"And If There's No News...I'll Go Out And Bite A Dog!" MOVIES! Sometimes You Can All Komodo My Place And We’ll Watch Some Stuff!

Okay, there’s nothing happening in my head comics wise at the moment. But I wanted to chuck some content up so here’s some stuff about movies. The earliest one here was made in 1947 and the latest one was broadcast a week ago so something for everyone? Highly unlikely. photo runBondrunB_zpsecce8b2d.jpg Anyway, this… QUIRKE: Season 1, Episode 1: CHRISTINE FALLS Directed by John Alexander Adapted by Andrew Davies Based on the book by John Banville (writing as Benjamin Black) Starring: Gabriel Byrne, Nick Dunning, Janet Moran, Brian Gleeson, Geraldine Somerville, Michael Gambon etc Music by Rob Lane BBC, 2014

 photo QuirkeB_zpsa42b1610.jpg

Christine Falls is the first in a trio of newly minted BBC Benjamin Black adaptations; Benjamin Black is the pen name used by John Banville when he’s writing entertainment rather than award winning literature. (No, I don’t know why he feels the need to separate the two.) Now, I haven’t read either his (John Banville’s) literature or his (Benjamin Black’s) entertainment but on screen Christine Falls was one of those dour detective things in which even when the sun is shining it seems like it isn’t. It’s set in Ireland during The Age of Men in Hats and revolves around Gabriel Byrne’s drunken disaster of a pathologist sticking his nose where he shouldn’t and then wishing really, really hard that he hadn’t. It involves family secrets, kids and The Church and since this is Ireland and everything’s shot like we’re in someone’s bowels you can bet it’s not going to be about how The Church and kids are a good mix. The Beeb appeared to have strategically blown most of the budget on Gabriel Byrne and Michael Gambon, thus leaving necessity to mother invention via zooming in on people’s noses for the duration of a conversation or having a close up of some water dripping with rain SFX sizzling on the soundtrack to suggest a storm; it’s the kind of TV thing where Boston is one house, two cars and a coastal road and it works because there’s a strong plot and quality acting taking the strain.

Actually, the biggest problem was nothing to do with the budget but rather the running time. A whole heck of a lot happened over 90 minutes with nary a breath being drawn between each incident. As a result the very hallmarks of this type of fiction (intricate interconnectedness; historical wrongs presented in a fictional context; the past coming back to bite; hero beaten up), seemed more than a little credulity suffocating. Obviously, Television is better than books because you can see things and hear things without any effort on your part but books do have the edge in that over a couple of hundred pages you can pace the proceedings as you like; something this dense probably reads a lot better than it views. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t terrible or anything, just flawed. I certainly did appreciate the way it didn’t end with someone falling off a building in slow motion or exploding in space but instead went with a complete, and deserved, trepanning of the initial cliché of the cheeky and sexually alluring drunken rogue of a hero. I know it’s tricky sticking a book on the screen but they had a fair crack at it here; the worst I can say is it could have done with a bit more running time to stretch its legs in. That’s not bad so I guess it was GOOD!

BUILD MY GALLOWS HIGH (AKA OUT OF THE PAST) Directed by Jaques Tourneur Screenplay by Daniel Mainwaring (with James M Cain & Frank Fenton) Based on the novel by Daniel Mainwaring Starring: Robert Mitchum, Jane Greer, Kirk Douglas, Rhonda Fleming, Richard Webb etc Music by Roy Webb RKO, 1947

 photo gallowsB_zps48559976.jpg

This is a noir and other folk with more time on their hands can argue about how noir it is. Me, I reckon it’s none more noir; maybe it could do with a bit more German Expressionism but then any expressionism is a bonus when Robert Mitchum’s involved. A joke there; I like Old Bob, he might not have been a great actor but he was always a great Robert Mitchum and the way he plays this patsy to Fate (casually doomed; like an exhausted man spending 90 minutes sliding resignedly off wreckage and into the sea) is just right. Mitchum plays a guy who’s both clever and honest but not enough of either to save himself from Jane Greer’s bright eyed moral vacuum. Everybody else in the film may be a better actor but this movie is Mitchum’s and while Mitchum always looked like he was smuggling a side of beef under his shirt in this movie his presence is positively titanic. So much so that even Kirk Douglas (Kirk Douglas, yet!) looks small, seeming to scamper nattily (and nastily) around Mitchum’s stolid menhir, as Greer’s decidedly fatale femme sneers from the sidelines. This is the movie where Mitchum talks about dying being okay as long as you die last and it’s also the movie where Mitchum says “Baby, I don’t care” so hard the whole world goes weak at the knees. I watched this on the BBC and the print was shocking but that didn’t matter; this is a great film. It’s a great movie about lies and where they lead and yet it’s a movie that’s honest enough to end with a lie setting someone free. And it’s a lie from someone who can’t speak. Like I said; none more noir. I’m a laugh a minute kind of guy and I thought Build My Gallows High was EXCELLENT!

THE WORLD’S END Directed by Edgar Wright Written by Edgar Wright & Simon Pegg Starring Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Eddie Marsan, Paddy Considine, Martin Freeman, Rosamund Pike etc Music by Steven Price Universal, 2013

 photo EndB_zps2ec6ac08.jpg

For around three quarters of The World’s End’s run time the slick and inventive direction, skilfully affable acting and fairly amusing jokes (“A poo?” Other bits. ) enabled me to concentrate on the amusing relocation of one of my favourite genre tropes (no spoilers!) to a refreshingly bucolic and familiar setting, and to do so largely to the exclusion of my teeth baring dislike of the menopausal male nostalgia elements it wallowed in so jocularly. And then there was the final half hour. Now, I don’t make movies for a living but it appears self-evident to me that in much the same way as it’s wise to leave the house only after ensuring your cock isn’t hanging out it’s also advisable to have an ending written before you start filming. Otherwise the results are likely to be EH! However, My Lady of Infinite Patience liked it far more than I did so maybe I was just that way out. I understand I can be quite mercurial at times so I could be wrong about this one (TWIST: I’m not).

ACE IN THE HOLE Directed by Billy Wilder Written by Billy Wilder, Lesser Samuels & Walter Newman (from a story by Victor Desny) Starring: Kirk Douglas, Jan Sterling, Robert Arthur, Porter Hall, Frank Cady, Richard Benedict, Ray Teal etc Music by Hugo Friedhofer Paramount Pictures, 1951

 photo AHoleB_zps40af1c58.jpg

It’s tempting to get my Elitism on and taunt the modern viewer by pointing to this movie as evidence that at one time a blockbuster movie, rather than consisting of things hitting each other, could be an examination of the world its audience inhabited so intelligent, incisive and entertaining that it would remain all those things some sixty-three years later. Tempting but untrue, because there’s a lie in there; Ace In The Hole wasn’t a blockbuster. Oh, it should have been a blockbuster; they intended it to be a blockbuster. It had Billy Wilder as director and co-writer, it had a star in Kirk Douglas and the money thrown at it is all on screen. But the money is mostly on show in the form of an expensive mine set to trap Richard Benedict in for the film’s duration; the money is largely spent on making a dark cramped place. And Kirk Douglas, the star, portrays a man with a dark cramped soul; he plays a disgraced reporter (Chuck Tatum; oh man, those old timey names) willing to do almost anything to get back in with the Big City boys; willing even to exploit a man’s tragedy for his own gain. Pretty soon he finds that there’s no almost in it for nearly everyone else around him and it’s not long until everyone is involved in a vortex of sociopathic self-interest and events start to outpace even Chuck Tatum and his fancy footwork.

In the end Tatum finds out that as far as he’s willing to go, others are willing to go further as long as the tab’s picked up by somebody else. And as dreadful as he is (and he is; he’s a real stinker) Tatum still comes out best as all the decent characters prove ineffectual and it’s only Douglas’ character who has a modicum of self-awareness. He actually has to think about how to exploit the situation but for everyone else it’s instinctive. And it’s the most natural of these natural predators, Jan Sterling’s simultaneously satanically self-interested and self-pitying house frau, in whom Tatum decisively meets his match. Wilder didn’t get away with it with Ace in The Hole; he had got away with it in the past because he’d directed his scathing blasts at drunks (Lost Weekend), insurance men (Double Indemnity) and Hollywood (Sunset Blvd); targets Joe Public could disdain without cost. But Ace in The Hole holds up everyone as either a fool or a fraud and it isn’t too particular about stepping on toes. Ace in The Hole leaves a nasty taste in even the dullest of mouths. So Joe Public politely declined and Billy Wilder found out that sometimes you can go too far. I imagine Kirk Douglas survived okay; he was made of stronger stuff; he was made of Kirk Douglas stuff. But Billy Wilder wasn’t. Ace in The Hole’s reception took the wind out of Wilder’s sails for a good few years and his output took a turn for the more comedic. Billy Wilder bit the hand that fed him and paid the price. But that was in the short term and while it’s no comfort to the deceased Billy Wilder it is still a fact that in 2014 A.D. I watched Ace in The Hole and it was EXCELLENT! See, tastes may change but misanthropy don’t date. You can still almost hear Chuck Tatum laughing in the Hell he damned himself to.

SKYFALL Directed by Sam Mendes Written by Neal Purvis, Robert Wade & John Logan. Based on characters created by Ian Fleming Starring: Daniel Craig, Dame Judi Dench, Javier Bardem, Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris, Berenice Marlohe, Albert Finney, Ben Whishaw, Rory Kinnear etc… Music by Thomas Newman 007 Theme by Monty Norman MGM & Sony Pictures, 2012

 photo BondFallB_zps25dd9805.jpg

Every now and then I wonder what it’s like to root for The Establishment so I watch a James Bond film. This is a modern one so James Bond is played by a sexy knuckle and every shot is slathered in mustards or teal so that we can pretend this is more serious than a Roger Moore Bond film. It isn’t though. The best bit in this one was when James Bond (played by an aerobicised to within an inch of his life Sid James) sees a Komodo dragon and reacts like a delighted child all pointing index fingers and popping eyes. It was just a split second but it was a great split second. That doesn’t mean there weren’t any other good bits because there were, and while these usually involved, as ever in Bond, a preposterous plot, fantastic tailoring, ridiculous stunts and (mostly foreign (Boo! Hiss!), sometimes ladies, occasionally foreign ladies) people being killed in thrilling fashion they also included some sturdy performances (Dame Judi Dench kicking ass and taking names; Albert Finney as a violent Father Christmas; the sneaky decency of Ralph Fiennes; Rory Kinnear as a wigless Brian Molko; an eight year old child playing Q; Javier Bardem’s flamboyant bad guy (the damp squib of whose ending was partially redeemed by his earlier removal of his dental plate and the consequent collapsing of his face; just like my old Mum “settling down” for the evening). What with all the guff about how people reckoned ready for the knackers yard still have a bit of spit and vinegar in ‘em Skyfall even came close to having a theme; which is good because the best thing I can say about the actual singing theme is that I didn’t actually notice it. Rumour has it (rumour has it (rumour has it (rumour has it))) it was Adele? Not exactly a great compliment for a James Bond theme there; not remembering it. Other than that though this was polished 21st Century blockbuster brains-off, Up The Queen entertainment, so it was GOO(7)D!

No, I don’t expect you to die, Mr. Bond; I expect you to read some – COMICS!!!

All over the map: Hibbs' 11/7

Comics, TV, and a movie, after the jump.

Comics, first? OK with me!


FUCK ALAN MOORE BEFORE WATCHMEN: MOLOCH #1: Much like MINUTEMEN, this would be one of the FAMBW books that I was at least curious about -- we don't really know a lot about Moloch, and he's arguably a principal... well, "catalyst", at least, if not "character". And I was hopeful because, hell, Eduardo Risso is drawing it, and that cat can fuckin' draw, y'know? Sadly, though, it has all the subtlety of any other comic that J. Michael Straczynski has written recently, that is: slim-to-none, and the result is just a cliched horrible mess -- Moloch's bad because he's ugly (no explanation for the bat ears is given), and because all women are horrible predatory whores. Yay!

Even Better is how this was hastily solicited to fill in a massive scheduling hole, where, suddenly, they seem to have lost an entire month's worth of FAMBW titles -- going from weekly to skipping five week's worth of issues is a kick in the gut on momentum on this series which was pretty strongly selling to a specific group of customers who are buying the entire project (not specific minis, like I thought in advance) -- well, damn, it makes DC suddenly look like Marvel in terms of schedule.

Either way, I know this isn't aimed at me, but we continue with "Exceptionally pretty, but emotionally bankrupt", which the closest on the Critic scale is, I think, EH.


DEADPOOL #1:  Brian Posehn (!), Gerry Duggan, and Tony Moore do the Marvel NOW! relaunch of  "the Merc with the mouth", and he's pretty much a character that I've never really cared one teensy bit about ever -- to the point where I don't believe (from the tags) that we've ever once reviewed a straight Deadpool comic on the site ever! -- and, hey, guess what, I thought it was reasonably entertaining! I can't say I'd personally add it to my monthly reading stack, but there was some charm and wisecracking, and an imaginatively funny series of antagonists, and it's almost certainly modestly GOOD.

What's funny for me, as a retailer guy, is just how much better this is selling right now then the next book (about 250% of that figure), as well as outselling it's previous incarnation, handily (for now at least) -- I went long on this #1, chasing that fat 70% discount, and I'm confident they'll eventually go (week 15, or 16, I'm guessing), while the next book I can already tell I'll never ever sell them all. *sigh*


IRON MAN #1: is that next book, and, in many significant ways for this retailer, my real litmus test for the commercial viability of MarvelNOW! as a branding exercise for Marvel.

I'm sure that in a month or two I'll write a post-mortum on the launches for TILTING AT WINDMILLS, but going into this my feeling was that Marvel comics are a significantly more popular "brand" than DC, and have a MUCH larger number of "lapsed" readers. The "New 52" launch succeeded by any dream of avarice I might have had, where even books where it was clear that they WOULD be cancelled within a year (HAWK & DOVE, anyone?) still sold 70-80% more copies than I ever thought they possibly could have, and the "big books" totally dominated fourth quarter sales charts.

Now, to me, IRON MAN is the modern quintessential Marvel comic -- two hit movies, lead role in the AVENGERS film, can't HELP but benefit from a big wide "push". DC reboots sold like 500%+ their previous issues, I didn't feel at all shaky going 300% of "current" IM sales, scored the extra discount on the first issue, at least (as I did with most, but not all, NOW! books)

So far? I've sold precisely one FEWER copy of #1 than I have of #522 in the same time period (day #6). Uh? What? The? Fuck? Again: I'm sure that will pick up eventually, but, damn, that's the exact opposite of what was supposed to happen.

The big problem is that I can't actually push the comic very hard on the strength of its contents -- I'm no real fan of Greg Land's stiff-and-lightboxed art, and Kieron Gillan's script, despite being one of the "Yeah, that makes sense!" names attached to NOW!, gives us a story whose premise is essentially that of "Armor Wars". I've read "Armor Wars". God help me, I've even read "Armor Wars II", this isn't what I want to read as the Big Relaunch.

I mean, it isn't terrible, or anything, but it's also not much better than OK, and for a $4 asking price, am I really going to suggest people buy this over, say, STUMPTOWN or even the next book, this week? Yeah, didn't think so.

This week is going to be the real test of it, I think (with 6 NOW! books), but I'm starting to feel like MarvelNOW! is going to be as big of a miss as New52 was a hit, and that's truly terrifying if that's playing out in the rest of the world the same way.


DIAL H #6: A beautiful, beautiful done-in-one story essentially ruminating on the stupidity and banality of some characters, and just how hard it is to "fight crime", and the real selling point for me was that the issue was drawn by David Lapham, who, of course, isn't even cover billed. Yeah, this was a truly great issue of this series -- I thought it was VERY GOOD.


How about some TV? Sure, can do!


ARROW: much to my disconcertion and surprise, I thought this was kind of non-shitty.  I was expecting more "Smallville" (ew), but instead it's kind of about as close to "Green Arrow: The Longbow Hunters" (well, or more properly, the monthly book by Grell & Hannigan just AFTER that mini-series) as you're likely to find -- there's a structured mystery, and plan, and it seems like it is playing out alright, and while it's a version of Green Arrow from Earth-TV (Speedy is his sister, Deathstroke is some sort of army torturer, or something, the probably-some-day Black Canary is named "Laurel", rather than "Dinah", so on, so forth) it has an interesting continuing flashback structure -- yeah, I don't love it (I'd never have watched it if I didn't own a comic book store), but I like it very fine. Marc Guggenheim has managed to make a very solid little weekly vigilante TV show.

Two notes: first: man, the budget on this thing seems loooooow, to me -- they're constantly setting scenes in "night clubs" which are fairly clearly a soundstage, with a curtain hanging in the background with colored lights playing against it, and like two silhouettes dancing behind it -- yet they sell it pretty damn well.

Second: this Arrow (oddly called "hood" by most characters IN the show) is a STRAIGHT-UP killer. Some episodes the body counts top a score. And it's all very kind of sub-rosa -- I mean, yes, the cops are after him, but one gets the sense it's more from being a vigilante, rather than being a KILLER vigilante. You'd think that "Laurel", as written, would be appalled by Arrow's actions, but, yeah, kind of not.  It is odd.

Anyway, I think this show is watchable, and surprisingly OK.


THE WALKING DEAD: So far, season 3 has been going swimmingly (I'm a week behind, I think?) -- this has been going breakneck speed, and shock follows shock pretty much every week. What I'm liking the best is that all of the same pieces are in play from the comic, but things come in different order, at different times that you can't really second guess it much. I mean, clearly, we have the prison, we have the Governor, but other than that, "anything can happen". I'm finding this a real thrill this season, and some of the acting this go round is getting downright good -- especially a recent reaction to something that happened involving Rick -- that was some raw-ass human emotion there. This really has been VERY GOOD, with only memories of the first "half" of Season 2 keeping me from wholly embracing it.


What, and a film, too? Sure! (though this has to go faster than I thought, since I just got the call that the truck with this week's comics will be here in a few minutes!)


SKYFALL: The latest James bond film was, I thought, one of the better ones -- it's actually ABOUT something, and when viewed with CASINO ROYALE (skip out on QUANTUM OF SOLACE, I think), it really projects a lot of new possibilities for the character -- but the last act of the film, while emotionally connective, was almost terrifyingly "small" in scope and range for a Bond movie, where you expect it to get bigger and bigger and ludicrous.  There's a crazy villain, however, and bi-sexual flirting (!), and a surprising denouement there at the end, and it even had what I thought were the best credit sequence of the entire series (seriously, it was almost entirely nude woman free, AND relevant to the actual movie, for once). You have to go far to beat MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN in my heart (and SPY WHO LOVED ME / MOONRAKER in my memory, though, watching those again with Ben, I didn't care for either much), and this didn't beat those heights, but, yeah, I thought it was terrific and thoughtful in most ways. It's a very strong GOOD.


Whew! Gotta bounce! How about you? What did YOU think?