Archives For June 2011

Isotope Comics in San Francisco is one of the coolest comic shops I’ve ever visited. Actually, it’s called a comics lounge, and for good reason. Rather than having a neurotic owner breathing down your neck, making sure you’re not handling the merchandise too much, at Isotope Comics you’re encouraged to pull up a comfy chair, browse comics for hours, and talk shop with customers and staff.
When you walk in, you notice a few things: custom-made bright red couches that look like they would fit the décor of any hip LA club, a huge inventory of graphic novels that you can’t just find anywhere, the most impressive variety of independent comics you’ve ever seen, and lots of toilet seats mounted on the walls. Now, these aren’t ordinary toilet seats; these are toilet seats transformed into artwork and signed by various comic writers and artists: Mike Carey, Mark Millar, Rick Remember, Warren Ellis, James Callahan, and the list goes on and on. The best part is that the owner of the place, James, has a genuine love of comics that spills over, and he’s happy to give you an enthusiastic tour of his treasured toilet seats and to share a few funny stories about the writers/artists.
Not only does James give one fun, personable tour, but he knows his stuff. I’ve never talked to someone who knows so much about comics: new, old, independent, mainstream, manga, classics, horror… he seriously knows it all. He’s even served as a judge for the Eisner Award in comics.
If you’re in San Francisco, this place is a must-see. It was definitely one of the highlights of my trip. And if it’s your first time checking in there on Foursquare, you get 15% off your purchase. Beautiful interiors, huge selection, great staff, and tech savvy. What more could you want?
Visit their website and check out some of the awesome pics they have posted: http://isotopecomics.com.
PS- Be sure to see the gorgeous original Frank Quitely panels that hang above the register.
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I’m just gonna forgo any pleasantries, along with any pretenses that I can look at this film in anything approaching an unbiased manner. I like Woody Allen. I like Paris. I like writing and I like art. I loved this film. Sure, it had its problems, but I was charmed by the main character, Gil, played by Owen Wilson (a blatant representation of Woody Allen) and his sincere (if sometimes sappy) dialogue. Some of my favorite lines that I’ve ever heard were in the film, like when Wilson insists that “No work of art can compare to a city.” 

Although it’s difficult to talk about a work of art in terms of feelings, I couldn’t help but love the feel of this film. Yes, no work of art can do a city justice, but this film captured the feeling I had gallivanting about Paris.Some would say that the film romanticized Paris from a tourist’s perspective, but I would disagree and toss in my lot with Allen. I think there are cities that can be appreciated as a work of art, regardless of whether you grew up there or whether you’re visiting for the first time. And Gil’s enthusiasm for Paris is contagious and understandable.

I don’t want to give away too much about the plot, because I didn’t know much about it, and I found myself giddy as certain events unfolded (I even slapped my viewing companion in the arm, grinned, and sat up straighter in my chair a few times in sheer excitement). That’s not to say it had a perfect plot. In fact, I was disappointed that for such a creative premise, the film ended up making some pretty cliché moves, and I was surprised that the film had such an elementary take-home message. Despite its plot clumsiness, I loved the film and I would happily see it in theaters again, which is not an action I take lightly.

As I walked into the packed room, I couldn’t help but notice all the girls around me were wearing enough makeup to frost a cake and all the women were wearing jeans with intricately Be-Dazzled™ designs on their butts. “Where the hell am I?” I thought to myself as the raunchy lyrics of Lady Gaga and Christina Aguilera pumped through the speakers and girls in various cuts of neon spandex took to the stage and started shimmying, gyrating, and thrusting. No, this was not a strip club. This wasn’t even an underground dance club. This was a horror show. Scantily clad elementary-school-aged children awkwardly keeping in step with choreographed pelvic thrusts set to the THUMP, THUMP, THUMP of deep bass-driven, sexually-charged pop music. God help me, this was my little nieces’ dance recital in the local high school auditorium, and the ages of said girls on stage ranged from six to twelve years old.
Let me get one thing clear: I’m not one of those crazy people who thinks women should only wear dresses buttoned up to their chin and girls shouldn’t be allowed to fraternize with boys. I’m not saying girls shouldn’t dance. In fact, there were two dance routines (out of 25) that proved that these girls could be taught graceful dance moves requiring talent and precision without the need for costumes made out of underwear or the sexualized movements. One was a hip-hop routine where the girls (and even a few boys) wore pants and t-shirts, and OMG, somehow they managed to move just fine in such restrictive clothing. Another dance showcased the miniature girls in a shirt and a skirt with longer shorts underneath while the girls leapt, twirled, and twisted in some impressive moves.
The other 23 dance numbers featured sexually suggestive convulsions from the tiny bodies that were repulsive and infuriating replications of oversexualized pop stars. The display was so hard to look at, I ended up spending a good amount of time looking into the faces of the parents in the audience and silently condemning them (and wondering if their butts hurt from sitting on all those faux jewels). How could a parent bear to see their little girls represented in such a way, especially at such a young, impressionable age? Didn’t they see that they were encouraging their children to find approval in all the wrong ways and in all the wrong places? Shame on these women, these mothers who perpetuate this cycle of abuse by condoning such a horrible practice. I couldn’t believe that I was sitting in what is considered to be a civilized society in the United States of America and that all those present were willingly participating in such an event. How can we demand equality for women and an end to sexual abuse when we willingly contribute to the perpetuation of the problem?
Am I saying all girls’ dance troupes are evil? Of course not. But I’m saying I’m astounded that there are dance teachers that think this is “cute” or appropriate in any way. I’m saying I’m frustrated with parents who don’t seem to understand the psychological damage that they’re inflicting upon their children. Damage that can’t be undone. I’m saying good-freaking-grief, we should not be putting up with this crap. We should not be watching 6-year-olds shaking their hips to songs about being a super model or getting drunk at a club and thinking this is okay. And I’m beyond horrified that all this has to be said and isn’t just taken as a given.
*Note: Neither of my nieces participated in the worst of the dances, and my brother and sister-in-law were just as surprised/upset with the program as I was.

X-Men: First Class

Ashley Walton —  June 5, 2011 — 6 Comments
I really enjoyed this film; I think we can safely agree that it’s the best X-Men film so far (which I guess isn’t saying that much, but it was good, I swear). Above all, Magneto and Xavier were well cast. Michael Fassbender (Magneto) and James McAvoy (Xavier) pulled off some pretty cheesy lines with sincerity and depth, and it actually worked.
The thing that made this film great was that it was Magneto’s story, and you sympathized with and understood a more complex character than a mere villain. All the story development of Magneto’s character and past was interesting, evocative, and well developed. I even enjoyed watching his relationship unfold with Mystique, although I would have preferred that she had refrained from throwing herself at him… and that she was played by a different actress—I thought she was grossly miscast.
Speaking of miscasting, January Jones as Emma Frost drove me nuts. I was shocked that she delivered her lines like a mousy Betty Draper. Even as ‘60s Emma Frost, playing right-hand to Shaw and bending to his every whim, I could never imagine Frost as a soft-spoken submissive, and I didn’t think any of the other women in the film had this problem.
But back to the things I loved. There were a few choice cameos that made my day, but I’ll forgo the specifics. I highly recommend seeing this film in theater for some pretty awesome special effects and shots. Plus, I thought it was a much more interesting story than Thor.
Side notes: there’s no extra scene after the credits. Also, upon seeing First Class, several people have asked me for X-Men comics recommendations, and my glowing recommendationis the first four trades of Astonishing X-Men by Joss Whedon. It’s a self-contained story arch that features the likes of characters from First Class. Enjoy.
I know I haven’t blogged in forever, and this review is less than relevant, since the movie is no longer in theaters, but I feel it is my duty to make this report (and this is the last film I’ve seen in theaters that I’ve been truly impressed by… I’m looking at you, Bridesmaids and Hangover II… okay Thor was pretty good– nobody kill me). I really enjoyed Scream 4 (and I don’t appreciate any pretentious eye-rolling at the suggestion that the third sequel in a horror franchise might have some artistic merit). This film echoed back to the self-aware genre witticisms of the first film, but this one took the meaning of meta to a whole new level, and I laughed out loud at a lot of jokes pointed at itself. This was the smartest horror film I’ve seen since Jennifer’s Body, and I urge you to not be turned off by the “4” in the title. It was well-paced and well-written, and I look forward to seeing it again, which is a rare thing for me to say in the horror genre. I dare say I will purchase the DVD, and I hope others will be motivated to give it a rent.