The big news today both in business and entertainment is that Disney has purchased Marvel.
Folks in the know say that there will be no difference in the content of the types of entertainment Marvel produces. No mass firings, cancellations or anything else are currently on the horizon.
Apparently Marvel will continue to operate much the same way Pixar does in relation to Disney.
So does this mean Howard the Duck can finally take off his pants again?
Monday, August 31, 2009
The big news today both in business and entertainment is that Disney has purchased Marvel.
"More Answers" - my comic book review of New Avengers #43, by Brian Michael Bendis and Billy Tan, is now online at Avengers Forever.
Spider-Man, Ka-Zar and Shanna the She-Devil battle Skrulls in the Savage Land - all this and more - check out my review here:
"Loose" - my comic book review of New Avengers #48, by Brian Michael Bendis and Billy Tan, is also now online at Avengers Forever.
In the aftermath of the Secret Invasion, the new Captain America tries to reform what’s left of the New Avengers - all this and more - check out my review here:
...but that’s not all...
"The Fall of Luke Cage" - my comic book review of New Avengers #49, by Brian Michael Bendis and Billy Tan, is, yes, you guessed it, now online as well at Avengers Forever.
As Dark Reign begins, Luke Cage makes a deal with the devil and the New Avengers get their first look at the Dark Avengers - all this and more - check out my review here:
If you want to discuss these reviews, these issues or anything Avengers, please check out the Avengers Forever Forum.
Saturday, August 29, 2009
As I turn forty-five today I’m thinking of a birthday exactly thirty-five years earlier, when all I wanted in the whole wide world was the Evel Knievel Stunt Cycle Set. I even remember that tongue-twister name to this day, probably from saying it so much in the weeks before my tenth birthday.
I think it was one of the few times as a kid that I was obsessed with a toy that much. Evel Knievel in the 1970s was a larger than life figure. I remember watching his jumps on ABC’s "Wide World of Sports," and even listening to my AM transistor radio that Sunday afternoon for news of how his Snake River Canyon jump went. He was like a superhero, even dressed like one, but he was real. Maybe that’s where it came from.
The toy itself was pretty simple, a motorcycle, an action figure of Evel himself, and the 'gyro-rev-booster' that made the cycle go. It was magic in a box. The problem was, it was a 'doll.' And my father was dead set against me having 'dolls.' It was a dead stop point.
I had no dolls. Hell, I had no action figures, even though that term to my father meant doll, no matter what you called it. This was something that separated me from my friends. I couldn’t play equally with the other boys with their G.I. Joes, their Six Million Dollar Men, or ~ drool ~ their Mego Super-Heroes. It didn’t even matter that my cousin, who I was always being negatively compared to, had all those toys.
My father eventually gave in, and my tenth birthday was filled with an afternoon of enjoyment racing that stunt cycle up and down my front porch and making him jump the ramps from my SSP Demolition Derby Set. I was in heaven! My sister and her husband got me Evel’s Scramble Van that birthday, but as much as I loved them, it just wasn’t me. The van and its camping accessories were just a bit too much Barbie Dream House for me. So I guess my father really didn't have that much to worry about.
Eventually the magic wore off. The handlebars of the stunt cycle broke off, and Evel’s hands broke off as well. Still, that was one of the best birthdays I ever had.
Friday, August 28, 2009
Marvel Comics is expanding their characters to Japanese animation in 2010. Madhouse will be producing four animated features next year with Iron Man, Wolverine, Spider-Man and the Hulk.
Honestly I’m surprised this hasn’t been done before. Wolverine’s origins and best stories have always involved Japan - and Iron Man, come on, Iron Man just screams anime with all that tech. He's practically a mecha. Looks good, can’t wait.
Thursday, August 27, 2009
Bestselling author Dominick Dunne passed away yesterday in his home from complications of bladder cancer. He was 83.
An advocate for victims' rights, a WWII veteran, a stage manager for the original Howdy Doody show, a movie producer and a correspondent for Vanity Fair magazine, Dunne was many things, but what he will be most of all, is missed. We've lost one of the good ones.
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
I’m giving away my age with this one. What the hell, I’ll come right out with it, I’ll be 45 next week. Yeah, I’m effing old. Anyway, when I was barely old enough to walk or read I also started watching television, thus beginning a destructive habit that lasts to this day.
There were certain cartoons that I vaguely remember, but recall as being good, but never saw again until decades later. There were “Gigantor,” “Kimba” and “Astro Boy,” both of which I had little memory of but when I saw them again decades later I found my initial reaction was fairly dead on. These were excellent anime that still hold up and are as entertaining to me now as they were then.
There was also another Japanese cartoon among them that I vaguely recalled, but never saw again. This was called “Tobor the Eighth Man,” but my foggy young brain remembered it as “8 Man,” which ironically was the actual Japanese name for the hero and the show. Legend (and fact) has it that the reason we’ve never seen this again in the States is that 8 Man gets his powers from smoking cigarettes. I’m unsure whose idea this was for a children’s TV show, even in 1963, but come on, really? And furthermore, why would a robot smoke?
I finally got to see a few episodes on a DVD called Cartoon Crazys: Comic Book Heroes, thank you, NetFlix. Sadly, it does not hold up as well as the others I mentioned. The tale of a police detective murdered by criminals whose mind is put into the body of a robot is intriguing yet done with the simplistic overtones of a standard American cartoon, rather than a Japanese anime.
Frequently 8 Man is referred to as the precursor to Robocop, and an original concept in itself. This is not necessarily true. It should be noted that in 1942 DC Comics published the adventures of Robotman, a robotic crimefighter with a human brain, created by Jerry Siegel of Superman fame. Either way, it’s still fun. Ralph Bakshi worked on these translations and his sly hand can be heard in lines like “Why is this sign in Japanese?” commenting on the kanji characters throughout the cartoon. Like I said, fun.
“Tobor, the Eighth Man” is worth a look, if for nothing other than nostalgic reasons. And remember, kids, don’t smoke!
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Inglourious Basterds ~ This may be just another bloody Quentin Tarantino flick or it may be his homage to World War II films and Spaghetti Westerns, but what it definitely is is a love letter from a movie lover to other movie lovers. Then again, most Tarantino films are that, but this is for real film lovers, not just grindhouse or martial arts movie lovers.
The cinematography, the scenery, the dialogue, the choreography, even and especially the music, touches the true movie lover in a way that the casual moviegoer just won’t appreciate. Everything is referential, from the character names, to the songs, to the conversations and set pieces. This is a brilliant film, if only for film buffs.
Regarding the spelling in the title, I think it’s just for copyright and trademark reasons. Perhaps it’s to differentiate it from the 1978 Italian film with Bo Svenson and Fred Williamson called Inglorious Bastards. Just for the record, this isn’t a remake or anything of the sort. The only thing these two flicks have in common, other than a similar title, is that they both take place behind enemy lines in WWII. Of the spelling, Tarantino says, "Here's the thing. I'm never going to explain that. You do an artistic flourish like that, and to explain it would just take the piss out of it and invalidate the whole stroke in the first place."
The plot, simple but presented in a complex way (this is a Tarantino film after all), revolves around the Basterds – Jewish-American soldiers killing Nazis in occupied France – blowing up a moviehouse in Paris where the Nazi High Command will be gathered for a very special movie premiere. And just for the record, don’t bring the kids. When I say killing I mean Tarantino-style killing. Not pretty.
Brad Pitt impressed me here and he doesn’t do that often. His southern accent and charm as Aldo Raine was haunting, almost as if he was channeling Andy Griffith in A Face in the Crowd. He’s just as charming and sociopathic as well. There’s just not enough of him in the film. Unfortunately Eli Roth channeling the Bowery Boys is as painful as Pitt is brilliant.
Other than Brad Pitt, the standout of the cast is Christoph Waltz as the villain Hans Landa. Both charismatic and chilling, he makes the most convincing and evil Nazi to make the screen since Ralph Fiennes’ Amon Goeth in Schindler’s List. He is a perfect villain. And Samuel L. Jackson’s brief narration was a fun surprise.
As many good things as I have to say about Inglourious Basterds, it’s not all good. Tarantino seems to be recycling jokes at some points, especially with the Little Man name bit that recalls Mr. Pink in Reservoir Dogs. His foot fetish also rears its ugly head but not as blatantly in previous films.
The inclusion of David Bowie’s “Cat People” (the film version) in a WWII movie seems intrusive, and perhaps not right any longer considering Quentin couldn’t get Nastassja Kinski for the role it references as he intended. Also Mike Myers’ cameo is bizarre. I really expected him to pull off his make-up and wig at any moment and yell, “Surprise! It’s me!”
Shosanna’s (played expertly by Melanie Laurent) story is much more compelling than that of the Basterds. It made me wonder if perhaps there should have been two different films here. There are certainly two different themes. If there were indeed problems with the length of the movie, as the rumors claim, maybe it should have been two films, much like Kill Bill.
All that said, I would definitely recommend Inglourious Basterds with the proviso that it’s a Qunetin Tarantino flick, so know what you’re going to see before you go. But do go.
Sunday, August 23, 2009
Saturday, August 22, 2009
Push ~ Scanners meets X-Men meets The Matrix, only without the originality - that’s how this one strikes me. Telekinetics wage war in Hong Kong over a powerful drug, hilarity ensues, you can guess the rest. I did, after about twenty minutes.
Kudos to director Paul McGuigan. It takes a lot of skill to suppress a talent like Dakota Fanning and make her boring. Even the usually charismatic Chris Evans is deadly dull in what should be a special effects blockbuster. Been here before, with cheaper effects and on a second rate cable network. This is just a Saturday night SciFi Channel movie with a bigger budget.
There are a few interesting special effects and one or two fight scenes that ultilize them, but little else here other than some Hong Kong scenery (and honestly I’m not even sure it’s really Hong Kong). This flick really stinks of being a rejected X-Men script, so much so, I wouldn’t be surprised to find out it was. If it’s true… damn good thing it was rejected.
Thursday, August 20, 2009
Yesterday Marvel Comics debuted its first original motion comic on iTunes: Spider-Woman: Agent of S.W.O.R.D. Today, it was the number one seller on the television and animation charts. And it could very well be the death knell for print comics.
The series involves Jessica Drew alias Spider-Woman bouncing back from the traumatic events of Secret Invasion and New Avengers and finding her way in a treacherous new world. Adding to the excitement is the creative team – writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Alex Maleev – famous for their Eisner Awards and their NYT bestselling Daredevil run. It’s also worth noting that it was Bendis who brought Spider-Woman from a minor forgotten character to the forefront of the Marvel Universe.
While the stories featured in this iTunes exclusive will at some point next month be available in a traditional print format, the presentation is key here. While previous motion comics have been merely already existing comics retooled for the motion comic format – essentially comic images moving across the screen via flash animation - Spider-Woman is something new.
Spider-Woman: Agent of S.W.O.R.D. is created specifically for the motion comic format, and just by that virtue, it is different, and amazing. With a complete voice cast, a soundtrack and a notable lack of confining comic panels, this episode has a widescreen cinematic style that is something rarely seen in the comic book medium.
This new visual style at $1.99 per ten-minute episode vs. $3.99 per twenty-two page issue of a comic book may just give credence to the phrase “Print is dead.” While I sincerely hope not, I am still very excited by this event, and you should be too. Definitely check it out.
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Woodstock ~ I had seen this once years ago, in an edited form, unfortunately, on a late night UHF channel. Hmmm, I guess that kinda indicates just how many years ago that was. But this is the first time I’ve seen the whole thing. Although, seeing how VH1 Classic is showing it in full frame, I guess you could say I’m really only seeing half of the whole film. The director’s use of split screen techniques makes this even more painful.
My first memory of the Woodstock film is a review in my big sister’s college newspaper called the Common Sense. It had the very cool and dated tagline of “You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows,” and over a decade later I would write for it, but that’s another story. The reviewer said that the guy who made the movie sure liked sunrises and sunsets, man, and that’s pretty much all he said. That stuck with me because I was confused, and because I thought Woodstock was about music.
And it is about the music. Early on, The Who’s music from “Tommy” and especially their version of “Summertime Blues” is electrifying and yet the later bit by Sha-Na-Na is just puzzling. Sly and the Family Stone, Ten Years After and Santana give good music, although I wonder if Sly was upset Roger Daltry was wearing the same outfit as he was. And of course the most inspiring moment was Jimi Hendrix playing the crowd awake with “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
Regarding Joe Cocker’s amazing performance of “With a Little Help from My Friends,” sometimes when someone does a parody of something, you tend to forget the original and only think of the parody. Trust me, after you see the real thing, you will forget John Belushi’s brilliant Joe Cocker imitation forever.
A positive perspective is kept throughout the film, even when things fall apart, which is probably for the best. Much effort is also put forth to illustrate what the experience of being there was about, something not often done with concert films. Woodstock was a logistic nightmare that worked out simply by serendipity – or peace and love, if you prefer. As has been proven more than once, this kind of thing could never happen again. This is a great time capsule to a happier simpler time, and an excellent concert film – and yeah, there are a lot of sunrises and sunsets, man.
Sunday, August 16, 2009
From Small Screen Scoop, here is Chima Simone’s statement regarding being kicked off “Big Brother 11,” spelling and grammar intact...
”Yes, I did in fact quit the show, although there are reports on EW from CBS to the contrary. Big Brother would like everyone to believe I was kicked off for not following the rules, but I went to the producers repeatedly over the past couple of days wanting to leave….wanting out of that house!
“As crazy as that house is, the producers NEVER want the world to think or know that we houseguests DO LEAVE when it becomes futile to stay. I lost faith in the show & my ability to remain committed to this game. All of the remaining housemates know I wanted to leave and that is why any conversation concerning me is cut in the live feed because they don’t want America to hear the truth about my voluntary departure.
“Do you really believe that I would be expelled for tossing my microphone when past houseguests have only been kicked off for violence & threats of violence? You know better, as do I.
“It’s better that I left. I did what was best for me in this game and that was to leave. When I chose to play & play hard the power I did earn was completely usurped by a game piece never used before in this game and my HOH reign was rendered useless. I have no regrets. As cliche’ as it sounds, until the public is a part of a human pressure cooker, then the judgements should cease.
“I find it interesting that my personal attacks on Russell have been highlighted, but his attacks on me pushed under a rug. Selective portrayals? I think so. Russell did terrorize the house, especially the women in the house. Why America constantly finds men attacking women okay, yet vilifies the woman defending herself, will always confound me. But what’s done is done, now BB fans can find a new woman to hate. I didn’t sign up for what I was exposed to & I left gladly. It was the principle of the matter, the $500,000 prize be damned. That’s all for now! Take Care…”
Just an observation, since Chima was, um, let’s just say, she is no longer there, the house is quieter, more sane and all the houseguests seem more relaxed and comfortable. Hmmm, I wonder what could be different now?
Ponyo ~ The first thing that strikes me about Ponyo (also known as Gake no ue no Ponyo) is how terrific it is now that in America, not only are Hiyao Miyazaki’s films distributed mainstream by Disney, but that Hiyao Miyazaki films are now an event. This is just how it should be. He’s a genius, and it’s about time he’s treated this way.
I think a lot of that may be due to TCM. A year or so back they did an entire week of Miyazaki films that brought his work into the mainstream consciousness. I knew about him but then again I have a comics and anime background. I know this was when my wife’s eyes were opened to his brilliance, a probably many others as well.
Ponyo is a simple yet bizarre tale of a goldfish who falls in love with a little boy and then wants to become human. From there it gets complicated. And the complications are what I love about Miyazaki. He always follows the game plan of the Hero’s Journey, yet he takes the roundabout way, the twisted mountain road, so that he is never predictable – and that’s refreshing. When was the last time you could not guess the ending or even the next scene of a film?
This is an enjoyable flick for both adults and children, and highly recommended. I really enjoyed it. And if you like what you see, check out the rest of Miyazaki’s films. You’ll be glad you did.
There are times in music where genre cross and mix. When Queen brought opera into rock with “Bohemian Rhapsody” would be one such occasion. When the London Symphony Orchestra performed the songs of Queen later in the 1970s was another. Things like Apocalyptica and the Trans-Siberian Orchestra grew from these hybrids. Sometimes there are actual moments like Jam-Master Jay putting “Toys in the Attic” on the turntable or Jimi Hendrix playing “The Star-Spangled Banner” at Woodstock or Tchaikovsky bringing cannons onto a stage. That’s the kind of passion and creativity that thrives within "The Rock Tenor."
The tagline touts the show, now running at the Wilma Theater until August 23rd, as “All the songs you love, like you’ve never heard them before.” That pretty much describes this intriguing mix of Broadway, classical and rock and roll. And it’s not just mixing genres, we also see and hear songs re-arranged as they’ve never been heard before, regardless of musical type. Know also that this is not your standard Broadway-type stage show, it is more or less a performance or a concert. No plot to follow, just sit back (or stand up, or dance!) and enjoy this melding of musical style.
Lead vocalist Rob Evan is a veteran of the musical stage, appearing in Jekyll & Hyde, Les Miserables, Little Shop of Horrors and Dance of the Vampires. His foremost singing credit is probably singing lead for the aforementioned Trans-Siberian Orchestra. He is flanked by a stage of amazing vocalists and musicians including Betsy Goode and Susan Aquila on strings and the subtle but powerful J.D. Valenteen on guitar. The latter’s charisma shines from the background throughout the show.
The mixing of Journey with Sondheim, Daughtry with Les Miz, Bocelli with The Police, and Puccini with Led Zep are brilliant. And had the cast stayed with that type of magic, the show would have been perfect. While I found the unique covers of the Beatles’ “Yesterday” and Leonard Cohen’s “Halleujah” equal to the task, I was just as disappointed with the redos of “Life Is a Highway” and especially “Paradise by the Dashboard Light.” By the same token, I thought singer Morgan James’ “Somebody to Love” amazing yet Evan’s Queen tribute a bit over the top. I might put “The Devil Went Down to Philly” in the same category had it not highlighted the mad skillz of Goode and Aquila.
All that said, this is an incredible show that I highly recommend to everyone. The crowd I saw it with was very mixed age-wise, and everyone enjoyed immensely. For young or old, fans of rock or classical, everyone should see “The Rock Tenor.”
Saturday, August 15, 2009
Seems there is one less baby in the Big Brother house today as Chima was removed in the final hour of Showtime coverage last night.
Last night I posted a blog entry about how much the current cast are idiots and big babies. if only I had waited another hour or so I would have had a more exciting ending to the story.
Apparently Chima was asked to wear her microphone, and refused. When fellow houseguest Kevin retrieved it for her, she threw it in the pool. She was asked to get a new microphone by Big Brother and she refused. "You know what? .... this .... I'm outta here."
A house meeting was called and Chima told by producers that she would pay for the damaged mike. That's when the supposed tantrum started with Chima demanding (which she does a lot of, I've noticed) to speak with the producers in the Diary Room. The door to the room would not open, no matter how hard Chima pulled. Lydia tried to open the door crying but is told to sit down, along with Natalie.
When the live feeds to the house came back online following the house meeting, Chima was gone. Jeff had the last word when he said, "and then there were seven."
Good riddance, I say. In reality television there's a thin line between entertaining and irritating, and Chima crossed it some time ago.
I love reality television, and I love “Big Brother,” but I gotta say, the eleventh season of the series has bee filled with idiots. Oh, I know what you’re saying out there, especially those detractors of the format – they are idiots. No, I mean bigger idiots.
I’ve mentioned before how much I hated the opening ‘back to high school’ concept of “Big Brother 11,” but it’s gotten worse. I was enraged when last season’s Jessie returned and even got the first Head of Household and continued to have control of the house for a few weeks. And I’ve also talked about how much I dislike Jessie.
The rest of the houseguests are so distasteful that I have to be honest, up until his eviction last night, I was rooting for Jessie. If it couldn’t be Ronnie, I wanted Jessie to win. Ronnie of course was evicted for playing the game. It occurs to me that most of the cast this season seem blissfully unaware of the rules of the game, and that it is a game. Newsflash, idiots, “Big Brother” is a game.
This cast also seems incredibly immature. Have we ever had housemates before that rifled through and stole each other’s belongings? Sabotaged production? Blackmailed the producers? Demanded bath and beauty products to behave? Didn’t these idiots sign contracts before entering the house? I’m thinking CBS should take some legal action once this season is over against those individuals who jeopardized their program.
This is how they come across… Lydia and Kevin switch sides like the wind blows. Chima is just a spoiled brat – the nerve of her saying she needs to speak to the producers! If Jeff and Jordan put their heads together they might be as smart as Jessie on a bad day. Russell is a time bomb who needs anger management badly. These are the impressions they are giving on national television. Is that what they want folks to think of them? I would love to be a fly on the wall when they see the video of their time in the house.
The biggest question I am concerned with this season now that Jessie and Ronnie are gone and the rest of them have proved themselves idiots is... will Julie Chen make it to the end of the season before her baby arrives.
And please, Natalie should take a shower. I can smell her through my television.
Thursday, August 13, 2009
Les Paul, the jazz guitarist who changed the way the world thought about the guitar, passed away yesterday from complications of pneumonia.
The musical genius created not only the solid body guitar, but also multi-track recording, both of which paved the way for rock and roll to conquer the world. The Gibson Les Paul was, and is, considered the finest guitar made, period. With it, sounds previously unthoughtof became part of popular music.
We have lost a legend and a master. The real Guitar Hero is gone. Les Paul will be missed.
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Green Lantern: First Flight ~ How about a bit more Hal Jordan in my Hal Jordan movie please? This is a great Sinestro movie or even a Green Lantern Corps movie – but barely a Hal Jordan one.
This is the first Green Lantern animated feature, so I can understand the creators wanting to throw every element of the characters short of the kitchen sink into the mix – but really, this is not the first time the character’s been animated. We’ve seen various versions of GL throughout most of DC Comics’ animation history, so with his first feature he should have some room for development. If you’re going to give Hal Jordan Green Lantern seventy-five minutes – give him room to grow, to play, hell, how about some space of his own at least?
On the surface this is Hal Jordan’s origin as Green Lantern. An alien crashlands on Earth, giving Jordan a magical ring, whereupon he is taken to the Guardians of the Universe for training and eventually faces off against his evil counterpart Sinestro. It’s a story most comics fans know, and it’s presented well for newcomers – except those newcomers might not realize that Hal is supposed to be the protagonist.
Hal Jordan is there throughout most of the direct-to-DVD feature but soon the real story, that of the renegade Sinestro and the rest of the Green Lantern Corps, takes center stage, leaving poor Hal to almost a supporting role. The subtitle is “First Flight,” but I have to wonder whose.
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed it, I just wanted more of the title hero rather than the villain or the supporting cast. I could be really fanboy nitpicky and complain about the insectoid Kanjar Ro and his lack of connection to the GL Corps or about how the true appearance and origin of the Weaponers are changed and glossed over – but I won’t. I guess I would have liked a more Earthbound Green Lantern rather than space epic and a million characters all at once. Maybe next time, or maybe when Ryan Reynolds plays Hal on the big screen he’ll have more to do.
On the bright side, the weirdly anime animation is amazing and lends itself well to space adventure. I would definitely recommend this as worth watching for comics folks, but maybe not worth purchasing, except maybe for the hardcore GL fans.
Bam Bam and Celeste ~ In the week after the death of John Hughes, it was very difficult to watch this one. Margaret Cho, who not only starred, but also wrote, wants badly to channel John Hughes here. High school misfits, after a decade or so, declare independence and fight back against their rivals from school on a reality TV makeover show. It would be a perfect 1980s teen flick but the main problem is that it was made in 2005. There are moments. As long as it doesn’t get preachy (which it unfortunately does at times) you can root for the leads. Margaret is good, as is Alan Cumming in a sadly small role, but the rest you’ve seen all before, and done better. Worth a watch if nothing else is on.
Gacy ~ This serial killer bioflick about the infamous John Wayne Gacy tries far too hard to be everything at once. Starring Pee-Wee Herman’s bike-swiping nemesis Mark Holton, it covers a very short period of Gacy’s life between his wife leaving him and his arrest, but skips over other areas of interest. When the flick tries to be arty toward the end the effect is unfortunate. Worth watching for folks interested in the subject matter.
Moon ~ The less said about this, the better – and that’s a good thing. Like The Sixth Sense this scifi thriller set on the moon in the near future is a film best seen with no prior knowledge of the plot. This is an Oscar caliber performance by Sam Rockwell that the Academy had better not forget come December. Definitely don’t miss.