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Archive for the ‘movie’ Category

Apparently after finding out that the city of Cleveland benefited from The Avengers filming part of its movie there – to the tune of $30 million – Columbus mayor Michael Coleman is jonesing for some of that sweet L.A. cash. So says The Lantern:

Columbus aims to reel in movie-making money

“In 2011, about $3.7 million was spent in Central Ohio on film projects. In contrast, about $68 million was spent in Cleveland and Akron and almost $30 million was spent in Cincinnati in 2011, according to the Ohio Film Office.”

They even get a quote from The Laughing Ogre’s manager, and our pal, Stang:

“Apart from financial gain, Jeff Stang, store manager of Laughing Ogre Comics, located at 4258 N. High St., said he didn’t see a good reason why a film like “The Avengers” should shoot in Columbus.

“See, the problem is that most of the Marvel universe takes place in New York City, so you have to find something that can model either New York City or one of the boroughs, or something like that, and Columbus just doesn’t have the skyline to do it,” Stang said.”

C’mon, Stang, why you gotta be like that? Where’s the love? I once saw an episode of a TV show that was ostensibly set on the campus of “The Ohio State University,” except that in the background you saw palm trees between the buildings. If L.A. can double for C-Bus, C-Bus can double for NYC. It’s all movie magic, baby!

The Suicide Shop, by French director Patrice Leconte.

I want to see this so bad!

Brendon Connelly over at Bleeding Cool describes The Scorpion King 3 thusly:

“Out now on US DVD and Blu-ray, The Scorpion King 3: Battle for Redemption is the sequel to a prequel to a prequel to a sequel to a remake.”

These are the movies that get greenlit and secure financing in today’s mass-market entertainment environment.

Look what you started, Craig Bogart:

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

They just released a new trailer for the John Carter of Mars movie, due out in April. It’s too early to judge quality, but the look seems to get the tone right.

Jeff Carlisle posted this on facebook today with the words: “I still don’t quite know what to make of this. You see something in your head for so long that no other version seems quite right–but I trust Andrew Stanton. He has great storytelling abilities. The Martians wear too much clothing–but they always would have to for a PG-13…”

“You see something in your head for so long …” is exactly right. I’m not sure what would look right to me, unless Frank Frazetta hand-animated the whole thing.

I pictured the Tharks being bulkier, and John Carter older, and I did not anticipate feathers on the flying ships. It doesn’t look like they’re using the plot from “Princess of Mars,” the first John Carter book, although that story would be hard to film.

It may be hard to accept a John Carter who’s not Antonio Sabato, Jr. I’ll always have a soft spot in my heart for the Asylum Princess of Mars.


At the movies, that is. i09 takes a look at Why Iron Man Succeeded Where Green Lantern Failed. The basic argument is that the GL movie just tried too hard to cram in everything from the GL mythos – all the back story, several villains, the whole corps, etc. – where in fact less would have been more. And I completely agree.

“The lesson of Green Lantern is, pandering to vocal fans of a property almost never pays off.”

I didn’t hate the movie, I found it to be entertaining, at least. But it certainly wasn’t cohesive, and wasn’t as strong a narrative as Iron man.

You loved AVP (Aliens vs. Predators). You even liked AVH (Alien vs. Hunter). But do you have the sheer cinematic constitution to handle AVN? That’s right, my fellow geeks, I’m alking about…

Alien vs. Ninja!

Presented by Funimation, the same folks that bring you anime shows like Dragonball Z and One Piece.

The best part about AVN, aside from the trailer? Their tagline: “Alien vs. Ninja. Seriously.”

Another library rental, and a very enjoyable one at that, The Cartoonist: Jeff Smith, BONE and the Changing Face of Comics is a 2009 documentary about local boy made good, Bone creator and fellow Columbusite, Jeff Smith.

As you would expect with any documentary, this one charts Smith’s career, from his childhood doodles to his college days, animation career, and self-publishing Bone. Along the way, we’re treated to interviews with Smith himself, as well as a friends and fellow cartoonists like Paul Pope, Coleen Doran, Scott McCloud, Harvey Pekar, and Terry Moore. Oh, and of course Lucy Caswell, of the Ohio State University Cartoon Library & Museum, who was one of Smith’s early supporters and mentors.

There was a fair amount of time spent on Smith’s seven years with Character Builders, the animation house he co-founded with two friends after graduating college. It was fun seeing snippets of commercial animation from the trio, including an opening sequence for a planned Jack Hanna animal show called Super Safari, as well as ads for Warner Cable (featuring the superhero Warner Man) and White Castle (in claymation, no less!). Smith credits the discipline learned from years of doing animation, both in terms of craft (learning to draw every character consistently and with varying emotions) and business (heeding deadlines, interacting with customers and vendors professionally) as one of the reasons for his success as self-publishing.

Smith himself talks about his early influences (Carl Bark’s Uncle scrooge, Walk Kelly’s Pogo), as well as the seminal comics from 1986 that opened his eyes to the potential of the medium: Maus, Watchmen, and The Dark Knight Returns. (Quick digression: I was lucky enough to catch a talk by Smith at CCAD about 10 years ago, where he spoke passionately about his love of comics, and incorporated dozens of images from the aforementioned books in his presentation to explain the intricacies of the craft.) Parts of the interview are also set in the Hocking Hills region of Ohio, specifically Old Man’s Cave, wherein Smith talks about the influence of that specific geographic region on his art and the settings of Bone.

Smith’s wife, and business partner Vijaya Iyer is also featured. In a humorous clip, he explains how he talked her into quitting her promising Silicon Valley job to help him make comics. In another interesting anecdote, talking about the genesis of his new series RASL, Smith mentions coming up with the basic premise back in 2001, and running it by his friends Paul Pope and Frank Miller. At one point, they were going to work together on a science fiction anthology called Big Big, with RASL being Smith’s contribution. Alas, scheduling conflicts kept the project from ever materializing, but that would have been a trip, no?

Oh, and on a personal note, it was cool to see my local comic shop of choice, The Laughing Ogre, featured in several of the shots in the documentary. Ogre employee Lloyd even makes an appearance in a segment set at the Smith/McCloud talk at OSU’s Mershon Auditorium. Speaking of which, most of that talk (which I had the pleasure of attending) is included on the DVD as a bonus feature. There’s also a mini-feature where Smith discusses his new series, RASL, talking about his research into both the real science and fringe science that makes up the backbone of the story.

For fans of comics, Bone and/or Jeff Smith, I’d definitely recommend this documentary. It’s professionally produced, well written, and contains good interviews, with some clever bits as well (like incorporating black & white film footage as humorous interstitials).

Another free rental from the library, but one that I knew was going to be bad going in. So not much vitriol here, just a few words to share my thoughts on it. As you’ve no doubt heard, this movie is just a mess. I don’t know its production history, nor do I care enough to look it up, but I’m sure the script had gone through several re-writes, and the whole movie was re-jiggered numerous times by movie executives and marketing folks, because it just can’t decide what kind of movie it wants to be. It’s neither a straight-up western, nor a supernatural western, nor a modern/retro western. It has elements of the DC Universe version of Hex, plus some lame-ass attempt at the edgy/supernatural flavor of the Hex mini-series that Vertigo published, and then entirely too much “Holywood” flare from such masterpieces as the Will Smith Wild, Wild West movie. The end result is a jumbled, inconsistent, incoherent mess which is neither fish nor fowl.

This Jonah Hex can talk to the dead, but that’s about the extent of the supernatural theme. He also wields super-weaponry like horse-mounted Gatling guns and twin crossbow dynamite launchers (yes, you read that right). The villain of the piece, Quentin Turnbull (phoned in by John Malkovich) uses some sort of mega-advanced nuclear bomb cannon (it’s never really explained in the movie, because…well, who cares) created by Eli Whitney (yes, the cotton gin inventor) at the behest of the U.S. government. There’s also some lip service paid to race relations and an anti-slavery message. Oh, and Megan Fox plays a prostitute.

Anyway, as you no doubt know by now, this is bottom of the rung Hollywood action B-movie material. About the only good things I can point to are Josh Brolin’s gruff portrayal of Hex, and that they did a pretty decent job on his scar. Other than that, it’s a waste of your time.

To balance out my pissy review of The Losers, I’d like to say a few words about the amazing film The Fall. Directed and independently financed by Tarsem Singh Dhandwar (who goes by the moniker Tarsem in his professional life), this is the kind of visual storytelling that movies were invented for. I’ve always loved the story-within-a-story motif, and that’s the basic structure of The Fall.

In a hospital in 1920s Los Angeles, injured stuntman Roy (Lee Pace) befriends Alexandria, a young immigrant girl (played by Catinca Untaru) who has broken her arm while picking oranges in the groves. To pass the time, he makes up a fantastic epic tale of 5 adventurers on a quest for revenge against “Governor Odious,” who has done each of them a grave injustice. And so it is that The Black Bandit, an Indian warrior, the ex-slave Otta Benga, an Italian explosives expert named Luigi, and naturalist Charles Darwin (along with his pet monkey Wallace) travel the world, from one exotic locale to the next, in search of Odious.

But as the movie progresses and Alexandria becomes engrossed in the tale, we start to realize that the heartbroken and depressed Roy has ulterior motives. His broken spirit influences the direction of the story, while at the same time he manipulates Alexandria into helping him achieve a grim goal. There are many fine details woven into the film’s narrative, and the way that the characters from the “real” world of the hospital substitute in the “story” world is both clever, and charming.

The true power of this movie is in its visuals. You would be hard pressed to find more gorgeous landscapes and sets in any other film, and the cinematography is out of this world. But what’s even more amazing is that Tarsem eschewed CGI in favor of real-world locations. According to his director’s commentary, the film was made over the course of 4 years, using locations in 20 different countries, including including India, Indonesia, The Czech Republic, Italy, France, Spain, Turkey, Namibia, and China. Every natural, colorful scene in the movie is awe inspiring, from the remote Butterfly Reef of Fiji, to an underwater shot of an elephant swimming gracefully over us, to the rooftops of Jodhpur, the “Blue City” in the Indian state of Rajasthan. Think of the hyper-imaginative settings and sets from a Terry Gilliam movie, but all of them are real-world places.

“…my production value is going to be the earth; I’m going to use the entire world as my backdrop.” – Tarsem”

On the DVD cover, it says the film is “presented by” David Fincher and Spike Jonze, which I believe alludes to the fact that they were champions of the movie and helped it secure a distribution deal. Although not directly involved in the making of the film, their interest alone should attest to the level of craft involved in its making. Smartly written, wonderfully acted, and gorgeously visualized, The Fall is at once heartwarming and heart-wrenching, a feast for the eyes as well as the mind.

(If you’re interested, there’s a nice little feature on Tarsem and the movie at The New York Times here.)

I just watched this movie, and all I can say is, thank goodness I got it from the library because while I ended up wasting my time, at least I didn’t waste any money on it. As everyone knows, this movie, based on the Vertigo series of the same name, was a big flop at the theaters, and I’m here to tell you there’s a good reason for it.

It sucks.

And not in that “they changed it so much from the source material” way that usually makes comic nerds upset. No, in the “it sucks” way.

God, what a horrible waste of money and talent. If you were going to make a shitty mid-80s action flick with bullshit macho dialogue, an unbelievably over-the-top evil bad guy, and an ending that’s the biggest “f*** you” to the audience who invested their money and time in this thing, why even waste a penny “optioning” a property? Just make your shitty movie, call it Extreme Patriots or Double Cross in Bolivia or Gunfight in L.A., release it straight to DVD, and save yourself the embarrassment, not to mention $20 million off the budget.

I should have stopped watching, when in the first 20 minutes of the movie, the bad guy, CIA insider “Max”, proves he’s indeed bad by a) asking our CIA covert ops protagonists go ahead with the bombing of a drug dealer’s compound, even after they find out he has 25 innocent kids on premises, b) having a US jet fighter shoot down a US helicopter evacuating said 25 innocent children, killing them all, and c) thinking he’s killed our heroes, who have been serving their country selflessly. But wait, there’s more! As if that wasn’t enough to convince you he’s really, really bad, there’s a scene where he’s walking on a beach, and has an attractive female assistant carrying an umbrella to shade him from the sun. But when a gust of wind blows the umbrella away for just a split second, and the assistant apologizes instantly, Max grabs a gun and shoots her! Because, you see, he’s a bad guy. A real bad guy.

But wait, there’s even more! So the entire point of the movie is that our heroes are on a quest for revenge, trying to expose Max’s slimy, evil ways, and restoring their good names so they can get their old lives back, but…

SPOILER ALERT (not that you care)

Max gets away in the end. There is no resolution. It’s just one huge, open-ended, “let’s set it up for a sequel” ending.

As in: “f*** you, audience, for expecting a story with a beginning, middle, and end.”

So in that same spirit, a hearty f*** you to Peter Berg and James Vanderbilt, who wrote the bullshit screenplay for this movie, and all the assholes involved in greenlighting and making this movie.

What a complete waste.

So I’m flipping through the channels, and I come across American Ninja 4: The Annihilation.

Now, with a title like that, I’m sure you can guess how bad it is, but let me just share the synopsis that popped up on the TV listing:

An ex-ninja must save commandos and the world from a mad sheik and his ninja army.

Yes, you read that right: an Arab sheik and his ninjas!

I watched about 15 minutes of it, and was thoroughly impressed by how they managed to insult Muslims, Arabs, women, Africans, the Japanese, the British, and, oddly enough, extras from the Mad Max movies, all in just that short amount of time. But I digress…

What I wanted to say was I believe this 1990 movie is actually the perfect propaganda campaign ad for Republicans in 2010. Think about it, what’s scarier than Evil Muslims (TM) who are planning to bomb New York with a suitcase nuke? Evil Muslims (TM) who are planning to bomb New York with a suitcase nuke + their ninja army!

Forget about them illegal Mexican day laborers, stir up your conservative base by appealing to their fear of Muslim ninjas!

You’re welcome, Republican Party.

This was from about a month ago, but I forgot to post it. On the io9 blog, there’s a short interview with Grant Morrison about his upcoming indie movie project: Sinatoro. Described as a “psychedelic Western,” Morrison is working on it with director Adam Egypt Mortimer, and says that he’s doing the storyboards himself. “Since nobody sees storyboards, it’s okay if they’re shit.”

“Morrison: I kind of wanted to do something based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead and modernize it. The one experience that we all go through (but no one wants to think much about) is death. We’re going to study all the latest information on what happens to consciousness during the process of death. We wanted to look at what’s supposed to happen afterward based on all the confessions we can study and understand. But as a story, it’s boy meets girl and all that sort of thing. It uses the building blocks of Hollywood.”

Um, ooookay. More info will (presumably) be forthcoming at the movie’s official site.

Bonus for PANELista Brent: in the comments section of the io9 interview, someone posts: “sorry, there is only one person who can do a psychedelic western justice: Alejandro Jodorowsky” and posts a picture of El Topo.

Superhero movie news doesn’t really do much for me, but this one caught my eye: apparently, Wolverine 2 will feature a script by Chris McQuarrie, the guy who wrote the script for The Usual Suspects, and be directed by Darren Aronofsky, whose Black Swan I’m looking forward to.

If nothing else, it should be a very pretty-looking flick.

A couple of short animated comic book movie reviews. I actually saw these a while ago, but better late than never, right?

Superman/Batman: Public Enemies – The 6th in the line of DC Universe Animated Original Movies, released September 2009, this one’s based on the first story arc in the monthly Superman/Batman comic book, by Jeph Loeb and Ed McGuinness. The main voice talent includes Tim Daly as Superman, Kevin Conroy as Batman, Clancy Brown as Lex Luthor, and C. C. H. Pounder as Amanda Waller. Here’s all you need to know about the plot, courtesy of Wikipedia: “President Lex Luthor uses the oncoming trajectory of a Kryptonite asteroid to frame Superman for the “pending destruction of the planet” and declares a $1 billion bounty on the heads of the Man of Steel and his “partner in crime,” Batman. Superheroes and super villains alike launch a relentless pursuit of Superman and Batman…”

Needless to say, that premise means we’re treated to dozens and dozens of on-screen portrayals of different DC superheroes and super-villains, from the well-known (Powergirl, Metallo, etc.) to the more obscure (Katana, Giganta, etc). Honestly, for me, that was probably the most enjoyable part of the movie. I’m not a huge Superman fan, I’ve never read the source material by Loeb, and I’m not a fan of McGuinness’ art. So yeah, there wasn’t much this movie could offer to knock me over. In fact, to my eyes, the producer’s decision to try and translate McGuinness’ style to the animation made for a very awkward, ugly look. Over the years a lot of people have commented how his style evokes animation on the comic book page, but if this experiment shows anything, it’s that it doesn’t translate back too well. Powergirl and Amanda Waller, in particular, look really wonky. The former often looks like a cross-eyed Asian caricature, and the latter just looks lumpy; the Micheline Man of covert Ops (I guess for me, the definitive Amanda “The Wall” Waller is the squarish, angular one drawn by Luke McDonnel in his Suicide Squad run).

Anyway, the story moves along at a brisk pace, and there are lots of fun action sequences. But overall, it’s just a big, dumb action flick. Which isn’t becessarily bad, but also nothing to write home about.

Green Lantern: First Flight – Released in July of 2009, this is DC’s 5th direct-to-DVD animated movie. It’s also probably my favorite one out of the series. The voice talent includes Christopher Meloni as Hal Jordan, Victor Garber as Sinestro, and John Larroquette as Tomar-Re. Rather than focus on a specific story arc from the comics, this is a straight-up character origin and first adventure movie, which actually works quite well. The movie’s director, Lauren Montgomery, describes it as such: “It’s a cop-thriller set in outer space, with very little time spent on Earth. It’s a training day sort of story where the veteran (Sinestro) space cop meets the rookie (Hal Jordan) space cop, but because the veteran has been ‘around the block’ it may have skewed his perspective a bit.”

And that’s exactly what this movie does right: they get GL’s origin out of the way in the first 5 minutes of the movie, and then BAM! he’s off to outer space to meet dozens of strange aliens, an intergalactic police force, and start his first mission under the tutelage of…Sinestro. In fact, this is almost as much a Sinestro movie as a Hal Jordan one. I thought the writers, Alan Burnett and Michael Allen, did an admirable job of presenting Sinestro’s world view, elevating him from a maniacal supervillain to one with depth and logic behind his actions. The action scenes are dynamic and fun, the alien landscapes and cities a feast for the eyes, and the appearance of lots of the more recognizable Green Lantern Corps members (Kilowog, Arisia, Ch’p, Boodikka) is certainly a treat for the fans. I also liked the return to classic solid-objects-formed-by-the-ring style of combat, complete with giant bats and tanks and nets, instead of the visually boring beam-of-energy approach. Also, the animation style is in the familiar style of Bruce Timm, which to me is always a plus

I’m a big fan of the GL characters and concepts, though I’ll admit I haven’t read the monthly books in many years (too grim-and-gritty and too much crossover madness for my tastes). But I have to say, I was thoroughly entertained by this movie, and would definitely recommend it to all.


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