Sunday, February 22, 2015

2015 Oscar Live Blog

This year we'll be trying a live blog.  See you here at 8:00 p.m. EST.

2015 Oscar Picks

Every year, I pick my winners among the categories where I've seen the majority of nominees.  This year, that makes 16 categories I've made my selections in.  These reflect only who I'd vote to give the Oscar to if I could, and not an attempt to predict who will win.

Best Picture

I've already posted my rankings of the Best Picture nominees, and I have Boyhood as the winner.  I won't be surprised if Birdman wins instead, though.

Best Director

In a surprise move, I'm splitting the Best Picture/Best Director ticket and giving the nod to Alejandro González Iñárritu, because the technical excellence of Birdman is just too great to ignore.  It's claimed that the planning needed to pull off the "one shot" approach added two years onto the pre-production timeline, and that investment was well worth it.  However, I won't be upset if any of the others (except the sub-par Bennett Miller) take home the trophy.

Best Actor

I normally don't appreciate Eddie Redmayne's presence in the films I watch -- he was the weak link in The Good Shepherd, for example.  But he takes this prize for me, as he did a stellar job transforming into Stephen Hawking, just an incredible job mastering the role both physically and emotionally.  I'd put this performance just beyond the trio of Cumberbatch, Cooper, and Keaton.  Steve Carrell did a solid job in Foxcatcher, but I saw John du Pont as more of a supporting role.

Best Actress

This is a tough category for me because I haven't seen two of the nominated performances (Marion Cotillard for Two Days, One Night and Julianne Moore for Still Alice), and reports are the Julianne Moore is the front runner for the prize.  I'm not surprised, as the three nominees I have seen didn't make me immediately jump to wanting to hand out statues.  Still, of the three, I suppose I would have to go with Rosamund Pike for her chilling portrayal for the scariest crazy person we've seen since Hannibal Lecter in Gone Girl.

Best Supporting Actor

This is the easiest call in this year's lineup.  J.K. Simmons is the reason to see Whiplash.  His ability to instantly transform the persona of music teacher Terrence Fletcher from the malevolence of a Vern Schillinger to the father figure of a Mac Macguff repeatedly throughout the film -- even multiple times in one scene -- is utterly remarkable.  The other nominees just don't measure up.

Best Supporting Actress

I'm not sure what it is about the actress categories this year, but I similarly find the list of nominees underwhelming.  Patricia Arquette did a bit too much overacting in Boyhood.  Keira Knightley played the typical Keira Knightley character in The Imitation Game (seriously, compare her Joan Clarke to her Elizabeths -- Swann and Bennet -- and tell me there's a major difference in how she approached those roles).  Emma Stone did very little in Birdman.  I suppose it comes down to Laura Dern as Reese Witherspoon's mother in Wild (a very minor part, though well-acted) and Meryl Streep as the witch in Into the Woods.  Between those two, I think I'd have to hand the statue to Streep, since her role was so much meatier.  However, I won't be upset if Dern takes home the Oscar.

Best Screenplay (Original)

I'll confess to not seeing Nightcrawler, but nothing I hear makes it seem like a serious contender.  Instead, my pick would come down to selecting between Birdman and The Grand Budapest Hotel.  I'll be happy with either winning, but to narrow it down, I think I'd have to go with The Grand Budapest Hotel for its incredible use of language.

Best Screenplay (Adapted)

I've not seen Inherent Vice, but among the other four, it seems to me a contest between American Sniper and The Imitation Game.  In my rankings for Best Picture, I indicated I thought The Imitation Game handled its multiple threads more successfully than American Sniper, so it gets the nod.

Best Animated Film

I wrote up three of the animated feature nominees back in January and have since watched the delightful The Tale of The Princess Kaguya.  Still, I think I hold with my prior opinion that this is Big Hero 6's prize to lose.

Best Song

I've not seen two of the nominees, so I'm at a bit of a disadvantage here.  Of the three I have seen, "Glory" from Selma gets discounted because it's only used over the credits.  Both "Everything is Awesome" from The Lego Movie and "Lost Stars" from Begin Again are used within the film, with "Lost Stars" actually driving some of the plot.  Still, I think it's hard to vote against "Everything is Awesome", which sticks in the mind way better than just another Maroon 5 sounding track.

Best Score

This was a great year for Alexandre Desplat, as I think his two nominations were the top two scores of the year.  Between the two, I have The Imitation Game beating out The Grand Budapest Hotel because of its remarkable ability to evoke mathematics and machinery through its repeated theme.

Best Production Design

For me, this has to be The Grand Budapest Hotel for making a movie that could easily be captured in sequential frames of fine art.  If it doesn't win, I won't be surprised if Into the Woods takes it or Interstellar is rewarded for its unique planetary sets.

Best Cinematography

I don't see how Birdman loses this given just how technically difficult it was to pull off.  But if it does, I hope it loses to The Grand Budapest Hotel with its stunning visuals.

Best Visual Effects

The three superhero movies in this category all did a very solid job, but one that we've come to expect from summer blockbusters.  Dawn of the Planet of the Apes continues to push the boundaries of what can be made to seem real with its very believable ape civilization.  However, my Oscar vote would have to go to Interstellar, which not only realistically depicted some interesting alien planets, it also made physics news by providing the first accurate (we think) visualization of a black hole.

Best Short Film (Animated)

This was a great year for the animated short category.  The Bigger Picture provided a unique mix of 2d painting and 3d motion capture that was interesting to view.  The Dam Keeper was a heartwarming story about bullying and the importance of opening up to people and making friends.  A Single Life was imaginative and laugh-out-loud funny.  But I think the winner here has to be Disney's Feast, which succeeded in marrying comedy, drama, and 2d animation perfectly.

Best Short Film (Live Action)

This was not as great a year for the live action short category.  Boogaloo and Graham was a fun, if not well-acted, yarn about two boys and their chickens in Belfast.  Parvaneh told a heartwarming if not terribly profound tale of two girls bridging cultural differences and becoming friends during one night in Switzerland.  I think I'd have to give this one to The Phone Call, a sparse British drama about a crisis hotline operator talking with a man who's in the process of committing suicide.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

2014 Best Picture Rankings

Every year, after viewing all the Best Picture nominees, I rank them based on my assessment of their worthiness for the Best Picture award.  Note that this is not a prediction of who will win, but rather a statement of how I would vote if I could and how I'd rank the also-rans.  

Overall, 2014 produced fewer clear Oscar-worthy films than usual.  I have to wonder if even half of these eight would be nominated in some other years.

8. Selma

Much has been made of the fact that while Selma was nominated for Best Picture, neither its director, Ava DuVernay, nor its star, David Oyelowo, were nominated, leading some to call it racial bias.  After seeing it, I believe these "snubs" occurred because Selma is just not that good of a film.  

To me, there were far too many artistic decisions in Selma that screamed "student film project" to be taken seriously for Academy consideration.  Case in point: early in the film, in a scene meant to counterpoint King accepting the Nobel Peace Prize, a bomb set by white terrorists explodes at a church in Birmingham, killing several little girls who were walking down the stairs inside.  As soon as the explosion occurs, the movie shifts into a stylized, slow motion, dreamy visual style, reminiscent of the theme song montage for a James Bond film.   It's an odd style choice, but perhaps the film wants to convey that the violence is too horrible to imagine clearly.  However, later scenes of violence, including a massive violent police response to a protest march and the murder of a white protest supporter, are shown in full on screen.  When a movie makes you spend time wondering what the director is thinking, it reduces its impact as cinematic art.

The film also does a poor job of managing its cast.  King has a large entourage of fellow Southern Christian Leadership Conference members, and few of them are differentiated in terms of their role, making some of the civil rights movement's biggest leaders just part of a nameless crowd of extras because the movie fails to give the audience anything substantial about them to grasp onto.  
Sorry David Oyelowo, impersonations aren't enough to make a great performance.

Poor directing choices and script issues can still be overcome by stellar performances by the cast, but there was not enough of that in Selma to make it truly great.  Oyelowo was adequate as Dr. King, but at no point in the film did he stop being an actor doing an impression of King.  Actors wanting to be nominated for playing familiar historical figures should learn from the lessons of Daniel Day-Lewis in Lincoln or Denzel Washington in Malcolm X (or, closer to this situation, Jeffrey Wright in Boycott) and strive to disappear into their subject, and that is something Oyelowo did not do.  That's not to say Selma didn't have any strong performances, as Carmen Ejogo reprised her role as Coretta Scott King from Boycott and made a case for being the cast member with the most reason to claim an Oscar nomination snub.  Wendell Pierce was solid as ever as Hosea Williams, an SCLC that just pops up in the middle of the film and takes part in some of the biggest events of the movie.  And Nigel Thatch makes a brief but very convincing appearance as Malcolm X.

The events depicted in Selma make for an important story from our country's history.  I just wish a better movie had told it.

7. American Sniper

American Sniper is just a bit of a mess of a film, and I can't help but think that in the hands of a different filmmaker (even Clint Eastwood on a different day), it could have been a much better movie.  Or several.  Because the biggest problem American Sniper has it that it can't decide what kind of movie it wants to be, or what kind of story it wants to tell.  

You have mixed in here the story of a man who returns home from war partly broken but who returns to war repeatedly, just to become slightly more broken each time, putting stress on both himself as well as his wife and family, sort of a The Deer Hunter for modern times.  You have a tense match-up between snipers at the top of their game, one aided by the best equipped and trained military in the world, the other aided by having home field advantage, and both of them naturally adept at their craft, sort of an Enemy at the Gates for today's world.  You have a story of a man driven throughout life by his psychological need to protect others, whether that instinct gets him into trouble or makes him a hero, sort of a grown up military version of The Blind Side.  You also have a story of a soldier who creates a legend for himself through his brave actions and inspires those around him despite his own reluctance to embrace his own legend, a modern day Audie Murphy writing his own To Hell and Back.  Because American Sniper embraces all of these narratives and attempts to service them, the movie fails to really do any of them justice, resulting in a muddled story that never quite hits stride.

Of course, there are other issues as well.  Much has been made of the baby scene, and it is jarring to witness in the middle of the film.  The alleged story is that the live baby meant to appear in the scene fell ill and the backup never showed, so they just went with a plastic doll.  That's something you can't let happen if you really care about craft.  And it's not made any better with the revelation that Clint Eastwood apparently thinks women produce milk from their clavicles.  He makes similar easily-correctable mistakes with some of his portrayal of military operations, and it just doesn't speak well for his attention to detail (or, quite honestly, his commitment to quality).
Another year, another great performance from Bradley Cooper.

But it's not all bad.  Many of the action sequences are stirring, and it's always nice to see so many of the cast of Generation Kill get back into uniform (I counted at least three cast members appearing).  Most importantly, Bradley Cooper earned his Oscar nomination with an understated performance as Chris Kyle, showing off the cool that a trained sniper must have except when he psychologically begins to break down while at home.  Cooper is on a heck of a run when it comes to putting up Oscar-worthy performances, and I can't wait to see what he does next.  I hope it's a more Oscar-worthy picture than American Sniper.

6. Whiplash

It's not that Whiplash isn't a great movie.  It's just that, outside of J.K. Simmons's incredible performance as conductor Terrence Fletcher, there's nothing truly outstanding about the film that it can hang its hat on.  Films rarely rate the Best Picture Oscar on the basis of a single performance.

Whiplash is about the price one must pay to be absolutely great at something, whether that price is worth it, and whether a teacher or mentor should have the power to do whatever they will to push a prodigy to pay that price.  I think it should be required reading for any dance mom, pageant mom, football dad, or anyone else of that ilk.  And I think Whiplash does an admirable job providing grist for discussion on those topics.  And having it play out over several scenes with really solid jazz music doesn't hurt, either.

It's impossible to talk about Whiplash without referring to the stellar job J.K. Simmons does as the complex music teacher who tortures main character Andrew Neiman in an attempt to get out of Neiman the kind of performance he believes Neiman is capable of.  Fletcher is alternately a monster and a father figure, and Simmons will almost assuredly win a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his work.
It's difficult to picture a movie featuring Marley from Glee winning Best Picture.

But where Whiplash falls down a bit is its inability to pull elevated performances from anyone else in its cast.  Miles Teller is adequate as Neiman, and seems to pull off most of the drumming scenes well, but makes one wonder what might have happened if the film makers had taken a more captivating actor and had him learn the instrument for the film.  Paul Reiser is serviceable in a very minor role as Neiman's dad.  And Melissa Benoist, who plays Neiman's girlfriend, should have watched the opening scene of The Social Network and learned from Rooney Mara how to play a dumping scene.

Overall, Whiplash is a worthwhile film, but is not a serious contender for Best Picture.

5. The Theory of Everything

The Theory of Everything had a tough assignment, telling a story that's partly about one of the most gifted theorists in recent history making his discoveries and partly about that scientist's gradual physical decay due to disease and the woman who chooses to make her life with him.  Comparisons to A Beautiful Mind are natural, if a bit unfair, as the latter benefited from dealing with a disease (psychosis) that lent itself to a more vivid portrayal and an area of study (the mathematics of non-cooperative games) that is easier to convey to a lay audience.  The fact that The Theory of Everything successfully made a compelling story despite these disadvantages provides sufficient support for its Best Picture nomination.

Of course, The Theory of Everything is not really about Stephen Hawking.  It starts out that way, and returns to Hawking as the main character at the end of the film, but in between, it's really the story of his ex-wife, Jane Wilde.  This makes sense, as the film adapts Wilde's own memoir, but it does result in an odd dynamic in which the audience begins with access to Stephen's mind, only to have that closed off to us when Jane becomes the main narrative character.  That switch can be jarring if you're paying attention, and robs us of really getting into the creative process that resulted in Hawking's revolutionary theories.
We get scenes of Hawking riding a bike instead.

Still, the film is much less about scientific achievement than it is personal struggle as Hawking battles his disease and Wilde fights to keep her family together, both unsuccessfully.  Throughout these battles, the performance of Felicity Jones and especially Eddie Redmayne shine.  It's difficult to play physical disability well, especially a long gradual decline like that produced by ALS, but Redmayne was up for the challenge.  And he successfully emoted despite eventually being trapped in Hawking's immobile body, a feat unto itself.  Jones is overshadowed a bit by Redmayne's performance, but holds her own nicely as the nearly tireless backbone of her family (and does a credible job underscoring the "nearly" part of that sentence in her portrayal).  

The Theory of Everything is a technically accomplished film that tells a deeply personal story well.  While it will no doubt be overshadowed by films with "more important" themes, its success in portraying its straightforward theme of family, love, and the struggle to preserve both through trials makes it a worthy Best Picture contender.

4. The Grand Budapest Hotel

It's difficult to figure out where to place The Grand Budapest Hotel in a list like this because it's so different from the other films.  It's certainly the lightest of all the films.  And it makes absolutely no attempt to feel real, unlike all of the others, including even the somewhat fantastic Birdman.  Instead, The Grand Budapest Hotel attempts to build its own stylized form of reality with a vivid color palette, a diverse cast of characters, and a jaunty storyline.  And it really, really works -- this is probably Wes Anderson's finest film to date.

While every film on this list pays some attention to crafting effective visuals in service of its narrative and perspective, The Grand Budapest Hotel serves up its visual artistry as a primary element of its artistic achievement.  Every scene in the film looks like it could be a painting.  The production design, costuming, and makeup support this aspect perfectly, making every moment of the film stunning and highly stylized.
Seriously, every scene could be a painting.

The characters are a hoot as well, especially Ralph Fiennes as the irrepressible M. Gustave and Tony Revolori as his able lobby boy, Zero.  Their onscreen chemistry helps drive the comedic action, and they are perfect protagonists for this Eastern European romp.  The supporting cast is stellar as well, in particular Adrien Brody as conniving villain Dmitri, Willem Dafoe as the murderous Jopling (responsible for the two most laugh-out-loud moments of the film), Jeff Goldblum as Deputy Kovacs, Edward Norton as government stooge Henckles, and Harvey Keitel as master criminal Ludwig.  It is impossible to watch these actors work through the marvelous script without a smile on your face.  It is very worthy of its Best Picture nomination.

3. The Imitation Game

I'll admit to being a little nervous about The Imitation Game when it first started.  At first blush, Benedict Cumberbatch's Turing came off as a weak British Sheldon Cooper, and I feared that the film would sink under the weight of a bad Aspberger's cliche.  Fortunately, it turns out that those initial awkward notes in the performance were to simply provide a point of departure for Turing's development through the rest of the film.

The Imitation Game does a credible job mixing three main threads: the development of Turing as a closeted (and subsequently outed) homosexual in repressive Britain, the creative process of engineering that takes a theoretical concept and puts it to practice through an extended process requiring starts and stops as well as periodic disagreements with one's collaborators, and a mostly understated spy caper (though it does not remain understated for the entire film).  Unlike American Sniper, The Imitation Game keeps all three of these threads continuously in play, interweaving them effectively into a single cohesive narrative tapestry.

As Alan Turing, Cumberbatch brings a great deal of dramatic weight to the film.  His Turing is quietly sad even at his happiest moments.  Having grown up a loner, Turing finds it difficult to establish relationships with others, but it's his relationship with the people he'd finally let in behind his walls that really drives the movie forward, and Cumberbatch deftly handles these scenes.  In particular, Cumberbatch shows a great deal of chemistry with Keira Knightly, who plays Turing's collaborator and fiancee Joan Clarke.
How to make friends and win wars at the same time.

Still, with all of this personal growth and Turing's success breaking the Enigma code, the film is in reality a tragedy.  Turing forever finds himself in the power of others, whether it's the schoolboy bullies who torment him as a child, the Soviet double agent who blackmails him with a potential outing, or Mark Strong as a most manipulative spymaster.  Ultimately, Turing finds himself in the hands of the police, who first suspect him of being a spy and then punish him for being a homosexual.  His end, mind addled as the side effects of chemical castration and broken to the point of suicide, is a tragedy not only for Britain but the world at large.  I'm glad he story could be told so deftly.

2. Birdman

Birdman is an incredible technical achievement.  Filmed as though it were captured in just a single continuous shot, the energy of the film is incredible.  The nature of the filming approach necessarily made the film take on a bit of a feel as if it were a live play, and I think the cast truly benefited from that. 

Set in the rehearsals, previews, and opening night of a play featuring former Hollywood blockbuster star Riggan Thomson, Birdman feels a little bit like Noises Off!, though with much more serious psychological themes.  Michael Keaton plays Thomson with a manic streak, as Riggan is desperate to prove his artistic bona fides and get his career back on track after abandoning the soul-sucking world of summer superhero movies.  A lot has been made in the press about the parallels to Keaton's own experience abandoning the Batman franchise, but I think it was a matter of convenient casting moreso than any real attempts to embody Keaton's experiences.  Keaton does a wonderful job as Riggan, bringing just the right amount of comedy balanced with just the right amount of darkness.  His Oscar nomination was well-earned, though I do not expect him to win (though it would be interesting if he did, as it would make Val Kilmer the only actor to play a live action Batman since the 80s without an Oscar).

The rest of the cast performs adequately, from Emma Stone as Riggan's daughter to Zach Galifianakis as Riggan's business partner/producer.  Special mention should be made of Edward Norton, who nearly steals the movie as method actor Mike Shiner.  Norton brings to the movie a lot of its energy, and I don't think it would be the same with a different actor in that role.
And, like all the male cast members, he had to be comfortable working in underwear.

The most critical aspect of the film's success, though, comes from its amazing ability to capture performances in a seamless stream that makes you think that somehow the actors really did just take off and fly, because there's no way there was a cut anywhere in that sequence.  Director  Alejandro González Iñárritu does an incredible job keeping that illusion going through deft camera work and editing.  For that reason alone, I would not be surprised if Birdman ended up taking home the Oscar.  Hollywood does enjoy navel-gazing after all, so it will be hard to pass up rewarding a film as meta as Birdman.  But I'm putting technical achievement behind artistic achievement and...

1. Boyhood

I've already written extensively about Boyhood, and it doesn't make sense to rehash that.  Suffice to say that taking twelve years to film a story about childhood and the long term impact of decisions and relationships was a brave and inspiring choice on the part of Richard Linklater.  The fact that he was able to keep the cast coming back to film over all those years is simply amazing.
One advantage of this approach: period sets without having to hit eBay.

Boyhood does not have the strongest cast.  It doesn't have the most scintillating script.  It does not take on critical events in human history (unless you count the 2008 election).  But it has by far the most heart of any of the films nominated and it seems to have the best handle on human nature.  For that (as well as the many reasons given in the longer writeup on it), Boyhood is my pick for Best Picture.  We'll see if the Academy agrees on February 23rd.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

The XiDC titles

As the Big Two get all kinds of frisky with their respective universes, we'll be deluged with announcements of All New, All Different comics that their makers claim will be a Bold New Direction (the DC press release actually uses Bold New Direction).  Today, DC announced their new titles.  I've divided them up into the ones I'll definitely start buying as a series, the ones I'll try at least one issue of, the ones that I need more convincing on or that will be impulse buys, and the ones that I will have to be bribed to pick up.

Definite Get

Batman Beyond (Jurgens, Chang)

Dan Jurgens has a spotty record as a writer, but I'm too much a sucker for some Batman Beyond, and the promise of Bernard Chang artwork is more than enough to put this into the buy column.  Terry McGinnis, welcome back.

Bat-Mite (Jurgens, Howell)

Definitely not the kind of title I would expect Jurgens to write, but it's a mini-series and childhood fave Bat-Mite.  I mean, c'mon, he's simultaneously Batman's biggest fan and worst obstacle in the quest for justice.  And he said "awesome sauce" well before that Discover Card commercial came out.  This just screams fun.

Black Canary (Fletcher, Wu)

I've seriously been enjoying Brendan Fletcher's work on the revamped Batgirl.  Annie Wu really rocked it on Hawkeye.  Combined, they probably make for the most exciting creator combo of the new titles.  I'll be looking forward to what curve balls we get in Dinah's story.  Her time in Batgirl established that she was in a band, so the sample art above is not a complete surprise.  Will we see more of Dinah the martial artist or more of Dinah the lead singer?  Batgirl does a pretty good job balancing the personal life of Babs with her superheroics, so it would not be surprising to see a lot about Dinah's downtime music career, and that's not necessarily a bad thing when handled well.

Earth 2: Society (Wilson, Jimenez)

While I would much rather have the real Earth 2 and the JSA back, Earth 2 did a good job sucking me in, at least until it was completely disrupted by the World Ends event.  It's hard to tell what will happen with the Earth 2 characters in the wake of this year's sequence of events, but with a title like Society, I'm guardedly optimistic and will give it at least one story arc.

Harley Quinn/Power Girl (Palmiotti, Conner, Grey, Roux)

This is just a no-brainer for me.  While Harley Quinn has been up and down, it has had some very fun issues, especially the ones guest-starring PG.  And the Palmiotti/Grey/Conner Power Girl series is one of my most lamented titles from pre-Flashpoint.

Starfire (Palmiotti, Conner, Lupacchino)

If DC wants to give Starfire the Palmiotti/Conner Power Girl treatment, I won't complain.  Plus, it rescues her from the clutches of Scott Lobdell.

Definite Try

Dr. Fate (Levitz, Liew)

Dr. Fate can be a great character/concept for a comic.  Paul Levitz can be a fantastic writer.  The only trouble is, both have had somewhat spotty records in recent past.  I want this to be good, but am not willing to commit past the first issue.

Justice League of America (Hitch)

Did we really need another Justice League title?  Of course not.  Popular characters can support multiple books because people are largely buying them for that specific character.  But multiple team books just seems to dilute things.  While three titles is not as bad as Marvel's antics in publishing a gazillion Avengers books, followed by belching out Uncanny Avengers, as if the X-Men and Avengers franchises needed blend oversized clans like Jim Duggar taking Kate Gosselin for a second wife.  Still, look at that Bryan Hitch artwork.  Absolutely gorgeous.  I hope as a writer/artist he's more John Byrne than Rob Liefeld.

Omega Men (King, Morgan)

It's about time the Omega Men returned.  I'm a bit surprised that they're being resurrected by Tom King, whose background in espionage has the uneven Grayson providing a periodic good yarn.  Space opera wouldn't seem to be his forte.  Still, with Bendis filling pages with word balloons over on Guardians of the Galaxy, a space yarn with a decent amount of action and plot movement would be welcome.

Prez (Russell, Caldwell)

This would normally be in the Impulse Buy or No Way piles, but I really just want to find out what the hell's going on in that promo art.  I mean really, what the hell is that?  Plus, seeing what the author of God is Disappointed in You will do in a Big Two comic should be worth the price of at least one issue.

Robin, Son of Batman (Gleason)

If this were Peter Tomasi writing the tales of Damian Wayne and his sidekicks Bat-Hound, Bat-Cow, and Bat-Cat, it would be in the Definite Get category.  But new-to-writing Patrick Gleason writing about a boy, his sword, and a giant bat demon thing only gets one shot to win me over.

We Are Robin (Bermejo, Randolph)

I have no idea what this book is about.  Combined with the fact that it's written by another artist with no significant writing credits, it should be at best in the Impulse Buy category.  But damn, that sample art looks sweet.  Too bad Bermejo isn't doing interiors.

Impulse Buy

Cyborg (Walker, Reis)

Ivan Reis draws a mean page.  David Walker has an interestingly varied corpus of titles he's written.  But it's just hard for me to get excited about Cyborg, who's just never done it for me as a superhero.  The technologist in me is either bored or annoyed by pretty much anything I've ever seen any writer do with him outside of Marv Wolfman's highly psychological take in the character's introduction and run in Titans.  It seems like every story boils down to "Hey look, the bad guy has a really awful doodad -- lucky I have this gizmo that can counteract it!"  And the writers Vic has had typically don't have the intellectual capital to treat the high tech as anything other than machine-wrapped magic.  Maybe Walker is the exception, but I'm not betting on it.

Dark Universe (Tynion, Doyle)

This is reportedly a replacement for Justice League Dark, with the name changed to match up with the rumored film in development.  It's hard to predict if Good Tynion or Mediocre Tynion will be showing up on this title, and with no promo art released, it's impossible to know if the characters I actually like (Zatanna, Deadman) will be starring in the book or if it will go back to a Constantine/Xanadu/Demon snoozefest.

Green Lantern: Lost Army (Bunn, Saiz, Pina)

With no description of what this title will be about, the most likely outcome is that it's another mediocre Green Lantern spinoff, this time with a group of GLs reenacting the plot of Star Trek Voyager.  Didn't the cartoon already cover this ground?

Martian Manhunter (Williams, Oliver)

J'onn J'onzz can be a really compelling character.  He can fit into a wide variety of genres, from hard boiled detective fiction to high flying space yarns.  Unfortunately, in the hands of most writers, he's simply bland, taking taciturn to an extreme.  I'm not familiar with Rob Williams's work, so I'll need additional data to get me excited about this title.

Mystic U (Kwitney, unknown)

It's a great title for a comic.  Alisa Kwitney, a former Vertigo editor, has the right resume to pull something cool off.  But the lack of information on this title is frustrating.  It could be anything from an adorable take on Harry Potter featuring Tim Hunter to yet another attempt to make Klarion the Witch Boy a thing despite no one caring.

No Way

Bizarro (Corson, Duarte)

An ongoing title featuring a character that half the writers out there get wrong anyway, this time written by someone whose only comics credits I can find are script writing for DC animated movies.  Pass.

Constantine: the Hellblazer (Doyle, Rossmo)

I have to be honest and admit I've just never gotten into Constantine.  I bought the first story arc of Hellblazer back when Jamie Delano opened that series, and while the story itself was interesting, I've just never clicked with the character himself.  I don't see this continued DCU-ification of Constantine being any more of interest.

Doomed (Lobdell, Fernandez)

Doom worked great as a one-off villain in the Death of Superman story and has never been interesting since.  Scott Lobdell should have stayed in the 90s.

Justice League 3001 (Giffen, Porter)

It pains me more than words can express that this is coming out and not a Legion of Super-Heroes title.  Is there no justice in this world?

Midnighter (Orlando, ACO)

The promo art makes me believe this will be a direct spinoff of Midnighter's appearances in Grayson.  Doesn't matter to me: Midnighter was easily the least interesting member of The Authority so his solo adventures hold absolutely no pull.

Red Hood/Arsenal (Lobdell, Medri)

Eventually DC must learn that Scott Lobdell should stop writing comics.  And that this would be a great title to try to attract Matt Fraction over to the DCU.

Section Eight (Ennis, McCrea)

I was never a Hitman fan, so the announcement of this title and creator team gets nothing but a shrug.