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Abhay Memorialized Capsule Reviews

Abhay Khosla

Hello.  For your long weekend, here’s another boring “capsule” post where I drone on about things I’ve found interesting in the last couple months, while I’m too exhausted by work to write anything halfway decent or worthwhile.

GARRISON #1 by Jeff Mariotte, Francesco Francavilla, Jeremy Shepherd, Johnny Lowe, Kristy Quinn and Shannon Eric Denton:

This is a new Wildstorm comic about people who sit in dark rooms.  Well, I guess the official pitch is that it’s about a serial killer in a cowboy-hat, and the federal agent chasing him, or something.  I don’t know– nothing about the story caught with me; I bought it to look at Francesco Francavilla’s art.  If you don’t know his work, he’s part of a pretty great group art blog; he has an old-school pulp webcomic he also does that’s worth a look; LEFT ON MISSION.

I like how he draws, but the way this book is colored– almost every scene in this comic was people in a dark room with no lamps:  characters watching TV screens in the dark, having meetings in the dark, surfing the internet in the dark.  The characters are federal agents, not depressive teenage poets– somebody turn on the fucking lights!

Maybe it’s just me– if I’m at home at night, I have every single light on in my apartment, at all times.  Because I’m afraid of shadows?  Yes.  But shadows are where the Boogeyman lives, so I think I’m being enormously reasonable.


Oh, I made a terrible mistake with these.

I was excited by the idea for this DC pulp sub-imprint, and so I decided to buy all of the comics that they offered for sale.  That might not be a mistake for everybody, but it was a huge mistake for me personally.  Being feeble of mind and faculties, I always struggle to remember what happened the month before with anything I read, but now what’s happened is that when I read FIRST WAVE #2 I became confused by vague memories of the plots of DOC SAVAGE or THE SPIRIT.  I kept waiting for there to be a lightning strike in FIRST WAVE– before realizing, oh, that’s the plot of an entirely separate comic.

Comics punish my enthusiasm for them, episode one billion and nine.”

One of my favorite things about Brian Azzarello as a creator is the ways he very intentionally forces his readers to pay attention, to work to keep up with him instead of the other way around.  And I think that maybe might have worked for me here, too, if I hadn’t picked up the two spin-offs (both of which launched before the second issue of his FIRST WAVE series was released!).  But all of the stories have now jumbled together in my head, basically ruining each other.  I’m cutting back to FIRST WAVE: mistake made, lesson learned.

I would say “I don’t understand why this is how they’re reintroducing these characters,” but none of the books really seem to be “reintroducing” anything especially.  All of these comics seem to assume that I remember who Doc Savage’s 20 companions are, or care about them.  I don’t, particularly.  At all.  I could, in theory.  I care about Doctor Who’s new companion, and all it took was a short skirt and some hormones on my part.  But Doctor Who also started the news series with a “why you should care about who Doctor Who is and who the companions are” story.  Maybe I’m dead-wrong, but I feel like these characters needed an Ultimates-style reintroduction and instead these series have started with a 200 mph mega-crossover.

Howard Porter seems badly miscast on DOC SAVAGE, though I thought Paul Malmont’s effort was noticeable in a pleasant way in that first issue.  I wouldn’t call it altogether successful, but you could at least tell that guy was trying…?  That’s something.  THE SPIRIT has been the only must-buy of the lot, thus far, on account of its back-up features, black and white comics by Denny O’Neil, Bill Sienkiewicz, Harlan Ellison, and Kyle Baker.

That is an all-star run of creators.  It’s a strange feeling to see creators of that caliber brought together for back-up features for barely-launched new imprints, though.  Shouldn’t creators of that level of fame, infamy, talent, whatever, shouldn’t they be assembled for projects that feel a little disposable?  Well, that sounds extreme, but… What a strange world, where the occasion of Harlan Ellison and Kyle Baker working together doesn’t conclude with a ticker-tape parade.

More importantly, however, Doctor Who’s new companion truly deserves some kind of humanitarian award.  From the UN Commission on Boners.  Who do I write to, for that to happen?


Oh my god, you guys.

Mystery Team

The reason I’m writing these capsule reviews is so I can tell you about this movie.  It’s some kind of fucking achievement, is what it is because…  If you’re a sketch comedy fan, it’s extremely difficult to get excited by a sketch troupe putting out a feature length movie.  You’re used to being a little disappointed.  Python pulled it off, yes, but past that, in recent memory– it just hasn’t happened.  Mr. Show, Kids in the Hall, Whitest Kids You Know, League of Gentlemen, the vast majority of Saturday Night Live features– I’m not saying there aren’t parts.  There are parts of Brain Candy that I quite like.  I’m still partial to Wayne’s World.  But mostly, they don’t transition to features.

Derrick for the fucking win.

I’d loved their sketches, most of all Girls are Not to Be Trusted, or their new one Thomas Jefferson, but hadn’t expected much more than uneven sketches from their feature.  They kind of fucking kicked my ass instead.  What struck me as so great about it is they didn’t fall in the trap other sketch troupe’s have so repeatedly fallen into.  They didn’t make a sketch movie, where none of the scenes add up to anything– they actually told a story, instead.  There’s an aspect of it which is really dark and sad, while it’s simultaneously hilarious and innocent…?  There’s a varied emotional tone to it; it’s not just trying to be silly-funny ha-ha good times for the entire length.  And it’s filled with a fine cast of comedy world people (most in a “before they hit it big” capacity but… Matt Walsh: so underutilized by Hollywood, you guys).  The credits are the same names over and over– it feels like this tiny labor of love, but it looks as good as a Hollywood movie.

It’s a story I’ve actually always wanted to see.  The premise of the movie is basically “what would Encyclopedia Brown’s teen years have been like” and– I can’t explain why, but I’ve always wanted someone to make that movie.  I just didn’t expect anyone to do it this well, or to actually find an emotional theme in that idea that worked as well as the one in MYSTERY TEAM.

This is probably the best comedy I’ll see this year– I’ll probably see better movies, but it’s hard to imagine loving one quite as much, especially now with movies having been ruined by fanboys.   (I love you all, but you’ve ruined movies).  I had the great fortune of seeing this in a crowded theatre (it’s playing again at the New Beverly tonight, if you’re nearby), with an audience that very audibly loved it. If that’s not an option for you, it’s available now on DVD, On Demand, what have you.

It’s a hard-R rated Goonies! Why would you possibly not want to see that?? This really kicked my ass– I was really shocked how much I enjoyed this. Highly, highly recommended.


I hadn’t heard of the whole teen werewolf thing until I saw this video the other day.  I’m not hip, not a hip guy, so the teen-werewolves got by me.

We’ve all thought the same things, I’m sure.  We all have probably thought, “How I envy the modern teenager, with their easy access to vast swaths of internet pornography, their adorable ignorance of the days of squinting at scrambled porn, lazy teen days spent watching Lexi Belle perform as Batgirl, et cetera.”  We’re all addicted to pornography in a way that’s interfering with our ability to achieve true intimacy, right? That’s probably true.

And we’ve all thought, in turn, well at least, having grown up pathetic losers, that at least in our day, there were no video cameras around, documenting our most embarassing moments for youtube audiences.

But watching this, what I realized, is someday, when I’m old, I’ll be taken care of by a generation that sees documenting and publicly sharing shameful moments as being some kind of god given right.  And that’s terrifying because… I think there are bound to be shameful moments in old age that I’d rather not be on youtube.  If I’m in a senior citizen home, crapping into an adult diaper– I don’t want for middle-age werewolves to put that on youtube.  Especially if youtube is being beamed directly into people’s brains, by that point.  Especially now that there’s advertising, which is extra annoying– I don’t want me, with a bunch of catheters shoved all in me being the new face of Pepsi, man.

On the other hand, maybe our robot overloads will annihilate the teenage werewolves before that happens.  God, I hope so.

SPARTA by David Lapham, Johnny Timmons, Gabe Eltaeb, Wes Abbott, Kristy Quinn and Ben Abernathy #2-3:

I was annoyed by Colin Farrell starring in this book, in the first issue, but stuck with this series, regardless.  It’s only 6 issues, and I was feeling like I needed to start taking more chances.  I’m trying to do that more– I call it Get Excited About Comics Plan 2010. Try to be more “accepting.”  Try to be more “enthusiastic.”  Try to “suck it up.”  Try to “man it out.”  Try to “do other things with my time than watch Lexi Belle perform as Batgirl.”

This book?  I don’t know; what do you think?  Lapham certainly goes for broke– I like it more than what I’d read of YOUNG LIARS, at least.  There are moments that really are quite creative:  a little girl bragging about winning a Junior Mata Hari Award, say, I quite liked.  I’m just not sure what exactly I think overall.  All of the component parts are the stuff of great comics:  football, bigfoots, swordfights, oracular lady assassins, armies of ex-mistresses.  It’s very much a COMIC BOOK, in capital letters, kind-of in the old Kirby sense of the term.  Creativity sometimes feels in short supply right now, so the book is certainly to be applauded in that respect.

But it’s … sometimes it feels like too much of a good thing, I guess.  The details are fun, but I’m still not really sure what this book is about, exactly:  what anyone is trying to say about anything is kind of eluding me.  Since the book is a “mystery” comic, and the mystery of the book is why the world of the book is so crazy and weird– there’s no way of knowing if the details are organic to some organizing principle or just wholly arbitrary.  Granted, that same problem didn’t stop me from watching LOST for six seasons, but LOST had characters, themes and a terrific visual style. What am I supposed to want SPARTA for?  What need is it supposed to fill for me?  But … just the moment to moment pleasure of an idea like the Junior Mata Hari Award may be enough actually.

So, I don’t know.  It feels like it’s at least worth thinking about, this book, maybe, which may be as good a compliment as I’m capable of anymore.  Get Excited about Comics Plan 2010 still has a lot of miles left to travel.

JUSTICE LEAGUE: RISE OF ARSENAL #3 by J.T. Krul, Geraldo Borges, Kevin Sharpe, Sergio Arina, Mario Alquiza, John Dell, Rob Clark Jr., Hi-Fi, Greg Horn, Mike Mayhew, Sean Ryan and Brian Cunningham:

After Brian’s review and Tucker & Benjamin Marra’s chitter-chatter, I was sold pretty fucking hard on this comic.  Those two articles were an extremely effective sales campaign, in my apartment.

So: Brian wasn’t exaggerating in his plot synopsis, in the slightest.  It’s really 100% that.

I didn’t really have a very interesting reaction to it, though, other than it really made me feel for Alan Moore.  He must think books like this are his “legacy”… They’re not but he probably feels that way– I think I would feel that way if I were him.  I stopped halfway through this book, and just thought, “that poor man.”  People get angry when Alan Moore complains about the state of comics– “But: has he ever heard of Hellen Jo?!?”  But put yourself in his place– how much would you like comics if you felt responsible for things like this?  The shame would be overwhelming.

As for the comic itself, I don’t know– it’s a success.  I “enjoyed” it quite a bit, even if only in quotation marks.  Obviously, if I bought it, it “succeeded” — it created an accident on the side of the road so horrific that I craned my neck to look at it.  And you know: well done.  I will now remember JT Krul’s name, and if you believe that obscurity is an author’s true enemy, well done to him, too.  I mean, the low opinion in which I hold numerous other writers in comics certainly hasn’t hurt their careers, so well done to him.  Well done.

I guess it kind of reminded me of the Wedding DJ video– I’m sure you’ve seen it; it’s “viral”…

I don’t know if that video’s “real” or not, but it kind of doesn’t matter.  It doesn’t matter if it’s crass or not– I was entertained by it anyways:  “that’s entertainment.”  I mean, the interesting thing about the video to me is that… you know, does the internet make us all “worse” by entertaining us with bad behavior, or does it make us “better” by exposing bad behavior?  Does the rising of the Arsenal make things “worse” by hitting what you might feel like is a “new low,” or are we “better” for seeing how close that “new low” is to a “regular” run-of-the-mill superhero comic?   I don’t know– no idea.  Tucker & Marra covered this better than I’m capable of, so go read that if you haven’t already instead, I guess.


I had really enjoyed the first movie, but didn’t have much use for the second one.  I haven’t seen many reviews address my problem with this movie though which is that… I actually don’t think African-American men are interchangeable…?

I had a much, much harder time with the fact they changed Rhodey’s between IRON MAN 1 and IRON MAN 2 than I thought I would.  I’d read the announcements ahead of time, heard the explanations why they were replacing Terrence Howard with Don Cheadle, and all that stuff.  I certainly love Don Cheadle.  But, when those scenes actually happened– I just couldn’t get past that they switched dudes on us.  Don Cheadle just shows up and says “It’s me; get over it; suck on it.”  But, yeah: sorry, no.  Here’s the thing: they weren’t playing two different characters; they were playing the same guy.  They COULD have played two different characters– he could have been Rhodey’s brother, or something.  But, no: same guy.

I felt like at some level, the filmmakers were maybe inadvertently saying, “We don’t believe you can tell them apart anyways.”  Which: I can.  I mean, I’m not going to win the word-jumble on Soul Train anytime soon, I’m not the hippest guy, but I can at least tell Don Cheadle from Terrence Howard.  I can tell all of the original Kings of Comedy apart, too.  You know:  I listened to a Jay-Z album once, and I didn’t understand every word he said, but I wanted to…?

So: I couldn’t get past that.  Also: the story stank, there were too many villains, the demo for the video-game sequel gave me a massive headache which bummed me out because I totally wanted to play it to see Fraction’s contributions, and the commercials for other Marvel movies wedged in the middle of this one were super-boring.  But also, the race thing.

NEW AVENGERS: FINALE by Brian Michael Bendis, Stuart Immonen, Butch Guice, Andrew Currie, Karl Story, Paul Mounts, Justin Ponsor, Rain Beredo, Chris Eliopoulos, Lauren Sankovitch, Tom Brevoort, Joe Quesada, Dan Buckley, Alan Fine (with apperances by David Finch, Danny Miki, Frank D’armata, Steve McNiven, Dexter VInes, Morry Hollowell, Olivier Coipiel, John Dell, Mike Deodata Jr., Joe Pimental, Dave Stewart, Leinil Yu, Mark Morales, Laura Martin, Billy Tan, and Matt Banning):

Manners compel me not to talk about SIEGE, but this … this tangential spin-off finale one-shot (?) was an interesting experience.  It was like looking at vacation photos of a family of strangers.  I’d picked up all three SIEGE finale comics to have the “total Siege experience”.  I’d picked up the odd issue of NEW AVENGERS in the past– once in a while.  So, I had some familiarity with going-on’s of the book, but not a very complete one.

But then, this comic is a celebration for the entire run, for an  entire era of Marvel comics, but one I didn’t pay much attention to, or didn’t have any emotion connection to when I did pay attention.  So, that was fun for me, in a way that felt kind of peculiar.

There’s this feeling of triumph to the comic, but it’s– it’s a triumphant double-page splash of the time New Avengers fought ninjas, triumph over comics I never read.  I’ve never watched the season finales of a show I don’t regularly follow, but I imagine that my experience was close to what it must have been like to watch the LOST finale if you’d only seen two or three episodes prior.  It was interesting for me not to able to comprehend the glops of emotion on display, but just instead have to shrug and go “well, this is probably meaningful to someone out there somewhere.”  I don’t think I’ve ever quite had that experience before.

I guess what was striking was how much it felt like a “finale”, with none of it being at all, even remotely final.  The new AVENGERS book launched, what, a week or two later, with a near-identical creative team…?  It’s like they threw their own surprise birthday party.

I was interested in it as symbol of this era of Marvel comics, too.  Years from now, people can look back on this comic and say “Aah, that era of comics– they were very taken with storyboards colored red.”  The red thing– how did red become to this era of Marvel comics what teal-orange is for movies?  Was that a decision that was made?  Do you like the color red?  I’m more of a blue guy myself– I personally like that teal-orange look in blockbuster movies.  Instead, with blockbuster comics, all that red.

THE SIGNIFIERS #1 by Michael Neno:

I sent away for this comic over the internet– by the time it arrived, I’d forgotten how I heard about it or that I’d ordered it.  I like having strange comics arrive in the mail, I guess.  It’s an anthology of three stories, two of which end on “cliffhangers”:  the Signifiers lead story (a strange Kirby pastiche, with animal-hybrids, science-fiction villains, rockets falling to hip-hop lyrics, etc.), Nellie of Cosmic Brook Farm or Cosmic House on the Prarie (a nonsensical 10-panel grid Rocketman comic), and Landlark the Heat Seeking Dwarf (a Silver-Age Marvel– but not quite Kirby-ish– comic about a deranged dwarf who escapes bad guys and falls in with a hippie band).

I don’t really know what this comic is– none of the stories “make sense” strictly-speaking, at least to me, so I’m not really sure what to say about them, how to even describe them.  The first story is about … Yeah, can’t do it; it seems to all fit together, at least, though, to its credit.

So, I don’t know if I can “recommend it”– but … This is just the kind of thing I’m happy exists,  I guess.  It’s one of those things that just looks cool, and it’s so far gone that you can just forget about paying attention to what’s going on and and enjoy watching one panel turn into the next.  That’s a very specific kind of fun that may not be for everybody though.  That’s sort of the level I enjoy POWR MASTERS on (although POWR MASTERS is much better than this, I think).  The second story’s weak sauce, any which way, though– that 10 panel grid looks unforgiving and I think it brings Neno down to it instead of the other way around. More of the first story and third story might be better if there are any future issues– those two fit together more than the second one, despite the super-rad title of that second story.  It just doesn’t live up to that title, but what could…?


I don’t remember the last time I’ve looked forward to an album as much as this one.  I probably have pretty bad taste in music– I certainly know much less about music than … oh gosh, an awful lot of people that I know, so take this with that warning.

But, man, every track I’ve heard on this thing has been exciting for me.  I haven’t felt this excited for a band since … I don’t know, first time I heard Broken Social Scene…?  Maybe that’ll sound ridiculous to people who have cool taste in music.  I really don’t know.

I’ve heard it referred to as “Jock Jams for Hipsters” (I think it was meant in a bad way, but… I’m not sure that’s how I’m taking it).   Music criticism, though– there are people whose work I’ve enjoyed reading over the years, obviously, but… It seems like with any band now has to deal with a really poisonous environment– the build-up / tear-down cycle seems severe.  This band seemed to simultaneously get such a very overheated build/tear reaction.

I wonder if comics will be like that someday.


(I try not to spoiler this, but if you’re hyper-spoiler inclined, you might want to skip this one).

Middle-aged man, pretending to be a cowboy in his free time.  That’s healthy, right?  I’m pretty sure that’s normal.

On the other hand, this video game, you guys?  I’m not a game expert, but I’ve never quite played a game with an ending like this one.  The writing in the last hour of this game seemed kind of remarkable to me.  The last hour builds on themes present through the rest of the game to actually elicit a real feeling of story-motivated dread.  Not shitty horror-game dread, with violins, but “where is this story taking me” dread.  I don’t know of another game I’ve played where I’ve experienced that feeling before, and that last hour alone makes it Rockstar Games’s finest hour for me.  The Grand Theft Auto games are more “gorgeous” to look at, more stuffed with entertainment, more overflowing with content– music, comedy, dialogue, characters.

I was just more impressed by this game, though.  I was struck how they succeeded not only with the action elements but the role-playing elements, as well.  I played my version of the main character as a decent man, who always did the right thing, and never committed any crimes, except those he was forced into by circumstance.  Someone else could have played their main character in some completely different manner– and I just think that was more truly the case here than with the Grand Theft Auto games.

Between this and the superbly thought-out mission structure on MASS EFFECT 2 (which Kieron Gillen writes about better, here), maybe this is crazy, or not a well-informed opinion, but I feel like the blockbuster-end of gaming took a giant step forward this year, in terms of writing, finally. Finally.


Did anybody make it to this?  Choe went fucking balls-out on this gallery show.  There was a massive inflatable sea-monster that filled the space (new gallery, used to be the Anthropologie store in Beverly Hills– tremendous high ceilings), huge paintings, small drawings of naked bat-women tucked away in the back area of the gallery (which resembled a church confessional); the entire foyer was festooned with children’s blankets.

Here’s a bad iPhone photo of the sea-monster– you can’t see the entirety of the gallery, but there was a back area filled with his work, smaller work that expressed more of a sense of humor than the more dramatic pieces out front:

It was Pretty Empty When I was There, I guess

Hell of a fucking show, just a hell of a fucking show– he really knocked this one down.  I think this closed just recently, unfortunately– I hope you didn’t miss it.


I’m so glad I made it to this.  If you got overly-worked up by the Leno-Conan incident earlier this year, this show was such a joy.  Such a joy– just 2-3 hours of pure happiness for me, at least.  Songs, jokes, funny videos, guest stars.  Jim Carrey sang a duet dressed as Kick-Ass, with Conan dressed as Superman.  Jonah Hill made a rape joke about Inspector Gadget.  Andy Richter– he’s performed pretty constantly in small venues in Los Angeles since he left the old show, so it was great to see him this entire amphteatre laughing along with him.

The craziest thing for me was Reggie Watts– I used to see Reggie Watts perform in the basement of the Ramada Inn on Vermont, in the haunted W.C. Fields room.  The last time I saw him perform, it was 10-20 people in a Ramada basement, every single last one of us thinking “Why isn’t this guy on TV or something?  How am I getting to see this for free?”  Seeing him in an amphitheatre, surrounded by people hanging on his every word, watching an audience of that size trying to figure him out– that was amazing.  Amazing.

And, of course, Mr. Conan O’Brien.  All of the years I’d seen him– there’s an aspect of him which you don’t appreciate on television that makes him funnier in person:  motherfucker is shaped like Abraham Lincoln.  He is a weirdly shaped guy– he looks like he could throw a punch, but … He’s shaped like he should be building a log cabin somewhere. There’s just something funny to him physically that even after watching him for years and years, I’d never really seen before.

It felt like getting to see and be a tiny, tiny part, however small, of a happy ending.

39 Responses to “ Abhay Memorialized Capsule Reviews ”

  1. Now you’ve got me depressed that I didn’t spend the 40 smackers on Conan tickets.

    Sparta USA is a fun kind of weird. It feels like a 70s-DC-Kirby book that somebody redrew using pictures of Colin Farrell.

  2. The Sleigh Bells album is amazing. At first it sounds like something that would get old really quickly, but I’ll be goddamned if I haven’t had that thing on repeat for the last week and still love every freaking second of it. And that song isn’t even one of the best, IMO. Great stuff.

  3. Re: Rhodey–Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer, George Clooney.

  4. I think you’re reading way too much into the change of actors playing Rhodey in “Iron Man.” Maggie Gyllenhal (sp?) replaced Katie Holmes in the “Batman” series. James Bond has been replaced five or six times. In the last “Batman” series of films, three actors played the lead character in four films. It happens all the time.

  5. If it’s any consolation, I have no idea what the hell was going on in FIRST WAVE #2 either. And where is this “WAVE” everyone is getting so excited about? FIRST or otherwise. It’s a little ambitious and misguided of DC to call it “FIRST” judging by the sales on this. It’s a Captain Yesterday stipend to the pulp fans working at DC – which is fair enough as the rest of their publishing schedule is a Captain Yesterday stipend to arrested development stump porn fans.

    The only way I can describe RISE OF ARSENAL (Another nonsensical title as he’s done nothing but shit on his own feet throughout) is that it’s really really bad fan-fic that somebody published. It hits every single fan-fic note with terrifying alacrity; a sex scene written by somebody who’s never had sex, an attempt at modernity with heroin usage (TRAINSPOTTING was 1993?), a stuff-all-your-problems-in-a-cupboard-and-lock-it ending, a complete disregard for prior characterisation (Although, Harper’s previous characterisation was “ginger”)… the list goes on.

    But man – we’ll always have dead cats. They should have let him keep the dead cat. He could have fought crime whilst cradling its ever-rotting corpse to his chest and telling it he’ll protect it always. It’d be like WEEKEND AT BERNIE’S with crossbows and sadness.

  6. I just watched the finale of “ost after only seeing the odd episode before that. I can’t see an avengers comic coming off that confusing. I like these variety-type capsule reviews. Saw the snake after your last set…

  7. “Maggie Gyllenhal (sp?) replaced Katie Holmes”

    That’s just the thing, though– going in, I was thinking of Bond and Batman, but it ended up feeling more like Maggie Gylenhaal (no idea)– where that really threw me there too (but there, that was one of a million things going on about a much more overstuffed movie). Replacing her was “no big deal” because she was just The Girl. It sort of underlined how useless and interchangeable that role was (or I think we can say actresses generally in that sort of movie). So, I don’t find a comparison there comforting, in the slightest.

    Anyways, I think Bond and Batman are unique circumstances– neither changed happened will-nilly.

    I guess it sounds accusatory though, so I’ll add “maybe inadvertently” to make it a little more palatable.

  8. Cheadle was the least of that movie’s problems (and even he wasn’t that good, given what he had to work with).

  9. Heh, and now that I’ve finished your (fine) article, I’m really excited to plow through RDR. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the RockStar writing team is the best in the business, and I’d really love to see them move into movies.

    Good stuff, Abhay

  10. Just finished watching “Mystery Team” and I’m in total agreement. Had not heard of ‘Derrick’ before, just read the comments about the film on Demonoid and one thing led to another….A truly hilarious film that does indeed fill in the “Encyclopedia Brown” teen years mystery!

  11. Not to mention the difference between Billy Dee Williams and Tommy Lee Jones.

    But Ahbay, come on man – reboot or something, ’cause your charges of racism here are just silly. The casting change was distracting, sure, but the character arc depended on Jim Rhodes being the same character as in the first movie; you don’t just introduce a new sidekick with whom to have a rift in a sequel. And you also don’t toss a developed and well-received character who all the fans of the mythos are looking forward to see have his moment of glory just because the actor playing him is becoming a pain in the ass (allegedly – that’s all hearsay, but I’m willing to believe since all other things being equal it’s clear that having the original actor is in the company’s best interests).

    Sometimes actors and actresses get replaced. It’s a hiccup, especially when the first actor really made the role his or her own, but it happens, and choosing to keep the character in such cases is an understandable creative decision that doesn’t suggest racism.

  12. Yeah, Iron Man 2 was crap, but replacing Rhodes was the least of its problems.

  13. Good reviews, aside from your review of Iron Man 2. You are seriously reaching if you think there was any racist intent in swapping out the actors.

  14. “your charges of racism”

    I added “maybe inadvertently”. Not enough…? I’ve run into this before– talking about how things are X, Y, and Z doesn’t mean they were specifically intended as X, Y and Z. But I subscribe to the belief that just becomes something wasn’t intended by an author doesn’t mean it’s not meaningful.

    “Sometimes actors and actresses get replaced”– I don’t really buy the Bond/Batman equivalency, though.

    No one got replaced in the Ocean’s 11 movies, the Star Wars movies, the Matrix movies, Transformers, the Die Hard franchise, between Clerks 1 and 2, Gremlins. They didn’t replace Danny Glover in Lethal Weapon movies– it wasn’t suddenly Eddie Murphy saying he was too old for shit. They don’t switch people on TV.

    I don’t know– can anyone think of an example BESIDES superhero movies where this kind of thing happens? Because otherwise, if it’s just superhero movies… doesn’t that say SOMETHING?

    It’s super-distracting, and in this case, for me, it was extra-weird because (a) that part was so big, and (b) the two actors couldn’t have been more dissimilar. If you could take it as being the equivalent of Bond and Batman, great, but … It’s really not the same thing– recasting there is a major change to the franchise.

    But I think the movie could have survived without that character arc being fulfilled, or if Rhodes had been left out entirely. The movie was too over-stuffed– too many moves– one less character arc would have helped, if anything. They could have made him a cameo and then had Gary Shandling say, “James Rhodes has been re-assigned because we’re angry with you.” Having two guys in “Robert Downey Jr. goes away” suits didn’t make the ending better for me.

  15. Yes on Mystery Team. I coincedentally watched it yesterday night and I was a little shocked at how good it was as the Derrick’s sketches are hit or miss for me. The entire thing was just great.

    New Avengers Finale; I stopped reading the series when Namor beat the crap out of Noh-Varr because Bendis couldn’t be bothered to read a four issue miniseries so correct me if I’m wrong but what’s there to celebrate? Wasn’t their entire shtick getting the crap kicked out of them by semi-faceless goons until someone else came to save the day or some other deus ex machina (unless it’s the big summer crossover when they suddenly become competent)? That’s really not the kind of track record Spider-man and Wolverine should be fist-bumping over, you know?

    Enough negativity though and back to Mystery Team; what was your favorite Jason disguise? I’m torn between hobo and lumberjack.

  16. I still don’t see what role race plays in it. It seems like you’re saying it’s distracting that someone else is playing a previously employed role, and that the War Machine sideplot was superfluous. It doesn’t seem like there’s much to support there’s anything to do with race here.

  17. “what role race plays in it”– These changes only get made because Hollywood, maybe correctly, thinks the audience won’t care. Because they think the role of Girl or Black Sidekick, that the actors who fills those roles are interchangeable to the audience, just as long as they can find someone else who satisfies that particular demographic, minority-group status. That there’s not more to a character than just the minority-group status, like a personality that an actor’s uniquely inhabiting.

    I mean, Katie Holmes was at least arguably awful, but Howard was good in the first one. He has a completely different vibe than Cheadle, a super-different vibe– I don’t know anything about acting styles, but they just seem.. different– for me, those two guys are inherently never going to play the same character the same way. The only thing those two guys really have in common between those two movies is race. So, I understand why people who can accept the Bond/Batman comparison would disagree, but I don’t think it’s too, too unusual to be annoyed by it, either.

  18. Since you asked – TV shows where they replaced actors – Roseanne (the blonde daughter, swapped actresses, then the original returned), Dallas (I forget who, but they switched out one gal for another, I think the gal who played Nancy Drew was involved in the trade one way or another), several soap operas have done it.

    Hell, William Bendix replaced Jackie Gleason on The Life of RIley back in the 50’s, and that was the lead character (true, Bendix established the character on radio, but still). Speaking of Gleason, Alice Kramden was played by two different women over the course of the extended series (later sketches on a Gleason show). The little blonde creep drummer in the Partridge Family, two actors. That’s off the top of the brain and mostly old news, I’m sure it still happens from time to time. Actor causes trouble, actor leaves, prices themselves out, scheduling screw-ups, etc.

    Oh, hey, Lionel on The Jeffersons, two different actors there, so maybe there’s your racism potential. Although I believe the original actor may have returned there, as well. I think maybe you’re really reaching on that one. Or bucking for a research grant.

  19. That’s fair. I don’t see much of a difference between the portrayals and characters in the two films, aside from they are pretty thin, straight-laced characters.

  20. Aaah, there you go. Win for Evan Dorkin– I didn’t think hard enough on TV. I don’t know if it’s happened in recent memory, post-Roseanne, maybe it has but nothing comes to mind… But yeah: two Darrin’s on Bewitched– how do I forget that? My MacArthur grant application is in tatters! Tatters!

  21. On soap operas they switched actors all the time. They did it on sitcoms – Roseanne comes to mind -, and how many actors were Sherlock Holmes? Same goes for spaghetti westerns and a lot of eurotrash crime movies.

    On RISE OF ARSENAL #3, after reading Brians review I took a look. Aside how mindnumbingly awful the whole story was, are there really fans of such boring artwork? But the dead cat was a nice touch.

  22. My thoughts ran to soap operas too, but that sort of supports a tangential point that I think Abhay is making, if we can look for a second past the issues of race/gender that seem to be lurking at the surface. The real issue that I think he’s getting at, and I’d include Bond and Batman in this scenario too, is that you’re not asking an actor to play a character that someone else created, you’re asking them to play a type. I’m not saying it’s true for all of these cases, but the question is, is there more to the Jim Rhodes character than, “Black guy who is friends with Tony Stark,” and what does Cheadle (and the writers, director, etc.) do to carry over the character that Howard originally brought to the screen?

    Remember the fall-out over a blonde James Bond? His hair color has as much to do with his actual personality as his ability to spew off his little catchphrases, but that’s because James Bond doesn’t actually have all that much character (though they’ve tried since the reboot to instill some in him).

    AndyD — I’m not sure that your mention of spaghetti westerns actually works here. Just because someone is called Django in the movie title, doesn’t mean that’s what he’ll be called in the rest of the movie. Which usually makes the first ten minutes quite confusing while you try to figure out which one is the “hero.”

  23. They replaced John Connor between Terminator 2 & 3.

    They replaced Clarice Starling (!) for Hannibal (a terrible idea that turned out terribly)

    A google search turned up this AV Club list: http://www.avclub.com/articles/the-darrin-effect-20-jarring-cases-of-recast-roles,2380/

    I actually agree with you that Cheadle’s casting was distracting. And who knows, maybe there was some kind of subconscious racism on someone’s part thinking Rhodey’s character was switchable. But this kind of thing happens.

  24. Re:Mystery Team – the Hobo, to be sure! Hands down!!

  25. “Inadvertent racism” is a charge of its own – basically suggesting the people are racist and too blind to see it – so no, not really.

    “’what role race plays in it’– These changes only get made because Hollywood, maybe correctly, thinks the audience won’t care.”

    Nonsense. I’d bet money “Hollywood” considered the fact that audiences would be jarred. They’re not stupid; they know that everyone who stepped into IRON MAN 2 who saw the first movie registered the change and that it would pull them out of the movie to some degree. But they decided for some reason – some say Favreau didn’t like how Terry played the character the first time round, some say it was a pay issue, etc. – that the cost was worth bearing.

    “Because they think the role of Girl or Black Sidekick, that the actors who fills those roles are interchangeable to the audience, just as long as they can find someone else who satisfies that particular demographic, minority-group status. That there’s not more to a character than just the minority-group status, like a personality that an actor’s uniquely inhabiting.”

    Yeah, when they started thinking “Who can replace Jim Rhodes?”, I’m sure they did think “Well, we need a black guy.” The visual of Jim Rhodes is of a black guy. But the idea that their thought process just stopped there is ridiculous. For one thing, they seem to respect the character a lot more than you do; your off-hand idea that they create a brother for Jim Rhodes also in the military suggests you’re the one who thinks the details of the character amount to a token cypher. Iron Fans (or whatever they call themselves) of both comics and the first movie disagree with that, though. They want to see Jim Rhodes faithfully rendered on the big screen. And when choosing an actor to play him, one’s mind automatically goes to black guys*, just to start.

    The plot imbalances, etc. are separate concerns.

    *I just thought of the casting of Kingpin in the DAREDEVIL movie, which feels germane here. In that case, the director rightly understood that the defining VISUAL of the Kingpin is his size, not his race. There were, of course, charges of racism about that, too.

  26. John Connor and Clarice Starling– interesting examples! There was 12 years between Terminators, and 10 years between Hannibal movies, so I don’t think it was as jarring as Iron Man– but Clarice Starling was ridiculous, though, and just the point: actresses aren’t interchangeable, and switching them is super-jarring. If it’s a real part, changing people like that doesn’t work. Jodie Foster’s nothing like Julianne Moore, and that change was just absurd.

    But Connor’s an interesting one. I wasn’t that jarred by that one. I remember not minding because different actors for “so-and-so as a teenager” and “so-and-so as an adult” is a normal thing– I had a harder time in that movie with how OLD Arnold was, and why anyone would build a senior citizen Terminator. But Connor’s… That’s still a good example.

    “Inadvertent racism is a charge of its own – basically suggesting the people are racist and too blind to see it”– well, I don’t know if I agree with that, but more importantly, I don’t think I’m accusing anybody of racism, so much as cynicism about who their audience is. I don’t think the filmmakers are racist, and I don’t think that’s what I said. It’s that when you talk about the “cost was worth bearing”, what went into that cost-benefit analysis and was that cost-benefit analysis cynical? That to me is what’s interesting.

    Most importantly of all, I really liked my “James Rhodes’s brother” idea, though! It really wouldn’t have been much worse than what they did come up with. It wouldn’t have been that much worse than all that time spent on whether or not Robert Downey Jr. was going to die of lead poisoning. (Why was any of that there??)

  27. The funniest part about recasting in the Thomas Harris books is that they really (let’s all be honest with ourselves) remade RED DRAGON so they could have a clean sweep of films with Anthony Hopkins playing Lecter. Brian Cox was pretty much perfect as Lecter in MANHUNTER, but that wasn’t good enough. But then you had Foster refusing to come back for HANNIBAL and…

    The producers of IRON MAN 2 were kinda stuck between a rock and a hard place with Howard. He wanted RDJ level money and they couldn’t/wouldn’t hand it over. So what do they do? Remove a pretty vital subplot for the second movie and pretend like the character never existed? Of all the characters who didn’t need to be in IRON MAN 2, Rhodey was not one of them. I mean, the other alternative is to have Favreau pick up all that extra dialogue and, you know, get Vaughn in there too and this film is MONEY, BABY.

    My personal favourite replacement-of-actor is DUE SOUTH series two where they had to get a new Ray Vecchio. Great episode. Wasn’t there also a replacement mother in FRESH PRINCE OF BEL AIR but only Jazzy Jeff noticed she was different? Thereby proving that Jazzy Jeff is the Psycho Pirate of FRESH PRINCE continuity?

  28. “I was struck how they succeeded not only with the action elements but the role-playing elements, as well. I played my version of the main character as a decent man, who always did the right thing, and never committed any crimes, except those he was forced into by circumstance. Someone else could have played their main character in some completely different manner– and I just think that was more truly the case here than with the Grand Theft Auto games.”

    Im not sure I understand your point here. The story and story based missions pretty much run the same way regardless of how your character acts, don’t they? Like if you’re playing a completely decent person between missions, or you’re hog tying random npcs and dropping them on top of train tracks to await an oncoming train, the plot still runs the same. It seems to me that for this to really be a step up in terms of roleplaying there would be some tangible hook to put those type of character differences on. Maybe there’s something I’m missing though, I’ve only just gotten to the Mexico missions. I still have a ways to go to get to that ending.

  29. “Most importantly of all, I really liked my “James Rhodes’s brother” idea, though! It really wouldn’t have been much worse than what they did come up with. It wouldn’t have been that much worse than all that time spent on whether or not Robert Downey Jr. was going to die of lead poisoning. (Why was any of that there??)”

    My theories:

    (1) It’s taken from the ULTIMATE’s terminally ill version, but of course you don’t want the franchise lead to actually die. So it becomes an arc of “I’m going to die! Guess I’ll fall into despair… What, I can solve this problem. Triumph!”.

    (2) It’s what came out of the output hole when the writers placed Iron Man’s “Demon in a Bottle” arc into the Hollywood Storyline Conversion Machine. Throughout the movie, I kept getting the sense that the lead poisoning was always meant to be alcoholic abuse. Rip the former out and insert the latter in your mind and everything to do with that plotline works a lot better, I think: the whole sub-subplot about his father, Nick Fury’s intervention, the battle between him and Jim.

    On the awful quality of the plot as it hit the screen, though, we most definitely agree.

  30. Waiting for a call…”The story and story based missions pretty much run the same way regardless of how your character acts, don’t they?”

    Overall, yes, but I think they can feel very differently, which is enough for me..? I think having the level of choice they give you on the random events, especially, ends up making the whole game feel very different and far more effective. In the Grand Theft Auto games, Nico makes 5 billion dollars, but he still goes on missions where he’s stabbing a junkie in an alleyway because his cousin asks him to, super-nice. So when they try to pull off a theme in that game about how hard it is to leave a violent past behind you, it didn’t work at all.

    While with Red Dead, I think the fact that you can go through that game either helping people or hurting them in your spare time makes the story feel really different. The Grand Theft Auto games never let you be a force for good in that universe before, and I think that’s a really sizable change. The Rockstar games are okay action games, but in terms of creating moral playgrounds– they’re amazing. Red Dead really took that somewhere else– you can even kill some of the people who give you missions, which is just a great idea! The smaller things like missions offering “rob or kill” options (the nun, say)– those aren’t super-interesting but there seemed to have been more of those to me than with GTA.

    The mission motivation was just way better than “I have to help my cousin” too so if you played your Marston as “Good”– you could think of him as a good man forced to do what he had to do, while if you played him “Evil”– you could think of him as an evil man trying foolishly to fool himself into thinking he’d changed.

    It’s not “role-playing” in the Bioware sense, no– maybe it’s not “role-playing” in the technical sense of the term (though they call lots of games role-playing games that don’t involve any role at all– Final Fantasy, say). But… it’s just the right amount of neutral…?

    I really don’t have enough good things to say about the random events though. I think those are genius.

  31. They swapped out George Costanza’s dad from the original for Jerry Stiller on Seinfeld. Fuckin’ anti-semites in Hollywood.

  32. “(b) the two actors couldn’t have been more dissimilar.”

    What, because one was blacker than the other?

    This seems to have to do more with your perspective than any choice in recasting.

  33. At least, wouldn’t it have been more racist if they found someone who looked exactly like Terrence Howard but couldn’t act well?

  34. The most recent recast on TV (which I hardly noticed, but which seemed to bother some people a bit) was the youngest kid of the oldest wife (?Tancy?) on Big Love. Recasting non-central child actors is conceptually different thing, though.

    I agree with TheWeekInPictures (can I call you TWIP?) in that I think this recast had to do with a situation involving the fact that only RDJ seemed important in the first film, which is one failure of it, and the were faced with a simultaneous situation of making the second movie seem like it wasn’t just a cast of one and salary increase demands, with one seeming to offer the solution for the other (except if they canned both Paltrow and Howard, that would seem extra bad, so they had to pick one – obviously the casting of Happy doesn’t count here).

    How you feel about the choices made depends to a large extent who you liked in the first one – I noticed Paltrow in the first only when she got shrill but she was better in the second one. I found Howard a complete non-entity… a character void. So the choices didn’t bother me that much. It seems like you like Howard in the role, so I can see how that would be a problem. I just think it’s only a racial issue if you look (culturally) deeply enough at the specific elements. In this case it’s canning female patrician Hollywood royalty (white almost by tautology) or some guy who people know from one movie that most of them didn’t see and aren’t invested in at all (and race may play some part in this lack, but that’s just one item on a big spreadsheet). The fact that people find Paltrow whiny and intolerable works in her favor here – no one wants to actually be put through the TMZ of her tantrums on not being valued.

  35. On the syndicated series “SUPERBOY”, they switched Superboys (!) between the first and second season. In “Oceans 11” they switched Chinese acrobat actors for “Oceans 12”. Nobody noticed. Or cared.

    Dumbledore in HARRY POTTER… the red-headed Vampire chick in TWILIGHT… the actress who replaced Rachel Weisz in THE MUMMY 3… THREE DIFFERENT KITTY PRYDES… etc. etc.

    To cry “racism” is just ridiculous. That said, the reason Cheadle didn’t work as Rhodey is because the first film established that Rhodey and Stark were not just friends, but brothers. They goofed together as much as they worked together. In IM2, Rhodey was 100% military hardass, 24/7. I didn’t get the friendship vibe at ALL.

  36. In “Oceans 11″ they switched Chinese acrobat actors for “Oceans 12″. Nobody noticed. Or cared.

    No one noticed less than Shaobo Qin, the actor who played him in all three films.

  37. That’s a goddamn lie.

  38. So I just watched Mystery Team on your recommendation, and I have to say I think it’s probably the least entertaining, most consistently poorly written movie I’ve seen in five years. I can’t trust the opinion of anyone who even kind of likes this movie, let alone flat-out loves it. All those UCB guys are generally really funny, but this movie needs to be buried in a pit and left to rot.

    You owe me a Netflix rental.

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