Archive for the ‘the Nerdery’ Category

Guerillas Book 1 by Brahm Revel

Posted by ron On March - 27 - 2011


Undeniably almost every Vietnam movie or story ever made seems to continuously subscribe to a nihilist rite of passage for American soldiers who go from boys to men in one tour of duty. Hopefully Hollywood can uncover this gold mine of originality that is very accessible to new and old readers of comic books.

Brahm Revel’s Guerillas began conventionally as a cliche’ band of brothers but quickly made an unconventional plot twist that invoked cinema based themes in Platoon and the Island of Doctor Moreau. Disillusioned John Francis Clayton, the book’s main protagonist, was drafted into a war that he quickly wanted no part in. War may not be fit for man but beast as Clayton was saved by trained guerillas gone rogue. Clayton discovered his new found Ape platoon to be more humane than the one he lost in a fire fight. It seemed clear that animals are far more proficient killers and Mr. Revel didn’t hesitate in how men and ape aren’t inherently evil but both are trained as killers. As the story progressed their advantageous ability to nurture shined through the chaos and killing. Perhaps Mr. Revel was trying to say we could learn a lot about the way animals behave and maybe their code of acceptance isn’t defined by race or species but naivety.

As a story board artist for the Venture Brothers, Mr. Revel’s visual language never failed to be clear and effective in pushing the story forward even when dialogue was absent. Much like the Venture Brothers he balanced the darker violent components with equally lighter moments such as using a soldier man’s love for cigarettes to cleverly articulate monkey see, monkey do humor.

Guerillas is a book about survival, coming of age, and most importantly acceptance. We all want to be on the same side but for whatever reason, we can’t accept each other for who we are. If animals can live with man, why can’t we accept each other? Perhaps human beings suffer from a rare gene that animals have. It’s called common sense.

If I had to rate Guerillas, I’d give it a refreshing after work beer that is familiar and yet something to look forward to. Cheers.

Durarara

Posted by sean On March - 9 - 2011

Anime has garnered a huge following in the West since the first shows were brought over in the Sixties, beginning with Astro Boy and Speed Racer.  Fifty years later, anime shows are still being brought over and translated for American audiences, the newest of which is Durarara, based on a light novel/manga series.  Revolving around a multitude of colorful characters, from simple high school students to mythological beings, Durarara tries to weave dozens of arcs to create an entertaining story but gets tangled up along the way.

 

Durarara is eerily similar to ABC’s Lost through its sense of mystery, its journey into the supernatural, but most of all, its narrative structure.  Made up of character-focused episodes, Durarara takes place in Ikebukuro, Tokyo as freshman Mikado Ryūgamine transfers to a local school at the invitation of his old friend, Kida Masaomi.  In the first episode, Kida gives Mikado a grand tour of the city, telling him about the gangs and the who’s-who of area, along with the urban legend of a headless biker, the Black Rider.  From there, the lives of over a dozen characters intertwine due to a series of attacks on city citizens connected to corrupt companies, secret gangs, and ancient myths.

 

It takes the first five or six episodes to do what the pilot should’ve done in introducing this world.  By attempting to flesh out each character in their own episode(s), the story gets spread so thin that you will finish a third of the series before you get a firm grasp on one of the main plots.  Luckily, with the show running at only twenty-four episodes, the plotlines get less drawn out from there, but that circles back to the problem of too many characters.  Some who are given too much screen time suddenly become irrelevant and disappear without tying up all of their loose ends.  At the same time, characters you want to see more often, like the violent bartender Shizuo or Russian sushi-chef Simon, are given a scene here or there without any further exposure of their back-story.

 

On the upside, Durarara juggles the drama and humor very well once it gets the ball rolling.  The different plotlines stem from reality-based problems such as gangs and teenage love while splicing in supernatural forces from Japanese and Celtic mythology, and like any youth-based story, there are plenty of laughs and light-hearted moments.  These are nice touches that never seem overbearing to the series as the story, deep down, is about the characters and their progression through a less-than-ordinary life.  As for the animation, it’s slick and vibrant in its use of colors.  It may not be like Akira or other anime where every crack or shadow is detailed to convey a sense of realism, but the artwork is stunning to look at most of the time and captures the feel of the city and its inhabitants.

 

Durarara drags at first, but then it sprints at the end, leaving behind the feeling that maybe one day the series will wrap up the story arcs it left open.  Minus the setbacks, it is a quick, cold beer for being a show that anime fans can enjoy without the worry being disappointed after several years of commitment.

 

Part 1 is now on DVD and Part 2 will be released on March 29, followed by Part 3 on May 31.

-Sean

Scott Pilgrim Vs the World

Posted by ron On August - 16 - 2010


More than just an exercise in T-shirt culture, Scott Pilgrim might be in over his head if he can’t find a way to defeat all of Ramona’s evil Ex-lovers.

Whether or not you are a gamer, every one can relate to love as a game. Scott Pilgrim vs the world was the 7th level of a no holds barred fight to the finish for the girl you love. Director Edgar Wright took the best elements of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s 6 book series by emphasizing the video game spoofs and clever visual language. For all intents and purposes, the adaptation worked on the cinematic stage.

In a similar set up to Shaun of the Dead, the main protagonist was a slacker, content to simply exist in his small fish bowl world until a crisis threatened to take away the one thing he desperately loved more than garlic bread. Not much of a stretch for Michael Cera to play a self absorbed amoral puppy who often took the path of least resistance when it came to his prior relationships. Cera’s comedic limitations were identified in the scene where his character was so desperate to get dumped, he resorted to racial insults. Without the right comedic timing, the delivery felt awkward. Pilgrim’s love interest played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead captured Ramona Flowers’ reserved, mysterious beauty with poker faced emotionally withdrawn expressions. Is she concealing her emotions for Scott or is she emotionally immune to his charms? The ambiguous nature of her character was necessary to convince us that a reckless young man’s pursuit to capture what was deemed unattainable seemed logical and convincing between two young people.

The more enjoyable super hero movies are attributed to great acting performances by the villains. Have no fear, the performances delivered by each evil ex exhibited their best characteristics and most fun in the film. Balancing the theatrical dialogue with the physical demands, each fight scene was brilliantly choreographed and executed. Even if the viewers didn’t catch all the homages to specific old school video games, they certainly enjoyed the vibrant colors, stunts, and camerawork.

In my never ending homage to George Thorogood’s One bourbon, one scotch, one beer I am giving Scott Pilgrim vs. the World a rating of a great tasting bourbon that provided good times, action, adventure, and a righteous score for the good guys.

Cheers,
Ron

Scott Pilgrim the Fan-ga

Posted by ron On August - 8 - 2010


With its 6th book, the fanatical series Scott Pilgrim has concluded a whimsical love story blended together by creator Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Manga influences and nostalgia for 8 bit video games. The story began in Canada where Scott Pilgrim, a fun loving mid 20s Garageband musician is infatuated with the new girl from New York, Ramona Flowers.

Love is as much a mental game as it is an emotional one. In order to win Ramona’s heart, Scott must metaphorically engage Ramona’s previous 7 relationship mental road blocks in the form of single player 8 bit arcade style bosses. With victories over each successive ex-lover, Scott traveled deeper into Ramona’s emotional subconscious and uncovered her personal fears about commitment. At the same time, Scott inadvertently examined his own mistakes in prior relationships. The women in Scott’s life appeared like the ghosts from Christmas past wearing chain wallets and hoodies to forewarn him about repeating his mistakes. Did Scott learn from them in order to gain greater understanding of the present as he battled to save his relationship with Ramona before her insecurities destroyed their chance at true love? You’ll just have to find out for yourself.

Alas fear not, the great Canadian tragedy hasn’t been written yet because there was no mention of the Toronto Maple Leafs in this series.

This story was not so much a coming of age lesson as it was a romantic tell tale regarding the maturation of the male ego. As it turned out, Scott was guilty of a few dick moves. It was as much a story about the quest for love as it was about young men having dealt with the damaged goods created by other men who never stop stroking their ego.

The clever use of old school 8 bit video games definitely added kich humor to the subject matter. However the liberal use of seizure inducing over dramatic Manga style interrupted the flow of the story at times. Still a minor quibble to an otherwise fun creative formula to a complex story.

At a rate of one book per year, Bryan Lee O’Malley must be one of the deepest contemplative thinkers in the comic book industry or has a killer return from his publisher. Whichever the case, Scott Pilgrim is worth checking out as a fun alternative read to over serious mainstream comic books.

A few brief words regarding all 6 books:
Book 1: Sets the tone of the kich whimsical world of Scott Pilgrim.
Book 2: The humor and fun is amped up with winks to the reader.
Book 3: The ADD style can get a little tedious or seizure inducing if you aren’t a fan of this style.
Book 4: The transition point where not all is well in Scott and Ramona’s world as much like people fall in love, they can easily fall out of love just as quick.
Book 5: Arguably the best book in the series as Ramona’s life leading into her arrival into Scott’s life is explored.
Book 6: Little distracting with the Inception-esque components but the bittersweet ex-girlfriend from Scott is really the defining moment prior to the final act.

Zombies invade your TV

Posted by ron On August - 5 - 2010

AMC is the latest to venture into the popularity of comic book adaptations with the Walking Dead. This post apocalyptic world created by writer Robert Kirkman chronicled a Georgia policeman awoken from a coma, only to face a world populated by moving corpses hungry for living flesh. The title itself was a reference to the uncertain future of the remaining survivors who may lose their sanity before their number is up. One wonders about the TV ratings for such a bleak existence. It’s a safe bet that the first couple seasons will be atop the ratings chart. However, the zombie craze hasn’t been known to have a long life span. How will television succeed where cinema has failed in sustaining a serious zombie horror story?


Garfield may not look like Rick Grimes but if he can channel him, the Walking Dead will do justice to its fans.

Zombies pose a unique challenge. They don’t exhibit much personality. Watching only lifeless corpses roam around aimlessly would test even the most enthusiastic nature channel lover. Therefore, the story doesn’t sell without compelling characters. All eyes will be on Love Actually’s Andrew Lincoln to deliver the goods as Rick Grimes. Lincoln is the only actor cast that has very little resemblance to his comic book character. One can only assume his tryout was so impressive that comic book creator Robert Kirkman and director Frank Darabont were willing to disregard the aesthetic differences. Hopefully, Lincoln learned not to use the same cliche’ Southern twang that most U.K. actors use like a crutch in their dialogue. Modern American audiences are well traveled enough to realize these characters are in the South without reminding them in every single sentence of dialogue. Otherwise such a grievous error ceases to become pertinent to the character and more of a characteristic to a dated stereotype.


Survival of the Dead’s box office returns were more frightening than the actual movie. Not even Romero’s die hard fans came out to embrace this chapter of his never ending zombie saga.

Zombies are not an easy subject to keep the audience’s interest. Just ask the legendary George Romero. Twenty years after Day of the Dead (1985), Romero tried a comeback with diminishing returns. Different directors have tried to switch the formula up with some success. Zombie satires seem to be en vogue. However, no one has touched the idea of a TV series till now.


With Shaun of the Dead, Scott Pilgrim’s director Edgar Wright had greater success breaking the box office ice with a hysterical satire on the zombies.


Ruben Fleischer followed with Zombieland. Will zombies ever be taken seriously again?

Frank Darabont was challenged with adapting this monthly title into a weekly TV series. Darabont has the resume to make even the most hardened zombie cynic hopeful. He directed several adaptations of Stephen King’s works such as the Woman in the Room, the Shawshank Redemption, the Green Mile, and the Mist. If there’s one thing Darabont can capture, it’s desperation. It will be a recurring theme on a show where the elevator of emotions only leads to the basement. If the TV series is loyal to its source material, there will be no stylized acts of zombie killing. It’s really a drama about human beings clinging to what shreds of humanity that they have left. Survival and morality will be the two muses tormenting them at every step. With both Kirkman and Darabont overseeing the project, I recommend the Walking Dead for your viewing pleasure in a dark world. The Walking Dead debuts on AMC in the Fall.

Iron Man 2

Posted by admin On July - 30 - 2010

Tony Stark is running out of options as the troubles in his life close in from every direction.

When Tony Stark’s reach overextends his grasp, he finds himself unable to keep up with the problems of the world. Tony might have the smarts to bring about world peace but not if he can’t deal with problems of his own. Iron man 2 is a case of a super hero celebrity desperately trying to do the right thing but burning himself out in the process and threatening to undo every thing he worked so hard for in order to make the world a better place. This sequel picks up where the first film left off. Iron Man is the top watch dog of the world and all eyes are on Tony. If every faction wasn’t trying to discredit him, his rivals were desperately trying to steal the Iron Man technology for their own purposes. Director Jon Favreau cleverly blended in several of the comic book story arcs: armor wars, demon in a bottle, murder in monaco, and war machine with the Senate hearings involving the legendary Howard Hughes who was the real life inspiration for Tony Stark.
What ends up happening as a result is what every normal human being deals with when they are pushed beyond their limitations, it’s a self destructive process.

Favreau who wrote Swingers understands comic book movies can explore serious subject matter without forgetting to bring the fun, imagination, and uplifting element of redemption. It’s at this point, Tony Stark realized while Iron Man may be invincible, he isn’t. The movie was very clear in depicting that a man-child like Stark needed his friends to nurse maid/stand up to him/hold him up in order to do the right thing. This redemptive moment was where The movie best modeled itself after the comic book. Tony Stark isn’t your typical super hero. He’s an insufferable arrogant bastard with the best of intentions. The unique charisma of Robert Downey Jr emboldens the character to convince us why people would risk their lives for him. Fortunately, the supporting cast has the necessary talent to do just that.

I still believe the forced Avengers/SHIELD nonsense does more to take me out of the film, than serve as some kind of transition point for every act of the film. I am still not convinced Favreau knew how to choreograph a fight scene. He could have used some of the cool armor functions from the comic book such as the chameleon effect, EMP, particle shield, and pulse bolts when Tony upgraded his armor. Still the flaws are a minor quibble. This film was easily the most enjoyable, balanced blockbuster that i enjoyed this summer.

In a homage to George Thorogood’s legendary song, one bourbon, one scotch, one beer….I gotta give this film at least a smooth shot of a 12 year old scotch.

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