Sunday, January 30, 2011

Batman movies - What next? Part III

Back in September of 2008, I wrote a couple of blog posts where I speculated on what villains might appear in the next Batman film. Basically, the problem was that as good as the current series of films is, the tone that's been set by them somewhat limits which villains would be viable for the third installment. In other words, villains like Mr. Freeze, Poison Ivy, and Clayface are just far too entrenched in far-out science fiction to really fit into the world that Christopher Nolan has created. That basically meant that the likely candidates would be along the lines of Catwoman and The Riddler - although I seriously wondered if The Riddler is a compelling enough of a villain to hold up a whole film. Lastly, I mentioned that it would be really great to use Hush. Of course, only fans of the comics know who he is, but that was also true of Ra's al Ghul, and that didn't stop them from using him in Batman Begins.

Several weeks ago, they announced the villains and the actors who would be portraying them. Sure enough, just like everybody thought, Catwoman is going to be in the next film, and she is going to be played by Anne Hathaway. I must admit that I probably would be skeptical if it wasn't for the last movie. I remember when I heard that Heath Ledger was going to play The Joker. Now, I liked the actor just fine, but I had a hard time seeing him play that particular part. Still, I had some faith that they picked the right guy since they did such a good job with the last movie. Now I can't imagine anybody else in that role. Let's face it, while Jack Nicholson's version was a lot of fun to watch, it was basically Nicholson playing an exaggerated version of his screen persona. Ledger was playing a role.

As for Hathaway, she's a good actress who has shown that she has some range. That, coupled with the fact that these movies are now two for two, I'm going to trust that this is a good choice. I'll even go so far as to say that she has the same potential to do for the character what Ledger did for his. This is going to be a Catwoman that we've never seen before, and while Michelle Pfeiffer's performance had its moments (particularly her "transformation" scene) it involved the same mugging for the camera that we expected from the 60s TV show and the 90s film series. I expect Hathaway to actually create a character, and it should be fun to watch.

Of course, there's a second villain. No, they didn't use my idea and go for Hush. They picked one that I hadn't even considered - Bane. You might remember that he was already in a Batman movie - Batman and Robin to be specific. If you don't remember that, then that's a good thing for you as they totally screwed up the character. That's shocking considering how good that movie was in every other respect. (Ugh...just threw up in my mouth a little.) Bane is going to be played by a fella named Tom Hardy, who had a role in Christopher Nolan's last film, Inception.

I think that Bane is a good choice as they're likely to actually get him right this time. Bane is a good counterpoint to Batman, as he's a self-made man in many respects. He's a genius strategist and one hell of a fighter. On top of all that, he gives himself a boost with the super-steroid called Venom. Now, that definitely goes into the sci-fi territory but no more than The Scarecrow's fear toxin that they used in the first film. As for the casting choice? I don't know much about the guy, but it's obvious that they're going more for the right actor than the flavor-of-the-month choice like they did back in the 90s. I don't think that they're going to buff him up as much as he is in the comics, which is fine by me. Just so long as he doesn't walk around and talk like a zombie, it'll be a step up from what's been done before.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Comics Roundup for 1/26/11

Marvel's not doing a very good job of spacing out their Avengers books lately. I seem to recall the first month they came out that there was one every week. Now there are three in the same week. Oh well, what can you do?

The Avengers #9 - I really enjoyed this issue for a few reasons. For starters, it shows that there are still tensions left over from the whole Civil War and Initiative storylines, which shows that those stories mattered even though we have a new status quo. I also liked the fact that Steve Rogers (the original Captain America) is quick to agree with Spider-Man's assessment of the current threat. Those two characters represent the bright side of being a superhero, and it only makes sense that they would see it the same way - plus it's nice having Wolverine on the team to offer the counterpoint that wouldn't really work with another character. "Lofty principles are pretty useless if no one's around to see you live by 'em." I also prefer Scott Hannah's inks on John Romita, Jr.'s pencils over Klaus Janson - at least, for a title like this. Janson's a better fit for characters like The Punisher.

Secret Avengers #9 - Steve Rogers and Friends continues to be a good title, and I need to go through the whole series just to catch up on all the plot points that are building to a head here. I also should go back and re-read The Marvels Project, as there's stuff in this title that's building on what Ed Brubaker wrote in that series. All this, and I think that Shang-Chi is being used pretty effectively beyond "Asian guy who knows martial arts".

The New Avengers #8 - If Secret Avengers is basically Steve Rogers and Friends, then this series is Luke Cage and Friends. I don't have a problem with that, as Brian Michael Bendis has done a good job of making Cage into a cool character beyond some token black superhero. Speaking of Bendis, he gets a little too impressed with himself and his dialogue sometimes, but it really seemed to work in this issue. All this, and Daniel Acuna on art made for a nice read.

Captain America #614 - I don't have much to say other than this continues to be an enjoyable read. And can we just get rid of the "Nomad" backups already? How about backups with The Falcon? Black Widow? Crap, I'll take U.S.Agent by this point - and let's get a new artist for those backups.

Detective Comics #873 - Was this anything spectacular? No, but it was some solid superhero storytelling with the Dick Grayson Batman. There was also a really cool fake-out moment that really had me wondering, "Are they REALLY going to go through with this?" I hope this creative team sticks around. If they do, so will I.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Comics Roundup for 1/19/11

Not much to write about even though it's been three weeks since the last Roundup. It seems like most of what I read comes out all at once, I guess. I actually picked up one of these a week ago, but I didn't want to write a one-comic entry. Anyway, here's what I got and what I thought about it:

Avengers: Prime #5 (of 5) - While I would have preferred to have seen more character interaction, I have to realize that these are superhero comics and not serious drama. With that said, this had some of the best art I've seen out of Alan Davis in some time, as it utilized his talent for crowd shots and battle scenes. Overall, it was a fun series although I'm not as sure now that it was as necessary as I did at the start of it.

Wolverine #5 - I don't have much to say about this one other than I enjoyed it and will continue to get this series. At the end of it, Wolverine managed to crawl his way out of hell, but he continues to have some serious problems to deal with. This is a well-paced series as there are some good developments with each issue. Also, it's always good to see Wolverine put through his paces, and Jason Aaron has concocted a story that has done just that.

The Amazing Spider-Man #651-652 - I realize what Dan Slott is going for with this new incarnation of the Hobgoblin. He's an interesting counterpart to the hero, as he's a young smartass who works for a newspaper and has an "Uncle Ben" as well. I wonder how Tom Defalco, his creator, feels about making him into a bad guy? Anyway, 651 wraps up that story (for now) and 652 introduces an army of Spider-slayers, and J. Jonah Jameson continues to be put to good use in this series after having almost disappeared for several years for its pages.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

This beer needs a name!

After much success with my Pumpkin Ale and Chili Ale, I've been feeling a bit more bold about going off-recipe when it comes to homebrewing. Still, I was at a loss for ideas as to what I was going to make next. Then, a couple of things happened.

The first was that I got my hands on a bottle of New Belgium's Trippel. For those of you who don't know what a Trippel is, it's a very strong, light-colored, Belgian ale. Usually candy sugar is added to it in order to up the alcohol content. Also, Belgian yeasts tend to have a very unique characteristic, creating fruity and spicy flavors - some might even describe them as being almost perfumey. Anyway, I enjoy a Trippel from time to time, but it's not my favorite style. This one, however, knocked me out. For one, it wasn't too strong. Secondly, New Belgium adds some coriander for flavor to their version. I've had and made beers with coriander before, but I've never had the flavor stand out so much before. It made for a nice addition, and it complimented the other flavors rather nicely.

The other thing that happened was when Kirsti and I went to PF Chang's for dinner. They have a Ginger Beer there. Now, usually when you say Ginger Beer, you're referring to a non-alcoholic drink. This one, however, was an actual beer with ginger in it. The waiter actually warned me, as he said it had a really strong ginger taste to it, as it was basically a Kirin Ichiban with some ginger added to it. Considering that I make the (non-alcoholic) ginger beer, I told him that was no problem. Overall, I really enjoyed it, although I noted that it would be interesting to try a beer that had a bit more character to it and then add some ginger to compliment the flavor.

These two experiences led me to wonder: "Why not a beer with coriander and ginger?" I figured that a Belgian style would compliment these two flavors best, so that's what I set about to create. I started off with MoreBeer's Belgian Pale Ale kit and made a few tweaks to it. First off, I replaced four ounces of corn sugar with four ounces of brown sugar. Why? I don't know - wanted to see what it would do. I also got rid of the Fermentis yeast packet that came with it. (To be more specific, I saved it for an Extra Special Bitter. Supposedly the yeast is a Belgian-style, but it tastes much more like an English style if you ask me - and a lot of other people on the Internet.) In its place, I used White Labs Saison Ale Yeast. (A Saison is a Belgian style ale that was originally made in farmhouses during the warm season.) As for the coriander, I bought a package of it from the spice aisle and broke it down in my pepper-mill. The ginger was some fresh stuff that I got in the produce section. (You can find the entire recipe at the bottom of this post if you're interested.)

I was originally worried about the amounts of ginger and coriander to use. I found conflicting accounts, and I wasn't sure if I was adding far too much or far too little. Usually I err on the side of caution, but this time I knew that I wouldn't mind it if those two flavors came in a little strong. I figured that at worst, I could age it out a bit and the flavors would mellow.

What's the verdict? I created one tasty, refreshing beer that didn't quite come out the way I wanted it. The coriander is definitely present while not being overpowering - pretty much exactly what I was hoping for. The ginger isn't even noticeable, which would be more disappointing if the beer itself didn't taste so good. I'm guessing that I'll just have to try again and add some more. That's not such a bad thing, is it?

All I need now is a name. I simply wrote "Saison" on the bottle caps, but that style doesn't usually employ ginger and coriander (although using those is hardly unheard of either). Ginger-Coriander-Saison-Pale Ale is a bit verbose, don't you think? Corsonger? Gin-co-son? Spicy Pale Saison? Lance Deluxe? Miller Chill? Ahh well, I still need to perfect this into what I really want, so hopefully I'll have a name by then.

Anyway, here's the recipe:

Steeping Grain:
4 oz. Caramunich
4 oz. Special B
4 oz. Carapils

7 lbs. light malt extract
4 oz. corn sugar
4 oz. brown sugar

1 oz. Hallertau - added at the start of the 60-minute boil
1 oz. Hallertau - added a the last minute of the boil

Additional flavorings:
.87 oz. crushed coriander (an odd amount, but that's what the package's label read)
1/2 lb. (approx) fresh ginger, thinly sliched

Both of those were added at the last 10 minutes of the boil.

Yeast: White Labs Belgian Saison

Fermenting time - 3 weeks. This got off to a slow start, and I racked it into a secondary fermenter after 2 weeks. The fermenting started up again and finally settled after a few days. I then bottled it and tried my first one after one week from bottling.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Comics Roundup for 12/29/10

Wow...big week for me. In the interest of sanity, I'll try to keep most of these brief:

Batman: The Dark Knight #1 - I'm not the hugest fan of David Finch, but I've always enjoyed his artwork when I was already picking up a book that he was drawing. This series gives him a shot at writing, which I'm not sure if he's done before. So far, he's doing a pretty good job, and he's setting up a pretty intriguing plot and making good use of the character dynamics that one looks for in a Batman book (like the dialogue between Bruce and Alfred). Regarding the art, I liked his work on New Avengers, but I have to say that his style is much more suited to a character like Batman. This is easily some of the best I've seen from him. I'll definitely check out the next couple issues at least.

Batman: Detective Comics #872 - I liked the last issue with this new creative team of Scott Snyder and Jock, but I have to say that I liked this one even more. Definitely a cool new villain with this one with a great warped life philosophy.

Astonishing Spider-Man & Wolverine #4 (of 6) - This is quite a complex tale that's being told here, and it continues to have some fun character bits along the way.

Captain America #613 - What can I say? This is a great series, but I still want them to lose the "Nomad" backups, especially since the art is devolving in every issue.

The Flash #8 - Another villain-centric issue, this time with the Reverse Flash. Gotta say that I liked this one much better than last issue, and I'm looking forward to more with this villain. This is almost as good as that Mark Waid/Mike Weiringo issue of Fantastic Four that focused on Doctor Doom. We definitely see this guy for the sociopath that he is.

Green Lantern #61 - I've noticed that the last two books I wrote about didn't really feature the title character in it. This one didn't have Green Lantern at all. Oh well, it was still good. I really think that lately we can't look at individual comics as being self-contained stories anymore. They're all just chapters of much larger sagas.

The Avengers #8 - The Illuminati return in this issue, and it looks like it doesn't have a place in Steve Rogers' new world order. I'm glad to see that the tensions from Civil War are still boiling under the surface.

Carnage #1 - 2 (of 5) - Honestly, I don't really like Carnage that much as a villain. Still, when I flipped through this one at the store, I was intrigued. They're definitely doing something more interesting than the lame-ass "Maximum Carnage" story here. Also, I really like the artwork of Clayton Crain. (Besides, it doesn't seem like Carnage is even the main villain here anyway.)

Nemesis #4 (of 4) - Fun stuff. One thing that Mark Millar really knows how to do is move a story forward with each issue. Of course, this one resolved everything, but it definitely leaves things open for a sequel. I'm looking forward to it, and I hope that they can make a decent movie out of this.

Hellboy: The Sleeping and the Dead #1 (of 2) - This is a pretty cool little vampire story, and Scott Hampton is a welcome addition to the rotating team of artists. Still, I'm kind of hoping that Mignola himself will draw one of these soon.

Echo #27 - This series keeps going strong. As always, I like the characters, I like the art and I will eventually sit down and reread the entire series.

Superior #3 - I kept thinking while reading this issue that this series needs some kind of twist in order to justify its existence beyond just telling a several times told story well. By the end of this issue, it looks like the twist that I want is coming my way.