Favorite Movies of 2011

Rango: Gore Verbinkski’s animated western affair was a total delight to the eyes. Accompanied by an amazing soundtrack and perfectly well done jokes, I loved every moment of it. I was sorely disappointed when the blu-ray came out without the one component I felt it surely needed though. The film was made by having the actors actually perform the entire film on a soundstage as if it were play. Snippets of this were seen in the trailers and I was really hoping to see the entire version of this, but alas. So as much as I loved RANGO, that hurt it’s long term love for me. It’s an awesome film though.

Take Me Home Tonight: I was not expecting to enjoy this. After the debacle of other films that tried to recapture that 80′s spirit or the concept of the insane night of partying, I never thought there was a chance I could like this. Yet it came on to HBO and I quickly got entranced by Topher Grace. On That 70′s Show he was probably my least favorite, but he’s evolved a bit and he has a strange mix of Jason Bateman and Michael J. Fox in him. Anna Faris didn’t hurt here either and having Demetri Martin, Bob Odenkirk and Michael Ian Black in important cameo roles really helped.

Hobo With A Shotgun: Holy hell was this a sick freaking film. It was way better than it ever deserved to be, one can of course thank the cast for that, because the film itself actually isn’t really good. The gore effects are fun and the violence is excellent, but the writing is garbage, the oversaturated film stock effect and scratches to make it “grindhouse” worked against it visually and the nudity was really luke warm. Rutger Hauer, Trailer Park Boy’s Robb Wells and Rookie Blue’s Gregory Smith really help bring it from waste of film to worthwhile fun viewing.

Hanna: This flick just blew me away and I had hyped myself up huge for it too. I got to hear Saoirse Ronan, Eric Bana and Joe Wright talk about the film, the intense training and the setup of film making at the New York Comic Con in 2010 and everything really geared me up for it. I was not disappointed in the least. It is not a perfect film by any means, but it is amazingly shot, Saoirse is a joy to behold and there are elements that just make it an infinitely a watchable flick that I can see myself returning to over and over.

Beginners: Quite possibly my favorite film of the year. I recently watched it again and I loved it all over again, reassuring my previous feelings and thoughts. It actually jumped ahead of its previous spot in this rewatch. Melanie Laurent and Christopher Plummer truly deserve Oscar nominations for this film. Mike Mills is a horrible artist, but he is an amazing story teller and film maker. Listening to the commentary track and hearing him point out things that definitely made the film better but that even my trained eye missed because I was too attached and pulled into the narrative turned the film into not just a heartwarming tale, but a real mastery of cinema for me.

Captain America: If anything has come close to really being a quality live action adaptation of a comic book, it has to be the Markus & McFeely written, Joe Johnston directed The First Avenger. It hit all the right notes of feeling like a comic book literally translated from the page to the screen. I of course am not trying to discount Sin City here, that is a remarkable film but that fells more like recreation than adaptation in my mind. This film borrows from the comics without actually fully just recreating them as live action sequences. Plenty of quality inside jokes, awesome action, conceptual changes that fit the Marvel Movie universe better and not that he’d ever get acknowledged but Hugo Weaving deserves an Academy nomination.

Hugo: One of the most stunningly visual films in years, Martin pours every inch of himself on to the screen. You can tell he loves Méliès as much as Brian Selznick, if not more so. John Logan did almost a pitch perfect script adaptation of the book which Martin painstakingly tried to envision on screen. He made the decision to use Brian’s art as full inspiration for the look and feel of the film and it showed through every sequence. It was filmed in 3D, although this was not necessary to make an a good film, it ended up allowed for effects 2D imagery would not allow, such as seeing an eye through a clock, the inside of the clock and at the same time what the flock sees… the intricacies of the new 3D technology which also allows for hologram like effects was amazing on the big screen. I am actually worried how this one will translate/did translate to 2D. I’ll discover when it comes to dvd/blu ray since I don’t own a 3D TV and won’t for a long time. The performances in this are fabulous as well, Ben Kingsley dazzles, but Chloe Grace Moretz and the young Asa Butterfield are the the film and rightfully so.

The Muppets: I went in with trepidation and not all my fears were uncured, there are a hell of a lot of flaws in this film. Flaws that one could say “It’s a ‘Muppet’ movie, why are you trying tear it apart?” but I’d return with “It’s also a Jason Segel script, who is an intelligent writer and works on one of the most continuity driven shows on television, he should know better, but I do realize Bobbin and Thomas might’ve been the derailers (sic)”. So it’s really not a perfect film, but it is Muppets and Whitmire and Goelz really tried to keep the magic alive. Also, “Muppet of a Man” is one killer freaking song. The actual episode of The Muppet Show Special in the film is quite special as well.

Sherlock Holmes – A Game of Shadows: I utterly adored the first Guy Ritchie version of Holmes. Every element of it. The acting, the story telling, the cinematography, the action, the music, the set design, the costumes. In Game of Shadows, the only factor that goes in a much different design and direction is story telling, but it’s applicable to the story they are telling. This movie is less about an actual mystery and sleuthing, but about about precognition, notice, strategy and fore thought. While the first film showed the Holmes that would inspire a Gregory House or Adrian Monk who breaks down the mystery as he goes along or ties it all together at the end, this time we see the side of him that inspired characters like Sean Spencer and Patrick Jane who see the plot as it unfolds and is always one step ahead of the villain. I’ve already written another review of the film which explores it differently and expands why I loved it, but I felt here I’d speak from another point of view.

Tribute to those fallen in 2011 Part 1

I’ve always felt it necessary to look back on what people who had an impact on my pop-culture history and in some cases my real life. In the past I’ve written these obits with the most marginal of information, but I’ve always broken it down by categories. Frequently there would be people I’ve missed people or even complete categories as my heart and soul weakens as I organize this work. This is the first time this type of writing is showing up on Pop-Culture Spectrum. It will appear in approximately five parts and then a final collection post of linking for those who don’t go backward in blog reading. In each category it is broken down alphabetically and the age of the person and their cause is in parentheses after. Each category will have its own specialties. This first section will have some select images by the creators that show what they are known for or in the least what I appreciated them for.

COMICS and ARTISTS

Mick Anglo (95-natural causes):  Best known as the creator of Marvelman, Mick Anglo took an impossible situation and found a way to make it work creating the cement for building blocks that would not be turned into gold many years later by Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman. It is wonderful that starting in 2010, Marvel began to reprint the Mick Anglo books which even featured some new artwork from him, he truly got to have his comeuppance before leaving the mortal coil.

 

Eduardo Barreto (57-undisclosed health): Excellent comics and comic strip artist, he made a mark as an artist on Teen Titans in the 80′s after George Perez. He was a mainstay at DC, with runs on Superman and Batman titles, one shots, special, annuals. He was a go to magic genius. He was also a popular comic strip artist, drawing a strip I’m personally unfamiliar with, but supposedly was very popular. I just know during a time when I was a hardcore avid, read almost everything comic reader in the 80′s, Barreto was a hard to ignore artist.  Here’s a longer quality tribute.

Gene Colan (84-various health complications): An amazing illustrator, Gene Colan has at one time drawn almost every major character in Marvel and DC. His best known runs were on Daredevil, his adaptation and reinterpretation of Dracula with Marv Wolfman in Tomb Of. His work for DC on Batman, Wonder Woman and Teen Titans should not be missed, as well as Night Force, which is/was just pure awesomeness. Knowing Gene Colan was the artist on a book, at least guaranteed that visually the ride would be worth the admission price.

Bill Keane(89-congestive heart failure): Creator and artist one of the most successfully parodied strips ever, Family Circus, Bill Keane created a bit of Americana. I’m not sure when Jeff “Jeffy” Keane took over, but I don’t think it was that long ago. I can tell you the following. I had a best friend named “Not Me” growing up and while I didn’t have any siblings, Family Circus sure made me want to. I must say that unfortunately as much as I loved Family Circus, when I think of it I can only think of the amazing parodies done though. It was such a perfect, innocent, well drawn strip it was made for parody and that proved it’s high quality… only really good stuff creates funny parody.

F. Solano Lopez (83, cerebral hemorrhage): A notable comics career, he is best known to me for his erotic series Young Witches and Sexy Symphonies, which feature some of the best art I’ve ever seen, sexually or regular. A true talent who would’ve been awesome if he worked on something like X-Men or Titans.

 

 

 

Dwayne McDuffie (49, during emergency heart surgery): One of truly the greatest under appreciated comic book and animation writers. He equally was a genius editor and supervising producer. When Milestone was first announced and was just starting up I got to meet Dwayne, as well as Chris Cross, Denys Cowans and others. Dwayne was someone who contributed much to many things that I have loved including his first series for Marvel Comics, DAMAGE CONTROL and issues 33-35 of “Firestorm: The Nuclear Man” featuring Jason Rausch. On top of that he spearheaded much of Justice League Unlimited and was in charge of Ben 10: Alien Force and Ben 10: Ultimate Alien, as well as writing and producing the DC Original Animations Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths, All-Star Superman and Justice League: Doom. Doom would be Dwayne’s swan song, but also looks like it’ll the best DC Original yet. He had much more to give the world of comics and animation before his untimely demise though and I can only imagine what we are missing out on.

Jerry Robinson (89- natural causes): There is not enough evidence in any direction to say if Jerry Robinson is one of the most inventive creators ever or if he was just an able artist who worked alongside Bill Finger and Bob Kane in helping turned Batman from simple crime fighter and socialite bent on revenge Bruce Wayne into the very fleshed out interesting character with an incredible rogues gallery and supporting cast he has today, either way he stands as one of the most important figures in comics history.

Joe Simon (98- natural causes after short illness): One of the most important comics writers in history, he most famously co-created Captain America with Jack Kirby. With Kirby he also created the original Sandman, Newsboy Legion, the Archie Heroes The Shield and The Fly. Joe Simon also created two of the most incredible cult comic book characters in history in Brother Power, the Geek and PREZ. It is almost amazing to think a writer with such creativity and conception to develop characters and stories of this ilk will not be remembered as fondly as he deserves to be. He was a living, breathing institution and legend and and I hope in years, decades, centuries to come, he is recognized as such. Many luminaries based this year, some young, some old, but Joe Simon deserves to be up there with the best of them.

D.K. Sweet (77- Natural causes): Longtime cover illustrator for lots of notable sci-fiction/fantasy books. Most famously he was the cover artist for Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series and Piers Anthony’s XANTH, but he also did covers for many a random sorcerer tale, pirate legend, dragon myth, space adventure, ufos in medieval times, random aliens and the like. He had a deft and beautiful painting skill which would easily attract you to the book long before even reading its description.

Tom Wilson, Sr (80- pneumonia related): The creator of the cartoon Ziggy, which since 1987 has actually been the work of his son Tom Wilson. During Senior’s 16 year contribution, he was also at American Greetings where he spearheaded the group collectives that created Strawberry Shortcake. I didn’t get to actually see much of Senior’s Ziggy work, but I’m a fan of Tom Wilson, Jr.