Oh shoot it’s Fun-Size Friday again, isn’t it? Yeah, that’s — I don’t know why that would be surprising to me at this point, and yet somehow it keeps sneaking up on me. Am I one of those guys who needs a day planner or something, maybe some kind of free app? Like, do they have apps designed specifically for helpless people oblivious to the passage of time?
Also, how many more words can I can squeeze out of this “app” bit?
Yeah, forget it, let’s talk about something else, like comics! Or movies! Or whatever other weird random tangent my train of thought takes me to! That’s probably it for apps though; if it’s not Sudoku it’s pretty much outside my wheelhouse. Anyway, enough about my glaring technological blind spots, let’s talk about something I do know a thing or two about!
TRANSLATED BY Andrea Rosenberg
LETTERED BY Andworld Design
STORY & ART BY Maria Llovet
EDITED BY Amanda LaFranco & Sierra Hahn
DESIGNS BY Scott Newman
PUBLISHED BY Boom Studios
IMAGE SOURCE: Heartbeat #1 Cover by Maria Llovet [Boom Studios]
Eva is a young girl trapped in an impossible situation — forced to attend a prestigious school that treats her as a social outcast while her mother works herself to death to keep Eva in that same school. It was meant to open up the sort of opportunities that her mother never had as a kid, but instead it’s trapped Eva in a near-permanent state of depression, her moods alternating primarily between seething anger and unrelenting sadness. Trapped on all sides and helpless to do anything about it, the last thing Eva needs is to worry about some kind of monster hiding in plain sight, just waiting to sink their fangs into okay we all know where I’m going with this, right? It’s vampires.
Right, so let’s address the elephant in the room: a depressed teenage girl treated like an outcast discovers a vampire secretly attending her high school? Is Heartbeat secretly a graphic novel adaptation of Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight? The comparisons are pretty much inevitable, but to be fair I’m not sure that’s quite the angle that creator Maria Llovet is going for. In fact based on the last couple of pages, the monster in question is far from the Vampire With A Heart Of Gold that Twilight made it’s billions of dollars on. Unfortunately our lead character Eva seems a bit thin for the most part; aside from some flowery but depressing prose there’s not a ton to differentiate Eva from her Twilight counterpart. There’s definitely seeds of potential dropped here and there, especially once we reach the inevitable confrontation between Eva and her monster, but unfortunately the pace of the story doesn’t leave a ton of time to address it in the first issue. It could be that Heartbeat will read better once it’s fully collected, but that’s not to say that the first issue is unreadable on it’s own.
IMAGE SOURCE: Heartbeat #1 [Boom Studios]
Written and drawn by Maria Llovet, Heartbeat #1 has a very Japanese “manga-esque” look and feel to it, focusing primarily on emotional beats and close-up facial expressions. It’s a quieter and subtle style, complete with a muted color palette that fits with the mindset of our lead character; drained of life and joy, drifting joylessly through her own life, existing but not living. It makes the moments when the colors do pop off the page — particularly with the darker and more violent imagery — stand out all the more. There’s one page in particular near the middle of the issue that really hammers home just how freaking despondent Eva has become, to the point that it might be a bit uncomfortable for readers who share her mindset, but perhaps I’m reading too much into things.
As for things I didn’t entirely care for, I have to address my biggest personal hang-up: I’m just not a big fan of vampire stories. Twilight certainly didn’t help any, but even before those books came out I always found the idea of vampires to be a bit silly, even when they were shown as terrifying monsters. I don’t know, clearly I have more trouble seeing the appeal in vampire stories than others. Still, I’m willing to give Heartbeat the benefit of the doubt based on the last couple pages alone; if I’m reading it right then Eva could turn out to be much more interesting then I initially gave her credit for. My unreasonable personal bias aside, I’m ultimately glad I gave this issue a shot if only for introducing me to Llovet’s interesting portfolio of artwork. All-in-all, I’d give Heartbeat #1 a tentative recommendation: you don’t necessarily have to rush out to the comic store, but if you’re curious and you’ve got a taste for some nihilistic vampire tales then maybe give the first issue a shot and see what you think.
CHECK AVAILABILITY AT YOUR
LOCAL COMIC BOOK RETAILER
IN DIGITAL FORMATS
1×02 | “CHAPTER TWO: THE CHILD”
STARRING Pedro Pascal, Nick Nolte, et al.
PHOTOGRAPHY DIRECTION BY Baz Idoine
PRODUCTION DESIGNS BY Andrew L. Jones
EDITED BY Andrew S. Eisen
MUSIC BY Ludwig Göransson
WRITTEN BY Jon Favreau
PRODUCED BY Jon Favreau, Dave Filoni, Kathleen Kennedy, Colin Wilson
DIRECTED BY Rick Famuyiwa
CREATED BY Jon Favreau
BASED ON Star Wars by George Lucas
IMAGE SOURCE: Lucasfilm [Walt Disney Studios]
I can already tell this is gonna be a difficult show to talk about. I’ve done my best to avoid directly addressing the Massive Death Star Sized Spoiler this time around, but if I’m gonna keep talking about this show I’m gonna have to address the Rancor in the room at some point. Basically what I’m saying is this review will be spoiler-free, but starting next week the kid gloves are coming off. I have spoken.
In the previous episode, the Mandalorian had scoured the edges of space in search of a mysterious bounty, defeating dozens of armed assailants and disabling and/or killing one of his fellow Guild members to secure his prize. Now that he’s finally got it in his hands, it’s time for the really hard part: staying alive long enough to cash it in. Even for a warrior who considers weapons his religion, there’s still an awful lot of potential trouble between him and his goal, including angry beasts, meddlesome Jawa scavengers, and even the troublesome bounty itself.
IMAGE SOURCE: The Mandalorian 1×02 End Credits [Lucasfilm/Disney Plus]
While Chapter Two wasn’t quite as much of a slam dunk for me as Chapter One, this was by no means a terrible episode. I particularly enjoyed the beginning of the episode, a one-two punch of an action scene followed by a quieter moment with no dialogue spoken at all, and both worked equally well. As a matter of fact, most of this episode goes by with very few words exchanged; it really made the direction and cinematography shine, which it should because there are some really nice shots in this episode. The music is strong throughout as well, but there’s a point during the final fight scene that really clicked for me in depicting the (for lack of a more spoilerific term) strangeness of thr moment. The only real problem I had was with the pacing; with a runtime of thirty minutes I found myself wishing some moments were longer while others could be cut entirely, but in this case I think your mileage will vary.
Still, all of this was pretty much what I was expecting from a show featuring a Mandalorian: a stoic lead travelling from cool setpiece to cool setpiece while dealing in the uglier side of the universe. What I definitely wasn’t expecting is the amount of humor the show has thrown in this far, mostly if not all at our lead character’s expense. Like Boba Fett and Jango Fett before him, this Mandalorian is no stranger to the occasionally embarrassing or humbling moment; sure he’ll have the typical cool guy attitude you’d expect from a silent gunslinger but there’s also times where the guy will end up falling flat on his face. I’ve got to give Pedro Pascal and writer Jon Favreau credit, they seem to know this guy’s strengths and (at least for now) know how to compensate for his weaknesses. Also his negotiation scene with the Jawas got a big laugh out of me, which was not something I was expecting at all.
So yeah, The Mandalorian: still working for me. No Werner Herzog this time around to deliver sinister exposition, but by the looks of the next episode there will be plenty more of that later. I think that’s about all I can talk about without going full spoiler on you, so I’ll leave all business that until next time. Should be fun.
STREAM THE MANDALORIAN,
NOW AVAILABLE ON DISNEY PLUS
AND NOW…AN AWKWARD ANIME CONFESSION
HARUHI FORGIVE ME, I HAVE STRAYED FROM THE RIGHTEOUS PATH
IMAGE SOURCE: 1stDibs
I know this is breaking from the review format I’ve established thus far, but there’s something I need to get off my chest and I can’t keep it contained anymore. I mean, there was another comic book I wanted to talk about this week, but after giving it a thorough read-through I’ve decided…probably not a good idea. Don’t ask me which one it was or why, the answer would just disappoint you. So instead, I’ve decided to torpedo whatever “credibility” I might have scrounged up to this point and talk about something else that’s been on my mind for a while now: I like to listen to the 4Kids English Dub openings.
Most of you younger folk probably don’t know what the heck I’m talking about right now, but those of you who grew up in the late 90’s and early 2000’s probably at least recognize the word “4Kids” from something or other. We don’t have much time so I’m gonna just give you the cliff notes version: you know how shows from other countries sometimes get dubbed over in English when they come to America? Well, for quite a long time 4Kids Entertainment was one of the primary companies responsible for the English dubs of several popular Japanese cartoons, or anime. This included big mainstream franchise properties like Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh!, but they had their finger in a whole bunch of other pies too.
I’m not gonna lie and tell you that their English dubs were the best in business, but for better or worse 4Kids was the gatekeeper of anime for a whole generation of impressionable kids, including myself. There’s probably a much bigger post I could write about the impact of 4Kids on anime in general, but for now I just want to focus on one aspect of their business: making new openings for their anime. When they were good, they could be great, but even when they were bad (and there were a lot of bad ones) they were at least enjoyably bad. Obviously opinions will vary on this, but you’ve got to give 4Kids credit for not doing anything halfway; I’m reasonably certain every single one of their properties got their own custom-made-for-English-speakers opening.
I’ll tell you what though, as much legitimate affection as I have for some of their openings, the one that’s really gotten stuck in my head is a one-minute tune based on an anime most people — even diehard anime fans — have no idea even existed: Tokyo Mew Mew, or as it was known in North America, Mew Mew Power. Why the name change? No clue. Honestly I know next to nothing about this anime at all, I just know that for over a year of my life I would wake up to the modulated voice of Bree Sharp playing on the TV, and to this day that darn “Na-na-na-na-na” chorus has buried itself in my brain. What am I supposed to do with that? I’ll tell you exactly what I do: I spread the love.
So, to quickly sum things up: my taste in anime is weird, 4Kids openings aren’t all bad, and it would really make my day if Bree Sharp could do a full three-minute cover of this song. Curse you Bree Sharp! Curse you and your infectiously catchy Mew Mew Power soundtrack down to the blackest pits of Hades!
And…that’s it. Moving on.
STARRING Jason Schwartzman, J. K. Simmons, Rashida Jones, Joan Cusack, Will Sasso. Norm Macdonald, et al.
EDITED BY Pablo Garcia Revert
MUSIC BY Alfonso G. Aguilar
STORY BY Sergio Pablos
SCREENPLAY BY Sergio Pablos, Zach Lewis, & Jim Mahoney
PRODUCED BY Jinko Gotoh, Sergio Pablos, Marisa Roman, Matthew Teevan, Gustavo Ferrada, Mercedes Gamero, & Mikel Lejarza
DIRECTED BY Sergio Pablos &
Carlos Martínez López
DISTRIBUTED BY Netflix
A PRODUCTION OF Sergio Pablos Animation Studios, in collaboration with Atresmedia Cine & Aniventure
IMAGE SOURCE: IMDB
Welcome to Smeerensburg, a small dilapidated town on a frozen island just above the Arctic Circle. Highlights of the neighborhood include continuous cold weather (naturally), a run-down schoolhouse filled to the brim with dead fish, and one of the longest family feuds in human history: The Krum’s vs the Ellingboe’s. No one in their right mind would willingly choose to come here, least of all Jesper Johansen – a coddled young man and heir to a wealthy postal business – who’s forced by his father to either succeed as Smeerensburg’s latest postman or be cut off from his life of luxury forever. Jesper is all but resigned to his fate; in a town this fundamentally broken, it’s hard to imagine any of it’s residents have a reason, much less a desire to send a letter. To get out of this hole he’s dug himself into, Jesper is gonna need to come up with The Scheme To End All Schemes, and it all begins with a mysterious old woodsman and his shed full of toys.
It’s going to be very difficult for me to stay objective talking about Klaus, because from the minute I watched the trailer I was already in love with it, “it” in this case meaning the animation. Holy freaking cats, an animated movie made in 2019 using good old-fashioned traditional hand-drawn animation! I’ve talked about my whole “traditional animation” bias on here before — short version: I love CG cartoons too, but I’m gonna give props to the back-breaking handmade animation every single time — and Klaus has done nothing to change my mind. I don’t know how many frames it took to animate these scenes but it must have been a truly astounding number because some of the character’s movements are so freaking smooth it’s almost scary to watch. No matter what you think about the script or the actors or whatever, if you are the kind of person who appreciates the craft of animating then this movie is must-see entertainment.
Sorry, still drooling over the visuals. At least…I hope that’s why I’m drooling. Am I saying “drooling” too much? No, don’t tell me; if I’m asking the question then the answer is almost definitely yes. There’s just so much darn detail evident in every frame of this thing that I want to go and physically shake the hand of everyone who worked on making this happen.
So, impressive visuals? Check. How’s the rest of the movie? Well, obviously I want a 2D animated project with this much passion and talent to succeed, so I’m tempted to give it a glowing recommendation. The performances from the cast are all uniformly strong; I can’t think of anyone who did a bad job off the top of my head. Heck, even Norm MacDonald whose career as a voice actor has been a bit hit-and-miss in recent years — is used surprisingly well here as an annoyingly surly boat captain, a role he seems to be weirdly suited for. My only real complaint is that Klaus, as breathtaking beautiful as it is, is that the script maybe has a few too many things to say and not enough time to really delve into them all.
The spoke that the whole movie seems to turn on is that “a true selfless act always sparks another”, and there’s plenty of moments that back that up throughout the film. However, for an origin story about Santa Claus aka Klaus, the individual “elements” of the Christmas story didn’t coalesce quite as smoothly as I might have preferred. Just one example, Klaus and Jesper do several toy deliveries over many days that are decidedly not Christmas, and then decide to do another delivery on Christmas again, but…bigger? Like, there doesn’t seem to be anything that makes this one delivery more special than the others other than the fact that they’re doing it on a holiday, but everyone — including the antagonists — makes it out to be the big “make or break” moment.
I don’t know, perhaps I’m overthinking a movie designed for a decidedly younger demographic, and in the grand scheme of things it’s not the idea that I came to love about Klaus, it’s the execution of the idea. SPA Studios set out to make an innovative 2D movie, and in that respect I can confidently say they’ve succeeded here. And hey, if this movie takes off who knows where the old ways of animation could head next? If nothing else, Klaus is a strong reminder that there’s still plenty of innovation left in 2D animation, and it’s an entertaining Christmas movie to boot. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m gonna watch James Baxter‘s animation reel for about the twentieth time. Shoot, did I forget to mention Baxter did animation for Klaus? Well, he did, and it’s gorgeous. Sorry, got caught up in the visuals again. I’ll catch up with you in just a sec.
KLAUS IS RATED PG
FOR RUDE HUMOR AND MILD ACTION
AVAILABLE NOW ON NETFLIX
IN CLOSING, REMEMBER: IT’S OKAY TO LIKE THINGS
WITHIN REASON. LIKE, IF YOU ENJOY KILLING PEOPLE THAT WOULD BE PRETTY EFFED UP. I’M RAMBLING, BUT YOU GET WHAT I’M GOING FOR, RIGHT?
IMAGE SOURCE: Cinema Wins YouTube Page
I read, watched, and generally absorbed a lot of negative and critical stuff over the last week, and frankly it’s got me feeling pretty low. I try to keep the focus on positives when I do these Fun-Size posts — find the “good” in the bad and the “great” in the good — but when your head’s not in the game that kind of writing can be a real chore, especially when your writing process is as rough as mine. See, there I go again, putting myself down for no good reason, and where does that get anybody? Instead, how about we wrap things up on a positive note and focus on something I like to watch when I get down on myself: CinemaWins.
An affectionate parody of the massively popular CinemaSins YouTube channel — a channel dedicated to proving that “no movie is without sin” — CinemaWins, run by Lee Boucher, is all about finding something good in every movie, no matter how bad or reviled the movie may have been received. Sometimes I agree with his takes, sometimes I don’t, but I admire the fact that he’s at least attempting to give credit where credit’s due. I know it’s fun to trash the stuff we don’t like these days, but as somebody who can barely fart out a thousand words a week, I’ve gained a much greater appreciation for the people who work on creative projects like this, so I appreciate what CinemaWins is doing.
That’s all for this week’s edition, if you’ll excuse me I’ve got a bed I need to go pass out on before the next week of craziness. Until next time: stay warm, stay safe, and stay positive.