Fantasy

Harry Potter Fans, This is… I’m Not Sure What This Is…

The books have long since ended and now that the final film is heading to theaters, Harry Potter fans may be experiencing some loss. But have no fear, in October, JK Rowling unleashes Pottermore to the world! On July 31, you can try to sign up to get early access to the site as a beta user.

So, what is Pottermore? Maybe I’m dense, but JK’s intro video doesn’t quite put the pieces together. It could be that Pottermore is like nothing else we’ve seen which makes it tough to categorize. But it sounds like the content will be heavily user-generated. So is this like an official fan-fic collective or a giant Potter wiki or a crowd sourced wibbly wobbly, Potter Wotter, thingamadoober? I guess we’ll have to wait for October to figure out what’s going on.

GO SEE THOR!!!

It’s Free Comic Book day this weekend, it’s my birthday today, and fucking THOR is in the theaters! Now I’ve been slightly meh about this whole God of Thunder funny book movie thing. But seriously, it’s fucking YES!

Kenneth Branagh can seriously bring out some excellent performances. I absolutely love the cast. Chris Hemsworth is such a charming Thor, even when he’s in arrogant asshat mode. Natalie Portman is a little squeaky, but the chemistry between the two is magic. I was most impressed with Tom Hiddleston as Loki. It’s a subtle performance. You can see the wheels turning, but you’re never really certain what’s going on in that sneaky head of his. The tensions between Loki and Thor feel like genuine sibling rivalry. It’s amazing just how well this cast comes together. Of course, Anthony Hopkins is the perfect Odin. And Idris Elba’s Heimdall voice gave me chills.

I still think Asgard is a bit too shiny, but it didn’t bother me as much as it has in the trailers. Although, I did chuckle to myself when we get our first look at the rainbow bridge.

The film also makes some of the more silly looking things from the old comics look fucking amazing. Thor twirling his hammer has always looked kind screwy in the comics, but in the film it feels like a real thing someone might actually do. There are nods to familiar Thor tropes like Donald Blake and the whole Mjolnir preamble about only a worthy person can hold the hammer.

Thor is going to be a big ass movie. I think it’s a huge win for Marvel. It blew away all my expectations. There’s enough of the comics in there to appease us geeks, there’s plenty more in terms of characterization, performance, and plot that will appeal to general audiences. It’s not just a great comic book flick. It’s a great movie. Seriously, check this shit out this weekend and next weekend and take all your skeptical friends with you because it’s a great summer blockbuster.

Man, if this is the kind of thing we can expect from Marvel films, Captain America is going to make me mess my pants as soon as the lights go dark.

Harry Potter and the OMG I CAN’T BELIEVE THIS IS THE LAST ONE!!!

Stops. All of them. Officially pulled.

Fight Like Cats

UPDATE: You’ll have to head directly to YouTube to view the footage.

Wow! This looks like a lot of fun. Not so sure about mechs walking around Thundara, but I’m really sold on this new version of Thundercats. We get a lot of backstory in this latest trailer and some nods to the original series. Can’t wait!

Skullkickers Vol.1 Kicks Comics in the Skull!

Review week continues! You may have heard me rave about Jim Zubkavich’s Skullkickers here, here, here, and here. If you’ve been patiently waiting to see if the first arc would be collected into a trade, you missed out on the awesome Skullkicker Stew recipe in issue #3. BUT, tomorrow is your lucky day. Skullkickers Vol. 1: 1000 Opas and a Dead Body hits shelves tomorrow!

Skullkickers answers a lot of my complaints with the mainstream comic book industry. There’s no complicated continuity to slog through. You don’t need to know the origins of our heroes to understand their motivations. Each issue actually stands on its own while adding to the overarching plot. You never feel like things are being pulled out of Jim’s ass because he wrote himself into a corner. This is what comics used to be, original stories that were fun and easy to get in to.

Jim does a great job at playing with fantasy tropes. You don’t need to be a fantasy fan to understand a majority of the humor, but if you’re familiar with the genre, you can appreciate the funnies that much more.

As fun as the writing is, Skullkickers wouldn’t be half as entertaining without its stellar lineup of artists. Edwin Huang’s line art for the regular series has always impressed me with his expressive faces and kinetic action scenes. Sometimes artists get lost in the minutia of a scene muddying things up with extraneous lines and dense backgrounds, but Edwin’s work is always clean and readable. Misty Coats brings life to Edwins lines as the colorist for the regular series. Her color choices give each scene a proper mood. They’re an excellent team and I hope to see much more from them.

Included in the trade are the original bonus stories that started this whole Skull Kicking in the first place. Chris Stevens’s painted work is Goddamn beautiful! We don’t see a whole lot of digitally or traditionally painted work in comics because the process takes so damn long and it makes me sad because Chris’s pages are not only gorgeous, they tell a great story. Fortunately, Chris is still on cover duty so there’s plenty of painted Skullkicker goodness in the regular series to go around.

If you’re a fan of comics that are fun, easy to get in to, and not bogged down by fanboy expectations or overly dense continuity, you should get out there and Kick some Skulls.

Source: Skullkickers

Disney Brings Tales From Earthesea and Nausicaa to DVD and Blu-Ray

It’s review week here at AZM! Every day this week I’ll be reviewing a movie or DVD release or comic book or something. Okay, really, I only have enough material for three days of reviews. But I’ll see if I can find something else those other two days.

To kick things off, I received some review copies of two new releases from Disney that are hitting stores tomorrow.

Tales From Earthsea is the first full length animated feature film directed by Hayao Miyazaki’s son, Goro Miyazaki. The film is based on the fantasy novel series by Ursula K. Le Guin. Since I don’t read anything without pictures or word balloons, I’ve never read the series so I don’t know how close the film follows the series. The title is a bit of a misnomer because there’s really only one tale that’s told in this film.

The world of Earthsea is out of balance. Crops are dying. Dragon has returned. Magic is dwindling. Chaos threatens to destroy the world of man and it up to the Archmage Sparrowhawk and young prince Arren to discover the cause.

Even though it’s definitely Goro’s film, you can feel the elder Miyazaki’s touch throughout the film. The look of the environments in the film is inspired by an illustration Hayao had done to portray his vision of the world of Earthsea. The little details that help realize Earthsea as a tangible environment are a familiar hallmark of Hayao’s productions. 3D CG for environments is used throughout the production which may be something that Goro brings to the table (although, we saw some early Ghibli CG work in Spirited Away). It’s difficult to tell because the 3D set pieces are so well blended into the work that if you’re not looking for it, you probably wouldn’t notice.

I never bother with the English language track on these releases, but Disney has assembled an impressive cast of voice actors, Timothy Dalton, Cheech Marin, Willen Dafoe, and Mariska Hargitay. There’s a special feature about the making of the film and a fun interactive feature that gives you previews of all the Disney Ghibli releases. But I suspect there will be a Blu-Ray DVD combo pack sometime in the future. If you don’t have a Blu-Ray player or have a previous Ghibli Blu-Ray release (it seems like a lot of the extra features are the same across the Blu-Ray releases), you can pick up Tales From Earthsea tomorrow at your favorite DVD retailer for $29.99 USD ($35.99 CDN).

Disney is also re-releasing Hayao Miyazaki’s Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind in a Blu-Ray DVD Combo pack tomorrow. Someday I will find someone with a Blu-Ray player so I can really compare the quality between the two versions.

Earth has somehow survived a destructive global war. The Valley of the Wind is one of the few places left that have escaped the horrifying ravages of war. A poisonous forest threatens to overtake the valley so it’s up to the young Princess Nausicaa to somehow bring harmony back to the ravaged world.

This is one of my favorite Ghibli films and I think one of Hayao Miyazaki’s best. The Ohmu creatures are absolutely wonderful to behold. And the animated sequence of the God Warrior is still one of the most striking scenes in anime to this date.

The DVD has a Behind the Microphone feature with the English language voice cast as well as “The Birth Story of Studio Ghibli” which is the same one on the Ponyo Blu-Ray DVD combo. The Blu-Ray disc, which is mocking me right now as I can’t play it, has a “Behind the Studio” feature that goes into the origin of the Nausicaa film and an interview with Hayao Miyazaki. Yes, yes, a thousand times yes.

The 2-Disc Blu-Ray combo pack of Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind drops tomorrow for $39.99 USD ($44.99 CDN).

Umbra

This short, Umbra, directed by Malcolm Sutherland is really trippy. But to me, it really demonstrates the powerful story telling of 2D animation. That’s not to say you couldn’t do the same in 3D, but even in the new millennium it’s still way too early to discount 2D. I really wish more big budget studios put out more 2D work.

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