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Non-Review Review: The Canyons

The Canyons struggles to surmount the weight of productions stories bearing down on it. Paul Schrader’s latest film was famously the subject of a 7,000-word article in the New York Times documenting the trials and tribulations behind the scenes. In a way, these troubles made the film somewhat larger-than-life, turning it into one giant attempt at career resurrection for director Paul Schrader and lead actor Lindsay Lohan.

Given the film’s much publicised sexual content (and the decision to cast pornography actor James Deen in the lead role), there’s a sense that this could be Lohan’s Last Tango in Paris, a bold and blistering performance from a once-respected talent eclipsed by years of behind-the-scenes gossip and idle chatter. Ironically, it’s none of the established talent that impresses with The Canyons. Bret Easton Ellis’ story feels like a shallow pastiche of Ellis-ian touches, while Schrader’s direction is intrusive and overwhelming. Lohan shows flickers of honesty and risk-taking, but is lost in the shuffle and the hum-drum plotting.

In contrast, it’s relative newcomer (as much a man with a filmography containing over 1,000 titles can be a newcomer) James Deen who makes the strongest impression as a surprisingly efficient Ellis-ian protagonist.

thecanyons1

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Warren Ellis’ Stormwatch, Vol. 1 (Hardcover) (Review)

Warren Ellis in free flow is a truly beautiful thing to watch. In the right frame of mind, working on the right idea, Ellis has a unique ability to throw out radical ideas, fascinating constructs and subversive notions, all without ever losing his step or his flow. With Bryan Hitch, Ellis’ acclaimed and respected run on The Authority firmly altered the trajectory of mainstream comic books. Part of it was definitely the style that Ellis and Hitch brought to the book, promising “widescreen” dynamic action. However, it was the ideas that gave the book a significant amount of weight. Ellis demonstrated that you could take realpolitick and graft it into a superhero book, lending the adventures a bit more depth, potency and relevance than any publisher would have dared attempt before. These ideas are all present in Ellis’ original run on Stormwatch, the series that led into that iconic game-changing comic book.

I blame it on the Weatherman…

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Warren Ellis’ Run on Ultimate Fantastic Four – Vol. 1-2 (Hardcover) (Review/Retrospective)

Celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Fantastic Four, I’m taking a look at some of the stories featuring the characters over the past half-century.

I have to admit that I’m quite surprised to see Warren Ellis writing for a year on Ultimate Fantastic Four. You could make the case for Ellis – an avowed technophile – as perhaps the perfect author for a high-concept series like the Fantastic Four. It was Mark Waid who dubbed the family “Imaginauts” – explorers of the imagination, rather than superheroes or guys in costumes. In a way, given how skilfully Ellis handled Tony Stark’s technological transformation in Extremis, you might not have been unreasonable in expecting he’d prove a deft hand with Marvel’s first family. However, reading the twelve issues he wrote for the title, it’s hard to get a sense that Ellis was ever really giving it his all – although he does play around a bit, it never feels like he’s genuinely pushing things to the limit and playing with all the associated toys. In fact, quite a lot of his run feels like it’s playing it safe.

See, the Thing is...

Note: Ellis’ run on the title picks up after the initial six issues written by Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Millar, and so is split over the second half of the first hardcover and the first half of the second. The second hardcover is rounded off by a two-part Think Tank story from Mike Carey (who would take over as regular writer after Mark Millar) and an annual written by Millar. So this review/retrospective just covers the issues written by Ellis.

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Absolute Planetary, Vol. 2 (Review)

With Wildstorm being officially folded into the relaunched DCU (the “DCnU”), I thought I might take a look at some of the more successful and popular Wildstorm titles that the company produced. In particular, Planetary, the which will apparently inspire Paul Cornell’s Stormwatch – easily one of my more anticipated titles of the relaunch.

“We keep the world strange because that’s the way it’s suppose to be.”

– Elijah Snow outlines Planetary‘s mission

I really do love Warren Ellis’ Planetary, a love letter to pulp fiction in all its forms, about a team of crack pop culture archeologists, tracking down and preserving many of the weird and wonderful fictional specimens that we see all too rarely these days, from cowboy vigilantes to kung-fu epics. There’s a genuine love poured into the series by Ellis and his artistic collaborator, John Cassaday, as the pair celebrate some of the truly wonderful fiction of the twentieth century, as we brace ourselves for the twenty-first.

Little drummer boy...

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Absolute Planetary, Vol. 1 (Review)

With Wildstorm being officially folded into the relaunched DCU (the “DCnU”), I thought I might take a look at some of the more successful and popular Wildstorm titles that the company produced. In particular, Planetary, the which will apparently inspire Paul Cornell’s Stormwatch – easily one of my more anticipated titles of the relaunch.

Planetary, as imagined by Warren Ellis and John Cassidy charts “the secret history” of the fictional Wildstorm Universe, as we follow a team of pulp archeologists attempting to uncover “what’s really been going on this century.”As such, it provides Ellis and Cassidy a chance to dig around and play in the pop culture of the twentieth century, celebrating concepts and ideas as diverse as Japanese monster movies, Hong Kong revenge actioners and American pulp heroes, all with more than a hint of nostalgia and affection.

Strange ways...

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