Monday, September 29, 2008

Chuck's Back

The opening sequence for the second season premiere of NBC’s “Chuck” is so cool that even if I had not been a fan from last season, I would be after seeing this. Straight up spy suspenser with Michael Clarke Duncan (yes, the Kingpin hisself) as the bad guy holding our nerdboy Chuck Bartowski (Zachary Levi) by his tie out the window of a multi-story building. Interesting cinematography that would make Spider-Man’s Sam Raimi blush inclusive, the scene pulls you in and holds you as the succinct synopsis of last season and story of tonight’s episode unfolds.

When I say the word ‘nerd’ about Chuck, I’m not kidding. He likes Huey Lewis’ “Hip to Be Square” (and not in an American Psycho way) and has a Tron poster on his wall. He works for a Best Buy-like store in their Geek Squad-like department – the word ‘nerd’ should be tattooed on his head. Not nerd-bashing here, heck, I’m a nerd, but I’m just setting the premise.

Chuck also happens to be carrying around the combined computer data of the CIA and the NSA in his head, making him very valuable. So with super-spies, one from each agency, Adam Baldwin and Yvonne Strahovski guarding and protecting him, Chuck gets caught up in case after case. As they say, hilarity ensues.

The second season opener of “Chuck,” entitled “Chuck Versus the First Date,” airs tonight at 8 PM EST, right before “Heroes.” And you folks are cool, so I shouldn’t have to tell you you should be watching “Heroes,” right?

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Paul Newman RIP

Paul Newman passed away yesterday after a long battle with cancer. He was 83.

He was also one of the greatest actors in Hollywood for the last five decades.

If you saw Newman's name in the credits you knew you were in for a treat.

He was, as the obit says, the epitome of cool. He'll be greatly missed.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Disney Does It Better

I recently had a chance to visit Universal Studios in Orlando. It was my first time there after visiting Disney World almost a dozen times in the last two decades. I gotta say, I was unimpressed. Universal tries hard, but in most cases not nearly hard enough. It’s all in the attitude.

The rides are fun, but have to stand on their own because the staff just doesn’t support them. Disney characters stay in character and aid to the ‘enchantment.’ I saw a Cyberdyne employee at the Terminator 2 ride chatting with guests about the weather and agreeing with them about how the park’s hours suck. Would an evil corporate employee of an evil mega-corporation about to eradicate mankind really do that?

I personally engaged Doctor Emmett Brown from Back to the Future in a conversation about Kanye West’s new single and how upset he was about the closing of the Adventurers Club, and how he wished he could have “gotten that gig.” Way to break character, Doc. Doc Brown, it should be noted, now that his ride has vanished from Universal, had been exiled to a nuclear-powered tricycle in the vicinity of Mel’s Drive-In from American Graffiti. The fifties, get it? Yep, that’s about the extent of Universal’s originality.

Have you ever tried to get the guides at Disney’s Haunted Mansion to break character? Ain’t gonna happen. You’d have better luck trying to make guards at Buckingham Palace crack a smile. Disney definitely does it better.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Female Force

Senator Hillary Clinton is getting her own comic book.

I wonder how Obama and the Savage Dragon feel about this?

Cursed by a Slow News Day

Apparently, Clay Aiken is gay. I think most of us already knew this, and those who didn't suspected, or should have suspected. I love the guy, rooted for him on "American Idol," laughed at him in "Spamalot," and wish him nothing but the best in his post-closet life.

What bothers me is how is this news? Haven't we moved past this kind of stuff? If tomorrow is also a slow news day, will Barack Obama announce he's an Africa-American? Again, how is this news?

Monday, September 22, 2008

NBC’s Kath and Kim – A Sneak Peek

One of the things that differentiates Universal Studios in Orlando from Walt Disney World is the extraordinary number of folks wanting “just a moment” of one’s time to take a survey, watch a timeshare demonstration or just generally waste one’s time. Sometimes, just sometimes, these things are worth it.

I was grabbed on this most recent trip to Universal to watch a new television program and give my opinion on it. Heh, heh, they don’t know me very well. I had to assure them that I did not work for the media – you know, television, movies, newspapers, etc. I took note that they did not mention any form of online media, especially blogging. Like I said, they don’t know me very well.

It was the kind of thing where, just like on “The Simpsons,” you push a green button when you like what you’re seeing and a red button when you don’t like it. There was also a ‘tune out button’ to push when you reach the point where you would normally change the channel as if you’d had enough or became too bored. The program I watched was the yet-to-be-aired second episode of “Kath and Kim,” the new Molly Shannon sitcom vehicle on NBC. I hit that ‘tune out button’ before the title sequence (which I might add, at only a few seconds was one of the few things about the shows I liked).

Surprisingly this is an American version of one of Australia’s most popular sitcoms. Now, either Australian television viewers have shockingly lower IQs than Americans, or NBC butchered this adaptation. Judging from the few Aussies I know, I would have to go for the second option. Way to go, NBC, now when are you bringing back “Manimal” and “Supertrain?”

The three leads – Shannon, Selma Blair (who is shockingly bad), and John Michael Higgins (do not watch him jog…) – are at best uninteresting and at worst annoying and nerve-grating. I hated this. Shannon has a daughter and is about to marry again. The whole episode virtually revolves around two premises. One is the constant repetitive joke that Shannon’s character is old, and every bad joke and cliché you can think of is thrown into the mix, and none of it is funny. The second plot (and I shudder to even use the word in this circumstance) involves the concept of misunderstanding, a simple-minded one that is as old as sitcom television itself. Woman sees man with other woman and assumes the worst. Come on, this was ancient when “I Love Lucy” and “The Honeymooners” did it.

There are elements that are fun, but the problem is they are only background details. I liked some of the hip hop music inserted in places and the drag queens at the end were interesting characters – why not make the show about them? I hated her character, but there was no denying the charisma and presence of the unnamed actress who played Angel. She showed promise. Where’s her sitcom? Unfortunately she was barely in the thing, and the rest of the show was unfixable in my opinion.

I guess I picked the wrong day to do this survey. The next one was on the new “Knight Rider” which was being thoroughly hyped by the survey folks and had changes noted that, to me at least, did not sound promising. Val Kilmer as KITT? I had heard that a previous survey was about “My Own Worst Enemy,” Christian Slater’s take on the Jekyll/Hyde concept had received high marks. I would have liked to have seen that. As for “Kath and Kim,” avoid it at all costs when it premieres October 9th.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Batman: The Brave and the Bold

Had enough of the psychotic sociopath dark knight version of Batman? Yeah, me too. Well, Cartoon Network might have something coming up in the new season that might just please those of us in the supposed minority – “Batman: The Brave and the Bold.”

The series takes its name from the old DC Comics title of roughly the same name. Brave and the Bold was originally a try-out title, launching such comics as Justice League of America, Suicide Squad and Hawkman. It soon morphed into a team-up book, and still later in the early 1970s into the Batman team-up book. The series, highlighted by stories from Bob Haney and at by Jim Aparo, was a fan fave as the caped crusader teamed with frequent guest-stars like Wildcat, Green Arrow, Sgt. Rock and even the Joker. The new TV series isn’t far from that original concept.

Here's how Cartoon Network describes it: "Batman isn't going at it alone this time! From Warner Bros. Animation comes the latest interpretation of the classic Batman franchise. Our caped crusader is teamed up with heroes from across the DC Universe, delivering nonstop action and adventure with a touch of comic relief. Blue Beetle, Green Arrow, Aquaman and countless others will get a chance to uphold justice alongside Batman. Though still based in Gotham, Batman will frequently find himself outside city limits, facing situations that are both unfamiliar and exhilarating. With formidable foes around every corner, Batman will still rely on his stealth, resourcefulness and limitless supply of cool gadgets to bring justice home."

The happier shinier Batman is voiced by Dietrich Bader formerly of “The Drew Carey Show,” and is joined by Tom Kenney as Plastic Man (who also portrayed the hero in a Plas animated pilot a couple years back), fan favorite Wil Wheaton as the new Blue Beetle, John DiMaggio (Bender of “Futurama”) as Aquaman, and in a bit of inspired casting, R. Lee Ermey as Wildcat. Tom Everett Scott and Billy West will also reprise their “Justice League Unlimited” roles of Booster Gold and Skeets.

The cartoon will have a real retro-feel to it, sort of a cross between the 1966 camp “Batman” TV series and the world’s greatest detective stories by Haney/Aparo in Brave and the Bold comics. This even shows up in design. Aquaman is in his old costume while still sporting his more recent beard. Green Arrow wears his old costume as well, but with a New Frontier-esque flair. Some characters, like the Red Tornado, are familiar yet new designs.

We even see a selection of old school villains long since lost in the shadows behind Batman’s more psychotic enemies. There will be such oddities as Calendar Man, the Cavalier, Kite-Man, Clock King and the Zebra-Man, as well as more traditional super-foes like Kanjar Ro, Gorilla Grodd, Black Manta, Ocean Master, the Gentleman Ghost and the Emerald Empress.

On the hero side in the team-up department we’ll also see Doctor Fate, Kamandi, Metamorpho, the Atom, Deadman, Black Canary, Adam Strange, Fire, Guy Gardner, Jonah Hex, the Green Lantern Corps, the Flash, the Huntress, the Justice Society of America, and yes, even Bat-Mite and Ace the Bathound. And if that ain’t old school, I don’t know what is.

“Batman: The Brave and the Bold” premieres on Cartoon Network on November 14th.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Bye Bye Kitty

A reader asked me to comment on the end/pseudo-beginning of “For Better or For Worse,” so here it is.

The first time I saw Lynn Johnston’s work was in a compilation book about motherhood back in the early 1970s. I don’t know if this was before or after “For Better or For Worse” began but later I did realize it was the same woman. The one page/one panel cartoon that stood out for me from that book was one of a mother at the bathroom door, a toddler with her hand on the toilet lever, a tail -hair standing straight out on end in panic- coming from the toilet and the caption, “Bye bye, kitty.” Sick, on a “Far Side” level, but I loved it and it stayed with me.

Now, some decades later, Lynn Johnston has decided to end her FBofW strip. Sort of. The end came a few weeks back, shown here, with Johnston doing her best to epilogue all the ongoing storylines and characters. It’s rather wordy and involved, because of the soap opera-ness many have complained about in recent years. While I haven’t paid too much attention to the strip in that time, I would think that if one loved the characters, that shouldn’t have mattered. Although I guess the soap opera might have been infinitely more interesting had it been entirely autobiographical, the strip’s title taking on new meaning with her marriage falling apart in the last few years. But of course, FBofW ending fairly happily as you can see.

Now, equally controversial along with FBofW ending is the pseudo-re-start of the strip. Obviously Lynn Johnston has a writer’s heart. She’s not retiring with the strip’s end, she’s re-writing, re-vamping – a final edit if you will. Many writers wish for that once a book has gone to print, and Johnston is getting it. FBofW is starting over with Johnston tweaking it as it goes along. And I wish her best of luck. You go, Lynn! And keep flushing those kitties.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Gatchaman Teaser

Known to some of us as "Battle of the Planets" or "G-Force," and to a later generation as "Eagle Riders," the classic Japanese anime series "Science Ninja Team Gatchaman" is coming to the big screen. Above is the first teaser. Looks a bit like they're going for a Speed Racer effect. Either way, I can't wait!

Friday, September 05, 2008

Seinfeld for Microsoft

Now just for the record, I'm a Mac guy, and I'm never going back to PCs. Just not going to happen. But that said, I'm also a huge "Seinfeld" fan. That's why I just don't get all the negative hubbub over Jerry Seinfeld's new ad for Microsoft. I thought it was quirky, cool and funny. I doubt that it will sell computers and Jerry's looking a bit worse for wear, but I still enjoyed it.

Now I'm going back to working on my MacBook while I watch "Seinfeld" reruns.

The Wedding Singer – On Stage

I recently saw the Broadway version of “The Wedding Singer,” one of the few Adam Sandler films that I like. The production in question was not the cool one on Broadway that features one of my favorite performers, Stephen Lynch, in the title role, but a touring version at Harrahs in Atlantic City. I wasn’t really expecting much but was very pleasantly surprised.

The show is actually a fun time trip back to the 1980s, specifically 1985, but the in-jokes and references span the whole decade. The original songs are energetic and fun, some bearing a neat resemblance to the actual 80s songs from the Sandler flick. Of note are “Come Out of the Dumpster” and “Casualty of Love.”

The thing that struck me the most odd, and I had to wonder how many of the audience got the jokes and references in the show because of their age. You could tell how many people had lived through the 1980s at a relevant age by the laughs, but for the most part – this being a show at a casino – the audience was full of blue hairs, walkers and canes. I can’t for the life of me believe they enjoyed, or understood “The Wedding Singer” even a little bit.

For me however, it was a surprising and entertaining time. Recommended, even at a casino.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Killer Kowalski Leaves the Ring

In the days before professional wrestling became more a world of comic book soap operas, it was an art and a sport.

Heroes and villains like Bruno Samartino, Chief Jay Strongbow and Killer Kowalski ruled the ring in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s.

I have fond memories of watching the grand battles on local channel 48 in my boyhood, and now we've lost one of the legends.

This past weekend, Killer Kowalski passed away. Besides his reputation as one of wrestling's most infamous villains, he was also an articulate, intelligent gentleman. The world doesn't have enough folks out there like Killer.

In a World Without… Don LaFontaine

Brilliant voiceover artist, Don LaFontaine, best known for narrating movie previews and notably the opening phrase, “In a world without…” has passed away. Movie trailers will never be the same again…

Jerry Reed R.I.P.

Jerry Reed, Grammy Award-winning singer/songwriter/actor, passed away Monday due to complication of emphysema. He'll be missed.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Avengers Assemble!

Are you a fan of Marvel Comics’ Avengers? Then we need you at AVENGERS FOREVER! Avengers Forever is the website dedicated to all things Avengers and Avengers related.

On the website you will find:

Character Profiles - All the info and details you could ever want about every Avenger and Avengers-related character, literally Earth’s Mightiest Database.

Reviews of Current and Older Avengers Titles - The AF Staff reviews the comics as they are released and also looks back on issues of the past. One of the most comprehensive review sites on the ‘net.

Interviews - The AF Staff interviews the creative folks responsible for bringing us the Avengers today and the last four decades.

Fan Fiction - Earth’s Mightiest Fans continue the unofficial adventures of the Avengers in prose, in some of the best fan fiction on the ‘net.

Desktop Wallpaper and other free downloads like Avengers membership cards and computer icons and cursors.

Back Issue Database - Ever wonder what happened in Avengers #106? Find out here!

Articles Database - written by some of the Earth’s Mightiest Fans.

Even a Chatroom - talk live with Avengers fans from all over the world, as well as creators and other special guests.

...and most importantly, the Avengers Forever Forum. Not just a message board, but a unified community of lovers of the comic book artform and especially Marvel Comics’ Avengers. This worldwide community discusses the characters, stories and history of the team in a friendly and civil manner, all true fans and all united in their love for the Avengers. There are even polls, trivia, contests and much much more. What are you waiting for? Join the discussion today!