Thursday, May 31, 2007

Quickies 5-31-2007

"Afro Samurai" - Almost anything with Samuel L. Jackson is a good time as far as I'm concerned, and this English translation of this oddball anime is no exception. Jackson voices the hero as only he can, backed up by Ron Perlman as the villain and Kelly Hu in the small role of the girl. What at first seems like any mindless nonsensical manga actually has an edge and some classy M. Night surprises, so keep sharp while you watch. Blaxploitation meets Ralph Bakshi meets Toshiro Mifune. This is definitely worth a look.

WarGames - I just recently caught this one after not having seen it since its theatrical release. What seemed brilliant to a teenager now comes off as amateurish and just a bit preachy. It's still fun however to see the young Matthew Broderick and Ally Sheedy.

Casualties of Love: The Long Island Lolita Story - Long title, I sure hope the review is longer than that at least. This rushed-onto-the-small-screen telemovie was written and directed by John Herzfeld who has also done stuff like "The Ryan White Story" and "The Preppie Murder" as well as a couple Afterschool Specials. It's not all good and true though, he also directed 15 Minutes and 2 days in the Valley. This story seems to take Joey Buttafucco's side in the infamous Amy Fischer story. Fischer is played with hysterical histrionics by Alyssa Milano, late of "Who's the Boss." This is not one of her better moments.

The Good German - This was advertised as a good old-fashioned film noir, it was even filmed in black and white. The flick, set in post-war Nazi Germany, does all the right noir tricks but it's scarred by current day language and violence. Tobey MacGuire does a sinister turn worthy of an Oscar as a complete bastard. Cate Blanchett eats up scenery like an early Bette Davis and George Clooney (of whom there is far too little) mugs for the camera when he's not getting beaten up. The plot is complex but compelling, must see.

Everything Is Illuminated - This touching story of an obsessive accountant, played by Elijah Wood, who tries to find the woman who helped his grandfather escape from the Nazis sometimes feels like the love child of Pedro Almodovar and Borat. Although it's funny and bizarre where Borat was simply insulting and hateful. It's also a must see though.

Mighty Avengers #3 Reviewed

"Spoilers" - my comic book review of Mighty Avengers #3 by Brian Michael Bendis and Frank Cho is now online at Avengers Forever.

You can check it out here.

If you'd like to discuss the issue, the review, or anything Avengers, please join us at the Avengers Forever Forum. Enjoy!

Monday, May 28, 2007


From the Associated Press:

Actor Charles Nelson Reilly dies at 76

LOS ANGELES- Charles Nelson Reilly, the Tony Award winner who later became known for his ribald appearances on the "Tonight Show" and various game shows, has died. He was 76.

Reilly died Friday in Los Angeles of complications from pneumonia, his partner, Patrick Hughes, told the New York Times.

Reilly began his career in New York City, taking acting classes at a studio with Steve McQueen, Geraldine Page and Hal Holbrook. In 1962, he appeared on Broadway as Bud Frump in the original Broadway production of "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying." The role won Reilly a Tony Award.

He was nominated for a Tony again for playing Cornelius in "Hello, Dolly!" In 1997 he received another nomination for directing Julie Harris and Charles Durning in a revival of "The Gin Game."

After moving to Hollywood in 1960s he appeared as the nervous Claymore Gregg on TV's "The Ghost and Mrs. Muir" and as a featured guest on "The Dean Martin Show."

He gained fame by becoming what he described as a "game show fixture" in the 1970s and 80s. He was a regular on programs like "Match Game" and "Hollywood Squares," often wearing giant glasses and colorful suits with ascots.

His larger-than-life persona and affinity for double-entendres also landed him on the "Tonight Show" with Johnny Carson more than 95 times.

Reilly ruefully admitted his wild game show appearances adversely affected his acting career. "You can't do anything else once you do game shows," he told The Advocate, the national gay magazine, in 2001. "You have no career."

His final work was an autobiographical one-man show, "Save It for the Stage: The Life of Reilly," about his family life growing up in the Bronx. The title grew out of the fact that when he would act out as a child, his mother would often admonish him to "save it for the stage."

The stage show was made into the 2006 feature film called "The Life of Reilly."

Reilly's openly gay television persona was ahead of its time, and sometimes stood in his way. He recalled a network executive telling him "they don't let queers on television."

Hughes, his only immediate survivor, said Reilly had been ill for more than a year.

No memorial plans had been announced.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

New Avengers #30 Review

"A Dollar Short" - my review of New Avengers #30 by Bendis and Yu is now online at Avengers Forever:

Twenty-five hundred words of curmudgeonly critical goodness. Enjoy, if you're into that sort of thing.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Eurovision Final 2007

More Saturday 5-12-2007
Eurovision Final 2007

The main event is finally here. Many acts aren’t deviating at all from their semi-final performances. I guess if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Spain is stronger live than from their video, and I loved the girl drummers. Finland rocked the house, definitely one of the more powerful performances. The short skirt helped Macedonia a lot in my opinion.

I noticed that Slovenia was not hitting the high notes, possibly afraid to blow out the sound system? And what is that thing on her hand? What is this, Logan’s Run? Georgia just keeps getting better every time I hear it. Sweden had great sets and colors, didn’t help make the song better though.

With Lithuania, I have to take the Paula Abdul tact and say, “Nice shirt,” ‘cause it really was, but of course that’s the only nice thing I could say. The silhouettes were a nice touch though. Greece may have had a wardrobe malfunction of some kind, unless they meant to have the back-up singers on leashes – if so, I liked it, but still, wtf?

France tried to make up with color and absurdity what they lacked in talent. Unfortunately the absurdity market was cornered by the Ukraine, who were still scary, this time in silver. Bulgaria was amazing as ever.

Russia, one of my favorites along with Georgia, brought the sex on, with lapless lap dances and schoolgirl uniforms. Armenia used a toilet paper tree as a prop. UK also used props, but they didn’t help. Next year, just get Morrissey, okay?

Santa visited a while to give the signal for the voting to begin. Curious. Does Santa live in Finland? After the voting wound up, Apocalyptica performed. This is a band well known for playing the music of Metallica on four cellos. Quite good, really, but they were accompanied by a weird Cirque de Soleil from hell which was quite distracting.

Then came the country by country point system results. As per usual, neighboring countries voted for their ‘friends.’ For instance, the only points UK and Ireland got were from each other. Serbia pulled ahead of the pack early on, with Ukraine and Russia trailing behind, for an easy victory.

Congratulations, Serbia and Marija Serifovic. And again, I hope Duran Duran doesn’t sue. I think Serbia needs to get started on plans for hosting Eurovision next year right away… do they even have a stadium?

Eurovision Automatic Finalists

Saturday 5-12-2007
Eurovision Automatic Finalists

The rules to the Eurovision Song Contest stipulate that the countries that placed in the top ten in the previous year, plus Germany, France, Spain and the United Kingdom, all are guaranteed spots as finalists in the following year’s contest. I’ve already covered all the entrants in the semi-finals – here are those who were originally guaranteed spots:

Germany – “Frauen Regier’n Die Welt” by Roger Cicero. Intriguing old time crooning by Roger, complete with 1940s Frank Sinatra wardrobe. I just wish I knew what he was saying. Seriously though the song, translated “Women rule the world” is a celebration of equality and recognition.

France – “L’Amour A La Francaise” by Les Fatals Picards. A catchy pop tune sung in what could only be described as Frenglish. The band was formed in 2000 but remains the vision of lead singer Ivan.

Spain – “I Love You Mi Vida” by D’Nash. More boy band nonsense, only with a Spanish taste… Menudo grown up? Sigh, isn’t that trend over yet? Hmmm, I guess not, hair metal seems to be quite a rage again in Europe, so why not boy bands too?

United Kingdom – “Flying the Flag (For You)” by Scooch. Are they sure they entered a song contest and not a sketch contest? This is sheer camp with some music thrown in. And it seriously makes me worry about flying British Air. I mean, is it me, or is this a musical version of “The High Life”?

Armenia – “Anytime You Need” by Hayko. This touching ballad is sung by Armenia’s award-winning superstar, the single-named Hayko. While an excellent entry, I doubt it can hold its own against some of the louder and more danceable competition.

Bosnia & Herzegovina – “Rijeka Bez Imena” by Maria Sestic. Pretty but forgettable.

Finland – “Leave Me Alone” by Hanna Pakarinen. Hanna is a veteran to the Finland music with gold and platinum records to her name. While she is certainly no Lordi, her pop rock entry is among the best entries this year, it’s almost as if she’s channeling Amy Lee, and that’s a good thing.

Greece – “Yassou Maria” by Sarbel. I can see this one easily being a hot Latin hit in America. Very Ricky Martin-esque.

Ireland – “They Can’t Stop the Spring” by Dervish. Traditional Irish folk music, which normally I like, but did they really expect to get far in this contest with this tune? Their official Eurovision bio says that Dervish has a command of a variety of modern songs, so where is that here?

Lithuania – “Love or Leave” by Julija Ritcik. Someone get this chick some coffee quick.

Romania – “Liubi, Liubi, I Love You” by Todomondo. When does it end? I think I’d rather listen to Lithuania’s entry again. Kill me now. Are we sure this isn’t a joke entry? Or a Raffi song?

Russia – “Song #1” by Serebro. Kind of like the Pussycat Dolls with more guitars. As long as they don’t do the disco version tonight, they stand a good chance to win in my opinion.

Sweden – “The Worrying Kind” by The Ark. Let’s say Gary Glitter got drunk and raided Elton John’s 1970s wardobe… got the image? Yeah, that’s The Ark. The song’s not bad, very retro, sort of a throwback to the early seventies rock, but when you have to look at them too… it’s giggle time, folks.

Ukraine – “Dancing Lasha Tumbai” by Verka Serduchka. This can only be described as glam accordion folk rock. It must be seen to be believed, and it will make you want “Vampires Are Alive” back in your head.

Your final participants for tonight: Germany, France, Spain, United Kingdom, Armenia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Finland, Greece, Ireland, Lithuania, Romania, Russia, Sweden, Ukraine, Belarus, Macedonia, Slovenia, Hungary, Georgia, Latvia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Turkey and Moldova. Let the party begin!

Saturday, May 12, 2007

The Mary Jane Watson Statue

Marvel Comics - setting the feminist movement back a hundred years. What have they got against you, Mary Jane? A sad day for the comics industry, publishers and readers alike... no wonder no one takes this artform seriously.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Highlights of the Eurovision Semi-Finals

Wednesday 5-9-2007
Highlights of the Eurovision Semi-Finals

For those of you not following along at home, Eurovision is the reason I’m here on the other side of the world, and today are the semi-finals. Eurovision is a song contest that has been held in Europe for over five decades. Each nation submits an original song performed by an artist or group and in one night all of Europe votes by phone for their favorite. Past winners/nominees include Abba, Katrina and the Waves, Cliff Richard, WigWam and the aforementioned Lordi from last year. Top spots are guaranteed by last year’s votes but the remaining countries are voted on today.

At the train station while we waited to meet friends I watched –literally- hundreds of children and teenagers run for the Hartwall Areena carrying flags of their favorite nations with them. Yep, this is a big event.

The line to get in was like waiting on a Disney ride times ten. Not fun. There may be a cool wind most of the time in Finland but that doesn’t mean the sun isn’t hot. Security was like that of an airport, luckily they knew even without English that tapping my chest meant pacemaker. Once in, the festivities almost immediately began.

Bulgaria – “Water” by Stoyan Yankoulov and Elitza Todorova. Fantastic drums and percussion. Love the drums.

Israel – “Push the Button” by the Teapacks. Kinda heavy metal klezmer, as if Fishbone were Israeli. Catchy political romp that I liked a lot.

Cyprus – “Comme ci-Comme ca” by Evridiki. This has been one of my favorites since I first heard it. Has a kinda hard Erasure feel to it. Evridiki has been around for a while, released twelve solo albums and this is her third time representing Cyprus at Eurovision.

Belarus – “Work Your Magic” by Koldun. This was good, a big beat mid-eighties Gino Vannelli to my ears. There did seem to be a C&C Music Factory thing going on however with a full-figured back-up singer hidden in the shadows. It was obvious she had the pipes in the back-ups.

Iceland – “Valentine Lost” by Eirikur Hauksson. Eirikur is a scary dude who has been a metal session player in Europe for years. With Lordi’s win last year many has guessed that a lot of entrants would take the metal route. Close but not quite, this is the first of a few lame metal power ballads.

Georgia – “Visionary Dream” by Sopho. This is verrry Kate Bush, but a Kate that wants to rock badly. Loved the back-up dancers with the swords.

Montenegro – “Ajde Kroci” by Stevan Faddy. Catchy and cute, it’s hair metal sans hair. The female back-up singers added an original flavor to a played out sound.

Switzerland – “Vampires Are Alive” by DJ Bobo. This song has been going through my head for weeks, and it gets better the more you hear it. You may want to tear your hair out the first time you hear it, but trust me, it gets better. DJ Bobo, a former Michael Jackson opener, is a theme album genius and has been a European superstar for many years. He and his crew had great choreography, connected with the audience immediately and had creepy manikins on stage with them. So cool!

Moldova – “Flight” by Natalia Barbu. I may have slept through this one. Too soft and forgettable.

The Netherlands – “On Top of the World” by Edsilia Rombley. Typical disco. This must have been the intermission part of the show.

Albania – “Hear My Plea” by Frederik NDoci. This guy is supposed to be great, but I looked at this and just thought, “What a mess.”

Denmark – “Drama Queen” by DQ. Ah, the show has started again. This was a disco drag queen with fabulous choreography. Loved it!

Croatia – “Vjerujem u Ljubav” by DragonFly featuring Dado Topic. Two Croatian monsters of rock combine for this power ballad that has an interesting Southwestern American flair.

Poland – “Time to Party” by The Jet Set. I liked this one a lot. Any song that begins with a hot chick in a cage and firy chain graphics filling the stage has my vote. Hip hop rock with a swing sound to the refrain, very catchy.

Serbia – “Molitva” by Marija Serifovic. Great vocals and orchestration, but in hindsight it sounds as if the Moody Blues made an overproduced version of Duran Duran’s “The Chauffer.” I hope Simon and the boys aren’t feeling litigious today.

Czech Republic – “Mala Dama” by Kabat. Alternative metal with a great beat by the Czech metal superband.

Portugal – “Danca Comingo” by Sabrina. Typical Latin dance music, just not my flavor.

F.Y.R. Macedonia – “Mojat Svet” by Karolina. Dainty big beat disco that grows in power throughout the song. Singing since childhood, she has been called the Macedonian equivalent of Debbie Gibson.

Norway – “Ven a Bailar Conmigo” by Guri Schanke. What is this, “Dancing with the Stars” with some singing thrown in? There are some great quick wardrobe changes though, so it was entertaining.

Malta – “Vertigo” by Olivia Lewis. This is one of the catchier tunes that I had been loving since before coming here. You’ll be singing it later yourself, trust me. Olivia has also been to Eurovision a few times before, but as a back-up singer.

Andorra – “Salven el Mon (Let’s Save the World)” by Anonymous. Green Day lives! Very refreshing, old school, new new wave punk. I loved this one!

Hungary – “Unsubstantial Blues” by Magdi Ruzsa. Magdi is very hot and the song is like a bluesy rock cross between the pretenders and Janis Joplin. Great stuff.

Estonia – “Partners in Crime” by Gerli Padar. Gerli is a child prodigy from music, stage and television and has also been to Eurovision twice. Kinda new wave rock disco mix with just a pinch of Broadway thrown in. This is a guaranteed hit single.

Belgium – “Love Power” by The KMG’s. What if Leo Sayer and KC and the Sunshine Band had a child who grew up listening to retro disco and maybe just a little bit of Swing Out Sister? You’d get The KMG’s. Very happy, very pop, and the audience loved them, as did I.

Slovenia – “Cvet z Juga” by Alenka Gotar. Yuck. Really didn’t like this one.

Turkey – “Shake It Up Shekerim” by Kenan Dogulu. One of Turkey’s favorite artists, Kenan woke the audience up with this contagious Eastern pop and they loved it. Another one that will go far whether it wins or not.

Austria – “Get A Life – Get Alive” by Eric Papilaya. The interesting visual of a living AIDS ribbon makes this one stand out. Typical power pop but gets annoying after a while.

Latvia – “Questa Notte” by Bonaparti. Iv. This one was like Il Divo meets the Three Tenors. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz…

When the acts had finished, the voting began. For fifteen minutes, callers from all over Europe narrowed the twenty-eight down to ten. Here are the finalists. That’s all for now.