Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Women 2 Women II


Please join us for the 2nd Annual Women to Women Event (W2W2). Women to Women is an advocacy group with the mission of bringing female artists together to share a night of music while raising awareness and funding for Women’s causes, locally and nationally.

This unique event features talented female performing artists from all over the Tri-state area, from all walks of life, to share their love fro their craft, MUSIC! Performers include… Janet Bufano, Kathi Cooley, Megan Knight, Stephanie Davis, Britt Marie Zammer, Rachel Evans, Arianna Burmeister, Sandy Hall, Chrissy Hartline, Susan “Sooze” Lake, Tina Brand, Nikki Zammer, Kate Bradshaw, Danielle Denning, Carolyn, Christine & Cynthia Barbadoro, and The Bride, Jennifer Walker.

These performers will offer a diverse range of music for your listening pleasure while raising funds for our chosen charity, Providence House, Burlington County. Last year W2W Successfully raised $4700 for Breast Cancer Research for the ACS with the generous support of our local music community.

Our chosen charity, Providence House Domestic Violence Services provides comprehensive and confidential services to individuals experiencing or impacted by domestic violence. These services include a 24-hour hotline, emergency shelter, individual and group counseling, advocacy and support in the courts, information and referrals and PALS (Peace: A Learned Solution) Program for children who have witnessed abuse.

We hope you will come join us for a great night of entertainment while enjoying basket raffles, door prizes, with a 50/50 lucky ticket drawing.

The event happens Saturday, November 30, 2013. Doors at 7, and the music starts at 8. See you at The Indian Chief Tavern, 212 Route 70, Medford, NJ 08055.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

RIP Family Guy


The Great Gazoo. Cousin Oliver. A new class of students like on "Fame" or "Glee" or "DeGrassi." The consummation of a relationship like Dave and Maddie, Master and Jeannie, Lois and Clark. Or Carrie getting pregnant on "Homeland." It's called 'jumping the shark,' as in when Fonzie waterskied over a shark on "Happy Days."

The phrase references when a TV series has hit its pinnacle and is on it's sharp sometimes fast decline down. It's the moment of a sudden drop in quality, rationality, and popularity. It can even be defined as an act of desperation by the powers that be to 'save' or 'freshen' the series.

Get them married, get them pregnant, adopt a kid, change locale, or kill a major character. All acts of desperation. And sometimes sabotage, when the creators are tired of the same old crap week after week. Could this be what happened on "Family Guy" Sunday night?

Brian, Brian Griffin, died the other night. Brian the family dog who walks erect and talks, has conversations with, is apparently the only one who hears baby Stewie's dialogue, and is notably the only rational thinking character on the animated show, was run over by a car and died in the vet's office surrounded by the Griffins.

It is worth mentioning that creator Seth MacFarlane has very vocal with his feelings about "Family Guy" going on too long, being tired, and most good TV shows end after seven seasons ("Family Guy" is currently in its eleventh). Perhaps MacFarlane has thrown in a monkey wrench by killing beloved Brian in such a way.

I feel that Seth is giving us all a big middle finger. He's almost saying, "You really still like this show? Well, now the dog's dead. How you like it now?" He even went so far as to replace Brian with a new dog character, just as likable but different, as if teasing the audience to see how much they can take before turning away. As the episode ended, I was left puzzled, waiting for the gag that never came. And perhaps that's MacFarlane's goal.

There are of course, tricks to this one. Stewie could always travel back in time and save Brian. Perhaps it's a long arc, or perhaps this will all be forgotten next week. Seth MacFarlane has never been one to shy away from exposing television clich├ęs in that way. I guess we'll have to wait and see, if we're still watching, and McFarlane is still doing the show. Either way, I'll miss Brian.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Arrow S02 E07: "State v. Queen"


Might we have a misleading episode title here? I mean, what could be more exciting - a dry courtroom drama or the return of Count Vertigo? And don't forget Brother Blood and the League of Assassins are still lurking about. I guess we'll just have to wait and see what this one is about.

Six months ago, we witness The Undertaking from inside Iron Heights. We watch as The Count walks out, but first releasing the Dollmaker. I wonder how many other notable criminals got out the same way. We've seen what the Dollmaker was up to, now we find out what The Count has up his sleeve. Oh yeah, poisoning the city, and apparently Vertigo is the cure. And best of all for the comics folks out there, he has finally taken on the name, Count Vertigo. He also for the first time names our hero Arrow.

Actor Seth Gabel is taking the character further into Nicholson/Ledger Joker territory, he comes close to Mark Hamill's Trickster, but for the most part he is playing in bad over the top Black Scorpion super-villain mode. Yep, Overacting 101. However, The Count does indeed have an ace in the hole - he knows that Arrow no longer kills, and is using it against him.

There is a final duel between the two, with Felicity's life at stake (life or is it simply Vertigo addiction?). The Count has found out Oliver's secret identity, and admits to a higher up who set him up and sent him after Arrow to kill him. It works out the other way around, with The Count taking three arrows to the chest and falling several stories to his death. Looks like The Hood's killing career might not be over after all.

The trial of Moira Queen continues, with Jean Loring for the defense, and the Kate Spencer appointed Laurel for the prosecution. Yep, more comics references. As I've mentioned before, Jean is the mentally unbalanced love interest of the Atom, murderer of fellow Justice Leaguer the Elongated Man, and future host to god of chaos, Eclipso. Busy busy lady. Kate Spencer is of course the latest Manhunter.

I should also take back what I said about dry courtroom dramas in the opening of this review. Writer and showrunner Marc Guggenheim, besides being a comic book writer and lawyer, also worked on shows like "Law and Order," "Eli Stone," and "The Practice." This was anything but dry, especially when it leads to a not guilty verdict... the return of Malcolm Merlyn... and the revealation that Thea is his daughter!

Other goodies this week include Brother Blood being the guy who hired Count Vertigo, more hijinks with Ivo as they return to the island, the possibility of the wounded Slade getting some of that super-soldier formula, and Blood telling the survivor of an experiment that he's ready after he says he's stronger. His name is Cyrus. Hmmm... the only DC Comics character I know named Cyrus who's strong is... Solomon Grundy...

Our other comic book references this week would be the news on Channel 52 talking about the new particle accelerator in Central City. It's no coincidence that next week's episode is called "The Scientist," and introduces Barry Allen. And is that Deathstroke... in the present? I think Oliver's life is about to change... in a flash...



Friday, November 22, 2013

11/22/63 on 11/22/13 at Biff Bam Pop!


Fifty years ago today, we lost one of our greatest Presidents to an assassin's bullet. To mark that anniversary, I've reviewed Stephen King's amazing and award winning time travel novel 11/22/63 over at Biff Bam Pop!. You can read it here.

While you're at the site, don't forget to also check out my regular reviews of "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.," "Avengers Assemble," and Marvel Comics' latest crossover event Infinity.

If you like pop culture, you will love Biff Bam Pop!, check out all the terrific articles and reviews there.

And don't forget, soon, their Holiday Gift Guide will be featuring the new and the cool for the holidays, look for it!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Like a Rolling Stone


"Like a Rolling Stone" by Bob Dylan.

It's a classic timeless song, and now Dylan has made what was and remains one of the greatest songs ever into a mind-blowing, forward-thinking, interactive music video that not only must be seen to be believed, it must be experienced, and you might never see it the same way twice.

Check it out now, here.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Quisp


Finally my local Shop-Rite has decided to stock Quisp cereal. This is kinda cool, rather than drive a couple miles away to the Acme, or ordering through the mail, we can get Quisp almost any time we want. For a long time, that wasn't really possible. Quisp was among the missing.

Quisp was my favorite cereal when I was a kid way way back when. Way before Frosted Flakes and Rice Krispies, I loved me some Quisp. The cereal was what I would munch while watching the Saturday morning cartoons and beg for in the supermarket because it had a toy inside. I have a distinct memory of my big sister building the toy flying saucer from inside the box. That's right, a toy so complex it had to be put together. She even attached a thread to it so it would appear to fly on its own.

Yeah, we're talking about real cereal, it's even made mostly of corn and sugar, in the shape of little flying saucers. It even took its name from the little alien who was the cereal's mascot, who was featured in a series of animated commercials during Saturday mornings, by Jay Ward, who also did "Rocky and Bullwinkle." Can you get more retro than that?

On Saturday mornings back in the day, the commercials were a little longer, not thirty-second buy-me blasts, but sometimes multi-minute-to-be-continued-on-a-later-break stories. The ads for the original G.I. Joe Adventure Team were like that, and so were the adventures of Quisp and Quake.



While Quisp was a little alien dude, Quake, his default friend and active rival was a big burly miner (later a superhero-like swashbuckler), and they would argue, fight, and compete over whose cereal was better. Ironically, they tasted the same, but had different shapes, Quisp in the shape of tiny bowl-like flying saucers, and Quake was, I think, big rock-shaped cereal. I really couldn't say, I always got Quisp.


I remember vividly in 1972 when an election took place where you could vote for your favorite of the two cereals. A nation of kids, wrapped up in the same type of election fever that gripped their adult counterparts, voted for Quisp as the chosen one. Quake won. As his punishment, besides dealing with Quisp's gloating, Quake became the sidekick to Simon the Quangeroo, who got his own cereal, albeit an orange flavored version.


When another election, one I don't actually recall, was held in 1976, Quisp won again and Quangeroos were vanquished, ahem, I mean discontinued. The ironic thing is shortly thereafter, all three cereals seemed to vanish from not only television screens, but also store shelves.

Quisp returned in the 1980s briefly and then again in the 1990s as available online only, before coming to select stores. I'm glad it's now available closer to home, and I'm sure we'll be getting it more often.

Monday, November 18, 2013

The Rock Blog Tour


Today marks the beginning of The Rock Blog Tour, featuring Skinn Jakkitt. The first stop is at The Southern Girl's Guide to Life by Whitney Coble, and you can check it out here.

Upcoming stops will be at the blogs of Tim Marquitz, Becca Butcher, Kristyn Phipps, Jennifer Walker, and Robin Renee. I'll be hosting the tour right here at Welcome to Hell on December 1st.

Please visit Skinn Jakkitt's website, hear them at ReverbNation, Like them on Facebook, and Follow them on Twitter.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Lady Gaga - Artpop

With the official release of Artpop earlier this week, and Lady Gaga's press thrust about the new album, some interesting news has come out regarding the star. She is apparently addicted to marijuana claiming to smoke up to 15-20 doobies a day. Wow. That's a lot. Granted she says it was because of breaking her hip earlier in the year, but still… she's either exaggerating or just really really messed up. In the Madonna/Salvador Dali tradition of "There is no such thing as bad publicity," stupidity is always the exception. Either that, or she's the new Snoop Dogg.

Before we get to the album, Lady Gaga has also released an app to go along with the album called, what else, Artpop. It's very psychedelic and possibly, if you'll excuse the pun, drug driven, and attempts to interact with the user and allow them to interact with other little monsters.

You begin your journey with the album's opening song and concept, "Aura." The app appears that it should be able to play other tracks from the album as well, but that never worked on my iPhone at least. I guess this is a bit fun, and useful if you want connect with other monsters, but otherwise it's only fun in an "Oooh, shiny" kinda way.



On to the actual album, Artpop, I have to say I'm not all that impressed. That said, when I first heard the advance single "Applause," I hated it, then days later it had grown on me to me my favorite song of that moment. "Venus" hit me the same way, at first dislike, but then growth. Weird.



Not fond of the second single, "Do What U Want" with R. Kelly, either. The love song to "Dope" kinda stands out because of Gaga's comments, but doesn't seem like a hit to me either. Only "MANiCURE" and "Gypsy" show any first listen promise to my ears. Artpop is sadly full of fairly standard and substandard dance music. I've been a little monster since the beginning, but unless all the other songs on this collection start playing fungus and growing on me, I think she may have stumbled with this effort.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Arrow S02 E06: "Keep Your Enemies Closer"


At last, we're going to find out where Oliver got his Russian mob cred, and where he got that Bratva tattoo, as the crew takes a trip to Russia. Almost sounds like an "I Love Lucy" episode, doesn't it? Just not as funny.

In our opening sequence, after some Lucy style secret identity shenanigans with Summer Glau's Isabel Rochev, Arrow and his sidekick, um, snitch, um, sidekick, Roy Harper bust up some counterfeiters in short order. In the midst of it, and here's where it gets good, Diggle gets kidnapped.

Diggle gets kidnapped by dudes namedropping Task Force X, the Suicide Squad's official codename, and answering to Mockingbird, who gave orders to the Secret Six in the comics. When he comes to, he is confronted by, da da da dum, a very svelte looking Amanda Waller, played by Cynthia Addai-Robinson, who you might remember as Naevia from "Spartacus," which also starred our Deathstroke, Manu Bennett.

Waller, who Diggle identifies as being with ARGUS, tells him that Lyla has vanished after following up some leads in Russia. Specifically Lyla was tracking Deadshot for Diggle. Waller, who also knows what Diggle and Oliver Queen do with their nights, wants Lyla extracted. So much for sightseeing in Russia, it sounds like it's all business.

Back on flashback island, or more accurately, the Amazo boat, Professor Ivo interrogates Oliver with Sarah present. It seems that the island was where a Japanese World War II secret super soldier formula is, and Ivo's looking for it. The formula, that gifts super strength and enhanced regeneration, is called Mirakuru - miracle.

Or is that Miraclo? With the recent announcement of an Hourman series possibly in development, I can't help but wonder if The Flash isn't the only back door pilot being prepped here... For those who don't know your Golden Age comic lore, Miraclo is the drug that Hourman takes to gain super strength, super stamina, and yes, even regenerative abilities for one hour.

Dylan Neal's dad next door portrayal of Anthony Ivo is extremely creepy when you think about this guy was up to in the comics, and what he's probably up to here. There is just this very scary chord of quiet menace in his performance. Factoid: Neal played a character ironically linked to Amanda Waller back on the CW's "Smallville." And could the sadistic Captain of the Amazo… be the future Amazo??

Back in the present, Wendy and Marvin, ahem, I mean Isabel insists on tagging along to Russia with the Arrowcave trio. It's like a sitcom setup almost, and infuriating. They have to avoid Isabel while trying to find Lyla and Deadshot. Let me tell you, this does not make Summer Glau any more likable or tolerable. She is even less likable drunk, and downright hatable as a one night stand.

We do get the goods on how Oliver is a Bratva captain. Anatoli Knyazev, known as the KGBeast in the comics, was his prison mate on the Amazo boat. Oliver saved his life, and was rewarded with tattoo and rank. Anatoli helps them find Lyla and Deadshot, beginning Diggle's brief prison movie inside the show. In the end, everyone gets saved, but Diggle can't kill Deadshot.

However Diggle does learn who hired Deadshot to kill his brother. In a reveal that may bring some loose ends full circle to a knot, Deadshot says he was hired by H.I.V.E. Not in the comics, but in the "Teen Titans" cartoon, the H.I.V.E. was run by a guy called Brother Blood. Da da dum.

On the subplot track, Jean Loring makes her third appearance as Moira Queen's attorney. This is the first time however I was aware of her name. This is Jean Loring?? I was very surprised. Teryl Rothery is a beautiful but older woman, but based on the character's previous mention ('Ray and Jean'), I would have assumed she was younger, much younger, a contemporary, a peer, of Laurel and Oliver. Let's just hope she's not being paid in white dwarfs or black diamonds...

The Blood Rush mini-adventure starring Felicity and Roy, and sponsored by Bose, is dumb. There I said it. It's out of continuity, confusing, and dumb. Just give the actors more screen time in the real show and give the audience a real Bose commercial. Otherwise, this is a waste of time.

Speaking of dumb and waste of time, it seems that Felicity is being groomed for the role of Oliver's romantic interest, or worse than that, his fawning crush. She tells him he deserves better, regarding Isabel. I'd like to tell the producers that Felicity deserves better than this kind of crap. Come on. Make Felicity a strong female character on television, not another one of Oliver's failed attempts at a relationship.


Next week: The return of (The) Count (and) Vertigo!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Rise of the Guardians


Rise of the Guardians ~ This is a fun animated adventure that I actually enjoyed quite a bit. It's sort of like there's a Justice League of mythical beings who protect the children of Earth - Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Sandman, and the Tooth Fairy. When the Boogeyman, Pitch Black, rears up to change the status quo for the more evil and nightmarish, these Guardians are called together, but must take in a new member, the reluctant Jack Frost.

There is great voice work here as well as interesting takes and personalities on the different Guardians. Hugh Jackman, being chief among the voicers, is extremely good. Jude Law as the villain, and Alec Baldwin's Russian Santa Claus are also good. Very entertaining, I wish I'd caught it in theaters so I could have seen it on the big screen.

Guardians strikes me at many levels being similar to the Rankin/Bass holiday specials of my youth. Here are tales of Santa, the Easter Bunny, etc. for a new generation, and just as believable as they were back then. You'll leave this movie feeling refreshed and filled with hope, and not just a little childlike wonder. This is how a Superman movie should leave you. Maybe we can hijack those writers for the next chapter in that franchise.

Rise of the Guardians was a breath of fresh air and good entertainment for the whole family, recommended.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Man of Steel - My Take


Man of Steel ~ We've been on this ride before, a new Superman movie. I remember the thrill and awe of the first two movies with Christopher Reeve, and the disappointment of the following two as well. And then two decades later we got Superman Returns, and while I had huge issues with the 'super stalker' and 'deadbeat dad' subplots, Brandon Routh wasn't bad as the man of steel, Kevin Spacey was brilliant as Lex Luthor, and the plane rescue had to have been the single greatest superhero special effects scene filmed up until that point. I enjoyed quite a bit of it. And if I enjoyed it… you know what Hollywood has to do, change it.

I have talked before about how I feel about origin stories, no need to chew on that again. But the fact is they (writer David Goyer and director Zack Snyder) have changed Superman's origin. If not for the fact that everyone knows Superman's origin I wouldn't have a problem with it. It's the Moses story, the Jesus story, the immigrant story, the perfect origin for a perfect hero, and they had to tamper with it.

In this new version, there is no requisite scene of Jor-El and Lara holding each other as krypton explodes and their son rockets away to safety and his destiny. It reminded me of the latest movie version of Spider-Man where Uncle Ben never says, "With great power comes great responsibility." Why? If it's not broke, don't fix it. Some traditions should stand.

Instead of a tender tragic moment, Man of Steel delivers the Kryptonian Civil War, General Zod murdering Jor-El, and Lara on the stuffy Science Council (although unnamed as such in this flick). At the last minute, almost as an afterthought, they go, oh by the way, Krypton is doomed, and about to go boom. We spend a good twenty minutes or so on Krypton, not a frozen crystalline weirdness that it's been on film for decades, but almost something resembling the comics Krypton. I loved the wing machine, Kelex, and the jungles and cities. I would have squeeed if we'd gotten the actual Scarlet Jungle or a thought beast.

Zod here is a military leader who attempts a coup on the council, and with his underlings (the also unnamed Black Zero terrorists, a name only learned from movie affiliated toys), is sentenced to do time in a space singularity. Again, we don't hear the words 'Phantom Zone' until much much later. What is Goyer's resistance to using correct terms for people and things?

We did get a few little tidbits in the flick. No after credits scene or cameos or even mentions of other DC characters really. We did see a LexCorp truck at one point. I was thrilled seeing the names of real Phantom Zone character names in the credits - had I heard them out loud in the film, I would have loved this movie a lot more. Jax-Ur! Dev-Em! Nadira! We're talking fanboy heaven here. Comics fans like Easter eggs, why not give us a few?

The cast was surprising, both good and bad. Amy Adams as Lois Lane is the plucky reporter from the 1940s Fleischer cartoons, wonderfully updated not to a 2013 standard but to a respectful current version. She won't seem dated to audiences a few decades from now as Margot Kidder does in her then highly acclaimed tour as Lane. Watching her performances now just scream 1970s so loud. Adams is amazing for the most part, only briefly falling into annoying mode once or twice.

Henry Cavill, in my opinion, and I know many friends who disagree, is only just adequate. He is suitable alien, and distant, and anti-social. Superman is an alien, yes, but he's not any of those other things. He is sensitive, and caring. Remember in Superman II when the three Phantom Zone villains discover his true weakness? He cares. Cavill's Superman never gives me that impression ever. In Man of Steel, when Zod demands that Kal-El be delivered to him, if it was Christopher Reeve, or even Brandon Routh, the Superman/Zod confrontation would have happened in the next few seconds, or however long it would take super speed to get our hero to the villain's lair. Goyer's Cavill takes his damned time.

Henry Cavill as Superman lacks heart, he lacks love. Superman loves the human race, he believes in the human race, and he wants to make them better, to inspire them to greatness. I never believed Cavill in the role except for one or two brief moments. Let's face it, and I'm not saying this to be old school - put Christopher Reeve in this exact film, in this same role, with the same dialogue and direction, and I would believe him, Cavill I would not, and do not.

Kevin Costner will hopefully be remembered come Oscar time because he deserves it for his performance as Jonathan Kent. That said, I hated the character of Pa Kent in this movie. Just the concept that he would tell his son maybe he should have let people die rather than reveal his powers just aggravates the hell out of me, and is so against his character. And his death, his sacrifice that forces young Clark not to save him when he easily could have... I wanted to scream at the screen. Who is this man? Because it sure as hell isn't Jonathan Kent.

Speaking of fathers, Russell Crowe's Jor-El leaves the movie early, as I mentioned, a victim of General Zod. He returns later in a method similar to the earlier Superman films, as a hologram, or more accurately an interactive artificial intelligence. What boggled my mind is the fact that Crowe as Jor-El had more chemistry with Adams as Lois than Cavill's Superman did.

I was a bit iffy about Michael Shannon's Zod at first. He can be brilliant but sometimes he's a one note actor. If we're judging Shannon as if he was playing Terrence Stamp's general Zod, he fails miserably, but the thing is he's not. This is a different Zod. He is almost a heroic figure. He is commissioned with the responsibility of continuing the Kryptonian race, and Kal-El actually stands in his way, a war criminal of sorts, the one keeping krypton from flourishing again. Really, how can we root against a man with that new MO and motivation? Despite his methods, this is one of the good guys, right? Shannon's portrayal is good, only falling into cartoon mode once or twice.

As long as we're talking about Zod, we come to two of my biggest problems with Man of Steel. Here be spoilers, be warned. Superman has to murder Zod to stop him. At the climax of the film, Zod gets desperate and starts to heat vision a family so Superman breaks his neck. The powers that be behind this flick, Goyer and Snyder, among others, have defended this move, saying that Superman has to learn not to kill by having experienced it.

Hello? Bullshit. I call shenanigans, as they say on "South Park." I don't have to kill someone to know it's wrong. You don't have to kill someone to know it's wrong. Why does Superman, the pinnacle of all that is good and right in the world, not already know this like you and me? Superman, the real Superman, would have found a way to stop Zod without killing him. That's what makes him freaking Superman!

Yes, something similar happened in the comics. John Byrne had Superman execute Zod and two other Phantom Zone villains in the post-Crisis continuity, and I hated it then as I hate it now. With over seventy-five years of source material it hurts me deeply that the hero's darkest hour is what some people think should be brought to the screen. There are much better stories, people, probably hundreds, if not more.

One thing that superhero movies have brought to the screen recently, especially the billion dollar blockbuster, Marvel's The Avengers, is the level of destruction. Well, super powers, the wrath of gods, can bring wholesale destruction down on us all, and now with the special effects available and the popularity of superheroes, we can now show combat on a scale similar to what is sometimes shown in comics.

Listen to me carefully. It does not translate to the big screen. I want to see these big smash-ups and slugfests as much as the next guy, but when it happens in 'real life' in a movie, it just does not work. We live in a post-9/11 world, and even over a decade later, those images have a blood curdling effect. To borrow the words of comics writer Mark Waid, it's disaster porn, plain and simple, and I don't wait to see it. I want to leave a Superman film inspired, uplifted, wanting to make the world a better place - not mourning the dead.

In conclusion, Man of Steel was a good movie, but it wasn't a good Superman movie. I look more forward to Batman Vs. Superman, or maybe the much anticipated Justice League film, than I do ever seeing this one again.

For other perspectives, including my own, below is the Biff Bam Popcast featuring Andy Burns, JP Fallavollita, Jason Shayer, and special guest, Michael Moreci of the Hoax Hunters comic series, done at the time of the film's theatrical release:


And then there's also JP Fallavollita's review of the film at Biff Bam Pop! here for a very different view.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Has The Walking Dead Lost Its Edge?


AMC's "The Walking Dead" is currently experiencing its highest ratings surge ever, beating even the NFL in some demographics, so why are some hardcore fans not happy? There are a lot of big fans who are still watching, but vocal about their dissatisfaction and disenchantment. What s going on?

Things certainly did heat up last night. Lots of zombie killing, characters' lives at risk, Rick being a man for the first time in a long time, Carl being even more so, and of course, the return of The Governor. Will that be enough to realign old fans? Maybe, maybe not. I think the problem goes just a bit deeper.

I think the problem is Rick Grimes, played by Brit Andrew Lincoln. He's become not just a farmer, but a huge wuss. I think the powers that be may have forgotten that he is the protagonist of the show, he's the point of view character. One very big reason we don't really know how the zombie apocalypse happened is because he was in a coma when it happened. Rick Grimes is our guy. And when he was a badass, shooting zombies, and insisting he was still the law - we loved him. Now, not so much.

This may also be why so many people have become attracted to Daryl Dixon, played by the offscreen sexy Norman Reedus. It not just the ladies and gentlemen digging his down home sex appeal, it's because he's a badass, in Rick's absence. If you have zombies, someone's gotta be killing 'em, and Daryl is doing more than his share. But still, he is a flawed hero. Not because of his racist brother, or his emotional distance either - it's because he's not our point of view protagonist. We've never been in his head, never suffered or triumphed through him.

This dynamic is also why it was okay for Carl to shoot an innocent. As viewers we were happy someone in the family was showing some stones, standing up for himself and the others - even if he was wrong. Carol has stood up for herself in recent episodes, and Rick banished her. Not a good move.

Rick did it for himself, not the group. It is a small distinction, but an important one. Had he done it for the group, it would have been a step back toward being the leader, being a man, being the bad ass hero that we want back. Doing it for himself is selfish and whiny. And getting rid of Carol is not a wise move to begin with. Here is a character who has evolved from whiny battered wife herself to a strong leader. Is Rick sending her away because he fears that reverse evolution in himself? Is he sending himself away?

Let's hope Carol isn't gone for good, and let's hope that Rick straightens out. Rick can be the embattled tragic hero, sure, but he's gotta strap his gun back on and raise hell with the walkers. It's the law. And yeah, maybe the return of The Governor might spice things up a bit, but let's be real, it ain't his show either.

And don't forget to check out the weekly "The Walking Dead" recaps of fellow writer Marie Gilbert at Biff Bam Pop!.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Thor The Dark World


Thor The Dark World ~ Any Marvel movie at this point is an event, not just a promised blockbuster, but a legitimate mainstream event. Everyone wants to see the next big Marvel movie, and with the news this past week of Netflix's picking up five different Marvel Comics projects as live action additions to their streaming own line-up that includes "House of Cards," "Orange Is the New Black," and "Arrested Development," the next Marvel movie is big, and that movie is Thor The Dark World, a movie so big, it opened alone this weekend.

One thing I was happy to see, that even though the Marvel superheroes are now part of everyday pop culture and even your grandmom is aware of Thor, the powers that be aren't afraid to mine the source material for ideas rather than going off on a weird Hollywood tangent. One of the best Thor runs in the comics, other than the classic Stan Lee/Jack Kirby originals, would be the Walt Simonson run in the 1980s. Simonson did so much in his short run. He brought the character back to his roots, removed Don Blake from the equation, turned our hero into a frog, froze the planet, brought on both Surtur and the Midgard Serpent - and he also created Malekith and Kurse.

These two new characters were among the most powerful and dangerous the god of thunder had ever fought in the comics, making them more than adequate fodder for movie villains. I was more than pleased with former Doctor Christopher Eccleston as Malekith and Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje from HBO's "Oz" as Kurse, but I just wish they had had more to do and less make-up, as they're both terrific actors. In both cases, Kurse more so, the make up hindered their performances.

Sadly, what I said about source material goes by the wayside quite quickly. In the comics, Malekith releases Surtur and opens the Cask of Ancient Winters amongst other evils, but here, it is a mysterious aether that is the MacGuffin and magical weapon of choice. I really got the sense, especially when seeing that a different group of folks wrote the screenplay than wrote the story, that this was a plot from something else that had been transplanted into this Thor movie - sort of like how 1987's Masters of the Universe flick was a rewritten abandoned New Gods script.

Nevertheless, I like Thor The Dark World quite a bit. The cast was back in full force, and Chris Hemsworth seemed more comfortable in the title role this time, Natalie Portman was not as annoying, and as always Tom Hiddleston steals the show as Loki. I did think Anthony Hopkins looked a bit tired, and I was glad to see Idris Elba getting more screen time as Heimdall. I like Kat Dennings more every time I see her, sigh, I guess I'll have to break down and watch that "2 Broke Girls" show. I was also delighted to see Chris O'Dowd, as well as (spoilers) Chris Evans.

I really enjoyed the movie, despite it sorta taking a lighter, more Avengers tone than the first Kenneth Branaugh directed film. I liked the new language of the Dark Elves, I liked their spaceships, and their weapons, especially the space warp bombs. It was a bit of a distraction to have guns going 'pew-pew' and I freely admit to saying out loud at one point, "Coruscant is under attack, where're the Jedis?" Now, that said, the first movie made a concerted effort to explain that Asgard was not magic, but technology so advanced it appeared to be magic, so this does fit the Marvel Cinematic continuity.

Thor The Dark World was really cool, I'd see it again, and I'll definitely get it for home viewing when it comes out. I didn't think it needed much improvement, but female friends we ran into after the flick, as well as The Bride, all commented on the same thing regarding Chris Hemsworth. More bare chest. And butt, more butt. On that note, don't forget to stay for the after credits stingers, this time there are two.

New Music This Week


The big music news is the release this week of The Marshall Mathers LP 2 from Eminem. Previewed a bit on iTunes and on "Saturday Night Live" this past weekend, this looks like another winner. He keeps coming back, even when we've thought we've had enough of him. And I say that with love, because I'm a fan. Several songs stand out in the colossal twenty-one track endeavor, some that peek back into the happily diseased head of Slim Shady.

The sampling of classic rock tunes may drive some older listeners away. I know more than a few folks my age that not only dislike rap and hip hop, but completely lose their minds when rappers sample music of their youth. I say, deal with it, and listen to how it's been altered, re-imagined, and in same cases, improved.

One of the songs in question, "Berzerk," takes on the groove of Billy Squier's "The Stroke" to splendid effect. Also grabbing the classic rock rift of "Time of the Season" by the Zombies is Shady's "Rhyme or Reason," one of the better rap mash-ups in recent years. I also dug "Headlights" featuring Nate Ruess, "Desperation" featuring Jamie N Commons, "Baby," and "Evil Twin." A viable and hard new release, welcome back.

Tuesday also saw the release of the new album from Adam WarRock, The Middle of Nowhere. I love me some nerdcore, and Adam WarRock is my favorite of the genre. While he is the king of the genre sound, he's also trying to break into more mainstream hip hop, but no matter how he tries, the nerd is still at the core, and I love it.

Tracks like "High School Reunion," "Internet Crush," and "Shoulda Beens" hit close to home in a essentially non-nerd way, but the real thrust here is comics as per usual (not that there's anything wrong with that). "Sinestrocore," "J.A.R.V.I.S.," and "B.S.F.X." fill the nerdcore void with flair and pizzazz, and Tribe One, MC Frontalot, and Schaffer the Darklord, among others, also drop by. Love this album, and can't wait for more. Check out Adam WarRock at his website, Twitter, and YouTube.



And then there's Skinn Jakkitt's self-titled album, including the song "Epiphany," seen below:


For more of Skinn Jakkitt, you can check them out on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Arrow S02 E05: "League of Assassins"


We open on a Queen's Gambit flashback, this one surprisingly from Sarah's point of view, and turns out to be a nightmare. Girl has more PTSD and origin flashbacks in ten minutes than Oliver had all last season. Good thing an assassin in Dark Archer garb attacked to break the tension. Turns out he's a member of the League of Assassins, yeah, Ras al Ghul's League of Assassins, and in a fit of fashion faux pas, they all dress like John Barrowman in costume.

After the attack, in the Arrowcave with Diggle and Felicity, we get the lowdown. After the boat went down, Sarah was rescued and trained by the League of Assassins. The guy who attacked was called The First (who trained Merlyn), and was sent to take out Sarah. And, da da dum, the outfit of The Hood was first worn by Shado. I wonder where that little tidbit will go.

On the soap opera side of things, Moira is still coming up to trial, with Laurel prosecuting. It's life with possibility of parole or the death penalty. Wow. It sounds like Starling City has the same corrupt and ridiculous legal system as Gotham City. Is Moira Queen worse than the Joker? Everyone is suitably whiny about this.

To protect her father, Sara reveals herself. She brings him to her watchtower and tells him she took the name Canary. There Sarah, her dad, and Oliver, just a little bit take down the assassins come to kill them. Good fight, but really it's Sarah's fight, and Quentin's. Oliver just kinda watches, then shoots an arrow or two, like, "Hey, I thought this was my show."

As if that's not enough, Sarah's flashback reveals she was rescued by Professor Anthony Ivo on his ship, the Amazo, and he's going to save the human race. Oh boy. Time for a comics lesson. For the uninitiated, Ivo is a mad scientist, capital M mad with an immortality obsession. That's not his claim to fame however. That would be Amazo, and it's not a boat.

Amazo is a giant eight-foot tall android that Ivo created, super strong, near invulnerable, and a sociopath. As if that wasn't good enough, he has these energy absorption powers, which allowed him to gain the powers of the Justice League, all of them, even Superman. Armed with a replica of Green Lantern's power ring and Wonder Woman's golden lasso, and all those powers, Amazo has terrorized the Justice League for decades. Yeah, that's the legacy of Professor Ivo.

This kind of makes me wonder… how many big bads will we have this season? We have Brother Blood, possibly Ras al Ghul, possibly Suicide Squad coming, maybe Metamorpho, hell, maybe Trigon. And who knows what things will be like once the Flash shows up. One wonders how big this could be, will the rumored "Amazon" show, and the just announced "Hourman" series tie in as well?

I didn't know what to think of the special mini-adventure "Blood Rush" with Felicity and Roy. In the space I took to explain it, it's over, so at this point, it seemed a waste of time. Perhaps it would be better as a webseries?

Next week: The return of Deadshot, Amanda Waller, and maybe… the Suicide Squad??


Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Art Bell, Again


Yes. Again. Seriously. I don't believe it, but then again, yeah, I do. Because he's done it before.

This past week legendary radio host Art Bell quit his radio show. Again. The current incarnation, "Dark Matter," broadcast on satellite radio by Sirius XM, is over. Bell cited technical concerns, as well as a small audience. In other words, it was hard.

And it's not like he hasn't done it before either. He's quit before, or left under mysterious, sometimes highly suspect, circumstances, with little advance warning, or concern for his audience - no matter how big or small. As a matter of fact, he may well be more remembered for his vanishing acts than his radio act when history is done with him. He quits so often, it's almost an industry joke.

The way he has left, and the reasons he's given, all indicate one thing. Art Bell was doing this show for himself - not his audience, his fans, his loyal listeners. This was about him, not us. We would have listened without guests, without callers, and without a clear signal. Surely I'm not the only one who listened years ago with crappy reception from an AM station two cities ago, am I? It was hard for him. Again. So he quit.

Yeah, I'm angry, but that doesn't dispel the man's talent as a broadcaster, talk radio host, and interviewer. I would rather listen to bad Art Bell reruns than the best George Noory interview on Coast to Coast AM. At least Art would study up on his guest, ask intelligent questions, and not nap during the interview.

But now, not only is Art gone, but Coast to Coast AM has left Sirius XM as well. I am forced to rethink my satellite radio subscription once again. I love Opie & Anthony and Radio Classics, EW Radio, and I'm digging the sadly temporary David Bowie station, but really the only time I have dependably to listen is late at night, the former realm of Art and Coast.

Art has left me high and dry once again. I should have seen it coming. I hope Sirius XM saw it coming, and wrote that contract appropriately. I hope the quitter pays. Thanks, Art, for six weeks at least.

Monday, November 04, 2013

Nick Cardy 1920-2013


A big chunk of my comics childhood has passed away. Nick Cardy, born Nicolas Viscardi, was perhaps the first influential artist on Aquaman and Teen Titans, but most importantly, he illustrated almost every DC Comics cover in the early 1970s. To me, Nick Cardy's versions of the DC superheroes were the definitive versions, as those were the ones I saw all throughout my childhood, and even on the covers of books I didn't read. And he was damn good. Nick Cardy passed away this weekend.

Here is the official press release from DC Comics:

"We are saddened to learn of the passing of Nick Cardy, one of the industry’s greatest artists. A talented draftsman with a knack for layout and energetic cover design, Cardy’s art leapt off the page and helped redefine some of DC Comics’ most lasting characters for a new age.

"Like many early comic pros, Cardy began his career working under the tutelage of the legendary Will Eisner, as part of the Eisner and Iger studio. But it was his arrival at DC Comics in 1950 that saw the artist begin to show signs of the legend that would soon form around him.

"Cardy’s smooth line and dynamic sense of action graced the first appearance of the Teen Titans in THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD #60, not to mention almost 40 issues of AQUAMAN during the character’s initial Silver Age solo series.

"Cardy continued his relationship with DC’s teen team for the entirety of TEEN TITANS 43-issue Silver Age run, redefining the collection of sidekicks through his innovative and yet still classical brushstroke, with a dash of post-modernist design and 60s swagger.

"Cardy was inducted into the Will Eisner Hall of Fame in 2005.

“We’ve lost one of the artistic pillars here at DC,” said Diane Nelson, President of DC Entertainment. “Nick’s work on Aquaman, Teen Titans and beyond helped define how we look at these characters today. Our thoughts go out to his family, friends and many fans.”

“Nick Cardy was a wonderful artist and person, but I’ll always remember his amazing covers,” said Dan DiDio, DC Entertainment Co-Publisher. “From the classic “Is This My Foe?” AQUAMAN #42 image that featured a victorious Black Manta hoisting Aquaman above him to the first appearance of the Teen Titans, Cardy just knew how to get a reader’s attention – and that is a talent that can never be understated. He was my definitive DC cover artist for the 60s.”

“Nick Cardy’s work helped define some of the things we see in comics today and take for granted,” said Jim Lee, DC Entertainment Co-Publisher. “He broke out of the mold in terms of covers and layout and created a truly interactive experience for the reader that directly points back to his time with the Eisner studio. His versions of Aquaman, the Teen Titans and Bat Lash – to name a few – remain iconic today. Our sympathies go out to his family during this difficult time.”

When I think of the Teen Titans, I think not of Marv Wolfman and George Perez' wonderful New Teen Titans, I think of Nick Cardy's Titans. The heroes of the comic my big sister read, on which I learned to read, the ones that even taught me about Shakespeare, and slavery, and the Civil War, and the civil rights movement. We have lost a comics legend, and I have lost a piece of my childhood.

To see a few more of Nick Cardy's covers, check out my Tumblr here.