Saturday, April 30, 2011

Frankenstein Island and the Trailers of Hope

Without question, the worst movie I have ever seen -- the worst, I say -- is Frankenstein Island, which was released in 1981 but is so psychedelically awful that it comes across as if made in 1953…in Romania.  Here is a seven-minute highlights compilation that does a pretty good job of capturing the horror.

Generally speaking, I think one gets past the age where it seems worthwhile to marvel/laugh at terrible films, but Frankenstein Island is truly jaw-dropping.  Worse by far than Plan Nine from Outer Space, Frankenstein Island's every second of footage seems to contain some flagrant error of aesthetic judgment so astonishing as to make it barely believable that the whole thing's not a joke -- yet it's too humorless to be so easily explained.  Simply mind-boggling. 

By contrast, the more ambitious failures that were the Star Wars prequels have had the salutary side effect not merely of making me appreciate the 70s/80s ones more -- but even more so of making me appreciate Lucas's genuinely brainy and artful pre-Star Wars film THX 1138 more.  Take this ninety-second scene, for example.  I'd rather watch that a hundred times than see a Gungan ever again.

And here are trailers for films coming out in the next few months that inspire some hope: 


6th Thor


JULY (five geek films!): 

1st Transformers: Dark of the Moon

15th the final Harry Potter


5th Rise of the Planet of the Apes (they only recently decided to add the official "Planet of the" phrase to the title, which I will take as a sign that they have concluded this thing has franchise potential -- looks cool to me, and it amuses me that the official movie site's URL is

This may be the nerdiest thought of my entire "Month of Heroes," but it's true nonetheless: They could in theory remake all five Planet of the Apes movies (this one being a remake of #4) and simply go 4, 5, 1, 2, 3 this time, since that would actually put them in chronological order (in terms of the point in Earth's history when they occur, aside from 3 looping back to the present).  That would be like performing a reverse-George-Lucas maneuver and rendering a series straightforwardly-chronological that used to involve some time-hopping prequel gymnastics (not that I really expect or want them to be so faithful).  

And on that bioengineered note, let's a do a "Month of Animals" for May.  But first: 

Five Concluding Notes for the "Month of Heroes"

Friday, April 29, 2011

The "Sci-Fironic" Mode

Finding the right balance between irony and seriousness in sci-fi and superhero movies has been a long, complex, dialectical process.  And at some point, I think film historians are going to look back at 90s-ish movies and realize that was a bizarre time of non-realistic, mannered films in general -- witness later Schwarzenegger efforts, 2000's Charlie's Angels, or the strange and more obscure action film The Big Hit -- though The Matrix helped convince everyone you could do serious-feeling fantasy stuff without apologies.  

In superhero movies, you could see things careening from the fairly realistic-feeling Superman: The Movie to Burton's kabuki-like Batman (which the recent Watchmen movie resembles more closely than the Nolan Batman movies do, really)…and years later the audience-pleasing -- but still ever so slightly awkward -- first Spider-Man movie…then the impressive but by some estimations over-serious X-Men 2 and then -- bingo! -- to the first Iron Man, which seemed to please everyone for the simple reason that it had jokes but not of the kind that undermine the reality and intensity of the story conventions or make the genre seem pointless (which I could have told them from the get-go).  

At last we had found our Irony Man, if you will.  I look forward to seeing what Joss Whedon does with the related Avengers movie in one year, script-wise more than fx-wise.

Audiences like comedy.  They do not like being told that the whole act of seeing the movie is a big, pointless joke on all of us.  It is amazing that Hollywood, which is hardly avant-garde, does not really understand this simple rule of realism.  George Lucas, for all the love and attention he lavishes on his universe, doesn't get it or else he would not do things like put a wacky Bob Costas-sounding sportscaster in a Star Wars movie, much as I hate to mention that shudder-inducing example. 

The past few years have seen a big increase in what we might call the "sci-fironic" mode in pop culture, too, with the hipsters adopting enough nerd tendencies to feel comfortable invoking robots and clones and the like for both comedic and cool purposes, without any longer feeling the need to explain.  X-Files probably helped pave the way, as did all the sci-fi-like jokes, often cropping up without any felt need for context, on The Simpsons (e.g., "I need tungsten to live!"). 

Thursday, April 28, 2011

I, Swamp Thing (plus Superman vs. the U.S. and Iran)

I thought it odd that two years' worth of recent DC Comics climaxed (yesterday) with the return of the character Swamp Thing (as satirized in this cartoon noted by Jacob Levy).  Furthermore, I always thought Swamp Thing and Marvel's Man-Thing were a bit too similar (their births, unlike Obama's, remain mysterious -- yet they would make better presidents than Donald Trump, with Man-Thing likely a Republican, Swamp Thing obviously Green).  

But Michael Malice told me neither Swamp Thing nor Man-Thing was a rip-off of the other.  Rather, both were heavily influenced by the earlier character the Heap, who was also a man-shaped pile of villain-fighting vegetation.  

The weirdness doesn't end there: Malice told me this two weeks ago while were on a train bound for the HQ of the Foundation for Economic Education (a.k.a. FEE, which, alas, moves fully to Atlanta in a few months), and FEE may be best known for their periodical The Freeman, which had at one time been produced by the publisher Hillman…who also published, yes: the Heap! 

As meditation-practicing, pencil-contemplating FEE president Leonard Read knew so well, the universe is all connected -- from the most dastardly crimes to the rotting plants of the deepest swamplands.

As for Swamp Thing, his return to DC Comics proper means an end to his two-decade stint at DC's crime/occult/hipness imprint Vertigo (which has no connection to the Hitchcock movie, but I liked the picture above).  So, in a way, the publishing implications of this week's climax are more interesting than the fact that Swamp Thing is back to restore balance to nature and all that other elemental stuff he does.  

(And if he can't bring harmony to nature soon enough to stop the weather's attacks on the South, we're going to have to call in Thor -- but that's next week. )

P.S. In other news: Reid Mihalko tells me Superman renounced his U.S. citizenship in the comics.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Thunderbirds and Space: 1999

Gerry Anderson claims a CGI Thunderbirds series is imminent, which should be an improvement over the mid-90s attempt to repackage the original (awesome) 1960s sci-fi marionette series.  The 90s effort featured lame "hacker" kids as framing-device narrators -- and then the 2004 live-action film version, directed by (Star Trek's) Jonathan Frakes, was dubbed by Anderson himself "the biggest load of crap I have ever seen in my life."  

(I nonetheless saw the film in the theatre, with a small group that included a libertarian weighing about 400 pounds, who sadly later died of a stroke in his mid-forties.  He helped run Victor Niederhoffer's monthly Junto gatherings, at one of which I will speak on June 2.)

Needless to say, the influence of the (perfect) Thunderbirds "countdown" opening (note the flying guitar in this iteration) can still be felt in later, more modem and nuanced works such as the (Montreal-made) short "RoboJew vs. Giant Nazi Woman of the SS," a perfect follow-up to Passover.


All right, one more look at the funky opening of Anderson's other best-known series, Space: 1999.  

And I finally figured out which episode it was that I remembered mesmerizing me as a kid: "Dragon's Domain," in which the Lovecraftian tentacled beast seen in the clip linked here killed a spaceship crew, regurgitating their charred corpses from its glowing tunnel of a maw almost immediately each time it did so (that was alarming to a six-year-old, I must say), leaving one semi-hypnotized survivor (years before the Moon and the Alphans were blown out of orbit to begin their spacefaring journey), who now fears the creature is returning, even as flashbacks reveal no one believed him about the beast the first time around. 

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Ron Paul, Michael “Max” Nofziger, Gnarr (not Gwarr), Bjork, and Grant Morrison

My tweets from Ron Paul’s speech last night at rocking Webster Hall.  (He announces his exploratory committee today in Iowa instead.  Cold-blooded strategy thought: If he or Gary Johnson ends up dropping out and endorsing the other, could be big enough to reshape the primaries, I think.  And Johnson would be even better suited to bring the pot-lovers into the coalition than Paul is, reputation-wise.) 

•And there’s a (libertarian-friendly) “Right-Wing Tweet Up” tonight at O’Lunney’s (W. 50th just west of Broadway) at 7pm that I’ll attend.

•Here’s an Austin City Council candidate suggestion for libertarians.  Nice to see him appealing to the musician/artist community of which he’s a part, not so unlike...

•...the mayor of Reykjavik, Jon Gnarr, elected along with his fellow comedians and musicians (including a punk singing “Fuck the system”) after a joke campaign as members of the Best Party, which inadvertently tapped into a groundswell of financial-crisis-fueled resentment of the mainstream parties, as hilariously recounted in the documentary Gnarr, which I saw at a Tribeca Film Festival screening two days ago (with an economist pal who has at least visited Iceland). 

One touching thing the director said during Q&A after the film is that even though the Best Party members all started this as a joke – and all of them now say this is the hardest, least fun, most grueling and thankless thing they’ve ever done – none of them has resigned from office despite having entertainment careers they could go back to, and they are trying to muddle through at a time when virtually all of Reykjavik is bankrupt and angry.

The documentary was described thusly in a promo:

Following his country's economic meltdown, in 2009 acerbic Icelandic comedian Jon Gnarr launches his own political party, the Best Party.  His platform?  Build a Disneyland, put more polar bears in the zoo, economize by hiring only one Santa during the holidays, and oust from the government anyone who hasn’t seen The Wire.  It starts out as a joke, but when support for Gnarr’s wacky mayoral bid surprisingly snowballs, a group of rebels and punk rockers quickly captures the imagination of a nation desperate for a release from the corruption that nearly brought on its collapse.

Some of my favorite items from his list of political promises: a drug-free Parliament by 2020, “all kinds of things for weaklings,” and “sustainable transparency.”

Gnarr said in an interview that he’d started out socialist but had been nudged toward individualism by punk.  And that is how we will win. 

•There was only one brief glimpse of Bjork in the documentary, so here’s the whole video in question, “Motorcrash,” from back when she was in her early twenties and more punk, and I was in my late teens and, well, just more nerdy, let’s be honest.

A friend of mine once said Bjork’s co-vocalist from Sugarcubes sang like he was “falling off a mountain,” and he doesn’t seem to have done too much since, so it may have been an apt metaphor.  His sad Wikipedia entry about having had some bartending gigs, etc., sounds self-written.  Bjork by contrast is now de facto prime minister and queen of the faerie in Iceland, just as the bald guy from Midnight Oil, who is fourteen feet tall and has twenty-seven children, is now the king of Australia, I think.

NOTE: Bjork has a twenty-four year-old rock writer/bass player daughter whose reviews contain sentences like:

Caterpillarmen make music I despise.  I’ll make no secret of that fact.  I hate progressive rock with a passion, and would rather die than be caught listening to it.  That said, Caterpillarmen are very good at making this music I so despise, and in fact, my visceral loathing of their music is proof of how good they are at making shit.

Here is a less positive element of Bjork’s life, per Wikipedia:

On 12 September 1996, obsessed fan Ricardo López mailed an acid-spraying letter bomb to Björk’s London home and then killed himself, but the package was intercepted by the Metropolitan Police Service.  López filmed himself in the process of making the acid bomb which was intended to kill her.  The nearly eighteen hours of videotape described López’s obsession with Björk, the construction of the device, his thoughts on love and other subjects, including racial remarks against Björk's then-boyfriend Goldie.  The video footage continues after his mailing the bomb to Björk's London home and ends dramatically as López shaves his head, applies face paint and commits suicide by shooting himself on camera.

And you thought her husband Matthew Barney’s video of the two of them carving up each other’s flesh like whale meat was disturbing.  Actually, it was, but then, I find even the giant teddy bear from the “Human Behavior” video sort of disturbing. 

•Also musically and (left-)anarchically inclined is comics writer Grant Morrison (his Sugarcubes-era song “Tortured Soul” with his band the Fauves –not to be confused with the other band by that name – is Violent Femmes-worthy and is here accompanied by a Fleischer Superman cartoon of much older vintage).  As a man from Scotland, he might appreciate the tragedy of the recent Boston-area man killed while burning leaves in a kilt (pointed out to me by Jake Harrison). 

A friend of mine has joked about what it would be like if the shrinking number of comic book readers ever got so small that the creators could just pass original art around the room, without going to all the trouble of publishing things.  And it occurs to me that another disturbing tipping point would be if the fans of any given comic come to be outnumbered by the (named, individual) characters in the fictional universe in which that comic takes place.  (Marvel, for instance, has something like 5,000 characters, and a top comic only sells around 100,000 copies these days.) 

I could probably convince mystically-inclined Morrison that some sort of sentience-awakening event occurs that makes the comic book come to life at that point. 

AND THE SECOND HALF OF THIS 2,000-WORD ENTRY is entirely about Grant Morrison, I should warn you (anyone who actually reads the whole thing should let me know):

Monday, April 25, 2011

Wolverine, Popeye, and Death

•It’s ironic that radiation in Japan has made it less likely that we’ll see a movie about mutants, but since Darren Aronofsky decided not to spend a year there filming The Wolverine, I’m not confident that film’s going to happen on schedule (it was supposed to be out next year). 

•If fear of radioactive residue on leafy plants such as spinach becomes a sufficiently popular topic in the wake of the Japan disasters, though, maybe they could retool the Wolverine film as a Popeye origin story.  No reason Popeye can’t fight ninjas: “Oh, shuriken, you say? Well, I’m sure I can,” (biff, bop, etc.). 

NOTE: If you join me at tonight’s Ron Paul event at Webster Hall or tomorrow’s right-wing Tweet Up at O’Lunney’s on W. 50th, I think it’s safe to say I could be talked into doing an audio version of the preceding Popeye impression

•Coincidentally(??), right around the time of the tsunami, Marvel Comics finished a miniseries written by Fred van Lente and Greg Pak in which a Shinto deathgod temporarily destroyed the Marvel multiverse.  I suppose it would have been tasteless to tack on an ending in which, as he’s defeated, he vengefully summons this year’s tsunami, but it would surely have been at least a bit aesthetically tempting to tie it in (though the writing was presumably complete months earlier).

•With or without Wolverine, though, we’ve got X-Men: First Class in theatres in two months, and I am going on record predicting it will be the best geek film of 2011.  

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Resurrecting Dwayne McDuffie

Hazel Dickens, the old-timey bluegrass singer seen in the union-ophilic film Matewan among other places, passed away on Friday, having lived just long enough to see the beginning of the end for unions in Wisconsin.  Just as we can respect the Clash without sharing their socialist sentiments, we can admire the folk and bluegrass traditions without being foolish enough to let aesthetics determine our moral or political judgments.  

But the passing of a far nerdier pop culture figure, with a better understanding of heroism, is on my mind (and I do not refer to a member of the Pipettes or the Raveonettes, though I saw performances by both last week and there were nerds present, as well as Danes and possibly some nerds who were also Danes). 

A popular writer from the Justice League and Justice League Unlimited animated series -- and historic creator of the more-ethnically-diverse Milestone  Comics -- Dwayne McDuffie, died of surgery complications in February, ironically just a couple years after introducing the idea that each elemental in the DC Universe, such as the character Firestorm, contains a portion of the "Life Equation" (which can fend off darkness and evil such as that of the old villain Darkseid, who figures into the final episodes of Smallville next month).


But I think anyone in this modern-media era who has ever worried that blogging might get them in trouble with the boss has reason to sympathize with McDuffie, who was removed from writing the Justice League comic book because he publicly blogged about how annoying it was to have to write the series with higher-ups continually telling him to add or remove characters from the team roster, altering his intended plotlines.  

DC saw it as disloyal grousing, but I think he saw it as just a writer talking about the challenges of his creative process and circumstances.  (If Frank Oz blogged that he only got to speak for a few minutes in a new Star Wars movie, I don't think it would necessarily mean he was staunchly anti-Lucas.)

It all went down right around the time DC (presumably executive editor Dan Didio, who I also mentioned in yesterday's entry) couldn't decide whether to kill Justice League members Hawkman and Hawkgirl, assume they were already dead, have them get reincarnated, or show them as merely injured but getting better.  After finally deciding that they were fine, they were then (temporarily) killed by zombies (and later temporarily killed by an anti-zombie entity).  They remain confusing, in any case.  That ain't gonna change.  

In fact, I'll bet I'm not the only person who sees pictures of Hawkman looking fierce and warrior-like and feels sorry for him, as though he's angry at how messed up his fictional continuity is.  All his rage will seem shallow and impotent to me until the unlikely day when all that gets cleaned up.  Without more writers like McDuffie who enjoy clarifying, simplifying, and systematizing things, that day remains as distant as the Resurrection.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Flaming Purple Gorillas (and Newsarama on DC's Woes)

(On Facebook yesterday, when not joking about an unhappy young Ivy League woman, I continued my somewhat-related Narnia comments begun in yesterday's blog entry -- causing someone to point out, rightly, that the Narnia movies aren't very good.  I know, but I just want to see the evil ape in the final story.  He's a false prophet -- and he's an ape!  What a cool character.)

Well, marketing analysts at DC Comics in mid-century noted fans' love of apes, fire, and the color purple, notoriously resulting in a brief period when DC would come up with almost any excuse to put flaming purple gorillas (and the like) on its covers.  Here's one particularly bizarre example.  

If consumers demand apes, the market will supply them.  We must not be silent, with our voices or our dollars.  Indeed, I will conclude the "Month of Heroes" with an important ape-related link one week from today. 


In the meantime: the site Newsrama asks why only DC Comics' top-tier books (mainly Batman and Green Lantern nowadays) sell well whereas Marvel has a fair number of "mid-list" titles instead of just a few heavy-hitters and numerous low-sellers.  (DC makes up about 31% of the comics market and Marvel about 45%, and things have been more or less that way for a long time.)  The writer of the piece says it doesn't seem to be quality -- though I'd note that Marvel does seem to use far more realistic, polished art than DC (Dan Didio's fault, perhaps?), making even the blandly-written Marvel tales look almost Alex Ross-worthy in recent years. 

But I think the real explanation is a deeper, more intrinsic one that's been true for a half-century now: With DC, you basically know which characters really matter -- which ones are the aristocracy of the superhero world, as it were -- and you know you can safely ignore the rest because they're rarely the ones who change the world.  

You know the Justice League is the center of the DC Universe; its most familiar characters are the superstars likely to get their own movies; most other teams in that universe are so highly analogous to the JLA that it almost seems redundant to read about them (the Teen Titans, the Justice Society, etc.); and though DC might "invest in" the lesser characters in a business sense, it's not really going to invest in them in the way that makes nerds care: letting the "little characters" do things that have ripple effects across that fictional cosmos that permanently change the lives of even the bigwigs like Superman and Batman. 


By contrast, it's genuinely hard to say what the "center" of the diverse Marvel Universe is, and each candidate character-set can in theory have a very different type of fan: Spider-Man, the Avengers, the X-Men, the Fantastic Four, the cosmic/space characters such as Warlock, lately the Hulk…  Marvel reaps the benefits of seeming convincingly polycentric (to put it in international relations terms).  And yet most of the characters live in New York

Friday, April 22, 2011

Narnia Is Doomed, One Way or Another

Just in time for Good Friday -- and the doomed-animals narratives of Earth Day -- it's: my thoughts about the future of the Narnia movies:

All I want out of the mediocre Narnia films (three down so far, out of seven) is to see the apocalyptic and ape-oriented Last Battle get produced.  Though it was written seventh, the logical thing to do, plainly, would have been to release the film version of it fifth -- enabling them to complete the main arc of the series without interruption (the already-released Wardrobe, Caspian, and Treader, followed by Silver Chair and Last Battle).  Then, if the franchise still has any gas left after that, you go on to do the rather expendable prequel The Magician's Nephew and the tangential tale The Horse and His Boy.  Don't risk having the series end before, well, the end.  

Instead, they're reportedly doing Nephew next, if anything (maybe because it's cheaper).  Any way you slice it, aesthetically or logically or novel-publishing-wise, Silver Chair should be next, i.e., fourth (and surely they should ask Silverchair to do an end credits song), not Nephew.  

But as long as we get to the apocalypse eventually, I'll be happy.  And with the current plan, we do get to see Tilda Swinton's character one more time much sooner (quite prominently in Nephew, actually).

Thursday, April 21, 2011

GOP 2012 Presidential Field: The View from John Jay Park

During this blog’s “Month of Heroes,” remember that it is wisest not to have any political heroes.  We fight for the day when there will be no electoral politics. 

But in the meantime, it’s good to see former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson announce his run for president in New Hampshire this morning.  He’s a libertarian Republican but perhaps best known nationally for his opposition the drug war.  You have to wonder if he considered announcing one day earlier, on “4/20.” 

(I heard a rumor that the Ron Paul event taking place in New York City on Monday the 25th might feature some sort of announcement as well.  I hope to be there – and at the May 2 debate at NYU at which Objectivist John Allison shall surely crush Constitution-dismissing young pundit Ezra Klein.  NYU also sees an Intelligence Squared U.S. debate on immigration the next day, May 3.)

I am not worried, at this early stage, about the libertarianish candidates drawing votes from each other in the GOP primaries, so long as we all agree to stick to whichever one survives the winnowing.  My real fear is that we are already seeing the GOP field divide into two tiers, with roughly five candidates polling in the double digits who are mostly statists – and roughly six candidates polling only in single digits who are mostly libertarian-leaning ones I might actually endorse. 

We’re a year and a half away from the election, but last time I checked RealClearPolitics’ aggregated polls, the field looked sort of like this:

•Huckabee, Romney, Trump, Palin, Gingrich (all double digits, ranging from about 20% down to 10, respectively)
•Paul, Bachmann, Pawlenty, Daniels, Santorum (all single digits, with Johnson and Cain not yet tracked by them)

The top tier at this point is mostly the ones who, at least in the past few years, seem more focused on celebrity than on policy-making.  Most of them may melt away once debates begin. 

In electoral politics, people routinely discourage stating the truth – such as “We might lose” – but I prefer to prepare for the worst and then contemplate the somewhat-acceptable moderately-plausible.  If current trends hold (and of course they never do), then, I must confess that Newt, for all his flaws, might be the best of the top tier folk so far – if we had to choose from that tier, I mean, much as I’d be thrilled by Paul or Johnson winning, not to mention Daniels or Pawlenty.

Newt, if it comes to that, at least understands federalism and decentralization –pushing both after the 1994 GOP takeover of Congress, even if not consistently.   He has brains and the ability to appeal to the religious (though Giuliani showed how unforgiving they can be of divorcees, so he might not have that flank as well-covered as we might think).

If I had to bet on the outcome at this point, though, I would predict it’s going to be a Mormon vs. a black man in the 2012 general election (so reporters can start preparing fluffy pieces on that theme instead of talking about spending cuts and deregulation).  Technically, I voted for Romney in 2008, as the handiest anti-McCain protest vote available to me by the time the New York primary rolled around.  All so meaningless now – yet, disturbingly, perhaps also a sign of things to come. 

And speaking of ominous prophecies, tomorrow’s topic: Narnia and the Apocalypse!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Lady Gaga Has No Clothes (and a Dozen More Items on Ladies)

I just wrote a letter of recommendation for a woman interested in both economics and science, the sort of woman we need more of.  Or at least I do, especially if she doesn’t want children (perhaps they will flock to tonight’s Story Collider, which I plan to attend).  About half of this entry, though, will be about fictional women (some would argue this paragraph was as well) – science-fictional women, that is (and tonight’s theme at Story Collider is sci-fi, too – be there, 8pm, at the bar Pacific Standard in Brooklyn). 

But first a note on a woman who merely dabbles in sci-fi-like imagery once in a while:

1. I don’t want to be the lone Lady Gaga-hater, but (A) she’s obviously terrible, (B) her oddly-numerous supporters should now be at least slightly troubled by the creeping realization that her single “Born This Way” is just a lawsuit-worthy mash-up of Madonna’s “Express Yourself” and “Vogue” (covers of Rebecca Black while wearing a Darth Vader mask next, perhaps?), and (C) now she’s even stealing Madonna's Catholic-tweaking shtick with the song “Judas.”  Maybe for an encore, she can invent sadomasochism or bisexuality. 

I don't much care for Gaga or Catholicism, obviously, but if there's someone out there stupid enough to like both, I hope that person feels horribly conflicted right now.  (If I believed there were a God, by the way, I'd have to suspect he has something against North Carolina after the storms of the past few days.  I hope my friends in that state are well.)

2. It was fun to see a site about comics lambast the New York Times for doing such shallow reporting on the question of whether women like sci-fi.  You see how arrogant the Times seems when training its ignorant sights on your subculture, nerds?  Now imagine being a conservative. 

3. Too, let’s take a moment to remember how awful the arrogant, smirking, relentlessly oversimplifying Rachel Maddow is as well – by reading this response, brought to my attention by Bretigne Shaffer, to Maddow’s attack on federalism.  I don’t think there’s much hope of teaching most people economics, so I’m really banking on Americans warming to the idea of just shrinking DC’s role and letting the states go their own ways, which would at least allow some diversity and experiment. 

4. Speaking of central authorities, happy eighty-fifth birthday (tomorrow) to QE2 (the Queen of England).  By my pro-market, pro-technology standards, she’s nowhere near as cool as the QE2 (the boat) but is cooler than QE2 (a second round of Quantitative Easing by the Fed).

5. On a sadder British note, R.I.P. actress Elisabeth Sladen, lost too soon at sixty-three to cancer while still playing the role of Sarah Jane from Doctor Who, as she had been for forty years, still looking pretty damn cute and acting much more convincingly than a lot of the monsters and aliens surrounding her.  Somewhere, her robot dog K9 howls mournfully.  And listening to this dirge-like song for forty seconds might be appropriate.

6. Sarah Jane was many fans’ favorite Doctor sidekick, but the fourth Doctor, Tom Baker, clearly liked Romana (or rather, actress Lalla Ward) best, since he married her, and although their Timelord characters were never lovers on the show, if you ever wanted to know what it would have been like if they had been (you sick freak), look no farther than these TV commercials featuring the two of them – in character yet being openly flirty in a very fun and obviously sincere way – advertising a 1980s computer

Nothing against the recent Doctors, but these three minutes of TV ads are more entertaining than whole seasons of other people playing the Doctor.  Tom Baker is just that good – and was frankly sort of my childhood role model for  “whimsy” (and was a former Catholic monk who lost his faith, incidentally).

Lalla Ward, as I’ve noted before, has had one of the most delightfully nerdy lovelives in all of history, and after divorcing Tom Baker, she met her next husband

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Marvel Movie Team-Ups: Intellectual Property Factions

One of the most exciting developments of the past several years – for nerds – has been watching Marvel link their superhero movies into a single fictional universe.  But not just any character can meet just any other character – because of which characters are contracted to which film companies. 

You’re likely to see only intra-film-company rather than inter-film-company assemblages and confrontations, which last I knew meant something like so (and I’m totally glossing over distinctions between production rights, distribution rights, and six million other nuances, just keep tracking of what I think are the creative “bailiwicks,” to put it in terms about as technical as befits my level of legal expertise – don’t plan your investment portfolio around this or sue me if someone in an alley tries to sell you Doctor Octopus):

X-Men + Fantastic Four + Daredevil: Fox
Spider-Man: Sony (later Columbia)
Avengers + (now in development) Inhumans: Disney
(Punisher, for what it's worth: Lions Gate/Columbia)

Disney now owns Marvel, so most future characters will likely emerge there, I’d imagine, and potentially be Avengers-tied if tied to anything.  

I notice it would be especially tricky to do a film adaptation of the mid-00s series New Avengers comic book, which featured a team composed (at one point) of Wolverine, Spider-Man, and a few old-school Avengers.  That will disappoint the youngest fans.  And it means you shouldn’t expect to see post-credits sequences on next year’s scheduled Spider-Man and Wolverine movies in which Luke Cage recruits them to join a team that will be a more “street” version of Nick Fury’s Avengers, much as I would enjoy that.

One thing that could legally happen that I wouldn’t mind seeing, though, is the X-Men’s Prof. X bumping into the Fantastic Four’s Reed Richards one day.  They both have mutant children to exchange advice about.  And Daredevil chatting with the FF’s Ben Grimm would go a long way toward capturing the feel in the comics that all these characters are neighbors in New York City (always appealing to me as a kid – could that have subconsciously influenced my eventual choice of habitat?).

To me, from a purely legal/strategic point of view, the most interesting question, though, is whether we’ll ever see Magneto’s children, Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver, who were members of the Avengers.  I haven’t checked, but I wouldn’t be shocked to learn that they were listed in the briefly-glimpsed files about mutants stolen by Mystique in X-Men 2, thus placing them in the Fox bailiwick – but Quicksilver is both an Avenger and the husband of an Inhuman, so the creative potential if he were kept at Disney is significant.

(Oddly enough, I think the studio that made the Marvel superhero movie Blade is now part of Warner Bros., which, as parent to DC Comics, might be disinclined ever to do another movie with Marvel characters.  DC films are all Warner, of course: Batman, Superman, soon Green Lantern, etc.  Much easier to do DC Universe references on Smallville.)

Beyond the legal concerns, next year may be a pivotal one for determining

Monday, April 18, 2011

Ten Brief Semi-Literate Notes

(1) Tonight (7pm-on) at Langan’s bar (47th just east of 7th) is the monthly social gathering called the Manhattans Project, where I imagine some of us will be chatting about the somewhat dopey topic of the Atlas Shrugged movie, but it’s not so far from the Algonquin Hotel, if that makes you feel more sophisticated.

(2) We won’t be hearing from planned guest of honor Bryan Harris about why college is a waste of time, since he had to go to Turkey on business.

(3) But hey, talking about Atlas is sort of a reminder that real education occurs outside of college anyway. 

(4) If that leaves you feeling the need to do something more nuanced and artsy-literary, though, you could wish libertarian-friendly novelist Katherine Taylor a happy birthday today.  You could send her money to buy a puppy, even.

(5) And here in NYC, I believe writer Alyssa Pelish moves back today [CORRECTION: Oops -- not quite yet].

(6) She wrote a piece about being a teacher of a class on comics and says some of the nerdy kids therein reminded her of me. 

(7) I am reminded of my friend Holly Caldwell’s reaction in college upon reading a page from an issue of Flaming Carrot Comics I had, full of phrases such as “a dreadnought of chicanery,” which was to say: “Now I understand why you talk like that.”

(8) But Alyssa is not here just for the sake of art: She’s taking the editor job at ACSH that I left almost exactly one year ago (there were a couple interim occupants since then), so she’s also serving science.  (I was at Fox most of the time since then but am now working on a couple ghostwriting projects – I can say no more.)

(9) Another cool science/writing combo is the series in Brooklyn called Story Collider, which gathers again in two days, featuring my friend Michele Carlo this time, among other monologuists talking about how science has affected their lives, a noble topic (I’ll be in the audience). 

(10) And speaking of literature, here’s a very funny lesson in how not to respond if you are a writer and receive public criticism (I should really send a gift to the highly literate person who pointed out this link to me).

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Atlas Shrugged vs. Smallville

Most of my last eighteen tweets were about the Atlas Shrugged movie and Randian supermen, and when I was lamenting in the penultimate one that the movie might have been more fun if some dope like Zack Snyder did it, it didn’t even cross my mind that we will get to see Snyder depict supermen of a different sort next year, in the movie Superman: The Man of Steel. 

Isn’t it an amazing and historic triumph of bourgeois American pop culture that the superman who matters the most, to the most people, nowadays is Clark Kent rather than the original amoral Nietzschean superman, George Bernard Shaw’s left-eugenicist superman, the Nazi fascist-eugenicist supermen, or the anti-altruistic Randian supermen (much as I admire the last kind’s regard for property rights – but then, altruistic Clark Kent spends a lot of time stopping theft and assault, too, when not taking orders from FDR). 

Despite the occasional pacifist ignoramus thinking that the ethos of Clark Kent is “might makes right” (what a truly grotesque misinterpretation of his profound decency – and usually from people who think they’re too sophisticated to read comics), I will feel morally sound next month taking more joy (most likely) in watching the two-hour finale (May 13 at 8pm) of Smallville’s ten-season run than I did in the Atlas movie yesterday, or for that matter the play Man and Superman.  (Nietzsche, of course, remains an important guilty pleasure.)

P.S. Darkseid and the Anti-Matter Universe’s Lionel Luthor appear to be planning to resurrect Lex Luthor.  In any case, the finale will likely be more tension-filled than this CollegeHumor short from a couple years back about why Batman would seem lame if he really co-existed with Superman.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Fans Worry About the Film Version...of Green Lantern

That’s right.  In much the same way we libertarians have been worrying about whether the Atlas Shrugged movie(s?) is (will be?) any good, we comics/sci-fi nerds have been worrying about June’s Green Lantern movie. 

The comic is about an impressive intergalactic police force from thousands of planets that keeps the peace throughout space and has existed for billions of years.  Yet the early trailers made Earth’s Green Lantern, Hal Jordan (played by Ryan Reynolds), look a bit goofy, and the special effects were a bit cheesy, and only this very month did they get around to casting Geoffrey Rush and that gigantic guy from Green Mile, Michael Clarke Duncan, as the voice actors for a couple of the computer-animated Green Lantern Corps members.

That may not be unusual but is still a little worrying given that the film is out in two months.  (Of course, by living in fear of how the film will turn out, we risk empowering the fear-demon Parallax, so best not to think about it.)  Perhaps I’ll audition for a role in a few weeks, if they’re still putting the finishing touches on it.  (I would enjoy playing Krona, the villain around whom I built one of the stories I wrote for DC Comics – in JLA Showcase #1, for real.) 

Michael Clarke Duncan is voicing a big bruiser of an alien named Kilowog, which unfortunately sounds as if it means “possessing the power of a thousand swarthy people” but does not.  Kilowog has the strange honor of being voiced by two interesting actors this summer, the other being punk rocker and comics fan Henry Rollins, who is also large (in the DVD cartoon Green Lantern: Emerald Knights, out ten days before the live-action film).  George Tabb, a punk rocker in his own right (with the band Furious George) and a NYPress columnist back in the day, once likened a snapping turtle’s neck to that of Rollins in order to explain how impressive the snapping turtle was. 

Well, the Corps has 3,600 (or more recently 7,200) members, so at least some of them are bound to be cool, right?  And with that many power rings floating around the universe, there’s a decent chance that the next Green Lantern...will be you.

(In the meantime, remember: from about 6:20pm to 7:06pm, catch my post-Atlas tweets direct from Metro North – bound from Midtown Manhattan to the Foundation for Economic Education – reacting to Atlas Shrugged, if all goes as planned.)

Friday, April 15, 2011

Ten “Atlas Shrugged” Movie Thoughts

1.  The Atlas Shrugged movie’s out today (actually, Atlas Shrugged: Part 1, of a planned trilogy, and I’ll see it tomorrow at 4pm at AMC Empire 25 – and tweet about it right afterwards; all are welcome).  More than one person has asked me the heartbreaking question “Is Angelina Jolie in that?”  No, she is not.  Almost no one is. 

The rights had been bouncing around on a short-term basis between various producers for years, without all the necessary pieces quite coming together at the same time (star availability, money in place, etc.), until finally one rights-holding producer (an actual libertarian), faced with the prospect of the rights lapsing, finally said, screw it, I'm making the movie, and he scraped together a paltry $10 million or so (you and I should have chipped in) and a cast of unknowns and near-unknowns, with lead Dagny played by Taylor Schilling from a short-lived nurse drama on TV called Mercy, and started shooting.

The scriptwriter is a guy who normally writes horror and reviews videogames – and I’m actually hoping all this just keeps them humble and lets authentic bits of Rand dialogue carry the day.

And if it’s crap, they can always remake it in ten years – we’ve been waiting fifty-four as it is, so another decade probably won’t kill anyone, I mean unless civilization collapses.  Nowadays, you only have to wait a few days to remake something anyway.  Witness the all-new Amazing Spider-Man with a teenage Peter Parker and no Toby Maguire coming out next year – not to mention the three completely different versions of The Punisher, all lame, that they did over the past twenty-five years or so.  And had Darren Aronofsky not made Black Swan, you know, he was scheduled to remake RoboCop.  That scares me a little too.  (He’d be shooting a Wolverine movie right now had he not bailed recently on the idea of going to Japan for a year.)

2. Because of the centrality of trains to this tale of resisting regulation, there will be inevitable comparisons to The Little Engine That Could and, more interestingly, Thomas the Tank Engine.  Thomas certainly has a pro-work and pro-morality message, but it is far less about individualism than about duty within a sharply proscribed British/talking-train class structure. 

A John Galt the Tank Engine book might be the best tool for fostering fusionism in the young, but then, I have begun to question whether we have time for any (inherently long-term) social-conservative strategies when faced with imminent economic collapse and so favor clear-cut, radical free-market arguments more than ever. 

3. Then again, this video montage of people nearly getting hit by cars and the like is a short, vivid reminder that luck does play a big role in determining one’s station in life.

4. I don’t know whether the film will have much time to devote to Rand’s atheist views, but this Onion piece captures the fundamental stupidity of supernatural claims and the gullibility of those who believe them.  For the first time in my life, I also nowadays operate under the assumption that religious people, even the traditionalists, will tend to have worse morals than secularists. 

5. The comic book writer/artist Steve Ditko (co-creator of the aforementioned Spider-Man) left Marvel decades ago to do Rand-inspired comics and is still doing them.  One of his characters, the Question, became the basis for the deranged vigilante Rorschach in Watchmen.  The Question (with Rorschach-like touches) may soon be written by left-anarchist inclined Grant Morrison, who says he wants to ditch the Rand Objectivism in favor of making the Question an adherent of the philosophy called Spiral Dynamics.  I think that would be a mistake, and DC Comics does not need yet another hero devoted to the idea that states of mind have colors associated with them (more on Green Lantern tomorrow). 

As is often the case, when I first heard of Spiral Dynamics, I imagined

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Captain America’s Foe (plus the economic collapse of America)

A few thoughts inspired by the Nazi villain the Red Skull (played by Hugo Weaving of Lord of the Rings and Matrix fame) from this summer’s Captain America movie:

•That skull-and-octopus symbol on his belt buckle (which looks a bit like a sinister Kochtopus t-shirt that some leftists have been selling) is not a Nazi symbol but rather the emblem of the evil organization Hydra from various Marvel comics.  The Hydra symbol not only hints at the later use of those characters but enables the inevitable Red Skull action figure to be advertised in Germany, I’d imagine, since you can’t display the swastika there. 

•Another strange-looking one-time leader of Hydra, by the way, was an action figure before he became a comic book character, namely Baron Karza of the Micronauts (who was also created prior to Darth Vader, hard as that may be to believe).  There was something wonderful about comics images of an autocrat only inches tall giving orders to the assembled soldiers of Hydra.  The relationship did not last, though.

What the Cap movie really needs is a cameo by the WWII Human Torch.  Eh?  Eh?  Think about it.  Same actor!  Could be some sort of frisson there, right?  It’d probably be a messy legal issue with Fox, though, since Fox has the Fantastic Four film rights.  (More on Marvel’s divided film-contracts empire later in the month.)

•Red Skull looks a bit like Skeletor.  Here’s a nice distillation of just the Skeletor moments from the Masters of the Universe movie so that you don’t have to watch the whole thing.  The movie was apparently a conscious imitation not just of the animated He-Man series but also of the New Gods comics by Jack Kirby – with travel to Earth by de facto Boom Tubes, even!  I am almost tempted to watch it again, since I didn’t pick up on the New Gods parallels the first time around.  But it would still be lame. 

P.S. And for subtler and more realistic villains (really – who else has captured intellectual evasion and crony capitalism as accurately?), watch Atlas Shrugged with me by buying your ticket online now for the Saturday, April 16, 4pm show at AMC Empire 25 (42nd and 8th) and meeting me in the lobby at 3:30.  Then discuss that – or anything else – at the Monday, April 18, 7pm Manhattans Project bar gathering at Langan’s.  (Already planning to attend Saturday is a man whose childhood ambition was to be Skeletor, by the way, but luckily Rand taught him morals.) 

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Future Foundation Not a Bad Foundation for the Future

Maybe I'm just a sucker, but despite comics always cycling back to the original status quo, I’m impressed by Marvel Comics celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the Fantastic Four by killing the Human Torch and canceling the series, then relaunching it as simply FF (for “Future Foundation”) with new members including Spider-Man, new uniforms, a much bigger extended-family-feeling cast of characters, and this snazzy cover to issue #1, which screams “optimism!” in a way that a book about the future should – and that hasn’t been dominant in comics (or culture generally), what with all the dystopias and so forth, for some time. 

I think the kids and the parrots (unusually upbeat for modern superhero comics) are a crucial touch.  It really does almost make me feel as if change and hope are possible, and not for political reasons.  (Oddly enough, one of the numerous alternate covers that Marvel released for the issue is one of the worst I have ever seen on any comic book, so thank goodness modernity comes with options.)

Of course, despite all the changes, Doctor Doom will probably be trapping the heroes in the Negative Zone or whatever in the usual fashion within three months, and I’m sure the Human Torch will spring back to life sooner or later, but perhaps the new, expansive tone that writer Jonathan Hickman appears to be aiming for will last.  That would be a fitting next step in the FF’s half-century evolution.

(In the real world as in the comics, technology can be a double-edged sword, as a naked man using an AK-47 to attack a SWAT robot learned last week.) 

Like many people, including some who work for DC Comics, I preferred Marvel when I was young, in large part because Marvel did a better job of making it seem as though change was possible.  No one ever believed that Superman would die and stay dead, but a second-tier X-Men member might.  Change at DC, alas, tends to be seismic – and temporary – rather than convincing, gradual, and organic.  This summer, for instance, they’re transforming the universe via time shenanigans again (not only am I not collecting the stuff anymore, I plan not to learn second-hand what happens on this one – on a personal level, that’s progress). 

And I’m probably not the only person who thinks, with a delight that underscores broader problems, that the most intriguing part of the advertised (temporary!) changes to the DC Universe is not that Wonder Woman will be a warrior queen or that Batman becomes a casino-owning degenerate but that there will suddenly be a bouncing insectoid hero – with his own book – called the Canterbury Cricket, who seems to have no precedent in the DC Universe we already know (you can scroll down to, and enlarge, the cover of his comic among the ones shown here).  Change is possible, but sometimes it happens in small, strange packages, in England.  

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Rango vs. Aquaman vs. Dick Van Dyke vs. the Higgs Boson

I can’t be certain which hero movies this year (from this month’s Atlas Shrugged to November’s Immortals) will be good, but one courageous reptilian gunslinger has already brought me joy: Rango, the computer-animated chameleon learning to be a classic-Western cowboy in a town of talking animals.

I’m pleased, too, that it was reason for my second stop at the Alamo Drafthouse (South Lamar) during my recent Austin, TX visit (any movie theatre that serves alcohol at your seat during the movie can’t be all bad).  A cool place – in a big, dry, hot state, a fitting site to watch a funny movie about water rights. 


My main reason for being down in Austin, of course, was to attend the wedding of L.B. Deyo and Ellie Hanlon – and in the process I got to see L.B. perform in no less than three bands (the rapping Brothers Cup, the melancholy alt-country Catfish Hunters, and the, uh, punk-metal-something Chachi Face).  I was also pleasantly surprised to get an earful from Ellie’s awesome dad about why Edmund Burke might have objected to my anarcho-capitalist Dionysium speech at the same Drafthouse earlier in the trip.  But I sympathize with him – and with his lovely, left-anarchist-inclined daughter Claire, to boot.  A fine family all around.

I will not soon forget Texas.  I have returned armed not only with a dollar-sign belt buckle to wear to the Atlas Shrugged movie this weekend but with the welcome news that my conservative pal Hannah Meyers is performing a comedy-musical “Gigo Grande” (as she happens to put it) tomorrow at 8 at Banjo Jim’s, right here in Manhattan – and Janet Harvey, now normally found in Austin, is in town mere days after I saw her in Austin.  She wrote a Batgirl story, you know (before designing videogames).  And on Drudge, I see Texas is considering raising its speed limit to 85 mph.  Ah, Texas.

I am also reminded, by Jacob Levy, that the hellfire clubs that helped inspire Austin’s Dionysium events were not only a real historical phenomenon but, as noted in a caption in the (boring) slideshow accompanying this (interesting) article, were succeeded in more staid Victorian times by, yes, the Athenaeum, which is indeed what the Dionysium’s sister salon here in NYC was called until succeeded by the (now-ended) Debates at Lolita Bar.  It’s all connected.


In moister heroic news, Aquaman is apparently poised to return to his own ongoing comic book after the ensemble series Brightest Day ends in two weeks.  In the latter series (BIG SPOILERS AHEAD),

Monday, April 11, 2011

Schwarzenegger, Ventura, and the Land of Pawlenty

Arnold Schwarzenegger’s first major post-governor plan really is starring as/voicing himself in the superhero cartoon The Governator.

Speaking of somewhat market-friendly governors, in a saner world, Pawlenty might be a hotter prospect, but the recent gubernatorial news from Minnesota – the land of Pawlenty! – that most amuses me is Jesse Ventura (Arnold’s Predator co-star) saying that (A) he would never vote for fellow Minnesotan Michele Bachmann but (B) he would happily be Ron Paul’s VP running mate – if Paul left the GOP.  Ventura makes sense sometimes. 

Given Ventura’s fondness for conspiracy theories, though, here’s my suggestion for a Minnesota-themed Ventura campaign slogan: “We can put a comedian in the Senate, but how can we be sure they really put a man on the moon?”

I should say I don’t know if he has actual moon-doubts – but he most certainly has 9/11-doubts.  When he began talking about them at a Ron Paul event back circa 2008, host Tucker Carlson literally bailed on the event on the spot, fleeing to avoid being associated with the claims.  Rude, perhaps, but I can’t say I blame him.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

An Anti-Economic Forecast for Creative Types

Franklin Harris pointed out the amusing work of cartoonist Kate Beaton, proving comics can cover brainy topics such as classical composers. 

Still, that doesn’t mean comics are often lucrative, and that leads me to a disturbing thought (at least for us writer-editor types):

As the number of people with cushy-enough lives to permit indulgence in writerly and other artistic endeavors increases (occasional financial collapses notwithstanding), there's no real economic reason we couldn’t someday (perhaps soon) reach the point where, say, the average blogger or comics creator (the average one, mind you, not a super-popular one) who wants his stuff to be seen, and is motivated by that desire even if he sees little chance for profit, actually has to pay the reader in order to be read.  I mean, wouldn’t you give preferential treatment in your websurfing to sites that paid you to read them?

See, and you thought information merely “wanting to be free” was already kinda scary for us media types.  Maybe I should learn arc-welding, just in case (or, as one publishing-industry friend suggests, set up a system like the one described above – for which the enforcement mechanism would have to be occasional subsequent pop quizzes on what you’d read, I suppose, with all prior payments void if you flunked). 

Saturday, April 9, 2011

L.B. Deyo, Ellie Hanlon, and Tom Lehrer

In this “Month of Heroes,” I just want to note that not only is today the wedding of L.B. Deyo and Ellie Hanlon, it is the eighty-third birthday of the Tom Lehrer, who is still alive but, needless to say, in all probability has suffered some loss of mobility and virility.  Congrats to all.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Charlie Sheen, Peter Murphy, and the Book of Mormon: Smell the Lamb

•As if my appearance at the hellfire club-like Dionysium in Austin two days ago weren’t epic enough, tonight – while I’m still safely away in Texas – Manhattan is scheduled to be visited by Charlie Sheen’s tour, My Violent Torpedo of Truth.  (Next stop, fears Ali Kokmen, Dr. Drew’s Celebrity Rehab.)

•Speaking of odd showmen, last weekend I saw (vegan, Muslim-convert, Turkey-dwelling, goth, and Elric of Melnibone lookalike) Peter Murphy in concert yet again, and – after a gothy stop at Shade Bar, where I was not the only person from the Murphy concert, it turned out – I finally found his song “Cuts You Up” on a karaoke playlist, completing a years-long quest.  The performance went well and proved it’s the song I was born to karaokeize, to my great relief, complete with congratulatory high-fives from the males and extra female eye contact.  This is as it should be.

•I don’t know if Murphy gets grief over being a Muslim (sometimes people bend over backwards not to criticize Muslims, even when they kill people, as my friend Mollie Ziegler Hemingway notes here), but they certainly spend a lot of time mocking Mormons (why not every other sect with equal contempt, is my atheist attitude?), so I was cautious about embracing the Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s Book of Mormon comedy musical (which I saw with a Christian Science adherent, come to think of it – and I could do a comedy about that). 

In the end, though, I think it was actually too tame (someone told me, with worry, that Mormon tourists aren’t even offended by it).  There were brief tableaux of the core Mormon stories, but most of it (much like the film Orgazmo before it) just used the religious naifs for a fish-out-of-water story (missionaries in Uganda) that could have been told using almost any faith. 

The actual Book of Mormon, come to think of it, has something in common with They Live, a movie I talked about in my blog entry two days ago: magic glasses that reveal the true meaning of texts.

•Another fish-out-of-water story could be told about one of my favorite vegan acquaintances, who is not here in Austin, where she used to live, surrounded by BBQ.  Surrounded.  I wonder how many times Peter Murphy has said in Turkish, “No lamb for me, thanks.”  Actually, if he were feeling contrarian, a gothy song called “Eat the Lamb” could be nicely menacing.  Perhaps “Smell the Lamb.”  Ah, now there’s a 1991-ish song idea I can bat around with my Brown peeps at next month’s reunion.  

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Super-Hero Movies of Summer 2011

Usually one totes up the number of franchises spewing out nerd films in a given summer and, if that number is high, hopes a couple will actually be OK.  Summer 2011 is different. 

Four iconic superhero films will come out, along with at least four other nerd-pleasing films, which may not sound like an extraordinary number – but this time there are actually very good directors attached to each, and we can reasonably hope that many of these will be good films, not just by-the-numbers nerd-pleasers:

Thor from Kenneth Branagh (May 6) – perfect choice for the pseudo-Shakespearean dialogue!

X-Men: First Class from Matthew Vaughn (June 3), who did the excellent and school-oriented Kick-Ass a year ago.  The retro move of having this one take place in the 60s is interesting – between this, the main X-Men trilogy (set in the 00s), Wolverine (who was presumably in the 90s in his solo film), and talk of more present-day (i.e., 10s) X-movies to come, it’s hard to say what year the big screen X-franchise is primarily based in these days – which is sort of expansive and cool (and Magneto’s roots lie in WWII, of course).  It’s nice they set this one in the decade the Civil Rights Movement and the original comics took place, since they could have set it almost any arbitrary number of years earlier and still had themselves a prequel.

Green Lantern from the director of Casino Royale (June 17).  Fingers crossed, wearing power rings.  I’m looking forward to it even though I have actually sparred online with the scriptwriter, Mark Guggenheim, who used anti-vaccine conspiracy theories as the basis of a TV lawyer drama he wrote – and then was rather disingenuous about saying he wasn’t trying to boost sympathy for such theories (which could well lead to deaths among unvaccinated children).  Believing conspiracy theories merely strengthens the fear-powered demon Parallax.

•We also get Transformers 3 (July 1) and the final Harry Potter film (7B) on July 15, both in IMAX and at least partly in 3D, I think, for those keeping track.  Why resist after making it this far?

Captain America: The First Avenger from Joe Johnston, the director of Rocketeer, Jurassic Park 3, and more (July 22).  Johnston also did Honey, I Shrunk the Kids – and if Marvel continues having trouble getting their one other planned Avengers character, Ant Man, off the ground (using the Shaun of the Dead team, last I heard), maybe they should consider Johnston.  I just hope one of these Avengers movies has a fight on the immense flying SHIELD Helicarrier (with Samuel L. Jackson – and maybe Ultron, the evil robot).

•Speaking of the Avengers, Iron Man director Jon Favreau brings us Cowboys and Aliens (July 29), and that makes me think it’s time someone paid me to write a remake of the 60s movie The Valley of Gwangi, which has the can’t-fail premise cowboys vs. dinosaurs.  I should be able to write that in like, an afternoon, if the studio really thinks it even needs a script. 

•And speaking of remakes, Conquest of the Planet of the Apes gets one, to round out the summer, in the form of Rise of the Apes (August 5), without all the time travel back story (and no mention of Charlton Heston or Tim Burton), just the present-day ape rebellion (and some sort of biotech explanation), so get ready to watch that with the special animal welfare activist in your life – unless, of course, the activist learns to say “No.”