Monday, July 30, 2007

Tom Snyder 1936-2007

Tom Snyder passed away last night from complications of leukemia. Here's what Steve Gorman for Reuters had to say:

"LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Veteran talk show host Tom Snyder, whose idiosyncratic interviewing style bemused and annoyed late-night TV viewers, has died after a long battle with leukemia, associates said on Monday. He was 71.

The former host of NBC's "Tomorrow" show and CBS' "The Late Late Show with Tom Snyder" died on Sunday evening at his home in San Francisco, said his longtime agent and lawyer Ed Hookstratten.

"Tom was a true broadcaster, a rare thing," said Peter Lassally, executive producer of Snyder's CBS show, in a statement released by the network. "When he was on the air, he made the camera disappear. It was just you and him, in a room together, having a talk."

Snyder gained national fame for hosting "Tomorrow" in NBC's post-"Tonight Show" slot from 1973 to 1982, with some of his more memorable guests including former Beatle John Lennon, Johnny Rotten of the Sex Pistols and convicted killer Charles Manson.

But a quirky on-air presence -- including frequent digressions about his personal life and the habit of laughing gustily at his own jokes shared with an unseen crew -- made him as much the center of attention as his interview subjects.

Seated cigarette in hand on a simple, darkened set adorned with just two chairs, Snyder's catch phrase for the show was: "Fire up a colortini, sit back, relax and watch the pictures, now, as they fly through the air."

Alternately pompous and self-deprecating, his style transfixed some viewers, irritated others and was famously captured by comedian Dan Aykroyd's impersonation of Snyder on NBC's "Saturday Night Live."

According to the Web site, Snyder has conceded that one of the most embarrassing moments of his career came when he realized 10 minutes into an interview with rock singer Meat Loaf that he had been calling him "Meatball."

At the height of his run, Snyder reportedly was considered a possible future anchor of the NBC Nightly News or a likely successor to Johnny Carson to host "The Tonight Show." But a reformatting of "Tomorrow" in the early 1980s failed to catch on, and the program was canceled in 1982.

Snyder returned to late-night television in 1995 to host "The Late Late Show with Tom Snyder" on CBS, following David Letterman's "Late Show" until 1999.

Snyder announced on his Web site about two years ago that he had been diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia but said his doctors had assured him that his condition was treatable and "nothing to worry about." Snyder had quit smoking about five years previously.

Snyder was born in Milwaukee and began his broadcasting career as a local radio reporter before moving into television and anchoring local newscasts in Philadelphia."

I remember Tom Snyder. Of course before I really knew who he was I met Dan Ackroyd's impression of him on "Saturday Night Live." But eventually I got to know him and his "Tomorrow Show" quite well. Just like staying up late to watch "Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman" and reruns of "Dark Shadows" on the old and sadly missed channel 48, Tom's "Tomorrow Show" on local NBC affiliate channel 3 also became habit.

And just like those early episodes of "SNL," Tom introduced me to punk rock. I remember my first dose of the Sex Pistols, and fondly recall the many appearances of Wendy O. Williams and the Plasmatics. On the other end of the musical scale I also remember the night just-gone-solo Phil Collins discussed how he wanted to use his voice as a percussive instrument, then performed "In the Air Tonight."

Whatever was on, whoever was on, even when it was just Tom talking intimately to just me, it was always interesting. As a child of the seventies who was mesmerized by the TV movie "Helter Skelter" I have vivid memories of Tom's week with the real thing, Charles Manson. Talk about nightmares! Chilling stuff.

Wherever you are, Tom, I'm raising a glass to you, You're missed.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Simpsons on Screen

The Simpsons Movie ~ This was probably the most anticipated film of the summer, at least in mainstream circles that is. And that anticipation has resulted unfortunately in pre-saturation before the movie is even out.

Other than kids kicking the back of my seat, idiots with cellphones morons who brought their crying infants to the theatre, this was my major complaint. All those cool lines you've seen in the previews and commercials? Those are some of the best and spoiled before you even get to the flick.

The bad stuff out of the way, this is a good flick, much better than any big screen adaptation of a TV series should be. It's much more than just an extended episode - Marge curses, Homer gives the finger and we get to see Bart's nether regions (and really, haven't we all been waiting for that?). The plot is a bit weak, Lisa's love interest subplot goes nowhere and guest star Albert Brooks (listed as 'A. Brooks' in the credits) is pretty much wasted in my mind - but after all that I really liked this. If anything it felt too short.

Spider-Pig, the character and the song, absolutely steals the movie. And while I wish that Disco Stu had more to say and do, The Simpsons Movie is still a summer must-see.

Mighty Avengers #4 Reviewed

"Bendis Vs. Pym" - My comic book review of Mighty Avengers #4, by Brian Michael Bendis and Frank Cho, is now online at Avengers Forever.

You can check it out here:

Enjoy. And if you'd like to discuss this review, or anything in the Marvel Comics world of Avengers, please check out the Avengers Forever Forum, not just a message board but a community.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The Mystery of Cloverfield

Yep, more YouTube goodness. Anyone who checked out the Transformers movie earlier this summer got to see an interesting trailer/teaser that has come to be called "Cloverfield."

The flick, alternately called "Cloverfield" and "1-18-08," is the brain child of J.J. Abrams. Name sound familiar? It should. Abrams is the force behind the "Lost" TV series and he will soon be helping Paramount relaunch their "Star Trek" franchise. The writer of this project is an Abrams buddy from "Lost" and the directer was seasoned on "Felicity." I'm really not sure what that says.

"Cloverfield" appears to be about a giant monster attack on New York City, but done with a new twist. That twist would be the use of portable cameras and pone to record the action, and yes, I see the ghost of The Blair Witch Project hiding over there by the stairs too.

As a huge Godzilla fan, I should nip some major speculation in the bud right now. It's not Godzilla. The rights to that character are held by Toho and Sony, neither of whom have anything to do with this project. Other speculation does sound intriguing however, as I've also heard talk of the 'monster' being H.P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu, which, unlike Godzilla, is in the public domain. Done right, that would rock.

There is also the very real possibility we wouldn't see (or get a name for) the 'monster' at all. "Cloverfield" could be a human story about people coping with disaster, but of course, that would be anywhere near as much fun as a giant monster.

Well, there it is, only time will tell now. It's set for a January 2008 release. Wait and see.

Viral Superstar

"Viral Superstar" by Bino White. Produced by Current reporter Joe Hanson it comments on how pop culture is now being formed by the Internet. Test your net pop culture knowledge, how many references can you identify?

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Wizard Rock Rules!

Harry Potter mania is upon us with the new movie number one at the box office and the final book just days away from release, it's hard to escape the hype. However there are parts of Harry-mania that are just not getting enough exposure, like Wizard Rock.

This phenomenon can be traced, I suppose, unfortunately, to filking which is folk-singing about Star Trek that originated at drunken (I hope) scifi conventions in the seventies, but of course Wizard Rock is much better, more tuneful and more amusing... and probably doesn't have an odor, and most importantly it rocks!

Here's how the dreaded Wikipedia defines Wizard Rock:

"Wizard rock is a musical movement dating from 2002 that consists of at least 200 bands made up of young musicians, playing songs about Harry Potter. The lyrics are usually humorous and simple, and many bands write songs from the point of view of a particular character in the books, usually the character who features in the band's name. If they are performing live, they may also cosplay, or dress as, that character. Though most fans of the music are previous fans of Harry Potter, some bands have attracted listeners outside of the Harry Potter fanbase.

In contrast to mainstream bands that have some songs incorporating literary references (notably Led Zeppelin to The Lord of the Rings) among a wider repertoire of music, the majority of wizard rock bands, such as Harry and the Potters, take their inspiration entirely from the Harry Potter universe. In preserving the promotion of reading, too, bands like to perform in libraries, bookstores and schools.

A number of wizard rock bands, Draco and the Malfoys, The Whomping Willows, The Parselmouths, and The Remus Lupins, performed at the May 2007 fan convention Phoenix Rising.

A full-length feature film project documenting the wizard rock movement, Wizard Rockumentary, is currently in production."

Besides those mentioned above, my favorites include The Hungarian Horntails, Uncle Monsterface (only barely wizard rock, but still very cool) and especially The Moaning Myrtles. As a matter of fact here's a recent Philadelphia Inquirer article featuring the Myrtles.

And don't forget to visit Potterdelphia!

Sunday, July 15, 2007

New Avengers #32 Reviewed

"The Guessing Game" - my review of New Avengers #32 by Brian Michael Bendis and Leinil Yu is now online at Avengers Forever.

You can check it out here:

Enjoy, if you're into that type of thing.

Are you a Skrull?

Do You Like to Watch?

This is my most recent find while perusing the On Demand channels on insomnia nights. It's called "Voyuers" and can be found on HBO. It's addictive and fascinating. Here is just a taste, check it out.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

"High School Musical" on Stage

I saw the stage version of High School Musical tonight at the Academy of Music. Big hugs and special thanks to Crystal for getting these tickets for The Bride and I.

And I think it's rather ironic that I saw this the night after seeing the latest Harry Potter flick, as they both have something in common. Both events don't really play well all that much on their own, but need a primer - the original source material - to be complete.

High School Musical was the ridiculously popular and scary surprise hit TV movie the Disney Channel aired a couple years ago. Three sequels in the works, a cast that have become pseudo-stars, a hit soundtrack and now a stage show, it's more phenomenon than anything else. The flick is about high school cliques, being yourself and of course lotsa singing and dancing.

The reason I bring the movie up is because if you haven't seen the movie, this stage production comes up somewhat lacking, much the way the Potter film would without the benefit of having read the book. Without knowledge of the HSM movie, the play looks a lot like a bad rip-off of Grease set today... or worse, a bad rip-off of Grease 2.

All in all though, it was a great production and has all the personality and tunes of the film, just without the cast. I enjoyed myself for the whole show. A great night out.

Harry Potter First Impressions

Thanks to the folks at Potterdelphia and the Riverview theatre on Delaware Avenue in Philadelphia I got to see Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix tonight.

The fifth in the film (and book) series fills the need for every fan of either series. Just the right amount of darkness, characterization, fun, wizardry, bravery and special effects for everyone.

Evanna Lynch brings Luna Lovegood to almost perfect life for the film, and in the category of making the most of small parts, Helena Bonham Carter as the sinister Bellatrix Lestrange and Natalia Tena as Twonks completely steal the show. Harry also gets his first serious kiss, as the kids all appear to be maturing at the same rate this time out.

The special effects are stunning, especially the final battle between the Death-Eaters and the Order of the Phoenix at the Ministry of Magic. Ralph Fiennes still creeps me out as Voldemort. Unbelievably he has found a role even more evil than Schindler's List's Amon Goeth.

I'll be seeing this flick again, a mark of distinction from me.

And the special boo-hiss award goes to the folks at the Riverview for turning off the air conditioning in the jam-packed theatre once the flick started. It was only 88 degrees outside at three in the morning. What were they thinking???

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Lon Chaney's Gonna Getcha...

I've been in Silent mode of late, so here's another...

West of Zanzibar (1928) ~ Forget Phantom of the Opera, Hunchback of Notre Dame and even London After Midnight, Lon Chaney as Phroso/Dead Legs in West of Zanzibar is truly his most chilling role. Phroso is a magician who finds his wife is leaving him for rival Crane, played by a very young Lionel Barrymore. The two fight and Crane throws Phroso off a balcony paralysing him from the waist down. Crane and the love of Phroso's life seemingly flee into the night afterward. A year later the wife returns and dies in a church with a newborn daughter in her arms.

Beware of spoilers from here forward...

Phroso moves to Zanzibar, where he knew his rival Crane to be, hunting ivory in the jungle. This is where Chaney sets up shop as 'Dead Legs' the white chieftain and witch doctor of the superstitious native cannibals there. He also sends the daughter he believes to be Crane's off to be raised in a brothel in the city. Dead Legs uses magic tricks to make the natives believe he can control evil spirits and disrupts the ivory trade, seeking to bring Crane to him. He wants revenge, by showing Crane what he's made of his daughter.

When the two meet again, Chaney introduces the daughter to Barrymore, and Lionel does an impressive bit of silent acting - appearing to cry, when he's actually laughing. The daughter is Chaney's! The mother had left Crane when she found out he'd crippled her husband, and then stayed away to have the child, knowing Phroso wanted nothing to do with her. Barrymore's thespianism is then completely overshadowed by Chaney's reaction to this news. In less than a minute we are witness to the full talent that is Chaney, as well as perhaps the greatest acting shot in silent film. It is both brilliant and heart-breaking.

The rest of film follows with Dead Legs accepting his fate and a dire danger from the natives. It's all done in typical Tod Browning directorial fashion. Grim and foreboding. Browning is at his best in silence I think, if you've seen and liked his Dracula and Freaks, you should definitely look into his silent work.

The irony of seeing Barrymore act opposite a wheelchair is heartbreaking at times knowing his future but his acting is outstanding. And that's also the word for Chaney as he drags his dead legs around throughout the film. He was truly a master actor who put his everything into his parts. And here, in West of Zanzibar, Chaney's make-up-less face and expressions are more terrifying than any other monster of his career. This is a must-see.

Friday, July 06, 2007

All Things Fun! Podcast - Episode Three

All Things Fun!, a wonderful comics/gaming/toy store in West Berlin, New Jersey, continues their new podcast series.

Tune in to hear host Ed Evans of All Things Fun! talk games with Wes Hitchins and talk comics with Glenn Walker in Episode Three.

Episodes One and Two are also available. Check them all out here.