Monday, January 29, 2007

New Releases 1/30 - 2/02

Sorry, but I've been busy moving to my home in New Berlin, WI, so I haven't been updating, which means no Manga Monday until next week. I should resume my normal posting patterns shortly this week. But in the meantime, here are this week's entertainment release highlights...

DVD Releases (Tues, 1/30)
The Big Valley: Season Two, Volume 1
Catch a Fire
Dallas: Season 6
Farce of the Penguins
I Dream of Jeannie: Season 3
Lucky Louie: Season 1
Open Season

Previous Week:
IMDb Top DVD Rental: Employee of the Month
Billboard Top DVD Sales: Crank

Music Releases (Tues, 1/30)
Celtic Woman - A New Journey
Harry Connick Jr. - Oh, My Nola
Katharine McPhee - Katharine McPhee
Madonna - The Confessions Tour
Norah Jones - Not Too Late

Previous Week:
Billboard Top 200 #1: Daughtry - Daughtry

Comic Releases (Wed, 1/31)
Astonishing X-Men (Volume 3): Torn
Beasts HC
Defenders: Indefensible TP
Doom Patrol (Volume 5): Magic Bus
Essential Ghost Rider (Volume 2)
Ion (Volume 1): The Torchbearer
Iron Man: Extremis TP
Ms. Marvel Special
Mushishi (Volume 1)
Seven Soldiers of Victory (Volume 4)
Usagi Yojimbo #100

Theatrical Releases (Fri, 1/02)
Because I Said So
The Messengers

Previous Week #1: Epic Movie

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

New Releases 1/23 - 1/26

The week's entertainment release highlights...

DVD Releases (Tues, 1/23)
Avatar: Book Two, Volume One
The Guardian
The Invincible Iron Man
Jesus Camp
Monsters and Madmen: Criterion Collection
The Puffy Chair
Sanjuro: Criterion Collection
Saw 3
This Film Is Not Yet Rated
Yojimbo: Criterion Collection

Previous Week:
IMDb Top DVD Rental: Crank
Billboard Top DVD Sales: Snakes On a Plane

Music Releases (Tues, 1/23)
2007 Grammy Nominees
Gipsy Kings - Pasajero
John Mellancamp - Freedom's Road
Kenny Wayne Shepherd - 10 Days Out (Blues From the Backroads)
The Shins - Wincing the Night Away

Previous Week:
Billboard Top 200 #1: Dreamgirls O.S.T.

Comic Releases (Wed, 1/24)
Civil War: The Return
Claws: Wolverine and Black Cat HC
Lucifer (Volume 11): Evensong
Marvel Masterworks: Warlock (Volume 1)
Showcase Presents: The Brave and the Bold Batman Team-Ups (Vol. 1)
Silent War #1 (of 6)
Tanpenshu (Volume 1)
X-Factor: Life and Death Matters HC

Theatrical Releases (Fri, 1/26)
Blood and Chocolate
Catch and Release
Epic Movie
Smokin' Aces

Previous Week #1: Stomp the Yard

Monday, January 22, 2007

Manga Monday 23

Mail (Volume 1)
Housui Yamazaki

Mail is a new manga series from Dark Horse, one that sports the original Japanese cover in all its Nintendo-ish glory. It's strange how the Japanese sometimes put English on their covers to make them seem hip, when we, in turn, try to emulate the Japanese designs much of the time. But anyways, this book is packaged in an eye-catching recycled paper cover, which is why I picked this baby up in the first place. A brief flip-through and I was sold. The art by Yamazaki is really very nice, something the cover doesn't really give any indication of, though it is a great design. This title is basically a series of short stories, all that eventually involve mysterious private detective Reiji Akiba, who has a unique device to aid him in putting troubled spirits to rest, a sanctified gun named Kagutsuchi. This is a horror manga title and as such, it really does succeed in containing chilling little moments, though the overall concept is really silly and superhero-ish. It's not very gory or excessively violent, but it harbors much more of that creeping dread where you just know that something's wrong, or the kind of monster that can find you alone in your apartment in broad daylight, unexpectedly scary outside of its usual element. This book surprised me in its ability to keep my interest with each chapter, and once a pattern seemed to emerge, it turned things on its head and surprised me with a new angle. A real find. A

Death Note (Volume 9)
Tsugumi Ohba & Takeshi Obata

If you're not already reading this book, this mini review of the latest chapter probably isn't going to convince you to start reading the best mainstream book out there right now, but this volume really reestablished the title as one of those books that has me on the edge of my seat in anticipation of the next one's release. I wasn't sure how I felt about things in volume eight, with Mello and Near becoming the primary antagonists, but I have to say, that I may actually enjoy them more than L...maybe. It's hard to say. It's cool to have these two characters who can play off of each other and who present multiple threats to Light's visions of a new world order, but I do miss L despite the tension that still permeates the title in his absence. There was just a certain relationship between Light and L that isn't present with the new characters. But things really pick up here with some major changes to the status quo, as Kira gets one step closer to realizing his twisted dream, and the opposition takes a real blow. Just plain awesome. A

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Strongarm #1

Steve Horton & David Ahn

This is an advance review for Strongarm #1 from Image Comics, which hits comic stores in late February.

Strongarm is obviously a heavily manga-influenced title about twin brothers and the different paths they've taken in life. One brother works with a resistance movement while the other is a delivery boy who's going nowhere. This story takes place in a future where flying cars are the norm and all of the typical manga conventions are in place to make an already bland story that much more uninteresting. The book immediately opens with an action sequence where our loser brother is battling a hulking man with cybernetic arms. When the underdog gets lucky and kills his assailant, the arms begin to move and graft onto him, and unfortunately, he's unable to control the power he now wields. It seems that his position in life has now been inadvertently altered, for better or worse. If there was something, anything, to like about this issue, I could maybe nudge it into a category of "has potential," but as is, the characters are bland, the situations and look are generic, and the action isn't exactly engrossing by any means. It's just kind of there, trying to catch the attention of an audience that's already seen too many stories exactly like this one. You never know, this could develop into something decent, but an issue in, it's completely and utterly underwhelming. D-

Thursday, January 18, 2007

In Passing...Superman to newuniversal

I'm finally caught up on my comics from the last two weeks, so I've got a bit of ground to cover today...

All-Star Superman #6
Grant Morrison & Frank Quitely

This series is, quite honestly, hit or miss for me. I do appreciate how Morrison and Quitely are able to consistently put out self-contained issues, and the art is always great, but I find some of the issues just plain bland. This issue was a cool idea, but I certainly wasn't blown away by the concept or the interaction of the characters or anything. It was just kind of there. But no matter what with Morrison's stories, there are always cool moments. In this issue, Superman and Krypto playing together with a tree was a great sequence. C

Civil War #6 (of 7)
Mark Millar & Steve McNiven

A few neat ideas are thrown into this issue of Marvel's huge crossover event as Cap's team attempts to level the playing field. Nothing particularly shocking occurs here like seems to have happened with every other issue of the series, but there were some nice moments between characters, like with Sue Storm and Namor. Fantastic art as usual. Next issue: the conclusion. C+

Uncanny X-Men #482
Ed Brubaker & Billy Tan

The X-Men meet up with the Starjammers for a little reunion between father and son as they attempt to rescue the captured Empress Lilandra, while Darwin tries to save Xavier from certain death. This is much better than a secondary X-title has been in awhile, but it still just doesn't hold a candle to a flagship book like Astonishing X-Men. C

Ms. Marvel #11
Brian Reed & Roberto De La Torre

Carol's trying her best to have a normal life on the side, but damn those supervillains if they don't keep interupting. Doomsday Man returns and seeks revenge upon Ms. Marvel and things pretty much go to hell from there. Not the best of issues, but not the worst. C

Manhunter #27
Marc Andreyko, Javier Pina & Fernando Blanco

This book's loyal fan base just wasn't enough to save it...again. As of issue 30, Manhunter is once again canceled, which is a shame for sure since it's easily one of the best books put out by DC on a regular basis. In this issue, Kate tries to defend Wonder Woman is trial against the staggering evidence before her while trying to keep up appearances with the press. B-

Runaways #23
Brian K. Vaughan & Adrian Alphona

I'm excited to see what Alphona's doing after his run on Runaways ends, because those pencils are fantastic! What a change from the first issue of the series! Chase continues to carry out his plot, which could hold dire consequences for the team. Things are coming to a head with the last few issues by the original creative team. A-

Ultimate Spider-Man #104
Brian Michael Bendis & Mark Bagley

And another legendary run comes to a conclusion very quickly as Bagley will be leaving this book after 100+ issues to pass pencil duties into Stuart Immonen's capable hands. The Clone Saga concludes with a battle between Spidey, the clones and Doctor Octopus. What a great storyarc. A-

newuniversal #2
Warren Ellis & Salvador Larroca

In wake of The White Event, the government decides to take some drastic measures as the three individuals who were empowered following the phenomenon try to deal with the strange abilities they've inherited. A really great beginning to the series with some fantastic art. A-

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

New Releases 1/16 - 1/19

The week's entertainment release highlights...

DVD Releases (Tues, 1/16)
Doctor Who: Season 2
Employee of the Month
Gridiron Gang
King of Queens: Season 7
The Protector
Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning

Previous Week:
IMDb Top DVD Rental: Little Miss Sunshine
Billboard Top DVD Sales: Jackass: Number Two

Music Releases (Tues, 1/16)
America - Here & Now
Diana Ross - I Love You
Roxette - A Collection of Roxette Hits: Their Twenty Greatest Songs
Stacie Orrico - Beautiful Awakening

Previous Week:
Billboard Top 200 #1: Dreamgirls O.S.T.

Comic Releases (Wed, 1/17)
Batman Year One Hundred TP
Bone (Volume 5): Rock Jaw, Master of the Eastern Border Color Edition
Essential X-Factor (Volume 2)
Marvel Visionaries: John Buscema
Mike Carey's One-Sided Bargains
Storm Premiere HC
Superman: Emperor Joker TP
Testament (Volume 2): West of Eden
Tezuka's Buddha (Volume 5): Deer Park SC

Last Month:
Diamond Top 300 Comics #1: Justice League of America #4
Diamond Top 100 Graphic Novels #1: Fables (Volume 8): Wolves
Diamond Top 50 Manga #1: Fruits Basket (Volume 15)

Theatrical Releases (Fri, 1/19)
The Hitcher

Previous Week #1: Stomp the Yard

Monday, January 15, 2007

Manga Monday 22

It's Manga Monday and today I have three mini-reviews for your viewing enjoyment!

Dragon Head (Volume 5)
Minetaro Mochizuki

This is the best installment of Mochizuki's Dragon Head since its debut. I was getting a tad bored with the series to be honest, so I was really delighted to see it turn that corner and really get me excited again. This is really great survivalist horror that shows the madness left in wake of a disaster of unknown origins. Although this issue does show what occurred above surface through someone's perspective, which was really neat to behold, it didn't go too far into the realm of revealing too much. It's all still very vague and open as to the cause of the world's present state, and the hows and whys of how it got that way. And this is the first time you get those two words whispered: Dragon Head. It was really chilling when those words finally appeared in the book and I'm on the edge of my seat in anticipation of what's ahead. A+

Emma (Volume 2)
Kaoru Mori

The extraordinary housemaid Emma faces more hardship as she tries to have a relationship with a man above her station in life whose father wholly disapproves of their love for each other. But that's not all Emma has on her plate as disaster strikes and upends her world. As with the previous volume, Mori illustrates this book beautifully with great authentic props drawn into the setting from the Victorian Era. B

Monster (Volume 6)
Naoki Urasawa

Dr. Tenma's former lover, Eva Heinneman, is front and center in this new volume of Naoki Urasawa's Monster, and portrays her in a light not seen previously, making for a really interesting chapter in the greater scheme of things. Meanwhile, we also get a good look at Johan, the beautiful monster himself, as Urasawa reveals what he's been up to and traces his latest plot through the eyes of an innocent young man who wants to understand the father who abandoned him. Suspenseful as always. A

Friday, January 12, 2007

Thunderbolts #110

Warren Ellis & Mike Deodato Jr.

Spinning out of Marvel's huge Civil War crossover event comes the much-anticipated relaunch of the Thunderbolts. The Thunderbolts, of course, originally appeared as "yet another superhero team," but shocked readers when, by the end of the first issue, the team was revealed to be made up entirely of villains. There were a lot of C-rate villains involved, like Songbird who used to be known as The Screaming Mimi. This new team of Thunderbolts consists of more A-List villains. Kind of the supervillain version of the New Avengers, if you will. We have Venom, Bullseye, Songbird, Moonstone, Green Goblin and a few obscure names: Penance and Swordsman. An ecclectic group that's sure to play off of each other marvelously under Ellis' pen. I never really read Thunderbolts before this to be honest, so I don't know much of the history of the group, but all of that's thrown out the window here for the most part with Civil War's introduction to the Marvel Universe. The Thunderbolts are now a government-sponsored group who are closely monitored and controlled by nanotechnology, who, in exchange for freedom in the foreseeable future and plenty of money, fight for the U.S. government, taking down superheroes who haven't abided by the Superhuman Registration Act. It's a pretty cool premise and there's sure to be plenty of things that go wrong to keep things exciting. The first victim of this arc that the Thunderbolts are assigned to take down is a real D-List guy, Jack Flag. Very generic American-Pride superhero, buddy of Captain America's - very obviously the good guy. Kind of disappointing for the team's first hunt, but there it is. And speaking of Captain America there was a one-page "ad" during the news broadcast in this story where Captain America is strongly portrayed as a villain and beaten to a pulp to the delight of the children playing with action figures of the Thunderbolts. It was a little much. I did really like Moonstone's "initial interview" scene. It was kind of chilling with some great dialogue. The whole thing felt kind of grand, with the elaborate mountain base and transport vehicles and scout missiles. It's all very fun. Things are still in the process of being set up, but thus far, it's a great superher - ahem, supervillain book. B

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

My Favorite Music of 2006

2006 was a pretty lackluster year in terms of music, with few big releases and little innovation. There were some little nuggets of greatness in there however. I plan to get more into music in 2007, listening to new releases as they come into the music/DVD department I work in, since I feel sort of obligated to expand my knowledge anyway. But the following are the best CDs of 2006 in my little world.

1. Sunlight Searchparty - Val Emmich
Following up his major label debut Slow Down Kid, Val Emmich returns to a small indy label for his ambitious Sunlight Searchparty, where he takes his particular philosophy on music and realizes it. Emmich believes that anything can be done with studio magic, but music should hold mistakes and feel vaguely unpolished. An interesting idea. So before he went into the studio with his band this past summer, they practiced like crazy to create something quite extraordinary. With every song done in one take, the finished product is surprisingly professional. The CD has its flaws - the playful banter of the band on one song feels like they're beating the idea into you that it's live (although it's kind of neat on the flipside, feeling like you're in the studio with them), and the prelude to If They Come Again is interesting its first time around, but grates on the nerves afterwards. But this really is a spectacular CD in the end. Nearly every song exudes emotion with the raw energy that Emmich brings to the thoughtful, interesting lyrics with his vocals. I highly recommend seeking out this CD, though it's only available through a few outlets, Val Emmich's site being one such place. One of my favorite CDs ever, let alone from this year. I also recommend Emmich's Slow Down Kid, a pretty much flawless CD.

Key Tracks: Cover Up, Now Is No Time, High Noon, At the Risk of Sounding, If They Come Again.

2. Nightcrawler - Pete Yorn
Pete Yorn can pretty much do no wrong in my book. He croons like no one else on ballads and rocks out with the best of them. Nightcrawler is a pretty subdued CD in comparison to his previous two efforts, but it's still damn good, with interesting lyrics and classic songs that sit right along with many of his others. Nightcrawler completes the "day" trilogy of CDs that began with morningforthemorningafter and Day I Forgot. It'll be interesting to see where he goes next, but it's certain to be fantastic if his track record's any indicator.

Key Tracks: Policies, Maybe I'm Right, Same Thing, How Do You Go On?, Ice Age.

3. Eyes Open - Snow Patrol
Snow Patrol hit it big this year with Chasing Cars, the mainstream ballad off of an otherwise pretty interesting CD with an electronic sound and interesting beats, doing indy favorites like Deathcab For Cutie one better. A great vocalist and interesting melodies take the pretty straight-forward lyrics to another level. A very welcome one.

Key Tracks: Hands Open, Chasing Cars, Shut Your Eyes, It's Beginning To Get To Me, Headlights On Dark Roads.

Honorable mentions: Taking the Long Way from the Dixie Chicks is a welcome comeback for the trio in wake of the disgusting displays demonstrated by country stations across the US, proving that the group is here to stay and they can hold their heads up high. Long Island Shores by Mindy Smith is a really good folksy-pop CD from the singer whose breakthrough Come To Jesus bombarded airwaves a few years back. It's one of the more consistently good CDs out there. The Decemberists' CD The Crane Wife also kind of came out of left field with an interesting sound and haunting songs. And if you like jazz, Half the Perfect World is a nice CD from Madeiline Peyroux, whose voice boasts comparisons to Billie Holiday, with one of the best CD covers I've ever seen.

Monday, January 08, 2007

New Releases 1/09 - 1/12

I'm back from my mini-vacation with this week's new release highlights...

DVD Releases (Tues, 1/09)
Extras: Season One
The Illusionist
The Night Listener
Spongebob Squarepants: Season Four, Volume Two

Previous Week:
IMDb Top DVD Rental: The Devil Wears Prada
Billboard Top DVD Sales: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest

Music Releases (Tues, 1/09)
Ty Herndon - Right About Now
Mario - Go!
Yo-Yo Ma - Appasionato

Previous Week:
Billboard Top 200 #1: Omarion - 21

Comic Releases (Wed, 1/10)
Champions Classic (Volume 2)
New Mutants Classic (Volume 2)
Showcase Presents: Justice League of America (Volume 2)
Superman/Batman vs. Aliens/Predators #1 (of 2)
Thunderbolts #110

Theatrical Releases (Fri, 1/12)
Alpha Dog
Arthur and the Invisibles
Notes on a Scandal
The Painted Veil
Pan's Labyrinth
Stomp the Yard

Previous Week #1: Night At the Museum

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

New Releases 1/02 - 1/05

And here are this week's entertainment releases... Better late than never...

DVD Releases (Tuesday, 1/02)
The Covenant
Martin: Season One
Snakes On A Plane

Previous Week:
IMDb Top DVD Rental: The Devil Wears Prada
Billboard Top DVD Sales: Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby
My Barnes & Noble #1 Sales: Little Miss Sunshine

CD Releases (Tuesday, 1/02)
Carly Simon - Into White

Previous Week:
Billboard Top 200 #1: Nas - Hip Hop Is Dead
My Barnes & Noble #1: Josh Groban - Awake

Comic Releases (Wednesday, 1/03, Some locations: Thursday 1/04)
The Comics Journal #280
Death Note (Volume 9)
Jack Staff (Volume 3): Echoes of Tomorrow
La Corda D'Oro (Volume 2)
Manhunter (Volume 2): Trial By Fire
Ultimate X-Men (Volume 15): Magical

Theatrical Releases (Friday, 1/05)
Children of Men
Code Name: The Cleaner
Freedom Writers
Happily N'Ever After
Perfume - The Story of a Murderer

Previous Week #1: Night At the Museum

That's it until next week. I'm going out of town this weekend, visiting family back in Minnesota for a late Christmas, and won't be back until late Monday, so don't expect a Manga Monday this coming week, let alone any new posts this weekend. Have a nice weekend everybody!

Monday, January 01, 2007

Manga Monday 21

Fruits Basket (Volume 1)
Natsuki Takaya

The insanely popular Fruits Basket is a really cute shoujo manga. It's about an orphaned girl who moves into a house with a few boys who happen to be possessed by spirits of the zodiac. And every time someone of the opposite sex hugs them, they turn into their cute zodiac animals. Thus hilarity ensues. I'm not a huge fan of Takaya's art on the series, but it gets the job done and when she does "cute," she does "cute" well. Not hard to see why girls love the book. If anything, Takaya's a really good storyteller. I was really impressed with how she was able to introduce her audience to such mysterious characters and slowly peel back the layers to show us their true natures. A-

The Drifting Classroom (Volume 3)
Kazuo Umezu

Screaming, stabbings, misunderstandings that go way way too far...The Drifting Classroom's got it all in complete over-the-top fashion. The horror title from Kazuo Umezu isn't as horrifying as it is so ridiculous that it's really great. This volume sees a boy tied up on a cross and an alien bug monster. It also gives a little clarification to what exactly the situation is that the children find themselves in, in a scene with the protagonist's mother. A-

Up Ahead

It's a brand new year and there's plenty coming up to be excited about in the world of comics...

* Joss Whedon's Buffy, the Vampire Slayer (Season Eight in comic form)
* Joss Whedon taking over Runaways
* Translation of Osama Tezuka's Apollo's Song from Vertical
* Joss Whedon and John Cassaday's concluding arc of Astonishing X-Men
* The Luna Brothers' conclusion of Girls
* The second volume of James Kochalka's American Elf
* The Complete Little Orphan Annie
* Athena Voltaire: The Legend of Mu-King, a new mini-series featuring the webcomic adventuress
* Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev's new Spider-Woman series
* Bendis' new Avengers books
Plus more of what I'm reading right now is a good thing!