they'd be giving me a free month of Live Gold, but after I hung up, I began to think I deserved more. You can get a year's worth of Live Gold for $40 on Amazon, so a month is worth $3.33. I paid $350 for this thing (and now the 60GB version sells for $300, as opposed to my 20GB), and it doesn't even last a year? That's crap, man.


Forgot to mention: instead of sending a pre-paid box to ship the console, they're only emailing me a pre-paid label. Everyone else I've talked to has gotten a box. I have to box it up myself. What gives?

Monday, September 15, 2008

Happy birthday, Sugar Buttons!

My lovely wife turned 28 today. Happy birthday, Amy!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Redbelt (2008)

David Mamet's fight picture.

Mamet movies I've seen (written and/or directed), as just now revealed to me by IMDB:
The Winslow Boy
Ronin (I had no idea!)
Wag the Dog
The Edge (!)
Glengarry Glen Ross
The Untouchables
The Verdict

So, as it turns out, I've liked most of the movies of his I've seen. In fact, all of the above rank at least in my "hey that was pretty ok" level. Ronin I love.

Redbelt ranks similarly to Ronin, helped by it's main character's adherence to a samurai-like code. Mike Terry is an honorable man running a small jui-jutsu dojo in LA. He has a dedicated student, a police officer, in whom he has instilled the same sense of honor. His wife runs a textile/clothing design business and helps him stay afloat. He is well-known and respected within the martial arts world, but has never found great financial success, and refuses to compete. A series of fortuitous and tragic events and people test his code of honor to the furthest degree.

The movie is carried equally by its writing and acting. It's a fight movie, and you figure the quiet master will have to fight in the end, but Mamet's screenplay takes interesting routes to get there. The time spent with Mike Terry (the truly great Chiwetel Ejiofor) makes the choices and conclusions feeled earned rather than obvious. Chiwetel is supported by a uniformly excellent cast, including Tim Allen in a serious role, Emily Mortimer, Joe "Fat Tony" Mantegna, and Max Martini (who does a lot with a relatively small amount of screen time as the cop student).

I read some reviews that complained about the ending and some of the story's loose ends not being tied up, but I think each of those elements was consistent with the way the story was told and needn't have been elaborated on. (One example: it is hinted that Terry has a military past and has overcome an alcohol addiction, but, while never elaborated on, we see the sort of man it has made Terry, and these hints do strengthen the character without needing to be spelled out.)

As far as the visuals go, the beginning really stood out to me. Very moody noir-ish stuff in the rain. The rest of the cinematography doesn't draw attention to itself (to me, anyway), but the direction allows many lingering shots that afforded some great introspective work from Chiwetel.

I recommend it.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Pickled garlic cloves

Pickled garlic cloves are heavenly. I first had them when a roommate found a jar at some truck stop. He offered me one, I tried it, and it became addicting. I kept sneaking them from his jar in the fridge after that.

Then I discovered them in the Weird Pickled Stuff section at the local grocer. Now they are in my fridge, and on the rare occasions when Amy OKs it, I have one and fall into the bliss of tart garlicky sweetness.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Productive weekend, comic-wise

This weekend I inked two complete pages of my comic. It's the most productive I've been in a while. I also penciled and inked a potential cover, but it didn't turn out as well as I'd hoped. It's not bad, it's just not the best-designed composition. I'll probably post the cover up here when I get the chance. I'm still debating whether or not to post some of the pages. Over the last 2 years I've been working on this thing, I've wanted to keep the pages to myself until I was done, but now I wonder if releasing a page per week would be kind of fun, in addition to an incentive to keep working. We'll see.

While inking I watched a bunch of movies: The Rocketeer*, The Fog of War, Thirteen Days, Master and Commander, Gorillaz videos, and Ocean's Eleven. I also took breaks to play Castle Crashers, and I unlocked the Ninja.

*The Rocketeer really needs a good Blu-Ray release. The DVD release isn't even anamorphic (meaning I had to jimmy with my TV's settings to get it to fill up the screen, and it was still stretched), the tranfer is very soft, and there are no special features to speak of. Come on! This is a popular movie that launched Jennifer Connelly, featured one of the coolest costumes ever designed, and is just a lot of fun. Side-note to the side-note: Amy and I identified Melora Hardin ("Jan" from The Office) as the singer in the South Seas Club! Further side-note: Josh, the other boss from The Office, played the pilot who gets shot down in Thirteen Days!

Friday, September 05, 2008

Blu-Ray complaints

I don't know if I announced it here, but I love Blu-Ray. I have a 1080p TV and a PS3, and the difference between SD (standard definition -- DVDs and regular broadcast television) and HD (high definition -- Blu-Rays and HD TV signals) is incredible. Amy and I watched the Olympics in widescreen hi-def, and I can't imagine being content to watch them on a 4:3 SD screen ever again. Blu-Rays like The Life of Brian and Blade Runner show a vast improvement over their DVD counterparts. (Go to and click through some of their Blu-Ray vs. DVD comparisons to see what I mean, especially The Life of Brian BR vs. the old Criterion DVD.)

I've spent the last several months dumping my obese DVD collection in favor of picking up their superior Blu-Ray counterparts. I've met frustration at several turns, however, as I realized that some of the releases have been sub-par in various ways. Here are some of my biggest disappointments:

Master and Commander - The word in the reviews is that the picture and sound quality are incredible. Happy day! But the studio this wonderful film belongs to, Fox, has quite a track record right now for releasing movies sans most or all of the special features that the SD-DVD had, and this title is no exception. All the great behind-the-scenes features about the filming of the movie, all the cool stuff about the miniatures, the hours of footage hosted by Peter Weir himself, all absent on the Blu-Ray. Now, Fox, why would I "upgrade" and not expect the Blu-Ray to be better in every department? Sucky move. (The same goes for Fox's releases of Predator, Cast Away and The Usual Suspects.)

The Fugitive - Just rewatched it recently, and it still holds up well as an entertaining thriller. But the Blu-Ray not only upscales an old transfer of the movie (that displays only a marginal improvement over the DVD), it's actually older than the print used for the DVD! There is a scene after the train crash where a crew member's head is visible in the shot, and they digitally removed it for the 2001 DVD release. There's even a special feature that mentions this. But the Blu-Ray version of the film still has the guy's head! And it includes the special feature that talks about removing it! Lazy.

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid - Another Fox job. This time they included most of the special features that the recent DVD release had, but the transfer is reportedly all kinds of messed up: brightened, processed, and lacking in detail. The scenes with the riders following the titular pair occurs in near blackness on the DVD, but the Blu-Ray looks like a cloudy day.

Patton - A Fox Blu-Ray that includes all of the special features that the DVD had! Excellent! Unfortunately, the picture is weird. At first glance it looks fantastic. Great clarity and crispness. As I watched it, though, I wondered to myself, "I wonder if these guys went overboard with the Digital Noise Reduction." The faces look waxy, and there is absolutely no film-grain. A movie like this surely had a fair amount of film grain originally, I thought. I checked the reviews, and sure enough, they all complained of the overly processed and artificial looking picture. (This is an excellent article on the subject, and it includes a link to a comparison of two Blu-Ray versions of Pan's Labyrinth as an example.) I'm really hoping that the upcoming Godfather Blu-Ray preserves the grain as part of the original film. I understand the reasoning behind the DNR, as the picture of Patton really does look spectacular to your average consumer. But it isn't true to the original film, and thus should be corrected.

The Fifth Element - Excellent picture and sound, no supplements.

Terminator 2 - Nowhere near the depth that the Ultimate Edition DVD had. No different versions of the movie, none of the featurettes on the effects, etc. Includes two commentaries. You know a better version of this is coming. I just wish it was out now.

Terminator - Same deal. Even worse, the Blu-Ray doesn't include the original mono soundtrack. Instead you're stuck with a decent but sometimes gimmicky and distracting 5.1 remix.

That's all I can think of at the moment. Hopefully most of these issues will be rectified with future releases, but it's a shame we have to go through the same cycle we went through with DVD.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Recent movies - Amazing Grace, The Darjeeling Limited

Amazing Grace (2006)

For some reason I had it in my head that this was about the guy who wrote the hymn. It took Amy and I several weeks to finally pop this one from Netflix in, but once we did we discovered a really wonderful film. The story of William Wilberforce and the era in which he strove to abolish the slave trade from England are compelling and fascinating, and Michael Apted and his team put together a very polished production. The cast was wonderful, full of familiar faces like Michael Gambon, Rufus Sewell (in a rare non-villain role), Ioan Gruffudd, and Albert Finney. Ioan looked so familiar but I couldn't place where I'd seen him. Turns out he was Mr. Fantastic. Well, I haven't seen either F4 movie, but he was indeed fantastic (a ha! a ha! a ha ha ha!) in Amazing Grace. I'm glad Amazing Grace was the first movie I had seen him in.

The Darjeeling Limited (2007)

Yawn. Some sorta interesting character stuff, but stretched out over so much nothing it became very tedious. The best part was the when the brothers' rescued the other brothers.

Friday, August 29, 2008


Amy and I joined my brothers, my cousin Chris (with wife Christina and baby Cate), and his friend Bob in Havasu last weekend. It was a blast. Here are a few videos of the weekend's activities.

First, Chris and I attempting to use the surfboards for doubles skis.

Here's Chris and I jumping off the outcropping in Copper Canyon.

Here's a longer one of Ben and Chris surfing. Ben pulls some tiny airs.

Josh worked on the surfboard especially for use on the lake. He chopped of the nose and the tail, making for a very unusual ironing board shape. It actually looked like how comic artists usually draw surfboards with no reference.

Hellboy II (2008)

Finally saw it. Worth a rent for the creature designs/effects and humor. Nothing special otherwise.

I enjoyed the heavier dose of humor this time around. The moments weren't as poignant as those in the first movie, but they did make me laugh and there were a lot more of them. The creature effects, like everyone has said, were delightful and very fun to watch. The Troll Market is a nice 2008 version of the Mos Eisley Cantina (or Jabba's Palace, if you prefer). Kudos to del Toro for keeping most of the creatures practical, effects-wise. I didn't really care for the handling of Johann (his voice or his personality - his final line was particularly bad). It was odd at first hearing Doug Jones' voice for Abe (instead of David Hyde-Pierce's), but as the movie continued I got used to it and thought he did a great job.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Celebrity sighting

Amy and I got back from our week in Michigan yesterday (more on that in a future post), and we shared a flight with Amy Smart (Tasty Coma Wife on Scrubs, Just Friends, etc.). I wasn't sure it was her, but I saw her on the plane and picking up her luggage, and it looked a lot like her. She was dressed well and had a dog. I looked up her profile on IMDB and it turns out her parents live in Michigan and she has done some commercial work there. So it was probably her.

I haven't seen many celebrities "in the wild," so it was kinda cool.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Original comic art

Here are my two prized original comic art pages:

The first one is a page from Scud: The Disposable Assassin by Rob Schrab. He pencils his pages on graph paper, then traces and inks them on vellum. Very unique. I was so jazzed to be able to buy a page this summer.

The second is a page from Sam and Max: Freelance Police by Steve Purcell. I bought that one two years ago from Steve at Comic Con. I still don't have it framed.

Also, be sure to check my Comic Con post below! I updated it with pictures.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Comic Con 2008

We had a great time. Amy and I got in with my Professional badge, and while it didn't create an instant parting of the crowd like I'd hoped, it did cause a few artists we spoke with to ask what we did.

We were only able to go for part of Friday, and all of Saturday and Sunday. Friday we drove down after work and got there about 4:30. We cruised the floor for a bit, said hey to Doug TenNapel and Sean McGowan, and ran into a few other forum friends (Erik "Lars" Brown and his wife, and I think Eric Branscume). Stopped by Eef's booth at Slave Labor, but he wasn't there. We ran into him on the way over to Bad Karma's booth, though. Said hi to Eric Peterson and Val at Bad Karma. (Yes, three Erics in one night.) We met up with Frankie and his friend Melissa, too. Some of us wanted to go to an MST3K panel they had, but when we got up there an hour and a half early, the line was all the way down to the street level, so we said forget it. We wanted to go get dinner with everyone (including the Mulhollands), but it didn't work out, so we had a group of six (Eef and his brother Isaiah, Eric Brown and his wife, and Amy and I). We went to Rockin' Baja Lobster, if I remember right. Had some good carnitas tacos. We went up to my folks' house for the night, and Ian came down and met us.

Saturday was more cruising the floor. Picked up some books and talked to some artists. Got to meet the artist who created Korgi. He was a nice dude, and he had some of his original pages for us to look at. I went to Rob Schrab's booth to say hi, and it seemed like he remembered us from last year and Doug's house, so that was cool. I bought an original Scud page from him! It's gorgeous. I'll post a picture when I get the chance. Dan and Doug Heder stopped by while we were there (and Dan remembered us too!), so we said hey.
We went by Doug T's booth again and Angie was there, and we got a big hug from her. We chatted for a bit about the bewildering experience that is the Comic Con.

Amy and I ran into Scott Adsit on the floor, and got a picture with him. I put my hand on the small of his back without thinking for the picture and felt awkward about it for the rest of my life.
While searching for Ian (whose iPhone had died) I ran into Robert Smigel doing a new Triumph the Insult Comic segment (horrible pictures to come). Amy and I also saw Matthew Fox walking to a signing booth, which was cool. We met up with Josh Kenfield for a bit as he waited in line to get some MST3K guys to sign a poster.

Elizabeth Starks also came Saturday and joined us for a good part of the day. That night was the TenNapel Forum Hodown, and Tawney Smith and bf Tony came, which was great. We had a good time seeing the Westhavenbrook guys and other forum friends (Ruiz and gf, to name a pair), and eating more good Mexican food. Frankie bailed because there was a magical cat giving out free wands somewhere.

On Sunday Eric Peterson and Isaiah and I went surfing in Carlsbad. It was Eric's first time. Isaiah took off to the main lineup, having had a lot of experience up in Oregon of all places, while Eric and I stayed on the inside. Eric was fine at catching waves, but standing up presented more of a challenge. He made it to one foot up by the end of the morning, and I'm sure he'll get it if he goes again. We made it down to the Con in time to get into the room to wait for Sockbaby 4 to premiere. (It's available to download on now!) It was great! Doug even gave a shout-out to all the frogmen in the audience, so Eric, both Adams, and I all got to take a bow. The panel afterwards was pretty funny. Jon and Dan Heder were there, as well as Rob Schrab, his girlfriend Kate Freund, John Soares, Justin and Cody Spurlock, and even Isaac Singleton!
It was a fun year!