Browsing all 103 posts in BSU Daily News Archive.

Destiny includes never returning to Muncie

What say you?

(This column was originally published in the Ball State Daily News on April 28th, 2004. The original online version can be found here.)

I’m never coming back to Muncie. I’ll never have to hear that stupid train again.

In 10 days, I’ll have my Real World Adult degree. My lease runs out in May, and once it does, I’m skipping this skip town faster than a business in the Village.

I love Muncie the same way Bruce Banner loves the Hulk. This city is loud, gross, ugly and gray. It is also a part of me. Hey Muncie, keep your hands off of Betty.

Fate destines me to say goodbye to Indiana forever. (Note: “Forever” doesn’t include Christmas, Thanksgiving, The 500 Race and maybe GenCon. Oh, and Star Wars Celebration III.)

California awaits. It is stocked with sunshine, jobs and women of Japanese decent. Am I confident in my skills as a soon-to-be professional? Did Ball State have everything I need?

Does the Alamo have a basement?

I don’t know anything about insurance. I don’t know how to find out where I register to vote in a different state. My respective department has only given me vague ideas on what kind of entry-level jobs exist for my field of study. What kind of money is needed to get an apartment in a large market? What is livable salary? Truth be told, Ball State has provided me with a very good education, but its claims that it would prepare me for life were more exaggerated than Frank Miller’s artwork on “The Dark Knight Strikes Again.”

Fortunately, I am a geek. I read comic books. I’ve seen way too many movies. I (on occasion) even play Dungeons and Dragons. I listen to hipster music, and when I place my tongue in cheek, I permit myself to digest some audio pop. Perhaps college did not prepare me for the real world, but certainly being a geek did.

The first most important thing is living quarters. I don’t know how much rent costs in major market cities, but I do know that even the Fantastic Four can be evicted from the Baxter Building; I should make sure to keep up on rent. If in the event I am thrown out of my housing, I can live quite comfortably in the sewers, like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Careful, you want to step over that ooze.

Finding a job is difficult, just look at Ignatius J. Reilly. Fortunately, there are “alternative means” to finding income. Thanks to playing video games, I know that punching and kicking other people until they flash and disappear causes them to just drop money. Sometimes, they even drop nifty items, like chains and sticks!

Everything I need to know about women I learned from “Chasing Amy,” “High Fidelity” and “Weird Science.”

I need only eat when the screen of life flashes “Wizard about to die. Needs food badly.” Ah, sustenance.

In Dungeons and Dragons, bribing the Dungeon Master helps you succeed in chance encounters. In real life, bribing God helps you succeed in real life encounters. Also, drinking in excess gives you a -4 modifier to dexterity checks.

With those things in mind, I’m going to pop in “The Blue Album,” save my game and quit. Look for the special edition DVD in the fall. Be sure to pick up next month’s issue. So long, and thanks for all the fish.



Kill Bill Volume 2, Master and Commander, Wild Things

What say you?

(These reviews were originally published in the Ball State Daily News on April 22nd, 2004. The original online version can be found here.)

In Theatres:

BLOOD AND GUTS: v2.0

TWO BITTER EXES EQUAL ONE GREAT MOVIE

Kill Bill: Vol. 2 (2004) – The second installment of Quentin Tarantino’s epic b-movie homage is not as perfect as the first volume. The pacing isn’t as good. There isn’t as much action. It is visually less-creative.

It’s still absolutely terrific.

There were lots of things to love about “Kill Bill: Vol. 1” and none of them are present in this movie. Instead, we get a healthy dose of Tarantino dialogue and a more personal journey for Uma Thurman’s character, The Bride.

The first film featured a clever, out-of place animated section as a tribute to eastern animation styles. Vol. 2’s best part is another tribute to East-Asian film: an absolutely hilarious tribute to ancient kung-fu masters. These scenes are worth the ticket price alone.

The best part about Vol. 2 is that all the blood, guts and violence present in Kill Bill is the result of two bitter exes. The last third of Vol. 2 elevates both films beyond their b-movie roots. A Tarantino film with a clear message? Is this possible? Yes, and hopefully, it becomes routine.


On DVD:

TAKE A COMMANDING LEAD

MASTER CRAFTSMANSHIP

Master and Commander (2003) — “Master and Commander” is what all films should strive to be. Peter Weir’s naval-warfare film, based on the novel by Jack O’Brien, is as good as a high-seas adventure movie that you can make.

The film details the fictional exploits of British naval Captain Jack Aubrey (Russell Crowe) and naturalist-surgeon Stephen Maturin (Paul Bettany) as they track down one of Napoleon’s ships off the coast of Brazil. The film provides a complete immersion into the naval life of the time.

Peter Weir’s movie paints such a beautifully broad stroke of the human condition that the film is impervious to all forms of pretension and sentimentality. The sheer amount of craftsmanship required to make this film is astounding. Aside from the normal cast and crew, real-life shipwrights, sailors, animal handlers and naval officers were all required to make the film possible.

At the heart of “Master and Commander” is a story about fierce loyalty to friends. The actors (especially Paul Bettany, who was snubbed an Oscar nomination) really tune into the theme, making it one of this reviewer’s top five films of the school year.

THIS WAS HOT… IN HIGH SCHOOL

HARDLY ‘GIRLS GONE WILD’

Wild Things (1998) – A high school guidance counselor is framed for rape by a rich snot and a piece of trailer trash. They’re high school students, except ridiculously voluptuous and good looking. A police officer investigates the case and all kinds of backstabbing and boring plot twists take place.

This movie is poorly written, poorly shot, poorly directed, poorly acted and even poorly packaged. (Does the movie poster and box art actually have anything to do with the movie?) Not surprisingly, it is a mainstay in college student movie collections.

The only redeeming factor of this movie is the infamous “Denise Richards is naked and makes out with Neve Campbell” scene. The truth is, that scene was only a redeeming factor when I was in high school. Now it’s just intelligence-insulting.

Despite the promise in supple Denise Richards nakedness, I encourage you to pursue some kind of self-improvement. This begins by avoiding this DVD.



Mayonnaise conspiracy takes over Muncie

What say you?

(This column was originally published in the Ball State Daily News on April 21st, 2004. The original online version can be found here.)

There is a conspiracy in Muncie. No, I’m not talking about the “Police Yourself” campaign. This is a conspiracy of a much graver urgency; a conspiracy of ineptitude. This is a mayonnaise conspiracy.

I first became aware of the situation a couple weeks ago. Hunger hunted me like a dog and chased me to Jimmy John’s where I ordered my habitual consumption preference: “a hunters club, on French, no mayo”.

I ordered this regular sandwich of mine at the drive-thru. At the time of the infraction, the store had three employees and no other customers; just little ol’ me.

Now, consider this: My order must go through only two people. I place an order with the tattooed guy at the window. He relays this information to the pierced sandwich craftsman. This is not a game of telephone here. It is a simple line of communication with no possible interference.

After a moments wait, I received my sandwich (deceptively wrapped in paper that hides its contents, mind you!) in exchange for a nominal fee. I commuted to my humble abode where I intended to devour the supposed “a hunter’s club, on French, no mayo” whilst watching bootlegs of the Cartoon Network’s “Clone Wars” series on my computer.

Cozily snugged away into my computer chair, I began watching episode 17. I unwrapped my sandwich. Just as Anakin Skywalker was instructing his clonetroopers to watch the perimeter, I took a gargantuan bite from my $5 club. It did not taste like delicious roast beef, but like the astringency of some vague meat covered in fatty slime to the point of indiscernible flavor.

Mayonnaise. Abhorrent.

Do you even know what mayonnaise is made of? Oil, vinegar and the fetal matter of chickens! No condiment is worthy of my taste buds, but mayonnaise above all is most despicable.

I was consumed with vile rage and hatred. To burn off my raw, irrational anger, I ate the sandwich anyway. I ate it violently, biting off pieces of my inside-cheek in the process. The vile mayonnaise made the sandwich fillings slippery with cholesterol and hunters club ingredients squirted out from all sides upon every bite. I gave in to the Condiment Illuminati and was left with a sick stomach.

The following evening I decided to protest the local sandwich establishment and award my patronage to Mr. Dave Thomas. I order the new regular order: “A number seven, Biggie-sized, no mayo.” I regarded the Jackson Street Wendy’s as a fine establishment and trusted that they, if no one else, could correctly take my order.

Five dollars less and one short drive later, I was back at The Mouse Pad. I first ate half of my fries, perhaps due to some subconscious procrastination rooted in fear of mayonnaise. Eventually I bit into my sandwich and what do I detect on my tongue?

Oil, vinegar and the fetal matter of chickens. Mayonnaise.



The Alamo, Kill Bill Volume 1, Timeline

What say you?

(These reviews were originally published in the Ball State Daily News on April 15th, 2004. The original online version can be found here.)

In Theatres:

The Alamo (2004) – As a general rule, I’m a sucker for historical dramas where One Large Group of Guys rush towards The Other Large Group of Guys and a lot of people die for the Good Guys’ freedom. “The Alamo” makes par for the course, barely.

As the title implies, the film details the 1836 Texan stand-off against Santa Ana’s rampaging army. Because Disney can’t end a movie on a down-note, we also see General Sam Houston defeating Santa Ana six weeks later at the Battle of San Jacinto.

On the up-side, “The Alamo” is seldom dull. Billy Bob Thorton gives Davy Crockett some much needed depth. The movie seems to give a good feeling for what Texas was like at the time.

Despite the positives, Alamo is mediocre at best. Emilio Echevarria’s portrayal of Santa Ana is cliche and uninspired. The film isn’t politically correct and, by omission, it is historically inaccurate. The film makes mention of historical truths, such as James Bowie owning slaves, but it brushes them aside in true Disney fashion.

Your grandparents and Texan relatives will probably appreciate “The Alamo” for what it is. I can’t say I recommend it, though.

On DVD:

Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003) – In the first part of Quentin Tarantino’s fourth film, professional assassin Black Mamba (Uma Thurman) begins her journey to seek revenge on the four assassins and their leader who attacked her on her wedding day.

“Kill Bill: Vol. 1” is exceedingly entertaining. It is effectively an hour and a half-long action sequence. Tarantino keeps the movie interesting by constantly changing the style in which the film is shot. Visually you will not find a more creative film.

Make no mistake, “Kill Bill Volume 1” is not a stand-alone film; it is only half of a larger piece. The film seems to drag on in the middle and the movie may be light on plot twists. Volume 2, which is released tomorrow, is supposed to remedy that.

Fans of Chinese kung-fu, slasher films, westerns and Tarantino’s body of work will be thrilled. Tarantino may not be revolutionary, but he breaks the conventions awfully well.


Timeline (2003) –
Based off of a post-“Jurassic Park” Michael Crichton novel, “Timeline” is about archaeologists of varying accent who are commissioned by the government to travel through a wormhole and bring back another stock character. Their destination? The cut scenes from “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.” There are also two love stories, an assassination attempt and Greek fire.

I feel most sorry for the actors of this film who, despite their contribution of negative acting, still should not have been required to say the terrible, terrible lines in the script. I would love to critique Richard Donner’s direction of the picture, but physics make it impossible to comment or describe something that does not exist. I believe the score was borrowed from “Xena: Warrior Princess.”

Some say director Richard Donner has lost his flair. I say that he never had any; he got lucky with “Goonies.” Do not even contemplate giving this movie your time. Don’t even look at the box art.



‘Girls Gone Wild’ restaurant takes exhibition too far

What say you?

(This column was originally published in the Ball State Daily News on April 14th, 2004. The original online version can be found here.)

Naked, sweaty, drunk college-aged women are in abundance on DVD format. Though the strength of the fad passed a few years ago, we all remember the over-the-top infomercials for the “Girls Gone Wild” VHS tapes and DVDs. If you’re a college guy and you lived in the dorms, you’ve probably seen one at some point or another.

I saw one once. I’ll never forget it. Several years ago the guys in Noyer were passing one around and my roommate and I figured “Eh, why not.”

I was strangely compelled to continue to watch the DVD. This is probably because the DVD had naked women on it. I was also absolutely heartbroken while watching. This is probably because those poor girls were drunk, did not have control of their bodies and lacked even an inkling of self-respect.

I turned off the DVD player after a while, mortified and filthy-feeling. All I could think is “That poor girl’s parents! Would they ever be the same after seeing this?”

There hasn’t been any word from Joseph Francis, founder the $100 million “Girls Gone Wild” empire, in the last couple years. There’s been a few lawsuits and a video with naked fellas, but nothing to write home about – until this week:

Joseph Francis is going to open “Girls Gone Wild” restaurants across the country.

The puns write themselves. I won’t immortalize them in print here. Snickers and sneers aside, however, I must say: I will be exceptionally troubled if a restaurant chain like this does anything but flop.

I’m all about free expression. I see nothing morally reprehensible about the pornography industry provided it’s “employees” are treated the same ways as any other respectable work force. (This means no cruelty to minors or animals.) All the same, I’d like to think that most Americans would prefer to keep their distance – or at least keep it in the privacy of their own home.

What would it say about us, as a culture, if we openly support and endorse a restaurant whose theme is derived from tricking drunk college girls into “showing us their beer-basted breasts”? (Oops. There’s one of those restaurant puns I wasn’t going to make.)

“Girls Gone Wild” isn’t the same as contracting porn stars to perform their craft in a legitimately produced adult film. Those porn stars have chosen a career path (if perhaps not a dubious one). They have workers rights, real pay and codes for health and safety.

A “Girl’s Gone Wild” DVD is the equivalent to video rape.

If we as a society accept this restaurant chain, what is next? Girls Gone Wild-brand vodka? How about a PG-13 version in theaters? (MGM has the film rights) Before you know it, there could be “Girls Gone Wild” exercise videos, breakfast bars and action figures. Is this something we really want?

My personal opinion is that pornography is not good for the mind, soul or social collective. It doesn’t necessarily inherently objectify or take advantage of women, though it certainly does so more often than not. I don’t think it is morally wrong if done legitimately; I won’t judge. But please, let’s not support this “Girls Gone Wild” business any longer.

Besides, Bloomington is just a two-and-a-half hour drive.



Hellboy, The Matrix Revolutions, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

What say you?

(These reviews were originally published in the Ball State Daily News on April 8th, 2004. The original online version can be found here.)

In Theatres:


THE DEVIL MADE ME DO IT

Hellboy (2004) – Based on Mike Mignola’s popular comic book, “Hellboy” tells the conspiracy-laden adventures of the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense. The Bureau is composed of paranormals itself, including Ron Perlman as the reluctant hero Hellboy.

Director Guillermo De Toro delivers in Hellboy exactly what you’d expect from him: dull, uninspired action sequences validated by a few great moments of character story. The plot is about as bad as “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen” and the villains are just as ridiculous. This film also rips off “X2” worse than “Masters of the Universe” ripped off “Star Wars”.

Still, the movie is lots of fun and Ron Perlman is just excellent. He brings legitimacy to the film and makes it worth watching. Hellboy is absolutely worth the Sunday matinee, if you like this sort of thing.

On DVD:

IT’S OVER… FINALLY

The Matrix Revolutions (2003) – In the final installment of the Wachowski Brother’s cyber-punk sci-fi epic, Neo leads the Zionists in their last stand against the oppressive machines. There’s a lot of fighting and confusing rhetoric capped with a fairly unsatisfying conclusion.

Revolutions definitely has its strong points, like giant walking robot suits. What it lacks is the mystique, charm and curiosity that made the original “Matrix” so special. The second film, “The Matrix: Reloaded” set up all kinds of possibilities for surprise endings and twists… but “Revolutions” didn’t deliver on any of them.

In the end, the Matrix Trilogy has more plot holes than the Terminator movies. Why, for example, are the machines invincible to anything but electric shock in the first film… but gunned down by the thousands via ordinary bullets in the third?

The Matrix films are a lot of fun, but “great trilogy” they are not. Completists only need apply.

A WORTHWHILE REMAKE

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003) – Five teens driving through Texas pick up a hitchhiker who has been the victim of a violent attack. When they stop for help in the middle of nowhere, Leatherface and his motley crew of freaks massacre the unfortunate travelers.

Ignoring the fact that this is a remake of a classic film, “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” stands up on its own quite well. The acting is above average for today’s horror flicks and the cinematography is gorgeous. This is probably the scariest genuine horror film to come out in the last decade.

The film’s dark sense of humor may be a bit too much for some, and you can expect more blood and guts than the original. It by no means eclipses its predecessor, but is certainly better than standard post-modern horror fare.



Dawn of the Dead, The Ladykillers, Jersey Girl

What say you?

(These reviews were originally published in the Ball State Daily News on April 1st, 2004. The original online version can be found here.)

In Theatres:

‘THE MOST EXCITING ZOMBIE MOVIE IN YEARS’

Dawn of the Dead (2004) – Zach Snyder, a major-motion picture newcomer, has been charged with remaking “Dawn of the Dead,” the second film in George Romero’s classic trilogy. To zombie and horror fans alike, this is the equivalent of being asked to remake “The Godfather II.” Except there’s zombies — in a shopping mall. This is no easy feat.

Fortunately, Snyder prevails and brings us one of the most exciting zombie movies in years. The gore is serious and graphic, the situations are darkly humorous and the character arcs exceed expectations for the genre.

The opening sequence in this film is jaw-droppingly fun and the ride doesn’t stop until the credits are over. This reviewer cared more for the characters in this film than half the dramas he’s seen in the last year. In terms of combining character development and excitement, the new “Dawn of the Dead” can sit on the same shelf as “X2” and “The Boondock Saints.” It’s just that good.

Must… eat… brains… Erm, I mean, see… this… movie…

On DVD:

NOT-SO-GREAT COMEDY

The Lady Killers (2004) – In the latest Cohen Brothers comedy, Southern Professor G.H. Dorr (Tom Hanks) assembles a motley crew of criminals in a get-rich-quick scheme to burglarize the vault of a Casino River Boat. The only person in his way is his landlord, a kind if not senile elderly church lady. Madcap adventures, etc.

The movie populated with almost all of the Cohen Brothers trademarks: fun performances, good music and clever, meaningful symbolism. It just lacks one ingredient: laughs. Other than the speech of G.H. Dorr, this may be the most poorly written Cohen Brothers effort to date. Even Tom Hank’s all-or-nothing performance can’t save it.

The Cohen Brothers can be credited with the greatest comedies of the last 15 years, but “The Lady Killers” isn’t one of them. In fact, they haven’t struck gold since “Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?” in 2000. One wonders if perhaps this trend isn’t permanent.

WELL-MADE AND TACKY

Jersey Girl (2004) – In his first Jay and Silent Bob-free effort, writer-director Kevin Smith tackles single fatherhood as his central theme: Ollie Trinke (Ben Affleck) is a widower/movie star publicist with a little girl to raise by himself. When he loses his job he moves back to New Jersey with his father (George Carlin) and learns about life, love, sugar, spice and everything nice.

The film’s problem is that it has all kinds of sexual humor and a fair amount of language. If you drop the crude Kevin Smith-esque trademarks, you have a really nice, solid PG family movie. Instead we get a sappy PG-13-rated flick that nobody wants to watch.

Still, the performances aren’t horrible and George Carlin is just plain terrific. “Jersey Girl” is a well-made, tacky movie. Guys, offer to take your girlfriends to go see it. Girls, if you have even a shred of decency inside of you, don’t make them go.



Spam, fear will not save reputation

What say you?

(This column was originally published in the Ball State Daily News on March 31st, 2004. The original online version can be found here.)

Ball State University has a stigma as the “party school” in Indiana, the “public institution for other parents’ kids.” Since my arrival here four years ago, I have seen the school do everything it can to rectify this. They’ve started UniverCity, aggressively pursed grants, built new facilities and erected an enormous phallic monolith on McKinley Avenue. Obviously, the university does not wish to keep that stigma.

Regardless of who is to ultimately blame, the deaths of Michael McKinney and Karl Harford don’t exactly dispel the stereotypes. The general rule is “Students being murdered is bad for admissions.”

Ball State’s solution to its image problem: Spamming your e-mail box. Oh, and ruling by fear, too.

Vice President of Student Affairs Douglas F. McConkey sent every student an e-mail March 22. The vice president (who ironically bears a strong physical resemblance to Grand Moff Tarkin) told students that changes were coming. He reminded the student body of the wide array of punishments the Galactic Empire, I mean the university, has at its disposal. He threatened us by saying “The consequences of breaking the law are severe… and we are looking at making them tougher.”

Curiously enough, McConkey also feels he is well-equipped to judge the suspects in Harford’s murder. “…in my view, Karl Harford’s victimization by what appears to be a proven criminal was not his fault nor was it the fault of his friends,” he wrote. That sort of martyrdom is unethical.

It is curious that many of the people at this university who were quick to defend Officer Duplain for killing a drunken student are equally quick to condemn three black youths for killing a drunken student, before any trial has taken place.

It is inappropriate for the university to be taking any stance on these matters until all the facts come to light and the trial is over. The fact that McConkey and other Imperial Officers, I mean, university officials have used the murders to advance their agenda is vomit-worthy.

The university’s Rule By Fear campaign continued Thursday when each and every Ball State student received another e-mail: the first of several “Police Yourself” propaganda posters. All of the posters list the consequences of drinking at off-campus parties. All of the posters feature either police cars or students handcuffed and jailed. The posters also threaten to call your parents.

Ball State students are old enough to go to Iraq and be shot dead fighting terrorism. They are of adult age and old enough to make their own decisions. The university’s policy of calling parents to report student behavior is condescending, offensive and representational of just how misguided the “Police Yourself” campaign is.

Dean of Students Randy Hyman intends to send out a “Police Yourself” e-mail every Thursday. Indefinitely. Apparently the dean feels brainwashing practices are ethical procedures, too.

Understand this, Ball State University: We are intelligent enough to know we can be arrested for illegal behavior. We don’t need you to scare us back into our homes on the weekends. You concern yourself with the educational services we pay you for, and we will concern ourselves with what we do during our free time.

The deaths of Harford and McKinney are a shame. Changing “Ball State” to “Police State” would add more shame to the tragedies.



Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, The Rundown, Ransom

What say you?

(These reviews were originally published in the Ball State Daily News on March 25th, 2004. The original online version can be found here.)

In Theatres:

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) – Music video and commercial director Michel Gondry’s second feature length film, “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” is really something special. Written by Charlie Kaufman (“Being John Malkovich,” “Adaptation”), it just might start an Oscar discussion nine months sooner than usual.

“Eternal Sunshine” presupposes that a person could, for a fee, have their memories of another person erased from their mind. Joel (Jim Carrey) decides to have ex-girlfriend Clementine (Kate Winslet) erased. Halfway through the procedure, however, he changes his mind. Joel spends most of the rest of the film in his mind running from memory to memory with his own memory of Clementine.

Gondry’s penchant for impressionism and visual gimmicks are often substituted for substance in his other works, but not so in this film. His directing both contains Jim Carrey and loosens up Kate Winslet. But the trademark visuals are still there, and in almost every instance, they work splendidly.

The writing, however, stands out above all else. Kaufman’s characters are realistically imperfect but still fantastically likeable. The words they speak are interestingly mundane in the way they expose the same every-day revelations normal people have.

“Eternal Sunshine” received a narrow release but is playing in Muncie. Do yourself a favor and drop the six dollars to go and see it.

On DVD:

The Rundown (2003) – The Rock, Sean William Scott and Christopher Walken star in this action-comedy that borrows from dozens of movies, not the least which include “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” “Desperado,” “Shanghai Noon” and “The Deer Hunter.”

The plot centers around a bounty hunter (The Rock) sent to a jungle mining town in South America to retrieve a gang lord’s wayward son (Sean William Scott) who is searching for ancient treasure. The mining town is run by a madman (Christopher Waken) who doesn’t want to lose his grasp on the slave trade.

The action sequences are TOP-NOTCH, the humor is spot on and the film is surprisingly well-shot. “The Rundown” is worth the rental or, if you’re a huge Rock or Sean William-Scott fan, worth owning.

Ransom (1996) – Ron Howard’s 1996 suspense thriller that starred Mel Gibson receives the “special edition DVD” treatment this week. Of course, the timing has absolutely nothing to do with that little Bible movie Gibson made. “Ransom” unquestionably stands out amongst the crowd as a classic piece of cinema!

In this uninspiring movie, Mel Gibson plays multi-millionaire Tom Mullen. When Mullern’s daughter is kidnapped and held for ransom money, Mullen pulls a fast one on the kidnapper: He offers the ransom money as a bounty on the head of the man who took his daughter. How clever!

Director Ron Howard does his best to make the unconventional premise interesting. The problem is such: It is not believable and therefore uninteresting. Mel Gibson is in an average movie? The hell, you say!



Changes in X-Men drive readers away

What say you?

(This column was originally published in the Ball State Daily News on March 24th, 2004. The original online version can be found here.)

Grant Morrison’s historic three-year run on “New X-Men” has ended. The writer that breathed new life into a stale, self-parodied franchise published his final issue last week. Morrison will follow Stan Lee and Chris Claremont as one of the primary influences on the X-Universe.

Under Morrison’s watch, the X-Men maintained their deep characterizations but were portrayed in a noticeably more freakish fashion. Morrison left behind the outlandish spandex adventures in favor of the soap-opera style of plots. He used old characters in ways and created new mutants, something many writers are too cowardly to do. He suggested perhaps Beast was gay.

Old X-fans new to Morrison’s bizarre soap-style of writing were put off. New X-Men continued to gain readership, however, because Morrison’s work appealed to a more intelligent comic-book reading audience. “Fanboys be darned,” in Comics Code Authority terms.

Since the announcement of Morrison’s departure nearly a year ago, X-fans have wondered what direction the X-Universe would take. Would Marvel find a new writer to continue the direction Grant Morrison took? Would they ignore his era all together? Would there be inner-book continuity once again?

Marvel answered these questions recently with a shocking revelation: They would be “reloading” every single X-book. Some would be new books, some would be canceled and the surviving books would juggle writers.

“Not again,” moan the seasoned readers.

The details of the reload are staggering. Bear with me.

Bishop gets his own book in “District X,” which is NYPD Blue with mutants. “X-Force” is back. Original creator and Marvel expatriate Rob Liefeld is going to write it. “X-Men” movie director Bryan Singer is going to write “Ultimate X-Men,” which exists in an entirely different Marvel continuity line. (This matters little since the X-Universe no longer has inner-continuity anyway.)

Chris Claremont’s “X-Treme X-Men” is now extinct. Claremont moves to Uncanny X-Men with his co-creator of the original Excalibur, artist Alan Davis. Claremont also gets the new “Excalibur,” though original co-creator Davis won’t be drawing it. Chuck Austen leaves “Uncanny” and goes to “New X-Men,” which is re-re-titled back to “X-Men.” The old “X-Treme X-Men” artist is attached to it. “New Mutants” turns into the “new” “New X-Men,” “New X-Men: New Mutant Academy.”

To top it all off, “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” creator Joss Whedon is going to write “Astonishing X-Men,” which was previously a title that only existed in an alternate continuity time line. This doesn’t matter (because there is no inner-continuity in X-books anymore) except that, with no explanation whatsoever, all of the X-books will recognize the events at the end of Grant Morrison’s run of “New X-Men.”

Whew. See people, this is why only dorks read comics.

Admittedly, the prospect of a total re-load excited me at first. I adore Grant Morrison’s “New X-Men,” and I liked the idea that someone else couldn’t taint it. That was until Igor Kordey revealed why he was unexpectedly fired as artist from the new “Excalibur”:

“My opinion is, as it happened with the rest of Reload titles: back to diapers (that’s what I call those bright spandex costumes).”

After all of the progress made in the mainstream, the X-Men are putting the spandex back on. Back to unbelievable plots, shoddy writing… and yellow spandex.

Maybe it’s a good time to quit reading comics.