Tag Archives: Entertainment

Review: ROBERT HEINLEIN’S CITIZEN OF THE GALAXY #1 (of 3)

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Here we have the “dean of science fiction,” Robert Heinlein, in the pages of this new comic book limited series, “Citizen of the Galaxy,” from IDW Publishing. Welcome to Jabbul. We follow Thorby, a slave boy who has just arrived off a slave rocket ship. He is put up at auction. No one is impressed, except for, Baslim, a beggar who buys Thorby at a great bargain. This strange planet of Jabbul is not Earth and yet it’s not so different, not when you pause to reflect on our own history. Slavery officially ended in America only 150 years ago, right? That’s what you call less than a blink of an eye in a historical perspective. On Jabbul, slavery is very much alive. And if Thorby stands any chance of carving out a decent life for himself, he had best listen to Baslim.

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Adapted by Rob Lazzzaru and Eric Gignac, this is a great gateway to Heinlein. And the art by Steve Erwin, with colors and inks by Eric Gignac, provides a pleasing narrative all its own. You’ve got what amounts to an interstellar action/adventure coming of age tale. The pacing is nicely handled as we get to know our two main characters in this first act. Baslim, apparently a mere beggar, appears to have the best of intentions for Thorby, his new slave. For one thing, Baslim has a keen sense of where best to reside. Why not squat in what remains of an unfinished lavish amphitheater? And Balim proves to be highly intelligent. Before Thorby realizes it, he’s becoming something of a junior scholar under Baslim’s tutelage. This is all well and good as this tranquil period proves to be only temporary. Before long, Thorby must prepare for the next phase of his life away from Baslim.

“Citizen of the Galaxy #1″ is a 32-page comic book, priced at $3.99, available as of March 4. For more information, visit our friends at IDW Publishing right here.

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Filed under Comics, science fiction, IDW Publishing, Comics Reviews, Sci-Fi, Robert Heinlein

Blu-ray review: BIRDMAN

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There’s the legendary tragic story of 19th century American actor, Edwin Booth. He was so celebrated for his performance as Othello that he kept to that role, made a career out of it, and died with it. If only actor Riggan Thomson (played by Michael Keaton) were so lucky. He’s stuck with being known as the guy behind the Birdman mask in a ridiculously successful superhero movie franchise. “Birdman” is about a lot of things, including Riggan’s journey toward redemption. After so much water under bridge, he feels he’s found something meaningful he can do with all that he’s learned. He’s adapted Raymond Carver for the Broadway stage. It’s an audacious move and one that rankles those who position themselves as arbiters of taste, specifically the New York theater critic, Tabitha Dickinson (played by Lindsay Duncan). The role of Tabitha is relatively small and yet so pivotal. She’s the one who, for better or worse, holds the fate of Riggan’s play and perhaps much more. And she’s the one who should be most eloquent on matters of culture except her delivery is all too pointed. In a great balancing act, “Birdman” arrives at its satire with grace.

“Birdman” is one of those films that hits the nail on the head so well that it leaves you wanting more. The winner of the Academy Award for Best Picture and Best Director for Alejandro González Iñárritu, “Birdman” is an instant classic. Forget about anything you may have heard or read from naysayers giving it a nonsensical label of being “pretentious.” I read that’s what, of all people, shock jock Howard Stern labeled this film as being. That absurd assessment, that twisted view of culture, is the sort of thing that is lampooned in “Birdman.” It’s as if Federico Fellini and Paddy Chayefsky were both alive today and created a masterpiece speaking to where we find ourselves. And where do we find ourselves? We find ourselves with the Howard Sterns of the world making empty gestures each day to countless fans.

We are stuffing ourselves with pop culture that often, some would say always, proves to be as fulfilling as cotton candy. In a film full of great conflict, the resounding head-butt is between high and low culture. Not only do we have snooty critics like Tabitha, but we have snooty thespians out to make life a living hell for Riggan. Enter Mike Shiner (played by Edward Norton). When Riggan finds himself in need of a replacement for a lead role, Mike is fortuitously available. He also happens to be notoriously rude and unstable. He thinks Riggan is incapable of genuinely caring about anything. He laughs at Riggan’s personal story about Raymond Carver. Mike also realizes that he has a very crazy way of showing that he cares.

And to care about something is at the heart of this film. Riggan is given many reasons to care, including his daughter, Sam (played by Emma Stone). There’s a wondrous scene where Sam lashes out at her dad. What’s remarkable is how much is said and conveyed. Sam goes from being triggered into conflict, to full-on rage, to a descent into regret. It’s the sort of sustained moment you would experience in theater. Director Alejandro González Iñárritu pushes the boundaries of what can be conveyed in film, particularly with a series of awe-inspiring continuous shots. It’s theatrical on one level. It’s hyperreal on another. And, you better believe it, it makes you want to care.

“Birdman” is available now on DVD and Blu-ray. The feature with a behind-the-scenes look at the film is priceless. For more information, visit Fox Searchlight right here.

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Filed under Academy Awards, Hollywood, Movie Reviews, movies, Superheroes

Leonard Nimoy, RIP

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We live our lives and we’re not always aware of our achievements, our moments in the sun, that define us. For Leonard Nimoy, he was all too well aware of his legacy. His autobiography famously declared, “I Am Not Spock,” only to be followed years later with, “I Am Spock.” We all knew, all along, that he was Spock. This was not some burden. It simply was what it was. Pretty logical, and befitting a great actor and decent human being.

We will all miss Leonard Nimoy no longer among us. But we have his work to still enjoy. There’s that magical episode of Star Trek, “Amok Time,” written by Theodore Sturgeon, where Spock first says that famous line, along with the first time we see the Vulcan salute, “Live Long and Prosper.” He would wish that for you.

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Filed under Leonard Nimoy, pop culture, Sci-Fi, science fiction, Star Trek, Theodore Sturgeon

Kickstarter: Comic Book People 2: Photographs from the 1990s

 Frank Miller, Neil Gaiman, Bill Sienkiewicz, Bernie Wrightson, and Dave Gibbons at the 1991 San Diego Comic-Con.


Frank Miller, Neil Gaiman, Bill Sienkiewicz, Bernie Wrightson, and Dave Gibbons at the 1991 San Diego Comic-Con.

Jackie Estrada is a Comic-Con legend. She knows everybody. And she’s photographed everybody. Her work has appeared everywhere, including the recent PBS program on superheroes. She’s been a supporter of Comic-Con from the very beginning and administrator of its Eisner Awards since 1990. She has vivid recollections and has documented them in her first book, Comic Book People, which covered the ’70s and ’80s. Now comes Comic Book People 2 which covers the ’90s. It’s a perfect next step in seeing the history and behind-the-scenes fun that is Comic-Con International in San Diego as well as the Chicago Comic-Con, WonderCon, the Small Press Expo, and APE. And you can make this new book a reality by joining in support of the Kickstarter campaign going on now through March 13. Join in your support and visit the campaign right here.

Press release follows:

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Filed under Comic-Con International, Comics, Jackie Estrada

Blu-ray Review: BIG HERO 6

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I’d really been meaning to see “Big Hero 6.” Now is definitely the time with its Oscar win for Best Animated Feature and it just becoming available for home viewing.

Disney certainly knows how to create an uplifting experience and “Big Hero 6″ (Directors: Don Hall and Chris Williams) is a beautiful example of it. I can imagine the Disney team, such as the Big Hero 6 team and character creators, Man of Action, and the screenwriters, Jordan Roberts, Robert L. Baird, and Daniel Gerson, first pondering over what could work for a feature. What are some things that kids are always into? Hmm, well, there’s all things to do with Japan, and robotics, and a curiosity over, uh, puberty. Those three items will always get their attention, for starters. And you find them here.

Producer Roy Conli, from left, Directors Don Hall, and Chris Williams accept the award for best animated feature film for Big Hero 6 at the Oscars on Sunday at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. (John Shearer/Invision/The Associated Press)

Producer Roy Conli, from left, Directors Don Hall, and Chris Williams accept the award for best animated feature film for Big Hero 6 at the Oscars on Sunday at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. (John Shearer/Invision/The Associated Press)

From the previews I’d seen, I wondered if this was going to be a fish-out-of-water comedy. You know, this Michelin Man robot is all blobby and out of his element, right? There’s some of that. Plenty of that, who am I kidding! But much more. Essentially, what you’ve got here is quite a compelling story about mind over matter.

The Michelin Man, a long lost relative to Baymax?

The Michelin Man, a long lost relative to Baymax?

Meet Baymax (voiced by Scott Adsit). He may resemble our friend, the Michelin Man, but he’s a whole other deal. Baymax is at the heart of this story. He is a robot that was built to help. Basically, he’s a walking and talking medical dispensary and doctor. He knows what he’s about. That’s more than can be said, at least for a while, about Hiro Hamada (voiced by Ryan Potter). Hiro is a 13-year-old genius, especially when it comes to robotics. However, Hiro will need some time before he realizes what to do with his skills. Baymax was built by Hiro’s older brother, Tadashi (voiced by Daniel Henney). Push comes to shove, and Hiro will need to rise to the occasion, with the help of Baymax. Do you see conflict on the horizon? Yes, plenty. There’s plenty of action and there’s plenty of soul-searching to keep you glued to your seat.

It won’t be spoiler to let you know that “Big Hero 6″ refers to a six-member superhero team. With all the superheroes flying around, this movie proves there’s always room for more. After viewing it, you’ll welcome, wait for it…the sequel! Yes, I think we have us a sequel up ahead and probably more than one.

The original Big Hero 6 comic book series from Marvel Comics

The original Big Hero 6 comic book series from Marvel Comics

Home viewing is now available. Of course, the bonus features are very cool and include a behind-the-scenes look at how Big Hero 6 made the transition from a Marvel Comics comic book series to the big screen. For more details, including a free game, Baymax Sky Patrol, visit our friends at Disney right here.

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Filed under animation, Disney, Movie Reviews

Review: TALES OF LYLA #1 & #2, published by 10 Forward Productions

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Van is just a journeyman wizard. And Pendle is a sorceress. The two of them have paired up and their prospects seem favorable, once they solve a most disturbing case of missing animals. It’s easy to get immersed into the world of fantasy conjured up by Amit Tishler, the creator of “Tales of Lyla.” With co-writer S. Frivolus, he has brought to life a mashup of Adventure Time, Dungeons and Dragons, and the Brothers Grimm. The artwork by Luke Ellison, with colors by Kristen Roberston, is lively and whimsical. It’s a winning combination of fanciful and grotesque.

What about those missing animals? To best understand this curious crisis, our story splits its time between the present and the events of one year prior. By going back one year, we get answers to some questions. And we also get questions that may have answers back in the present. Through this back and forth, we get a richer story with plenty of intrigue. We learn that Pendle is not so innocent as she is in too deep regarding the cause to all the animal disturbance. And we learn that Van is not quite as wimpy as he might seem.

With two issues in, Tales of Lyla shows itself to be a fun read with a keen sense of humor. This kind of work, with characters exchanging pithy remarks and various wondrous elements at play, is very appealing. It’s the bedrock of good comics. I love the quirky opening scenes with Van and Pendle stumbling into a village inn with only plans of falling asleep after a long day’s journey. That’s when they get their first bits of information about the animal caper.

Turns out somebody has been making off with sheep and geese at the inn. Right before Van and Pendle’s eyes, the innkeeper becomes aware that his own tenants are the one’s missing animals. Well, who ever said his tenants could keep animals in their rooms?! So, feathers fly, if there were any to fly. For the moment, Van and Pendle only care about sleep. With a room suddenly made vacant, they can do that, but not for long. Missing animals are not exactly new to them. This goes back a year when animals did not just disappear. They came back reassembled in a hodge-podge of their former selves!

Tales of Lyla comes to you from the animation studio 10 Forward Productions. You can purchase digital issues of Tales of Lyla through Amazon right here.

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Filed under 10 Forward Productions, Adventure Time, animation, Comics, Comics Reviews

Review: ‘Lucifer’s Sword MC: Life and Death in an Outlaw Motorcycle Club’

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Anything has the potential for being turned into compelling comics. Here’s another example: “Lucifer’s Sword MC: Life and Death in an Outlaw Motorcycle Club,” published by Motor Books. This graphic novel is a fictionalized account of the sort of action that Phil Cross has witnessed as a member of the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club since 1969. I love the gritty straight-forward approach to this book. You’re placed right into the action. The new guy is either going to sink or swim. It’s a tough club to join but the members are sort of rooting for him. They’re not so bad after all. It’s what can happen when you’re in the club that can get messy.

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Written by Phil Cross, with Darwin Holmstrom, and illustrated by Ronn Sutton, this is some good honest storytelling. Frenchy is a young man set for adventure. He loves motorcycles. He has some problems with authority. And he needs some direction. He stumbles upon a pool game with members of Lucifer’s Sword Motorcycle Club. After a brief misunderstanding, they vote on it and decide to make Frenchy a prospect, complete with his own jacket labeled, “Prospect,” just as a reminder. Little does he realize right then that he’s starting at the bottom rung as the club’s janitor. And that’s the least of his worries as he quickly must prove himself against a rival club and much more.

You are invited to join a motorcycle club, byway of this book, and you can see for yourself. The story moves fast but it’s also careful to bring you in with various details. You get a sense of how this social group behaves. Left to themselves, they’re just fine. But, push comes to shove, they’re ready to defend themselves. Frenchy learns that the hard way but he’s a quick learner.

“Lucifer’s Sword MC: Life and Death in an Outlaw Motorcycle Club” is published by Motor Books and you can find them right here. And you can also find the book at Amazon right here.

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Filed under Comics, Graphic Novel Reviews, graphic novels, Phil Cross

Review: THIS IS GAUGUIN, published by Laurence King Publishing

This-is-Paul-Gauguin

We think of Paul Gauguin when we think of the stereotype of an artist running away from it all to an island paradise and going native. Well, at least that used to be the dream. Paul Gauguin certainly lived it. He remains the most celebrated example even if the details cast a shadow on his work. His was a most eccentric artistic and personal journey. Written by George Roddam and illustrated by Sława Harasymowicz, this is a complex story told in a clear and concise manner.

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Born in Paris in 1848, Paul Gauguin came into the world during an uprising that would have made the Occupy movement blush. It led the family to flee to another familial branch in Peru, but not before Gauguin’s father died of a heart attack. In 1855, the family returned to Paris but Gauguin’s love for the tropics ran deep. Fast forward a few more years, Gauguin’s life reached critical mass. He had allowed himself to enter into a career as a stock broker and had married Mette, a young Danish woman from a respectable family. They had children, five in all. However, he was developing into a very capable artist. In time, he would establish himself among the great Impressionists of the day. And an inevitable conflict would arise.

Teha'amana, Paul Gauguin's 13-year-old lover

Teha’amana, Paul Gauguin’s 13-year-old lover

We look at Gauguin’s work and it feels all part of a whole. The depiction of young women from Brittany eventually makes way for the depiction of young women in Tahiti. Gauguin follows his idealistic and romantic notions. In the same way that he mistakens the traditional head-dresses of the Breton women as significant, so he goes on to project wisdom and nobility upon the Tahitian girls he meets. There is one girl in particular, Teha’amana, only 13 years old, who he takes as a lover. She proves to be very silent. Gauguin sees that as a sign of great wisdom. More likely, it was a child’s reaction to becoming sexually involved with a grown man. Gauguin explained the relationship as part of the local custom.

What we remember most of the work of Gauguin is an unapologetic embrace of primitive culture. His work is a unique offshoot of the Impressionists’ aim to depict daily life. This book does a capable job of providing context to the most celebrated case of an artist going native.

Learn more about this new artist series by visiting our friends at Laurence King Publishing right here.

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Filed under Art, Art books, Art History, Impressionism, Laurence King Publishing, Paul Gauguin

Movie Short Review: C.T.R.L

Sophie (played by Helena Dowling) and

Sophie (played by Helena Dowling) and Philip (played by Mathew Blancher)

Here’s the synopsis: “A young man’s attempt at a first contact with a love interest is hijacked in a most entertaining way.” Hmm, so what happens? Well, things look promising at first. Sophie (played by Helena Dowling) is about to walk past Philip (played by Mathew Blancher) but not before something big happens. And that something big is likely to add up to this film short going viral.

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What’s it take for a video to go viral? “C.T.R.L” is brimming with charm. It’s an unexpected treat: a mashup of street performance, music videos, and silent movies.

Tom (played by Jack Everson) and PJ (played by Moe Bargahi)

Tom (played by Jack Everson) and PJ (played by Moe Bargahi)

So, we’ve got a potential case of star-crossed lovers. But, lo and behold, in the background lurks trouble. Seated nearby in a cafe, Tom (played by Jack Everson) and PJ (played by Moe Bargahi) control the destiny of the young man and woman byway of some wicked app that can manipulate their every move. Dance mayhem ensues.

Director Mariana Conde

Director Mariana Conde

This is a triumph for new director Mariana Conde, creative/executive producer Stu Grant, and choreographer Damien Anyasi. Here’s what Mariana Conde has to say about her short film: “I believed in C.T.R.L from day one. It was a risky idea but that made it even more appealing. I could grasp the potential and the bigger the risk, the bigger the achievement. It’s a visionary short that will add another spark to the discussion of how far we are willing to take technology. From young professionals looking for a quick shot of entertainment, to dance enthusiasts, gamers, kids and a more mature audience in search of something different, C.T.R.L will appeal to a vast and varied audience.”

Storyboard Art by Vitor Hugo

Storyboard Art by Vitor Hugo

The performances are exquisite. You’ll root for Sophie and Philip as they follow their fate. And you’ll hiss at Tom and PJ, the fiendish villains. This short work is truly worthy of mention. It provides a nice uplifting vibe with an urban attitude, a decidedly English style.

Where can you find out more about this film short? Go here. And, of course, be on the look out. You’ll be seeing more of C.T.R.L.

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Filed under Dance, film, Filmmaking, Music, Short Film, Video, Viral Video

Review: THIS IS POLLOCK, published by Laurence King Publishing

This-is-Jackson-Pollock

Jackson Pollock can still be a slap in the face for some art elitists, and that’s just as it should be. In a lively new art series by Laurence King Publishing, we get a clear picture on one of most significant artists among the Abstract Expressionism movement.

I was at a party, only a few years ago, when a discussion on art began to take shape. Our host, I recall, had a problem with any art outside his traditional taste and this guy, although young, was already quite a conservative old fogey. He lambasted Pollock. I, in turn, explained to him that Pollock’s drip paintings were, in part, a complex dance with paint. Many have attempted to emulate a Pollock drip painting and have failed. The best I could get out of my friend was a nod and wink and his suggestion that I had a perfect conversation chestnut to use at parties. Of course, he was dead wrong. Pollock is no party favor.

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I wish I had this book to hand out to everyone at that party. Maybe it would have changed minds. Maybe it would have provided information that was new and compelling. As in her book on Warhol for this series, Catherine Ingram tells it like it is. She gives us an intimate picture of Pollock growing up, albeit a rather bumpy ride. And she fills in the gaps on how Pollock grew as an artist and how he came to lead the charge in contemporary painting. His drip paintings would prove to not only take the art world by storm but the general public as well. Peter Arkle provides poignant as well as whimsical depictions of Pollock’s life in the graphic novel-style presentation.

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For an artist with a reputation for being a “bad boy,” Pollock actually desired solitude. He found that in the woods of Long Island, along with his wife, the artist Lee Krasner.

Pollock remains a powerful force even today. All it takes is the latest “rediscovery” of his paintings. You can read about one of Pollock’s earliest drip paintings returning to the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice right here.

Learn more about this fun and informative new artist series by visiting our friends at Laurence King Publishing right here.

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Filed under Art, Art books, Art History, Book Reviews, Books, Jackson Pollock, Laurence King Publishing