Sunday, November 11, 2007

Comics 11-14-2007

Here we go . . .

All-Star Superman #9
Batman And The Outsiders #1
Green Arrow Black Canary #2
Nightwing #138 (GHUL)
Salvation Run #1 (of 7)
Superman Batman #42
Welcome to Tranquility #12

House of M Avengers #1 (of 5)
New Avengers #36
Nova #8
Punisher War Journal #13
World War Hulk #5

Thursday, November 8, 2007

The Juggernaut

Or how I learned to stop rationalizing and embrace the New England Patriots as the best team in a decade. They beat the undefeated, reigning Super Bowl champions on the road while wracking up a team record in penalties. Down by 10 in the 4th quarter, their all-pro QB engineered two TD drives relying heavily on his hall-of-fame, worldbreaker WR, one Randy G Moss. Great players make great plays, so it has ever been, so it will ever be. The Colts were missing their HOF wideout Marvin Harrison and that has to count for something. However, in the AFC championship, I don't think MH is going to be the difference at Foxboro. There's no reason to think that NE won't be hosting the AFC championship and that they aren't going to the Super Bowl. Having beaten their three toughest opponents buy a combined score of 124-55, I'm comfortable to submit to NE. Now onto a couple of rants and raves related to the "Flying Elvii" (credit: Gregg Easterbrook)

Rant - Don Shula: at ease General. Never has one man done so little with so much (Dan Marino, John Unitas). It's understandable that he would cling to the value of his one pantheon level achievement, the 1972 undefeated Dolphins. That team's holes have been beaten [like a rented mule] for 35 years. Their annual drinks of champagne as the last undefeated team falls becomes more small minded as time goes by. The fact that most NFL observers don't even believe they were the best team of the 70s is more than enough for me. Let it go, old warhorse. Your place n Valhalla is already set, and it's one of high distinction if not the highest. Whether the last three SBs are tainted (and they are) is besides the point. The 2007 Pats have crushed everybody. The only taint is the smoking carcasses of their victims, I mean opponents.

Rave - 1998 Broncos: John Elway in '98 was like Brett Favre today, not as good as in his prime but still possessing game breaking ability (Pro Bowler in his final year of '98 btw). Along with Elway in the backfield was Terrell Davis running for 2000+ yards (NFL Offensive MVP). They had 7 Pro Bowl participants and had the #2 offense and #9 defense. The only better team statistically was the 15-1 Minnesota Vikings (that had one Randy G Moss), a team whose failure to make the SB is still a shock. By the way the one game the Vikings lost in the regular season, they lost by 3 points. The Broncos cruised to 14-2 and comfortably ambled through the playoffs. They were the defending champions and perfunctorily handled the overmatched Atlanta Falcons 34-17. Elway had a great peformance and got his Super Bowl MVP. We tend to overrate great teams while they are playing, see this article as a perfect example:,/
The point here is that the Pats are a great, great team, but win something first and then we'll coronate you. Going undefeated doesn't necessarily mean your #1 (see '72 Dolphins) in the hearts and minds of fans and players. The other point is that really great teams get forgotten very quickly and we often lack perspective when handing out superlatives. The Cowboys' of the early 90s and the 97-98 Broncos were stacked with all-pros, and as glitzy as 16-0 is, there's little to indicate that the 90s Cowboys couldn't drop the hammer on the '07 Pats. This is, of course, an assertion that must remain unproven, which makes it endlessly debatable. Thank God.

Finally, the Pats have played their schedule and they've pummelled the little guys and convincingly beat their two quality opponents. They are, right now, the alpha and the omega and the prohibitive SB favorites. Bet against them at your peril (also because betting is illegal).

In a bit.

American Gangster - Review

Warning: this is a sprawing, "epic", stream-of-consciousness piece on "American Gangster." To steal from Gregg Easterbrook, "Warning: May contain review-like substance."

Take two of the best actors of the last 25 years, Academy award winners to boot, a director who has a lot of scalps on the wall, a big budget and plenty of runtime (2:40) and what do you get? A solid if long movie. Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe are two of the most compelling on screen presences in recent history.

Washington's aura has grown over the last decade and he seems reluctant to leave its protective halo anymore. Russell Crowe is still the consummate acting professional. The man who played Jeffery Wigand, John Nash, Maximus and Richie Roberts is able to take on these persona completely. I don't see Russell Crowe playing characters, I see three dimensional characters who bear a striking resemblance to that actor Russell Crowe. Denzel is Denzel first, and has been for many years. One exception to this phenomenon was his role in "Philadelphia." Be that as it may the movies that AG most invite comparison to are "The Godfather" and "Scarface." The Godfather is rightly mythologized and straight comparisons are no longer possible. It's very dialogue and various scenes have become part of the American lingua franca, so we'll leave that one alone. Scarface is an apt comparison and one that AG actively seeks.

Start with the movie posters for both:
Clearly, we're inviting comparisons . Tony Montana is caught between the dark and the light (not really, but that's what the poster implies), Washington and Crowe are the dark and light respectively. Now here's my thought, if you invite the comparison be it on your head. For instance, don't call a movie Catwoman, bank on its cache with the fanboy crowd and then cry "it's just a movie and you get to see Halle Berry in a tight outfit" when they complain about how you've desecrated a rich, complex, formidable, empowered female character whose origin (Spring 1940) pre-dates Wonder Woman (Dec 1941). In that case call it "Killer Kitty" and be done with it.
Denzel Washington is playing with house money, he knows it and it shows. Half the battle for this actor is showing up and delivering with some professionalism. He does, and it works and moves along the piece, but it doesn't lift the movie. Even the violent scenes are curiously sterile, especially in comparison to what you'd see in Scarface. Washington's character "Frank Lucas" never feels embattled. One day he goes to Southeast Asia, befriends a drug baron and then in the next few scenes we see he's become wealthy beyond imagination. He opens up a club and meets and marries Ms. Puerto Rico played by Lymari Nadal. Their lack of on-screen chemistry is palpable, by the way. I'm sure the 24 year age difference between the actors doesn't help. It's not always Bogey and Bacall. To be fair, Lucas was around 15 years older than his bride to be when they met but in real life, clearly, they had chemistry, Washington & Nadal? Not so much.
We are told (not shown) that he has displaced the competition. Where was the epic rise to power? If you're making an epic length movie, give us an epic story, give us broad themes, multiple intertwining plots, an all encompassing story arc. We only get some of that.
Richie Roberts' story is more interestingly told. We see that an honest cop doesn't mean a good person, it just means you're an honest cop (that's rare apparently though, so let's give some credit for that). However, his honesty in a difficult environment also allows him to see truths, unpleasant or otherwise when presented. It's a kind of introspection that Lucas can never allow himself or his family, particularly his mother. Crowe brings all the nuance, complexity and ambiguity that is best about characters who aren't pure but are trying hard to do the right thing. It's a very solid performance and Crowe left it on the court.
When a movie seems to have all the pieces but doesn't quite come together or deliver as it feels it should, blame the director or the producer. The movie looks great, Harlem feels like it should in that era and no pains have been spared to make it look right. Ridley Scott has delivered a very good, solid and entertaining movie, but it's not going to knock on the movie pantheon. To reference my buddy when talking about A-Rod, "he's not just Hall of Fame, he's Justice League." This movie is hall of fame, but it's not Justice League.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Comics 11-7-2007

Here we go:

Countdown to Final Crisis #25
Jonah Hex #25
Robin #168 (GHUL)
Tranquility Armageddon #1 (Wildstorm)

Annihilation Conquest #1 (of 6)
Fantastic Four #551