Project 52, #1: The Ado

I’ve already done the hype thing for Project 52 on my Tumblr, but for those of you who don’t want to venture into those dark waters: Fact One DC are cancelling every last one of their titles, and starting at #1 all over again, in theory creating a whole new universe that’s younger, sleeker and different. Renumbering isn’t unusual in comics, but this includes titles like Action Comics – the comic which introduced Superman, and has been running since the ’30s for 904 issues without ever going back to a new #1. Fact Two There will be 52 of these new titles. That’s a potential $160 to be wasted on comics (trust me, I’ve done the maths) in one month. So I’ve assembled my own super-team – my Justice League, if you will – to take that particular bullet for you, and read and review every single one of those titles. Alex Spencer, the incredible Self-Hyper. Tim Maytom, the astounding Trivia Lad. And introducing Bret Canny, the mysterious Third Man (whose secret identity is that he’s a housemate of Tim’s, I believe, but shhh). Fact Three This week – the first of five – is an easy one. One final lingering thread from the old DC universe (Flashpoint #5, which we won’t be looking at) and the First Ever Title of The New DC Universe, Justice League #1. All three of us will be looking at this in turn, and I’ll be adding the reviews as they come in. So with no further ado, it’s time to find out what Tim thought… Tim’s Review

I Know It’s Over, But It Never Really Began: Spotify Free

The party’s finally over, then. Anyone firing up Spotify today will have been directed to an ‘important announcement’ about the future of Spotify. They try to put the usual positive spin on it, mentioning how great it is that we’ve all embraced Spotify as tool for listening to and discovery of music, how it’s helping fight piracy, etc, etc. “…So it’s vital that we continue offering an on-demand free service to you and millions more like you, but to make that possible we have to put some limits in place going forward.” Long PR story short: as of the first of May, Spotify Free will be limited to 10 hours per month, individual tracks limited to five free listens. Which Spotify try to say won’t matter, because their research shows people use Spotify to discover new music. Which is all well and good, and justifies the ‘5 free listens’ model. And 10 hours, they point out, is 20 albums anyway! …Per month. Because who listens to more than 20 albums/200 songs in a month, eh? Anyone who followed last week’s Music Diary can see that I rely almost entirely on Spotify for my music listening. Since its features exploded this time last year, it is the only piece of music software I ever use. The announcement refers to users “giving up on piracy”, and it being “exactly what we hoped would happen”. Full disclosure time: Spotify genuinely is what killed a lifetime habit of heavy music piracy for me. I haven’t illegally downloaded anything for well over a year, and my hard-drive is free of ill-gotten MP3s. I know, I know, I’m a saint. But save your rosaries: with this change, for me, piracy has become a lot more attractive as an option. …I’m being idealistic again. I know that. Whenever I interviewed bands and threw a Spotify question in, they seemed sceptical. We’re not seeing any money from it, was the consensus. No-one really seemed to understand Spotify’s business model. And so the party had to end. But that never seems to make the hangover any easier, does it?

Define ‘Generic’: Source Code’s Poster

Duncan Jones’ last film, Moon, had one of the most brilliantly eye-catching posters I can remember. Strongly, anachronistically distinctive, it recalled a time before every poster was just a heavily photshopped image of the cast posing, or smoothed-out close-up of the star. It made your eyes go funny if you looked at it for too long. If you ever saw the monstrous wall-to-ceiling ones on the tube: those concentric circles… I mean, just look at it! Source Code, meanwhile, gets this: Yawn. There is another poster, the internet suggests , but this is the one spamming the side of every bus I see, making it easier for this to settle into the role of mental wallpaper. I didn’t even notice how bland it was until I’d actually seen the film. Why? A little hard thinking, a lot of Googling, and these were my findings: i. Colours It leans most obviously and heavily on the blue-centric (with a touch of red for contrast) palette of almost every sci fi/action/thriller poster of the last few years: The Dark Knight; Serenity; Next; Repo Men; Surrogates; Inception , to pick a few examples of variable quality.* It’s the current default colourscheme for any and all films of its stripe, these days, and – playing fair – it is perfectly functional. The red does contrast perfectly nicely against the blue to pick out details. In this case… ii. Title Spelt out in red text and blocky, square-edged letters. Wait a minute… this feels familiar. iii. Logo Under this lies the slightly less striking orange bloom of an exploding train, aimed right at Gyllenhaal’s heart like a bullet, implying this might be some kind of Unstoppable-esque runaway train type film. The logo for that film, in case you were wondering, looks a little like this… iv. Background Under all of it is that is the grid. Which can’t be helped: the effect is relevant to the film, depicting the eponymous source code. So naturally… Ah, damn… That’s Tron Legacy, there, in case you were wondering. It’s just about excusable – sci-fi is sci-fi, after all, and there are certain bits of iconography that help get that across- – but… v. Photoshop Ignoring all that, ignoring how anonymous it all is, my problem with the poster is thus: it just looks so incredibly tacky. With the exception of Gyllenhaal’s manly white-noise stubble, everything just looks so plastic: contrast with the sharp lines of Moon‘s concentric circles. And that doesn’t fairly represent the film at all. It’s not Speed Racer**. Even the gun looks poorly Photoshopped: which it might well be, given that the total screentime of our hero with a guy probably adds up to about 5 minutes. It’s just so tacked on, as if to assure you, no this is action-packed! …Which is the main problem, really. The marketing seems determined to convince you this is an entirely different film. The shadow of Inception hangs heavy, and fairly: the comparison is going to be drawn repeatedly. It might be coincidence, but Inception seems to have set the stage for big budget intelligent sci-fi in a similar, Philip K. Dick reality-questioning vein, and Source Code feels like the first great post-Inception film. And Source Code does draw from, or recall, a whole constellation of other films: Minority Report to to Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind all the way to Groundhog Day and, yes, Inception. But the film itself takes all those elements, and makes something coherent and individual. They’re merely spices that give its flavour edge: strong-tasting, true, and as you bite down on each you wonder to yourself where have I tasted that before, but it’s expertly mixed, so that each rises, piquant, and falls into the background over the course of the film. Source Code mixes up the serious and light-hearted elements of those films with a deft touch, to make something that feels more human than Inception, but just as baffling a puzzle. It’s a better film, frankly. …Not that you’d know it from the poster. *An interesting thing happens, by the way, if you search for, in particular, sci fi or thriller posters. The results will be vast, ranging from Michael Jackson to b-movies… until you filter by colour. Changing to the blue-only filter flashes up almost entirely recent example of exactly the kind I was looking for. Try it yourself at home! (You’ll probably also notice how similar the main Watchmenand Inception posters are. A little research suggest I wasn’t the first person to spot that, though **A film of which I am one of the few admirers, incidentally. I just dig the ridiculous cartoon ambition of the thing

Too Many Flesh Suppers: How to Make Cowley’s Chinese-Style Pork Belly

The sun is shining right now, and it feels like summer has arrived. Before this warming illusion is inevitably snatched away, I’m revelling in a little nostalgia. So here’s a little something I’ve been cooking up* for a while that feels suddenly seasonal. Cowley’s Chinese-Style Pork Belly is part of something me and my friends shot last summer as a test for our otherwise abortive Sparkle Motion** initiative. We were wondering if we could manage a regular short internet episodic series thing. As it’s taken me till now to do anything with the footage, clearly we couldn’t. …So at the very least it worked as a test. Anyway, this is the best chunk of meat* left on those particular bones, so I’ve edited it up and put it online for your enjoyment. (Please note that the following is somewhat more risqué than my generally family-friendly blog, and beware accordingly.) (Bonus Director’s Commentary time: It’s a bit longer than I’d’ve liked, but that Cowley is a right windbag. And he chose a damned complex recipe. I cut the video aiming for a genuinely instructional tone, rather than the inevitably smug hurrr, look what me and the lads did attempt at humour. So, please, as BBQ season approaches: make this pork belly at home!) *Unintentional but very much deliberately-left-in puns. **That was what I was calling it, anyway. Ultimately, I suspect that I just wanted the opportunity to question shout “Sometimes I doubt your commitment to Sparkle Motion!” at people. This seems, in retrospect, somewhat ironic, presenting this to you over 9 months later.

2010: The Third Quarter – Comix

I’m kind of falling out of keeping up to date with comics at the moment, diving instead into huge multiple book series either that can be grabbed on the cheap (most recently Morrison’s New X-Men, about which I need to think further and maybe reread) or rereading stuff I’ve already got (Y: The Last Man, which probably has a post forthcoming). I don’t know if this is a comment on the quality of comics at the moment, or on my lifestyle, but just some background on the choices below. Neil Young’s Greendale Sometimes, the term graphic novel actually manages to hit a nail right on the head. Small immersive pockets of pure fiction. Okay, it’s wrong because a work like Greendale isn’t anywhere near the length of a novel. It is, in fact, about half a film in a length. To pick one, it’s Donnie Darko minus the Lynch. But that breathtaking feeling of emerging the other side is exactly the same. It makes sense, perhaps, to talk about it in these terms, comparing it to other media. After all, this was apparently a film already, as well as (obviously, I guess) a Neil Young album. But I know nothing about that, and nothing about Neil Young beyond … Young Neil from Scott Pilgrim. But the magic of the book – and magic is the word that I would hammer repeatedly and forcefully, were this a full-length review – is somehow novelistic. It’s open ended. It’s got the big stuff – the world – and the small stuff – being a teenager – all knitted together. It deals with the weird in a casual, magical-realism-ish way. Most impressively, it makes an interesting story from subjects I’m not necessarily that interested in. The Bush administration and the mess that was ’00s America got chewed up so thoroughly by the culture of that time that I’m not able to take it all that seriously. But that is intertwined with characters that are easy to care about, especially as illustrated in Cliff Chiang’s … okay, I have to say it again … magical brushstrokes. The story opens with a stock tragedy. The composition and colours and lines somehow make you immediately care about it. That’s a perfect microcosm of this book, I reckon. I picked it up quite by accident, nonchalantly, and emerged an hour later breathless. Magic. Batman & Robin/Return of Bruce Wayne It’s boring, because this was the centre-piece of my choices three months ago, but this has been undeniably the dominant force in my reading for a while now. And comics move slower, anyway. A ‘Quarter’, our chosen measure of time, contains 3 titles of a comic if you’re lucky. I’d ban myself from talking about it, but for wanting to talk about it forever and forever like a man infected with a particularly chatty strain of the Joker virus. Morrison’s run on Batman* has been interesting all through, but this is it finally reaching narrative maturity. All the plot threads are finally coming together, and answers to all the craziness that has been the last half-decade of Batman comics are promised. We’re at the perfect point of any story like this, where ideas begin to crystallise and rush around your mind. In rollercoaster terms, we’ve just climbed that final ramp and can just about see the big drop. If it all pays off – and it’s difficult to pay off so much, and Morrison rarely manages fully satisfying endings, and working in an endless serialised story doesn’t help – this will be possibly the greatest superhero story ever told. It’s stunning in its scope and ambition. But for now, all that doesn’t matter, because it’s the story and the mystery that keeps bringing me back. It’s the thing I impatiently check the weekly listings for, every week. That’s thanks to breathless cliffhangers and tightly-cut-together Big Moments, just as much as it is the trademark Morrison craziness. By the next time I write about this, it’ll all be over and I’ll have the scalpel to go at what it all means. See you there. *For more on the idea of ‘runs’ in comics, see last Quarter. And that just about wraps everything up, by my reckoning. I’m leaving games out for now, as it’s hard to be succinct about every game I want to talk about. They’ll get their own pieces, in time. And besides, this has been the biggest one yet, I think. As if I haven’t wasted enough of your time already…