Category Archives: SD/RM

Impulse Buys for Early October

I am buying the heck out of these things right now. Total pay-day treat.

Each thing comes with my absolute recommendation, and yeah, if you buy using the linky things, I do get a little kickback. Microscopic, actually, but still kinda lovely, so I’d really appreciate it if you did!

 

This was one of a few films I saw in the last few months that I really thought wasn’t as well received as it deserved. It seemed to struggle on three fronts: incredibly badly marketed from the off, it was fighting against such terrible word of mouth and low public awareness even before release that it was probably always going to open badly, and then when it was released, it was such a loving adaptation that it didn’t offer anything beyond what we had already seen in the hundreds of movies inspired by it.

However, after a slow start, this won over everyone in the large group I saw it with at the cinema. The director shines when handling the CGI characters, who out-real central actor Taylor Kitsch until he finally catches his stride around the beginning of the second act. I liked it.

 

This is pretty much a straight-up fight movie, in the same vein as Rocky, but the emotional core of it is so well-crafted and sincerely delivered, and the actual scenes set in the ring so beautifully choreographed and shot, it totally knocked the wind out of me.

Now I just have to see whether it has the same impact on me in front of my wife as it did watching it in the house on my own with her away for a week.

The truth is I’m generally a little under-fed and over-tired when she’s away, so I may have been in an emotionally weakened state.

 

Nobody pays enough attention to Tarsem Singh.

Admittedly, this may be because his interests as a director run more to aesthetic and artistic beauty than coherence or emotional characterisation, but his movies really are so beautifully made that he should command a much larger audience than he does.

That said, The Fall manages to hit all targets that I require to consider it a damn-near perfect film. It’s an amazing combination of Tarsem’s incredible eye for location and spectacle, two beautifully natural central performances from Lee Pace and Catinca Untaru, and a narrative that weaves fantastic flights of childish whimsy and real-world melancholy into something utterly satisfying.

Not everybody will love this film, but if you still love The Princess Bride, this is a brilliant companion piece for it in your grown-up film collection.

 

For a while now I’ve been reading Avatar’s sharp and horrific web-comic “Crossed – Wish You Were Here”, but Kieron Gillen’s recent interview with the writer Si Spurrier (on Gillen’s podcast Decompressed, which is must-listen for people interested in creative process) reminded me that I wanted to own it, now that it was in print.

The whole thing is already available online, and you can read it all here, but be warned: while Spurrier and Barreno do a great job of tempering the horror with creeping mundanity, the grotesque moments are really very, very grotesque, and as much as I hate the concept of trigger-warnings, Crossed as a comic franchise should probably come with a dozen of them.

Especially if you like dolphins.

 

I’ve only read one issue of Wolverine & The X-Men, but it’s one of two X titles – X-Force is the other – that leaves an incredible impression on me whenever I catch even the shortest excerpt.

I think it’s down to the addictive mix of Jason Aaron’s tightrope walk between lightness and X-mutant melodrama, and Bachalo and Bradshaw’s cartoony and rammed with detail art.

The bits I’ve read remind me of the best of Chris Claremont’s later 80s work, when he’d team-up with Alan Davis or Art Adams for absolutely screwy but paradoxically high-stakes mutant mayhem, but without the over-written excesses that re-reads of those comics tend to reveal.

Basically, I’ve been looking for an excuse to pick up more since reading that one issue a few months ago.

 

This final one is a bit of a surprise for me.

I bought the first volume of this as part of a batch of similarly spontaneous purchases, from Amazon sellers who had it cheap.

I’d liked the look of odd issues of Marvel’s Stephen King adaptations when I saw them on the shelves, but suspected that they were a glossy but flawed endeavour. After all, why bother doing a good job of an adaptation, when King’s name would sell the books whatever the quality?

And having read The Stand nearly twenty years ago, I had my doubts as to whether it was even possible to adapt such a huge work well, or if King’s original book would even stand up to that much scrutiny so many years on.

Revisiting the story does show that like John Carter, King’s work sometimes doesn’t fare so well alongside the more modern stories that he influenced, and Aguirre-Sacasa and Perkins haven’t helped that mildly anachronistic feeling by fixing the work in the period in which it was written. However, with the writer’s well-measured and well-achieved mix of prose flourishes and comic looseness, and the artist’s beautifully drafted location and character work, that slightly off period feel has the odd effect of really grounding the narrative, and giving it a creepy and portentous atmosphere.

I’m really looking forward to finally reading this next volume.

Books – The Road by Cormac McCarthy

The Road coverI’m a little behind the herd when it comes to Cormac McCarthy‘s work. Despite watching and loving “No Country For Old Men“, I was totally oblivious to the fact that it wasn’t a Coen Brothers original until a few days later. Though I’ve heard stories about his mythical, apparently perfect novel “The Road“, I have to admit that the main reason I picked it up is because I heard about the imminent film of the book.

I’ve a standing rule that where possible, I’ll watch the film version of a story before I’ll read the book that it’s based on. Most of the time the, book is the original – and as such the intended, definitive – version, and generally this makes the book the purer, smarter version of the story. Or at least it’s difficult not to see it that way, if you encounter them in chronological order.

However, I think that a film can be a good example of its medium and still be a disappointing adaptation of a book. Knowing this isn’t enough, though – it’s really difficult to seperate the two in your head as you go. Even if you know that intellectually you should enjoy each on its merits, reading is a much more active mental and emotional process than watching a film, and after living a novel for the amount of time it takes to read it, it’s impossible not to have expectations when taking that experience into a cinema.

My feeling is that the effort to process all this while watching a movie is more hassle than it’s worth, so I reason that if I watch the film first, I’ll get to enjoy both. You have to be a certain sort of lunatic to retroactively dis-enjoy a film if when you eventually read the book you find it’s different – why would you do that to yourself? – and as I’m almost immune to plot-twists, it isn’t as if having a plot laid out for me in film is going to ruin my enjoyment of it in text.

The Road - Movie image(To clarify, I don’t mean that I’m immune to plot-twists because I work them out – I have never understood the desire to outsmart a story that so many people seem to have – it’s a story, people – it’s not a destination, it’s a ride. The way my mind works, it’s constantly ticking over possible places the story can go as I enjoy it, so a film falling in line with one of the vague thoughts I had about it is a pleasant buzz, not a groundbreaker.)

It’s one of hundreds of little tricks I use to make living among your species bearable – this way round, trying to work out why they made certain changes during the adaptation process can be an enjoyable exercise, rather than the disappointment spiral it can become if I’ve already got an emotional relationship with the original when I get to the copy.

So, anyway, that’s why I wasn’t going to read “The Road” before the film came out, but I’d heard so much about it that I put it on my birthday wish-list anyway, because I half expected not to get it till much later anyway.

When it turned up unexpectedly, my resolve held – it sat on the side with “No Country For Old Men” and “Let The Right One In”, waiting till some time in the distant future.

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SD/Books – Generation Kill, Other People & Bad Things

More and more, the SD header becomes a misnomer… these clearly aren’t books I’ve read in the last seven days – seven weeks wouldn’t even cover it – but they are books worth praising.

Generation Kill by Evan Wright

generation-killThe last non-fiction book I had read before this was David Simon’s “Homicide – A Year On The Killing Streets”, and prior to that, you have to go a few years before you get Michael J Fox’s biography “Lucky Man” – yes, yes, I have incredible taste.

The truth is, I wouldn’t have even heard of Evan Wright or “Generation Kill” if it hadn’t been for Simon’s own TV adaptation of this exceptional book.

Wright’s beautifully nuanced piece of war reporting describes the invasion of Iraq through the eyes of First Recon, who were among the first US soldiers to make their way across the confused social and physical geography of the country to take Baghdad in the early weeks of the war. Wright was an embedded reporter for Rolling Stone with the First Recon, and through a rigid journalistic approach to his experiences, he paints a picture of highly competent young men placed in the most extreme of circumstances, at the mercy of the sort of bureaucracy and leadership uncertainty that most of us face in our own much less life-or-death careers.

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Batman & Robin – Rat King

I know I haven’t been great about reviewing stuff, lately, and as such failed to tell you that I read and enjoyed Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s first issue of “Batman & Robin”.

The second issue came out this week. Don’t have the time to review it properly, but whether or not you’ll like it will depend on whether you like this next image:

Rat King

That’s right: Robin is fighting conjoined triplets… who can kick-box holes in walls!

Don’t worry, though… there’s still plenty of time to make up your mind about the new series. Just bear in mind that next month:

Bat Quad Bike God

BAT-QUAD BIKE-GOD!!