Friday, January 30, 2015

Genesis - Sum of the Parts

Genesis - Sum of the Parts ~ I have always been a solo Peter Gabriel fan (probably because of the Kate Bush connection), and while I was aware of his bizarre progressive art rock past with Genesis, I didn't get into them until after they had become purposefully more commercial, sometime around Duke I would suppose.

This documentary, done almost the opposite of the Eagles doc I reviewed some time ago, has interviews with the band together and separately. It's intriguing that while there was conflict within the band, much like the Eagles, no one really hates each other here. Phil Collins, frequently rumored to be difficult in all areas of his life, appears to be the odd man out though, acting the cantankerous old man, while other members seem to still have a passion for the music.

The interviews, together and separately, with Gabriel, Collins, Mike Rutherford, Tony Banks, Steve Hackett, and others, paint quite a vivid history of the band, from its early days to the art rock days of costumes and props to the pop music video days, and beyond. This fascinating and revealing documentary is well worth watching.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Arrow S03 E11: "Midnight City"

With Oliver Queen once again thought dead, and new crime lord Brick having undone everything Team Arrow has worked for the last few months, things don't look good for Starling City. Its a good thing there's a new Canary on the streets - or is it?

With no Arrow and no original Canary, the vacuum is being taken advantage of by Brick. While Oliver recuperates in the Himalayas, Team Arrow confronts Laurel who is new to the mask business. She's not her sister, and she's going to get killed.

During a meeting to figure out what to do about Brick, the man himself shows up and kidnaps several aldermen. Laurel, Quentin, and Ray Palmer manage to take on a few of the gunmen and protect the mayor. Ray is not a good fighter, perhaps probing that the clothes do make the man as he quips to Felicity, "That's why I need a super-suit."

A later botched rescue attempt shows clearly how inept Laurel appears to be at this vigilante stuff, and Brick kills one of the aldermen as payment. This was the point where I started questioning the show. At first I thought did Ted Grant really do that bad a job training her? Then I wondered why Quentin couldn't tell that Canary was much taller than usual. Then I wondered why Brick would pull such a ham handed stunt when really, he already has control of The Glades?

Highlights included the gunfight in Flashback Hong Kong and a stronger Arsenal in Oliver's absence. I also liked Felicity growing a pair and getting her mojo back. Lowlights included the lack of fact checking. Pacemakers don't get recharged, they get replaced. Also the helicopter makes me roll my eyes. Why would Team Arrow leave the Arrowcave in The Glades to get a helicopter to fly back to Brick's hideout in The Glades?

The soap opera elements of the episode, just so we wouldn't forget we're watching the CW I suppose, revolved around the leaving/not leaving of Thea and Malcolm. It really feels like they don't know what to do with these characters and are struggling to keep them busy. At least the club kid Thea was playing kissy-face with months ago wasn't a fluke, he was a League of Assassins plant.

Notably many street names and city places are mentioned in this episode, none of them referencing creators from the comics. That's an easy homage that is missed. Oliver's magical length changing beard was also distracting. This was neither a strong episode nor a favorite one. Perhaps it's time for another Flash crossover to spark things up a bit.

Next: Uprising!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Chinese Gods

Chinese Gods ~ This one is another film lost to the legal video/DVD generation, and in most cases, like with me and Dead Is Dead or Poor Devil, is one some folks are unsure they remember correctly or perhaps remember seeing at all. Sometimes known as Chinese Gods, or The Story of Chinese Gods, or simply the unlikely Bruce Lee cartoon, its real title is Pang Shen Feng.

Created in 1976, with a character drawn to look like Bruce Lee, I first discovered this on Saturday afternoons in the early eighties where it invariably showed up as part of the martial arts flicks on UHF. I have to wonder what the regular kung fu and Shaw Bros. fans made of this animated feature mixed in with their standard fare.

The simply animated film, with old school anime flair and just a touch of Yellow Submarine surrealism, loosely strings together a handful of tales from Chinese mythology into one story full of bizarre visuals and wild martial arts fight sequences. Be warned ahead of time, this is not for kids. There are adult themes and concepts, and quite a bit of violence and sexual innuendo, even blood and a bit of nudity.

Chinese Gods starts a little slow, but once the strange creatures, monsters, and demons start showing up, it gets quite good. I remember being so entranced with one such beast - the nine-tailed fox - that I wrote it up and used it against my players in a Dungeons & Dragons campaign. Here the nine-tailed fox gives Bruce Lee a run for his money.

The one fighter with third eye bears more than a passing resemblance to Bruce Lee. This homage was obviously well meaning and long labored as it's very close to the real thing. From poses to fighting stances and styles, this Bruce Lee, and it's a hoot to see him not just in period garb, but also fighting magical creatures. It takes a downturn however when he becomes a dragon, not a cool dragon, mind you, but more like Pete's Dragon.

There's also the half-naked kid who flies by riding fiery wheels on his feet. Did I mention how surreal yet cool this flick is? I thought Chinese Gods stood the test of time and was well worth seeing again. It's definitely available on YouTube here, and might also be on out of print VHS or bootleg DVD. Good but surreal fun.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Interview

In a week when cheaters can still play in the Super Bowl and major cities braced for winter superstorms that never came, what better time to review The Interview?

Originally intended to be just another bad stoner flick from James Franco and Seth Rogan, The Interview gained frightening national and international infamy by reputedly being the target of a cyber attack on Sony supposedly by North Korea. While the facts of who did what may be in question, it seems that making a film about what a monster the leader of North Korea is and how a couple of idiots attempt to assassinate him could actually lead to an act of war. Sounds silly, doesn't it? But apparently it happened.

I didn't plan on seeing this movie, but now that it is quickly available on Netflix, I thought, what the heck I might take a peek. And it's not a matter of wanting to see it as much as it's a matter of wanting to see what all the fuss is about. In The Interview, James Franco is an idiot talk show host and Seth Rogan his long suffering producer who longs to do serious journalism. In an attempt to remedy the latter, they land an exclusive interview with Kim Jong-un. The CIA intervenes and hopes to get them to stealthily assassinate the dictator.

The opening scene with Eminem is hilarious. There are sweet moments like Franco bonding with Kim Jong-un and Seth Rogan mooning over his North Korean counterpart but for the most part this is another Franco/Rogan dick and fart joke stoner movie, nothing new and nothing should be expected to be new. And when it takes a serious turn in the middle of its childish humor, I didn't know how to feel. Really, this film has a moral lesson and political agenda now? Way out of left field.

This is still a terrible movie, but it's better than it has any right to be. And I'm not sure whether that's good or bad. I certainly didn't hate it like I did This Is The End. I really didn't think I could hate James Franco more than I already did, and then I saw The Interview. The man is now on my do-not-watch list. Yeah, he's that bad. He makes Adam Sandler look like Cary Grant. Seth Rogan isn't bad, and Lizzy Caplan does her best with what she has to work with.

These movies seem to be quite popular and I don't like them much. A friend threw an idea my way that has been weighing on me, so I thought I'd throw it out to you. She compared the Franco/Rogan films to some of the sillier comedies of the 1960s, and suggested that they were just this generation's version of that type of humor. She mentioned two names in particular, and I'll pass them along - are these the type of movies that Jerry Lewis or Don Knotts be making if they were in their prime today? Thoughts?

Otherwise, I would say to wait to see The Interview for free, if at all. This flick is only a curiosity because of the controversy around it, not because of anything special in it.

Monday, January 26, 2015


I recently got a Kindle Fire, and along with it, a free thirty day subscription to Amazon Prime, so I immediately took advantage of it and sat down to binge watch "Transparent."

The series had gotten quite a bit of recent buzz with its Golden Globe nominations, but I knew it from hearing its star, veteran character actor Jeffrey Tambor, interviewed on the Satellite Radio circuit quite a few months back when the show first took off. I was intrigued, and looking forward to a chance to see it, and I'm glad I finally did.

On the surface the series is about Tambor's Morty/Maura who has lived an entire lifetime with a transgender secret, finally deciding to come out to family, and the world. Maura's journey is brave and sad and inspirational, but as I said, it's on the surface, and not really what the show is about when you get right down to the nitty gritty.

"Transparent" is about secrets, and the prices paid by keeping them. Maura's coming out affects each of her three children distinctly, making them examine their own lives and their own secrets, and how her secret has impacted them growing up as well as in the present. The show has an amazing ensemble cast including standouts Gabby Hoffman, Amy Landecker, Judith Light, and of course Tambor.

As I said, I'm glad I finally got to see "Transparent" but sorry I waited so long. Don't wait. This is very good television, and well worth paying for.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Lost Hits of the New Wave #37

"Stand or Fall" by The Fixx

One of my first memories of MTV was this video. I never saw the music video channel until about a year or so after it had first hit the air, and was in college at a friend's house, who not only had a Nintendo Entertainment System with the amazing for the time Donkey Kong home video game, but also cable with a projection TV in the basement.

"Stand or Fall" by The Fixx was the video that was on when I first came down into that basement, and as I recall, I saw it again later that afternoon as well. It wasn't a matter of it being popular at the moment, it was that the channel didn't have all that many videos yet. This was also around the time that Michael Jackson was making a stink about no videos by black artists on the channel, and something called "Billie Jean" was also starting to get airplay. I saw that one that afternoon as well.

Around this time however, The Fixx was very hot, follow up singles "Red Skies" from Shuttered Room, and from the next album Reach the Beach, there was "Saved by Zero" and "One Thing Leads to Another." Their videos were played on MTV in heavy rotation and for the non-cable users, "Video Rock," ad nauseum.

Led by Cy Curnin, lead singer and primary songwriter who has a solo career as well as participation in other musical projects, The Fixx continues to perform and record today.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Arrow S03 E10: "Left Behind"

Oliver Queen is dead.

Yes, the Arrow is dead, and while this is new for television, in the comics, Green Arrow has been dead before. More than once. He's always gotten better. And seeing how Stephen Amell and his bare chest are the stars of this show, he won't be dead for long on TV either.

Here's the situation, quick and mostly painless, as I'll be glossing over the weak plot points and cliches as we go. While under Malcolm's mind control, Thea killed Sara. To keep the League of Assassins from killing Thea, Oliver takes the blame and is brought before R'as Al Ghul. In lieu of execution, Oliver challenges R'as to a duel, a trial by combat. It's a good fight for a moment or two until R'as stops toying with Oliver, puts his sword through his chest, and kicks him off a cliff. Yeah, baby, dead us dead. Or is it?

Meanwhile as we open on a chase scene in Starling City, Team Arrow is making the best of it without their leader. Diggle is in the Arrow suit (no mask) and Arsenal is taking point. I love the one bad guy's reaction to the young man in red, "I thought he was supposed to be green," and at Dig's bad aim, "I thought he was supposed to be good." Felicity is the only one of the three who believes Oliver is still alive. The bad news is that this Arrow-less Team Arrow is going up against Brick.

Brick is a 21st century Green Arrow foe from the comics. Danny Brickwell was a low level thug and enforcer who rose to crime lord status with his powers of super-strength and invulnerability. Played here by charismatic but typecast villain actor Vinnie Jones, Brick might not be a metahuman (jury is still out on that, did he take a bullet to the head?), but he's strong, resilient, and very intimidating. And he's killing or threatening witnesses, and stealing evidence from the police, giving him a sort of invulnerability.

The case against Brick is made even more difficult by a couple visits by Malcolm Merlyn to the Arrowcave (they gotta change the locks). He first suggests, then brings proof that Oliver is dead, finally shaking Felicity's faith. Not just shaken, broken. Felicity is of course playing double duty super-assistant to Ray Palmer as well. She brings her poopie party to that job as well and tries to shatter Ray's confidence, not maliciously, but possibly effectively.

Things do not go well. It was nice to Diggle go one on one with Brick, but hated to see him lose. Felicity loses her cool and second guesses herself, opting for the safety of the team over catching the bad guys. Brick now has a force of men to take over the Glades. This is not the ending any of us hoped for. Team Arrow in shambles and everyone they've caught since Deathstroke is now back on the street and under Brick's thumb.

The story in Flashback Hong Kong continues as Amanda Waller insists Oliver and Maseo go after China White and the bomb components as opposed to Tatsu/Katana. Of course it perhaps only serves to keep Stephen Amell on the screen in his own show that he's the star of. There may of course be a payoff in the flashback story this episode however.

We knew from advance press and Amell's own words that Oliver would not be resurrected via Lazarus Pit, which of course would be the first option when a character dies in a R'as Al Ghul story. So something else would have to happen. We had seen Tatsu's healing abilities earlier in the season, and as Oliver helped Maseo find her in Hong Kong - he is owed a debt. The debt is paid when we find that Maseo has stolen Oliver's body and Tatsu has revived him.

And then there's the new Black Canary. I guess we have to take what we get. I have never liked the casting of Katie Cassidy, and I like my Black Canaries curvy and in fishnets as opposed to lean and leathered. And the wig is so obviously a wig - I hate it - did she rob China White's closet? Perhaps I'm being too rash from a brief cameo, but we'll see. Time will tell.

Next: More of the new Black Canary, and the return of the Arrow in "Midnight City."

You can read all of my "Arrow" reviews here, and my Biff Bam Pop! reviews of "The Flash" here.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Panic in Year Zero!

Panic in the Year Zero! ~ When you read the TCM description for Panic in Year Zero! - "A California family try to survive looters, armed vigilantes and doped-up motorcycle punks as they flee a nuclear disaster in Los Angeles and head to their remote vacation spot." - it conjures visions of The Road Warrior or The Hills Have Eyes, right? But then there's the kicker, Panic in Year Zero! was made and released in 1962.

Panic was shot in black and white and directed by star Ray Milland, his debut as a director, and with themes close to his heart. The movie was written by John Morton and Jay Simms, yet bears a remarkable resemblance to the "Lot" and "Lot's Daughter" short stories by Ward Moore, for which he has never received official credit. The parallels are however obvious.

The jazzy upbeat score was equally iffy, by the controversial Les Baxter, which means it may really have been done by Nelson Riddle or someone else. The rumor was that Baxter couldn't read or write music and that many of his scores were ghost written. This one has that Riddle flavor, reminiscent of the "Batman" TV series, either way, the soundtrack is very good.

As in the description, Milland and his family are headed to a nice vacation when they hear on the radio that LA has been nuked. Milland plays a man obsessed with survival and every man for himself. To quote his character, the incredibly resourceful yet obsessed Harry Baldwin, "When civilization gets civilized again, I'll rejoin it." This movie, especially the shopping sequence, probably makes the survivalists very happy.

Frankie Avalon, in a studio bid for a different audience, is his son. He doesn't do much at first other than "Yes, Dad" but he comes along to be just as nuts as Dad. Avalon does get a little acting in when a girl he's not related to shows up. A young version of character actor Richard Bakalyan plays one of the thugs that terrorize the family. The women in the flick unfortunately are victims of its time, and thought of as helpless or possessions.

The movie does fall apart a little bit when coincidence brings most of the cast, good and bad, all to the same place. And we never do quite reach the madness or brutality of Road Warrior or Hills, but certainly the potential and possibility are here. All in all, this is not only a more than average entry from American International, but an excellent look at what it really might be like in this situation. Definitely worth a look.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

History of the Eagles

History of the Eagles ~ The Eagles have always been in the background of my life, and that's saying something for a boy from the South Jersey suburbs. The Eagles were FM radio, they were California, they were marijuana, they were the seventies. "Hotel California" was one of the first rock 45s I bought and their last album, The Long Run, was one of the first albums I bought. I was never a huge fan, oh I had favorites like "On the Border" and "The Disco Strangler," but they were just always there.

This two-part documentary takes it from the beginning as back up for Linda Ronstadt to their big hit years to the solo years to the never-ending reunion tour. Interviews are done individually with members and associates covering in the first volume such topics as Jackson Browne's songwriting technique to the early production of Glynn Johns to the Eagles' own songwriting styles to trashing hotels with Joe Walsh to the wild after parties of the 'third encore.'

We watch as membership changed in the band, and differences emerge. They spend almost thirty minutes on Hotel California without ever saying what the title track is actually about. Eventually it becomes clear as to why the interviews are all separate, they can't stand each other. During the making of the album the band members realize they were all alphas fighting for supremacy, and the breaking up began there.

As work on The Long Run began, they were already effectively shattered, mentally, physically, and socially. Drugs and drink only accelerated the process at that point. During and after one apocalyptic concert, tensions were so hot that the band was over. As they say, the Eagles went out with a whimper not a bang.

Part two of the documentary picks up the solo careers of the separate Eagles, leading up to the reunion tour fourteen years later. I was intrigued that getting Joe Walsh into rehab was partially behind the reunion. Rivalries aside, it kinda proves they were for the most part still friends. Or should I say, selectively still friends.

The second half mostly covers the recording of Hell Freezes Over and the reunion tour. There's still some tension, and money got in the way, eventually squeezing Don Felder out. Other than that, it's just the tour. This is sad as it comes off as little more than an average rockumentary without the context of the first part.

History of the Eagles is very long at just over three hours, which is probably why it was cut in two parts. After watching it I had had enough of the Eagles for a while, and that's just the opposite effect that such a film should have. Interesting stuff, but just a bit too much, for me at least, and I'm an Eagles fan.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Princess of Mars

Princess of Mars ~ As The Asylum is always wont to do when there is a big blockbuster movie coming out, or in this case, a potential big blockbuster movie, they make their own low budget knock off. They are usually laughable and sometimes entertaining reworkings or rewordings of the real thing. In the case of John Carter, they did something different, they went old school and cannibalized the original source material - Edgar Rice Burroughs' public domain "Princess of Mars."

The Asylum's Princess of Mars stars hunky Antonio Sabato Jr. as John Carter and, wait for it, Traci Lords as Dejah Thoris. Surprisingly, as bad as it might sound, it's not bad. It is neither as brilliant or beautiful as Disney's big budget John Carter, nor would it be deserving of the treatment that film received from the narrow minded uneducated critics. I'm being harsh, but I thought John Carter was fantastic, and the film was savaged unnecessarily.

This version of the story suffers from its budget and sometimes corny special effects but actually follows the plot relatively well. Carter is updated as an American soldier in present day Afghanistan, and even that's not too bad. The special effects prevent the Tharks from being fully realized and the CGI is shaky elsewhere, but even so, it works. I ended up liking this interpretation more than I wanted to.

The charismatic Sabato is not only more than adequate as Carter, he's more than capable, and dare I say it, just as good as Taylor Kitsch. I like him here, even with his tattoos and one-liners, Antonio Sabato Jr. is a good choice for John Carter of Mars. The Asylum works with the SyFy a lot, so if they wanted to launch a JCoM series with Sabato in the lead, I would be down. As a matter of fact, it would rock. Get to work in that, okay?

If Sabato is a bit stiff in places, he's freaking Marlon Brando compared to Traci Lords as Dejah Thoris. In appearance, she's neither brunette nor copper skinned, and I hate to say this - she looks old. Don't get me wrong, not yet fifty, Traci Lords is a beautiful woman, but she looks a bit too world weary and aged for this part. And her acting... wow, it's just not good, it would be bad for a grade school stage play. She's been better in other things, but here... let's just say Traci Lords is no Dejah Thoris.

I have to admit to digging this flick, and unlike a lot of what The Asylum churns out, it's actually pretty good. Granted, it's neither the film John Carter nor the book "A Princess of Mars," but it does what it does well. If you're a fan, check it out.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Coast to Coast AM Is Dead

That's right, Coast to Coast AM is dead. Why don't you just get it over with and rename it The George Noory Show, because it bears zero resemblance to what Coast used to be about and stand for.

Yeah, I've talked about this before, but it bears repeating. Host George Noory continues to veer farther and farther away from the topics and the style that first attracted me to Coast to Coast AM. And of course, there is no way to address my concerns to anyone involved in the show. Coast has a Twitter account and a Facebook page, both of which make standard practice of ignoring what the fans have to say. I think I might sooner win the lottery than get a reply on Twitter from these folks. George and company are going to do what they are going to do, and don't care what you think, and it seems, on a personal level, what I, a fan and listener for as long as I've known about the show - roughly eighteen years. And if I don't matter after nearly two decades, then really, who does?

I used to listen every night, without fail, all night, even when I would have to get up early the next morning. I loved Art Bell, but it isn't just a pro-Art anti-George thing. I loved the other hosts from the old days, especially Rollye James, Ian Punnett, and John B. Wells. I even dug George Knapp, and Dave Schraeder of Darkness Radio rocks, if only they'd let him be himself and do his own topics. But nowadays, I'll listen once or twice a week for a segment or two, and for the most part, unless it's a 'real' Coast topic or an interesting guest, I am bored to tears.

The real eye opener as to what's wrong with Noory's Coast program becomes obvious listening to what I normally do these days - reruns of Art Bell's days on Coast to Coast AM. Most of the time it sounds like George is asleep or not paying attention. His questions are obvious and childlike, and indicative that he has done no research whatsoever on the guest or topic. One listen to the old Art show will find a questioning host, an exchange of ideas between host and guest, and a learning experience for the listener. Often Art would launch into a debate to counter the guest's thesis - asking the questions we the listeners were asking out loud ourselves.

And the topics - the strange, the paranormal - that was what Coast was all about. Now those are for the most part gone, except for a scrap thrown out like garbage to a stray dog once or twice a week. If I wanted talk about the news, politics, health, technology, and religion, I could listen to any other radio show out there. If I want Bigfoot, Atlantis, and UFOs, which I do, Coast to Coast AM used to stand for that - something unique in the great dying wasteland of radio. Now it's just another crap radio show.

I guess I'll be listening to the Art Bell reruns for now. It doesn't seem like Coast will be changing before it dies from declining ratings.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

12 Monkeys The TV Series

When I first saw Terry Gilliam's 12 Monkeys on the screen back in 1995, I was a bit confused. I was amazed by the quirky performances of Brad Pitt and Bruce Willis, and intrigued by the odd time travel story. I liked the film, but for the most part didn't really 'get it' until I saw Chris Marker's short film La Jetee on which it was loosely based.

Tomorrow night (Friday, January 16th) the new "12 Monkeys" television series debuts on Showcase and Syfy. I had the chance to see the nine minute preview recently, and let me just say that while the film had me intrigued, this extended clip had me hooked. You should definitely check it out.

You can see those first ten minutes right here:

And don't forget to check out Biff Bam Pop!'s Marie Gilbert's interview with "12 Monkeys" star Amanda Schull right here.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

American Idol, Again?

I remember when Neil Young sang those immortal words, "it's better to burn out than fade away." The Bride wanted to watch "American Idol" again this year, so I've been shanghaied into half-watching it as well. There's something to be said about 'burning out' and going out on top or at least close to it. That said, I think "American Idol" has been fading away for the better part of a decade.

I've been watching the show since the beginning and have enjoyed it, bought the songs on iTunes, voted like crazy, entered betting pools, and loved the water cooler talk the next day. But the show's better days are long gone. I barely paid attention last season, and the last time I was excited about AI was when Nicki Minaj was a judge, and that was a while ago.

I tried to watch the first two episodes, that's four hours, folks, and even though it was in the audition phase - when we see the raw superstars and pure train wrecks, arguably the best part of any season - I was bored out of my mind. And it's not that this type of program has gone out of style or popularity either. Both similar programs like "The Voice" and "America's Got Talent" thrive in this current television environment. I think the truth is that "American Idol" just sucks, or to soften the blow, this incarnation of it sucks.

As I half-watched, it's as if this season picked up directly from the last - nothing has changed. The judges, once entertaining, now seem hamstrung, and hesitating and struggling to tell contestants the truth. It is painfully obvious that steps have been taken to make the show more positive and uplifting, so the freak show (and ratings bonanza) that the audition phase has always been, is now dull and less entertaining. Gone are the days of She-Bang and Princess Leia, and it's a sad thing.

We need the freaks back, and we also need the mean back. No one on this show seems capable of telling the contestants what sometimes they need to hear - that they suck. Simon Cowell was the driving force that made this show successful in my opinion, and his "X-Factor" never even came close to matching his performances on AI. Someone needs to be mean and truthful. The new judges can't even be subtle. Keith Urban does the saddest excuse for a Paula Abdul "Nice shirt" comment. I think, "American Idol," it's been a nice run, but it's time to die. Pack it up.

Friday, January 09, 2015

Veronica Mars

Veronica Mars ~ I need to preface this review with the fact that I have never seen an episode of "Veronica Mars," never ever. And yes, as a regular listener to the Better in the Dark podcast, I know I should be ashamed of myself. I am a fan of Kristen Bell however, just from "House of Lies," not "Veronica Mars." I know, it's a whole different girl, but there you go.

Does one need to watch the TV series to understand the movie? It doesn't appear so. The opening voiceover and montage kinda seems to cover it in a streamlined fashion. We know what we need to know, and that it all happened some time ago, far away. This is a new start. The titular character played by Bell was a teenage detective, and now years later she wants to be a lawyer. The catch up is pretty simple.

There is much here about Veronica going back to her past. There is the appearance of baggage without the weight. It's not as seamless as say Serenity to "Firefly," but you feel it. On the eve of her high school reunion, her ex-boyfriend has been accused of murder, so of course she has to help out. You can feel that you're being informed of whatever-happened-to for the first twenty minutes or so, but not to the point of slowing the story down.

From there it becomes a pretty standard very small screen but extended TV mystery episode, entertaining and engaging, but making me happy I waited for cable. I liked it, but the one thing that didn't work for me was why Veronica would help the ex-boyfriend. We're told he has a lot of drama but he seems extraordinarily boring to this TV show virgin. I just didn't buy it.

I enjoyed it though, enough to put "Veronica Mars" on my Netflix queue. Maybe it'll be better when I get all the references. Worth seeing.

Thursday, January 08, 2015

Coca-Cola Life

Folks who know me know that I'm a Coca-Cola man. I don't drink coffee or beer or Pepsi, I like Coke. It's my vice, well, one of my vices. I'm not a fan of Diet Coke (or any diet soda, and if I'm being honest, Diet Coke is the worst of them) or Coke Zero, which just tastes bitter to me.

One recent addition to my vice has been the so-called Mexican Coke. It's available in a few places around here. This Coke tastes like childhood, mostly because it comes in a glass bottle and uses cane sugar rather than high fructose corn syrup. And yes, I've heard the naysayers who insist it still has corn syrup and that there is no real taste difference. I assure you, even if it's psychological, Mexican Coke tastes better. This stuff is heavenly.

Friend and fellow writer Rich Voza recently hipped me to a new Coke variety being test marketed in the UK and South America called Coca-Cola Life. This product's claim to fame is that it uses both cane sugar and stevia, a sweetener made from plants, thus the green label, to make the soda sweet. As a plus for the health crowd, it also has roughly 30% less calories.

Coca-Cola Life was released here in the States just in time for the holidays and I recently got hold of a bottle. At first try, there was no noticeable difference in Life compared to the original Coke. It was later I got the aftertaste. It's not a bad aftertaste, but it unpleasant to a degree, not like Diet Coke, but close. It also has very little fizz and zing to it, not flat, but getting there. All that said, it is the closest of the non-Cokes to the actual taste of Coke.

Coca-Cola Life would not be my first choice in beverage, but it would do in a pinch, and I'd much prefer it to Coke Zero, the Caffeine-Free Coke, and especially Diet Coke, which I believe may actually be brewed by The Devil, but that's just me.

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

On… Biff Bam Pop!

Each week, one of Biff Bam Pop’s illustrious writers will delve into one of their favorite things. Perhaps it’s a movie or album they’ve carried with them for years. Maybe it’s something new that moved them and they think might move you too. Each week, a new subject, a new voice writing on… something they love.

The above is the official introduction, and the premise, of our newest column at Biff Bam Pop! called On.... Each week we spotlight one of our writers, and a subject they love, and let them go to town with it. The schedule so far has been:

Andy Burns On... Jodorowsky's Dune

Leiki Veskimets On... The Fight Club DVD Commentary

Glenn Walker On… Firefly

Amanda Blue On... The Crow

JP Fallavollita On... Star Blazers

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Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Frozen on Ice

I remember when I was a kid back in the seventies watching commercials for the Ice Capades. I never got to go see stuff like that, although I did get to see the Philadelphia Flyers fight to the Stanley Cup on my big brother's black and white TV on UHF channel 29. So tiny and blurry, it was hard to tell they were on skates. Ice skating escaped my youth because of the lack of a lake I suppose, but I remember sliding on ice puddles in my sneaks.

Yeah, so no background in ice skating here, and the Olympics barely count because they were so boring, to me at least. I think the final nail in the coffin for me was more than two decades ago, I was invited by The Bride and her parents to go see Starlight Express, their favorite show, on ice in Philly. I embarrassed myself badly by dozing off for most of the show. Ice was not my thing.

Jump ahead to now, and The Bride loves the movie Frozen, so when she saw "Frozen on Ice" was going to be at the Wells Fargo Center, former home of the Philadelphia Wings, we made plans to go. Upon sitting down, the first thing I noticed was that the Wings banners had been removed, the team since last season having moved to Connecticut and renamed the New England Black Wolves. So not happy.

Frozen being the little girl phenom it is, we were the only adults I saw there. Perhaps we should have brought a niece or two as a cover, but no one seemed to say anything or stare. The merch was out of this world and everywhere. The Bride got a plastic mug made of Olaf's head to eat a sno-cone out of, and I got Chickie & Pete's Crab Fries. The fries, like the parking, was noticeably jacked up much higher than they ever were when we were Wings season ticket holders.

Despite a barely enthusiastic yogurt commercial for an opening sequence (the one host sounded like. a. robot. as. he spoke.), the show was amazing, even the post-commercial pre-show with the regular Disney characters was cool. The players, through dead on lip sync, brought the movie Frozen to life on the ice. And ice is key here. Everyone was on skates, including seemingly blind animals with no eyeholes.

It's like what folks say about Ginger Rogers. She did everything Fred Astaire did, only backwards and in heels. Here it was ice. These players did everything on ice, in skates, and usually fast, while acting, dancing, running, etc. They were very good. As I mentioned, previously I was not an ice skating guy - now, I would do this again. Great show, and it was fun too.

For more on "Frozen on Ice," check out the latest episode of The Make Mine Magic Podcast right here.