Despite casting Keanu Reaves as Brit occultist CONSTANTINE (2005), I still like the movie, as John Constantine (star of DC’s Hellblazer) begins to suspect there’s something worse than usual behind a plague of demonic attacks and discovers a scheme involving a psychic cop (Rachel Weisz), the angel Gabriel (Tilda Swinton) and the Antichrist. With Shia LeBoeuf as Constantine’s ill-fated assistant (who gets a slightly different fate in one of the deleted scenes), Djimon Hansou as occultist Papa Midnight, this works well for me. “There is no seventeenth chapter in Corinthians.”
PERFORMANCE (1970) starts out as a straight crime drama with enforcer James Foxx collecting protection and roughing up businessmen for his boss, only to wind up having to run from his own people after one job goes bad. Unfortunately, where he winds up running to is a reclusive rocker’s (Mick Jagger) apartment, where the movie promptly goes off the rails and turns into a pretentiously arty mess. Thumbs down. “It’s not a takeover——it’s a merger.”
FIREMAGGOT by Barbara Hambly is an e-novelette in which the protagonists of her Silicon Mage duology must battle a mind-controlling demon from another world before its spawn break into ours to start eating people. A good one, amusing for its deliberately antiquated IT world (this takes place shortly after the original books, so we’re still in the days of ARPANET and Genie). Though it’s a sad day when as talented a fantasist as Hambly has to self-publish (this is available on her web site).
WHO FEARS DEATH by Nnedi Okorafor is an excellent fantasy set in modern Africa, where the child of rape (resulting from tribal warfare) is born gifted with strange powers and must cope with suspicion from her community (less for the powers than the accident of her birth), murderous attacks by her birth father (“You should have been a son!”) and the realization she has a Great Destiny leading inevitably to death. Okorafor’s rising-star reputation is, I think, well earned.
100 BULLETS: Samurai is a middling TPB of the series. The first plotline, involving the newly jailed brute man Lono and the plans both Shepherd and Graves have for him, is good, but the follow-up feels like the kind of padding written just to provide a full-length collection (whether it was or not). Still, shows that Lono will probably be a wild card in the game (whatever the game is) right to the end).
E.C. SEGAR’S POPEYE: Let’s You and Him Fight is the third of fantagraphics’ collections of the classic Thimble Theater strips (regrettably the last currently available in the library). In this selection, Popeye becomes a star reporter, a king, a general, battles the legendary pirate Bluto (much less important in the strip than the ‘toons——this was his only appearance) and winds up adopting a young baby he named ‘Swee’pea’ pursued by cultists. The Sunday pages mostly revolve around Wimpy and his running efforts to con burgers out of the diner proprietor rough-house (fun, but the “you bring the ducks” catchphrase doesn’t work as well as Segar apparently thought) and there’s also several pages from a World’s Fair special including Olive Oyl trying fan-dancing (given the emphasis on how the fair would be stuffed with gorgeous girls, it seems Sex Sold then as well as it does now).
KING LEAR is a 1950s TV production starring Orson Welles as the monarch foolishly trying to divide his kingdom while retaining the perks of office. Director Peter Brooks trimmed this to 75 minutes to fit the TV series Omnibus by cutting out the plotlines involving Gloucester and his two sons (the characters still show up, but only as supporting players in the A plot) and the results hold up well. Though I am amused that host Alistair Cooke actually sounds less English here than when he hosted Masterpiece Theater——was he toning it down for the fifties or playing it up on PBS, I wonder? “On such sacrifices, even the gods throw incense.”