There are some inherent problems in adapting a children’s book that contains 338 words into a 90 minute movie. Maurice Sendak’s book is a masterpiece and somehow controversial because it dares to examine the fact that little boys are angry little bundles of fury wrapped up in confusion. The book does a masterful job of exploring that and using the monsters as embodiments of the various pieces of Max’s psyche. It’s not that Spike Jonze’s movie is unfaithful to this concept or the book. It’s just that it turns out that a little bit of Max goes a long long way because this movie could have been called Island of the Little Shits.
Before Max throws his third fit in under ten minutes and bites his mom before running off to the island of the monsters, the movie is unbearable. Everyone is hateful and rather than sympathizing with him, you just want to smack him. Once he makes it to the island and meets the monsters, the movie reaches its high point. From his first meeting with them (and they look simply amazing, like an illustration from the book come alive), through the iconic wild rumpus, and everyone collapsing in a heap to sleep, the movie captures the wonder of the book. After that period though it devolves into an in-depth examination of the monsters and their relationships with each other and it’s just unnecessary and uninteresting.
The problem with the film isn’t that the acting is poor or it doesn’t look fantastic. The problem is that this is a 338 word book that was never meant to be anything more than that.
For 10 years now, Ultimate Spider-Man has been the most consistently good superhero comic on the stands. Despite the rest of the Ultimate universe tanking, the flagship book is still going strong 140 issues into the run. Volume 2’s first trade is in stores, and if you’re looking to hop on, this is the perfect point. Peter Parker’s life is in an uncommonly good place. He has a close circle of friends that know he’s Spider-Man including his Aunt May. New York loves him in the wake of a disaster. He’s dating Gwen Stacey, much to the dismay of exes MJ and Kitty Pryde. Things are going pretty great….so clearly that won’t last. Hitting NYC is Ultimate Mysterio who makes an impact by killing one of Spidey’s oldest foes and announcing himself as a force to be reckoned with, and Peter’s house is turning into a boarding house for teen superheroes. Brian Michael Bendis has been the biggest writer at Marvel for years, but his work on USM is the run for which he’ll be remembered. He’s exceptional at dialogue, so much so that the best moments of this series have been entire issues of people sitting around and talking. The book has always had good-to-great art, but David Lafuente’s style is the perfect match for the tone of this book. You can’t go wrong with any collection of USM and this is no different. One of the best series in comic history gets even better.
I seriously considered posting something completely outrageous and false (DAVE HAS EYE RICKETS!) but given that you good people aren’t really the most interactive and participatory commentators (and, yes, I’m trying to bait you all to get comments), I decided to forgo the obligatory April Fool’s Internet hoax. Probably the real reason I have no ambition to complete a grand post has something to do with the gelatinizing of my mind during a 3 hour meeting. So it’s time for what I’m sure will be the first in a series of mind games I play to keep myself sane during meetings. Today it’s “Buzz Word Counting”! If you’re not tasked with keeping minutes in a meeting, this is a good one as it actually forces you to pay attention to at least some of the words being spoken. Pick three random management words. “Paradigm” is a popular one. I will also accept “dynamic” or “strategic”. Really any three overused buzz words will do. You know what ones are abused at your office. Keep a tally of how many times each is said and the winner should be inserted randomly into every email you send for the next week. Little things keep us sane (or functionally mad), folks.
FX has been the home of one of my favorite dramas (Damages) for the last three seasons, but there’s a new reason to tune in: Justified. The series is essentially a modern day western. Created from a short story by Elmore Leonard, Justified follows US Marshal Raylan Givens as he returns to his small town roots in rural Kentucky (yes that’s an oxymoron). Givens, played brilliantly by Timothy Olyphant, is a lawman with a record of justified shootings, the latest of which is public enough to have him demoted from his beat in Miami back to his home in Kentucky. The pilot follows Givens as he squares off against a former friend who’s turned into a white supremacist with a tendency towards explosives. I downloaded the pilot off of iTunes because it was free and was riveted from the opening scene. Olyphant does a fantastic job of portraying a deeply complex and angry man. This is the kind of character that only comes to TV once in a long while, and we’re only three episodes in, but Justified shows the promise of being TV’s “next great drama”. Hop on board at the beginning.
Fantastic Four is a title I end up reading rarely when a writer I like gets the job. I don’t have a particular attachment to any of the characters, but as Marvel’s first title it gets some of the best writers. The book works best when it’s a science/exploration/family drama and less so when it focuses on the super heroing. To that end, Jonathan Hickman is the perfect writer for this title. Anyone who has read his Image work (Red Mass for Mars, Transhuman, Pax Romana, Nightly News…GET THEM NOW!) knows Hickman is a talented scifi writer with big ideas. Dale Eaglesham has been one of my favorite pencilers for years, but his work in this first arc of Hickman’s run is spotty and his decision to draw Reed as buff is just kind of baffling. Hickman introduces The Council of Reeds, composed of Reed Richards from alternate universes who’s goal is to “Solve Everything”, gets the obligatory Galactus appearance out of the way, and focuses on the FF children-Val and Franklin-with the last two issues of the collection. Hickman lays groundwork for what I hope will be a long run on the title. Hopefully Eaglesham will settle into his usual form as he’s on the book longer. For now, a good start, but not as spectacular as I’ve come to expect from the talent involved.