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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

New Avengers Annual #2 Reviewed



"Wait, What?" - my comic book review of the New Avengers Annual #2, by Brian Michael Bendis and Carlo Pagulayam, is now online at Avengers Forever.

The final battle between the New Avengers and The Hood’s ersatz Masters of Evil... as always, never as good as it sounds - check out my review here: http://www.avengersforever.org/reviews/default.asp?RID=577.

Enjoy!

If you want to discuss this review, this issue or anything Avengers, please check out the Avengers Forever Forum.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

All Things Fun! Podcast - Episode Seven



The newest episode of The All Things Fun! Podcast is now online!

Ed Evans of All Things Fun! introduces this special "All Comics" episode of the podcast. Comics co-host Glenn Walker of Comic Widows interviews Michael Avon Oeming (Powers, Mice Templar) and Neil Vokes (Black Forest, Wicked West) during an in-store appearance.

Check it out here: http://www.allthingsfun.libsyn.com/.

Friday, January 25, 2008

The 2007 Rondo Awards

Give It Up, Old Man


It is sooo time for Larry King to just hang it up and retire. If he can't even try to keep up with pop culture or current events, he should just not cover them in his show. Can't his writers, researchers, handlers or whatever at least give him some hint or cue cards as to what is what?

Just for the record, Larry, Heath Ledger was nominated for an Oscar for his performance in Brokeback Mountain. You couldn't seem to remember that. He's not a new face in Hollywood as you've said, the man's been around for a while. Also, The Dark Knight is not a remake of Batman, and Ledger was not playing the title role. Sheesh.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Rest in Peace Heath Ledger


Actor Heath Ledger passed away yesterday afternoon. Found in his apartment, possibly from an overdose, details are still up in the air. He was not, as initially reported, found in Mary-Kate Olsen's apartment, even though that would have added just the right touch Hollywood glitz and grimness that the community feeds on. Apparently Heath was having trouble with insomnia and may have taken too many sleeping pills. Time will tell.

I quite enjoyed the man's work. My favorites included his roles in 10 Things I Hate About You, Knight's Tale and his Oscar nominated performance in Brokeback Mountain. I was especially looking forward to Ledger's appearance in the new Batman sequel, The Dark Knight, as the Joker.

Heath Ledger had spoken of the role as being so dark and psychotic that it was all-consuming - and may have caused some of his sleep troubles. I guess that's another strike against method acting. But let me say, he made for one hell of a Joker.

My first reaction when I saw the most recent previews for The Dark Knight was one of fear, that I might not want to see it, I was so traumatized. Now while I understand fully the psychosis and danger represented by the Joker of the comics, I don't think it had ever been fully brought to the screen, small or large. When I saw him in the role, I saw the Joker of the comics made flesh, and I finally understood why some people are afraid of clowns. Ledger will be chilling in this role.

Rest in Peace, Heath.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Sweeney and the Chipmunks

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street ~ Now I loved the stage play, and the music and Angela Lansbury from that version so I had high expectations for this. And while I didn't like it, it wasn't for the reasons that all the other critics seemed to have. Even though I loved Ms. Lansbury, I really had no problem with Helena Bonham Carter as Mrs. Lovett or her singing, or Johnny Depp's for that matter. I thought they were just fine. The atmosphere, and the coloring (solidly Tim Burton) were just about on target and the opening is one of the best mood setters for a film I have seen in a long time. My problem is that Sondheim's score, which is dark and vibrant, different and brilliant - all appears to be one long droning song in this thing, and one that almost never ends. I don't know what Burton did to Sondheim's work but it's butchered in my opinion. The other main obstacle I see here is that Burton seemed content to make a Tim Burton version of the play, rather than what he was supposed to do - make a film version of the play. Props for atmosphere, but that's about it.

Dark Harbor ~ This is another loser from the insomnia club on Fearnet. A couple picks up a stranger as they vacation at a deserted island cabin. Predictable and sad, and probably the only time I've seen a bad performance from Alan Rickman. One of the most boring films I've seen recently.

Alvin and the Chipmunks ~ This could have been such a disaster but it turned out to be quite entertaining. The flick puts an updated spin on the old story of songwriter meets rodents. Featuring elements to entice both adults and children, whether you know the characters or not, I loved this. Yeah, it's a bit predictable, but in a fun way, as opposed to the movie above. Any movie with the same bad guy (comedian David Cross) as Pootie Tang gets a thumbs up from me, and Jason Lee is fun as David Seville - although he has officially lost his street cred as a skater with this flick. Sometimes you can never go home again. My highest recommendation - I may buy this when it comes out on DVD.

Next ~ Another Philip K. Dick adaptation, this one has Nicholas Cage doing his best Nicholas Cage imitation as a stage magician who can see two minutes into the future. Well done scifi with lots of twists. Worth seeing.


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Sunday, January 20, 2008

Mighty Avengers #7 Reviewed



"Deja Vu" - my comic book review of Mighty Avengers #7, by Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Bagley, is now online at Avengers Forever.

Spider-Woman joins the team, the Wasp gives Wonder Man some fashion advice and a Venom bomb drops on New York City… as always, never as good as it sounds - check out my review here: http://www.avengersforever.org/reviews/default.asp?RID=572.

Enjoy!

If you want to discuss this review, this issue or anything Avengers, please check out the Avengers Forever Forum.

And if you'd like to make a donation to help keep the Avengers Forever website as mighty as ever, click here. Thanks!

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Another Child Star Falls...


I guess they all can't turn out like Jodie Foster...

Brad Renfro 1982-2008

Allan Melvin R.I.P.



Allan Melvin, classic character actor - who played Barney Hefner on "All in the Family," Henshaw on "Sgt, Bilko" and Sam the Butcher on "Brady Bunch" as well as Magilla Gorilla and other popular cartoon voices, among many other parts in film and television - passed away this week. He'll be missed.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Godzilla Meets Blair Witch


It's 1-18-08, and Cloverfield is finally here, and my initial impression is 'Godzilla meets Blair Witch,' and that's a good thing. The flick combines the best elements of each concept.

The beauty of this film was really before it even opened. The ability to keep a secret -the image of the monster, as well as the plot- such big secrets in this internet age, especially when much of the hype was generated via the internet (mostly through an ARG), is a frigging miracle.

First off, dispelling rumors that have at this point been long dispelled, at least by folks who are online. It's not Godzilla. Like I've been telling everyone who's asked, their resident G-fan, it's not Godzilla. It's just not. Toho has the meanest and most litigious lawyers on the planet and there's no way they're letting Americans near their baby any time soon.

It's also not Cthulhu, even though most of the Lovecraftian mythos is in the public domain, and as much as I'd like to see some of those wonderful dark creatures onscreen using some CGI - it's just not. Although, based on the hype, maybe J.J. Abrams could be convinced to do so in the future.

And thank god it's not Godzilla, because then I can let my radar down, and not worry about what has been changed or trashed regarding one of my favorite properties. Even though it's not Godzilla, I'm still a hardcore kaiju eiga fan so I had to see this. Been waiting on this bad boy for months, and I was not disappointed.

The film revolves around a giant monster attack on New York City and rather than take the traditional path, the tale is told using a portable hand-held camcorder in the midst of the destruction. This gives a traumatic and horrific, up close and personal edge to the events. And of course will probably be responsible for multiple cases of motion sickness in theatres on a worldwide scale, but no worries, I predict folks will be so engaged by the flick they won't notice.

The characters are pretty simple cookie cutter fare and a subtle but simple love story lies beneath the action as Rob has to rescue Beth from monster central. Over and above that I have to pick T.J. Miller as Hud, the voice behind the camera for most of the movie, and his unrequited crush Marlena, played by Lizzy Caplan as the clear breakout stars here. The real humor, beauty and pizazz of the flick lie with them, and the monster of course.

I loved this movie, and was so glad that a film with such hype actually turned out to be worth it. Get to the theatre early for the Star Trek teaser (also by Abrams) and stay 'til the end credits to hear the luscious Akira Ifukube-inspired score by Michael Giacchino.


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Thursday, January 17, 2008

Quickies 1-17-2008


Skidoo ~ Nope, it's not a water or snow vehicle. This forgotten Otto Preminger flick from 1968 is a cross between a mob comedy and a generation gap morality play. Great performances by notably Mickey Rooney and also by Groucho Marx as a germaphobic mob boss named “God.” Carol Channing is fun as an old bimbo and you have to see to believe Jackie Gleason on acid. Speaking of drugs, rumor has it Grouncho first tried marijuana on the set of this film. Also look for cameos by Otto’s (Mr. Freeze) fellow “Batman” baddies Ceasar (Joker) Romero, Burgess (Penguin) Meredith and Frank (Riddler) Gorshin.

Voice of the Whistler ~ I was surprised by this B-flick based on the old radio program “The Whistler” as it was directed by William Castle. You can see the beginnings of the man’s skills and gimmicks even here. Nice surprise.

Stay Alive ~ This was another surprise as I expected yet another mindless serial killer flick in the mode of Final Destination or Jeepers Creepers. This flick by writer/director William Brent Bell has a group of teenagers playing a game that kills you in real life when you are yoinked in the game. Much cooler than it sounds. Look for “Malcolm in the Middle” all grown up and nerdy.

Incident at Loch Ness ~ This one is the evil opposite of the above, nowhere near as cool as it sounds. It’s a mockumentary following director Werner Herzog as he tries to make a movie about the Loch Ness monster. Reality TV at its worst.

Philadelphia Proud




Rock on, Ben Haar of Delaware, you're a brave man.

I don't know about anyone else, but I would've liked to have heard him sing...

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

'Vampira' Passes at 86



Maila Nurmi; actress created early TV's Vampira character

By Jocelyn Y. Stewart, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
8:52 AM PST, January 15, 2008

In the early days of television, when horror movies were often campy by nature, actress Maila Nurmi created the character Vampira, a glamorous ghoul who as hostess of late-night fright films in the 1950s layered on her own brand of camp.

Vampira played with her pet tarantula, gave gruesome recipes for vampire cocktails and bathed in a boiling caldron. With a knack for the double-entendre and the requisite blood-chilling scream, Vampira was a hit.

The character won Nurmi short-lived fame and a dedicated cult following. Nurmi claimed Vampira was also the uncredited inspiration for later ghoulish yet glamorous female characters in film and television, including Elvira.

Nurmi, who also appeared in the 1959 Edward D. Wood Jr. movie "Plan 9 From Outer Space," was found dead in her Hollywood home Jan. 10. The cause of death was still being investigated, said Lt. Fred Corral of the Los Angeles County coroner's office. Nurmi was believed to be 85, although sources offer conflicting dates of birth.

Born Maila Syrjäniemi in Finland, Nurmi immigrated to the United States when she was a toddler. By 17, she had dropped her surname and taken on that of her famous uncle Paavo Nurmi, a world-class runner known as the "Flying Finn." In her teens, she moved to New York, and then Los Angeles, to pursue a career in acting.

Little came of Nurmi's efforts to land conventional leading roles in theater or on-screen. The unconventional came calling in 1953, after Nurmi attended a Hollywood masquerade ball dressed as the ghoul of Charles Addams' New Yorker cartoons.

"I bound my bosoms, so that I was flat-chested," Nurmi said, "and I got a wig, and painted my body a kind of a mauve white pancake with a little lavender powder so that I looked as though I'd been entombed."

Nurmi's costume was judged the best at the ball, according to an article that was posted last week on vampirasattic.com, her website. Months later, a KABC-TV producer tracked her down and offered her work as hostess of a late-night horror show.

In creating Vampira, Nurmi said she went beyond the Addams cartoon, developing an alter ego influenced by beatnik culture and her experiences as a child of the Depression.

Vampira wore a low-cut tattered black dress that showed off her impossibly small waist (courtesy of a waist cincher) and displayed more cleavage than was common for the day. With her 6-inch-long nails and dark, dramatically arched eyebrows, watching Vampira was "a release for people."

"The times . . . were so conservative and so constrained," Nurmi said in a video interview that was posted on her website. "There was so much repression, and people needed to identify with something explosive, something outlandish and truthful."

Shortly after her debut, Vampira appeared in Life magazine, and soon there were fan clubs around the world.

"I was high-rolling in Hollywood, and I was quite full of myself," Nurmi said in a 1994 interview with People magazine.

But in 1955, KABC canceled her show, and the result was a stinging decline. When she met Wood at a party during the height of her career, she felt nothing but disdain, she told People magazine, but when he approached her in 1956 and offered her $200 to appear in his movie, she accepted the offer.

"I was scraping by on $13 a week," she said in the People article. "I thought, 'Well, here I go. I'm going to commit professional suicide right now.' "

"Plan 9 From Outer Space," a zombie movie, has been called the worst movie ever. She appeared in a few more movies, but by the 1960s, Nurmi's career had taken a turn toward oblivion.

"I'm a lady linoleum-layer," she told a Times reporter in 1962. "And if things are slow in linoleum, I can also do carpentry, make drapes or refinish furniture." And for 99 cents an hour, she cleaned celebrity houses, she told Entertainment Weekly in 1994.

Nurmi opened a Vampira antique shop, but she continued to struggle to make ends meet. In the late 1980s, Nurmi filed a lawsuit against another glamorous ghoul. She alleged that Elvira had ripped off her character, copying features such as a "distinctive, low-cut, tattered black dress, emphasizing cleavage and a voluptuous figure."

The courts disagreed.

Nurmi's influence can be seen in the teen "goth" look of today, said Dana Gould, a longtime friend of Nurmi.

"She really sort of cast the mold for a look that is still around," said the comedy writer and comedian.

Director Tim Burton's film about Wood, starring Johnny Depp, introduced a new audience to Wood and Nurmi.

Later in life, Nurmi, who was divorced and had no children, began creating Vampira drawings and selling them on the Internet. She remained proud and protective of the character she created, Gould said.

"I don't have any babies or any social history that's remarkable, so I'm leaving something behind, you know, when the time comes to say goodbye, I'm leaving something," she said in an interview with KABC's Eyewitness News.

A memorial service is being planned.


jocelyn.stewart@latimes.com

Monday, January 14, 2008

The 2007 Edwin Awards



The 2007 Edwin Awards!

Vote for the best and brightest of 2007!

And there came a day unlike any other, when the fans of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes were united against a common threat! On that day the Edwin Awards were born . . .

As the Avengers Forever Website prepares to celebrate its tenth anniversary we are proud to announce the third annual Edwin Awards! The Edwin Awards (named after Edwin Jarvis, butler and most trustworthy aid to the Avengers) were created to give recognition to those who help make the Avengers the mightiest heroes that they are.

Please feel free to contact the Avengers Forever Webmaster with any questions you may have about the Edwin Awards or the website in general.

The Edwin Awards: http://www.avengersforever.org/edwin/

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Actuality??


Starting on the first day of 2008, CourtTV changed its name to TruTV with the tagline: "Not Reality. Actuality."

What the F?

If they wanted to avoid the stigma that reality television has created in its recent reign the last thing they should have done is make up a word. Remember a couple decades ago when some radio stations tried out a format called "infotainment"? I think that word was responsible for more people tuning out than any actual programming.

The main thing that puzzles me, a frequent CourtTV viewer, is that the programming has remained much the same as it was before, save the annoying frequency of those "Actuality" commercials every break.

The real story is that Time-Warner and Turner Broadcasting acquired the network last year and have been uncomfortable with its 'legal format.' The real 'excitement' will begin when the new shows debut. Now in development are the unscripted "Neighbors 911," "Black Gold," "Outlaw Chasers" and, wait for it, "Ski Patrol." It bears repeating at this point that they wanted to stress that this isn't reality TV. As Bill Cosby used to say, Riiight.

Luckily, the TruTV network will continue the six-hour block of court coverage on weekdays that was the trademark and meat of CourtTV. I think that'll be all the TruTV I'll be watching.

Monday, January 07, 2008

More Futurama


Coincidentally, just watched the new straight-to-DVD “Futurama” movie, Futurama: Bender’s Big Score, and it rocked. I think it was even better than the show itself.

For me, much like the opening scene of the “Aqua Teen Hunger Force” film, the opening to this one was worth the price of viewing. The Professor announces that they’ve been canceled, and we immediately go to the offices of the Fox Network where we see executives doing moron noises a la the Three Stooges. Priceless.

The story for this one revolves around a brilliant satire on spam to a functional plot about annoying aliens taking over the Earth and using time travel to get rich. Great time travel logic in the Bill and Ted vein, and of course some standard “Futurama” antics ensue. As I said, a great watch.

The best part, other than the depiction of the Fox executives, was in the DVD extras. We get to see an entire episode of the 31st century’s favorite TV series, “Everyone Loves Hypnotoad.” It’s wonderful, unbelievable, cringe-worthy humor for almost an hour – Hypnotoad staring at you. There is a scene switch or two, some commercials, and even an outtake, but mostly, Hypnotoad at work. I was rolling. A joy.

Hypnotoad says watch this DVD. All hail Hypnotoad!

Thursday, January 03, 2008

The Future Will Be Televised


The Matt Groening and David X. Cohen series "Futurama" will be airing on Comedy Central starting this week. It's rumored to be one of the network's most expensive syndication purchases.

I'm a big fan of the show and despite it running in syndication for quite a while I still haven't seen all of them, and I look forward to catching up. The animated series, revolving around a slacker from the 20th century unfrozen in the 30th, has a slightly more subversive sense of humor than "The Simpsons." Its humor, characters and references more nerdy and more evil - making it right up my alley.

What has really caught my attention is the advertising campaign Comedy Central has been using for "Futurama." It's a play on the song "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised" by equally revolutionary jazz artist Gil Scott-Heron whose work I love as much as a poor white boy from the 'burbs can love such stuff. Somebody at Comedy Central knows the true meaning of cool, and the future will be televised.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Giant-Size Avengers #1 Reviewed




"The Bendis-less Avengers" - my comic book review of Giant-Size Avengers vol 2 #1 is now online at Avengers Forever.

Douglas Noble, T Campbell, Daniel Merlin Goodbrey, Denis Medri and other terrific newcomers take a crack at Earth’s Mightiest Heroes - check out my review here: http://www.avengersforever.org/reviews/default.asp?RID=567.

Enjoy!

If you want to discuss this review, this issue or anything Avengers, please check out the Avengers Forever Forum.

And if you'd like to make a donation to help keep the Avengers Forever website as mighty as ever, click here. Thanks!