Wednesday, July 20, 2016

RIP Garry Marshall

Award winning television and film icon, director, writer, and producer Garry Marshall passed away yesterday from complications of pneumonia, after having a stroke. He was 81 years old.

Garry Marshall's name was one of the first I was aware of that worked behind the camera on television, the other one was Norman Lear, and yeah, I realize I'm probably dating myself. I knew that Marshall was behind "The Odd Couple" which I got to stay up and watch on Friday nights, and I knew his sister Penny was on the show too. Listening to the adults talk, the big word I learned was 'nepotism.' Nothing wrong with that, and she was funny too.

His name next caught my attention on Tuesday nights with "Happy Days," one of my favorite shows, that would soon create a phenomenon of 1950s nostalgia in the 1970s. The adventures of Fonzie, Richie, Potsie and friends would soon spawn "Laverne & Shirley" and "Mork and Mindy, which launched the career of Robin Williams. Like the aforementioned Lear, Marshall was a master of the spin-off in the seventies. I even remember the ones that no one does - like "Blansky's Beauties" and "Out of the Blue" - and even "Joanie Loves Chachi."

Later Marshall turned to film, perhaps most famously for Pretty Woman, Beaches, Runaway Bride, and the Princess Diaries movies. I admit a weakness myself for his first, Young Doctors in Love and The Other Sister. We just recently watched Marshall act in A League of Their Own, his sister Penny's film, and one of The Bride's favorites.

Garry Marshall was always one of my favorites. I have his second memoir My Happy Days in Hollywood on my Kindle unread, but not for long now. We've lost one of the great ones.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

The Legend of Tarzan

The Legend of Tarzan ~ Don't tell him this, I don't want him to get a swollen head, but my big brother rocks. Even before he saved my life by giving me one of his kidneys, I always looked up to him. As his ten years junior little brother, I wanted to be like him, and what he thought was cool, I wanted to think was cool too. I've mentioned numerous times in my writing that my love of the Flash comes from him, and a recent interview with Joe DeVito reminded me of how I watched King Kong because of the big bro too. And then there's Tarzan.

My big brother also made me watch Tarzan by his enthusiasm for it. I remember very distinctly being sat down on a Saturday afternoon to watch 'the one where Tarzan goes to New York to save Boy.' The film in question was Tarzan's New York Adventure with Johnny Weissmuller and Maureen O'Sullivan, and for me, it was awesome. A new world had been opened up to me. From there I discovered Tarzan books and Tarzan comics (both of which were the best), the TV series with Ron Ely, and whenever one of the Weissmuller flicks showed, I was right there in front of the boob tube.

I loved the movies, and the TV show was okay, but I really grooved on the real Tarzan, the one from the books, and to some extent the comics. I knew he was a lot smarter than Weissmuller in the movies, a noble savage, a clever warrior, and an intelligent opponent. And I loved all the lost cities and fantasy elements, which led to my appreciation of Edgar Rice Burroughs' other awesomeness like Pellucidar and John Carter of Mars.

Because of this knowledge of what Tarzan was all about from the books, that he wasn't all yells and "me Tarzan, you Jane," I had rarely been truly happy with many cinematic versions. Casper Van Dien came close in Tarzan and the Lost City, but of course, no matter how you measure it, it's still a Casper Van Dien movie. I wondered if we'd ever get a Tarzan movie again, let alone a good one, and then came The Legend of Tarzan.

I had only heard whispers about it while it was being made, but had heard it was quite good. When I first saw the trailer, I was excited, and then I saw who was playing Tarzan, and my heart fell. Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against Alexander Skarsgard, in fact, I'm a fan. His Eric Northman in "True Blood" was consistently one of the best things about the series, even when it was at its worst.

My great fear was that every time I looked at his Tarzan, I would see Eric. This is one of the reasons why studios usually look for unknowns when casting serial protagonists. I shouldn’t have worried though, from the moment we see Skarsgard on the screen, from the moment I saw him, I saw Tarzan. He is stunning in the role. Alexander Skarsgard is Tarzan. A man of few words, much action, and a caring hero, Skarsgard brings the king of the jungle to life in a way we've not seen in quite some time.

As Jane, and in previous films, Margot Robbie continues to impress me as an actress. Her Jane Porter Clayton is tough, takes no nonsense, and is yet still believable as a turn of the century woman of stature. Christoph Waltz overacts like a madman as the baddie, and it works, much better than his attempt at villainy in the James Bond franchise. He has shown that he can be evil in both a subtle and a manic mode. Samuel L. Jackson brings the humor and his contrast to Tarzan is one of the better aspects of the flick. I wish he'd been more however.

I'm not going to harp on or bring up the racism of the Tarzan stories (in that only a white man save Africa, etc.), there are much better men than me that can handle that, but I will note that the story of the movie takes place in a very dangerous era of the Congo, a time of massacre and genocide, and I wish the character would have stayed in the fantasy realm. Furthermore, I have to express distaste in the choice of Jackson's role, especially if he was going to be used for comic relief.

Samuel l. Jackson plays George Washington Williams, a real historical figure. He was a human rights activist who very specifically attacked King Leopold for his actions in the Congo. In my mind, especially played by an actor of Samuel L. Jackson's skills, I wish they'd gone with a more accurate portrayal of the man, rather than just comic relief/sidekick status.

That aside, I really loved this flick, and was grinning ear to ear throughout most of it. I can't wait for sequels. I enjoyed this almost as much as Captain America: Civil War, recommended.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

The GAR! Podcast - Steak, Tech, and Old School Radio

The Biff Bam Pop! Podcast Network presents The GAR! Podcast, the Glenn Walker and Ray Cornwall weekly podcast where they talk unrehearsed about whatever happens to come to mind. It's an audio-zine for your mind, a nerd exploration of a nerd world, coming to you from across the vastness of suburban New Jersey via Skype.

This week, we're talking about Manny's Original Chophouse, Evernote, the Apple iWatch, commute listening, Terry Young and Hot Hits Radio, and recording on cassette tapes, along with all the usual stuff.

Check out our latest episode here or above, also available on iTunes and Stitcher. We're also on Facebook here and here, and on Pinterest. Contact us directly here.

You can check out the complete show notes and listen to the episode onsite here. We'd love to hear your thoughts and comments, either below or on the GAR! Podcast website, so please let us know what's on your mind! Welcome to Episode 143 of The GAR! Podcast!

Enjoy, and until next time, GAR!

Monday, July 11, 2016

Backpedaling on Captain America

Yeah, if you think I'm backpedaling on my thoughts and opinions on Captain America, that ain't happening. I still stand by what I said here and here. When I say backpedaling, I'm talking about what Marvel has done with Captain America: Steve Rogers #2.

Glancing at the first few pages setting up the events of the last issue I have to wonder what the original story looked like, because Marvel is definitely backpedaling. The opening pages (and the rest of the comic) are in the narrative of the Red Skull, explaining how he used the Cosmic Cube to manipulate reality to bring about the events of the last issue. It's an interesting tale, but it seems out of place in the story, like having the shocking revealing conclusion in the second chapter of a book.

The stunt stinks of desperation, probably for the reasons I outlined in my last post, Captain America is a Nazi, et al. I would have been so much happier with this story had there been no hype machine muddying the waters. Captain America: Steve Rogers #2 isn't a bad issue all things concerned, just unsatisfactory in its excusatory mode.

Friday, July 08, 2016

Justice League Rebirth

I've looked at the comic that started the whole Rebirth thing for DC Comics, and several of the Rebirth restarts for various characters. Now I'm looking at the restart of one of my favorite comic book franchises, Justice League Rebirth.

The monumental task of relaunching DC's major superhero team goes to Bryan Hitch, handling both writing and illustrating duties. Hitch has worked on the team before and is probably best known, at least to me, as the artist who brought Marvel Comics Ultimates - a super-realistic version of their Avengers - to life. I admired the attempt, disliked the story and the characters, but dug the art. I still like Hitch, somewhat (he draws an ugly Wonder Woman, sorry, but it's how it hits me), but this is not his best work, or perhaps his style is not right for the Justice League. I think it might be the latter, at least on the visuals. His Flash also bothers me, never looking like the Flash, but more like just some guy in a Flash suit.

Bryan Hitch is aware of the new continuity, and the old continuity. He's better than some of DC's guiding editors in this instance. I loved how he wove in the new/old Superman and the two semi-new Green Lanterns into the story to aid the remaining five Leaguers - Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Aquaman, and Cyborg - against an oncoming alien threat.

At first, the giant alien monster attacking the unnamed city seems almost Lovecraftian, then kinda downgrades to a cheap Starro knock-off. Either way, the Justice League's triumph is straight out of "Doctor Who," specifically that first Matt Smith episode, "The Eleventh Hour," when he tasks the Atraxi to run, and tells everyone that Earth is defended.

Despite some problems, I liked this issue, not as much as some other Rebirth books, but enough to give it a chance if I come across it again.