Thursday, December 30, 2010

Greg Weisman is the Greatest Man Who Ever Lived

Okay, that’s a joke obviously.  The greatest man who ever lived, as we all know, is either Charlemagne or Neil Patrick Harris.
Pictured: Proof that France is cool
Last month I caught the pilot two part episode of the new Young Justice cartoon and shared some of my initial thoughts with you.  If you recall I didn't love it and one of my major problems with it was the fact that there wasn't a whole lot of female characters doing, well, anything.  Miss Martian was the only female member of the principal cast to make an appearance and only then it was at the very end where she played no part in the episode’s plot.  It made me unnerved that the show was basically a boys club.  Well a couple of days ago I was doing…something (Likely I was on TV Tropes) and I came across Greg Weisman’s Q&A feature on a fan website.
Some background: Greg Weisman, who seems to be one of the main folk involved with Young Justice, once worked on a cartoon called Gargoyles.  And it was awesome.  Like, basket full of candy and stuffed pandas level of awesome.  It kind of assumes the audience has a working knowledge of Shakespeare, but aside from that it was great.  For two seasons everything was okay but by Season Three Disney, the men behind the show, apparently wanted to retool some things and Weisman ended up leaving the series after only one episode which resulted in the remainder of the show’s run being something of a train wreck.  Fans now like to pretend that last season never happened.  Weisman agrees and in the wake of his departure he tended to tell anyone who would listen or ask how the show would have gone had he remained onboard in amazingly nerdy details.   A very involved fan base eventually formed on the internet and in short order a blog was set up where he answered various questions about the show and has been doing it the past eleven years (He also wrote  continuation comic).  This is something only a few creators do with their fans and those who do are BELOVED for it (See Also: Joss Whedon, Kevin Smith).
Elisa: Remember that time our evil clones turned to stone forever?
Goliath: No, and neither should you!
Anywho like I said I happened to come across the site that hosts the Q&A and noticed that someone recently posted the very concern I had about Young Justice (No girls, and whatnot) and was given a very detailed answer by Greg.
You can find the piece here, but if it’s somehow moved try searching for it on the site using the date it was answered (12/21/10).   If you don’t feel like reading all the text on that site the basic gist is this: the way the episode was structured they couldn’t justify the cash to spend on voice actors to read a few superfluous lines, so characters like Wonder Woman and Black Canary ended up having to sit in the background twiddling their thumbs since, script-wise and story progression-wise, they didn’t have anything to add (Red Tornado and tons of other males do the same thing for the same reason).  As for Miss Martian it seems they were worried about having to introduce and characterize five characters over the course of the two episodes and at the end of the day it’s just easier to concentrate on a smaller cast (Of course Not-Superboy was pretty hard to watch and I’m not certain that ended up being time well spent).  The reasoning behind not replacing one of the three principal characters (Robin, BlAqualad or, bleh, Kid Flash) was that those characters along with Speedy are the four traditional teen sidekicks and that they didn’t want to leave any of them out, which is of course the mindset only an old comic nerd would have (As opposed to young comic nerds like me who believe Wally West and Kyle Rayner are the real Flash and Green Lantern, God help us) and he admits to that himself.
So does this reasoning appease me?  Well yes and no.  I certainly understand where he’s coming from.  As fans we have to understand that the magical world of entertainment is fraught with compromises.  No show will ever achieve the level of perfection that we, or the creators, truly want and it’s really just best if we enjoy what we have rather than bitch about what we don’t.  That’s all good on paper, of course, not so great in practice but hey, we can try at least.  So yeah, I understand that they did what they felt they needed to get something they thought would be good out.  On the other hand I still wish they had written an episode that included more women and there’s little that can change that opinion.  Weisman promises that the next episode and the series in general will not have that problem and I’m willing to give it a chance.  I’m not the type of asshole that condemns a show after only watching one episode, after all.
Well, usually I'm not
The point I really want to make is that I am enamored with Weisman for being so accessible to his fans.  In addition to ten years worth of answering questions I think it’s awesome that he would listen to the concerns of his fans about his new show and calmly and thoroughly explain his position even if I myself don’t necessarily like what he had say.  Hell the site wasn't even about Young Justice and he’d probably be in the right for just ignoring it.  That’s what they call “class”, folks.  Let’s all thank Mr. Weisman by watching Young Justice every week when it officially debuts January 7th 2011 on Cartoon Network.
Check out the fan site where Ask Greg is featured here

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

List of Reviews

This post links to all reviews that have been written thus far and their Panda Score.  Most of these are just various things I watched and felt like reviewing when I had some time. The Anime Reviews however are special as they are the result of an ongoing experiment I’ve been conducting where I watch random anime I’ve never seen in order to try to recapture my lost affinity for subject matter.  Click here for further info about my reviewing process.

Reviews

Guardians of the Galaxy (Film) - 5 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes - 4 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

Transformers: Age of Extinction - 2 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

Maleficent - 3 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

Jersey Boys (Film) - 3 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

Edge of Tomorrow - 4 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

Godzilla (2014) - 4 out of 4 Adorable Pandas

 X-Men: Days of Future Past - 3 out of 4 Adorable Pandas

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 - 3 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

Captain America: The Winter Soldier - 4 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

Sexy Evil Genius - 5 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

300: Rise of an Empire - 3 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

 Robocop (2014) - 3 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

Doctor Who (Series 4, 2005 Revival) - 4 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

I, Frankenstein 2 our of 5 Adorable Pandas

The To Do List - 3 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

Upstream Color - 4 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

American Psycho 2 - 2 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

The Wolf of Wall Street - 5 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

 Thor: The Dark World - 4 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

American Hustle - 4 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues - 3 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

Frozen (2013) - 4 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

Oldboy (2013) - 3 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

The Counselor - 2 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

Evil Dead (2013) - 4 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

The Family - 3 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

Rush (Film) - 4 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

Kick-Ass 2 (Film) - 3 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

The Wolverine - 2 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

Pacific Rim - 3 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

The Lone Ranger - 3 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

Man of Steel - 4 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

X-Men #1 (Vol. 4) - 4 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

Star Trek Into Darkness - 4 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

Fat Kid Rules the World (Film) - 4 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

Star Trek (2009) - 4 out of 5 Adorable pandas

Iron Man 3 - 3 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

G.I. Joe: Retaliation - 2 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

Uncanny X-Men #2 (Vol. 3) - 4 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

Uncanny X-Men #1 (Vol. 3) - 4 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

Oz the Great and Powerful - 4 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

Jack the Giant Slayer - 2 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

Django Unchained - 4 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

Doctor Who (Series Three, 2005 Revival) - 4 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

Extract - 3 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

Wreck-It Ralph - 5 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

Skyfall - 4 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

Quantum of Solace - 3 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

Casino Royale - 4 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

Looper - 5 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

Avengers vs. X-Men - 3 out of 5 Adorable Pandas (Not an Average)
 Issues 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

Dredd - 4 out of 5 adorable Pandas

Haywire - 3 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

Premium Rush - 3 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

Moonrise Kingdom - 5 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

The Dark Knight Rises - 4 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

The Amazing Spider-Man (Film) - 4 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

Twilight (2008) - 2 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

Prometheus - 3 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

Doctor Who (Series Two, 2005 Revival) - 3 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

Snow White and the Huntsman - 3 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

Men in Black 3 - 3 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

Dark Shadows (Film) - 2 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

The Avengers - 5 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

The Five Year Engagement 3 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

The Hunger Games - 3 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

John Carter - 4 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

Planet of the Apes - 4 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

Doctor Who (Series One, 2005 Revival) - 3 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

No Strings Attached - 2 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

Friends with Benefits - 4 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

Limitless - 4 out 5 Adorable Pandas

The Muppets - 4 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

War Horse - 3 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo - 5 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

The Three Musketeers (2011) - 2  out of 5 Adorable Pandas

50/50 - 4 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

X-Men: Schism - 2 out of 5 Adorable Pandas (Not an Average)
 Issues 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

Stormwatch #1 (2011) - 3 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

The Fury of Firestorm: The Nuclear Men #1 - 2 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

Teen Titans #1 (2011) - 3 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

Captain Atom #1 (2011) - 3 out 5 Adorable Pandas

Wonder Woman #1 (2011) - 4 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

Blue Beetle #1 (2011) - 3 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

Red Hood and the Outlaws #1 - 1 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

Batwoman #1 - 5 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

Demon Knights #1 - 3 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

Mister Terrific #1 - 2 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

Colombiana - 2 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

Batgirl #1 (2011) - 4 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

Static Shock #1 (2011) - 3 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

Justice League International #1 (2011) - 3 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

Rise of the Planet of the Apes - 4 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

Fright Night (2011) - 3 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

Cowboys & Aliens (Film) - 3 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

Captain America: The First Avenger - 4 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes (Season One) - 4 out 5 Adorable Pandas

X-Men: First Class - 5 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

X-Men: The Last Stand - 2 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

X2: X-Men United - 4 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

X-Men (Film) - 4 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

Thor (2011) - 4 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

Water for Elephants - 3 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

Spider-Man: One More Day - 1 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

Sucker Punch - 2 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

Dragonball Evolution – 1 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole – 3 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

Blue Valentine – 4 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

The Green Hornet (2011) – 2 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

The Shadow (1994) – 2 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

Alpha Dog – 3 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

True Grit (2010) - 5 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

Black Swan - 4 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

Batwoman #0 – 4 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

Love and Other Drugs – 3 out of 5 adorable Pandas

The Social Network – 4 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra – 2 out of 5 adorable Pandas

Daria – 5 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

Scott Pilgrim (Comic Book) – 4 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

Avatar: The Last Airbender – 5 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World (Film) – 5 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

Good Dick – 4 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist – 3 out 5 Adorable Pandas

Kick-Ass – 4 out 5 Adorable Pandas

Monsters Vs. Aliens – 2 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

Alice in Wonderland (2010) – 3 out 5 Adorable Pandas

The Book of Eli – 4 out of 5 Adorable Pandas


Anime Reviews

Kill la Kill - 4 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

Gundam Build Fighters - 4 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

Bubblegum Crisis Tokyo 2040 - 3 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

Tears to Tiara - 3 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

Sword Art Online - 5 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

Princess Tutu - 4 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

Needless - 1 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

True Tears - 2 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

Rideback - 3 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

Sengoku Basara: Samurai Kings - 2 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

Ga-Rei Zero - 4 out of 5 Adorable Pandas 

Demon King Daimao - 2 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

Sands of Destruction - 2 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

Murder Princess - 3 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

Highschool of the Dead - 4 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

Baccano! - 5 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

Spice and Wolf - 4 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

Heroic Age - 3 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

The Sacred Blacksmith - 3 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

Eden of the East - 4 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

Princess Resurrection – 3 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

Darker than Black – 4 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

Castle in the Sky – 5 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

Princess Nine – 3 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

Big Windup! Oofuri – 2 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

Soul Eater - 4 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

Samurai 7 - 3 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

Black Blood Brothers – 4 out of 5 Adorable Panda

Kaze no Stigma – 2 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

El Cazador de la Bruja – 2 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

Dojin Work – 3 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

Dragonaut: The Resonance – 2 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann – 5 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

Last Exile – 4 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

The Third: The Girl with the Blue Eye – 3 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

Review: Batwoman #0


I don’t normally do reviews of comic books because usually I find that I can’t really do a decent job at being (emotionally) analytical about the material with only one issue of a series in my hands.  In order to truly represent the comic I’d be writing about I would prefer to wait until several issues have been completed, preferably a whole story arc, or a Trade Paperback has been released.  However by the time those things come out I’m usually not even thinking about that comic anymore.  I was supposed to review “Young Allies #1-6” months ago, for crying out loud.


Luckily this particular comic, Batwoman #0, is a One-Shot and its story is self-contained and thus easily reviewed.  Unfortunately it still may require a little background to fully understand who this character is.  I’ll give the short (As short as Beta is able to ever do, I mean) version:

Bat-Woman is a character created by DC Comics originally in 1956 as a reaction to the accusation of Batman and Robin being gay in the book “Seduction of the Innocent” (Which I very briefly mentioned once before).  Named “Kathy Kane” and declared a romantic interest for the 100% Heterosexual Bruce Wayne she was, as I understand it, not very interesting and only a competent crime fighter some of the time.  She was there for one reason; someone who Batman could be attracted to and rescue.   Yay feminism?  Thankfully DC did away with this lousy character in the 60s (Along with Ace the Bat-Hound), eventually replacing her with the much more well-rounded, competent and overall 175% more awesome second version of Batgirl (Barbara Gordon).  Later Kathy’s tenure as Bat-Woman was erased from continuity altogether with 1985’s “Crisis on Infinite Earths”.  Let’s never speak of her again.
The original Bat-Woman was an integral part of the Bat-Family for decad-JOSSED!
Fast forward to 2007 soon after the final issue of the above mentioned comic’s twenty-two years delayed sequel “Infinite Crisis”.  DC had begun releasing a weekly series (A rare thing for American comics) called “52” which helped explain the gap in the “One Year Later” storyline (Which I briefly discussed here).  The book focused on several B and C-string characters but introduced a new Batwoman, more or less unrelated to the first one, named Katherine Kane who is, like Barbara Gordon, super awesome.  She was part of a strategy by DC to bring more diversity (And publicity, most likely) to their comics by declaring that she was a lesbian...and also Jewish, but then executive-editor Dan DiDio would tell pretty much anyone who would listen just how gay Kate was and regularly patted himself and the company on the back for the bin progressive (Gay superheroes were nothing new at the point, but few received the push for attention that the new Batwoman got from the editors).  In 2009 she was made the main feature of Detective Comics as the regular star Batman had been recently killed sent on a yearlong adventure through time.   The character is most identified with Greg Rucka who wrote much of her stories, including her Detective Comics run, and helped establish her as one of the better new heroes created during the last ten years.

DC announced earlier this year that Batwoman would star in her own ongoing series starting in February of 2011, but they would first release Batwoman #0 to help bridge the gap between this new series and the recent run on Detective Comics.   This book is co-written by J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman with art by Williams and Amy Reeder (More on that in a bit).

Bruce Wayne/Batman, now back in present day after being Trapped in Time for months in “comic time”, is attempting to catch up on the things he missed during his absence; in this case the mysterious Batwoman who has been operating in Gotham as he hopes to deduce her identity and her modus operandi.  Tracking his prime suspect Katherine Kane’s movements Batman relates the evidence to support his claim via what appears to be a journal.


Why does she need lipstick to fight crime? 
This is an “Issue #0”, a marketing tactic that was used all the time in the 90s/Dark Age of Comics to grab a little extra cash from readers.  In theory they don’t directly affect an ongoing plot of the series proper; instead it usually expands upon a main character and/or storyline with a standalone episode though sometimes they could act as a direct prologue for the series as a whole either way acting a jumping on point for new readers.  In this case it seems to latter.  The story is told through the eyes of Batman who only interacted with Batwoman a token amount before he vanished into TIME ITSELF and therefore is the perfect narrator for anyone who doesn’t know much about the character.  We don’t learn details about her origin because Batman doesn’t learn them from his stalking observations this issue but his speculations to what it might be gives the newer reader serious clues (Though long time readers would likely already be familiar with it).  This format works; there is no better jumping on point for this character so if you’re even a little interested in Batwoman this is the issue for you.  The artwork is literally broken up horizontally and sometimes vertically: Williams draws the top sequences featuring Batman watching Batwoman fighting members of the Church of Crime from the shadows while the bottom portion, drawn by Reeder, features Bruce Wayne in several different disguises tailing Kane in her day to day life in order to gather evidence to support suspicions of her dual identity.  This format could have easily been redundant or stupid but the execution is handled wonderfully and helped give this single issue comic some much needed uniqueness.

The story is a character piece and I like it for two main reasons.  #1) It clearly and neatly gives us the Cliff Notes version of everything we need to know about Batwoman: she’s a rich socialite who may or may not be capable of having a decent social life (Something Batman admits he’s too broken to ever achieve), she has a military background that ended poorly, she has a colonel father who may be involved in her activities, she’s a skilled enough fighter that Batman (One of the ten best fighters alive) is seemingly impressed, and most importantly she lost someone close to her and Batman speculates is the motivation for her crime fighting.  Now if you are familiar with the character than you are already aware of the full details behind those facts, but for someone who’s new to her it is a great introduction to Batwoman without being overwhelmed by information.

#2) Though probably not its intended goal, or at least not its primary goal, it’s a fascinating study of Batman as well.  Over the years Batman has become increasingly dark and cynical (Note that the character was originally fairly dark until Seduction of the Innocent “fixed” him) starting in the late-60s/early-70s and reaching insane levels by the early 2000s.  Batman had become something of a paranoid lunatic who didn’t trust anyone, possibly not even his adopted children/crime fighting partners.  He has since been toned down but there are certain aspects of that interpretation that still linger and this comic makes that fact clear.  Why does Batman feel the need know who Batwoman is?  Traditionally Batman hates vigilantes unapproved by him operating in Gotham City (This includes Superman, by the way) which is part of the reason he dislikes the Huntress and barely tolerated the Spoiler for years.  His interest in Kate not only shows that his obsessive compulsion to be one step ahead of everyone, friend or foe, is alive and well but also reaffirms character traits that he has displayed in his modern interpretation.  I like consistency and Batman as he’s portrayed here is exactly how I would assume he’d handle the situation: one step ahead, but motivationally dubious (Character flaws are awesome).

Batman once devised several ways to brutally disable and torture his JLA teammates
You know, because he's sane
The artwork is fine, but I’m not the type of person who puts much stock into the art unless it’s really good or really awful.  The two sequences with the different artist gimmick works well as I said, though I wonder if either Williams or Redder couldn’t have just all the art work themselves.  Their style is very distinct from each other, especially the background, and I’m unsure who I like more since Williams doesn’t draw Kate Kane and Redder doesn’t draw Batwoman at all through the issue.  However I’m put off by how pale Katherine is in her civilian identity.  Is she always that dang pale?  It was downright spooky.  I realized that just about every time I’ve ever seen Batwoman drawn she’s been white as a ghost but seeing her that way as a normal person in street clothes freaked me the hell out.


Kind of like this only with a lady in a bat costume
The only real problem with this issue is that it’s very short.  I suppose that’s not too surprising considering it’s just a One-Shot but the price tag is still $2.99 which I believe is the standard for a normal sized DC comic right now.   That’s a lot of cash for a measly 16 pages of actual story.  Hell, there are 11 pages of PREVIEW for future comics…9 of which aren’t even for Batwoman’s ongoing series.  That’s clearly padding.  Part of this may be due to the fact that Williams supposedly didn’t want to do an Issue Zero but was forced to anyway.  In any case this doesn’t feel like full issue but I certain feel like I paid for one.

Ultimately this comic kicks ass I recommend it for anyone who a) wants to read more comics with female leads and b) have heard of this new Batwoman but have yet to check her out.  This is a great starting point for new fans.  I’m one of those new fans and I’m now really jazzed about the new ongoing.  I’m now hoping to get my hands on the older 52 and Detective Comic trades featuring her.  This should be a great series and February can’t come fast enough.

I give Batwoman #0 4 out of 5 Adorable Pandas.


Pros

-A great issue to start reading a critically acclaimed new character

-A very unique take on a usually painful type of book

-A good showcase of Batman’s personality and detective skills, and he’s a guest-star

Cons

-Too little story, too many preview pages for Detective Comics #871

-It might be redundant for people already fans of Batwoman

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Review: Love and Other Drugs



This movie is about drug dealing; don’t let anyone tell you different.  Now that the pleasantries are out of the way we can discuss details.   Love and Other Drugs is based on the book Hard Sell: The Evolution of a Viagra Salesman by Jamie Reidy. The advertisement heavily implied a romantic comedy; a lighthearted romance story about two impossibly attractive people falling in love, likely involving “hilarious” misunderstandings, that you take your girlfriend to see because “chicks like that sort of stuff”.  Well if you’re into that genre prepare to be disappointed because this movie doesn’t fit into that category.  You’ll have to settle for whatever crappy movie Katherine Heigl is starring in this year since she’s currently Hollywood’s go to girl for awful romantic comedies (That said Knocked Up was actually a very sweet, heartwarming and fun film…that Heigl publically trashed for being sexist meaning that not only is she typecast she’s also a moron).  No, this film is more of a comedic drama that focuses on a romantic relationship between two people.  Obviously two different genres.  I braved seeing this film (Despite being alone and dateless and having to endure the two girls two rows behind me giggling at the black dude watching the “chick flick” by his goddamn self) because it had Oscar buzz surrounding it, especially involving Anne Hathaway, which is backed up by the somewhat downplayed-in-commercials incurable disease plot point.  As we all know such a plot device is too cerebral for most dumb comedies so I gave it a shot.
In the year 1996 Jamie Randall (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a womanizing twenty-something under achiever.  He is almost super humanly adept at seducing women but seems to be more or less coasting through life.  After losing his job due to *ahem* inappropriate conduct with his co-worker/boss’ girlfriend his millionaire younger brother gets him a gig as a pharmaceutical salesman.  After fumbling around in the medical world for a bit he meets a pretty, and feisty, 26 year old Stage One Parkinson’s Disease patient named Maggie (Anne Hathaway) and proceeds to make it his mission to, shall we say, “tap that ass”.  Also there’s some stuff about Viagra, I guess.
 Jamie and Maggie in a rare moment of being clothed

Once we look past the direction the marketing department went it’s fair to say that this movie has a lot going for it on paper.  It stars Anne Hathaway and Jake Gynehaal, who are both young and talented, deals with a relevant medical topic, and takes place in the 90s thus kicking off America’s proven obsession with Twenty Years Ago (Now that it’s 2010 the 80s are officially played out).  On the other hand it was directed by Edward Zwick who made an enemy out of me when he directed the pile of elephant dung known as The Last Samurai (Not to be confused with James Cameron’s Avatar) so it’s not all good news.  Sadly despite its promise it fails to live up to its implied hype.

 
 Seriously, f**k this movie

Speaking of Zwick this movie suffers from a similar problem that Dances with Japanese People The Last Samurai did: it totally lacks subtlety.  Every aspect of the film hits you over the head repeatedly until it is 100% positive that you got it.  For example in the opening sequence we’re treated to a caption that says “1996”.  Okay, cool, apparently this movie takes place in 1996.  Then over the course of the next half-hour out I’m treated to the most cliché 90s music they could possibly find, including the freaking Macarena complete with the dance, just in case I forgot what year this was.  This type of thing happens throughout the film as characters have a bad habit of telling me exactly what they’re feeling as I’m watching them experience it.  Why does Maggie keep telling me she has Parkinson’s?  I know she has Parkinson’s because her desire for Parkinson’s medication led to her meeting Randall in the first place.   Plus she’s clearly suffering the effects of the Parkinson’s.  I don’t need her to keep repeating that she has Parkinson’s since I remember her saying it the first time an hour ago.  See how sick you are of me saying that word?  At some point Maggie says that she doesn’t want the disease to define her s a person and I was surprised when Jamie didn’t laugh out loud over the irony.  Look Mr. Zwick you don’t have to hold my hand and spell the movie out for me, I’m smart enough to understand it myself.
Since I’ve already started talking about the annoying bits of this film I might as well also mention that despite it that it’s not supposed to be a romantic comedy it does in fact have pretty much all of the clichés we’ve all seen in those types of flicks.  If you’ve seen any film where a guy meets a girl and they fall in love then congratulations you’ve basically already seen Love and Other Drugs and don’t need to spend the money on the movie ticket.  Just replace the girl’s uptight nature/terrible boyfriend/whatever typical conflict present to make her hesitant to date the main guy with Stage One Parkinson’s and that’s our film.  This movie was extremely predictable.  I was really hoping that the ending at least would have played against type but nope!  This is likely the one time you’ll ever hear me say I wish a movie took a page out of Chasing Amy’s book because at least the ending in that movie threw me curveball (It was a curveball made out of garbage and hate but still…).  Also there were tons of scenes that felt really unnecessary for furthering the plot, but as more than one of them involved Hathaway-type nudity I suppose whether or not that’s a negative is up to you.  The scenes where Jamie tries Viagra and every scene featuring the character Trey Hannigan were completely pointless no matter which way you swing it, however.
Speaking of Hathaway she brings a strong performance as Maggie, which isn’t surprising.  She has a ton of acting ability, or at least such a strong presence and inherent charisma that it’s hard to give her negative commentary.  It doesn’t hurt that she’s one of the most gorgeous women in the world and likely has Hollywood’s greatest smile.  In fact I think it’s time for Beta to become superficial for a minute and update the Hottest Women in Hollywood List.  It now reads as:
#4: Amy Acker
#3: Kat Dennings
#2: Anne Hathaway
#1:  Michelle Trachtenberg
(Note that Trachtenberg is a distant first place)
Hopefully, to balance things out, she's actually a terrible person in real life

Anyway she’s easily the most likable and developed person in this flick but I think she is still below her role in Rachel Getting Married in terms of pure awesome acting so I’ll be shocked if she wins an Oscar for this (Which is just as well since she’s HOSTING THE DAMN THING THIS YEAR!  Conflict of interest much?).  That said she never comes off as being corny despite playing a character with Parkinson’s which is very easy to do if an actor screwed up even a little and I think she should be praised for that.   However I think the role would have been more challenging, and thus more interesting, if Maggie was suffering from Stage Two rather than Stage One but I guess that would have called for an older actress anyway.  Jake Gyllenhaal is alright as Jamie.  The character is the poster child of the Generation X slackers (Before they aged into the geriatric ancient mariners we pity today), a role we don’t see too often these days but was very common during the 90s.  He’s neither bad nor wonderful, but he is pretty damned attractive and that’s probably something you already knew.  Hank Azaria as Dr. Knight is pretty great though, but that’s because Hank “Don’t Call Me Apu” Azaria is pretty great in everything he’s in.  There’s no such thing as a bad Hank Azaria performance though a good Hank Azaria performance can still take place in a horrible, horrible film (See: the American Godzilla movie).
Also there are a lot of naked people in this movie.  I hope you like seeing Jake Gyllenhaal’s butt.
One of these people is an extremely sexy and attractive thespian
The other is Maggie Gyllenhaal

This movie is predictable and cliché and there’s no way to ignore it, but I am such a hopeless romantic that I still enjoyed the film regardless.  The problem I have is that just because I like the recipe doesn’t mean I want to eat the same meal every night.  It’s probable that those involved were banking on some Academy Awards nods but unless those Oscars are made out of chocolate I’m assuming they won’t be taking home any that night.  However this is one of Anne Hathaway’s breast best roles and if you’re looking for films that showcase her talents as an actress then this is likely the penultimate example.  At the end of the day though there are a lot of better movies in this genre and there’s nothing here you haven’t seen somewhere else.  I may be underselling this film a bit, after all I did come out of the theater thoroughly entertained, but giving this flick Four Pandas puts in on the same level as The Social Network, which is probably one of the three best films of 2010, and that’s not right.  Therefore…
I give Love and Other Drugs 3 Adorable Pandas out of 5, but consider it a high ranking 3.


Pros
-A solid performance by the usually charming Anne Hathaway
-A fun distraction that’s still better than the typical romantic comedy disaster
Cons
-The movie lacks subtlety in everything from the soundtrack to dialogue
-Has the same plot as about 56,594 other films
-There’s no classy way to discuss Anne Hathaway’s almost ludicrously large amount of nude scenes

Monday, November 29, 2010

Initial Reaction to Young Justice

This was pretty much just an hour them repeating that they aren't sidekicks

In case you were wondering I’m thoroughly enjoying Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. It’s a good chunk into its first season and I can honestly say it’s one of the most entertaining Marvel cartoons I’ve ever seen…so far. I’ll be doing a season review once it wraps up though when that will be I have no idea. Fair’s fair though, so I figured I’d watch the premier of Young Justice and post some initial thoughts like I did with EMH last month. As I understand it this was the first two episodes, “Independence Day” parts 1 and 2. Obviously it’s hard not to draw comparisons to the Avengers cartoon but there’s an important difference between the two shows: technically EMH’s season premier was the sixth episode of the series where this one was the first. Character development as well as exploration of the world had already begun with EMH where in this cartoon everything starts here at once. As a result things felt more jumbled here. Anyway here’s some thoughts and notes I took while watching it.

-My sister says that Robin was stealing lines form 10 Things I Hate About You

-Speedy is a jerk. I hope we never see him again

-I like how the characters have distinct personalities, but where are the ladies?

-Zatara? Really? What is this, 1941?

-Dear DC Comics: Kid Flash is a horrible name. Please stop using it. Love, Beta

-Robin needs to lay off the jokes...for all our sakes

-BlAqulad’s powers sometimes seem a bit too much like Green Lantern. I guess that’s okay, there’s no “Teen Lantern” after all, but even so I think I’d prefer a power ring over “vague water powers”

-I should point this out while I’m thinking about it: the animation is great! It’s a more realistic style than the Avengers. I dig it a lot

-Robin calls Kid Flash “KF”? That’s not clunky and awkward at all

-Holy crap, Superboy is nothing like his comic book counterpart. Not even close

-Superboy is not only different he’s annoying. He’s like a teenage Wolverine with half-ass Superman powers

-This show is the opposite of Teen Titans cartoon in terms of structure,style, and tone. The lesson: be careful what you wish for

-I am not enthusiastic with the character design for Blockbuster

-Two Green Lanterns on the Justice League? Why?

-Hell yeah Captain Marvel!

-Seriously, go to hell Not-Suberboy. You’re awful

-Jesus Tap-dancing Christ on a Sofa, these main characters really seem to enjoy displaying how “rebellious” they are

-Red Tornado being here is so far the only thing that feels familiar to the original comic

-Let’s send teenagers on covert opts missions. I foresee no problems with this

-Why the hell was Miss Martian only introduced in the last two minutes of the episode? Why wasn’t there any female character along with the four guys running around on the adventure? Why do none of the female Justice League characters have any lines? I know a lot of character didn’t get lines but still this seemed like a Boy’s Club to me

Okay so after watching the premier episode I’m not particularly impressed. The animation is good and the dialogue is mostly without major problems (But minor glitches made me roll my eyes several times) and most importantly doesn’t feel like its talking down to its audience. However the characters are not very compelling and seem sort of flat. Robin is annoying with his Mary Sue-like ability with hacking (Which seems more like a Tim Drake thing rather than a Dick Grayson trait), BlAqualad doesn’t seem to actually have a personality and Not-Superboy is a rage fuel asshole that bares almost no resemblance to his comic book counterpart. The writers need to flesh out the cast big time but truthfully Justice League/Unlimited had a very similar problem with its season premier and that show ended up being fantastic so there’s no need to condemn anyone yet. However shame on the writers for apparently forgetting to add women to this episode. I can forgive the fact that despite seeing no less than three female members of the Justice League on screen none had any speaking lines but why did they decide they didn’t need Miss Martian to take part in the first adventure? With her traditional power set she would have been more useful than BlAqualad was. Or did we need more time flesh out Not-Superboy’s psychotic rage issues and thus couldn’t be bothered with a fifth member at this time? In any event there are some unfortunate implications there.

Bottom line is that this show didn’t exactly floor me with excitement. There are some pretty cool things about this show, and BlAqualad wasn’t the annoying problem I was worried he might be, but at the end of the day I was more bored than interested while watching the pilot, which was the opposite reaction I had with EMH. When the series starts proper in January I hope the kinks are worked out. Also the writers couldn’t have picked a worse personality to give to Not-Superboy. I’m sure he’ll be pissing me off all season long. The Avengers cartoon is officially winning the war.