Planet of the Apes

A few months ago I watched Rise of the Planet of the Apes with a couple of friends. It was entertaining, I think due mostly to Andy Serkis’ excellent motion capture performance (if he’s not careful, we might never see his face again on screen!). Never having seen the original Planet of the Apes with Charlton Heston, I decided to check it out. It too was entertaining and I now feel that I can fully appreciate the end of Spaceballs. (If you haven’t see Spaceballs yet, you need to do that tonight.)

So the other day, I found that we have the 2001 remake of Planet of the Apes at the library. I knew enough about it that it had Mark Wahlberg and Helena Bonham Carter in it and was directed by Tim Burton. For me, these were points in its’ favor. Unfortunately the movie did not live up to my expectations.

In fact, the movie was awful. The Charlton Heston version was at least trying to say something. Burton’s version was nothing more than a mindless action remake. The makeup was a bit more realistic looking, although oddly enough I had a much harder time understanding the actors. The story was fundamentally changed too. The big kick at the end of the original was discovering that what we thought was another planet was actually Earth in the future. Scary, right? Well in Burton’s version, who knows where we are. Wahlberg’s character has gone through an electrical storm in space and crash lands on the ape planet.

I could have accepted all that though and appreciated the movie as the mindless entertainment it is if it hadn’t been for the ending. (Um spoiler warning here I guess, although it’s hardly worth it.) Mark Wahlberg gets the opportunity to travel back through the electrical storm, which he does, and heads straight for Earth. He somehow manages to land right in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. which turns out to  actually be a memorial to the evil ape General Wahlberg thought he had just defeated before leaving the ape planet (surprise!). The movie ends with Wahlberg being surround by police and firetrucks all driven by apes. WHAT. I have no idea what that means. Is he back on Earth? Earth in the future? Or is he back on the ape planet? It was such a frustrating and nonsensical ending that I felt like throwing something through the TV.

Absolute garbage.

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Kids These Days

Are super lucky. Or maybe I just think that because I can appreciate what they have available to them. I don’t remember growing up with all the gorgeous books/movies/etc. they have now although that might just be because I’m getting old and curmudgeonly. Recently I’ve come across two graphic novel series for younger readers that I have fallen in love with.

AMULET – Written and drawn by Kazu Kibuishi. My first introduction to this series was through David Malki! on his Wondermark website. (Scroll down to the list of “good comics & art” on the right hand side.) I briefly glanced at the art on Kibuishi’s website and made a mental note to check on the series later. A week or so ago I was reading The Steampunk Bible and Amulet was mentioned as a series that was steampunk. So the next morning I checked out the first volume, The Stonekeeper.

The story opens with the death of Emily Hayes’ father in a car crash. A few years later Emily, her little brother Navin, and their mother are moving to an old house her mother has inherited from her grandfather. Strange things happen almost immediately and when their mother is stolen into a different world, Emily and Navin follow her in to try and save her. The rest of the series is about what happens to them there and how Emily grows into being the newest “Stonekeeper”.

Kibuishi has created a gorgeous world, filled with humans, animals, half-breeds, evil elves and robots of all sorts. The art practically tells the story for itself and makes me wish I could plaster my walls with it. At the moment only four volumes are published with Volume 5, Prince of the Elves, due to be released in September. I’m not sure how many more volumes there will be or if 5 will be the last but it’s definitely a series worth reading.

Stay up to date with Kibuishi and all his work through his website.

MOUSE GUARD – Written and drawn by David Petersen. I don’t remember how I first heard about Mouse Guard but fortunately I did and, even more fortunately, we had it at the library. It’s a lovely little series, but definitely for children.

Mouse Guard tells the story of the world of mice. They have cities and settlements like us and the Mouse Guard not only protects mice in the cities from outside threats but also act as escorts for mice traveling between the mice settlements.

The illustrations here are gorgeous and the stories are interesting but not the most well written. They move quickly though and are probably perfect for a young child looking for an entrance into a good graphic novel. Fall 1152 is the first in the series, followed by Winter 1152. Volume 3, The Black Axe, is a prequel and tells the story of a legendary Mouse Guard. Information about the series and lots of additional artwork can be found at the Mouse Guard website.

Prometheus

Is it possible to be excited about a movie coming out even though you know you’ll probably never see it, don’t even want to see it? Because Prometheus is that movie for me.

I’ve been to see The Avengers 3 times now (don’t judge me, that movie is amazing). And every time during the trailers, I still get freaked out during the one for Prometheus. Whoever made that trailer should be shot. Or given some awards. Maybe both.

Directed by Ridley Scott, Prometheus is a prequel of sorts for Alien. At least that’s what I’ve gathered. Starring Noomi Rapace and Michael Fassbender (who looks like he’s going to be quite evil), the trailer starts out innocently enough, with the premise of cultural discovery. But it goes downhill quickly and I can still hear that screaming bit in my head as I type this. Yikes.

I’ve already written about how movies in space are bad news and Prometheus is no exception. So I might end up seeing it since I enjoy torturing myself that way. And because the movie really does look like it will be good. But I can promise you it will be a matinee showing.

Prometheus comes out on June 8.

Social Media for the Fantastically Inclined

I tend to visit “faebook” a lot. I don’t mean to, but for some reason my finger never seems to hit the “c” key easily. My latest visit got me thinking- how would fantasy world denizens connect online?

Faebook– It will start out just for the Fae, of course, with fairies creating profiles with pictures, status updates, and the ability to connect to fairies everywhere. Membership will initially be restricted to those in the seelie and unseelie courts, however its popularity will attract pixies into wanting to sign up, followed eventually by everyone else. The opening of Faebook to everyone and the subsequent rush of trolls to join will cause Faebook to become the most used yet most hated social site in the world of fantasy.

BridgedIn– Because let’s face it, even in a fantasy world we can’t all be kings. Some of us will have to work for a living and what better way to find those open positions soldiering or adventuring then through networking? BridgedIn will  be the place to post your employment credentials, like how many princesses you’ve saved, how many evil spells you’ve broken, or how many dragons you’ve killed.

Troller– A place to post long-winded rants against everything you hate. This will be the attempt from the trolls, giants, and ogres to get a foot in social media and will become surprisingly popular. Individual rants, called “trolls”, will be discoverable through “#mashtags”. Detailed photo series of disgusting meals and long descriptions of pointless and destructive activities will trend worldwide.

Pixtr– The best way to share all those photos lying around with friends and family. This might not work the same way we think it would, since pictures in fantasy worlds are probably taken with pixie dust or something. But at least this way pictures don’t just stay on the wall, they can be shared with everyone! And their mom! And their mom’s friends! Best to stay off the nectar if you know what I’m saying.

Technology and Fantasy don’t seem to always mesh well (without pushing it too far into science fiction territory), but these are some of my suggestions for making it work.

Maurice Sendak

Presumably you’ve heard that Maurice Sendak has died. He was 83 years old and best known for his book Where the Wild Things Are. You can read more about his life and work at this New York Times article.

I did read Where the Wild Things Are as a child and when the Spike Jonze movie came out a few years ago I went to see it in the theater. It was a pleasant movie, but nothing I would probably choose to watch again.

My favorite Sendak works were discovered accidentally and, at the time, I did not even realize they were from him at all. I grew up with a father and grandmother who loved to read and books of all kinds were readily available in our house, especially strange, second hand books that seemed to magically appear on our bookshelves. One of these books was Outside Over There, written and illustrated by Sendak. It follows the story of a young girl whose baby sister has been stolen by goblins and she must travel to save her sister before the goblins marry her to one of them.

It’s a lovely and wonderfully creepy book and one I’m glad has stayed in our possession.

Another book I discovered unknowingly was The Golden Key by George MacDonald. I recently (re?)discovered MacDonald about a year ago when reading a lot about C.S. Lewis and finding out that MacDonald was a huge influencer for him and J.R.R. Tolkien. And then realized I had read one of his fairy stories years earlier as a child. I distinctly remember that I was at my grandmother’s apartment one rainy day. I began browsing her bookshelf and this book jumped out at me. Perhaps it was the cover illustration, perhaps it was the mystery inherent in the title. For a key is never mentioned unless it unlocks something and I wanted to find out what it would unlock.

Sendak’s incredibly detailed black and white drawings were the perfect complement to MacDonald’s story.

Another story written by George MacDonald, The Light Princess, was also illustrated by Sendak. An evil fairy, offended when she is not invited to the new princess’ christening, casts a spell on the baby depriving her of gravity (both physical and emotional). The only cure can come if the princess is made to cry which of course happens due to a handsome prince.

Again, Sendak’s illustrations perfectly complement MacDonald’s story. It’s a shame he could not have illustrated more of MacDonald’s work.

I would recommend trying to find copies of these books at the library; the hardback editions of the MacDonald books are from the same publisher and have the same format. Buying the books will probably result in paperback editions.

If you’re interested in looking at more of Maurice Sendak’s art I would recommend The Art of Maurice Sendak by Selma G. Lanes. It’s a massive book but full of beautiful illustrations. Although considering the price on amazon, this might be one to get at the library as well.

Eight Things I’ve Learned from Superhero Movies

I love watching superhero movies. I’m not a comic book reader and I don’t really have a preference between DC or Marvel (although I must say Marvel has done quite well for themselves recently). But I love how superhero movies are so epic and, when done well, really make you wish you could be a superhero yourself. But from the numerous movies that I’ve seen with superheroes, there are eight things I’ve picked up.

1) Don’t live in big cities. Oh sure, it may be a point of pride that you live in such a big cool place that everybody wants to destroy but is it really worth the skyrocketing insurance rates? And there is always the possibility you’ll end up as one of the hostages when some bad guy decides to push your resident superhero to his limit.

Sure it looks cool, but imagine trying to get to work through the mess of a city that’s left when these guys are done. And it’d probably be a Monday too.

2) Don’t make people angry. Really. Don’t. Because that guy you just cut off changing lanes? Well guess what. He’s a super scientist. And you cutting him off means he’s going to miss his job interview this morning which will tip him over the edge and turn you into his Enemy #1. And he will do everything in his power to make you pay.

All Bruce Wayne did was give Dr. Edward Nygma a polite “no” and Nygma just goes crazy! Next thing you know, Joker’s running wild through Gotham.

3) Science will be involved. Kinda. It won’t make much sense probably, even if you know science stuff. I don’t, but I think it’s funny that Captain America’s shield is made from Vibranium. Spiderman gets his superpowers from a spider bite that changes his DNA. And Tony Stark creates a new element by connecting some tubes and directing a laser. If I had known science could be this easy and fun with such awesome results maybe I would have tried to like it more in school!

Seriously, how does this work?

4) It’s best if you don’t have parents. Hate to be a downer here but if you’re looking into the superhero route, best to let your parents/beloved guardian(s) know beforehand. At least give them the chance to hide or break all ties with you. Or maybe they will be happy to know that their untimely death is what pushes you to save the world.

Sad Batman.

5) If you’re going to be bad, have fun with it. If superhero movies have taught me anything it’s that bad guys always lose. So if you have to be the bad guy enjoy it while it lasts. Make up a silly evil name like Dr. Doom or Red Skull (if you’re not very clever, using a name that simply describes a physical characteristic is totally appropriate). And please, let’s see a cool costume.

He might not have the coolest name but do you really want to make a leather wearing Nazi who has no skin on his face mad?

6) Your secret base/lair will never be as secret/impenetrable as you think. I don’t care what kind of fancy bells and whistles you put in or around your living premises, somebody’s going to find it. And they’re going to know exactly what it’s going to take to destroy it.

Sometimes the best way to hide something is put it in plain sight. Not that that stopped Stryker and Co. from breaking and entering.

7) Heels and tight clothes are apparently much more comfortable than I’ve been led to believe. If you’re a woman and you want to be a superhero you have to have a skintight costume. And heels. I don’t know why because skintight makes it hard to move and heels hurt your feet. But you make the fanboys happy!

She’s in heels. Running. And that suit doesn’t look very stretchy to me, but that must not be important when you’re kicking butt.

A strong contender for worst superhero costume ever.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

8) Be prepared. Superheroes never know what’s going to happen or when it’s going to happen. That’s why smart heroes are always at the ready. Whether it’s Clark Kent tearing off his shirt in phone booths (ohmygoodness how does he change now?) or Tony Stark and his numerous suits, a good hero plans for every circumstance.

Wearing spandex all the time must be awful on the skin. But Clark Kent’s a true superhero and he knows how to live the life.

 

So that’s what I’ve learned. I’d love to hear what other people have picked up!

The Avengers Review

Well, it’s finally here. The Avengers. After several years of the (mostly excellent) lead-up background movies, they’ve all come together to save the world.

I’m going to try and make this post relatively un-detailed. So no spoilers. I stumbled upon an article yesterday that ended up giving away a huge spoiler. WITHOUT WARNING. It ruined my morning. Especially since I hadn’t even really been looking at pictures or any other articles about the movie since I wanted to be surprised. Anyways, enough whining.

I went to the midnight showing, an excellent decision. A few costumes, but mainly plastic masks or shields, and a lot of Marvel related t-shirts on attendees. The previews: The Expendables 2 (I don’t really care about this one but the theater I was in lost it when Chuck Norris and Jean Claude Van Damme showed up), The Amazing Spiderman (yeah, it looks awesome, but despite loving the earlier movies (or maybe because of) I just can’t seem to get excited about this one), Frankenweenie (Tim Burton’s early short film about a boy who brings his dog back to life extended to feature length), and Brave (very excited about this one- Pixar’s first female heroine and it looks like it’s going to be a really beautiful film). Um, there were more than this I think but I was kind of tired and honestly? I wasn’t there for the previews.

And then the movie finally started! Yay! It followed the fairly generic formula for ensemble action movies: introduce villain/world threatening problem, round up separate heroes, highlight problems amongst heroes, somehow they band together and then epic battle(s) ensue followed by heroes saving the world. And that’s what happened. In the most perfect way possible.

A problem for movies with large ensembles means that characters don’t get a lot of time to be fleshed out that well. Film makers tend to resort to broad characterizations to help audiences keep track of who’s who. Fortunately, Marvel has eliminated that problem with the origin movies. So we already know who everyone is pretty much. Hawkeye and Black Widow deserve to get their own movies after this though- their relationship, and their separate characters, are amazing. I mean seriously, Black Widow? Girl’s got nothing except her body and her guns and she could handle any one of those superheroes no problem. Oh, and her scene with Loki? My jaw hit the floor. Also, I love Agent Coulson. So much.

The one-liners and banter in this movie are incredible and I’m going to have to see this movie again simply because I missed half the movie laughing. The fight scenes are wonderful (I’m running out of synonyms for amazing here…) and result in total geek outs, especially when you see who’s fighting who. Loki is the best villain that we’ve seen so far in these movies and Tom Hiddleston brings a level of creepy/crazy to this movie that we never saw in Thor. Of course, I might just be biased because I love Viking mythology so much.

The movie absolutely lived up to my expectations. I think Joss Whedon successfully annihilated any doubts people might have had that he couldn’t handle directing this movie.  And best of all, a sequel was clearly hinted at in the end credits and I have heard rumors of a Thor sequel and a Captain America sequel as well. Awesome. Also, if you go to see the movie, be sure to stay to the end, the very end, of the credits. You should probably know that already, but seriously. Stay.

Oh and I’ve heard about the Agent Coulson shorts that are on the Thor and Captain America Blu-Ray’s, but if you don’t have Blu-Ray like me, you can see them both here.

Ok, I lied. I’m putting a spoiler in here. Highlight below if you want to read it. But don’t read it if you haven’t seen the movie. Don’t. You’re only ruining it for yourself if you do.

Joss Whedon, why must you always kill the best character?!?!? You did it with Walsh in Serenity and now you did it with Agent Coulson. I understand his death was the necessary catalyst to solidify the separate heroes into The Avengers but still. I loved him and now’s he dead. No more unflappable responses to ridiculous situations, no more lovely dry humor. *sob*

Ok, spoiler finished. Just wanted to get it out of my system.