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View From The Brig(gs): Infinity Gems, A Little Young Romance & More!

Well here we are, gang. Thanks for sticking with me on my own personal pull-list, in a week wherein we learnt that Disney are doing non-chapter theatrical “Star Wars” spin-offs.   As I’ve mentioned, I’m doing a movie with Gary Kurtz (producer of the original “Star Wars” Episodes Four & Five), so this has come up in conversation more than a little bit in the past several days.

“Star Wars” was a massive influence on me; as a kid, it made me want to make movies.

Hell, I crashed the set of “Return Of The Jedi” as a teen, later appearing in costume in Ken Burns’ “Empire Of Dreams” DVD documentary!

So, I have very mixed feelings about the new Mouse House “Star Wars 2.0”. Not having the Fox logo at the beginning of the movie is going to be bad enough..but, more on this and many other issues some other time.

On with the show!

CINEMA
I caught up with the new fantasy-romance movie, “Upside Down”, which has been slowly opening with trickle-down distribution throughout the world for a few months now. (It arrives in America in March, I believe.)

Jim Sturgess and Kirsten Dunst are two star-crossed lovers from different worlds: literally, as one has a gravity which is mirror-reversed over the other’s head! It was especially interesting to see Dunst in this, as I hadn’t warmed to her in her last fantasy excursion, “Melancholia.”  Here, she’s quite luminous: literally, as the (very pretty) digital cinematography pushes the f-stops a bit and makes everyone in “Upmarket World” ethereally glow. I was astonished at how much effects work was in this movie, assuming that it was some little indie cheapie. On looking on IMDB, I was taken aback to note that the budget was $60 million dollars.

The film was charming, and had some of the most beautiful surreal FX imagery I’ve seen since “What Dreams May Come.”

Personally, I don’t know if I’d recommend it, but as a pleasant and undemanding way to pass a couple of hours (perhaps even as a date flick!), you should maybe check it out.
 
After a good run in theaters Stateside, “Wreck It Ralph” has finally emerged in Europe (possibly Disney staggering their theatrical schedules to pre-DVD days in an effort to combat piracy). I liked the central characters of Ralph and Felix, and Jane Lynch’s Space Marine Calhoun. However, the movie lost its appeal to me once it hit Candyland and got bogged down in a serious case of the cutesies. The movie could have been the “Roger Rabbit” of videogames, but I couldn’t help feel it didn’t really try hard enough. Maybe they’ll nail it better in the sequel.

TELEVISION
On the European side of the Pond, the BBC have just started their new Season of “Being Human”, accompanied by the unfortunate news they’ve also cancelled the series.

This is a shame, as I really like the fresh character lineup, which has reinvigorated last Season’s slightly dull “Future Apocalypse” storyline. This time around, our vampire/werewolf heroes have been fired from their cafe jobs, and have to seek new employment at a hotel that was once apparently something more sinister. Along the way, an office dweeb (who seems more than a little “inspired” by Ricky Gervais, and who manifests the only personality in a company apparently staffed by entirely silent people) is accidentally turned to the Vamp Side. Yes, it’s another “Loser Turned Villain” subplot. I have hopes this will transcend all the familiarity this trope generally entails with future installments. Stay tuned-in…

Having premiered as a slew of short webisodes, “Battlestar Galactica: Blood And Chrome” has now been released on DVD. I enjoyed watching the first few installments online, but decided to wait for the whole thing before finishing the story. I wish I hadn’t. I have to say: I’m less impressed with the job they’ve done of editing each webisode together, basically just spicing one to the other without any conscious effort to edit it seamlessly.

As I mentioned previously on “Forces Of Geek”, the effects are superb overall (better, in places, than some theatrical effects, although here and there looking a shade underfunded and unfinished). Acting was fine, and the two male leads were good and left me wanting future installments with them. Unfortunately, the actors were saddled with a head-scratcher of a script that obviously lifted dialogue from “Star Wars” and many other post-1977 movies, and the production’s pacing seemed off and fairly slack. I was disappointed. Still it was great to see the Galactica world again, and we’re long overdue for some regular space opera dogfights on the small screen.

COMICS
I couldn’t help feel that quality control in the funny-pages took a dip this week. Still, let’s concentrate on the good stuff.

Remember when the Avengers/Illuminati cabal decided that Hulk was too much of a liability, and zapped him off into outer space (thus begetting the “Planet Hulk” rampage)? Well, Marvel are on similar territory with their “Infinity” storyline in “New Avengers #3”. I have very mixed feelings about this, because to an extent having these characters get together almost reduces them down to the level of being bad-guys, even though they’re operating for the greater good. As multiple Earth’s interconnect with destructive effect, the Illuminati decide to assemble the Infinity Gems to combat the threat. Of course, something goes wrong, and one of the major characters is pushed to the cabal’s periphery as a result.

Given that the Infinity Gauntlet almost certainly seems to be the plot-point for a future Thanos/”Avengers” movie, and Marvel are tightly integrating their comics and movies, this title bears more than a casual glance at, for all my misgivings on the plot machinations and how they color “good guy” characters.

Greg Rucka’s “Punisher War Zone #4” continues to wow this issue.

The Avengers wait patiently in New York as the trial of vigilante Marine Sergeant Rachel Cole-Alves looms, and they’re waiting for Punisher to get to her. Wolverine is told to stay out of it, and Spidey pitches in. The climax is pretty good, and I should have seen it coming, but didn’t.

Great artwork, that looks like it’s been sourced from set drawings from the Marvel Movies. I said last time that this is the best Punisher story in years, and this issue got even better.

Dan Slott’s “Superior Spider-Man #3” maintains its high enjoyment factor.

I’m enjoying seeing Doc Ock masquerading as Peter Parker in this run, as Petey’s spirit continues to try and push its way out of Otto’s ID, while various people suspect our friendly neighborhood web crawler Isn’t All He Seems.

This issue has The Vulture, and something of a shocking denouement. This title is one to look forward to.

On the flip side of all things Spidey, I’ve had really mixed feelings about the current reboot of “Venom”, but “Venom #31” scores for me due to its concentrating on this issue on double-amputee Flash Thompson. Flash has gone through so many different incarnations, both good and bad, from his early school bully introduction in “Spider-Man”. Here, chopping his legs off beneath the knee really humbles the character and makes him vulnerable and likable.

‘Nuff Said!

(I’d worked with Stan Lee on a defunct project called “Foreverman” over at Paramount with Robert Evans a few years ago, and we remained friends. On a whim, I thought I’d drop Stan an email about Flash’s nickname, as reading this issue got me thinking. I wondered if it was maybe a play on “Flash Gordon”, or whether he was channeling the bully Flashman from “Tom Brown’s Schooldays”.   Nope, was Stan’s answer: “I simply thought the name Flash sounded right for a character of his type!” Well, it’s great to hear it from the horse’s mouth!)

As I said: not really a fan of this title, but this issue was a winner. Recommended.

Jeff Parker’s “Red She Hulk #62” has the titular Betty Ross on the road with Machine Man, while the Government sends out some specialized characters to bring them in. There’s also a little cameo subplot with Captain America visiting a veteran’s hospital that’s quite nice. I’m really warming to this book.

Brian Michael Bendis’ “All New X-Men #7” was…interesting. It’s difficult to fault, because it’s well written, but it does stand as a middling issue, somewhat devoid of any real pyrotechnics. Basically, a big character expository piece for Cyclops after he visits a bank to search the contents of that old plot staple, the safety deposit box.  Not a must-read, but entertaining enough.

Cullen Bunn’s “Fearless Defenders #1” centers on Misty Knight (who clearly wants to be Pam Grier in a cheesy ’70s blaxploitation movie); Valkyrie; and archeologist Annabelle Riggs, and has some gratuitous girl-on-girl action with the latter two in the middle of a hoary plot about an Asgardian artifact resurrecting a Viking burial site.

If Marvel are trying to conjure up a “Danger Girl” feeling with this title, they’re on the right track. Early days yet, but I’m sure this will be a squee with the Fangirl contingent.

“Animal Man #17” is worth the price of admission on so many levels.

Fantastic Tim Green and Steve Pugh icky artwork right out of a “Thing” movie…an attack by a Rotworld-mutated Justice League…the Green Lantern ring finding an unexpected new Corps member.

I’m going to be sad to see the end of the Rotworld story (although it does feel a little bit like they’re milking it, now.)

The whole Rotworld team-up saga must have been manna from heaven for the creative talents on “Animal Man” because, let’s face it,  Animal Man isn’t the most compelling character to write for on his own.

The DC-Verse similarly dipped sharply this week, with a couple of notable exceptions. John Layman’s “Detective Comics #17” continues the story of Batman on the trail of the Joker’s acolytes wending their happy murder spree through Gotham, introducing “The Merry-Maker,” a rather strikingly attired masked lunatic.

Both this and Layman’s similarly oriented Joker backup story are nicely drawn and vividly scripted, the latest in a run of recommended Batman stories.

To my surprise, Peter Milligan upped the ante with an even better issue than last time of “Stormwatch #17”, as Midnighter and Apollo head off to Moscow to seek the assistance of punky Elektra clone Zealot, while the cyborg Engineer, newly fused to an alien ship, flexes her growing psychotic ambitions by defeating Hawksmoor and destroying an island of the superrich. (This last one baffled me a tiny bit, as I couldn’t quite grasp what the author was saying here, aside from maybe having some issues with the well-off. Go figure.)

“World’s Finest #9” improved vastly on previous issues, although I’m still far from happy with the Power Girl reboot (especially as the new outfit isn’t doing it for me and the way they’ve drawn her they really should rename her Power-MILF). In this issue, we see Power Girl interceding when energy-weapon toting interlopers raid a STARR island facility; while in a flashback subplot Power Girl and Huntress go “Sex And The City” girlie shopping for superhero goodies.

I couldn’t leave without commenting on the “Young Romance #1: Valentine’s Day Special” one-shot.

Yes, Cupid twangs its commercially-tipped bolts into the DC-verse (likely making Green Arrow wonder why he was edged out of the door for this outing.)

The stories here center around DC’s romantically-involved couples, pontificating on what they mean to one another; from stalwarts like Batman & Catwoman at one end of the spectrum, through to Apollo and Midnighter at the other.

Some stories are better than others, although I didn’t really view the issue as a whole as much more than a mild diversion. (My favorite segment was Ray Fawke’s sassy encounter between Batgirl and the street kid she kissed back in “Batgirl Annual #1”).

Before you roast me for being horribly sexist in suggesting this one may appeal more to the Fangirl than the Fanboy, just remember.

Hey. I read it! Gimme a break!

Right. Back to casting on “Panzer 88”.

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