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MONDOcomics #52: April 28, 2010

Posted by Comics On April - 30 - 2010

Wow! One whole year of MONDOcomics! How are we going to celebrate? More reviews, of course!

Amazing Spider-Man #629
Roger Stern, Zeb Wells (w), Lee Weeks, Chris Bachalo (a), Dean White, Matt Hollingsworth (c). Marvel Comics.

And here’s part three of what could have been a really good two-part story. Last week I complained that it was little more than an extended fight scene, this week it’s little more than exposition about Juggernaut and this new Captain Universe’s back-story (with a beautifully illustrated Spider-Man providing window dressing and little else). If this issue was re-cut with the previous, it would have been a great book, as it stands it doesn’t work. Zeb Wells treats us to a back-story that serves as a prologue to the upcoming Lizard story arc which should have been covered in that particular issue of Web of Spider-Man. I’m sorry to complain about it, but I was so impressed by the first issue of the story, and they just let me down here. – Isaac Mills

Isaac’s rating: 2.5 out of 5

Captain America #605
Ed Brubaker (w), Luke Ross (p), Butch Guice (i), Dean White (c). Marvel Comics.

And so end the first arc after the return of Steve Rogers — oh, except he’s not here. Because Siege will be reveal what happens to Steve Rogers and Brubaker couldn’t ruin the ending of Siege four months ago (that was a job for the Marvel solicitations department) he ran a good, but dramatically odd arc in Captain America. The Cap from the 50’s story is good, but I can’t shake that after all this time looking for Steve there should be more fallout. And I’m sure it’s coming, it just makes these issues feel a bit like filler. But, know what, even when Captain America isn’t amazing, it’s still really damn good. — Miles Baker

Miles’ rating: 3.5 out of 5 Read the rest of this entry »

Summer Movie MegaCalendar: May 2010

Posted by film On April - 30 - 2010
"Two iron men" would be the proper pluralization.

The correct pluralization would be "two iron men."

By Shane McNeil, Sean Kelly, Leo K. Moncel and Caesar Martini

From the writers of last year’s smash hit series Summer Movie MegaCalendar, prepare to be blown away by the thrilling sequel! More punch-out prose, more dastardly disagreements and more sarcastic humour. We size up this May’s sequels to Iron Man, Shrek and Gladiator (well, for all intents and purposes), and still make time for MacGruber and some curveballs. Join your old favourites as they take on all new challenges in Summer Movie Megacalendar: May 2010. This time, it’s personal.

Read the rest of this entry »

U is for The Ultimates

Posted by Comics On October - 26 - 2009

UltimatesbetterThe Alpha Review

By Andrew Uys

I’ve heard that trade paperbacks — a run of comic issues collected into a graphic novel — are all the rage today. But which ones are worth your time? This column aims to put the spotlight on the spectacular trades — at least according to this writer. And just for fun, we will start with the letter “A,” and each subsequent review will follow with the next letter of the alphabet. While you might object to my taste or my opinion, I hope that this column will help save you time and money when you are next buying a trade paperback, as well as effort in alphabetizing.

U is for The Ultimates Vol. 1 & 2
Written by Mark Millar
Art by Bryan Hitch
Marvel Comics, 2002

The Ultimates is the Avengers Redux.  When Marvel launched Ultimate Spider-Man ten years ago, they were seeking to modernize the hero, hoping to make it possible for new, younger readers to connect with the character.  And so, the Ultimate Universe was born.   Marvel quickly followed up their Spider-Man title with the Ultimate X-Men and the Ultimate Fantastic Four — each group redesigned to be more in tune with the 21st century, and not burdened with decades of continuity.  The Ultimates is no different.  Except, it’s mad brilliant.  It’s a team of super-powered heroes brought together by SHIELD to protect America’s interest in the burgeoning age of super-humans.  Ask yourself what would the American government, circa 2002, have done if it could deploy Captain America, Iron Man and Thor?  The answer is The Ultimates. Read the rest of this entry »

T is for Thunderbolts

Posted by Comics On August - 5 - 2009

tbolts2The Alpha Review
By Andrew Uys

I’ve heard that trade paperbacks — a run of comic issues collected into a graphic novel — are all the rage today. But which ones are worth your time? This column aims to put the spotlight on the spectacular trades — at least according to this writer. And just for fun, we will start with the letter “A,” and each subsequent review will follow with the next letter of the alphabet. While you might object to my taste or my opinion, I hope that this column will help save you time and money when you are next buying a trade paperback, as well as effort in alphabetizing.

T is for Thunderbolts Vol. 1: Faith in Monsters
Written by Warren Ellis
Art by Mike Deodato Jr.
Marvel Comics, 2008

The Civil War has just ended; Iron Man runs S.H.I.E.L.D; and supervillains now police America, hunting heroes who refuse to register with the government. Read the rest of this entry »

X-Men Origins: Wolverine Reviewed

Posted by film On May - 15 - 2009

X-Men Origins: Wolverine
Directed by Gavin Hood
Twentieth Century Fox

By Brian Last

Jackman's 'chops had their own contract.

Jackman's 'chops had their own contract.

The much anticipated Wolverine origin story clawed its way into theaters on May 1st, and was up against a barrage of obstacles. The story of Wolverine is a complex one that spans across three centuries and could hardly be contained in the X men trilogy, so they gave the character his own movie with Hugh Jackman back as the gruff, hot tempered mutant from the great white north. Director Gavin Hood gave it the old college try to do the character justice, but where to start on a story like this? Well for starters, get the Canadian history right!

James Howlett (Wolverine) and his brother Victor Creed (Sabretooth) flee the Northwest Territories at a very young age after young James kills Thomas Logan, Victor’s father. It is there they make a promise to each other always to stick together. Together they fight in the American Civil War, WWI, WWII, and Vietnam. It is in Vietnam that they are kicked out of the army and put into a holding cell. Here they meet William Stryker who invites them to join Team X, a black ops team comprised of mutants. On a mission in Nigeria, they interrogate the locals for meteorite rocks and when they say there are none, Stryker orders Victor to kill the chief. Howlett is appalled and quits the group. Six years later, Victor is back in Canada and on the war path. Stryker comes in search of aid to take him down. It is here they do the test for adamantium and Howlett is given the skeletal form we all know today. With adamantium on his bones and revenge in his heart, he goes to track down Victor.

To properly evaluate a movie like this, you have to evaluate it on two fronts. The first is as an action movie, plain and simple. As an action movie it was very entertaining, with traditional over the top sequences punctuated by big explosions. The first half was fantastic and flowed really well, but by the time it got to the third act, it fell off somewhat. The movie was like a race car that ran out of gas before the end. While we were treated to a few good fights, you could feel them struggle for an ending that left the door open for a sequel.

Now, as a comic book movie, the ground is shakier. There are some similarities but quite a few liberties taken in terms of Wolverine and Deadpool’s origins. This is not pleasing to fanboys or general fans as we were under the impression they gave Wolverine this spin off to do justice to his dark, complicated history. But what is the point if you aren’t going to do it properly? That said, what the movie will do is spark viewer curiosity to go back and read the source material to see just where the similarities and differences lie. Apparently there is talk of a sequel where Howlett is stationed in Japan, which is actually true in his origin, but, given this picture, who knows what direction they would take it in.

One major pitfall that this film (as well as X3) fell victim to was getting bogged down with mutant cameos. We all know why they did it, because some fan favorites didn’t make the cut in the first trilogy, so they wanted to squeeze them in here. What they should have done is taken a step back and remembered whose origin story it was they were telling and focused down the story accordingly.

You Marvel boys drooling or spewing?

You Marvel boys drooling or spewing?

Still, it was a solid cast up and down. Ryan Reynolds stole the show for the brief time he was on screen and Liev Schreiber was thrilling as Sabertooth. But with Hugh Jackman, you got much of the same as you did with the first three films. As he’s now the central character, you’d expect a little more. The cast was rounded out with really good background support from Will I Am, Taylor Kitsch, Dominic Monaghan, Kevin Durand, and Danny Huston replacing Brian Cox as Stryker.

A decent start to the summer blockbuster season, Wolverine succeeded as light entertainment. Never did it rise above the confines of a fun diversion or work for me on the level that Dark Knight or Iron Man did. The X-Men franchise has been taken in a positive direction and fans can feel like a little bit of dignity has been restored after the widely panned X3. No matter where they take the next Origins film, one thing is for sure: they will have an ace up their sleeves if they’re willing to play a bigger gambit.

Oscar Lead-Up Special: Beware of Dude

Posted by film On February - 17 - 2009

By Shane McNeil

Robert Downey Jr. gets ready for the star-studded event.

Robert Downey Jr. gets ready for the star-studded event.

Before I submit my final Oscar predictions [dropping this Friday, get ready, readers! -ed.], here is a detailed and, many of you will argue, maniacal treatise on why no one should be shocked when Robert Downey Jr. strolls down the aisle on the 22nd to collect the Best Supporting Actor Oscar.

I know what you’re saying, and I admit that I have no reason to be so staunch in my beliefs on this. Ledger has won just about everything there is to win in the category this year and there’s seemingly no sentiment to suggest that Ledger is suffering as part of the Dark Knight backlash. I’ll own up to not especially loving The Dark Knight, but point to the fact that that has very little influence on the points I make below.

So, now… Why Downey? or, more importantly, why not Heath? Let’s start with the obvious. There’s only ever been one posthumous Oscar.

Peter Finch "mad as hell" in Network.

Peter Finch "mad as hell" in Network.

That went to Peter Finch for leading Network. A film now widely considered one of the 100 greatest ever made. A film that was nominated in most major categories, beloved by the actors and one of timely resonance, taking on the idle stance of a nation that had so much to be angry about. It was a lead performance and, to boot, he perished just two months before the Academy Awards ceremony. He was a respected actor (already having been nominated for Sunday Bloody Sunday) but won a statue based largely on the strength of that timeless performance and beat out some of cinema’s other classic characters in Rocky Balboa (Stallone in Rocky) and Travis Bickle (DeNiro’s Taxi Driver), in addition to his Network co-star William Holden to claim the award.

The Academy has had the opportunity to crown a young martyr before — twice, in fact. James Dean was denied Best Actor trophies for both Giant and East of Eden posthumously, and you have to assume that in Hollywood lore — while he is highly respected — Heath Ledger will never be looked at as a James Dean. Yes, he has more of a name and more respect than some (Massimo Troisi comes to mind) but not nearly the esteem of others (Spencer Tracy).

Are we finally sick of this sick character?

Are we finally sick of this sick character?

Then there’s the big white elephant in the room. He OD’d. He didn’t die in an accident, he didn’t have cancer, he took a whole whack of pills. This is tragic and I’m not making light of it. It’s claimed many before their time (River Phoenix), but what will that look like in the eyes of voters when he’s up against someone, in Downey, who stared that demon in the face and has now harnessed his supreme talent to come back to the top. If you think Tropic Thunder isn’t Oscar fodder, you’re probably right. However, much like Mickey Rourke, the Academy loves it, loves it, when actors go from the bottom to the top, and between Thunder and Iron Man, that’s where Downey now sits.

But wait, this is about the best performance, not who the Academy likes best, isn’t it? It’s not. Just ask Eddie Murphy. Your persona is as important as, if not moreso than, what you put on screen, and Downey’s triumphant turnaround and likeable personality will seem like a far greater reward to Hollywood and the actors that vote on this award than the still photo of Ledger and the kind thanks of his family more than a year after his unfortunate death.

Another point I want to make is the nature of the Supporting Actor category. Sometimes, it’s locked from the day the nominations are announced. Javier Bardem, Benicio Del Toro, and Chris Cooper recently took the award from wire to wire without much, if any, competition. However, it’s also the place that upsets happen, and respected talents get their due.

So fresh and so clean, clean.

So fresh and so clean, clean.

Tim Robbins, Morgan Freeman, and Robin Williams all did excellent work to earn their Oscars, but their previous work and nominations had to have factored in. Upsets, while a factor in every Oscar category, seem rampant in Supporting Actor. Jim Broadbent, Michael Caine, and James Coburn were all unexpected, but came down in the same category.

Final point — I swear. Supporting is where comedy and comedians can shine. Apart from staggering comedic feats, the lead category is for drama and even a nomination is often a lot to ask for a comedian. Supporting, however, is a place for the funny guys to get their due. Alan Arkin, Cuba Gooding Jr. — even reaching all the way back to Kevin Kline in A Fish Called Wanda, Supporting is where great comedy can be rewarded. And make no mistake — “the dude playing the dude disguised as another dude” is just that: great comedy.

There you have it. That’s my reasoning. I’m not sure enough of myself to put $100 down on it, but I’d certainly risk being wrong in an Oscar pool over it. Take it as you will. However, should the (virtually) unthinkable happen, consider yourself warned.

Oscar Nomination Predictions – Shane McNeil’s List

Posted by film On January - 20 - 2009

By Shane McNeil

Wake up, Oscar’s on the phone! Nominations morning can either be the most exciting or the most predictable few minutes of the year. Some years things go as charted and sometimes the pundits are proven completely wrong (like the Dreamgirls snub, which I predicted because, well, the movie blew). This year is looking like a case of the former, at least at the top, so after my safe list of picks, I’ll try to point out where things could go off the board.

BEST PICTURE

The Dark Knight

The Dark Knight

Slumdog Millionaire
The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button
Milk
The Dark Knight
Frost/Nixon

When the Producers’ Guild and Directors’ Guild agree on a shortlist, it’s usually a safe bet to assume that’s the way the worm will turn. However, Into the Wild looked to be a lock last year and was on the outside. Considering nominations are based on which film was most loved and not best liked, I think the weak link, if any, is Frost/Nixon. Many think The Dark Knight is a longshot, but it’s the kind of film people are passionate about and it will break tradition to bring comic books into the Oscar vocabulary. Don’t even bother debating the first three.

Watch Out For: Doubt, The Reader, Wall-E
Longshot: The Wrestler

BEST DIRECTOR

Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire)
David Fincher (The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button)
Ron Howard (Frost/Nixon)
Chris Nolan (The Dark Knight)
Gus Van Sant (Milk)

The directors often go a bit off the board, even from their guild predictions, so apart from Fincher and Boyle, a snub of anyone here would not be entirely surprising. The DGA/Oscar gap has spurned Opie Howard before, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see him shunned again. Gus Van Sant is just maverick enough for people to dislike him.

Watch Out For: Mike Leigh (Happy Go-Lucky), Stephen Daldry (The Reader), Clint Eastwood (Torino /Changeling), Darren Aronofsky (The Wrestler)
Longshot: Woody Allen (Vicky Crisitna Barcelona)

The Wrestler

The Wrestler

BEST ACTOR

Sean Penn (Milk)
Mickey Rourke (The Wrestler)
Frank Langella (Frost/Nixon)
Brad Pitt (The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button)
Clint Eastwood (Gran Torino)

Penn and Rourke will fight for the win, though Rourke is probably this year’s inevitability.  Frank Langella is maybe the only thing I’d guarantee Frost/Nixon gets recognition for (as it’s liked but not widely loved in my opinion). The rest is a bit of a crapshoot. Pitt has the pretty-boy thing against him, along with Button’s hot-and-cold response, but I think he’s got enough to power to grab a nomination. Eastwood started out of the gate strong, garnering comparisons to John Wayne’s performance in True Grit but he ended up just kinda looking like a racist on-screen.  I’d say two spots are up for grabs here.

Watch Out For: Richard Jenkins (The Visitor), Leonardo Dicaprio (Revolutionary Road), Dev Patel (Slumdog Millionaire)
Longshots: Colin Farrell (In Bruges), Dustin Hoffman (Last Chance Harvey)

BEST ACTRESS

Meryl Streep (Doubt)
Sally Hawkins (Happy-Go-Lucky)
Kate Winslet (Revolutionary Road)
Anne Hathaway (Rachel Getting Married)
Melissa Leo (Frozen River)

There are four guarantees here and one wide open slot.  I chose Leo because she’s the type of left-field, DIY player that Oscar loves and this would be the place to showcase her.  Angelina Jolie hasn’t landed a nom since winning and I think that says something about the Academy’s feelings towards her, (though I’d be stunned if Changeling gets totally snubbed). They do, however, love Cate Blanchett, so I wouldn’t be stunned to see her carried in on a wave of Button support.

Watch Out For: Cate Blanchett (The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button), Angelina Jolie (Changeling), Kristen Scott Thomas (I’ve Loved You So Long)
Longshot: Emma Thompson (Last Chance Harvey)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Heath Ledger (The Dark Knight)
James Brolin (Milk)
Philip Seymour Hoffman (Doubt)
Robert Downey Jr. (Tropic Thunder)
Dev Patel (Slumdog Millionaire)

The dude playing the dude disguised as another dude (Downey) is not only a lock in my mind for a nom, but also the pony to bet on to rain on The Joker’s parade. Inevitability does rear its head in the Oscars and often in this category (Javier Bardem, anyone?) but this Joker for Oscar thing has been around since last year and I think it’ll run out of steam at just the last minute for a real Cinderella story in Downey. The only maybe here, in my mind, is Dev Patel, but since Slumdog is so popular, I think the Academy will find a way to sneak at least one actor in (despite Patel really being a lead).

Watch Out For: James Franco (Milk), Eddie Marsan (Happy Go-Lucky)
Longshot: Tom Cruise (Tropic Thunder)

BEST SUPORTING ACTRESS

Penelope Cruz (Vicky Crisitna Barcelona)
Amy Adams (Doubt)
Kate Winslet (The Reader)
Viola Davis (Doubt)
Marisa Tomei (The Wrestler)

This is where I see Doubt making its presence known. It was a favourite for best picture but has since slid behind Batman. Davis seems a favourite, but I like Adams as a nod for a good few years of work. A Benjamin Button groundswell puts Taraji P. Henson into play, but that’s about the only change I’d put money on.

Watch Out For: Taraji P. Henson (The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button)
Longshot: Freida Pinto (Slumdog Millionaire)

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

Slumdog Millionaire
Frost/Nixon
Benjamin Button
The Dark Knight
Doubt

Apart from The Reader, I really see no competition for any of these, unless the Academy gets their knickers in a twist over a comic book adaptation.

Watch Out For: The Reader, Revolutionary Road
Longshot: Iron Man

Wall-E

Wall-E

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

Milk
The Wrestler
Wall-E
Happy-Go-Lucky
Vicky Cristina Barcelona

Sometimes it’s not what, but who, and the names of this list speak for themselves. I choose Wall-E because there’s been lots of love here for Pixar before. It would be foolish to completely count out the Coen brothers, but I think the Academy feels it loved them enough last year to not reward Burn After Reading, though it is still an outside possibility.

Watch Out For: Burn After Reading, In Bruges, Rachel Getting Married, The Visitor
Longshot: Waltz With Bashir

MONDOFilm’s Top Five Lists

Posted by film On January - 9 - 2009

We got love for Wall-E.

By Jacob Kaufman, Leo K. Moncel, Sam Linton and Shane McNeil

I think we all had an especially good time at the movies this year. It looks like a couple of us even learned how to sneak into TIFF screenings without being caught. Our top five lists range from the (deservedly) well-travelled to the slightly off road, but generally the films that impressed our crew in 2008 were bold, high-energy, and gutsy.

Jacob Kaufman’s List

5. Forgetting Sarah Marshall (Dir: Nicholas Stoller)
I probably should have put Milk or Doubt or one of those movies in this slot, but I didn’t see them. Let The Right One In may have Swedish vampires, but Forgetting Sarah Marshall has singing vampire puppets.

4. Iron Man (Dir: Jon Favreau)
Robert Downey Jr. dominates this movie by playing a character like himself, but who also is a billionaire genius-inventor. This movie may not have been as deep as The Dark Knight, but it was far more fun.

3. The Dark Knight (Dir: Christopher Nolan)
This brilliant epic kicks ass while asking serious questions about justice and the nature of society. And, of course, hosannas to Heath Ledger, who made a guy in bad clown make-up genuinely terrifying.

2. Wall-E (Dir: Andrew Stanton)
This movie turns a machine that looks like a box with binoculars into something more human than most people you will ever meet. Its first half is almost a silent film and feels like poetry on the screen.

"Will you come down from that tree!?"

"Will you come down from that tree!?"

1. Burn After Reading (Dir: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen)
First of all, I don’t think I have ever laughed harder in a theatre (much to the chagrin of my neighbours). The Coen Brothers sketch five original, idiosyncratic main characters with perfect economy. The contrast with, for example, The Ladykillers, shows how the Coen Brothers have recovered their ability to create a comedic storyline that is truly character-driven. Every lead actor has found the pulse of their character, and the humour comes from their commitment to what they’re doing, however absurd. Special credit should go to the scene-stealing performance from J.K. “Juno’s Dad/ Spiderman’s Boss/ Nazi Gang Leader” Simmons as the no-bullshit CIA Director. This comedy does not pander to the audience’s expectations – it ruthlessly subverts them with an ever-rising sense of grimness.

Leo K. Moncel’s List

5. Detroit Metal City (Dir: Toshio Lee)
A gentle, meek young man who writes pop songs about dolphins and picnics must perform as Sir Kaiser, a filth-spewing metalhead monster, to make ends meet. A hilarious send-up on the public/private life divide: so universal, yet so Japanese.

4. Slumdog Millionaire (Dir: Danny Boyle)
Better believe it! This movie’s energetic, panoramic, and totally wild, and yet grounded in the real. The ingenious structure of the screenplay and its fluid handling of compressions of time what was what left me cheering.

3. Wall-E (Dir: Andrew Stanton)
A really impressive example of silent storytelling and character development. The games played with viewer expectations are brilliant. A landmark dystopic film for kids.

2. Food, Inc. (Dir: Robert Kenner)
Oooh, my goodness. Following the work of folks like Michael Pollan, this polished documentary pulls back the curtain on how agribusiness run amok has devastated our food’s quality and safety, not to mention the welfare of our species and planet. Eye-opening, sometimes shocking, yet never dismal.

He had it rough.

He had it rough.

1. The Dark Knight (Dir: Christopher Nolan)
I have to give it to The Dark Knight. This movie is the Taxi Driver of its genre. It is richly complex without being complicated. True, it’s all about The Joker, but The Joker is fascinating not just for Ledger’s performance (though this is every bit as charged and detailed as people insist), but because he proceeds with a very definite thesis. Through all of the apparent chaos, the Joker is really just out to prove that anyone, given the right conditions, is capable of horrific brutality. He is arguing for nurture over nature. His presence therefore implies a sad and terrifying history of mis-nurturing that transformed him into the twisted wreck of a human being before us. It was a bold choice by Nolan and company to plant themselves so deep in the darkness. It’s resulted in a film of rare quality.

Sam Linton’s List

5. Wall-E (Dir: Andrew Stanton)
I love Pixar’s films, and this film had everything that I love them for: memorable characters, jokes not dependant on a steady stream of up-to-the-minute, pop-cultural minutia, and that intangible quality I sometimes hear referred to as “heart.”

4. Iron Man (Dir: Jon Favreau)
This was the movie Marvel fans were waiting for, and the one that finally, after far, far, far too long, washed the putrid taste of X-Men III out of my mouth.

3. Burn After Reading (Dir: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen)
The main complaint I hear (implicitly) leveled against this movie is that it’s not as thematically heavy as No Country for Old Men. But of course it’s not going to be as “heavy”; it’s a Horatian satire, a light (for the Coen brothers, anyways – the body count does pile) comic exposée on the climate of paranoia running through American society. The perfect 2000s-era comedy.

2. The Dark Knight (Dir: Christopher Nolan)
Yeah, it was pretty obvious this one was coming. The film’s thematically tight (order vs. chaos, to be glib), well-written, and carried by amazing performances from Heath Ledger, Aaron Eckhart, and Gary Oldman. The thinking man’s action movie.

Annyeong haseyo, motherfucker.

Annyeong haseyo, motherfucker.

1. The Good, The Bad, The Weird (Dir: Ji-woon Kim)
Surprise! Are you surprised? I sure was! I only got to see this once at TIFF, but it blew me away! A Korean Western set in Manchuria during the Japanese occupation? Lord, yes! Director Ji-woon Kim pulled all the stops out to make a visually thrilling, modern spaghetti Western that seldom disappoints. Did I like this film as much as The Dark Knight? Honestly, no, but I’m throwing the value of the surprise together with the entertainment value of the film to give it a slight edge over its North American rival. I fully expected to like Batman; this movie caught me entirely off guard. Unfortunately, it seems to still be in search of a North American distributor. Hopefully, it will find one soon, so 2009 will be the year to catch the best film of 2008!

Shane McNeil’s List

5. In Bruges (Dir: Martin McDonagh)
“Homage is too strong a word,” says a beautiful European stagehand. Self-aware and entertaining. Gotta love that.

4. Slumdog Millionaire (Dir: Danny Boyle)
You’ll love it, it’s almost unavoidable. Maybe if it had tried a bit less, I’d have loved it more. I still loved it.

3. Let the Right One In (Dir: Tomas Alfredson)
A vampire movie where the vampire herself is the least of the threats to the hero. Sweet and simple.

2. Pontypool (Dir: Bruce McDonald)
Only our Bruce McDonald could have made such an innovative, inexplicable, and wildly original, entertaining mess.

Docusurrealism.

Docusurrealism.

1. Waltz with Bashir (Dir: Ari Folman)
It is unlike any other animated film you have ever seen. Same for the documentary. It probes the soul of a filmmaker to find the one horror he wishes he could forget. It’s stylish, heartbreaking, insightful, and sometimes even funny. It does with drawings what the cinematic eye almost wouldn’t permit with a live camera, and then has the nerve to give us a glimpse of it anyway. Waltz is already receiving recognition as both an animated film and a doc, and that trend could continue well into Oscar season. With all apologies to Wall-E, which almost cracked this list, it is easily the best animated film of the year and perhaps the best animated work I’ve ever seen.

MONDOcomics’ Best of 2008: Owen’s Take

Posted by Comics On January - 6 - 2009

By Owen K. Craig

Series of the Year: Fables

Fables had a stellar year. First they wrapped up an arc about Flycatcher that developed him in unexpected ways while staying true to the original character, and then we got an awesome spy story about Cinderella. All of this was leading into the big epic battle that we’ve been waiting for since issue 1, and when it got here it wasn’t what we expected (I mean that in the best possible way). Now that it’s over the series continues to subvert our expectations, not only by continuing (most series would end here) but also by throwing one jaw-dropping twist after another at us. I can’t wait to see what Fables brings us in 2009.

Runners up: Ex Machina, Justice Society of America, Scalped

Writer of the Year: Geoff Johns

I’ve got to give it to Geoff Johns again this year. Sure, my favourite superhero comic (Justice Society) was stalled by a ridiculously long, consistently delayed storyline all year (it reads much better now that it’s out), but even that book aside, Johns continues to do great DC comics. He and Gary Frank made me want to read Superman for the first time in Action Comics, Green Lantern remains one of the books I can’t wait for every month, and his Final Crisis tie-ins (Legion of 3 Worlds and Rogue’s Revenge) have been top-notch. Those are five books I’ve been both buying and loving all by one writer this year. Johns has earned the spot as my writer of the year.

Click for larger image.

Click for larger image.

Runners up: Matt Fraction, Dan Slott, Brian K. Vaughan

Artist of the Year: Marcos Martin

I love Marcos Martin’s art. He may have only done a couple of storylines of Amazing Spider-Man this year, but they were by far my favourite. His art was completely in tune with Dan Slott’s scripts, and those two stories really shone. His characters are expressive, and the style is delightful. I hope to see much more of Martin’s art in the future.

Runners up: Amanda Conner, Tony Harris, George Perez

Villain of the Year: Marvel for their $3.99 price hike on regular-sized issues

Um…what happened to 25 cent increases? What the Hell is wrong with you?

Runners up: Nothing is as evil as this.

Hero of the year: Mitchell Hundred

I’ve been a silly, silly man. I let myself fall WAY behind on Ex Machina in the last couple of years. I promised myself I would start buying the trades and kept forgetting to. ME! BKV fanboy #1! In the last month I have fixed this. I am now caught up and loving it. Mayor Mitchell Hundred is an amazing character. He’s brash, he has conviction, and he makes mistakes sometimes. He may not always make the smartest moves, but his integrity is something to be proud of. There’s nothing I love reading more than a plot with a hero who seems so distinctly human. Hundred may have some wacky circuitry in his head that lets him talk to machines, but he’s one of the most human superheroes out there. And that’s something I want to read. Oh, Ex Machina, let’s never split up again.

Runners up: Batman, Iron Man, Prince Charming

Panel of the Year: Herc’s “thumbs up” face

I’m trading in the “Splash Page of the Year” category for a “Panel of the Year” category to make room for Hercules’ thumbs up face. Nothing in comics all year made me laugh like this. Welcome to my list, Incredible Hercules. You’ve more than earned this spot.

Runners up: DMZ #23 (“Mine”), Justice Society of America #14 (crowded meeting table), Thor #2 (new Asgard)

Saddest Cancellation: The Exterminators

The Exterminators was weird, horrifying, and confusing, and I loved every issue of it. It took me a little time to understand what it was about (you know, besides exterminators), but once I got into the swing of it I had a blast. It’s too bad more people didn’t try out this series because it was great. Do yourselves a favour and pick up the trades, it’s a lot of fun.

Runners up: The All-New Atom, Blue Beetle, Crossing Midnight

Most Pleasant Surprise: Deadpool

Daniel Way wrote something good. Now, I don`t want to be nasty about this (too late?), but I have tried out Way’s Wolverine Origins and his Ghost Rider and they weren’t just bad, they were atrocious. But maybe the problem wasn’t that Daniel Way is a bad writer, maybe he was just writing the wrong title. All that aside, his Deadpool is absolutely hilarious, awesome, and sick in the best possible way.

Runners up: Secret Six, Sterling Gates’ Supergirl, Terra

Best Reprint: Starman Omnibus: Volume 1

I can’t say enough good things about this omnibus. It is a gorgeous package that is well worth the price tag for any fan of good comics. From its lush presentation to its fascinating behind-the-scenes features, this book is wall-to-wall awesome.

Runners up: Angel: After The Fall: Volumes 1-2, Garfield Minus Garfield, Justice League International: Volumes 1-3

Special Mention: Y: The Last Man

Only one issue came out this year, but it was the best issue of any comic this year. I didn’t feel justified putting it up there as “Best Title of the Year,” so I’m giving it its own category. One of my favourite comics of all time now has one of the best endings to a comic of all time. Well done, Vaughan and Guerra. Well done.

MONDOcomics’ Best of 2008: Isaac’s Take

Posted by Comics On January - 6 - 2009

By Isaac Mills

Series of the Year: The Amazing Spider-Man 

Though the disconnect between Spider-Man and the rest of the Marvel universe caused by “One More Day” has hurt my interest in Marvel Comics, Spider-Man hasn’t been this relevant in years.  One more year of the thrice-a-month release schedule, and in terms of pure volume, we will have caught up to the Straczynski output that we had to put up with since the year 2000.

“But Isaac, those stories weren’t bad!”

Really?  Do you know how often Dr. Strange popped up in Amazing during those years? Yeah, that’s right.

I remember the weight that was lifted with just the first issue of “Brand New Day”, when I looked up and realized I had spent years not buying real Spider-Man comics.  The return of web-shooters made me smile and enjoy the world even as I waited in the cold for a bus to school.

Writer of the Year: Grant Morrison

All Star Superman.

Oh, yeah, I guess I could write more here.

Morrison continues his love letter to the comics medium in Batman, incorporating long-discarded elements of Batman’s past to give us what could almost be described as the real All Star Batman and Robin in regular continuity — when you stop and think about this, can you believe that the man got away with it?

There’s no doubt that there were frustrating times during “Batman RIP” — when you just wanted to know how it was all going to work out, and it felt like forever between issues — but the payoff was worth it.

Plus, I respect his work on Final Crisis like nobody’s business.  It requires more effort to tell an incredibly high-concept story, especially in a cinematic style (which often doesn’t fit in a pure comic format, but if this were made into a movie, peoples’ reactions would be very different) — and there have been too many moments in all of his work that just blew me away.  I freaked out for like two minutes when the one guy solves the Rubik’s cube. Read it and you’ll understand me, I hope.

Artist of the Year: John Romita Jr.

As much as I harp on the Straczynski years of Spider-Man, during that time and before, there’s no doubt that John Romita Jr. was the main Spider-Man artist.  That’s so true, in fact, that I began to take him for granted. 

He went and did other things, like Wolverine: Enemy of the State, and it was like getting a postcard from an old friend who’s gone to Cuba or something.  Well, I assume that’s what it feels like; I’ve never gotten a postcard under those circumstances. 

Last year, he worked on World War Hulk, which highly impressed everyone — before bringing his A-game to triumphantly return to Spider-Man for the “New Ways to Die” story, when I stepped in a rose-coloured time machine to witness the importance that this artist has had on Spider-Man for the past decade and beyond into the future.

Click for larger image.

Click for larger image.

Cover of the Year: The Barry Allen variant to Final Crisis #2

You know, there’s a part of me that could have gone nuts and answered every category with some iteration of “Barry Allen”.  Hero of the year?  Barry Allen.  Most pleasant surprise?  Barry Allen.  Villain of the year?  Barry, for not showing up sooner.  I could have even said that Barry Allen was the best writer and artist of the year, but for those categories I probably would have been lying for the sake of keeping up the charade.  The reason for those lies is that I’m so excited about Barry Allen’s return with Geoff Johns at the helm, and this cover image was the true herald of the greatness of Barry’s return.  His beautifully rendered expression of a haunting, hopeful, focus is a perfect example of a hero without hubris, just doing his best to do right. 

Because just about every other hero around is also trying to impress a girl or something, what with their squinty eyes and square jaws. 

Villain of the Year: Norman Osborn (Special Mention to Darksied)

It’s Norman Osborn!  The guy has just been placed in charge of the world’s peacekeepers, and he’s so crazy.  So crazy.  My brother asked me if getting this kind of public office was really enough to be villain of the year; he asked me if, supposing this was the year Lex Luthor was President of the U.S., would Luthor be villain of the year?  And I would emphatically say, yes!

Also, I’m not ashamed to admit that I still hold Ben Reilly’s death against Osborn.  Well, I would, except Ben is totally alive the second I get a Marvel comic to write.  Once again, I’m giving fair warning to everyone with regards to my intentions towards Marvel comics.  Are these honourable intentions?  Well, I’d say that’s also a big yes.

Hero of the year: Batman 

Was there ever any doubt?  DC has given so much love to Batman this year, with Detective Comics‘ Paul Dini’s extremely satisfying detective stories (makes sense), Grant Morrison getting Batman to punch out a helicopter, and The Dark Knight in theatres, of course. 

Why would Batman take the blame for Two Face’s murder when you have a perfectly psychotic Joker hanging around to take the fall?  It just wouldn’t occur to Batman to blame a man of something he was innocent of, even if he deserves it.  That kind of action doesn’t conform to his sense of justice.  But someone had to take the blame for the sake of Gotham City, and Batman is ever willing to sacrifice himself for the cause.  Hero of the year?  Try “Awesomest Hero of the Year”.

Saddest Cancellation: The Amazing Spider-Girl

As the little series that could, the fact that it’s been cancelled is still hard to accept.  We’ve got an issue or two left to get our affairs in order, but then Spider-Girl will be relegated to the Spider-Man Family book.  This series followed what I consider to be the true future of the Marvel Universe.  You know, the future that had Peter Parker and Mary Jane married and raising baby May to young adulthood, with the clone Kaine hanging around, and Darkdevil being the son of Ben Reilly and Elizabeth Tyne. 

You don’t think I’ve mentioned Ben Reilly too often in this article, do you?  Yeah, I agree, you can never have too much Ben Reilly.

Most Pleasant Surprise: The Iron Man Movie

I had high hopes for this movie and I wasn’t disappointed.  Yes, no one is denying that you have to mix things up for the big screen, you just can’t fit thirty years of continuity into a two hour movie — but if you’re not true to the source material and Spirit (*cough cough*) of the characters, then by all rights you’re going to fail.  But did anyone think they were going to love Iron Man this much?  It was a perfectly timed facelift for the fascistic looking star of Civil War to get the heroic treatment and gain a lot of fans.

Biggest Disappointment: Chuck Dixon not writing Robin and Batman and the Outsiders

I’ve disliked the Robin comic for so long; I didn’t care for Willingham’s run (as much as I love Fables), and Adam Beechen went all Adam Beechen on it, so that’s extremely unfortunate.  But then Chuck Dixon arrived, and proper characterization happened, a long-forgotten supporting cast returned, and it was just sweetness all around.

Not only that, but Chuck Dixon also started Batman and the Outsiders, and had Catwoman, Green Arrow, and later Geoforce on the team!  Not only that, but Batgirl was there and getting fixed after Beechen messed her up in Robin.  Oh, the good times!

But then something happened.  Catwoman was gone from Outsiders, which would have been bad enough, but then BAM — Chuck Dixon was just gone. Was he fired, did he quit?  Let me know if you figure it out.  All of a sudden I’m collecting two extremely sub-par comics over here that I had been really enjoying for all too short a time.

Why is this still on my pull list: Ultimate Spider-Man

Nothing happens in this comic!  Okay, cool stuff happens eventually, but you have to buy three issues or more of filler before we get to the good stuff.  I love spending, what — nine dollars on filler?  Yeah, great.

I’ve got to say though: Stuart Immonen’s art is gorgeous.  He came on at just the right time to sucker me into continually buying this thing. Yes, the ultimate clone saga was a good story, but did Peter Parker ever put on the Spidey jammies even once in that whole thing?  Do you know how often I have to ask that question about Ultimate Spider-Man comics?  Just give me Spider-Man, I really don’t ask for much.

N is for New Avengers

Posted by Comics On December - 9 - 2008

The Alpha Review

By Andrew Uys

I’ve heard that trade paperbacks — a run of comic issues collected into a graphic novel — are all the rage today. But which ones are worth your time? This column aims to put the spotlight on the spectacular trades — at least according to this writer. And just for fun, we will start with the letter “A,” and each subsequent review will follow with the next letter of the alphabet. While you might object to my taste or my opinion, I hope that this column will help save you time and money when you are next buying a trade paperback, as well as effort in alphabetizing.

N is for New Avengers Vol. 1: Breakout
Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Art by David Finch
Marvel Comics, 2006

The Avengers have never been hotter, and this is the trade paperback that relaunched the team. Brian Michael Bendis is the architect behind this year’s blockbuster Secret Invasion, and all the threads and clues start in this book. Superbly written, with unbelievable art, the first volume of New Avengers presents a revised line-up of team members, and the title has continued to deliver to date.

The Avengers has always been about threats that were beyond the abilities of individual heroes, and this comic doesn’t skimp. The New Avengers Vol. 1: Breakout offers a very new, very dynamic line-up, with staples Captain America and Iron Man as the foundations of the team. Joining are fan favourites such as Spider-Man and Wolverine, with Luke Cage and Spider-Woman rounding out the group. My only complaint with this title has been the addition of Sentry — who I have never enjoyed, as he seems like a Superman knock-off. This TPB is a great read, but has been elevated even higher by the events of Secret Invasion, where Bendis finally gives us the answers to all of the questions started here.

The basic plot involves a massive breakout from the Raft, a SHIELD super-human prison. A few of the characters are on hand at the time, and more arrive to stem the escape. By the end of the fight, which is spectacular, there is a growing recognition that the world needs another Avengers group, and so the New Avengers are born. The latter half of the first TPB has the characters going to the Savage Land, following up clues from the breakout. This second half confused fans for a long time and many wondered if Bendis had just forgotten about these plot threads. Fear not, all is revealed in the Secret Invasion crossover with the current New and Mighty Avengers titles.

I will admit that I have always been an Avengers fan, but the comic has often taken second place to the X-titles in Marvel’s line-up. No more. This book, and the TPBs that follow, are both creative and visual treats, and the payoff has been huge. Whether you have been following Secret Invasion this summer and want to know more, or are just an Avengers fan, and had lost faith previously, this is the place to start reading.

Bendis has done a superb job on weaving major events and a myriad of sub-plots together. It has certainly helped that he has been writing both the New and Mighty Avengers books. If you are wondering where the Mighty Avengers come from, they spin out of the New Avengers title right after the Civil War TPB — so you have a ways to go.

 

Click to be intrigued

Click to be intrigued

David Finch is a very gifted artist, and each page has the feel of one of his variant covers — tons of detail and action. Unfortunately, he does not continue on the New Avengers title much longer, switching in and out with other artists until Leinil Yu takes over. Still, I have enjoyed all the art in the New Avengers run — though I have heard that either you love or hate Yu’s work, which appears in Volume 5.

 

New Avengers Vol. 1: Breakout is a fantastic read — both for the story and the art. The New Avengers title is a major pillar for the Marvel Universe, and if you aren’t reading it, you are certainly missing out. That, and if you are budget conscious, this book offers you the chance to see all your major heroes for one low price. Pick it up, and see where Bendis started seeding Secret Invasion.

Random Comics of the Week: High Rollers and Invincible Iron Man

Posted by Comics On November - 7 - 2008

Miles’ Book

High Rollers #4 (of 4)
Written by Gary Phillips
Art by Sergio Carrera
Colours by Andrew Dalhouse
Boom Studios, 2008

I have never been more confused after reading a Random Book of the Week. What the fuck happened in this comic? I mean, I should know, I did read it, but I think there were pages missing. Actually, I know that there weren’t because every scene flowed so well into the next one that it would be impossible. There were just fantastic transitions from one story I didn’t understand to the next story I didn’t understand.

All I know about this is that it’s a crime drama that seems to have about 20 main characters. Each one of them seems to know what’s happening, but they won’t tell the audience – it’s like there’s some inside joke between the writer and the artist. One of the stories seems to be resolved at the end of the book, but all the others drift off so that I can only assume they are over. And there are two explosions. That’s all I fucking know, and I spent four bucks on this stupid rag. FOUR WHOLE DOLLARS!!

Which now brings me to my first rant: Publishers, do not publish a story when it doesn’t make sense. Yes, I’m joining in on issue four of a four-part story, but that’s not an excuse. This is an episodic medium and there should be something that tells me about the episodes that came before it. This should be a graphic novel, not a over-priced waste of paper. As a graphic novel, this might be a fantastic story, and I would love it, but it’s not been adapted for serialization.

And now for the second rant: Colourists, less is more. Gradients are pretty cool and really easy to make with Photoshop; I understand your addiction to them. Yes, colourists back in the day would kill for a little colour-fading action. But holy crap, CHECK YOURSELF. This is a case of great art ruined by an over-zealous colourist. Andrew Dalhouse, the colourist, is trying to force a three-dimensional look on art that is supposed to be a little static and flat — that’s why he has heavy inks. I know you want to feel like you’re earning your money, colourists, but restraint, my friends, restraint!

Isaac’s Book

Invincible Iron Man #7
Written by Matt Fraction
Art by Salvador Larroca
Marvel Comics, 2008

Everything was very Spider-Man centric in this comic, and while that’s ordinarily a very good thing, I came into this expecting an issue of Iron Man.

We open on Ben Urich trying to manage his band of reporters at the Frontline newspaper, wishing he could just go write something, and finally grabbing Peter Parker to go do a piece on Tony Stark relating to some attacks that I assume occurred in the previous issues of Invincible Iron Man.

We’re all aware of the problems of Peter Parker meeting up with Tony Stark in this post Brand New Day comic-scape; had they ever met out of costume before? What would the reaction be? Well, Peter had worked for Stark, but has left and is now “taking pictures for a website”.

Tony Stark says that’s a “Great career move there, guy.” And I end up hating the man just a bit more. Really? You can’t just be a multibillionaire-super hero-idol o’ millions, but you get to have some schadenfreude, too?

So it’s settled, right? This is the official relationship between these two characters out of costume; ex-employee and ex-employer, end of story. Unfortunately I just don’t have enough faith in Marvel editorial to be able to crossover the Marvel and Brand New Day universes. If this was an issue of Amazing Spider-Man, it’d be a different story, I could trust it. But it’s not, and I don’t.

That distrust of where this comic sits in continuity really taints what would otherwise be a really strong issue. We have some laughs, some action with the Tinkerer and this Wheele guy (you remember the guy in the 90s Spider-Man cartoon that drove around in a giant rocket wheel, was obsessed with timing, and tried to kill Rocket Racer? Well, this is some version of that guy I guess), so yes, a pretty good Spider-Man comic. I’m trying to forget that this is supposed to be an Iron Man comic, because the threats are pretty laughable from that point of view.

It’s a case of trying to fit a square peg through a round hole. The writer wanted to have this ending where Spider-Man reflects on how sad and unsure Stark seems these days, accompanying the article Ben Urich ends up writing titled “The Head that Wears the Crown” and it’s a nice ending idea, but it’s either impossible with these characters as they currently are, or it just wasn’t written properly for this issue. Either way, if the story doesn’t work, it shouldn’t be forced like this.

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MONDO is a non-profit, weekly, Toronto-based, online magazine that focuses on arts, culture, and humour. We’re interested in art of all kinds (music, theatre, visual art, film, comics, and video games) and the pop culture that we inhabit.The copyright on all MONDO magazine content belongs to the author. If you would like to pay them for more content, please do. To contact MONDO please email us at editor@mondomagazine.net

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