Fantastic Four: Solve Everything

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.

Renaissance News Vol. 2 Issue 6

Greetings to all and welcome to the weekly round-up of the arcane. The home office is quiet and the staff is under orders not to disturb as I sift through reports (no not really, but it makes this sound like a real enterprise, doesn’t it?).

  • You can hear X-fans everywhere begin to clench in prep as Bryan Singer has dropped off X-Men First Class as director and moved to producer. Singer, you’re doing it to us again. Damn you, Singer!
  • Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood will open this year’s Cannes Film Festival.
  • This week’s installment of unnecessary remakes examines Look Who’s Talking and Private Benjamin, both of which are getting recycled. Did anyone really love them the first time around?
  • Apparently not happy with the choices I laid out for him last week, Will Smith is now examining signing on for not one, but two sequels to Independence Day (possible title: Really Freaking Independent) that could begin filming as soon as next summer.
  • Warner Brothers is examining another go at making a non-sucky Godzilla film with an eye on summer 2012.
  • Disappointing correction to report. Filming on The Hobbit has no start date, New Line explains, countering a report by Ian McKellan that filming would start in June.
  • The Oscars are moving back to February, the 27th to be specific.
  • Robert Downey Jr. plans on doing a third Iron Man, he’s just unsure if it will be before or after The Avengers movie (probably after).
  • Brad Bird (The Incredibles) is the leading contender to direct Mission Impossible IV.
  • Angela Bassett has joined the cast of Green Lantern as Amanda Waller, the spy czar who goes on to found the Suicide Squad. Waller’s character may reoccur in other DC movies.
  • Veteran actor Robert Culp, best known for starring opposite Bill Cosby in I Spy, has passed away at the age of 79.
  • Disney will be making a post-modern movie about Sleeping Beauty villainess, Maleficent. Angelina Joile is rumored to star.
  • FOX has canceled 24 after eight seasons. The drama will end this year and have a cinematic send off next year.
  • ABC has renewed Castle for its third season.
  • AMC has greenlit a series based on the awesome zombie comic The Walking Dead. The series will be scripted by Shawshank Redemption director, Frank Darabont.
  • Box Office
    1. How to Train Your Dragon $43.3 million
    2. Alice in Wonderland $17.3 million
    3. Hot Tub Time Machine $13.6 million
    4. The Bounty Hunter $12.4 million
    5. Diary of a Wimpy Kid $10 million
  • Rolling Stone Album Chart
    1. “My World’s 2.0” by Justin Bieber
    2. “Still Standing” by Monica
    3. “NOW! 33” by Various Artists
    4. “Need You Know” by Lady Antebellum
    5. “My World” by Justin Bieber
  • Best Selling Video Games
    1. God of War 3, PS3
    2. Pokemon Heart Gold, DS
    3. Yakuza 4, PS3
    4. Battlefield: Bad Company 2, XBOX 360
    5. Final Fantasy XIII, PS3
  • New York Times Hardcover Fiction Bestsellers
    1. The Help by Kathryn Stockett
    2. House Rules by Jodi Picoult
    3. The Silent Sea by Clive Cussler
    4. Think Twice by Lisa Scottoline
    5. Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahme-Smith

The Men Who Stare At Goats

I have to admit, I have a thing for a good title. I am, after all, the man who saw the title Snakes on a Plane and thought there was a movie in that (there was not). Hot Tub Time Machine is opening this weekend. Will I see it primarily because I admire the title? Yes I will do that. So it really was not a question of whether I would see The Men Who Stare at Goats or not. The question is really why has it taken this long?

The answer would be because I read some of the nastiest reviews I’ve ever seen in my life when this movie came out. You would have thought this movie had been dipped in the blood of newborns from some of the vitriol directed towards it. So I popped it in the DVD player yesterday curious to see how a movie with three Oscar winning actors manages to be “the worst movie ever made”. The brief report is that it does not for the first 2/3….and then it comes close for the back third.

Goats is about a secret army group called the New Earth Army. The batalion, formed by Jeff Bridges (who spends most of the movie playing a much less interesting version of The Dude) is engaged in non-violent forms of peace promotion. They are psychic spies. Jedi warriors. They also do a tremendous amount of acid. George Clooney is the most promising young Jedi in Bridges squad and he tells his story via flashbacks to a reporter (Ewan McGregor) as they tromp around Iraq during the invasion possibly or possibly not on a secret mission.

For most of the movie, Goats is just a film that can’t decide what it wants to be. It flirts with satire and full-blown comedy but tries to be serious in moments that just don’t work. If you’re going to have psychic spies that can stop the heartbeat of a goat with their mind powers (title explanation) then you really should just hug your crazy and go with that. The movie does at time and has some laughs, but then you get to the last 30 minutes and things just get painful.

Bridges, Clooney, and McGregor are all ok. They’re all clearly phoning it in, but they’re not overtly awful. Kevin Spacey; however, is. I don’t know what he’s doing in this movie, and I don’t know that he knew either, but he seemed very upset that he was. His palpable awfulness infects the rest of the movie. The last third descends into self-important nonsense that tries to be serious and poignant. I’m not looking for poignancy from a film that’s best moment is probably a soldier questioning the practical application of scrotal bodybuilding.

Renaissance News Vol. 2 Issue 5

Have you been experiencing fatigue and headaches? Does it seem oddly bright to you at evening? Join my campaign against the evil Time Changer Man and regain our hour of stolen sweet darkness! I will not rest….really, I won’t, so I have all kinds of time to whip the staff here into an unruly mob in chase of TCM. Oh I’m coming for you, clockman. In the meantime, let’s see what bits of tid have washed upon our shores this week.

  • We have a Captain! After an exhaustive casting search, Chris Evans (Fantastic Four) has signed a 9 film deal to star as Captain America. The first film in the contract will be The First Avenger: Captain America, which is slated for summer 2012. This was the last great never-cast super hero role so there’s no comparisons to be made, but I definitely think Evans can pull it off. Marvel has a great casting record since taking control of their film properties, and this looks like a great next step towards the geeky dream of an all-star Avengers film.
  • Across the street at DC, we’re finally going to start getting more than Batman and Superman movies. After a decade of using the Harry Potter films as their tentpole releases, the strategy will be to make DC super hero fare the new staples of summer and holiday release schedules. This will begin in 2011 with Green Lantern and continue into 2012 with, reportedly, Flash and Batman 3.
  • Because everything (including real life) is in 3D, Nintendo is releasing a 3D successor to the DS, called 3DS (money was spent on developing that name) in March 2011.
  • Will Smith’s next project will either be Men in Black 3 or the fantastical drama The City That Sailed.
  • DVD street date time!
    ER: The Complete Thirteenth Season July 6th
    Rhoda: The Complete Third Season July 6th
  • In this week’s “enormous waste of talent” news, Jamie Foxx is writing a big screen version of Laverne & Shirley for Jennifer Garner and Jessica Biel. Why?
  • If I seem like I’m getting annoyed at reporting 3D news, it’s because I am. This is not new. This will not last. This does not enhance EVERY FILM EVER MADE. Grrr. Sigh, Fox will be releasing Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader and Gulliver’s Travels this holiday season in ….wait for it….3D.
  • Unnecessary fourth films time! Scream 4 and Spy Kids 4 will both be coming in 2011 and, yes, they’ll be in 3D.
  • John Malkovich and Frances McDormand have signed on for Transformers 3: Further Bastardization of My Childhood.
  • Next year’s Golden Globes will take place on January 16th and will air on NBC.
  • Geoffery Rush will return as Captain Barbarossa in Pirates of Caribbean 4: On Stranger Tides.
  • Director Bryan Singer will return to the X-Men franchise for X-Men: First Class which serves as a prequel to the first three movies. He’s also interested in directing X-Men 4 and Wolverine 2.
  • Many of you were terribly upset by the glaring lack of Smurfs casting news in last week’s edition. For those sick people….Hank Azaria IS Gargamel. Suck on that.
  • Director Louis Leterrier (Incredible Hulk) is on the short list for the Avengers movie and revealed in an interview that his upcoming Clash of the Titans was written as the first part of a trilogy (should the first do well at the box office).
  • Tim Burton is working on a 3D animated version of The Addams Family.
  • Sony Pictures is developing a CGI animated film for Popeye.
  • Box Office
    1. Alice in Wonderland $34.5 million (up to $265 million domestic total)
    2. Diary of a Wimpy Kid $21.8 million
    3. Bounty Hunter $21 million
    4. Repo Men $6.2 million
    5. She’s Out of My League $6 million
  • Rolling Stone Album Chart
    1. “Need You Now” by Lady Antebellum
    2. “Here I Am” by Marvin Sapp
    3. “Battle of the Sexes” by Ludacris
    4. “The Edge” by Various Artists
    5. “The Fame” by Lady Gaga
  • Best Selling Video Games
    1. Final Fantasy XIII, PS3
    2. Final Fantasy XIII, XBOX 360
    3. Battlefield: Bad Company 2, XBOX 360
    4. Battlefield: Bad Company 2, PS3
    5. Wii Sports, Wii
  • New York Times Hardcover Fiction Bestsellers
    1. House Rules by Jodi Picoult
    2. The Help by Kathryn Stockett
    3. The Silent Sea by Clive Cussler
    4. Star Wars: Backlash by Aaron Allston
    5. Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame Smith


Planetary combined writer Warren Ellis and artist John Cassaday on a project that exhibited both their amazing ability to do mind popping science fiction and their unfortunate tendency to become extraordinarily distracted. Despite the latter, to which we’ll return, Planetary is a landmark series and now that it’s (FINALLY) done, I went back and read it from the beginning recently.

Planetary operates from the concept that the world is a strange place and it needs to be kept that way. The Planetary Foundation works to make that a consistent reality under the leadership of the enigmatic and pigmentally-challenged Elijah Snow. The series works best as a series of short stories that work together to build this strange world. For example one story focuses on a disaster that occurs when a private foundation creates a such a completely believable fictional reality that it becomes possible to send a ship full of fictionauts into that reality and extract a character. Planetary has tons of mindbending, huge science fiction concepts like this that are tremendous amounts of fun to read. John Cassaday is my favorite artist in comics and Planetary showcases his ability to visualize difficult concepts in such detail that you can spend 20 minutes looking at one of his pages drinking in all the nuance.

Most of, if not all, of Planetary’s problem stem from the fact that this is a 27 issue series. Most comics come out monthly so, in theory, Planetary should have taken a hair under two years to complete. It took ten. That’s ten years. Sometimes several years would pass inbetween issues, which is not an unheard of problem for Warren Ellis books. His amazing Fell at Image had a great first trade come out that collected the first eight issues and since then one issue has come out. That was April 2008. One issue in two years. This sort of delay can lead to some narrative lapses that become apparent even when reading the whole series in one sitting. Lord alone knows how anyone could be expected to follow Planetary’s larger, overarching plotlines. Those plots are all interesting, don’t get me wrong. They center around the idea that children born on January 1, 1900-so called “century children”- were imbued with immortality, special gifts, and a purpose. Planetary is really the story of Elijah Snow figuring out what his purpose is as the second century of his life begins. That story gets pretty trampled upon and buried during the middle of Planetary’s run. I don’t know if it was Ellis’ intention to originally have this be a much longer series, but there’s a whole lot of stuff going on and not a lot of resolution happening until the final arc of the series. That resolution is satisfying, the imagination of the book is always stunning, and Cassady’s art is flawless throughout, but when you read Planetary you can’t help but wonder what it could have been if it had just been a little bit more.

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