Friday, August 3, 2012

Tinker Tailor Rocketeer Hitman

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy: based on the novel by John LeCarre; adapted by Bridget O'Connor and Peter Straughan; directed by Tomas Alfredson; starring Gary Oldman (George Smiley), John Hurt (Control), Colin Firth (Bill Haydon), Tom Hardy (Ricki Tarr), Mark Strong (Jim Prideaux) and Benedict Cumberbatch (Peter Guillam) (2011): The BBC made a highly regarded 7-hour miniseries out of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy in the late 1970's. Starring Alec Guinness, it went on to be a big hit on PBS as well.

Seven hours seems about right for a relatively lengthy LeCarre novel about the intricacies of Cold War espionage in the 1960's and 1970's. This two-hour adaptation seems more like something made on a dare.

Most of the plot is still here. The acting is fine across the board, especially as the actors have to do a lot of heavy lifting with relatively few lines -- Gary Oldman probably did deserve his Oscar nomination for following Guinness in one of Guinness's signature roles and not embarrassing himself. And the details of Cold War espionage are generally fascinating. But...

Two hours? There are a lot of characters here, and only Oldman's George Smiley approaches being more character than character sketch. The movie looks terrific (the director previously helmed the excellent Swedish vampire movie Let the Right One In), and the pacing is fine. But there's nothing and no one to care about here as a character one can feel much investment in. It's like a really high-toned adaptation of the Cliff's Notes for Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. Lightly recommended.


 

Rocketeer Adventures 2: based on characters and situations created by Dave Stevens; written by Marc Guggenheim, Peter David, Stan Sakai, Walt Simonson, Tom Taylor, Paul Dini, David Lapham, Matt Wagner, Kyle Baker, Louise Simonson, David Mandel, and John Byrne; illustrated by Sandy Plunkett, Bill Sienkiewicz, Stan Sakai, Darwyn Cooke, Dave Stevens, John Paul Leon, Bill Morrison, Colin Wilson, Chris Sprouse, Karl Story, Eric Canete, Kyle Baker, Walt Simonson, Bob Wiacek, J. Bone, John Byrne, and others (2012): Fun anthology series of stories about The Rocketeer, the great 1930's pulp-comic-book character created in the early 1980's by the late Dave Stevens. Most of the entries here strike the right note of light-hearted adventure as we follow pilot Cliff Secord's trials and triumphs as rocket-pack-wearing hero The Rocketeer. Recommended.





Hitman Volume 6: For Tomorrow: written by Garth Ennis; illustrated by John McCrea, Gary Leach, and others (1999-2000; collected 2012): DC's renewed committment to collecting all of Ennis and McCrea's splendid late 1990's/early oughts comic-book series Hitman, about the adventures of super-powered gun-for-hire Tommy Monaghan, is a blessing. In this volume, more tragedy and high-octane violence hit Monaghan and his friends as Gotham City suffers through the end of the massive Batman: No Man's Land event.

Tommy has some good moments taking the piss out of a bunch of vampires last seen during Ennis's run on John Constantine: Hellblazer (like H.P. Lovecraft, Ennis thinks vampires are stupid, though he's a lot more fictionally pro-active in that stance than HPL ever was) and finally getting to see some real, honest-to-god dinosaurs. But Tommy's war with the Mob also takes it physical and emotional toll.

Penciller McCrea and most-of-the-time inker Garry Leach do a great job on the art as always, their violence stylized without being glossy or attractive, their characters cartoony when they need to be and fairly realistic when the story calls for such a thing. Hyperviolence was rarely this much fun. Only one more volume to go! Highly recommended.

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