2012年10月31日 星期三

A Flash Movie

I really, really hope they make a Flash movie.  I've been wanting one for years.  For the longest time I couldn't imagine such a movie ever getting made, but then along came Tim Burton's Batman, and after that Spider-man, and then, somehow, they were actually making a movie of The Avengers.  All of these films were insanely popular, and we still don't know when this fad for superhero movies is going to end, and which of our favorite superheroes will hit the screen before it does.

I grew up on DC comics, though I was also a fan of Marvel characters such as The Hulk.  This was back in the 80s, somewhere between the first Superman and Batman films.  Back then, everyone acknowledged that certain characters were harder to translate to the silver screen, and the chances of our seeing films based around these characters was less than likely.  Spider-man was one such character, even though he'd gotten the TV show treatment.  Thor was another.  Imagine trying to pitch a big-budget movie about Thor to a studio back in the mid-80s.  They would have laughed you out of the room.

Back then CGI was still in its infancy, and even the most effects-heavy movies of that decade look primitive by modern standards.  It was hard to imagine anyone getting Spider-man's webs right.  It was hard to imagine the Silver Surfer not looking incredibly corny.  We wanted to see someone try these things, but we weren't hopeful about the final product.

Even back in the 80s, I dreamed that The Flash would somehow get his own film.  In the 80s a successful film seemed more likely for the DC characters, given that Superman 1, 2, and 3 did so well at the box office.  I figured that a Flash film might possibly appear in my lifetime, and this seemed even more possible after I heard about Tim Burton's Batman, which acheived widespread popularity in 1989.  I couldn't help but think that after Superman and Batman, my favorite speedster would finally get his day.

But of course 1989 came and went, as did 1999, and then 2009, and now we're sitting here in the year 2012.  Still no Flash.  And I really couldn't imagine an easier character to translate into the film medium, especially now.  He's got powers that would look fantastic in a movie, he's got an easy origin story to tell, and even though his Rogue's Gallery isn't that great he's still got Professor Zoom, who has managed to be a convincing adversary since the 80s.  I still can't figure out why we haven't seen a Flash movie yet.  Even if the Green Lantern film was an unqualified disaster.  There's just so much potential there.

Lately the talk is that Warner Bros. is going to make a Justice League movie, and this movie will act as a launch pad for stand-alone movies with individual superheroes.  Warner Bros. seems to be saying that they want to do the opposite of what Marvel Studios is doing, but a knee-jerk reaction in the opposite direction is still just a knee-jerk reaction, and reversing Marvel's strategy seems to say they lack a better idea.  I'm not saying the idea couldn't work, just that I'm a bit skeptical.

And I really, really hope that they don't try to introduce The Flash in this Justice League movie.  It would be a hard sell, especially if you put him next to Superman and Batman.  I'm also worried that they'll try to turn him into comic relief.  As a character that many of us grew up with, he deserves much more than that.

With Man of Steel and Iron Man 3 on the horizon, it doesn't seem as if the superhero fad is going to end anytime soon.  After those two films, we can expect Thor: The Dark World, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and - much further off - a Guardians of the Galaxy movie (WTF?).  All of these movies are in various phases of production now.

I only hope Warner Bros. doesn't drop the ball here.  In their hurry to create a competing franchise, one wonders if they won't end up botching some of the DC heroes.  After all, the same studio that brought us Nolan's version of Batman also brought us Batman Forever, and the Green Lantern.  It would be a shame if they offered us an equally inferior version of The Flash, especially since I've been waiting a long, long time to see him race into the local theater.

2012年10月25日 星期四

"Perfume: The Story of a Murderer" by Patrick Suskind

"Never before in his life had he known what happiness was.  He knew at most some very rare states of numbed contentment.  But now he was quivering with happiness and could not sleep for pure bliss.  It was as if he had been born a second time; no, not a second time, the first time, for until now he had merely existed like an animal with a most nebulous self-awareness.  But after today, he felt as if he finally knew who he really was: nothing less than a genius.  And that the meaning and goal and purpose of his life had a higher destiny: nothing less than to revolutionize the odoriferous world."

"Perfume" was first published (in German) in 1985.  My copy was translated from the German by John E. Woods.  It was once a very popular book, and went on to become a bestseller in many countries.

The novel details the exploits of Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, and his quest to create the perfect scent.  He is born in Paris in the 1700s, to a mother who is executed within the first few pages of the book.  Although born with deformities, he is gifted with an extraordinary sense of smell, and it is this sense of smell that enables him to both make his fortune and to cause tragedy in the lives of many others.  He is, the novel asserts, a villain of genius, in an age known for villains of genius.

Much of this book concerns itself with Grenouille's inner monologue, with the thoughts and motivations behind his actions.  In this respect "Perfume" resembles classic novels such as Frankenstein, or even works by the Brontes, in which the protagonist's struggle with moral issues takes center stage.  With regard to Suskind's creation, this formula works brilliantly at times, but less brilliantly at other times.  All of Grenouille's agonized indecision began to bore me near the middle of the book, especially the chapters describing his life as a hermit.

I think "Perfume" is a good novel, and it's not long enough to wear out its welcome.  It might have benefitted from fewer pages, or if not that than from a richer cast of supporting characters.  "Perfume" is certainly better than the majority of novels on offer these days, but it has some very obvious flaws.

2012年10月17日 星期三

Music on My Mind

Been listening to a lot of The Move lately, especially their last album, "Message From the Country."  Roy Wood is/was a surprisingly good bass player, and this album was definitely the most "progressive" they ever got.

Also been listening to a lot of Priest.  I find myself humming "The Ripper" at odd hours of the day, and I've also been listening to a lot of "British Steel."  "Sad Wings of Destiny" is my all-time favorite Priest album, but I like their later stuff as well.

As strange as it may seem, I've also been listening to Lil' Wayne's "I Am Not a Human Being."  The guy definitely has a way with lyrics.  I spent most of last month absorbing "Tha Carter IV," and even though I don't like "Human Being" quite as much, it's still good.  The song below, "Abortion," is my favorite track on "IV."

In quieter moments I listen to Tchaikovsky.  And no, I'm not trying to be ecclectic.  I've never been a huge fan of Mr. Nutcracker, but his music is soothing at times.  I am a much bigger fan of other Russian composers, Mussorgsky most of all.

And that's what I'm listening to.  What about you?

2012年10月9日 星期二

"The Girl Who Played with Fire" by Stieg Larsson

"The Girl Who Played with Fire" was first published (in Swedish) in 2006.  It is the sequel to 2005's "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo."  The English-language version was translated from Swedish by Reg Keelund.

I saw the movie of "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo," and I liked it a lot.  Much later, I read the first few chapters of the novel while on vacation in Cambodia, and liked that as well.  But after seeing the movie there didn't seem to be much point in reading the novel.  At least not all the way through.

So I sought out the sequel.  Definitely NOT a hard book to find.  Even in Ayutthaya, an hour north of Bangkok, I managed to track down a copy in a department store.  This in itself gives some indication of how popular this book continues to be.

And while I do think it's a good book, I have to say that the first 50 pages or so are TERRIBLE.  Yes, they set up the conclusion to some extent, but I think it would have been much better if this book had started just before the murders of the two journalists.  The chapters covering Salander's travels in Grenada and return to Sweden make for boring reading, especially when the author spends two pages describing a shopping trip to Ikea.

After the first fifty or so pages, this book picks up speed, and more closely resembles "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo."  This is a good thing, primarily because that was such a good book.  Larsson might have stumbled out of the gate with "Fire," but in the end it proves a worthy successor to the first novel in the series.

I would recommend this one, though I can't think of it as "classic" in any sense of the word.  It's good.  The plot is well thought out.  The characters - while somewhat annoying at first - grow interesting as events unfold.  It's a solid book, if forgettable.

2012年10月1日 星期一

"A Dance with Dragons" by George R. R. Martin

"A Dance with Dragons" is the fifth book in Martin's Song of Ice and Fire series.  I believe it was published last year.  There should be two more books to close this series, but even the author isn't sure about that.  If you want to see what an immense industry this series has spawned, click here.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: if you haven't read these books already, you should.  Yes, they can be a bit intimidating ("Dance" alone is 1,051 pages long), but they are a rewarding read.  They feature a cast of hundreds, and the plot embraces many peoples, nations, and cultures.

The first half of "Dance" covers familiar territory.  The previous book in the series, "A Feast for Crows" also dealt with a time period followed in the first half of "Dance."  In "Dance" we get this same time period from several different perspectives, and we also learn what happened to Tyrion and Danerys after "A Storm of Swords."  Many people have complained about this approach, but I think it works well, and morever adds another dimension to the previous book.

After the first half, many characters from "Feast" reappear.  As the title promises, Danaerys's dragons also become more prominent, and Jon Snow assumes a role more central to the overall story.  I'm thinking that in the next two books he's going to emerge as the hero of this thing, though I am always rooting for Tyrion.  How could you not like Tyrion?

In my humble opinion, the only weakness in this book is the constant reappearance of characters seemingly "killed" in previous books.  After a while this motif becomes repetitive, and I think it might have helped my suspension of disbelief if certain characters had stayed dead.  Without death as a very real threat, it is difficult to feel as much for characters in mortal peril.

Just the same, this is a great book, and I am more than ready for a sequel!