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Film Friday: July 2017

It’s not all comic books here at Longbox Graveyard (and it’s maybe not even comics any more — I did just kill the blog). My recent movie to Canada — sans family — has left me with idle hours in the evening, and my new job ensures that come dark I’m creatively drained, too. What’s a poor Moleman to do?

Watch a lot of movies, of course. Here’s a list of the films screened at Longbox Graveyard Secret HQ this past month.

(Note that despite the image below, this post is pretty much bereft of comic book content — go here for that)

In Theaters

Spider-Man: Homecoming: Perfectly reliable, mid-tier Marvel entertainment. The Captain America PSAs were a scream. I did coincidentally catch the Doctor Octopus train fight from Spider-Man 2 on cable the other day, though, and Spidey 2 blows Homecoming out of the water in pretty much every way.

Baby Driver: Caught it alone in a Vancouver movie theater, killing time until the Canada Day fireworks started. Walked out of the theater brilliantly focused, alert to every sound and color, like I’d emerged from the most effective meditation session of my life. I guess you could say the movie captured my attention. Favorite picture of the summer.

War For The Planet Of The Apes: Yeah, sure, OF COURSE we are living in an era where talking monkey movies are legitimately in the discussion for the best film trilogy of all time. Watching the scenery in this movie, all I could think was … this has got to be British Columbia. Yep, it was. Journeyed out to the Othello Tunnels the next day to experience one of the locations. Caesar Is Home.

Dunkirk: Doesn’t fully live up to the rapturous reviews — and I say this as a WW2 buff and a Christopher Nolan fan — but I did enjoy this human-scaled epic. It was chilling to see bodies bombed on a beautiful beach, and ships sink on a clear and untroubled ocean. That’s probably just how it felt, the juxtaposition of life and death. Thinking back on it, though, I’m inclined to agree the movie is “at heart a high-stakes drama about proper queue etiquette.”

On Cable

Cabaret (1972): One of those genre classics I’d managed not to see in my half-century of being a film fan. Despite my love of the Silver Surfer, I’m not mad for musicals, but I enjoyed the melodrama. Never really got Liza Minelli, either, but I can see how this picture helped make her an EGOT superstar.

On Netflix

Hell or High Water (2016): Held up on re-watch, originally saw this in the gloriously shitty little La Paloma theater in Encinitas last year. Grim, gritty, and pulls off the trick of getting you to root for some pretty awful heroes. Didn’t realize until today that this film shares a screenwriter with Sicario, another recent favorite, and now I’m anxious to see that selfsame screenwriter’s directorial turn in Wind River. Chris Pine was also pretty good here …

Star Trek Beyond (2016): … but Chris Pine is only so-so here. Same with poor Idris Elba and everyone else who wasn’t Sofia Boutella. Second or third time I’ve seen this movie and I still don’t know what the hell is going on. I’ve been a supporter of the JJVerse in general, but each picture is proving worse than the one before.

John Wick (2014): Worst-Russian-Accents-Ever. I fell asleep.

Army of Darkness (1992): Like it a lot less than Evil Dead 2, but this is good dumb fun, and the Klaatu barada nikto gag is genius. Speaking of which …

The Day The Earth Stood Still (1951): … the original still packs some punch. Not so much for the “Earthman, get off my lawn” bit so much as for how it made me long for a prosaic time where White Men In Uniforms might be trusted to pay attention when confronted with unimpeachable evidence of Impending Doom.

The Hunt (2012): The always-great Mads Mikkelsen learns what W.C. Fields knew all along — never work with children.

Force Majeure (2014): Can’t stop thinking about this one. Fate confronts a couple with an ugly truth, and then their lives unravel, one thread at a time. Unsparing and uncomfortable — reminded me a bit of Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Lobster in that regard. Director Ruben Östlund is one to watch and now I’m eager to view his Palme d’Or-winning The Square.

On Filmstruck

Shock Corridor (1963): Working hard to develop an appreciation for Sam Fuller. I admire that he tried to elevate his material with political and racial commentary … but pulp is pulp.

Genocide (1968): Deeply strange Japanese picture where a hot-but-insane American temptress escapes a Nazi death camp to join the East Bloc to create a strain of insects that can destroy the world. Ripped from today’s headlines! Would have had the bleakest ending of any movie I saw this month if not for …

Shoot First, Die Later (1974): Come for the crazy car chases, stay for the fashions, casual violence, cat murder, sexism, and the frozen-faced beauty of a leading man who looks like he walked off the set of Team America World Police. And that ending! Oy.

Rules of the Game (1939): The outrages that shocked French society upon this film’s release have largely faded with time, but what remains is a masterfully constructed comedy of manners. Sweeps you up as only a classic old movie can do.

8 1/2 (1963): Fellini clearly has problems with women, but at least he puts them all in full view. No one shot a dream sequence better. In a crazy sum-of-the-parts way, this movie does depict the experience of being a director (at least to the degree that I’ve come to understand it directing video games). I love the part where Mastroianni’s knees give out while his producer hauls him toward his ridiculous, overbuilt spaceship set.

L’Atalante (1934): A dreamy, aimless cruise down the canals of France. Remarkable for its slice-of-life filmmaking — like a time machine, really. Plus, it has lots of cats.

Persona (1966): Overall I think Bergman’s reputation for being challenging, dour, and remote is overstated — I find his movies insightful and full of life. But Persona is … challenging, dour, and remote. And brilliant! This is what you get when Bergman decides he’s not concerned for the commercial success of a film (a masterpiece).

Plus Some TV

Enterprise, season one, which I like despite myself; Batman Brave And The Bold (which is the best Batman); and the Black Mirror Christmas Special, which is the most messed-up goddamn thing ever broadcast.

More next month, maybe.

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Daredevil 2 Arrives On Netflix!

What an era of geek plenty we live in, my brothers and sisters, where there are not one but TWO seasons of Daredevil for us to stream at will!

I thoroughly enjoyed the first season, and now, before you knew it, the second season is here!

Daredevil Season 2

Of course, Daredevil has long been a favorite here at Longbox Graveyard. To get you in the mood for Hornhead’s latest TV outing, check out these features!

Just before the first season dropped on Netflix, I looked at Daredevil’s origins with a review of Daredevil #1

Daredevil #1

Of course, Daredevil featured in my Top Ten lists of great Marvel characters, and “manliest” superheroes

that's why they call him Daredevil

Here’s a brief review of Daredevil’s Silver Age adventures in this Longbox Shortbox …

Gene the Dean

I was conflicted at the time, but I’ve seen come around on Brian Michael Bendis’ Daredevil run

Daredevil, Alex Maleev

Not sure what to make of this provocative comics creator quote that Daredevil was Marvel’s only “true” crime fighter?

FOOM 13

Chasing Amazing’s Mark Ginocchio provided insight on two of the key characters in Daredevil’s life — reporter Ben Urich, and the Kingpin, an enemy so arch that he’s in the Top Ten villains list for two different superheroes

Kingpin_01

… and you can find plenty of awesome art in my Daredevil and Elektra Pinterest Galleries!

Happy binging … both on Netflix, and here at Longbox Graveyard!

Daredevil Debuts On Netflix!

Daredevil debuts on Netflix today!

Daredevil on Netflix

While Daredevil may be the new hotness for TV fans, he’s long been a hot topic here at Longbox Graveyard. Here’s a whole pack of Daredevil-related articles from the Longbox Graveyard, to get you in the mood for his multi-hour television epic!

Earlier this month, I looked at Daredevil’s origins with a review of Daredevil #1

Daredevil #1

Daredevil figured prominently in my Top Ten lists of great Marvel characters, and “manliest” superheroes

that's why they call him Daredevil

I offered a brief review of Daredevil’s Silver Age adventures in this Longbox Shortbox …

Gene the Dean

I’m still conflicted about Brian Michael Bendis’ Daredevil run

Daredevil, Alex Maleev

How about this provocative comics creator quote that Daredevil was Marvel’s only “true” crime fighter?

FOOM 13

Chasing Amazing’s Mark Ginocchio provided insight on two of the key characters in Daredevil’s life — reporter Ben Urich, and the Kingpin, an enemy so arch that he’s in the Top Ten villains list for two different superheroes

Kingpin_01

… and you can find plenty of awesome art in my Daredevil and Elektra Pinterest Galleries!

Now I am off to binge-watch Daredevil on television! Truly, we live in a geek Golden Age.

Please share your reactions to the show — and all things Daredevil — in the comments section, below!

Elektra Gallery

Visit my Elektra Gallery on Pinterest!

Daredevil & Elektra

(View all Longbox Graveyard Pinterest Galleries HERE).

Here Comes Daredevil!

Longbox Graveyard #145

Usual topicality this month for The Dollar Box (my occasional series where I look at comics with an original price of a dollar or less) — Daredevil #1 might be a half-century old, but it feels more up-to-date than ever thanks to the Netflix Daredevil television series that debuts this month!

But before Daredevil looked like this …

Daredevil on Netflix

… he burst upon the world looking like this!

Daredevil #1

And how did Daredevil fare in his debut issue, in that long-lost year of 1964? Read on!

Writing a decade after-the-fact in Son of Origins, Stan Lee suggests that Daredevil was his favorite Marvel creation, and says that the character’s origin stemmed from trying to conceive of a character who had a disability — rather than a super-power — at his core. Crediting the 1930’s Duncan Maclain mystery novels by Baynard Kendrick, which featured a blind detective, as an inspiration, Lee arrowed in on creating a blind superhero, leveraging the “… common knowledge that when a person loses his sight, his other senses usually become somewhat keener as he grows more dependent upon them.” While the character would of course have a colorful name and costume, Lee deliberately excluded super-strength from the character’s powers, writing that “the uniqueness of our new character would lie in the fact that his senses of hearing, smell, touch, and taste would be many, many times keener than those of a sighted person.”

Daredevil #1 hit the streets in mid-1964, with Bill Everett credited as “illustrator” but later acknowledged as co-creator of the character. Comics historian Mark Evanier determined that Jack Kirby also made significant contributions to Daredevil’s character design, coming up with Daredevil’s billy club, and effectively drawing the first page of the issue (which was repurposed for the cover), but the mood and atmosphere of the first issue are undeniably Everett. Working full time outside of comics, Everett drew Daredevil #1 in the margins of his time — the book was late (and incomplete, with backgrounds and secondary figures filled out by an uncredited Steve Ditko and Sol Brodsky), but the concept may have had personal resonance with Everett, given that his daughter, Wendy, was legally blind.

Unfortunately, Daredevil #1 would be Everett’s first and only outing on the series … but what an outing it was! Daredevil #1 is an excellent single-issue story, and one of the finest origin stories ever published.

The tale begins Fogwell’s Gym — a moody and murky storefront plastered with peeling boxing match handbills, and patrolled by a slinking alley cat. Upstairs, in a dingy room above the gym, a brace of mob tough guys kill time around a poker game, before they are interrupted by the literally glowing figure of young Daredevil.

Daredevil #1, Bill Everett & Stan Lee

When Daredevil brazenly announces that he is here to battle the mobster’s boss — “The Fixer” — fisticuffs naturally follow, and the next two pages of the story are a wonderfully swirling, kinetic, and exciting storm of panels that expertly show the nimble and acrobatic Daredevil getting the best of his beefy foes. Daredevil dodges attacks, knocks a gun from his opponent’s hand with his thrown billy club, swings from rings on the ceiling, and taunts his enemies with sarcastic quips that would be central to the character’s swashbuckling persona (at least until Frank Miller arrived on the scene, twenty years later).

Daredevil #1, Bill Everett & Stan Lee

Having put paid to the bad guys, the story flashes back to the origin of Daredevil, showing how young Matt Murdock agreed not to follow in the athletic footsteps of his father, prizefighter “Battling Murdock,” but would instead stick to the books to become a lawyer or a doctor. The hard-studying Matt was derisively nicknamed “Daredevil” by his peers for his refusal to join in neighborhood games, but as a natural athlete, Matt had little trouble working out on his own, while remaining a star student.

Daredevil #1, Bill Everett & Stan Lee

With his son dutifully following an academic path, Battling Murdoch found himself in a jam — on the downside of his boxing career, Murdoch signed up with “The Fixer,” a brutish gangster who looked like nothing so much as a gorilla with a hat and a cigar.

Murdoch’s joy in securing paying fights was juxtaposed against Matt’s unlikely origin, where he was struck in the eyes by a radioactive cylinder while saving an old man about to be run down by a truck. (Hey, it happens … and at least it also gave us the origin of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles!).

Daredevil #1, Bill Everett & Stan Lee

The father took the news hard, but Matt faced up to the accident — which as rendered him blind — with characteristic optimism, saying that he’d continue his studies in Braille. In short order, Matt had graduated high school and gone on to college, where he met his roommate (and future law partner) Foggy Nelson, and also discovered that his senses had become startlingly acute …

Daredevil #1, Bill Everett & Stan Lee

… so sharp was Matt’s perception that he could navigate through the world with a kind of “radar-sense.”

Daredevil #1, Bill Everett & Stan Lee

Meanwhile, for Battling Murdoch, it was time to take the fall — his string of victories, engineered by The Fixer, were only to set up a big score in the championship fight. But with his son Matt in the audience — and in a move that couldn’t surprise anyone who had ever seen a boxing movie — Battling Murdoch ignored his boss’ orders and pummeled his opponent into submission, earning the victory … and a bullet in the back, courtesy of the Fixer.

Though Matt passed the bar and set up a law practice with Foggy, the death of his father would haunt him, and so, in one of those natural-only-for-comics epiphanies, Matt decided to clad himself in yellow-and-red long johns and avenge his dad as the superhero, Daredevil!

Daredevil #1, Bill Everett & Stan Lee

(Daredevil’s all-red uniform would debut a half-dozen issues later, when Wally Wood was doing the book).

And so we are back where we began, with the colorfully-costumed Daredevil facing down the Fixer and his goons. After a bit more of Everett’s splendid action, the Fixer is on the run, but Daredevil neatly tracks him by the scent of his cigar, leading to a confrontation in a subway station, where the Fixer drops dead of a heart attack, and his triggerman confesses to the murder of Battling Murdoch.

Daredevil #1, Bill Everett & Stan Lee

It’s an economical conclusion to a fast-paced and tight bit of comics storytelling, which also quickly introduces Matt’s supporting cast of characters, even setting up the love triangle between Matt, Foggy, and their secretary Karen Page, which would be the centerpiece of some (frankly) tiresome tropes as the series wore on. Not a panel is wasted in this 23-page masterpiece where we quickly understand the relationship between Matt and his father; get on board with the studious Matt as he develops his mind and his body; and accept his unlikely accidental origin as no more or less ridiculous than most other Silver Age stories. Daredevil’s powers and limitations are clearly delineated, but but even more distinctive is Everett’s smokey world of boxers and gangsters. While still a part of the emerging “Marvel Universe,” Daredevil’s world seems as separate as it could be from the sun-lit urban canyons where Spider-Man was spinning his webs and battling outrageous, costumed, science-fictional villains.

I would dearly love to see how Bill Everett would have developed Daredevil’s world, but this was his sole outing with the character. Though the book would benefit from a parade of great pencillers — including Wally Wood, John Romita, and Gene Colan — the series would not achieve A-list status until Frank Miller’s signature run in the 1980s, which adopted many of the grim and gritty visuals established in Everett’s Daredevil #1. But Miller’s Daredevil would have little in common with the swashbuckling, optimistic character as written by Stan Lee — Miller’s Daredevil was a dark, tortured spirit of vengeance, trained by ninjas and (in a hard-to-swallow bit of retconning) beaten and abused by his father.

Frank Miller's Daredevil

Frank Miller’s Daredevil is a long way from the Silver Age version …

I love Frank Miller’s Daredevil, and will concede that it is the superior interpretation of the character … but Daredevil’s early adventures have a charm of their own, and never more so than when Bill Everett’s shining Daredevil plunged into the blue-grey murk of the boxing underworld to avenge his father while never losing track of the qualities of forbearance, education, and intelligence that made Matt Murdoch a hero before he ever pulled on his yellow-and-reds.

While Daredevil #1 had an original cover price of twelve cents (!), you won’t find a copy for many times that figure now. Catapulted to comics greatness by Frank Miller’s signature run, and then surviving a wobbly theatrical run under Ben Affleck, Daredevil is poised for pop culture stardom thanks to a Netflix original TV series that ties into Marvel’s riotously successful cinematic universe — and all of these things ensure you won’t be finding Daredevil #1 in any Dollar Box ever again. But this is still a terrific comic book, and I encourage you to hunt down a reprint or a digital copy — there is something here for every Daredevil fan, whatever their age or whoever “their” Daredevil may be.

IN THREE WEEKS: The Bride of Ultron!

 

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