Friday, December 31, 2010

Wishful Drinking

Wishful Drinking ~ The previews of this one woman show/video memoir on HBO made it seem quite funny, but I knew the facts - that Carrie Fisher has long suffered from alcoholism, drug addiction and manic depression, and I thought for sure it wouldn't be all laughs. I was pleasantly surprised.

The actress begins with the rather grim story of a friend dying in her bed but quickly recovers with her family history, which is hysterical... unfortunately probably because it's true. Her family tree is a twisted root turned in on itself and provides much entertainment in her retelling.

There's a lot of material covered here, and a lot for folks who have followed various facets of her career. If you know Carrie as Eddie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds' daughter, or if you know her as the real lead character in Postcards from the Edge, or if you know her from a little movie called Star Wars - there's something here for you.

Also, if you're watching on HBO OnDemand, like I did, don't forget to watch all the extras like interviews with her parents and the poem from Star Wars that clogs up her head. Recommended.

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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The All Things Fun! Live Comics Vidcast

Every Wednesday morning at 10:30 AM Eastern Standard Time, you can check out the All Things Fun! Live Comics Vidcast. Join co-hosts Ed Evans, Allison Eckel and Glenn Walker as they discuss the new comics out each week as well as trends in comic book entertainment. And it's all done live from a real comics, toys and game shop in South Jersey - All Things Fun!

Allison takes on DC Comics, with a special focus on Brightest Day, and brings us into The Batcave with her thoughts on the Batman family of titles. Glenn examines Marvel Comics, spotlighting the Avengers, and Ed tackles everything else with a lean toward the independent and trade paperback scene. They also talk about the comics-oriented toys, action figures and games of the week.

And while the show is broadcast live every Wednesday morning, it can be seen throughout the week at the website, along with every episode previously. And don't forget to check out Glenn and Allison on the All Things Fun! Blogs.

Today's episode is online now, check it out here. Don't forget to check out ATF!'s gaming podcast here. Please follow All Things Fun! on Twitter and like them on Facebook.

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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Spartacus: Blood and Sand

Yeah, I know, I'm late to this party as this Starz TV series originally aired at the beginning of this year. Having just recently obtained Starz I had an opportunity to catch up via OnDemand, watching all thirteen episodes in the space of a week, despite Comcast mucking with the HD. It wasn't that I was really that bored or had lots of time on my hands, the series was really that compelling.

Now period pieces of this type I am usually all in or all out. I'm not a sword and sandal guy, and I don't really dig gladiator movies. They seem just a bit too gay bathhouse for me. Reality check - I haven't even seen all of Kirk Douglas' 1960 Spartacus by genius Stanley Kubrick. I guess I should fix that. On the other hand, I am a big fan of movies and programs about Rome and the history of that time. I loved "I Claudius" and HBO's "Rome" for instance. "Spartacus: Blood and Sand" falls solidly into the latter category. I loved it.

At first glance, I didn't think I was going to like it though. There is a lot of the slow motion blue screen CGI effects that made things like 300, Sin City and The Spirit so visually unique. While the comparison to 300 is obvious because of the time period and the violent content, I did not mean to compare "Spartacus" to the others. This has nothing to do with Frank Miller, because this TV series is actually good.

"Spartacus: Blood and Sand" is visually thrilling and something we haven't ever seen on television before, and that alone makes it must-see, but there is also a compelling story, addictive characters and performances that are better than most on TV. In all aspects, this is must-see-TV.

Just one of those performances you will only be able to see in this thirteen episode series unfortunately. Title actor Andy Whitfield was stricken with cancer and will not be returning to the series in its second season, but will make a brief appearance in the prequel series, "Spartacus: Gods of the Arena" that begins in January on Starz. He will be hard to replace, but rest assured I will be on hand for whatever comes next. This is truly great television.

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Monday, December 27, 2010

A Tale of Two Trons

I was never that big of a fan of the original Tron, yeah, I know, blasphemy, and I have to turn in my nerd license. Other than the cool (at the time) effects and the arcade game "Discs of Tron," which I enjoyed on an almost daily basis for hours on just a few quarters, it never really did much for me.

The thing about Tron, is that like the cyberpunk work of the legendary William Gibson and Bruce Sterling, contemporary to the flick, it's an idea, a fictional concept, that has been washed away by reality. The world of 'the grid' is over, like the rocketships and rayguns of Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon, it no longer even makes sense. That doesn't mean I didn't like it, or this sequel, mind you, it just raises the suspension of disbelief a hundredfold is all. Trust me - Gibson, Sterling, Rogers and Gordon all still rock my world in a major way - it's just harder to do these days.

What I remember and respect most about the original Tron is its simplicity of style. A true grid world accessible and relatable to the videogames of the time was realized and endeared itself to a generation. That's a real feat. It was visually exciting and forward-thinking for its time, and even today remains a very unique vision, separating it from much of its science fiction competition.

I also remember the music, a Journey song "Only Solutions," that I liked - at a time when I wasn't all that fond of Journey. Of course, life with The Bride has changed that. I like Journey and she likes comics - the concessions of love. The soundtrack however was mostly composed by the wonderful Wendy Carlos (formerly Walter Carlos), one of the first musicians to seriously work with the synthesizer as the next wave in sound. The soundtrack is memorable for that sound. Daft Punk more than does the job for the new century in the sequel. I recommend both soundtracks highly.

If 1982's Tron posits a world called The Grid where programs compete in videogames for their users, the sequel Tron: Legacy represents a current day return to that world. Shortly after the events of the first movie, Kevin Flynn, played by Jeff Bridges, makes it big in the computer and videogame industry, and then after beginning to act erratically, disappears, leaving his son, Sam, alone.

Sam gets a page from his Dad and returns to Dad's arcade, and in a flourish of 1980s nostalgia, punctuated by vintage videogames, Eurythmics music, as well as Journey, in a nod to this film's predecessor, he ends up in The Grid. This is a much darker Grid, and a world that exhibits every strength today's CGI special effects can avail. In this, the hype is true. This is the movie that 3D and IMAX were made for, it's just a shame that not all of it is in 3D. As cool as these visuals are, the half 3D, half 2D of it damages it. All or nothing, I say.

As I said, this is a very dark film. Dark in the same way Disney's Return to Oz was to MGM's The Wizard of Oz, so in some ways it's not a good thing. The idea of a sequel to Tron is essentially a return to a world of wonder, a world of adventure, a world we enjoyed. This new fascist Grid, under the thumb of Flynn's evil computer counterpart Clu is not a happy place. The problem, spoiler alert, is that even though the good guys win at the end, we never actually see anything but the bad place.

Rather than this dark vision with spectacular effects, I think I would have much rather seen a remake. It's been almost thirty years after all, and one of the legitimate reasons to remake a film is that the special effects have gotten better - and they surely have. The Light Cycles are amazing and realistic. The Recognizers are gigantic and menacing. And Clu, wow, let me tell you about Clu. Clu is a haunting CGI effect of the younger Jeff Bridges from 1982. This 'effect' is both stunning and disturbing.

Cast-wise, it's fun to see Bruce Boxleitner as Alan once again, Garret Hedlund is promising in his first major role, and Olivia Wilde is definitely someone to watch. Jeff Bridges, mostly as his older current age self, is the unfortunate weak link. He seems to channel The Dude from The Big Lebowski to the point of ridiculousness. While humorous, it pulls me completely out of the film whenever he does it. And it even ruins the strong dramatic moments like when he finally connects with his estranged son. Sorry, The Dude is one of my heroes, but he doesn't belong in Tron.

Like Avatar, this is a film you must see for the special effects at least once. In this case, the 3D and the IMAX are worth it, even though I have railed against their cost and worth before. It seems to be doing well so I suppose a sequel is possible - maybe we'll see more of Dillinger's kid, which I'm sure all the Tron nerds wanted as well. Despite my reservations, Tron: Legacy is recommended, and don't forget to check out the original too, first if possible.

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Saturday, December 25, 2010

Doctor Who: A Christmas Carol

As it has since the beginning of the post-millenium series, "Doctor Who" returns for Christmas with a new special, a teaser of the season to come. This time, it's a Dickensian Christmas-themed trip on a honeymoon spaceliner with returning cast Matt Smith and Karen Gillan as The Doctor and Amy Pond. Arthur Darvill also returns as Amy's newlywed husband, Rory. At least that's what might be expected from the previews, and the episode's title, "A Christmas Carol."

We begin on board a plummeting spaceliner, this being "Doctor Who" all spaceliners are doomed, but we find Amy and Rory arriving from the bridge of the ship, from the honeymoon suite, in meter maid and Roman soldier outfits (!), telling the crew everything is all right because they've called for help. Yeah, you guessed it, The Doctor, cue opening credits.

The spaceliner is careening into a planet whose atmosphere is controlled by an evil old man who refuses to grant entry, dooming the passengers of the ship, unless The Doctor can change his mind. Between the Dickens references, the Victorian steampunk culture of the planet, and the more obvious "A Christmas Carol" parallels, this is not what you think it is, and goes in a completely different direction. And I would expect nothing less from writer/producer Steven Moffet.

Yes, this is Dickens' classic tale of redemption, but not in the way you think. While Amy and Rory are here, they are barely here. The story revolves around Michael Gambon as the Scrooge template, Kazran, whose past is altered helter skelter. Gambon is terrific here, as are his younger self Laurence Belcher and the love of his life Katherine Jenkins.

Steven Moffet spins a wonderful but bittersweet time travel tale that also mirrors last year's season finale. It's almost as if Moffet decided that if "Doctor Who" is a show about time travel, let's make it a show a time travel gosh darn it - and he pulls out all the tricks. The result is delightful, and the Christmas tradition continues. I can't wait for the new season to start.

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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Godzilla Returns to Comics

San Diego, CA (December 15, 2010) – IDW Publishing and Toho Co., Ltd. are excited to announce the return to comics for the biggest star in motion pictures! Kicking off in March, GODZILLA®: MONSTER WORLD offers fans the world over the first ongoing comic series in years. GODZILLA® will be joined by many other monsters throughout the series, including MOTHRA™, KING GHIDORAH™, RODAN™ and more that have never before been featured in an American comic book series alongside King of the Monsters™.

“Godzilla has been gone from comics for too long” said Yukio Kotaki of Toho. “And to have it return with other monsters is simply very exciting.”

Bringing these fearsome creatures back to comics is a larger-than-life creative team, led by co-writers Eric Powell (The Goon) and Tracy Marsh. Artist Phil Hester (Kevin Smith’s The Green Hornet) will capture every monster moment. The series will feature not one but two painted covers, offered on a 50/50 basis: Eric Powell will provide a gatefold wraparound cover featuring many beloved Toho monsters, and fan-favorite artist Alex Ross contributed an imposing image of Godzilla®. Powell has also painted a separate incentive cover to herald the debut issue’s launch.

“To be able to launch a Godzilla series that features many fan-favorite Toho monsters never before seen in comics is gratifying enough,” said Chris Ryall, IDW’s Chief Creative Officer. “But to do it with the guiding hand and brush of Eric Powell -- as perfectly suited a creator as I could’ve hoped to come aboard here – along with Hester, Marsh, and Ross, is about as monstrous a line-up as I could’ve ever hoped for. What’s more, this is just the first series to come in the line. The next one out of the gates features multiple Eisner-nominees and winners handling the creative, so we’re well and truly just getting started here.”

In GODZILLA®: MONSTER WORLD, a full-scale apocalypse is brewing. The monsters are a force of nature whose attacks can be no more predicted or rationalized than a lightning strike. There will be no clean-cut heroes with perfectly chiseled chins and capes billowing in the wind; only ordinary human beings struggling desperately to survive in a world gone mad.

With an impressive cast of monsters both old and new, IDW’s series will treat fans to both familiar themes and original takes on the pop culture legends that have stomped, smashed, and fought their way across movie screens for over four decades.

Adding to great creators and a monster story, IDW is also offering killer retailer specials for GODZILLA®: MONSTER WORLD #1, including a one-of-a-kind, hand-drawn Eric Powell sketch cover. Plus, retailers will be eligible for their very own cover – featuring Godzilla stomping their comic store.

GODZILLA: MONSTER WORLD #1 ($3.99, 32 pages, full color) will be available in comic stores in March 2011.

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Monday, December 13, 2010

A Bridezilla X-Mess

DJ K-Tell and the Dumpsta Players are back!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010
10:00 PM doors, 11:00 PM showtime - sharp!
@ Bob & Barbara's Lounge
1509 South Street
Philadelphia, PA
Info: (215) 545-4511
$1.99 cover 21+


When Heidi Hawthorne and Kelsey Lou Ann Hellwhich become Facebook friends by meeting in the "Bridal A-List" chatroom, they forge a bond hellbent on getting everything they want on their wedding day. Hunky grooms Bradley Bannister and Ennos Roscoe couldn't possibly meet their demands, especially with devious sexual trysts and family drama aplenty. Just as The Holidays approach and wedding plans are careening out of control, in steps business magnate-jailbird and quintessential lifestyle guru, Martha Stewart!

But can Martha fix the wrongs of self-righteous bitches unable to choose swatches?

Are any of the Bridesmaids capable of planning a decent bachelorette party? Who will catch the bouquet?

Find out who gets hit with the Christmas tree in -

"A Bridezilla X-Mess!"

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Sunday, December 12, 2010

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1 ~ I'm really not sure how folks with no background in the books, or these characters can walk into this film and understand everything. It just feels to me like the books are needed as a primer, especially here and with the last film as well. Props to the franchise that so many folks are familiar enough with the Harry Potter mythos to make this flick successful. I can only imagine the need for Cliff's Notes will only get stronger with Part 2 of this installment come summer.

Now what I liked about the last film, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, that the filmmakers veered from the book and showed us new scenes and added bonuses not seen in the source material, is actually what I didn't like about this one. I always like when the 'real' Muggle world is brought more into Harry's wizarding world. Scenes of Harry, Ron and Hermione in London and listening to Muggle music and pop culture are always welcome. The other things are unwelcome for me.

I am thinking specifically of the dance between Harry and Hermione to Nick Cave's "O Children" as most disturbing. Despite her spurning 'the chosen one' for Ron, the dance is quite intimate, and the further mention that the two spent weeks alone together - anyone who hasn't read the books might surmise that Harry and Hermione did get together at some point - especially when seeing what the horcrux tries to make Ron believe later. It's a muddy road for Potter neophytes, and I have to wonder if the filmmakers were playing with that very notion.

The movie continues the story well, and unfortunately ends on a down note, almost similar to the end of The Empire Strikes Back, both a defeat and a cliffhanger. Whether I was invested or not, I would want to see the final installment. The actors continue to hone and improve their characters and performances. And the animated sequence depicting the tale of the Deathly Hallows is unique and intriguing. Must see for Potterphiles, but maybe not for those unfamiliar.

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Thursday, December 09, 2010


Here in the States, the concept of the super powered drama has been tried, it just hasn't really caught on. "Heroes" has come and gone, with a downward spiral from success to epic fail. Sure, we've had "Smallville," and "No Ordinary Family" is trying, and "The Cape" is coming, but it just hasn't really clicked yet. Across the pond in the UK it's not only been done well, it's been source material for more than a few successful series. They've had sitcoms like "My Hero" and "No Heroics" and more recently they've gone for young, hot and steamy with "Misfits."

Channeling the sexuality of "Torchwood" into young probates is the twist here - add in some pseudo retro punk music and a super-power-empowering thunderstorm and you have "Misfits." Lady Sovereign wannabe Kelly, when you can understand her cockney accent, becomes a telepath, athlete Curtis can turn back time, hot Alisha makes people crazed with sexual desire for her with a touch, shy outcast Simon turns invisible, and smartass Nathan - well, that would be telling - his power or lack of power is one of the big secrets of the first season.

The youths have depth, are realistic, and the cast is top rate. I'd enjoy them even if this wasn't a genre show. Series one follows them as they uncover others affected by the storm and also end up killing their probation officer. Even though it sounds a bit like meteor-freak-of-the-week from "Smallville," it never really gets that obvious. "Misfits" is fun, and thrilling, and not like anything we have here in the States. If you get a chance to see it, definitely check it out.

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Wednesday, December 08, 2010


Unstoppable ~ I was looking for a guy flick to see with my father-in-law, and I had a few different choices. There was spaceships and explosions (Skyline), cars and explosions (Faster), trains and explosions (Unstoppable) or cowboys and ninjas and explosions (The Warrior's Way). By default of timing, we saw Unstoppable.

I wasn't expecting much, in any of the choices really, but at least here, Denzel Washington usually picks excellent scripts, even when it comes to mindless action flicks. I have to say I was impressed. Except for the first five to ten minutes of character set-up, and of course a quick crash course (pun unintended) in trains and how they work, this film was non-stop tension and suspense.

Even when Denzel and Chris Pine were not directly involved in the tension, you knew eventually that Denzel and young Captain Kirk would be in the thick of it soon and save the day. If I had complaint, it would be they should have been in the mix much earlier. Denzel easily plays the hero while still acknowledging his age, giving Pine a chance to shine age appropriately, which is not only realistic, but courteous as well. And I could just look at Rosario Dawson forever.

I wouldn't have thought walking in, but Unstoppable is a hell of a nail-biter, a thriller worth seeing. It never lets up and delivers what it promises. Check it out.

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Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Quickies 12-7-2010

Secretariat ~ Although falling into the same vein as Apollo 13, Miracle and the granddaddy of all the yes-you-idiot-this-really-happened flicks, Titanic, this was still an excellent and uplifting film. And unlike those others I mentioned, when I saw Secretariat, there was no one insanely younger than me worried about the outcome of the movie in the seats around me. Secretariat was the first Kentucky Derby winner I was aware of as a kid, and it was interesting to see the whole backstory as presented here. Terrific flick, great cast, highly recommended, and Diane Lane better get an Oscar nod for this.

Suck ~ This is a surprising black comedy horror musical about a rock band of mostly vampires trying to make it. Lots of great tunage, in-jokes and wonderful cameos from Alice Cooper, Iggy Pop, Alex Lifeson, Dave Foley, Henry Rollins, Malcolm McDowell, and someone probably only I remember, Carole Pope of Rough Trade. Great fun, recommended.
The Runaways ~ Dakota Fanning plays lead singer Cherie Currie in this bio-pic of the 1970s teen hard rock female sensations the Runaways, based on Cherie's book Neon Angel: A Memoir of a Runaway. Kristen Stewart of the Twilight movies plays against type as Joan Jett, and Michael Shannon, one of the best new actors of recent years is the sadistic record producer Kim Fowley. Look quick or you'll miss Tatum O'Neal as Cherie's mom. Great soundtrack, bittersweet ending and great time capsule.

The Last Airbender ~ I love M. Night. Um, I used to love M. Night. Let's face it, I held out longer for this dude than anyone else I know who loves and watches and writes and even just talks about movies. All the other rats have fled the sinking ship. I can still on occasion be caught defending The Village, swing away and yes, even the 'narf.' I saw promise, potential and genius. I just watched The Last Airbender. Wow. I seriously hope there is still a life raft willing to let me climb aboard.

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Friday, December 03, 2010

Jonah Hex

Jonah Hex ~ My online friend Terry Willitts, who's done a few guest blogs for me both here and at French Fry Diary, summed up this movie pretty well for me on Twitter recently. He said, "It's not as bad as everyone made it out to be, but it's not that good." That just about covers it from a distance.

To me, when I heard they were making a Jonah Hex movie I was excited. This was a comic and a character that could translate to the screen well and gain a mainstream audience, and would also help convince the mainstream that comic books were not just guys flying around in their underwear. Unfortunately, the folks who made this flick didn't read much of the source material.

While Jonah Hex is primarily a western anti-hero, the character has worked well in both supernatural and even science fiction trappings, while maintaining his own identity. He was never supernatural himself, which is why it bothered me that the movie sought to imbue him with spiritual powers like talking to the dead or to animals. It seems out of place, or worse yet like the Hex character was rewritten to fit this movie.

It's bad enough that there are scenes and pieces of dialogue lifted from other movies, but quite a lot of this anachronistic nightmare feels like it was once a bad Wild Wild West sequel or even a rejected episode of "Brisco County Jr."

The film, despite its numerous flaws, looks very good. And Josh Brolin both looks and acts the part of Jonah Hex. If the folks behind the scenes could get their acts together and make a real Hex flick, I would love to see Brolin once again. On the other hand, Megan Fox is just barely eye candy and John Malkovich is just over the top, and that's saying a lot for him. Tom Wopat is surprisingly good.

On the whole, I would say that Terry got this one right. It's not "the end of the comic book movie era" as one critic put it when it was first released, but it's not bad. It certainly could be better however. Check it out as a curiosity, or if nothing else is on.

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Wednesday, December 01, 2010

No Ordinary Anniversary

A few weeks back I reviewed the new ABC TV series "No Ordinary Family," and suggested it was on the brink of either being very good or very bad. Last night's episode "No Ordinary Anniversary" showed marked improvement and possibly that the series was on the road to becoming something more than expected.

I had berated the new show for being an in-training superhero show rather than an out and out show about superheroes. Last night, despite the almost sitcom-like premise of the plot, it evolved. The aforementioned plot had the parents on a date celebrating their anniversary while leaving the kids at home alone, hilarity ensues. This could be the opening salvo of any 1970s or 80s sitcom, but it wasn't.

The story very quickly became a superhero team-up while couched in the very comfortable trappings of light family drama. The Flash-like wife had to help the Thing-like husband stop a Human Torch-like villain, and even had their worlds collide as wifey got to see hubby's superhero lair. And the battle between the 'Flash' and the 'Human Torch' was more like a real live comic book than anything we had ever seen on "Heroes." This was indeed fanboy heaven.

I think the series has made the jump to something better, and I hope it stays this way. I wonder if costumes are the next step? Nah, that's asking for too much...

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Monday, November 29, 2010

Rest in Peace Leslie Nielsen

Veteran actor Leslie Nielsen passed away Sunday due to complications of pneumonia, at a hospital near his home in Ft. Lauderdale. He was 84.

Most folks know him for his comedic work of the last thirty years starting with the spoof Airplane! and the series of television and film that followed with "Police Squad!." Nielsen, a Canadian native, was also a serious actor in both television and film with a career spanning more than six decades. It seemed that his strong serious demeanor that made his early roles so dramatic proved hilarious when Nielsen moved to comedy.

I loved him in "Police Squad!" which I saw years before I ever saw Airplane! or his other parodies, and knew he was cool before everyone else did when that TV series moved to the big screen with the Naked Gun films. Many folks don't remember that that show was a flop, barely lasting six episodes. I think "Cop Rock" might have done better in the ratings.

Before his comedy roles I remember Leslie Nielsen as the hero of the scifi classic Forbidden Planet and the villain of the B-movie eco-horror The Day of the Animals. A leading man for years, it is notable that his comedic career didn't start with the parodies of the late seventies and early eighties, he also shared billing with Don Knotts in The Reluctant Astronaut. The last role I saw him in was as the Uncle Ben character in 2008's Superhero Movie, doing some of the funniest gas humor ever on the big screen.

Leslie Nielsen was also an author, an avid golfer, and even singer. He was one of our finest actors, of any genre. He will be missed.

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