4/14/2014

The Grand Budapest Hotel

THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL
While too much Wes Anderson can be the cinematic equivalent of eating an entire wedding cake*, anyone who avoids this multi-period caper movie is missing out on a truly immersive, ebullient experience. A tour-de-force for Ralph Fiennes and an incredible supporting cast, it’s Anderson’s best since THE ROYAL TENENBAUMS.


*Wedding cake simile adapted from a comment by Sam Wood circa 1982 re: going to an ABC concert. Thanks, Sam.

TV Sound, Amber Glass High

TV Sound, AMBER GLASS HIGH (Killing Horse Records)
Kearny NJ’s seminal punk / mod band comes roaring back after 14 years with an utterly timeless slab of hooks, riffs, and attitude. The intervening years’ hiatus did nothing to dull the edge of one of the best bands you probably never heard. Rectify the oversight now.

Superman: The Silver Age Dailies 1959-1961

SUPERMAN: THE SILVER AGE DAILIES 1959-1961 (IDW)
Poor reproduction (due to lack of source material) only slightly detracts from this collection of newspaper strips from the Silver Age written by co-creator Jerry Siegel. Superman tackles alien filmmakers, evil paramours, conniving thugs, and the I.R.S. (as well as Lois Lane’s unending advances). Glorious, often goofy fun.

White House Down

WHITE HOUSE DOWN
DIE HARD at the White House, via Hanna-Barbera. The broad-stroked characters (starting with Jamie Foxx as THE PRESIDENT), ludicrous situations, rampant clich├ęs (watch that pocket watch!), and utter predictability make for an eye-rolling yawn only slightly more exciting than any given SCOOBY DOO mystery. C’mon, Roland Emmerich! Try harder!

4/08/2014

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER
Marvel’s answer to THE DARK KNIGHT is a genre-crossing thriller that emphasizes character and political intrigue as much as action. The ever-escalating destruction and (always off-target) bullet count in these films remains tiresome, and the handheld camera renders much action illegible, but the noise doesn’t trump the story.

Portlandia, Season 4

PORTLANDIA Season 4 (IFC)
What was once a clever semi-spoof of a subculture masquerading as a city has devolved into a dull, unfunny pastiche of wigs, non-sequiturs, and pointless cameos, all seemingly self-satisfied with their (usually poor) improv skills (big exception: Jeff Goldblum). PORTLANDIA now feels like a tired chore... to make and watch.

Pim and Francie

PIM AND FRANCIE: "THE GOLDEN BEAR DAYS" by Al Columbia (Fantagraphics)
Al Columbia’s compilation of unfinished works takes the already creepy look of 1930s Disney cartoons to disturbing depths, adding crawly creatures, cannibals, zombies, and mistrustful elders way more terrifying than anything on THE WALKING DEAD, culminating in a book that may lack a narrative, but could still give Lovecraft nightmares.

The Spider-Man Vault

THE SPIDER-MAN VAULT by Peter David & Robert Greenberger (Running Press)
Another poorly-assembled Marvel vault, with mostly pointless inserts (that could easily have been printed pages), tons of uncredited or just flat out bad artwork, and a heavy slant towards the convoluted glut of titles of the 1990s and beyond. As history, SPIDER-MAN: THE ICON does the job way better.