NFLX2017 December 15, 2017: Bright

Bright. David Ayer. 2017. ☆☆★★★★

I started watching this and then I realised that I hadn’t seen the movie, so I thought I should do that first.

Amusingly enough, when I search for “Bright” in the Netflix app, it is not among the about 50 or so hits. Apparently “Lucifer”, “Triple Frontier” and “Isn’t It Romantic” are better matches for me according to the Netflix search programmers.

Searching for “will” got me it, though, while “will smith” got zero matches.

Good job!

So… this movie is basically Alien Nation?

Will Smith is pretty good in this… he’s got the somewhat racist cop (but good hearted) thing down.

I think my main confusion (so far; I’m only 30 minutes in while typing this) is that I don’t understand why this movie sparked so much interest. I seem to remember there being a bunch of articles written about it at the time, and… well, the reason I’m watching it is 1) I watch anything that’s sci-fi and 2) that hour-long youtube thing. But here I am watching it, so I guess I got sucked into the vortex, too.

This had a $90M budget, apparently, of which you can see approx. zero on the screen. They consistently use the old “well, people in this reality don’t like lights” schtick to avoid showing anything when doing CGI. It looks cheaper than an average episode of Stargate: SG1.

I’m guessing $87M of that budget went to Will Smith.

And it’s just… boring. It’s tedious beyond belief. Nothing happens, and it takes hours for not to happen. Cops shouting BACK THE FUCK UP at each other for seemingly hours. There’s a very simple MacGuffin plot going on, but it seems to move weirdly slow. And the world building aspects of it all… oy vey. On this Earth, humans, elves and ocs have lived together for millennia, and the societal impact is basically nil. I guess that’s one way of playing it, but it’s just… moronic.

So is that what they were going for here? A fantasy/sci-fi movie for the bro crowd? I just don’t get that either, because it’s just doesn’t work on that level either.

But in that case: Bro! Bro? Bro…

This post is not part of the NFLX2019 blog series.

Comics Cavalcade Day 11

OK, the number of unread comics on the window sill has definitely decreased, so this blog series is working! And, as usual, I’ll just be reading comics and write some uninformed notes, because there’s just no time for reviews.

Incomplete Works by Dylan Horrocks (Victoria University Press)

This is a collection of short pieces from various anthologies and stuff. I think I’ve read most of these before, but it’s fun to follow Horrocks’ evolution: It’s presented chronologically, which I think is nice.

I had forgotten that Horrocks used the “Sam Zabel” name from almost the very start of his career.

It’s a nice read, but many of these pieces are pretty… non-essential. Of the newer stuff, I did like these diary comics.

Worn Tuff Elbow by Marc Bell (No World Books)

Oh, yeah, this was kickstartererd… That’s nice…

Anyway, this is the usual Marc Bell stuff, which means: It’s amazing. There’s something about Bell’s narratives that are absolutely totally engrossing. It’s not dream logic or anything like that, but things seem to make sense on a different plane altogether. This time out, it all revolves around bologna, and it’s perfect.

A huge attraction here is the artwork, too. It’s just so… right.

That system does make sense!

Read Write Right Reed by Hugh Frost (Landfill Editions?)

I’m guessing this is Landfill, because it has that feel… and didn’t I order a bunch of stuff from them?

This is basically a collection of er paintings and stuff.

Laura Dean Kepps Breaking Up With Me by Mariko Tamaki and Rosemary Valero-O’Connell (First Second)

Oh, deer: Another First Second book. Well, even though virtually everything they publish suck, there’s also This One Summer, which was rather spiffy. But was that due to Mariko Tamaki or Jillian Tamaki?

Based on this book, it was the latter. Without that beautiful artwork, this is a pretty perfunctory book. It’s about a really, really shitty girlfriend and how that toxic relationship makes the protagonist into a shitty friend. It goes exactly how you expect, with all the dramatic notes happening right on queue, and it ends exactly how you’d predict.

Which leaves the artwork to take up the slack, and Valero-O’Connell isn’t really up to it. I mean, it’s nice and all, and she does have a real knack for conveying information, emotion and personal ticks through her drawings, but the Japanese/American hybrid style she uses doesn’t really click. And the lack of backgrounds feels more lazy than stylish.

So, sitting here being kinda bored with the entire thing (and I’m totally in the target audience) I just got annoyed with all these crappy production issues, like using a font that has a way huge lower case k, which means that I’m stopping all the time wondering “what is BerKeley? oh it’s just that fucking font”.

As well as other general sloppinesses (that’s a word) like having the cover of the novel on the back, and kvetch kvetch kvetch.

So to sum up: This is going to be on at least a quarter of all Best Of lists this December.

24 Panels (Image)

This is an anthology where the proceeds go to the survivors of the Grenfell Tower fire… and the name of the anthology stems from none of the stories (except the introduction, weirdly enough) has more than 24 panels. So I was expecting that to be a strong structural guide to the pieces, but:

These are just normal anthology pieces: Some have panels, some don’t, and there’s really nothing either formally or thematically linking the pieces.

So we get a hodge-podge of work, but, surprisingly enough for this kind of thing, most of the pieces are pretty good.

It works a whole lot better than I was expecting.

Grote Pyr 1 by Dick Matena (Interpresse)

I found this at a used bookstore, and I was intrigued because I’ve never heard of the author or the series before. It was published in the mid-80s, and Matena is apparently Dutch…

But opening this album now, my initial reaction was WTF? The artwork is so super-cluttered and busy that it makes my eyes swim, and that the character designs are so obviously crabbed from Albert Uderzo (while on acid) didn’t raise my confidence. The colouring doesn’t help, either, but perhaps it’s faded over the years.

I mean… look at those characters: Straight out of Asterix, but with the settings on 11.

Sometimes it does kinda really work, like with that awesome bear.

So does it suck? No, it doesn’t. It’s very lively and quite funny and I would have loved it as a child.

Spanish Fever edited by Santiago García (Fantagraphics)

This is an anthology from 2013 of Spanish comics. In the introduction, the editor lays it on heavily about how Spanish comics are the bees knees these days, so I was all set for a collection of masterpieces.

And… it’s not. They range from totally boring to quite OK, but the emphasis on conventionally narrative works really works against the anthology. It feels so stodgy, and some bits (like this one where the cartoonist lionises himself) is a bit on the embarrassing side.

Hey! Dramatic clouds.

OK, there’s some good stuff in here, like this thing by Ana Galvañ.

Javier Olivares impresses too, with the super-expressive artwork and harrowing storyline.

Things You Carry by Vincent Stall (2d cloud)

Well, this is an odd little book. I kinda like the artwork, but the storyline has something video gameish about it… I think. I don’t quite know why, but it just has that feeling to me.

Tongues #2 by Anders Nilsen

Huh; I had totally forgotten that I hadn’t read this yet. And look at the fancy printing!

This is very much an in-progress kind of book, and I’ve totally forgotten what the first issue was about, but it’s completely riveting anyway. The confusion perhaps makes it even more compelling: It’s creepy, tense and vital.

And so beautifully presented in these oversized pages.

Can’t wait for the next issue, which is apparently going to be published by Fantagraphics and released in a couple of months?

Daredevil vol 1 (!?!) by the people above there (Marvel)

I bought this because somebody wrote somewhere that this was supposed to be pretty entertaining as super-hero comics go… And I guess it is. I mean, it’s standard TV superhero drama stuff, and I wouldn’t have watched it on TV, but the artwork’s pretty nice.

The printing on some of the pages is atrocious, though.

Hm… is this what Maleev’s art looks like? I thought it looked scratchier… Oh! This is by David Mack, which makes more sense. I like the little Bill Sienkiewicz quotations he puts in there, what with the patterned borders and little triangles floating around. It’s fun.

And, uh, and…

Anyway, this is Maleev. It’s nice.

But when he goes for that picture-through-a-xerox look it gets pretty stiff.

But at least it’s better that the people who took over on the last few issues reprinted in this issue.

Dude.

Anyway, this collection is not horrible or anything, but it’s not… like… worth reading.

Les Cinq 2 & 4 by Serge Rosenzweig and Bernard Dufossé (Hjemmet)

This is another pair of albums I picked up at the used bookstore, and which I know nothing about. Or perhaps I’ve just repressed the memory and I did read these once as a child? It’s possible, because they’re not very memorable. Not horrible, not good, just sort of… there. I could see somebody who is ten reading these and finding them entertaining enough.

They’re inspired by the Enid Blyton book series, but set in France.

I think I’ll… re-gift them. (I didn’t make it all the way through the second album.)

OK, perhaps it’s time to call it a day and hope I’ll make it through the remaining comics in the next instalment of this blog series.

NFLX2019 August 30th: Back to School

Back to School. Remy Four, Julien War. 2019. ☆☆☆☆★★

Hey, it’s a French comedy!

As is often the case with Netflix movies, it’s got a classic plot: Two nerds going to a school reunion. These things usually suck, and… it’s not that bad? There’s hi-jinx and mistaken identities and all that kind of stuff. It’s basically jocks v. nerds.

There’s a bunch of scenes that are super-embarrassing, but many don’t quite go the way you expect, which is nice.

It’s a bit creepy, though, with one of the protagonists using the mistaken identity to apparently try to have sex with an old crush. But that sub-plot is exploded pretty quickly to it doesn’t get too “eek”, I guess.

The final twist (which I think you have to be brain-dead not to see coming) will probably piss some people off.

This post is part of the NFLX2019 blog series.

NFLX2019 August 29th: Falling Inn Love

Falling Inn Love. Roger Kumble. 2019. ☆☆☆☆★★

This is a likeable easy-on-the-eyes romantic comedy thing.

It’s a classic set-up: Stranger arrives in little town; lots of comedy hi-jinx fixing up an old house and romance ensues.

It’s got a good, relaxed vibe going on: It’s very secure in its genre conventions, but that doesn’t get in the way of adding laugh-out-loud funny bits.

Some of the scenes are way tired (like the scene with the douchy guy in the office), but most are pretty fresh (like when she breaks up with the boyf).

For its type of movie, it’s hard to fault it. I mean, this isn’t a cinematic masterpiece or anything, but it’s just about pitch perfect for what it is. Very impressive. It reminds me of oldee tymee romantic comedies. It’s even got a musical number! (Sort of.)

I also love that some people absolutely loathe this movie. There’s reams of those! So funny.

(The last half hour or so isn’t as strong as the first hour, and that’s unfortunately typical for the genre, too: The third act has to have All The Drama.)

This post is part of the NFLX2019 blog series.

Comics Cavalcade Day 10

The to the finish continues, and as usual, no reviews, just reading.

Marble Cake by Scott Jason Smith (Avery Hills)

This is such a fresh comic. It’s told via an ensemble cast that more or less all interact with one another kinda randomly, but it all builds up and connects. It’s such a well-observed piece: Everything feels true and real, and none of the characters are artists, filmmakers or writers. That’s a rarity these days!

Hey, I’ve wondered that myself. Uncanny.

I guess you can see the lineage to British cinema, but it’s very far from being a drawn movie: It uses the comics medium perfectly, with formal touches like different panel shapes in different sections of the book (of which I’m not showing any, because I don’t want to give anything away).

It’s brilliant: It’s an effortless, gripping read. Best comic of the year for me, I think.

Simon & Louise by Mac de Radiguès (Conundrum)

This book is no great surprise — de Radiguès is in his element here. But it’s just such a sweet, perfect little book, with bright summery colours. There’s so many nice little touches, like the recurring punk guardian angel.

I guess there could be some elements some would find trite… I mean, there’s many scenes here that are kinda cliché. But so sweet. So cute.

Fearless #1 (Marvel)

By all those people above there.

I don’t know why I bought this… Hm… was it because it involves Kelly Thompson? She’s fun.

Unfortunately, she only writes a very short itsy bitsy thing at the end of this anthology.

The other two (longer) bits aren’t bad, though. And Millie the Model is back.

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #47 by Ryan North and Derek Charm (Marvel)

That crossover nonsense over with, we’re now back to the usual nonsense (which is a lot better). It’s another very amusing issue, and it looks like they’re gearing up for a grand conclusion to the series in issue fifty.

Errr. ASCII is a subset of UTF-8, so that’s one variant she didn’t try. What did she try? UTF-16!? HA HA HA HA.

Fence by those people on the cover up there (Boom Box)

The thing here is to try to emulate a Japanese comic to the max, I guess? It’s not entirely successful — the storytelling is rather choppy.

And there are sections in here that are really, really boring. But it’s not all bad.

Yoko Tsuno vol 20 by Roger Leloup (Carlsen)

Yesterday I carted a case of duplicates to a used bookstore and rooted through their comics and got (among other things) this 90s album in return. Yoko Tsuno is an odd series: It never seemed to become really popular, but it was always kinda there in the 80s, managing to rack up a substantial number of translated albums in the Scandinavian countries. I lost interest, because it’s… Everything is 100% intense all the time; everything is drama. It’s exhausting to read.

The first albums weren’t sci-fi, either, but this one is super sci-fi. It’s so sci that I can’t really make out what the fi is all about; it’s confusing. It’s something about transfers of souls, and transfers of memories, and transfers or self, and those aren’t the same thing, and everything is… confusing.

But it was nice to dip back into this. I like Leloup’s artwork; it’s very classic clear line, but with a certain dynamism. The figures are rather stiff, though, but that’s part of the style.

Hm… it just occurred to me that, unusually enough for a Frenchey adventure comic, this perhaps fails the reverse Bechdel test. That is, there are a couple of male characters in this album, but their scenes are brief and they (I think) never talk to each other. Most of the significant characters are women, and the conversations (and fights) are between them.

Yakari vol 14 by Derib + Job (Carlsen)

This is another find from the used book store. Yakari is a series for small children, charmingly drawn by Derib. I remember reading these as a child… although not this album, which is from long after I stopped reading them.

It’s likeable.

Benoît Brisefer vol 4 by Peyo, Gos and Walthery (Semic)

This was a children’s series I did not read as a child — I think they started translating it in the mid-80s? Which was too late for me.

I don’t know my Peyo history, really, but I think Benoît Brisefer was Peyo’s “other” series, not, er, quite as famous as his Smurf series.

The concept is very simple: the title character is a little boy who’s incredibly strong. Except when he gets a cold, and he loses all his strength. So the plots in the albums I’ve seen invariably involve him foiling some villain through his super strength, then he gets a cold and is kidnapped, and remains so until the cold goes away and he captures the villain for sure, this time. The end.

You can kinda see why this wasn’t as big a deal as, well, a lot of other Frenchey children’s series of the 60s.

But the drawings are classic BD and there’s jokes here and there that aren’t that bad.

Action packed.

Les 7 Vies de l’Épervier vol 4 by P. Cothias and A. Juillard (Carlsen)

This is a series I’m completely unfamiliar with, I think. It’s from the mid-80s, which wasn’t a good period for frenchey comics. If I understand things correctly, it was difficult to get anything published that wasn’t sci-fi, porn or sci-fi porn.

This is slightly on the porny side, but is kinda interesting. It’s about the olden days of witch finders and the power struggle between the church and the king and stuff. It’s got a lot of texture, both in the writing and the artwork. And the colour palette is pretty unique.

I think I’m going to be on the lookout for the other volumes in this series.

Syncopated: An anthology of nonfiction picto-essays edited by Brendan Burford (Villard)

I picked this up from the used bookstore, too, but reading the introduction I was getting bad vibes. I mean, the title of the book is harrowing enough: “picto-essays”? But then “comics” in sneer quotes?

This is gonna suck! Badly!

But then it turns out that at least half of the pieces in here are good. The Nick Bertozzi story about how hay bailing works is fascinating.

The definition of “essay” here is very wide. Tricia van den Bergh does a portfolio of drawings from a park, and very lovely drawings they are.

About one third of the pieces aren’t essays in any way, I’d say, but are just normal (auto-)biographical comics, like this one by Sarah Glidden.

Wow! Paul Karasik!

Anyway, this anthology is a bit hit and miss, but there’s some really good stuff in here. Nice random find.

And now… it’s late. Do you know where your cat is?

Comics Cavalcade Day 9

OK, I got more comics, but this week I’m going to finish the Window Sill Of Comics for sure for sure and finally bring this blog series to an end.

I HOPE.

As usual, just reading, no reviews, because there’s just no time.

Kid Gloves by Lucy Knisley (First Second)

I have rather sworn off First Second because their books suck, but I rather like Lucy Knisley, so I thought I’d give this book a go despite the publisher.

My problem with this book is that Knisley spends so much time on things that even I know. She is, for instance, blindsided by how common miscarriages are, and I thought absolutely everybody knew that pregnancies routinely end spontaneously. Perhaps it’s something that’s kept as a closely guarded secret in the US or something?

And she spends pages and pages on dispelling myths that are completely moronic, which makes for a deathly boring reading experience.

And when she’s not explaining things that you’d hope nobody would have to have explained to them, she resorts to these trite metaphors.

That said, the final part of the book is harrowing and exhausting and had me crying a bit, so Knisley still has it, but I don’t know what she was thinking when she made the first four fifths of this book.

Perhaps it’s just the normal First Second editorial influence.

BTTM FDRS by Ezra Claytan Daniels and Ben Passmore (Fantagraphics)

I don’t know what I expected this book to be. Passmore has mostly done kinda earnest real life comics before, I think?

This isn’t that: It’s a horror movie in papery form.

There’s scant use of the comics medium here, and I wonder whether the author originally wrote this as a movie script?

In any case, despite my misgivings reading this, it turns out to be chillingly effective; weird colouring and all. As befits a classic horror movie, it’s claustrophobic and intense, and while there’s nothing really new here, it’s one of those very rare comic books that is actually scary.

This Woman’s Work by Julie Delporte (Drawn & Quarterly)

I really enjoyed Delporte’s previous book, Everywhere Antennas, and this looks even lovelier.

Full of collages and drawings and paintings; very contemplative. I definitely see what she’s going for with the flowing structure and circling back on the same issues in a spiral, but I don’t think this book was as successful as the previous one.

It’s something about those footnotes that makes the reading kinda choppy?

The ending is heart-stopping, though.

When I Arrived at the Castle by Emily Carroll (Koyama)

This is published in a format that’s quite unpopular now: The album-ish one with soft colours. I really wonder why they did that: The lettering is so big and there’s so little per page that I’m wondering whether Carroll made this for a smaller format originally.

But I guess these bloody images have a certain impact on the larger pages.

I found it hard to get into this.

Invaders by Lots of People (Marvel)

Chips Zdarsky’s Marvel career trajectory has been pretty typical: His first few comics were fun and were overflowing with ideas.

And now he’s doing stuff like this.

I think it’s time for me to stop buying his comics.

House/Powers of X #1-2 by A Bunch Of People (Marvel)

Yeah yeah, OK. I was an X-Men fan as a child, and I’ve sorta-kinda dipped into the stream of X-Men effluvia the last few years. I thought they had something interesting going like four (?) years ago, but whenever I’ve tried reading it since then, it’s been “eh? eh? what? does this make sense? why is this so boring?”

So this is the new X-Men start (I think?), and as usual I have no idea whether they’re just dropping us into all new concepts or whether this had all been set up earlier, and I’m just not aware. Apparently all previously dead mutants are now alive again? OK, I can roll with that.

Ooo! So portentous!

These comics are more entertaining than what X-Men comics I’ve read over the last couple of years, but the storytelling is a bit clunky in parts. Like here where we learn that Moira is “reincarnated”, but it turns out that her mutant power is really Groundhog Day. SO CONFUSE!

It’s got sci-fi scale, which is refreshing.

I have no idea whether this is all going to turn out to be an imaginary tale or something. I think we just learned that all previous incoherent X-Men storylines were just MacTaggart’s Groundhog Days, but perhaps that’s also just an imaginary tale. You never know, and I don’t particularly care.

Tongues #2 process zine by Anders Nilsen

Oh, yeah, this was included with the issue of Tongues. It was hidden between some other stuff on the window sill.

It’s pretty cool.

Out of Hollow Water by Anna Bongiovanni (2d cloud)

This is an unnerving little booklet.

Bongiovanni’s smudgy pencils somehow makes sense in this tale that somehow seems to make sense on some deeper level, although I’m not quite sure what it’s about. It’s scary and affecting.

Aand… with that I think this day is over. More comics tomorrow! Only three-ish more days to go?