NYCC 2011: Retrospect Part 2

Posted by admin On August - 12 - 2012ADD COMMENTS

Ringmasters: Like intimidating structures from George R.R. Martin novel, video game set ups surrounded and suffocated the comic book booths.

NYCC 2011 Retrospective Part 2: The New Kingdom. Video games are the current narrative to story-telling. Can comic books capitalize on their popularity in order to proliferate the industry to a new generation? 

by Ronald H. Pollock

Are video games the new comic books? Like massive constructs from Lord of the Rings, the booth set ups for Mass Effect, Max Payne, Uncharted, and Star Wars towered over the comic book booths to the point where entering the grounds of NYCC looked more like E3. Video games are not necessarily a bad thing for the comic book industry. In many ways, they are playing an important role in sustaining and a key component in proliferating the comic book industry.

 

The constant feed of media has changed the medium from newspapers, books, magazines to tablets, smart phones, and lap tops that weigh less than 5 lbs. The next potential generation of comic book fans are more comfortable with swiping, tapping, and other multi-digit interactivity. They are used to a constant feed of new information. Video games offer a more personalized format of story-telling in a more motion oriented 3-D format.

 

Whiz kids: Media is the new tool of story telling that allows a sophisticated “choose your own adventure” something that comic books do not allow the reader control over.

Video games are already the future of comics. The success of Arkham City proves that an entire graphic novel can be faithfully adapted unlike over marketed movie adaptations and TV budget roadblocks. Green Lantern is a prime example of a property that was unsuccessful adapting on the big screen due to the complexity of its story but on a video game format, the entire Sinestro Corps war can be adapted with greater control over GL’s universe.

 

Video games have taken the best aspects of comic books and learned how to make their stories epic. God of War borrows a lot of its action and epic nature that would easily be the inspiration for Walt Simonson’s Thor or the new 52 Wonder Woman game. Max Payne definitely would be a template for a Punisher MAX game. There’s so much possibility because video games unlike movies or TV shows don’t have so many chefs in the kitchen to where a new reader can go from video game to the comic book without losing a page of story.

NYCC 2011: Retrospective

Posted by admin On August - 12 - 2012ADD COMMENTS

Rock Stars: Annual Walking Dead panel continues to grow at NYCC but no longer the sole headliner as the Avengers and a rash of video games previewed have transformed the largest purist con into a state fair of geek buffet.

NYCC 2011 Retrospective Part 1: Times are a Changing by Ronald H. Pollock

Every morning at 0715 at Midtown comics, I stand with 4 middle aged men of various successful professions discuss comics. We don’t know anything of each other. We only discuss comics. It’s our unwritten rule. The days of purists are over as “Comic Cons” have become less and less about comics and more of a modern state fair. It’s a reflection of the times, geeks are hybrids of hobbies. Is it better direction? Perhaps for the survival of Comic Con it is but every movement has consequences.

Are video games the key to adapting comic book arcs for purists? If Batman Arkham Asylum series is any indication, it’s the key to the introduction and survival of American story-telling for a new generation.

As NYCC grows and grows, 2011 Comic Convention noticeably shifted more towards media entertainment. The massive billboards, banners, and sets for the franchises of Mass Effect, Max Payne, Uncharted, and Star Wars respectively overshadowed the comic book industry on the main floor like the Towers from Lord of the Rings. Indicative of the times changing. What are Comic Cons today and what does that mean for fans new and old? Is it all bad for the comic book industry or is there something mutually beneficial?

There is No School like the Old School:

The comic book equivalent of Detroit’s Big Three in the American Auto Industry, Marvel and DC resumed their annual dominance, jockeying for position during their expose’ panels. For the 2nd year in row, DC acknowledged and addressed their solution to problems in an industry that has noticeable age lines and receding hair. Fortunately nerds and geeks have maintained their affinity for the elderly who still have stories to tell.

Double Dragons: Jim Lee (left) & Geoff Johns (right) architects of the DCU relaunch new 52 that once again, one upped Marvel comics in creating buzz, controversy, and dissension amongst fans.

In 2010 at NYCC DC addressed rising cost of comic books and launched their “hold the line” campaign. At the cost of 2 pages of pay per issue, all DC titles were kept to $2.99 in an effort to increase or maintain # of units sold. To build on top of “Hold the Line” DC followed up in 2012 with new 52 relaunch. Citing problems with new readers finding it extremely hard to afford a library of knowledge built on stories harkening back to their grandfather, the new 52 relaunch was a call to shorter arcs, less dialogue driven and more artist oriented visual language, and new entry way points with a tweaked characterization that a new facet could be constructed. Most importantly the new 52 gave comic shops the option of refunding certain titles if their sales dipped below a set market value. Unfortunately I found roughly 12 of initial 52 titles to be new reader friendly: Action Comics, Aquaman, Animal Man, Batman, Batman & Robin, The Flash, Green Lantern, Justice League Dark, I Vampire, OMAC, Swamp Thing, and Wonder Woman. Many of the titles suffered from opaque writing styles that either tried too hard to reinvent the wheel or were just plain ugly. Regardless overall sentiment from the fans was positive. While such a bold move, won’t stop collectors from hording free copies like pigs at a trough when the floor opens in the morning each day at Comic Con, I appreciated that DC recognized the elephant in the room.

On the other hand, like a MAC Expo Marvel continued to push forward their new products without blinking or bowing to negativity. They accentuated on the positives, most notably the success of Marvel Studios, the fresh take on a biracial Spider-man and its implications on the industry, and its next releases without any concern over their rising cost or books and products. The excess seemed clear to me, Marvel believed kids have no less disposable income than before. I couldn’t disagree with their methods. Marvel’s business model “Give the fans whatever they want, they’ll spend their money” hasn’t shown to be faulty by their sales records. If Venom or the Scarlet Spider sells 5 times more than secondary character driven titles, why would any businessman deny an addict their methadone in print? The only consequence being, older fans like myself who have collected comics over 30 years felt a little alienated by all the sudden, whimsical changes for the sake of movies that have no consideration for continuity. Their methodology was abrasive but poignant. Counting down to NYCC 2012, once again Marvel boldly shakes up the team rosters of both Avengers and X-men titles. Will this rude shake up detract collectors or their loyalty? Don’t count on it.

What me worry? Quietly, Robert Kirkman and Image comics continues to be the most progressive comic book company in the business, proving the business model you don’t have to draw the largest % of the market but the most loyal.

Lost in the shuffle for who can over saturate the market with Batman and/or Spider-man titles, Image Comics continues to be the most unsung progressive comic book publisher operating today. In 2010 Image comics pushed the envelope with more strong female protagonists in their line of comics. The additions of Hack and Slash and Shinku complimented the heroines in the Walking Dead, Bomb Queen, and Morning Glories. In 2011, Blair Butler crossed the lines of journalism to help promote the freedom of owner driven comics with Heart. The additions of Scott Snyder’s (Batman) Severed, Nick Spencer (Thunder AGENTS) and Kirkman’s (Walking Dead) Thief of Thieves, Johnathan Hickman’s (Fantastic Four) Manhattan Projects and Teeth, and Ed Brubaker’s (Criminal, Captain America) Fatale and upcoming Grant Morrison project will make 2012 Image panel to arguably be the most star studded since the company began more than 20 years ago.

Dark Knight Rises

Posted by admin On August - 12 - 2012ADD COMMENTS

Great Balls of Fire: Christian Bale & Tom Hardy bring their A game to the final act of the Dark Knight trilogy, the Dark Knight Rises

The Dark Knight Rises review by Ronald H. Pollock

The Dark Knight Rises….and Bruce Wayne LIVES!

I absolutely loved this movie and I can’t wait to see it two more times…this time in IMAX (seriously every IMAX showing including 3am and 6am showings all over NYC were sold out till…next Weds)…life in the Big City cuts both ways.

What a BOLD and unprecedented and creative way to complete the journey of Bruce Wayne as Batman. I have to respectfully disagree with what Cyrus said about the first two thirds…breaking down Batman was necessary to re-center this story about Bruce Wayne. We saw this mistake in the previous run of Batman films. Burton’s decent start quickly turned into Rocky serials, catering not to fan boys but gamers who interpret sequels as one up-man ship, ” Next Level! FIGHT!”

Chris Nolan, a director with brass cajones who gets it right. Bring BACK to what made this character iconic by questioning his motivations and finishes the story with conviction. It still gnaws on me…all the Un-necessarily hatred he received. Diatribe “OMG you’re WRONG! You got Catwoman wrong!” just by a bunch set photos taken by amateur photo-journalists not even invited on set.

Get ready for a mudslide diarrhea coming from the mouths of cretins on this site (see activity bar)…

Batman Begins: Reborn by vengeance. Bruce learns how to be the bigger man motivated by the deaths/words of his father. Fueled by the love of his childhood sweetheart.

The Dark Knight: Sacrifice. The Joker’s point about human nature was so terrifying, the death toll so staggering, that every one sacrificed something in order to bury a lie.

The Dark Knight Rises: Rebirth by Hope. When Desmond fails to turn the key and all the suppressed evil and lies comes bubbling forth and drowns Gotham, Bruce finds redemption to his damaged soul that was eating him alive like a cancer.

Christian Bale gets the opportunity to FINALLY flesh Bruce Wayne out like he’s NEVER been fleshed out in the history of the comic book. In the source material, Bruce Wayne is most often an after thought until Frank Miller took over (sorry that’s the facts) and gave him dimension.

Because this isn’t Batman’s story…its Bruce’s story.

Tom Hardy was MENACING…I disagree with Leon. I did NOT want an elaborate hand to hand combat scene. That shit always looks like a dance. Might as well put a rose between Bats’ teeth for the Bat Tango. NO. The second match is epic and SOLD by the PIERCING STARES of two forces colliding…When Bats finally gets to Bane it’s a RELEASE of adrenalin, “YES!!!!” followed by the line Bruce had waited to say, “You have my permission to die now…” And it wasn’t a fight of physicality but a brutal boxing match of spirit.

Anne Hathaway’s Catwoman was similar to Jim Balent’s 90s look but the feel of this character was soooo perfectly fit. This is the part of the movie where I was a little worried. Her dry dark sense of humor molded to a girl who never stopped running. I always imagined her as someone who needed to keep doing jobs because the juice was on.

The most underrated scene (for me): was the one between Joseph Gordon Levitt as “Robin John Blake” and Gary Oldman (Commissioner Gordon) about staying “clean” in the business of maintaining order. I think this scene was the most emotional for me because there are so many times I want to drop my ID and unload my rage on treating prisoners and excons: rapists, killers, pedophiles who have tested me 7.5 hrs every night at work.

What’s a “good cop.” and what is the greater good for citizens? Who has the right to make those decisions? How do you deal with apathy, corruption, etc…Again, VERY emotional for me.

The last 30 minutes was dynamic but…its nothing without Nolan’s themes colliding to give it all meaning. What is the true journey of a hero? It’s defined here. Batman dies…but Bruce Wayne lives. Yes, there is a way out of the well that Bruce fell down. RISE!

I will not live in fear of terrorists and a homicidal gunman in Colorado…been through too much after 9/11. No, I want to beat the living shit out of them after seeing the Dark Knight Rises.

Rating: 10 out of 10 hand jobs.

Amazing Spider-man

Posted by admin On August - 12 - 2012ADD COMMENTS

A Beautiful Mind: Andrew Garfield is Peter Parker, a troubled young genius trying to do right during a difficult time in his life.

In the repetitious competitive theme of superhero orphans, the 2nd most renown has to be Peter Parker but it’s only in the Amazing Spider-man do we have a definitive sense of what kind of stock he came from. Most people on the planet know the story of how Spider-man’s unique talents emerged but few know the story about his parents. Director of 500 Days of Summer Marc Webb explored extensively the psyche of Peter Parker to answer the questions concerning where his inquisitive/instinctive scientific mind was derived from, how his emotional attachment and sarcasm was expressed by his internalized expression of anger. Director Marc Webb gave us insight into the young man behind the mask and Spider-man is an after thought until the last third of the film.

 

Actor Andrew Garfield was the latest actor who wore the Spider-man mask. His Peter Parker was more of a sullen, downtrodden young Travis Bickle until his love interest Gwen Stacy played by Emma Stone channeled the complexity of a Marc Webb script that relied heavily on awkward situations, subtle body language, and timing. Their chemistry in the second act epitomized the strengths of Webb’s talents that being young love.

 

The flaws of the film began to cascade once Garfield suited up in the third act to battle the lizard. The leaping transition from a self centered angst ridden teenager bent on revenge to selfless humanitarian outlaw, risking his life wasn’t as secure a grasp for Webb. The Lizard’s clunky plot didn’t make a lick of sense especially after he left Oscorp to set up an open lab in the NY sewer. Webb tried to flex that super hero/NY urban myth camp in that scene but it came off as tacked on. Peter’s compelling need to be the better man was  implied expression of the infamous “With Great power comes great responsibility” line. What was distilled from the equation was the fun of being Spider-man. The swinging became monotonous. Every scene seemed mandatory to get to the end.

 

By the end, The Amazing Spider-man was an improvement over its Raimi predecessor as a Peter Parker origin not as a Spider-man origin. That will hopefully elicit itself in the second film where we’ll finally find out what the Oscorp minion in the limo was going to tell a dying Norman Osborn.

 

The Amazing Spider-man rates a pint of dark beer that isn’t guzzled but rather nursed along in intervals.

Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter

Posted by admin On August - 12 - 2012ADD COMMENTS

Clear and Present Danger: Before he healed the nation, Abraham Lincoln was an axe wielding sociopath by night that paved his way to law school.

Review coming soon…

Prometheus

Posted by admin On August - 12 - 2012ADD COMMENTS

Scream Queen: Noomi Rapace as Dr. Elizabeth Shaw searches the cosmos for a metaphysical connection to God and finds something entirely different from what she was hoping for.

 

Like the Depeche Mode song Black Celebration, human beings search the stars for the scientific explanation of God and paid a horrific price in Ridley Scott’s Prometheus.

 

Not a direct sequel to Alien, Scott created a stunning look to a very average story running congruent to its franchise cousin, alien. In this film, the story revolved around the Space Jockey race that left an iconic space crypt in the famous scene in Alien that left lingering questions for the next 25 yrs. While Scott answers some of the questions of the Jockey’s purpose, it’s writer Damon Lindelof, famous for Lost and Star Trek that adds more questions to the list. How far you’re willing to search for your answers may lead to arguing with your friends regarding the film’s interpretation of genetic recombination and evolution of organic technology. All roads seemed to point to life as the ultimate biological weapon that the Jockeys wielded like gods but what happens when God fails?

 

That’s where the movie switched tracks and the horror element felt forced and pedestrian at best. After 45 minutes of the most intriguing components of space exploration, the trigger that excelerated the film to its third act was nothing more than an act of stupidity none of which was convincing. Alas what came after was elementary.

 

The heart and soul of Prometheus is the theories where science and faith intertwine. Similar territory in Contact but with much more dire consequences.

 

Noomi Rapace

The Avengers

Posted by admin On August - 11 - 2012ADD COMMENTS

The A-team: When the going gets tough, Robert Downey Jr & company get going in the Avengers.

The Avengers Review by Ronald H. Pollock
When the Norse god of thunder’s mis-behaving step-brother Loki, god of mischief returns to Earth armed with a mind control infinity gem, a ruthless alien army, and swipes an artifact of immearsurable power, the hand of a American super spy Nick Fury, director of SHIELD was forced to assemble a freaky Homeland Security version of neighborhood watch, called the Avengers.

The movie itself wasn’t far from the initial concept that Marvel sold for 12 cents back in 1963. Discovering a new way to market some of their landmark characters from various titles by creating an All-Star team to boost sales even further. That business model hasn’t changed a bit today. Marvel studios produced individual character driven films starring Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America to construct/develop this fantastical comic book world of heroes. The Avengers is the culmination of all these character driven films, now under one roof.

In the past studios, fans and the media have always talked about a super hero team movie but it has been very hard to fathom this possibility because technology, character introduction and development, story, and tone always seemed to be a bridge too far. For long suffering comic book fans ages 35+ a “good” super hero team film was a difficult have faith because of a long history of misfires and horrific attempts. So it’s no surprise that there was an underlying feeling of skepticism.

Director Joss Whedon credited as the father of fan driven TV shows such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Firefly, and Dollhouse did arguably the best job any director could have done. He captured the tone without cheesy winks to the camera, gave all the headliners their due while getting the most out of secondary characters such as the Black Widow, made the third actor to play Hulk relevant, and placed his faith in Tom Hiddelson as Loki to serve as the chain, grease, and spit to all of these moving parts.

For a thirty year comic book collector, the Avengers is the pinnacle of super hero movie making in terms of capturing the qualities of a comic book that being action, imagination and merging it with themes in more serious dramas such as empathy, acceptance, dysfunction, and emotion. It’s the emotional residual of differences put aside to serve a higher cause that inspires both comic book and non-comic book fans alike. That is a more difficult task than it looks. Nonetheless, Marvel has done what many would have said, was impossible.

The Avengers rates a fine wine of 5 yrs for fond memories, punch, and good laughs with friends.

 

The Hunger Games

Posted by admin On August - 11 - 2012ADD COMMENTS

The Hunter or Hunted? Jennifer Lawrence plays the girl on fire and the eye of affection of potentially 2 suitors.

Take the military draft, TV reality game shows blender them together with sprinkles of films like Logan’s Run,  Running Man and out pours this purée called the Hunger Games.  Its been often said, its not whether or not you win or lose but how you play the game. In The Hunger Games how you play the game, translates to how you win or survive. A dystopian future that suppressed hope and change through social media culture and more importantly made a statement about how the public perceives things juxtaposed against the realities of this world.

 

Since her father died Katniss Everdeen, the film’s main patriarch developed a tom boy attitude and a temper to match. A fancy name for a not so fancy girl played by Jennifer Lawrence lived in District 10, a mining town that more closely resembled a shanty town. When her younger sister was drafted into the Olympics of death more affectionately referred to as the Hunger Games Katniss volunteered, hoping it would give her sister a chance for a longer life than hers.

 

As with any youthful, angst ridden vehicle, there must be a male foil. In the Hunger Games there are two.  One is Peeta, a bakery’s son of untapped talent and strength. He’s both Katniss’ foil and her more even keeled emotionally balanced equal. There’s nothing in the film to indicate how the son of a baker was never as Naive as Katniss about the Hunger Games in terms of how the games are won.

 

 

 

Not having Katniss’ inner thoughts.

 

The flaws of the Hunger games was never more apparent than Peeta who is supposed to be a living chameleon of personality.

GR Spirit of Vengeance

Posted by admin On August - 11 - 2012ADD COMMENTS

He may not know karate but Nic Cage knows Craaazy in Ghost Rider Spirit of Vengeance

 

Take 2 Review by Ronald H. Pollock

A young woman named Nadya who ran with the wrong crowd sold her soul to the devil in order to give birth to a good son but the devil always wants his due. Like all lost souls with no cards to play, Nadya played by the American’s Violante Placido entrusted her son’s safety with an alcoholic French priest played by Idris Elba. I’m guessing the Catholic Church has researched the probability entrusting the safety of the world with a drunken guardian. This situation adds up to desperation and peril pureed on a heap of trouble. Like a bat out of hell, Nicolas Cage resumed his role as the cursed vagabond Johnny Blaze and hit the road again, as the spirit of vengeance in the follow up to the unremarkable 2007 film directed by Mark Steven Johnson.

Ghost Rider Spirit of Vengeance directed by Crank’s Mark Neveldine & Brian Taylor amped up some of the chase scenes, confrontations, and certainly captures the uncontrollable cruelty of a demon that is barely controlled by its human host. At NYCC 2011 panel, the dynamic duel of gourmet gorilla indy style directing promised a lot of unorthodox shots and effects. They certainly delivered. When the action starts, the stuntwork was incredible and fit the décor of a comic book-esque violence.

A mis-marketed property based on a marginally popular comic book character, Ghost Rider returns to the big screen in what can be conceived as a “comme ci, Comme ca” sequel to the original. Marvel has never been very consistent with the Ghost Rider property. He’s kind of like the Hulk meets Easy Rider. He had the worst rogues Gallery: Water Wizard, Eyeball.

However the story was horribly generic. Why would the devil need a young body of an unremarkable child when there are other bodies more attractive to take over the world in? Like Donald Trump’s children or even Snooki holds more clout. No it has to be ONE kid who doesn’t have one red cent to his name.

One scene that didn’t fit in a conventional movie plot but what was definitely conveyed by the directors, a love of riding motorcycles and the freedom of the open road. The camera angles, the lighting, and feeling of going fast and having fun was more than adequate giving this sense of happiness before every thing goes to hell. It was meditative and spiritual in an Easy Rider tribute.

What didn’t work was Blaze’s whining, some silly scene with fighting gun porn monks to give Christopher Lambert some coin. Ghost Rider was missing 1 or 2 transitional scenes or beats to really eccentuate that this wicked demon can do so much damage that good nor evil wants to mess with it. Peeing fire should have inspired more acts of badness. Instead it’s literally a fantasy in every one’s head including the young boy.

Ghost Rider Spirits of Vengeance ranks a $5 beer tap special in Manhattan at your local watering hole.

-Ron

Transformers: Dark of the Moon

Posted by sean On August - 26 - 2011ADD COMMENTS

Poor Bumblebee is at a loss as to how a beloved franchise came to this.

The walking, talking junkyards, the Transformers, grace us with their return in the threequal, Transformers: Dark of the Moon.  While many have been waiting with anticipation for their next battle, all of the explosions and crashing metal fail to sugar-coat this desecrated property.

 

Michael Bay’s latest orgasm of destruction follows the Autobots’ struggle to save Earth yet again from the Decepticons, pulling in Sam Witwicky (Shia Lebeouf) and his Victoria-Secret-model girlfriend, Carly (Rosie Huntington-Whiteley) as their new fight stems from a cover-up involving the moon landing and the plan to revive the dead planet of Cybertron.

 

The plot lacks the abundant number of gaping holes that littered the previous entry, but it’s nowhere near perfect.  It’s still farfetched, even for a movie with giant robots, with the motives behind the choices of both hero and villain inconsistent and illogical, such as the Decepticons wiping humanity out despite their plan to enslave them and the Autobots allowing thousands to perish to prove a point.  However, before the film even gets to the story, Bay opens with thirty minutes of plot-irrelevant, brain-numbing humor that desperately forces you to laugh with silly gags involving cameos from John Malkovich and Ken Jeong.  On top of that, the director treats the first act like the spawn of a car and lingerie commercial, throwing in sweeping images of hot rods and zooming so closely on Huntington-Whiteley’s ass, you’re afraid the director might perform a colonoscopy.  While these are trademarks of his, it leaves little time to make Sam and Carly’s relationship seem genuine outside of him being jealous of her boss (Patrick Dempsey).

 

Of course, Bay is renowned for his expert hand at special effects, and Dark of the Moon is no different.  The CGI hits an all-time high in detail.  The robots bear a realistic gleam in their parts as well as the dents and scratches they suffer in combat, all of which blends extremely well with the on-location shots and live detonations.  At times, it is a bit difficult to take in all the work that went into the animation with the action moving at a swift pace and so much cluttered into a single frame, especially during the climactic battle, but when things slow down long enough, you can fully absorb the visuals.

 

But just like the leading lady, unfortunately, the Transformers are portrayed as just something pretty to look at.  Little depth is given to support the amazing graphics, a crime against those who put in the countless hours creating them.  Optimus Prime is at least given an arc throughout the story involving his mentor, but his companions rely on what the audience knows from the previous films to get any sympathy from them.  Even Bumblebee, whose friendship with Sam played a huge role in first film, has little to do, and when the Autobots are an inch away from death, their lack of background snuffs out any sense of dread for their demise.  Any new characters introduced are left as caricatures that depend on the viewer’s familiarity with stereotypes, such as a vulgar Irish robot.  Unlike the controversial Mudflaps and Skids from Revenge of the Fallen, they’re not on screen long enough to be as annoying.

 

Transformers: Dark of the Moon is like going to the dentist to get your tooth pulled only to have the Novocain wear off.  For all of its flare and no substance, Dark of the Moon is a bitter, flat beer that fails to numb the pain of what you have just witnessed.

-Sean

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Thoughts on Cinema is dedicated to film reviews. An uncompromising opinion on the intellectual, artistic, and entertainment value to the consumer. With rising ticket prices, we dedicate ourselves to present to you content regarding what you should or should not be viewing. -Ronald H. Pollock Founder and Editor in Chief

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