Monday, March 30, 2015

Cinderella 2015

The Disney live action remakes of their classic animated features seem to have certain identity issues. Or perhaps it's me who has the issues. In my opinion, they never seem to be what they intend to be, or what they seemed to intend to be, ya know?

There was that hideous Tim Burton version of Alice in Wonderland with Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter that is unbelievably getting a sequel, which of course not the first reimagining of a classic property Burton and/or Depp have had a hand in destroying. See the evidence of Dark Shadows, The Lone Ranger, and Willy Wonka. And then there was the switched point of view version of Sleeping Beauty, Maleficent, which missed several chances to be much better.

I think the same can be said of the new 2015 version of Cinderella, but it would only be my opinion though, which is far from objective. I think the two leads are attractive, I just don't think they are attractive enough for Cinderella and Prince Charming. I did like the extra backstory of Cinderella's family, and motive for Lady Tremaine. These were nice touches that added to the story.

You can hear my thoughts, along with those of The Bride, my podcast partner, on this episode of The Make Mine Magic Podcast

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Arrow S03 E16: "The Offer"

Talk talk talk. That's the gist of the beginning of this episode of "Arrow." After making the offer referenced in the title, Oliver and R'as are just chillin' in Nanda Parbat. The villain has asked our hero to become the next R'as Al Ghul, implying that it's a title handed down like The Phantom as opposed to one immortal man, something I think the showrunners may have forgotten was already hinted at with this version of R'as. And Maseo is there, but where did Diggle go?

Back at the Arrowcave, Thea keeps taunting Nyssa to kill her, after all she killed Sara, not Oliver, and not Merlyn. Yawn. One would think that a princess of assassins would have a better sense of when someone is lying and telling the truth, but I guess that's why Nyssa is is the lesser known of the daughters of The Demon. Still, just to make sure we don't fall asleep, Roy and Laurel rush in and incapacitate her.

On the other side my questions about R'as' immortality are unsatisfactorily answered. It's not a Lazarus Pit, it's a fountain of youth, and it can only keep R'as young for so long. He says his time is almost up. He further explains that as R'as Al Ghul, Oliver can do whatever he wants. The League and its resources are his to command, they don't have to be assassins, and rather than one city, R'as offers Oliver an entire world to save.

Oliver declines, and R'as allows him to go home, with Diggle, and Merlyn, and with all debts and blood oaths waived. Wow. R'as must really want Oliver to sign on.

Back in Starling City, Nyssa is released and Team Arrow gets back into business. There's a new player in town and he looks familiar, not to Green Arrow fans, but more skewed to Flash readers. His name is Murmur. In the comics, Murmur, also known as Dr. Michael Amar, is one of the more chilling adversaries to ever face the scarlet speedster.

To quell the voices in his head, this respected doctor went nuts and started killing people. When caught and put in Iron Heights, he cut out his tongue and sewed his mouth shut. Later he became involved with alter version of the Rogues and experimented with biological warfare. Oh yeah, this is a nutjob more suitable for Batman, not Arrow, and especially not the Flash. In the show, Murmur seems more of a run of the mill gangster with sewn up mouth, more gimmick than anything, hell, he even has henchmen. But Murmur is nothing more than a distraction in this episode that serves as merely a moving of pieces around the board. So why even use such a character really?

While Murmur stalks the city, Oliver ponders R'as' deal, Thea mopes and thinks about killing Malcolm, and the big revelation is Quentin Lance's break up with Arrow. At least poor doomed Larry, ahem, I mean Quentin Lance is finally acting rather than reacting. As much as this complicates things, it's good to see him thinking for himself. I would really hate to see him learn the hard way to make up with his daughter and Team Arrow, after say, colliding with a cosmic star being called Aquarius. Or a bad guy's bullet. Or arrow.

In Flashback Hong Kong, Oliver is babysitting Akio, the son of Katana and Maseo. One can only assume this is just prep for when we find out about his son Connor over in Central City. Speak of the devil, Oliver and Akio run into a friendly and unexpected face while running from the bad guys… Shado!

That's not all that happened, or all of the cliffhangers. Ollicity has been rebuilt, and while it's nice to see Felicity smile, I don't care about the relationship any more. It's been messed with and teased too much - it's too much trouble at this point. It's Laurel's turn. And speaking of Laurel, she's chilling with Nyssa, because they have so much in common, and Thea is back with Roy. See what I mean about moving pieces around on the board?

And then there's R'as in the flesh, in the Arrow outfit, in Starling City. This is so out of character. It's not that the old ploy of taking on the hero's identity to frame him isn't a workable old cliché, it's that R'as would never do it. He gives orders, he doesn't take things into his own hands like this. Not happy with this episode.

Next: Diggle and Lyla get married, and the Suicide Squad returns, in "Suicidal Tendencies."

Wednesday, March 18, 2015


Full disclosure up front. This comic guy has never read the iZombie comic book by Chris Roberson and Michael Allred. Based on the creators, I probably should have been into it, but it slipped past my radar. When it was around, the book was critically acclaimed, fan loved, but killed by less than satisfactory sales. Somehow, it made it to the CW, in the easy slot after "The Flash."

The concept is not that new or original of one. I remember the character Deadhead from George R.R. Martin's Wild Cards shared universe book series. He could obtain the super powers of anyone whose brain he ate. Recently, the New 52 version of Super Gorilla Grodd also eats brains to gain the victim's intelligence. Of course, neither of them are zombies, whose normal modus operandi is to eat human brains.

The TV series "iZombie" is a loose interpretation of the comic, as I understand that even the main characters are different. In the show, Rose McIver plays Liv Moore, who while at a party was the victim of a zombie attack. Retaining some of her consciousness, she has chosen to use her 'powers' for good. So working for the medical examiner's office, she eats the brains of cadavers and retains their memories, allowing the good guys to find out how they died, and who killed them. Yeah, it's a bit like a demented version of "Pushing Daisies" in that way.

At first the pilot reminded me a little of one of my old favorite shows, "Reaper," with its humor. I loved the intervention scene, and the comic opening. But then it quickly turned into a police procedural. Seeing as Rob Thomas, of "Veronica Mars" fame, was one of the show developers, I started to see a pattern very quickly. The pilot was fun, I might watch further episodes, but on a tentative step by step basis.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Lost Hits of the New Wave #38

"Everywhere That I'm Not" by Translator

I came very late to this one. I know I had heard it on the radio and on the dance floor, but really I paid it no mind until hearing it multiple times on First Wave satellite radio. I even remember seeing the 45 RPM single at my old college radio station, but never put it on a turntable. My loss.

Active since 1979, this San Francisco synth band has made a career of sounding British, or at least mining the British sound of not just the new wave, but also punk, psychedelia, and even classic rock vibes. Still active today their influence can be heard in many of the acts of the 1980s, and this was their biggest hit.

Monday, March 16, 2015


Tusk ~ I haven't seen Red State yet, so this weird horror bent that Kevin Smith has been on of late is new to me. This, his second oddity in the field, is quite the eye opener. Twisted just doesn't seem to cover it.

The parts of Tusk that are recognizably Kevin Smith involve podcaster and former comedian Justin Long, who along with Haley Joel Osment does a podcast called The Not See Party. Sigh. Yeah, I know. The point of the podcast is for Long to interview folks and then later describe the experience to Osment, who 'doesn't see,' get it? They also mock the subjects mercilessly. Oh, it's bad, but it gets worse.

On a trip to the backwoods of Manitoba, an interview goes awry and Long must find a new subject. He goes to the home of Michael Parks, who claims to have been saved by a walrus. Once there, Parks drugs Long and amputates his leg, with plans to turn him into a walrus. No. I. Am. Not. Kidding. This is really effed up on a Human Centipede level, folks.

There is some brief humor, mostly at the expense of Canada, but once the transformation begins, this movie goes off the rails quickly and becomes unwatchable. Smith tries for horror but it falls apart when you realize what you're looking at. There's an almost O. Henry Freaks-like ending, but it doesn't take.

I was excited when I heard there was going to be a third Clerks movie, and even a Mallrats sequel, and now… after seeing Tusk, I'm not. Kevin, I love ya, but what the eff, man?

Sunday, March 15, 2015


Reptilicus ~ There was a time when the Japanese giant monster movies, kaiju eiga, were so popular that everyone was getting into the act. Japan had at least three different film companies with their own continuities and soon the rest of the world wanted in. The US was in on it at the ground level co-producing with Toho on some of the Godzilla flicks. The UK had Gorgo, South Korea had Yongary, and Denmark had Reptilicus.

Like some of the Godzilla (as well as Gamera, Yongary and others) movies as mentioned above, Reptilicus was an American International co-production. Usually this was done only to guarantee distribution in the US, but sometimes like here, AI took a stronger hand in the film. This, like the Hollywood and Spanish versions of the 1931 Dracula, is actually two completely different films - one in English and one in Dutch.

Directed by Poul Bang in Dutch and Sidney W. Pink in English, Reptilicus is the story of a prehistoric beast, almost similar to a winged Chinese dragon, found frozen then revived. Once awake, the regenerating and flying monster rampages through Denmark and finally Copenhagen where it meets its seeming end.

Unlike most kaiju, Reptilicus is brought to special effects life as a marionette like Mothra rather than suitmation like Godzilla. The special effects look much better than might be expected for what is essentially a puppet.

While the first half-hour or so drags by, there are lots of sights and sounds of Copenhagen to enjoy. It's almost like an old Hollywood travelogue. My favorite parts early on are the man in overalls who spoils his lunch by looking at it under a microscope, and Birthe Wilke as herself singing up a storm. It all goes to hell however when Reptilicus breaks out of his lab, offscreen of course.

The American version added some badly animated acid breath to the monster's arsenal, yet removed the flying scene. Also missing was a romance between two characters and an additional musical number. There was at some point legal action sought to fix the American version, which the Dutch thought at first was unreleasable. Notably in the English language version, the Dutch actors are so much better than the American ones.

After over five decades Reptilicus remains a cult classic and quite popular in Denmark. There has always been talk of a sequel, and the movie even sets up the possibility. There was a novelization, and American comic book from Charlton that lasted two issues before legal problems caused a name change to Reptisaurus. I kinda dug this so-bad-it's-good kaiju eiga from the Dutch, worth watching.

Friday, March 13, 2015

The Jinx Obsession

I admit it, it snuck up on me. I like documentaries and used to groove on CourtTV when it was still around, but I didn't think I could be this obsessed or compelled as I am by HBO's "The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst."

The gist is this: Robert Durst, millionaire real estate heir has been accused of at least three murders in his life, yet been convicted of none. His sketchy low mild calm and emotionless tones infuriate prosecutors and interrogators alike. He appears to be a monster albeit with Teflon skin. And he has always shunned the press.

After seeing a movie made of his infamous adventures, All Good Things..., Durst sought out the director, Andrew Jarecki, who also had a crime documentary background. With Jarecki, Durst consented to be interviewed. The sequences with Durst and Jarecki are the highlight of this six-part documentary series.

I recently had a chance to see the movie All Good Things..., with names changed but much of the voiceover narration taken from court transcripts, and Ryan Gosling starring as the thinly renamed Durst. The film also stars Kirsten Dunst as his doomed wife and Kristen Wiig in a rare but brief serious role. Gosling captures realistically (or as real as can be believed) Durst's odd behavior patterns and tics.

The film features excellent performances all around, vastly superior to the average Lifetime movie it resembles at first glance. When you get right down to it, this is an unbelievable story, which is what makes the fact it's based on real events all the more chilling. This also makes the documentary even scarier, because it's real. This creepy guy got away with at least three murders.

When you see the real Robert Durst on "The Jinx," not realizing the camera is still running and his mike is still live, practicing and rehearsing his answers out loud - that's the core of this national obsession with the show. Here we have a mild mannered twitchy monster who has done unspeakable things, and continues to get away with it and lie about it.

Yes, I'm rushing to judgment. Yes, I'm forming opinion on circumstantial evidence. And yes, I'm basing it all on a TV show and a movie. But that's all part of the game, is it not? That's what they want us to do, and in inviting this documentary, it's what Robert Durst and Andrew Jarecki want us to do as well.

One of the more emotional moments in this series is when Durst's late first wife's mother expressed hope that this documentary will produce evidence to put away her daughter's murderer. I'm with her. "The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst" concludes this Sunday evening on HBO.

Thursday, March 12, 2015


I never would have believed it when I first got my Kindle Fire, but it's true. Amazon Prime has been a wonderful source of quality entertainment. Amazon, like Netflix, is producing some amazing television. One of these is "Bosch."

Based on the Harry Bosch book series by Michael Connelly about a homicide detective in Los Angeles, this Amazon TV series is overseen by both Connelly and one of the folks behind one of the best shows ever done for television - "The Wire" - Eric Overmyer. I've never read any of the Bosch novels (but now I will), but with just Overmyer's name I was sold on this.

The story is pulled from several of Connelly's Bosch books and is very rough and slick at once, a police procedural that doesn't feel like a police procedural. It has qualities of both the aforementioned "Wire" and HBO's "True Detective." Yeah, it's that good, and folks who know me know that I do not heap praise like that lightly.

Titus Welliver, a character actor perhaps best known for playing the Man in Black on "Lost," brings Harry Bosch to life in the first season, which pulls storylines from three different novels. Welliver is surrounded by an excellent ensemble cast in this series more focused on storytelling than the characters. I dug this a lot, and cannot wait for the second season. Check it out.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015


Just as radio moved to television, and network to cable, entertainment is finding new platforms elsewhere. Some of best shows are now on Netflix and Amazon. Sony PlayStation has also thrown its hat into the ring this week with "Powers."

Powers is/was the controversial and critically acclaimed comic book series of quite a few years back by Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Avon Oeming. The opening arc, collected as "Who Killed Retro Girl?," was one of the best stories of its time.

I first discovered Powers while investigating this Bendis guy who was then destroying my beloved Avengers with "Disassembled." While more than a decade later I still have serious issues with what Bendis has done with the Avengers, I was then, and remain impressed with Powers.

The television version of Powers is very "Dexter" in that the comics and the show exist in two very similar and very different universes. Sharlto Copley's Christian Walker is slight and run down, very noir, which is more appropriate than Oeming's nearly godlike figure of the comics. Deena Pilgrim switches races in the person of Susan Heywood from "The Following," and is more up than her comics counterpart. I like them together, good chemistry.  Eddie Izzard is also very good, excellent casting here. 

"Powers" does suffer from a lack of confidence in its audience however. We are beaten over the head with certain aspects of the world and characters. Whether it's characters themselves becoming indexes for who's who or clips of Mario Lopez on "Extra" telling us - it gets to be a bit much. Just let us explore the world as it comes. We'll get it.

All that said, I liked the first episode quite a bit. Written by pulp/noir author Charlie Huston and directed by David Slade, who has a few episodes of both "Breaking Bad" and "Hannibal" under his belt, "Powers" is better than most stuff out there and worth a look. The first episode is available on YouTube and the rest of the season will drop every Tuesday on the Sony PlayStation Network.

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Avenging the Age of Ultron

I am a huge Avengers fan, some folks consider me an expert, mostly people who read my reviews of the comics for over a decade at the much-missed Avengers Forever website, a couple delusional individuals have called me the highest authority on Earth's Mightiest Heroes. I don't buy it for a moment. However, I am a hardcore fan and longtime reader, and I have a confession to make...

I haven't been thrilled with the first few peeks at the new movie Avengers: Age of Ultron. They haven't done much at all for me, and this is coming from a guy who geekgasmed his way, astonished from start to finish, through the first movie.

Maybe it's the design of Ultron, a perfect design in the comics, jettisoned for the film. Or maybe it's that Ultron was built by Tony Stark rather than Hank Pym, removing the creepy Oedipal origins that made the character so frightening and unique. Maybe it's the Pinocchio theming of "I've Got No Strings," diminishing the danger of Ultron. Or it could be the rehashing of the Hulkbuster armor, seen a zillion times in comics and cartoons - which don't get me wrong, will look great on the big screen - but is still kinda old hat. For whatever reason, nothing about this flick so far has charmed me.

Then the third trailer came out, which you can see over at Biff Bam Pop! right here.

Now I'm excited. We get to see Ultron's plan, motives for his creation, and we see a little bit of background behind the Red Room flashbacks and the Hulkbuster scenes - it's the Scarlet Witch controlling and invading minds. We get group scenes, both interacting and being dynamic in costume, and we get rousing dramatic music instead of music box Pinocchio songs. We get great action scenes, clever dialogue, Stark with Loki's scepter, and best of all, our first real look at the Vision. I am down. I want Avengers: Age of Ultron now!

And for those of you who still remember Avengers Forever, the discussion continues today over on Facebook, and you can read my current reviews of the "Avengers Assemble" animated series at Biff Bam Pop! here.

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Arrow S03 E15: "Nanda Parbat"

Our opening this week, although brief, clears up a bit of a problem I've had with the character of R'as Al Ghul on "Arrow." The idea that he did not approve of the relationship between his daughter Nyssa and Sara, the first Canary, has always had a bit of an unspoken and icky anti-gay sentiment to it. Although a villain, it was always in my mind that R'as would be a bit more open minded, being immortal and all.

What is made clear in this short exchange between R'as and Nyssa is that yes, he did disapprove, but because he knew Sara would leave Nyssa (and him, and the League of Assassins) and hurt her. Also made clear is that R'as knows Oliver is alive, and that he did not kill Sara. Still, he must be dealt with. I also have to say that this opening is the first time that Matt Nable has made me believe he's R'as. He's good, but this is the first time he's struck me as that good.

The Arrowcave and the club have been fortified by Dig with A.R.G.U.S. tech, and given everyone inside a bit of time to catch up and get to know each other better for good or ill. Whether it's trading quips, training for battle, revealing even more secrets, or just the hostile environment caused by Malcolm's presence, it's just not pretty. I did love Malcolm's comment about Oliver bring a bow and arrow to a sword fight.

The thrust of the first half of the episode focuses on the mad obsession of Oliver's that Malcom train him to defeat R'as. Why is he so adamantly on Malcolm's side? As Dig says, there must be something to it, but Oliver is such a liar we'll never know it, until it's too late. When it does come up - while it's irrational male ego more than anything else - it makes more sense than 'trying to save Thea's soul.'

Laurel confronting Merlyn, followed by the assassins taking Merlyn, and Arrow fighting Nyssa are three excellent fight scenes in quick succession. For all the talking in the episode, this more than made up for it in the action column. I have to say however they are making much too fine a point on how good a fighter Malcolm is and how bad Laurel is. It's just not consistent.

Meanwhile Felicity has been distracted babysitting Ray Palmer. This A.T.O.M. suit sure is taking a long time to put together. Before his test flight I was beginning to wonder if we'll even see the Atom before he shows up on "The Flash" in "All-Star Team-Up." At least Felicity finally gets a real kiss from a bare chested man, even if it's not the bare chested man she really wants. I'm also starting to wonder what this Atom's powers are - he's more Iron Man or X-O than any version of the Atom. What I'm wondering now however is what the proposed spin-off pilot is about with the actors who've portrayed the Atom, Black Canary, Captain Cold, and Prof. Martin Stein…

What happens in "Arrow" this episode is that Malcolm is captured by R'as Al Ghul's forces, and Oliver and Diggle follow him back to Nanda Parbat. They're easily captured of course, but just when we think R'as will kill them, he instead makes an offer to Oliver. He asks him to become the next R'as Al Ghul. Now, despite various references to Bludhaven, it's been assumed that the Arrowverse is Batless. There are far too many bits from the Bat-family that have ended up here without a mention of the Batman for there actually to be a Batman. Of course that could be because of legal complications, but it still seems a stretch for R'as to groom Oliver just as he tried to with Batman. But then again, they did reconstruct the swordfight from Batman #244, so why not co-op the rest of the Batman/Demon story?

One last fun bit. William Shatner was live-Tweeting this episode the night it aired. Fun stuff, you can check out his feed here. Special thanks to super cool friend and fellow Biff Bam Pop! writer Leiki Vestimets for hipping me to it. You can check out the latest On… column at the site where she talks about "Saturday Night Live" here. And speaking of "Star Trek" and Biff Bam Pop!, please read our memorial of the late Leonard Nimoy here.

Back to the Arrowverse, I have more questions. Why does Oliver need Nyssa to tell him where Nanda Parbat is? Wasn't he there before? Isn't that where he faced R'as the first time? And after all the men that Oliver and Dig probably killed, how can R'as let them live? How can they live with themselves? I thought Oliver swore off killing.

Arrow returns March 18th, see you then...

And if you'd like to discuss this episode and anything else in the Arrowverse, please join the Arrow discussion group on Facebook.