My wife came down with something nasty last week. I’m sure I've complained in these pages about the numerous times my entire family was passing around The Crud a few months back. For awhile, it felt like we were experiencing the plague around here. We’ve had a few glorious weeks of good health of late so it was crushing to see her sick again. For awhile, it seemed like I was going to escape this round. Last Thursday, I started writing this article rejoicing that I had not gotten sick. Then I got sick.
My lymph nodes swelled, the muscles in my neck and back felt like bricks. I could hardly turn my head. My throat felt like sandpaper every time I swallowed. I stopped writing.
Now I’ve got two weeks worth of cool stuff to talk about. It's still gonna be five things. They’ll be extra cool.
World War Hulk
A few weeks ago I raved about Planet Hulk. In that story the Illuminati decided that Hulk was such a menace they needed to send him away. They tricked him into boarding a space ship and shuttled him to what they thought would be a peaceful planet without any animal life where he could live out his days in solitude.
Well, things went wrong and he landed on a hostile planet where he was forced into gladiator battles. Hulk being Hulk, he beat everybody, conquered the planet, and started to gain that peace he’s always wanted. But tragedy struck again and Hulk blamed the Illuminati for it and so he, along with his followers, got into a giant stone ship and headed back to Earth where he promised vengeance.
Like Civil War before it, World War Hulk is nearly an "entire Marvel Comics line" encompassing story. Just about all the superhero comics got involved. For the most part, it's a really interesting story that pits the Hulk against nearly everybody and does a great job of developing the Hulk even more fully than they did in Planet Hulk and well beyond the typical “Hulk Smash” of popular culture. I really enjoyed seeing the various superheroes get involved and it's a lot of fun to come to their comics and see how they differ stylistically and thematically with the material. Mostly, it works but there were a few comics that didn’t really fit. It was clear that some stories had no place in the larger one they were telling. Characters like Ghost Rider come and go in one issue or so, barely do anything of note, and then go onto their own stories. It seems as if the writers weren’t interested in engaging with the Hulk story so they just made their mandatory appearance and left. But otherwise, it's a cool series and I’m definitely going to be reading more Hulk comics.
The wife pretty much cocooned herself on the couch last week, which allowed me to watch movies in bed (something she doesn’t like me to do). I’d been wanting to watch this Jeff Nichols thriller for a while and so I took this opportunity to do so. It's about a kid with powers who has been seeing transmitting coordinates to a specific place and the road trip he takes with his dad to get there. Along the way, he’s being followed by a religious cult who thinks he’s some kind of Messiah figure and various Federal agents. Nichols doles out information slowly. We never quite know what’s going on and by the rolling of the credits, there are still more questions than answer. A lot of critics knocked it for that but I really rather loved it. The acting is really good (Michael Shannon as the dad and Kirsten Dunst as the mom are stand-outs) and Nichols infuses it with a fun dose of '80s Spielberg.
I've read quite a few X-Men comics and a couple of the Wolverine stand-alone books but I am not at all an expert on the character. I finally got around to watching Logan a couple of weeks back and really enjoyed it. When I saw there was a comic book series featuring the X-23 character that was in that movie, I was intrigued. Grabbed the first couple of issues, loved them, and quickly read through all of them.
Some nefarious type folk made a bunch of clones from Logan’s genes. They tortured them and trained them to be merciless killing machines. X-23, who takes the name Laura, escapes and Logan takes her under his wing. She’s got Logan’s healing factor, his claws (though she’s got two that come out of her hands and one from each foot), but not his dour disposition. The All-New Wolverine is a lot of fun to read. She has cool adventures, fights deadly foes, and trades witty banter with all sorts of Marvel characters (Squirrel Girl even makes an appearance). It's definitely made it on my read every month list.
Long Strange Trip
Martin Scorsese produced this four-hour-long documentary on the Grateful Dead. As a pretty hard core Deadhead, I can say it never went anywhere narratively that was unexpected, but there were tidbits of information I’d never heard. It interviews pretty much everyone alive (and a few who are dead via old footage) who were involved with the band in their 30 years of existence. For the first two-thirds, it plays as a standard bio-doc of the band (a really well-made one) but in the last half hour or so, it gets into some pretty dark places with the band and various others discussing Jerry Garcia’s descent into hard drugs, health problems, and ultimately his death. Fours hours is a bit too long even for die-hards but it's well worth watching for all the vintage video, photos, and (of course) the music.
I wasn’t so much sick as I was just incredibly sore. With my neck and back muscles being incredibly tight I couldn’t move about very easily. As such I spent the weekend sitting on the couch watching TV. When you can hardly move and are stuck on the couch, then what else are you going to do but watch one of the greatest action films ever made? The film snob in me always notes that Ridley Scott’s original Alien is a much better film than James Cameron’s sequel. Because of such, I had not sat down with Aliens in quite a few years. The dialogue is still pretty cheesy with Bill Paxton leading the pack in ridiculous lines (“Game over, Man!”) but Cameron sure knows how to pack a film with unrelenting action. After a little exposition getting Ripley to agree to head back to the Alien-infested planet, the film kicks into high gear and never lets up. I still give Scott the upper hand in terms of cinematic artistry, but Cameron’s movie is one heck of a thrill ride.
Blade Runner 2049 Trailer
I've never been as enamored with Blade Runner as the rest of my geeky friends seem to be, but I can't help but get a bit excited over the sequel. Maybe I just love seeing Harrison Ford reprising his classic roles of late. Maybe I too easily get caught up in these endless cycles of anticipation for upcoming projects. Or maybe I'm a bigger Ryan Gosling fanboy than I thought. Or maybe, just maybe, this is an actually cool-looking trailer.