Webcomics links: Check out this cool comic from Dan Hipp: Piggy Brown, Piglet Detective. Also, Jim Rugg has placed his Rambo 3.5 minicomic online for download, so read that one too. And hey, I also liked this one from Box Brown; it's an adaptation of a poem from a forwarded email, a message for Jehovah's Witnesses to not marry outside their faith. It's sad, in that people actually think this way, but also funny in how it piles worse and worse anguishes on its protagonist, who committed the sin of marrying an unbeliever.
The Good, The Bad, The Weird
Korea, 2010, Directed by Ji-woon Kim
The Asian Western seems to be a growing genre, or at least one that comprises more than one example (the other being Takashi Miike's Sukiyaki Western Django, which is totally awesome), and that's a good sign, at least if the subgenre remains so damn entertaining. This one is a stylish mix of East and West, taking a definite influence from its Sergio Leone namesake, although the central character here would be the Eli Wallach one, a goofball thief (played by the vampire priest from Chan-Wook Park's Thirst) who gets his hands on a treasure map and ends up being hunted by three or four different factions, including gangs of various levels of evil, a bounty hunter (the Clint Eastwood role, made somewhat less iconic by a funny-looking moustache), and even the Japanese army. There's some crazy action (starting right away with a pretty cool train robbery), tons of shootouts, a lot of great cinematography, and a nice Ennio-Morricone-with-Asian-flair score. It's really interesting too, being kind of hard to place historically, with Western fashion and guns alongside more modern stuff like motorcycles, trucks, and phones. It's probably not meant to be accurate at all, but there's a bit of discussion of the Korean struggle for independence from Japan, so it's got something of a nationalistic feel that Westerners (or maybe anybody who isn't Korean) won't really get. Whatever the case, it's tons of fun, with standout bits being the bounty hunter character spending a large portion of a shootout swinging on ropes above a town and shooting bad guys one-handed with a rifle, the thief wearing an old-fashioned diver's helmet to ward off bullets, a final three-way showdown that ends more "realistically" than the Eastwood/Wallach/Van Cleef version of the same, and a seemingly endless chase scene in which tons of guys haul ass on horses after our hero across an empty desert as he drives a sidecar-equipped motorcycle, the bounty hunter (in another display of badassery) takes out most of the army assholes who are bringing up the rear and shooting random guys with machine guns, and ending in a series of huge explosions when another division of the army starts firing big-ass cannon shells at them. It's pretty nuts, a great time all around.
2010, Directed by Sylvain White
As with most any adaptation, it's hard to be objective when you're a fan of the original version of the story, and as somebody who read every issue of the comic book series this movie was based on, I can't help but make the inevitable assessment that "the book was better". This certainly isn't bad for what it is though: a stylish, enjoyable, exciting action flick, with slightly less of the political commentary that the comic had, amounting basically to "powerful, secretive dudes manipulate world events for their own gain". The story has been revised to remove any hint of Middle East conflict, instead centering in Columbia and various United States locales, and the bad guy (played with oozily nasty smarm by Jason Patric) is just some CIA guy named Max, rather than the shadowy force behind all evil done in the name of intelligence organizations. The cast is pretty good, although Jeffrey Dean Morgan plays the leader of the eponymous team of presumed dead/framed for treason special forces badasses as a smirking joker rather than a tough, dedicated man in charge, and while Zoe Saldana might be one of the hottest women on the planet, she can't quite manage believability as the secretive, tough-as-nails Aisha (again, removing the Middle Eastern origin tones her down a bit, making her seem like one in a long line of tough black women), although she looks cool when firing a bazooka from the hip. Everyone else is pretty good though, especially Chris Evans (who seems dedicated to only starring in comic book adaptations, from all across the spectrum of the medium; what's he going to play next, Ichigo from Bleach? Archie? Tintin?) as the team wiseacre; he gets all the best lines, and really throws himself into scenes like the one where he sings "Don't Stop Believin'" along with his headphones in order to clear out an elevator. And the action is pretty nice, full of explosions and shootings and whatnot, with lots of camera zooms and shiny "isn't this cool?" style, but still clear and easy to follow, unlike most of what passes for action these days. The Jock illustrations (most of which seem to be original, done for the movie) in the opening credits are a nice touch too. I don't know if it made enough money to continue as the franchise that it wants to be (it ends with a pretty obvious plan to continue into at least one more installment), but it's nice enough as it is. The comic itself was little more than a solid bit of action, so a slightly dumbed-down Hollywood version is probably the best thing anybody could expect. I would probably watch a sequel, sure. Make it happen, somebody.