Tuesday, March 30, 2004

'Hellboy' Is Hella Good
I predict at least one newspaper will use that headline for their review of the movie "Hellboy." Either that or 'Hellboy'? Hell, Yeah/No! (depending on the review)

I was able to see an advance screening of the film Monday night (apparently, comic book fandom does have some perks) and I can state definitively that it ranks in my Top 5 Comic Book Movies list.

To be a little more specific:
As a big fan of the comic books, I could sit around and point out all the many, many areas of the film which were made up for the movie. But it's obvious that what was altered was done in order to make it simple enough for movie audiences.

The character of Hellboy looked, sounded and acted probably as close to the comic book character as is humanly possible. Ron Perlman made him likable, powerful, vulnerable and funny. And everyone else in the movie was outstanding, including Selma Blair, David Hyde Pierce, Jeffrey Tambor and John Hurt. The villain character Kroenen was particularly memorable and ranks up there with Darth Maul on the evil-meter. I'm surprised he didn't give the film an R rating.

The special effects are quite good, especially for a $60 million film, and that's largely due to the experienced Rick Baker and Phil Tippett, whose make-up, prosthetics and puppets are still far more realistic than computer-generated effects.

The overall tone of the film was funny (and a little bit romantic?), as opposed to the book's general tone of dark horror with a touch of humor. But Mike Mignola's artwork is what creates the scary, serious atmosphere of the comics and since that is a singular talent that cannot be directly transferred to a live-action film, it's better to have the audience laugh with you than at you.

It's obvious that much care was put into the making of the film and the director loves the character and the strange world he inhabits. That love came through on the screen both visually and emotionally, emphasizing the core message of the comics: it's the choices you make that determine who you are.

Best Movies Based On Comic Books
With the upcoming movie releases of "Hellboy," "The Punisher" and "Spider-Man 2," this year is shaping up to be another good one for comic book fans ("Catwoman" notwithstanding).

After seeing a preview screening of "Hellboy" Monday night (see 'Hellboy' Is Hella Good), here's my list of the best motion pictures based on comic books: (I promise to flesh out this list and provide some more details and explanations)

  1. Superman: The Movie/Superman 2

  2. Batman

  3. The Rocketeer

  4. X2: X-Men United

  5. Hellboy

  6. The Crow

  7. Ghost World

  8. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

  9. Spider-Man

  10. The Mask

Honorable Mentions:
These are movies it would be unfair to either include or not include in the list

  • Dick Tracy (based on a comic strip, not a comic book)

  • Unbreakable (not based on a comic book, but see it and you'll know why it's on this list)

  • Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (an animated feature)

  • Road to Perdition (based on a "graphic novel")

Not Seen:
These are some movies based on comics I have yet to see (gasp!), so they are not excluded from the Top 10 list based on their merits.

  • From Hell

  • Blade 2

Monday, March 29, 2004

How E-Voting Threatens Democracy: "Over the past year, doubts about the accuracy and integrity of e-voting equipment have been growing"

Having had the distinct (non)pleasure to use the e-voting machine in March, I can say that, due to the wonkiness it displayed, I was not impressed nor felt my votes were secure. Unfortunately, our county elections official will brook no dissent and is protesting our Secretary of State's request that the machines print paper receipts.

Music Lover to Exhibit Rock Concert Posters and Memorabilia at Pacific's Cawein Gallery

I'm glad to see Steve Klein is still at Pacific and keeping the place a little bit rock & roll. Just visiting his office was fun, so I wish I could see the exhibit.

e-Column: When high-speed Internet isn’t exactly high-speed Internet

Here's my 91st column for the East Oregonian.

Saturday, March 27, 2004

Disney Studio Chief Sees Big-Screen 'Toy Story 3': "Pixar and Disney plan to part ways after two more films together, but Disney retains the rights to make the sequels to the movies they have already produced, including the two 'Toy Story' movies."

The question this article fails to answer is whether or not "Toy Story 3" will be 3D- or 2D-animated.

Thursday, March 25, 2004

My work has been cited! On a random Googling of my name, I discovered that one of my college newspaper stories was listed in the bibiliography.

Item 31 "For a description of the academic controversy surrounding S/M, see, e.g., Eddie Hargreaves, Professors’ Grant to Study S/M Stirs Controversy, U. Wire, May 14, 1998 (describing controversy stirred when two Pacific University Professors received a $5000 grant to study sadomasochism)"

Sunday, March 21, 2004

In The Name Of Love: Artists United For Africa
This album contains cover versions of U2 songs by Christian artists, including Audio Adrenaline, Delirious?, Jars Of Clay and Sixpence None The Richer. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of the album goes to help fight the AIDS crisis in Africa.

Despite an awful first track, it's better than the previous tribute album, "We Will Follow." It's nice to see that even though U2 is not officially a Christian band, their music has been (and continues to be) inspiring. It's also notable that although songs spanning 20 years of their career are accounted for, the album appearing the most is "Achtung Baby" - originally criticized as a sell-out that refuted their past work and glorified sin over salvation.

Hellboy: The Movie
As a fan of Mike Mignola's Hellboy character since the original comic book mini-series "Seed of Destruction" was released in 1994, I was a little baffled when I first heard (way back in late 2001) that a movie was in development. On one hand, I'm happy in general when a comic book movie gets made, and even moreso for a character I care about. But on the other hand, Hollywood has made some execrable films from comics ("Howard The Duck," "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2," "Batman & Robin," "Superman 3," the list is too long) and I'd rather have a good comic that no one knows about than a bad movie that turns everyone off to the character completely.

Adding to that level of queasiness is the fact that the entire Hellboy comic universe is drawn by the master artist Mignola, whose art, though not 100 percent unique, is highly-stylized and one of the main attractions of the comic. Thus, how could a live-action film hope to possibly capture the look and feel of the very two-dimensional, yet compelling comics.

Helping to assuade much of my fears, though, are the facts that the director, Guillermo Del Toro ("Mimic," "The Devil's Backbone," "Cronos," "Blade II") is a big fan of the comics and that Mignola has been very involved with the creation of the film. Also, a 10-minute feature on the film is available at BestBuy.com which reveals that not only is the screenplay based on "Seed of Destruction" but that many of the film's stars look strikingly similar to their comics counterparts.

Aside from creating an animated film in the style of Mignola's art, the upcoming Sony Pictures film is looking like the best live-action film anyone could possibly make about Hellboy. Come April 2, here's hoping that's enough.

Official Movie Web site

Friday, March 19, 2004

Repeat of 'The Passion' Seen as Leap of Faith
This Reuters story covers all the bases, noting that there is "no doubt that film executives are poring over ideas for Bible-themed projects that might appeal to a large, underserved audience of Americans who are devoted church-goers but relative strangers to the multiplex" but there is much "evidence that a Godly theme is no guarantee of box office miracles," noting last year's little-seen film, "The Gospel of John," the story of Jesus' ministry, death and resurrection.

The iTunes Music Store has a new treat: William Hung's "Inspiration" EP. Do you dare listen to even the 30-second preview of "I Believe I Can Fly"?

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

March to madness for Forest Grove's Pacific University : "The erroneous faxes and phone calls started coming in to Division III Pacific University in Forest Grove before the NCAA selection show ended Sunday."

Pacific University. University of the Pacific. There is a difference, people.

e-Column #91: Online help available for tax season
Apparently my column did run this past Sunday, so here's a link to its location on the East Oregonian Web site.

Sunday, March 14, 2004

Fortune.com photoStrip Clubs, Daredevil Trips, $1 Million Paychecks
Fortune.com has posted excerpts from "The Smartest Guys in the Room: The Amazing Rise And Scandalous Fall Of Enron." They're interesting, revealing and disturbing, including this one:

"To many who knew him well, Enron chief financial officer Andrew Fastow seemed an incredibly insecure man. There were many people at Enron who kissed up to (Jeff) Skilling, but few did it as overtly as Fastow. ... Fastow named his first son Jeffrey; after the birth, as Fastow was passing out cigars in the office, he had to fend off jibes accusing him of being a 'suck-ass' for naming his son after his boss. According to one former managing director, Fastow replied, 'Hey, who's done more for me other than my mom and dad?'"

Saturday, March 13, 2004

Lucky charms?: "The Celtics won six straight after the team's owners gave each player an iPod engraved with his name and number."

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

Simpsons-Related Dear Abby Column Pulled: "Somewhere in Springfield, state unknown, Bart Simpson is in detention, filling a chalkboard with the words 'I will not write a fake letter to Dear Abby.'"

How long will it take before an even funnier episode gets sent in as a letter?

Dear Abby,
My son doesn't think I pay enough attention to him, so he pretended to be an orphan and got a Big Brother appointed to watch him. To take revenge, I'm looking after a real orphan boy. If we accidentally meet while on an outing, how should I handle it?
Unappreciated in Springfield

Thursday, March 04, 2004

Apple Opens a Store, and It Clicks: "Lately, (San Francisco) has been a city of long, expectant lines. First came the throngs of same-sex couples outside City Hall, waiting to be married and to make history in the process. Then, last Saturday morning, came the Apple Computer faithful..."

I can personally attest that the lines got confused, as a wondering passerby asked us "Is this the line for the gay marriages?"

USATODAY.com - Pepsi Super Bowl promo airs before caps available: "'If the caps aren't out there, what's the point?'"

Way to go, Pepsi. You spent millions advertising a product that wasn't available for weeks (and won't be in Los Angeles until mid-March).

RollingStone.com News In Brief: "Songs by ... Elvis Presley will be included on Songs Inspired by the Passion of the Christ, due April 6th"

I guess that means he really isn't dead. (Elvis)