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2007 – The Year in Geekdom (part 4)

31

Dec

Posted by Steve

While the debates raged, DC Continued it’s much bemoaned Countdown.  The Hulk continued to wage his War in New York City.  At the end of the Summer though, everyone stopped fussing and debating, and turned with great anticipation toward San Diego.  It was ComiCon time.

Everyone expected the Dark Knight to cast his shadow over the Con, but the Joker merely painted everyone’s face.    However, where Bruce Wayne decided to stay away, another successful playboy type made his mark.   Jon Favreau wowed the crowd with his reel of clips from Iron Man.   Harrison Ford and Steven Spielberg made an appearance….sort of.  Along with a look at the Hulk and some cartoon stuff, geeks everywhere started to forget the debates of 2007 and look to the future.

As Fall and Winter rolled in, The Summer debates faded like the leaves on a tree and we, the geek nation sat back with full geek bellies anticipating the upcoming events.

We were pleased with the Bourne Ultimatum.  We gave a collective “It was OK”  to the Pirates at World’s End.  I was, hoever,  much more happy with it than I was the second installment of the Pirates trilogy.  The Consensus on John McClane’s vie to Live Free or Die Hard?  Should have gone for the “R” rating.  Again, I find myself at odds with the consensus.  I thought the action was as big as it could have been, the only thing we didn’t get was all of the “dirty words” of the previous three installments.  

As the hype of the Summer wore down and Rob Zombie remade HALLOWEEN, the geek eye began to strain to see into 2008.   However, right in the way of 2008 stood Will Smith, a German Shepherd, an empty New York City, and a whole bunch of vampire-like creatures that were the result of the cure for cancer. 

Apparently, I AM LEGEND was one of those projects that had been in the works for a long time.  In fact, The Governator was attatched to the project in it’s earliest stages.  Thank God he decided to go into politics and this thing didn’t get made until Will Smith could be involved.   Will Smith did an outstanding job of having nothing on screen but a few maniquins and a dog to play off of.  It was fascinating to watch the daily life of a man who had been totally isolated for three years.  It was fascinating to watch Will Smith bring the character of Robert Neville to life. 

The biggest problem I’ve heard that people have with I AM LEGEND is the digitalness of the Dark Seekers.  Frankly, those people must have an eye trained to be able to tell a good digital character from a poor one.  While the Dark Seekers were no Yoda from Episode 3, they weren’t so unrealistic as to be distracting.   The story though, and I can’t say it enough, is Will Smith.  His performance is the reason that 2007 has been able to end – for geeks – on a high note. 

Now, we look to 2008.  A monster will ravage New York, Rambo will kill again, Indy will strap on the whip, Stark will don the armor, The Hulk will smash, The Dark Knight will return, and we cannot wait.  Yes, 2008 promises to be a banner year for geeks and geekdom.  Truthfully, though, even before we see Iron Man take to the big screen, we will be talking about a sequel.  Before Batman beats the Joker, we will be anticipating his battle with Two Face.  Before Indiana finds the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull we will be speculating as to whether or not he’ll ever be back.  For it is the nature of the geek to ever look forward.  It is the nature of the geek to devour trailers, pictures, spy reports, and spoilers. It is the nature of the geek to pre-order comics, write their own ending, and endlessly e-mail their favorite creators.  We look ahead with the anticipation of a kid at Christmas because a geek is merely someone who hasn’t completely let go of the kid inside of them, and as we look forward, we hold on to that little boy or girl saving the world from the confines of the back yard.  We look forward as we look for a place that is safe to sit back and discuss all that we enjoy about geekdom.  And that brings me to the biggest geek event for me in 2007:

THE LAUNCHING OF GEEK OUT ONLINE.

Thank you to everyone who has, in the past few months not only checked the site out, but subscribed to the feed and podcast as well.  I’m looking forward to 2008 and all the fun we’ll have not only at the comic shops, DVD racks, and Movie theatres, but also the fun we’ll have here discussing our experiencing and immersing ourselves in total geekdom.  Happy New Year, may 2008 fulfill all of our geek wishes.

May Your Days Be Geeky And Bright

25

Dec

Posted by Steve

Merry Christmas!

I hope that your Christmas is filled with warmth and joy, and toys and DVDs and HD DVD players and computer games and comics and everything a geek needs to have the hap hap happiest Christmas ever. 

So, if you can’t dig up a bootleg copy of the Star Wars Holiday Special, grab you copy of NATIONAL LAMPOON’S CHRISTMAS VACATION or A CHRISTMAS STORY and gather around with friends and family, have a holiday laugh, and know that I’m laughing right along with you (not at you.)

As we approach 2008, expect to be able to come to Geek Out Online for updates, opinions, and some fun because 2008 promises to be a HUGE year for geekdom. 

Thanks for reading, listening, and interacting I hope to be able to continue to get to know you all and enjoy the things we love together for a while to come.

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Big Honkin Steve

2007 – The Year in Geekdom (Part 3)

22

Dec

Posted by Steve

After the final stand of the 300, everything fell into debate among geeks.  In typical geek fashion, there was very little middle ground.   Geeks either loved or hated, and in typical geek fashion, the reasons were varied.  For some geeks, flames on a paint job were enough to hate a project, for others, character development of a villain was no good.  The legacy of 2007 geekdom, though, will always be the debates that raged after the Summer blockbusters were released.

The first of those blockbusters was Sam Raimi’s trilogy ending Spider-Man 3.   To do what no writer should do and remove all suspense, I will go ahead and say that I liked Spider-Man 3.  My biggest problem with the movie was that there was no swinging scene at the end.  Having said that, I recognize and understand most of the problems that fans had with the film. 

Ultimately, I think Spider-Man 3 was a testament to the great film maker that is Sam Raimi.  I didn’t realize until after the fact all that Raimi was up against in making this film.   Originally, because of his love for all things Silver Age about Spider-Man he was going to use the Vulture as one of the villains.  However, due to pressure from the studio (in response to pressure from fans) he went the route of Venom instead.   Not only was there that pressure, there was the pressure of the corner that the filmmakers had been backed into by the Harry/Peter plotline.   So, you’ve got Sandman, Venom, Harry v. Peter, and Peter v. the black suit and it has to be done in a reasonable amount of time with all the action, effect, and fun we expect.  

What did we get?  One of the most amazing scenes in film with the “birth” of the Sandman, some really good pathos when it comes to the relationships in Peter’s life, and a great end fight sequence that has been sorely lacking in Super hero movies since Superman 2.  Seriously, as good as Batman Begins was, the real awesomeness as far as an action sequence goes was in the Batmobile chase, Spider-Man’s final fight was good, but still not an action packed battle of epic proportions, it was mostly him holding on to the cable car while getting hit by the Goblin, after the awesome train fight in Spidey 2, Spidey and Doc Ock versus a big ball of fusion energy just didn’t have that oomph, Superman lifted an island, The Fantastic Four tried, but ultimately things happened a little too fast, Daredevil had a good fight, but again, not action packed blow  your mind kind of stuff.   Superman 2 went straight from Metropolis to the Fortress and the end.  Come to think of it, because the Fortress stuff in Superman 2 wasn’t all that action packed, Spider-Man 3 has given us one of the truly great final battles of a super-hero movie.  

Was Venom used properly?  Probably not, but as someone who got super tired of Venom in the comics, that didn’t bother me all that much.   The dance scene?  I never heard anyone complain about the “Raindrops” sequence or the Mary Jane running to the Wedding March in Spider-Man 2, and those moments were cheesier by far.  For me, Spider-Man 3 was fun, and it was a fitting end to the trilogy.  I just wish we’d gotten a swinging scene at the end.

After Spider-Man fought to keep his pride from devouring himself, Reed Richards and his team had to contend with the Devourer of Worlds and his herald the Silver Surfer.   I was excited for this movie because I used to collect the Fantastic Four comic with a passion.   I enjoyed Tim Story’s first outing the Foursome.  I thought the movie caught the spirit of the comic.  No, I wasn’t a big fan of Doom’s origin, but they kinda fixed that in the sequel didn’t they? 

I don’t think anyone walked away from the movie disappointed with the look or characterization of the Silver Surfer.  I know I didn’t.   I enjoyed this movie more than I enjoyed the first, and I appreciated that we got to see that, while Johnny was still fun, he didn’t overshadow the rest of the cast as he did in the first movie.   In fact, this time out the actors seemed to have a better feel as to how to play off of one another.   Everyone seemed a little more comfortable in their roles.   Except Jessica Alba’s makeup person.  (A little heavy on the blue eyeliner folks.)

The big debate that came out of FF2 was Galactus.   He was there folks, and he wasn’t a storm.  Check the shadow on Saturn, and watch when the Surfer goes to face him down.  He’s there in full Kirby get up.  It’s just that due to his size and the the debris kicked up around him when he has a meal (eats a planet) he has become engulfed in this huge cosmic storm. 

For me, FF2 was a good time.  The promise of a Silver Surfer movie is given at the end,  hopefully we can now look forward to a romp in the negative zone, or a battle with Skrulls, and Dr. Doom can come back.  All he did was sink to the bottom of the ocean.  Maybe he’ll bump into Megatron. 

Which brings us to the next great geek debate of Summer ’07.  Transformers. 

I loved Transformers as a kid.  I grew up at just the right time I think.  As a kid the most anime I was exposed to was Voltron.  We had Transformers, GI Joe, He-Man, Star Wars. Just the diversity in those toy lines alone was enough to make those of us geeks who are products of the eighties well rounded enough to line studios pockets when they give Spielberg and Bay the greenlight to get something like this done all the while waiting in line to see the next big super-hero movie, and still understanding big war movie epics.  Yes, the eighties geek is a thing to behold.  I digress, however.

I loved the Transformers as a kid.  I watched the cartoon with great devotion and when the seasons were released on DVD I got as much as I could.  I own two versions of the movie from the eighties, and the hardest thing I ever had to do was sell my Transformers collection to help get my finances on track. 

I sat in the theatre with all of the arguments and negativism leading up to the movie’s release swirling around in my head.  I had one thing that it seemed very few others on message boards and talk backs had though, I had hope.  I had hope that this movie would be awesome.  At the first mention of the name Whitwicky, I felt something rising up inside of me.  Then, as Bumblebee sent out the signal and the other Autobots landed, I began to disappear.   Jazz broke dance (break danced) when he transformed, and Peter Cullen said, “I am Optimus Prime.” 

A 30 year old man bought my ticket and sat down in the seat I was in, but he was gone.  In his place was a chubby 8 year old kid who believed that as far as evil was concerned you didn’t get worse than the Decepticons, and as far as good was concerned, God himself had created Optimus Prime to show us all the way.   I confess openly, I cheered every transformation, I thrilled at every punch, I got a lump in my throat as Optimus explained, “Freedom is the right of all sentient beings,” and then I almost wet my pants when Optimus said, “Megatron, today one shall stand, one shall fall.” 

Flames on a paint job didn’t matter.  The humor in the film didn’t matter.  This was the Transformers.  There are more out there.  There’s no way Megatron is really done for.  I know the rules.  He’ll be back. 

Yeah, I apparently liked or loved everything that apparently most geeks hated.  However, what I’ve found through many is that those who didn’t like these projects just happen to be louder than those of us who did. 

2007 was a little more than halfway over.  Jack Sparrow still needed to be rescued from the Other Side, Bourne had an Ultimatum to deliver, and John McClane had some cyber terrorists to stop.  In the end, Robert Downey Jr.  would be the man in an iron mask, ComiCon would thrill us, Wizard World would shock us, and Robert Neville would make his stand against a virus that wiped out all of humanity.  2007 still had a way to go, Geeks were debating and, as ever, looking ahead.

2007 – The Year In Geekdome (Part 2)

11

Dec

Posted by Steve

With 2006 behind us having given us a 14 disc Superman collector’s DVD set, Pirates of the Carribean 2, Superman Returns, and Peter Parker outing himself to the world, 2007 kind of started off with a whimper offering us THE INVINCIBLE IRON MAN in a straight to DVD release.  Things were looking bleak. 

Fortunately, in the straight to DVD market, we weren’t left floundering about.   Marvel’s next release of the year came several months later in the form of DR. STRANGE.  

I was never a big fan of Dr. Strange in the comic books.  That is not to say that I didn’t like the character, just that I only knew him from guest appearances here and there.  In fact, the most exposure I ever had to Strange was in the short lived Defenders reboot in the late nineties.   In the title, he, The Silver Surfer, Namor, and the Hulk were bound by a curse to not be able to break up the team.   In the end, they brought out the darkest side of themselves and set up rule on the Earth to ultimately defeat the being that was behind the curse.  (I think that’s why they did that.)

Having little knowledge of the Dr. Strange mythology, I sat down to watch the DVD with little or no expectations and as the credits came up on my television screen, I was glad that I had picked up the DVD.   DR. STRANGE gave us a true hero’s journey complete with a great final confrontation and room for a sequel.  Things were looking up in the straight to DVD market and DC was getting ready to throw their hat into the ring with SUPERMAN: DOOMSDAY.

You can read my complete review of SUPERMAN: DOOMSDAY here.  Suffice to say that I really enjoyed it.   While Doomsday wasn’t really the centerpiece of the story, the movie itself was good.   It was a smart move on the part of the promotional team to use the words “inspired by” rather than “based on” the best selling graphic novel of all time.  For, while the Death and Return of Superman took place, very little else resembled the story from the comics.  However, it was a Superman movie, and it was good enough (to me) to watch more than once.

In the theatres, things went a little better than they did on the DVD shelf.  Not at first, but they got there.

The first comic book adaptation of the year was GHOST RIDER.  Ghost Rider is another character I was never really into.  Unlike Dr. Strange, though, I really never liked the character.  Visually he’s interesting and he makes a good guest appearance, but I never thought he was strong enough to carry his own book.  To carry his own film, he was gonna need more than Nicolas Cage.  A lot of work went into the Ghost Rider film.  It’s easy to forget that sometimes when something falls flat.  However, if you dig on the net a little, or watch the special features on the DVD, you’ll learn that the effects guys worked hard to make fire effects that wouldn’t look fake, stunt people worked hard and dangerously to accomplish some great stunts, and the heart of the director was in the right place.

Sadly, Ghost Rider couldn’t do what Blade accomplished so well in his first outing on the big screen.   I saw this movie in a packed theatre.  If nothing else, the promotion machine for the film did it’s job.  People bought into the visuals and funny bits from the trailers that flooded movie theatres and televisions. 

Honestly, Nic Cage wasn’t bad in the movie.  I don’t generally like him in much, but I enjoyed his role in this film and it gave me the great moment of “You’re walking all over Karen.”  The problem came down to trying to make Ghost Rider too funny.  There didn’t seem to be enough trust in the character as he’s written in comics, and anytime a movie maker chooses not to do that, the movie itself suffers.

I left the theatre not feeling like I’d wasted money on the movie, but disappointed that it wasn’t what I knew it could have been…the surprise hit of the year.  However, my disappointment wouldn’t last long.

While on television, Heroes was rushing to learn to stop an exploding man and Smallville was (again, in my opinion) stumbling it’s way toward one of the best season finales the show has ever had, Leonidas and his 300 were defending Greece against an onslaught of Persians.  I had never read 300.  In fact, (I’m a bit embarassed to admit) I didn’t know that Frank Miller’s graphic novel was a fantastic interpretation of an actual historical event.  

What I did know, though, was that Frank Miller’s unique stylized art was wonderfully reproduced in moving picture form.  That alone was enough to bring me to theatre to see this film.  When the movie was over, I walked out of the theatre hoping someone would oppress me just so I could KICK THEIR…ahem…so I could rise up and defeat them. 

Everything about 300 was amazing.  I wasn’t bothered at all by the slow motion to quick motion fight scenes.  I reveled in David Wenham’s portrayal of Dilios and his ability to tell the story of 300 and make us feel like he was truly standing before 10,000 Greeks getting them pumped for the battle ahead.  In fact, I was totally caught up in all of the characters.  I hated who I was supposed to hate, loved who I was supposed to love, and found myself profoundly sad for and proud of the men who gave their lives in the name of stopping tyrrany in it’s tracks.  Suddenly, as far as movies went, 2007 was looking up. 

However, we still had a long way to go.  People were buzzing over Venom, preparing for The Surfer’s rise, arguing over flames on Optimus, bemoaning the fact that John McClane was going to be PG-13, anticipating Harry’s induction into the Order of the Phoenix, and awaiting the return of Jack Sparrow.   Yes, 2007 was a long way from over.

2007 – The Year in Geekdom (part 1)

5

Dec

Posted by Steve

Here we are at the end of 2007, and it’s time for a look back. 

Before we look back though, I have to be honest and say that there are a few movies that I haven’t seen and some that I am looking forward to seeing before the year is over.

Top among those are I AM LEGEND starring Will Smith.  I would probably see this movie simply because Will Smith is in it.  As it stands though, it looks promising as far as the story goes (I’ve never read the graphic novel.).   Smith has come a loooong way since his “Take it from me, parents just don’t understand” days alongside Jazzy Jeff.  He has solidified himself as one of the better actors of our time.  Even though I still have friends who can’t get past the Fresh Prince of Bel Air, after his work in films like ALI and THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS, it cannot be denied that Will Smith is a wonderful actor.  So, I am looking forward to a movie that is going to push his acting by having him and him alone on screen for a large chunk of the film.

Also, I haven’t seen BEOWULF yet.  However, I still intend to.  I am intrigued by the motion capture animation style of the film, and I have been intrigued by the story of Beowulf since I first read it in my lit class in high school.

Then there’s ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS.  I sat GARFIELD out.  Mainly because of Odie.  I didn’t like the look of Odie as they presented him on the big screen and I wasn’t too keen on another live action cartoon.  Every trailer I’ve seen of ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS has made me laugh though, so I will probably spring a matinee fee to go see it.

Ultimately, 2007 was across the board a decent year for geeks on several levels.

In the world of books and literature, we were treated to HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS.  I actually didn’t read any of the Harry Potter books until this year. It all started when I was at my house one day just doing some cleaning and ABC Family was running the first three movies back to back to back in anticipation of their premiere of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (I think).  I was flipping channels and I saw some kids run through a wall to a train station on the other side and I thought, “That’s pretty neat.”  Before I knew it, I was sucked in to the story of Harry Potter via the first film.  I had seen PRISONER OF AZKABAN with a friend who just wanted someone to go watch it with her, so I wasn’t unfamiliar with the characters or anything, I just wasn’t into the whole Harry Potter phenomenon.   Now, though, I went out and bought each book as finished the previous one.  I was blown away by J.K. Rowlings ability to write teen angst without making me roll my eyes and think the kids were all too stupid to continue to invest in.  (Yes, I ended a sentence with a preposition…sue me.)  The problem was that I finished HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF BLOOD PRINCE months before DEATHLY HALLOWS was released.   So I got caught up in all the speculation and discussions about what would happen and who would die.  

When I finally got my hands on the seventh and final book in the series, I devoured it.   I was totally invested in Hermione’s and Ron’s relationship with each other.  I got choked up when Ron came back to the trio after leaving so angrily.  I nearly got mad when, during a break in chapters, I thought for a split second that Hagrid had died.  I was thrilled when Mrs.  Weasly finally broke loose and showed just how tough she was.  I absolutely cheered when Harry finally faced down his Lord Voldemort and defeated evil.  I was a kid again.   In fact, every single book took me to that place that I think everyone has inside of them.   That place of childhood wonder at the world around you.

In comics, things are a bit more complicated.

In DC comics, 52 ended and the Countdown begun, thus proving that you can’t make magic happen intentionally, and lightning doesn’t strike the same place twice.  What do I mean by that?  Well, DC pulled off something successful, innovative, and very well-received in the form of 52.   However, to immediately follow that up with a series that is released the same way as 52 without the apparent detail to timing and continuity shows that the DC higher ups saw a dollar figure more than another creative oppurtunity.  

DC also took a step toward a more Silver Age feel in their books.  This could be good…this could be bad.  So far, it’s been both.  It depends largely on who’s writing and what they’ve been given and green lit to write.  Hopefully, DC will answer continuity questions and settle into a long term status quo with their books in Final Crisis.  This whole year for DC has seemed very hit and miss in terms of quality.  Further, it seems that DC has no real sense of where it’s headed or why. 

That’s not to say there hasn’t been some good stuff realeased by DC.   There has been some stuff that I wish I was collecting and some stuff that I have bit the bullet and picked up whether my budget can handle the strain or not.  Truthfully, ’08 has more potential for DC to get things on a great track more than Marvel.

In Marvel comics, 2007 saw Civil War end, The Hulk wage war, Captain America die, and Skrulls rear their ugly heads again.  While Civil War is an interesting concept, the end result left things so open ended and in disarray that many people are scratching their heads wondering if Marvel can get things back on track for themselves without God (as portrayed by Jack Kirby) wiping the slate clean and starting over. 

This is not to say that Civil War wasn’t compelling, interesting, or good, only that it may have been too much.  

Then there’s the death of Captain America.   This event has been handled pretty well by the Marvel Bullpen.  While Captain America will be back, (and most likely Steve Rogers as well one day) his death has been treated like the event it should be.

While I really enjoyed everything I got to read on the World War Hulk front, the story wasn’t the Earth-shattering event it promised to be in the months leading up to the Green Goliath’s return to Earth.  Sentinel continues to be a poor shadow of what Superman is in DC comics, and the question of how the Hulk will go back to being simply hounded by the military while Bruce Banner hides and finds a cure is yet to be seen.

Skrulls are back, and while I thought the first appearance of a Skrull in the Avengers title was supposed to signal an invasion of sorts, I haven’t seen or heard anything major happening yet.  

Marvel, through 2007, showed that (in their comics) they continue to tell great stories that start big and just kind of fizzle out at the end.   I think it’s time to go back to what works for them and get centered.   Quit messing around too much in your heroes lives and get back to some good old fashioned hero vs. villain action for a while. 

Both companies have gone the way of writing for the trades and killing us with crossovers.  Remember when you could collect one book and know what was going on with that character or team fairly consistently? 

There were a few straight to DVD releases this year that I picked up.

In January, Marvel continued it’s line of animated titles with THE INVINCIBLE IRON MAN.  The DVD came out the week of my birthday, so I picked it up as a present to myself.   I should have grabbed an ice cream cake from Dairy Queen instead.   The movie just didn’t pop with me.  There was never the moment that made me say, “This is worth the price of admission.”  Ultimate Avengers had it, when Captain America goes in to fight the Hulk, I was on the edge of my seat thinking, “Holy monkey spit! They’re gonna fight!” Ultimate Avengers 2 didn’t really have that moment, but it was still more watchable, in my opinion, that THE INVINCIBLE IRON MAN.  

As far as Super Heroes in any type of feature, that was the first one of the year, so things got off to not so hot a start in ’07 for our super powered friends.  In my mind, I had to wonder, “Would things get better?”