Thursday, February 21, 2008

The Man with No Name: The Comic

Jeez, is everyone as enamored with Western stuff as I am? I just keep stumbling over new Western comics. And this time, it's a title based on the character from Leone's films! What the heck, man?

More Gunplay news

Dominic's comic, Gunplay, is still scheduled to come out this March, and today on CBR I found an article about a writer named Christopher Priest who is doing some dime-store novel stuff as a back-up feature for their book. Apparently this guy used to be a popular writer for stuff like Quantum & Woody, but fell out of comics for a bit.

He has some kind stuff to say about Dominic's art and Vega's story. BONUS: new sample pages from the book!

(I checked out Priest's site, and apparently he's a pastor (ironic moniker!). On his beliefs page, however, I'm still trying to figure out whether he believes in the Judeo-Christian God or not. He uses some squishy language that smacks of Spong's "God is merely a concept within ourselves" garbage, but then he affirms the Scriptures as being the Word of God, and that Jesus Christ is God's Son, so I'm confused.)

My Neighbor Totoro (1988)

Another Miyazaki flick. This one is sort of odd. It's really charming; the two girls are adorable and their dad is a likable dude. Totoro himself is a fun Miyazaki spirit. The odd part is the movie's plot. It doesn't seem to have one. If I had to summarize it, it would be something like "A family moves into a new home out in the country as they wait for the mom to get better from an unspecified ailment. The two daughters discover that the nearby forest is home to some weird lazy-but-friendly spirits who sometimes do stuff. Mei gets lost one time, but is found by the Cat Bus. The end." It doesn't have a solid story arc. It takes a snippet from this family's life that doesn't have a big problem to solve. You kind of think that the mother is going to be either healed or die, but neither occurs. The movie ends with her still in the hospital exactly as she was when the movie began: not super sick but not well enough to leave.

Miyazaki's staples are present: strong young female protagonist, weird creatures/spirits, environmental message. It should be noted that My Neighbor Totoro doesn't hammer the environmental message that much here, actually, compared to most of his other movies.

The animation for the youngest girl, Mei, was fantastic. The way they captured the behavior of a four-year-old was quite impressive, and made her all the more endearing.

I enjoyed it, but it seemed more like an episode from a series rather than a stand-alone movie.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Stop sagging

I can't believe I still see guys sagging their pants. I remember when I first saw that trend when I was in junior high. That was in 1993. Like the other retarded trends of that time, I thought it had died out when everyone realized how stupid they looked.

Yet today, at Biola and around Southern California, I still see guys doing it! There is a guy on the lacrosse team who sags his workout pants! Why hasn't anyone told these guys that everyone else automatically lowers their opinion of them when they see this?

I remember visiting my friend Sean at Loyola Marymount for a couple days. I went to some of his classes with him because I didn't want to hang out in his room where his weird-and-kind-of-creepy suite-mate might stumble in and ask if I had any pot. One class was Calculus. Sitting in front of me, in the class, were two jabronies who I swear we went to high school with. And what did I get to stare at all class? Their underwear, because the tops of their pants were located under their thighs. You're in college! Stop it!!

I realize that there will always be fashion trends that I think are stupid at all times throughout my life that are matters of personal taste, but the sagging thing, besides looking stupid, actually impedes your movement. You have to walk sort of bow-legged all the time to try and keep them from falling past the magical "sag line," and you're also constantly tugging them up to keep them at this line. Ever seen a sagger run? Hilarious. I actually remember a news article from a while back where some dumb kid got caught by the cops really easily after committing a crime because his pants fell down and he tripped. That's a very satisfying bit of Natural Selection going on there.

We need some girls to tell these guys that they doofy. All it takes is one derisive laugh from a girl and one of these guys will change.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Biola lacrosse Chimes article

Check out this Chimes article about the Biola lacrosse team. You'll find not one, not two, but three Agadonis name-checked.

Deja Vu (2006)

I probably would never have seen this had Nobody not continually recommended it, but now that I've seen it I'm glad I gave it a shot.

As I've mentioned before, I hate the editing style that Tony Scott developed, starting with his BMW short film and continuing through Man on Fire and Domino. Fortunately, Scott leaves those shenanigans behind for Deja Vu. He uses them a bit for the special gimmick of the movie, but it is unobtrusive and appropriate.

Boy, if there was ever a movie made for Nobody's particular thematic obsession, this is it. The ideas of the audience as voyeur and the director as god are central to the movie, in a completely literal way. Here's a quick set-up: a ferry explodes in New Orleans, and looks to be the work of a domestic terrorist. Denzel is brought in to investigate, and discovers through Val Kilmer that the Go'mnt has discovered a way to look back in time to view crimes from different angles and POVs. They have a big screening room where they have a "camera man" zoom around looking for clues as they happen. Denzel is brought in to view the "unedited finished film," but discovers that it might be possible to change the events. So he goes from being an audience member to a late-production director.

I thought it was interesting that Scott included an example of what people typically think of when they hear the word "voyeur," too, by actually having the "audience members" watch a woman getting undressed and getting in the shower. What if audiences could actually control the movie they were watching? If the audience were made up of a bunch of sexually-deprived nerds, they'd watch girls getting undressed and taking showers, just as the control room guys do in the movie, while the only woman they're with rolls her eyes.

The other interesting question the movie raises is, "What if the guy who was peeping on you was Denzel Washington?" The answer is, "Well, you'd fall in love with him if he saved your life."

Deja Vu works as a purely entertaining movie as well. Denzel throws a couple new tics into his performance (odd laughs at odd times), but it's still pretty much Denzel being Denzel. I don't have the problem with him that Jeri does, however, so I enjoyed it just fine. :) The idea of whether or not you can change the past and the ramifications of that are handled well, and it kept me guessing for quite a while about whether this would end up in 12 Monkeys territory or not. The ending gave a really odd feeling. It's both happy and sad at the same time, kind of a Schrödinger's cat type thing.

It's interesting playing with the idea of time travel, especially in those instances where you could exist in two different places at once. If time travel were possible, it would negate the existence of a soul, wouldn't it (especially if the branching universe theory were correct)? I mean a soul according to Christian theology.

**spoilers ahead**

I'm thinking in terms of the end of this movie. If you went back in time, stopped an event that would have caused your past self to go back as well, but you were then killed in the past, a distinct person was still killed, even though your past self will now live on and not repeat what you did. A unique version of Denzel was killed, but another unique version lived. They were both unique and ensouled (is that a Greg Koukl word?) persons, and so while one gave up his ghost, the other still existed in his corporeal form.

**end spoilers**

The branching universe theory is the only one that makes sense to me as a plausible time travel explanation. For it to work, the idea that you an utterly unique person in the universe would have to be false, unless God is incarnating millions of slightly different versions of you all the time. The multiverse theory is also used by Michael Crichton in Timeline, too (the book, I mean -- I haven't seen the movie).

So, an enjoyable movie. Thanks, Nobody.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Red Sun (1971)

Let's run down the list of Features That Should Automatically Make Ryan Love The Movie:

a) It's a Western
b) It stars Toshiro Mifune as a samurai in the West

Ok, the combination of those two alone should be enough to make it my favorite movie of all time, but there's more.

c) Charles Bronson as a gunslinger
d) Directed by the guy who made some fun Bond movies
e) Features another gunslinger played by the French guy from Le Samourai (Alain Delon)

What could go wrong?


Well, it should have been my favorite movie ever, but it turns out it was just OK, and that's mostly because of Mifune hacking up bandits and dubiously-cast Indians.

The first thing Amy and I noticed was that the setup is identical to Shanghai Noon. It begins with Bronson and Le Samourai sticking up a passenger train. Bronson is supposed to come off as the likable thief, while his partner Delon seems more sinister, and at the end of the heist Delon betrays and attempts to kill Bronson. Mifune is also on the train, accompanying an ambassador from Japan, and his friend is killed by Delon during the hold-up. Mifune discovers Bronson outside, not quite dead, and the two set off after Delon as a bickering and unlikely pair. Along the way they introduce each other to their respective cultures a bit, and become loose friends. They even stop off at a brothel where Bronson is well-known and Mifune gets introduced to Western women. From here the stories of Shanghai Noon and Red Sun part ways, as the annoying banshee known as Ursula Andress is introduced and unfortunately survives the rest of the movie.

High points: seeing Toshiro Mifune as a samurai in color. His character and performance are very good. He's the most interesting person to watch in the movie. His action scenes, especially the one where he's attacking on horseback, are excellent. The other action scenes are ok as well. The sound effects for the guns (you knew I was going to comment on them) are unique. They sound like production audio for blank-firing guns, but it works. Delon is pretty handy with the gun, and uses fanning to great effect.

Mediocre points: Bronson. His character is not very likable: starts off by robbing the train and bringing Delon in on the job, so he's responsible for the samurai's death, yet he takes no responsibility; then he visits a farmhouse to steal horses and watches as bandits kill an innocent old man while his wife watches and his daughters hide nearby (Bronson only steps in and kills the bandits when they come close to discovering him); at the very end he is responsible for another character's death, and directly after it happens he does something that makes the death pointless. Bronson's voice is also tough to listen to. His cadence and delivery are annoying and way too close to Hank Azaria's parody of him on the Simpsons. I think he works best in Once Upon a Time in the West because he doesn't talk very much.

Also, there isn't much style to the movie. The most interesting part is probably the one towards the end when they're in the old church, and they're surrounded by a field of tall reeds. The use of sound is very effective during these scenes, as the sound of the wind rushing through the reeds is used to mask any sign of the approaching Comanche. The sound and visuals create some effectively tense moments. Unfortunately that's about all the style that I can remember. Everything else was pretty uninspired.

The low points: Ursula Andress. I think she was getting paid a bonus for every time she screamed "You bastard!" with her annoyingly hoarse voice. The ending was also very unsatisfying because of the stupid choice that Bronson's character makes (the one that results in a pointless death).

Ultimately Red Sun is failed potential. I'm glad Shanghai Noon decided to use the concept again, because that makes at least one East vs. Wild West movie that I enjoy, even if it Mifune ain't in it.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Ryan's Rules for Comics: Vol. 1

Don't Draw "Extreme Sports" Without Reference

Exhibit A (Surfing):

I presume these two are supposed to be "surf-boarding"? Or one of them is, at any rate. What is that chick in the back doing? Can she fly? Should I assume that? Ok, let's give them the benefit of the doubt on that one and proceed to the "surf-boarding" in question. Has anyone out there ever seen real surfing? Show your hands. Either a surf video or actual surfing? Yes? Then this should look very weird to you.

You know what, this should look weird to you even if you only have a vague idea of what surfing looks like. What is the "surfer" doing? Bursting out of the water from beneath the wave? Look at the angle that nose is coming out at! And while we're on the nose, that's a mighty wide board. Perhaps a fish? But I doubt the artist knows what a fish is. "Look, it's a surfboard! It has a tapered nose!"

Let us also examine chicky-pant's foot placement. Her front foot is...well, probably not even touching the board given the angle of the board relative to the angle of her calf. But even if her foot were contorted enough to be flat on the board, it would be somewhere around the end of the nose. Something even Wilbur Kookmeyer would make fun of. And her back foot is presumably plunged three to five feet underwater with the rest of the tail. Then we have the rest of her body, which seems poised for something, if not the activity at hand. she wearing bracelets? Big loose bangles? While surfing? It also appears that she is wearing a thong bikini. The sort of thong that is going spelunking. Very tasteful. Finally, there's the water, that appears to be made up of the same material as the sentient goo from The Abyss.

The image was taken from a preview for some comic called "Koni Waves." It's about [no idea] fighting [who cares] in HAWAII. So this just compounds the offense. You're writing and illustrating a book that takes place in Hawaii, the birthplace of surfing, and you're not going to research how surfing actually looks? Please, Mr. Artist, do a 2-second Google image search and learn something. There's a reason the great artists always say "use reference!" when asked for advice in interviews.

(I've got similar things to say about skateboarding, but I don't have any examples in front of me at the moment. When I find some offenders, they'll go up.)

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Sam & Max news!

First off, the reprint of the original Surfin' the Highway is finally coming out, in both paperback and sweet sweet hardcover editions. The paperback (pictured below) is $20, and the hardcover (no pictures yet) is $50. Of course, I pre-ordered the hardcover. I missed out on the HC of the first printing, so there's no way I'm missing it this time.

The other news is that Steve is working with a company to make vinyl figures and a statue based on Sam & Max. Here's his sketch for the statue, which I will have to purchase immediately upon its release.