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: