Northlanders: The Cross And The Hammer (2009)

Northlanders: The Cross And The Hammer (2009)

Publisher: Vertigo
Creative Team: Brian Wood, Ryan Kelly

Set in Viking-era Ireland, Northlanders Book Two: The Cross And The Hammer, collects issues #11-16 of the DC/Vertigo comic book series written by Brian Wood (DMZ, Demo) and illustrated by Ryan Kelly (Lucifer, The New York Four).

It is 1014 in Viking-occupied Ireland. One lone man, only known as Magnus, refuses to bow to the will of the Viking overlords and is leaving a bloody trail of insurgency in his wake. Magnus has no ties, no weaknesses, nothing to lose…except his daughter Brigid. Magnus’ killing spree and defiance catches the attention of Lord Ragnar Ragnarsson, a forensic specialist and confidant of the King who becomes obsessed with finding Magnus and ending his uprising.

When it becomes apparent that the only way to draw Magnus out of hiding is to provoke him by senselessly murdering innocent Irish families, it sends the two foes into a circle of psychological warfare and intrigue.

I was really looking forward to this volume after having already read Northlanders: Sven The Returned, which was amazing…so maybe my hopes were a little too high.

First off, don’t get me wrong. I would rather read this volume than not read this volume. Northlanders is a great series, and Brian Wood is doing some great stuff. Even the premise of the arc in this volume is decent and had me intrigued, but it all ended up falling a little flat.

Ryan Kelly is a great artist but I was honestly, the entire time, comparing his style (without meaning to) to Davide Gianfelice’s, who did the art for the issues collected in the first volume. In some ways, Kelly’s artwork is better for this Irish story but in others it just doesn’t feel up to par. There was nothing wrong for it save for the flavor, and despite some great splash page work some of it seemed a bit cartoony.

On top of that, I was sort of brought out of the story some by the way Lord Ragnar Ragnarsson spoke/wrote in the way that you might see a character do on an episode of CSI. I kept thinking to myself “This is so modern sounding. WTF is going on here?

Another thing to watch out for is the twist ending. It seems to be all the rage nowadays to give a twist ending on everything, but I don’t think they had to do so, here. It wasn’t super-compelling as it was and then to sort of glaze over it all with a twist ending such as the one found within the pages of this TPB, it just dulled everything down even more.

Overall, I wouldn’t miss this entry into the series, but it could have been much better. I hear that Volume III is, indeed, much better…so I’ll have to check it out. So, give this a read if you follow along but I’m not so sure this will be a favored volume in the series.

JOE Rating: ★★★

Here’s A Sample Page From Northlanders, Vol. 2: The Cross And The Hammer
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Jennifer’s Body (2009)

Jennifer's Body (2009)

Original Theatrical Release: September 18, 2009
Director: Karyn Kusama

Jennifer (Megan Fox) and Needy (Amanda Seyfried) are BFF’s. Needy is kind of a bookish nerd while Jennifer is a cheerleader, very popular and all the guys want her. When the two of them go to see a band, who are actually satanic rock stars, Jennifer is abducted by them. When she finally returns to Needy, she is changed and then boys in the school start getting killed off one by one and Needy has to figure out what happened to Jennifer before her own boyfriend, Chip (Johnny Simmons), is claimed.

I will admit that my main draw to this movie, besides Diablo Cody’s script (she writes for Entertainment Weekly, a magazine I used to read all the time) was Megan Fox. Her acting chops are dubious, but I figured she might be able to nail this part due to her seeming detachment from humanity and her abundant sexuality. Amanda Seyfried was a great choice for her role, and I hadn’t seen her in anything before this movie.

I ended up being kind of let down on all fronts for this film. It was a horror movie at its core, but it wasn’t scary. At all. The one scary part of it was the Satanic band which was actually a really cool idea. A band who has to sacrifice young girls in order to stay famous? Awesome. At best, the movie could have been cheesy-good, like Evil Dead II or Army of Darkness, but the laughs weren’t consistent. Even the sexuality was underwritten so there wasn’t much in the way of tittilation to be found. I think overall, as good as I thought Cody’s teen-hip-snappy dialogue was, the movie itself wasn’t sure what it wanted to be. It ended up being sort of  a lesser version of Mean Girls meets Heathers (The link to my review for Heathers).

It’s really not the worst thing out there. The film is worth watching at least once or twice, but you might find yourself hungry for better films out there after you’re done.

JOE Review: ★★★

Movie Trailer For Jennifer’s Body

 

Heathers (1988)

Heathers (1988)

Original Theatrical Release: March 31, 1989
Director: Michael Lehmann

Veronica (Winona Ryder) despises school and all its politics. To have any semblance of normalcy, you must be popular, and a trio of girls, all named Heather, have inducted her into their ranks. However, Veronica hates the games and cruelty, eventually falling for J.D. (Christian Slater) a sociopath who leads her down a dark rabbit hole of hate, unintentional murder and suicide.

We all hated high school. I think I can say that with some confidence and still mean that everyone, even the popular kids, hated it.

I watched this movie again recently mostly because Christian Slater started coming into my workplace and sort of, by proxy, reminded me of all his films. I think this is one of his better roles. Also, for all her flaws in real life, Winona Ryder is actually a very great actress and she is in fine form here.

The movie is a great commentary on high school life (even if this takes place in the late 80’s/early 90’s….the politics are mostly the same nowadays) and is especially poignant in these times after all the recent school shootings like Sandy Hook and others.

Dark, twisted, funny, sad…Heathers has a lot of different facets but is ultimately a gem of filmmaking that was probably a bit ahead of its time. I think its message holds up very nicely, though.

After watching this, I dare you to try not spouting lines from the movie for days.

JOE Rating: ★★★★★

Movie Trailer For Heathers

Wanted (2008)

Wanted (2008)

Original Theatrical Release: June 27, 2008
Director: Timur Bekmambetov

A frustrated office worker named Wesley (James McAvoy) is contacted by a secret organization of assassins who tell him his father, a master assassin, was killed. They want Wesley to join up with them because he, they tell him, has the same superhuman abilities his father possessed.

First off, I’d like to say I don’t hate the film. I’m pretty good at separating a film property, in my mind, from anything it’s derived from so that I can still enjoy both. Books tend to be much better than movies because we can imagine everything ourselves with no budget or anyone else directing the action. I’m a huge fan of comic books so when I first heard about this movie, I was super-excited. I’d read the comics it was based on and it’s great material to draw on for a movie. However, the movie version was only VERY LOOSELY based on the comics.

What happened here, though, is that the movie lost its voice. The first half was great. It was reminiscent of Fight Club, with a strong narrative voice coming from Wesley as he experienced a slew of unfortunate life events. With the second half the focus changed and was lost and it also lost its sarcastic whimsy and became a straight-up different movie. It went from Fight Club to Commando, essentially switching up the momentum at the wrong time.

The character of Fox (Angelina Jolie) was cool enough in the movie, but Angelina was pretty much just channeling Lara Croft. Her character is much better, MUCH better in the comics.

The visuals were the movie’s strongest points, with some amazing Gun-Fu and car chases. Timur Bekmambetov has proved that visuals are his main strength as a director, most notably with Night Watch and Day Watch, and this film is no exception. He has a keen eye for what will prove most exciting to see on screen, with dynamic camera work and cinematography.

It’s just right for a movie you want to pop in and munch on popcorn to for a couple hours.

JOE Rating: ★★★

Movie Trailer For Wanted