Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Waters of Mars

David Tennant’s run as The Doctor nears its end with “The Waters of Mars.” Sans a regular companion, the lone Doctor lands on Mars in 2059, and visits the first, and apparently doomed, Earth colony there. Slowly the colonists become infected and turn into water gushing monsters, with the story becoming a bunker drama.

The robot that keeps saying “Gadget gadget,” drives me nuts and makes me think of nothing but Inspector Gadget saying “Go go gadget,” takes me completely out of the story. Not good, but luckily it doesn’t last long. That aside, the drama is powerful, intense and horrific – not your usual Doctor Who fare. It’s also a very depressing and tragic episode, a note to remind us of the end coming for the current Doctor.

The best part however is the implied return of some of The Doctor’s oldest enemies. If Russell T. Davies has done anything with this series, it has been to resurrect more than a few of the golden oldies and give them a new spin. And remember, water always wins.

While British TV audiences were treated to “The Waters of Mars” a few weeks back, it airs here in the States on BBC America on December 19th. Be there.

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Avengers Forever Chat

Sunday night at Avengers Forever we’ll be chatting about Mighty Avengers #31 and Dark Avengers #11...

Sunday, November 29th at 8:00 PM EST
Not sure what time that is where you are? Click here for times elsewhere…

Click here to chat:

Come on out and talk with other Avenger-philes about what’s happening with Marvel Comics’ coolest superhero franchise – The Avengers!

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Friday, November 27, 2009

Al Alberts Dead at 87

Al Alberts, local Philadelphia icon and founding member of the Four Aces, is dead today at the age of 87 of kidney failure. His child talent showcase ran on WPVI channel 6 for over three decades and was frequently the landing field for many local dance studios, fledgling singers and little comedians.

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Quickies 11-27-2009

Superman Batman Public Enemies ~ Fun fights and pretty colors if all you want to see superheroes and super-villains slugging it out. If you’re looking for a plot, keep in mind this is based on Jeph Loeb’s Superman Batman comic, which sadly lacked a coherent one. The look of the feature is a bit bizarre as the designs were based on Ed McGuiness’ art from the series. Good rental or for free, not a purchase.

The Brothers Bloom ~ An exciting, funny, sweet and slightly predictable caper with great performances from all involved. Highly recommended.

Casshern ~ Visually stunning remake of a 1970s anime depicts a war-torn future using live actors and CGI backgrounds and special effects in the style of Sky Captain and Watchmen. Great to look at but the plot has some holes in it and what little is there we’ve seen before.

The Company of Wolves ~ An interesting if seemingly low budget look at the early work of Neil Jordan and Anton Furst, this is a tacky but firmly adult horror version of the original Little Red Riding Hood story with werewolves, the devil and other assorted terrors thrown in just for kicks. Moody and psychological story within a story stuff that’s more pseudo-intellectual than actual intellectual. Pass on it unless you’re interested in film design and production.

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Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Men Who Stare at Goats

The Men who Stare at Goats ~ Take a whole lot Coen brothers flavor and mix well with the typical content of late night radio’s Coast to Coast AM, and you’ve got The Men who Stare at Goats.

Director Grant Heslov and screenwriter Peter Straughan want very badly to be the Coen brothers that it hurts. You can feel it through the screen. And just about the only good thing that can be said about this particular factor of the film is that this is much much better than the Coen’s last project, Burn After Reading. Though they both had George Clooney, I don’t think you could pay me to see Burn again. Goats, I’ll definitely see again, but I’ll wait ‘til it’s on disc.

The story is based supposedly on fact, but mostly based on the book of the same name by Jon Ronson, the notorious British gonzo journalist and documentary filmmaker who frequently stalks secret organizations and conspiracy theories. Crazy stuff, yes, but also enjoyable. Hey, if I didn’t love this stuff myself I would be a C2C AM fan, and would consequently get a lot more sleep.

In this semi-autobiographical semi-truthful film, Ewan McGregor, Jedi Knight from those Star Wars flicks, plays a fictionalized version of Ronson who meets up with George Clooney – a real live super-soldier Jedi warrior with psychic powers who’s on a secret mission for the government in Afghanistan. From there, hilarity and an amusing montage of flashbacks ensue. The juxtaposition alone of McGregor not buying the Jedi talk is funny enough, but Clooney’s quirky Lyn Cassady is a hoot.

While the story falls apart late in the film, the performances are all high quality and entertaining. Another Coen favorite Jeff Bridges is very good as the new age Jedi master as is Kevin Spacey as another of his more smarmy students. The interplay between all the actors is cohesive, especially with Clooney and McGregor when the flick is in its buddy movie phase. This is good stuff. Recommended, but be prepared for a wacky ride. Heck, this could be a Coen film, a good one.

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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Head Case

My buddy Q turned me on to this original comedy series from Starz that I have recently caught up with via NetFlix DVD. I really enjoyed it, I just wish that the DVD had been clearer about what order to watch the episodes in. What is featured on the second disc as "bonus shorts" is actually the first season, and what is called the "first season" on the first disc is really the second season. Major suckage ensued after watching it out of order, sort of like watching "Firefly" for the first time after having seen Serenity.

In "Head Case," Alexandra Wentworth from "In Living Color" plays a therapist to the stars whose unorthodox methods bring the funny. The pseudo-documentary style of the series vanishes after a while and it becomes a real sitcom. It’s a treat to see Steve Landesberg of "Barney Miller" fame on TV again and Michelle Arthur steals the show as the receptionist Lola.

Be warned however, don’t watch on an empty stomach, as Fatburger plays a big role in the series. You’ll be craving fast food sooner than later. Recommended.

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Monday, November 23, 2009

Susan Tepper Interview

Author Susan Tepper grew up on Long Island, where many of the stories in her short story collection DEER take place. Prior to settling down and studying writing, Tepper worked as an actor, singer, flight attendant, marketing manager, television producer, tour guide, interior decorator and rescue worker.

Tepper has received five Pushcart Prize Nominations for fiction and poetry. Her work has been widely published in the US and abroad. In 2006, her poetry collection Blue Edge was released by Cervena Barva Press. Tepper curates the reading series FIZZ at KGB Bar in NYC, and she is Assistant Editor of the Istanbul Literary Review (an online journal based in Turkey).

In each of the linked stories in your new collection, a deer of some sort appears. Was this intentional?

Actually, the stories were written over a period of about ten years, and I didn't realize the deer kept coming into so many of my stories. A publisher had taken a few for his magazine, and he pointed out the fact of the deer. I do use a lot of animals in my work, but the deer seemed to be most prominent. So I dug up all my stories that contained deer, and Steve Glines, the publisher of Wilderness House Press, suggested we put them into book form.

You write a lot of poetry, too, does this affect your fiction writing?

I think it does tremendously. Poetry comes from an emotional place inside your body, whereas fiction tends to be somewhat more grounded. I believe writing poetry has allowed my fiction to really open up and take off in unexpected ways.

Besides being a writer, your bio states that you have worked as an actress, singer, flight attendant, rescue worker, television producer, amongst other things. Has all this varied work experience made an impact on your writing?

Oh, yes. I draw on my past all the time, though not consciously. I never plot out my stories or novels, but just let the lines flow one into the next. I think if you allow yourself to take in a lot of life, many new experiences, it can't help but enhance your writing. I believe the writer has to be out there in the world, not locked in a room or in the mind. You write as much as you can, then you go out there and live life.

Do you see yourself doing anything else in the future, career-wise?

Nope. This is it for me. I'm addicted to writing. I couldn't live without it.

Please visit Susan’s website here, her new blog here, and see her upcoming tour dates here.

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Sunday, November 22, 2009

Mighty Avengers #31 Review

"Past Imperfect" - my comic book review of Mighty Avengers #31, by Dan Slott, Christos Gage and Sean Chen, is now online at Avengers Forever.

An army of superheroes, including members of the Mighty Avengers, New Avengers and Young Avengers take on the renegade ex-king of the Inhumans, and we get what we may or may not want - all this and more - check out my review here:


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

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Saturday, November 21, 2009

RIP Steve Friedman

Mr. Movie has passed away, and I didn’t know. I just thought he was sick and folks were filling in for him. But he had died, sadly of kidney failure, more than a month ago, and he just isn’t there any more.

Radio is a strange thing. We always assume it’s going to be there, and by connection, the people on the radio will be there as well. Tonight I heard an errant comment by the hosts of "Remember When" on 1210 AM where it was said Steve was looking down from heaven. I raced to the internet, and there it was, over a month ago, Steve Friedman had passed.

The man they called Mr. Movie had been a radio fixture in the Delaware Valley for more than three decades. Even when I disagreed with the man, which was quite often, I loved him. His passion for movies and his scary encyclopedic knowledge of them was awesome by any stretch of the imagination. In the three decades he was on the air I went from a casual lover of film to running a video store to being somewhat of a movie critic myself – and I can’t help but think that he had some indirect influence over that.

For most of his uneven run on Philadelphia radio I was a regular listener. I called and spoke with him on more than one occasion – notably once trying to recover from the serious WTF experience of seeing Blue Velvet for the first time.

He taught me more about film than I can’t to admit. I don’t think I see any new movie without thinking 'I wonder what Mr. Movie will think of this.' Steve Friedman is a voice in the night that will be missed.

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Eurovision Junior 2009

Co-hosted by Ani Lorak, who sang “Shady Lady” for Ukraine in the 2008 Eurovision Song Contest, the Junior Eurovision Song Contest 2009 was held in Kyiv today.

Streaming live on the official Eurovision website, the seventh running of the contest from the Palace of Sports featured young talents, all between ten and fifteen years old, from thirteen countries.

Armenia had a powerful song and start. Cyprus presented a song that would have been suitable for the regular Eurovision. The kid from the Netherlands has a lot of tail in his future if he hasn’t already. Boy band hot, even if the song’s about tap dancing. And apparently all the bunny ears in the audience were for the little boy from Belarus, who was just more than a little bit scary, kinda like the kid from The Omen or The Shining. And my, the announcers’ broken English, while appreciated, is horrendous. But it is more entertaining than some of the acts.

The Junior contest this year was much closer than this year’s landslide for Norway in the main event. The winner of the Junior Eurovision Song Contest for 2009 was Ralf of The Netherlands with the song “Click Clack.” Way to go, kid!

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Super Heroes Who Are Super

A week ago I saw simply the coolest show a comic geek could hope to see live. Presented by Plays & Players this was just amazing fun. Here’s how they describe it:

Super heroes brought to life before your very eyes! Word-for-word staged readings of classic comic books featuring some of Philadelphia’s finest actors. Will Spider-Man save the day? Will the Hulk smash? Will this description get you to come to our performances? Find out! With a relaxed atmosphere that includes drinks being served from the neighboring Quig’s Pub, audiences get an opportunity to interact with the artists and embrace their inner (or outer) comic book geek.

The show we saw featured a live reading in costume of Green Lantern #13, "Duel of the Super-Heroes," guest-starring the Flash. Patrons were mostly dressed in comic book related t-shirts and were talking in the lobby and the bar about the previous night’s "Smallville" and the Wonder Twins – a real geek audience, but still quirky cool. There were also an equal amount of folks talking about "William Shakespeare’s Land of the Dead," another Plays & Players show from earlier in the year. Word of mouth must have been mighty though as there was only single seats and standing room only.

The words were played straight for the most part with hand gestures and facial expressions doing the rest via puns, camp and innuendo. Much like the 1960s "Batman" TV series this was a wonderful experience on more than one level. The narrator was a melodramatic marvel and the telepathic aliens almost made me wet myself. I loved this, and will be back. The next show is December 12th.

The previous month’s shows featured Spider-Man, the Punisher and Wonder Woman, and who knows who will appear next, but we’ll find out as the show is scheduled through to June. For more details, click here.

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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Dave Roberts and Action News

I was directed to watch 6ABC’s local Philadelphia news at 11 tonight by a message on their Facebook:

Action News turn to 6abc right now! Dave's gonna make the big announcement!

Now aside from the fact that such grammar from a news outlet would have made my Journalism professor choke on his Almond Joy, the announcement was that longtime on-air announcer Dave Roberts was retiring. He’s been with Channel 6 since the late seventies and has always been a friendly informative source for news and entertainment whether he was doing the news, weather, magazine shows or holiday parades. His final day will be December 11th so we’ll get one more Thanksgiving Day parade out of him. Dave will most certainly be missed.

What bugged me was that this was the first full episode of “Action News” I’ve watched in well over a decade. I know I’ve blogged on this before but I’m still shocked at how truly bad local news has become.

“Action News” used to be the local newscast in the 1970s. The witty and hip interaction (pun unintended) between the late Jim O’Brien and his cohorts invited viewers in to this television family. In hindsight, perhaps the much-missed O’Brien was the glue that held everything together for the newscast. He was never truly replaced by anyone his equal. Everyone after was just obviously trying to be him.

The broadcast I watched tonight barely spent five minutes on hard news but spent more than that on a special report about cougars. Then the weather was overshadowed by a longer story about what might be coming this winter. This is news? After all that I could have just clicked over to the station’s website to get the news on Dave’s retirement, and not suffered through this mess. But maybe that’s the point. Between the internet and the various 24/7 cable news outlets, local news is dead.

Good luck, Dave, maybe you’re getting out before it’s too late.

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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Brave and the Bold #32 Event

In February DC Comics' Brave and the Bold features a tale of the classic and very-much-alive Aquaman by writer J. Michael Straczynski and artist Jesus Saiz. Friend Rob Kelly of The Aquaman Shrine is putting together an effort to let the powers that be that we want more of this, in other words – Bring Back Aquaman, the real Aquaman!

Catch Rob’s efforts here, here and especially here, with an interview with J. Michael Straczynski. And if you are in the South Jersey/Philadelphia area and would like to pre-order your copy of Brave and the Bold #32, check out All Things Fun! page here.

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Ken Ober Dead at 52

Ken Ober, best known as the host of MTV's game-changing gameshow "Remote Control," has died at the age of 52. The show also featured early work by Adam Sandler, Kari Wuhrer, Denis Leary and Colin Quinn, as well as bringing the wonders of "Gilligan's Island" and "The Brady Bunch" to a whole new generation. In recent years Ober had produced television series like "Mind of Mencia" and "The New Adventurers of Old Christine."

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Monday, November 16, 2009

Waters of Mars

David Tennant is spiraling toward his final episodes as The Doctor. "Waters of Mars" airs on the BBC this coming Sunday, and sooner or later in the States...

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Friday, November 13, 2009

Space Hotel

Launching in 2012 will be the Galactic Suite, a space hotel where visitors can spend three days in Earth orbit for the low low price of $4.5 million.

Passengers will get to the hotel via Russian rocket and get to see the sun rise sixteen times a day. And that’s not even mentioning the joy of zero gravity sex for couples who want to take that plunge.

For more, click here.

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Thursday, November 12, 2009

Turkish Double Bill

I recently picked up this recent double feature from Netflix claiming to spotlight the best in Turkish pop cinema...

Tarkan Vs. the Vikings ~ Also known as Tarkan Viking Kani, this 1971 entry is based on the Turkish Tarkan comics. This is supposedly a classic example of Turkish pop cinema, a low budget Conan done in bright colors and vibrant orchestral music. It’s a visual feast if not an intellectual one, especially when some scenes have the same texture of a Monty Python sketch or a Carol Burnett spoof. The violence (cartoonish by today’s standards) and degradation toward women gets to be a bit much after a while, but if you drink every time a German shepherd is on screen the movie will get better or perhaps you just won’t remember it.

The Deathless Devil ~ Also known as Yilmayan Seyton is a loose remake of the movie serial The Mysterious Dr. Satan, which was in fact a rewritten Superman serial with the man of steel replaced by a new hero called Copperhead. The same is true here albeit updated, or at least updated to 1971. It has the feel of a Mexican wrestling flick mixed with just a touch of Superargo and Danger: Diabolik thrown in just for kicks. This second Turkish feature is also a potpourri of genres including comedy, violence and sex. Oh those wacky Turks.

I had expected to like the latter over the former, me being the superhero geek and all, but all in all, the first held my interest more. That said, this wasn’t a wild night of entertainment either. Given the choice between say, an enema and more Turkish genre flicks… I might have to take a moment to consider my choices...

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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

All Things Fun! Podcast – Halloween Episode

Better late than never, here’s "Season 2: Episode #4 It's The Great Pumpkin All Things Fun!" taped live at the comics and gaming store All Things Fun! in West Berlin NJ.

Join Ed Evans and Wes Hitchins as they welcome Jess as the new show producer in this horror themed Halloween show! Glenn Walker and Allison Eckels talk about death in comics while Ed runs us through some game news and Wes previews Thunderstone and The Adventurers. Wes then picks some of his favorite horror games!

You can send feedback to or online at You can also call our new feedback voicemail number 1-856-448-GAME(4263).

Bonus! To see Jess's Show Notes visit:

Show Map:
0:00: Intro
7:37: Death in Comics (Part 1)
16:02: Quick Comic Review
16:50: Death in Comics (Part 2)
27:53: Game News & Previews
44:07: Halloween Horror Games
55:13: End Credits
56:49: End

Direct download: ATFPodcast_S2_Ep04_10_31_09.mp3

Enjoy! And remember, when in the South Jersey/Philadelphia area, stop by All Things Fun! the store!

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Kevin Smith in Philly

I’m a huge Kevin Smith fan. I love his movies, his comics, his writing, his podcast, even that animated “Clerks” thing, but most of all I love his DVDs of his Q&As. He’s done three so far, surely more to come, but the other night I finally got to see the man in action live.

We had great seats, third row, which were a birthday present from the lovely Bride and the Merriam Theater is a terrific place to see anything – not huge, but small enough to have some intimacy. A little after eight the man came out, in gigantic clothes. We all know about his weight problems, but it’s darn hard to tell when he’s wearing clothes that appear to be several sizes too big for him. It was like a flashback to David Byrne in the big suit.

Kevin Smith began the festivities with a story about one of the previous times he’d been to Philadelphia - when not only did his father get to see him at a comic con and his whole family got together for a great dinner and discussion – but his father passed away later that night. Yeah, Kevin started the night on a down note, but he quickly recovered, telling a tale of his dad that had a much more pleasant ending.

The night quickly moved to the question and answer portion of the event there after with topics ranging from the Twilight phenomenon to Smith’s working with ‘the Bruce Willis persona’ on the upcoming film not-to-be-titled A Couple of Dicks to how and why he ended up on “DeGrassi High.” Further questions dealt with Smith’s ‘rivalry’ with Reese Witherspoon, the health of Jason Mewes and social networking.

Kevin ended the night with tales of former Film Threat writer and friend Malcolm Ingram and an exploration of bear society. I had a great time and have to say Kevin Smith live is better than Kevin Smith on DVD. I look forward to his next tour and, as always, his next films. Rock on, Kevin, and thanks to The Bride.

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Thursday, November 05, 2009

Is Local News Dead?

Is local news dead, or have they just given up?

This afternoon was marred by the tragic shootings in Fort Hood, TX, and details are still coming in. I spent a lot of my afternoon switching channels back and forth between CNN, Headline News, MSNBC and Fox News - and they were all covering the story.

I noted the time, and realized that two of our local network affiliates had news programs on air (ABC had "Oprah" and you don't mess with Oprah) so I turned to them. I was informed of Wyclef Jean was in town and that Sarah Palin is on a book tour. I switched a few times more between channels 3 and 10 and learned that pets can get the H1N1 virus and that Phillies fans are sad.

Wtf? No coverage of Fort Hood??? Shocked, just shocked. Now I know where not to go for my news. Apparently local news is anxious to go the way of the newspapers.

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Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Déjà Vu All Over Again

ABC’s remake of the 1980s TV series "V" began last night and having lived through the first time, I have to ask why. Other than the idea of using better special effects and telling different stories I don’t know why it was remade. Much like a good joke, once you know the punchline the joke just doesn’t carry the same impact.

I remember the first time "V" aired, over two decades ago, on NBC. Everyone was talking about it the next day, this clever science fiction mini-series, and when the secret of the Visitors was revealed... oh man, let’s just say if the internet had existed, it would have broken in half. But that’s just the thing, when you think of "V" – those of us who remember it- you think of the secret... and like I said, when you already know, the impact is considerably less.

"V" is very much like some of the best episodes of "The Twilight Zone" – you know the episode by the shock twist ending, like "Eye of the Beholder" and "To Serve Man." One of my favorite "TZ" episodes is "Button, Button," by Robert Bloch, which coincidentally has been remade as The Box coming out this Friday. This is another case like "V." If you know the episode, you know the ending, so for me, there’s no point in seeing this flick as I know how it ends.

Now while "V" may have slipped the minds of folks over the years and now be catering to a new generation, "Twilight Zone" has never left the consciousness of the public, being a pop culture institution in syndication now for decades. I just don’t get it, why remake it?

As far as the new "V" is concerned, the first episode held my interest barely. The subplots were far more interesting than the Visitors themselves, a mistake for a series about the Visitors, but we’ll see. Or some of us will. I’m not sure how long I’ll hang with it.

For a more in-depth look at ABC’s "V," as well as the original, check out Andrew Burns’ review over at the very cool website Biff Bam Pop!

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The Sound of Silence

A few thoughts came to me the other night while watching the World Series. Folks across the rest of the country don’t like Philadelphia. Especially when it comes to sports. Not that I blame them. Philly sports fans have a rather nasty reputation – throwing corroded batteries at opposing team fans, hurling insults about outfielders’ mothers, even throwing snowballs at Santa Claus – yeah, we’re a unique bunch. And the rest of the country hates us.

This fact becomes most apparent when watching nationally televised sports events. Ever watch “Monday Night Football” when the Eagles are playing? Never a positive thing said about the team. Even the sportscasters are rooting for the other team. At the World Series games played this week in Philadelphia, the Fox network cameras focused more on Yankees fans in the stands than the 90% of Phillies fans on hand.

It gets so bad that many Philly sports fans will have the TV on mute and listen to local announcers on the radio to at least get a semi-fair accounting of the game. This is something I’ve done for years, and it occurs to me that with the graphics on screen these days – do we really need announcers at all anymore?

Harry Kalas and Richie Ashburn are much missed local announcers for the Phillies but if folks remember they knew when to be quiet. Today’s announcers have the obnoxious habit of filling every empty second with some obscure fact or just pointless babble. It’s not needed. Sometimes announcer quiet and the sound of the crowd is all that is needed. Just my opinion.

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