Thursday, July 28, 2016

Ghostbusters 2016

Ghostbusters ~ My pre-viewing problems with the 2016 remake/reboot/reimagining of Ghostbusters had nothing to do with the gender or talent of the actors involved. Maybe.

I didn't care about the gender switch, and I actually thought the idea that only the women were competent and the men are idiots was pretty clever. My problem was with the Bridesmaids connection, a film I did not like, and Ghostbusters has its director and two of its stars. That was my problem.

And I'm also not one of those folks who worship the original and don't want it remade, because it's 'sacred.' Hey, yeah, the original was awesome, still holds up, is freaking hilarious, and is an almost perfect movie, but nothing changes that. The 2016 Ghostbusters is not the 1984 Ghostbusters, but let's be honest - what is? It's hard for such lightning to strike twice. Don't believe me? Just ask Ghostbusters II. Bam. Yeah, that was me dropping the mic.

The theme is roughly the same as the original, three scientists and a fourth team member chase ghosts in New York, until a larger threat rears its ugly head for the final battle. In this case, it's not an extra-dimensional entity trying to break through on its own, but someone in this world trying to bring the netherworld here, and become the king of ghosts. The story works, despite some plotholes that may be the result of worrisome editing - I won't hold it against the movie.

Melissa McCarthy and Kristen Wiig are adequate but funny and believable, and it was a blast seeing Chris (Thor) Hemsworth playing mimbo, but the prize performances in this flick are undoubtedly the wonderfully hilarious Leslie Jones and Kate McKinnon who steals the movie whenever she is on screen. She easily out-weirds Harold Ramis from the original.

There are also appearances from the original cast as well, most notably Bill Murray as a disbeliever who is so mean and humorless one had to wonder if this was acting or how he really felt about Ghostbusters. Either way, he's good. Too bad Rick Moranis couldn't be convinced to show up out of retirement.

The 2016 Ghostbusters is a great summer popcorn movie, and a hell of a lot of fun. It is thankfully no Bridesmaids, and certainly not worth the harassment many fans of the original have put it through. It's just great entertainment, check it out, you'll love it too.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

A Preacher Virgin Looks at Preacher

Unlike a lot of comic book properties that move to television and film, I don't really know all that much about Preacher. I've never read it. I know it was by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon, for mature readers, and that it had characters like Jesse Custer, Cassidy the vampire, Arseface, and the Saint of Killers - but that's about it. I also knew it's fans were passionate and loyal. When I watched the AMC TV series however, it was all-new to me.

I didn't know what to expect in its first moments with its purposefully cheap effects, but they were soon forgotten as I was enveloped by the tale of Preacher Jesse Custer possessed of a power called Genesis in a quirky Texas town named Annville. While Jesse on the whole is well played but fairly boring, his situation is not, and neither are his somewhat companions Cassidy and Tulip. Dominic Cooper, and especially Ruth Negga and Joseph Gilgun are wonderful. And the more I see of them, the more I want them in the show, but the showrunners seem to be holding back giving me what I want. The screen shines when either are on it.

Annville itself seems to me to be what "Twin Peaks" might be as a comic book written by Quentin Tarantino. Episodic, bizarre, violent, and defiantly Lynch-ian. I love it. As more quirky characters are introduced, notably two angels sent to retrieve Genesis by ridiculous and arcane methods, I am enjoying myself but find the storytelling lacking. Like "Twin Peaks," we don't actually seem to be going anywhere.

There are subplots I want to see more of like Tulip's quest for revenge and Cassidy's pursuers, but these are overshadowed by others that I either don't care about or don't understand - like Jesse's childhood or Quincannon's madness or these old west flashbacks. They may well be Easter eggs that comics readers get and love, but I don't get them.

I'm eight episodes out of ten in, and I have to say I'm losing interest. The things I want to see I'm not getting and what I am getting is just not doing it for me. I suspect they are stuffing as much as they can into the show despite the effect it might have on virgin viewers like me. I'm still watching, but I prefer the early episodes to the later ones.

For a different view on the series, this one from a fan of the comics, check out Amanda Blue's reviews of "Preacher" at Biff Bam Pop! right here.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Jessica Jones S01 E12: AKA Take a Bloody Number

We pick up scant moments after the last episode, when Luke Cage blew up his bar with himself in it, as per the Purple Man's commands, made sure Jessica Jones saw it. He is of course unhurt, but his bar is toast. As I wondered if he had insurance and what an insurance investigator might make of his story, we dove into flashback - Kilgrave has been busy during the episode where he was missing.

When he left the hanging restaurant with his father, he ran right into Luke Cage, who had been following Jess in hopes of running into Kilgrave. Best line, and our title reference comes when Kilgrave asks Luke what he wants. His reply is to kill him, and Kilgrave's sharp comeback - "Take a bloody number." Then he commands Luke into the getaway car for clarification and interrogation.

The second best line is when Jess brings Luke back to her office/apartment and tells him to mind the mess from the fight with Nuke. Luke asks if he needs to know what happened there, she simply replies, "I guess we're both lousy renters," to which both Luke and I said in unison, "at least it's not on fire." Five minutes in, this one's not so bad so far. I'm smiling.

Of course now that Luke is at her side and Jessica has sworn to kill the Purple Man, there's some creative stalling. Trish is still paranoid about Simpson, asks around and finds the program is a made-up organization called IGH, with initials that apparently stand for nothing. I wonder though, could that H stand for Hydra?

Despite Jessica's warning, Trish's mom comes to visit her estranged daughter in the hospital. What a harpy. Good thing Jess doesn't know. As she joked with Trish earlier regarding Simpson, Jess can only fight one big bad at a time. I guess Nuke and the harpy will have to take a bloody number.

There's mention made of Hammond Labs as being the place where Hope's fetus was sent. This could be a number of different references. There's a Hammond Labs where Speedball, later Penance, got his powers; or it could be a reference to Camp Hammond, a Marvel Civil War era training facility for superhumans; or simply a nod to the original android Human Torch.

The writing is much better in this episode, elevating it above previous ones. I'm not surprised to see the name Hilly Hicks, Jr. on the script. The playwright and screenwriter is also responsible for the excellent "AKA 99 Friends" earlier in the season. Perhaps he can be convinced to write more when the second season of "Jessica Jones" rolls around.

More clues about IGH come from a surprising source. When Trish's mom comes to visit her daughter at home, again against Jessica's wishes, she brings her a folder marked IGH. It contains Jessica's medical records from the accident that killed her parents and brother. IGH paid her bills. But I guess that's a mystery for another day.

The main event is the showdown in a blue-hued theater between the Purple Man and Jessica - and Kilgrave's proxy is Luke Cage. The whole episode, as their chemistry blended and he played sidekick, Luke was in Kilgrave's power, a puppet working her like a dummy. And now they dance. It's a fight we didn't know we wanted, and it's awesome.

It's a fight that can only be stopped by a shotgun blast to the face. Is the "Luke Cage" Netflix series canceled now? To be continued…

Next: Smile!

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

RIP Garry Marshall

Award winning television and film icon, director, writer, and producer Garry Marshall passed away yesterday from complications of pneumonia, after having a stroke. He was 81 years old.

Garry Marshall's name was one of the first I was aware of that worked behind the camera on television, the other one was Norman Lear, and yeah, I realize I'm probably dating myself. I knew that Marshall was behind "The Odd Couple" which I got to stay up and watch on Friday nights, and I knew his sister Penny was on the show too. Listening to the adults talk, the big word I learned was 'nepotism.' Nothing wrong with that, and she was funny too.

His name next caught my attention on Tuesday nights with "Happy Days," one of my favorite shows, that would soon create a phenomenon of 1950s nostalgia in the 1970s. The adventures of Fonzie, Richie, Potsie and friends would soon spawn "Laverne & Shirley" and "Mork and Mindy, which launched the career of Robin Williams. Like the aforementioned Lear, Marshall was a master of the spin-off in the seventies. I even remember the ones that no one does - like "Blansky's Beauties" and "Out of the Blue" - and even "Joanie Loves Chachi."

Later Marshall turned to film, perhaps most famously for Pretty Woman, Beaches, Runaway Bride, and the Princess Diaries movies. I admit a weakness myself for his first, Young Doctors in Love and The Other Sister. We just recently watched Marshall act in A League of Their Own, his sister Penny's film, and one of The Bride's favorites.

Garry Marshall was always one of my favorites. I have his second memoir My Happy Days in Hollywood on my Kindle unread, but not for long now. We've lost one of the great ones.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

The Legend of Tarzan

The Legend of Tarzan ~ Don't tell him this, I don't want him to get a swollen head, but my big brother rocks. Even before he saved my life by giving me one of his kidneys, I always looked up to him. As his ten years junior little brother, I wanted to be like him, and what he thought was cool, I wanted to think was cool too. I've mentioned numerous times in my writing that my love of the Flash comes from him, and a recent interview with Joe DeVito reminded me of how I watched King Kong because of the big bro too. And then there's Tarzan.

My big brother also made me watch Tarzan by his enthusiasm for it. I remember very distinctly being sat down on a Saturday afternoon to watch 'the one where Tarzan goes to New York to save Boy.' The film in question was Tarzan's New York Adventure with Johnny Weissmuller and Maureen O'Sullivan, and for me, it was awesome. A new world had been opened up to me. From there I discovered Tarzan books and Tarzan comics (both of which were the best), the TV series with Ron Ely, and whenever one of the Weissmuller flicks showed, I was right there in front of the boob tube.

I loved the movies, and the TV show was okay, but I really grooved on the real Tarzan, the one from the books, and to some extent the comics. I knew he was a lot smarter than Weissmuller in the movies, a noble savage, a clever warrior, and an intelligent opponent. And I loved all the lost cities and fantasy elements, which led to my appreciation of Edgar Rice Burroughs' other awesomeness like Pellucidar and John Carter of Mars.

Because of this knowledge of what Tarzan was all about from the books, that he wasn't all yells and "me Tarzan, you Jane," I had rarely been truly happy with many cinematic versions. Casper Van Dien came close in Tarzan and the Lost City, but of course, no matter how you measure it, it's still a Casper Van Dien movie. I wondered if we'd ever get a Tarzan movie again, let alone a good one, and then came The Legend of Tarzan.

I had only heard whispers about it while it was being made, but had heard it was quite good. When I first saw the trailer, I was excited, and then I saw who was playing Tarzan, and my heart fell. Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against Alexander Skarsgard, in fact, I'm a fan. His Eric Northman in "True Blood" was consistently one of the best things about the series, even when it was at its worst.

My great fear was that every time I looked at his Tarzan, I would see Eric. This is one of the reasons why studios usually look for unknowns when casting serial protagonists. I shouldn’t have worried though, from the moment we see Skarsgard on the screen, from the moment I saw him, I saw Tarzan. He is stunning in the role. Alexander Skarsgard is Tarzan. A man of few words, much action, and a caring hero, Skarsgard brings the king of the jungle to life in a way we've not seen in quite some time.

As Jane, and in previous films, Margot Robbie continues to impress me as an actress. Her Jane Porter Clayton is tough, takes no nonsense, and is yet still believable as a turn of the century woman of stature. Christoph Waltz overacts like a madman as the baddie, and it works, much better than his attempt at villainy in the James Bond franchise. He has shown that he can be evil in both a subtle and a manic mode. Samuel L. Jackson brings the humor and his contrast to Tarzan is one of the better aspects of the flick. I wish he'd been more however.

I'm not going to harp on or bring up the racism of the Tarzan stories (in that only a white man save Africa, etc.), there are much better men than me that can handle that, but I will note that the story of the movie takes place in a very dangerous era of the Congo, a time of massacre and genocide, and I wish the character would have stayed in the fantasy realm. Furthermore, I have to express distaste in the choice of Jackson's role, especially if he was going to be used for comic relief.

Samuel l. Jackson plays George Washington Williams, a real historical figure. He was a human rights activist who very specifically attacked King Leopold for his actions in the Congo. In my mind, especially played by an actor of Samuel L. Jackson's skills, I wish they'd gone with a more accurate portrayal of the man, rather than just comic relief/sidekick status.

That aside, I really loved this flick, and was grinning ear to ear throughout most of it. I can't wait for sequels. I enjoyed this almost as much as Captain America: Civil War, recommended.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

The GAR! Podcast - Steak, Tech, and Old School Radio

The Biff Bam Pop! Podcast Network presents The GAR! Podcast, the Glenn Walker and Ray Cornwall weekly podcast where they talk unrehearsed about whatever happens to come to mind. It's an audio-zine for your mind, a nerd exploration of a nerd world, coming to you from across the vastness of suburban New Jersey via Skype.

This week, we're talking about Manny's Original Chophouse, Evernote, the Apple iWatch, commute listening, Terry Young and Hot Hits Radio, and recording on cassette tapes, along with all the usual stuff.

Check out our latest episode here or above, also available on iTunes and Stitcher. We're also on Facebook here and here, and on Pinterest. Contact us directly here.

You can check out the complete show notes and listen to the episode onsite here. We'd love to hear your thoughts and comments, either below or on the GAR! Podcast website, so please let us know what's on your mind! Welcome to Episode 143 of The GAR! Podcast!

Enjoy, and until next time, GAR!

Monday, July 11, 2016

Backpedaling on Captain America

Yeah, if you think I'm backpedaling on my thoughts and opinions on Captain America, that ain't happening. I still stand by what I said here and here. When I say backpedaling, I'm talking about what Marvel has done with Captain America: Steve Rogers #2.

Glancing at the first few pages setting up the events of the last issue I have to wonder what the original story looked like, because Marvel is definitely backpedaling. The opening pages (and the rest of the comic) are in the narrative of the Red Skull, explaining how he used the Cosmic Cube to manipulate reality to bring about the events of the last issue. It's an interesting tale, but it seems out of place in the story, like having the shocking revealing conclusion in the second chapter of a book.

The stunt stinks of desperation, probably for the reasons I outlined in my last post, Captain America is a Nazi, et al. I would have been so much happier with this story had there been no hype machine muddying the waters. Captain America: Steve Rogers #2 isn't a bad issue all things concerned, just unsatisfactory in its excusatory mode.

Friday, July 08, 2016

Justice League Rebirth

I've looked at the comic that started the whole Rebirth thing for DC Comics, and several of the Rebirth restarts for various characters. Now I'm looking at the restart of one of my favorite comic book franchises, Justice League Rebirth.

The monumental task of relaunching DC's major superhero team goes to Bryan Hitch, handling both writing and illustrating duties. Hitch has worked on the team before and is probably best known, at least to me, as the artist who brought Marvel Comics Ultimates - a super-realistic version of their Avengers - to life. I admired the attempt, disliked the story and the characters, but dug the art. I still like Hitch, somewhat (he draws an ugly Wonder Woman, sorry, but it's how it hits me), but this is not his best work, or perhaps his style is not right for the Justice League. I think it might be the latter, at least on the visuals. His Flash also bothers me, never looking like the Flash, but more like just some guy in a Flash suit.

Bryan Hitch is aware of the new continuity, and the old continuity. He's better than some of DC's guiding editors in this instance. I loved how he wove in the new/old Superman and the two semi-new Green Lanterns into the story to aid the remaining five Leaguers - Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Aquaman, and Cyborg - against an oncoming alien threat.

At first, the giant alien monster attacking the unnamed city seems almost Lovecraftian, then kinda downgrades to a cheap Starro knock-off. Either way, the Justice League's triumph is straight out of "Doctor Who," specifically that first Matt Smith episode, "The Eleventh Hour," when he tasks the Atraxi to run, and tells everyone that Earth is defended.

Despite some problems, I liked this issue, not as much as some other Rebirth books, but enough to give it a chance if I come across it again.

Thursday, July 07, 2016

Captain America - The Damage Is Done

I have talked at length about this at Biff Bam Pop! in my review of Captain America: Steve Rogers #1, and on episodes of The GAR! Podcast and Nerdfect Strangers here and here. Captain America is an Agent of Hydra, and always has been - or so we have been told.

And that's key. That's what we were told, but apparently we have been lied to. Here's the gist - in the first issue of Captain America: Steve Rogers #1, we see a dual storyline - one where young Steve's mom is tempted into a group that is suspiciously like Hydra (or the Nazis), and one where Captain America kills fellow hero Jack Flag and then says, "Hail Hydra." I have to hand it to writer Nick Spencer, because while I wasn't happy with the story, it was good and I enjoyed it, to the point of wanting to see what happened next. This was accompanied by some great art by Jesus Saiz, not a bad comic, all things considered, and one hell of a cliffhanger.

But. That's not the problem. The problem is that the day before the comic was released, Marvel Comics Senior Vice-President of Publishing, and former editor and Executive Editor, Tom Brevoort, went on several high profile media circuits and made certain pronouncements. From Time to Newsweek, from Entertainment Weekly to CNN, he announced that this was not mind control, not a hoax, not 'an imaginary story,' not a double or clone, and not a double agent thing. He basically closed off any possible escape for this horror, and then he said what clinched the noose around the character and much of the American public. "Captain America is, and has always been, a Hydra agent."

None of this was in the comic book, mind you, only from his mouth. And that's what drove me crazy, the hype machine, not the comic itself. Now we comic readers know that editors lie, and we know that (hopefully) Captain America would be back to status quo in six months to a year. That's just how comics roll. The problem is, that's not how the non-comic-buying public rolls. They don't know that's how it works.

They also don't know the intricacies of comic book continuity and logic. Many people who are into comics equate Hydra with the Nazis. They are not technically the same thing as the Marvel Cinematic Universe has gone to great lengths to demonstrate, but let's face it, Hydra was founded originally (don't talk to me about Jonathan Hickman's retconned ancient origin) by Nazis, doesn't that at its core, make them Nazis? Both groups hate, both groups seek world domination, and both groups will kill to get their way. At the very least, Hydra is evil in a very Nazi way.

But the public doesn't differentiate, and the shorthand has become - Captain America is a Nazi. Have you ever been called a Nazi sympathizer in a public place? I have. Twice. In the last month. That was because of my iPhone with the cover of Captain America #100 on the case. After that, I have not even dared to wear any of my Captain America t-shirts. In discussions of the topics, many non-comics folks I chat with just call the character 'Captain Nazi.' Yes, it's that bad.

I have to wonder about all those folks I saw at the premiere showing of Captain America: Civil War wearing Cap shirts, along with Avengers, and a handful of Iron Man as well, are faring at this moment. Do they still wear their Cap shirts? Speaking of movies, that brings up another point about public perception. When you don't follow comics, and only the destructive changing events are publicized, and not the fixing or returning events, your only point of reference is what you know from the news.

Case in point. When I first saw trailers for Superman Returns (2006), Man of Steel (2013), and Batman V Superman (2016), I heard several folks in the theaters repeatedly ask, "Isn't Superman dead?" For those not in the know, Superman died in the comics in 1993, and returned from the dead a little over a year later. Guess which story the media covered? People only remember what is drilled into their head. Mark my words, in ten years, Captain America will still be a Nazi in the eyes of the non-comics-reading public. The damage is already done.