Friday, July 31, 2015

Watchmen created by Alan Moore, Dave Gibbons, John Higgins


Title: Watchmen
Writer: Alan Moore
Illustrator/Letterer: Dave Gibbons
Colorist: John Higgins
Publisher: DC Comics (1986)


It's a constant delight to me that despite Michael and I being at this joint posting thing for over five years, we still record a fair number of firsts. Thanks to the reader suggestion poll hosted at the end of last year by Michael, we had two reader suggestions for this year (which, btw, was a first). We did the first suggestion back in Jan and this month sees the second. However, it's also a first in that we haven't before used a comic/graphic novel for our source material. In the days of studios having tri-phasic superhero movie plans that might come as a bit of a surprise but what can we say? Sometimes you need an outsider to help you shake things up. 

For those that are new to our monthly series, this is when Michael reviews a film adapted from a book which gets a review here. 


Click here for Michael's film review of Watchmen
at It Rains... You Get Wet




It's 1985 and someone is targeting costumed adventurers. These self-styled saviors of humanity have either retired voluntarily or submitted to decommission after the Keene Act. Despite being almost wholly inactive, someone wants these crime fighters dead. As Rorschach tries to rally the troops, so to speak, lives are at stake and obligatory back stories commence. But as we delve deeper into the mystery we're forced to ask: is something far larger afoot?

I was seven years old when this first came out and even though I found it in the youth section at the library I would not consider this a book for kids. And, in fact, I didn't read it as a kid. The comics I remember reading were lots of standalones for kids, Batman, and some old Disney and WB comics I found in a relative's garage. I never lost my love for Batman, but I didn't stick with comics for long. I started reading more books and preferred them as a medium for stories (as I do to this day, books still beat out all other forms of story telling for me). In a funny coincidence with Watchmen coming up now, I delved back into comics last year because someone I knew could not shut up about how great Planet Hulk was (btw, they were right, it's great!). Here's a quick snapshot of where comics and I live right now:

recently read (on the left) and to be read (on the right)

I mention all this to make it clear that I feel like an outsider to both the 80s paranoia/fear complex and to critical analyses of comics. I also think both of the above are inseparable from Watchmen. As a casual reader, a lot of what Watchmen had to offer was pretty exciting. There were also points at which it fell short of my expectations (and if you pay any attention at all to comics or the book world it's very hard to not have Great Expectations going into this one).

Watchmen is set in an alternate history in which the US won the Vietnam War, the Cold War is still a thing (including HUAC), and a certain blue fellow has changed the face of technology. This tech seems to be mostly focused on military and energy needs as most people are still living typical 80s lives whilst being paranoid as shit because the world (which, in Watchmen, seems to refer solely to NYC and Russia with Vietnam and Afghanistan as war props) is devolving into one giant criminal hot bed under the constant threat of nuclear war with moral decay added on for funsies. The absolute horribleness of the world is a relentless theme throughout the 12 chapters.

The aspect of Watchmen I found most appealing was its structure. There are several story threads woven throughout which run, for lack of a better term, at various speeds in relation to each other. The reader is bumped between current events (sometimes several happening simultaneously), past events and an in-universe pirate comic with creative abandon. Actually, that's probably unfair, there is a very specific direction that Alan Moore is taking his readers and those jumps are all leading to the finish. Alright, that pirate thing is wholly symbolic but it still tied in with the larger themes of the story. (No, I did not care for the pirate story or find it all that necessary but I still admire the craft its inclusion displayed.)

There were several character arcs that also quite drew me in though I think there was definite room for improvement there. A few of the arcs were pretty shallow and even the best of them had at least one major hiccup. Rorschach gets my vote as the best developed and most consistent but I'd sure be interested in the perspective of longtime fans.

I don't know if there's a name for it but the building of the character world was quite rich. These characters didn't exist previous to Watchmen and yet they feel like characters that have made the rounds. The intersecting time points and backstories, along with the supplemental materials at the end of each chapter (memoir excerpts, articles, ad campaigns, company memos) lent a depth of reality to the costumed heroes that is necessary to the epic scope of the book.

For all that there's a lot to love, I found myself bored at times. The themes aren't exactly subtle and the "world is total shit" aspect was a dead horse that could have used far fewer hits. I think if this had been tightened into 8 chapters it would have been an absolute page turner. 

There are several panel sequences that are a joy to follow. I can flip through and find several action sets that I'm happy to peruse over and over. The last two pages of Chapter VIII, though, have to have been the most affecting for me. You've just come off a couple pages that have you following events from three perspectives - which are additionally overlaid with the pirate comic - and then you narrow down to one event that, over the course of 16 panels, still includes three perspectives but it's only in one room, watching the horrific fate of one person. It's amazing. It's like looking at those 3D posters, one moment I'm looking at the stunning artistry of the moment I have been drawn into, and the next I'm getting choked up all over again because it's a heartbreaking scene. I dare you to finish that chapter without tearing up a bit.

I happened to come by an interesting article regarding innovation in story-telling while reading Watchmen that got my brain working overtime. Its relevance here is a bit outside the scope of this review - and would include many spoilers for this title - but I hope to post about it in the coming days so if you want more of my thoughts on Watchmen I hope you'll come back by.


Now about that movie... Don't forget to check out Michael's post. 

 
rating: 3 of 5 stars
 


Coming up next:  
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy by John le Carre



Links to previous joint posts under the cut: 



Sunday, July 19, 2015

Alan Rickman Reel: Dogma


My household are big fans of Alan Rickman. As such, we decided to review his films from start to finish. Using IMDb, that put us starting with Die Hard (Die Hard!!!!) and we knew Dogma and Galaxy Quest would be in there, too. Not to mention all our other favorite Alan Rickman films. Plus, you know, we thought we'd discover so many more fun movies. That is probably still true but we've been discovering some real duds in our journey and it's sucking the fun out of this activity. As such, we've decided to keep going in chronological order but to focus on the ones we like or what sounds good to us.

If we skip one of your favorites feel free to make a case for it in the comments. Links to previous reviews can be found below, under the cut.

sgwordy: Even though this movie is awesome, it's hard for me to think anything other than, "Galaxy Quest is next! Squeeeee!"
Dr Musacha: Squee indeed!






Dr Musacha: I feel like this is the movie where Alan Rickman really started to perfect my favorite version of Alan Rickman. Snarky, mostly good-natured, with lots of sarcastic side comments.

sgwordy: He's so low key and deadpan you almost miss what great comedic timing he has. He's super funny but never in a scene stealing kind of way. Or, if he does steal the scene, he does it so subtly (and wonderfully) that I would guess his fellow actors simply say thanks and go on with the next one.

Dr Musacha: I totally agree. He's almost made for ensemble comedy. He doesn't need to be the actor everyone is reacting to. He's really good at complementing the scene and whoever is in it.

sgwordy: Speaking of ensemble comedy, what do think of this movie's ensemble cast?

Dr Musacha: I like it a lot. I think it's a well-acted movie with a lot of funny people. I remember the first time I saw this movie and being really impressed with Matt Damon and Ben Affleck. I thought they were standouts in the midst of some very experienced comedians.

sgwordy: Yes, whenever I watch this movie I'm always struck again at how much I wished they had made more movies together.

Dr Musacha: If we're going to mention the ensemble and standouts, then we'd better mention the weak link. Jay is so obnoxious and he's so out of place in this movie.

sgwordy: Wouldn't it be amazing if they sold a special edition with Jay completely edited out? Because I get tired of having to do it myself. I loathe Jay. I really fucking loathe Jay. Oh wait, maybe one of those angels could smash him right out of existence and then there would never be another movie with Jay ever again.

Dr Musacha: Yeah, so, about Alan Rickman... it would have been cool if Rickman had been Bethany's guide/guardian/prophet. Then we could have had more of his snarky comments.

sgwordy: Any increase in Rickman snark is a good thing.

Dr Musacha: Speaking of, can't wait for our next movie!



Summary:
Rate the movie on a scale of 1 to 10:
Dr Musacha –8
sgwordy –8
Was Rickman the best thing about this movie?
Dr Musacha – Yes, but great ensemble.
sgwordy – No, he's got stiff competition from too many other cast members.

In the context of his body of work, on a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate Rickman as Rickman?
Dr Musacha –8
sgwordy –9

Favorite Rickman quote from this movie?
Dr Musacha: Take sex for example, there's nothing funnier than the ridiculous faces you people make mid-coitus.
sgwordy: I hate it when people need it spelled out for them.



Previous films under the cut


Alan Rickman Reel: Judas Kiss


My household are big fans of Alan Rickman. As such, we decided to review his films from start to finish. Using IMDb, that put us starting with Die Hard (Die Hard!!!!) and we knew Dogma and Galaxy Quest would be in there, too. Not to mention all our other favorite Alan Rickman films. Plus, you know, we thought we'd discover so many more fun movies. That is probably still true but we've been discovering some real duds in our journey and it's sucking the fun out of this activity. As such, we've decided to keep going in chronological order but to focus on the ones we like or what sounds good to us.

If we skip one of your favorites feel free to make a case for it in the comments. Links to previous reviews can be found below, under the cut.


sgwordy: How's it seriously been a year since our last AR Reel?






sgwordy: Always nice to see the now classic Rickman/Thompson pairing.

Dr Musacha: Yeah, but it felt more like the movie belonged to the criminals rather than to them. Carla Gugino seemed like the main character.

sgwordy: I agree, but how many movies that Alan Rickman is in, could you say he's the lead character?

Dr Musacha: Not nearly enough.

sgwordy laughs

sgwordy: Did you think his South Louisiana accent was better than his Irish accent (from Michael Collins)?

Dr Musacha: Yes, but everyone was laying on badly affected southern accents so maybe he just sounded better than his peers. You're from Louisiana, what did you think?

sgwordy: I think I have yet to hear what sounds like an authentic South Louisiana accent on screen. Rickman could have been worse, though, so that's something.

We are finally seeing him in modern clothing. It's been a while.

Dr Musacha: Yeah, and even his schlubby suits were definitely better than his Robin Hood get-up.




Summary:
Rate the movie on a scale of 1 to 10:
Dr Musacha –7
sgwordy –6
Was Rickman the best thing about this movie?
Dr Musacha – No, Gugino's character was the best.
sgwordy – No, he was tied with Thompson. :-)

In the context of his body of work, on a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate Rickman as Rickman?
Dr Musacha –5
sgwordy –5

Favorite Rickman quote from this movie?
Dr Musacha: You're a better driver but I'm too proud to admit it.
sgwordy: I understand that this isn't personal because you're not a person.


Previous films under the cut


Saturday, July 18, 2015

Hello Kobo!

I've decided it's time to say goodbye to Amazon as a bookseller and so I'm shifting over to Kobo. So far it's easy as pie. Easy to set up a new account, easy to use the App, and they have Awards!!!! Squeeeeee!!! Like I needed any more motivation to read but I'll take Awards for reading achievements any day!


So here's my shout out and recommendation for Kobo. Kick the Amazon habit (if you have it) and find yourself a new eReader/Book provider.

Great article for writers

Make conscious choices rather than default choices.


Click here for full article

Sunday, July 12, 2015

History is cool!

I think I need to visit Denmark and Turkey.