Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Reading List: June

Ah, summer vacation. It’s so easy to read when you have nothing else to do… And to compensate for last month’s lackluster choices, June has been packed with cool books and comic books.

The Sword, vol. 1: Fire
The new series by the Luna brothers is as riveting as their previous efforts (the incredible Ultra and the extremely entertaining Girls). Just like it happened with the aforementioned books, I enjoyed the compelling story and the great dialogue a lot more than the artwork, but the visuals are still good enough. All in all, The Sword is shaping up to be another amazing series!

Avengers: The Initiative, vol. 1: Basic Training
Avengers: The Initiative, vol. 2: Killed in Action
Avengers: The Initiative, vol. 3: Secret Invasion
My friend Brock let me borrow these books written by Dan Slott and Christos Gage, and drawn by a variety of artists. The best penciller is, by far, Stefano Caselli, whose dynamic and incredibly expressive style is nothing short of spectacular. The story itself is entertaining, but I wish more characters that die stayed dead forever. And yes, I understand this is a Marvel comic and people are therefore going to come back from the dead, but I think this crutch is doing the book a disservice, seeing as the premise for The Initiative lends itself to introduce new characters on every issue if need be. Basically, The Initiative is the book in which new superheroes go to boot camp to train and get their license to use their powers. So, if this is the training grounds for superpeople, you can kill as many characters as you want and keep bringing new ones into the book. The KIA story arc is lots of fun, and lot of people die. Then, when you find out that well, all of those heroes actually kind of survived, it certainly diminishes the impact the story had. But maybe I’m just weird.

Proven Guilty
The eighth book in The Dresden Files series, I already talked about how awesome it is here.

Victory of Eagles
The long anticipated fifth installment in Naomi Novik’s Temeraire series, I wrote about what a great book this is just yesterday.

Harley Quinn: Preludes and Knock-Knock Jokes
Harley Quinn’s adventures as written by Karl Kesel and drawn by the great Terry Dodson are more fun and less silly than I thought they would be. Dodson’s artwork is superb, and he draws a very dynamic, very round (in all the right places), and extremely cute Harley Quinn. Kesel’s stories are entertaining, and I like his alliterations and plays on words. The only problem is that pretty much every character uses both puns and alliterations when speaking, resulting in every character sharing the same voice. I think it would have been better if only, say, Harley, spoke like that. When you have everyone doing the same thing, it just doesn’t ring true. Still, this trade is a very entertaining read!

X23: Target X
Written by Craig Kyle and Christopher Yost, this is the second X-23 miniseries, and it is a lot of fun. Kyle and Yost know how to tell a compelling story and how to write true-to-life dialogue, and when you combine this with the jaw-dropping artwork of Mike Choi and Sonya Oback, the result is a terrific read.

White Night
The ninth book in The Dresden Files series, I already told you why you should read it here.

The Collection
I had already read six novels by Bentley Little, and I was understandably curious about this book of short stories. The Collection features thirty-two tales by the horror author, and I would be hard pressed to find one I didn’t like. The subject matter is usually shocking and disturbing, and even though Little’s prose is not exactly beautiful, his stories pack a good punch, and I couldn’t help but keep reading them one after another. If you like horror, you should check out this book.

The Sword, vol. 2: Water
The second volume of this awesome series by The Luna brothers is more action oriented, as Dara faces one of the big three. I can’t wait to see what happens next!

And that's it for June. Let's see what I manage to read in my travels next month. Probably not as much, but whatever I read will hopefully be as good as what I read this month. Enjoy!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Dark Days

I just finished reading Victory of Eagles, the fifth book in the Temeraire series by Naomi Novik, and it was a blast.
After the grim ending of Empire of Ivory, which ended with an unbearable cliffhanger, I couldn't wait to find out what happened next, so I devoured the book in just a few days.

There are many parts of VOE that are similar to previous entries in the series. There are fights, there's Napoleon trying to conquer Europe, and there are lots of old friends who come back to join the fun. At the same time, there are many parts in VOE that are very different from the previous four books, and those have to do with what happened in EOI, how the cliffhanger is resolved, and what the consequences are for Laurence and Temeraire. VOE is basically the aftermath of EOI, and Temeraire develops a lot as a character in ways that allow Novik to touch on themes such as individual freedom, slavery and forced labor, equal rights, social inadequacies, and justice. If you have read the previous books in the series you know that Temeraire is not your run-of-the-mill dragon, and he even isn't like other dragons in the saga. All those aspects are really showcased in VOE, and our favorite dragon becomes even more interesting than he was before.

Even though this is "the Temeraire series", there is no Temeraire without Laurence, the dragon's captain, a character that my dear Halagan finds slightly aggravating. A lot of what makes Laurence the sort of character he is abounds in VOE as well. He is honor bound, law-abiding, a slave of duty, and maybe just a little bit uptight. This was part of what caused EOI to end the way it did, and because of the very nature of what happened and the very nature of Laurence himself, VOE features a Laurence that is both the same he's always been and wildly different at the same time. This is mainly seen in the way he interacts with Temeraire throughout most of the book, and also in the assignment he accepts in the second half of the story. By trying to stay who he is, Laurence becomes something else, which is an interesting paradox because he is also who he was before.

I realize this sounds rather confusing, but I don't want to spoil anything. Therefore, just do yourself a favor and pick up this series. I know Halagan takes exception to Novik's literary style, and I won't deny her syntax is complex and her sentences stretch for several lines at a time: you've never seen commas and semicolons used this much in a book, I practically guarantee it. And yet, Novik expresses herself with such clarity and with so many nuances and observations about what she is describing that it's almost impossible not to be carried away by her prose. I think her style shows she is a very organized and methodical person, and even though a sentence can be ten lines long, every element is where it should be. She is taking you down a long, winding road, but there are plenty of markers and signals for you to find your way through this world she has created. And what a compelling world it is.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Second Turd of the Summer

I wasn't exactly counting the days until Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen opened, because I wasn't all that excited about the movie. The first one was okay, but I think Michael Bay has already directed his best movies, and everything he keeps putting out is, well, not too terribly awesome. At the same time, and just like I thought about Superman Returns back in 2006, I knew I would end up watching this film at some point, so I'd rather see it in theaters than at home. If the only redeeming feature of the movie was going to be the visuals, I might as well maximize those by seeing the film on the big screen. Sound reasoning, right? But it doesn't really matter whether that was logical or some delusional argument to get me out of the house and into the movie theater, because the bottom line is that, no matter how low your standards, Transformers 2 is an incredible piece of garbage that should have never been made.

After reading all the horrendous reviews, I thought that I couldn't find the movie that terrible because I was ready for the absolute worst --and yet, the film was atrocious on so many levels I think my head is still spinning, my brain still numb. Why was this such a bad movie, at least in my very subjective opinion?

To begin with, TROTF is two and a half hours long. Two and a half hours! If the movie was interesting, that would be okay. Watchmen was that long, and it never seemed to drag on and on and on. However, other than lots and lots (and lots) of running away from one threat just to fall under the next, there really is nothing else going on in the movie, so two and a half hours of watching explosions and people running like headless chickens gets awfully old really fast. Had the movie lasted, say, an hour and a half, it would have been much more tolerable.

The script (if they actually had one they were working from) and the story were paper-thin, and it was just an excuse for robots to make humans run from one place to the next. I tried to keep an open mind for the first forty-five minutes or so, but after the blond girl was taken out of the equation, whatever interest I had had so far went down the drain.

Let's talk about the characters now, since I mentioned both humans and robots. In the first movie, the humans turned out to be way more interesting than the robots, and they had funny lines and were somewhat humorous, especially John Turturro. This time around, the human characters are unremarkable, and John Turturro has become a bad caricature of what he was in the first movie. The other supporting characters are there just to be annoying (especially Sam's mother, whom I swear I could have shot), or to run aimlessly around. Megan Fox's Mikaela does a lot of this too, and Mr. Bay shot a lot of her running around in slow motion, so call this a lame pun if you will, but I couldn't help but thinking "Baywatch". And you know the saddest thing? She was the only good thing in the movie, and by good I mean hot. Actually, there was also another girl (the aforementioned blond, played by Isabel Lucas) who turned out to be an interesting character, but I won't say anything else so as not to spoil anything. And finally, Shia LaBeouf wasn't as funny or witty or likeable as he was in the first movie. I found myself hoping somebody would kill him so the movie would be over. Sad, isn't it?

Regarding the robots, I would say that I felt cheated, but that would imply I had some kind of expectation, which is not entirely true. I had heard there were plenty of new Transformers, and that they had different colors now to be more recognizable and so that the audience could tell them apart when they're fighting and all you can see, thanks to Bay-o-Vision, is a blur of nuts and bolts and metal pieces. Well, this turned out to be unnecessary, because I swear that Optimus Prime does pretty much all the fighting with the Decepticons, and every single one of the bad guys looks exactly the same. (Except for Ravage, who looks really cool, I must admit, but he is a freaking panther, so it'd be hard to make him look like everyone else.) At some point, Megatron, Starscream and somebody else were gathered talking, and I couldn't figure out who was who. And this last sentence is key, because I couldn't figure out who the Autobots were either. Do they say their names in the movie? I heard "Ironhide" three or four times, and I thought I heard "Arcee" once. Other than that (and Bumblebee, of course), I have no idea who everyone else was. Did they have names? Did they even fight? Because I swear they all looked the same to me and were pretty much interchangeable. Except for the two incredibly annoying "twins" that looked like a cross between robot and gargoyle and, if I'm not mistaken, were portrayed as a borderline insulting caricature of African Americans. Those two I could tell apart, but I kind of wish I hadn't. Plus, the plate on one of them said "Skids", but that monstrosity has nothing to do with the Skids I remember from the comic book. Oh, and halfway through the movie, the robotic equivalent of Davy Jones shows up. He is very easy to recognize, but the movie had already fallen apart for me, and it was hard to care. Also, and in my defense, this character was really quite stupid and corny (something the design of the creature is to be blamed for), not to mention that all the exposition he delivered was extremely hard to swallow.

The special effects were... Well, I'm not sure, because I could only see blurry mechanical parts moving everywhere and explosions lacerating my corneas. But at least the music was... Hold on, I'm not sure either, because all I could hear was explosions, strange sound effects, and abominably bad dialogue. ("Revenge is mine!" Are you for real?)

As for Michael Bay's direction, this is something I always find tricky, because I guess I'm not really sure how much of an impact the director has on the script and the actors' skills and performance, but in this particular case I don't think there was too much directorial effort needed. Based on what I saw, it feels like Mr. Bay just asked his actors to run and yell and look scared, and everything else would be taken care of in post-production. If some of the actors hadn't emoted every now and then, I would have thought George Lucas had directed this film. But jokes aside, it did feel like a bunch of nothing just put together and shaken (not stirred --or stirring), and then wherever the pieces fell, that's where they stayed.

The funny thing is that, like a critic said somewhere, TROTF is criticproof, and no matter what everyone says, everyone will still go see this movie. The Rave was packed last night, and I bet that's exactly what happened all across the country. It looks like it will probably be the top-grossing movie of the summer, if not the year, and this saddens me because I have seen so many movies that are unquestionably better. In the last two months, I have loved seven out of the nine movies I have seen, each one of those seven vastly superior to this crap, and I am sure I will enjoy a lot of other movies before the summer is over. To know that TROTF will be more successful than those is a distressing thought, and I can always hope to be wrong, but what if I'm not? I don't think I could stand a third installment in the series. I am afraid of what that could do to my brain, I really am.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Wondering About Wonderland

The first pictures from Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland have been released. Accompanying this post you can see Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter, and if you follow this link you'll see Helena Bonham Carter as the Queen of Hearts, Anne Hathaway as the White Queen, and Mia Wasikowska as Alice.

You should also check out the White Rabbit, Tweedledee and Tweedledum, and the talking flowers as part of the three background pictures you can find here. Make sure you move the cursor around the picture, as you will discover new areas of the picture.

So, will this movie rock? Well, we only have to wait until next year.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Contador de turnos

Warhammer es un juego por turnos. Normalmente, las partidas se juegan a 6 turnos de cada uno de los jugadores. Como lo normal es que estés concentrado en la partida intentando aniquilar al enemigo, la mayoria de las veces pierdes la noción del tiempo y por consiguiente del turno en el que estás jugando. Y os puedo asegurar que es muy importante, ya que dependiendo de en qué turno estés, puedes intentar arriesgar más o asegurar una partida. Como soy un poco despistado, me encantó la idea que tuvieron en el club Waaag de hacer este maravilloso contador de turnos.
Y lo mejor es que va perfectamente con el trasfondo de los elfos oscuros, pues consta de una pila gigante de calaveras de enemigos, y para marcar los turnos se van apilando cráneos de enemigos sobre los escudos La figura que marca el paso de los turnos con su látigo es un señor de las bestias de los elfos oscuros que no venía con el marcador, así cada uno se lo puede personalizar.
Ya me contáis que os parece.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

El blanco caballero de la noche

Ya sé que parezco un disco rayado, pero White Night, el noveno libro de la serie The Dresden Files, escrita por Jim Butcher, es probablemente el mejor hasta la fecha. ¿Cómo es posible que cada entrega supere a la anterior, y que todas sean tan entretenidas y llenas de humor, juegos de palabras, peligro, y personajes interesantes? Sin duda, Butcher tiene algún arcano secreto que le permite escribir estas estupendas historias una vez al año. Sea como fuere, me alegro de que sea así, porque me encanta seguir las desventuras del mago Harry Dresden y el resto de personajes de la serie.

Varias de las semillas plantadas en anteriores novelas florecen en White Night, y el bueno de Harry está más que ocupado tratando de resolver la situación. Al igual que en los últimos cuatro libros de la serie (más o menos), White Night se aleja de las situaciones límite en cada capítulo para centrarse en una historia más cerebral y compleja. A diferencia de otras entregas de la serie, la historia en WN está más unificada, y en vez de tener varias amenazas acechando a Harry que terminan confluyendo en el explosivo (literalmente) final de rigor, WN presenta una sola trama con varias ramificaciones. Y sí, vale que suena parecido, pero no es lo mismo. Lo que sí es igual es lo entretenido que resulta el libro, y lo altamente recomendable que es.

Después de haberme ventilado WN en cosa de tres días, ya sólo me quedan dos novelas de la serie por leer. Sobre la décima, Small Favor, ya hablé el otro día, y ya veremos cuándo me la compro; y Turn Coat, la última hasta la fecha, salió en tapa dura hace un par de meses. Como ya dije al comentar Proven Guilty, Butcher necesita escribir más deprisa, y todos vosotros necesitáis empezar a leer esta magnífica serie.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

You're Marrying Me

The Proposal opened last Friday, and I went to see it with a few friends because it looked sort of cute and potentially funny. And it was both really cute and really, really funny. Despite the fact that the script wasn’t exactly original and the basic premise of the story we’ve been told a dozen times, The Proposal managed to be very entertaining, and it was because of the two leads. Both Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds were really funny, and they carried the whole movie with their chemistry and interaction. Bullock, as the fish out of the water (a New York book editor that finds herself in a small town in Alaska visiting the family of her soon-to-be husband) finds herself in plenty of awkward situations; and Reynolds, as her assistant who is forced to marry her so she can stay in the country, is goofy and charming and charismatic.

If this sounds like your basic romantic comedy, well, it is, but I found it inspired and outrageously funny, something Betty White is also responsible for, seeing as she was hilarious as the ninety-year-old grandmother. Like I said, this movie, directed by Anne Fletcher, is anything but original, and you can pretty much guess how things will end even before stepping into the theater. However, I guess this is one of those cases in which the journey is more important than the destination, because I really enjoyed getting from point A to point B, even if I had a feeling I knew exactly where point B was going to be. So, if you’re in the mood for a romantic comedy with lots of laughs and witty banter albeit fairly stereotypical, accept Bullock’s proposal: I think you’ll be glad you did.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Western Croc

The last meeting sketch of the year! This time, and for some unfathom-
able reason, I drew a cowboy crocodile. Maybe I was thinking about the crocodiles I saw in Disney. Maybe I was thinking about Clint Eastwood. I really don't know, which isn't all that surprising, I must say. So, I hope you like it!

Monday, June 22, 2009

What Happens in Vegas

The Hangover opened a couple of weeks ago, and I wasn't all that interested in going to see it. I had seen the preview and read about the premise of the movie, and I thought I'd just catch it on DVD later in the year. Then my friend Glen went to see it, and he loved it. Then, The Hangover came up first at the box office on its opening weekend, beating Pixar's Up by a handful of dollars. Then the positive buzz and the great word of mouth started to build up. Then, The Hangover came up first at the box office on its second weekend, and I decided maybe I should check it out. Shortly after that, I coerced my friend Mike, and we went to The Rave to see what the noise was all about, and man am I glad I went to see it.

The movie stars with Phil (Bradley Cooper) calling his best friend's fiance and telling her they've lost Doug (Justin Bartha), the guy she is supposed to marry in five hours. Along with two other friends, they had gone to Las Vegas for Doug's bachelor's party, and now they could find him. Right after this conversation, the movie goes two days back in time, to when the four friends are about to leave for Vegas, and goes from there to right before they're ready to party that night. Here there's another time jump, and all of a sudden it is the following morning, and we witness the aftermath of what happened the night before. Their room looks like a battlefield, and there are plenty of objects and creatures that shouldn't be there but somehow are. What happened last night? Nobody remembers. And, where's Doug? Nobody knows. But he's getting married tomorrow, so they'd better go find him.

The Hangover is one of those movies that makes you laugh while watching other people's misfortune. There are so many horrific situations and just plain out wrong moments and comments that one can't help but laugh until he cries. The kind of humor in this movie reminded me of Love Stinks and How to Lose Friends & Alienate People, and, to a lesser extent, Get Smart. I had so much fun watching this movie that I would just go and see it again, and I will make sure I get it on DVD, because it was such a good time.

Bottom line: if you don't mind wincing and laughing at the same time, The Hangover is your kind of movie. Go see it, and get ready for very bad things to start happening, and for the laughter to ensue. I guarantee it.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Slick Sci-Fi

Check out the trailer for Surrogates, a movie starring Bruce Willis and Radha Mitchell opening on September 25. It sort of reminds me of Blade Runner and I, Robot, and Bruce Willis's hair brings The Fifth Element to mind.

The movie is based on The Surrogates, a graphic novel by Robert Venditti and Brett Weldele that I haven't actually read, but the premise looks interesting. Check out the trailer and let me know what you think!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

The Ghost of the Darkness

Here you have a picture I drew for one of my students. She wanted me to draw a lion for her, and I had to oblige. As I said before, I like to get "commissions" because people usually ask for stuff I wouldn't usually draw, which stretches my abilities and lets me have some fun. And other than that, there really isn't much else to say about it, so I hope you like it.

Friday, June 19, 2009

DVD Fever

Is there anything better than cool DVDs? Yes, there is: cool DVDs on sale. Over the last week I've found myself buying seven DVDs from places such as Target and Walmart, and I am very excited about my purchases. Some of these movies I wasn't specifically looking for, but I couldn't miss the opportunity to get them. Some other movies I was interested in buying, and I was happy to find them. And yet some other movies surprised me because they're still pretty much new releases, but Target was having a limited-time sale, and I just happened to be in the right place at the right time. Anyway, this is what I got:

The Robot Chicken Star Wars Special. Better than the prequels (a kick in the nuts would also be better than the prequels, I guess), and only five bucks. I already raved about it when I saw it on TV a couple of years ago --a must have!

The Gift. Sam Raimi's spooky movie, I've seen The Gift several times, and it was about time I bought it. And for five bucks, I just couldn't say no.

Frequency. I saw this movie a really, really long time ago, but I have very fond memories of it. You know what I'm also fond of? The four-dollar sale price. Beat that!

Scoop. Scarlett Johansson's second collaboration with Woody Allen, Scoop is a fun romp, and Scarlett Johansson is the main character. Paying seven bucks to have Scarlett onscreen for an hour and a half is well worth it.

The X-Files: I Want to Believe. One of the three limited-time sales Target enticed me with, this completes my X-Files collection, since I already own the nine seasons and the first movie, Fight the Future (better than this one, I think). And it was only ten bucks!

Yes Man. You might remember from my very positive review that I enjoyed Jim Carrey's latest comedy quite a bit. It was also on sale for ten dollars, and Zooey Deschanel's eyes were looking at me from the DVD box daring me to pass on this great offer. Needless to say, I could not.

He's Just Not That Into You. Another movie I liked when I saw it earlier this year, HJNTIY just came out on DVD, and they had it for ten bucks. And did I mention a couple of hot scenes with Scarlett Johansson? Pause button, here I come!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Small Favor, Big Size

Small Favor is the tenth book in Jim Butcher's The Dresden Files, and even though I still haven't read it yet (I haven't even started the ninth installment in the series), I feel compelled to talk about it. Or to talk about its size, to be precise.

It all started with me looking up White Night (the ninth book in the series) on Amazon. I had seen it at Barnes & Noble, but the only copy they had was in pretty bad shape, so I thought I'd check it out online and get it there. I typed in the words, and the Amazon search engine gave me both White Night and Small Favor, paperback editions for both of them. That's when I realized the price difference: White Night was $7.99, as is usually the case with paperbacks, but Small Favor was $9.99. After frowning for a couple of seconds I remembered seeing the book at Barnes & Noble a couple of months ago, and I remembered I thought it looked bigger than usual. At the time, without even picking it up to flip through the pages, I thought it was maybe one of those large print editions, and therefore the size of the book was somewhere between a trade and a mass market paperback. Curious now, I clicked on the book, and I checked all the available formats. Turns out I was wrong: the $9.99 book was the only paperback edition available, and it is the normal edition. What gives?

I checked the customer reviews specifically looking for comments about the abnormal size of the book, and sure enough there was a thread that talked about this. I proceeded to read the different messages with a sinking heart, already knowing what was coming, and boy was I right.

Apparently, some publishers (if not all of them) have decided this time of economic crisis is as good a moment as any to raise the price of books, and to hell with the consequences. I had already noticed this trend with hardcovers (the only hardcovers I buy as a rule are Stephen King's books, so this took a while to sink in), but now it is obviously finding its way to the paperback market. So paperbacks from Roc (publishers of The Dresden Files) are going to be $9.99 now. That is bad. You want to hear what's worse? That the size of the books, as I've already pointed out earlier, is different. Small Favor is not smaller but bigger than its brothers. (Ah, the irony.) It stands about an inch taller than the previous nine books in the series, so what's going to happen when I get it? That my cool collection will look uniform up until book nine, and then we'll have this stupid change. So they're both raising the price (how much is that? A twenty percent increase?) and destroying continuity in one fell swoop. Nice job, guys.

Obviously, they want to make more money, and they've probably figured that people who will be bothered by the size change will just go ahead and purchase the previous nine books in the new, taller format when they are re-released, as they unquestionably will be. Well, I, for one, will not buy them again; and what's more, I think I am going to wait as long as I can to see if there is a newer, normal-sized edition of Small Favor put out after the general outcry. (Riiiight.) Therefore, by wanting to get two extra dollars from me, I am going to withhold the eight I would have gladly paid, so they will be losing money. I bet if everyone voted with their money, Roc would change their mind, but I doubt that will happen, and people will just buy the book.

The question remains: is this going to be the new standard in price and size across the board? Why not just the price? Do they really need to change the size to make a feeble attempt at justifying the price hike? And why not just one dollar? Why not $8.99? That would be bad enough, but twenty percent, and the stupid new size to boot? Give me a break. Or even better-- give me the old size and the old cover price.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Love me, Love me

This has to be the most out-of-character movie I’ve watched in a while, but I enjoyed it for the most part. The original title of this French movie is Jeux d’enfants (Quiéreme si te atreves in Spanish), and I watched it in French with English subtitles.

The movie was bittersweet, with lots of black humor and a pervasive twistedness that made it very interesting, surprising, but also quite wrong on more than one occasion. Basically, Love me if you Dare tells the story of a boy (Guillaume Canet) and a girl (Marion Cotillard) that grow up as best friends and like to play dares all the time. As they grow up, they become more and more attracted to each other, and the dares become more and more hurtful. I won’t spoil anything for you, but everything escalates progressively throughout the movie, and sometimes you really wonder what the hell they’re thinking.

The theme of perfect love and the impossibility thereof is manifest from beginning to end, and I found it as interesting as the idea of irresistible attraction that is presented along with it. Those are powerful, intriguing concepts, and seeing the characters navigate through their lives fighting their feelings while unable to stop feeling the way they feel was both fun and unnerving, seeing what they constantly do to each other.

Are you interested yet? If you are, check out this movie and let me know what you think!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Culpable

Proven Guilty es el octavo libro de la serie The Dresden Files escrita por Jim Butcher, y es también el más largo de los ocho. Los primeros cinco o seis volúmenes no llegaban a las cuatrocientas páginas, pero los últimos dos o tres rondan las quinientas, y eso tras reducir el tamaño de la letra. Será que cuanto más escribes, más tienes que contar, o alguna otra extraña ley sinergística. En cualquier caso, ni una sola de las páginas de la octava aventura de Harry Dresden es prescindible, y al igual que en las siete novelas previas, Jim Butcher nos regala una historia estupenda llena de peligro, magia, seres sobrenaturales, y fantásticos diálogos entre personajes bien construidos. Como novedad, y si no me equivoco, éste es el primer libro en el que no tenemos nuevos personajes, sino que la trama la tejen viejos conocidos en ambos lados de la línea que cada vez más difusamente separa el Bien del Mal. Esta observación, de hecho, se hace en un diálogo entre Harry y Molly (creo), en el que Harry, por razones que no voy a explicar, tiene cada vez más problemas en distinguir a los buenos de los malos, y acaba diciendo que, de ahora en adelante, se referirá a las distintas facciones como "nosotros y ellos". Y es que sucesos que tuvieron lugar en episodios anteriores siguen desarrollándose en Proven Guilty, con consecuencias que cada vez son más graves y ramificaciones que empiezan a ser más evidentes. Esto es especialmente cierto en el caso del mago protagonista y "su amiga imaginaria" (por bautizarla de forma que no destripe nada), relación esta que, en el momento en que explote, los personajes cercanos a Harry van a verse metidos hasta las rodillas en problemas inimaginables. Los que sigan en pie, claro.

En resumen, Proven Guilty es otra excelente entrega en la serie, de la que sólo me quedan tres libros más publicados hasta la fecha. Tendré que mandarle un email al amigo Jim pidiéndole amablemente que por favor escriba más rápido.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Witchblade #126

Ah, Witchblade, why do I love you so much? Is it because the outstanding writing by Ron Marz, or is it because Stjepan Sejic's artwork puts almost everything else on the shelves to shame? Is it because of your compelling characters and great stories, or because of the crafty mixture of the normal and the supernatural that brings to mind the best of The X-Files? Could it be that I am being rhetorical and love you for all of the above? Perhaps, perhaps.

Witchblade #126, the second part of the War of the Witchblades storyline, gets things rolling after all the (amazingly well written) talking ish 125 packed. It's hard for me to talk about this book without revealing too much, so you'll just have to take my word for it: it is great, and the way Sara's side of the story merges with Dani's at the end of the issue makes me salivate in anticipation of issue 127. Go buy Witchblade!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Muñeca espacial

El otro día, en clase, me encontré con que tenía que estar tres horas con mis niñas mientras estudiaban en silencio, y no me había traído un libro para ayudarme a luchar contra el aburrimiento. La primera hora me la pasé escribiendo reseñas de películas en DVD que tenía pendientes y que habéis estado leyendo durante las últimas semanas. La segunda hora me la pasé haciendo el tonto por Internet y hablando con otro profesor. Y la tercera hora (cuarenta minutos) la invertí en hacer el dibujillo que acompaña estas líneas. Una vez más, la temática "ciencia ficción retro alienígena" hace acto de presencia en mis garabatos, y el resultado, en estupendo papel azul, es el que tenéis aquí al lado. Espero que os guste!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Una guerra breve y triunfal

Una nueva entrega de las aventuras espaciales de Honor Harrinton.

El título es lo menos acertado que ha parido madre, ya que te cuenta todo el libro en una frase. En este libro no sólo hay combates entre imponentes armadas estelares y movimientos astutos de las mismas, sino que hay traciones políticas y militares por ambos bandos, viejos enemigos se reencuentran , y nuestra prota por fin encuentra el amor y deja de ser una amargada supersoldada y tiene algo de emoción su vida. Pero la historia sigue sin llegar a emocionarme o hacerme sentir dentro del combate, aunque ya no sé si es por el traductor o por el escritor.

El libro está como los anteriores: no es nada del otro mundo, pero se deja leer; y como siempre, tanto en la ficción como en la realidad, los políticos consiguen que todo el sacrificio que hacen los soldados por su país, que suele ser su vida, no sirva para nada.

Ya estoy con el cuarto libro, que creo que será más político que otra cosa, y depende de cómo salga seguiré o no con la serie, que los libros están muy caros.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Movie Rumors

A couple of rumors that have reached my always-attentive ears in the last couple of weeks.

The first one is about a remake of the old Buffy movie. Apparently, since vampires are hot right now (the Twilight books and the HBO show True Blood are probably the best examples), somebody has come to the conclusion Buffy is ripe for a makeover. While I wouldn't be opposed to the notion (after all, I love the character), two things make me wonder what is going to happen. One, that no actors from the TV show will be involved in the movie (whaaaat?). And two, that Joss Whedon himself will not be part of the project either (double whaaaat?). So what do you think? Is it going to suck, or yes?

The second rumor is also related to TV shows and their movie counterparts. For the longest time, we have been hearing rumors about an A-Team movie. I've never been opposed to studios making movies out of old TV shows, but now that the time to remake the TV shows I grew up with has come, well, I'm not that happy about it anymore. At any rate, and whether I want it to happen or not, it looks like the movie will be made, so it doesn't really matter. What matters is the cast, and that is something I have been thinking about for a long, long time. (Apparently, I have lots of free time in which to devote myself to such intellectual and scholarly disquisitions.) Who would you cast as the charismatic and beloved John "Hannibal" Smith? Who could replace Dwight Schultz as Murdock? (IMDB lists Woody Harrelson as “rumored”.) Well, I just read that Bradley Cooper is in talks to play Templeton "Faceman" Peck (will he drive a Corvette?), and Liam Neeson has been talking about playing Hannibal. (IMDB lists Bruce Willis as “rumored.”) Liam Neeson as Hannibal? Hmmm… What do you think? Could this work? Who would you cast if you were given the choice?

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Nuevas batallas

Otra vez los elfos oscuros de Vheto Slidecaster y su casi inseparable Gnasher fueron a conquistar el campeonato de "El viejo mundo". Esta vez se hizo acompañar por Esmili y su hermana Mirith, que montaban un pegaso negro y un pegaso cavernícola respectivamente. El ejército de Vheto era muy rápido, pues le acompañaban dos unidades de arpías carvernícolas (las otras unidades desaparecieron en un mundo llamado Ebay para poder sufragar los gastos de nuevas tropas), dos unidades de caballería ligera, una caballería de temibles gélidos, un carro tirado por bestias carvernícolas, dos lazavirotes de repetición, una unidad de las sigilosas sombras acompañadas por un asesino, la nueva hidra cavernícola, y una unidad de ballesteros. Ya iré poniendo fotos de las nuevas unidades pintadas cuando pueda.

En el primer combate, Vheto se enfrentó a sus odiados hermanos gay, los altos elfos, esos tipos rubietes de orejas puntiagudas y ojos azules que pasan más tiempo combinándose la ropa que preparándose para el combate. En este caso, no obstante, les dio por presentar batalla, y con su gran potencia de fuego eliminaron rápidamente las unidades de caballería ligera y pesada e hicieron huir a las pobres arpías con sus cargas; pero, como siempre , la hidra y Vheto y sus hijos se lanzaron al combate cuerpo a cuerpo donde prácticamente aniquilaron al enemigo, aunque no sin un poco de suerte, ya que al pobre Vheto le inflaron a virotazos y consiguió salir vivo. (Tenían que sacar un 1 en un dado de 6 para no matarlo y el pobre chaval lo sacó dos veces seguidas.) Aunque sólo quedó una unidad enemiga en pie, el ejército sufrió muchas bajas, con lo que al contar puntos sólo obtuve una victoria marginal.

La segunda partida fue contra los nobles caballeros bretonianos, un ejército donde casi todo son caballeros andantes y algunos campesinos con armas que son más un peligro para ellos que para mis elfos. Esta batalla fue más sencilla que la anterior y todo el ejército enemigo fue masacrado, aunque las sombras y el asesino se sacrificaron para parar a la unidad del general enemigo el tiempo suficiente para que la unidad de gélidos pudiese reventarla. Gran victoria de los elfos de Vheto.

Y por último, otro combate contra otro ejército de malditos elfos oscuros, pero éste no fue tan duro como el anterior. Este ejército contaba con poderosos magos, pero lo que no sabían es que Vheto no sale de casa sin su talismán mágico que hace que la magia enemiga (y la propia) falle más de lo normal, con lo que fue una gran masacre en la que Vheto y sus hombres apenas sufrieron bajas y al enemigo sólo le sobrevivió una unidad.

Pero aunque todo fueron victorias, Vheto se conformó con un meritorio segundo puesto, ya que unos condes vampiro arrasaron en todas las partidas. Aun así, Vheto y sus unidades se fueron invictos del torneo y con la satisfacción de que el Mal reina en el mundo una vez más.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

American Nightmare

I’ve never been a fan of the American Pie movies, but I somehow found myself watching the last installment of the series, American Wedding, with a couple of friends. In my defense, I’ll say that they rented it and then invited me over, so it’s not as if I had a whole lot of choices.

The movie was entertaining, but I didn’t care all that much for plot or characters. There were a couple of really funny scenes, like the one in which a couple of characters start acting out of character to impress a girl, and the “bachelor’s party” that goes horribly wrong. Plus there were a couple of hot, naked strippers in that last scene that made it even better.

Other than that, I didn’t much care for the movie, but at least I didn’t hate it. If you like that kind of humor, then I guess you’ll enjoy it for what it is: a silly way to spend an hour and a half.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

¿Qué demonios eres?

Aquí tenéis otro boceto a bolígrafo hecho durante una reunión. De hecho, hice este dibujillo inmedia-
tamente después del de Dhraya que os enseñé el otro día, y ambos están en la misma página, uno debajo del otro. Sin embargo, y como tengo mucha cara, decidí sacarles el mayor provecho posible y convertirlos en dos entradas independientes.

En lo que a qué demonios es esta criatura se refiere, supongo que es algún tipo de anfibio, pues tiene pinta de sapo y se pueden ver juntos en el fondo, pero no estoy muy seguro. Como estaba prestando atención a la reunión, no podía dedicar mucho tiempo a plantearme cuestiones taxonómicas, como espero comprendáis. De todas formas, espero que os guste!

Monday, June 08, 2009

The Bank Job

I think The Bank Job is the first movie starring Jason Statham I have ever seen. The movie is based on a true story about a bunch of thieves robbing a bank and getting into a previously unsuspected world of trouble.


While the movie wasn't great, I found it quite entertaining, but then again, I usually like heist movies. As for Statham, his performance was a nice surprise. I guess I hadn't given him much credit because he tends to star in action movies that I don't bother seeing, but I thought he did a very good job as the leader of the bank robbers, so I won't scoff at him again.


So, if you're in the mood for a heist movie, I suggest you check out The Bank Job. If, on the other hand, this kind of movie doesn't do anything for you, you won't be missing much if you skip it.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Dhraya abocetada

Aquí tenéis otro dibujillo de mi famosa serie de dibujos que hago en reuniones. El boceto de hoy está protagonizado por nuestra querida Dhraya, la protagonista de Worlds Collide, está hecho con bolígrafo directamente, y no me llevó más que unos pocos minutos. Se me ocurrió que quería dibujarla con coletas, pero dado que no tiene pelo, la cosa estaba algo difícil. Al final, solucioné el problema con gomas para el pelo que pasaron a ser gomas para los tentáculos. Será que soy raro...

Saturday, June 06, 2009

La tumba

Y ya llegamos a la tercera entrega de Los archivos de Dresden. Como nos tienen acostum-
brados, acción sin límite, peleas contra vampiros, fantasmas, hadas, perros demoníacos.... Y un sin fin de enemigos que no dejan al pobre Harry ni dormir tranquilo.

Me gusta el nuevo fichaje de Michel, el guerrero "templario" que con su maravillosa y gran espada se dedica a ayudar al pobre Harry para acabar con tanto malo. También me gusta la idea de que alguien tenga una familia y su mujer se mosquee porque esté salvando al mundo mientras ella está en casa con los chiquillos.

Lo que no me gusta, como ya comenté antes, es el tema del más allá. Cuando se tocan estos temas no sé cómo lo hacen que nunca terminan de convencerme. Lo mismo me ocurrió con la saga de Las guerras de la reina araña, de los Reinos olvidados.

Otra cosa que tampoco me gusta mucho es que meten a demasiados malos de los cuales apenas dan información, como en Spiderman 3. Mejor céntrate sólo en uno o dos malos, y el resto para otro libro. Yo hubiera eliminado toda la parte de la Madrina, que no me gusta nada en absoluto. Pero, como siempre, es un libro muy entretenido y muy bien escrito, y lo pongo por delante de Tormenta, pero por detrás de Luna llena. Y ahora a esperar al cuarto libro que no sabemos cuándo llegara.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Pixar Does It Again

I wasn't sure what to expect from Pixar's tenth movie, except for one thing: it was going to be good, since it was a Pixar movie (redundant but true). You've probably seen the previews: an old guy ties a bunch of balloons to his old house and flies away from his neighborhood. That was pretty much all I knew about Up, but, like I said, it was a Pixar movie, so I would gladly pay the admission price at The Rave and watch it in 3D.

So I went and saw it and I was blown away by this movie directed by Pete Docter. Up is a fun ride, and even though it packs a lot of jokes, gags, and laughs, it is also a heart-wrenching story about love, loneliness, and chasing your dreams. And while this is not the first time the geniuses at Pixar have tackled some of those themes, Up made it clear that the most deeply moving films nowadays seem to be coming from animation studios. Am I the only one who sees this pattern? Think of last year's Wall-e, for example, and how moving it was. Just like Wall-e, Up combines sunny with cloudy, funny with sad, and it does it seamlessly and in a vastly entertaining way that is by no means a kids-only movie. You want an example? Just a few minutes into the film we witness the whole lives of Carl and Ellie, as this serves as the prelude for everything else that will come later in the story. Those few minutes are incredibly emotive and compelling, and there is not a line of dialogue throughout the whole sequence. (Brings Wall-e to mind again.) From there, the tone goes back to fun and sunny, but the sadness and tenderness this sequence generates keep permeating the movie from beginning to end.

As you well know, dear readers, a story wins me over if I find it (and the characters) compelling. But when you add spectacularly amazing visuals, flawless animation, spot-on character design, and a technical prowess that puts pretty much every other film to shame, the result is a must-see movie that, strange as it might seem to people who know me, I liked much better than Wall-e, which was great as well. Could this be a contender for Best Movie of the Year when I write my list in December? Well, I don't want to hype Up too much or create impossible-to-meet expectations, but I really think you guys should go see this movie. Now.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Raimi's Return

After directing nothing but Spider-Man movies for pretty much the last decade, Sam Raimi returns to the genre that gained him millions (okay, maybe thousands) of fans: horror. Would Drag Me to Hell be any good? Would it be scary? Would it be as fun as the Evil Dead movies? And most importantly, would it feature Bruce Campbell? Fortunately, the answer to all these questions (except for one) turned out to be yes.

DMTH offers plenty of elements and tricks we've seen before in dozens of other scary movies, but somehow Raimi makes them work, and the movie feels like a fun, fresh ride instead of the trite, sad affair it could have turned out to be. I mean, there are curses and gypsies and demons and creaking planks and mysterious fortune tellers. Does it sound unoriginal already? It really does, and that is why it's so strange that the whole thing works so well. The weight of the movie rests in Alison Lohman's shoulders, as she plays main character Christine Brown, and she does a very good job of being scared, confused, and at the end of her endurance. I've never been a big fan of the actress, but I must say I was pleasantly surprised.

Something else that came as a surprise was how few special effects were in the film. Raimi likes to give you the chills by means of music, creepy noises, and unsettling camera angles. Still, there's plenty of effects, don't get me wrong, but they're not the flashy kind. Instead, they try to go as unnoticed as possible; except, that is, whenever poor Christine is getting some unlikely item forced into her mouth or down her throat. I don't know if Raimi has some kind of oral fixation, but the variety of outrageous things that happen to find their way into Christine's mouth is nothing short of spectacular and lends itself to all sorts of weird Freudian interpretations.

All in all, DMTH turned out to be lots of fun, and I definitely recommend it to anyone who enjoys thrillers or scary movies. The film wasn't really scary, but it certainly had me in its grip from beginning to end, as I was rooting for Christine to fight her way out of her predicament. The only thing missing from this crazy cool movie was a Bruce Campbell cameo. Other than that, it couldn't have been better.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

The Swine Rider


El otro día una de las estudiantes de mi escuela me mandó un email pregun-
tándome si podía dibujar una viñeta político- humorística para el periódico de la escuela, petición a la que por supuesto accedí sin pensármelo dos veces. Fue tras aceptar el encargo, por supuesto, cuando me di cuenta de que no tenía ni idea de qué dibujar, dado que ni leo el periódico, ni veo el telediario, ni visito páginas web de noticias (que no sean sobre comics o películas, claro), ni, en resumen, sé lo que pasa en el mundo. ¿Qué demonios podía dibujar que fuera actual, relevante, y moderadamente gracioso? Ni idea.
Me pasé el camino a casa dándole vueltas al tema, y caí en la cuenta que lo único que sabía de la actualidad era que Obama es el presidente y que la swine flu ha tenido a este país tan dado al tremendismo y la exageración un pelín asustado. La solución a mi problema pasaba, obviamente, por combinar ambos temas. Fue entonces cuando se me ocurrió que ver a Obama entrevistando al malévolo virus en el despacho oval tenía cierta coña: sería la entrevista de trabajo más extraña que jamás se había visto. Inmediatamente, la frase del virus me vino a la cabeza, y la idea de la entrevista de trabajo se transformó en esta especie de visita de cortesía.
El siguiente paso era asegurarse de que los personajes eran inmediatamente reconocibles para el público. Obama era "fácil", porque lo "único" que tenía que hacer era que el dibujo se pareciese al presidente. Era el malvado virus el que no sabía cómo representar. Al principio quería dibujar una especie de monstruo o algo, pero la única manera que se me ocurría para hacerlo fácilmente reconocible era ponerle un cartel o algo en la camisa. Tratar de justificar un cartel o algo que explicara quién era el personaje y que pareciera que viniese a cuento fue lo que me hizo pensar en una chaqueta de motorista con el "logo de la banda" en la espalda. Esto, sin embargo, hacía imposible que pudiéramos ver al virus de frente o de perfil, con lo que me iba a quedar sin poder dibujar mi monstruo. De todas formas, tampoco sabía qué aspecto darle, así que tenerlo de espaldas tenía sentido, favorecía la composición, y dejaba bien visible y claro que el personaje en cuestión era el H1N1. Y para asegurarme que todos sabían que era el tipo A, decidí ponerle una gorra que obviamente tenía que estar del revés para que pudiéramos verle la parte de delante. Todo esto convertía en irrelevante el aspecto del virus, pero aun así decidí ponerle orejas y morro de cerdo para reforzar la idea un poquito más.
Una vez tuve la situación y los personajes claros, lo único que tuve que hacer fue buscar varias fotos de referencia para dibujar tanto a Obama como a su escritorio en el despacho oval, y el dibujo a lápiz estaba terminado algo más de una hora más tarde. A continuación, entinté el conjunto en algo menos de una hora, y se lo mandé al periódico para que lo publicaran. Por desgracia (para mi ego), no tuvieron espacio suficiente en este número, y al final no publicaron mi estupendo dibujo, pero al menos podéis verlo aquí en semiprimicia exclusiva. Espero que os guste!

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Reading List: May

May has turned out to be a lackluster month in terms of the books I’ve read. I didn’t dislike any of them, but except for the Kinsey Millhone adventures, these month’s novels left me quite indifferent. Let’s see what I read…

Laura Rider’s Masterpiece

In this book by Jane Hamilton, the Laura Rider of the title engineers an affair between her husband and another woman so she can study it and write about it in the novel she is planning on writing. I thought it sounded perilously like chick-lit, but I also thought it was an interesting premise. As it turned out, it was more the former than the latter, but at least it was mercifully short.


Girls, vol. 1: Conception

Girls, vol. 2: Emergence

Girls, vol. 3: Survival

Girls, vol. 4: Extinction

I read the first volume of this bizarre story by the Luna brothers back in 2006, and when I bought volume two the following year, I reread the first trade to remember what the whole thing was about. Well, two years after reading the second chapter in the series, I finally bought volumes three and four, and proceeded to read the whole thing from beginning to end. And what I said before still holds true: Girls is a strange sci-fi and horror story about small-town people, their pettiness, and how they deal with each other when an unexpected catastrophe shakes their world. I don’t want to give too much away, because a lot of the joy of the book lies in figuring out what is going on, but I will say that the dialogue and the personalities of the different characters are pretty awesome, and the characters feel real and are a great example of the way people react to crises. You could certainly do worse than reading this weird but fun saga.


Gears of War: Aspho Fields

I’m not sure I can blame author Karen Traviss for what this story turned out to be. There are two stories being told in this book. One, in the past, deals with events that took place long before the first Gears of War game. The second one, in the present, happens in between the two games. And still, not much is told or revealed in either one. My guess is that Traviss had her hands tied because the people at Epic didn’t want her to reveal some information that will ostensibly be revealed in the third game of the series, and that made it very difficult to do pretty much anything. Still, the story is entertaining, and the characters feel like the ones I know and love from the game, but the fact that this book was so irrelevant made me a little angry.


N is for Noose

Leave it to Sue Grafton to provide some solid entertainment with her awesome alphabet mysteries starring private eye Kinsey Millhone. Good old Kinsey experiences the joys of a close-knit community that doesn’t want to give up their secrets in this chapter of the series, and, as it’s usually the case, the book is a fun ride from beginning to end.


O is for Outlaw

I actually started reading The Company (see below) before I got to O is for Outlaw, but halfway through the book I had to put it down and read something that was actually entertaining before I felt I could continue reading Parker's story. Enter Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone, and all my fictional woes were suddenly gone. A shame I keep reading faster than Grafton writes, since I'll run out of books to read soon!


The Company

If I said that Aspho Fields was irrelevant, then K.J. Parker’s The Company is as pointless (if not more so) as Traviss’s book. I enjoyed Parker’s Engineer trilogy, but I know s/he (“K.J. Parker" is a pseudonym, and it’s not clear whether the author is a man or a woman) likes to keep a slow pace throughout her novels and sometimes offer excruciating details that are not all that relevant. Still, since this was a standalone novel, I thought the author wouldn’t have too much time to digress and regale the reader with pointless information. And while that is mostly true, the whole book is pretty pointless in and on itself. I won’t reveal what the story is about, but once I finished it I realized it hadn’t really done anything for me. The characters weren’t very compelling and, silly as this may sound coming from a fantasy buff like me, their names were so freaking strange that it was hard for me to feel close to them or even know who they were without having to stop and think about it for a couple of seconds. In the end, I just kept reading, and while the story is somewhat interesting and the moral ambiguity of the main character, General Kunessin, is, as it tends to be the case with Parker’s “heroes”, fascinating, it is not enough to overcome the dullness of the whole thing. At least it’s only four hundred pages.


And that's it for this month. Come back in thirty days to see what I read in June. I can only hope it will be more rewarding than what I chose this time!