30 June, 2012

Max Payne: The Post-Modern Shootmetheus

Max Payne 3 is a mighty fine video game. It's been a long damn while since the last installment of this series has come out

This entry really isn't going to be about that. It's really just going to be about things that it reminds me of. I'm going to glaze over things I learned in my film classes and I won't nearly have an appropriate amount of references. If that sounds fun, then let's go! Let's do it!

 Lost in a Payne Hole--

This game triggered something deep inside of me. It is something that I can't even put exact words to. I can only ramble. . . but rambling has taken me this far, so I figure I'll just figure out where it wants to take me. With a lot of things ans with this game in particular, it's practically subconscious and I can testify to this because it has made me pine for Michael Mann films, which are films that I have complained about again and again ad nauseam. It's also made me think of a lot of other nonsense.

If that's what you want to read about, then come along! Seriously! Last warning!

What it's made me think about, though, are mostly subjects that are just on the periphery of the game. Everything from the storyline to the tone to the setting to the game play reminds of me a heap of movies an TV shows (and those things in turn remind me of other TV shows and movies). Most specifically Kane and Lynch 2: Dog Days (at least in some ways, but I'll get to that in a moment.).

The Max Payne series has always been over the top and self-aware. It's a hard-boiled game series that knows it's in a hard-boiled game series. Not only did the creators know that its audience had their heads chockful of Sin City and Pulp Fiction (not hard-boiled, but you know what I mean), but Max did too. Referencing past works is in the DNA of Max Payne. It's why he moves in slow motion and holds two pistols at once and talks in overwrought metaphors.

While the third installment has been made by a new team and it has stripped away its old comic book noir sensibilities, it's now published by Rockstar, a company that has never felt shame over wearing its influences on its sleeves. If anything, in this case, they want you to remember the things that inspired it.

This game picks off years after the last installment in the series came out and, predictably, the years of murder, mayhem, and drug abuse has not done Max any favors. He's a wash-out and a self-hating addict with a very narrow set of professional skills. In short Payne is exactly the sort of character that I love best.

(Why couldn't they just make that game?)

The Case of Lynch V. Payne--

What Max Payne 3 is what Kane and Lynch 2: Dog Days should have been. Where Kane and Lynch 2 is a monochromatic, senseless game with poor controls and almost no plot to speak of, Max Payne 3 has great art design, an entertaining combat system, and a plot that is about as edifying, but much better written (CONTRADICTION) it has greater depths than "LET'S GET THE FUCK OUTTA HERE!"

Despite being a man of no little education, I like  Kane and Lynch 2. I know I'm alone on this and I know that I shouldn't. It's a complete mess.  From top to bottom it is an unworthy game. Its a shooter where shooting barely works. It takes place in an exotic location that you can't see. Calling the main characters two-dimensional would be an insult to cardboard and worst yet its last boss is literally a dog.


Payne's boss is a much more impressive encounter, even though both of them take place on an airport. If I had to put my finger on what differentiates these games is that Max Payne 3 is Jack Bauer and Kane and Lynch 2 is just Jack Bauer torturing people.

Don't like these guys? Tough shit.
And yet, I still really like the stupid game.

I cannot think of a game as unapologetic and brutal as that game. One of its trailers revolves around the titular characters running naked from police attack dogs. One of the men is attacked and his partner picks up a plastic fast food tray and starts hitting the dog. Top that off with the "Bowling for Shangai" video, I realized that this is a game that I want to play (plus the demo wasn't terrible. It had potential and some of the guns had the kind of kick that guns in a gritty game like this should have. Unfortunately the finished game is not the demo).

Where it goes a bit pear-shaped is that it's entire aesthetic seems to have been crafted to have been off-putting. From the washed-out You Tube-esque digital grain to the nihilistic storyline and its scumbag main characters seems to have been crafted to get people to not want to play it. Well, IO Interactive succeeded. They wanted to make a game that is as unpleasant and mean as the world the titular wallows in and they hit the bullseye. Good for them, I guess. But maybe they should've wrapped a better game around that whole concept.

Max on Fire--

But general harshness isn't the main thing Max Payne 3 (or the games before it, really) shares with Dog Days.Max Payne 3's non-gameplay sequences is complete with digital distortion and neon blow-outs and every other kind of 21st century film making technique. It's a technique they both use in various ways and to various effects. It's not a direct stylistic aping and it might be that if they both weren't crime-centric third-person shooters I wouldn't have ever thought of it, but here we are.

The one piece of art that's most similar to the third Max Payne is the movie Man on Fire, which not only lends a big, bloody chunk of its plot, but also its frenetic on-screen aesthetics. It's worth noting that Man on Fire is also the only Tony Scott movie where Tony Scott's recent manic style isn't completely terrible.

But it isn't just the odd crime game or Tony Scott movie that's been doing this sort of thing, I've also seen it appear most recently in the second episode of the second season-- 'scuse me, guv, the second series-- of Sherlock. The You Tube era's version of distortion has supplanted my generation's TV snow. I doubt that kids today even know what the hell snow is (And I know they do not appreciate the pleasure of scrambled pornography. We lucky few). In that case I think that was specifically a decision to be clever, but it's Sherlock-- That whole show is a showcase for clever.

In most of these cases, they aren't They aren't statements, they just look cool.And art is in a position where instead of making things look better and have higher fidelity, we're trying to find ways to make things look wonky. In fact, new technology seems to exist specifically to make things look less like regular ol' reality.

Without getting into stuff like indy lo-fi bands or vinyl collecting, I think the best example-- and really the most fun example-- is the newest Star Trek movie.

To Boldly Mess Things Up For a Lot of Money Like Nobody Has Before--

Well, at least the trailer didn't have any Inception sounds.
There probably isn't a single shot in Star Trek that doesn't have some kind of computer effect in it. Not including the green screen, even, what was shot on the set is not the movie that we saw and enjoyed. That movie wasn't made until it was built months later. It's funny, because the Star Trek is a movie that was never actually shot. (I guess in the same way that people say that the Gulf War wasn't ever actually fought).

Fifty years ago a lens flare was considering a flaw in filming. A lens flare is a result of the light of the Sun (or a similarly bright projection like a lamp or a key light) hitting the back of the film stock and projecting back into the camera. Film isn't supposed to work that way and traditionally that was a fuck up. It meant that you filmed a scene poorly, after all, nobody wanted to watch a scene with Humphrey Bogart with these optical spirits dancing around the camera. In still photography that also meant that you would pray to whatever saint was relevant that you had images on your test strip to cover you.

It wasn't until Lawrence of Arabia came around that lens flare actually became an artistic technique. That film had long and important sequences about the Sun and about the heat of it and these flaws in the filming because the means to show the audience just how terrible this Arabian sun was-- After all, we'd never seen a sun so bad before that it distorted a camera, had we?

And that was then. Lawrence of Arabia is considered one of the best films of all time and with reason, so it's funny to see the reboot of Star Trek take that lesson and apply it, not as a reference to Lawrence of Arabia, but because lens flare means the future. It's made a full circle. It isn't an error, it isn't even really an artistic choice, it's ubiquitous.

(I guess it's also worth considering that color opens up the film to a lot more techniques like that, where as in black and white, which is binary by definition, it is a far more glaring flaw.)

There are plenty of other problems that come up with digital filming, but every single piece of lens flare that appears in JJ Abrams' Star Trek has been artificially placed there. What you have then is a film that has spent millions of dollars to artificially mar a film that would have been a disaster only a generation or so ago. What was once a flaw has turned into a stylistic choice and now has just become standard operating procedure. I wonder what David Lean would think.

Hey, Larry? That's a fire hazard, buddy.
Grain Pain and Payne Grain--

And to bring it back to video games this sort of absurdity is only heightened. Digital distortion is now just an aesthetic choice as much as anything. For whatever reason war games have globbed onto this style, as well, because nothing says visceral like static and buzzing noises (and a vaguely disguised Terminator theme, apparently).

(Ghost Recon: Future Soldier also has supertext and words projected onto the world in the same way that Splinter Cell: Conviction, but, again, where Max Payne uses it to get across the concept of grit, Ghost Recon does it because pop-up words means the future. So: More static to think about.)

And the list of games that use the same techniques as Max Payne 3 and Kane and Lynch 2 to get their tone across goes on and on.

Mass Effect 2 naturally had a false film grain effect on it, which naturally kicks it back to the kind of 70's and 80's science fiction films that it's a product of (Aliens, Silent Running, Outland, Enemy Mine). I guess that's another slight break between Alien and Prometheus, which is that one is super sharp and the other is a low-budget genre flick from the 1970's.

Resident Evil 5 allowed you to put multiple film grain effect over the game once you beat it (Since it's a horror game, I don't know why that isn't simply the default. I know it's an HD game, but come on, film grain is cool!). Silent Hill uses the same technique, as well, which is a case where I'd appreciate them taking it out, because, fuck, man, I couldn't even finish Silent Hill 2 I was so upset by it. Tone it down, Silent Hill 2, I just want to play you!

In science fiction seeing film grain makes you think of the future and in horror it's there to instill a sense of something being off (or, again, maybe you just want to reference Evil Dead 2 or something). With fake film grain you can have it all!

(And that isn't anything new either. I remember that the final shootout in Taxi Driver was purposely given a grainy look in order to tone down the brutality. Apparently it worked. Again, you have a director purposely making his film look worse, but in this case instead of it being for fun aesthetic reasons, Scorsese did it to get his movie and R-rating. The same goes for Kill Bill Vol.1. In that case Tarantino made the big sword fight black and white in order to tone down the gore. In both cases, I guess it worked.)

Then, there are video games that now have lens flare a la Star Trek and Lawrence of Arabia or whatever else, but, again, like there being no film to have grain there isn't any lens to have a flare. There isn't even a sun or light. It's all made up!

Putting Dog Days Down--

Alright. Back to Kane and Lynch 2-- Because I have to get this out somewhere--

"Here's looking at you, shitwad."
As dour and on-the-rocks as the whole of Max Payne 3 is, it does allow you to have a good feeling every three hours or so that doesn't involve shooting bad men in the face ten times.

I mean in in that it allows room for actual good guys and maybe lets some people to not be tortured to death. It's not much, but there is something more to this game than Dog Day's main statement on the human spirit than "We're all cocksucking scumbags or Chinese. Or dead." It's depressing.

Max Payne 3 has a discernible story arc as well as an incredible design, and what is more is that is plays like a good video game. There is something that is simple and appealing about diving at people whilst holding two guns that I just can't explain. It's just awesome. It doesn't work as well as it does in the first or second Max Payne, admittedly, but it is a much different kind of game.Thematically Max Payne 3 also works far better as a Michael Mann homage than does Dog Day's (the first game, Dead Men, has a whole level that apes the club scene in Collateral).

The visceral appeal of Mann's movies are that they revolve around men being experts at a sort of obscure art. Whether that be a behavioral psychologist, a thief, a frontiersman, another kind of thief, a cab driver, cops posing as thieves, or cops fighting thieves, he makes movies about men being men in very specific ways. I love that. And where this game goes its own way is that Max isn't a professional, he's a fuck up who has been cursed with having professional skills. His skill set is more a curse than a boon and you couldn't say that of somebody like Ali.

None of Mann's character's are cursed (except for in The Keep, but since when has The Keep ever counted for anything?). They execute until they cannot execute any more. Payne is a character who has to execute because he isn't much good at anything else, especially being alive. I like that. I like a down and out character and I especially like that being rammed into the digitally perfect styling of Michael Mann. As much as this game is indebted to Mann (in addition to Man on Fire and Elite Squad and, of course, John Woo) it is also shirking these associations and going its own way. It is being honest with its influences without being a copycat.

I also appreciate that Max Payne 3 had the good taste not to force America through another parkour sequence through a favela (see: The Incredible Hulk, Fast Five, and Modern Warfare 2). At least video games have made some progress with this thing.

To mangle a Joseph Campbell quote, he was once asked why what he studied and talked about mattered and he replied that it didn't matter. He then said that a dog is happy, but it doesn't know about anything that we care about or any of the things we study. But, he added, "It's a dog's life."

Which Brings Us To The End--

So, what's the fucking point? I don't know: If you're going to do something weird, make sure you do it well. I don't see a sense in mucking it up any further than that. I already used the term "post-modern" and that's unforgivable enough without me becoming an even bigger jerk.

I guess, in general, though, I like being reminded of good things. It's more than just that pleasure of recognizing something, which is the kind of thing that Dane Cook thrived off of, I just like seeing and knowing that the thing I like also likes other good things. Knowing that the Coen Brothers love Raymond Chandler makes me like them more and it makes me understand them more as artists. I also like seeing where something as simple and as generally invisible as intentionally grainy footage goes. That's fun to me. If it wasn't I wouldn't have become a media studies major.

Now, okay, I guess that's what makes me the jerk in this scenario

If you've got any input, please let me know. I won't assume that anyone will make it this far down this article, but it is always nice to hear from other people. That sort of thing keeps me sane. My friend Andy said some interesting things about my Prometheus post, so maybe I'll present my rebuttal when it comes out on DVD. I wish I had gotten back to him on that. Anyways, good on ya, I'm off to watch Body of Lies.

Anyways, apropos of very little, here's the best bit of dialogue in the movie Thief--

* I think it's pure laziness on the part of the Max Payne 3 writers that there's a gang called the Comando Sombra and nobody connects the dots and calls them "cocksuckers." Get it together, guys.

* While Kane and Lynch 2 is almost uniformly regarded as garbage by both the public and the critical community, the new Hitman looks pretty hot even with stupid shit like videos about killing battle nuns.

* I'll back away from falling any further down the reference hole, but you all should watch Elite Force: The Enemy Within, Mandala Bala, and Senna as soon as humanly possible. They are great, great films about Brazil for completely different reasons.

* Thinking about t now, I realize that Kane and Lynch 2 has one advantage over Max Payne's third outing which is that you can pick up gas canisters and fire extinguishers and chuck them as bombs. That's the kind of weaponization that I'd like to see more of in video games.

*Oh, you can also take human shields in Dog Days. I like that. You can't turn them into bombs though as in Gears of War 3, though.Two steps forward, one step back. . .

* Life imitates art. . . But in Spanish, not Portuguese.

* Here's a link to something better about this game.

* Also: This image kind of perfectly sums up the tone of Kane and Lynch 2.

* I love how many costume changes Max goes through in this game. His hair changes with just about every level, as does his clothing and his various wounds. It's great. It'sa big macho game of dress-up the psychopath. What's more is once you beat the game you can dress him up as Max from the first two games as well as the model from the ending, which includes Max in full-blown tourist wear right down to the flip flops.

* Not to bring up Prometheus again . . .again (again), but while looking for Lawrence of Arabia images, I remembered that movie was featured in Ridley Scott's sci-fi film after stumbling upon this blog.

* I could have totally used the term "mis en scene" to describe the various styles, tones, and aesthetics of these movies because, but I didn't. Because I care about you the reader.

* Also my next entry will be shorter and more coherent then this one so, as you may have guessed, it will be about Chinese history.

24 June, 2012

Oh, right! Movies are the best!

Say what you want about Melville and Godard and Bergman, it's shit like this that got me into movies.

I'm not proud, but here we are.

14 June, 2012

Let Me Turn My Chair Backwards (We Need to Talk)

Hey kids, I don't normally use this blog to talk about real issues. I usually just dick around, but I was recently made aware of the Look East Festival by a friend of mine and I was reminded of something that has been troubling me for a long time in movies (and not that A Bittersweet Life has been around for seven years and I won't have gotten around to seeing it until this film festival). And it was then that I realized that I've been shirking my responsibility as both a blogger of importance and an integral pillar of the community. I need to talk about some serious things. We need to talk about some serious things.

We need to talk about hammer crime.

Yes, that's right. Every year literally tens of fictional characters are killed or wounded with hammers. Some hammers, some not, some without even names. And we need to make our voices heard and put a stop to this senseless form of tool-based violence.

Dracula, perhaps the patron saint of hammer crime.
Er, no, wait. No. Sorry. Wrong kind of Hammer crime. (Though they are using a hammer to put that stake into Dracula. Note to self: Investigate Hammer hammer violence further. Also, under what statutes is killing a dracula a crime? Is the burden of proof on the state or the vampire slayer?)

Watch out, Korean mook, there is a hammer on the loose!
Most memorably though, we have to go back to Korea in Oldboy, which not only has one of the most egregious hammer fights of all time, but one of the most brilliantly shot and edited hammer fights, making its sins even more heinous. After all, a hammer fight in a hallway is one thing, but it is quite another to hide behind the precepts of art. Have you no shame, Chan-Wook Park?

I'd go on and on about what makes this one scene in the movie so fantastic, but it'd just read like a list so instead I'd just recommend that you never watch Oldboy except under the strict auspices of learning about hammer and hammer-related crime.

Also, was there any hammer murders in Sympathy for Lady Vengeance? I don't know. Probably! I can't remember! Their were tarps! And bizarre editing choices! That seems damning enough for my tastes!

Then there's The Chaser where most, if not all, of the deaths are hammer related. What's going on, Korea? You got nothing but hammers going into people's heads! That's not what hammers were invented! They're invented for building houses! And cracking nuts! People aren't nuts, they're people!

Beautiful? Yes. Dangerous? Oh, you better believe it.
But the problem doesn't end with that! Oh no, it's crossed the Pacific as is documented in the dangerously stylish Drive. You think it's cool for the guy from The Notebook to bash up a skuzzy strip club owner? Maybe it is, but maybe someday you'll be dressed in a track suit telling a future porn actress to put a sponge in there because she's losing him money and then who will watch out for you? The Goz? Nope. Not him. Too late. You had your chance and now he's hitting you with a hammer and maybe he's not going to stop.

I even podcasted about it.

Then there's London Boulevard, which not only features several instances of hammer crime, but is also a cinematic crime. How can we live in such a world? How can we hand this world off to our children? How will the returning ancient Mayan space-gods devour their essences when they live in a world where such things can come to pass. I don't even think we deserve to be destroyed by returning ancient Mayan space-gods, I just want to vomit. I want to die and I want to vomit and I don't even care who cleans up the mess.

Now, besides making you aware of one thing, this blog entry did have a point, which is that I am going to go see A Bittersweet Life at the Look East Festival and I would recommend that you do, as well (There are other movies, one being hosted by an awesome professor I had, but none of them have a chain-smoking hitman in a tailored suit with serious Le Samourai inflections, so, there you are). I've wanted to see it for quite a long time, but it's never been available (legally) in the United States, so I am going to strike (symbolically) while the iron is hot (also symbolically).

(Oh, hey, the director of A Bittersweet Life also directed The Good, the Bad, and the Weird! That's fun.)

Does it have hammer crime? I don't know! Only time will tell. But if there is I plan to be writing a letter to both Korean governments lodging my complaints. What is acceptable is if some full blown gun fire goes into some peoples' faces. I'll let you guys know on the 23rd when the festival starts. Until then keep your conscience clean and your tool belt buckled.

12 June, 2012


I can safely say that The Programme Vol. 1 is one of the legitimately worst comics I've read in a long time. It's a mess from start to finish and while the first issue does set-up an intriguing premise it not only fumbles that idea (being that the Nazis developed superhumans, but instead of deploying them in the war, they fell into the hands of the US and the USSR, developing a secret side-game in the Cold War. In a modern generic Middle Eastern country at war, those weapons have been awakened into a world they cannot understand), it obliterate it in a fever of poor art, poor design, and the most facile political points this side of a high schooler's peechee folder.

It's a poor, poor book and I want to make fun of it. Join me, won't you?

(See this cool cover? It's the last good thing you'll see in the book.)
I recently posted that I liked Prometheus because, despite its flaws, there are some really cool things going on. The Programme is the inverse of that where I hate something even more because of how badly it screw up its potentially cool ideas. I'll try to come up with a smart corollary rule for that.

(And besides a successful version of this story already exists, it's called The Winter Men and it was amazing.)

The dialogue and the general themes of the book have all of the relevance of a Human Shield in the months before the Iraq War. There's nothing wrong with a book being political and there's certainly nothing wrong with the kind of angry liberal politics inside of this book (I'm more of a Mort Zuckerman-man myself, but that's just me). What is a problem is when the politics of a work have all of the energy and poignancy of a bumper sticker on an ugly car.

V for Vendetta managed to be a strident attack against the policies of Margaret Thatcher and a statement on the feelings of the time, but it also managed to be a parable about political power in general and, most importantly, be a well-told story. That's an intensely liberal-minded story. It works and people from all over the political spectrum enjoy it because it is much more than a rebuke of a political philosophy that no one can recall in detail.

This book ended its much too long 12 issue run in 2008, the year Barack Obama was elected as President of the United States. Could you think of anything less relevant than the angry hysteria of the Iraq War protest movement in 2008 (and, also, wasn't Obama going to fix that whole mess)? The Programme seems to be written as a reply to an argument long since paved over in light of the forward movement of reality.

The politics are a kind of whiny, rambling dissidence that was annoying during the Bush years, but now has all of the heft a homeless man arguing with a dumpster. Vague anger and political buzzwords isn't a theme. When a forth of a page is taken up by the panel "THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES IS A DANGEROUS PSYCHOPATH" (is there any other kind of psychopath?) apropos of nothing you can't help but conclude that not only is this book without subtlety, it's a book that values making a statement over creating a story.

Plus, we know the US president is a dangerous psychopath, he just fired off a nuclear warhead. Psychopathy is implicit in the act of firing off a nuclear warhead. We don't need to be told that. . . unless of course you were making an important political point! In which case we should all stop and ruminate on the important things you have to say, oh mighty swami!

The plotting is even worse. It reveals things with such little weight or care that it all feels incidental. Flashbacks come and go with no real context and while they do fill in the background of some of the characters they don't seem to actually be relevant to anything that is happening in the present. It'd be like if Dr. Manhattan's flashbacks were all about him attending physics classes in college. Too be fair, though, the flashbacks are the least agonizing thing about the book because at least stories begin and are concluded in them.

It's one of the only books I can think of that has managed to move both too quickly and still manage to drag everything out. Every opportunity for explanation or intrigue is wasted or tossed away in favor of vague references to imperialism or the worker's republic or whatever else. And they aren't concepts or thoughts, they're just words that people say. They're saying them enough times so they must mean something!

The biggest waste of an opportunity is present in the presumed protagonist, Max. Our boy is a superhuman made by the Nazis and programmed by the US government as a protector of truth, justice, and all of that other fun stuff that has no place in a comic this lifeless. As a protagonist he would make the main character in The Stranger blush with his ineffectualness. Bartleby the scrivener would tell him to get his shit together. Besides super strength and speed, his main power seems to be to make me want to throw a clock radio at him.

When he's told that he was a baby made by the Nazis and brainwashed by the military industrial complex by the CIA he takes it with all of the excitement of being given a pastrami sandwich instead of a Reuben. He doesn't seem to want any documentation on his heritage as a Nazi superman and just takes the spooks that show up at his word.

Then he proceeds to do nothing for the entire comic. He escapes from a CIA holding facility, but instead of going on the run like a normal plot would make him, he ends up running. . . right back to the bar where we found him in the first place where he proceeds to do. . . even more nothing. His personal problems are then explained away in one line of dialogue and he goes back to having a non-debate with himself for three issues. Because, again, if people like anything in their stories it is for comflict to present itself, however stupidly, then be instantly swept away with a declarative sentence.

Eventually another superhuman named Senator Joe, who is woken up and convinced that the US government is overrun by commies and pinkos, is sent to retrieve the reluctant superhuman.

But, of course, that character is wasted as well. He goes from being a super-powered Red-baiter to a being a guy who just wears a hat (Max, importantly, does not wear a hat). His change of heart happens off panel and is explained away in the next scene he appears in. So what you have is a super-powered right-wing nut job and a psycho-out-of-time changed into a guy who just kind of hassles Max ineffectually for half of an isse. Good. Great. That's the kind of crack story-telling people come to comics for!

At some point Max has a crisis of character, which is that he's a weapon of mass destruction that hates destroying things. At no point does anyone state the obvious which would be "Then don't fucking blow up anyone, you jackass" or "Good, because blowing up things for fun would make you a fucking asshole and everybody hates assholes." No, the scene is about. .  . I don't even know. There's nothing I can tell you factually that would be more interesting than whatever you imagine the scene is actually about.

Here's the writing prompt: Timothy Lehery and Superman are in a bar. They are talking about brainwashing. Go.

Alright, good work everybody.

Anyways, the scene drags on and, again, nobody states the other incredibly obvious point about how his mind has been messed with, which would be "It's called a conscience, you dingus. You're welcome for not being a soulless monster." Milligan doesn't seem to understand the difference between a revelation and a premise.

Then again having any motivation at all in our heroes puts the villains into sharp relief since they have all of the depth of a henchman in a Die Hard fanfic. They're Soviets! And they're evil! And they're attacking a faceless composite of Middle Eastern nations! And these Soviet guys are. . . doing bad stuff! Why? Because they are going to destroy American imperialism! Why? Because they're good Soviets and good Soviets murder Americans! Apparently!

There's no motivation, there's no plot, there's just a vague set-up that never really goes anywhere. They're plot is cardboard thin. They keep on referencing Joseph Stalin, but thinking on that mass murderer I can't help but feel he was a far more rational actor than these group of weirdos. If you made them Nazis or Christian fundamentalists or Martians or irrate mathematicians literally nothing would change in their motivations or actions.

Strangely the first Soviet super villain introduced seems to be intensely concerned with killing American soldiers, but doesn't even seem to be aware of the concept of there being people living in the country they're invading. Milligan doesn't seem to be either. He seems to want to bristle at the hubris of the American empire invading a country, but doesn't seem to be interested at all in the people they are presumably conquering and killing. He also seems perfectly fine in lumping the entire Middle East together into one big ball and calling it "Talibanistan." Real progressive work you're doing there, buddy.

Questions are all I have for this book. Angry questions. Is this an important moment? Is this a side character? Why is this happening? Who the hell is that? Do I give a shit? Questions like this pop into my mind at such frequency that I have to wonder whether Mr. Milligan ever asked "What the hell am I doing here?" It would have been a more constructive question to ask instead of what exactly we're doing in Iraq. At the very least there'd be an answer and my pain would end.

Then there's the art.It's a hideous neon-soaked nightmare that is so garish and blown-out that it would make Andy Warhol vomit in rage.There is really nothing redeemable about it. At its best it's merely competent. It is on a page, it is of people, and the word balloons correspond to those.

The coloring is an obnoxious mess. It reminds me of how Jae Lee's artwork is handled, which is it is very flat with maybe a few textures thrown in, but overall the colorist (Richard Isanove, especially) let's Lee's sparse line work and heavy shadows do the heavy lifting. Jae Lee (and Richard Isanove who seems to work with Lee most often) are talented artists though and CP Smith and Johnny Rench don't seem to know what a comic book is or even how to draw.

The color palette is a clear stylistic choice, which is fine. Had it worked it would have been a bold and striking style for the comic. Unfortunately the coloring seems to be barely competent, more reminiscent of something out of the late 90's when people started figuring out this art on computers business. The texture work is quite transparently just a texture out of Photoshop and the actual artwork itself is so reliant on tracing photos that its hard to tell when the shitty coloring stops and where the crappy drawings begin.

Most egregiously there are some pages that are digitized and chopped up to the point of actually being pixelated. I'm reading a comic book made in 2008 and I am looking at textures that seem to have fallen out of Kid Pix. It makes me ask another question which is whether somebody intended for it to look this lackluster or if this was a plan all along?

It's all made worst with a sickeningly dull layout. Every page seems to consists entirely of "Digitally traced people covered in too much shadow making weird faces at each other.While those silly faces aren't crammed with too many word balloons or caption boxes, the story's glacial pace makes me think that even the meager potential of these panels is being wasted on a poorly paced story.

The book is filled cover to cover with pictures of people standing with the odd addition of somebody maybe flying. The backgrounds are few and far between and what we do get, like the people in the comic, are clearly just photos of ugly places made uglier with Photoshop filters. Brian Lee O'Malley made it work. This CP Smith is no Brian Lee O'Malley.

You look at the artwork of Tony Harris and you realize that tracing and heavy photo referencing can be done and done to great effect. I'm fairly certain even Darick Robertson used photo references for characters in Transmetropolitan and that book looks amazing. So, in both the case of the flat, digital coloring and the tracing there are excellent examples of that work.

(To be fair, though, this Wolverine cover by CP Smith is pretty killer. I also seem to vaguely remember the issue being competently drawn.)

Fuck this book. If I wanted to read a half-assed and hideous version of Watchmen I'd vomit into my Absolute edition and shut it. This is a book without redeeming qualities. I let you know this because not only is it great fun to inflict retribution on this book, but it also presents a pause for us to reflect upon how great some of the comic books in our lives are. While not every superhero book is All-Star Superman or Powers at least there are also very few books like The Programme.

(Alright. That's enough of that. I promise to write about something good in the future)

11 June, 2012

Too Many Words About Prometheus

I'll try my best to avoid spoilers (those are mostly at the back-end of this article, past the obligatory Mark Kermode video), though I feel that's kind of silly. By now I figure you've already seen it or decided not to see it, though, so, I don't know: Here we are.

I'll get the big spoiler out of the way: I liked this movie quite a bit. Once you get past the hype what you have is a film experience that's worth having and it's worth having with as little input from other people-- the media, your friends, those dicks on the internet, or even me-- as possible. It benefits from the mystery, which, is also something of a strike against it. Without the shock and the glamor Prometheus isn't a brilliant movie, but it is a pretty good one.

There's a lot of talk about this movie being stacked up alongside The Phantom Menace, which is neither fair to Sir Ridley Scott nor Mr. Plinkett's apt review. What you have in the form of Prometheus is a big, bold piece of populist science fiction that wants to be both entertaining and intruding, but doesn't quite succeed on either count.

If you want to talk about disappointment we could always talk about Alien Versus Predator. Or Alien Versus Predator: Requiem for that matter and Prometheus is, thankfully, a far better movie than most of the Alien sequels and more than a few other high-budget science fiction movies.

Alright, folks, this is a long and rambling one. . . 

 Instead of going on and on about how this is Fassbender's show (which everyone else on Earth seems to think, so I'll not waste my breath), I want to talk about Charlize Theron, because she is my favorite character in the film (I mean, besides Fassbender).

She's the kind of cold, heartless bitch you would expect "the Company" would send, though instead of just being this1980's-style go-getter (like Burke or maybe Ellis from Die Hard) what you have is an ambitious woman that somehow ends up being more cold than the android David and seemingly more vulnerable than Dr. Shaw. She's a scared little girl that can't show her fear and who thinks that being human is some sort of weakness. That's kind of amazing to see in a six-something Academy Award winning Amazon. It's a shame she is so good and her character has so much going on behind the curtains because in the end, she's wasted like so many of the other characters.

I also think the reveal with her character could have been more intelligently executed than it was. The second that scene began I know what it was about and didn't need the kind of awkward telegraphing that we got. That's more or less the entire problem of the film. Instead of subtext we get statements and instead of characters we get set pieces quite literally coming down on them. It's like watching a great gymnastic set where somebody flubs the landing.

Noomi Rapace also deserves a commendation for the energy she put into the role, even if her character wasn't particularly interesting. Then again, we all knew she could pull off "intensity," right?

A problem in the movie-- and it is a fundamental problem-- is that Prometheus doesn't really present a coherent theme like Alien or a coherent narrative like Alien, but to be fair Alien is just a haunted house movie in space. It doesn't hold together as a uniform piece of work neither in theme nor in the characters or in anything else that would have turned this into a great film.

It's unfair for me to raise this comparison having seen Alien twenty or so times and studied it and written about it and having only seen Prometheus the once. This fact remains that Alien was about subtext and small things adding up to something much bigger and much more clever than space truckers fighting the It Came From Outer Space. Prometheus wears its themes on its sleeves and it doesn't benefit from this. It doesn't come off as bold, it comes off as clunky (that is if it wasn't so confused about what it was).

This movie satisfies in all of the ways that a movie like this should, though. It's chock full of gore and Gigerian-style horrors, yet it doesn't feel as raw as Alien or as intense as Aliens (though it does feel more whole than Alien 3 and less silly than Alien: Resurrection). I wanted more out of this movie and I get the feeling a lot of the most virulently disappointed thought so as well, but that doesn't mean that what's there isn't exciting and worth seeing. And it is, damnit!

In a way the people behind Prometheus kind of set itself up for a fall. How can you make a prequel that isn't a prequel and sell a movie connected to a known franchise and at the same time tell people that it has nothing to do with it? The confused sales pitch is strangely endemic of the final product itself.

I'm a sucker for the sort of massive world that Prometheus presents. I mean, I liked Avatar for fuck's sake. I like the idea of a science fiction film trying to do something big and audacious and at great cost. It's one thing to make a (find a low budget sci-fi film), but its another thing to make a movie about blue Indians for half of a billion dollars, especially when that film isn't necessarily a slam-bang action picture like Prometheus is. That takes a kind of combination of balls and madness that I appreciate. Avatar, is also a film that clearly put a lot of thought into building a world, even if almost none of the R and D ended up in the story. That is cool to watch.
And to further compromise my opinion, I actually enjoy Alien 3 (and Alien: Resurrection which, for my money, is Joss Whedon's greatest contribution to the craft of writing). And I enjoy it for some of the same basic reasons as I enjoyed Avatar, which is that it has enough crazy and interesting things in it to make it work despite all of its many, many flaws (also, despite popular opinion neither film is as colossally terrible as everyone says they are). A less creative director, I think, would have been satisfied with just making another version of Alien, but set in, I don't know, an airport, or just add even more aliens and assume that was going to work (hey, it did the first time!).

Instead they set the movie on a prison planet. With Double-Y chromosome offenders. And they're in an apocalyptic cult. And Ripley is pregnant.And bald. And there's Tywin Lannister.And they don't have a finished script. And everyone else died somehow! It might not be a great film (it isn't), but if you're going to fail at making a movie at least make it as batshit insane as humanly possible. At least no one can fault you for lacking creativity. (Sorry, William Gibson, but it just wasn't meant to be!)

Prometheus is better than either of these movies because it isn't just setting and it isn't just design, there is an actual film with actual ideas behind it. There are interesting things going on and even when it does swerve into the territory of the modern sci-fi/action movie, it does so in an equally weird and visually interesting way.

Just knowing that a movie as thunderously simple as Avatar exist and sequels as malformed as Alien 3 also exist that makes me feel that Prometheus is by comparison that much better of a film. Now there's a qualifying statement!

What is important to me is that Prometheus could present a modern starting point for popular science fiction. Soft science fiction and actiony pulp like The Avengers or Men in Black III already exist in droves, but this kind of bizarre and exploratory science fiction we haven't really had since the 1980's. I mean, again, I like Avatar, but that's the biggest sci-fi epic of our time? Come on! That's pathetic! We're a better people than that! (We're also a better people than to fall for gimmicks like 3D, but that's neither here nor there). Genres like science-fiction are more than set-ups for big fat explosions (not that I mind a big fat explosion every once and a while).

Dr. deGrasse Tyson is right, space is an exciting place, damnit! There's no reason it shouldn't be. New worlds, in whatever form they may be is something worth seeing in films. Instead of adapting comic books (oops) or rebooting franchises nobody remembers or cares about or making toys people hate into film or just generally trying to find new ways to get blood from a stone, let's go explore! And while Prometheus isn't a perfect film, it perfectly encapsulates the kind of benevolent insanity that makes film such a powerful medium.

I realize that independent films have been making clever science fiction movies for years (Primer, Time Crimes, Moon immediately pop to mind). There's no reason that should be and the sad reality is that film making has become so safe and so willfully stillborn that it's slowly started to eat itself. Iron Man 2 made six-hundred million dollars so of course they're going to make more Iron Man movies and more movies like it even if it wasn't any good. Popular films deserve to be smarter than they are, because if we relegate cleverness to the indy circuits we're going to end up with more Transformers and more Pirates of the Caribbean and we'll be fucked and we'd have deserved it and the terrorists will have won.

People aren't afraid of clever things. Inception proved this and Avatar proved that people want science fiction and Wall-E probed that people also want clever science fiction. If you give audiences the chance to see something smart or even something weird they will bite. People aren't dumb. They want to see amazing things and maybe Prometheus can be one more proof of that idea. Maybe it can prove that normal people to experience some goddamn art that is slightly unusual!

It's crazy enough that it just might work!

(And before you bring it up, don't even get me started about John Carter nee Of Mars. It's like Disney wanted that film to fail.)

Mark Kermode was right in using the word "temerity" in regards to this film. The fact that it was made is almost pleasing enough to give it a pass. I don't need to though, because there is much more to like and ponder over in this movie besides the aesthetics. For all of its ambition, though, Prometheus doesn't hang together.

I love the Alien series about as much as I can love a franchise. My closet is packed with action figures and my bookshelves have at least three different aliens protecting them.It's not enough, though, so say that the sequel (fingers-crossed) will fix all or the extended cut will give us further insight (it worked for Kingdom of Heaven!). The movie is quite good and the real shame isn't that it's an Alien film that is quite good, it's that it's a massively budgeted sci-fi film with a perfect cast and director that is only "quite good."

Then again, if every mistep in film were more like Prometheus cinema would be in a much healtheir place.

Anyways, I don't completely agree with the good doctor (or his correspondents). Here's his review, though, because, hey, what's wrong with a second opinion?At least he seems to know what the hell he's talking about.

(Actually, before we get to that I pretty much agree with the guys at Half in the Bag, even if I am slightly more enthusiastic about the movie than they are.)

Also: I am going to endeavor to find my award winning essay on gender and sexuality in the movie Alien. If not for you then for my inevitably compromised grad school application.

So, here come the Spoilers. Fuck off if it's not July 2013 if you don't want that sort of thing.

*Where did all of the medical professionals go? I think one of them got killed by the Engineer, right? Where did everyone else go? Also, Lisbeth Salander had to cut that thing out of her and she was supposedly quarantined, right? Then why the hell were they letting her loose if she was infectious? They torched one guy over the exact same thing, but they let her run around in fucking ace bandages, covered in blood and monster crud? Come on. You're a better movie than that. Also did her doctors just evaporate? Or did the captain accidentally incinerate them too?

*I really am not alright with the amount of mysteries that were solved in this movie. Does the conclusion just mean that the eponymous alien was a bio-weapon? I guess it means that it might be and it might mean that it was itself taken from an alien world. Overall the mystery of the movie Alien and the Alien series was an integral part of the whole thing. To dispel it-- however successfully it may or may not have done so-- is fairly off-putting. I'd say it was blasphemy if I was any more entitled. . . Actually thinking back on it I've found people complaining about the exact opposite problem-- Not enough was explained. There were too many mysteries. It seems you can't please everyone.

*When I ask stupid nerd questions what I am really hoping for is this lengthy response to fan mail by James Cameron regarding Aliens. It's not as interesting as an article as it is as a thing that exists. Can you imagine him pulling that for Avatar? Or anyone? For anything?

*Needs more Giger.

*I kind of want to see it in 3D now. You know, for research purposes.

*Here's a list of questions about the black goo. I have no answers for this. This is frustrating. Also I'm linking to the Huffington Post and I hate that site.

*The whole beginning reminds me of The Cave of Forgotten Dreams mostly because several of the paintings were taken verbatim from the Chauvet caves. That isn't over-education, that's just memory. What's more is that cave painting rarely ever included people (as I understand it), so the juxtaposition of the key paintings of people and paintings of horses taken from a cave and an era that had no paintings of people is an odd thought to have, I realize.

Mostly I thought "Oh, jeese! You better seal off the entrance or you're going to expose those paintings to decay!" There are hostile aliens romping around and the whole premise of the movie revolves around technology that doesn't exist, yet, there I was sitting next to my dad wondering how they were going to preserve those paintings.

*This movie has a border terrier in it! I have a border terrier! My puppy is in Prometheus! And on Mars!

*Wait, so does this mean that AvP is in continuity? Could it not be? Please?

*Regarding David's Fate: Did we need one more android being decapitated? I get the reference. Most people probably get the reference, but that's the third android in five films to be specifically decapitated. (UPDATE: My friend Sef has corrected me that Bishop still had a few of his upper bits left in Alien 3. I will concede the point. . . but still!).

*Fritz Coleman was at the theater with me. This is irrelevant to the overall experience, but I just wanted to put that out there: Weatherman Fritz fuckin' Coleman.

*Lisbeth Salander's whole birth scene kind of got undercut with my knowledge of the fact that The Fly exists. . . I guess that might be true of the snake V. arm scene, as well.

*Watching David watch Lawrence of Arabia means that there must be a massive catalog of films on the Prometheus. I mean, it's 2093, you could probably fit the entire catalog of America film onto a thumb drive and still have room left-over for some mission critical pornography. In the two years on board he must have watched a lot of films. Does that mean he watched Blade Runner? I'm reminded of zombie movies where none of the survivors seem to exist in a world without zombie films. I'm not asking for metatext here, I'm just wondering if David ever got around to watching Metropolis. Or Isaac Asimov for that matter?

*Was David's head exactly where it was. . . left or did it actually shift around afterwards? I'll have to double check this, because it'll bug me either way.

*I was going to mention this earlier, but even I realized I was getting too rambly. What I wanted to say was that for some reason Sunshine didn't pop to mind except when I saw one of the actors and I thought, "Is that the other Asian guy in Sunshine?" Maybe! Only Ridley Scott can know for sure! Now if there's a perfect example of two-thirds of a great film, I don't know what is.

*Also, for the record, Alien 3 has a xenomorph in it, which might just compromise my stance on this entire swathe of artistic expression. I also like Terminator 4 mostly because it did speak to the action figure collector inside of me. Or maybe it all just stems from my inborn weakness for James Cameron? By the way, where is my Abyss sequel? Come on, Hollywood, get with it!

*I should buy the BFI book on Alien. Does that exist? I should find out.

*Regarding the crew's hyper-sleep: That scene has to be there because it ties the film back into the mythology of Alien, which always has a waking up scene of some variety. My question is that because David is left to his own devices to maintain the ship (and presumably deal with any emergencies that may arise) then why was Bishop also put into deep freeze? I understand why this was done at the end of Aliens, but why in the beginning? I guess so that we can have the reveal that he's a "goddamn robot," but isn't that an inconsistency or am I just being anal? I feel like that is the most minor of problems in the whole course of this film.

*Oh, shit, I just remembered how Ash fit into all of this. Man. That's a whole other thing I've got to worry about now, isn't it?

*I say this with all of the affection in the world, but Prometheus reminded me of a two hour long Fallout Vault mission. It's all there. It's a self-contained, mysterious structure that is crammed full of occult science crap. There's mad science, there's conflicting interests, and there's a bunch of memorable set pieces. I think coming at it from this direction this movie is a lot more pleasing because instead of big answers you get a lot of questions and this weird, singular slice of this bigger and more malevolent world. But maybe that's just making excuses? My big point is that this movie does fit rather well into the tradition of a one-off sci-fi tale.

*The fact that I've spouted on for 3,000 words means that it's good, right? It has to.

10 June, 2012

Let's Mutate Comic Books!

As much as it's nice to commercialize comic books (as, let's face the facts, they normally aren't),there is something obnoxious about some studio exec looking down a list and saying "Let's go adapt that" or, more and more likely as time goes on "Let's reboot that."

If you heard that Battleship was being turned into a movie ten years ago would you have done anything but laugh? At least it flopped, proving that while America is stupid enough to keep watching Pirates movies, at least they aren't going to fall for a movie adapted from a boring board game.

There's a line and I don't know who said it (so sorry, dude), which is that movies are no longer allowed to be good, they have to be awesome. Adapting comic books has a lot to do with this idea because most comic books are awesome. They're basically budget free blockbusters. They're stories where you can burn down Europe, go to space, have the devil fight an alien, and enlist a cast of thousands without any larger of a budget than a kitchen sink film. In a way they're basically free screenplay idea and, while I don't want to get into the pitfalls of that whole end of movies, it's something to consider. I don't want to be accused of just hyping comic books to be turned into movies because, as artifacts on their own, they do not have to be anything else than good stories. Comic books are great as comic books. They are not always good as films.

But, who the hell wants to fantasize about things that should not be? Let's leave that to the religious fanatics, shall we?

So, what should be made before we get our unwanted Defenders movie, here is what I would like to see if I have to see it--

100 Bullets

It's hard to think of a crime book that's as byzantine or involved as 100 Bullets and while cramming it all down into a two hour (or God-forbid three hour) film would almost certainly be a disaster there is something to be said about seeing the b-movie schlock premise of the book, which is that a man in a suit named Graves shows up with a gun with one-hundred untracable bullets and tells you that you to go wild, turned into an adventure on the big screen. The world is full of great characters and dialogue as well and while film is full of noir crime stories it would be fun to see old man Graves encouraging a righteous killing spree or two.

It's a smart enough B-movie premise to get people in the doors and with the right actors and behind-the-camera talent it could be a pretty successful film (then again, you could say that about most movies, couldn't you?). Just throw Bruce Willis at it. He's great at this sort of thing. He doesn't even need to try any more, either.

Ideal Directors: David Fincher, Nicholas Wending Refn, Michael Mann.

Elevator Pitch: It's the ultimate crime caper mixed with the ulimate vengeance tale. It's smart, it's funny, it's got sharp dialogue, and, better yet, none of that matters because all of the bad people die in terrible ways. It's everything a crime movie should be and what's that? Oh, yeah, sequels. Franchise.

(Apparently David Goyer might have beat me to the punch on this one. Or not, you know how these things work.) 

The Damned

The Damned is one of the most refreshing books I've read in a long time.What sounds like a terrible idea in the abstract (in an alternate or after-life version of the 1920's the cities crime syndicates are all run by demons and curses are as deadly and as real as tommy gun bullets), but the idea comes to life because of the sharp dialogue and twisting plotting of Cullen Bunn and the sharp and expressive artwork of Brian Hurtt. It's everything a hard-boiled comic book should be with that little bit extra that should keep it from blending in with the rest of the uninspired genre dreck that plagues our shelves (though comic book noir, I feel, doesn't really fit on that list, does it?).

It's a wonderful comic book. It's funny, it's gory, it's creepy, and it's an original idea that executes as well as you could ever hope.

There's also a second volume of The Damned, but my shop is always sold out of it. I guess I could have them order it in for me. . . Hmmm.

Ideal Directors: Guillermo Del Toro, Rupert Wyatt, Tim Burton.

Elevator Pitch: Monster meet mobsters.

Desolation Jones

Desolation Jones is what happens when you film a remake of The Long Goodbye if the cast of characters consisted entirely of citizens of the Island of Misfit Superspies. . . which is literally what the book is. In Warren Ellis and JH Williams III's arc we're introduced to insomniac ex-spy Jones (the sole survivor of the mad science project) who is exiled to Los Angeles, which acts as an Elba Island for unusual spooks such as himself. From there Jones is hired by a retired (and probably insane) army officer to recover his private stash of porn staring Adolf Hitler. From there it gets weird.

It was a great book when I read it the first time and it was great when I read it again recently. Besides the wonderful art and layouts of Williams, Ellis has managed to create a world of spies and intrigue that doesn't feel at all rehashed or cornball. The world has a ton of potential and, unfortunately, this one trade is all we're ever going to have.The second arc was never completed, so, if there is any chance at a continuation it'd be on film. While most of the titles here I would rather see instead of Avengers 3 or Superman: King of All Monsters, in this case I'd like to see it simply to keep this weird little fucker of a story alive.

Read it if you can, because apparently no one else did (Hey, I detect another theme in this article!)

Ideal Directors: Joe Carnahan, Steven Soderburgh, Ken Loach.

Elevator Pitch: It's the Maltese Falcon if it cut open and wore the skin of In Like Flynn. It's the kind of movie Red grew up watching and decided to become a spy because of. Also: Stolen Hitler porn. Let's pull this trigger, shall we?


As much as I loath relaunches and the very idea of a reboot Hellblazer is a book that deserves proper treatment in the eyes of the public.Whether you know it or not Hellblazer is one of the longest running books on the market which is incredible when you consider that it's about a Cockney wizard in modern times. He's one of the great icons of comic book history and considering that even Swamp Thing got a movie it does feel a bit odd that old Johnny Boy has been left out in the cold (then again so has most of DC's TV and film projects).

Of course Hellblazer was already adapted in what amounts to a not very good movie.What movie was that? Constantine, which, while not terrible didn't set the world on fire.

First of all they can't even pronounce the character's name right (even though how "Constantine" is supposed to be pronounced is stupid. . . ).

Secondly making John Constantine an American is incredibly bizarre. It isn't as though Americans won't watch a piece of media if it has English accents. Stupid people think that. Studio executives think that. As a result we're expected to believe that, but it simply isn't true. Guy Ritchie made his career selling accented shlock to the American people and Harry Potter is the highest grossing franchise of all time. People are ready for white folk with accents. To remove that is absurd at best and immensely and impenetrably retarded at worst.

He's Cockney. He speaks in that language and he's a part of that world. As bad as mid 2000's Guy Richie is he would have been much more at home than the guy they got. Toss in Eddie Marsan and Ray Winstone and you might have yourself an actual picture. Or at least the color of one. Making Constantine American is like making Sherlock Holmes into an American. Or Colonel Blimp for that matter. It might not be a terrible idea, though the odds are: It is probably a terrible idea. The reboot would need John Constantine to be American. Like he is fuckin' supposed to be.

Lastly Neil Gaiman was right: The movie would have been better if he had a tan trench coat. Nobody knows why, it just would have been better.

And, let me play the Internet's Advocate briefly and air out the idea that Benedict Cumberbatch play the titular detective. Hey, it worked before!

Ideal Directors: Matthew Vaughn, David Yates, Alejandro Jodorowsky.

Elevator Pitch: If Humphrey Bogart went to Hell and had an accent, he'd be the Hellblazer. Now give him all your money, would you? There's no better property in the DC canon to reboot than this bad boy.

Sgt. Rock

For whatever reason DC relaunched this book during its "New 52" and decided that there was a market for garbage.

It also added superhero elements to the book, which isn't inherently a terrible idea (Punisher used to and still does fight superhumans and that seems to work just fine), but my thought is: If you're going to relaunch a character and have him fight supervillains why would you choose Sgt. Rock? A character famous for fighting in WWII exclusively? And don't we have Stormwatch for that? Also the book was called Men of War. I mean, did they even try?

After the failure of Men of War (just hire Garth Ennis, will you? Or Greg Rucka? Or Chuck Dixon? What's wrong with you idiots?) they started up GI Combat, which is the most comic booky of comic book ideas: soldiers fighting dinosaurs. Only Darwyn Cooke has ever made a worth a damn story about dinosaurs fighting GIs and that only lasted about a dozen pages. It's a terrible idea. There's nothing wrong with straight WWII stories. There's never been anything wrong with that. If you have to change the premise of something good either you have a brilliant concept or you're an idiot who doesn't know a good thing when he sees it. You can only round the wheel so much and that's Sgt. Rock if there ever was an idea.

It's simple, clean, Nazi killing fun. While that's not a great pitch to anyone outside of myself-- fuck you, this is my blog, damnit!

Ideal Directors: John Woo. No other names. Just John Woo.

Elevator Pitch: Quentin Tarantino proved that people still love a good WWII yarn and there's a million different ways to tell them. In short: Sgt. Rock kills Nazis. Let's let him. Also, fuck all of the DC 52 military relaunches. The fuck are they doing over there?

The Winter Men

The Winter Men is one of my favorite comic books of all time. Every aspect (but its tragic release schedule, which I'll get to in a bit here) is nailed perfectly by the writing and by the art.

The Winter Men takes place in a world where super heroes and super science once ran rampant, but has since fallen to the wayside, forgotten and abandoned like so many once mighty creations of the Soviet world. The main story isn't so much about those great colossi as they exist to set up the background of the world. They were then, the corruption and intrigue of post-Soviet Russia is now. From the accents to the background artwork The Winter Men feels like an incredibly well thought out and fleshed out world that we're only getting to see a sliver of one panel at a time.

Then there's John Paul Leon's artwork-- which I realize would not make it to the big screen-- which works excellently with the writing. He gives it just enough detail to flesh out this world and to feed back into teh realism of it and yet he can also draw robotic supermen and atomic children without it feeling silly. It's not so much of a strange book, it's a unique one. It's exactly the kind of weird jewel that I follow comic books for.

Maybe, at least it'll get people to buy more of these books. And if the creators get a nice piece of the pie, well, that'd be dandy. Overall, though-- and this is the fan in me speaking-- is that a movie could conceivably deliver a final and finished ending to a story that truly deserves it.

Ideal Directors: Duncan Jones, Martin Campbell,Werner Herzog.

Elevator Pitch: Fuck you, this book is a wonder. Give me the money I need to make glory. Fuck all the bodies who will not wish this so!

Honorable Mentions:
The One Trick Rip-Off
Onwards Towards Our Glorious Deaths
The Other Side
Queen and Country
The Sixth Gun

Alright. That's enough of that. I'm going to go watch Prometheus now and then wonder later unironically why nobody seems to do anything original any more.