Friday, August 29, 2008

Movie Review: Death Race

The brainless action picture has been in a rut of late. Ever since Arnold Schwarzenegger got a more respectable job (in theory), Stallone decided his movies had to "mean" something, and Mel Gibson went bat-shit insane there really hasn't been anyone to take up the slack. Sure, Jet Li made an admirable attempt, but, unfortunately, his American flicks tend to be crap. Fortunately, Jason Statham came along and has finally provided TNT with new movies to show at midnight for drunk college kids (and myself) to watch. The latest of these is Death Race, ostensibly, an update of Death Race 2000. I haven't seen the original in over ten years, so my memory is a little hazy, but I seem to remember it going for a more satirical edge than this, incredibly straight-forward action flick. And straight-forward it is, this is one lean movie.

The set-up is that it's 2012 and the economy is in an even worse shambles than it is right now, and because of this, all of the nation's prisons have been out-sourced to for-profit companies (funny, I thought this had already been done). Anyway, these companies make their money by putting on gladiatorial competitions, the most popular of which is Death Race. Jason Statham, a just-laid-off steel worker, is framed for his wife's murder and thrown in the clink. Apparently, the star of the Death Race enterprise, Frankenstein, is under the weather, and his corporate master, Joan Allen (slumming, the disdain for the things she has to do to pay the mortgage on her place in the Hamptons, showing on her face) needs someone to wear the Frank mask. Fortunately, her new inmate, Statham, happens to be a kick-ass driver! What a coinky-dink! You don't think that, perhaps, Allen had something to do with his wife's death do you? DUN-DUN-DUNNNNNN!

The thing is, there's no doubt she had his wife killed, in fact, there's nothing mysterious about this movie at all, no shocking reveals, no characters changing sides, everything is exactly as it seems to be, and it's kind of refreshing. They don't dick around with character development or plot, they just get straight to the death-racin', which is pretty cool. The whole thing is set up like a video game, in order to use their guns or defensive weapons, the drivers have to pass over power-ups on the course. It's made up of three races with increasing difficulty and a whole ton carnage.

This is a fun movie, there were times I was literally laughing at the insanity, and that's a good thing. Obviously, it's not a "good" movie, but it does exactly what you'd want a movie named Death Race to do. The only big problem with the movie is the track. All three races take place on the same, abandoned warehouse/industrial site and it's gets old quick. If there is a sequel, I seriously hope that they take the race out on the road, just to break up the monotony. The only other problem is that Ian McShane was in the movie and he didn't say "cocksuker" even once. I mean, if you're going to have him in a R-rated flick, why the hell not? Though Joan Allen does say it once, so that's gotta count for something.

Also, it could just be the few IQ points peeled off by seeing this movie, but now I'm excited for Fast & Furious. That trailer looked pretty darn cool.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Laying Odds: Secret Invasion!

I'll be honest, I'm not really interested in Secret Invasion. I got the first issue because it was 75 cents and I've read through the other four issues at the shop to take a look at the current "shocking reveals!". The thing with the series is, that the whole thing is based upon the "everything you know is wrong!" way of shocking storytelling. That means to me, pretty much everything in the first seven issues is going to be bullshit, and maybe, if we're lucky, there will be something like a resolution in the last issue. But I'm not hopeful since neither Civil War or House of M ended with one. The one thing I am sure of, is that there will be some type of deus ex machina that sets everything right at the end, and odds are, it's one Bendis can point to at the end and say, "If you'd read all of my stuff, you would have seen this coming." Now, I don't really believe that he's planned this far ahead, but he become so damn ubiquitous, there's enough of his stuff from five years ago at Marvel to allow him a pretty wide swath, so here are my odds on who we're going to see pop up on page 30 of Secret Invasion #8 ad make us all say (with varying degrees of delight/anger) "WTF!":

Scarlet Witch: 3-2

Pros: Let's face it, she's been set up for redemption ever since Bendis's first big "event", Avengers Disassembled, so it'll make sense for her to pop up to save the day here by saying "No more Skrulls."

Cons: Runs the risk of replacing Superboy PUNCH! as the all time winner of BS auto-retcons.

Nick Fury: 3-1

Pros: Well, prior to issue #3 and after, I would've given him lower odds, since he's been set up ever since Secret War to swoop in and save the day. But, since he resurfaced, he's done sweet FA.

Cons: This would mean that Marvel's done something interesting with Fury, they've been resistant of this since the 1970's.

Spider-Woman: 5-1

Pros: Apparently she has an on-going leading out of this series, so I imagine that they'll have her do something worth-while in this book. She's one of Bendis's pet characters.

Cons: Seriously, Spider-Woman? I knew she was lame when I was five.

Thor: 8-1

Pros: Well, since the Thor that JMS brought back is not really the Thor anyone remembers, they could bring back the "old" Thor to much fanfare.

Cons: Retconning Thor for the second time in a year could really piss people off.

Captain America: 10-1

Pros: They killed him in the last big event, it makes sense that he returns to the land of the living to wipe up the next one.

Cons: I have a feeling that Cap's return will be told in his own book, not tabbed onto the end of an event book. Plus, everyone know that it'll be a far better story if Brubaker is left to his own devices.

Reed Richards: 10-1

Pros: A) He's the smartest guy int the Marvel U, so it would figure. B) He did, kinda, start this, so it would figure that he'd end it?

Cons: Well, since he made a gun, that apparently, kills Skrulls (whop-de-do!) in ish #5, I figure that they blew their wad on having Reed save the day, so it's not likely.

The Sentry: 12-1

Pros: Marvel's most powerful head-case has got to eventually do something, sometime, right?

Cons: He hasn't done anything yet, so until he does something, I'm not laying any cash that he will.

Jessica Jones: 15-1

Pros: Another of Bendis's pets. Really no other reason.

Cons: No.

Hawkeye: 16-1

Pros: Well, they had to have killed him and resurrected him for a reason, and they haven't given one yet. Plus, his blood-thirstiness in the latest issue seems to lead me to believe that they're going to do something with him.

Cons: It's Hawkeye, he's an ass. Who wants that guy to be the big hero?

Mephisto: 23-1

Pros: Well, he likes fuckin' around with human affairs and this is a biggie. He could exact a high cost. Marvel could probably sell and extra 50,000 copies to fanboys just so they could burn them (kerosene-soaked cover variant!).

Cons: Let's assume for one minute that Marvel doesn't want to piss off 90% of the people who buy their books, just for a minute.

The Retroactive Cannon: 1,865-1

Pros: It proves that someone remembers Dan Slott's run on She-Hulk.

Cons: Nope, that book was too good to get involved with this cluster-fuck.

Brother Voodoo: 1,000,000-1

Pros: I would think it was really cool.

Cons: Not gonna happen.

ZOMBIES: I refuse to give odds

Pros: Think of the marketing! Think of the variants!

Cons: Seriously Marvel, the first step to solving a problem is admitting you have one. Your addiction to Zombies is killing us. Think of the children, Marvel, think of the children!

OK, that's what I got right now. Internet, what do you think?

Friday, August 22, 2008

Friday Night Fights - Ladies' Night: Round 4

Here's a dating pro-tip, it's best not to try to hit on the French-Canadian, schizophrenic girl while you're naked.

This, and other important dating tips, can be found in Alpha Flight Classic Vol. 1

Bahlactus needs no such lessons!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Hawkman...One More Time

Apparently, my entry was chosen as the winner amongst the entries for the Conditional Axe's Hawkman Revamp Contest. This is too cool for words and I really can't thank Jeff enough for the contest and the amazing prize of a sketch of Hawkman by Bejamin Birdie (Co-Creator & Artist of my favorite comic-shop-based webcomic, The Rack). Thanks again to everyone involved!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Cover of the Year

Question: How do you get me super-duper excited for the new volume of Phonogram?

Answer: Unveil this cover:

Click to embiggen

Gosh, that is nice. You can't go wrong combining two of my favorite things, comics and The Pipettes. For more about Phonogram, go here.

You can also check out my review of the first volume here.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Friday Night Fights - Ladies' Night: Round 3

Hey kids! Let's go dancing with Black Widow!

Bahlactus has been known to cut a rug....

O, Where Have You Gone, Hawkman?

Taking a break from his tireless crusade to get Honor Jackson his due in the DC Universe, Jeff @ The Conditional Axe has put it to the blogging masses to come up with a new direction for Hawkman. Why does Hawkman need a new direction you say? Well, for nigh on 20 years, ever since Crisis on Infinite Earths, Hawkman has been a continuital cluster fuck for all who dared to enter. I think there was a period during the early nineties where they were actually retconning one of his origins before they had actually finished publishing it, and now, Jim Starlin has thrown his hat into the ring, re-inventing the HM for a whole new generation to get confused over. But it doesn't have to be this way, no it doesn't. Back when they brought him back from the dead, DC restarted a new series what had provided him a new direction in a new city. I'd take that same premise and turn it just a little to the side and I think good things could happen, it all starts with a few basic changes:

  1. Blow up Thanagar. I don't want to completely remove Hawkman's alien roots, but I want to get them off of the page for a while. The damn war that's been going on between Rann and Thanagar is a giant, soul-sucking albatross around the neck of the character and it needs to be resolved and promptly moved out of the lime-light. He needs to be an earth-bound hero for a while, and really the only way to do that is to take Thanagar off the map.

  2. Drop Hawkgirl. While the "star-crossed lovers" aspect of the Hawk-mythos is a compelling one, the fact that Kendra just isn't that into Carter makes the whole thing rather creepy and stalker-ish. Have Carter realize this and leave her behind. Let Hawkgirl continue on with the JLA and find her own way in the DCU.

  3. Put Hawkman in charge of a museum. Put plainly, my re-imagining of Hawkman's concept can be pretty much described as, "Indiana Jones with wings and a big, ruddy mace." Put him in charge of a museum and give him a teaching job on top of it. this is a guy with literally thousands of years of knowledge in his head, it should be put to good use. I'd also get rid of his secret identity, there's really no reason for him to have one. His only relations are Northwind and Hawkgirl, and they can take care of themselves.

  4. Along with the above, I'd get him out of the US, while St. Roch was an interesting locale, it felt too much like James Robinson was trying to build a "new" Opal City for Hawkman. I'd move him to a historic European city, maybe Berlin. We don't see enough places that are outside the US in the DCU and it would give him room to move without bumping into the thousands of heroes that litter the States.

  5. Give him a purpose. I'd go back to his Egyptian roots and give him a quest for objects tying into his status as a former Pharaoh, and perhaps the inspiration behind the god Horus (I know, he's apparently a falcon-god, but work with me). From my quick scanning of Wikipedia, apparently Horus had run-ins with Set, the Egyptian god of evil, which works very well for our purposes. Set him, and his museum colleagues, up as chasing down some type of mystical macguffin which requires the to do some globe-trotting to both cities/other museums and archaeological dig sites. I'd set up against them some type of Set-cult, maybe tied into one of the several million other evil cults that currently patrol the DCU (Kobra, Brother Blood, Amway). On top of this, I'd throw Checkmate into the mix as a wild card. They'd be working behind the scenes to get the macguffin for themselves (as it's too powerful to be in the hands of anyone but the government, yada, yada, yada...)against both parties and it would set up well for the endgame. Really, this could be a cool concept. Not everything would have to tie into the grand plan, you could have smaller stories of them on digs dealing with local issues, and it could be a lot of fun. Along with his team, I'd also include his "son" Northwind. Show him trying to bring out his humanity and teach him to be a hero. Right now I've got like four different story-arcs floating through my head, but I'm going to stop there.

OK, I realize that this is all horribly disjointed and also not very original, but I guess that's the point (the not original part). The good stuff for Hawkman has already been established, and though there are always going to be continuity issues to be ironed out, they can be ignored with the genesis of a good series to distract people (just look at post-OMD Spider-Man).

A Serious Note

John, the guy who buys Bully his cookies and comics, has posted a sobering and thoughtful article on the current state of affairs at Comic-con in reference to sexual harassment and other boorish things that comics fans have been getting away with far too long, please go over and take a look, though I can probably guarantee, it'll get you down.

Have you read it? No? Go now!

Back? OK, here's my reaction (previously posted in The Conditional Axe's comments):

The sad thing about this, until CCI is given a monetary reason to confront this problem, they probably will not, deluding themselves into thinking they do not have responsibility over the acts of "some bad apples". Sometime, most likely soon, one of three possible things will happen:

1. Marvel and/or DC will step up and say, "Deal with this, or we stay home." Actually, this would be better if the movie studios said this, but it's still doubtful any of them will stand up.

2. Someone will file a civil suit against CCI (plus the convention hall and the City of San Diego) for enabling the harassment. While the plaintiff will probably lose the suit, it will cost their insurers quite a bit in defense costs, plus it will be a PR nightmare. If you think the City has a problem with the image of comic book fans/losers descending upon their city, imagine them confronting the thought of comic book fans/losers/rapists coming to town.

3. Some moron does something horrible and the police get involved. This could lead to CCI being criminally liable. That's when things would get really bad for everyone involved. Sadly, this could be our most likely outcome.

Any way you cut it,it's bad, and it's part of the reason that I'm afraid to start bringing my kids to Cons. I don't necessarily want the image of daddy beating the snot out of some moron in a furry suit just because the guy thought that grabbing boobs was his god-given right stuck in their heads.

Monday, August 11, 2008

An Important Message From the Middleman:

Seriously people, if you haven't at least checked out the Middleman (Mondays 9PM CST on ABC Family), you really, really don't know what you're missing. I'd really like a second season, so help me out?

Friday, August 08, 2008

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Two Great Pop Songs About Dancing

Thanks to Matt Springer, I picked up Partie Traumatic by Black Kids and pretty much agreed with his assessment. Two great pop songs, six good ones and 2 complete clunkers. But man, those two good songs are really, really good, especially I'm Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How To Dance With You. The more I listened to the song, the more it sounded like an answer to the Pipettes' It Hurts to See You Dance So Well, a great song off of the Official Phoning It In Industries Best Pop Album of the Millennium (so far), We Are The Pipettes. Anyway, give em a listen and pick up the albums if you feel so inclined:

The Pipettes - It Hurts to See You Dance So Well

Black Kids - I'm Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How To Dance With You

Friday, August 01, 2008

Friday Night Fights - Ladies' Night

What the hay is going on?

Images from The Order Vol.1, a book that exceeds the your daily requirements for Communist Bear-Fighting, not to mention the Zobos (that's Zombie Hobos).