Friday, November 28, 2014

The African Queen

The African Queen ~ What makes the TCM Classic Cruise so special? One could say it's getting to meet and chat with new friends who all share a passion for cinema. Or one could say it's just getting away, or one could say it's getting to meet one's favorite stars, or even just seeing a favorite film up on the big screen. It is all that and more. Where else could one see The African Queen on the big screen, then go downstairs on the dock at Key West, and see the actual African Queen? Yeah, that's it, baby.

The African Queen was one of my parents' favorite movies, and I think it might have also been one of the last movies they saw together in a theater. It was one of those films that whenever it came on TV we all had to watch it with ongoing commentary of the 'just wait for this part' type. Things I remember especially from childhood include the leeches scene and Bogart's rumbling stomach. I also dimly remember a game show that re-enacted scenes from classic movies having contestants re-do the final act of the film in an above ground swimming pool. Was it "Don Adams' Screen Test"? Maybe. Weird.

This rather simple film on the surface about a riverboat captain and a missionary who fight back in their own way against the Germans in Africa in World War I is extremely complex and works on several levels. One could call it a romance, an adventure, a war film, even a battle of wills between the two leads, but what it really is, is a classic film, perhaps one of the best ever made. And while not based on a true story, it was based on a real boat, as I mentioned above.

Katharine Hepburn is a missionary with her brother, Robert Morley, in German East Africa whose only connection to the rest of the world is Humphrey Bogart who visits every few months with mail and most recently news of war. When next Bogart returns, the village and church has been burned, the villagers taken away, and Morley dead. Hepburn not only hitches a ride with Bogie to safety but also hatches a mad plan to get even with the Germans, as a proud citizen of the British Empire.

The African Queen is also a romance on fast forward. We go from first meeting through the entire cycle of a relationship on the trip down the river until finally marriage seconds before being hanged, nice metaphor there by the way. It's an adventure, a romance, even a war story, and it stars two of Hollywood's finest in memorable roles. This is a classic do-not-miss film, and I was thrilled to see it on the big screen, and see the real thing afterward, awesome!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014


Mirage ~ This was another film I had the pleasure of not just seeing on the TCM Classic Cruise on the big screen, along with one of its stars, the great Diane Baker, but I got to see it for the first time that way. The film, Joe Dante's favorite, is the sadly forgotten missing link between the classic film noir dramas of the forties and fifties, and the intense sexy thrillers of the eighties and nineties.

Diane Baker is looking very good for her age. After a brief introduction to the genre, and this movie in particular, she and host Robert Osborne speculated on why this obscure film didn't do better when it came out. I was already sold on seeing a great film noir I had not yet seen, but after hearing the two talk about it, I was really psyched.

I could not believe that there were people who left after the talk but before the film - after they were told what a fantastic film it was. This was something I would see several times on the cruise. I am unsure if it was ignorance or indifference, or the people were simple victims of the unfortunate viewing schedule and had to choose carefully what event they went to. No matter, it still felt kinda rude.

Mirage is a complex 1965 black and white film about a man (Gregory Peck) with amnesia blocking out a terrible memory. Chased by hitmen and a beautiful fellow employee he tries to put the puzzle together. Oh yeah, classic noir, and the black and white over the modernity of the 1960s gives it a very specific vibe - lost between the ages. Based on the book "Fallen Angel" by Howard Fast, it is a classic of the genre. The blacklisted Fast also wrote the novel on which Stanley Kubrick's Spartacus was based.

Walter Matthau plays against type pleasantly, usually gruff and hard to like at first, he is a brief point of light and hope here. The crazy haired and wildly young looking George Kennedy and Jack Weston (who made me forget him as George Stickel in The Incredible Mr. Limpet here) are the baddies. Character actor Kevin McCarthy also amazes as usual.

This flick is a forgotten treasure that needs to be rediscovered. Find it on TV, on video, wherever, and check it out, must see.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Night of Noir

One of the great features of the TCM Classic Cruise this year was the Night of Noir. Essentially it was just a big dress-up night with music, dancing, and culminating in the famous Disney Cruise trademarked fireworks at sea display. This being my first TCM Cruise, I wasn't really sure what to expect, and sadly did not prep for the party. I dressed nice, for sure, but no one was going to mistake me for an extra is The Big Sleep or Detour, if you get my drift.

The Hot Sardines were awesome in an on-deck party that night. I only stayed for a few songs as I wanted to go to see John Barrymore's silent Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, which also had live music. They were a great jazz combo, and there were people dancing on top of the pool It's a Wonderful Life style. And the best part was the costumes.

That's right, cosplay on the TCM Cruise - who would have thunk it? The idea was to dress as your favorite film noir character, and folks who knew much better than me went all out. A couple of our fish extender friends came as 1920s beach men. There were many private dicks and molls, and there was even a gender bending Groucho Marx and Margaret Dumont on the dance floor. Great stuff. Next time, we're definitely bringing costumes.

Monday, November 24, 2014

After the Thin Man

After the Thin Man ~ The second of the Thin Man movies, and the sequel to The Thin Man, a terrific Dashiell Hammett novel (which I recommend heartily as I do all of his books). Hammett also wrote the story of this film as well, not based on any previous work, and was nominated for an Oscar.

After the Thin Man is also the second of six Thin Man movies starring William Powell and Myrna Loy (and just one of fourteen total the pair appeared in together) as married freelance detectives Nick and Nora Charles. He a retired detective and she an heiress with a frisky doggie named Asta, they drank, smartassed, and sassed their way through six of these, with this entry, in my opinion, being the best. Their chemistry, even when it became a bit rough and self-deprecating later on, was still some of the best ever on film.

Powell and Loy as Nick and Nora were so popular that in this film series they often got lead billing over much bigger stars like Maureen O'Sullivan, or in this case, James Stewart. Directed by W.S. Van Dyke as were all the Thin Man movies, and he was also known for the Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy films as well, one of the classic Hollywood directors.

This is a fun and suspenseful entry in the series, and as I mentioned, in my opinion, the best. After the Thin Man is definitely worthwhile viewing. Thanks again to the TCM Classic Cruise for the opportunity to see this as it was meant to be seen, on the big screen.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Arrow S03 E07: "Draw Back Your Bow"

Back in the day, the 1950s to be precise, Green Arrow wasn't nothing but Batman with a bow. Millionaire playboy with a masked alter ego, check. Young ward/sidekick, got one. Cave headquarters, themed vehicle and arsenal, got them too. He even had a signal in the sky and an arch criminal clown for a recurring bad guy. Much like Batman had Catwoman and Poison Ivy, Green Arrow had his share of romantic interests/opponents as well.

Most notable is Miss Arrowette, who for decades was lost to the mists of time until resurrected in the Young Justice comics as the mother of new member Arrowette. Like similar villainesses, like the aforementioned Catwoman and the Harlequin who pestered the Golden Age Green Lantern, Miss Arrowette may have posed as a criminal, but she really had a soft spot for Green Arrow, which could reform her at the drop of a bow.

In the Modern Age, a new darker take was tried with an Arrowette-like character. This one however was a full-fledged sociopath, and her name was Cupid. "Arrow" showrunner Andrew Kreisberg created Cupid himself for the Green Arrow/Black Canary comic in 2009, so really it was only a matter of time before she showed up live action. CW veteran actress Amy Gumenick plays the bow and arrow armed villainess obsessed with Arrow on the TV series, and she is very good at psycho. As far as psycho girlfriends go, I much prefer Gumenick to Jessica DeGouw's Huntress.

In the Felicity subplot, she delivers the best line of the episode while watching Brandon Routh's shirtless Ray Palmer doing the salmon ladder in his office, "Oh god, I have a type." It still creeps me out that Ray thinks he can buy Felicity's love, but I kinda dig how Routh is out-barechesting Stephen Amell. I never really thought of the Atom being so buff though. I guess you miss it because he's so small. And just wait, it looks like he'll be getting smaller.

Just like in the comics, Cupid finds an arrow shot by Oliver in a previous battle (Brother Blood's assault on the city in this case) and fixates on it. She begins hunting Arrow's enemies and killing them, for him. Her lair, a love nest that would make any stalker jeal, is really really crazy ex-girlfriend creepy. Over at "The Flash," Cisco usually names the bad guys, and here Felicity pegs Cupid as 'Crazy Pants.' I like that name better.

At last in Flashback Hong Kong, we not only have a few nice moments between young Oliver and Tatsu, but finally we get to see Katana in action. Thea finds a potential new boyfriend in a really annoyingly cliché subplot, and Oliver pushes Felicity into the arms of Ray Palmer, only to change his mind too late. I'm also happy to see the name Arsenal in use finally as well.

Lots of DC Comics name drops this time out. There's St. Walker most famous of the Blue Lanterns, Baron Street in homage to writer Mike Baron, and Sherwood Florist which in the comics was the flower shop run by Dinah (Black Canary) Lance for years. And of course, rather than Iron Heights, Cupid is put in with the other inmates in the Suicide Squad, and an indirect reference is made to Harley Quinn. The biggest Easter egg however is Palmer hunting white dwarf alloy and revealing his A.T.O.M. suit of armor.

This is also the second episode in a row to end with a sneak peek at the next episode's villain of the week. I'm not sure I like that. It just seems a little bit too much Batman '66 for me. In this case, we get another "Spartacus" alum Nick Tarabay as the decidedly non-Australian Digger Harkness AKA Captain Boomerang.

Next: Flash Vs. Arrow!

And remember to see all of my reviews of the "Arrow" series, click here, its companion series "The Flash," click here, and if you'd like to discuss the latest episodes on Facebook, here and here.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Tingler

The Tingler ~ This is a movie with a bit of a reputation. Directed by William Castle, the Barnum of gimmick flicks, the promotional campaign for The Tingler included such bits as the fact that screaming will ward off the creature called the Tingler. And then there's the thing with the seats. In some theaters, several seats were rigged to deliver electrical shocks at certain points in the film. Castle is of course the same man who had skeletons come out of the ceiling and buzz the audience and had nurses make viewers sign waivers in case they died during the movie for other films.

Matinee, directed by Joe Dante, featuring John Goodman as a William Castle-like filmmaker and promoter has also played on this tour so one has to wonder if any shenanigans has been planned for a night's viewing on the penultimate night of the TCM Classics Cruise on board the Disney Magic. The Bride ran into Illeana Douglas, granddaughter of Melvyn Douglas, actress, producer, and TCM host and interviewer - earlier in the day and she said that there would indeed be surprises that night at The Tingler.

The film, starring Vincent Price as a scientist searching for an organism that lives in the human body and feeds off fear, is perhaps Castle's most famous, and also what film promoter and historian Bruce Goldstein is known for. He has shown the film all over the world, and now on the TCM Cruise. For more info on Bruce Goldstein, check out New York's Film Forum and Rialto Pictures, well worth checking out, and in between all that cool stuff, he sets up showings of The Tingler.

For what is already a so bad it's good campy horror b-movie, complete with nearly incomprehensible plot, bad acting, silly special effects, and is practically set up for a MST3K workover, this treatment added so much more. Psychedelic full color light effects highlight the acid trip of the flick, skeletons flying out of the ceiling, and of course, the piece de resistance - the Tingler attacking Illeana Douglas in the front row, all made this performance one of the highlights of the cruise.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Avengers Academy

On board the Disney Magic is something I think all of my fellow comic book fans, and especially my fellow Avengers fanatics would be interested in - it's Avengers Academy.

I have been a huge proponent of the Disney Cruise since I first started coming on them, and one of the misinterpretations many folks have is that it's for kids, or that it will be filled with kids. The answer to that is yes and no. The Disney Cruise is for everyone, of any age, and yes, it has many kids, but the fact is - you hardly ever see them. There are entire areas of the ship dedicated to kids of various ages and daycare facilities. They are hardly ever around, and sometimes they don't want to even join their parents for meals.

One of the reasons the kids are so occupied and so passionate about staying in their pens, ahem, I mean, areas, is Avengers Academy. It's like an interactive summer camp (although only for the duration of your cruise) where kids learn to be Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and help the Avengers.

There's a whole training area with interactive computer games, as well as displays of Thor's hammer, Captain America's shield, and Iron Man's Mark VI Protype Armor. Yeah, I know Cool with a capital C, but it gets better

You can be Iron Man. Yeah, seriously. Kinda like green screen, you can be the star of your own comic book testing Iron Man's armor, seeing how you fly, how you use your repulsor beams, and all that cool stuff. Now, more than I wish I was a kid again, I wish I was an Avenger!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Damn Yankees

Damn Yankees ~ This was the first TCM event we attended on the TCM Classic Cruise on board the Disney Magic. I had seen the movie Damn Yankees as a kid, and I think the stage show with The Bride at some point. I'm not a Broadway guy so a lot of these tend to run together for me, sorry.

I remember seeing the film as a result of seeing Tab Hunter in his brief role on "Forever Fernwood," the sequel to "Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman." I can't remember what he played, but I remember it was a big deal that he was on the show, the implication being that he was a big star, so when I saw one of his movies roll around on TV Guide, I tuned in, and that movie was Damn Yankees.

The best part of the TCM Cruises are that you get to watch movies with the stars introducing and discussing them. When they showed Damn Yankees the first night of the cruise, it was preceded by TCM host Robert Osborne briefly interviewing Tab Hunter on stage and talking a little bit about the film. Hunter's insights on the old studio system, his being the odd man out with the cast brought over from the Broadway show, and his coming up as a teen idol were fascinating, and made the event for me. The Bride and I were wiped from the long day, so we didn't make it through the whole movie, so I caught it when they showed it the next day, sadly sans Tab Hunter.

Neither baseball movies nor musicals are really in my wheelhouse, but a baseball movie musical based on Faust? I'm all in. Joe wants his team, the Washington Senators to win, so he offers to sell his soul to the Devil in exchange for a win, and alternately turn himself into a super player to join the team. The Devil, played wonderfully by pre-"My Favorite Martian" (and even Fast Times at Ridgemont High) Ray Walston, grants him everything he wants, yet what he really wants is his old life back - all set to music.

Tab Hunter is earnest, introspective, and personable as heck, much more than a simple stage musical deserves. The young Jean Stapleton is a delight in every scene she's in (and steals), and quirky but sexy Gwen Verdon, considered by some not pretty enough to play the vivacious Lola burns up the screen whenever she is on screen, another scene stealer.

Damn Yankees is an enjoyable musical romp, more Faust than baseball, and containing more songs than you thought you knew from the show. Definitely worth a look, worthwhile just for Ray Walston, but tab, Gwen, and Jean are great too, and you'll be humming at least one tune afterwards.

Monday, November 17, 2014

TCM Cruise 2014

This was a dream come true, and the best birthday gift I think I've ever gotten, but for my fiftieth, The Bride got us tickets on the TCM Cruise, and as if that wasn't cool enough, it was a chartered cruise on board the newly renovated Disney Magic. My favorite thing, movies, on my happy place, the Disney Cruise - this was heaven.

At this point I'm going to tell you about the guests and the movie schedule, but as I've said before on The GAR! Podcast, it could be anyone or anything, I was already happy. The first and foremost guests were the two main Turner Classic Movies hosts, Robert Osborne and Ben Mankiewicz. These two guys are the best, and crazy cool authorities on everything cinema, amazing founts of movie knowledge. I'll let you in on a secret, sometimes I just tune in for their intros and outros of movies, and skip the movies themselves.

The first star sighting was as we waited to board the ship at Port Canaveral. We saw Richard Dreyfuss arrive, and go right on board. All smiles, he laughed and waved, friendly to a fault. Later as I walked around the ship waiting for the launch party, I spied Alex Trebek. He was the polar opposite of Dreyfuss, looking as if someone had crapped in his Cheerios and he was about to bite someone's head off. I'd been told his trivia events were a lot of fun, but at first sight, I second thoughts about attending.

My third star sighting was the lovely Shirley Jones, all eighty years of her. She was even more exuberant and friendly than Dreyfuss. Smiling, greeting fans, and wow, stunning. There is surely a painting in her attic because she looked fantastic, not a day over twenty-five. Later than day she was interviewed by Ben Mankiewicz in the huge Walt Disney Theatre, happily telling tales of behind the scenes of her movies, her TV work, and even her sex life (buy the book).

As the week went on, and I began to get the vibe of how things work, it became apparent that this was more TCM Cruise than Disney Cruise. People were friendlier, if you can believe that. Granted, everyone is happy and friendly on the Disney Cruise as you all have something in common, here, that thing in common is super-focused, making for a tighter sense of community. Everyone says hi and asks how you are, and especially what are you seeing next.

The movies are phenomenal, and constant, playing in three venues, sometimes more. Add in events, interviews, and just plain old regular cruise stuff, and there can seriously be too much to see. There will be sacrifices, you will be disappointed in what you miss, but what you see… that will rock your world. It's more than seeing a favorite film on the big screen, it's having it introduced live, and sometimes by the stars of the film… wow, just wow.

Imagine seeing The Music Man and Elmer Gantry with Shirley Jones, Jaws and Mr. Holland's Opus with Richard Dreyfuss, The Sea Hawk with Errol Flynn's daughter, and John Barrymore in Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde and Buster Keaton in The Navigator with a live orchestra providing the soundtrack. Imagine seeing The African Queen on the big screen then going outside to see the real African Queen. Yeah, that's how it is. Awesome. Best. Birthday. Ever.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Arrow S03 E06: "Guilty"

At first glance there seems to be a bit of a bait and switch here with this episode titled "Guilty." Our cliffhanger last time had Roy remembering a very realistic dream in which he killed Sara by physically throwing arrows at her. It's either some mental and physical residue from the Mirakuru, or some sort of induced dream. Based on the 'previously on "Arrow"' opening, I'm going to guess the former, but still it seems like the title implies a completely different storyline.

At least Roy is aware that the Mirakuru might be back and behind this. At least he's getting smarter as time goes by, unlike certain archers we could mention. Roy and Felicity have some good moments this episode as He comes clean with her about his fears and his dreams, highlights for both actors. Emily Bett Rickards is always good, but this time Colton Haynes matches her. Calm shock follows when Roy tells the rest of Team Arrow he thinks he killed Sara.

In Flashback Hong Kong, the mystery origins of China White, and Katana for that matter, continue. I had to laugh out loud when Maseo tells Oliver he has to work on his patience, something he's obviously made zero progress on in the intervening seven years. Katana does not like Oliver one bit, but tries to help him with his patience and memory. I have to wonder if this animosity will continue when and if she encounters Arrow in the present.

I have always loved the character of Wildcat from my first exposure in the old JLA/JSA team-ups to his Brave and the Bold appearances to finally reading his Golden Age stories in Sensation Comics. Despite the younger age of our Wildcat here, I am digging J.R. Ramirez as Ted Grant. I like his performance, his almost sensei like down to earth advice and training, and just the idea of a young Ted Grant in the present day. Hey DC Comics, this is the kind of refreshing new spin you should be shooting for if you bring Wildcat into the New 52. I also loved to shout out early in the episode to Irwin Hasen, the creator of Wildcat.

Laurel is training with Ted, they go to dinner and when they return, there's a dead guy strung up in the gym just like the guys in Arrow's latest case. It doesn't look good, but Ted has Laurel as an alibi. Oliver is neither pleased with Laurel's involvement here nor her being trained by Grant. She's becoming Black Canary whether he wants her to or not - we've all seen the costume online with the bad wig and no fishnets. Why can't she just wear Sara's outfit?

Ted and Arrow's first combat is awesome, his revelation that he was once a vigilante is even cooler, but the unintended accidental invention of the boxing glove arrow is the best. The idea that Ted was a vigilante six years ago until an accident retired him is intriguing. Sara was only active a short time as well. Over in "The Flash," a possible future indicates a ten-year career. In the Arrowverse is the turnover in heroes that short? Is a decade maybe a long term career? This could be an interesting precedent, how long does Arrow have with his dangerous lifestyle?

Speaking of dangerous, the current case and main story of the episode brings home the theme of the subplot. It was Ted's vigilante sidekick who's framing him now, vultures coming home to roost. If Oliver cuts Roy loose for killing Sara, will it come back to haunt him years later like it did for Ted? That said, the sidekick vs. sidekick fight was pretty cool. And I liked that the Arsenal name is finally out on the table.

Rather than actually tying up the loose ends of this episode in a nice tidy bundle, it ties them up into a knot of confusion. Did Roy kill Sara, or was it just a flashback to the murder he actually did commit? My bet is the latter, but if so, why does it seem the arrows were thrown? And what does Cupid want with Ted's ex-sidekick? And did she kill him?

Next: Cupid!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Leonard Part 6

Leonard Part 6 ~ For those who weren't around, it's difficult to explain what a gigantic television phenomenon "The Cosby Show" was back in its day. It was such a ratings blockbuster for NBC that the other networks either programmed around it, or counter-programmed. CBS started "The Flash" (the 90s version) at 8:30 after "Cosby." Fledgling Fox went head to head, moving "The Simpsons" to Thursday nights and adding Michael Jackson whenever possible. For a time "Cosby" was unbeatable.

Bill Cosby chose this time to go back into the movies. The problem was that his popular TV series was derived mostly his then-new family style stand-up, as seen in Himself, but his comeback to film, Leonard Part 6 was more old school Bill Cosby. At least a decade out of date and mocking what the mainstream loved, this action adventure comedy tanked big time. 1971 audiences would have loved Leonard Part 6.

The 'part 6' of the title is explained away by our narrator, the titular Leonard Parker's butler, who says his retired secret agent boss' first five adventures had been confiscated because of national security. He's pulled back into action to stop a madwoman who can control the world's animals. Yeah, it's Ace Ventura without the laughs.

Watching Leonard Part 6 again after many many years, I had to wonder, pitifully, if a laugh track might have helped at all. Some of it is amusing in a Naked Gun or Pink Panther way, some of the situations might be funny on a skit show, but the fact is its a movie and it goes on and on. Saddest of all is Cosby himself who seems to sleepwalk through this mess with all the energy of the Boris Karloff Mummy. As someone who grew up on the man's comedy records, this was heartbreaking.

Leonard Part 6 would make an excellent double bill with Hudson Hawk, or maybe as a lead-in to the inexplicably entertaining and successful True Lies. They are all essentially the same type of flick. Only seek out as a curiosity, otherwise avoid this.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Marvel's Iron Man & Captain America: Heroes United

Picking up where Marvel's Iron Man & Hulk: Heroes United left off, this adventure sees the Red Skull sending the slightly and unnecessarily redesigned Taskmaster after Captain America and Iron Man. And whereas in the earlier feature I disliked the blocky computer animation, it is much improved and smoother in this feature. The Red Skull is downright terrifying here. Although some of the lip movements are just a few steps above "Clutch Cargo."

Again I also like the opening credits sequence. It's very basic, and with nice design. I wouldn't mind seeing maybe a short done in this style. I couldn't help wondering however if these graphics didn't possibly give away the entire plot of the feature however. And I wish the hordes of Hydra had had their green comics uniforms seen here rather than the generic stormtrooper armor and lame costumes that even Janet Van Dyne would reject that they wear throughout the feature. Boo hiss.

We sadly open on the same old same old. Iron Man and Captain America are training and beating that same old dead horse discussion of tech vs skill. I just some of these under thirty writers would read a comic book earlier than Civil War or Brian Michael Bendis' Avengers. Take a peek at some Silver Age Tales of Suspense or Bronze Age Avengers and you'll find that these two friends and teammates (yeah, they're not rivals) have had much more to talk about. I'm just asking for a little research, sheesh.

The battle between Captain America and Taskmaster on the helicarrier (again, somebody please explain to me how Stark has his own helicarrier, especially with SHIELD markings, even if it barely looks like a helicarrier) is quite good. I liked how Taskmaster cleverly won and I also liked the Iron Fist name drop. I would've appreciated the same for the Swordsman or the Black Knight to explain Taskmaster's sword skills though.

The bad guys' plans involve taking Captain America's blood to synthesize a new super soldier formula and build a superhuman Hydra army for the Red Skull, and swiping Iron Man's stealth armor for Taskmaster. The first the same old boring stuff, but the latter is intriguing and thought provoking. The old adage of 'no honor among thieves' does add a bit of predictability to the situation however.

The fight between Iron Man and the transformed Captain Hydra is pretty cool, especially when you know what's really up. The fight against the mutated super soldier troops was kinda odd and uneven. They looked like a cross between the Hulk and the Juggernaut, yet they moved like Boris Karloff's Mummy. Good thing the good guys had help. Still, I did enjoy this feature more than I anticipated I would.

Adrian Pasdar, from his "Avengers Assemble," the Japanese anime series, and these features, is pretty much becoming the voice of Tony Stark and Iron Man. He's also a pretty good actor. I wonder if he's been considered for the film franchise when Robert Downey Jr. gets too old to play the armored Avenger? I think he'd be just fine. And speaking of the Avengers, I wouldn't mind seeing an Avengers feature like this, how about it?

Monday, November 10, 2014

Big Hero 6

In this week's episode of The Make Mine Magic Podcast, The Bride and I talk about the new Disney release Big Hero 6.

We examine the Marvel Comics origins of Big Hero 6, what we liked, what we didn't, the terrific short before the flick, and even the previews.

You can check it out here. Enjoy!

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Arrow S03 E05: "The Secret Origin of Felicity Smoak"

Being a hardcore comics fanboy, I appreciated the comics title of this episode, and it's about time we learned the television origins of Ms. Smoak. Like many elements of our sister show "The Flash," Felicity Smoak comes originally from the pages of Firestorm comics. Much older and brunette in the comics, Felicity ran a software firm and eventually married Ronnie Raymond's father. Much like her TV counterpart, she was burdened with secrets as she knew that Ronnie was part of the Firestorm entity.

We open on a wonderful and intense training montage - Oliver and Roy, Laurel and Ted Grant, Thea and Malcolm - followed as Thea asks what normal people do in the morning, cut to Felicity doing sit-ups to the TV. Ray Palmer shows up, followed by her mother. Felicity is not pleased. Donna Smoak is Charlotte Ross, like Barry Allen's Grant Gustin, another choice from "Glee." Mom is so far from our girl, Ray asks if she's adopted. Also, why does Ray have to seem so slimy? Or is that just Brandon Routh?

After a quick flashback to Felicity's college days as a goth hacker whose boyfriend is a bit of a mad hacktivist (and obviously, maybe too obviously as we'll see, our villain of the week), the real story begins. The power grid of Starling City goes out and then only TV monitors come back on with an image of Sauron's eye delivering an ultimatum. It calls itself Brother Eye. I'm betting on the flashback boyfriend or his roommate, but we'll see. Either way, Emily Bett Rickards looks good goth.

Brother Eye is a machine with a long and storied past in the DC Comics, originally created by the great Jack Kirby. Brother Eye is OMAC's advisor, controller, companion. Originally OMAC stood for One Man Army Corps, but later versions have been translated as Omni Mind And Community and as Observational Metahuman Activity Construct. OMAC is, in most versions, a good guy who gets his incredible strength and other abilities from his machine cohort, usually an orbital satellite called Brother Eye.

In some versions of continuity, Batman created the satellite to keep watch over other superheroes in case they went rogue or became threats. This satellite was turned against him of course in the Final Crisis. So while OMAC began as a near future hero by Kirby, most folks of this generation might think of him as an anti-hero/villain. And that goes for Brother Eye as well. Here, on "Arrow," Brother Eye is more a codename for the cyber-terrorist threatening the city.

Felicity's discovery that the virus Brother Eye is using to attack Starling is one she herself wrote back in college is the thrust of the previews for the episode, so it's not really as much of a shock as it should be, but it still packs quite a wallop. I have to learn to stop watching previews. You too. Ignore the video at the end of this review.

When the roommate's name is revealed as Myron Forest (in the comics, one of Brother Eye's creators), we really know who's behind what. Or do we? He claims innocence, and apparently Felicity's boyfriend is dead. But let's face it, the dead boyfriend is always the last one you expect. Holy red herring, Batman, Lifetime this ain't. But really, what kind of NSA super hacker could this doofus really be if he thinks Felicity is just a corporate lackey? I mean, let's face it, Team Arrow isn't the world's biggest secret. He couldn't figure that one out?

Felicity is not having a good day. She and her mom aren't the best of friends, but it all comes together in the end. Speaking of soap opera content, Laurel and her dad are just as much at odds as Felicity and her mom. Thea and Oliver are trying to get along, despite her taking Malcolm's money.

The Arrowcave question I posed last time reared its ugly head. How long will Thea put up with a locked door in her nightclub, 'flooded basement' or not? There was also another Coast City name drop. And did everyone else love the Adventures of Robin Hood movie poster at Felicity's place?

There was an awesome end fight, beginning to drop into a Batman '66 pattern, where we know at twenty of the hour there will be a fight. I loved Arrow misdirecting the motion guns. Diggle definitely needs a better battle suit. And Roy's arrow through the bazooka was so good even he didn't believe it.

Now let's talk about that ending. Roy is dreaming he killed Sara? It does fit in that Sara seemed to know her killer. And he's throwing the arrows? Can he do that without the Mirakuru in his system? Maybe it's not out? Or maybe, just maybe, it's just a dream. Having already faced T.O. Morrow, Solomon Grundy, and Brother Eye - would an appearance by Doctor Destiny be that much of a stretch really?