Tuesday, January 15, 2013

To Squee Or Not To Squee, vol. 3

Soooo....yeah. That whole 2012 Mayan Apocalypse thing? Not only did it not happen, but it’s the sort of thing that, in retrospect, makes us all go, “Wow, it was really fucking stupid to jabber on about the world ending, even if we were doing it ironically.” Now we can all stop talking about it. Forever. But look on the bright side: all the cool entertainment that’s coming out in the near future will still happen! We still get to enjoy it! Or, if it turns out to be lame and disappointing, we can whistle innocently and pretend we were never interested in the first place.

It’s my 100th post on this blog, yay! And here we go again...


The Abominable by Dan Simmons
WHAT IT IS: Dan Simmons is a very good writer who’s delivered strong work in a variety of genres, primarily science fiction (the Hyperion saga, Ilium) and horror (Summer of Night, Carrion Comfort). Basically, he’s written some of my favorite books ever. His next one is The Abominable, about George Mallory’s ill-fated Mt. Everest expedition in 1924. And yetis.
WHY I’M EXCITED: Favorite books ever, hello! I’m always excited about new reads from Simmons. Lately he’s gotten heavily into historical fiction with a supernatural twist, and it’s all been really solid. A survival horror story set on Everest that addresses both the abominable snowman myth and the mystery of Mallory’s lonely death? I’m there, man! I find Mt. Everest and the mythos that surround it fascinating. And I like being creeped out. I know Simmons’ll deliver.
WHY I’M SKEPTICAL: Dan Simmons already wrote this book. It was called The Terror and it came out in 2007. And it too was about a famous, doomed expedition (John Franklin’s 1845 attempt to find a Northwest Passage) that met a mysterious fate in a remote, icy wasteland. And there was also a monster. This level of self-repetition concerns me; I’m wondering if Simmons’ idea bucket is down to the dregs. His last two novels were just revamps of older short stories. And now a full-blown copypaste of a not-that-old prior novel? I know it’ll be entertaining, but will it be distinctive? Fingers crossed.

UPDATE: I read it! Read my reaction here.

Cowboy Bebop, Death Note, & Wolf’s Rain
WHAT THEY ARE: Anime shows that have been out for awhile. Respectively, they represent the genres of Hipster Sci-Fi, Horror-With-Messiah-Complex, and Tragic Cerebral Fantasy.
WHY I’M EXCITED: The waters of anime run deep, and I’ve barely skimmed the surface. For awhile now, I’ve wanted to get more into anime; the problem is figuring out what interests me most. Any weeaboo can give you their faves, but I’m picky. Based on my personal observations, these three are shows that A) are pretty much universally respected, and B) look interesting to me. I’m really eager to sample them and hopefully become a fan.
WHY I’M SKEPTICAL: As usual, it’s the drain on my time. When exactly am I supposed to watch these? For that matter, how do I acquire them? I don’t torrent, so you can shut the hell up about that. Do I want to spend a chunk of money on DVDs or instant video, when it might turn out that I don’t care for the show after all? Well, Netflix can help me, I suppose. That just leaves the time question. I think watching these shows is gonna have to be a “Project.”

UPDATE: My review of Death Note can be read here!

WHAT IT IS: An original sci-fi extravaganza! Tom Cruise plays a kind of high-tech repair guy doing cleanup on Earth, decades after it was wrecked all to shit by aliens (maybe). He soon discovers that there are still human survivors (maybe), his own space-dwelling people might be the bad guys (maybe), and he must shoot lots of things with guns (definitely).
WHY I’M EXCITED: Because of my unseemly love for any film that appears visually dynamic and unique. The first shots from the trailer pleased me, with their dreamlike depiction of a desolate planet where the crumbled remains of civilization have literally become part of the landscape. Also, while a lot of trailers give away the entire film, this was nicely mysterious. Who’s the girl in the cryo-pod? Why’s everyone know who Cruise’s character is? The plot seems headed into interesting terrain. Also, the last time Tom Cruise made futuristic sci-fi, we got the minor masterpiece that was Minority Report. Also, this has Morgan Freeman.
WHY I’M SKEPTICAL: I was not nearly so taken with the second half of the trailer, which showcases Cruise galumphing around with a big gun and shooting at monsters and generic military dudes. Just once, just ONCE, I wanna see a modern science fiction film that does not devolve into generic firefights. Is that too much to ask? Apparently so. Couple that with my usual fear that the trailer shows all the coolest stuff, and I can’t help smelling a rat about Oblivion. It has the potential to be really good, but it could also be a con job from a studio trying to ride on the coattails of Prometheus. Besides, it has competition from After Earth (snicker), the similar upcoming sci-fi film starring (snort) Jaden Smith and his dad, Will, directed by....(guffaw)...M. Night ShyamalaAAHAHAHAHAAAA! Sorry, couldn’t keep a straight face. Yeah, Oblivion has no competition. But still.

UPDATE: I watched it! Read my reaction here.

Neil Gaiman’s Sandman Prequel
WHAT IT IS: If you’ve heard of Neil Gaiman, you’ve surely heard of Sandman. His sprawling comic about Morpheus, the Lord of Dreams, was beloved back in the 80s and 90s and helped define the “mature adult comic.” Now, along with artist J.H. Williams III, Gaiman is returning to craft a prequel comic that details what happened to Morpheus immediately prior to the original series.
WHY I’M EXCITED: Jesus, who wouldn’t be? I have a deep love of both Sandman and Gaiman, and it’s generally an awesome thing when an artist returns to that which put him on the map. Gaiman’s an amazing writer, Williams (based on what I’ve seen) is an evocative artist, and the question being addressed (what mysterious battle did Morpheus fight that left him weakened enough to be captured by occultists?) has long hung over the series. Final verdict: WOOHOO!
WHY I’M SKEPTICAL: Well, you have to understand, it took Sandman a little while to get really, really good. Initially, it was just a somewhat interesting pulp horror/fantasy. So Gaiman might face the challenge of returning to a less compelling part of Morpheus’s saga. Maybe. Also, Gaiman’s surely a different man now than he was in 1980-whenever. Can he recall the same narrative voice? I’m fairly confident he can; I just hope he hasn’t put his signature work too far behind him.

UPDATE: I read it! Read my reaction here.

The Rest of the Priest Manhwa
WHAT IT IS: Speaking of comics, there’s this manhwa (that’s the Korean version of manga) by Hyung Min-woo, Priest, which follows the ultraviolent exploits of Ivan Isaacs, a tormented undead priest who battles malevolent fallen angels in a warped version of the Old West. Sixteen volumes have been released.
WHY I’M EXCITED: Some may scoff, but manga (like anime) can be a wonderful storytelling medium. Priest is driven by its jagged artwork, which infuses the characters with vivid intensity, and by its epic and unpredictable narrative. Ignore the 2011 film with Paul Bettany; that dumb “adaptation” took away absolutely nothing but the title and main character’s name. The original manhwa is a dazzling and often brutal experience. I want more!
WHY I’M SKEPTICAL: It’s dead. I think. I’ve been frustrated about this for awhile now. The latest volume came out in 2007. All the volumes appear to be out of print. I haven’t heard a whisper of truth about whether Hyung has abandoned his comic or not...and believe me, I’ve been looking. Seeing as how the series kept adding new characters and forgetting about old subplots, it’s possible it mutated out of its author’s control and he shelved it. For good? I dunno. But after all this time, I can’t keep my hopes up, and that’s a damn shame. It was so cool.

Winter’s Tale (The Movie)
WHAT IT IS: Winter’s Tale, the 1983 novel by Mark Helprin, kinda has to be read to be believed. I can’t even call it a historical fantasy; it belongs in its own genre, possibly called “Mythpunk.” It’s set in a version of New York City that doesn’t entirely exist in any one time period, and it doesn’t have a plot so much as a series of grand themes. And it’s gonna be a movie! Colin Farrell, Russell Crowe, Will Smith, and Jennifer Connelly headline.
WHY I’M EXCITED: I know they can’t bring Winter’s Tale to life the way it exists in my head, but if they even come close, I’ll be delighted. The book is dreamlike, with the season of Winter emerging as a character in its own right. There’s also a bit about building a giant bridge of light to connect the city to the outside world and/or the modern age. Whatever the hell that means, doesn’t it sound like something you want realized on film? I see a potential for unsurpassed visual showmanship.
WHY I’M SKEPTICAL: I recently wrote a post about how no book is truly unfilmable, but some of them are pretty fucking HARD to film. Nothing in Winter's Tale is straightforward. How the hell can the movie address this? Are they just gonna toss out the metaphorical elements and make a generic historical drama with maybe some magic realism? That would be lame as hell. I’m really hoping that this’ll follow in the footsteps of Life of Pi or Cloud Atlas, but...it’s gonna be walking a tightrope where the slightest booboo will send it plummeting into the abyss of fuckery. Also, who exactly is Will Smith playing? I have no memory of a Will Smith-like character in the novel. Please, God, don’t let this be stunt casting.

The Last Guardian
WHAT IT IS: The third game by Team Ico, whose previous releases were Ico and Shadow of the Colossus. Keeping with their themes of vast, crumbling environments and ambiguous narratives, TLG revolves around a young boy and a large gryphon-like creature who forge a close bond and work together to...do...something. Escape, I guess.
WHY I’M EXCITED: If you’ve been paying attention to my blog, you may have noticed my planet-sized love affair with Team Ico; I bring it up here, here, and especially here. Ico is amazing, Shadow of the Colossus will be my favorite video game for the rest of my life...so you can KINDA SEE HOW I’D BE ANXIOUS FOR THEIR SUCCESSOR. Especially when you factor in 7th-gen graphics that will add much to Team Ico’s already incredible visual vistas, and improved A.I. that will turn the big monster sidekick into one of the best characters in video game history. Or so I assume. How could Team Ico fail me?
WHY I’M SKEPTICAL: Two words: Development Hell. To the chagrin of highbrow gamers everywhere, TLG’s status currently has a big fat question mark plastered across it. There had already been tons of delays when Team Ico bigshot Fumito Ueda parted ways with Sony, but supposedly he stayed to work on TLG on a freelance basis, and....something or other. Bottom line, no one knows when the almighty fuck this game will come out. I would like to think they’re just making sure the game will exceed all expectations; I’m willing to wait if it means a superior final product. But the words “Duke Nukem Forever” keep flashing in my head. I’m scared. You have no idea how excited this game makes me, and I fear for it.

Star Wars VII, VIII, and IX
WHAT IT IS: Oh, come on. I really need to explain this? Fine. For those of you living at the bottom of a mineshaft, Disney just bought Lucasfilm and are planning to make a brand-new Star Wars trilogy. Episode VII could be out as early as 2015.
WHY I’M EXCITED: It is absolutely no exaggeration to say that this is the biggest thing to happen in nerd culture since the new millennium began. I mean, holy shit. No one was even thinking about the possibility of more Star Wars films, especially after George Lucas squatted, shat out two smelly turds and one marginally inoffensive turd, and called them prequels. Guys, the new trilogy will be made WITHOUT GEORGE LUCAS (allegedly). He won’t be there to write putrid dialogue and ignore the characters in favor of technical bullshit (supposedly)! This has the potential to revitalize the entire Star Wars franchise! To reward the fans for waiting so long! Oh...wait...
WHY I’M SKEPTICAL: There is no way in heaven the fans will be satisfied. They won’t. These are the same people who sent death threats to the author who killed off Chewbacca in a novel (and he was only writing what Team Lucas had ordered him to write). How the fuck do you even make new Star Wars movies? Adapt some of the eight zillion spinoff books? Write brand-new adventures? Do you try and bring back the wrinkly-faced original cast? Do you find new youngsters to play Luke, Leia, and Han, and expect fans to accept them? No matter what, the acolytes of the cult of Star Wars are going to fold their flabby arms, look down their pimply noses, and declare that the new films do NOT do the original trilogy justice. Because that’s what nerd culture does: it puts things on pedestals so high that they asphyxiate from lack of oxygen. This momentous cinematic project will be the most hated thing in Hollywood, and...you know, that’s gonna be hilarious to watch. So I’m still excited, just for all the wrong reasons.
DANGER LEVEL: 10,000,000,000

UPDATE: My review of The Force Awakens can be found here!

So these are the things with which I can ring in the Mayans’ brand-new cycle of rebirth. I promise to give you my final opinions on all this stuff, if and when it comes into being. Because this blog has miles to go before I sleep. Here’s to the next 100 posts!

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