Archive for the Comics Category

In-Flight Mentaltainment

Posted in Comics, FILM, Television with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 5, 2015 by dcairns


Movies seen while going to America —

EDGE OF TOMORROW, directed by Doug Liman and written by THE USUAL SUSPECTS’ Christopher McQuarrie along with mockney specialists the Butterworth Brothers, which was really good by big Hollywood standards. Emily Blunt excellent as always — I knew she could do almost anything but I couldn’t have sworn she could be bad-ass. Tom Cruise is also really well-used, and has a huge character arc, starting out a bit like James Garner in THE AMERICANIZATION OF EMILY or if Don Draper got drafted. It’s really funny to see Cruise playing a conflict-averse wuss. And by the end he has of course become an unstoppable killing machine on the side of good. Yes, it’s GROUNDHOG DAY meets INDEPENDENCE DAY, but it’s refreshing to see a film with so many interesting narrative notions.


By contrast —

The recent GODZILLA remake has a scene with an upturned Eiffel Tower, just like EDGE OF TOMORROW, but the one in the kaiju knock-off is the miniature imitation version in Vegas, which kind of sums up the relationship GODZILLA has to a proper movie. Thanks to some hectic editing they even manage to make Bryan Cranston look like a bad actor. If you’ve ever wanted to see Juliette Binoche outrunning an explosion, this is the film for you, and I hope you choke on it.

Fans complained that there was a bare minimum of the big green guy, and not very much of Cranston. The filmmakers had completely miscalculated their audience’s needs, like the makers of the previous US GODZILLA, who thought the public wanted Godzilla as an atomic bad guy stomping on cities for kicks. The great minds at Legendary Pictures grasped the fact that Godzilla, as he is known and tolerated by millions, is thought of as a benevolent colossus who breaths radioactive fire on other, nastier monsters, and only kills thousands of people by accident, a bit like America or Israel. What they failed to grasp is that audiences want to look at Godzilla doing these things for longer than ten minutes out of two hours. Ideally, what the film should have delivered is a 300 foot tall Bryan Cranston, in his Heisenberg guise (“Say my name!”), fighting the big lizard all over New Mexico. Or else Bryan Craston AS Godzilla, with Aaron Paul as Godzooky*.


Pierce Brosnan is walking away from this explosion because it Simply Doesn’t Interest Him.

I usually seek out bad movies to watch on planes because I don’t like to see good ones “adjusted to fit my screen” or “edited for content.” THE NOVEMBER MAN isn’t totally awful — maybe it’s the best film Roger Donaldson could make now —  but the only thing that could have made it memorable would be a downbeat, 70s-style ending. A happy ending on a thing like this (spy thriller) suggests that the security services are basically benign and that rotten eggs will be filtered out (with one of those egg filters you can buy in the shops, I suppose — couldn’t find a way to write this sentence without a mixed metaphor) and that leaves the movie feeling pretty inconsequential.

Olga Kurylenko looks amazing, though, and after she gets over a regrettable impulse to smile on one side of her mouth to convey ‘tude, she acts well. Pierce Brosnan is someone I always enjoy, though I’m a bit fed up of him always playing a widower. It’s started to feel like a tacky exploitation of his own biography. He’s a fun presence, though — I watched PERCY JACKSON & THE LIGHTNING THIEF on a plane once, and the sight of him as a centaur was inexplicably hilarious. They should really have cast him as the statue of Talos from JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS though, so they could have the credit “with Pierce Brosnan as Bronze Person.”

Movies seen returning from America —

Flying back home was somehow much quicker. I watched an episode of Louie and one of Veep, neither of which I’d gotten around to. Clearly I will have to see more, they were both excellent. Man with hangover in Veep: “Find me a hamburger made out of aspirin, I’m going to get some air and be sick in it.”


Then Fiona and I watched HOW TO DRAIN TRAIN YOUR DRAGON II, which was very nice, as good as the first one. Excellent vocal perfs, beautiful images (Roger Deakins advised on the virtual cinematography, as he did on RANGO), great action and storytelling and a lot of emotion. This one felt more like a flattering portrait of America — we always seek peace but if we need to fight, we will kick ass” (like GODZILLA) which made me feel a little uncomfortable. But for sheer craft approaching artistry, I couldn’t fault it.

Then I looked at X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST (the title seems a riff on killer Bob’s rhyme in Twin Peaks) which was something of a return to form for Bryan Singer, only the plane landed seconds before it was over. It has the best bullet-time ever, with cheeky Evan Peters running around the walls of a circular room like a cross between Fred Astaire and Gary Lockwood.

The movie is action-packed, has a reasonably complicated story, and the dispute between Professor Xavier’s get-along-with-the-humans philosophy and Magneto’s kill-them-before-they-kill us attitude remains compelling, even as all the other characters are more interesting AS characters. And somehow, Jennifer Lawrence fighting in blue rubber pasties never got boring to look at.

BTW, United Airlines have the best safety film I’ve ever seen. We saw it twice in a week and didn’t get bored. The idea is novel, the production values immense, it’s all very slick, there’s some wit, but what helps most of all are the little non-professional moments, such as the flight attendant at around 1.54 who can’t stop laughing for unknown reasons.

*Purists will say that any miniature Godzilla should be called Minilla, after the pudgy reptile star of SON OF GODZILLA, but I recall the Hanna-Barbera series The Godzilla Power Hour, which, though completely without any artistic merit whatsoever, was, episode by episode, a lot shorter than any Godzilla film from either Toho or Tristar or Legendary.

Head Office

Posted in Comics, FILM with tags , , , , on January 24, 2015 by dcairns

My unheard-of week of guest postings ends today with Wardrobe Meeting, a mini-fumetti from Randall William Cook. Produced for self-amusement in a short gap between meetings, it was not something he intended for a wider audience, but it made me laugh HARD, so I pleaded with him to let me run it. Mr. Cook is not one to let a pal down.

Depicted: Edith Head, Joan Harrison I think (silent), Alfred Hitchcock and Ingrid Bergman.



The Pattern Emerges

Posted in Comics, FILM, Mythology, Politics with tags , , on January 17, 2015 by dcairns

Dressler, Marie (Dinner at Eight)_01

So, at last I can reveal — inspired/distressed by recent events in Paris, I’ve written every blog post this week around the admittedly wide-ranging themes of violence and freedom of expression. Of course, it might actually be harder to write articles which did NOT touch on either subject, but there it is.

Meanwhile, on Facebook I swore, as a satirical act, to murder anyone who draws a caricature of Marie Dressler. Unpick that: am I comparing the prophet Mohammed to a 1930s grande dame of the screen? No. I am comparing the act of drawing a cartoon, with the act of drawing a catoon.


(We only know this is meant to be TPM because of context and because the magazine said so. But it is up to the viewer to decide meaning, so if you find this image offensive, simply accept it as a drawing of a random bloke. Problem solved!)

Accusations that the magazine Charlie Hebdo published cartoons which are racist are hard to gainsay — nothing to do with the intended message of the cartoons, which were often deliberately provocative, shooting out barbs in all directions, not so much a coherent argument about topical issues as a surreal mash-up of current concerns, immediately recognisable as offensive in intent, and therefor not particularly offensive to anyone who gets it. The racism comes from the actual physical attributes assigned to Arab figures in Charlie cartoons — big noses, always supplied with a few dots to represent pores. While the caricaturist’s stock-in-trade is grotesque distortion and exaggeration of physical traits, it does become racist when you move from goofy portraiture of, say, Bill Cosby, in all his specific qualities, to a cartoon grouping together all the perceived attributes of one race. Imagine the equivalent drawing of a stock black person, for instance. In fact, the difficulty may stem from the mere idea of discussing Arabs as some kind of unvarying unit. Or from the magazine assuming that anybody, from the editor on down, is qualified to draw cartoons.

But this is, in fact, irrelevant to current events since the massacre was not motivated by ethnic slurs but as revenge for caricaturing of The Prophet Mohammed. An entirely — ENTIRELY — separate issue. Did France’s colonial behaviour in the past influence events? Did the West’s recent wars of aggression? Absolutely. Though probably not as much as social injustice in modern France, which produces a disaffected underclass including many immigrants and their descendants, to whom violence might seem the best/only option for attaining some sense of self-worth, however twisted that is.

My take on this is that Islam has a firm rule against such representations — so serious adherents to this religion, if they wish to remain within its arms, should not make drawings of TPH. However, this rule does not, cannot and should not apply to anybody outside the faith. If I sketched the prophet, I would not be drawing the representative of Allah. I would be drawing a person I assume probably lived a long time ago, but who had no more connection to the divine than anyone else. That’s who he is to me, because I’m not a Muslim.

Far be it from me to dictate to anyone else, but I would like to see Muslims accept that the daubings of unbelievers have no real relationship to the Prophet they admire and the God they worship. What is ultimately required is an acceptance that the unbeliever is entitled to his or her unbelief. Liberal Muslims already accept this in principle, but there is a reluctance to go the next step and say, “If you trash my beliefs I’ll find that rather disgusting, but specific cultural requirements about not representing figures of religion do not apply to people who don’t share that religion.”

There is a danger I may be mansplaining, or whatever the white western secular liberal version of that is. There is something iffy about saying “This is a western democracy and if you come here you have to follow OUR rules,” as if there were no possibility that an incoming culture could have a POSITIVE influence. But Europe is multicultural, so to get along at all we may have to put up with people disrespecting our deepest beliefs (After all, how do you disrespect a belief? Simply by NOT SHARING IT.) I happen to be very fond of freedom of expression. If you suggest limiting it, you are offending MY deepest values. But you know what? I still won’t kill you for it.


Pontiff: “I’m-a puncha you inna face!”

Via Facebook ~

Fiona:Watching the news. The Pope comes on and says he’ll punch anyone who insults his mother. “What about turning the other cheek?” says D. Me – “He’s Italian. Of course he’ll punch you if you insult his mother.”

Amendment – He’s Argentinian. But he’ll punch you if you dis his mum. Just accept it.

Me: He’ll turn his other cheek and then punch you while you’re distracted by it.

Travis Reeves:  of course, you’re all wrong. The biblical reference you’re making is frequently misinterpreted. The point is not to turn away from the insult, but to offer the other cheek AS WELL.

Me: So in this instance what he should do is discover a second mum for us to insult.

Travis Reeves: Depending on your interpretation, you could hit one person four times as it is. This Pope is starting to sound like a thug.

Me: He could adopt twenty mums, say you’ve insulted all of them, and kick the crap out of you.

Travis Reeves: Mother Mary, Mother Theresa…

Me: Once you start down that route, it’s total war…

Fiona: Mother Marie Dressler…




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