Monday, November 24, 2014

After the Thin Man

After the Thin Man ~ The second of the Thin Man movies, and the sequel to The Thin Man, a terrific Dashiell Hammett novel (which I recommend heartily as I do all of his books). Hammett also wrote the story of this film as well, not based on any previous work, and was nominated for an Oscar.

After the Thin Man is also the second of six Thin Man movies starring William Powell and Myrna Loy (and just one of fourteen total the pair appeared in together) as married freelance detectives Nick and Nora Charles. He a retired detective and she an heiress with a frisky doggie named Asta, they drank, smartassed, and sassed their way through six of these, with this entry, in my opinion, being the best. Their chemistry, even when it became a bit rough and self-deprecating later on, was still some of the best ever on film.

Powell and Loy as Nick and Nora were so popular that in this film series they often got lead billing over much bigger stars like Maureen O'Sullivan, or in this case, James Stewart. Directed by W.S. Van Dyke as were all the Thin Man movies, and he was also known for the Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy films as well, one of the classic Hollywood directors.

This is a fun and suspenseful entry in the series, and as I mentioned, in my opinion, the best. After the Thin Man is definitely worthwhile viewing. Thanks again to the TCM Classic Cruise for the opportunity to see this as it was meant to be seen, on the big screen.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Arrow S03 E07: "Draw Back Your Bow"

Back in the day, the 1950s to be precise, Green Arrow wasn't nothing but Batman with a bow. Millionaire playboy with a masked alter ego, check. Young ward/sidekick, got one. Cave headquarters, themed vehicle and arsenal, got them too. He even had a signal in the sky and an arch criminal clown for a recurring bad guy. Much like Batman had Catwoman and Poison Ivy, Green Arrow had his share of romantic interests/opponents as well.

Most notable is Miss Arrowette, who for decades was lost to the mists of time until resurrected in the Young Justice comics as the mother of new member Arrowette. Like similar villainesses, like the aforementioned Catwoman and the Harlequin who pestered the Golden Age Green Lantern, Miss Arrowette may have posed as a criminal, but she really had a soft spot for Green Arrow, which could reform her at the drop of a bow.

In the Modern Age, a new darker take was tried with an Arrowette-like character. This one however was a full-fledged sociopath, and her name was Cupid. "Arrow" showrunner Andrew Kreisberg created Cupid himself for the Green Arrow/Black Canary comic in 2009, so really it was only a matter of time before she showed up live action. CW veteran actress Amy Gumenick plays the bow and arrow armed villainess obsessed with Arrow on the TV series, and she is very good at psycho. As far as psycho girlfriends go, I much prefer Gumenick to Jessica DeGouw's Huntress.

In the Felicity subplot, she delivers the best line of the episode while watching Brandon Routh's shirtless Ray Palmer doing the salmon ladder in his office, "Oh god, I have a type." It still creeps me out that Ray thinks he can buy Felicity's love, but I kinda dig how Routh is out-barechesting Stephen Amell. I never really thought of the Atom being so buff though. I guess you miss it because he's so small. And just wait, it looks like he'll be getting smaller.

Just like in the comics, Cupid finds an arrow shot by Oliver in a previous battle (Brother Blood's assault on the city in this case) and fixates on it. She begins hunting Arrow's enemies and killing them, for him. Her lair, a love nest that would make any stalker jeal, is really really crazy ex-girlfriend creepy. Over at "The Flash," Cisco usually names the bad guys, and here Felicity pegs Cupid as 'Crazy Pants.' I like that name better.

At last in Flashback Hong Kong, we not only have a few nice moments between young Oliver and Tatsu, but finally we get to see Katana in action. Thea finds a potential new boyfriend in a really annoyingly cliché subplot, and Oliver pushes Felicity into the arms of Ray Palmer, only to change his mind too late. I'm also happy to see the name Arsenal in use finally as well.

Lots of DC Comics name drops this time out. There's St. Walker most famous of the Blue Lanterns, Baron Street in homage to writer Mike Baron, and Sherwood Florist which in the comics was the flower shop run by Dinah (Black Canary) Lance for years. And of course, rather than Iron Heights, Cupid is put in with the other inmates in the Suicide Squad, and an indirect reference is made to Harley Quinn. The biggest Easter egg however is Palmer hunting white dwarf alloy and revealing his A.T.O.M. suit of armor.

This is also the second episode in a row to end with a sneak peek at the next episode's villain of the week. I'm not sure I like that. It just seems a little bit too much Batman '66 for me. In this case, we get another "Spartacus" alum Nick Tarabay as the decidedly non-Australian Digger Harkness AKA Captain Boomerang.

Next: Flash Vs. Arrow!

And remember to see all of my reviews of the "Arrow" series, click here, its companion series "The Flash," click here, and if you'd like to discuss the latest episodes on Facebook, here and here.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Tingler

The Tingler ~ This is a movie with a bit of a reputation. Directed by William Castle, the Barnum of gimmick flicks, the promotional campaign for The Tingler included such bits as the fact that screaming will ward off the creature called the Tingler. And then there's the thing with the seats. In some theaters, several seats were rigged to deliver electrical shocks at certain points in the film. Castle is of course the same man who had skeletons come out of the ceiling and buzz the audience and had nurses make viewers sign waivers in case they died during the movie for other films.

Matinee, directed by Joe Dante, featuring John Goodman as a William Castle-like filmmaker and promoter has also played on this tour so one has to wonder if any shenanigans has been planned for a night's viewing on the penultimate night of the TCM Classics Cruise on board the Disney Magic. The Bride ran into Illeana Douglas, granddaughter of Melvyn Douglas, actress, producer, and TCM host and interviewer - earlier in the day and she said that there would indeed be surprises that night at The Tingler.

The film, starring Vincent Price as a scientist searching for an organism that lives in the human body and feeds off fear, is perhaps Castle's most famous, and also what film promoter and historian Bruce Goldstein is known for. He has shown the film all over the world, and now on the TCM Cruise. For more info on Bruce Goldstein, check out New York's Film Forum and Rialto Pictures, well worth checking out, and in between all that cool stuff, he sets up showings of The Tingler.

For what is already a so bad it's good campy horror b-movie, complete with nearly incomprehensible plot, bad acting, silly special effects, and is practically set up for a MST3K workover, this treatment added so much more. Psychedelic full color light effects highlight the acid trip of the flick, skeletons flying out of the ceiling, and of course, the piece de resistance - the Tingler attacking Illeana Douglas in the front row, all made this performance one of the highlights of the cruise.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Avengers Academy

On board the Disney Magic is something I think all of my fellow comic book fans, and especially my fellow Avengers fanatics would be interested in - it's Avengers Academy.

I have been a huge proponent of the Disney Cruise since I first started coming on them, and one of the misinterpretations many folks have is that it's for kids, or that it will be filled with kids. The answer to that is yes and no. The Disney Cruise is for everyone, of any age, and yes, it has many kids, but the fact is - you hardly ever see them. There are entire areas of the ship dedicated to kids of various ages and daycare facilities. They are hardly ever around, and sometimes they don't want to even join their parents for meals.

One of the reasons the kids are so occupied and so passionate about staying in their pens, ahem, I mean, areas, is Avengers Academy. It's like an interactive summer camp (although only for the duration of your cruise) where kids learn to be Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and help the Avengers.

There's a whole training area with interactive computer games, as well as displays of Thor's hammer, Captain America's shield, and Iron Man's Mark VI Protype Armor. Yeah, I know Cool with a capital C, but it gets better

You can be Iron Man. Yeah, seriously. Kinda like green screen, you can be the star of your own comic book testing Iron Man's armor, seeing how you fly, how you use your repulsor beams, and all that cool stuff. Now, more than I wish I was a kid again, I wish I was an Avenger!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Damn Yankees

Damn Yankees ~ This was the first TCM event we attended on the TCM Classic Cruise on board the Disney Magic. I had seen the movie Damn Yankees as a kid, and I think the stage show with The Bride at some point. I'm not a Broadway guy so a lot of these tend to run together for me, sorry.

I remember seeing the film as a result of seeing Tab Hunter in his brief role on "Forever Fernwood," the sequel to "Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman." I can't remember what he played, but I remember it was a big deal that he was on the show, the implication being that he was a big star, so when I saw one of his movies roll around on TV Guide, I tuned in, and that movie was Damn Yankees.

The best part of the TCM Cruises are that you get to watch movies with the stars introducing and discussing them. When they showed Damn Yankees the first night of the cruise, it was preceded by TCM host Robert Osborne briefly interviewing Tab Hunter on stage and talking a little bit about the film. Hunter's insights on the old studio system, his being the odd man out with the cast brought over from the Broadway show, and his coming up as a teen idol were fascinating, and made the event for me. The Bride and I were wiped from the long day, so we didn't make it through the whole movie, so I caught it when they showed it the next day, sadly sans Tab Hunter.

Neither baseball movies nor musicals are really in my wheelhouse, but a baseball movie musical based on Faust? I'm all in. Joe wants his team, the Washington Senators to win, so he offers to sell his soul to the Devil in exchange for a win, and alternately turn himself into a super player to join the team. The Devil, played wonderfully by pre-"My Favorite Martian" (and even Fast Times at Ridgemont High) Ray Walston, grants him everything he wants, yet what he really wants is his old life back - all set to music.

Tab Hunter is earnest, introspective, and personable as heck, much more than a simple stage musical deserves. The young Jean Stapleton is a delight in every scene she's in (and steals), and quirky but sexy Gwen Verdon, considered by some not pretty enough to play the vivacious Lola burns up the screen whenever she is on screen, another scene stealer.

Damn Yankees is an enjoyable musical romp, more Faust than baseball, and containing more songs than you thought you knew from the show. Definitely worth a look, worthwhile just for Ray Walston, but tab, Gwen, and Jean are great too, and you'll be humming at least one tune afterwards.