Grant Morrison Channels His Inner Philip K. Dick In “Annihilator”


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You’re never gonna believe me when I say this given how mercilessly I’ve been shilling for the guy’s recent work, but — I’m honestly not the world’s biggest Grant Morrison fan. As is the case with out esteemed fellow TTSL scribe Arleigh, his work has always been very much a “hit-or-miss” affair with me, and while I loved The InvsiblesThe Filth, and his now-legendary runs on Animal Man and Doom Patrol, a lot of his more-celebrated efforts — such as his runs on JLANew X-Men, and even Batman — were decidedly “meh” affairs in my book, that certainly never veered into actively bad territory but were, nevertheless, largely unmemorable. They had their moments, of that there’s no doubt,  but I felt that they were too few and far between to really stand out all that much.

And we won’t even mention his flat-out offensive analysis of the super-hero phenomenon in general,  Supergods, which dubiously posited that Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster were not, in fact, the creators of Superman, but merely the human vessels through which this timeless ideal that was floating around in the ether decided to express itself. Guess DC doesn’t owe either of them a dime, then, do they, Grant?

Still, I gotta call it like I see it, and despite the fact that I don’t have much reason to “root” for Morrison personally, it can’t be denied that he’s in the midst of arguably his strongest period as a creator right now, and I don’t say that simply because of the runaway artistic and commercial success that is The Multiversity (although that’s a big part of it, to be sure) — I also say it because, flying far underneath the the cover of hype generated by that blockbuster project (hype which I’m guilty of contributing to in my own small way with my glowing reviews for its last couple of issues),  there’s a little six-part series he’s doing with artist extraordinaire Frazer Irving for Legendary Comics called Annihilator that’s flat-out blowing the minds of the (apparently) few of us who are reading it.

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I’ve gotta be honest here — I have no idea why this book isn’t generating a more significant level of “buzz” than it’s managed to so far : maybe it’s because for all their Hollywood dollars and clout Legendary doesn’t seem to be putting much promotional muscle behind their comics line; maybe it’s because the subject matter of the series is too outre for all but the most hardened sci-fi fans to wrap their heads around; maybe it’s because neither of the main characters in the story are in any way “likable”; maybe it’s because The Multiversity is sucking all the oxygen out of the room when it comes to current Morrison work and there’s just not much energy left to heap praise on this title; or maybe it’s some combination of all those elements.

Whatever the case may be, though, it’s kind of a bummer, because four parts in it’s apparent that this is one of the most complex, challenging, interesting, and fun projects to come down the pipeline this year and would definitely be a shoo-in to be near the top of any “Top 10 Comics Of 2014” list I would cobble together if such rankings interested me in any way — which they don’t.

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Think about it for a second : here we’ve got a veteran writer (ranked as the number two comics author of all time in the CBR poll that was just released earlier today — oh yeah, what was it I just said about not caring about “best of” lists again?) operating at the top of his game paired up with an up-and-coming “hot property” artist who’s doing career-defining work with this series and yet the whole thing seems to be going more or less unnoticed and is selling only a fraction of the number of copies each month of middling super-hero fare like, I dunno, Batwoman or Cyclops — both of which were recently cancelled by DC and Marvel, respectively, due to low sales. Something just ain’t right with this picture.

Well, never let it be said that I’m unwilling to get up on my soapbox and cheerlead for a comic that not enough people are paying attention to, because I’m here to tell you that if you like superbly-illustrated, high-concept, Philip K. Dick-style fuck-with-your-head science fiction, then you absolutely have to get caught up on Annihilator right now.

Here’s a brief rundown of the particulars just to whet your appetite : Ray Spass (pronounced “space”) is an asshole. A Hollwood screenwriter whose career trajectory is headed straight down, he hopes to get back on the “A List” with his new project, which is a script (called , you guessed it, “Annihilator”) about another asshole, a formerly-high-flying intergalatic criminal named Max Nomax who is imprisoned in orbit around the black hole ( named — wait for it — “The Annihilator”)  at the center of the Milky Way and is using his time there to try to bring the love of his life back from the dead.

You have to hand it to Max — he doesn’t think small. The problem is, he doesn’t know how his story ends, and in order to find out, he has to become real, and pay a visit to his writer.

The first three issues really cause the reader to question how much of this is really happening and how much is the result of fevered hallucinations brought on by an inoperable brain tumor that’s afflicting Ray, and while the fourth chapter goes some way toward resolving that question, it raises plenty of new ones at the same time, chief among them — okay, if this is real, and Max needs Ray to keep working on his script in order to lay out the course of his life for him, then how is it happening — and why?

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Intrigued yet? I can assure you that my brief synopsis only skims the surface of all that’s happening here, and that this is a book that certainly rewards multiple re-reads as it goes about laying its foundation of carefully-constructed twists and turns. It’s hard to say at this just-beyond-mid-way point how many seemingly disparate elements will be woven into the final pattern that Morrison is knitting here and how many will turn out to be throwaway “red herrings,” but my money is on “everything here matters in some way, shape, or form, and not even the smallest detail will go to waste once it’s all said and done,” as each successive installment to date has proven to be a further measured layer of intricacies built upon what’s gone before. A picture that began as convoluted is coming into view more clearly as events progress, even if it’s still largely obscured and even if, as just mentioned, every answer has a tendency to elicit about a dozen new questions.

And yet for all that story awesome-ness, I’m still not prepared  to say whether or not the (admittedly superb) writing is the real “star” of the show here, though, so polished and expressive is Irving’s art. I’d kill for an original page or two — any original page or two — from this series, as they’re all flat-out breathtaking and of “suitable for framing” quality. If you’re a big time “art geek” like I am, prepare to spend a lot of time “ooh”ing and “aah” ing to the — no exaggeration — unfolding series of wonders on display here. Irving has gone from being a “guy to watch” to a “guy to follow” to a “guy others will no doubt try to imitate” over the short space of four months (oh yeah, did I mention that each issue so far has even managed to come out on time?),  and you might as well get used to his name, because you’re bound to be hearing it a lot in the years to come.

I think I’ve pretty well exhausted my supply of compliments and superlatives at this point, so — yeah. Annihilator. Get it. Now.

Oh, and tell your friends, too — it”s not too late to build some genuine momentum for this book as it steamrolls headlong toward what’s sure to be a memorable conclusion.

Scenes That I Love: Charles Freck Gets A Good Wine in A Scanner Darkly


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First released in 2006, Richard Linklater’s A Scanner Darkly is one of the unacknowledged great films of the past ten years.  The scene below, featuring Rory Cochrane as the hapless Charles Freck, is all the stronger for being adapted almost word-for-word from Philip K. Dick’s source novel.

Trailer: Total Recall (Official)


Paul Verhoeven’s 1990 scifi classic, Total Recall, remains one of Arnold Schwarzenneger’s better films. The film was an adaptation of the Philip K. Dick novellete, We Can Remember It for You Wholesale, and in 2012 it will once again go up on the big-screen as a Len Wiseman remake.

Wiseman’s film looks to take the basic premise of Dick’s novellete and some of the changes made for the Verhoeven production. What looks to have been changed in this upcoming remake is the absence of Mars as the backdrop for the character Douglas Quaid who believes he is actually a secret agent working to free Mars from the tyrannical rule of one Cohagen. This time around the setting is instead a dystopian future Earth where the planet has been split into two super-factions the rule planet. There’s Euroamerica which combines the North American and European Union into one sovereign entity and it’s rival in New Shanghai which puts together the economic powerhouses of China and the nations of South East Asia.

It is in this new backdrop that Colin Farrell’s Quaid must run from the forces of Cohaagen (played by Bryan Cranston) and help the freedom fighters trying to change things for the better. The trailer itself shows less of the cheesy look of the Verhoeven film and instead goes for a much slicker art design that some people have called the Mass Effect-look. I must admit that the fully-armored forces chasing after Quaid look like Blue Suns mercenaries from that BioWare scifi rpg.

I will say that the trailer does a great job in referencing similar scenes and sequences from the original Verhoeven film while adding in new touches to give the film it’s very own unique look. For one of this summer season’s last films before fall season begins this one looks like a must-see.

Total Recall is set for an August 3, 2012 release date.

Film Review: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (dir. by Michel Gondry)


Last week, I started a poll to determine which film I should watch on Sunday and review on Monday.  Well, a lot of votes were cast and you, the readers of Through The Shattered Lens, proved to me once again that you are the greatest readers ever by picking one of my favorite films of all time.  From 2004, it’s the Charlie Kaufman-scripted, Michel Gondry-directed Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

The plot plays out like something from a Philip K. Dick story.  I don’t want to reveal too much because I don’t want to ruin the film for anyone who hasn’t seen this film.  Eternal Sunshine is one of those rare films that carries with it the joy of discovery.  Depressed Joel (played by Jim Carrey) discovers that his ex-girlfriend Clementine (Kate Winslet) has hired Lacuna Inc. to totally erase all memories of him from her mind.  Embittered, Joel decides to go through the same process.  The Lacuna technicians (Elijah Wood and Mark Ruffalo) comes to Joel’s apartment in the middle of the night and start the process of erasing his memories of Clementine.  However, as Joel is losing his past, he realizes that he doesn’t want to lose his time with Clementine.  Hence, Joel finds himself running through his rapidly fading memories of Clementine, trying to save at least some scrap of her memory from being erased.  Meanwhile, as Joel fights to save his identity, Ruffalo entertains himself by inviting his girlfriend (Kirsten Dunst) over to Joel’s apartment while Elijah Wood sneaks off so he can meet his new girlfriend — who is none other than Clementine.

The genius of this Charlie Kaufman’s screenplay is that it takes an idea that seems very much “out there” and uses it to explore emotions that we’ve all felt.  Who doesn’t have someone that they wish they could wipe from their mind?  Me, I wish I could forget the exchange student from Keele University who broke up with me via e-mail.  I’d love to obliterate all memory of the frat boy who told me I was “white trash” or the former love of my life who managed to break my nose and my heart with just one movement of his hand.  We all have those people in our lives and what we forget is that by wiping out all the bad memories, we lose all the good ones as well.  Yes, Paul Walsh may have made me cry with his e-mail but, for two months before that, he held me while I cried and I can’t remember what I was crying about but I do remember feeling like I had never been held like that before.  And Dane may have hurt me terribly but now, every time I doubt myself, I simply remember that I’ve already survived the worst that could happen.  As for that frat boy who called me “white trash” — well, fuck him.  Yeah, there’s really no downside to erasing him from my mind.  In fact, I’ve already started because, to be honest, I can’t remember his name for the life of me.

Ironically enough considering the title, there’s very little sunshine to be found in this film.  Not only is every scene drenched in melancholy but, quite literally, director Michel Gondry appears to have exclusively filmed on overcast days.  For such a deliriously romantic film — one that celebrates the idea of enduring love — Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is almost totally told in tones of gray and darkness.  In fact, as I watched the film last night, I was struck by the fact that often times, the only color in the film was provided by the Clementine’s ever-changing hair.  (Interestingly enough, Joel mentions Clementine’s hair as one of the things that he especially wants to forget about her.)  That the film works as both a dark comedy and a love story despite the grim images is a testament to the talents of both screenwriter Charlie Kaufman and director Michel Gondry.  (On the basis of the director’s later films — the latest being the enjoyable but shallow Green Hornet — I kind of suspect that Kaufman perhaps deserves a little bit more credit that Gondry.)

I think it’s also a testament to the talents of the film’s cast, all of whom gel into a perfect ensemble and allow the audience to believe in the film no matter how odd the film’s events may seem.  As I watched them last night, I found myself thinking about how much I truly love to watch good acting.  As long as a film has one or two good performance, it can be out-of-focus, choppily edited, and an hour or two too long.  By the same token, I find nothing more offensive than a million-dollar film full of expensive technology and boring performances. (Hello, Avatar.  How are you, Battle L.A?)  When I find a film, like Eternal Sunshine, that is actually both well-made and well-acted, I’m pretty much in love.

As the two lovers, Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet have a very surprising and very real chemistry together.  Watching them, you believed in their love and then you just as strongly believed in their hate.  This is one of those odd love stories where you not only believed that the two of them would actually get together but you also completely understood how and why Joel eventually drove Clementine away.  Carrey makes Joel’s depression believable without allowing it to get tedious or repetitive while Kate Winslet — well, where to begin?  Kate Winslet is probably one of the best actresses ever and this is one of her best performances.  I’ve always had a bit of a girlcrush on Winslet — there’s an honesty to her performances that few other actresses can match.  When she’s onscreen, the audience is with her.  She never puts up the whole “film star” barrier and, as a result, she inhabits her characters completely and brings them to life with both their strengths and their flaws.  And Clementine has got her share of flaws.  (I remember that when my mom saw this movie, she absolutely hated Clementine and the ever-changing color of her hair.)  Winslet doesn’t shy away from making Clementine human and, as a result, I think she elevated everyone else in the film as well.

As good as Carrey and Winslet are, the supporting roles are well-played as well and, as in all great movies, they give the impression of a world that existed before the movie started and one that will continue after the end credits.  I especially loved the performances of the Lacuna Staff, from Tom Wilkinson’s bland yet intimidating doctor to the creepy geekiness of Elijah Wood.  Mark Ruffalo and Kisten Dunst have a few great scenes where they’re partying the night away in Joel’s apartment while Joel’s memory is slowly erased.  The sight of a very hairy Ruffalo and a very giggly Dunst dancing in their matching panties pretty much epitomizes “geek love” for me.  I know that some people have complained that the scenes with Ruffalo and Dunst seemed out-of-place when compared to the ones between Carrey and Winslet but actually, I love the chemistry between Ruffalo and Dunst.  Even playing one of the nerdiest characters ever, Mark Ruffalo is still hot.  As for Dunst, she’s basically playing the same character that she always plays.  (As my friend Jeff recently put it, “Kirsten Dunst In Her Underwear” is as much of a film genre as drama, comedy, and science fiction.)  But I’ve always thought that she’s a likable enough actress (plus, by going red for Spiderman, she also indirectly helped this redhead’s social life) and she actually provides a nice (if surprising) moral center for Eternal Sunshine.

(Also, I’ll admit right now that if my boyfriend had a job that allowed him to hang out into a different stranger’s apartment every night, I’d probably sneak over and dance around in my underwear as well.)

It took me a while and a handful of viewings to really appreciate Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.  When I first saw it, I thought it was a strange film.  I liked it but I never expected that it would become one of my favorite movies.  However, with each viewing, I find myself relating to and loving this film just a little bit more.  So, thank you to everyone who voted in my poll and who gave me a chance to fall in love with this film all over again.

Love ya. 🙂

10 Movies I’m Looking Foward To and 5 That I Am Not And 1 That I’m Kinda Sorta Undecided On


I had all six of my wisdom teeth extracted on Tuesday.  Yes, you read that correctly.  Not only where my all my wisdom teeth impacted but I had two extra ones as well.  I was passed out during the operation and, to be honest, I wish I could be passed out for the recovery as well.  I’m bruised, puffy, and it hurts to talk.  In short, even with a healthy supply of Vicodin, I am miserable.  Boo hoo.

However, one thing never fails to cheer me up and that’s watching, discussing, thinking about, and writing about film.  Since Tuesday, I’ve had a lot of extra time to think about some of the films that are due to come out during this year.  Below, I’ve listed 16 of them.  Ten of them are movies that I’m looking forward to seeing, five are movies that I know I’m going to end up seeing and hating, and finally, one is a movie that I’m genuinely undecided on.

The Ten I’m Looking Forward To:

1) Iron Man 2 — Iron Man 2 is opening tomorrow and I’m exciting for several reasons.  First off, I loved the first movie.  Super hero adaptations usually bore me to tears but the first Iron Man was actually a lot of fun.  Traditionally, sequels are disappointing but most of the people behind the 1st movie — director Jon Favreau, Robert Downey, Jr. and Gwynneth Paltrow — are returning.  As well, you’ve got Mickey Rourke chewing the scenery and blowing things up, Sam Rockwell (who I love! love!  love! — go and rent Moon if you haven’t seen it!) as a villain, and Scarlett Johansson (Lost in Translation is one of my all time favorite movies) kicking ass in black leather.  

On a personal note, my friend Jeff once referred to me as “the Black Widow.”  At first, I was a little taken back because I thought he was suggesting that I devoured my mates but fortunately for him, he then explained he was referring to a comic book character who, like me, has red hair.  Anyway, for the longest time, that’s been an inside joke between the two of us.  I’ve always been the Black Widow even though I have no idea who she actually is.  So, imagine my delight when I found out that this is apparently the same character that Scarlett Johansson is playing in Iron Man 2!  For that reason alone, I have to see this movie. 

Finally, when I’m not obsessing on films, I work as a receptionist/secretary/file clerk/personal assistant and there are times when I’m sitting bored at my desk and I start to think about myself as if I were the character played by Gwynneth Paltrow.  I’ll sit there and wonder if maybe my boss is secretly a costumed super hero.  (I’m fairly sure that he’s not.)  Strange as it may seem, Iron Man has become the fuel for my fantasies. (Release Date: May 7th, 2010 — T0morrow!) 

2) Robin Hood — When it comes to English folklore, I tend to gravitate towards stories involving King Arthur accidentally sleeping with his half-sister and thousands of cocky knights vainly searching for the Holy Grail and getting killed in various macabre ways as a result.  As a result, I really don’t know much about Robin Hood beyond the basics.  I know that he was apparently some sort of socialist and that he liked to hang out in the forest with a bunch of “merry” men.  To be honest, the whole idea of Robin Hood has always struck me as being childish and the character bores me.  But I’m still looking forward to this latest Robin Hood film and I can explain it in 2 words: Russell Crowe.  If anyone can make Robin Hood into an interesting — even compelling character — it would be Crowe.  Director Ridley Scott also seems to be the ideal director for this movie and then toss in some speeches about taxation without representation and you’ve got the potential for the perfect Libertarian film. (Release Date: May 14th, 2010)

3) The Expendables — Yes, I am usually not a huge fan of action films and I’ve never quite understood how Sylvester Stallone ever became a star but I’m still looking forward to this movie.  Why?  Just judging from the trailer, every actor on the planet appears to have a role in the this film.  I find Jason Stathan to be about as appealing as Sylvester Stallone but Jet Li and Mickey Rourke should both be fun to watch and who wouldn’t jump at the chance to see Eric Roberts play yet another villain? (Release Date: August 13th, 2010)

4) Splice — I nearly included Splice on my list of films that I’m not looking forward to because, I swear to God, the trailer for Splice is so dull that it could be used to torture prisoners at Gitmo.  Add to that, I’ve never quite seen the appeal that Adrien Brody supposedly possesses as an actor.  However, I’m willing to take a chance on Splice because 1) it also stars one of my personal role models, the wonderful actress, director, and activist Sarah Polley and 2) director Vincenzo Natali has promised to take a very European approach to the film’s horrors (i.e. lots of casual sex with the monster serving as a symbol for something deeper than just box office receipts).  I’m looking forward to seeing if Splice can overcome Adrien Brody and live up to that promise. (Release date: June 4th, 2010)

5) Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part One — Okay, I admit it.   I’m a fan.  Don’t judge me.  (Though I will also say that I think J.K. Rowling needs to get over herself in a major way.)   It’ll be interesting to see what Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, and Emma Watson do with themselves now that their indentured servitude is done with.  Radcliffe, in particular, is capable of playing a lot more than just Harry Potter.  (Release Date: November 19th, 2010)

6) Howl — James Franco as the late poet Allen Ginsberg?  Strangely enough, I think the idea might work.  (Release Date: September 24th, 2010)

7) Machete — Robert Rodriguez finally makes a film for someone other than his kids.  How can you not be excited about the chance to see Robert De Niro and Jeff Fahey on-screen together?  Plus, Lindsay Lohan (who really should just be allowed to live her life) gets a chance to remake her image playing a socialite with a gun.  My hope is that if Machete finds success at the box office, Eli Roth will make Thanksgiving.  (Release Date: September 3rd, 2010)

8 ) My Soul To Take — Wes Craven has had an odd career and, to be honest, I struggle sometimes with whether he’s truly a great horror filmmaker or if he’s just a journeyman director who has occasionally gotten lucky.  Looking at his career, it’s hard not to wonder how the same guy who made the original Last House on the Left and The Hills Have Eyes could also be responsible for something like Cursed?  Regardless of how the actual film turns out, My Soul To Take will add another piece to the puzzle.  This will be the first film to be both written and directed by Craven in 16 years.  Hopefully, as in the majority of his better movies, Craven will be able to balance his commercial side with his sadistic side. (Release Date: October 29th, 2010)

9) Inception — My tastes usually run more towards horror than sci-fi but I find myself growing more excited about Inception with each passing day.  Not only does the plot sound like it could have easily come from a long-lost book by Philip K. Dick (one of the few sci-fi writers that I enjoy reading, A Scanner Darkly being my personal favorite) but the film is being directed by Christopher Nolan who proved with Momento that he can make the surreal compelling.  And just check out that cast — Leonardo DiCaprio, Cillian Murphy, Ellen Page, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt (who I’ve been crushing on ever since (500) Days of Summer). (Release date: July 16th, 2010.)

10) Salt — I love it when girls get to kick ass in the movies and, when she’s at her best, nobody kicks ass like Angelina Jolie.  (Release Date: July 23rd, 2010)

One That I’m Kinda Looking Forward To But I’m Kinda Not

1) Sex and the City 2 — Why are they in the desert?  How exactly can you have Sex without the City?    (Release date: May 27th, 2010) 

The Five I Am Not Looking Forward To

1) The A-Team — Yay!  It’s an action movie based on a show I’ve never heard of.  I love Liam Neeson and it’s good to see that Sharlto Copley’s underrated performance in District 9 has led to him getting more work but, sorry, I think I’ll pass. (Release Date: June 11th, 2010)

2) The Social Network — I know a lot of people are looking forward to this movie about the founding of Facebook and it is true that it’s being directed by David Fincher.  However, there are a few things that lead me to fear that this is not going to be the movie that so many people think it will be.  First off, it was written by Aaron Sorkin who is probably one of the most overrated screenwriters working today.  He may be best known for The West Wing but most of Sorkin’s work resembles the heavy-handed sermonizing of Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip.  Remember how Sorkin reacted when a few bloggers criticized his show?  This is not a guy who is comfortable with the Internet.  Secondly, the film is being produced by Kevin Spacey, another overrated talent who doesn’t so much act as much as he smugly pretends to act.  Third, and most important, The Social Network has got to be one of the worst titles I’ve heard in a long time.  Everything about this movie just screams “misfire.” (Release date: October 1st, 2010)

3) Paranormal Activity 2 — Because, you know, the first one was so good. (Release Date: October 22nd, 2010)

4) Twelve — I loved Nick McDonnell’s novel and I usually enjoy movies about decadent rich kids destroying themselves with lots of drugs and promiscuity.  I mean, if you’re going to self-destruct, you should at least look good doing it.  Unfortunately, Twelve is directed by the American Umberto Lenzi, Joel Schumacher.  Schumacher’s films aren’t even enjoyably bad.  They’re just bad.  Interestingly enough, Joel Schumacher tends to turn up in just about every movie star biography and Hollywood history book that I own.  He’s someone who has obviously been around for a very long time and who has cultivated a lot of friends.  I imagine he must be very likable in person.  But, seriously, isn’t it time to revoke his DGA membership? (Release Date: July 2, 2010)

5) Saw VII — Sorry, I got bored with the Jigsaw Killer about five movies ago.   The film’s in 3D so I’m sure we’ll get to see a severed limb fly directly at the camera.  (Release Date: October 22nd, 2010)