The Jordan Levells Way Of Writing a Blog Post

blogging

Hey, kids! Since I’ve given you nothing for about a week or so, I decided that I should give you a little insight my writing process. It’s How The Sausage Is Made: Obsessive Geek Blog Edition!

  1. Think up an idea for a post.
  2. Open Word to write post
  3. Get about halfway through the first paragraph before you decide the idea is garbage.
  4. Troll YouTube and forget about post for hours.
  5. Go to work/look for better job, ignoring the post even more.
  6. Get really obsessed over a certain topic and read other people’s articles and post about it ad nauseum.
  7. Realize it’s been three days since you last wrote anything.
  8. Marathon YouTube videos while making empty promises to yourself that you’ll get back to the post later.
  9. Actually get back to the post, start writing.
  10. Change the post to something big and topical news/political event.
  11. Come to the revelation that you’re severely underqualified to comment on said news/political event.
  12. Back to Youtube.
  13. Read comic books.
  14. Fall into deep depression and wonder whether to chuck the whole blogging thing into the bin.
  15. Remember you just started up this ne blog for a fresh start/not have Russian spam sites beefing up your blog views.
  16. Avoid post like the plague more and more.
  17. Wake up one morning and realize you have nothing to give your loyal audience.
  18. Desperately try writing the post again before deleting it entirely.
  19. Try to placate them with a list post that’s at least slightly humourous.
  20. Add superfluous/”random” thought to end to seem funny/ get the list to a nice even number.

And that’s all! See you all when I actually have something.

REVIEW| The Raid 2: Berandal (2014)

Raid2

Warning: This movie contains zero raids.

 

 

Gareth Evans is possibly the first director I’ve ever wanted to simply know.

 

I’ve been watching movies pretty much my whole life, and throughout all of them, I’ve never felt as compelled to get into the mind of a director as I have with one Welsh ex-patriot, apart from Ivan Reitman. This is what has compelled me to listen to the director’s commentary for The Raid (called The Raid: Redemption in the US for some damn reason) and why I’m listening to the commentary of The Raid 2 while I’m writing this.

 

The Raid 2 also came into the world with its own subtitle, Berandal. Unlike Redemption, it actually has a point to be here. Berandal was the title Evans wanted to produce as his next feature after Merantau, the first film he did with Iko Uwais. He couldn’t get funding for that, so he turned around, took inspiration for Die Hard, Assault on Prescient 13 and video games to create the first Raid.  With that film making near nine times its budget back, Evans was able to make the film he originally wanted to…with a few alterations here and there to make it a sequel to The Raid. This was more than likely for the best, since it gives a rich layer of continuity to the film and expands on all that police corruption business almost no one recognized from the first film since the fight scenes were kicking their asses so much.

 

Speaking of which, I’m going to be focusing on the Raid 2 exclusively here. You want know what happened in the first one go read David Demoss’ write up for it, which is how I originally was tuned to looking it up. Or better yet, go watch the Raid films (subbed is the best way to go, but we’ll get to that later). They’re both excellent examples of the action genre from people who know that there’s artistry to making an action movie. That’s something the genre (hell, every genre) needs more of.

 

Our story centers on Rama (Iko Uwais) idealistic rookie SWAT officer who just escaped the worst day of his life (i.e. The Raid: Inexplicable Subtitle). He’s able to take himself, one other surviving SWAT officer and a corrupt senior officer to Bunawar (Cok Simbara), the head of a special task force dedicated to routing out police corruption. Sadly, Bunawar is that special breed of Obsessed Cop™, wanting Rama to come in and go deep undercover for him. To this, Rama says “F#%& that noise! I’ve got a pregnant wife at home and there’s not a damn thing you can say to keep me from her!”

 

Thankfully (for the audience), Rama’s given motivation by Bejo (Alex Abbad), gangster and winner of Jakarta’s Obvious Super Villain awards, killing Rama’s brother Andi (Donny Alamsyah) in the opening minutes of the film. With that old motivator Lord Vengeance moving him forward, he joins Bunawar’s team and goes deep inside one of Indonesia’s finer correctional facilities… for several years, much to our hero’s surprise and dismay. While in stir, Rama buddies up with Uco (Arifin Putra) pretty boy hothead and son of Bangun (Tio Pakusadewo), boss of bosses for at least half of Jakarta. Problematically, Uco has all the whininess of an uptight rich boy and the violent tendencies of a sociopathic would-be king, making him an easy target for any smooth talking man in a suit who, I don’t know, wants to start a gang war between Uco’s family and the local Yakuza representatives the Gotos (Kenichi Endo and Ryuhei Matsuda, respectively). Will a war break out and throw Jakarta’s underworld into chaos? And will Rama be able to survive it all long enough to exact his revenge?

 

As you can tell from the fact that it took two paragraphs to describe this film  in minor detail, this is a much more obviously complicated plot than The Raid 1, which boiled do “One poor bastard must fight his way through an apartment complex to both survive and see justice done.”  I haven’t even mentioned Oka Entara’s Eka or Yayan Ruhian’s Prakoso or the three super assassins that Bejo has under his command. But I don’t want this to run any longer than it has to. I will say that the whole thing, which I’ve heard compared to combining Infernal Affairs and a kitchen sink martial arts movie, does fell a little over-stuffed at times. An extra half hour would have been appreciated by me, but I do suspect that the pacing would probably be shot. And besides, the movie’s already two and a half hours long; I know that I’d be up for a three hour Raid film, but I don’t know if the rest of the world could stand that.

 

As I stated before, there is artistry in making an action movie, and these people have an understanding of that in way most mainstream action directors don’t seem to. They know that we’re not just here for fight scenes or scores of stage blood. We’re here to see those fight scenes staged well, with characters we actually give a crap about. Since Uwais and Ruhian are back and functioning as choreographers as well as acting in it, we can safely say the former is going to be a given. Since its Rama we’re following throughout this picture we can safely say the latter’s accounted for as well. Seriously, special props need to be given to Iko Uwais for portraying possibly the most human nigh-superhuman protagonist of an action movie outside of Steve Rogers. When, for example, he sees Bejo for the first time while spying on Uco’s late dinner with him, you can just feel the rage and pain from just how he acts. It’s a damn fine performance, and makes me wish that the guy would get ridiculously big.

 

In fact, the entire cast is damn good. Everybody involved, from the main guys to the super assassins to the special guest Yakuza are all professional cats, knowing exactly what to bring to the table. Special mention goes out to Arifin and Yayan, who give their characters the right amount of humanity for a whiny/violent jackass and lonely hit man, respectively. Tio and Kenichi play the part of old gangsters with the kind of gravitas that can really only come from guys who’ve been in the acting game for years.  And sweet hell, does Alex Abbad sell the hell out of his proto-supervillain Bejo. I could literally see this guy trying to establish himself in Marvel’s Hell’s Kitchen…or Gotham City.

Speaking of Batman’s stomping grounds, I can safely say this: Dave if you’re reading this, the feeling you had was right. Jakarta in these movies essentially is a pre-Batman Gotham City. With all the pervasive corruption, ultra-violence and near total domination of the mob going on, you’ll feel that ol’ Gotham wind blowin’ on you even before the super assassins (played by Very Tri Yulisman, Julie Estelle and Cecep Arif Rahman) show up, busting out their claw hammers, baseball bats (and baseballs) and those curved knives that I don’t know the proper name for to kill wave after wave of men. If a little bit of that kind of … “hyper reality” I think is the word… isn’t your bag, well go somewhere else. We don’t like your kind ‘round here.

 

(It also makes me hope that The Raid 3 will go the full superhero route, forcing Rama to take up the fighting crime as Jakarta’s own dark knight.)

 

This brings us back to the directing, and my shameless tongue-bathing of Gareth Evans. In the commentary of The Raid 2, Gareth claims to actually not be a fan of ultra-violence. If so, the man at least knows how to use ultra-violence to his advantage; bringing it up when he wants the audience to feel the chaos of the bigger fight scenes, like the prison riot scene. Same thing goes for his use of shaky-cam. He also knows when to pull back be breathe for a while, letting either the true tragedy of a character’s situation (that scene when Rama finally gets to call his wife after three years inside) or the horror at what a character’s done (Uco’s scene in a restaurant bathroom near the climax). Hell, with the one car chase scene at near the two hour mark, the man makes a more exhilarating movie than any of the Fast and Furious movies I’ve ever seen.  This man is possibly the best action directors working today and most definitely needs to be working more.

 

Before we go, let me tell you about a certain scene. It’s the one where Prakoso is sent to kill “the asshole son of an asshole politician” as Bunawar puts it. As he goes in for the kill, we see a bloody machete run through a wood fence… then we see the bloody wound that said machete made. As my mind was calling out “100% Jason Voorhees Approved”, the wound leaves frame as the asshole son falls limp to the ground, moving past the hole in the fence, leaving only Prakoso to be seen through it. I can’t ever say I’ve seen something like that before. And honestly, just makes me want to know even more about this wild Welshman.

 

Oh, and P.S., AVOID THE DUBS! The actors they got to do them all sound like escapees from a late Nineties OVA. I mean really Sony, there are plenty of hard working voice actors out there who could have delivered this dialogue with some talent! Why not drag them here instead of some rejects from Manga Entertainment’s heyday?

 

 

REBITH FILES: Catch-As-Catch Can Edition

Aaaand, we’re back! Sorry it took so long to come up with a new post earlier. It was just a small bout of writer’s block that I’m hopefully over now. Anyway, I’m still going through DC’s new Rebirth initiative and I like what I’m seeing. So, instead of extensive reviews for each of the books I’ve managed to pick up, I’m gonna give a quick hits to what’s going on. Without further adieu, here’s the Rebirth Files: Catch-As-Catch Can Edition.

 

ACTION COMICS & SUPERMAN

I’m lumping these two together because I get the feeling that, even though both books have two different creative teams on them, that they’re gonna have a lot of cross–pollination between them. Superman is basically a recap for the events of Nu52 Supes’ death and implying that he may not return, while Action Comics lives up to its name by giving us several big reveals (Luthor running around playing superhero only being the first one) and setting up for what I’m pretty sure will be an event. While I’m not sure that’s the proper way to go, I can’t say I’m not interested.

STATUS: Enjoyable

 

BATMAN

Bruce Wayne, the crazed loner in a bat costume we all know and love, has yet again decided to bring in some kid as a sidekick. Not as Robin, though, but as, from what I can tell, as the Mighty Morphin’ Yellow Bat. Otherwise, it’s all basically set up for the new creative team, with no hints of nay bigger threat yet (unless Calendar Man turns out to be the big bad)

STATUS: Interesting, but feels just a bit same-y

 

THE FLASH

In essentially DC INIVERSE REBIRTH: the Deleted Scenes, Barry has visions of events (Are they of the past or the future? I have no idea) from his life while investigating a murder that’s eerily similar to his mother’s murder t the hands of retcons Professor Zoom. Then, after a CW approved talk with his old man, he meet’s pre2011 Wally and they agree to investigate the massive retconning that’s going on. This is possibly the most heart-warming of the Rebirth books, and definitely has me pumped for what happens next.

STATUS: Excited

 

GREEN ARROW

Here’s the start (or restart) of the Ollie/Dinah relationship. There’s some other stuff about mole people kidnapping the homeless and masked one-percent dudes bidding to own them, but the main thrust is Ollie and Dinah meeting, arguing and parking their attraction to each other. It’s good, but not anything that can be labeled “must read”.

 

STATUS: Good, Not Great

 

GREEN LANTERNS

Already went over it on in its review.

STATUS: Excited

WONDER WOMAN

This is, hands down, is the best of the Rebirth books so far. I’m not going to go into it all since I will be reviewing it in depth later. So go read it.

STATUS: Must Read

And that’s all I got for now, people.  I didn’t pick up Aquaman or Detective Comics, since money’s tight and I have other books I want to pick up. See you next time.

REVIEW: Green Lantrns: Rebirth #1

GLs_RB_Cv1

And the Lord said “Let there be…a buddy cop comic!”

 

The Rebirth initiative is on at DC! With a whopping four books released this week, It’s time to get to what’s going on with our favorite characters and what new twists and turns they’ll face going onto the next big event. So let’s start this off for our new segment, The Rebirth Files, your unofficial stop for all things Rebirth related!

…Actually, no. You see, I was going to this whole  Rebirth Files thing, until I found out that my local comic book store had sold out of Superman: Rebirth #1, Batman: Rebirth #1, and Green Arrow: Rebirth #1. While I do plan on finding and reading each of those, the realization of how much hunting I’d have to do to make the Rebirth Files work as a concept (along with the more tactile financial necessities of such a project), I’ve decided to scrap that and generally play “catch as catch can” with DC’s Rebirth. As such, let’s talk about Green Lanterns: Rebirth #1 and see if it’s a bright light or a long dark tunnel.

The story is this:

He’s a headstrong Muslim man just recently cleared of bunk terrorism charges! She’s a neurotic Latina formerly possessed by the power of the life sucking Green Ring! Together, Simon Baz and Jessica Cruz are the protectors of sector 2814: the (5th and 6th, respectively) Green Lanterns of Earth!

Well, together in the “they’re both Green Lanterns” sense, no in any “they’re close knit partners” or “they even know the other exists” sense. After and encounter with a Manhunter android is revealed to be a test they both failed, Hal Jordan (first Earth member of the Green Lantern Corps) merges both their power batteries together and gets them to work as a team, with the Justice League as their trainers since the Corps is MIA and Hal’s off to look for them.

Oh, and there’s some talk from Atrocitus about a lost Guardian and a mysterious new ring that can grant him his greatest wish, but I’m sure that’s not important.

Now I never read any of the New52 Green Lantern stuff until I randomly picked up Green Lantern #51 because it had a cover by John Romita Jr. As such, I don’t have the whole story on Simon or his struggles with the Feds or how Jessica became a Green Lantern and freed herself from the Green Ring’s influence. And honestly, I don’t care. Neither does Green Lanterns: Rebirth for the most part. We get some catch up with Simon and the penitent G-man who accused him of terrorism and Jessica meeting her sister and getting out of her apartment, but this issue is essentially all set up.

From what we see of Simon and Jessica though…I think this’ll work. It strikes as slightly cliché (one hard-headed with anger issues, another completely unsure of their new power) but this “buddy cop” dynamic, for lack of a better word, is something that has plenty of potential.

Also, I think it was the smart choice to go with the two newest Green Lanterns for this book. They’re both new enough that not much has been done with them, so it’s a chance for taking these characters in new and interesting directions. Plus, speaking as a black man, it’s always nice to see people of the non-white persuasion headline a book.

The writing is pretty good all around. Johns doesn’t seem to be leaning so heavily on the cheese or the exposition this time round, though that may just be because he has a writing partner in Sam Humphries. The “Red Dawn” and mysterious new ring are pure Johns, I have no doubt about that. I don’t know Sam Humphries as well as Johns, but I suspect the dialogue of Baz and Cruz is certainly him, since they have a different flow from how Johns writes, if that makes any sense.

The art is good but nothing too spectacular. I know Ed Benes from his work on the Justice League of America: The Tornado’s Path, and his work here is as, well, “serviceable” , for lack of a better word, as it was in that book. And I’ve been a fan of Ethan Van Sciver ever since Green Lantern: Rebirth, and he brings just the right amount of slickness and detail he did there. It’s just sad he only did about a few pages and not all the book.

All in all, I give Green Lanterns: Rebirth #1 and 8 out of 10. It’s got me excited for how the Green Lantern books are going. That hasn’t happened to me in a very long while, and I hope I’m not proven wrong.

The Parallax Post-Mortem: What Went Wrong With Hal’s Turn To The Dark Side

Look on my shoulder pads, ye Mighty, and despair!

(Originally posted on my old blogs, One Man’s Obsession(s)

Parallax was the driving force behind Zero Hour: A Crisis in Time. This alone is enough, in many circles, to condemn him into the unhallowed halls of what  Andrew Weiss calls Nobody’s Favorites. But since I’ve never read the story (my desire to read through 90’s event comics is equivalent to my desire to throw myself in a pool filled with sulfuric acid) I cannot truly comment on how crappy said story is. I can , though, look at the whole of Parallax and what went wrong.

My qualifications for this task are scant, I admit. I was between three and four years of age when the major stuff went down and I didn’t even discover that my town had a comic book store for another decade or so. Like so many who came to know and love this most ludicrous and beloved medium of funnybooks after the first Spider-Man movie came out, all I have the firsthand accounts of those either orbiting near the swampland that was the early to mid ’90’s comics industry or those who were up to the necks in the horror show built on poorly realized pseudo-grit, aping the X-Men and following the artistic styling of Rob Liefeld. I am a fan of the Green Lantern franchise (dragged in at the moment of transition men call Green Lantern: Rebirth), and as such I’ve absorbed all I could about the history of the main characters and the Corps itself. Also, I’m not entirely sure if the major point I wish to bring up about where Parallax went wrong has been stated before, so if it has, feel free to inform me.

Now let us look at the beginning. Well, the early ’90’s anyway, where Hal Jordan and company were going into decline in popularity and desperate creative choices. John Stewart would find himself crippled for a brief time and dumped into the Darkstars stable for awhile. Guy Gardner would lose his ring, rob Sinestro of his yellow rig and become a Vuldarian living weapon through the power of the retcon.  And Hal Jordan, premier Green Lantern of sector 2814 and child of the Space Age found himself stuck in a world more interested in scowling and guns than his brand of All-American superheroism.With the Death of Superman mega story as a jumping off point, DC decided to shake things up for the franchise.

It started off okay. Green Lantern #48 (cover dated January 1994) began with Hal in the ruins of Coast City, trying desperately to resurrect the place through sheer willpower. Through it he confronts his issues with his father, talks to his mother one last time, and brings and idealized version of his hometown to life. Then the Guardians show up to admonish him, somehow not noticing the man’s grief and anguish. Any creature with even half a brain would immediately order Hal to take an extended leave of absence to deal with such a tragedy, but the Guardians of the Universe have never been ones to be written intelligently. So Hal, grief stricken and mad, goes forth to maim several fellow Lanterns, kill a resurrected Sinestro, murder Kilowog and destroy the Guardians. He takes the power of the Central Power Battery, and becomes Parallax.

Hal’s tenure as  a villain was defined by grief, madness and anger. In other words, Hal had become like damn near everyone else running around in tights at the time, just on the chaotic evil alignment. His name made no sense (just look up what the word parallax means to see why) and as a grand universe shaking threat, Hal’s most lasting affect was the full scale reboot of the Legion of Superheroes. But Hal’s attempts at editing the past like so many Wikipedia entries and murderous rampages weren’t the most damning of the whole enterprise. It was the fact that Hal took the entire Green Lantern Corps with him.

That, I think was the real breaking point no one could admit to at the time. Hal was the star of the show so he got the most attention, but the rest of the Corps, that lovely collection of freaky alien beings championing the cause of justice throughout the cosmos was no more. People like Katma Tui, Kilowog, Salaak, Arisia, Ch’p and even Rot Lon  Fan? Either gone, dead or pushed to the background even further than they were. There would be only one Green Lantern for quite a while. And the DC Universe just felt smaller. Todd Alcott, a far better writer that I’ll probably ever be, once pointed out that Green Lantern was a job, and one that any sentient creature with the right amount of willpower could have. But after the three part “Emerald Twilight” story arc, Green Lantern was just a guy.

Now don’t get me wrong, Kyle’s a fine character and like the guy quite a bit. Hell, I love most of the people who’ve ever slipped on the most powerful weapon in the (DC) universe. I’m just trying to point out the fact that DC thought it would be the best idea to take away one of the major factors that made the Green Lantern franchise unique in the crowded world of superhero comics. And this is no justification for the existence of H.E.A.T, either. Their legacy (minuscule as it is) is a footnote in within a footnote; a bunch of angry fools tilting at windmills whose proximity to the resurrection of Hal and the Corps do not in fact mean much in the grand scheme of things (I’ve always suspected that Hal’s return owed more to desperation for new readers than trying to placate aging fanboys).

Hal as Parallax lasted all the way up to the event Final Night, where he sacrificed himself to save the Earth in an eleventh hour moment to try and gain some redemption. Hal would float around as The Spectre until 2004, when DC decided to just let Geoff Johns bring Hal back as Green Lantern and bring back everybody and everything that the Corps once was. And yes, Parallax was retconned into and evil space bug representing fear itself. Honestly, that the best possible situation for him. Now he gets to be a cosmic horror of grand proportions instead of a bad heel turn that never really caught on with the comics reading public.

But the resurrection of the Corps is what was most needed. Now Green Lantern isn’t just a guy or a group of guys. It’s whoever or whatever the creators want it to be.