Monday, May 25, 2009

We've Been Targeted For Termination...

That's right, we've been targeted for termination and only YOU can save us. This could quite possibly be the final episode of the That's a Wrap! podcast. I know, I know, it's pretty sad. Thankfully there is an easy way to save us, download the show and pass it along to a friend!

Join us for quite possibly the final show as Jim and Billy discuss the Terminator franchise past present and future. We promise that there are no spoilers for Terminator Salvation, so no worries if you have not seen the new movie.

So click away and join us as That's a Wrap is Talkin' Terminators this week! (1:38:24)

Intro: The Terminator theme -Brad Fiedel
Outro: Todd the T-1000 - Jonathan Coulton

Thanks to our few dedicated listeners, we really do appreciate your support...just pass it along, please!


Sunday, May 24, 2009

No Fate

The Terminator has always been a compelling series for me. I'll admit that I didn't see the first film until after I'd seen Terminator 2: Judgment Day but the ideas, the concepts and drama that drive this series were extremely exciting from the moment I'd first seen the trailers for T2. Even my parents were excited by the trailers. People who to this day probably can't name a single film as their "favorite." But here they were hyped for a film about killer robots from the future and consequently I became excited as well.

It's a pretty common joke around That's a Wrap! that I will like anything with killer robots in it and while that is a little broad of a generalization--I do adore stories about robots...oh and time travel too.

I had quite the love/hate affair with Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles(which I'm sad to say was canceled way before its time) and it's willy-nilly timeline and age changes(not to mention the blatant canon broken in the first episode with the T-800 head going through the time portal) before I gave in and enjoyed the series for what it was, warts and all.

The Terminator franchise for me has always been sort of like a horror story. Honestly the first movie is the only one that can really even be likened to a horror film, but the basic story is somewhat endemic to horror movies: Evil thing hunts an innocent and cannot be stopped. Without all the sci-fi trappings that plot description could fit any number of horror movies. The Terminator could be a proxy for The Mummy. They share the same basic conceit Not to mention the Terminator Endoskeleton--fucking frightening.

Now, of course, the Terminator films have always been about action(T2 and Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines more so than The Terminator but the idea of an unstoppable metallic horror from the future hunting someone is just a frightening proposition. One of the things that worried me about Terminator Salvation was that it was set in the future.

Yes, it's set in the time period that we've all wanted to see since the first time we viewed The Terminator and saw those tantalizing glimpses of the future war. But can Terminator stay frightening if it's about a war with hundreds of thousands of endoskeletons? Thankfully, the answer is yes--at least when it needs to be.

Everyone worried when McG was announced as the director of this film. Truth be told, I've never seen one of his films. I know that his take on Charlie's Angels was well received if not well reviewed and I knew that he was an action focused director. I tried to give the man the benefit of the doubt and I'm glad I did, because aside from a very few nitpicks Terminator Salvation is a very fun and exciting summer movie.

It is the year 2019(a good ten years before John Connor "smashed SkyNet's defense grid," won the war and sent his father back in time) and things aren't looking good for the human race. SkyNet is ramping up to something big--the T-800, and the human resistance(not yet lead by John Connor) is looking to find a way to end the war for good.

Marcus Wright(Sam Worthington) a death row inmate from 2003 wakes up in the aftermath of a Connor-led infiltration of a SkyNet facility. Though nearly fifteen years have passed since his "death." The big question is, who is Marcus and is he what he seems to be?

The big difference between the past Terminator films and this movie is that this isn't a road/chase picture. The past Terminator movies have all had the main characters running from a terminator until the inevitable showdown at the end. Salvation shirks this format and is truly a different film. Look, I'll admit it doesn't have the heart or mind of The Terminator or T2, but what it does have is a competent story with some great set-pieces that never overstay their welcome.

The main problem with this film is that McG splits the time between Marcus and Connor. We never really get to spend enough time with either of them and the film never seems to know who the main character is. Is it John Connor(Christian Bale), the most important person in the Terminator franchise or Marcus Wright, the random dude we've never heard of before and truth be told--is kind of a dick. Because we split our time between the two stories there are things that get left by the wayside such as the relationship between Kate Connor(Bryce Dallas Howard) and John. Ideally this should be the emotional core of the film but it never really goes anywhere.

In addition to this, some of the acting is shoddy at best. Christian Bale...well, he's Christian Bale. This guy could read the phone book and make it at least worth paying attention. Howard is serviceable in what is sadly a marginal role. Worthington as Marcus is downright awful. The guy can't say a line without waffling between his American and native Australian accents. Worthington's character is also a total ass making me want to follow Connor again whenever he's on the screen. Thankfully most of Marcus's screen time is shared with Anton Yelchin's Kyle Reese. Now, I had major issues with Yelchin in Star Trek but here he's an absolute joy(aside from his attempt to replicate Michael Biehn's voice) to watch.

The special effects are fairly well done, though there are a few places where they look incomplete or just lame(wait till you see Marcus hanging out at the Hollywood sign). Though the Hunter/Killer effects look nice enough, they don't have the same impact as the model work from the earlier films. Computer graphics are an incredible tool for filmmakers but they seem to have become a crutch in recent years. Model work doesn't always look convincing but combined with convincing CG it can look amazing. More directors should look to Peter Jackson's work in The Lord of the Rings for an idea of how to make models and CG work together. McG does have some excellent traditional effects peppered throughout with some of the T-600 endoskeletons and again, most of the CG looks impressive enough(the giant terminator Harvester immediately comes to mind).

Where this movie bests T3 is in the humor department. One of the only complaints I really had with T3 was the pathetic attempts at humor. Salvation(written by the same people who wrote T3) thankfully does not have this problem. There are humorous portions written into the script, but they are mostly understated and will probably only be noticed by Terminator die-hards. The requisite "I'll be back" moment is probably handled the best since the original film and doesn't come off as cheesy like it did in T3.

And finally, the terminators are still scary. The first time we meet a T-600 endoskeleton it is gripping and frightening. There are moments later that continue this tension. I am glad that McG was able to keep these moments scary while still portraying the future war with the machines.

All in all Terminator Salvation is a worthy addition to the Terminator franchise. Though not nearly as gripping as the first two films it is a compelling action movie and the first summer movie that I've genuinely loved. You can't and shouldn't compare it to the first two Terminator films. If you can do that then you will probably love this flawed but fun film.

Plus it's got killer robots IN the future. Can't go wrong there!

3.5 Polymemetic alloys out of 5!


Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Killin' Time With 24

24: 6:00A.M.-7:00A.M.,7:00A.M.-8:00A.M.
Season 7, Episode 23&24

Welcome to "Killin' Time With 24." A weekly morning-after 24 discussion hosted by your faithful That's A Wrap! editors, Billy and Jim.

Every Tuesday morning we get together to discuss the previous evening's episode of 24. What we liked, disliked and where we would like to see the series go while avoiding any real work. It's like a virtual coffee break.

Sit back and let us do the complaining for you.

(22:03:21) Jim: hey
(22:03:22) Billy: Wow. Uh. Wow.
(22:03:51) Billy: The first wow was for the good, and the second wow was for the awful

(22:04:39) Jim: Nick and I were warring down to the final seconds if Jack was going to live or die.
(22:04:55) Jim: I was the correct one, obviously

(22:05:02) Jim: because I rule.

(22:05:06) Billy: It certainly wasn't on par with Jack walking Incredible Hulk-style into the sunset, but it was...well, pretty dramatically moving. And yeah, I was questioning whether Jack would pull through.
(22:05:13) Jim: As did Renee's final scene
(22:05:36) Billy: I KNEW he would, but credit goes to the producers for making me question it.
(22:06:09) Billy: Let's get one thing straight first: Kim Bauer OWNED the 23rd episode.

(22:06:47) Billy: That episode was almost a complete wash except for damned near everything with Kim...I was frankly stunned.

(22:07:10) Billy: I especially loved the look Renee gave Kim when she started talking computers.

(22:07:45) Jim: Indeed, Elisha Cuthbert rose to the occassion like never before. Well, the key was not having Kim waiting there waiting with the cure when Jack arrived at the hospital - and the scene with the... what's the name for a Muslim priest?
(22:08:02) Billy: I don't know his name.
(22:08:12) Billy: But I fucking LOVED that scene

(22:08:34) Jim: Indeed... considering how many members of his faith Jack has aced over the years
(22:09:02) Billy: It was so goddamn moving, especially when taken in conjunction with Jack's earlier scene with Renee when he explained his motivation.
(22:09:33) Jim: the Jack-Renee "What should I do?" scene was Jack's highlight of all the pre-hospital scenes
(22:10:02) Billy: For the first time in almost a decade I believed that the Jack Bauer from season One was the same guy we were watching this season
(22:10:07) Jim: Keifer actually went to a place at the end there... he's been doing this so long, I just didn't think he could surprise me anymore.
(22:11:06) Billy: If you stop and think about it for a moment, how DOES the most straight-laced dude in CTU end up where Jack is now.
(22:11:32) Jim: the Presidential stuff and Olivia stuff was just painful to get through and distracting us from a pretty impressive conclusion.
(22:11:33) Billy: He only got pick by Walsh to head the Palmer case because he was the cleanest CTU agent.
(22:11:46) Jim: Excluding those scenes we were golden with everything post-Tony.
(22:12:03) Billy: The white house shit was deadly painful
(22:12:17) Billy: Thankfully Pierce didn't go down.

(22:12:55) Billy: But that last scene with Canin and the Prez just went on TOO long...I kept looking at the clock hoping to get back to Jack and the Imam.

(22:13:11) Jim: Tony on the other hand... just utterly bad. His motivations were so tacked on and unbelievable (in revisiting the Logan affair). And its like Bernard agreed and went the Voight-scene chewing rout.
(22:13:49) Billy: I dunno...I bought it more this way than him just going evil because of Michelle being dyed.
(22:14:45) Jim: ?Michelle being dyed? - that's the point I think the whole text conversation adventure went too far down the gramatical sliding scale. I suppose we're lucky this is our last episode.
(22:14:52) Billy: I particularly loved how the scene where Jack and Renee stop Tony from killing whatshisface bad guy completely paralleled the final moments of season one.
(22:15:26) Billy: It's sort of an inside joke from the 24 fox message boards

(22:15:58) Billy: back in season one after Teri died some illiterate motherfucker asked if "Teri was dyed"

(22:16:54) Billy: It lived in infamy for years, and yes, I am (or was, rather, since I have not been to the boards since I swore off spoilers a few years back) a huge 24 geek...

(22:17:08) Jim: indeed.
(22:17:57) Jim: I know we mentioned it before, but I can't get over Elisha Cuthbert practically stealing the show... only Renee might have been more consistently impressive

(22:19:16) Billy: I know, I totally threw that up on my twitter in the middle of the show: What kind of topsy turvy world do we live in where Kim Bauer is the best part of a 24 season finale??
(22:20:07) Jim: At least we're in the alternate reality without the zombies
(22:20:25) Jim: I suppose that's a plus... although I can't promise we aren't... haven't been outside yet

(22:20:40) Billy: So, I guess the big question now is: Good enough to buy on Blu-Ray?
(22:21:16) Jim: I think it's possible... especially when considering only $10 more than DVD... (22:21:35) Jim: your thoughts on releasing a season dvd set the day after the finale?
(22:21:37) Billy: I know, right. Can't beat the price.
(22:21:42) Billy: I don't like it.

(22:22:06) Billy: It's giving me enough distance to really want to spend the dough on it.
(22:22:15) Billy: even though I liked the finale
(22:22:45) Jim: Yeah... hardcore fans have to justify buying something they JUST saw. And by not releasing it leading up the new season, you're pretty much conceding that your audience will never grow again.
(22:23:43) Billy: Right...or it'll be heavily discounted by xmas.
(22:24:09) Billy: Though I've gotta admit $45 for a BD is quite the impressive pricetag

(22:24:48) Jim: yeah, just a year ago it would have been $55 or $60 on sale.
(22:24:54) Jim: It's a brave new world

(22:25:39) Jim: hopes for next year?

(22:25:49) Billy: Fuck man, I remember picking up season one on DVD for $50 brand new.
(22:25:55) Jim: obviously Jack is back in the lead. where is he? what is he doing?
(22:25:58) Billy: Oh year?
(22:26:07) Jim: what better time to speculate?
(22:26:14) Billy: Jack is obviously back.
(22:26:54) Billy: He'll take Tony's "You ran away, Teri would be ashamed" shit to heart and dedicate himself to the Govt again.

(22:27:26) Billy: I hope to see Renee and Jack together....their scenes were just breathtaking.
(22:27:49) Billy: And God help me, I'll probably regret this later...but...more Kim.
(22:28:01) Jim: I see Jack-Renee-Kim back... in some kind of recreated CTU. Maybe Garafalo over Chloe back. As the voice of liberal reason.
(22:28:39) Billy: Being set in NYC, I've gotta hope the crazy terrorist attack angle will be softened.
(22:29:17) Billy: I always hope for a smaller story and keep getting disappointed. If it sucks, the series is done at eight anyways...

(22:30:01) Jim: yeah, still too soon... I'd honestly prefer more of a mystery investigation than a violent action fest. The action scenes stood out so much better when there were only four or five each year... instead of something huge every hour... or 18 out of 24 hours.
(22:31:02) Billy: I'll go out on a limb and say Tony will be back in some capacity.
(22:31:15) Jim: But for all the problems we've ragged on endlessly on these posts... it's been a substantive step back towards decency from last season. Agreed?
(22:31:40) Billy: Oh, for sure. Compared to season six....well, anything is gold.
(22:32:00) Billy: But I've got a question for you. Big question.

(22:32:13) Billy: Do you actually really like 24 anymore?

(22:32:23) Billy: Like, really, really like 24.

(22:32:34) Jim: or do I watch it out of habit as much as anything else?
(22:32:41) Billy: RIGHT!
(22:33:09) Billy: Like, it's not bad, but it's not even the same show I fell in love with back in 2001.

(22:33:32) Jim: It's really sad how close to a "yes" I am. Especially since I still buy every season and the REdemption movie and devote an hour of my life to it every week without interruption. It's one of the VERY few shows I NEVER wait a day to watch.
(22:34:48) Jim: I will go for a very close "No" Season Six crossed into "Yes" but the Redemption and this year at least pulled it back to "Like" I don't see any circumstance where I'll love it again. To quote the man... "I've come too far... too fucking far."
(22:35:39) Billy: I think it got so much good will from me for the spectacular first season and great season two. But it's not the same show anymore.
(22:35:57) Jim: At this point it's like asking me if I don't like my brother anymore.
(22:36:56) Jim: Sometimes I downright loathe the show/my brother, but at the end of every day you still can't distinguish fully the early years.

(22:37:09) Jim: Or in the case of Nick that he gives me money.

(22:37:13) Billy: But I just realized the other day that I don't really love the show anymore. It's not bad, it's not like me watching Heroes out of stubbornness...
(22:37:24) Jim: It's the Ties That Bind to bring Springsteen into the mix
(22:38:01) Jim: no, no, no... it's still worlds better than Heroes... But the days its even my favorite show of the night are long gone

(22:38:28) Billy: there was a time when I considered 24 my favorite show
(22:38:36) Jim: Speaking of which... I gots to get me some HIMYM before bed... any last thoughts on 24 Season 7?
(22:39:14) Billy: Not if it's going to delay me watching How I Met Your Mother!
(22:39:38) Billy: Just a quick one...have we really done 20 of these??

(22:39:41) Billy: Jesus.

(22:39:52) Jim: To wrap up - Better than six, but you made some good points there at the end. In the end I stick by my Midnight Run quote to describe me and this season.
(22:40:20) Billy: Oh and Dr. Becket from Stargate Atlantis gave Jack Bauer a spinal tap...
(22:40:33) Jim: See you again next year... or when we talk tomorrow... whichever comes first.


Sunday, May 17, 2009

An Ode To Giant Feet and H-Bombs

Lost: The Incident
Season 5, Episode 16&17

Wow. Well, there you go. The fifth season of Lost, arguably the series' most consistent outing, goes out literally with a bang. But enough with potential spoilers...for now at least. I know I've been slacking my duties as the That's a Wrap! Lost reviewer, but I've just been too enamored with this season to want to really dissect it for criticism. So what I'd like to do today is not really break down everything that happened in the finale, but rather just mull over where Lost is, has been and seems to be going.

I've given the producers of the show a lot of shit in the past for being obnoxious about getting to the Goddamn point. It's not that I have a problem with a show being full of mysteries. Of course, I don't have a problem with a show being all mysterious-like. I was an avid fan of The X-Files for ALL nine years, so trust me I can handle cock-tease television. What I can't handle is BORING cock-tease television. I loathed the season one Lost finale because it pretty much boiled down to "people launch and sail a boat/other people blow up the hatch that we've been dicking around with for TWELVE Goddamn episodes." Sure, Waaaaaaaaalt got kidnapped, but that wasn't even the season cliffhanger! No, instead we get to see people looking down the hatch.

Seriously? Yeah. It's a HATCH! We could reasonably assume that there was a DUDE inside the damned thing...why leave THAT for the season opener? Now, I still contend that the best that Lost has EVER been was the first eight episodes. Back before JJ Abrams left to pursue other endeavors(like ruining Star Trek), the show was good on both "freaky shit" and "jungle surviving" accounts. It had so much potential that it was electric watching the show weekly. But then it just started to lose it. Part of that is just my fault. I was thinking about Lost constantly. I lurked on Lost message boards. Hell, I dreamed about the show(Let's just say my "Alien ship on the island" dream thankfully hasn't come true just yet)! I was obsessed with the show. Understandably it would be hard to come up with something that I, and all the other fans, would appreciate and no be disappointed with.

In some ways, the series has never, and can never overcome the sheer expectations that the fans have.

I say this(and mention the first season finale) because in a lot of ways it felt like the first season finale. Let's be honest, most of the finale was people trying to get to the Swan Station site. Shit, they were trying to blow up the fucking hatch...AGAIN...only thirty years earlier., why wasn't I disappointed? Well, part of me was. I had two major gripes with the finale and I'd like to get them out of the way right now:

1. Juliet's flip-flop back and forth over Jack's plan. It payed off in the end with Juliet and Sawyer sharing a final scene together that literally had me on the verge of tears(those two were so good with each other that I feel like punching Cuse and Lindelof for "killing" Juliet), but every time Juliet changed her mind on whether or not they should blow up the island or not, I cringed.

2. Just as I suspected(I attempted to temper my co-worker's excitement over the finale by telling them to expect this) the episode ended with the bomb going off and presumably the time-traveling castaways causing the incident.

That's it. Those are my only two genuine gripes. So how come I liked this finale when it so closely mirrors the season one finale? Well, things happened...that's one reason. In this case, Cuse and Lindelof were able to balance the mythological happenings with the dramatic character moments and in some cases tie them into one another. See: Hurley's introduction to Jacob.

A lot of things happened in this episode, and I feel that just listing them out would be a disservice to the great season. I want to say that I am overall elated with the season, it was the first season that felt like it knew where it was going from start to finish. This was the strongest group of episodes that Lost has produced back to back. Maybe not the greatest episodes, but in tandem the strongest.

I was upset to see Sayid(easily one of the best and under-utilized characters on the show) gut shot in a Dharma bus and I hated seeing Juliet laying at the bottom of the hatch banging on an H-bomb. Both of their fates seem written, but I'm holding out hope at least for Juliet. It stands to reason that exploding the bomb is what causes "the incident." And if the incident sends the Lostaways back to 2007, I don't see why Juliet can't go back as well. Sure, she was right next to the bomb when it exploded, but Sawyer, Jack, Kate and the rest were only a good hundred yards above ground when the Jughead detonated. If THEY don't die(and there wouldn't be much of a sixth season without our cast) can we really assume that Juliet died? I suspect that she will be missing for most of the final season, but I do feel strongly that she will return.

I hesitate to speculate too much on the 2007 shenanigans, but I was elated to finally get a clear villain for the show. Nameless-guy-posing-as-Locke-who-may-or-may-not-be-the-smoke-monster certainly does seem like a total prick(not many people can totally CON BEN LINUS like he/it did), kicking poor defenseless tapestry-weaving Jacob into a fire pit was a downright despicable thing to do, even if I don't know if Jacob is a good guy or not...

Of course, the first time we meet Jacob he's wearing white and his angry possibly-fake-Locke buddy is wearing black. Possibly-fake-Locke says something about the cycle repeating itself on the island that sounded just a BIT too much like Battlestar Galactica's, "This has all happened before..." mantra. I swear to Christ, I'll scream if Jacob and fake-Locke end up being angels or God and the devil.

I was worried that the final season of this show wouldn't have any surprises for us, aside from tying up loose myth threads. I am not worried about that now. Hell, I'm even glad that they waiting almost four years to show us the significance of the four-toed statue. Can we assume that Jacob and the real Locke are dead? What does this mean for the island? Many questions. The most pressing question among them:

Is it January yet?


Thursday, May 14, 2009

It's Comic Time (5/14/09)!

After a week layoff, it is once again the eponymous "comic" time. Hopefully, I can renew my efforts to get these issues turned around quicker in the future. In that effort, our reviews will take a little less time. It generally gets boring after month upon month of saying the same artists suck and the some storylines continue to impress. So we need to kick it up a notch fellas! Read on for two weeks of reviews.

Comics Reviews for the Weeks of 05/06 and 13/2009

ACTION COMICS #877 - "The Sleepers: Part 3"
Written by Greg Rucka, Art by Sidney Teles

Besides the cover art which doesn't relate to the actual issue content, it's another strong week, if a far less eventful one that last month's near pornographic levels of blood lust and violence. Rucka's latest story involves Conner getting medical attention for his partner, Thara. The subtle development of General Lane's mission to observe and build up forces against the Kryptonians continues to threaten to hurt and expose Nightwing and Flamebird. The great attitude of the book is how all the ancillary character's actions are meant to directly effect the main characters. Given the limited amount of time for this arc, it seems a better approach than James Robinson's scattergun approach in Superman.

The artwork's still strong with one unique exception. The embrace between Lois and Chris is just way awkward. Her expression seems halfway between relief and pleasure. And it's honestly a little too much pleasure with her comic-standard mini-skirt riding way too high on her thigh. This is supposed to be her son, not a younger version of Clark. The ambiguous nature of the scene is a little more discomforting than the bloody battle between Thara and Ursa last issue. Of course, that's probably due to my near complete desensitization to violence in almost any medium. Thanks, Jack Bauer!

Final score: B-

Written by Doug Petrie, Art by Georges Jeanty

The latest of the Buffy one-shots ends the constant state of flux Dawn has found herself in throughout the eighth season's run. And while her transformation from giant to centaur to Pinocchio hasn't exactly been seemless... in fact her stint battling a giant mecha version of herself in Tokyo was just plain painful... this issue's resolution is deftly handled. Most of the writing is standard fare for the title, but Petrie takes the trademark witticism of the title a little too far. Every other line of the book doesn't have to be some weak attempt at a joke or pop culture reference. In the books as well as on the show, this trick only worked in measured quantities. Too much takes us out of the reality of the book. And yes, I do exercise a limit to the suspension of disbelief even in a book featuring a jelly-fish man's magical revenge on his college sweetheart.

Rereading this series, Jeanty continues to improve and the panels where he rushes and practically draws block figures have severely decreased in their frequency. Since I was going to read this title regardless, I like the decision to place a more unproven quantity that had the talent to mature his work over time. It certainly beats a veteran superstar name that might plague the title with delays or even worse one that tried to draw the actors every time out, a fault Jeanty has avoided significantly the last four or five issues he's drawn.

Final score: B

THE FLASH: REBIRTH #2 (of 5) - "Dead Run"
Written by Geoff Johns, Art by Ethan Van Sciver

At what point do we move into the realm of calling this a disappointing title? The return of Hal Jordan was a grand slam of a series that got off to a great running start. This latest rebirth is coming across as DC's worst attempt to reintegrate a character in more than a decade. And since there are only three issues left, we're officially running out of time for a rebound. And amazingly enough, it's veteran Flash writer and my own personal hero Johns that has seemingly dropped the ball. There is no great sense of urgency to the action and most painful, nothing has really been done to develop Barry Allen as the reality-changing and definitive hero that he is.

Even with other Lanterns around, every moment of GL: Rebirth reinforced the idea that Hal was the greatest and that something has been missing since his fall. Perhaps Johns doesn't want to take any shots at Wally West, who he wrote for several years, but Barry hasn't been be doing anything special. If there isn't anything wrong or limiting with Wally, then why is Barry's return crucial. His flashback sequences are nearly on the same level of Hal's, but everything set in present time seems entirely unspectacular. This seems to be more a simple reintroduction of a character that a revitalization of a major portion of the DCU. Perhaps this is kharma at work. Barry got the greatest send-off in the history of comics and has been remembered for decades as the standard to which all other speedsters should aspire. Hal was ruined and turned into a villain, a storyline demanding a proper reintegration and redemption. Given how masterfully they motivated the latter, why can't they make the former seem like anything special? It's Barry freaking Allen!!

Final score: C-

INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #13 - "Some King of the World"
Written by Matt Fraction, Art by Salvador Larroca

Six issues after the hierarchy of the Marvel Universe was thrown into complete upheaval, Fraction has seemingly utterly redeemed Tony Stark. By putting him on his own against the world with a clear and completely emphatic mission (keep the identities revealed to the Initiative out of Osborne's hand), Stark has made a 180 degree change. And yeah, maybe it does feel perversely nice when he suffers. I mean this guy turned America against Cap, sided with a totalitarian government movement over the cause of individual liberty... yeah, he's been a dick for a long time now.

With Larocca continuing to do a serviceable effort, Fraction has improved here month after month. It seems like while his Iron Fist book is losing steam, he's been redirecting it over here. But by this point as long as Tony keeps taking his lumps, the Golden Avenger is worth following again.

Final score: B

X-FACTOR #43 - "Timely Events"
Written by Peter David, Art by Marco Santucci and Valentine De Landro

Can I trade in my Joss Whedon fan-boy love for some of the Peter David variety? At least when it comes to comics, David suffered through months caught up in the Messiah Complex cross-over and then months of atrocious art and had every reason to quit on this book. Instead he carefully saved his A-game and for five issues and counting has written some of the best issues of a superhero book in a couple of years. And the greatest part of it is excluding a Sentinel or two that met its end Cyclops-style, there's been almost no action sequence or big bad to defeat.

I'm still not entirely sure how he's done it. Our lead detective is only now getting a mystery to solve, but has still already been through a super heroic, noir-laced ringer for the ages.

On one last note, it's kind of a nice change of pace to follow months of hidden revelations by throwing the biggest moment of the issue on the cover. The seeds have already been laid for the entire crew eventually getting back together and I honestly can't see anything on the immediate horizon (excluding another, god forbid it, artistic change) that could knock this title down a place or two.

Final score: A-


Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Killin' Time With 24

24: 5:00A.M.-4:00A.M.
Season 7, Episode 22

Welcome to "Killin' Time With 24." A weekly morning-after 24 discussion hosted by your faithful That's A Wrap! editors, Billy and Jim.

Every Tuesday morning we get together to discuss the previous evening's episode of 24. What we liked, disliked and where we would like to see the series go while avoiding any real work. It's like a virtual coffee break.

Sit back and let us do the complaining for you.

And don't forget to check out the latest episode of the TaW Podcast:The Ongoing Mission

(22:07:01) Jim: so we're back to ripping off episode 2 of season 1
(22:07:09) Billy: I swear to CHRIST...if what happened at the end of this episode had happened six hours earlier I would be fucking DONE
(22:07:29) Billy: They are lucky by virtue of the fact that there is just the finale left.
(22:07:45) Jim: I like that Kim was at least smart enough to notice herself being followed
(22:07:50) Jim: the 2-hour finale
(22:08:08) Billy: Right, except I knew the couple was evil...why couldn't Kim?
(22:08:31) Jim: just out of curiosity, what would they have had to have done to make you not watch the finale?
(22:08:45) Jim: is it even possible?
(22:08:58) Billy: At this point?
(22:09:11) Billy: There is little incentive for me NOT to watch
(22:09:17) Jim: I mean once upon a time I might say snuff Jack... but now that would probably just get me way more into the show.
(22:09:40) Billy: I'm just...tired...
(22:09:56) Billy: It's all the same shit over and over and over again
(22:10:15) Billy: Patsy terrorist playing season 1 rogue Jack
(22:10:18) Jim: yeah, at this point unless the previews specifically mentioned the finale would include 2girls1cup I'd tune in… have to finish it at this point.
(22:10:43) Billy: Jack shoving virus inside an enclosure, just like the fridge in 3.
(22:11:11) Billy: Hell, if the previews mentioned 2girls1cup I
(22:11:20) Billy: I'd HAVE to watch!
(22:11:36) Billy: Just to see how THAT fit in to the plot
(22:11:50) Jim: About as unnaturally as everything else???
(22:12:22) Billy: Zing!
(22:12:45) Jim: Hi-O!
(22:13:10) Billy: BTW, am I the only one who see's Aaron going down in flames?
(22:13:54) Jim: all the White House stuff has been painful for a few hours now... and it ain't getting any better
(22:14:41) Billy: Nope, not by a long shot. At least Aaron knows his shit...
(22:14:59) Billy: Plus references to Mike Novick are always appreciated
(22:15:15) Jim: But he'll be the writer’s sacrificial lamb to excuse saving Jack
(22:15:31) Jim: Tony will probably turn back to the good guys and die saving Jack-O
(22:16:32) Billy: I REALLY doubt that
(22:17:14) Billy: The look on Tony's face at the end implied that he knew Jack was going to fuck things up AGAIN....for, like, the dozen-th time!
(22:18:41) Billy: It's so goddamn infuriating. My God...Brannon Braga! You killed Trek, practically handing it on a silver platter to WORSE writers!
(22:18:47) Billy: And now 24....
(22:19:16) Billy: Oh my God, I just had a terrible vision of the future....where Orci and Kurtzman reboot 24
(22:19:44) Billy: with Hayley Joel Osment playing a hipper, younger Jack Bauer
(22:19:45) Jim: It's bad... but maybe just "ugh bad", not "fuck this shit"
(22:20:09) Billy: and Bauer gets sick with a virus that makes his hands huge!
(22:22:41) Jim: as long as his tongue doesn't swell up
(22:23:27) Billy: Goddamn...I hate you jimmy...
(22:23:40) Billy: Says I in my best Cartman voice.
(22:24:10) Jim: well that's how I address Nick... so you're just stealing my stolen material there...
(22:24:13) Jim: double-thief
(22:24:46) Billy: Screw you, fool, I was watching South Park way before you happened upon it's rotted carcass
(22:25:10) Jim: I watched it back when it was first on... I don't know anybody who could go through college back then and avoid it
(22:25:23) Billy: Oh Jesus, look at us going off-topic. We need Garrett here too!
(22:25:41) Jim: but back on topic... the first half hour of this episode of 24 was action24-super-ninja-cool and the second half was...
(22:25:43) Jim: not so much
(22:26:55) Billy: I agree. The Chloe-Janice throwdown we've been expecting since like episode four is beginning to brew. And is VERY entertaining.
(22:28:15) Jim: yep, those two crazy kids are finally throwing down.... and Janice holds her own
(22:28:26) Jim: much more enjoyable when not making crappy 1984 jokes
(22:29:12) Billy: Oh yes, still don't want her around next year.
(22:29:30) Jim: nope... one Chloe is plenty enough
(22:29:53) Billy: Renee totally hugged Jack...the Jack-Renee shipper in me is elated.
(22:30:18) Jim: I was praying for a little kiss or something there, but....
(22:30:26) Billy: JaNee? Reack? You can't really Filliam H. Muffman those names....
(22:30:32) Jim: okay I'm going to stop talking like a 15-year-old girl at this point
(22:30:38) Jim: we both should
(22:31:57) Billy: Fuck that noise! Their "relationship" is the ONLY...and I mean ONLY, thing keeping me invested in this show right now!
(22:33:16) Jim: yeah, I suppose you're right... sad and pathetic (us both), but right
(22:33:38) Jim: I can at least say, "See what 24 has driven me to?!?"
(22:34:02) Billy: I'm ok with admitting it.
(22:34:05) Jim: And I vote for Jacnee
(22:34:26) Billy: We're in the era of hope! We have a black president!
(22:34:41) Jim: or Walkauer
(22:34:57) Billy: Sound like a German car...
(22:35:10) Billy: that could totally torture the fuck out of you!!!


Sunday, May 10, 2009

That's A Wrap! Podcast - Star Trek Edition

We're back, sorta. Down one member on this fine mother's day, Jim and Billy do their best to soldier on and not completely screw the pooch in the latest episode of the That's a Wrap! podcast. Witness the true levels of geekiness that exist inside Billy and Jim.

We promise that this episode is mostly spoiler free. Jim totally tried to give away something huge but got bleeped out. Dedication to our reader, that's what we're all about here at TaW!

Please download and enjoy The Ongoing Mission (1:05:53)

We'll be back for another podcast featuring Terminator Salvation in just a few weeks. We can all hope that Garrett is returned safely to TaW! headquarters to keep our shit in line.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Back to the Future's Past or Something...

I've been a fan of science fiction for as long as I can remember. Although my tendencies always leaned more towards the Star Wars side of the equation, it's hard to say that I'm a Johnny-come-lately Star Trek fan when I've been watching some form of the series since I was ten. I don't consider myself a trekkie, but somehow through the course of my life I've picked up a considerable amount of trek-trivia and...well, I did MARRY a trekkie (seriously, once as a complete slip of the tongue I referred to Data as Da-tuh instead of Day-tuh and got reamed out pretty hard for it).

So, while I'm too young to have seen the original crew in their glory days, I have seen a good portion of The Original Series and I've seen damned near all of the Next Generation-era Trek as well as all of the movies.

Star Trek: Nemesis may have sucked, but I still liked it. So, yeah, I was apprehensive about director JJ Abrams' plan to return to the unseen early days of Spock and Kirk. I mean, I like the Next Gen universe and isn't Star Trek supposed to be about looking forward? Didn't everyone bitch about this very thing happening in Enterprise? Yes, yes they did. With all that being said, I am a JJ Abrams whore. Joss Whedon may be Jim's master, but I will forever be loyal to Abrams. I don't care for Fringe and he wrote the screenplay for maybe I should rethink my adulation for the man.

So, was my dislike of continuity futzing overcome by my (sometimes misguided) love of JJ Abrams? Find out after the jump.

Short answer: No. Long answer: Yes, but...

If anyone had actually listened to our summer movie preview podcast, they would have heard me bitch about several things done in this movie, one of the chief concerns I had was the casting. Notably, Karl Urban as Doctor "Bones" McCoy. Everything I saw coming out in the previews did nothing to assuage my fears, and although I LIKED the castmembers in other things, I didn't like who they were cast as. Thankfully, I was dead wrong about the cast on most accounts.

First of all, Karl Urban as Bones was the goddamn highlight of this film. I can't believe that I was ever against this casting. Where other cast members don't really try to catch the body language and ticks of the people they are emulating, you can tell that Urban did his homework. Simply put, Bones works. Chris Pine's James Kirk isn't as close an homage as Urban's work, but every once in a while he'll say something or give a look that just screams "JAMES TIBERIUS KIRK!" Pine has an easier job thanks to Urban. Since Urban won me over so quickly I was more apt to accept Pine as Kirk merely by his association with Bones.

Zachary Quinto as Spock on the other hand didn't do much for me. Sure, it's a huge step up from the horse-shit he is involved with on Heroes, but he never really captured Spock for me. Maybe it's because I've seen him on my television for the last three years but I couldn't really disassociate Quinto from Sylar. That's my fault, but I really do wish the producers had picked someone a little less known. In the end Quinto is serviceable but nothing to write home about especially since we get to see the real Spock himself, Leonard Nimoy, later in the film.

The rest of the cast is a mixed bag of jewels and turds. Bruce Greenwood's Captain Pike made me giddy for the second Captain of the Enterprise like I've never been before but Anton Yelchin's Checkov made me wish the producers kept to continuity and didn't introduce the character until later. Yelchin's faux Russian accent is so ridiculous that it borders on racist. I know, I know, Walter Koening's accent wasn't all that accurate to begin with, but at least I could UNDERSTAND HIM. Simon Pegg is Simon Pegg, I find it hard to hate him in anything but his Scotty as written and performed is like a manic child. It's so over-the-top that I couldn't stand the character at all.

Finally Zoe Saldana's Lt. Uhura is a marginal non-entity. Saldana has not impressed me in anything I've seen her in. She was so horrible in Pirates of the Carribean that she was THE ONLY THING TO NOT RETURN in those misguided sequels. Here she does her best to just look sexy and that's about it. She's got a half-assed love story with Spock which just comes out of fucking nowhere. As my wife pointed out, it's probably only there because someone thought there HAD to be a love story in a summer blockbuster.

For his part in this all, JJ Abrams does an admirable job. Star Trek is an exciting and kinetic movie full of color and motion. I'll admit that I liked some of the new additions to the Trek science like the awesome new "warp jump" animation and sound effect. It looks pretty spectacular and sounds even better. Contrary to how I feel while watching most Hollywood pictures (and perhaps this is just because I saw X-Men Origins Wolverine last weekend), I found almost all of the special effects and CGI work to be impeccable. There's a sequence later in the movie that involves a monster-alien thing that looks less impressive, but otherwise Abrams has overseen an incredible looking film. The retro-future look of all the technology is fairly cool if not terribly accurate to Trek-lore.

So, yeah, it's a pretty movie with some great performances and you'll probably have a good time with it IF you:

A.) Aren't a continuity obsessed Trek fan.


B.) Don't mind leaving your fucking brain at the door.

WAIT! Didn't I just say that Star Trek is a good movie? Yes, I did, but it is fucking STUPID. Full of Goddamn plot holes and retarded contrivances. Keep in mind that the guys who wrote the screenplay are the two fucking winners who wrote Transformers. Remember when a giant robot pissed coolant all over John Turturro in Transformers? Yeah, you can thank Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman for that and you can thank them for this stupid plot that shits all over Trek Continuity.

Here's where I'm going to go all spastic nerd, so if you want to skip my nervous breakdown--fine, I'm giving it a 3 out of 5.

Still with me? Good. It takes some mighty fucking kumquats, brass balls, huge fucking stones to write a screenplay that COMPLETELY wipes out forty odd years of continuity, but that is exactly what Orci and Kurtzman have done. Now, as Jim pointed out to me after my showing of the movie, there was no way I was going to love anything that erased Star Trek: Deep Space Nine out of continuity. He's right, but it goes deeper than that. This movie was specifically created to appeal to a broader audience. In some ways I can appreciate that (though the dying Nintendo fanboy in me looks at the dusty Wii sitting across the room and sees the horrible end result of appealing to the mainstream). But by wiping out continuity and introducing newer and hipper versions of characters we fans already love they are, to use a line from Gabe and Tycho of Penny Arcade, "selling our heritage to the same fucking guys who beat us up in P.E."

Want a small example? Orci and Kurtzman actually give us a stupid explanation of why McCoy is nicknamed "Bones." When Kirk and Bones meet for the first time Bones mentions his ex-wife only leaving him with his bones. Ha ha! Clever. Except if Orci and Kurtzman took two fucking seconds to think the goddamn nickname through or check out some BASIC Trek continuity they would have realized that he is nicknamed Bones because he is a in old sawbones? Hello, McFly?!

And please don't get me started on the fact that during the time period this film is set NO ONE knew what the Romulans looked like! Yet somehow everyone knows what they look like and that Nero's future Romulan ship was in fact Romulan. Even I know what Romulan ships look like from Nero's timeline and I DIDN'T FUCKING RECOGNIZE IT AS ROMULAN! And that's just the tip of the Trek-anachronism fest that permeates this movie. Seriously? Cardassian beer? Nuh-uh, even if the Federation had met the Cardassians at this point I really doubt we'd be trading fucking beer with evil aliens occupying and enslaving those poor Bajorans.

Want some more stupidity? Ok, I'll back off the crazy Trek minutia for a bit. How about our introduction to James Kirk as a precocious car thief. Never mind for a minute that the whole fucking scene is pointless and could(and SHOULD) have been entirely excised from the film, it's full of stupid moments that will make your head swim if you think about them for a second. So twelve-year-old Kirk steals his step father's car. The step father calls Kirk in an attempt to get his car back. What do we hear? We hear that obnoxious Nokia cell phone ring tone. You know the one, remember Jurassic Park 3? Remember William H. Macy's phone with the ring tone that was supposed to be the jingle for his company? Yeah, everyone knew that was a pre-loaded ring tone back I really supposed to believe that THREE HUNDRED YEARS in the future that annoying ring tone will still exist!? Not to mention the fact that we actually SEE the Nokia phone in the car. Nokia advertising. In a Star Trek movie. Jesus. So young Kirk jams out to some Beastie Boys and wrecks a car, breaks the laws of physics by jumping clear of a moving vehicle and then tells a cop his name. Awesome. Wouldn't the bar-brawl scene have been a better introduction to Kirk? Considering it is the very next scene in the film...yes, yes it would.

How about the scene where Spock has Kirk ejected from the ship for disobeying orders and punching a security guard. Yes, Spock goes the HIGHLY illogical route, ignores the fucking ship brig and sends Kirk to a dangerous ice planet. Oh, but it gets better...this planet just so happens to be the planet that Nero sends Old Spock! It's the worst case of Deus-ex-Spockina! And to make matters worse, not only is Old Spock on this planet, but so is SCOTTY! There's a great big universe out there...too bad Orci and Kurtzman don't fucking realize it.

Then there is the humor. Some of it works...most of it does not. When you see Kirk with elephant man hands and a swollen tongue running around the Enterprise you'll understand. Or how about Scotty beaming into a maze of water tubes and being shot around the ship's innards like a balding-Scottish Augustus Gloop. Seriously, everyone who saw Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines and bitched about the misplaced humor (for the record, love T3 but hate the humor in it) has no right to NOT complain about most of the humor in this movie because it's the same tone changing bullshit.

And of course there is the villain. Nero (Eric "I ruined Hulk" Bana)'s motivation is so terribly misguided it's laughable. First of all, unless you have read the awful comic book tie-in, Star Trek: Countdown, you won't have any real inkling of what Nero's intentions are. You see, the comic book explains that Nero is a pretty nice guy. A miner with a wife on Romulus and a kid on the way. One day while out mining Nero's ship comes upon a star about to go nova or something. He returns to the Romulan high council to warn the planet. Spock is there doing the same thing and of course, the entire council doesn't believe Spock or Nero. Spock convinces Nero that the scientists of Vulcan can stop the Nova from destroying Romulus and the ENTIRE GALAXY!!!!! How one nova is threatening the entire galaxy is never explained. So, of course the Vulcans won't help and Romulus is destroyed. SOMEHOW Nero blames Spock and the Federation. It makes absolutely no fucking sense! One book earlier Spock and Nero are friends, enjoying a drink and mind-melding with each other. Romulus explodes and suddenly it's a conspiracy planned by Spock to wipe out the Romulans. Seriously, people, Nemesis sucked, but at least the villain in that movie had motivation that made some Goddamned sense.

In the course of the film, Orci and Kurtzman make it a priority to point out through the characters that the time-line has changed and everything will be different now. Great, thanks for erasing forty years of continuity, guys. Everyone bitched about Rick Berman and Brannon Braga ruining Trek. And, yeah, I'd agree they were beating a dead horse. But what Orci and Kurtzman did was tantamount to skull-fucking that very same dead horse.

The sad part is, that the rest of the movie is pretty good. The stuff that doesn't piss all over continuity is fun and and exciting. The cast is pretty good, good enough that I wouldn't mind seeing another movie with them in it. Everyone keeps telling me that this is just another universe and the time-line I know and love still exists. Of course I know that. But this movie is going to be huge because of the "I don't even like Star Trek but this looks awesome" crowd. More than likely(unless Terminator Salvation actually becomes MY salvation and dethrones Trek) this is going to be fucking huge and Paramount is never going to be able to see the original time-line through the mountains of cash it will be making.

So, yeah. Despite all my griping, I liked it. It's good, not great. But you'll like it. Yes, you. The guy who has never even seen Star Trek before. Just know that you're getting a new franchise at the cost of my fandom. Because, while I'll still go see the new movies and may enjoy them to a certain extent, Star Trek just isn't Star Trek anymore and that makes me very sad.

3 griping fanboys out 5.

Skip to the bottom for VERY spoilerish ending gripe.








Ok, so in the end Nero is caught in the same temporal black hole thingy that sent him and Spock back in time to begin with only now it begins to destroy his ship. Why this time it is going to kill him is never explained. Chalk that one up to Orci and Kurtzman's shitty script. Kirk, in the spirit of old-school Trek, offers the hand of assistance in an effort to save relations between the Federation and Romulus. Nero, in typical scenery chewing villain behavior, says he would rather die than be saved. Ok, great, the black hole thingy will take care of his death. But then Kirk opens fire on Nero, destroying the ship. Really? That is totally not Star Trek. I mean, sure, it's something that I might have occasionally bitched about in Trek. But when it happens on screen it feels like a complete betrayal of the entire franchise. I was hoping for something along the lines of Batman Begins, "I won't kill you, but I don't have to save you." Instead, Kirk looks like an ass, kicking a retarded kid after he falls on the playground. Are you proud of yourself Kirk?

Ok, enough bitching. Go see this fucker, you know you want to.

Ok, one more fanboyish gripe. Where the fuck were the Temporal Federation guys at to prevent Nero's time fucking? Seriously guys, coffee break or something? You've got a time-line to protect...


Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Killin' Time With 24

24: 4:00A.M.-5:00A.M.
Season 7, Episode 21

Welcome to "Killin' Time With 24." A weekly morning-after 24 discussion hosted by your faithful That's A Wrap! editors, Billy and Jim.

Every Tuesday morning we get together to discuss the previous evening's episode of 24. What we liked, disliked and where we would like to see the series go while avoiding any real work. It's like a virtual coffee break.

Sit back and let us do the complaining for you.

(22:09:49) Jim: so... have you ever set up an assassination outside FBI headquarters in 13 minutes at 4 in the morning?
(22:10:09) Billy: So, how does 24 go from complete shit to mildly interesting to awfully boring over the course of like three episodes
(22:10:22) Jim: mad skillz
(22:10:41) Billy: Cause, speedy assassination aside...this was a yawner.
(22:11:06) Jim: honestly i zoned out two or three times this week... but I thought it might just have been the Celtics second round game or the sox-yanks that I was following online
(22:11:16) Jim: glad to know it wasn't just me
(22:11:35) Jim: I'd like to think 24 at its best... or its adequate even... would still command my attention
(22:12:35) Billy: Well, ninety percent of the episode was watching terrorist edit a video
(22:13:28) Jim: the police stop was so uneventful... if you're trying to kill time, couldn't you have tony kill them?
(22:13:34) Billy: BTW, have you noticed that all the good guys use Macs and the bad guys use PCs? Total flip from the early years where you could pinpoint moles by their choice of Apple products.
(22:13:40) Jim: instead they stop by ask if everything is fine, get a yes and leave...
(22:13:50) Jim: that's five minutes of life I'll never get back
(22:14:38) Jim: for the Mac/PC war, obviously 24 didn't want to be predictable, so pulled a complete 180 and now are perfectly predictable the other way around
(22:15:05) Billy: Right
(22:15:35) Billy: So, am I the only one wondering when the hell they are going to give Jack the cure...
(22:15:45) Billy: Times a wastin'
(22:15:47) Jim: I bet the last hour
(22:15:55) Jim: after the terrorist plot is resolved
(22:15:57) Jim: to fill time
(22:17:10) Billy: Leaving us hanging till next season to see what Jack's fate is...predictable.
(22:17:49) Billy: Oh, by the way, the president's daughter is on CSI Miami right now...I'm pretty sure she's the killer.
(22:18:05) Billy: Goddamn, I hate CSI...
(22:18:08) Jim: even though it will be blatantly obvious since everyone will know if sutherland is returning before the premiere airs
(22:18:49) Billy: Exactly.
(22:20:00) Billy: So, I don't watch the teasers, but caught the ass end of one while skipping ads during House...I'm pretty sure the announcer said something about this episode having one of the biggest 24 twists ever. Uh...?
(22:20:36) Jim: there wasn't even a bad twist this week
(22:20:40) Jim: there was no twist
(22:20:46) Jim: unless i missed something
(22:21:25) Billy: None. Maybe it was a zen thing, like the lack of twist coupled with the twist hyperbole equaled a twist.
(22:21:44) Jim: a meta-twist
(22:23:36) Billy: We've clearly put more thought into explaining their unearned hype than they have!
(22:24:06) Billy: Ugh, when is this season over? And is it Wednesday yet?
(22:24:13) Jim: well, it's the duty of any good 24 apologist
(22:24:26) Billy: Cause I needs some Lost...24 ain't cutting it this year...
(22:25:08) Jim: It's better than last year... but too many hours that do nothing to advance the main plot and the filler EXPLOSIONS and Excitement... just aren't
(22:26:23) Billy: Agreed, it's light years ahead of last year, I'd say right now it's shaping up to be on par with Season Four...though the senseless Tony twist might kick it down below four for me.
(22:26:41) Jim: unless Jack kills him in some awesome way
(22:26:50) Jim: that could redeem it to a degree for me
(22:27:34) Billy: Nope. Not me.
(22:27:53) Billy: Tony was in PRISON for saving the woman he loved...and didn't turn to crime...
(22:28:12) Billy: But a TERRORIST kills his lady and he decides to become one himself?
(22:28:17) Billy: Nuh-uh.
(22:28:23) Jim: but her getting cooked like a KFC chicken apparently was enough to push him over
(22:29:09) Billy: Kentucky Grilled Chicken?
(22:30:21) Billy: Mmmm....
(22:30:24) Jim: TFM - Terrorist Fried Michelle
(22:30:32) Billy: Ha ha.
(22:31:03) Billy: Well, regardless, I don't buy his turn, and as such I don't buy the entire conceit of the season. The writers have failed.
(22:31:23) Billy: Ironically, had they done this twist in four I could have bought it.
(22:31:37) Jim: they failed on that... but overall they just took a step toward watchable from the TAINT that was last season
(22:32:30) Billy: Bluetooth Bauer reveal aside, last season is something I would like to completely ignore.
(22:32:56) Jim: well in that spirit....
(22:32:59) Jim: ignore what?????
(22:33:52) Billy: Was there a season six? one, two, three, four, five, seven? Am I missing something?
(22:34:03) Jim: this season in the end looks serviceable, but unimpressive
(22:34:27) Jim: i don't see this show surprising me in the last couple hours after six years
(22:35:11) Billy: It's seen better days. But now I'm sounding like 24, repeating everything.
(22:36:13) Jim: I know... like I said, the days of 24 wow-ing us hour after hour are long gone
(22:36:58) Jim: the change of setting has helped... but I think changing out a few more writers would helped even more. Like the ones they have are just about out of ideas.
(22:37:05) Billy: I remember calling my wife after work on Mondays and just asking if the episode ended with a big twist.
(22:37:41) Jim: So we have more and more episodes like tonight. Where nothing happens that grabs your attention, just getting pieces in place for a future plot development.
(22:38:15) Jim: we used to have three, maybe four of those a year. Now I feel like we have ten.
(22:39:39) Billy: Well, at least it's watchable unlike Heroes.


Say It Ain't So, Joe (Quesada)

Given the gargantuan haul over the weekend, we can assume most of the people who read a site like this have seen and formed some opinion on Marvel's latest film adaptation, X-Men Origins: Wolverine. The friends and family of That's A Wrap! went into Friday's premiere with differing levels of expectation. My brother, a Wolverine fan-boy of the highest order, planned on being blown away. Billy, I'm sure, had some hope of a decent experience, having actually enjoyed the previous films in the series and never bashing the third installment as hard as most. I couldn't have come in with much lower hopes. A significant fan of the comics, I have fallen more and more out of love with this series over the years. But let's jump on below, where we can also discuss our good friend, Mr. Spoiler.

I remember seeing and falling more than a little in love with Bryan Singer's 2000 effort even remarking what a great find they had in that guy I only knew from Snowy River: The McGregor Saga... the one that wasn't Guy Pearce. But it was easier to like and enjoy a comic movie back then. Remember how shitty things were back in 2000? We were only three years removed from Batman and Robin, TaW! was nearly a decade away from existing, the Red Sox hadn't won a title in almost 82 years and if someone asked me what my favorite Marvel Comics-based movie ever was... well, it would be a toss up between Blade and the 1990 direct-to-video Captain America with an Italian Red Skull.

And while the first one led to the current comic book/film explosion, it doesn't look so good in the mirror especially to a continuity whore like me that wonders why they changed Kitty to Rogue, where they put the other original members of the team and why they cast James "Where's the Box I Have to Fail to Act My Way Out Of" Marsden as my favorite character. By the time Singer was replaced with the auteur behind Red Dragon and they pulled a snuff film on the team leader and my favorite X-Man, Cyclops... let's just say I officially checked out on the series as a fan.

My already low expectation were about in line with the Rotten Tomatoes score in the mid-thirties. And when I finally made it home after work and my brother informed me he had to promise not to tell me what Billy thought of it... at that point I was mostly just hoping for a new G.I. Joe trailer.

The latest director in the franchise, Gavin Hood, ranges from lazy (computers in the mid-1970s, not explaining how a character named James Howlett got the handle Logan) to painfully bad (casting a chump like Danny Huston in the Brian Cox role of Stryker and wasting the sure-fire comedy home run that Deadpool should have been) to laughably bad (most every action scene).

The high point of the humor and low point for my soul was a close tie. The first was the "humorous" attempt at Wolverine trying out his claws in the bathroom, which was so Three Stooges-esque and slapstick I groaned and with CGI effects straight out of 1991. The other was the scene in Vietnam where Wolverine and Sabertooth fight back-to-back and Logan actually says, "Back-to-Back." At that exact moment, somewhere an angel died and the writer of Blankman filed a copyright infringement lawsuit. What took that moment to a whole other level was turning to my brother and commenting that I knew without a sliver of doubt they would say that line again in the final fight. I had to resist the urge to throw up a high-five request in the middle of the climax... I almost didn't.

While the movie was just terrible, I might actually look back fondly on the experience. I mean, who doesn't enjoy ripping a movie to shreds for weeks after its release? If I ever stop making Back-to-Back jokes or pulling apart the plot holes just shoot me in the head with adamantium and show me the movie again.

On that note, I have to have my say on the conclusion.... What fucking moron came up with that exactly? I mean the only absolutely necessary plot elements that MUST be in the movie are that he gets an adamantium enema and has no memory at the end. So they devalue the first because they never intended to use Wolverine... they just wanted to see if it could be done... really you spend $500 million on the demo version? How you know the last scene of your movie and can do ANYTHING to get to that point and still mess it up that badly is insane.

First off, what medical degree does Stryker use to decide that the brain will heal, but the memory won't. That's just stupid. Nevermind that they are raping their own continuity! Because Stryker is surprised Logan doesn't remember him in X2! And why didn't Stryker use that handy code word to shut Logan down in this film, since they mysteriously had one in X2? And why doesn't Sabretooth remember Logan for that matter? But the trick to the adamantium bullet is that it's the only thing that wil penetrate his skull. Okay, so just out of curiosity in the half dozen wars he fought in over 120 years, did Logan loose his memory every time he was shot in the head? Did Creed have to pull him aside and say, "Hey, it's cool. We're brothers. We heal from every wound. Let's go kill somebody." every time it happened? If so can I get those deleted scenes please? It all would have worked so much better if Stryker didn't try to explain to the audience what would happen. If it was just a happy accident, or if they tried something intelligent and have Logan's head messed up ever since the procedure and generally evolving to this naturally, either would have worked better. Instead it reads like a BAD comic script. "I will shoot Wolverine in the head. He will loose his memory because... ... ... I am evil! Mwa-ha-ha!"

Final score: D-

Unintentional Comedy Factor: Pure Gold... seriously, this might be the geek bad movie equivalent of what Showgirls is for homosexual men. We should have parties revolving around tearing this movie apart like Mystery Science Theater.


Saturday, May 2, 2009

It's Comic Time (4/29/09)!

After a big week for Marvel, the boys at DC get in their shots with new issues for two of their Big Three and a huge contribution from Geoff Johns. He tries to rebound for his final issue on the title that helped him become a mainstream writer after recent struggles. The much-delayed Legion of 3 Worlds continues to build towards its conclusion and his Green Lantern continues to march toward Blackest Night.

Comic Reviews for the Week of 04/29/2009

Written by Geoff Johns, Art by George Perez

Do you still remember Final Crisis? I'm sure you do and almost nobody looks back on it as fondly as I do. And one of the most universally praised elements of the miniseries continues (and will not wrap up until June), but as much as Johns nails every large member of his main continuity Legion, the other versions of the team are substantively more in the background. With two big reveals this week (another resurrection and the identity of the Time Trapper) the story does take a step back from the natural and smooth vibe of the first two plus issues. Instead the plot this month is more a bit of filler to stuff in the shocking moments.

At this point in his career, is there anything else to say about Perez? The master of the large cast has never failed to impress me. The pure amount of detail and action he crams in this title ranks among his very best efforts. Perez is one of the few men who can use the artwork of a comic to make a title almost literary - the artistic equivalent of the wordiest BKV titles.

The main issue of the title is the continuing of the revolving door of death bringing back the recently deceased Bart Allen (Kid Flash version) last month and another significant member of the DCU. Whereas we've already seen Bart in current continuity in Flash: Rebirth, I honestly hope this current ressurection doesn't return to current continuity. Unlike Bart, this character's death was one of the most important emotional beats in DC comics over the last several years. Mostly it concerns me that death has such a revolving door even before the dead rise in Blackest Night. Although, speaking of Blackest Night...

Final score: B+

GREEN LANTERN #40 - "Agent Orange: Part 2"
Written by Geoff Johns, Art by Philip Tan

Well, as Johns introduces his sixth color I have to say he's come up with the most interesting recruiting technique of any Corp so far. The Orange Corp, seemingly led by one creature is powered by Avarice (greed for the less tea-toddling members of our readership), consumes other ring bearers and their rings only to repossess them as Orange Lanterns. And I have to credit Johns for making the first casualty of this process someone we care about in very little time. His showdown with John Stewart next week will hopefully show us more of what the post-possession life of the Orange Lanterns is like.

As long as the series doesn't fall apart (coughRedLanternscough) Johns has gotten off to his best start with a new color since introducing the Sinestro Corp a while back. And his advancements to put the Guardians on the offensive and continually rewriting the Laws of Oa pushes the universe substantively towards all-out war, certainly accomplishing their goal of building excitement for the big event. It's just disappointing that DC decided to expand the series beyond the main GL and GLC books, given how masterfully the last War went down.

Final score: B

JUSTICE SOCIETY OF AMERICA #26 - "Black Adam Ruined My Birthday"
Written by Geoff Johns, Art by Dale Eaglesham

After a terrible Marvel Family devoted arc, this final issue from Johns (who has been writer or co-writer of this series for nine years now) and Eaglesham (who joined at the post-Infinite Crisis reboot) is a perfect example of both a farewell issue and a stand-alone actionless issue. Highlighting Stargirl, Courtney Whitmore (a Johns creation), this now veteran member gets to celebrate a belated birthday party. And if you can't buy nearly two-dozen superheros showing up for a birthday party in full costume... well this just ain't the book for you. But I love it. Almost always one of the best written characters in the DCU, Stargirl has evolved from the new kid to a teacher of the new generation of superheros. And in a book that more than any other values legacy more than most others, recognizing her evolution and importance to the team is probably the best ending note Johns could have come up with.

Eaglesham's return to the artwork is like a change from night to day from the last several issues. His masterful work at handling crowds and developing unique and expressive facial features on this title turned him from an unknown to one of the premier artists in superhero comics. And even if he doesn't get a big action scene to bow out on, there is a distinct grace to all his work this month.

While the future doesn't seem as bright with any other creative team, this issue carries even more significance, like one more good day before an uncertain future. While it might seem I'm waxing poetical rather than reviewing, that's what happens at the end of a run of such a history and legacy intensive book for a DC fanboy like myself. We can only hope the letdown from these two stars isn't too significant. Time will tell, my friends.

Final score: A-

RUNAWAYS #9 - "Rock Zombies"
Written by Terry Moore, Art by Takeshi Miyazawa

What?! A book not written by Geoff Johns this week? Yep, and despite a steady decline in quality from the days of series creator Brian K. Vaughn to the (Yeah, I'll say it!) unexpectedly overrated contributions of Joss Whedon to substantively disappointing Moore, despite all this, he too manage to wrap it up with at least one appropriate closing scene. After a wildly disappointing opening to this third volume due mostly to the work of artist Humberto "Big Neck" Ramos, the book settled down a bit with Miyazawa taking over. Still the rather silly plastic surgery zombie controlling DJ villain... do I really need to offer more of an explanation on why this has been an underwhelming story?

The highlight is the final two pages, just a quiet scene between Chase and the two youngest team members, Molly and Klara. A nice combination of snappy dialogue reminiscent of BKV or maybe Bendis (at his better moments) and one final sweet sentiment. If only they had a better opponent to fight or if only the majority of this run hasn't been uninteresting to say the least. If the future doesn't improve really quickly, Marvel will have wasted the best original characters to come along in more than 25-30 years.

Final score: C-

SUPERMAN #687 - "Power and Weakness"
Written by James Robinson, Art by Renato Guedes

If someone had asked me which of the three Superman books I would be the least impressed with a few months ago it would have taken about 2.3 seconds to rattle off either Rucka's adventures with a thoroughly uninteresting Nightwing and Flamebird of Superman's adventures on New Krypton. But here it is two issues in and the great James Robinson still hasn't gotten his story off the ground. It's almost as if he wants to cram four years of plot into 12 issues. Bouncing back and forth between eight or nine different stories, none of them have the room to engage the reader.

Mon-El and Guardian are the supposed stars of the book, but how are they able to develop when we spend a page with an unknown monster, one with General Lane and his conspiracy, a couple with Black Lightning and the Trickster, a couple with John Henry Irons in the sewers of Metropolis, three with Zatara and Jimmy Olson with a guest appearance by Parasite (who has been teased as perhaps Mon-El's first big opponent, but far too slowly) and another with Guardian reintroducing the lead members of the Science Police. Whew!

Yeah, to call the first few issues scatter-shot would be a massive understatement. A part of me wants to think the writer of my favorite superhero comic ever (Starman) will pull it out, while another wants to admit even the great ones stumble sometimes. But for now, I'm stuck hoping.

Final score: C+

Written by Matt Fraction, Art by Greg Land

With every issue this title slips further and further away from being the top flight X-Men title that it should be. I personally think Land's porn-tastic artwork (see Emma Frost on the fourth from the last page for the best of many, many, many examples) has infected one of Marvel's better writers.

The only very interesting plot lines are the team Beast has assembled to solve the X-gene problem and Scott and Emma's incredibly underdeveloped relationship problems. Given what a strong place they were left in after Whedon's run on Astonishing X-Men, it's discomforting to see them slipping apart with so little attention or explanation. Apparently Fraction will be setting that up for discussion after the current storyline. I suppose its a necessary development if Jean Grey will be returning in the next few years, but I hoped for it to be handled a bit more deftly than this.

Beast's team on the other hand is moving much more slowly now that they're assembled and not battling giant monsters and such. We can only hope a forthcoming trip to the distant past will spice things up again. The potential wasted here is just staggering for the one book that has all the big name X-Men. I never thought we'd have a book so unexciting that featured Cyclops, Emma Frost, Wolverine, Colossus, Beast and many others. The return of a re-British-ed Psylocke doesn't signal a great return since she's controlled by the Goblin Queen and her army of super-hot super-villains.

Final score: D+

WONDER WOMAN #31 - "Uprising"
Written by Gail Simone, Art by Bernard Chang

Simone's storytelling has become more and more grating. Unlike Birds of Prey, where all her female characters were just deeply developed and unique personalities. This title has been bogged down with a message overshadowing every single scene. Diana is emotional, Diana is a great warrior, Diana has a deep faith. Diana has become so separated from humanity in this title.

There are only two types of men in Simone's universe. The one in a positive light are all deferential to a subservient degree to Diana. In a Green Lantern or Batman comic, the treatment of a romantic interest would inspire the most vehement blogging of sexism and saber-rattling to tear the internet down. The men that oppose Diana are never drawn out. Achilles especially is around as a name and nothing more. And the repeated pronouncements of Wonder Woman villains that women are so inferior to her come off far too heavy-handed. And the identity of Genocide... well, its worth spoiling given how terrible it is. A future version of Diana... that's right the only force that can beat Diana is... her. The word I think I'm looking for is "ugh."

The unexpected change in artists from Aaron Lopresti to Chang has been universally disappointing. At least the first could carry an action scene. The latter cannot carry a fight scene and the climatic battle between Diana and Achilles is one of the more disappointing fight scenes in a good long while.

Final score: D