Comic Book Review – Green Lantern: Recharge & Revenge of the Green Lanterns

Green Lantern Corps: Recharge (2006)
Reprints Green Lantern Corps: Recharge #1-5
Written by Geoff Johns & Dave Gibbons
Art by Patrick Gleason, Prentis Rollins, and Christian Alamy

Green Lantern: Revenge of the Green Lanterns (2006)
Reprints Green Lantern #7-13
Written by Geoff Johns
Art by Carlos Pacheco, Jesus Merino, Ethan van Sciver, Prentis Rollins, Ivan Reis, Mark Campos, Oclair Albert

The Green Lantern revival led by Geoff Johns was a smashing success. Interest in the character was at an all-time high, so all the elements before the mid-1990s were brought back. One of those was the Green Lantern Corps. They’d existed since the first appearance of Hal Jordan, but over the decades, their ranks had been built out tremendously. In the wake of Crisis on Infinite Earths, the Green Lantern title even added Corps to its name and became an ensemble book rather than just focusing on Jordan. It was a no-brainer that the Corps had to return, so it was given its own sister mini-series to Rebirth with the similar title Recharge, a reference to the power rings needing to be charged every 24 hours. 

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Movie Review – Sideways

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Sideways (2004)
Written by Alexander Payne & Jim Taylor
Directed by Alexander Payne

With Sideways, Alexander Payne caused a 16% increase in sales of pinot noir in the Western United States. How many movies can say they did that? It also increased tourism to the Santa Ynez Valley in Central California and decreased merlot sales by 2%. I remember seeing this movie while I was in college with my friend Sam. In the following months, he became more interested in wine, and I benefitted by getting to try a lot of it. I can’t say I like wine all that much. I always seem to get a headache the morning after. I think the magic of this film is that even if you don’t care about it, the writing makes you interested. This is the effect of having a genuine passion; the rest of the world becomes invisible when you are lost in it, yet often you become someone people flock to because of that passion. We all want to feel that way about something.

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Movie Review – About Schmidt

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About Schmidt (2002)
Written by Alexander Payne & Jim Taylor
Directed by Alexander Payne

While About Schmidt is credited as being based on a novel that’s not exactly the truth. Payne and his co-writer Jim Taylor had completed this script years before Louis Begley published his book. As early as 1991, Payne offered the script to Universal, who rejected it. The novel came out in 1996, Payne saw similarities between it and his writing, got the rights, combined the two, and we ended up with About Schmidt. This will be the ending of Payne’s first act, a trilogy of movies centered on Midwesterners, finding drama in their often ignored lives while developing his craft as a filmmaker. The stylistic flourishes of Election are muted here, though the film retains the same dry sense of humor. Payne has remarked that his concept behind the film was always “The Graduate at age sixty-five,” a meditation on the pointlessness of devoting so much of our lives to capitalism.

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Comic Book Review – Green Lantern: Rebirth/Secret Origin/No Fear

Green Lantern: Rebirth (2010)
Reprints Green Lantern: Rebirth #1-6
Written by Geoff Johns
Art by Ethan van Sciver

Green Lantern: Secret Origin (2010)
Reprints Green Lantern #29-35
Written by Geoff Johns
Art by Ivan Reis

Green Lantern: No Fear (2006)
Reprints Green Lantern #1-6 & Green Lantern Secret Files and Origins 2005
Written by Geoff Johns
Art by Darwyn Cooke, Carlos Pacheco, Ethan van Sciver, Simone Bianchi, Jesus Moreno, and Prentis Rollins

Green Lantern was created by Martin Nodell in 1940, debuting in the pages of All-American Comics #16. But that is not who this review will be talking about. That’s because Green Lantern also debuted in the pages of Showcase #22, published in 1959, where he was written by Julius Schwartz. How is that possible, you ask? That’s because of the concept of Legacy, something that is paramount to how DC Comics has differentiated itself from its marvelous competition. That first Green Lantern was a radio announcer named Alan Scott, who wore a red shirt and a green cape, and whose ring had a weakness to any object made of wood. The ring was implied to have mystical origins. In 1959, readers were introduced to Hal Jordan, a hot shot test pilot who finds a dying alien that bequeaths his power ring to the man. Hal learns this alien was a part of the Green Lantern Corps, an intergalactic police force that wields rings that focus their will. The rings can manifest what is in the bearer’s mind until they break concentration. 

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Movie Review – Bewitched

Bewitched (2005)
Written by Nora Ephron & Delia Ephron
Directed by Nora Ephron

By the time 2005 rolled around, television to film adaptations were pretty standard in Hollywood. That year alone, we got movie versions of The Honeymooners, The Dukes of Hazzard, and Firefly (Serenity). Nora Ephron was also a known quantity in the studio system. She’d been responsible for big hits like When Harry Met Sally… and Sleepless in Seattle. Bewitched was a popular sitcom when Ephron would have been a young woman, and its themes of feminism and identity hiding inside a “silly premise” felt perfectly fitting to the filmmaker’s talents. And then your stars are Nicole Kidman and Will Ferrell, both of whom are in high demand in the mid-2000s. What could go wrong? Everything actually. Every-fucking-thing.

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Comic Book Review – Ultimate Spider-Man Volumes 7 & 8

Ultimate Spider-Man: Irresponsible (2019)
Reprints Ultimate Spider-Man #40-45
Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Art by Mark Bagley

Ultimate Spider-Man: Cats & Kings (2019)
Reprints Ultimate Spider-Man #46-53
Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Art by Mark Bagley

Ultimate Spider-Man goes back into the daily struggle of Peter Parker’s life. He’s still searching for a costume replacement as his last one was shredded. It’s a great reminder that Spider-Man always works best when facing realistic challenges to balance out the fantastic villains that come his way. His relationship with Mary Jane is on the rocks, and he reacts with the sort of demeanor one would expect from a teenage boy, with a lot of immaturity and anger. Despite bearing the moniker Spider-MAN, Peter is still very much a child. That anger translates into an inability to listen to others, such as when Flash Thompson tries to make a connection with Peter, mend fences, and our protagonist blows him off. 

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Comic Book Review – Ultimate Spider-Man Volumes 5 & 6

Ultimate Spider-Man: Public Scrutiny (2012)
Reprints Ultimate Spider-Man #28-32
Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Art by Mark Bagley

Ultimate Spider-Man: Venom (2011)
Reprints Ultimate Spider-Man #33-39
Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Art by Mark Bagley

In the fifth volume of Ultimate Spider-Man, writer Brian Michael Bendis steps back to focus on Peter Parker even more. While the original Lee/Ditko Spider-Man stories spent much time on Peter’s personal life, Bendis has outdone them. He builds on the readership’s likely background knowledge of the characters to play with expectations and develop them beyond simple archetypes. The Daily Bugle becomes a key feature in this collection, and thus we get to see J. Jonah Jameson clashes with his staff, particularly Ben Urich, who challenges his boss’s view on Spider-Man. In addition, a bank robber is running around town dressed up like Spidey, which gets Jameson salivating over the tabloid possibilities. 

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Movie Review – The Departed

The Departed (2006)
Written by William Monahan
Directed by Martin Scorsese

Once again, Scorsese takes a direct-for-hire gig from a studio. Unlike the previous films, this one plays to the filmmaker’s talents much better. It’s a crime story that, while set in Boston, definitely shares DNA with Goodfellas and Casino. However, it’s also a remake of the Hong Kong film Infernal Affairs. I haven’t seen that original picture, so as much as I’d like to compare the two, we’ll have to discuss this one on its own terms. The Departed has been a movie maligned as a red flag picture by the myopic “anti-film bro” crowd. I always sympathize with a disdain for that type of male fan who always identifies with the characters you’re not supposed to cheer for. It’s a standard American misconception with narrative fiction that the protagonist is the “good guy” whom the audience is meant to support. Scorsese’s work continually presents evil men as his main characters, which does not endorse them. These types of bad people are often more interesting to examine in stressful situations, and they also go along with one of the director’s career-long themes: can a person this bad be redeemed?

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Movie Review – The Aviator

The Aviator (2004)
Written by John Logan
Directed Martin Scorsese

The 2000s was a decade of indulgence for Martin Scorsese’s films. This and Gangs of New York are the chief examples following an interest by the public in historical dramas told in an epic style. I don’t think this format works with Scorsese’s strengths as a filmmaker, but I applaud him for trying something different. Even a middle-of-the-road Scorsese film is better than many directors’ best work. In another director’s hands, The Aviator might play as a standard biopic, but Scorsese makes sure the story remains centered on the person at the center of it and Howard Hughes as a filmmaker, a way into the story that connects with the director. Leonardo DiCaprio is also coming into his own here, taking on a much more mature role than his previous work, no longer attempting to be a “movie heartthrob” but really coming into his own as a performer, willing to do things that push him further in the craft.

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Movie Review – Gangs of New York

Gangs of New York (2002)
Written by Jay Cocks, Steven Zaillian, and Kenneth Lonergan
Directed by Martin Scorsese

When we last left Mr. Scorsese, he’d just released his final film of the 20th century, Bringing Out the Dead. I know that picture is experiencing a slight rediscovery & appreciation; I just did not connect with the tone or style. However, it is an excellent example of Scorsese’s fearlessness in experimenting with different techniques, a trait that has dominated his 21st-century work. I don’t think most people would be able to identify who directed The Aviator, Hugo, and Silence if they didn’t know. Those are different movies from each other, and some work while others don’t for me personally, but I always have to hand it to the director for taking risks many filmmakers would never take. Leonard DiCaprio is the one constant in almost every (but not all) Scorsese films in the 2000s and 2010s.

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