Kirst Words

They only sound cursed.

August 1st, 2015

Mission Impossible – Rogue Nation is a fun, summer romp. The story involves IMF agent, Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise,) out to stop The Syndicate, an anti-IMF. The Syndicate is run by Solomon Lane (Sean Harris) who reminds me more than a little of James Bond. Even down to his outfit which, for much of the movie, is a Daniel Craig Spectre-like, black, turtle-neck. Is M.I.5 a commentary or at least a slight dig at Bond? Probably not but if I were in college and needed to write a paper on the film I’d certainly go in that direction. I may just be a little overprotective of my 007.

The film doesn’t change things up as much as the last few entries. Returning are Luther (Ving Rhames,) Brandt (Jeremy Renner) and Benji (Simon Pegg.) Newcomer Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson) is a welcome addition and perfect foil for Ethan. Her character is the most developed and her arc the most interesting. She’s an untrustworthy ally who’s working deep under cover and has a her own agenda, often putting her at odds with Ethan. She betrays him as much as she helps. Everyone else, even Hunt, is kind of one note in this one.

The relationship between Ilsa and Lane reminds me a great deal of Sleeper, a great spy comic by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips. Lane knows she’s a “good guy” but doesn’t really care. A good agent is a good agent. Hunt knows she’s a “good guy.” She may be the only one who isn’t sure. She certainly wants to be a “good guy” but in the spy business that isn’t always possible. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t Mad Max: Fury Road where Ethan is along for Ilsa’s story but she is the most interesting character in this film.

I’d like to point out the opening credits. They repeat the “overture” credits of Ghost Protocol in that all the big moments of the film are there for you to see, if only you knew what you were looking for. The soundtrack makes good use of Lalo Schifrin’s Mission Impossible theme but also sneaks in a little opera. One of the big scenes occurs at the Vienna State Opera for a performance of Turandot. All the action occurs during the famous Nessun Dorma aria where, much like Hitchcock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much, an assassination will occur during that final, climactic “Vincerò!” Nessun Dorma is reprised through the film, mainly in dealing with Ilsa. Is she the beautiful princess for whom Ethan must correctly answer three riddles or die? Maybe, but again, probably more for the college paper me.

Yes, I’ve kind of avoided all discussion of plot or action or how Cruise does his own stunts but it’s a summer blockbuster. You really just want a thumbs up or down, don’t you? Thumbs up. Rogue Nation‘s not as good as Ghost Protocol but it’s still pretty darn good. It’s the second best action film this year after Fury Road. Also, no stinger so you can leave immediately but I liked the curtain-call end credits.

July 23rd, 2015

So there are these things, Artists Editions, that reproduce original comic art. Mostly. Occasionally there are things like overlays which an not be duplicated in a way that would be understandable to a person who did not understand how old school printing and coloring worked. If you’ve seen the David Mazzucchelli Daredevil AE, even the overlay pages do not do what I believe the originals would have — each having two to three overlays. But it’s still beautiful. Then there’s lettering. In the Mignola Hellboy AE his more recent work is unlettered. Now he had just released a trade with everything so I could easily reference what was being said.

In old days, comics were written or plotted and then the page stared. It was penciled, lettered and inked. Colors were done separately. So when you see an old page you see what was written. Modern books are still written but each stage can be done separately. The pencils can be scanned and the inker can work on them physically by printing them out or digitally in that form and they can be lettered at the same time as most lettering is digital now. So how does this impact Artist Editions? Well, until Mignola everything was old enough it had lettering. Now there have been pencil only editions of comics but those were trade sized and meant to be read (Ultimates 3, Hush, etc.) For Doug Wheatley’s Star Wars AE they actually included the full script for each page opposite the art. IDW put out a workprint edition which was trade sized that also had the script opposite the inked art but had the full lettered and colored comic afterwards.

DC is planning on a Michael Turner AE of his Superman/Batman run which was just pencils and colored. It’ll be interesting to see how they do this.

July 22nd, 2015

Ernest Cline is the author of Ready Player One and is a big nerd but he’s proud of it. Last night Anderson’s had him out for his new book, Armada, which seems very much like a rip off of the movie The Last Starfighter. Cline admits it is, but it also rips off many other things.

Cline began by explaining how he got into writing. He was always a big nerd with many of the same nerd influences I had — he’s only a few years younger than I. He wanted to write movies and started by writing a sequel to The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the Eight Dimension. At the end of that movie it states “Buckaroo Banzai will return in Buckaroo Banzai vs. The World Crime League.” The script was just fan fiction but so well received in the fan community he thought he might have a chance at being screenwriter.

He then wrote what would become Fanboys. It was based on the premise of “what if you knew you were going to die before Episode I came out?” He wrote it before the prequels were released but it wasn’t produced until long after. Because in hindsight, you wouldn’t care if you saw the prequels. The film making process changed the essence of his film so much he decided to write novels where he would have complete control.

He then explained the the influences of Ready Player One and the success and fame that came with it. Much of which seems to surround his Delorean which he modified to be a replica of the Back to the Future Delorean with Ghostbuster influences including ghostbusting backpacks stored in the trunk. He then got around to Armada which, in addition to The Last Starfighter, was also influenced by things like Iron Eagle and other things which I don’t remember. He spoke for about an hour, answered a few questions and then signed.

The signing was at North Central College’s Wentz Auditorium which had enough seating to hold everyone. This was a ticketed event and I purchased early enough to get ticket 13. So when it was done I did not wait long. For those who did have a high number, they showed Back to the Future while you waited for your number to be called. He signed outside of the the auditorium. I asked him if he knew about the Buckaroo comics put out by Moonstone which he did.

July 19th, 2015

Ant-Man is good but not great. You won’t be disappointed if you see it but it’s nothing you need to rush out and see. The only criticism I have is the movie’s a little racist in it’s casting. Every white person in the film is a genius. A Tony Stark level genius. All the comic relief falls to the minorities — even The Falcon. Which is not to say Michael Peña did not steal the show, cuz he did. It’s a minor quibble but in an era where Marvel is really promoting how ethnically diverse they are, this seems a step back.

July 4th, 2015

Inside Out
On Tuesday, I got to see Inside Out with (formerly) Pixar Warren. Before seeing it I told him about a meme where all Pixar films were summed up as Toy Story – What if toys had feelings?, Cars – What if cars had feelings? and so on up to Inside Out – What if feelings had feelings? (Yes, The Incredibles was What if superheroes had feelings?) The short before the film was about volcanoes prompting me to ask What if volcanoes had feelings?

Inside Out is about the inner workings of Riley (voiced by Kaitlyn Dias.) Her personality is defined by five emotions: Joy (Amy Poehler,) Sadness (Phyllis Smith,) Fear (Bill Hader,) Anger (Lewis Black) and Disgust (Mindy Kaling.) Why those emotions? Why not? (And then ask Neil Gaiman why those seven Endless.) But as the movie reveals, every living creature has those 5 emotions running their lives. The main five stay in the Control Room and at the end of every day sends the days memories to Long Term Storage where a society exists to process these memories. Except there are core memories which are very important and stay in the Control Room. Joy, the leader of the group in Riley’s head, is set on making all of Riley’s memories happy ones.

Unfortunately Riley, age 12, has just been uprooted and moved to San Francisco and everything is going wrong. A mishap occurs and Joy, Sadness and all of Riley’s core memories are accidentally sent to Long Term Storage. This sends Riley into depression as Joy and Sadness try to return to the Control Room. Along the way they meet Bing Bong (Richard Kind) who was Riley’s imaginary friend. I only mention him because once he appears, Bing Bong sort of steals the show. With Fear, Disgust and Anger running the show things go worse and worse for Riley and inside her head things get harder for Joy and Sadness.

Inside Out is very good. It has everything you want from a kids film — it doesn’t speak down to kids and is written so adults will enjoy it, it has a lesson about tolerance and will even make you cry*. But hey, it’s a Pixar film. Nothing will be as devastating as the first 5 minutes of Up.

*Spoiler-ish: The scene that made me cry had me thinking He’s going to interstellar her! from McConaughey’s line “You have to leave something behind.”

Terminator Genisys
I’ll probably need a while to decide whether or not Terminator Genisys is worth recommending. It has received poor reviews and word of mouth but I had fun with it. But I tend to be more forgiving of science-fiction. From a nerd standpoint, if you liked the first two Cameron Terminators there is a great deal of homage paid to those films down to exact recreation of certain scenes from the first movie.

Arnold still plays the Terminator, but they’ve found a reasonable explanation for him to age. He was sent to the past to protect a 9-year old Sarah Connor and his “skin” grew old as she grew up. As the adult Sarah, Emilia Clarke does a great job of embodying the role created by Linda Hamilton. From how Sarah changed between Terminator and T2 I could see this was how Sarah could look if she spent all her life training, fighting and on the run. The Terminator served as a father figure and she clearly cares for him referring to it as “pops.”

Jai Courtney plays Kyle Reese and unfortunately doesn’t come close to channeling Michael Biehn but is passable. He and Sarah have an antagonistic relationship to start because she knows his fate — he loves her and is killed. It’s hard to love someone when you know the moment you do they’re going to die. The Terminator often prompts Sarah to mate with Kyle to humorous effect. Reese is also very distrusting of Pops Terminator creating an interesting tension between him and everyone else except John Connor. Jason Clarke (no relation to Emila in real life) plays the adult John Connor. He really doesn’t have any shoes to fill as most see the Christian Bale, Terminator Salvation JC as non-cannon.

There are a lot of timey-wimey things going on in Genisys and yes, Matt Smith is in the film. But all in all it’s less Doctor Who and more like the Abrams’ Star Trek where, now that things were changed in the past, the future we have with this new film (set of films?) is entirely different with the originals still being valid. Matt Smith has a small but vital role which, if there are sequels will most likely be more prominent. In fact the stinger (midway through the credits) strongly implies this.

I’m not sure if I can recommend Genisys. I had fun with it but I don’t know who else would.

June 13th, 2015

So it’s fun and if you’ve liked past Jurassic movies you’ll be fine with this. That’s it. FYI–no stinger.

Early on, when it was surmised Owen (Chris Pratt) had a raptor posse I wanted to know how this amazing, insane and completely credible concept had come about. My silliest (and best!) guess was part of a raptor brain had been implanted into his allowing him to communicate with them. My fanfiction storylines centered around Chris and the raptor posse involved in Charlie’s Angels or after school special type situations. Jimmy’s being bullied, what can the raptor posse do? Cutting to a bloody mouthed raptor and screaming. Lots of screaming. That’s how they all ended. Occasionally raptor instincts would overtake Pratt and he’d claw, with his human hands, at someone’s belly. He’d then realize what he was doing and casually admit “raptor brain.” Up until I sat down in the theater this morning I still hoped against hope I would see something like this. I didn’t but I wasn’t disappointed with what I saw either.

Next week the raptor posse goes undercover in a prison!

June 9th, 2015

I apparently have Mansfield 211 flush valves in my upstairs toilets and was very happy to find that the 210 valve seal works fine. The seals have a design flaw which eventually causes the plunger to stick. I actually broke my toilet handle in the guest bathroom the valve seal was stuck so hard! Everything seems fine and now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some business to attend to…

[Follow up]
Of course I had to push my luck. The master bathroom handle was sticking a little as well so I swapped that one out finding the old valve seal as deteriorated as the other. When I replaced it, the seal was not perfect causing slow drainage and, as I was clever enough to do it in the morning before work, had to leave it until after work to fix. Long story short, there may be an upside and a downside for the seal as the flip side is now working perfectly.

June 7th, 2015

I’m an introvert. That means a lot of things and it differs from person to person but for me it means I like being alone. It doesn’t mean I don’t like being with others but it can. Interaction with others on any meaningful social level is draining. The past week has been busy for me socially and it’s been incredibly draining.

Last Sunday was a wrestling PPV that was sprung on me. We agreed we weren’t going to do it which I thought still meant Pat and George intended to watch it — just not as a group. But minds were changed and we had it. Tuesday was book club (The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah,) Wednesday was drawing night, Thursday was office group dinner and drinks, Saturday was CAKE and today Bob had a party at JTs Patio in Lombard and Pat invited me to be his +1 as his “most presentable (to the real world) friend.” That and I know Bob and Teresa from earlier. If I didn’t have Bob’s I might have tried Printer’s Row, which I don’t consider a social thing because even though I’m surrounded by people, I don’t know anyone. CAKE was almost the exact opposite.

At Bob’s party there was a discussion about another friend who is even more introverted than I. He doesn’t hide his distaste at social gatherings and I tried to explain how introverts feel. I usually say “I hate people,” and this often gets a laugh but it’s not far from the introverted truth. I can be quite charismatic when called for and I have a good idea of how “the real world” will react to things but if I have my way, I’m mostly I’m quiet and don’t talk. (If you’re a cute girl I may also be scared of you.) After explaining all the things introverts hate to do I told them to remember this one thing: understand that if an introvert is socializing (even if it is being done poorly) they are putting forth a great effort and really like you.

This is not to say I don’t want to be invited anywhere. Even I cannot survive without human contact. And hopefully my social skills are such that you never realize that I’m uncomfortable. Gwen (? – I think it was Gwen: cute, short-hair, green dress) at Rachel’s party must have noticed it (I mentioned it in the board gaming post.) But I clearly like Rachel — I not only went to her party, but defied on-call which is a great introvert excuse because it’s a real one. The on-call Gods can be a merciless bunch. (All praise the on-call gods!) But I had a good time. I like people watching and her group of Ren-Fairers provided just enough difference from my comic groups that I was very intrigued by their socializing.

Of the events last week, the PPV was the most draining because it’s time I intended to spend alone that was replaced with a social event. And while I’m very comfortable with that group it still takes something out of me even when I’ve planned to go. But I did still go (which means I like them) and it was fun. It did end up being a very long week with all the other things that happened.

Perhaps the moral of the story is this: if you invite me last minute and I don’t go, I probably don’t like you as much as my wrestling group.

It’s Tony Awards time! Seeya!

June 6th, 2015

CAKE, the Chicago Alternative Comics Expo (I don’t know where the K comes from either, [EDIT: There apparently is a Charles CAKE, so there you have it!]) is a convention of very independent comics. If you know any of the names here then you’ve got yourself some indy cred and you’d surprise the heck me. This is comics indy cred, mind you. Except Los Bros. Hernandez. Gilbert and Jaime, creators of Love and Rockets, were in attendance and if you knew either of them before hand you’d still have indy cred but it wouldn’t surprise me.

CAKE is held at the Center on Halsted, a LGBT youth building in Chicago’s gay district, Boystown. I mention this because it’s a place where I set up the wireless years ago at my previous job. There is a gymnasium on the third floor which is where the convention was held. I found amazing parking just across the street. Being a comic guy, I have plenty of comic friends and many of them were present. Delia had a table where she sold her mini-comic Station In Life and other books. Everyone else I knew was just there as a fan.

I was there to see Los Bros. Hernandez and Jillian Tamaki, artist of This One Summer. I paid for a sketch from Jaime and after that it was whatever caught my eye. Evan Dahm complimented me on my Pixies concert t-shirt so I bought one of his books. I knew of Liz Prince and Eleanor Davis in name only so I corrected that. I bought stuff from Marian Runk because of her last name. Lucy Knisley had something new — that’s all it takes for her. My last purchase was from Dakota McFadzean who was away from his table for a while and that allowed me to look at his stuff without feeling I had to buy anything. And it worked. His comics were amazing. So good that when I showed it to Ashly and Jeanna they went and bought stuff from him as well.

The Money Pit — total $250
CAKE t-shirt $15
Sketch (Jaime Hernandez) $40
Heartbreak Soup (Gilbert Hernandez) $16
Frontier (Jillian Tamaki) $10
Haunter (Sam Alden) $15
Stop Paying Attention (Lucy Knisley) $10
The Magic Hedge 1 & 2 (Marian Runk) $20
Vattu: The Name and the Mark (Evan Dahm) $30
How to be Happy (Eleanor Davis) $25
Fuckwizards (Eleanor Davis) $5
Tomboy (Liz Prince) $16
Truce (Leigh Luna) $10
Nothing Special (Lane Fujita) $8
Hollow in the Hollows (Dakota McFadzean) $10
Don’t Get Eaten By Anything (Dakota McFadzean) $20

[Update: So I forgot Printers Row was also this weekend. I know went last year for the Fest’s 30th anniversary (I remeber buying a Hot Doug’s book as well as one on Charcuterie and eating from a Jamaican food truck) but I’m not sure about 2013. I’m guessing no for 2013 but didn’t blog about either year. I really wanted to see Erik Larson and pick up his new book and maybe see LaVar Burton as well. Neither seems available Sunday and I already have plans. I also spent LOTS of money at CAKE. Worse, it’s a rainy Sunday which is the perfect time to go to Lit Fest cuz it’s outdoors. No, I’m serious.]

May 31st, 2015

Last February Irvine Welsh was to sign his new book, Sex Lives of Siamese Twins, at Anderson’s. This was the day after the Superbowl and if you remember (if you live in the Chicagoland area) that we had Snowmageddon, blanketing the area in several feet of snow. There was no driving that day and Mr. Welsh, rightfully, cancelled. Cut to end of May and Chuck Palahniuk is signing at Anderson’s with special guest Irvine Welsh. This was clearly to be an evening of rudeness and debauchery at the Naperville Marriott — it’s where it was held, probably because they served alcohol.

I had bought tickets earlier and was able to pick up pre-signed books which included Chuck’s new short story collection, Make Something Up: Stories You Can’t Unread, and the Chicago Comics cover for Fight Club 2 #1, cover drawn by Tim Seeley. Also in the bag were two glow sticks and a blow up, medium sized, beach ball. We were told to blow up the ball, write our full name on the ball with markers being handed around, start the glow sticks and insert them into the balls. Yes, there were a lot of ball jokes.

While waiting two people sat in front of me and I eventually noticed that one of them was Tim Seeley. I didn’t know his companion. Tim explained Dark Horse called him at the last minute and told him they had reserved a place for him. Tim eventually got up and told people who he was and got to meet Chuck. They passed out a second set of balls for those who wanted them and because Tim was unable to inflate his (he couldn’t understand how the valve worked and that you had to bite down — maybe he wasn’t used to biting on things he blew…) I blew up a second and gave it to him.

Chuck took the stage. He asked how many people had never been to a book signing and by a show of hands about half hadn’t. “Chicago, you’re illiterate!” was his reply. He explained book signings were incredibly fun and even very much like sex. As he explained the similarities there were those who wanted to participate and shouted out things but “just like sex,” he said, pausing for dramatic effect, “I want you to stay quiet until I’m done.” He proceeded to throw bags of candy into the crowd. “The difference between the US and Canada is, without prompting, the Canadians will open the bag and pass it around.” He explained how Q&A would go. If you were chosen to ask a question, you would get a book prize. Then he explained the balls. The lights would be turned off and music would be played. We were to throw the balls as close to the center as possible and Chuck would select two. If he selected your ball you would win a limited, leather bound, silk thong “that smells like Jennifer Aniston’s ass” bookmark, autographed edition of either Fight Club or Beautiful You. And then we did it.

My video didn’t come out as well as this (from a previous signing) but if you really want to see mine check out my Facebook videos.

“This is how all book events are,” he said. “Everyone does it this way. Maya Angelou did it this way when she was alive.” Tim realized he (and everyone else) had been doing comic panels wrong all these years.

Chuck read a short story from the book, answered a few questions and did the ball thing again. He then introduced Irvine Welsh who read from Sex Lives of Siamese Twins. Irvine has a thick, Scottish brogue but some of the characters he was reading were clearly American, white trash and he would try and do accents which made for an interesting audible experience. Irvine was no where near as hard to understand as I thought he might be. Irvine did not take questions. It was really Chuck’s evening. Even though Chuck suggested whenever he took questions that people ask Irvine something, no one ever did. There were about 10 questions asked and while his responses were long and wonderful I suspect there was nothing he had not been asked thousands of times. “Like a politician he didn’t always answer the question that was asked, he answered the question he wanted asked.”

Chuck’s last story was Zombie about high school students lobotomizing themselves with defibrillators which went in a very dark place as most of his audience was very young but I really enjoyed it. One of the questions he was asked was “When does a short story become a novel?” and he explained they were usually very separate things. For him, novels, because of the effort to read the whole thing, had some sort of closure while short stories tended to more open ended and close with new possibilities.

We did the ball thing one last time and then he thanked everyone from Chicago Comics, Anderson’s and even brought Tim Seeley on stage. They all then took Halloween-style severed arms that were autographed by Chuck and threw them into the crowd. Earlier one of the bags of candy that was thrown essentially hit a girl in the face and so this seemed a dubious proposition. Tim got one stuck in the ceiling. The girl next to me got one, which is good because she let everyone around her (and further) use her marker. She even asked Tim to sign her copy of Fight Club 2 allowing him to fulfill his dream of “signing my name next to Chuck Palahniuk’s!”

I claimed a ball (yours, Leslie Lottes Jr.) and went home.