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May 30, 2006

We were getting a little stir crazy by Monday, so we decided to go see a movie. My partner flatly refuses to see X-Men: The Last Stand, I’ve done my damnedest to spare myself The Da Vinci Code, we figured Over the Hedge would be mobbed with jabbering children, and next to no inducement could get either of us to see Tom Cruise in anything, so that pretty much left Poseidon.

It’s hardly The Poseidon Adventure, so blissfully stupid that it spawned an entire genre of “star”-studded disaster movies, but there are worse ways to spend a couple of hours in a movie theatre. Fondness for the original is actually a bonus in this instance, because I had fun seeing which character types got updated and integrated into the new survivors.

Richard Dreyfuss gets the Red Buttons lonely-hearts gig, though he’s old and gay, so he has no Carol Lynley to offer the prospect of romance if he survives. Mia Maestro partially fulfills Lynley duty, dragged quivering from peril to peril in one of the more credible displays of post-disaster behavior the movie offers. She also has a bit of Shelly Winters to her, what with a promise to a child to uphold as incentive to swim her way to freedom. Kurt Russell and Josh Lucas play mix-and-match with some of the qualities of Gene Hackman and Ernest Borgnine, though both are generically aesthetically superior to their predecessors. (Russell, oddly enough, seems to base his performance more on the dignity-amidst-the-rubble theatrics of Charlton Heston, one of the few members of the Irwin Allen Players not to appear in The Poseidon Adventure. Though I’m grateful no one decided to use Hackman’s performance as a model for their work in Poseidon.)

Another fun diversion the movie offers is noting which more expensive actors the casting director would have liked. Can’t afford Anne Hathaway? Call Emmy Rossum. Is Matthew McConaughey out of your price range? Lucas isn’t! John Leguizamo locked into a one-man show during filming? Freddie Rodruigez is free! In such straits that none of the go-to plucky single moms are available? May I introduce you to Jacinda Barrett, who will remind you of several of them simultaneously? Need that trademark Dillon family magic for your obnoxious douche? Kevin will step in if Matt declines.

Speaking of the obnoxious douche, I was relieved to see that the filmmakers chose to distill all that into the one character, Dillon’s “Lucky Larry.” (Har! Disaster irony!) Usually there are two or three deeply obnoxious bits of cannon fodder, so this almost indicates restraint. Dillon tries his best to wear out his welcome, hamming it up to a level that would make Earthquake’s Richard Chamberlain blush, but circumstances happily intervene.

And Wolfgang Petersen does a perfectly serviceable job of keeping things moving. The ship flip is genuinely chaotic, and there was one scene so claustrophobic that I almost had to avert my eyes. I kind of wish he’d shown more of a sense of humor, though. The early scenes begged to have odds of survival flash across the screen when each character is introduced, though I guess such numbers are fairly intuitive at this point. If the character is white, straight, and won’t sully the gene pool too much if they procreate, you can be fairly sure they’ll make it to the closing credits. (Sorry, just about everyone else!)

But really, if it’s broiling out, and you’re sick of being cooped up at home, and you can catch it during a matinee, go see Poseidon! You won’t regret it as much as some of the alternatives.


Reminders

May 26, 2006

Today is the last day to submit nominations for MangaCast’s new awards program.

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If you’re in Toronto on Saturday, you probably want to attend this event. And if you do attend this event, please pass along my thanks to Bryan Lee O’Malley for the scrapbooking joke in Scott Pilgrim and the Infinite Sadness, which just might be the thing that convinces my partner that there are graphic novels even he’d enjoy. Picking a favorite line from that book is kind of like picking the prettiest flower in the cutting garden, but come on… scrapbooking.

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Time is running out to enter Comic Book Galaxy’s First Second contest, where you could win a complete set of :01’s spring line of graphic novels and other nifty items. Entries must be received by 11:59 PM on Tuesday, May 30th, 2006.

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And you can still win free comics from Dave Carter at Yet Another Comics Blog in his second observation of Free Comic Book Month.


From the stack: VAMPIRE LOVES

May 25, 2006

In a recent piece at The Comics Reporter, Bart Beaty wondered how much Joann Sfar was too much. There’s no denying that he’s prolific, and his body of work is showing up more and more in English translation. But I’m still at the point where having too much Sfar to choose from seems like a lovely dream world.

Sfar’s meandering narratives and sometimes barbed observations about human nature are like spicy comfort food, familiar and satisfying but with a bit of bite. The latest I’ve read, Vampire Loves (:01 Books), transposes classic examples of relationship neuroses onto a vampire and his cronies.

If that suggests the melodrama of Anne Rice or the angst of Joss Whedon, don’t worry. Sfar’s far more interested in the smaller moments of connection and dysfunction than anything self-consciously deep. His protagonist, Ferdinand, just wants to find someone with whom he can share the rest of his death… or maybe not. He’s not sure.

Ambivalence isn’t the easiest thing to make entertaining. It can be irritating when the object of the ambivalence seems trivial or the weight of the character’s confusion seems out of proportion. While Ferdinand worries a lot about his prospects for romance and past mistakes in that arena, Sfar throws plenty of distractions in his path, whether it’s a police investigation, a gang of seafaring mummies, or finding dinner for his cat.

That isn’t to say that the relationship bits aren’t potent and funny. The central object of Ferdinand’s obsession, a tree spirit named Lani, could be dreadfully unsympathetic but miraculously isn’t. She doesn’t really mean to drive Ferdinand crazy; there’s no malice in her fickleness. But she simply doesn’t have the same emotional morality as Ferdinand, or really any of the men she encounters (and inadvertently torments).

Ferdinand bumps into a number of other romantic prospects (a smitten vampire cursed with a flirty older sister, a wispy phantom with a sense of adventure, and even a human who sees more of Europe than she might have expected). Each is appealing in her own way, as are Ferdinand’s male friends. It’s a large cast, featuring some characters who’ve apparently wandered over from Sfar’s (many) other works, but they all bring something unique to the conversation about life, death, love, conscience, and the many other subjects, big and small, that Sfar covers.

I’m very fond of Sfar’s illustrative style, too, though I always have trouble describing it. It’s crude but intricate, creepy but touching, and just right for this subject matter.

Vampire Loves is a charming ramble through emotionally and philosophically rocky territory. It doesn’t travel in a straight line, and it asks many more questions than it attempts to answer, but the company is excellent.


Finally!

May 24, 2006

Ed Chavez at MangaCast is taking the bull by the horns and starting a manga awards program:

“Sure Kodansha, Shogakukan and others can have their own fun dishing out awards left and right but that’s all the way across the ocean. And the Eisners don’t have a manga award. So why not hand one out of our own at the biggest comic and manga con in the US?!”

Chavez is looking for nominations in the following categories:

  • Best Publisher
  • Best Manga Series
  • Best Short
  • Best Global Manga
  • Special Award (for the most important thing that happened to manga in the last year

Deadline for nominations is May 26.

(Found via MangaBlog, but reposted here because Chavez is right. It sounds like a cool idea.)


Pilgrimage

May 23, 2006

Sure, nothing else on offer this week can quite inspire the same level of enthusiasm as the arrival of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Scott Pilgrim and the Infinite Sadness (Oni), but since you’re going to be at the comic shop anyways…

You should probably run over to The Comics Journal’s site and save a copy of Michael Dean’s piece on the Taki Soma/Charles Brownstein incident so you can see what gets redacted from the print version when TCJ #276 arrives tomorrow. (I’m still breathlessly awaiting the results of Buzzscope’s investigation into the incident.)

If you aren’t getting your fill of shinigami in Death Note (Viz – Shonen Jump Advanced), Seven Seas offers Boogiepop Returns: VS Imaginator. The book is part of the publisher’s first foray into licensed manga. I like Seven Seas president Jason DeAngelis’s views on the development:

“The best way for us to stand out from the crowd is to focus on quality over quantity. We plan to give our licensed works the same sort of love of the medium and attention to quality as we have with our original properties.”

Brigid has reviewed Boogiepop Doesn’t Laugh over at MangaBlog, and the series sounds intriguing.

Do I stick with the floppies or wait for the trade? That’s the question with Peter David’s X-Factor (Marvel), which hits issue #7 and offers a reasonable opportunity to change over. I’m enjoying the book so far, and I buy so few floppies these days that it makes for a nice change. If I see a big Civil War logo on the cover, I’m headed for TPB City.


Flipped off

May 22, 2006

There won’t be an installment of Flipped this week. I’ll probably be taking the occasional week off over the summer months to recharge and catch up with other life stuff that’s been falling by the wayside. Those weeds aren’t going to pull themselves out of the ground, y’know.


Bliss

May 19, 2006

Every Friday, the local comics shop sends out an e-mail listing what’s arriving the following Wednesday.

Eeeeeeeee! Scott Pilgrim and the Infinite Sadness! Eeeeeeeee!

For those of you who didn’t make it to the shop on Free Comic Book Day or didn’t land a copy, Newsarama has made Free Scott Pilgrim available here.

For those of you lucky enough to be in the Toronto area on May 27, The Beguiling, Quack Media, and Sleeman’s Brewery are hosting a release party for Scott Pilgrim and Dinosaur Comics at Rocco’s Plum Tomato. Chris Butcher has details at his blog.

I bet they serve garlic bread. I wish I lived in Toronto.