Sin City: A Dame to Kill For

When thinking of the first Sin City the phrase “lightning in a bottle” springs to mind. Upon its release I think we all knew there would be a sequel, and the pessimist in me was sure it would be a let down. The first was so good that there was almost no way a return to the material could attain the same heights. Sometimes it sucks to be so right.

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The Rocky Road to 135 West 50th

Spider-Man is not on my “top ten favorite Marvel characters” list. Honestly, he’s probably not in the top fifty, but that doesn’t stop me from appreciating the significance of the character’s impact or the brilliance behind what is, in truth, a cultural phenomenon. It’s a personal thing; Parker just doesn’t speak to me. He’s the Charley Brown of the Marvel Universe and I prefer my heroes not to depress me in a way that can hit too close to home. (The terrible shit that happens to Logan? Way outside the boundaries of reality.)

There’s something about Marvel characters being used (often misused) by anyone other than their parent creators that seems inherently wrong to me so this morning’s announcement made me happy, despite my general indifference to the wall-crawler. And then I read past the headline of the press release. Be careful what you wish for.

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Hedwig and the Angry Inch

I think it’s fair to say that one’s first Broadway experience will always be memorable, largely independent of the quality of the show. This is magnified, I expect, by the not-insignificant overlap of first time visits to New York City. Love it or hate it, Times Square is a sight to behold. Descending into the subway below the dark streets of the West Village only to climb out of the Times Square station into the artificial daylight was incredible. The blinding energy of the place is going to stick with me; unsurprisingly much of that night will linger in my memory, from the ushers in their traditional uniforms from a bygone era to the shock at the limited size of the Belasco’s stage.

Most of all I’ll remember Neil Patrick Harris’ blowing my mind. And a microphone.

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Guardians of the Galaxy

I created this entry almost seven weeks ago. I know that I don’t have the most rigorous schedule for new content nor am I at risk of abusing anyone’s inbox with notifications, but almost two months is a long time to sit on a post. Especially since I’m very clearly a huge Marvel fanboy. So why, then, have I been neglecting this particular topic? It all comes down to one uncomfortable fact:

I thought Guardians of the Galaxy was kind of a crap movie.

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Robin Williams

I don’t normally get all bent out of shape when a celebrity dies. Sure it’s sad (especially if they go unexpectedly or too young) but I tend not to develop emotional attachment to people I’ve never met. That being said, I am capable of understanding when other people do; the characters we love and the performers who portray them are intrinsically linked in our minds. Still, in the grand scheme of my life not much changes when a household name takes their final bow.

But the news of Robin Williams’ passing last night is a tough pill to swallow. My usual initial reaction has built into genuine sadness for the loss. He was a towering figure in comedy, and someone who successfully showed us that the clown makeup can conceal a gifted dramatic artist. But he’s also more than that.

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Snowpiercer

Sometimes I feel like storytelling has gotten too complicated for its own good. I wonder how many writers have felt pressured to break new ground in their chosen genre, or how many would-be writers never put pen to page because they worry that their ideas aren’t “fresh” enough. Aiming high is good, that’s how progress is made. Yet I find myself slightly disappointed by some of what I read and watch because the stories don’t fully ascend to the apogee of their aspirations. The film version of The Fountain comes to mind. So does Sucker Punch. These aren’t bad stories per se, they just fall a little short of the inherent promise made to us by the tellers: “This one is different. This one is more.”

There’s a reason why fiction can be broken down into familiar structures taught to students young enough to struggle with cursive handwriting. Those structures may seem tired but they just work, and if one understands them well enough it becomes unnecessary to try to break free from them. Snowpiercer is a wonderful example of what happens when a writer doesn’t try to get fancy with format and just lets the story tell itself.

(Warning: this entry and its comments contain spoilers.)

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Hannibal

Think back to days of yore before 2010, a more innocent time, and conjure up the most recent television show you watched up to that point which fit neatly into the horror genre. Was it Are You Afraid of the Dark? Or Tales from the Crypt? Maybe (probably) The X-Files? If it seems like I’m going too far back and missing the obvious choices keep in mind that American Horror Story didn’t hit the air until 2011, and The Walking Dead started the horror television renaissance in, you guessed it, 2010. Don’t worry, I have to keep reminding myself that it’s halfway through 2014 already, too.

I’m so happy that The Walking Dead got a pilot and subsequently got renewed for full seasons. Not because I’m a fan of the TV show (I loved the comic while I was reading it but god help me I just can’t bring myself to care about the plot or the characters or GODDAMMIT CARL, GET IN THE HOUSE) but because without The Walking Dead there is no way that NBC would be airing Hannibal right now. And Hannibal, I think, is one of the most lovingly crafted pieces of art available to the masses in recent memory.

(Warning: this entry contains spoilers.)

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X-Men: Days of Future Past

Is there any literary device more maligned and misused than time travel? I don’t think any other concept has spawned as much confusion and (ultimately) exasperated resignation in an audience. It’s so hard to get right, so I wonder, why do we keep going back to the well on this? I think maybe it’s the universal human desire to get a “do over”; we all have memories which might have played out differently at our current level of knowledge and wisdom. Who wouldn’t like to go back and correct a few mistakes?

If I’m right, though, there may be no more glaring example of pure irony in the history of entertainment. The list of stories that used time travel in an interesting a novel way are hugely outnumbered by the cliché and confusing examples, yet writers keep dusting the concept off for another go. Despite the overwhelming odds that the next story will end up atop the pile of bad examples, writers continue to venture forth into the world of paradoxes, causality loops, and unexplained mechanisms.

How many of those writers would like to go back in time to stop themselves from failing?

(Warning: this entry contains spoilers.)

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Agents of SHIELD

As a life-long reader of Marvel comics and someone who enjoys my action/adventure with a healthy dose of funny I am soundly within the target demographic for Marvel’s most recent foray into the world of live action television. Weekly stories within their shared cinematic universe? More Phil Coulson? A place for Marvel to introduce some of their less popular or “movie friendly” characters? I really, really, want to love Agents of SHIELD.

But I don’t. Not yet.

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