Friday, July 11, 2008

FanBoyWonder Film Spotlight: The Dark Knight

The fanboy summer film festival reaches critical mass one week from today as the much anticipated Batman flick The Dark Knight hits theatres all over Gotham and from sea to shining sea.

FanBoyWonder began looking forward to this sequel to Batman Begins from the moment the houselights came up at the movies in 2005. From everything we’ve seen and heard thus far, it will have been WELL worth the wait.

Here’s the Upshot from Warner Brothers: Batman (Christian Bale) raises the stakes in his war on crime. With the help of Lt. Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman) and District Attorney Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart), Batman sets out to dismantle the remaining criminal organizations that plague the city streets. The partnership proves to be effective but soon they find themselves prey to a reign of chaos unleashed by a rising criminal mastermind known to the terrified citizens of Gotham known as The Joker (the late Heath Ledger).”

We have been hearing nothing but good buzz about Dark Knight and not just from the usual suspects in Fanboy Nation but throughout the mainstream media as well.

Case in Point—Time magazine’s Richard Corliss:

“[Dark Knight director Christopher] Nolan has a more subversive agenda. He wants viewers to stick their hands down the rat hole of evil and see if they get bitten. With little humor to break the tension, The Dark Knight is beyond dark,” writes Corliss. “It's as black—and teeming and toxic—as the mind of the Joker. Batman Begins, the 2005 film that launched Nolan's series, was a mere five-finger=2 0exercise. This is the full symphony.”

Now that’s what we’re talking about!!!

Christian Bale returns as the title character, as does Gary Oldman as Jim Gordon—this time it’s Lt. Gordon, a bump up from Sgt. Gordon in Batman Begins but not yet “Commissioner” Gordon in this character’s future.

Both Bale and Oldman are dead bang perfect in their parts. Even if they only give us more of the same, we’ll be happy but these are performers with serious acting chops and we would be surprised not it all to see them both rise to the occasion and take it to the next level.

Bale makes it look easy playing both Bruce Wayne AND Batman to perfection. Bale IS Bruce Wayne when it a suit and he’s the Dark Knight when the cowl comes on.

Yet particularly praise worthy is the viscerally intense portrayal of The Joker by the late-Heath Ledger that we’ve seen in the teaser clips.

We admit that long before Ledger’s untimely death earlier this year, we had doubts about his being cast as the Joker. That is until last summer when Warner Brothers released the first teaser trailer which was little more than audio with the Bat-Symbol on the screen.

When we heard Ledger as the Joker—in our mind’s eye we didn’t see Caesar Romero or Jack Nicholson, we saw The Killing Joke, death with a smile, Bat-s**t crazy Joker directly from the comics.

Aaron Eckhart is on board The DK as District Attorney Harvey Dent, helping Batman and Gordon clean up the corrupt from top-to-bottom Gotham, until as we all tragically know, evil claims him and Dent becomes Two-Face.

In other casting news, Maggie Gyllenhaal replaces Katie Holmes as Assistant District Attorney and Bruce Wayne’s childhood friend Rachel Dawes. We were glad to hear that the filmmakers were replacing the actress and not the character for the sequel.

Batman has never had a Lois Lane per se but the filmmakers saw fit to write one in to this Bruce Wayne’s life in Batman Begins. Consistency is important and by sticking with the character, it says that Nolan and company are committed to a character-driven drama that’s punctuated by costumed battles and not the other way around.

While it is all too fashionable to crap all over Katie Holmes and while we did find her performance in Batman Begins underwhelming, she didn’t seriously detract from the film either. We hope that Maggie Gyllenhaal can take things to a new level.

Rounding out the casting is Michael Caine as Bruce Wayne’s loyal manservant Alfred and Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox, CEO of Bruce Wayne’s company and Batman’s go-to gadget guy. These two master thespians class up the joint just by showing up for work.

However, like the man said, this is a DARK, grown up film. It’s ironic that what looks like the purest interpretation for comic book character to the big screen would be decidedly inappropriate for young children.

It may be a super-hero film but this isn’t kid stuff, which is why 7-year-old Brianna The Girl Wonder will NOT be seeing the seriously PG-13 Dark Knight anytime soon even as FanBoyWonder’s inner 7-year-old will be viewing each and every frame in total rapture.

The Dark Knight opens Friday, July 18. Check out the official website for more info and we’ll see you at the movies.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Final Crisis + Fan Dissatisfaction = Pile-On DC Comics????

(Who is the REAL villain of DC Comics’ Final Crisis? Is it the arch-criminal Libra, is it DC Management and the minds behind this most recent DC “event” or is it the grumpy, often complaining but still money-spending fanboy or girl????)

Has the dissatisfaction and perhaps even disgust at DC Comics’ most recent offerings among a (VERY) vocal contingent of fans (and FanBoyWonders) gotten so out of hand that it’s not only become counterproductive as a change agent but contrary to the readers’ ultimate desire for quality storytelling at DC Comics?

That in a nutshell is what Ryan from Film Fodder Comics is asking in his most excellent essay titled “Final Crisis—I Heart Continuity.”

Ryan—who also writes a cool blog called League of Melbotis –posed some hard questions which we will attempt to address here.

While we strongly encourage any and all those interested to read Ryan’s essay for themselves at Film Fodder Comics—we will be excerpting relevant portions of his essay here as we attempt to address his points.

It’s not our intent to distort his point by omission so we do encourage you to read his essay in full, then come back here for our Two Dollar and 99 Cents.

Also a programming note—because we have also answered Ryan in his own forum--I’m suspending FanBoyWonder’s delightful little penchant of speaking in the third person for the duration of this post.

The Upshot of Ryan’s point comes in the early paragraphs:

To the casual observer (the non-superhero reading public) there's not much to distinguish Marvel from DC. In fact, it’s fairly routine that some press coverage botches who publishes what in fluff stories on Spider-Man, etc... But in the comic-concerned interwebs, those of us who watch these things know that the nation is not really split along party lines. We're really divided between Marvel and DC.

“And DC of 2008 is the the Democratic Party of 2004.

“What should be an appealing package of standard comic book ideas is being drowned out in a wicked combination of mediocre product and deafening internet chatter. The "John Kerry hates Freedom" of 2004 is DC's "DC's event comics should be able to be summarized in a single sentence" of 2008. Say it often enough and stay on message, and somehow it becomes true. Even when its not.”

The following below is a longer version of the abbreviated answer that I provided Ryan in his own forum. (Waste not want not when it comes to good blog material Mama FanBoyWonder always said.)


Hey Ryan,

Great post. This is the first chance I’ve had to reply but I’ve had it on the brain since I read your essay yesterday.

I hear what you are saying and all of the public bitching and moaning (which I am a part—I fully admit it) perhaps isn’t helping and perhaps it’s even emboldening DC Management to get their back up and to press forward.

But other than complaining, the only alternative course of action for fans/customers to take is to sheath their wallets and stop buying comic books (or at least DC comic books)—something that once seemed inconceivable but not it’s….NOT impossible.


This isn't to dismiss disgruntled fans when DC does make a mistake. Countdown was an egregious miscalculation, and I'm still waiting for a substantial apology. But picking on DC has become so commonplace, it’s a wonder if there's any signal to noise at this point that it’s a genuine question whether the hapless DC staffers who bother to read this stuff can actually glean any useful information.”

Personally, I think it goes back even farther to Infinite Crisis and especially the final issue in which they released with UNFINISHED ART! But your main point stands. Emotion does factor a lot into this.

To me, I sense an undeniable undercurrent of smarmy-know-it-all-ism from DC Management that not only doesn’t acknowledge quality control issues, but insists on berating the “customer” for not wanting to buy what they are selling.


The supposed failure of "Final Crisis" was chalked up not so much to sales figures, but to narrative problems. Online critics have bashed Final Crisis for a few reasons.

(a) the story is too complicated and should be summed up in a single sentence
(b) The story is steeped in continuity
(i) which I more or less followed, whether it was necessary to the plot or not, but I'd like to register my indignation, anyway
(ii) won't someone think of the children? This could be their very first comic, and they'd be so very, very confused.

“I confess to being a bit flabbergasted by the first criticism of "Final Crisis". It is true that Hollywood exists thanks to high-concept ideas, plus attractive women, plus explosions. The insistence that the reason "Secret Invasion" is selling so well, while "Final Crisis" is supposedly not (Secret Invasion outsold Final crisis by about 40,000 copies. Bully for Marvel on their success), is the one sentence concept.”


The trouble is that Marvel took the trouble to SELL the reader on Secret Invasion by deploying the “one sentence concept.” DC by contrast, let us know a year ago that Final Crisis was coming but made no real effort to convince to read it—only that we had to read the main title and ALL of the companion titles.

At the heart of DC ‘s non-selling selling point is “Trust us! This isn’t like all of the other times,” which for many fans is hard to swallow after Infinite Crisis, 52/World War III, Countdown and its many headed spin-offs that didn’t turn out to be count.

Add to that an economy that’s in a (in fact if not in name) inflation, and taking the leap of faith with DC Final Crisis seems more like walking off a cliff.


A lot of these criticisms also appeared during the first issue of the series, which was more or less prologue to the main action of the series. Perhaps Morrison should have turned up the heat for the first issue, but this reader can't help buy wonder if those other reviewers were jumping to conclusions about a comic which they hadn't seen to even partial completion. How would any work in any other medium stand up to criticism if the reviewer wrote their review based upon the first few minutes?"

I’m afraid I must totally disagree with you here Ryan. Yours would be a not unfair point except that the comics publisher demands money--$3.99—for each “chapter.” The moment money changes hands, it becomes fair game for criticism and it really isn’t unreasonable to expect each issue to stand alone—at least enough to be a satisfying read—while building to a greater whole.

Battlestar Galactica or Lost or some such may have an ultimate ending but if viewers are satisfied with individual episodes, they will stop watching and the show will be canceled in short order. And the only thing a television viewer is requires to spend per episode is time.


By clamoring for one sentence plots, readers of super hero comics are selling themselves short. Not all stories need to be told like an 80's Simpson/ Bruckheimer movie, or fit neatly into packages that will do little but give the audience action-story comfort food with a plot they can recite from beginning to end without seeing a single page.”

That is a definite danger. But I also think that it –at least in part—has been due to a self inflicted wound. Comic book storytelling got so grown up, so smart that we may have outsmarted ourselves.

Remember back in the day when there were “Editor’s notes” and/or one-or-two-or three panels of exposition bringing readers up to speed as to what happened previously? This used to be standard operating procedure at DC and especially Marvel.

Why no Editor’s notes? Perhaps because today’s editor has been rendered all but irrelevant by the writers star system where he wants to tell his story and his story alone regardless of what came before or after and publishers that publish not for the individual “floppy” reader but for the Barnes and Noble’s coffee sipping Trade Paper Back reader.

To some degree, 'Final Crisis' is taking more than its fair share of lumps because of the horrendous transition between "Countdown", "Death of the New Gods" and "Final Crisis". And it seems that the dual edged sword of the Mega-Narrative of the DCU's Continuity is that Morrison's series must carry the albatross of the series which preceded it. And the appropriate levels of scorn heaped upon both."


You are right. I’ve made no bones about the fact that I’m judging Final Crisis not just on its own merits but am I really at fault for that? DC is counting on Final Crisis (vainly I fear) to act as a counterweight to the plethora of failures occurred in a short period of time.

Face if, and the operative word is “if” Final Crisis does become a run away hit and win over skeptical fans (believe or not I’m still trying to keep and open mind—provided they can win me with my having to purchase nothing but the main FC title) all will, if not forgotten but at least forgiven.

Ryan you took the time to craft a well thought out essay. I agree with some and (as you can see) disagree elsewhere. The thing is I think you are right. But the hell of it is, I’m right too.

Maybe we should just reset the clock to January 1986 immediately following the Crisis on Infinite Earths and re-start the DC Universe all over again—again.

Monday, July 07, 2008

FanBoyWonder Television Spotlight—The Return of Burn Notice

It’s been a long damn time in coming but FanBoyWonder is pleased to announce the arrival this Thursday of the second season of our favorite summer show—Burn Notice on the USA Cable Network.

From the moment we spied it (pun intended) last summer, we knew that Burn Notice would not only be one of the best shows of the summer television season but we quickly came to regard the show as some of the most original and innovative television to come along in a long time.

Great characters, clever writing and the right amount of action—the trifecta right there.

Here’s Upshot on Burn Notice from the show’s Facebook page (swear to God)

Most people would be thrilled to be on the warm, beautiful sands of South Beach. However, Michael Westen (Jeffrey Donovan) is not ‘most people.’ He's got a pesky FBI tail, a violence prone ex-girlfriend looking for closure, and a hypochondriac mother calling him 30 times a day. Yet these are the least of his problems.

“After 10 years of serving his country working in Eastern Europe and the OPEC countries as a covert operative, Michael is living every spy's worst nightmare. While in the middle of a dangerous mission in Nigeria, Michael's "contact" informs him that he has been burned. When a spy gets fired, he doesn't get a call from human resources and a gold watch. In Michael's case, they jeopardize his life, freeze his bank accounts, dump him in Miami, and flag him on every government list known to man. They can't take away his skills or what's in his head, so they take away his assets and his resources to make sure he can never work again. They burn him

“Now Michael has a much different mission: he must find out who issued his burn notice and why he was blacklisted so that he can put his life back together. Meanwhile, he has to fend off a suddenly hostile world of old foes gunning for him. In order to survive in Miami and fund his own personal investigation, Michael enlists the help of the only two ‘friends’ he has: Fiona (Gabrielle Anwar) an ex-IRA operative who also happens to be an ex-girlfriend and Sam (Bruce Campbell) a washed-out military intelligence contact whom the feds have keeping an eye on Michael. He's also forced to deal with the family he went halfway around the world to get away from - particularly his mother, Madeline (Sharon Gless), who couldn't be happier to have her son back in town.

“Michael, on the other hand, is happiest when he is in a different hemisphere from the rest of his family. He was 17 when he left home to join the military and he never turned back. Now stuck in Miami, the one place he vowed never to return to, he must confront the bad memories of his childhood and repair the broken relationships he left behind.

“As he gets closer to the truth, Michael scrapes by helping out whoever needs his services -- mostly desperate people who can't go to the police. Using his Special Ops training, some duct tape and his sardonic humor, Michael becomes a reluctant hero. It's a dangerous gig, but it's the best he can do ... for now.”

From what we saw last season, Jeffrey Donovan’s Michael Westen has serious (if not yet totally fulfilled) potential as one of THE great television characters.

Westen is a cross between 007’s James Bond and Chevy Chase’s Fletch with a healthy dose of MacGyver thrown in for good measure. Throughout each episode Donovan’s sardonic narration conveyed just the right comic bite to what could have been some pretty dark moments.

“Covert intelligence includes a lot of waiting around. Know what it’s like being a spy? It’s like sitting in your dentist’s reception area 24 hours a day—magazines, sip some coffee and every so often, someone tries to kill you.”

When we last left Michael Westen, he was about to meet with the folks who had “burned” him and we’ve been waiting all summer to see what that meeting would entail.

Word has it that the new character thrown into the mix would be Michael’s new handler “Carla” played by Battlestar Galatica’s Tricia Helfer.

Her background is a mystery, her motives are unclear, and Michael's not even sure who she works for. All he knows is that she's a lethal combination of brains and beauty. Carla is Michael's only link to the people that burned him, and if Michael ever hopes to get his life back... he needs to find out more about her,” explains the USA Network.

That’s all we have to go on as we get to know this new character. For our part, we’re glad that Michael will have—instead of the faceless covert bogeyman on the cell phone—he’ll be dealing with his adversary face to face.

A couple points we hope to see the Burn Notice team improve upon this season include more air time for Sharon Gless as Michael’s mother Madeline who didn’t have much to do last season except be a hostage Michael had to protect.

We’re not all that crazy about Michael’s deadbeat brother Nate (Seth Peterson) who does nothing but screw up and put Michael in harm’s way but we’re willing to give the writers another chance to make us like the guy.

The one big flaw from last season was the A-plot/B-plot format of the show whereas Michael would do an “Equalizer”-like job for someone in need while the B-plot would continue to (all too slowly ) unravel the mystery of Michael’s burn notice.

The thing is, if we liked Michael’s clients that week, we were glued to the TV for the episode but if we didn’t care for those who needed his help, it could be a long hour.

While we do like Fiona (Gabrielle Anwar), Michael’s trigger-happy ex-girlfriend, we really love Michael’s buddy Sam played by the awesome Bruce Campbell. Sam surprised us by evolving into someone with a lot more iron as the season progressed.

Sam may be a washed up drinking gigolo but he can still kick ass and he is (mostly) loyal to his pal Michael. Yet Sam’s best scenes come when he is tamed up with Fiona who have grown to tolerate, if not grudgingly respect each other, for the sake of Michael—think of them of the George and Elaine of the cover ops ass-kickers.

Burn Notice will air throughout the summer on Thursday at 10 p.m. (eastern) on the USA Network. The Season One DVD is in stores now and you find out more from the official website It’s worth checking out.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Final Crisis #1 “Directors Cut Special”—Are They F*&king Kidding??????

It’s amazing the things that can make one’s blood boil. Here FanBoyWonder was at home enjoying our last day of vacation before we have to jump back into the work-week grind when we came across a most surprising “coming attraction” on the DC Comics website listing of the August comic books.

Among the ubiquitous Final Crisis crossovers designed to broaden the reading experience of DC Comics’ latest “event” (as well as to drain more money from average fanboy and fangirl’s coin purse) is something that at first we thought had to be a joke—Final Crisis #1 Director’s Cut Special.

“Are they f$#king kidding???” That’s a quote verbatim of the words that escaped our lips at a higher than indoor voice level when we read this on our computer screen.

Unfortunately for Grandpa FanBoyWonder, Brianna The Girl Wonder was just a few feet away from us watching her Hannah Montana on the Disney Channel (Hey—forget water boarding. The boys at Gitmo should try playing 24/7 of just “tween” television programming—the prisoners will tell you ANYTHING you want to know after Hour 8, just to make it stop) when we uttered our “bad word.”

It didn’t take us that long to recover from being chastised by a 7-year-old girl before we were good and mad again (although in a much quieter way) at this nakedly absurd attempt by DC at—pardon our French—polishing a turd. Worse, they are marketing it as if they are doing us a favor.

Here’s the Upshot from DC Comics: “Come on a guided tour of DC's FINAL CRISIS #1 and become further enveloped in the event of the century. Delve deep into the mind-blowing first issue as we explore what every page and panel represents, and the process behind the story as Grant Morrison and J.G. Jones reveal secrets hidden in the script and art.”

In case you are wondering, FC “Directors Cut” is 64 pages and will cost you $4.99 (“a fool and his money are soon parted”) while the original Final Crisis #1 was $3.99 and 40 pages.

Are we wrong in thinking that readers should NOT have to pay ANOTHER $4.99 to have explained to us what should have been SELF-EVIDENT in the story from the start????

Bad enough when the trade press rump-swabs at Newsarama or Wizard would sycophantically “interview” Dan DiDio or some DC editor so they could explain and answer reader questions as to just what exactly happened in the latest issue of Infinite Crisis/52/Countdown/Trinity. Now they expect us to pay for it????

Memo to Dan DiDio, Grant Morrison and J.G. Jones—Please don’t p**s down our leg and tell us it’s raining.

Our best pal Kemosabe summed it up more succinctly—“That’s just offensive.”

Does anybody think we’re wrong-headed on this? Come on…we can take it.
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