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After a long break from reading comics, I read a couple this week – but it’s not what you think. I’m not reading comics by Marvel, DC, one of those smaller indie publishers (Top Cow et al – do they still exist/are independent)? Nor is it manga or anything of that sort.

I read a couple of comics books by Guy Delisle who is a Quebecer (trained locally at Sheridan) but now lives in France. His work and life has taken him to a couple of places in Asia and he wrote/illustrated his impression and adventures there.

What tipped me to his books was one about his trip to Pyongyang, North Korea. I enjoying reading about that country and his version of events is a nice, light read. There’s nothing about prison camps, just what daily life is like as a foreigner in that country.

I then read his book about Shenzen (and thus China) and Burma. The adventures in China are not surprising as I’m familiar with the culture, but Burma was new to me. Apparently he has a couple of other books that I might look up a little later!

I had a little over 2.5 hours left after my first movie on my flight, so I decided to fill that by watching Captain America 2. I wouldn’t typically watch this movie, but there just wasn’t anything else worth watching. It wasn’t a bad movie and overall more enjoyable than In Bruges but as a comic book fan, I didn’t like it very much.

Black Widow is in it, but I think it could be any sidekick beside Cap and it would’ve sufficed (although I suppose there needed to be a female co-star). Falcon is in it, but I think he wasn’t that important either (assuming there could be another plot that doesn’t require flying). The Winter Solider is in it, but he wasn’t in it enough. The (comic) history of the Winter Solider would have been more interesting to focus on, especially his relationship with Steve Rogers; and while they dwelled on it for awhile, it was only one of several plotlines.

The action scenes with Captain were great, he fought like how you would expect him to fight; but I thought the action scenes got worse as the movie went along – but I guess an “enhanced” human could only do so much. Because I had low expectations and wasn’t keen on seeing it anyways, I’ll give this a 3 out of 5 stars; just like the first Captain America movie.

Wow I haven’t watched a movie for a long time but I had a 6 hr flight to SFO so there was ample time to change that. I was surprised by the lack of selection as the last time I looked at the in flight entertainment was when flying overseas. The one movie I wanted to watch the most was Guardians of the Galaxy.

I wasn’t very familiar with the characters in this Marvel flick but knew of them because I had played the Android game recently. So that was pretty useful. A lot of them actually used their weapons/skills so it was enjoyable to see those in action.

I also had a chance to buy the soundtrack for 99¢ a few weeks ago but declined as I didn’t like the songs well enough. However, I think the music and soundtrack works well with the movie and listening it with headphones was probably beneficial

The movie was pretty fun and I think its ok even if you don’t know the characters. It’s a good mix of comedy and action. I’d give it 4 out of 5 stars (but maybe it’s because I have low expectations)

The Dark Knight Returns is probably the most anticipated movie of the summer for me (by that I mean that I’m actually aware it is coming out this summer!) and in preparation for this huge event, I decided to be a good student and do some studying beforehand; that is, I rewatched Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. Interestingly, I would have switched my ratings of the movies now (5 for #1, 3 for #2); Batman Begins felt like a typical comic book movie, while TDK felt more epic and I appreciate the characterization of the Joker more now (although probably would give it 4/5 instead of 5/5).

After cramming the movies, I watched The Dark Knight Returns last Friday in UltraAVX. This was my first time seeing something in UltraAVX and I was not too impressed. The seats/legroom was better, and the reserved seating was good; but I didn’t really notice better video or sound. There is a price differential but considering how often I go to see movies, it wouldn’t be burning a hole in my wallet.

I avoided the spoilers for most of the week before I saw it, but did hear that TDKR was not that good (as its predecessor), and I tend to agree. The problem I had in all three movies is that Batman seems to be a vehicle being carried through the movies. Sure, he has the benefit of miraculous technical capability, and the uncanny ability to be in the right places at the right time; but these things are unbelievable and exist only because of our willing suspension of disbelief – nothing explains these as core Batman “powers”. In the comics, Batman is seen as a master stratagem and in control of the situation (i.e., the villains are playing into his hands); and we don’t really see this in the movies. Commissioner Gordon just reacts (sometimes foolhardily) to the situation, as does Batman. It is only the Joker who exhibits this characteristic and is one of the reasons that TDK was so good (I think there are shades to this in TDKR once we find out the final villain, but their effect isn’t visualized like the Joker’s is).

Without a Joker as a foil, The Dark Knight Returns is not as strong a movie. It’s not as fun to see a villain whose strength is Batman’s obvious weakness. It’s more interesting to see a villain beat the hero using their strong points – like how Doomsday outmatched Superman in strength. In fact, my comparison from my TDK review is Iron Man, and I think that analogy is apt; Batman has as much technical superiority over his combatants as Iron Man.

It wasn’t a bad movie, it was just not as good given the expectations of Nolan and the precedent he set with The Dark Knight. I’d rate it three out of 5 stars.

Here’s the last DC comics movie review for awhile, I promise!

I expected this last one to be the most boring so I saved it for last. Many reasons for this, one is because it focused on a single hero instead of the eclectic JLA (and resident joker Flash). Second, the store focused on Batman. I like/liked Batman, but I am just a bit tired of his brooding act. And it makes him one dimensional in my opinion; as the cartoons never focus on his Bruce Wayne persona. So I didn’t expect much, but fortunately I was slightly happy with the result.

The story of Batman: Under The Red Hood focuses on the death of the second Robin, Jason Todd, and his subsequent re-emergence as the quasi-villain and current incarnation of the Red Hood. Batman and the Red Hood fight, and as Red Hood is his protegé they are fairly evenly-matched. Eventually they deal with the conflict; well I’m not going to say how as that would spoil the ending 🙂

Looking at it impartially, it isn’t that good; but because I didn’t expect much, it was more entertaining than I would have thought. I will give it 2.5/5.

After I saw Justice League Doom, I decided to see if I missed any other Justice League features, and apparently I did. A lot of time. The first one I watched in order to catch up with Justice League: New Frontier.

What struck me as odd while watching New Frontier is that it seemed new and fresh. Apparently, I forgot that I had watched it only four years ago even though the story is out of weird and a throwback. Huh. All I can say is that the other animated films I saw in that blog must have been horrible because this time around, New Frontier wasn’t that great. I suppose it is because the story wasn’t a surprise and didn’t wasn’t greatly rewritten to suit TV and the times?

On the other hand, I liked Crisis On Two Earths a lot more. I guess I never saw it before, but it did have a lot of memorable themes – the parallel universe JLA (Crime Syndicate), cameos by (former) JLA reserve members (Black Canary, Firestorm, Black Lightning etc), and random tie-ins/in jokes to the DC universe (Wonder Woman’s invisible jet). I thought the writing was much better, with funnier jokes. I’d give it a 3.5 out of 5 and a 3 out of 5 to New Frontier.

I stopped reading comics about a year ago because it was too much of a hassle to follow the release cycle (and I didn’t want to subscribe to a service to deliver them). So I didn’t know that the Justice League animated series had released any more features until recently when I came across Justice League Doom.

Justice League Doom centers around the contingency plan Batman has for each Justice League member in case they go rogue. Unfortunately this plan was stolen by Vandal Savage and then enacted against the JLA in order to prevent them from thwarting Savage’s larger plan.

Much like the Avengers, I felt the film went a bit scatter brain in having to give each JLA member a this-is-me scene, and then another scene where they had been neutralized. This made the story choppy. I also felt that the movie wasn’t as interesting as the previous episodes that I had seen; the jokes weren’t as funny (or adult) and it was just a lot of fighting. Unfortunately, I’d give Justice League Doom a 2 out of 5 stars.

The last movie that I saw in theatres was Captain America, almost a year ago. I’ve followed that up with another Marvel movie, which features Captain America – Avengers! I haven’t really been too enthusiastic about the movie because I’ve never really been interested in the Avengers. The X-Men or Justice League of America are more intruiging to me. Nevertheless, I went and saw Avengers and didn’t regret it.

I would give it 3.5 stars out of 5, although I know many people liked it much more. I think Joss Whedon’s comedic writing gave it an additional 0.5 rating. I really only felt his impact in the comedy, I didn’t think there were more or less comic geek in-jokes in this one compared to other Marvel films I’ve seen.

I actually didn’t think that highly of the movie, mostly because I felt that there was too much talking and character development; even though at the same time I noticed that the character development was compressed and each character was only given a short time to establish why they should be in the movie. I feel this way because I already know a lot about all the characters (including Maria Hill of SHIELD) so I just want to see the bashing and smashing (and the comedy I suppose). So at times, the 2:15 film dragged for me.

There’s an Avengers movie coming out in 2012, and in order to make it as action-packed as possible, Marvel has been spending the last few years releasing movies about the various super-heroes in Avengers (Hulk Remake, Iron Man, and Thor). The last in the series is Captain America.

Captain America on the surface is a boring hero. He has no mystical or “superhuman” powers; in a sense he is a lot like Batman. He’s also THE flag carrying member of US military so many of his stories revolve around the typical US vs Nazi/Soviet/Vietnam war themes. But, he’s also the leader of the Avengers so it’s important to build up his back story.

The movie version of his backstory is somewhat faithful. It takes place back in the 40s where the US super-soldier program was happening to give the Allies an advantage of the Axis. There are a couple of new secondary characters, but the main theme of puny Steve Rogers becoming the only successful super-soldier still remains. He helps take down Nazi Germany but ends up in present day. That’s the good fan-boy part.

The plot arrives at its destination, but there are a lot of nonsensical scenes where suddenly the world is OK again (for example, Cap jumping through fire – how did they get out of the building?). I think the editing could use some work because it plot didn’t work smoothly as a movie. I’ll give this a 3 out of 5 stars.

I forget why I wanted to watch Iron Man 2, and now that I’ve seen it, I’m pretty sure it’s not because it got good reviews. The movie’s not very good and it feels like you’re locked in a track and have to wait as it reaches its destination. It didn’t seem like a movie from this generation in that there were several scenes where the characters seem to just sit around and shoot the breeze (maybe I’m too familiar with the Iron Man/Marvel backstory). I suppose it’s character development, but I personally found it boring. The fights weren’t impressive at all – although Iron Man doesn’t have a lot of special powers, he can’t Kung Fu or anything; he can only be impervious and shoot some repulsor beams.

There were a couple of enjoyable things. The snippy dialog between Tony Stark and Pepper Potts was fun, although maybe a bit too fast. And I finally got interested in the movie when Nick Fury showed up. I also liked the cameo of a half-constructed Captain America shield.

I’ll think Iron Man 2 is 2 out of 5 stars. It just doesn’t feel very well put together. The plot has too many holes – for example, what happens now that the US military have Arc Reactors? Iron Man is no longer 20 years ahead of the game.

I haven’t seen a movie in a movie theatre in over a year! But my streak was finally broken when Nelson suggested that we go see Scott Pilgrim vs the World. I don’t watch commercials, pay attention to media, read movie blogs, etc so I had no idea what this movie was about; and for so many parts in the movie I kept thinking, “Wow, that makes no sense at all”. But it was an enjoyable experience and fun to watch.

The premise is that Scott is an early 20s loser (ok – aspiring musician) hanging out in what looks to be Toronto’s Annex, and has to do battle with his new girlfriend’s 7 exes. And by “do battle”, I mean “do battle” but not in a fighting way. It’s actually in a crazy Chinese-movie style way, where the combatants all of a sudden have super powers. The battles imitate video games where Scott can leap into the air and air combo his opponent with a 60-hit combo. So it actually is more like Street Fighter. Plus, there is actually an animation that tells us he did a 64-hit combo.

The movie centers around these incredulous fights between Scott and the Exes; but surprisingly, those are the most relatable parts of the film (well at least if you’re familiar with video games). Linking the fights together are some awkward moments between the characters. It almost seems like bad acting, but now that I think about it, it is almost like live comic strips. The scenes are simple and not complicated by extraneous cognitive load – there is straightforward dialog which leads to a comic strip punchline, before repeating and setting up the next punchline (or fight). But because of that, it feels disjointed, although not in a way where it doesn’t make sense nor is it detrimental to the plot.

Aside from the fact that it was interestingly odd, the appeal of SP vs tW is that it was placed in Toronto. There were a lot of Toronto landmarks (Casa Loma, Honest Eds, Lee’s Palace) and culture (CBC, SARS, Second Cup). It felt home grown! Although the movie both makes sense and doesn’t make sense at all, and is deeply entrenched in video game culture, it was strangely entertaining. I would give it 4 out of 5 stars.

When I get lazy with blogging, I just post links to some neat stuff around the web:

I haven’t been watching movies anymore which means that I haven’t been doing a good job of paying Hollywood for their investment in comics as a source of inspiration means to rip off stories. The major release last year was The Watchmen which I finally got around to err watching.

I never read the series which probably explains why I wasn’t in a rush to see it. That also mean I didn’t know the characters or the back story (and even now it is very difficult for me to understand how to pronounce Rorschach). The movie did an adequate job of explaining the universe and performed enough character development so that you understood the characters.

The world of the Watchmen is similar to ours until WW2 at which point masked heroes started changing history. The opening credits showed some of the changes in history including Nixon’s third term in office, the superhero involvement in the Vietnam war, and a superhero killing JFK. I always enjoy what-if scenarios and so enjoyed this too! I also liked the way they portrayed historical events. History was shown with individuals moving (very) slow. So it was like you were watching an interactive picture of the past.

After the setting had been set and the characters were portrayed, I didn’t enjoy the movie was much. The seemed to be a sort of a lull and the final villain’s plot seemed convoluted and overcomplicated. Although this was somewhat rectified with a non-traditional ending.

The Watchmen is rated R and it is indeed a mature movie. In the fight scenes, you see bones bent in gross ways that they shouldn’t be bending, and there is a lot of blood spurting. I’m glad I’m old enough not to get nightmares from comics. There are some good parts and some bad, so I would rate it overall as a three out of five movie.

I missed it last year because I was flying back from Japan, but this year I went to Fan Expo again. It was a lot like the first time, with the cosplay and lining up (strangely though, there wasn’t as much NDS action); so I won’t describe all that stuff again.

Peter and I went to a couple of events, the first one was a DC Universe Editorial Presentation by Dan DiDio (Senior VP / Executive Editor). I didn’t really have any expectations or idea what this event was about, and it turned out to just be a presentation on the key DC “franchises”. It was a bit surreal sitting in the room and hearing the talk. Dan would talk about how they were revitalizing the Green Lantern franchise with the Blackest Night DCU event and people would start clapping and wooting. I can’t imagine the same reaction if I went on a stage and started talking about the products I work on, or if the CEO of Walmart was up there announcing a new line of clothing for American people. Now I know what it’s like to sit in a Jobs keynote.

We also went to two sketch duels (which I kept calling sketch-offs and that confused a lot of people who were asking us what the line was for). The first one was between Ethan Van Sciver and Ivan Reis. Ivan is from Brazil (and the artist on Blackest Night) so his English was very poor. He couldn’t understand the questions well and so the Q/A part of the duel was mostly done by Ethan. Ethan drew Sinestro and Ivan drew Killowog. Other than that, this duel wasn’t very noteworthy.

The second sketch duel was between Marko Djurdjevic and Olivier Coipel. I though I recognized Olivier’s accent, and it turns out he was in the other sketch dual I saw two years ago! The highlight, for better or for worse, of this dual was Marko though. People would ask him questions like, if you could draw any book which would it be, and he would just say “I don’t know”. At one point he complained about the “philosophical questions” people kept asking him! I thought this was hilarious that he was rejecting the fandom that the audience was giving him. He really did only want to draw, and in the sketch dual he drew Thor and 2 bonus pieces: Dr. Doom and The Hulk. Later J. Michael Straczynski showed up to raffle off the 4 drawings but unfortunately I didn’t win anything.

The other awesome thing that I saw at Fan Expo (well I saw a lot of awesome things) was a 2D girlfriend! The little note is awesome “Perv Pillows – You know you want one – $30.00”. I didn’t see anyone carrying them around though.

Wanted is based off of a comic series which I read when it came out. It took place in some alternate universe (i.e., no Supes or Bats) and was an interesting read. Unfortunately the movie tanked the reviews (64% on Metacritic) so I waited to watch it from PacMall.

The opening sequence was great, and followed the comic faithfully, even having all the monologue. After the first action sequence, I was wondering what made this movie deserve the low marks that it was given; was it because I was biased because I had enjoyed the print version? Well I found out soon enough because they deviated from the comics and decided to tell their own inbred story.

The comics were cool because in this universe, the bad guys teamed up and took out all the good guys. Now, the bad-guys-in-charge thing is overplayed thanks to the Marvel Universe, but when I first read it, it was pretty cool. The villains then split up the world into several factions and the story had Mr. Wanted involved in a global turf war. Oh, and there were all sorts of weird (only in comic world) assassins.

It’s too bad that they turned an intriguing premise into a typical Hollywood story. While there were some neat plot twists, and fun action sequences, the nonsensical behaviour in some scenes made things dumb. I’m torn about this, it was a five star in the beginning, but a three star at the end. I think I’d keep it at a three.

Hollywood has drawn inspiration from a lot of comic books in recent years: Spider-man x 3, X-Men x 4, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Hulk, The Incredible Hulk, Daredevil, Batman, Superman, Iron Man, Electra, Daredevil, Fantastic Four x 2, 300, Sin City, Watchman, Wanted to name a few. There are also several coming up, including Green Lantern, Avengers, and various sequels. Comic books are pervasive in Hollywood now, but Hancock is special in that it is a super hero movie about a super hero that was not sourced from comic books (the only other one I can think of is My Super Ex-Girlfriend).

I thought this was a great movie. Like Children of Men, this allowed me to watch an interesting environment evolve. I liked it more because I can relate more to comic book heroes (I mean, I read comic books more often) and because Will Smith’s character was more compelling than the character drawn by Clive Owen. For a long time I associated Will Smith with comedic one liners, and while there are a few of those in this movie, his acting made me believe that Hancock was a disinterested superhero.

I was a bit let down by how they decided the movie needed an ending instead of more exposition and character development on the part of John Hancock but I’m going to give this movie four stars out of five. Was it as good as Iron Man? I think so, because this story was fresh and the plot twist in the middle was pretty good. I didn’t see it coming at all!

In the few short days between the wedding and the honeymoon, I went on a shopping spree for animated, comic DVDs. I bought Ultimate Avengers 1, Ultimate Avengers 2, Superman: Doomsday, and Justice League: The New Frontier.

I was particular interested in the Ultimate Avengers series because I never watched a cartoon featuring the Avengers, and secondly this series is supposed to be based off of the Ultimates series which combines the Marvel universe with our real life one, complete with mature themes and scandals. However, after watching both, I was disappointed by the execution. They tried to combine too many back stories into the plot, and watered down the dialogue and story to kid-cartoon level. I don’t think I’ll buy any more Marvel comic DVDs because both of these were two out of five movies.

Superman: Doomsday was better. This movie dealt with the death of Superman at the hands of Doomsday, and was great up to the death part. Then the story took on a turn (couldn’t end the DVD at 30 minutes) and the plot suffered. However, the movie still had the DC experience in cartoon making going for it, and so it wasn’t too bad. Although, Superman had some weird wrinkles on his face for some reason, which he never had in Justice League. Three out of five for this one.

The best was by far Justice League: The New Frontier. This story didn’t really fit in with the current timeline, and is a flashback to the Silver Age of comics. The Americans had just finished fighting a war, and the Justice League did not exist yet. However, a greater enemy brought the heroes together. The neat aspect of this movie was that setting was in the 50s-60s and so had a classic feel. This one gets a three point five.

Even before it came out, The Dark Knight was destined to be the biggest movie of the summer. Advance sales hit records, and it looks like it’s going to be the #1 movie for 2 weeks in a row. I saw The Dark Knight yesterday in an event my early career group at work organized, and I exercised my patience since we had to schedule the event almost a full week after the movie came out.

For all the positive reviews, I didn’t think The Dark Knight was that good – in fact I think Ironman was a superior movie. I noticed two interesting about how the plot was structured, first they constructed outlandish scenarios in order to show Cool Things. For example, why was Batman in Hong Kong?? How did the Joker engineer the lower 5th scene without planning (I thought Batman was the schemer). This made Batman seem dumb, and not the resourceful super hero he should be.

In fact, the Batman character was really weakly written in the movie. The movie didn’t even focus on him! The Joker is the main draw; his and Harvey Dent’s story was the point of the movie, Batman was just there so people would come. How did Batman’s character development? All we learned is that he will persist at being Batman. He could’ve been a kung-fu robot dressed in a black suit and the movie would have been the same.

Looking back, I was disappointed at the movie because of such high expectations the press and Batman Begins put on the movie. The Dark Knight was not as good as Iron Man, and I would only give it 3 out of 5 stars.

Of two Marvel comic book movies opening this summer, I heard about the Incredible Hulk much more than Iron Man, although I suppose that’s because Hulk was filmed in Toronto. I saw some links on the web to pictures of the Iron Man suit early this year, but truth be told I was not enthusiastic about the film. He’s not nearly as interesting a hero as say the Fantastic Four, which I think I am capable of saying since I followed (bought – wow) the Iron Man Heroes Reborn book back when I was kid.

So I was quite surprised a couple of weeks ago when Iron Man opened to not even good, but great reviews! Although, I was somewhat pessimistic about the reaction since I did not agree with the critics’ “great” review of Spider-man. After a great delay, I finally saw Iron Man last night and I have to agree that it was great. Four out of five stars great!

Some reviews I had read felt that the first half of the film, where Tony Stark Robert Downey Jr. is his playboy self was much better than the second half (where all the action is). I thought the movie was pretty even and great throughout. RDJ played, and the writers wrote Tony Stark as a comic geek would expect him to be, although I would expect him to be more of a business man and less of a tinkerer (I mean he’s the head of SHIELD now). Here’s a laundry list of other things I enjoyed:

  • The Spider-man moment when he flew around California, cumulating in his brash stunt of blasting into space. The best part about this is that, in the Star Trek style of writing, this irrelevant moment was tied to the plot in the end. Another example of this was the gift that Pepper gave Tony. I love this type of writing.
  • The scene after the credits with Nick Fury was of course great. You may not be aware but in the Ultimates revision of the Marvel universe, Nick Fury is now an African-American and portrayed in the style of Samuel L. Jackson. So it makes a comic book giddy to see this come full circle and have Samuel L. Jackson play him on the big screen. Second side note: There is an existing Avengers Initiative book in print right now, although it’s about War Machine training super heroes.
  • Speaking of War Machine, he’s actually Rhodes who was the army weapons research guy in the film. Did you catch his remark when he saw the silver Iron Man suit?
  • Gwenyth Paltrow was amazing as Pepper Potts, and what a comic geek would expect a red-headed supporting character (ahem Kirsten Dunst) to be like. Although I’m not too happy with the suggested romance since they deviated from canon (I think).
  • I liked the SHIELD tie-in, although I didn’t recognize the acronym until they said it. It make even more sense with the Nick Fury scene.
  • There was an really cute scene where Tony was talking to Pepper in the denouement where Tony talks about how Pepper couldn’t be his girlfriend because she would freak out — I think that was an allusion to the Spider-man/Mary Jane relationship!

I’ve been watching Smallville for awhile, even though it sucks, because it’s based on comics. There have been a couple of cool things this season, for example Black Canary, but the back story has deviated so far from canon that as a comic book fan, the series seems like it should just be “inspired by Superman”.

At this point, it’s very difficult to get past the horrible writing and lame-o stories. After 6 seasons, the writers have simply run out of ideas and have to stage complex scenarios in order to bring something new to the show. I mean, Superman only has so many flaws and those were played out 3 or 4 seasons ago. The story has truly become Dawson Creek, I don’t even remember the last time Superman Clark Kent used his powers to do something other than save his friends. Plus, Lana is a robot now or something. Anyways, I could go on and on, but the point is that I may finally stop following this gay series.

On Saturday, Alex x 2, Andrew, Keith and I went down to the Metro Convention Centre for the annual Fan Expo. The Fan Expo is how do I put this mildly, a geek show. It was a comic/sci-fi/horror/gaming/anime convention all put into one; and I should also add that it should have been a Nintendo DS convention as well since it seemed like everyone there had one (I guess they knew they had to wait in line). This was my first time at one of these things, and it was an interesting look at this sub-culture, as well as a role-reversal since we would be the “cool kids” (i.e., jocks and the like) in the social hierarchy (or are we the losers since we didn’t dress up in costume?).

We showed up at 11 and started lining up with a lot of cosplay and NDS players. Alex was in a rush because the Tricia Helfer (of Battlestar Galactica and Canada’s Next Top Model fame) had her autograph session at noon. We finally were able to buy our $25 ticket at 12:30 and make it in. I have diverging thoughts about the price of the ticket. On the one hand, it’s a cheap ticket compared to other experience events (i.e., concerts), but OTOH it’s a hella expensive general convention ticket considering I thought $12 for the Auto Show was not really worth it. Although, before going in, I was tempted to get the $45 Deluxe pass which would have enabled me to go on Sunday as well, and to enter some of the premium events. But in the end, it wouldn’t have been worth it as I pretty much saw what I wanted to in one day.

Once we got our ticket, our plan was to hurry to the autograph booths, but of course we were delayed and sidetracked to take pictures of people in costumes. It’s like Hallowe’en for adults! Eventually we did get to the autograph session in time. The organizers had conveniently placed Six’s booth so that you couldn’t really get a good view of her unless you paid your extra money. This was tall Alex’s highlight of the show, so he paid his $10 for the photo, $2 for the photo protector and $25 for the autograph and got in line (and if you wanted a photo with her, it would cost you another $40!). Having different priorities; Alex, Andrew and I decided to get some lunch instead. We lined for Pizza Pizza, and ironically it turned out that the line was longer and we were served slower than Tricia Helfer! But the pizza was fresh and at only $20 wasn’t too much of a rip.

The cellphone service was horrible (i.e., non-existent; thank you 850MHz), so we had some difficulty meeting up with Keith. Eventually once we were all together we walked around the merchant area and display booths. There were a lot of people selling comics, figurines (i.e., toys) and other anime knicknacks. The horror section was basically filled with marketing campaigns for upcoming horror movie and DVDs. The gaming area was split into two halves, one featured competitions as part of the World Series of Video Games, and the other was a free area sponsored by Intel where you could play a variety of games. Surprisingly, there was little lineup in that area! Oh right, because everyone was playing their DSes.

The coolest area by far (well aside from all the cosplay) was the Artist Alley. Here, various well-known and not so well-known artists peddled their art. I bought a couple of limited prints by Peter Repovski of Daredevil, Spider-man and Batman, but there was a lot of other stuff that I wanted to buy (but where would I put them?). Another cool thing was that you could commission artists to draw someone for you, and it wasn’t too expensive. But in general, it was neat seeing how people would draw characters so that they were catchy and sellable (one way is nudity).

The most popular area was the autograph area. There were a couple of well-known people there: various Star Trek and Star Wars people, George Romeo, Malcolm McDowell and Adam West. The cool people to see for me were the Star Trek people. Robert Beltram, who played Commander Chakotay on Star Trek: Voyager now had longer, shaggier hair. Dwight Schultz, who played Lt Barclay on Star Trek: TNG and Voyager looked much, much older. Jonathan Frakes, who played Commander Riker on Star Trek: TNG looked a little older but much the same as he did in the movies. Andrew and Alex (he likes his autographs!) paid to get a sign picture with Frakes, and I was tempted to as well, but $25 doesn’t seem worth it. The last celebrity of note was Charisma Carpenter who appeared on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, and Playboy. However, because I was taking pictures of Frakes I wasn’t able to be at her booth when she arrived and couldn’t get any good shots. By the time I arrived, they had placed a fat guy (must have been hard to find someone to fill that role at the convention) in the way to block the view.

On (short) Alex’s recommendation, we left the show area and headed to some sessions. Alex recommended the Sketch Offs where two artists are given a random artist to sketch while answering questions. At the end of the Sketch Off, each drawing was raffled off to a lucky audience member. The first one we saw was between Michael Turner and Oliver Coipel. I actually knew who Turner was because I collected Fathom way back when and apparently he’s been doing a lot of covers of comics that I follow. I don’t know Coipel at all, although he is drawing the current run of Thor (which I never started reading), and he had horrible answers to his questions. Although, I thought his drawing was better (maybe because he spent less time answering questions). The redeeming feature for him was that Andrew was the lucky winner of his Captain America sketch!

The next Sketch Off was not so great. It didn’t help that I didn’t know who any of the people were (nor what they drew). There were 3 anime artists from Japan (the guy who draws Trigun, the guy who draws Chrno Crusade, and someone else) and a local artist swapped and they drew each others’ characters. I suppose due to the difficulties of translating, instead of asking questions to the artists, the MC decided to kill time by selecting random people from the raffle and bringing them up to the front. You either had to say what you liked about the artists’ work (oops I knew no one), or otherwise entertain the audience for a minute or two. I thought this was a horrible idea because it made the audience part of the “show”. It was even worse when the artists weren’t finished on time so people kept getting called up. In the end, none of us got called up nor did we win in the raffle this time. The drawings themselves seemed better than the previous Sketch Off but I can’t really say because I don’t follow any of their shows.

And that was the end of a long but fun day, we went to East Side Mario’s for some dinner and then headed home.

It seems as though I don’t learn, because after my not entirely uplifting experience with Fantastic Four, I went and shelled out real money to see Fantastic Four 2: Rise of the Silver Surfer. The sequel was worse than the first one, even though I expected it to be pretty bad. The crass commercialism and corny humor were unbearable; although I think the writers were banking on them to be the redeeming points that would make the movie popular. The plot was not terrible, however being a comic book movie, it can be quite baffling and still be believable. On the other hand, the characters and attempted development of them was implausible. Situations seemed heavily scripted in order to deliver the payoff later in the movie.

There were two things I liked about the movie. First, Silver Surfer really did look like he came out of the comic books, and second the scene where Johnny Storm went all Super Skrull. Although you could argue that the writers basically ripped off another comic character because they couldn’t figure out how to end the movie. I wouldn’t be surprised if that really was the reason based on their previous work. Lucky for FF2, I’m a comic geek so I can stay interested in this two out of five star movie even when it sucks.

I saw Spider-man 3 last night despite generally unfavorable reviews. I’ve seen the first and the second, although I had no recollection of what happened in the sequel until they did a recap in the opening credits, and I can’t say that I was particularly fond of either of them. So going in with no expectations, and being an action movie, S3 should turn out to be pretty fun right?

Well I would agree with you, except that I had to sit through 2 hours of random stuff before having fun. The movie started with 6 previews, of which the first 3 were the other blockbusters of the summer (FF:2, Harry Potter 5, Pirates 3). Then I learned all about Sandman’s backstory, Venom’s backstory, Peter/Harry/MJ’s bizarre love triangle (again), Green Goblin (again), Peter & Gwen Stacey’s relationship, Uncle Ben’s death (again), Peter and Harry being friends (again), Harry learning that Peter == Spider-man (again), “with great power comes great responsibility (again, although this time the lesson is to not kill someone) and etc etc. A lot of repetition I would say?

The web of themes and stories in this movie made it long, but as I watched it, I realized that the problem was that it was a jack-of-all-trades movie. It tried to incorporate everything to appeal to everyone. You had the comic book stuff for geeks, you had romance, you had comedy, you had over-the-top satire (I felt like I was watching the Hulk at some points), you had action scenes, you had singing, you had dancing, you had disco, you had drama and real-life issues, you had character development, you had a tragic hero, you had bad guys, and you had death. Honestly, what wasn’t in that movie?? (I remember now, Spider-man’s trademark banter with the bad guys). In a hundred years time, they’re going to look at Spider-man 3 in English class and write all sorts of essays about the themes written into this series.

There were things that I liked in the movie. Surprisingly, I found Kirsten Dunst’s performance as Mary Jane to be much better and believable than her first two tries at it. Maybe it was because she has longer, fuller (barely) hair now or maybe I’m accustomed to her being Mary Jane, but I thought she was great in the role this time around. I also liked how Eddie Brock’s (Venom) character was developed. The writers painted a picture which was believable and gave him the motivation to go after Parker. However, the fact that Sandman was waiting in an alley for Spider-man Venom to swing down so that he could punch him, and then a 2-second conversation of “Hey, you want to kill Spider-man, I want to kill Spider-man, let’s go kill Spider-man!” is pretty bad writing to tie their stories together and setup the last half hour.

I thought the movie should have focussed on being an action/comic book movie and removed the Sandman storyline in its entirety. That would’ve made a much better movie. As it stands though, I would have to say that it’s a 2 out of 5.

The American Flag scene: I thought it would have been longer, it was just a 2-second snap, but yeah it was incredibly corny. Stan Lee’s cameo: was neat, and I didn’t recognize him until someone in the audience said something. But yeah, that was superfluous and should have been cut to make the movie shorter.


Space has been playing a ton of promos and previews for 300, and while I don’t actually watch Space constantly, I went to see 300 on the weekend just to prove that subliminal advertising works. Not being science fiction, I’m surprised that Space has been playing the 300 spots over and over, particularly because 300 is about a historical event set in our (real) universe. But maybe it has something to do with it being based off of a Frank Miller graphic novel, or that it was mostly shot on a blue screen in Montreal.

300 has been mentioned by some as the very first summer blockbuster. It is neither summer in theory (first day of Spring is tomorrow) nor in reality (see: the snowfall over the weekend). But a blockbuster it does feel like. From the very get-go, there was a feeling of this being an epic tale. This may have been due to the monologue recounting a legend at the beginning, the music, or that it looked visually like Gladiator 2. What threw it over the top was the use of slow motion. I think if they played the movie at normal speed, it would have lasted half an hour.

But I liked the use of slow motion. Because I knew the plot came from a graphic novel, it really did feel like it was a comic book brought to life (and not in the way that the Hulk looked like a comic character in a real movie). When the heroes were moving slowly through the battlefield, it felt like reading a comic pane by pane and experiencing the main (singular) plot thread. Of course, half way through the movie, the novelty wore off and I just wanted them to Do Stuff Like HK People.

300 was entertaining and a good experience overall. While watching it, I didn’t feel any of the allegory mentioned in the press about US vs terrorists. I think it’s confirmation biases on the part of partisans. It’s also good to see that there are still some films that don’t bow down to movie ratings; 300 subscribed to the Kill Bill school of blood, and was rated 18A (although my ticket said 14A). I give this a 300/500.

Smallville started up again after the Christmas break. I can’t even remember where the series left off, but it started the new year with the Justice League of America! While, I think the writers are really running out of ideas since they have to borrow from the future (see also Lois Lane), I’m also fan-boy giddy about real-life action JLA (as opposed to the cartoons).

They didn’t introduce any new characters (so for example, there’s no Batman), but they pulled in all the JLA members that had cameo’s in the series. This interpretation of the league consists of Superman, Green Arrow, Aquaman, Flash and Cyborg. Superman isn’t named that yet, and Flash is called “Impulse”. Clark is called “Boy Scout” which reminds me of Michael Vaughn since I’ve been watching Alias. Cyborg also is a weird fit because he should be part of the Teen Titans.

Chloe is part of the league, and knows everyone’s identity. In fact, her code name is Watchtower which is the orbital base in the comics. So she would seem to be the new Martian Manhunter, but in fact I think she is more like Oracle.