Thursday, May 31, 2012

Injustice: Gods Among Us Trailer

A while back (in a post I can't find at the moment), I mentioned that Mortal Kombat was probably the coolest game I never wanted to play.  Decent fight mechanics backed by a cinematic story mode that was the best thing to hit fighting games ever, my biggest problem was the sheer dislike I had for the universe.

A universe I DO like, by the same studio responsible for MK9.  I don't usually do fighting games (that aren't 3D), but this game is the first thing to come out of DC Entertainment that I've legitimately believed to be a good idea.

A bit more from Ed Boon of NetherRealm Studios.   Hopefully we'll hear more information (and less vague-ness) at E3.

Injustice: Gods Among Us drops in 2013.  Hopefully early 2013 so I can enjoy it with my friends before some of them graduate.  

Nine Months Later: DCU Relaunch

This time a year ago, the comic book internet (which is, surprisingly, MUCH larger than you would expect it to be) had only one thing on it's mind: the relaunching of the DC Universe.  As anyone might predict, the reactions were varied. Obviously DC hoped it would be a tremendous success that would fix the comic book industry's problem of a rapidly aging, waning fan base.  They poured money into an ad campaign for television commercials(!), radio advertisements, and of course website banners.   This was a huge gamble--television ads aren't cheap, and while DC does have Warner Bros' bottomless pockets, there's no such thing as a company that enjoys wasting money.   DC could've been in huge trouble if things didn't pan out well. 

Now, a full year after the initial announcement, and nine months into the actual "new" DC Universe, it appears there was never any reason to panic.  While "The New 52" sales didn't knock anyone out of their seats, it DID place DC above Marvel sales-wise for the first time in a couple decades...and it created some lulzy moments that I actually predicted, in which Aquaman beat out every single Marvel book on the stands, for two months straight.  That said, now that some books are an arc in, or two arcs in, or halfway through their gigantic mega-arcs or whatever, I'm finding myself...less than enthused.

Now let's get a few things straight: I was one of The New 52's biggest proponents last year.  The proof is on this site--my posts were those of an excited fanboy.  And I DO think a lot of good stories have come from this "new" DC Universe.  Grant Morrison's Action Comics.  Geoff Johns' Aquaman.  Scott Lobdell's Superboy (yes, seriously).  Francis Manapul and Brian Buccelato's Flash.  Gail Simone's Batgirl.  These are all stories that came from the new 52 and couldn't have been told without some pretty powerful retcons.   So why am I still unhappy?  Well, let's get into that...

1.) Not Enough Attention To DC's Trinity

This one's going to come the furthest out of left field.  For the first time in, forever, DC's "Trinity" of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman all have critically acclaimed books being released for them.  Between Grant Morrison on Action Comics, Scott Synder on Batman and Brian Azzarello on Wonder Woman, for a lot of fans there's never been a better time to be a fan of these three superheroes.

Unfortunately, a lot of fans just isn't me.  What bugs me the most about these three books is that they ARE good.  They ARE well-written and well-drawn, but each one of them has a problem that makes it difficult for me to give them the full nod of approval.

With Batman, more than anything else, it's Grant Morrison's run on the character that's bugging me. The bigger villains that Bats was pitted against during Morrison's run (which started in 2006 and is actually still going on today!) overshadow the myopic Court of Owls by so much it's embarassing.  And STILL, when Morrison writes Batman the character never seems like he feels outclassed or out of his league.  It's hard for me to take seriously a Batman that feels threatened by a group aiming to control a city when a completely different comic has him taking on a group trying to control the world and he's maintaining his cool.   And I get it, the Court of Owls make Batman feel like Gotham's not "his".   But Gotham was ALREADY screwed up, this is just one more group Bruce needs to smack around and show who's the REAL top dog of Gotham.

In the case of Action Comics...more than anything it's just misplaced expectations.  It's a well-written book, but from the initial interviews to the first issue of the comic, we were all led to believe this would be a modern take on the 1930's Superman.  From the city and the background characters to the Man of Steel himself, it felt like we were reading Superman by way of the old Max Fleischer cartoons.  And then bam!  The Legion pops up out of nowhere, and we're dealing with the Anti-Superman Squadron and Brainiac and we're not even ten issues in and Superman's already ditched the T-Shirt and Jeans look for his armored costume.   Has the story thus far been a bad one?  No.   Did people think we were getting something else?  Definitely.

But the worst offender to me, however, is Wonder Woman.  Having gone through the most radical changes, the only thing that remains the same about Wonder Woman is the very basics of her origin...and in truth, barely even that.   And if this were all in service to make her a better, more interesting character I'd be all for it.  But she isn't.  What happened here was a fairly typical thing (I want to call it a mistake, but this may have been his initial intentions) where the writer made the characters around the main hero more interesting, instead of making the main character more interesting.  As a result, a large part of the first seven issues I read feature Diana (the superhero and main character) reacting to things around her rather than forcing people to react to her.   For some people that might work and that's fine.  People seem to love the run and I'm not going to insult Azzarello for writing it that way.  But for my money Diana was a much more interesting character under Gail Simone a few years ago.  She was funny, confident, sexy, and powerful.  A three-dimensional character I enjoyed reading from month to month because the book felt like it was about her and not the Greek Gods and some random girl who banged Zeus.

Still, the biggest problem to me is that, as good as Action, Batman, and Wonder Woman may be...the secondary titles just don't have the same quality.  Detective is drawn wonderfully, but feels lacking story-wise.  The same with Superman.  And Wonder Woman doesn't even HAVE a second book, which is a tad ridiculous considering Batman has four.  While that means the quality level remains high in all of Wonder Woman's books, given all the complaints they got for not having enough females behind the scenes or on the stands, you'd think they could've gotten rid of at least one of Batman's superfluous titles to give Wonder Woman a Sensational Comics.  

If you're going to relaunch your entire line, you have to go into it being fully aware that your most important characters need to have the strongest creative teams, with no weaknesses, and they need to be EQUAL.  When Batman has four books while Superman has two and Wonder Woman just has one, you're sending a message that things haven't really changed and you just put a new coat of paint on the old house.   Why couldn't Batman and Robin have been Detective Comics, if it's so good?  Why did Batman: The Dark Knight even need to exist at all when you know you had only 52 slots to open with?   And I love George Perez but having him write Superman?    I  sound (and feel) like a dick, but let's look at what we got: A six-issue arc in which the villain was his costume and technically delved into continuity that didn't exist yet.   This is how we're introducing the Man of Steel after the biggest media push comics has ever seen?  

I've got more, but this article is running a tad long so I'll run part 2 tomorrow.  

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Song of the Week - Childish Gambino - Black Faces

I keep trying to get this guy out of my mp3 player.   Mission failed, though.  I see so much of Kanye in this guy, it's ridiculous.  He started out as a beat-maker, then moved on to raps.  He's got a lot of ego to him, but his raps display a genuine honesty that you can feel in every line.  His album took him from "Who?" to "Oh, THAT nigga" pretty rapidly.  Because he's a different kind of rapper than what we're used to, a lot of old head cats and hipster fans trying to like everything "street" don't want to co-sign and give the dude the respect he's owed, but that hasn't stopped him from getting more and more popular.

At this point I'm just hoping he proves me wrong and goes in a different direction from Kanyeezy, one that still lets me respect him as an artist and doesn't let him become a parody of himself.   Anyway, this post isn't about me, it's about another dope song from my current favorite artist, Childish Gambino, featuring West Coast rapper Nipsey Hussle:

"Me and Nipsey on some grown shit, no rent
Own shit, no Jim Crow shit, black faces..."

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Kingdoms of Amalur: Project Copernicus Trailer

I'm roughly 90 hours into Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, and I'm still enjoying it quite a bit.  The game definitely has it's flaws--for instance, the world feels very static as a consequence of the game not changing based on the quests you complete.   There's also a distinct lack of skills to choose from, and only a few of the ones you're offered feel useful.   But I'm enjoying the setting, and true to their word, fighting is not a chore.  A sequel would only be a few better choices away from garnering them the same kind of huge fan base that older series have.

At any rate, fans knew after Reckoning the developers would be working on releasing their MMO, code named "Project Copernicus" but we hadn't seen anything new from them.  Worse, there were a number of rumors that 38 Studios wasn't quite able to pay their workers or the Rhode Island government they owed $75 million dollars to.  It was beginning to seem like this new company would be a "one and done" group.  Until the newest trailer hit:

We never see any characters in the trailer, only environments, but the game definitely looks gorgeous, and very Reckoning-like.  I'm glad to see that, since the world of Amalur's look is what got the game it's purchase.  I can see buying this and playing it until Reckoning 2 or some of the other Amalur products are released.  

The Arrow Trailer

So, if you haven't seen this by now, there's a pair of trailers out for the new CW series airing in the fall, The Arrow, about DC's emerald archer, the Green Arrow. One's more of a small teaser for the sake of getting people hyped:

And then the other is  a more traditional trailer designed to give people a good sense of what the series is about:

And then there's the actual series summary:

After a violent shipwreck, billionaire playboy Oliver Queen was missing and presumed dead for five years before being discovered alive on a remote island in the Pacific. When he returns home to Starling City, his devoted mother Moira, much-beloved sister Thea, and best friend Tommy welcome him home, but they sense Oliver has been changed by his ordeal on the island. While Oliver hides the truth about the man he's become, he desperately wants to make amends for the actions he took as the boy he was. Most particularly, he seeks reconciliation with his former girlfriend, Laurel Lance. As Oliver reconnects with those closest to him, he secretly creates the persona of Arrow – a vigilante – to right the wrongs of his family, fight the ills of society, and restore Starling City to its former glory. By day, Oliver plays the role of a wealthy, carefree and careless philanderer he used to be – flanked by his devoted chauffeur/bodyguard, John Diggle – while carefully concealing the secret identity he turns to under cover of darkness. However, Laurel's father, Detective Quentin Lance, is determined to arrest the vigilante operating in his city. Meanwhile, Oliver's own mother, Moira, knows much more about the deadly shipwreck than she has let on – and is more ruthless than he could ever imagine.

 Personally, it doesn't sound (or look) bad to me.  It definitely sounds superior to Smallville, which seemed like it wanted to be Superboy but could never work up the nerve, even in the later seasons.  It's definitely accurate to the comics, and even includes a shout-out to the "Green Arrow: Year One" story that I still believe would make an amazing movie. 

I'm trying to with hold judgment until I've seen an episode, but so far it's probably the only series I'll be watching in the fall, especially since Community essentially got canceled when they fired the showrunner.  

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Song of the Week: The Palmer Squares - Bring the Bacon

First Song of the Week back on JiH.  Feels good, and I figured I might as well come back with another dope hip-hop track by the underground team The Palmer Squares.   Their EP, Spooky Language, just dropped Tuesday so go support them if you like this track.  It's a name your own price thing, but don't short-change them just because you can.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Something from Nothing: The Art of Rap Trailer

The history of rap as told by rappers.

With appearances from people that were the architects of hip-hop in their respective eras, this movie I didn't even know existed jumped past every movie I planned to see this summer and became my most anticipated film.  It's something I hope I can convince all my friends to go see but I'll definitely go solo should it come down to it. 

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Dreams of Justice

Okay, welcome back to blogspot, first off. I switched back because as nice as Weebly is if you're paying them and running a real website, as strictly a blogsite to me it leaves much to be desired. Now, with that out of the way, let's dive into today's topic:

So I saw Avengers on Friday night, and it was good. Like, very good. I enjoyed every minute of it, and I can't wait until it comes out on home video, so I can get it and have an Avengers movie night. The film itself sets the standard for not only comic book movies, but for all action movies in general going forward. So with that said, I'm going to need Warner Bros. and DC to stop screwing up.

The last time DC made a decent movie without the word "Bat" in it was somewhere around 1980 or 1978, depending on who you ask. Attempts to get other properties off the ground and into the public conscious have resulted in films that are at best mediocre, and at worst, worthy of Razzies. And as Marvel gets ready to develop it's second inter-connecting movie series on it's way to making Avengers 2 (which hopefully involves Iron Man 3, Thor 2, Cap 2, AND a Black Widow and perhaps a Ms. Marvel film), essentially making it's second lap around the track, DC is still fumbling at the starting line as if they didn't hear the gun.

Honestly, you have no idea how much it frustrates me, and if I had the skills of a far superior writer than myself, I still wouldn't be able to express it properly.  You see, I'm a DC fan at heart.  Yeah, Spider-Man's cool, the X-Men are okay, and I fucking love Iron Man.  But when it comes down to it, I'm more at home with the insane power levels and high concepts of the DC Universe, with it's superpowered space cops, it's last children of dying planets, and peace ambassadors from countries consisting entirely of soldiers.  So it saddens me to watch DC make mistake after mistake with their properties--or not even TRY. 

Words cannot express how excited I was when they announced the creation of DC Entertainment, placing Geoff Johns as Chief Creative Officer of DC and basically making him the link between the comic books and the mass media adaptations.  But that excitement dissipated pretty rapidly when the first image for the movie Green Lantern popped up.  I don't know how far out of his control that movie had already gotten by the time he got the job, but it was hugely depressing to have the only DC film out of four superhero films released to be the one people were disappointed by.  For those unaware, Geoff Johns has been the writer of Green Lantern for roughly seven years now, having started in 2004 with Green Lantern: Rebirth and taken the character from the mid-list seller it was into a powerhouse for DC Comics that frequently outsold most every other comic book on the stands, from Superman and Batman to X-Men and Spider-Man, and I still caanot figure why he (or anyone at DC, for that matter) allowed one of DC's A-List characters to look so ridiculous on screen.

Warner Bros. has wanted a Justice League film in theaters since Batman Begins hit the summer of my Junior year in high school, and if rumors are to be believed, they still want it and plan to release one by 2015.  I just sincerely hope there's someone to tell Warner's to hold their horses and stop approaching a huge potential money-maker like the Justice League backwards.  The reason why Avengers is able to be as good as it is--whether people realize it or not--is that aside from the post-credits scene, there was not a single character that needed introducing to the audience.  The big three had their own films in years past, Black Widow appeared in Iron Man 2, and while he wasn't a focal point Hawkeye appeared in Thor.   Even the supporting characters had all made prior introductions in previous films so that if you'd seen all the older movies the only characters that were unrecognizable was the villainous army, which had no real lines and no presence in the film other than targets for Hulk to smash.

Tackling Justice League the other way around would give them a minimum of five (but more likely) seven characters to introduce.  Every potential flaw you thought Avengers would have that it overstepped to make it the film it was, a Justice League film done without ANY prior introduction to the characters would have.  You don't have a reason to care about any of them.  None of them can be your favorite because you don't know any of them.  They all just exist to beat the bad guys and may go on to their own movies but since your connection to them begins and ends with this one film, you don't care. 

Nope, as childish as it may seem, "copying" Marvel is definitely your best bet in this case.  A team based superhero movie is something you have to earn and build from the bottom up, especially if it involves characters that will definitely be going on to their own movies later on.  So, with that in mind, let's look at some of the properties you need to make a Justice League film work, and see just how they would fit in to the timeline we have now of a Justice League film coming out in 2015.

Now while the Justice League's standard roster has seven members in it, the build-up to it ideally shouldn't need more than five other films:

Superman: The current status of this is that we'll be seeing Superman: Man of Steel sometime around June 2013.  It COULD be good, but there's couple of stumbling blocks in the way right now, starting with the creative team.  Producer Christopher Nolan and writer David S. Goyer are capable of some pretty amazing things (see: Batman), and Zack Snyder created one of modern culture's favorite action films in 300, but none of them scream "Superman" at me.  Don't get me wrong, they could easily make a decent film, but there's a reason Superman comics tend to be average: he's a hard character to write about, and he can't undergo the same "dark, realistic take" Batman had. Still, without a trailer or the like I don't know what to make of it.  Also...Zod.  He's pretty much one of the most boring villains Superman's got.  (And Superman has some really boring villains.)  It solves the problem of Superman having no one to fight, but at the same time he's just not an interesting character that will command the proper attention.  Any angle they wanted to explore about "good alien/bad alien" could've just as easily been done with the infinitely more interesting Brainiac. 

Still, I have to assume this film works out well for two reasons: One, if it doesn't everyone at DC Entertainment is probably fired.  I'm not saying they SHOULD be, but if you create TWO mediocre films that cost nearly 400 million to make and probably half that to promote them both, you're probably going to get fired.  Second, the idea of DC screwing up their only film during a year that'll be packed with Marvel just plain depressing.  So let's assume it works, and DC has their first successful non-Batman film.  A sequel would be fast-tracked and probably put on the bill for a 2015 release.  That's one down, four to go.

Green Lantern: Yeesh.  Okay, this is going to take a bit of work. You could try the reboot without calling it a reboot, like they did with the Hulk, but...I don't know.  Some people say Incredible Hulk did okay, but it was a film that cost $150m to make and it made under $270m in theatres, just barely going past $320m adding the DVD release.  Overall, I never hear people claim the movie to be a must-watch either as Avengers prep or as a superhero fan, so to me I think it was a failure.  Still, I think a direct sequel can work, only if it's a fantastic fucking film that basically equates to Training Day in space.  The first film from what I can tell attempted to do too much.  Parallax isn't a concept that you introduce alongside the origin and in truth attempting to "save" Sinestro as Batman did Joker and as Iron Man has Mandarin was a mistake.  But it's a mistake that can be corrected.  But while we're at it let's scrap the ridiculous CGI costumes and give them real outfits--don't even explain it, just do it and keep moving.  If Captain America can walk around in a suit that's pretty much a carbon copy of the one he wears in the comics, there's no excuse for DC trying to pretend it's 1999 again and superheroes can't just wear their costumes.  

This film could be put together for a summer 2014 release, but if that's the case it's something that needs to be lined up right now to get producer, director, and writer together.   But you really shouldn't have Green Lantern without...

The Flash: I'd be lying if I didn't say the Flash was a hard sell.  His powers are the most straightforward and thus the least interesting: He runs fast.  It's an easy concept to explain, but it's not necessarily one I'd be jumping to make a movie of.  Still, there've been no shortage of good Flash stories and even right now the book isn't too bad.  The movie has plenty of characters to draw from, with my only suggestion being: Stay away from Gorilla Grodd.  A talking monkey with mind control powers sounds good at first, but I honestly can't see it working on the big screen.  The biggest challenge will be creating a villain that can actually give the Flash a challenge, but for an origin film I'd say either Savitar or the Hunter Zolomon version of the Reverse-Flash would be the best opening villains--ones that can match Flash speed for speed and really show off what the character is capable of, powers wise while also showing off Barry Allen as the genius scientist that he is.  The second movie could explore the escalation in crime Central City has experienced since Flash was created and thus the unofficial supervillain group "The Rogues" could easily be incorporated into Flash 2.

I'd put this film alongside Green Lantern, either a month before or a month after GL 2's release.  The possibility that we might be pushing towards a Justice League film just might give Green Lantern 2 the push it needs to become a blockbuster film. 

Wonder Woman: So, here's a fact for all you non comic book readers: Long, long ago, the person who wanted a shot at directing Wonder Woman the most?  Was Joss Whedon, the current director of Avengers.  I can only hope that somewhere, in an office room with no windows, a former exec has been sentenced to sharpening pencils FOREVER for letting him get away.  (In an office that only uses mechanical pencils, at that.)  At the time, it was believed that an action movie starring a female lead wouldn't work.  (This--coupled with the fact that it was just plain silly--is probably why the pilot didn't get picked up too.)  Now that Hunger Games has kicked misogyny in the balls, I can only hope someone at DC Entertainment is fast-tracking this property into film development.

And you know what?  Fuck guys for this movie.  There shouldn't be a guy higher than like, fourth lead or something. There shouldn't even be a guy writing or directing it. Wonder Woman's a warrior trained by an immortal army of bad-ass female Grecian soldiers.  Put her up against a threatening female villain like the sorceress Circe, and let Wonder Woman's human partner that introduces her to "Patriarch's World" be Etta Candy (Gail Simone's bad-ass intelligence officer version) instead of lame-ass Steve Trevor.   (I have no idea what the female version of bromance is called, but they should totally do that.) If Hollywood can't find enough talent to pull a movie like this off, then they aren't trying.  The fact is, if it's a movie that's written, directed, produced, and starred in by talented women, it'll WILL sell a shitload.  So somebody needs to get to work.

I'd love to see this come out in the early part of 2015, building towards the Justice League release in late July or something.

Aquaman: This would be the hardest film to make work.  My suggestion?  Take a page from Geoff Johns' Aquaman: Accept that he's the guy that talks to fish, but acknowledge that he's a bad-ass.  This guy is king over three-fourths of the world.  He swims at depths that would crush a normal human's body into the size of a trash compactor cube, so his skin is super hard (like deflect bullets hard) and he's actually got some super strength too.  In fact, the entire movie could easily take place under water with him either earning his spot as king, or showing what it's like to be the king over 75% of the planet, but that's only if you want to leave his introduction to the surface land for a later film.

I'd probably skip out on releasing this in the later months of summer when there's so much coming out grabbing people's attention.  I'd release it near early May or even late March/April when there aren't a lot of big name action flicks dropping, that way if it's amazing it doesn't have to compete with anything else. 


Last but not least, if I could, I'd try to start another Batman trilogy up.  Yes, Bale and Nolan have created an amazing trilogy of movies here--not just good superhero films, but good films altogether.  But here's the problem: Bale has NO plans of being Batman in any Justice League or Batman/Superman or Batman Smacks a Crackhead for calling him "Bat-Honky" films.  He only ever wanted to work with Nolan on this trilogy, and once it's over he's gone.   So DC's flagship character is--WITHOUT QUESTION--going to have someone new under the mask in the Justice League.  And while it's been proven you don't need to have all the original actors to make a team movie work, it's not something I'd take a chance on considering how popular Batman is.  If nothing else I'd try to schedule a new Batman film for 2015, around the same time Superman 2 and Wonder Woman came out, just in time for a Justice League film at the end of the summer.  

This time the first necessity would be to hire someone who can play Batman but would also agree to be in the Justice League movie.  The second would be to make it more of an action film and less of a suspense-thriller like it has been for the past seven years or so.  Lastly, I would embrace Batman's full entourage of heroes.  It might not even be the worst idea to create a film called Batman: Gotham Knights that featured Batman, Batgirl, Robin, Huntress, and maybe Black Canary.  This Batman would already be known for working with heroes, which will hopefully lead to him having a better end than the one that the current Batman might have.

In any case, all of this would lead to a Justice League film in 2015 (or 2016 if they pushed it back a year to allow the other films to breathe).  Now people have been saying that the reveal at the end of Avengers sort of killed DC's chances at using their big gun in a Justice League film, but I don't think they ever needed that particular villain to make the first film work anyway.   The Waid/Augustyn-penned JLA: Year One has the perfect plot for a first Justice League film--the team is initially brought together by a wave of aliens who make a big showing of themselves, only to find out that this was a distraction and the true invasion was much more subtle, with a number of people in key positions of power already kidnapped and replaced by the rest of the alien race, and the Justice League has to stop not only this but the true invasion force before it's too late.  Of course this would be a great movie to introduce Martian Manhunter in, while we're at it.  Really, JLA: Year One is almost perfect--just remove the references to older heroes and you've got a near-perfect adaptation. 

Of course, my saying all of this isn't even speculation.  Just the mad ravings of a fanboy who has a lot of belief in DC improving it's movie slate in the future.  Until then I'm just dreaming.