Netflix Picks: Mummies, Pterosaurs, and Girl Reporters! Oh, My!

This week’s pick is something that I’ve wanted to see for a long time, just because it seemed so “right up my alley”.  The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec is a French film about an intrepid female reporter in the tradition of Nellie Bly in early twentieth century Paris.  Adèle is on a quest to cure her twin sister Agathe who fell victim to an unfortunate accident involving a high velocity tennis ball and a hat pin.  But before she can save her sister, Adèle is going to have to bust a professor who has discovered how to bring the dead back to life out of prison and solve the problem of the pterosaur that the professor accidentally revived.  Also thrown into the mix are a bunch of bumbling policemen, a spectacularly inept big game hunter, the President of France and his dog, and a whole mess of ancient Egyptian mummies taking a sightseeing stroll around Paris at night.  Needless to say, this is a very unique movie.

Most people would file this movie under “Steampunk”, but all it shares with that genre is the sensibility.  It’s really more of an action comedy with some supernatural elements in the vein of the Mummy franchise (before it really started to suck) and the Hellboy movies.  Oh, and one more thing it shares with Steampunk, a seriously awesome heroine. Adèle is smart, resourceful, and takes no crap from anyone; especially the male characters. She’s a reporter only in the sense that she writes books about her adventures, and most of her adventures are centered on curing her sister. And there’s nary a love interest to be seen. Oh there’s a character who’s in love with her, but Adèle has precisely zero interest in him. One thing to point out here is that while the cast is mostly made up of men, they aren’t exactly portrayed in the most flattering light. In fact, most of them are either stupid, or have very little effect on the plot, Andrej being the sole exception to that. Andrej is the guy who’s in love with Adèle, and he helps her find the pterosaur that’s running (or rather, flying) rampant through Paris. But he isn’t really fleshed out as a character aside from his infatuation with Adèle. But the rest are there pretty much as comic side characters, and to provide a foil for Adèle to work off of.

Speaking of comedy, there’s quite a bit of it in this movie. But if you’re not at least a little familiar with the way Europeans do it, you might find yourself a bit lost. There are certain scenes that wouldn’t really land well with an American audience. A few of the bits with the big game hunter and the professor come to mind, as well as the use of heavy make-up on some characters. But a good portion of the comedy works really well, in any language. I particularly liked Adèle’s increasingly desperate use of disguises to get the professor out of the prison. Funny and it showcased Adele’s never say die attitude. There are also some really good bits with the mummies, especially Adèle’s interactions with Rameses. The CG in this movie isn’t particularly good, but then again this is a foreign film being done by people who aren’t Industrial Light and Magic. But it’s still pretty passable.

Overall, this is a really fun movie with a great female lead. And we really don’t get to see many of those. So if you’re looking for a decent action movie with a lot of wit, you really can’t go wrong with The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec.

Netflix Picks: A History of Comic Books in Three Easy Lessons

I’ve decided to implement a new weekly article.  Netflix Picks.  If you’ve ever sat there, looking at what Netflix has offer, completely flummoxed by the sheer amount of stuff they have, I may have a solution for you.  From now on, every Friday, I’ll be giving you a short review of some movie or show that I’ve found that I believe is worth watching.

Today’s entry is Superheroes: A Never-Ending Battle.  Comics have become a seriously big thing in the past few years.  Marvel seems to be printing money with their comic book movies.  DC is still lagging behind on that front, but they did just celebrate 75 years of Batman kicking batarang and taking names.  So right now seems like a good time to take a look back at the history of the comic book medium.  Which is exactly what this three part documentary does.

Now, if you’re well versed in comic book lore and history, you’ve probably heard all of this before.  They don’t go into a lot of detail over the three 55 minute episodes.  It’s basically Comic Book History 101.  But if you’re new to the world of comic books, this is a pretty darn good place to start.  They’ve got interview with some of the biggest names in the industry both past and present, Stan Lee, J. Michael Straczynski, Denny O’Neill, Joe Quesada, and there’s footage of Jack Kirby, Walt Simonson, and Alan Moore.

The documentary goes over the history of the medium from the Golden Age to the Silver Age right on through the Dark Age, the collecting boom (and subsequent bust), and the Modern Age with all of the movies, video games, and how digital comics are keeping the industry alive after nearly 80 years.  It’s a pretty general look at where comics have been, and some of the bigger speed bumps in the road.  Like I said, it works really well if you’re new to comics, but longtime fans might find things a little boring.

Overall rating: 7.5/10