Some entertainment stuff I’m looking forward to this year:

Movies: Coraline

YouTube also has the trailer in HD.

I discovered Sandman late, borrowing the trades from one of my (younger) brother’s friends around 1998 or so, then immediately tracking down my own copies. I lucked out and got a complete set on eBay for something like $70. Since then I’ve devoured most of Neil Gaiman’s work, be it in comics, prose, or movie form. The original novel of Coraline was very good, and it’s been adapted by the director of The Nightmare Before Christmas, which is among my favorite movies…and what I’ve seen of the film suggests that they get it. It’s hard to believe it’s only two weeks away!

Other movies: Oddly enough, I’m only mildly interested in Terminator: Salvation, Transformers 2: Can’t Remember the Subtitle, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (the films have been steadily deteriorating after peaking with #3, IMHO), Star Trek, and Watchmen. I’ll probably see all of them, but none of them have me nearly as excited.

Comics, books, music, etc. after the cut: Continue reading

Warren Ellis just posted to his Bad Signal mailing list that John Cassiday has started drawing Planetary #27! It’s been something like a year since Ellis finished writing the issue, and closer to two years since the last issue shipped.

9 years is a bit long for a 27-issue comic book series, but Planetary has been consistently worth the wait.

Some interesting comments by Warren Ellis in today’s Bad Signal on film budgets, and Superman Returns in particular.

$250 million puts you in spacelaunch-budget territory. For $250 million WB could’ve given Bryan Singer his own communications satellite and spent the change on a George Clooney movie.

This is the absurdity of modern Hollywood; that taking more than the GNP of Luxembourg in a single weekend is not actually enough to put a movie in the black.

It’s the “spacelaunch” comment that I find most interesting, as I made the same comparison a few years ago, from the other side of the fence: Assuming that the Spirit and Opportunity missions to Mars are typical, price-wise, it doesn’t make sense to complain that we’re “wasting” money on space exploration when a mission costs as much as two summer blockbusters. Manned missions are, of course, more expensive, but robotic missions? If we, as a society, toss away $250 million several times a year on mindless action flicks, what’s so terrible about spending a similar amount to learn something about our universe?

Yes, I know the difference is public vs. private funding. Movies are financed by studios and private investors, and space exploration is usually financed by governments, and therefore by taxes. But comparing the dollar amounts puts things in a different perspective—whether you’re astonished by the literally astronomical movie budgets, or realizing that exploring outer space is more down to Earth than it seems at first glance.

I think all of Warren Ellis’ crop of new series have launched at this point. I’ve picked up the first issues of Fell, Desolation Jones, and Jack Cross.

Ellis is one of a few writers whose name will get me to at least look at a new book. Sometimes I like it, sometimes I don’t. His superhero stuff doesn’t appeal much to me, with the exception of Planetary, which is on my must-read list on those rare occasions that a new issue comes out. (Others include Neil Gaiman, Joss Whedon, and Joe Straczynski. Heck, Joss actually managed to get me to pick up an X-Men book!)

Desolation Jones tells the story of an British ex-secret agent living in exile in Los Angeles. In fact, there’s an entire community of ex-spooks living in L.A., an open prison that the city’s normal residents don’t even know about. Jones underwent an experiment, the “desolation test,” that left him both enhanced and destroyed. Many of the people he knows underwent similar experiments. There’s a man who only needs to eat four times a year—but ends up chewing through entire herds of cattle when he does. A woman whose pheromones trigger fear and revulsion, and literally has to beg Jones to spend an hour with her just to stave off the loneliness. Despite the background, the book is more hard-boiled detective than thriller. And the characters are well-drawn, both literally and figuratively. Issue #1 had me interested enough to check out issue #2 (despite some of the less savory aspects of the story). Issue #2 had me hooked.

Jack Cross is pretty much a straight-forward thriller, with an ex-agent brought back into action, a conspiracy within government agencies, etc. I’m just barely curious enough to look at #2, but it’ll have to be really interesting to get me to keep going.

Fell just came out last week, and breaks from the other books in several ways. First, it’s designed to have a complete story in each issue. Second, it’s designed to be cheap. By telling a highly-compressed story in 16 pages, with text pages filling in the rest, it keeps the cost down below the magic $2 mark (if just barely). As for the actual content—it’s another detective story, this time about a quirky police officer with an excellent intuition, Richard Fell, who ends up in a hellhole city called Snowtown. As promised, there’s a complete story, but there are also hints of something larger. Eveyone Fell meets is disturbed in one way or another. And the book is so full of story, I didn’t even notice it was 2/3 the length of a typical comic. Definitely good enough to check out the next issue!