A book like this comes around and I am forced to wonder whether Image is making books especially for me. Sam Noir Samurai Detective is exactly what it sounds like a story about a hardboiled detective who kills ninja assassins with a katana.
The construction of the world is the most amazing part of Sam Noir. Eric A Anderson and Manny Trembley have a textbook noir cityscape narrowly separated from the rolling plains of classic samurai dramas. The first story in the collection goes seamlessly from fighting ninja in the snow to a small army of samurai clad in business suits on top of a skyscraper. The second story adds pirates and voodoo to the universe. If this isn’t going to sell you on this, I don’t know what will.
Volume One trade collects the original mini-series along with the Ronin Holiday mini-series. I think the original series is a lot stronger, focusing on more established noir and samurai conventions as opposed to the more outside the box second series. Not that I can’t find any of it enjoyable, but the story in the second one felt a little slapped together and devoid of any sort of real climactic battle. To introduce a character that can make zombies and then only make one of them is weak sauce, I was really excited to see Sam and Eddie tear through a ton of zombies but it was not to be.
Image has announced a third Sam Noir mini-series is coming and I await its arrival anxiously. They have a real hit on their hands, a universe capable of effortlessly encompassing a great deal of genre fiction.
OK, so here we go: it’s the official midway point between the first and latter half of the Summer of Blockbusters. With last week’s box office flop consisting of Ocean’s 13andHostel Part 2, a sequel to a film nobody was all that psyched about to begin with has got failure written all over it, right? Wrong. Of the films I have caught this summer, FF2 has got to be my favorite, which is probably the highest honor I can give it. From titles to credits, I only complained once, and even that wasn’t totally worthy of complaint. But I’m getting ahead of myself, we’ve done this enough times for me not to deter from format, of course we have to break the film down and throw in a few obscure comic references, or else it just wouldn’t feel right.
Starting off with the acting, I was more than happy with everyone’s performances in the film, including Alba’s, who I bitched and moaned about in the previous film. This movie has got enough content jam-packed into 89 minutes that her flickering eyes and blank stare were almost as invisible as the character herself.
My favorite part of a superhero sequel is that we’re beyond the need for introductions and origins, and we can get to the grits of the character. There were a few things I wanted in the first film that were delivered with bells on in this film. Those being: more Johnny and Ben camaraderie, less “will they or won’t they” with Sue and Reed, and a whole lot less of Julian McMahon looking somber. While we got much more of the first, the second two still had their moments, but again with a film that primarily shifts the focus on a brand new character, the little problems like that get lost in the cracks. We also get a reprise of Stan Lee, unsurprisingly, but this time he doesn’t come back as Postman Willie Lumpkin, but another, very special character. I won’t give it away, but I’ll drop a hint: He’s old.
The next section of course being the special effects of the film. And I’m somewhat jaded in this category, because for years, the only Fantastic Four I knew of other than ink on paper was from the Roger Corman epic, and those of you who remember that also remember a lot of clay-mation stretchiness and I Dream of Jeannie camera tricks for the invisible effect. So comparing it to the two new films is like holding a candle up to the sun. The effects started off pretty poor, but then came to blow me away by the end of the flick. This is where we touch on the giant purple elephant in the room, Galactus.
I’m going to put an end to the rumor right now and admit that Yes: Galactus is a cloud, BUT! It’s completely pulled off in this picture. I was the first webgeek to bitch and moan that I wanted a giant purple dude like we’ve always known the Devourer of Worlds to be, but when you consider the impact of a twister three times the size of earth coming to literally eat the world, the image is haunting, and even us original geeks get a nod from the crew towards the end of the picture. Again, I don’t want to spoil too much, but during the final battle, look directly into the “belly of Galactus” to see an old face.
So here we are, one day before the highest anticipated film of 2007, Spider-Man 3, gets released into a record 4,252 theaters. I, just like about a billion other fans, couldn’t wait to see this flick, mostly because this is the film where we get the infamous Venom as a villain, along with a laundry list of other storylines. But before I get too deep into that, lets break it down. Usually when reviewing comic book movies, I like to break the critique down into three separate sections: the Acting, the Story, and the FX.
Lets begin with my least favorite part of the entire film: the acting. Now I may be a bit jaded, but I’ve never really got into having Tobey Maguire as Peter Parker. This is where doing a book or comic adaptation gets funky, because originally the character’s voice and overall demeanor is up to their interpretation. A perfect example of this is the Harry Potter film franchise. The casting of those films were almost spot-on with the fan’s interpretation of the characters, and they didn’t even have the visual aids that comic books have.
With that said, in my head Spidey was the nerdy, quiet kid before bitten by the radioactive/genetically enhanced spider, but then gains self-confidence while still keeping his puerile attitude towards life. This is how we get the wisecracking interpretation in modern books. But with Maguire’s performance, we are constantly treated to the somber, “woe is me” Spider-Man who, granted, still jumps, swings, and does whatever a spider can, but in between those periods is constantly in a state of teary-eyed misery. Even in the second film where he is convinced that being Spider-Man is a curse, and trashes the costume, he still looks like at any moment, he could burst into tears. Some could attribute this to Maguire’s incredible range, but if I wanted that, I’d go see Seabiscuit again.
Spider-Man is the comic relief of the New Avengers, and even in the Ultimate books, he may cry, but when he’s in the suit, he’s a regular swinging Henny Youngman. The same goes for this film, in the times that the mask isn’t on (which is way too much to begin with), his eyes are constantly filled with tears.
Moving on to our leading lady, Kirsten Dunst, I have a whole different problem. In the first film, I was starting to get into the idea of having a non-supermodel quality Mary Jane Watson and by the end of the second film, I was completely sold, though she looked like she hadn’t eaten since Jumanji. And just then, as if it was her master plan to get us all to love her, and then crush us, in a press junket for Spider-Man 2, Dunst was quoted in saying that her ideal plot for another sequel would be where our webbed hero dies in the first act, and the rest of the film is about Mary Jane coping in the modern world with an unborn Spider-Baby as a single mother. Some of you remember this quote as “The Day We Started to Hate Kirsten Dunst.” I don’t know what it is about female actors and preaching their ideas when the majority of the audience paying attention to them are people who could care less about them. We go to superhero movies to see superheroes, not their girlfriends.