Guardians of the Galaxy

I only went to see Guardians of the Galaxy tonight because KC and a friend wanted to go, and I figured it was now or never — wait too long to see a big picture (which means longer than opening weekend these days), and too much will be spoiled. (No spoilers here.)

I’m really glad I went. Although I wasn’t interested in the characters or premise going in, I enjoyed the movie a lot, and I had a good time. Lots of action, as expected (not always easy to follow the details in 3-D). There was also a lot of humor, which is always a plus, and I was pleasantly surprised at how much I liked the raccoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper), which I expected to find tiresome. Not so, because they gave him some useful (and incredibly plot-convenient) skills.

Guardians of the Galaxy

You’ve probably heard already — or guessed — about the plot, which isn’t the point. A gang of misfits, including the Earth-born Peter Quill, who calls himself Starlord, team up to stop a bad guy, Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace), from causing planet-wide destruction. (Why? I’m not sure, actually — apparently, he’s just full of hate.) The Guardians include the green-skinned tough fighter Gamora (Zoe Saldana), the vengeful Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista, not barista), and the walking tree Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel), who is surprisingly helpful (and plot-convenient). I mention that again because you’ve got to be willing to go along with various events that are almost magic because the characters need them to happen to survive. Also, a good amount of the plot is predictable and formulaic because that’s the given structure, and originality is not the point, a fun ride is.

I must praise Chris Pratt (who plays Quill) highly. I think he was a great casting choice, since as a comedian, he can say the most outrageous things about himself with a straight face, which helps put over the bizarre egotism of the character. What do you expect from someone raised by space rednecks? (Their leaders are Michael Rooker and Sean Gunn, whom I remember from Gilmore Girls, but who is also the brother of director/co-writer James Gunn.)

Guardians of the Galaxy Imax poster

Some side notes: The first planet visited, Morag, tickled me, because I was almost named Morag. Instead, it was the name of the first family dog.

In case you were wondering, Stan Lee does make a cameo.

Great soundtrack of 70s pop hits, but that’s explained in-story. And it features on the poster they gave out, shown here held by KC.

I’m not sure the movie passes the Bechdel Test. There are several named female roles, but most of the movie’s characters are guys, and the women are usually alone in a scene. The two that interact most are Gamora and her adopted sister Nebula (Karen Gillan), but whenever they do, they’re yelling at each other over who dad (Thanos) likes best or whether one or both should betray Ronan, whom they were given to. On her own, Gillan is not given much to do, although she gets too many closeups. When the film wants to emphasize something, it usually cuts to her, staring out from under her brow with a cocked head. It’s an overused device.

Best after-credits scene ever! It doesn’t lead into another Marvel movie, as they usually do, but it’s a perfect tie-together of two disparate elements and left the audience howling.

Even with the caveats above, I would see the movie again. That’s the benefit of low expectations — it’s easy to surpass them. I enjoyed the ride, and it felt shorter than its two hours.

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1000 Feelings For Which There Are No Names

I had no idea I’d enjoy 1000 Feelings For Which There Are No Names as much as I did. It’s an inspirational book, a spur for creativity or a way to start conversations or a kind of print magic eightball oracle. It’s a catalog of exactly what it says, a list of emotions but described in such a way that each one evokes a moment of sympathy or understanding.

It’s translated from Mario Giordano’s German by Isabel Fargo Cole, and although there is an illustration credit, there are no pictures as such. Instead, Ray Fenwick hand-letters each feeling differently, so it’s also an amazing catalog of type styles and designs. The best way to understand it is to see a couple of pages:

1000 Feelings for Which There Are No Names pages

I found myself most agreeing with the emotions that don’t reflect particularly well on me, the ones about jealousy or irritation, so I need to spend more time thinking about the more positive ones, particularly those taking joy in small things, such as #821, “The happiness of realizing that you actually have no worries at the moment.”

1000 Feelings For Which There Are No Names is not a book to read, but one to dip into or sample, so as not to overwhelm oneself with new ideas. There’s also an index, where everything is categorized under topics, such as “Christmas feelings” or “Haircut feelings” or “Sibling feelings”. It’s a lovely surprise, a quirky example of imagination on the page. (The publisher provided a review copy.)

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Ant-Man Announces Cast Members With Comic-Con Appearances

Ant-Man poster

Ant-Man promo art (via ew.com)

Like everyone else, I’m unhappy to hear that Edgar Wright (Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, The World’s End) will no longer be directing Marvel’s Ant-Man movie, since I like his unique visual sense. However, I still want to see Paul Rudd (as Scott Lang) and Michael Douglas (Hank Pym) super-heroing together. Particularly after seeing footage of them interacting at last weekend’s San Diego Comic-Con, as shown here:

Both appeared at the con for the first time to promote the upcoming film, and they looked happy to be there, as shown in these clips. Maybe they’re just great actors. They were accompanied by Evangeline Lilly (who will be playing Hank’s daughter Hope), Corey Stoll (Darren Cross, Yellowjacket, the villain), and director Peyton Reed, showing off his geek credentials and talking about how this was his 20th year going to the con. The movie is due out July 17, 2015.

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Why DRM-Free Comics Matter

Matthew Bogart has posted a great summary of why it’s a good thing that ComiXology added DRM-free functionality. He called it “ComiXology isn’t going anywhere yet DRM free downloads are great anyway”, and it’s posted at Medium.

He sets up two categories. The first, “ComiXology doesn’t have to go out of business for your comics to go away”, talks about why titles become unavailable, either through publisher or distributor choices, or because someone’s using an unpopular technology. I didn’t realize, for example, that ComiXology 1) had a Windows 8 app and 2) didn’t support it any more.

The second category is more wide-ranging, listing “other reasons to download books besides safeguarding for the future.” These mostly fall in the categories of “organization” and “choice” (of apps, devices, and sharing), both things I support.

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Gun #1 Launches Kickstarted Noir Superhero Series

I was asked to review Gun #1 because the creator, Jack Foster, is currently running an (already backed) Kickstarter to fund production of the intended ongoing series.

Gun #1 cover

It’s not a Kickstarter I’d support, because I think the world has enough noir takes on superhero worlds; I’d rather read indy comics as books, not series, these days, because you never know if they’re going to conclude; it’s his first comic, so there’s no track record to trust; and it’s awfully expensive! $10 for a digital copy of a 28-page issue, and $25 (!) for a print comic book. It will have a premium cover and be signed, but since the same story is supposed to be available through Previews later for $4 an issue, this seems excessive.

Darn it, though, if the comic didn’t keep my attention. Trevor Maxwell is Mr. Twist, a villain who can make people dizzy. At a henchmen anonymous-type meeting, he chats up Olive Armstrong, who has limited super-strength, and Agent Orange, a demented chemical creator. They find an unconscious, wounded “cape” and decide to sell her off to the highest-bidding supervillain.

In spite of them all being reprehensible, I found myself rooting for them, particularly once things go wrong (who would have guessed?) and they’re on the run. The art’s done in a style that’s a good choice for a story focusing on the seamy side of underground life, with tones of grey, green, and tan making everything seem murky… yet staying readable. It feels properly noir, with no one doing the admirable thing.

You can see several preview pages at the comic’s website. Gun #1 is planned to be out in October. I believe it’s the first part of a three-issue story arc.

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Meredith Finch Talks Wonder Woman

DC Entertainment has posted a short interview clip with Meredith Finch, wife of David and new writer of Wonder Woman.

Meredith feels like “the luckiest girl in the world” because she’s “getting to live out every little girl’s childhood fantasy” and essentially be Wonder Woman. She also talks about coming on to the title “as a relatively new writer” and finding it positive to work with an existing cast of characters from Brian Azzarello, although since that story will be wrapped up, she wants to look at her interaction with others, including the Amazons, the Justice League, and her boyfriend Superman. The gods won’t be the main focus. (Thank goodness. Although this comment struck me as somewhat self-contradictory. The strength is that there are all these cast members that she’s not going to use much?)

David wants to draw Wonder Woman because she’s an icon known worldwide and he finds it appealing to draw a character with that much impact.

They’re promising to reintroduce a member of her rogues’ gallery from pre-New 52 and “reinvent this character in a new way”. (Thus illustrating a major problem with reboots — it’s too easy just to redo what came before.)

Meredith’s goal, at the end of the run, is for people to know Wonder Woman so well that they think of her as a best friend. Not a bad aim, although it’s a bit weird, before their run even starts, to talk about after it ends. That’s the modern comic biz, I guess.

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X-Men: Days of Future Past on DVD October, Digital HD September

Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment has announced home video release dates for X-Men: Days of Future Past.

The movie will be available on Blu-ray on October 14, with digital purchases available a month earlier, on September 23. The packages include a Blu-ray with digital copy (shown here, list price $40), a 3-D-included deluxe edition ($50), and a standard DVD ($30). As is sadly becoming typical, there doesn’t seem to be a Blu-ray/DVD combo pack. (I blame those who buy the Blu-ray and sell the DVD as convincing studios that combos are undercutting their sales.)

The special features list looks nicely comprehensive. It includes:

  • Deleted Scenes with Optional Audio Commentary by Bryan Singer
  • Gag Reel
  • Kitchen Sequence
  • Classification: M
  • X-Men: Reunited
  • Double Take: Xavier & Magneto
  • Sentinels: For A Secure Future
  • Gallery: Trask Industries
  • Theatrical Trailers
  • Second Screen App
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Why Won’t Motion Comics Die? Visionbooks Adds Digital Glitter to Valiant Title

Does anyone like motion comics? They’re an unholy hybrid of comics (which are already great at stimulating imagination through visuals) and really limited, cheap-looking animation. The newest player is Visionbooks, which has just announced a partnership with Valiant. The first issue of X-O Manowar (by Robert Venditti and Cary Nord) can now be downloaded for free for your iPad or Android tablet (if you’re willing to create an account with Visionbooks, so they can build their mailing list).

The first storyline (through issue #4) has been “vision-ized”, and after the free taste, issues are $2.99 each. There are other comics you can get for free, although likely nothing you’ve ever heard of. The animation effects themselves are minimal, based on the samples — some sparkles added here, dirt thrown from an explosion there, drifting clouds. They seem to add nothing to the story, so I don’t see the point. Particularly if it involves adding yet another app to my iPad for comics. I’d rather stick with the ones I’ve got, thanks, and the comics I read are interesting enough without digital glitter thrown on top. Here’s a trailer that shows how it works:

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