Monday, June 30, 2008

Michael Turner passed away

I was shocked to discover this morning that comic book artist Michael Turner passed away a few days ago. I didn't even know he had cancer. He was diagnosed back in 2000.

When I heard the news, I immediately thought of my post from back in 2006 titled "Michael Turner sucks at women." Criticism (even jerky criticism) is fun until tragedy befalls the person being criticized. If something terrible happened to Uwe Boll or Rob Liefeld tomorrow, I'd feel bad about making fun of their stuff, too. I've heard Turner was a nice guy, as well (same as I've heard about Liefeld), so I feel like even more of a jerk, even though I was only criticizing his drawings.

I noticed that I received a few more comments on that post from some angry person (and some Greek guy, I guess?). I always wonder how people find my blog posts several years later. It's funny how they go off without me knowing about it (like the Juggalo post).

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Kung Fu Panda (2008)

I hadn't any desire to see this from the moment I first saw promotional materials, as they bore the name "Dreamworks Animation" and offered nothing more compelling. I expected something mediocre with a lot of "big name stars" and pop-culture references.

Then our friend Jeri recommended it, followed by our friends Josh and Miha (very enthusiastically, I might add). Then my boss ranked it as highly as The Incredibles, which is pleasant company indeed.

So Amy and I finally plunked down our $22 to catch it last weekend with our friends Josh & Miha ("You guys haven't seen it yet? We have to go right now.") and Lidia (the birthday girl!). And it turned out to be awesome.

The story is a lot of fun, the premise being that the ultimate kung fu fan gets to become the ultimate kung fu master. It's played very well with boundless enthusiasm by Jack Black, who honestly becomes Po rather than playing a panda with Jack Black's voice. (There are certainly many traditional Jack Black mannerisms, but they seem perfectly fit for the panda, and didn't distract me.) The other voice talent does a fine job as well, especially Dustin Hoffman, who I probably wouldn't have recognized had I not known about his role before-hand. As Jeri pointed out, the other actors don't have that many lines, so it's funny that they cast such big names as Angelina Jolie and Jackie Chan, but they're fine.

We laughed all the way through, so this one comes with a hearty recommendation.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Recent movies - La Strada, The Kite Runner

La Strada (1954) - This one has been in my queue forever. It's my first Fellini.

La Strada (Italian for "The Street" or "The Road") is about a simple girl named Gelsomina who is sold by her mother to a brutish traveling strong-man named Zampano (played by Anthony Quinn). The cover of the DVD and focus on Gelsomina in the movie led me to believe that she was the main character, but by the end it turns out that she is an instrument of potential redemption for Zampano, and that it is his arc we will follow. Gelsomina remains innocent throughout all the horrible things she endures: being sold into slavery, being raped by her thuggish master, being left on the streets when Zampano goes carousing and womanizing, being forced to leave any place that gives her comfort, watching Zampano steal from nuns, witnessing a murder, and finally being left by Zampano. By the end it seems that her life was the catalyst for finally breaking his heart.

In the few reviews I've read of the DVD, much has been said of Giullieta's performance as the simple Gelsomina, and indeed her face shows you her heart. Anthony Quinn is also very good as Zampano, though it was interesting that I never realized that his voice was dubbed by an Italian until after I'd finished the movie. The Criterion edition gives you the option to watch the movie with either the English or the Italian dub, and while the Italian is the way to go to hear Giullieta's authentic voice, you really miss out on Quinn's reading of the lines (and I'm rather embarrassed that I mistook the Italian dub for his real voice when it is actually quite different). The Italian actor for him sounds fine, but it's very simple and just sells "brutish thug" without giving the character the nuance that Quinn's inflections add. The movie was made like Leone's Westerns, in that each actor gave their lines in their native language, so Quinn was always speaking English on set while Guillieta (and most everyone else) spoke Italian. It is really fascinating switching back and forth between the language tracks for different scenes.

The Kite Runner (2007) - I read the book recently and enjoyed it, so Amy and I rented the movie. The movie is a pretty good adaptation of the book. It's always hard for me to judge the movie version of something I've seen or read before. Watching the movie is more like following along with a narrator and mentally checking off all the scenes that were left in and those that were left out. Nevertheless, I think I can say that the movie stands on its own.

The casting is pretty good. I pictured perhaps a bigger man playing Baba, but his face and demeanor were perfect. The boys were also good, though I missed the story of Hassan's hare-lip from the book. They changed Assef's character a bit too, leaving out the half-German heritage from the book, but I suppose it would have been hard to cast that role (aside from the fact that it would lengthen the movie with a minor plot point).

It's a tough story thematically, and the movie stays close to that. The books deals more with it, but it tells the story of two boys growing up in pre-Taliban Afghanistan, right up to the point where the Soviets invaded, and then jumps to America for a while, then to Taliban controlled Afghanistan, and eventually ends up in modern day America. It's a unique perspective to view events from, given our ties to Afghanistan now. It's interesting too having watched this after Charlie Wilson's War, which also dealt with the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

I'd recommend the book for the more complete story, but the movie is a fine one.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Sockbaby 4: The Trailer!

Doug and the Westhavenbrook guys released the first Sockbaby 4 trailer! Here it is:

I'm one of the black-suited henchmen who pours down some steps. I'm not one of the guys who fights or gets kicked or anything, though. I did make the fake head that got toasted by Ronnie, though! It took me a long time, the melted clay smelled horrible, the face ended up looking terrible, and you only see it for half a second.

The trailer also finally reveals the mystery guest stars: Doug Jones and the Heder brothers (not to mention Rob Schrab and Isaac Singleton).

Here's a link to a downloadable version of the trailer (in much higher quality).

Tell your friends!

Monday, June 09, 2008

The Man with No Name comic

I forgot to mention: when I was at the comic store picking up the last issues of Scud, I flipped through that Man with No Name comic. Eh. The art was fine, but nothing special, and the story didn't jump out at me. I passed. Oh well.

Dan in Real Life (2007)

Pretty unremarkable movie. Everything is so average.

The scenario seems fresh, but the execution doesn't bring anything new to the table. Steve Carrell plays an advice columnist who, get this, doesn't have his own life together! Ha! A million laffs. And he goes on a vacation with his family and falls in love with his brother's new girlfriend. What will happen?? Nothing exciting. In fact, most of the entertaining moments seemed pulled right out of Meet the Parents 3 (uh-oh, casual sport with the family taken too seriously? And now he has to hide in the shower! And then the woman he secretly loves has to get in with him! Then he escapes out the window and falls off the roof! I wonder if, by the end, he'll end up hurting everyone he loves by lying and letting them all down, only to end up happy by the end because we know he really deserves it?? Maaaaaybe!).

I didn't get how I was supposed to feel about his middle daughter. She's a horrible brat who is desperately "in love" with some guy. She's supposed to be 16, I think. Dan is constantly shutting her down and telling her that she can't be in love after only 3 days, yet by the end he has fallen for Juliette in only 3 days, so he...admits he was wrong? Except he was right, and his daughter is just a crazy emotional teenager. Throughout movie she acts like a typical bratty teen girl, but at the end the writer is trying to tell us that, "Hey, guys, maybe she really is in love. Hm yeah good learnings. All her crazy stuff? Genuine. Mm. Yeah. You judged her, didn't you? Just like Dan. And now you see that you were WRONG. She just wants to love." What? Why did you spend the whole movie making her annoying?

That sounds like I really hated it, but I didn't. I want those 2 hours of my life back, but not in a Musketeer sort of way. I just would rather have done something different.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Jamie Hewlet does Olympic art

I love Jamie Hewlett's work for the Gorillaz, and am delighted to hear that he has been commissioned to do stuff for the Olympics this year. Here's his Monkey King:

Monkey King chuckin' a rod:

You can see more of it here.