Antipundit Rides Forth

Sunday, July 27, 2003:

Ultimates and Ultimate Spider-Man

Read the first six issues of the Ultimates and didn't particularly care for it.

The characters are just too unappealing.

Fury's a Samuel L Jackson copy without the personality, Betty Ross is an awful woman, Hank Pym a wife-beater and this version of Bruce Banner/The Hulk is about the worst I've ever read.

Tony Stark's got four type's of comments:

1) I need a drink

2) I'm extremely rich and talented

3) I like the ladies

4) Jarvis, stop being such a homo!

Another thing I dislike is the unnecessar name-dropping and featuring of non-entities like Freddie Prinze Jnr and Shannon Elizabeth. WTF? What have these non-entities done to deserve being in a comic book?

That being said the characters of Thor and Captain America are pretty interesting and I really liked the first issue.

Art's pretty but given how long it takes Hitch to draw an issue, that isn't surprising.

I also read about five trade paperbacks worth of Starman by James Robinson which blows away anything I saw done by Millar.


I've read a whole bunch of Ultimate Spider-Man and have to say I like it.

Definitely the best bunch of Spider-Man stories I've read with great dialogue and characterisation.

Best issue would be issue #21 where Spidey takes on Kraven, makes himself very popular and rounds it off by getting grounded.

Major complaint about the series is how slowly it moves. One issue had Perter Parker and MJ in a room talking for the entirety of it and throughout the first five issues I kept thinking "Lee and Ditko virtually told the same story in one 22 page issue and it's taking Bendis over 110 to do the same."

Still it's probably the best Marvel series out there and Bendis' Nick Fury is a lot better than Millar's.

Ali Choudhury // 9:33 PM

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Daredevil

Saw the movie on DVD a couple of days ago.

Didn't like it. It just failed to hold my attention and every time I looked up to see what was going on some shite nu-metal blared out to accompany the scene.

Couldn't they get a decent composer to write a proper orchestral score? Seriously the only Marvel movie with a score worth a damn has been X2.

I don't really have any complaints about the casting (although Garner was the wrong choice to play Elektra - too American) or the effects or the direction.

But the script and dialogue seemed tired and cliched like a number of worshipful fanboys had written it. Bullseys's and Daredevil's first fight was allright, the rest unexceptional.

And if they really were going to use Miller's stories as an inspiration they should have gone for using much more blood and violence a la Born Again instead of a movie which was essentilly Batman Lite.

The rental wasn't a total loss though since there was an excellent documentary with interviews by Lee, the Romitas, Miller, Quesada, Bndis etc. that was well worth viewing.

Could have done without Smith bitching about adverse fanboy reaction and they could have dumped Kevin Mack in favour of Klaus Janson.

Ali Choudhury // 9:29 PM

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Monday, June 23, 2003:

Die Another Day

Just saw this movie ...and it really, really sucked. Same old repetitive Bond crap.

They tried so hard to show Bond was up-to-date and contemporary by borrowing bits from the Matrix and John Woo and even *gasp* using some fairly popular songs during a number of scenes.

And while the action was really well done it felt like watching someone else play a video game for the most part. The characters all sucked especially Halle Berry who was playing an action figure here.

I suppose my major problem with the movie is I think Bond's a boring arsehole. I'm tired of the crap one-liners, stupid sexual innuendo and zero character progression.

Frankly I liked Triple X a lot more. There you had a main hero who went from being somewaht of a nihilistic jerk to a guy who actually found something worth fighting for. Having a female lead in that who did more than just shoot people and fuck the star didn't hurt either.

I've also rented the first Superman movie and despite the somewhat crap third act was far more compelled to watch that again than wade through all of DAD.

Ali Choudhury // 6:17 PM

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TPB reviews


Superman: Peace on Earth

I glanced at this in a comic book store a week ago and was immediatelyhooked. Best Superman story I've ever read and it isn't hard to see how influential this was on Smallville in terms of depicting Clark Kent as a person with feelings we can all relate to. Sale showed his versatility and attention to detail with his illustrations of Metropolis and Smallville and his Superman showed both immense power and surprising grace - although I thought the neck was a little too thick. About the only flaw in the story is the pretty contrived way Luthor tries to get Superman to lose faith. Highly recommended. Would have preferred more extras in the softcover trade since it didn't even have a foreword.

Batman: The Long Halloween

Disappointing. Maybe my hopes were raised too high by both Peace on Earth and the Haunted Knight trade but I found this pretty lacking. Sale's depiction of Batman shows off the character's immense size and fluid power (great costume too although I think Batman is best served without the trunks on the outside) and his Catwoman looked good too.

However too many of the issues felt like fillers and I think the series would have worked better if it was four to six issues long instead. Poison Ivy's role was a nice touch but Scarecrow and Mad Hatter seemed superfluous and Joker really didn't need two issues. Apart from the first and last chapters, the only one which impressed me was the Mother's Day issue. More foucs on Dent's character and his changes would have been appreciated too since the reasons behind his transition weren't particularly apparent.

JLA: Rock of Ages

I know some people have criticised Morrison's intertwining of both the Darkseid and Injustice Gang stories but I liked the structure which showed ambition, did something new and wasn't overly confusing. A great reminder of why I first started reading JLA (because each issue was like a $300 million movie and each arc featured intricate, intelligent plotting with pretty decent characterisation) and I'll be buying the rest of Morrison's run in trade format. The only nit-picks I have with the story line relate to the Darkseid issues. Firstly I doubt Superman would have killed himself because he broke his no-killing vow if Darkseid was in the midst of invading Earth. Secondly Orion rebooting the universe made the entire fight with Darkseid and all the sacrifices made pretty redundant. Recommended.

JLA: Earth 2

Quietly's art pissed me off. You'd think a professional artist would be able to draw human figures which looked a little less like cheap rubber mould action figures. The story was pretty good and the "I'm going to put a wall around Gotham and anyone who doesn't like it gets a bullet in a face!" line is worth the cover price alone. I'd like a revisit to this universe though and it'd be nice to see Earth-3 versions of Joker (maybe a hyper-rational cop?) and Doomsday (hippie vegetarian and pacifist!)

Ali Choudhury // 6:02 PM

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Thursday, June 12, 2003:

Transformers

I actually haven't watched much Beast Wars since it didn't get much of a regular viewing schedule in the UK but the episodes I've watched blew Generation One out of the water in terms of writing and characterisation.

Code of Hero was amazing although my favourite ep was probably the return of Starscream.

I liked RID myself since it was so campy and Sky Byte was one of the more memorable Transformer characters.

Beast Machines was pretty boring and that whole "no guns" schtick was rather stupid.

Gen One still stands up though. The animation in some episodes is still a lot better than that Armada dreck and it still has the best voice acting out all the different series.

War Within was indeed pretty decent. I liked how they made Rodimus Prime's transformation a lot less stupid by making Optimus go through the same process, although you think they could have gone with Orion Pax as his first name.

The new Gen One series seems to have corrected a lot of the complaints about the old one and I like how they're fucking with the fans by doing stuff like bringing Scourge in while making the popular changes the fans want i.e. make Shockwave and Grimlock as they were during the Budiansky run and Ultra Magnus as he was written by Furman in the UK comics.

The only thing they're doing wrong is how Pat Lee draws Prime's chest.

I glanced at the More than Meets The Eye profile books but won't be buying them although I might pick up the Transformers: Genesis art book.

I'll probably be buying the Transformers/GI Joe crossover set during WW2 and that might settle the almighty "Decepticons are Nazis" debates over at alt.toys.transformers.

All in all it's been a great change since when I first saw Pat Lee's drawing in Wizard of a new Transformers series as part of a feature Wizard was doing on possible 80's revival comic books.

Ali Choudhury // 10:46 AM

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Monday, June 09, 2003:

TAKE THAT SOLZHENITSYN!:
Mark Steyn takes on A World Split Apart (Mark Steyn, American Enterprise, July/August 1998)

The important thing to remember about Solzhenitsyn’s Harvard speech is that it was given by a Vermonter. So when, after being asked if he could recommend the West as a model for his country, he says, "I would frankly have to answer negatively," the reasonable response is, "Are you crazy, man? You live in Cavendish, Vermont, for Pete’s sake!" Like most Granite Staters, I have fundamental differences with my Green Mountain neighbors over taxes, education, Ben and Jerry, and a zillion other issues. But compared to anywhere but New Hampshire—certainly compared to Mother Russia, Chechnya, Georgia, Romania—Vermont looks pretty good.

Alas, Solzhenitsyn is enough of a Soviet man that he seems to have absorbed the old Communist habit of discussing "the people" without the tedious bother of actually coming into contact with any of them. Real people—like his fellow townsfolk in Cavendish—are curiously absent from his speech. This helps to explain why, though everything he says is right in theory—indeed, his remarks about "TV stupor," press "superficiality," and "legalistic relationships," are unexceptional—yet here we still are, doing…O.K.

What Solzhenitsyn never seems to notice, at least not in a Western context, is the resilience of the people. Despite our descent into "the abyss of human decadence," the most popular forms of liquid manure in America are actually unchanged in their bourgeois sentimentality from a century ago: Today, "the people" enjoy Celine Dion singing the big ballad from Titanic, The Bridges of Madison County, "Touched by an Angel," and the like. The only difference is that, whereas a hundred years ago our betters told us to put down our parlor ballads and listen to Schubert, now they tell us we should be watching Natural Born Killers and The People vs. Larry Flynt. These films open to rave reviews and small loyal audiences in a handful of metropolitan fleshpots, but on general release across the country, they flop. When they come to Lebanon, New Hampshire, or Barre, Vermont, no one from Cavendish goes to see them. There is no commercial imperative to produce these films, only the dreary obsessions of our vulgarized elites.

Solzhenitsyn notes of Communism that "Western intellectuals still look at it with considerable interest and empathy, and this is precisely what makes it so immensely difficult for the West to withstand the East." The key word in that sentence is intellectuals—which is why, in democratic America, it proved immensely easy to withstand the East. Even in hippy-dippy Vermont, no avowed Communist could ever be elected as Cavendish Town Clerk or School Board Chairman.

....

"West" and "East" are, of course, generalizations. Within the "West" there are vast differences between Continental Europe and the English-speaking world—and even between the British Commonwealth and the United States. But you can’t help but notice that those countries which attempt to insulate their peoples from rampant materialism and the barbarities of commercial culture are the ones sunk in the deepest slough of spiritual poverty. The obvious reason would seem to be that those societies which most regulate the media and consumer products tend to regulate everything else, too.

Why did Solzhenitsyn never see anything outside his door that he could commend as "a model to my country"? Perhaps because he rarely peered outside his door. The most striking thing about Solzhenitsyn’s place in Cavendish was the fence—not, as elsewhere, a low white picket, a decorative skirting for the clapboards and shingles. In an area where few lock their homes and many don’t even have keys, Solzhenitsyn had a formal security fence. In the early days, it was assumed he feared a midnight wake-up call from rogue kgb agents. But as time went on, it became clear that he was as much concerned to keep Vermont out. If Solzhenitsyn had wanted something to put on the mantel alongside his Nobel Prize, he could easily have won an Ugliest House in Vermont competition. There is, in other words, more than one form of spiritual poverty.

For 18 years Solzhenitsyn endured a sort of self-imposed cabin fever, which the up-market essayists who sought him out in Cavendish dignified as "reclusiveness." Not far away in Stowe, there’s another model of artistic exile—the Trapp Family Singers, refugees from the century’s other great tyranny. They never made much money from The Sound of Music, but they run a popular ski lodge and Elisabeth von Trapp still sings every Christmas on wdev radio. They at least understand the virtues of a culture secure in itself.

When Solzhenitsyn returned to Moscow, it was to a new dacha in a compound enclosed behind an eight-foot barrier, with the Moscow cable company supplying him with mtv, cnn, and all the other American TV he couldn’t receive in uncabled Cavendish. Perhaps, behind his steel door in a toxic society far more spiritually enfeebled than America, he regrets his speech. Maybe he realizes that the best anyone could hope for is that Russia turns out half as agreeable as the Vermont he never quite lived in.

As we Westerners like to say, you wanna get outta the house more.


Usually my eyes glaze over whenever tracts like A World Split Apart or philosophers like Leo Strauss are discussed. Thank God for Mark Steyn, a man who can pretty much any subject worth reading.




Ali Choudhury // 11:26 AM
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Thursday, June 05, 2003:

World War One

Why do you think WW1 started in the first place?

Here's a hint. It wasn't because that jobber prince got himself assassinated.

Germany's military and political elite brought on the war. They embarked on a massive military buildup and tried to build enough ships to challenge the Royal Navy.

Their agenda was the same as Hitler's in WW2: Conquer as much of Western Europe and White Russia as they could in order to build a German land empire, one which could serve as the base for global supremacy. They definitely WERE to blame for WW1.

Britain, Russia and France already had big empires. The Germans didn't have much in the way of colonies which is why they wanted war since having a substantial empire was the geopolitical equivalent of having a big wang.

And given how much actual control was in the hands of the Kaiser (he wasn't a constitutional monarch)it's very hard to believe he'd have supported the war only because his elite told him to.

Britain and France would have probably preferred to avoid war with the Ottoman Empire given that it had been their prop against Russian expansion into the West for centuries. And fighting the Turks would have given them a big headache in managing their own Muslim populations.

There was a general feeling that war was probably inevitable given Germany's aggressive militarism and the fact their High Command had been working on a plan (the Schlieffen Plan) to win a European War for decades.


And the Versailles agreement didn't cripple Germany at all. The allies progressively forgave more and more German debt as the years went on.

The damage it did do was breed resentment among Germans who didn't think they should be paying anything at all and thought they hadn't been fairly beaten in the war.

What crippled Germany was the hyperinflation crisis in 1923 resulting from some pretty idiotic economic decisions they made.

Ali Choudhury // 7:20 PM

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Thursday, May 22, 2003:

DVD Wishlist

Transformers Seasons Two and Three Deluxe Boxsets

Transformers:Robots In Disguise Boxest (if it comes out)

Enter The Dragon Special Edition

The Beastmaster

Star Trek 2: Wrath Of Khan

Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior

Seven Samurai

Star Wars OT

Lord Of The Rings Bumper DVD Boxset (to be released after ROTK)

Waynes' World

Hard Boiled

Batman

Batman Returns

They Live

Ali Choudhury // 8:04 PM

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Comics

I got into comics thanks to the Batman Knightfall series and most of the trade paperbacks I own (don't buy monthlies) are from DC simply because of the quality of the writing. Favourite character is Batman along with Superman (when he's done right) and Green Lantern.

The only Marvel TPB I own is Alex Ross's Marvels. Compared to that, the DC stuff I own includes Dark Knight Returns, Watchmen, the Golden Age, Batman: Black and White, Kingdom Come, Batman: Year One, Alan Moore's Superman stories, Batman: The Killing Joke and a bunch of others.

I'm looking to buy Jeph Loeb's The Long Halloween, Dark Victory, Superman:For All Seasons, Batman:Child of Dreams, John Byrne's Generations as well as James Robinson's Starman and Neil Gaiman's Sandman. Might pick up Akira too if I can get all the volumes cheap enough.

Marvel's never appealed to me. I picked up a few issues of Spider-Man during the indescribably awful Clones Saga (what the fuck were they smoking?) and was driven away for a long time. Around the time of Grant Morrison's excellent run on JLA (which I'm also collecting) I bought a couple of Silver Surfer and X-Men issues and they really sucked in comparison. The art was nice but the stories were just really bad, cliched sci-fi.

The Ultimates line has got a lot of good press but I still prefer Brand Ech.

Ali Choudhury // 8:03 PM

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Saturday, May 10, 2003:

Best Books

Historical - Battle Cry of Freedom by James McPherson

Non-fiction - All The Trouble In The World by P.J. O'Rourke

Fiction - Small Gods by Terry Pratchett

SF - First three books of the Foundation series by Isaac Asimov

Ali Choudhury // 11:41 PM

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X-Men 2

I've seen a lot of comic book movies good (The Crow, Blade, Batman 1 and 2), bad (Spawn, The Shadow) and mediocre (Batman and Robin, Mystery Men).

Comic book movies are yet to give moviegoers a genuine classic viewing experience i.e. something along the lines of Jaws, Empire Strikes Back, Pulp Fiction etc. About the nearest to approach such levels was last summer's Road To Perdition based on Max Alan Collins' graphic novel.

Given the subject matter it is to be expected since comic book movies are, like the industry itself, still dominated for the most part by superhero stories.

And X-Men 2 in terms of dialogue, action, acting, plot and effects, is undoubtedly the best comic book movie to date - although not my favourite which remains The Crow.

The opening scene featuring Nightcrawler was superlative and watching Alan Cumming, I couldn't believe this guy was the same actor who'd played an effeminate, emotional Roman emperor in the movie Titus which I'd seen a few days ago.

And it was nice to see a character who was religious yet not portrayed as a bigoted nutjob as they usually are.

There wasn't a single duff performance in the movie with the only jarring note being Anna Paquin's attempt at a Southern accent. Doesn't work and they shouldn't have persisted with it.

Everyone did an excellent job with Hugh Jackman continuing to show his leading man qualities and Sir Ian McKellan continuing to elevate every scene he's put in with quietly understated power. James Marsden's Cyclops hardly gets enough screen time but I suppose someone had to be sacrificed for the sake of giving Halle Berry a beefed-up role.

The villain of the movie, Stryker, was also refeshing in that he actually had a reasonable motivation in wanting to rid the world of mutants and not having to resort to the cliche of a mad, power-hungry, moustache-twirling villain.

The plot was great too with enough time given for some decent action but a healthy amount of character development also. Much better than Spider-Man where I was checking my watch every ten minutes after the origin story was complete.

Actually the action component could have been upped significantly since the Matrix Reloaded trailer before the movie did suck some heat from the crowd during X-Men 2.

The movie left me wanting to see the next instalment a lot more than the first movie did which was far too short. However I doubt X-Men will ever really reach the height on the movie screen that it does on the printed page simply because bringing characters like The Sentinels and Apocalypse to life would probably be too expensive.

And as good as these movies are, I'd like Bryan Singer to other movies and scripts too since I just rewatched The Usual Suspects on DVD and was reminded of how awesome a movie it would be.

Ali Choudhury // 11:40 PM

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