Monday, December 31, 2012

Top Ten Favorite Films of 2012

2012 was a very good year for film. And it was a year that I was actually able to see a lot of new movies, which is very pleasing to me. These are my ten most enjoyed releases of 2012, stacked in order of the least and the most appealing to my own bias and taste. For the most part my picks aren't very surprising, but the order, I think, may be. And boy, the order was excruciating to set. Please enjoy. 

10. The Amazing Spider-Man 
The first entry in this new series of Spider-Man movies delivers in comedy, action, drama and romance. Andrew Garfield is perfect for this movie's new, hipster Peter Parker, and the wonderful Emma Stone works well to create an adorable romance between the two. The new Spidey suit is very cool and looks great as the webhead flings himself around as the agile, corny-joke-telling super hero I love to see Spider-Man portrayed as. Lizard gets his movie debut that felt criminally absent in Raimi's trilogy, and the action is quite entertaining to watch. It's a promising start to what I'm sure is going to be a stellar series of movies. 

9. The Watch
Yeah, I really liked this movie. Don't judge me! It's incredibly entertaining, with joke after stupid, stupid joke. The main cast of four - Stiller, Vaughn, Hill and Ayoade - work very well off of each other and create a big, dumb atmosphere that is impossible for me not to enjoy. From the budding, calm start to the ridiculous conclusion, The Watch is a killer comedy.

8. Wreck-It Ralph
This movie made me feel good to be a gamer. It's filled with in-jokes for gamers and it's a big love letter to gaming culture. But it's not just that. It's a movie about accepting who you are and who your neighbors are. It's about not putting people down for being something other than a shining example of perfection. Most of all, though, it's a fun movie with bursting, colorful animation, good comedy, and endearing characters. It's a good time. 

7. Skyfall
Skyfall is the only James Bond movie I've ever seen. And I'd say it's probably a pretty good one to start with. Skyfall is a well-constructed thriller. There are lots of creative, big set-pieces; perhaps the best of which is the movie's first scene. Daniel Craig pulls off a super-cool secret agent that may be past his prime, and his bad guy adversary is equally compelling.  It kept me on the edge of my seat until it finished, and by the end I was nothing but satisfied. 

6. The Campaign
Democrat Cam Brady, played by Will Ferrell, vs. Republican Marty Huggins, played by Zach Galifianakis, is an awesome set-up for a movie. And it is, indeed, an awesome movie. It's a lot like Step Brothers in that it is absolutely ridiculous with its comedy. The movie gets more and more bonkers as it progresses, which makes guessing how much further it's going to go half of the fun. It also serves as satire on America's political discourse, poking fun at our dogmatic fear of terrorism, extreme rejection of Marxism, strong patriotism, and unwavering religious faith. Tons of fun. 

5. Django Unchained
Just as Skyfall served as my introduction to James Bond, Django Unchained served as my introduction to Quentin Tarantino's movies. And what an introduction. Django Unchained is one of the most ridiculous movies I've ever seen. This movie goes as far as an R rating would allow it go with its violence, crude humor and profuse language. The action is incredibly bloody and very, very satisfying. The movie is absolutely hilarious, and all it really does is take simple situations and inflate them with shouting, f-bombs and flesh practically bursting apart. The conclusion takes the crazy bar and shoots it up even more. It's brilliant, really. 

4. The Dark Knight Rises
I love Batman. And I love Nolan's Batman trilogy. With Rises, Nolan finishes the series of movies in style. Christian Bale delivers what may be his best performance of the three films, as a Bruce Wayne that is more troubled than ever before in these movies. Anne Hathaway successfully pulls off the cunning, sharp and sexy role of Catwoman. And Tom Hardy is simply horrifying as Bane, this movie's villain. This movie has a big, epic plot that fires at all cylinders. It does this saga the justice not that it deserves, but that it needs. 

3. The Avengers
The talent behind this movie knows exactly what makes these characters so compelling, which is why The Avengers succeeds. Captain America is the inspiring hero that stands only for good. Iron Man is a cocky, self-absorbed genius that is cool enough to do some good. Thor is a noble God that is entrenched in mythology and comically out of place in the human world. Hulk smashes things. Loki is a fun, goofy villain. And Hawkeye and Black Widow are also here. The epic, energetic action sequence that seemingly lasts around forty-five minutes at the climax of the movie is truly a sight to behold, and that is because the filmmakers knew exactly how to use these awesome characters. 

2. Brave
At the end of my list-making process, I was surprised to see just how high this movie made it. The movie looked like it was going to be another Cars-quality-outing, which was very disappointing to me as a big Pixar fan. As it turns out, the movie is so much better than Cars, and actually manages to be in the top five best of Pixar's films, in my humble opinion.  The story of Merida and her Mother learning to properly love each other is immensely charming, and its themes of family, fate and love really connected with me. It's a gorgeous movie aesthetically, with some of Pixar's most vivid and expressive animation. My biggest surprise of 2012 and a very pleasant one. 

1. The Perks of Being a Wallflower 
I cried. I smiled. I laughed. But I mostly cried. The other picks in this list were exceedingly hard to place, but putting this movie at the number one spot was an easy decision. This movie is delicately perfect. Subtle changes would have caused the film to simply crumble apart. What we get here is a moving story about childhood trauma, the pains of being a troubled teenager, and friendship, that is heart-wrenchingly grounded in reality. I was hit really hard by this movie. When I said I cried, it was mostly tears of sorrow, but when the movie ended triumphantly and joyously, I cried the most, and those tears were not of sorrow, but of bliss. The Perks of Being a Wallflower is my favorite film of 2012. 


I also saw Ted (pretty good), Lincoln (meh), and Frankenweenie (blech). I unfortunately did not see This is 40, Paranorman, Hotel Transylvania, The Hobbit, and The Guilt Trip, each of which may have made it on the list. 


What were your favorite movies of 2012? Dislike some of my picks? Lemme know in the comments below. 

Friday, December 14, 2012

Love is Real (Fiction) - Christmas Special!

I wrote this for my Public Speaking class. It's goodish!


"Christmas, daddy!" Kate said.
"Christmas is coming, I'm so excited!" Kate said.
"Christmas, Katie!" Dad said.
"Christmas is coming, I can't wait either!" Dad said.

"But, Daddy," she started.
"Yes, my dear, what have you to say? Go on." Dad said.
"What about Santa, Dad?"
"Oh." Dad began "Yes, he will come this year, Katie."

"What happened last year, Dad?"
"Well you see Kate, times are tough, for everybody."
"Is it better now, Dad?"
Dad paused for a good bit. "A little bit, maybe."

"Do you promise he'll come?"
Dad stopped, thought, then said, "Yes, I promise. He will come."
"Will he have his red suit?"
"Of course! His red suit, black boots and his big white beard!"

"Yay, Daddy! Yippee! Yes!"
"Maybe, Katie, you'll be able to meet Santa!"
"Really?! Me?! Meet Santa?!"
"I can't guarantee, we'll have to see!" Daddy said.

Well, crap. Darn. Dagnabbit!
How will Dad get this outfit? The gift was hard enough!
Christmas is in three days!
Dad is one poor pup, can't buy a suit! What to do!?

He got an idea.
He does not need to buy it, he has another plan!
It will be real hard work
Oh man, it will be horrid, but he must do it!

On the first day, promptly,
He went to Joe's down the street, and asked him:
"Can I have your boots, please?"
"Oh, well, I don't know about that, you can work for them?"

He came later that day,
With the warmest getup he has, with his shovel,
He gets right down to work,
On the tons and tons of snow, covering the yard.

He got his boots, finally.
After all of his tons, and tons, of hard, hard work.
He rested for the day,
And felt tired, and only slightly satisfied.

Day two has now arrived.
Daddy goes down to Jim's down the road, this time.
"Can I have your suit, Jim?"
I don't know man, you are going to have to work!

Again, in his warm clothes,
Down to, this time, Jim's yard, he brought his shovel. Work!
He worked, for many hours!
He kept working, and finally, the suit is his.

Day three. It has arrived.
On day three, he went to Josh's house, and asked:
"Can I have your white beard?"
"The one I use on Halloween? Ya gotta work!"

Again, it's obvious.
He works, in his warm clothes, with his shovel, so long,
It is so tiring, but,
He must! He needs that beard! For Kate! She needs Santa!

He finishes his work,
And he gets that blasted beard, and it's about time!
He has his full outfit, and tomorrow? It is...
It's Christmas Eve! Oh boy!

When Katie was asleep,
Dad started his plan, starting to don his outfit.
First, the boots, then, the suit,
And lastly, he picked up his beard, and began to-"

But then. "Daddy? That you?!"
Kate has caught him. Red handed, he's not the red man.
She looked as though she'd cry.
"Daddy, did you tell a lie?" A tear formed, and fell.

Oh God, Oh Lord, Oh crap.
"Katie, yes, I did, I'm sorry. There's no Santa."
"Really, Dad? No Santa?"
"There's no Santa. Didn't come last year cus of me."

"What do you mean, Daddy?"
"I don't have much money, Kate. We're poor. I couldn't."
Kate looked oh so sad.
But she saw the present, and gave Daddy a look.

"Yeah, the present. You see,
"'Santa' was gonna give you this gift, that I gave him."
"Can I open it, Dad?"
"I guess, but it's not a good present, Kate, because..."

He stopped himself. Just watched.
"What is this, Dad?" It's a slip of paper, on it,
A poem, that Dad wrote,
"Something I wrote, Kate, I couldn't afford a gift."

The Santa outfit, well,
It was meant to counteract this poor man's gift, or,
Well, perhaps poor is wrong.
"Read it to me, Daddy."

"Okay, I will read it, Kate."
Dad took a seat, and she took a seat on his lap,
He's about to begin,
Alright, he thinks. I'm such a horrible father.

"'Katie, my little girl,
I'm not the best father, but you must understand.
I love you very much,
More than's possible, you are everything to me.

"'And even more, Katie,
We won't be alone this year, as we have a guest!
A very special one,
Katie, Santa is real.'"

"I'm sorry Kate, it's bad,"
"You deserve-" and then she stopped him. "Wow Daddy! Wow!"
"That was so nice! So nice!"
You did such a nice job, we do not need Santa!

"We don't need Santa, Dad!
I just need you, and I love you dad! Very much!
I have one problem Dad,
With your poem? It's the last line. Change it, Daddy.

To "Katie, love is real."
The lesson to be learned, ladies and gentlemen, is that love, is real, if that means anything to you.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Matt's Weekly Comics - 12/12/12


December 12, 2012, for me, is relevant most for being the due date of this big Chemistry project that was way too lame because of my own procrastination and technical difficulties and indifference to the subject matter. But it's also relevant as a neat-o little thing! 12-12-12! Once a century!

And yeah it's also relevant for being a comic book day. And bejeezus, this was a good one! Death of the Family had three very compelling books! Matt Fraction's stellar Fantastic Four continued! The only Before Watchmen book I care about at the moment continued! Also an Amazing Spider-Man .1 I almost didn't buy came out! GET THE POINT I guess!

I chose to plow through the Death of the Family stuff first because it's so excitingly compelling so far. I tackled Batman #15 before any other, of course. I really love where the story's going, and Capullo's art and Scott's dialogue is still stellar. I still think Scott's tackling of Joker-maybe-knowing-their-identities is still pretty heavy-handed, but it's still enjoyable. Scott's arc also moves INCREDIBLY slow, which makes the wait for new issues pleasantly aggravating, but it also makes each read feel a bit unsatisfying. Either way, it ends on a very creepy, fun plot point, so I can't wait for #16.

I read through Batgirl #15 next and I really, really loved it. It was IMMENSELY satisfying to see Barbara LOSE HER SHIT and brutally beat the snot out of the Joker, FINALLY letting out the rage she's felt for four years. There's also a fun flashback to a therapy session Joker had, which is very creepy and cleverly relates to the present. My only complaints: Barbara walks RIGHT into a big trap, and the aforementioned therapist breaks down much faster than I'd expect from a professional of her assumed caliber (they chose her to interview the freaking Joker).

Then I read Batman and Robin #15 and HOLY CRAP book of the week by a long shot. SO, so amazing. The art is INCREDIBLE. Patrick Gleason does HORRIFYING and very gory things with Joker's detached face. It's saying a lot, but I can say - without a doubt - that his Joker kicks the crap out of Capullo's very impressive work. Tomasi's writing is also absolutely amazing. He has the Joker really dive into Damian's psyche and has the clown do some nasty things to him. Such a good comic.

I also read Dr. Manhattan #3 from DC, and it continues to be insane, high-concept, philosophical scientific awesomesauce.

And then Fraction, oh my Jesus, FRACTION, I LOVE YOU MAN. Amongst Hawkeye, Fantastic Four, FF... this dude is my favorite creator right now. His bizarre brain and uncanny ability to be simultaneously hilarious and charming is... amazing. I love this freaking book so much. Oh and THING AND SHE-HULK BOM CHICKA WOW WOW...

Finally, Amazing Spider-Man #699.1. I almost didn't buy it. But I'm very glad I did. It's very well-written and the artwork is really up my alley. This is essentially a prelude to a brand new ongoing series about Morbius, a vampire in the Spidey universe, and I may actually have to read it. He's a very compelling, interesting character.

That's it for this week kids. Allow me to take my pills because my back hurts!!!!!!!!!!! BYE!!!

Friday, December 7, 2012

Night Time Fun Times

How pitifully friendships work out for me is quite humorous. For whatever reason, when it comes to long-form, meaningful friendships, I can't get along with people, and other people can't get along with me. It makes me quite depressed but I've grown accustomed to the feeling of loneliness. Isolating myself in my room can be a bit of an enlightening, relaxing experience, really.

Around 8:00 PM or so, I decided to have my Dad drive me down to the local grocery store so I could grab a $50 iTunes card to have fun with for the night and to use for comics next week. I was going to walk down before dinner, as it's around a fifteen to twenty minute walk, but it was raining and I wasn't going to have that. Once I got home, I purchased two comic books - Matt Fraction's Fantastic Four #1 and Jonathan Hickman's Avengers #1 - and two games - Superbrothers Sword and Sworcery EP and Bastion - on my iPad.

I had some serious fun with these things.

Fantastic Four #1 blew my feeble mind. I'm starting to fall in love with Matt Fraction, if I'm going to be honest here. I really appreciate his sense of humor, and he does a fantastic job of writing these characters here. Thing and Human Torch are hilarious and charming as lovable-oaf and haughty-hotty characters, respectively. He can certainly bring the drama, too, which is seen most in this issue through Franklin's troubles as a troubled, "normal" kid in a fantastic family. I'm going to stick with this and FF for the long haul. In love.

And Avengers #1, I have to say, is incredibly epic. Hickman does a good job of showcasing the scope of the Avengers and establishing what's probably going to be a large thematic point in his run: expansion. The bad guys that Captain America and his massive team is up against at the moment is super-formidable and badass, which certainly helps. Oh and God I love the artwork. I'm gonna try to follow this book as well.

And yeah I played some of Superbrothers Sword and Sworcery. The graphics are breathtaking and the soundtrack is also quite wonderful. So far it's basically just pretty aesthetics and intrigue and quirkiness but that's cool. It's actually a bit of a creepy game, which I didn't expect.

And uh-huh I played some Bastion. I played the demo when it originally hit XBLA and loved it, but never bought the full game. For $5 I decided to finally pick it up on my fancy iPad. And it's very, very fun, and very pretty, and has some really good tunes. The game's gimmick - a dynamic narration that forms itself around the player's actions - is really neat so far. I think this is the type of game that may wear thin before its conclusion, but we'll see.

That was my night. It was fun. I chilled out and read comics and played video games. And I wrote this blog post.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Matt's Weekly Comics - 12/5/12

This was a pretty darn good week for comic books; for what I pick up, at least. And pretty even on the DC vs. Marvel side of things. I'll write about them in the order in which I read them.

I decided to wake up and eat a Cheerios breakfast this morning because I'm on a diet and, ya know, eating breakfast is cracked up to be all healthy and stuff. And I also decided to read Swamp Thing #15 as I ate, as DC puts their books up super-early now and Swamp Thing was my most-anticipated DC book of this week.

It's sweet. I really enjoyed myself. This is easily Marco Rudy's best work on this book. The imagery here is very disturbing, very detailed and very interesting. The coloring is also fantastic! A good bit does happen here as well. A badass battle with William, creepy moment between Arcane and Abby, and tantalizing last-page reveal make this is a really good time. It's a good time!

When I got home from school (after a ruthless standardized test!), the first comic I read was the latest issue of Amazing Spider-Man from that Looney Toon Dan Slott, #699.

Man, Slott is going there!

I've read Amazing Spider-Man since the Spider-Island prelude, barring the Alpha and Hobgoblin story arcs, and it's a bit of hit or miss. It's sometimes pretty great, sometimes meh. But I'm very excited about the ballsy crap Slott is doing with Spider-Man right now. The lead-up to "Superior Spider-Man" is very enjoyable, and man, when that new book hits, it's gonna rule.

For people that read the issue, though: That panel of Aunt May we see when Peter is looking through Doc Ock's mind?!? The hell was that!?

I read Deadpool next, and while this book is progressively doing less and less for me as issues come out, it's still enjoyable. The crazy gore and violence isn't here, and the jokes aren't as hot as past issues, but I laughed for about thirty seconds straight over a dick joke, so that's worth something.

Then, uh, Avenging Spider-Man #15 I guess was next? I absolutely ADORE the art in this issue: my new wallpapers for the week are both images from this comic. And the story was good fun too, unlike the issue before that set up the story that this issue completed - that issue's story wasn't all that entertaining. We get to see dinosaurs fight, Spider-Man consider taking up drinking, and the super-cool Horizon Labs crew held captive by a crazy evil genius guy. Which is EXACTLY the kind of things I love to see from this book.

Hawkeye! It's my favorite of the bunch! Pick of the week! Wee!

Excellent comic book. Loads of little touches of humor, wit, and witty humor. I didn't like that the last issue set up a two-part, high-stakes story, but this issue makes it all worth it. The story has a satisfying conclusion that makes what you read in the last issue seem a whole lot more light-hearted. This guest artist is pretty good but he ain't got nothin on Aja, which is my only complaint. And when the only weak aspect of a book is "pretty good," it's a good sign!

And what a sweet little ending this book had. <3

Up next was Animal Man #15, and it was a good read. It's not as good as Swamp Thing #15, but it's good stuff. I especially like the creepy moments between William and Buddy's little wing, which the book transitions wonderfully to and fro with stark changes in art style. Exploiting the inherent innocence and weakness of a child for horror always spooks me. And this book has a fun last-page reveal just like Swampy does this week. It does a great job of teasing the reader until the curve ball of an ending finally comes.

Lastly, Batwing #15, which is a little odd, as there's a new writer AND artist, even though this issue continues [and seemingly ends] the story arc that Judd Winick was writing. It's a good issue, though. The art appears more fitting than To's work, at least so far. The writing is high-quality, and the already-entertaining story arc came to an enjoyable conclusion. It will be interesting to see where this book goes next.

My head kind of hurts, I should probably go eat something! I'm thinking a banana!

ADDENDUM: hey, proof-reading matt here. i actually ate an apple.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Interconnectivity, Society, Empathy, and What I Believe

I feel as though my core principals - the ideas I revere the most, intellectually - are constantly running in the back of my brain. I don't think that I clearly express these specific principals enough. I've never produced a work that encompasses these principals, and I suppose it's time. What exactly do I truly believe? Well, my core principals essentially stem from my strong support of a few basic concepts: the interlocked nature of life, the position that people are largely malleable products of society, and the importance of empathy.

The popular and perhaps peculiar sentiment about time travel that puts forth the notion that killing a butterfly in the past can have drastic impacts on the course of history is an idea that has always intrigued me, and I think this is because it's a sentiment that makes immediate sense to me and a sentiment that seems to have significance beyond time travel. Time travel really is a goofy concept in general, but that's another discussion entirely. The point that is actually relevant to this piece is this: We're all connected. We're all in this together, and if we work with that idea in mind, it's ultimately best for us all. Selfishness, and vitriolic group formations with the sole intent of beating other groups - whether it be intellectually, physically, emotionally, etc. - is destructive. Acts of kindness for the greater good matter, generally no matter how small.

Us being so interconnected lends itself to the idea that society has a large impact on who we are and what we do. If you're reading this you probably don't support the enslavement of African Americans, but I don't think I could be so confident in that statement with an audience from the 1800s. I don't feel any anger towards homosexuality as I realize that this does not have negative effects towards me or society, and a lot of that is owed to my upbringing based more or less around the concept that we should live and let live. It's my opinion and I reserve the right to take pride in it, but I'm also honest in regard to how I got this position. A man who kills in cold blood is a murderer, and that was his decision, but we similarly have to be honest with how he got to that position and fairly handle crime and punishment accordingly.

It's an idea that I separate in my mind from the two ideas above, but empathy may be precisely the driving force behind them both. Our lives and actions are so dependent upon societal effects, and our own personal happiness and prosperity is so contingent upon how we work together, or against each other. Empathy, therefore, is crucial. Removing yourself from your own mindset and culture and thought-process and placing yourself in another's shoes is crucial to helping other people, as it tells us how to help other people. And a group effort that helps us all as much as possible is, again, crucial to our own happiness and prosperity.

It's not always pretty. It's not immediately pleasurable for just about all of us to be interlocked with certain types of people. Societies have a tendency to latch into and propagate arbitrary hatred. Empathy sometimes just shows us how wicked and perhaps hopeless some of us are, or at least have become. But if we're going to come to grips with reality and make the best of it, I'd say we need to accept that we're interconnected in a way that calls for working together, I'd say we need to understand societal influence and use it to our advantage, and I'd say we need to use empathy to understand not just who we are but why we are that way and how we got there. That's what I believe.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Matt's Weekly Comics: 11/28/12

Last week was dominantly Marvel pick-ups for me. DC is the alpha male this week. I'll start with the underdog just as I did last week.

Is it really accurate to say underdog, though? The only Marvel comic I bought this week is FF #1 and bro, it's my favorite of the whole bunch.

The art is stupendous! Oh my glob guys! It has this kind of retro, goofy look to it, and it's packed with color and personality. It's very expressive and quite wonderful. Jesus!

The overall tone of the book is not quite what I was expecting. I was more or less expecting straight-up comedy and cheese but it's really not taking that angle, and I actually appreciate that given what this book actually seems to be. It's fun, and moderately light-hearted, but there's more than enough serious undertone to set the stage for legitimate drama and sweet moments. This is going to be a wonderful comic, and it ties into the main Fantastic Four book in clever fashion. I skipped Fantastic Four #1 last week (or was it two weeks ago?) but after reading this issue I'll be getting it and keeping up with these both for the long haul. It seems too special not to jump on, right at the start.

On to DC.

I was pretty excited to read Batman Inc. #5, as this is an issue that continues upon a possible dystopian future for Gotham, first introduced in Batman #666 (which I unfortunately haven't read), in which Damian Wayne becomes Batman and things take a turn for the worst.

I read it, and you see, Grant Morrison's Batman work is incredibly dense and often times hard to follow. But it's just so interesting. There's a lot to chew on, and it's such high concept, strange stuff. I liked what was here a lot, but I'm still so confused. I've read all of his Batman Inc. work and half of his Batman and Robin stuff, but I still feel like I'm missing a lot.

I like reading his work despite feeling perpetually lost, and hey, his boy Chris Burnham knows how to draw.

What else, um... I read the new issue of Batman: The Dark Knight, which is up to #14 now. I've been reading ever since Greg Hurwitz jumped on board and I've been consistently enjoying myself, but this issue is kind of lame. Batman escapes the Scarecrow's dungeon but it's very sudden and anticlimactic. The girl who was stolen by Scarecrow is stupidly sympathetic towards the baddy and heavy-handedly skeptical of Batman. And then the ending very quickly sets up the Scarecrow's next plan, which is absolutely nothing that hasn't already been popularly done before.

There's what I believe to be a subtle reference to Penguin: Pain and Prejudice here that I enjoyed, and the art's great, but that's just about the most positive I can be about this book.

Pretty lame.

I picked up Aquaman #14, which I was very glad to do. I loved the first five issues of The New 52's Aquaman. Great stuff. Then all the "The Others" crap started and I bailed. Read like a sterile history textbook to me, albeit with some nice artwork. Not my cup of tea.

This is a lead into a Justice League/Aquaman crossover and it's looking pretty cool so far. I missed quite a bit skipping from what, I think I skipped 9-13? I read the zero issue. But yeah I missed a lot but I figured it all out I think. The new artist isn't nearly as nice as the old one but it's not bad.

Lastly I read Talon #2, which I have mixed feelings on. The Court of Owls remains an awesome clan of assassins, and this issue ushers in new and vastly superior art. This issue clearly paints Calvin and his old-guy assistant as interesting, morally-grey individuals, which I like even though it feels partially artificial at times. Calvin is depicted as quite selfish here, caring only about saving two friends of his that just sort of pop in out of no where. His actions and thoughts are arguably justifiable, considering what he's been through, but I feel like it's quite a leap from his heroic characterization of the first two issues. And it's something that I can just sort of forgive, but really, this one assassin with no super powers is really a threat to the entire Court? Freaking Batman got his ass kicked!

I suppose that's all. Bye. Go read comics and eat your vegetables.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Playstation All-Stars: Battle Royale (Game) - Review

Playstation All-Stars: Battle Royale was an interesting proposal when it was first unveiled. It looked to be a game seemingly copying the Super Smash Bros. formula, save for Playstation characters filling in for Nintendo's vast roster of plumbers and dragons and bounty hunters. Can Sony compete with the one modern Nintendo game that no "hardcore" gamer dares to dismiss? Well, while Playstation All-Stars is not the overwhelmingly passionate hunk of gold that say, Brawl is, it is incredibly fun, and it did for me something that I doubt future Smash Bros. games will be able to do: It made me feel as though I was playing a Smash Bros. game for the first time again.

Playstation All-Stars is a four-player fighting game taking obvious inspiration from Super Smash Bros., creating a more friendly, party atmosphere than serious fighters like Street Fighter 4 or Tekken do. Just like its inspiration it plays out on a 2D plane, has simple inputs for pulling off attacks, takes place in zany arenas rife with environmental hazards, and throws random items at the combatants to spice things up. But don't be fooled: PS All-Stars plays a great deal differently from Smash Bros. It has its own unique gameplay, making it more strategic and therefor less accessible. Regardless, it's very fun.

Smash Bros. has players wailing on their opponents to kick them off of the screen. KO is the name of the game. It works a lot differently in PS All-Stars. There are no health bars in PS All-Stars like it may seem so at first, but each player has an AP bar. Successfully attacking your opponents fills up your AP bar, and sometimes taking damage yourself subtracts from your bar. Once you fill the bar once, you can do a level one super, and once you do it twice, you can do a level two super, and the same for three times for a level three. Using these powerful and stylish attacks, which are a lot like special attacks in standard fighters like Street Fighter or smash attacks in Brawl, is the only way to kill your opponents.

This makes the game very strategic. If you fail to use your super attacks effectively, which get progressively more deadly from level one to two to three, you will lose. If you wait to build up a level three super and you don't manage to get any kills, you more or less lost yourself the entire match; perhaps without any kills. I absolutely love it. Matches are tense, and its very reliant on skill without ever feeling overwhelming. Learning this game and its characters and its stages is invigorating, as it gives me the illusion that I'm playing Smash Bros. again for the first time, but with playstation characters. What makes this faux-first-time even more entertaining is the very smooth online play, HD visuals, and the option to continue your progress on the go on the Vita, allowing this game to do things that Smash Bros. has never done before.

It is upsetting that it's not as widely as appealing as Smash Bros. PS All-Stars most likely won't appeal to the more casual crowd, and it will most likely be too complex for folks like young children. Smash Bros. is simple and easy to understand at its core, but it has hidden depth, while PS All-Stars is exactly what it seems like on the surface: It's strategic and a bit complex.

It's clear that Developer Superbot Entertainment is passionate about this game, and truly has a love for the Playstation brand. The team was able to capture the essence of all of the initial characters thrown on the disc. Fans of each character's respective game series will likely enjoy that character's move lists, animations, sound bites and story bits in the Arcade mode. I'm a big Sly Cooper fan, and I can definitely say that it made me feel good inside to see Sly hop in his sneaky TNT barrel, glide in his paraglider, and team up with Bentley and Murray to defend the Thievius Raccoonus from the thief known only as Nathan Drake. Superbot does equally cool stuff for the rest of the roster and it's fantastic. Superbot gets it.

Each character has his own arcade mode to play through, following a quirky and entertaining story that pits them against another playstation character, but unfortunately, two of the three included cutscenes for each characters' playthrough are simply compilations of still images. Each character also has a set of around 20 challenges to complete, but none of them are unique to that character. There aren't many stages, there's no survival mode or something similar, and the menus look bland. Some aspects of PS All-Stars come off as lazy, which makes me feel as though Sony may have rushed this game out. Hopefully frequent and reasonably-priced DLC can keep this game alive for a long time.

There are a plentiful amount of characters on the disc, though. The graphics are colorful, crisp and interesting. The voice acting is not phoned-in and done by quality talents. The original music is thumping and convivial, and the rest are good picks from various Playstation games. The presentation is not all bad.

Overall, Playstation All-Stars: Battle Royale is a great game. It's not as accessible as Smash Bros. has proven to be, its not as charming as Smash Bros. irrevocably is, it's not as feature-rich as Smash Bros. games tend to be, but it's a great game. Superbot understands how to make Playstation fans feel good inside, and they managed to make the game unique in its own right. Its gameplay is tense and strategic; both perhaps arguably more so than its inspiration. Playstation All-Stars made me feel like I was playing a Smash Bros. game for the first time again, and it manages to be HD, capably-online, and portable first.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Matt's Weekly Comics - 11/21/12

My little ditty from last week about my weekly comics pick-ups was a bit of a frustrating experience for me. I couldn’t properly explain my feelings on Batman #14; so much that I had to update the article. And I still don’t think I got my point across that effectively, after that.

But nobody reads these posts, so it’s okay! Here comes this week’s!

This week was filled with an abnormal amount of Marvel goodness for me, all thanks to Marvel Now and a particularly packed week for the books I follow from the publisher. I bought 6 Marvel books, and one DC book.

Let’s start with the DC book!

Justice League #14! I really enjoyed this issue. This Cheetah-lady-baddy is expanded upon with some lore that fortunately manages to add to the plot without boring my face. The romantic relationship of Superman and the excessively-sexualized Wonder Woman also further develops, and it’s a little heavy-handed but it’s sweet enough. We don’t normally see two God-like superheroes in a relationship together, and it’s cool, so it’s appreciated.

What’s really amazing about this new story arc is the artwork from Tony Daniel. I was initially upset when I heard that he and his artwork would be replacing the legendary Jim Lee and his appropriately-blockbuster scribbles, as I found Daniel’s work on The New 52’s Detective Comics to be just-okay. I had no reason to be afraid, however, because he draws the friggin’ crap out of this book. My iPad has two new wallpapers.

Marvel timez!

The first book I read, thanks to Dan Slott’s masterful skill at cranking the hype-machine, was The Amazing Spider-Man #698. And, uh, yeah. Wtf, man.

Slott sure has a zany idea to change the Spidey status quo. I have no idea how it will turn out, and I mean that in regard to both plot progression and general quality.

I liked the art a lot.

Okay, um, I read Indestructible Hulk #1 after that, as it’s been one of my most anticipated comics ever since it was announced. It totally rules. Bruce Banner and Hulk are portrayed for all intents and purposes exactly how they are in The Avengers film, which should be enough to support my “it totally rules” thesis. The art fits this book perfectly and looks great, though I do think that the action can look a bit confusing. Hard to follow the smashes!

But yeah, awesome first issue, this is gonna be something very special.

Deadpool #2 is not as enjoyable as the first issue but it’s still very awesome, and it still brings the lulz. Deadpool takes a stab at Kevin James’s recent filmography, he’s seduced by overtly-sexualized Marvel characters, etc. The super-gory art is also very pleasing to my eyeballs. I like this book. Even though it’s lame and comes out twice a month. $6 a month Marvel?! I AIN’T RICH!

Captain America #1 is a comic I almost didn’t get, and it’s a comic that made me nearly-cringe with its convoluted-sounding solicit-details, but it turned out to be my pick of the week.
It opens with an incredibly satisfying theme, which is introduced in a flashback to Cap’s childhood and translated to a fun and quick set piece in modern times - a set piece putting Cap against a goofy-amazing bad guy. Then it translates into stuff with his girlfriend, raising the question: Can Captain America quit being a soldier and instead be a man?

And then the set-up for this story arc is introduced, answering that question with a solid “no.”
The artwork is also fantastic. It looks like rough sketches with careful coloring, which may sound bad, but trust me, it looks so very cool.

This book has me. Heart.

Daredevil #20 came out, and it’s really trippy. The villain introduced at the end of the last issue closes the door for the dark stuff that went on in past issues, but opens new doors for more dark stuff. The new dark stuff is done so cleverly that it’s not depressing, but it’s still messed up.
I like it. The art remains very pretty, as well.

Hawkeye #4 was also a thing. Aja didn’t do the art so it’s not quite as amazing-looking as it usually is - this issue isn’t incredibly PURPLE like the others - but it still looks good. The dialogue continues to be fun and clever, but the plot this time around doesn’t start and end in the same issue, and it’s actually kinda heavy, dire stuff. Those last two things aren’t necessarily bad, stories that go past one issue is fine, and heavy, dire stories are fine, but I just wish this was a done-in-one light-hearted romp like the first three issues. Those last three issues hit a real sweet spot.

It’s good. Definitely different than the last three, and the least compelling thus far.

I proofread and uploaded his from my phone on my way to the movies. I’m a pro, dammit! A PRO!

I’M GONNA WRECK IT! now. Peace.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Matt's Weekly Comics - 11/14/12

[minor spoilers ahead]

I had to work today. I don't normally work on Wednesdays. So this is why this is up so late. And I'm chilling out on single-issue releases, to save $$$. Which is why there are only four. I wanted Punk Rock Jesus pretty bad, but my iTunes funds are like a dollar or so off. I'll get it within the next week, most likely talk about it in my piece for next week.

But yeah, let's do this.

I was pretty damn excited for Batman #14; so excited that I bought, downloaded and read it on my iPhone before I got home from school today.

This Joker arc isn't as mind-blowing as I expected it to be, at least going off of these first two issues, but it's definitely high-quality stuff. I really love how Greg Capullo draws the Joker: So much that it's probably my favorite aspect of this story so far. I really like Joker's plan centered around screwing around with Batman's psyche, trying to convince him that his allies drag him down and that cutting them off is the only way that he can be the king that the court jester expects.

A big part of the story seems to be based upon the possibility that the Joker knows the secret identities of the Bat-Family. This is a scary and tense idea, but it comes off as a little goofy to me: A three year-old could figure out these people's secret identities. I'm willing to suspend my disbelief, as often must be done in the realm of mainstream comics, but when you take a silly comic book trope and try to exploit it for legitimate suspense and fear, it doesn't work especially well.

Now, if the Joker mocks their ability to keep their identities secret as harshly as I did, I'll probably have to eat my words. But right now it's not treated lightly by anyone in the plot, and really, honestly, I think he's bluffing, anyway.

Now I actually enjoyed Batgirl #14 a whole hell of a lot. It's my favorite book I read out of my four this week. It is a very well-executed throwback to The Killing Joke and manages to surprise and satisfy from start to finish. It's creepy, fun, and exciting in its sheer quality.

The last page is the type of dark, twisted storytelling I'm disappointed that Snyder hasn't yet delivered with Joker. Hell, the quality of this issue trumps anything Snyder has done with Joker so far if you ask me.

I also read Batman and Robin #14, and it's a fun read. It's a simple Robin-saves-the-day story. He fights zombies and goes rogue and has some funny little quips. His dad ain't too fond of his rogue-going but a touching reveal at the end turns it around. Good stuff all-around. The art seems better than this book's usual, even.

And lastly Saga #7. Thank GOD this book is back. It's funny, sweet, gorgeous, dripping with creativity and just a very good thing.

There's also an amazing picture of a fully nude and fully grotesque monster that fills a page. It's probably the best thing ever. I giggle at the prospect of Vaughn telling Staples to draw all of this shit.

That's all. A week in which Batman is my least favorite [but still a very enjoyable!] read, and Saga isn't my favorite.

God works in mysterious ways.

UPDATE/EDIT: I feel like I didn’t properly explain my feelings on my problem with Joker possibly knowing the Bat Family’s secret identities. Let me try this again:

I think that the Bat Family does a pathetic job of keeping their identities a secret. And I’m not willing to entirely forgive things like this, I am willing to suspend my disbelief and forget about things like this in grandiose superhero stories, because these stories are too enjoyable in their complexity to get hung up on something like that. I am not, however, willing to suspend my disbelief so much that the prospect of Joker figuring out their identities is some impossible, impressive feat. Because it just isn’t. I’m not scared.

If the writing chose to be self-aware, and Joker toyed with the heroes and mocked them for how poorly they kept their identities a secret, I would have really enjoyed this idea. But as it stands, it’s treated like a massively big deal, and I find that goofy.

I still did really like this issue, guys, don’t get me wrong. My one issue with it is just very nuanced. I love Joker’s dialogue, I love the art, and the central theme about Batman’s allies possibly weighing him down is brilliant. I’m just not impressed by Joker figuring out their identities.

And I think he’s bluffing anyways.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Matt's Weekly Comics - 11/7/12

Heeeeeeey y'allllll. New comics came out today.


I read Deadpool #1 first, because I thought that Deadpool #1 would be awesome, and Deadpool #1 indeed happens to be quite awesome. It's my favorite book of the week. It's hilarious. I LOL'd more than a few times. There are jokes about universal healthcare, Lincoln's assassination, and wheel chairs, and it's just grand. The creators made the bold move of getting rid of Deadpool's voices-in-his-head, and it's a decision for the better, as it makes it all easier to read.

Totally gonna be following this month-to-month.

Buy it. Support it. Love it.

I also got Iron Man #1 and... ehhhh. It was okay. The whole book just felt off to me, and it's hard of pinpoint why. Perhaps it's the super-serious speeches from Tony meshed with his blonde-bimbo-flirting. Perhaps it's the ginormous grins on 98% of the pictures of the characters' faces. The comic as a whole has a sort of forced, manufactured atmosphere to it.

But it's a pretty cool set-up, with some pretty cool bits sprinkled in. I like the villain, and the parallels it has to the crooks that made him become Iron Man in the first place. I like his super-cool suit that can jump from his suitcase in the form of liquid metal onto his body in its true form. I like how he gets the information he needs out of this issue's main baddy at the end.

Iron Man #1 is a toss-up. Not sure if I'll get the next issue. Don't particularly want to.

Rounding out my books from Marvel this week is Avenging Spider-Man #14, which as always is lots of fun. This time Spider-Man fights dinosaurs. And the art's really cool. The dialogue has extra-cheese. Great stuff.

Now onto DC.

Swamp Thing #14 and Animal Man #14 are pretty sweet. The art, writing and plot for these two books are consistently superb, and Rot World is going super-swell so far. William Arcane is also back, and his reveal in Animal Man is especially creepy.

Lastly, Batwing. Which I really enjoyed. The new story arc is twisted, badass and interesting. 'Nuff said.

And that's all. These pieces aren't too awful are they?

Sunday, November 4, 2012

The Campaign - Review

In an attempt to grab some big bucks throughout election season, Hollywood has spit out an obligatory comedy casting two of their most popular actors as candidates fighting for office, and I would bet that you people fell for it hook, line and sinker.

Yeah, you know, this movie is actually pretty great.

The premise is a lot more complex than the trailers make it out to be. Will Ferrel plays Cam Brady, a politician in congress who, at the beginning of the film, is about to accept victory by simply signing up to run, as he has no competition for 2012. Motch Corporation (one of the heads of this corporation is Dan Ackroyd, by the way) seizes the opportunity to pick a candidate to spar with him, in an attempt to get him on-board with political action that would benefit their business. The choose Marty Huggins, played by Zach Galifianakis.

The catch that I wasn't fully expecting is that this movie is completely ridiculous. I thought that the accidental punch of a baby on Cam Brady's part was pretty ridiculous when I saw it in the previews, but the movie goes much further than that; not just with that scene, which is expand upon in the actual movie to make it much more brutal, but with a myriad of other bits. It's a movie that grabbed my attention and didn't let go until it finished, because I was quite intrigued in how far the movie is willing to go. It's hilarious.

Considering how far a lot of these jokes go, and how utterly bonkers the stakes become, this movie can be seen as nothing more than a comedic exaggeration of American politics. I had to do a double take on Motch's evil plan: they're not "creating jobs" as a ploy to outsource jobs to China, they're doing it as a ploy for China to literally buy a part of our country, and host child labor there for fifty-cents an hour. The movie smartly jumps on other funny or strange things in our politics, such as our dogmatic fear of Marxism and terrorism, and sensationalist political ads. There's a nice touch of commentary, and it's entertaining.

The performances all-around in this film are fantastic. Will Ferrel is great at playing dunces, and his performance as the sex-crazed and selfish Cam Brady is no exception. Zach Galifianakis plays up his well-intentioned but nutty and weak character well. The supporting cast also does a fine job, including performances playing Marty's reserved and boring wife, as well as Motch's youthful yet soulless campaign manager. The icing on the casting cake is in the form of appearances from political commentators like Bill Maher and Pierce Morgan.

A disappointment, though, is that the movie plays it safe in terms of the positions the two candidates espouse. Marty is the Republican, and the movie makes sure you know by making him a humorously flamboyant stereotype of Christian-fundamentalists, and Cam is the Democrat, with an eery similarity to Anthony Wiener, but the movie doesn't do much beyond that. They both just seem to be fighting mainly for jobs, which serves the central plot of the evil "job-creating" corporation, but it's is also a bit disorienting and annoying that they play up these stereotypes but do next to nothing with them. A movie like this doesn't have to have commentary on the two parties or mainstream political views, but it feels missing because the set-up is all here.

It's a very good movie as a whole, though. Performances by not just Will Ferrel and Zach Galifianakis but also the supporting cast, matched with this movie's ridiculous plot spoofing our political system, make this movie hilarious. The safe move on the film's part of avoiding commentary on actual political positions is lame, but I didn't notice anything else about the movie that is particularly weak. It's a fun, dumb ride that just may bring some attention to America's often goofy politics.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Matt's Weekly Comics - 10/31/12

Wow, holy crap, radical dude, this was a fantastic week for comics for myself. As I'm writing this I have no idea what I'm going to crown my favorite of the week. Because more than a few are just excellent and a half.

Well, I know that The New Deadwardians #8 isn't my favorite. Not to the fault of the book, necessarily. This Vertigo miniseries about vampires, zombies and class warfare is smart and clever, but it's also very dense and therefore hard to follow on a monthly basis. This is the last issue, and it seems good, I guess? It's hard for me to tell. I need to read this story in one go at some point.

And I suppose A + X #1 isn't my favorite, but it's neat. It seems like this series all-around will be cooler in concept than in execution, but the first issue was pretty cool. The premise of this new ongoing is to alternate creators and have them craft stories about an Avenger and an X-Men member working together.  Each issue has two stories.

As far as this first issue goes, one is a pretty entertaining yarn of WW2 Captain America and Bucky meeting up with time-traveling Sable to fight, like, nazi robots and a random time-traveling dorky kid. The other is a bizarre Hulk and Wolverine tie-in that has them fighting them over left-overs in the fridge and against future versions of themselves out to... kill... them... the past versions of the future version of the two characters... it's kinda cool I guess!

I don't know. Neither story was particularly satisfying but I don't feel like my money was wasted.

Grant Morrison's Happy #2 is really, really dope. It's super-twisted. The last page reveal is very disturbing. And the rest is incredibly bizarre and funny in an incredibly morbid sort of way.

It's an ultra-violent and all-around mature book about a murdering ex-cop who is being following around by a floating blue horse; a floating blue horse that is trying to convince our protagonist to save a little girl from a kidnapping and horrific Santa Claus.

So... get it!

I got Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #16.1. I hadn't delved into Miles Morales outside of Spider-Men (which is great!), but I read and love the first five volumes of Bendis's first volume of Ultimate Spider-Man. This seemed like a good jump-on point, and it was only $3.

And yeah, it is a pretty good jump-on point I think. I'll probably try to read this month-to-month now. I'm caught up. Miles seems cool. And it is an interesting story in its own right, smartly giving new readers a recap through a new story about a reporter trying to figure the new Spider-Man out.

Moving on to the annuals now, which were all just great.
Avenging Spider-Man had its annual. And, yeah, sure, this is my book of the week. Holy crap is this book hilarious. Two doofuses find a device in the park that makes everyone close-by incredibly angry at each other. There is some brilliant dialogue exchanged by comically educated and articulated loud-mouth-average-joes and children with Spidey.

And The Thing gets pissed at Spider-Man over an insignificant $30. He calls Spidey a bum.

Oh, and something so amazing happens at the end that it would be a crime against humanity for me to ruin it. I'll just say that The Thing and Spider-Man have a moment.

The detailed and expressive art is even great.

Ah. Loved it. Absolutely loved it.

Swamp Thing's annual is also amazing. Scott Snyder, astoundingly, is able to do both twisted and cute character interactions. The man's a genius.

This issue is a cute story about Alec and Abby first meeting that gets real creepy real fast. The art from Batman #12's Becky Cloonan is also perfect for this issue's story.

It's just really good. As per usually with The New 52's Swampy.

I'm not caught up on The New 52's Action Comics, but I have read the first 9 issues. And now this annual, and this annual is actually pretty cool, I think.

I bought it because of the art, and because I like annuals, if I'm going to be honest here. But it's pretty great! It's a simple "There's a baddy, let's punch him!" storyline with Supes and Steel and it's fun, fun, fun! The dialogue is entertaining and dat art, man. Good stuff.

And lastly, I read Batgirl's annual. Which I loved. Batgirl and Catwoman are a great duo and the artwork here is very, very strong. A Court of Owls Talon is a major character in this story, which is cool, but I take issue a bit with Talons showing up all over the place. Takes away from the mystery and intrigue that Snyder set up so well, man.

Commissioner Gordan acts like a boss, the empathetic angle for the Court assassin is wonderful, dat art, and dat Barbara/Selena pair, though, so.

That's all. My back hurts. And  I didn't shower yet. And sleep is a thing. Bai.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Enlightenment, Rhetoric, and Who I Am

It all started in a movie theater with my mother. We were there to see a new film with that quirky Will Ferrel character. Stranger Than Fiction. The funny advertisements had the two of us sold, or at least they had me sold, that's all that really matters, my mom took me to go see movies that I wanted to see. Because I was 10 or so.

The funny movie that the advertisements and the lead role forecasted was not incredibly funny, or goofy, but serious. And quite compelling. It's my oldest memory of being challenged by a film, or whatever, by art, if you will. I really, really enjoyed myself. My mother joked that she can "start taking me to serious movies now."

Little Matt felt enlightened for what was probably the first time. What a peculiar feeling that was. What an amazing feeling that was.

Two years later, I sat down in another movie theater with my mother and saw The Dark Knight. Again, I was tricked into seeing a movie that would challenge my feeble [then 12] young mind. The Dark Knight wasn't a big, dumb popcorn-cruncher, it was, well,

incredibly enlightening.

Earlier today I sat in a movie theater with my mother, again, and saw The Perks of being a Wallflower. I haven't read the book so my predictions about the film were based off of those dastardly, often-misleading advertisements, that this time managed to make a movie look like a potentially-pretentious quirk-fest.

But it was, well, I think you know.

The Perks of being a Wallflower made something click deep inside of me. It really reminded me of who I am and why I choose to be that person.

It's not a connection made with any of the film's characters that made this click. It's simply the feeling the movie gave me, reminding me of the other two times at the movie theater with my mother.

I'm a critic, and I'm a writer and I'm a seeker of enlightenment.

Let me get one thing straight. If Stranger Than Fiction was a goofy comedy, if The Dark Knight was a big, dumb popcorn-cruncher, if The Perks of being a Wallflower was a quirk-fest, they would not be intrinsically lesser works of art. The point is that these movies took me out of my comfort zone, especially the first two, because Little Matt watched those.

And it was then in Middle School that I learned about rhetoric. Not that word specifically, I wasn't even a teenager at the time and my vocabulary was expectedly less-than-impressive, but rhetoric all the same. By rhetoric in this context I mean critique, and the expression of opinions. I learned about rhetoric when I happened upon reviews, in issues of Nintendo Power and in articles on IGN. People do this? Surely I can.

I've been passionate about art and entertainment when I became passionate about writing and rhetoric during that time in Middle School. I like video games and comic books and novels and music and movies, and I experience them in a way unique in comparison to just about everyone else that I've conversed with on the subject. I experience video games and comic books and novels and music and movies because I seek enlightenment, and I seek to develop my own rhetoric.

When I play a video game, or read a comic book or novel, when I listen to music, or listen to a song, I ask myself what I got from the experience, and I ask myself what I thought of the experience. Often, I take the latter and share my thoughts with the world, whether it be through conversations with friends, a tweet, or a written piece for my blog. I share my thoughts and seek others', publicly ponder what I experienced through social networking, and write reviews.

Video games and comic books and novels and music and movies are not time-wasters for me, like they are for most people. They're enlightenment, and they're additives for my rhetoric, and they always are. That Pixar movie, that blood-and-sex comic book, that crappy game on the App Store, it's all enlightening because I knew, from experiencing it, what exactly it is and how it fits into the world I live in. And it all expands my rhetoric because my world-view has, and my opinions have, more weight.

And that's essentially what my life is. I seek enlightenment through art and entertainment, and I seek to expand my rhetoric by talking, thinking and writing about those experiences.

That's who I am. And I like that.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Matt's Weekly Comics - 10/24/12

I figured I'd do little weekly write-ups on the new-release comics I buy every week. Normally, I cram my thoughts on my weekly comic pick-ups into several sets of one-hundred forty character [or less] tweets (with the exception of the actual reviews I do for some books), so this makes more sense. I tried doing full reviews for every book I picked up each week at one point, but that was too much work for myself. I'm just going to write what I feel like writing with these posts. These will be written with a very casual style. Yo.

 I read the new issue of Li'l Depressed Boy, a book I just recently got caught up on this weekend due to the recent Comixology sale (a series that I'm absolutely in love with; a series that has to be one of my favorite comics ever). It was pretty good. Kinda depressing. A little funny. Not a lot happened but ya know. I enjoyed it. It's slowly building to what's most likely going to be a very sad end to this story arc.

 I picked up the A-Babies vs. X-Babies one-shot from Marvel (which came out last week physically, this week digitally) and it was pretty baller. The art is really good. Oh so colorful and cute. And it's a fun little story about li'l Cap calling the Avengers together to take back his teddy bear from Scott and his band of X-Men. Baby Hulk smashes Baby Wolverine, by the way, and it's pretty nice. And they only charged $3!

 Let's see. I read Batman: The Dark Knight #13. That was a good time. This book is a little terrifying. And dark. And bloody. The artwork and the dialogue and what the creators are doing to Batman as well as, uh, children, is all pretty messed up. Me gusta.

Batman Inc. #4. Loved it. Best issue of the New 52's Batman Inc. by far. The reveal of Wingman and who's behind the mask. Damian as Red Robin. The cliff-hanger. Burnham's art. Yes.

 I really enjoyed Talon #0, so I was pretty excited about this week's Talon #1. It was good stuff. I'm not a big fan of the art, but that's okay. They did a big paradigm shift from the previous issue, putting Calvin on the offense rather than defense. It makes a fun set-up. Calvin Rose is out to take down the Court of Owls. God speed, Rose. God speed.

 My favorite book of the week was actually the one I picked up on a whim: Punisher Warzone #1. I read the first issue of the latest Punisher series and couldn't get into it, but after this issue it's definitely on my to-do-list to try again. It's a five-issue miniseries that takes place after the recently concluded Punisher run. This book was gripping. I was upset when I got to the end, and the 20-some page comic felt like a few pages for me. I love how Punisher's "imma murder the bad dudes" mantra is challenging the morals of each of the Avegners. Gimme the next issue, please.

 Seeya. Go read comics.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Frankenweenie (Film) - Review

For better or for worse, Tim Burton makes films like no one else can. His live action films are a bit less distinctive, but Burton's stop-motion is so very Burton. His latest film is Frankenweenie, a remake of an old short film he created when he was much younger. It's creative, funny and often quite charming, but it also completely lacks a sorely needed thematic backbone and strong identity.

Frankenweenie is a parody of the classic Frankenstein tale. Victor, a talented film-maker, can't connect to other people, and instead focuses on his work and his lovable dog Sparky. When Sparky dies, he's devastated. After being inspired by a lecture in science class, Victor decides to bring Sparky back to life. He of course is successful, and we have our premise.

Victor is a typical kind of character, but a relatable and touching one, partly due to Charlie Tahan's voice work clinching his quiet yet smart and determined personality. There's the ubiquitous awkward, fat character and the nerdy, Asian character, which both entertained me, but I have some reservations about how strongly the stereotypes were played up in the latter kid, considering the film's child-friendly atmosphere otherwise. Some of the characters here are actually quite original, though, like the creepy wide-eyed girl whose equally creepy cat lays omens in the form of poop, and the hilariously weird kid that is meant to harken back to the assistant of Doctor Frankenstein in the old tale.

Later in the movie, the other kids discover Victor's revived dog and use his methods to spruce up their previously comedically bad science fair projects. When they use the lightening to shock life into their test subjects, their results are not so cute and cuddly. Demented sea monkeys wreak havoc, a giant turtle rampages around like Godzilla, etc. This quickens the pace of the film and makes it more exciting, and shows more than any other part just how awesome this film's visuals and overall sense of style is.

The animation is so very good, and the creative design of the sets and creatures and characters is also so very good. The cute things look cute, the monsters look monstrous, and the quirky things look quirky. Also, it's not a frightening movie, but the tone is very much like that of a horror film, especially in the latter half. That latter half is filled with cool creatures messing stuff up and looking sweet while they're doing it.

There's a big problem, though: The film has a bit of an identity crisis. For one thing, Victor is pinned as a film-maker in the first half of the movie, but by the end it appears as though Frankenweenie's film-makers changed their minds and wanted him to be a scientist. But the bigger issue is the film's overarching theme, or perhaps more accurately, its lack thereof. The sole purpose of Victor's parents seems to be, other than establishing that he has parents, to build up to a hard yet important lesson that children not only especially need to learn, but are able to handle.

And then the movie just completely drops the ball on that at the end.

There are a few possibilities. The first is that the creators of this film don't think that children are smart enough, nor willing to, learn something meaningful. The second is that they placed seeds for a compelling lesson that they didn't develop at the end out of laziness. And the third is that they attempted to have some other kind of lesson; other than the one that they actually began to build up to. No matter which is the case, what they created is thematically empty. Not every movie needs a theme but it feels criminally missing in this one, as it presents a serious problem that children often don't know how to handle, and purposely ignores it.

It's hard to give a clear verdict on Frankenweenie. It's an incredibly creative film, with fun characters and gorgeous visuals. It's funny and often quite clever. It has fun with itself. But its ending, which solidifies its lack of a clear identity and thematic backbone in a film that sourly needs such a thing, is so massively disappointing that the rest of the movie feels intrinsically worse by the time the credits roll. Frankenweenie is a pretty fun ride but an amateur mistake by a talented director stops it from being the masterpiece it could have so easily been.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Batwing #13 - Review

The New 52's Batwing started out as quite the fantastic comic, with a stellar first story arc about a gruesome murderer in Africa. The next story arc was still good but certainly weaker than the first, turning into a light-hearted team-up book in Gotham. Because of this, I was a bit nervous about Batwing #13, but now that I've actually had the chance to read it, I can say that it's back to the quality of its first arc. David Zavimbe is back in Africa and is up against a spreading death cult, and the first chapter is certainly promising.

Father Cult is Batwing's new foe, the leader of a cult built around death. They recruit young people and slit their throat for blood sacrifices, or use [most-likely supernatural] ambiguity to brainwash them for their cause. The police system is corrupt, which makes the just cops fumble with the catastrophe. It's harrowing and effective, despite not being all that original of a concept; at least thus far.

Father Cult is pretty cool. His supernatural powers are interesting, and he's rather scary in his appearance. There's also a brand-new hero who fights against this cult, and she's pretty cool because she's a she and because she has electricity-swords. A female cop that truly wants to help, motivated by the disappearance of her niece, is also present, which helps to get across the desperation of the situation.

This issue is pretty good. It's a promising start to a new chapter in Batwing's depressing life.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Space Punisher #2 - Review

Contemporary comic books are absolutely fantastic, but they do face a bit of a big problem - especially when it comes to the big two, Marvel and DC - there aren't enough fun books. Books that aren't trying to make smart commentary, books that aren't trying to be "gritty," books that are just plain entertaining to read. A wacky new mini-series from Marvel tagged Space Punisher is exactly what this medium needs more of. The premise is simple: In a self-contained alternate universe, Punisher goes through space cracking skulls in order to avenge his parents, whom died at the hands of a nefarious alien mafia. It's demonstrably stupid, but it is stupidity orchestrated with a masterful amount of creativity and comedic genius.

The first issue was fine: it introduced a great concept, it hosted a few chuckle-worthy moments and was charming from start to finish. But issue number-two really takes the cake. It's hilarious. The real star of the show is Hulk, who is played for laughs in a manner that beats even his portrayal in The Avengers film. This book is more than willing to kill off major Marvel characters, and watching Hulk rip such characters to bloody shreds in the blink of an eye is simply marvelous.

Character work on Punisher himself is also great, establishing him as a smart satire of the rough-'n-tough badass archetype that he normally makes his own. He has cartoonishly violent and vulgar reactions to the smallest grievances, that are always fun to read. His AI helpers, one his ship and one an anthropomorphized robot, clash well with him. Their wit and calmness exemplifies Punisher's hyperbolic characterization.

The artwork is gorgeous. The pages are flooded with color, making everything pop. Characters are expressive and the art as a whole is unique. It really fits the ridiculous sci-fi story that this comic tells remarkably well.

This comic book is hilarious. This comic book is stupid. This comic book is stupendous-looking. This comic book is tons of fun. This comic book is exactly what I want to see more of out of not just Marvel and DC, but out of the whole industry. Bravo.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Talon #0 - Review

What a fantastic idea for a new comic book series as well as a new character in the DC Universe. DC's new on-going comic "Talon," beginning in their Zero Month promotion, follows Calvin Rose. Calvin is a new face that fits snugly into the brilliant mythology Scott Snyder created with his massive, eleven-issue story arc about the harrowing Court of Owls that kick-started The New 52's Batman. Scott Snyder is back to help co-plot this new book with writer James Tynion IV, and I have to say, what a brilliant first issue.

Talon #0 gives us a very compelling and intriguing origin for Calvin Rose. He is a kid who ran away from an abusive father (a fact revealed to us in a rather brutal opener), eventually picked up by the Court of Owls, whom are impressed by the escape-art skills he has amassed since he left his home. They have him killing innocent people; evil acts they hide as just the opposite. In an effective panel revealing a particular assassin target, he decides that he must fight against, and separate himself from, the Court. We have our set-up.

Tynion and Snyder very smartly interlock all of the pieces of Rose's character. His upbringing, his indoctrination into the Court, even the very skills that the Court chose him for, boil down to one action - escaping. It's awesome. He's a clearly defined character and an easy one to get behind; a man trapped doing things he learns is vile, using the very skills they employed him for to escape the evil and attempt to stop it. I like Calvin.

The artwork isn't incredibly memorable, but it's not really a problem. Guillem March's scribbles tell the story well, with appropriate expression and detail. It puts the focus on the writing and the narrative, which is fine.

I had a lot of fun with Talon #0. Calvin Rose is a very cool character that I really want to keep my eye on. His origin is very concise and focused, and if future issues have that same approach, we'll have a really compelling book on our hands. This issue, at least, is quite rad.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Frankenstein: Agent of Shade #0 - Review

Frankenstein: Agent of Shade was one of those books that I almost picked up out of curiosity when The New 52 launched but didn't due to a lack of cash and a wealth of other compelling comics. Now that Zero Month has arrived and I'm a bigger boy making minimum wage, I decided to tap away three dollars while I was hanging out with my iPad this evening. It was a smart move, as Frankenstein: Agent of Shade #0 is a badass origin story for The New 52's Frankenstein.

This comic shows us the creation of the DCU's Frankenstein and the monster's progression into becoming an agent of Shade, protecting people from supernatural and monstrous threats. It clearly shows us who this character is and why he's so freaking cool. He's not bogged down by human-like emotional attachment, and accepts that he has the power to help people and that he is obligated to do so. We see this through a stylish battle with his mad-scientist creator as well as montage panels towards the end. It looks fantastic - oh-so very good coloring - and feels good, due to its excellent writing and staging.

This comic is really great. I'd say it's a pretty safe bet if you want a fun supernatural/fantasy book.

Wonder Woman #0 - Review

Wonder Woman isn't a series that I read month-to-month but its Zero issue is one that I decided to pick up. Brian Azzarello promised something a bit abstract with this issue in comparison to what the other creative teams are doing with DC's Zero Month, and Wonder Woman is a pretty sweet super hero, so it seemed like a fun way to drop three bucks. And it certainly proved to be: Wonder Woman #0 is tons of fun and easily one if the best Zero issues I've read so far. 

This issue takes a tongue-in-cheek, old-school approach, filling the pages with lengthy narration and frequent thought bubbles. This retro style is a fitting way to tell this book's simple and fun story from Diana's teen years in Paradise Island. She fights stereotypical mythological monsters and clashes characters with stereotypical mythological motivations, but it's really a joy to read. It's a bit humorous because of how self-aware it is and it's so well-written that the story itself is actually quite compelling. It's a good origin story that aggrandizes Diana appropriately. And it must be said that the colorful and expressive art is entirely pleasurable and fits well with the retro story-telling. 

I loved this issue. Zero Month's halt on my favorite stories hurt me a bit, but it's hard to complain when we're getting fun books like this. 

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Disarming the Monsters (Fiction)

With my eyelids popping open like bats out of Hell, sweat dripping down my brow, hands shooting upwards forming a stance appropriate for a boxing match, my consciousness realizing that was merely a nightmare, I awake. I awake on my creaking mattress, rife with rips on the sheet and stains on the pillow supporting my throbbing head. I awake on a day bereft of work, but I feel no relief, only dread. I awake, with no woman by my side, no child insisting I play, no, none of that, but to a cat, a black cat, staring at me as he lie on the floor beside my bed.

Never uttering a word but always spewing purrs and leaving scratches on my belongings, this cat. This cat is the only thing with life that seems to care for me to be alive. This cat, the only other being in my apartment, gets my love, all of the love he needs. This cat, however, does not seem to extend that same to me, no, I do not receive from him the love that I need, but he tries, my cat does all that he can.

Why am I living the life that I am living?, I think. I think a lot but I don't do a lot, not at all. I think it's not my fault but I can't quite be certain, I really can't know. I think it's probably a combination, but does it really matter at this point?

I hate it, I despise it, I really can't stand it, my life. My life feels empty, at this point in time. My life to me feels like an emo kid's scribblings during class. My life, actually, is not something I tend to think about too much.

Wearing only my boxers I get out of bed, sluggishly. Sluggishly, I bring my hands to my eyes and wipe away the sand man's leavings. Sluggishly, I take both of my arms and throw them behind my back, stretching back my back until I hear a crack. Sluggishly, I scratch my stomach, feeling my ribs as I do.

Over to the shower, watching not to step on my cat, I lay down a towel and turn. Turn the nob so the water falls, adjusting it to be hotter than cold, and hop in once my boxers are removed. Turn myself around so the water can hit my back, and after I lather and I scrub and I do nothing else, I'm done cleansing myself. Turn the nob so the water stops, and I dry myself off with the towel I dropped.

I am cleaned, so, I walk. I walk over to my dresser, filled with drawers upon drawers of the same articles of clothing. I walk to the center of my room as I put on one of the pairs of plain blue jeans and one of the black shirts, both grabbed from my dressed. I walk, once I'm dressed, towards my kitchen not looking at my walls or anywhere else because the room is empty, I have no pictures or nicknacks or anything beyond my necessaries. 

As I'm about to grab some food for my cat, I stop, and over at my cat, I look. I look at the black ball of fur and notice his abnormally loud purring. I look at him, look at the window, looking out at the world outside. I look, and I'm surprised, as he darts at the window and leaps out, shattering the glass as he does.

My cat, all that I have, the only person I love and the only thing giving me, albeit insufficient but noticeably existing affection, gone. Gone, out my window. Gone, to who knows where, fast as lightning. Gone, is my cat, and I must find him.

Throwing open my door, down the hall, I run. I run to the stairs, passing the elevator, as quickly as I can. I run, two stairs at a time, and finally reach the front door of the apartment building. I run in the general direction that I assumed the cat went, knowing where my window is positioned.

My cat, my black cat, perfectly healthy, apple of my eye, there. There, in the grass, my cat is running. There, towards the woods, my cat is advancing. There, my cat is going, at a speed faster than any cat should be able to go.

Strangely, it seems as though I also am able to sprint as my cat now can, with this power. With this power, I run faster than my unhealthy physique has ever ran. With this power I am able to see through my speed without blur. With this power, following my cat, I get to the woods ten times faster than running would usually take to this particular venue.

My cat slows down, now, walking at a slow pace into these woods, it's horrifying. It's horrifying how quickly we were able to get here. It's horrifying that this cat, this cat that can't even speak, is leading me somewhere. It's horrifying, that the bright summer Sunday day is now suddenly a dark summer Sunday night.

And then I hear something, this ingredient the most horrifying of all in this cake of a night, thump. Thump, I hear, making the trees and in turn the branches and in turn the leaves shake. Thump, it sounds like the footsteps of a monster. Thump, no, it sounds like the footsteps of a few monsters.

I see them. Three monsters. Staring at me, each their own color and each holding their own weapon. I want to scream but I'm too afraid.

I look the first, the green one holding a club, in the eyes, and as I do, everything goes to black and I'm left looking at something like a screen, and immediately, I cry. I cry because I realize what I'm watching, I'm watching a memory from my youth. I cry, just as I do in this memory, seeing my mother struggle and scream and search desperately for a defense as little-me sobs, holding his teddy bear. I cry and want nothing more of this memory.

I look the second, the red one holding a sword, in the eyes, and as I do, everything goes to black and I'm left looking at another screen, and immediately, again, I cry. I cry at the sight, the sight of my wife in her hospital bed. I cry at the next sound because it's a sound that I know all too well. I cry as the long, high-pitched BEEP plays over Karen's now dead body, and close my eyes and find myself looking back at the woods.

I look the third, the blue one holding a spear, in the eyes, and as I do, left with another screen surrounded by nothingness, I cry. I cry the hardest this time. I cry at the sight of the boy on this screen. I cry, seeing this boy, neck held to the ceiling by a rope,a boy that I once called my son.

Each monster is a monster that I've already encountered, but tried to forget. The first forty years ago, the second eighteen years ago, the third eight years ago.

This is the first time I've approached these monsters rather them me.

Weapons drawn, the monsters approach me, and I'm prepared to let them strike me down. But before they strike, my cat gives me a look, and I know what I must do.

I approach the first monster, remembering my mother, and I take its club. I approach the second monster, remembering my wife, and I take its sword. I approach the third monster, remembering my son, and I take its spear.

Unarmed, they sit down, and surrender.

Not everyone is haunted by such monsters, but when one encounters these monsters, they must be disarmed.   I have disarmed them, and am ready to move on forward to wherever life takes me next.

And while I don't want to encounter anymore, I will be willing to take down more monsters, and I will recruit more help than merely my cat.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Watch (Film) - Review

We've seen tons of vulgar comedies, and we've seen tons of alien-themed movies, but we haven't seen them mix all that much. The Watch is here to change that, with big names Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn and Jonah Hill, as well as Richard Ayoade, who sticks out in a fashion that begs even the previews for the film to point out. It's a great enough concept to hold a film, and surely Jonah Hill can't be in a bad movie?

It's a great concept done well, and yes, the jury is still out in regards to whether or not a movie casting Jonah Hill can flop. It's funny and it feels good, though a few things bog it down and take away from the masterpiece it could have been.

Ben Stiller's character, Evan, is introduced to us via humorous narration from the character himself. Evan adores his ironically boring town so much that he creates clubs, lovingly commands a large department store and involves himself in its politics. He's very by-the-books and rather lame, for lack of a better term. He takes a big hit when one of his workers, a lovable dork, is murdered in his store. It's a genuinely emotional scene but very smartly remains light-hearted due to its quirky execution.

This compels Evan to create a task force run by concerned citizens of the city, and the basic premise is created when Franklin (Hill), Bob (Vaughn) and Jamarcus (Ayoade) volunteer. Led by Bob, the three volunteers take this as a way to have fun instead of the very serious direction that Evan is taking. The group's early actions are less than exciting, but their role as the neighborhood watch becomes much more relevant when they discover that aliens from outer space are responsible for the death of the lovable dorky worker.

Antics ensue.

The main crew has wonderful chemistry together. Vaughn is the loud, dim-witted bro-dude that pulled immediate laughter out of me whenever he'd merely shout about something that isn't nearly worth shouting about. Jonah Hill plays a strange outcast, channeling the great mix of awkward confidence that the actor is known for. Ayoade's character injects very British humor in the film which helps to vary the style of comedy. Stiller's character acts as the reaction and alleviation to and for the crew's loud and crude escapades, which works well in assuaging their ridiculousness.

It's a goofy movie. It takes the concept of a bunch of loud middle-aged-frat-boy-types along with an uptight fellow attempting to save their city from destruction by aliens, and runs with it. They go out and blow stuff up with a weapon they find, sing obnoxiously in the car with a round of beers after a minor victory, shoot their foes a cartoonish amount of times to ensure they are dead, and more. It's energetic, moves quickly and flings itself in your face. It's hilarious and has an inviting good time.

The plot follows the conventional structure of a mystery. They learn that the aliens wear the skin of their victims which opens up a very wide range of suspects. I felt that at least half of the big reveals were rather predictable, as they were very heavy on the red herrings, but most of these remain fun to at least watch. I was very pleasantly surprised with the last reveal at the climax, which I didn't see coming in the slightest.

There are two subplots between Vaughn and Stiller's characters that attempt to, for the most part, turn the comedy-switch off for what are intended to be captivating yarns to follow. Stiller's character is having problems with getting his wife pregnant and doesn't know how to tell her, and Vaughn's character struggles with raising his teenage daughter. These feel a bit banal and are certainly uninteresting, especially taking into consideration that I'm not particularly moved by Stiller or Vaughn's character on any serious level, as the movie is much too goofy for me to actually get invested in these characters in any significant way. Comedy does accompany these subplots, and they both tie up at the film's conclusion in a rather satisfying fashion, so it isn't too much of an issue.

The laughs simply work, without too many falters. No gag is especially original, but seeing Vaughn boast about his ability to expertly pee in a cup and Hill hit on a pair of attractive twins at a high school party really hits the spot. The cops, which serve as the most prevalent supporting cast, are entertaining. One is cocky, unfriendly and appropriately dense, and the other is a humorously named dummy who doesn't even speak. Some of the vulgar humor, especially of the sexual ilk, comes off as a bit forced, but those moments are of the minority. The Watch trucks forward with an onslaught of jokes that were varied enough to keep me laughing up until its action-packed and pleasing conclusion.

It's a good flick. The casting is more or less perfect, the film more than competently kept things moving, and boy did I have many a laughter. It's not masterful, as the movie beyond its comedy and mystery is weak, and even the former comes off as contrived at times. But overall I had a great time and wholeheartedly recommend this to anyone able to see an R-rated movie who's looking for a primarily mindless comedy. The Watch is a laugh-out-loud roller-coaster mystery about an alien invasion, and for Christ's sake, Jonah Hill is in it.