June 9, 2008


Summer Reading, Movies, Music...

One of the best parts of summer is taking time to enjoy great movies, books, music etc...

I just finished reading a graphic novel called WATCHMEN. Its the first graphic novel I've read (although I've seen a few film translations of other graphic novels: Sin City, 300) so I can't honestly presuppose about what in Watchmen might set it apart from other graphic novels. But for me, what would set it apart from super hero stories is the idea of masked heroes in a more realistic world. To some extent you are taking a suspension of disbelief you read a typical comic story but in this world the characters are meant to be inspired by the world of comics, and so it comes across as more realistic. Watchmen is a What If masked heroes actually fought against crime and injustice. Its a darker more emotional version of a world with masked heroes.
By today's super hero standards, the stories in Watchmen might seem underwhelming. Most of the characters do not have super powers other than their intelligence (with the exception of the character Doctor Manhattan). But they do have very real emotional problems which is what really drives the plot.

Watchmen is a amazingly illustrated. Much of what happens is metaphorically tied together by the imagery and the interrelated story lines. Reading a graphic novel is like observing a collection of stills from a movie. There is probably no other medium more prime for being recreated as a film. Which is interesting, because I first heard about Watchmen when a friend told me about a movie version (IMDb) (official page with blog) (official youtube page) in production a while ago. The director of the film is Zach Snyder, who has some experience transitioning graphic novels to film, as he previously did for Frank Miller's 300 (IMDb) about the 300 Spartans who defended against the Persian empire. But perhaps the biggest obstacle for Watchmen making a successful transition to the big screen is how hard it would be for anyone to tell this story better than has already. The nuances of the characters captured in ink is so perfect it would be surely impossible for actors to perfectly duplicate as film, as would be to convey the metaphors between the past and present stories that are woven together and as a whole tell a much deeper story. But from what I've seen on their website, it looks like they are taking the task seriously; so I'm looking forward to it coming out March '09.

So far I've seen a couple pretty good summer blockbusters - Indiana Jones and Iron Man. Having low expectations to start with may have been an advantage. Iron Man (IMDb) was better that I expected, but not a great movie. I think having a pretty good cast really makes a difference when you try to take a popular comic book story and make a movie. Robert Downey Jr. and Gwenyth Paltrow are what made this film entertaining. What might be worth mentioning about this film is at the end, after the credits, there is an extra scene with Samuel Jackson indicating that there more lies ahead for Tony Stark's character as a member of the Avengers group. Next weekend The Incredible Hulk is released - a sequel to 2003's Hulk, but this time with Edward Norton (instead of Eric Bana) as Bruce Banner - and I noticed in the cast, Robert Downey Jr. is cast as Tony Stark. Perhaps this will further develop the potential for an Avengers spin-off.

I also went to see the fourth Indiana Jones film (IMDb), which was also less of a let-down than I expected. From what I'd read, Ford and Spielberg had to petition to have Lucas make changes to improve the script. As well, Sean Connery opted not to appear this time. His character (introduced in the previous film) added a lot to the to the Jones world, and it was kind of a disappointment that he was missing. Also missing were the familiar characters of Marcus Brody and Sallah, both of which appeared in both the first and third films. Returning in this film was the character of Marion Ravenwood, Indy's love interest from the first film. And this one introduced a new sidekick, Marion's son, played by Shea Labeouf. The story was a lot weaker than previous Indy films - involving a search for an Alien artifact. Some of the action sequences were too ridiculous to allow for a suspension of disbelief. I really enjoyed the opening sequence with the nuclear bomb test, but that had little bearing on the plot for the rest of the film. It's very impressive that Harrison Ford, at age 65 is performing those stunts. I thought Cate.Blanchett was great as the leader of the Soviets at odds with Jones and his comrades.

The next couple of films I'm looking forward to this summer are M. Night Shayamalan's The Happening (IMDb), which comes out this coming Friday, starring Mark Wahlberg and Zooey Deschanal. And later on this summer the Coen Brother's have a spy movie called Burn After Reading (IMDb) with George Clooney, Brad Pit, Tilda Swinton (from Micheal Clayton) Francis McDormand. I doubt it could live up to No Country For Old Men, but the Coen brothers don't often disapoint.

A few weeks ago I went to see Radiohead play here in Charlotte (which was kind of an unexpected turn of events. My buddy Dave patently waited for tickets to go on-sale online and purchased as many as possible which sold out in minutes). It was a pretty memorable concert; there are not a lot of bands I think I could compare Radiohead with, and I suppose since I'm not able to understand music in the way musicians do, to accurately describe that Radioconcert would be somewhat difficult. They played most of the songs from In Rainbows, and a lot of others as well. There is a certain vagueness/ambiguity to their music and lyrics. It was certainly in the top five concerts I've ever attended. (I think my favorite of all time would be The Arcade Fire.)

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