Taken 2: Don’t see it. Just watch Taken again. Or go watch Man on Fire. It’s not *BAD*… you’ll just turn it off and say “I wish I had just watched the first one again instead.” And then you’ll start thinking about Taken.

The Book of Eli: I may have to go off on a tangent here. I have heard that, in the new Superman movie, the reason Krypton was destroyed was Fracking. So I can imagine those folks who bought themselves a ticket to a Superman movie, trying to enjoy them some Supermanning, and there’s a discussion about hydraulic fracturing and how it destroys planets… and there are some in the audience who roll their eyes and think “I can’t even go to a movie without getting a sermon” and some in the audience nod their heads and think “yeah, I never thought about it that way before.” Well, Book of Eli is exactly like that, except the group who roll their eyes and the group who nods might be switched.

With that behind us, I’d say that the movie is visually very striking. They’ve got some scenes that you’ll swear were shot in black and white. Some scenes that you’ll swear were shot in sepia and white. The fight scenes aren’t bad and they don’t rely on “shaky cam” to communicate motion. If you find yourself vaguely wishing that they would make Mad Max again but a version of Mad Max you could watch with your friends who go to the local megachurch? This movie is for you. (And, sermon notwithstanding, it’s good enough to enjoy in its own right.)

Jack Reacher: A nice little hard-boiled detective story that has a handful of cute fight scenes, cute plot twists, and a nicely invincible protagonist. A superhero movie for people who don’t like superheroes. Jack Reacher’s only invulnerability is to bullets, knives, blunt objects, and other weapons. Otherwise, he’s invulnerable. To bring us full circle, it’s kinda like Taken insofar as it’s not a movie about a good guy fighting against bad people but about a bad guy fighting against bad people. I’ll watch the second one, if they make it. And I’ll probably wish I had just watched the first one again.

So… what have you been reading and/or watching?


Jaybird is Birdmojo on Xbox Live and Jaybirdmojo on Playstation's network. He's been playing consoles since the Atari 2600 and it was Zork that taught him how to touch-type. If you've got a song for Wednesday, a commercial for Saturday, a recommendation for Tuesday, an essay for Monday, or, heck, just a handful a questions, fire off an email to


  1. I’ve watched 3 whole episodes of The Walking Dead. I like it, although, it is a little graphic at times. I would probably be ok with a little less guts hanging around the neck thing.

  2. Finished Season 5 of Star Trek: TNG. Recommended episodes: all of the first nine except for “The Game” (which is dreadful); “The Masterpiece Society”; and “I, Borg”, which is one of the best episodes in the series so far.

    I can’t think of another science fiction show or film that I’ve watched that’s so deeply optimistic. It’s very refreshing. Nobody makes media like this any more; “Game of Thrones” is more the flavour of the present era.

  3. I finally watched The Avengers last night.


    And I say that as someone who’s pretty close to a Whedon fanboy.

    All the problems that superhero movies seem to have, by dint of being superhero movies, are not helped when you put even more superheroes in the movie.

    I have some theories about why this is, pertaining to the format (standalone movie vs. serialization in print or TV), the bane of movie CGI overuse in general (and modern superhero movies are by their very nature going to have more CGI), and maybe even the inherent nature of superhero stories, but I won’t get into all that here.

    I’ll just ask, because I am curious as to what others think:

    Whether you are a “Superman” guy, or a “Batman” girl, or a “Spiderman” arachnid, or an “Iron Man” alcoholic, or an “X-Men” mutant, or an “Avengers” shadowy spy organization operative – whatever you, personally, think is the *absolute best* superhero movie there has *ever* been – would you prefer to watch that personal “best” one right now, if you were made to choose between it and (Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Road Warrior, Alien/Aliens, or Die Hard?)

    If the absolute best superhero movie for you doesn’t even come close to the top tier of action/adventure/sci-fi/fantasy movies out there (and unless I am not thinking of one, they just don’t for me, not one of them) – why is that?

    As many attempts as there have been, by now it seems like we should have had at least one undisputed classic masterpiece (maybe the Nolan Batman films come closest, but for me even those are flawed; and regardless, I wouldn’t choose them over any of the non-superhero films I named)

    Is it just me and maybe I just don’t care that much about superheroes, or is there something about that type of story which makes it very hard to make a compelling film about?

    Or is there some other reason that it’s unfair to compare “superhero” movies to movies in other related genres?

    • Whether you are a “Superman” guy, or a “Batman” girl, or a “Spiderman” arachnid, or an “Iron Man” alcoholic, or an “X-Men” mutant, or an “Avengers” shadowy spy organization operative – whatever you, personally, think is the *absolute best* superhero movie there has *ever* been – would you prefer to watch that personal “best” one right now, if you were made to choose between it and (Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Road Warrior, Alien/Aliens, or Die Hard?)

      Yes. I know on the basis that I own X-Men: First Class and I don’t own any of the above. And that I’ve watched it over a dozen times, whereas once was enough for Alien, Aliens, and Die Hard.

      I make no claims to it being one of the best movies ever (although I’d put in in the top 5 superhero films), but it’s one that I really, really like.

      • I haven’t seen that one, maybe I will give it a shot.

        It’s entirely possible that it’s all down to taste, but I am starting to side with Mr Schilling’s “enough with the superhero movies already” view. I really thought Avengers was mostly a waste of my time. There were at least three or four characters that I would have cut entirely, and the only characters and character dynamics that I found at all interesting were Ruffalo’s Banner and Downey’s Stark (and even they were pretty thin gruel, just luckily elevated by charismatic actors). The villains were facelessly (literally) boring. Most of the jokes even fell flat, somewhat rare for Whedon.

        • I think the problem is that Whedon is good, until he’s the fanboy. Then it just becomes fanfic.

        • I’m not much for superheroes, but I do find the first Iron Man and the second and third Nolan Batman films very rewatchable. With IM, it is a fun movie that doesn’t require much thinking to enjoy and just clicks. With TDK and TDKR, the movies just click; I enjoyed BB but struggled with the pacing.

          I wrote recently that I thought XM: FC might have been the best superhero movie I had ever seen, conceding that I hadn’t seen a great deal of them and that it clicked with me because it wasn’t your typical superhero movie as I understand them. It had plot development, character development, good acting, etc. It wasn’t just smashy-smashy. I highly recommend it.

          • XM: FC is the one Katherine was recommending too. Maybe I will give that one a try. I’m not sure if my disillusionment is with superhero movies or with modern movies in general, a large proportion of which are superhero movies.

            Also, get offa my lawn.

          • The internet makes people use to many acronyms! Or TIMPUTMA!

            I liked Batman Begins and TDKR (it hurt a little to type it that way), but I didn’t like TDK. I know I’m one of the few people in the world who thought that, even if Ledger was good, the movie itself just wasn’t very good. Back in 2008, I somehow ended up in a debate about TDK with a bunch of strangers in a bar, with a woman and I arguing that it wasn’t very good, and everyone else at the bar telling us how stupid we are. She and I ended up going out a couple times, I suppose entirely based on that connection.

            Also, XM:FC (still hurts) was good, but, and this will probably get me banned, I love Hulk (how do we abbreviate that? just H?). It violated just about every superhero movie rule, and it was pretty much all story until the end. Plus he broke a lot of stuff at the end, and that is awesome.

          • Chris,

            Are you talking about the Ang Lee Hulk? I really like that one as well, though this is another movie where I can easily see why people hated it.

    • Heath Ledger as the Joker made Dark Knight hold up against all of those, if you ask me.

      (Of course, I’d watch the first half of Thunderdome over all of them.)

      If you’re looking for a classic masterpiece that still holds up, I’d really suggest the Max Fleisher Superman cartoons. Well, most of them.

    • Cinematically, I’d also say The Dark Knight is better than Die Hard and on a part with the Alien films. I wouldn’t watch it again, because the death of Rachel and the fall of Harvey Dent are a gut-punch and I don’t enjoy being repeatedly punched in the gut (and because, viscerally, I can’t look at what they did to Dent’s face), but it’s an emotionally and thematically powerful film.

    • “Raiders of the Lost Ark” is a superhero movie.

      Sort of. The genetic line of superhero fiction passes right through pulp cliffhangers to folk hero to King Arthur and winds up somewhere back around Gilgamesh.

      Raiders is clearly pulp fiction.

      You’re wrong about Avengers, but that’s because The Avengers isn’t a super*hero* movie. It’s a Superhero Limited Series movie, which is a different sort of thing.

      • Raiders is pulp fiction for sure, but Indy is not a superhero. You know why? Because even though he does improbable things against insurmountable odds, he gets his ass kicked – repeatedly, and painfully – while doing it. As does John McClane. As does Mad Max.

        With superheroes – even the human ones that are only “augmented” but not actually “super-powered” like Batman and Iron Man – it can be hard for audiences to identify with the pain. At the end of the day, these guys still have access to armor and tools and tech and medical care and money that mean that they will be all right.

        Their pain is so temporary as to be ephemeral, not real.

        But we feel John McClane’s cut feet or Indy’s broken ribs, even now. We don’t forget their injuries; their injuries help define the characters.

        • You need to read more comic books. Er, a better variety of comic books? I AM JUDGMENTAL.

          • We are talking about the movies here, not the comic books. I have a beef with the movies. I suspect that the issues I am having arise, in part, from the standalone nature of movies – I think they may be ill-suited to superhero stories, for a number of reasons.

            In serialized storytelling, you can get more into those other aspects. The other parts don’t have to overwhelm the human part because you have more time to tell your story – origins, peaks, valleys. I am fully aware that Batman in the comics gets his ass kicked, and it definitely means something there. Buffy the Vampire Slayer is a superhero story, and she gets her ass kicked (emotionally AND physically) and that is a way better story than any superhero movie I’ve yet seen.

            But if you had to tell Buffy in two hours and change? It would probably have many of these same issues.


            (No politics).

          • You know, the more I think about it, the more I think that “real” injuries could go a ways towards making the characters relatable and the stakes feel more real. I just saw Avengers and I cannot recall one specific injury sustained by any “super” character. Sure, Stark got thrown through some buildings and stuff – like happens in ALL these movies – and I am sure he’s gonna be sore tomorrow, but I don’t recall a single specific injury to a main character, the way I recall Indy’s ribs or Max’s swollen-shut eye or McClane’s bloody feet.

            Next Batman movie, The World’s Greatest Detective needs to get his nose broken so that Bruce Wayne spends the rest of the movie looking like Jake Gittes in Chinatown.

          • We are talking about the movies here, not the comic books. I have a beef with the movies.

            That’s a fair beef to have with, say, Iron Man or Captain America or Spiderman or any one of a number of other movies. I don’t think that’s really a fair expectation for The Avengers.

            The Avengers was really an excuse to watch paranormally-powered people punch prodigious punctures in everything. It was Secret Wars. The origin stories belong in the other movies.

          • Patrick,

            Fair enough as far as it goes, but the “origin” parts seemingly prove problematic to standalone movies too – how many people complain about the fact that they either have to waste time on the origin story (so people who DON’T know why that guy is green will know – and of course, a reboot will have to tell this origin again); but, conversely, would scream bloody murder if you left it out?

            My point is that the time limitations of a 2 hour movies kind of run up against certain conventions/shapes of the superhero myth, in ways that don’t flatter it; and the first things to go to the cutting room floor are probably the relatable human details (because people paid money to see paranormal people punching things; yet they leave the theater vaguely dissatisfied without being able to articulate why).

      • The consensus is that “Raiders of the Lost Ark” is one of the best of its kind ever. It created an extremely successful franchise half of whose members can barely be called “worth seeing”.

        • In a sense, Raiders is a perfect movie. It’s stupid to try to replicate perfection.

          Last Crusade is very entertaining, because Connery is awesomeness personified when he shows up , but Raiders is on another plane.

          Also, no one that terrified of snakes is a superhero.

        • I don’t want to replicate Raiders. I named a few films in related genres (action/adventure, sci-fi, fantasy) to make the point that out of all the superhero movies I’ve yet seen, the best of them are (IMO) merely pretty good. By now you’d think there’d be at least one undisputed classic. That there hasn’t been (IMO) makes me wonder why that is.

          I think it’s possible superhero stories are ill-suited for movies, that they do better in serialized formats.

          As evidence, I present all the awesome superhero comics vs. all the superhero movies that are good at best.

          • I think there’s a size differential between “action adventure” or “sci-fi” as genres and “superheroes” as a genre. And there are certainly way more superhero comics than there are superhero movies. I’m not sure comparing the top 1% of superhero movies to the top 0.1% of action/adventure movies should be expected to produce the same level of quality.

            If you had to pick the best movie of all time, regardless of genre, would it be on the list you cited? If not, does that mean that action/adventure is not well-suited to film, or is it simply because “all films” is a larger category than “action/adventure films”, and the top 0.01% of “all films” beats the top 0.1% of “action/adventure films”?

          • I think that makes sense. I tend to like superhero movies, even the bad ones. I imagine this is partly because I haven’t read the comics, and partly because I rarely analyze them. I watch them the same way I watched them, and superhero cartoons, as a kid: to see people flying and breaking stuff, with the good guy or gal ultimately winning. I tried to really think about the latest series of batman movies, but realized they were basically The Matrix: interesting old ideas done OK with lots of loud punches, cool cars, explosions, and in one case, death by pencil. Better to just enjoy the bangs and people getting towed off of sky scrapers by airplanes than worry about how well they did Descartes, Putnam, or the prisoner’s dilemma.

            I admit I got caught up in some of the Nietzschean overtones of the recent Superman flick, because I am a sucker for Nietzsche, and the language was explicitly Nietzschean, but that’s an exception to the rule.

            Oh, and I meant the sequels tried to replicate it.

          • Fnord – That is a fair point.

            And some of the issues I am having aren’t a “superhero” movie problem, they are a “modern action movie” problem. Chief among them is the overuse of CGI, which despite the advances, often has no “mass” (for lack of a better term) – the eye/brain can usually tell that what is on-screen isn’t real, and it blunts emotional response. I was never even mildly concerned about the safety of characters in Avengers, despite them leaping around an ostensibly dangerous flying battleship. Samuel Jackson leaped from a crashing helicopter, FFS.

            Compare that to Indy or Max hanging off a truck’s hood – sure, the film may have been sped up, and there are unseen harnesses and stuntmen, but HOLY CRAP THERE IS STILL A DUDE HANGING OFF THE FRONT OF THAT MOVING TRUCK.

          • I’ll add that I think some of the stuff I hear about super heroes and their place in our culture, both here and elsewhere, I’d really interesting. I just don’t think about it when I’m watching a giant guy in a freaky space suit shoot lasers out of his eyes. I am just like, “dude, he just shoot lasers out of his eyes!” I don’t even think about it much afterwards either, except when I’m reading smart people talk about it, for fear that it will ruin my memory of ladders shooting out of the dudes eyes.

  4. Last night the wife and I settled in for an eagerly awaited double feature: High Noon followed by North by Northwest. It was great fun. We’re queing up more old timey movies from Netflix.

    Reading: Interesting TImes, by TP. The long and recently enslowed slog thru the Discworld continues.

    • High Noon is a fine, fine movie.

      We need superhero movies that are as good as High Noon.

      • We need movies that are as good as High Noon, period.

      • The best part of that movie is what he didn’t do: spit on the ground when he threw the badge down at the end. If there was a contemporary remake, there’d be some spitting, maybe some punches thrown at townies, a long monologue explaining exactly why he was leaving town…

    • My son and I watched The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance on Netflix last night.

      It was an interesting experience, because he doesn’t watch many “classic” (to him, old) movies, and this was really his first western at an age old enough to remember it. He asked about Pompey, so we had a bit of a conversation about race, but other than that, I think he really enjoyed it.

  5. I saw “Now You See Me”, which is a complete piece of fluff, and also one of those thrillers with one too many twists. A lot of fun, though, especially Woody Harrelson as a semi-con artist and Morgan Freeman being extremely non-saintly.

  6. Was attempting to watch the new Arrested Development, but man are they bad!

    Been on a huge Hemingway/Conrad kick lately, now reading A Farewell To Arms, and cutting it occasionally with JG Farrell’s Siege of Krishnapur.

    • I think I mentioned the Empire Trilogy before. How are you liking Farrell? If you haven’t read Troubles yet, read it after. It is one of those books that will stick with you forever.

      , what Conrad? He is my favorite novelist.

      • Really liking Siege, and it is the first of his that I have really dug into. I started Singapore, but something came up, and didn’t really get past the first chapter. The Wife has troubles somewhere, so I will look at that next.
        I read the Secret Agent for the first time, and the Planter of Malata. I had never read Agent before, and was on a huge early spy novel kick (Riddle of the Sands, Ashenden.) I had read Nostromo and Lord Jim years ago, and loved both, and feel Heart of Darkness to be one of the best novels of the 20th.
        I forgot to mention when you where on your huge Russian post, but you have read Bulgakov, right? Master and Margarita is not one to miss.

        • Yes, and The White Guard.

          The Secret Agent is awesome. If you haven’t read it yet, Under Western Eyes is a great companion to it. Lord Jim is my favorite, as it has passages so well written they will take your breath, but I also have a great deal of affection for Victory.

          Enjoy Farrell. He’s another treasure who died too early.

          And if you or anyone wants more recent Russian, check out Life of Insects by Victor Pelevin.

          • Awesome! Thank you. I haven’t read that, so now I’m looking forward to it.

            There was a time when I would have told you that M & M was one of my top 5 favorite books. It’s since been supplanted, but I still love it and read it again every now and then.

  7. This weekend I watched Dark City and Suspiria. I had not seen Dark City before, but I had heard good things about it. It was definitely an interesting concept. I was able to see the big twist coming, but I do not think that was a bad thing. They put it a lot of clues, so I think they intended the audience to figure it out, if they were paying attention.

    I watched Suspira years ago, but I remembered very little about it. There was some cheesy overacting at parts, but I can see why it is held in high regard by some. I can also see why some people think it is overrated. I liked it. It relied on a lot of hints at action with things going on just off screen. I enjoy that sort of subtlety.

    • Years ago I loaned my deluxe edition of Suspiria to some neighbors (it had a separate CD with the Goblin soundtrack and some bonus materials and some sweet packaging) and then they got divorced and I never saw it again. 🙁 Worth seeing just for the cinematography & music.

      I really liked Dark City at the time but I haven’t seen it since it was in theaters. It may seem less striking now, esp. since the subsequent Matrix kind of used a similar concept.

      • Speaking of Dark City, if someone is out there thinking “man, I’d comment more if only I had an awesome handle”, “Mister Book” is one of those handles that will get people to say “man, that’s an awesome handle”.

        • There’s a commenter I’ve seen around here a few times with the handle “Veronica Dire”.

          That always strikes me as a totally bad-ass handle. Even better if it happens to be their IRL handle. That’s like “Max Power”.

          • Kinda super small fact, years ago I had an employee who is the bass player in the band backing her up on screen.

  8. Speaking of comic books, I started getting back into a couple of series recently. I was pirating comics monthly for a few years, but my monthly pull list was taking way too much time to read through, so I quit reading any of them. However, I recently decided to get back into Fables and The Unwritten using Comixology.

    Fables tells of the exiled Fairy Tale characters living in Manhatten, hiding from the powerful Adversary who had taken over their magical lands.

    The Unwritten is about the son of the guy who wrote this universe’s equivalent of Harry Potter, and dealing with the expectations that puts on him (similar to A. A. Milne’s son, who was the inspiration for Christopher Robin). Then it gets weird.

    Neither comic is a superhero comic, and they both deal with the nature of writing and stories. I highly recommend both.

    • I got kind of tired of Fables and stopped with vol. 11 (“War and Pieces”). I like the “Jack of Fables” spinoff, mostly because it’s FUNNY (it’s great to have a lead who is an untrustworthy egotistical lout, he really is a story- and joke-generator).

      Still reading Unwritten though I think the most recent one is still in my “to-read” stack.

  9. I just started re-reading Red Harvest for the Nth time, because I was tired and went to lie down, but it’s too hot to sleep and I saw that my daughter had returned the Dashiell Hammett collection she’d borrowed. Lo and behold, when the Op walks up to a group of people he wants to question, he leads off with “What’s the rumpus?” My day is complete.

  10. I didn’t watch much of anything this week – maybe a couple episodes of Quantum Leap? – but I read The Secret History (Tartt), and A Natural History of Dragons (Brennan), and half of Danse de Folie (Smith), and half of Existence (Brin).

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