Weekend at last.

*Whew! That was a refreshing three and a half hours of sleep after a long long long long night of work. And I even have hot water now! I'd call it an early Christmas but the landlord made me remove the tree from my bathtub; a lot of unwanted squirrels.

*The new film "Team America: World Police" opens wide today, and you can read my review of a preview screening (and the film is unchanged in wide release from that sneak peek) right here.

I was going to make another crack about being among the minority in reaction to the film after checking out the 83% freshness rating on Rotten Tomatoes, but then I actually started reading their blurbs and discovered that positive ratings were being given to such white-hot raves as:

"More satisfying as a straight-ahead blow 'em up than as a satire."

"...an occasionally hilarious, frequently anemic parody that misses its opportunity to permanently document a scathing critique of current events"

"45 of the funniest minutes I've spent at the movies this year. Too bad this weapon of mass diversion runs more than twice that in length."

and my personal favorite:

"Huge laughs are offset by dead spots."

Which brings us to the problem with citing Rotten Tomatoes as a barometer of general critical reaction; as soon as we run into a film that inspires mixed reactions in a single viewer (like in my own review) the black or white basis of Rotten Tomatoes' analysis becomes highly arbitrary. I suspect that the site tends to err on the side of 'positive' since it takes more than a 50% rating to score an overall 'fresh' designation. Regardless, it's a notable shortcoming in the reliability of the site as an indicator of widespread feeling, although it continues to be a handy house of links at the minimum...

Ex Machina #5



I should have prepared myself for the somewhat interesting if heavily contrived ending to this arc right after reading the first few pages. It's like writer Brian K. Vaughan has sensed that the whole 'controversial painting' subplot has gone a long way toward nowhere in the last few pages (although we were treated to that utterly painful ideological confrontation last issue, so maybe I should give thanks for small blessings) because the whole thing is wrapped up with all the gentleness of a large cane creeping out from stage left to drag a flop vaudevillian out of the audience's throwing range. There's also a strange moment where a certain character shouts out "Sic semper tyrannis!" and then instantly throwing in an explanitory "Thus always to tyrants!" It was sort of amusing, since the character in question would probably be one to underestimate the intelligence of onlookers. But then I noticed other characters doing it. Explaining things we're shown. Certain easy-to-spot incriminating evidence is found in a character's room, but that doesn't stop another character from explaining exactly what the presence of such items means in terms of plot, despite the overwhelming simplicity of the twist on a visual level. This trend reaches its apex for the issue in a sequence where Hundred's cell phone goes off at an inopportune moment, prompting his assistant to note for the benefit of all that yes, a cell phone did indeed just go off. Why do I find this irritating?

And why should I harp on the climactic final twist, where we find out that the mystery killer is actually a character we've never seen before? Enough is explained to figure out what's going on at least; Kremlin outlines exactly how he cracked the case, Scooby-style. His methodology is pretty forced and his success springs from several big coincidences (a very narrow pool of suspects, considering that there's two entire schools to check), although I'll cut Vaughan a little slack in that he's careful to characterize the killer as wanting to be caught. But is it really that easy to hook up a bomb to a snow-plow's ignition while the driver's stuck talking on the phone outside (like in issue #3)? And more importantly, does the NYPD always send out a six-man assault team with automatic weapons and the Police Commissioner herself in response to a single anonymous tip? With evidence as tenuous as what we're given?

It must be the 'real-world' focus of the book, which takes elements that may have been more easily brushed away in other superhero-style books and puts them in boldface. On the whole, the story was underwhelming. There's more drips and drops of info on Hundred's prior life. Whispers of fantasy. I'd like a slightly louder whisper, I think. I'd like more encroachment on the 'real' world. The book hasn't really been about a superhero mayor thus far; it's been about hinting at things surrounding the people in the superhero mayor's past, and they're not horribly compelling things from what little I've seen. Perhaps I'm asking the wrong thing from "Ex Machina", but what's happening now isn't all that right a thing for me.