Monday, March 30, 2009

Spider-Man in Trouble Again

Poor Peter Parker just can't seem to catch a break these days. Even with a Broadway musical in the works with tunage by Bono and The Edge, and saving a kid in Bangkok, it seems everybody's favorite wall-crawler is in trouble again - this time with idiot parents and illiterate librarians.

A Milliard, Nebraska mother is outraged that her six-year old son got a Spider-Man trade collection from his school library, specifically Amazing Spider-Man: Revelations Vol. 2 by J. Michael Straczynski and John Romita Jr., saw a drawing of a bikini-clad Mary Jane and it rotted his brain. And let's not leave out the fact that the book is rated (as are most Marvel Comics) for ages 12 and up, so thumbs up to the librarian that gave the kid the book.

First off, it's just a bikini, folks, and Mary Jane Watson/Parker/Whatever is one sexy fictional character, and John Romita Jr. is a helluva an artist, so I wouldn't expect less. And let's be frank, this could be much worse. Notice how the outraged mom doesn't have a thing to say about the violence in the book. That must be okay for her precious child.

And of course no mention is made that at least this is a child who is not only reading, but actively using a library at age six. I think this is a triumph in itself and something any parent should be proud of. But then again, what do I know? I learned to read at barely the age of four... from those dreaded comic books.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Zatanna in Smallville

The title says Zatanna in Smallville, but really now, when was the last time anything in the "Smallville" TV series actually happened in Smallville? Just get it over with and rename the series "Metropolis." Or better yet, "Superman." This whole Superman without actually having Superman is wearing on me, but I digress.

This week's episode "Hex" featured the live-action debut of a fan favorite character from the comics, Zatanna Zatara. And we got the classic version, complete with top hat and fishnets. Filling those fishnets more than adequately is the sexy Serinda Swan, whose rumors indicate will also be starring in the much-anticipated Tron 2.0.

As much as can be expected in the ersatz version of the DCU presented in "Smallville," Zatanna is presented rather close to the original. There is a father quest involved, she actually does speak her spells backward and daddy is even mentioned by name as the world's greatest magician - proof positive of a Golden Age in this continuity. Other Easter eggs in "Hex" include cameos of the Justice League, as well as the regularly scheduled soap opera stuff.

And when are they going to give Justin Hartley his own Green Arrow spin-off? He's the best part of this show as long as Clark's not putting on a costume...

Eurovision 2009: Greece, Moldova and Spain

"This Is Our Night" by Sakis Rouvas (Greece 2009)

"Hora Din Moldova" by Nelly Ciobanu (Moldova 2009)

"La Noche Es Para Mi" by Soraya (Spain 2009)

All three are great examples of what Eurovision is all about, and all three strong contenders. We'll see.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Monsters, Aliens and Other Animated Things that Go Bump in the Night

Monsters Vs. Aliens ~ What starts off as B-movie homage ends with superhero sensibility in this surprising 3-D entry this weekend. Using templates from Attack of the 50 Foot Woman, The Creature from the Black Lagoon, The Fly, The Blob and even Mothra, this flick espouses the idea that monsters have been kept top secret by the government for decades, and when aliens attack, they are unleashed to save the world.

DreamWorks does it again, keeping up with the technology and with Disney/Pixar here, and even presents a new form of 3-D that's better than anything that's come before - and if you see it in IMAX, it's just that much better. The voice cast is terrific, Reese Witherspoon and Stephen Colbert especially. This was one of the more fun flicks I've seen this year, recommended.

Hoodwinked ~ This computer-animated twist on the Little Red Riding Hood story wants so badly to be Shrek it hurts, yes, it literally hurts the viewer. It tries far too hard to be different and irreverent when it could have simply told the tale with a few clever in-jokes and modern music, but they just went for trying to one-up the big green ogre instead. Good for free or if nothing else is on.

Coraline ~ A very interesting and creepy fantasy from ‘one of the directors of Nightmare Before Christmas’ (not the one you think), and a lot of fun – for adults, and even then it might be a little scary. Hollywood seriously needs to bring more of the work of Neil Gaiman to the big screen. And I will never understand these parents who bring their kids to a movie just because it’s animated or has a child in it thinking it’s okay. Read about films before you go. The idiots who brought their infant children to the theatre for this one probably would do the same thing with The Omen or Fritz the Cat. Recommended, but not for kids.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Astro Boy Trailer

Astro Boy, or Mighty Atom as he was known in his native Japan, ushered in the anime age for many here in America.

In the early 1960s the classic Tetsuwan Atomu manga by the genius Osamu Tezuka was brought to animation in Japan and quickly sold to NBC in the US. The series' success quickly paved the way for "Gigantor," "Kimba" and "Speed Racer," and changing animation forever.

There have been more than a few manga and anime series of Astro Boy, and even a rare and very hard-to-find live-action movie, and now Imagi Animation Studios, a Japanese-American collaboration, is readying a new CGI Astro Boy film for theatres. Here's the trailer:

Interesting. Is it me, or is it just not Astro Boy unless he's barechested? Either way, it looks great, and has a rather impressive voice cast. I'm looking forward to it.

Astro Boy hits the big screen in October 2009.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Eurovision 2009 Ukraine

Put the kids to bed before clicking play...

I guess this is proof positive that if you wrap anything in chocolate, including Cirque du Soleil, it makes it better. This celebration of the cocoa bean is this year's entry into Eurovision from the Ukraine - "Be My Valentine (Anti-Crisis Girl)" by Svetlana Loboda.

Hmmm... I think I know what I want for Valentine's Day this coming year...


Soon, very soon, the SciFi Channel will become SyFy. Not only the logo, the taglines and paychecks, but the URL for the website as well. They mean business.

The folks at the network want to make more money, and apparently you can't copyright or trademark the generic word 'scifi,' a term coincidentally originally coined by the late great Forrest J. Ackerman. So they have gone with the sound-a-like SyFy, and now they can make full and sole profits on SyFy t-shirts, thermoses and anything else they can think of. Here's the official press release.

Thanks be to marketing. If only Forrey had thought of that one all those years ago. Hmmm, maybe the new slogan should be "Imagine Greater... Profit..."

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Spider-Man Alive and Well in Bangkok

Spider-Man is real for one eleven year old boy in Bangkok today.


A firefighter donned a Spider-Man costume to coax a frightened 11-year-old boy from a balcony in Bangkok, Thailand.

Teachers at a special needs school in Bangkok alerted authorities on Monday when an autistic pupil, scared of attending his first day at school, sat out on the third-floor ledge and refused to come inside.

Despite teachers' efforts to beckon the boy inside, he refused to budge until his mother mentioned her son's love of superheroes, prompting fireman Sonchai Yoosabai to take a novel approach to the problem.

The sight of his hero holding a glass of juice for him brought a big smile to the boy's face.

"I told him Spider-Man is here to rescue you, no monsters are going to attack you and I told him to walk slowly towards me as running could be dangerous," Mr Somchai told local television.

The young boy immediately stood up and walked into his rescuer's arms, police said

Mr. Somchai said he keeps the Spider-Man costume and an outfit of Japanese television character Ultraman at the fire station in order to liven up school fire drills.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Eurovision 2009 Germany

Another frontrunner for Eurovision this year in my opinion is the German entry - "Miss Kiss Kiss Bang" by Alex Swings, Oscar Sings! Old school sound, new school look, check it out.

Third Annual Worldwide D&D Game Day

March 21st 2009 is the third annual Worldwide Dungeons & Dragons Game Day, celebrating the fantasy role-playing game created by the late Gary Gygax waaay back in the 1970s.

So grab your polyhedron dice, graph paper and lead miniatures, along with a two-liter of Mountain Dew and a bag of Doritos, re-memorize your spells and sharpen your two-handed swords and get out there and play some D&D!

Events are happening at my favorite local gaming (and comics) store, All Things Fun!, as well as locations throughout America and Europe. Start getting ready for your saving rolls!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Eurovision 2009 Ireland

No turkeys this year, it looks like Ireland has finally gotten serious about Eurovision - and it looks like they have a real chance too. "Et Cetera" by Sinead Mulvey and Black Daisy is one of my favorite entries of the field so far.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Natasha Richardson 1963-2009

Tragically, award-winning actress Natasha Richardson has passed away earlier today. The forty-five year old wife of actor Liam Neeson fell while skiing with no apparent injuries yesterday but later fell ill and eventually passed away.

I first saw her in Ken Russell's surreal Gothic as the young Mary Shelley and was later impressed with her in the title role of Patty Hearst. She became of one the best working actresses around especially with A Handmaid's Tale and Nell, the latter in which she starred with her husband and Jodie Foster.

We have certainly lost one of our most talented actresses. She will be missed.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Ron Silver Passes

Ron Silver, actor and political activist passed away Sunday from esophageal cancer.

He is probably best known for Reversal of Fortune, Enemies: A Love Story and his numerous television roles for which he was nominated for various awards. He also most notably, to me at least, was in Blue Steel with Jamie Lee Curtis, a film which languishes in my personal bottom list of the worst films ever made.

Silver was also very politically active, and was quoted as saying the following: "By inclination I am more of a politician than I am an actor. I care more about public policy. I care more about pro-choice, the environment, homelessness, and nuclear issues than I do about any part."

Eurovision 2009 - France

The cultural concentration by the French to keep everything French has had a backlash for this year's entry into the Eurovision Song Contest. The above, "Et S'il Fallait Le Faire (If It Had To Be Done)" by Patricia Kaas, is completely in French. Apparently many French folks were angry last year when Sebastian Tellier's "Divine" was sung in English.

It seems the French want everything French, even it isn't, like French fries for instance. They're Belgian. For the record, I liked last year's entry better than this one's. We'll see.


Sunday, March 15, 2009

William Shakespeare's Land of the Dead

To celebrate the end of Zombiedelphia Month we went to see the Plays & Players production of William Shakespeare's Land of the Dead.

Detailing the zombie invasion of 1599, where notables of the time take refuge in the newly built Globe Theater while London is under undead siege, this is actually a well-researched, smart and clever little play. Seriously, zombies aside, somebody really knows their Shakespeare. The controversy of who really wrote what and how much 'borrowing' the bard did from experience and people he knew and work he saw and read is center stage here, with just a bit of living dead horror thrown in just for kicks.

I really loved this. The midnight show featured free drinks for those who dressed as zombies, and to be sure, the audience would have made George Romero proud. Like a Rocky Horror experience, the production was interactive with zombies in the audience and blood (Karo, peanut butter and chocolate syrup) being spilled and spurted from the stage. Luckily for the squeamish, plastic sheets were provided for folks in the first couple rows - the splatter zone.

Cast standouts include Ryan Walter as the boisterously entertaining Will Kemp, Molly Casey as Kate Braithwaite, and special props to Jacqueline Halloway who choreographed the fight and dance scenes. yes, there was a bit of zombie-fighting but the prize of the show was the finale to Michael Jackson's "Thriller." After all, what better way to end any undead production than "Thriller." Dazzling!

War and More Plagiarism

All the text covered in the video aside, there is also the issue of the song sounding very similar to "Disco Inferno" by the Trammps. But still, why go to the nation that invaded you to participate in a contest, and not have some comment, right?

Friday, March 13, 2009

The New K9

Courtesy of the Pop Culture Safari blog and Outpost Gallifrey, here is a picture of the new design of K-9, the newest spin-off of the BBC's highly successful relaunch of "Doctor Who" several years back.

"K9" will be a twenty-six part series currently being shot in Australia, and broadcast later this year.

Eurovision 2009 Denmark

This is Niels Brinck with "Believe Again," Denmark's entry to the Eurovision Song Contest this year in Moscow.

Niels is a singer, songwriter, composer and producer living in Copenhagen, and just released his first album in 2008. The song was written by Lars Halvor Jensen, Martin M. Larsson and Irish singer Ronan Keating.

Close your eyes and listen. Is it just my imagination, or do I hear Lionel Ritchie?


Sicko ~ It’s not his political views that make me dislike Michael Moore, it’s the fact that he’s just a bad filmmaker, and he’s an even worse documentarian.

In this one, he can’t even make his setup and manipulated scenes work, which he’s been capable of in the past. At the end of this film he makes a big deal of donating money to a man who needs it for his sick wife – a man who runs an I-hate-Michael-Moore website who has decided he must shut it down because he needs money. I don’t blame Moore for putting this in the movie, heck, I would too if it were me. It’s sweet revenge, as well as being a good human being. What bothers me is that if he has money like that, did he donate to the other folks depicted in Sicko who needed it as well? And if so, why not tell the viewer?

A topic deserving notice and merit, but a bad documentary, even by Moore standards.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Hulk Vs...

Hulk Vs. ~ This is the newest of Marvel Comics and Lionsgate’s direct-to-DVD features, this one a double feature with the Hulk fighting Thor and then Wolverine, two different stories, one great DVD. I watched the Thor half of this animated flick first so the thought didn’t occur to me right away, but after the Wolverine half it became clear what this reminded me of. Decades ago, after CBS' live-action "Incredible Hulk" series was canceled, they produced a couple made-for-TV movies with the same cast but using the Hulk character as a spin-off point for other Marvel heroes. We were ‘treated’ to albeit greatly-altered versions of Daredevil and Thor, hopefully for pilot purposes that thankfully never manifested.

That’s what this disc is, spin-off pilots for Thor and Wolverine, because like those telemovies, these featurettes really have little to do with the Hulk. The stories are firmly Thor and Wolverine stories, set firmly in their worlds and among their supporting characters and opposing villains. There’s really not that much Hulk honestly in this Hulk DVD. Really, any rampaging beast could have subbed easily in these Thor and Wolverine adventures.

On the plus side, the Thor adventure is a wonderful journey into the mythology of that character as it was designed and established by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby back in the day. Watching this I was filled with nostalgia and an urge to go back and read those comics. This was magic. While Odin sleeps, Loki and the Enchantress possess the Hulk to destroy, who else, Thor. See the wonder of Asgard and the fanboy fantasy of an old-fashioned Thor/Hulk slugfest, complete with character development, originality and suspense. A solid story backed up with the crisp animation Lionsgate has become known for with these productions.

Whereas the Thor part seemed to be all about what was right about comics of the 1960s, the Wolverine segment equally reflected, in my opinion at least, everything that was wrong with comics of the 1990s. While I was happy it was not a simple rehash of the Hulk’s first encounter with Wolverine (that character’s first appearance by the way), I was disappointed that it turned into just an excuse for the Hulk to smash foes who could not die and characters who can cut and slash to cut and slash without killing. Honestly with all the regenerating I can’t help making a comparison to Frank Miller’s ridiculous take on The Spirit and the Octopus in his recent but horrible film.

While hardcore X-Men fans may delight at seeing Sabretooth, Lady Deathstrike, Omega Red and especially Deadpool, someone who I have never been able to divine the popularity of, this was all just a horse and pony show to me. I would have rather seen the Wendigo. At least that story had a plot.

This DVD is well worth the rental, but not the purchase, and unless you’re a serious X-fan, just watch the Thor half.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Plagiarism at Eurovision 2009?

Here is (currently) Bosnia-Herzegovina’s entry for Eurovision this year, “Bistra Voda” by U2-influenced Bosnian rock band Regina:

There’s been a bit of a controversy regarding the tune, as some officials claim it may have been copied from this song, “Oltar” by Kiki Lesendric:

The matter is currently under investigation. Is there something fishy here? You decide.

Friday, March 06, 2009

I Watched the Watchmen

In most genre circles, Watchmen's reputation precedes it. Watchmen is the comic book that changed everything back in 1986. This 'graphic novel' (we'll get to that in a moment), originally comprised of twelve monthly issues by writer Alan Moore and artist Dave Gibbons, along with Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns and Neil Gaiman's Sandman, is a watermark for comic books - it's the point where comics grew up. It's where they became mainstream. The above-mentioned books are what officially put comics in bookstores and libraries, it's what made comics cool for adults, and most importantly - possibly Hollywood.

My problem with the term 'graphic novel' is that it seems to be shorthand for Hollywood to fool those out-of-the-know who might not see a movie based on a comic book. Apparently 'graphic novel' is more palatable for intellectuals than just a 'funny book.'

So let's get this straight right now, and pay attention all you idiots on Wikipedia and in the marketing departments of DC and Marvel, Watchmen is a comic book series that was later reprinted in a trade paperback format. A graphic novel is a comic that was originally created specifically for the trade paperback format. Got it? Art Spiegelman's Pulitzer Prize winning Maus is a graphic novel. The latest collection of Secret Invasion, as well as Watchmen, is just a comic book in a slick reprint format.

Back on point, it's taken twenty-three years, and several directors who all claimed it was 'unfilmable,' Watchmen has finally made it to theatres. The first photos that drifted onto the internet showed only sets, but sets that were vitally important to the story and virtually identical to the comic. As more images surfaced it was apparent that director Zack Snyder had not only found a way to film the comics, but to do it serious justice. The industry was suitably pleased and fired up.

What is it all about? Watchmen, as much as it seems like a superhero movie, is really a political thriller, and a murder mystery, but really at its core, it is the deconstruction of the superhero concept. What if there were superheroes? How would it affect society, culture, and history? This is it.

In a 1985 world on the brink of nuclear destruction, superheroes have been outlawed and someone is now killing them. This multi-generational story spans over four decades and reveals the conspiracy piece by piece as the creepy vigilante Rorshach tries to find the murderer. It is a dizzyingly complex story, that in the comics introduced parallel and multiple storytelling devices to the genre, may even be too hard for most brain dead movie audiences to understand. Which is a damn shame, because Watchmen, even in its abbreviated film form, is brilliant - but hopefully there are enough explosions to keep even the intellectually impaired interested.

The film deviates from the comic once or twice, adding details and dialogue, and of course we have a different (not new, but different, same effect so it does not affect the story) ending - but for the most part, it is the comic. Scenes and shots are as if realized directly from the pages. And a weird phenomenon occurs for folks who have read the comics, like a movie seen multiple times, the first screening audience I saw this with was saying the lines with the characters. Yeah, it's that damn close, and it's terrific. Brilliant score by Tyler Bates, among others. And the cinematography is amazing as many of the covers of the comics are brought to vivid life as well.

The cast is equally phenomenal. I really don't know if it's possible to have found a more perfect Rorshach than Jackie Earle Haley. He looks like him, talks like him and is even the right height - something the folks doing the X-Men flicks never gave a second thought to when casting Hugh Jackman as Wolverine. Unlike many critics I had no problem with Billy Crudup's voice (or performance) as Doctor Manhattan, and I promise not to make any blue weiner jokes, we are after all, all adults here. Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Patrick Wilson are excellent as the Comedian and the second Nite Owl (spelled correctly, another note for those who refuse to research).

The real breakout star of Watchmen is Malin Ackerman who plays the second Silk Spectre. She is the star here, both in performance and beauty, and is definitely -pun unintended- someone to watch. Matt Frewer was a problem for me as being recognizable. I saw him and said, "Hey, there's Matt Frewer," and it took me out of the movie. Also another small nit was the unidentifiable accent of Matthew Goode as Adrian Veidt. Is it British? Is it German? Does even he know? I must say however, Goode is more convincing on the screen than he is in any of the pre-release images. He is Ozymandias.

My only real problem with the film is not anything wrong with it, per say, but wrong with the jump from comics to film. The best part of the comics for me were the supporting cast on the street, in front of the Gunga Diner. The newsdealer, the lady cab driver, the kid reading the Tales of the Black Freighter comic book. They appear on screen briefly, but it's just not enough for me. In the comics they were the characters I grew to care about, not the superheroes. The loss is one for the readers, not the viewers, and it doesn't make the film any less great, but it is a major lost opportunity.

All in all, it is an amazing film and a phenomenal film experience. Be warned though, this may be a superhero flick, but it's not for the kids. Violence, sex, language, mature themes and all that stuff. It's also no Iron Man, this film, nor the comic it is based on, is a gateway drug to comics. This isn't going to recruit anyone, but hopefully it will garner respect for the genre, and make some people think. Now, let's get some Sandman or Starman comics into Zack Snyder's hands and have some real fun...

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

M*A*S*H The Blog

The newest of Rob Kelly's Family of Blogs is all about the classic 1970s television sitcom "M*A*S*H." He'll be taking a look at the series, episode by episode right from the beginning.

As a fan of Rob's blogging work, and a latecomer to the series myself (my mom was a nurse who felt offended by the portrayal of nurses on the show, so we never saw it at home), I'm looking forward to this. Check it out here.

The Late Night of Jimmy Fallon

I’ve never really been a fan of Jimmy Fallon. I mean, I don’t hate the guy, but then again I’ve never laughed my ass off at him either. He’s probably a really nice guy, just not a really funny guy. After years on Saturday Night Live” he’s got a shot at ‘real’ stardom taking over for Conan O’Brien on “Late Night” while Conan moves up to “The Tonight Show” in June. I tuned in for the first two nights and I’m still not sure what to make of it.

Fallon seems genuinely nervous throughout the first night’s monologue, and taking on an always-difficult interview like Robert DeNiro is a bloody baptism by fire – but he made it through pretty well. It was obvious that Fallon was much more comfortable with Justin Timberlake than DeNiro. Maybe he should just have friends on? And if he was really smart he would have gotten Justin to really sing. Although Van Morrison was nice too. Good demographic reach with the variety of guests.

Bits like “Lick It for Ten” and “Target Demographic” and *sigh* “Space Train” may have seemed traditionalist for “Late Night” but I don’t think it worked for Jimmy. He keeps trying to be other folks, and he should just be himself. Funny or not, I know he’s much cooler than he’s coming off so far. Fallon needs to find his own groove, preferably something he is comfortable with, because so far he doesn’t seem very comfortable with a lot going on here.

On the second night, the monologue was still shaky, but saved when Jimmy threw it to The Roots for a brief musical interlude. There’s no doubt about the fact that he has the hottest house band on Earth backing him up. He just needs to use The Roots for more than ‘slow jamming’ the news. Sharing a bit more of the spotlight with them could never hurt the show. They kill with the opening and closing themes. I would watch the show, just for them.

The Facebook status updates were not only hilarious but hip and different from what anyone else is doing out there in the talk arena. And Jimmy seemed to be having fun with it, good for his comfort zone. And he was certainly less nervous than Mayor Bloomberg. The ease continued with Tina Fey. Yeah, definitely, dude, just interview your friends, it works for you. It’s a vibe similar to Johnny Carson back in the day, in my opinion. Make it casual and make it just chatting with pals.

I had much the same regret about Jon Bon Jovi that I had about Justin Timberlake the previous night – why didn’t he sing a whole song? Can you imagine the ratings bump that would have been? Santigold was no slouch, she was trey cool, but come on, if you have Bon Jovi, make him perform. Make him sing the way he made Tina dance.

Speaking of ratings, “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” apparently did quite well so far, and I think that’s a good thing. Jimmy Fallon on his Twitter insists that the show will only get better, and honestly I don’t doubt it. It’s gotten twice as good in only two nights. I know I’ll be watching.

Radio Pioneer Frank Ford Dies at 92

Frank Ford passed away today from complications from stroke. Frank Ford was one of the innovators in talk radio, and radio in general, having been in the business since 1937.

The 'father of talk radio in Philadelphia' was also an owner of the Valley Forge Music Fair, as well as Auto Sport Importers. In his radio career he worked at WIP, WCAU, WHAT, WPEN, WFLN, WDVT, but is most known for his time with Philadelphia's most beloved and most missed talk station, WWDB-FM.

Ford retired from talk radio in 2000 when WWDB changed its format to music. Talk radio hasn't been the same since. He was 92 and is survived by his wife, Lynne Abraham, District Attorney of the city of Philadelphia. We have truly lost one of the legends of radio. He'll be missed.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Eurovision 2009 - Turkey

Turkey's entry, "Dum Tek Tek (Crazy for You)" by Hadise, is a front runner for my favorite so far. Keep watching, I'll be featuring each entry in the 2009 Eurovision Song Contest as it gets closer.