So I saw Jon Favreau‘s Iron Man 2, staring Robert Downey, Jr. as Iron Man (Tony Stark), Gwyneth Paltrow as Virginia “Pepper” Potts, Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury, Favreau as Happy Hogan, Sam Rockwell as Justin Hammer, Mickey Rourke as Ivan Vanko (Whiplash), and Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanov (Black Widow), and Don Cheadle as James “Rhodey” Rhodes (War Machine). What follows is what I’d call a review of medium-high-level spoilerage; I give away some plot points–but nothing that you couldn’t infer from the trailer–and a working knowledge of the Iron Man comics. If you’ve not yet seen the movie, and that worries you, please: Read no further. We can always talk after you watch the glory that is this film. I’ll still be here. Also? This one’s a bit longer than Dom’s. Sorry about that. Kind of.
Now, to continue into the heart of this review, I have to say that I was extremely wary of the replacement of Terrence Howard with Don Cheadle. Not because I thought the latter man couldn’t do the work–if you’ve ever seen him in anything, you know that isn’t the case–but because, no matter the actor or their skill, there will always be a disconnect when a character you love is played by someone else. Always. We are looking at a completely different person, and nothing you do or say can make that not be the case. Your best bet is to just hang a lantern on it, as they say–draw attention to the fact that you’re aware of the problem–and let it be. This is masterfully handled in the film in the very first exchange between Tony and Rhodey. It is so subtle, in fact, that I missed it until I was writing this paragraph.
So, quite some time ago Tuffley told me that Alan Moore (Promethea, Lost Girls, Swamp Thing, The Voice of the Fire, Snakes and Ladders, self-professed conceptual magician, author, comics creator, playwright, crazed bearded man of the Northampton woods) would be teaming up with Damon Albarn (Blur, several soundtracks you love, including the one for Ravenous) and Jamie Hewlett (Tank Girl)–the two finely diseased minds behind Gorillaz. They are getting together for the purposes of creating an opera about the life of Dr. John Dee (Secret Servant to Queen Elizabeth I, transcriber of the Enochian Letters, first 007).
Apparently, he wasn’t just blowing smoke in order to get my hopes up and then dash them mercilessly to the ground. So we have Albarn, who is himself a compositional genius, Hewlett, who is possessed of an artistic style which may indicate that he is simply possessed, and Moore, the auteur who has declared himself a magician–and a liar–in the same breath. This is going to be fantastic.
Written by: Peter Schink & Scott Stewart Directed by: Scott Stewart Starring: Paul Bettany, Lucas Black, Dennis Quaid, Charles S. Dutton, Tyrese Gibson, Adrianne Palicki
My Advice: Wait for the DVD, if you see it at all.
Short Version: Not bad, but you can simulate the experience by watching, In This Order: the opening 20 minutes of Terminator, all of The Prophecy (1995, not 1979), any several random portions of The Omen, the Commandments scene fromThe Ten Commandments, and all of Terminator 2.
Long Version: The whole “Angelic-Host-Exterminating-Humanity-And-Humanity-Has-To-Save-Itself” Thing would have worked, wonderfully, if they had focused on that. And the whole “What-Makes-Humans-Unique-Even-Unto-Causing-Heretofore-ABSOLUTELY-LOYAL-Archangels-To-Rebel-Is-Their-Ability-To-Persevere-And-Show-The-Best-Of-Themselves” Thing, would have worked, wonderfully, if they had focused on that. Hell, those two things would have worked well, together, if those were the only two plot points.
Despite all evidence to the contrary, Neil Gaiman is Not, in fact, the King of Dreams, the Prince of Stories, His Honour, Morpheus, Lord Dream of the Endless. Neil just Works for him. Now, don’t get me wrong, he does a Fantastic job of it, and even managed to get people to read Real and True Factual History by dressing it up as a so-called “Comic Book.” This is no mean feat. And sure, the job has its perks–like being able to tell stories that are true, but which never actually “happened” per se; or writing down such fantastical tales that happen every day but which people hardly ever believe. Or (of course) telling Dreams. And I don’t just mean dreams like you’re naked in class and it’s the day of the big test, or you’re locked in a submarine with the Queen of All Rock-Topia. I mean Your dreams, Our dreams, dreams that matter, Stories that teach us things. You know…Dreams.
The second stop on the road of my Not-A-Top-5 for Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror Novelists That Use Dreams to Crack Your Head Open In All the Right Ways…
Mark Z. Danielewski‘s House of Leaves is a sprawling, convoluted tale of a found manuscript which recounts the exegesis of: a non-existent film and family; a conspiratorial friendship; a young man’s inability to deal with death, intimacy, and hereditary madness; the mutable nature of communication in the shared soul that a home creates; and a house which is bigger on the inside than it is on the outside. All of these things are the same thing, and they overlap and intertwine in a tragic, hopeful arc that runs from Virginia to Hollywood, from the Arctic sea to the Mediterranean, and through the minds and lives of three men who may all be the same man, or the man for whom whichever of them is “Real” is searching.
It’s the faulty recall and outright lies of Danielewski’s characters and his ability to craft the world around his people in such a way as they are not infallible, but imminently flawed, which, when coupled with the interwoven themes, places, and states of mind mentioned above, make this entire work an exercise in parsing the memory of dreaming. Each footnote is a step on a giant spiral staircase of the unconscious, and each chapter a landing, and whether you’re going up or down, you find yourself pulled not only into the lives of these people, but into the spaces between them. You find yourself in that hearty darkened hollow in the centre of each of them that keeps them apart, keeps them from seeing each other, and which, ultimately, is the only thing that can help them put themselves back together.
Our first stop on the road of my Not-A-Top-5 for Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror Novelists That Use Dreams to Crack Your Head Open In All the Right Ways…
CaitlÃn R. Kiernan‘s story world has a thread in it which could be said to “start” with Threshold: A Novel of Deep Time. Threshold itself is precisely about the sheer horror and terror of learning that there is more to the world around you than you ever suspected, that there are lasting consequences to every action you take, and that theme continues through every story set in that world. Each of the stories thereafter puts the reader into the mind of any of the vast number of broken and slightly deranged personalities to be found in… well… Reality, really. Each of her characters has distinct histories, flaws, needs, drives, fears, outright phobias and aversions, all of which bring them to full, nuanced life, making them a part of the fabric of the world. Even her “villains” have complex motivations. And they all dream.
Wolven here again. I’m back from the wilds of a future time where the southeast portion of the United States is the desert it only pretends to be in our present autumn months, and the cities of Atlanta, Charlotte, and Birmingham have the beaches they’ve always wanted. From the considerable effort I was having to exert to follow the rule “never read your own press,” I gather that people hadâ€¦ Feelings, one way or another, about my premier piece, here on Need Coffee. And that’s good, because we’re going again, and this time I want to talk to you about something you dang kids don’t talk nearly enough about these days: Novels. Now don’t get me wrong, we talk about Fiction all the time here. We talk about Important fiction all the time, too. Comics, music, movies; all of these are deeply important. But, just for a little while, let’s talk about some books, and let’s talk about the writers of those books. Read More
Wolven, while he works in his monstrous lab concocting his follow-up to his Magic in Comics post, offered up this archival interview he conducted with author Hal Duncan on September 14, 2006. Hal Duncan is the author of Vellum and Ink, both discussed below, and also Escape From Hell!, which came out last year.
Wolven: 1) For the record, what is your name?
HD: Hal Duncan.
W: 2) Many would say that “modern magical practice,” as spoken of by people like Alan Moore, Grant Morrison, Phil Hine, and those others counting themselves as “modern magicians,” rests in an idea of the manipulation of language as a way to manipulate concepts and thereby dictate perception and interaction with the world.
a. Do you think that if there is a “magic,” then it rests in this kind of manipulation?
b. How would you define a magic in which you could believe?
HD: a) I think it would have to. I’m an atheist, nihilist, existentialist, materialist, when it comes down to it, albeit with an idiosyncratic view on materialism which doesn’t preclude the irrational, the indefinite and the downright chaotic, so any theory of magic that requires a spiritual / material distinction, that posits it as an appeal to supernatural entities or incorporeal agents active in a “higher” realm, doesn’t hold water for me. If magic were to exist, to me it would have to be a natural phenomenon.
Friends, please welcome Wolven to our cast of characters around here. He’s constantly going off on various subjects on his Twitter account, including magic, so I invited him to come and deliver a thesis on pop culture and magic–and his first target is comics. Enjoy.
Hello, gentle readers. My name’s Wolven. While you might have seen my name and linkage on a sidebar, or a random source attribution from our man Widge, there’s a lot you probably don’t know about me. Like the fact that my ribs are more cartilage than bone; or that some days I’m pretty sure that I’m a random government-funded genetic/social experiment; or that I freaking love comics. I love comics with a ridiculous love, and I have since I was a child. I am, by rights, a nerd. A geek. A person with intense interests less known and less understood than those of the so-called norm. And not only am I a geek, I am a geek with professional, academic, and personal interests in magic and the occult. So when Widgett approached me about doing a guest column concerning the Top 5 Comics That Get Magic Right, I damn near fell off of my couch. Luckily I was lying down at the time.