In case you needed a reminder he’s the best Chris

Chris Evans was, in his youth, a Burton/Keaton Batman fan.

Wow, he’d make a terrible Batman.

Evans was always my outside Steve Rogers dream cast. The Matthew Lillard thing wasn’t going to happen, but should’ve, but anyway, Evans was a good job. By that time, he’d shown a rather good range. Johnny Storm, Sunshine, Street Kings as the straight man, Push as a Steve Rogers prototype, Losers. When you look at his post-Marvel filmography and after bump at the start, he’s slowed to stopped on non-Marvel output. Those initial efforts didn’t really do much (see trajectory of Chris Pine), though it looks like Evans has got a Netflix original movie, which will either be good or crap apparently (I still haven’t seen a Netflix original), and Rian Johnson’s upcoming “modern” Agatha Christie.

Evans has already settled in as the George Clooney of the MCU (though Evans is a lot more vocal with his good politics than Clooney is these days). Though he’s still a little young to start doing his “man-in-his-forties” parts. Of course, who knows where media will be in five years. Evans will be Doug Ross on Steven Spielberg’s six movie series “ER 2.0” on TV+ or some such thing.

I really need to do that Debbie Downer history of the MCU post.

Cap

Chris Evans may be iconic for playing Captain America — and a little infamous for his stint as the Human Torch — but his favorite childhood superhero might not be either of those guys.
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Robocop: Last Stand #5 of 8

Robocop: Last Stand #5Robocop: Last Stand #5; Boom! Studios; December 2013; $3.99, 32 pgs; available collected.

This issue opens with a “you really should have seen this coming” twist. It’s an intense open, then the issue moves right away into a lengthy action sequence. Pretty much the whole issue. I went into this issue expecting it to start a “second story” or at least make sense as a halfway point in the series, which Boom! traded in two down the middle. And maybe the finale is the start of the series’s third act….

Was it Dan O’Bannon who said end of the second act is when things are at their direst for the heroes? It’s pretty dire for Robocop at the end of the issue. He’s lost all his friends, he’s had his heart ripped out (literally and figuratively—his new heart too, he just got it last issue). There was another surprising plot turn later in the issue, which maybe the first one should’ve foreshadowed. Conceptually, anyway. Last Stand has an interesting disinterest with the actual Robocop 3, while still playing with the same toys.

It’s like one kid is really bad at playing with his toys so this other kid comes in and plays with them better. Only there’s also all the awesome Oztekin art. The first kid didn’t have Oztekin, he had a lower budget than needed for the special effects. Though Oztekin, in another Robocop vs. helicopter sequence (second in the series so far, because attack helicopters used to be a really big deal in movies), shows what’s wrong with Robocop’s design in too physical action. He’s visually imposing—while slick—but not visually graceful. Quite the opposite. And it comes through in the issue for a bit.

Another reason the issue feels like the end of the second act is the emphasis on the villain. She’s been around since the second issue or so (her return being an adaptation surprise) and, after last issue, it makes sense she gets more solo page time. She’s fine. The exposition and setup is good. But she’s a villain who needs a performance, otherwise she’s too slight, sort of tedious in her evil. She needs some charm. And Grant and Oztekin don’t bring it in writing or art. They both do fine, they just aren’t interested.

And nothing in Last Stand actually seems to interest Grant so for him to be further detached… it’s unfortunate.

Though predictable.

Robocop has had villain problems since the end credits rolled on the first movie.

It took Sulu 25 years to make captain

It took George Takei’s Sulu character 25 years to make it from lieutenant to captain. Not in the present actions of all the “Star Trek,” but close to it. I think by *Undiscovered Country* they were basically in sync. And, thanks to me being a teenage “Star Trek” geek, I remember that the novels kept talking about how all Sulu wanted to do was be a captain but he’d always give it up for Kirk.

So, you know, William Shatner being a dick spoils a lot.

It’s taken a long, long time for Asian characters to get to be cool in movies for white people. I’m sorry, not even movies for white people, movies white people might see advertised, not even see.

Rose Tico was the coolest thing about *Last Jedi*. Even if the film weren’t in such desperate need of coolness, Kelly Marie Tran​ would still have been super cool.

Star Wars fans aren’t just toxic, they’re self-defeating in how they’re toxic. They want bad movies, because Star Wars movies have been bad starting in 1983, only you thought they were great at six so you have to justify it all to yourself.

Anyway. It’s like the only exceptional thing about white America is how many different levels we can be racist on.

by Josh Hilgenberg Kicking off the first round of Saturday panels at C2E2, Wesley Sun, Dawn Xiana Moon, Mark Mertell and Michi Trota are here to discuss Asian-American representation in pop culture?

 

Robocop: Last Stand #4 of 8

Robocop: Last Stand #6Robocop: Last Stand; Boom! Studios; November 2013; $3.99, 32 pgs; available collected.

Putting on my Robocop nerd hat a minute (does it ever come off?), the first film’s writers wanted it to be a commentary on how Detroit used to make the best cars and—by the eighties—they made shit. This issue of Robocop: Last Stand has an inspiring, come-together moment for Detroiters to rebuild Murphy in a garage. One has to imagine if it’d made it into a movie, even Robocop 3, it’d have been effective. Well, okay, maybe not Robocop 3 as it is, but a 3 more like Last Stand.

The garage where they put Robo back together again is called “The Stand,” no less.

I’d been waiting for this issue to see if I was right about Boom! and Grant splitting the series into two parts, one through four (for the first trade), five through eight (for the second). The answer—should Last Stand be read in two sittings, one (or eight)—is complicated and immaterial. Last Stand doesn’t work as a “movie,” it works as a comic, where it doesn’t need anything resembling a three act structure—whether it has one or not, the medium doesn’t require it. Not when the book relies so heavily on Oztekin’s art. It’s a mostly action issue—there’s some big changes at OCP, which is some talking heads but mostly action too—as Robocop and his young, still nameless orphan charge lead the OCD cops on a car chase, culminating in Robocop and kid trapped in the sewer, Robocop literally falling to pieces.

This sequence is mostly from the girl’s perspective, which gives Grant a chance to be funny without being crude. Last Stand’s usually got a pretty base humor—the jokes at the expense of capitalist stooges aren’t subtle—and having the kid run the show for a bit is nice. She doesn’t overstay the spotlight. She and Robo trying to find the “rebels” is concurrent to the OCD cops hassling said rebels at their day job. Or at least at Bertha’s diner, where they all seem to hang out.

The tone shift—action chase then tense comedy (in a couple different situations)—gives Oztekin a lot to do. There’s frenetic action in the car chase and then frenetic energy from the participants of the diner sequence, as the cops can’t resist threatening (or trying to threaten) the civilians and the civilians aren’t going to be threatened.

That inspiring come-together finish, where the ragtag group of Detroit natives put Robo back together again is more of a writing thing. Oztekin’s got to match the script’s tempo. The rest of the issue, the comic has to meet his.

The way Grant plots Last Stand, as issues, in half, as a whole, is kind of permanently screwed up but thanks to Oztekin, it’s always gloriously so.

Criterion Channel announces inaugural, April line-up

The Criterion Channel announced its inaugural month’s programming. At launch on April 8, they’re doing a spotlight of the day feature. Sometimes a single movie, sometimes a recommended list to pick from. They’re going to have a somewhat static back catalog (probably the stuff Janus has distribution rights on versus the titles Criterion licenses from studios, but it’s probably technically the best stuff they have—it’s the Kurosawa, Bergman, Tati, Fellini—but also some studio licensed stuff). But you’re going to be able to tune on a particular day and get something a little different than the day before, which sounds cool. In some ways, The Criterion Channel solves my big problem with Criterion—they don’t have any great mainstream acquisitions anymore. Criterion was very responsible for Wes Anderson back in the Rushmore days. But they also don’t have interesting genre acquisitions either.

Maybe I’m just angry they bothered with a Magnificent Ambersons instead of using it to spearhead a budget line. Whatever.

I thought it might be fun to pick out highlights in the Criterion Channel program.

First week, April 8 – 13. Columbia Noir spotlight, Y tu mamá también, female Italian filmmaker spotlight (including Bicycle Thieves), David Lynch, John Woo presenting a French musical plus a John Woo, Bugsy Malone on Saturday.

The David Lynch thing is a little too onboard for week one but whatever. I wonder if the Saturday night “kids” programming keeps up.

Second week, April 14 – 20. Julie Taymor guest programming, Fassbinder, Iranian films, Susanne Bier focus, Chinese drama Kaili Blues (sounds freaking awesome), Olivier Shakespeare vs. Lubitsch’s, The Kid for the “Saturday Matinee.”

I just missed the Saturday theme. Whatever. It’s a good mix. I want to see Kaili Blues.

Third week, April 21 – 27. Charles Burnett, Paths of Glory, Wages of Fear, Virgin Suicides, Paul Bartel!, Le samouraï, Mon oncle.

Okay, awesome. Like, Criterion Channel is, by week three, programming something fantastic.

Fourth week, April 28 – 30. Simone Signoret (Diabolique and Army of Shadows and five more), “Observations on Film Art No. 26” (a streaming only series?), then Chantal Akerman.

Plus whatever else the rest of the week (in May).

It’s good. It’s very good.

I hope this works out.

New Comics Wednesday

I got four.

Had lunch with a friend recently and afterwards went to a comic store with him. While nothing hit me on the the mainstream rack, the indies had me curious. So here, in no particular order, and possibly not as new as “this weeks long underwear books”, is a smattering of what caught my eye, and got me to purchase them.

Pope Hats #4

Pope Hats #4,5– when I got home, I discovered I had issue 4 in my “stack”, so I read ‘em both. Hartley Lin, current master of short stories about everyday people with issues, goes with an anthology style of shorts in 4 with good results. A half a dozen quick narratives are the stomping ground, with a huge swath of characters and some poignant conclusions on them. While each has a distinctness of it’s own, it s in issue 5 where Lin lets his inner talents loose with a lengthy 60 page story all about his well realized Frances, a young lady who’s watched her bff/roomie move away for work, and now deals pretty much alone with her position as a law clerk at a huge firm. While I could say it’s a more complicated version of Betty and Veronica, the love he has for the fate of Frances is more than communicated with a warm, formal, cartooning style that nearly brought me to tears here more than once. I now love Frances, I just can’t help myself.

Black Hammer: Age of Doom #8

Black Hammer-Age of Doom #8– while I picked up this middle issue cold, I was still familiar enough with the concept and the group here enough to catch on to the endless reboot theme thats underlying here. While there’s not terribly much meat on this comic, Dean Ormstrom’s art carries it, along with just enough willingness on my behalf for patience to see where Jeff LeMire is going with this. On the edge of teetering from it’s own weighty premises, Black Hammer gives something for those too crazy or stupid to give up on superhero comics.

House Amok #5

House Amok #5 – one of those favorite Vertigo replacement series from Black Crown, Chris Sebela manages to take a fast paced crazy family story with likable characters and just about kill all the momentum he built in the first four issues. Not the ending I wanted, but Shawn McManus’ great cartooning helps digesting this mess immensely. Decent first four issues, though, the train wreck that composes issue 5 kills it.

Lodger #2

Lodger #2 – Another Black Crown book, noir styled authors Maria and David Lapham relate a story here about a nomadish guy that gets involved with certain peoples lives, mostly for a bad ending for them. Lapham’s experience with down trodden folks and a love for depicting real violence give this one a convincing tone, and makes me curious for another.

All in all, not bad. Makes me want to try it again sometime. The threat of walking into a comic series cold was balanced by enough talent, and for the exception of Black Hammer, the ability to read a copy of something and get a warm fuzzy feeling while experiencing comics again, enjoying the random issues.

Criterion Channel Movie of the Week #8 – Detour (1945)

Detour should be episodic, but it’s not. The film chronicles the misadventures of Tom Neal’s night club pianist, who’s stuck not being good enough for Carnegie Hall and having a fickle fiancée (Claudia Drake) from the outset. When he does decide to follow her out to her dreams in California, instead of saving bus fare, he hitchhikes and things go badly for him.

Along the way–and even from the opening bookend (Detour‘s almost entirely in flashback)–he runs across interesting people and situations. And even though Martin Goldsmith’s script has some great stuff in it, neither director Ulmer nor Goldsmith turn these little encounters into vignettes. They’re part of a lengthy narrative, with Neal doing a voiceover for the whole thing. The result is a seventy minute picture with some boring spots, which it shouldn’t have.

Part of the problem is how long it takes Detour to define itself. The script has a full first act setting up Neal’s uninteresting back story. He’s a whiny jerk, Drake isn’t likable, Ulmer doesn’t have to budget to do big club scenes–but Goldsmith’s script does make it all interesting. Neal doesn’t even give a good performance.

Things start getting interesting after the hitchhiking montage when Edmund MacDonald picks up Neal. MacDonald’s a real creep; it softens Neal up a bit. But he’s just a MacGuffin to get Ann Savage into the picture. She’s a realistically, thoughtfully conceived evil human being. Savage is occasionally histrionic, but she makes Detour special.

Otherwise, it’d just be boring.

Robocop: Last Stand #3 of 8

Robocop: Last Stand #3

Robocop: Last Stand; Boom! Studios; October 2013; $3.99, 32 pgs; available collected.

Robocop: Last Stand #3 gives a great example of what’s lost in the idea of adapting Robocop 1, 2, 3, or 4 to comic books—the damage to Robocop. The movies are all about him getting beat to crap, just about broken, losing limbs, his human face getting revealed, on and on. This issue has something similar, but since Robo doesn’t have anyone to play off of, Grant and Oztekin can’t give any insight into his condition. The comic doesn’t have any Robo-vision shots giving the efficiency level. It’s just a lot of dialogue-free action as Robocop tries to survive an ambush by the Japanese cyborg bad guy. It’s a great sequence, thanks to Oztekin’s art and how he paces it, but it’s extremely detached from Robocop’s trials.

In fact, when he rescues a young girl left homeless by a fire (one the evil company doesn’t let the firefighters fight until Robocop forces them to do so), Grant’s script moves to her perspective (because she’s talking) and Oztekin follows suit (a little, but a little shift in the art’s narrative distance is a big thing).

The issue opens awkwardly once again; turns out the final panel of last issue was one of those panels where Oztekin was doing important, unspoken visual exposition. Once the issue reorients—there’s a twisted back twist to start things off, which might play differently in the trade—it’s straight into the Robocop action. The beginning, albeit with the plot twist teaser and some black comedy, is all evil company OCP plotting and bickering. The comic’s biggest leap in logic is how such a dysfunctional organization could coordinate enough to even set a trap for Robocop. And not because Robocop is too smart, but because there’s no one particularly bright at OCP.

Once the action starts at the burning building, it never stops. The third act of the issue, with Robo playing guardian to the little girl, is just him getting into a souped up car so he can outrun the OCP cops chasing him. It’s got an excellent pace thanks to Oztekin (and presumably Grant) and a rather effective finish.

Though, once again, it feels like Grant is just starting the story. Now we’re going into the second act, at the end of #3. Of eight.

So it’ll be very interesting if the next issue really does end with a “Volume One” feel.

Silver Screen Partners 5.0

It took Disney a long, long time to make decent R-rated movies. Well into the nineties. If you look at their Silver Screen Partners history, which is a list of mostly lousy movies, you can see why they were so desperate for Miramax back then.

But as Disney takes over Fox, well… Fox has basically been in a quality rut since Alien 4. Though Independence Day more kicked it off in 1996. It was a sign of things to come, whereas Die Hard 3 had been a sign of things gone. There were actually some good “Fox” not “Fox Searchlight” movies in 1996 (and some bad Fox Searchlight movies from that year).

I remember learning who Tom Rothman was back in the late nineties, early 2000s just because he was the terrible Fox guy who screwed up all their genre pictures. Fox made more and more genre pictures, they did them worse and worse (I make that observation as a–limited–AVP 1 apologist too).

But now the Mouse House is taking over and Disney’s been making solidly agreeable movies since… 2010? Earlier if you like Pirates of the Caribbean (which I’ve still yet to see). Will Disney save Die Hard .5/6? Will they say no to whatever dumb idea Ridley Scott’s got for the Alien franchise? Will they keep James Cameron happy? Does it matter if you keep James Cameron happy, given all his Avatar (also haven’t seen) audiences have aged considerably? Will Kevin Feige make a good Fantastic Four movie?

Maybe? Maybe not?

Until Disney announces their plan for Fox properties, it’s all in limbo. An imagined one. With a lot of potential, but… a lot of negative possibility too.

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