Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Review: Scooby Doo Team Up #16

I'm reviewing this issue solely for the Marvel Family appearance. The script, by Sholley Pisch, is typical Scooby Doo fare, but Pisch scores big by creatively making the entire script a primer for the classic Fawcett continuity. By reading this issue, you essentially get the entire history of the Fawcett Marvel Family without even realizing you are being schooled.
E. Nelson Bridwell would be proud. Not only that, but in this issue, you get an appearance by Fawcett era villain Mr Banjo.  I believe this is his first appearance in a DC Comic.  The art, by Dario Brizuela, is very slick and fluid. It doesn't quite match the character designs used for the short lived 1981 Shazam! cartoon by Filmation, nor does it resemble an Alex Toth Super Friends design by Scooby Doo's parent company, Hanna Barbera. It looks like Brizuela was trying to create a unique Scooby Doo design for the Marvels that still was grounded in C.C. Beck's art.  In that, it was very successful, although I noticed Brizuela followed Cameron Stewart's lead in giving Freddy Moe Howard bangs instead of his more traditional Elvis-looking hair.  At least he's not blond. This issue scores an A.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

"You Bring The Summer", another new Monkees track.

Unbelievably, just four days after the Monkees released their new single, "She Makes Me Laugh", they have released another new song, "You Bring The Summer", written by Andy Partridge. Perhaps, this is meant to be the B-side, as in classic vinyl singles.  Once again, Micky on lead vocals with Mike and Peter singing backup harmony vocals. Mike is also on rhythm guitar and Peter on organ.  Enjoy!

Friday, April 29, 2016

"She Makes Me Laugh", The Monkees' new single

Here's The Monkees' new single, "She Makes Me Laugh", from their upcoming new album, Good Times! 
A catchy song that has a retro-60s sound, similar to their 1986 tracks, "That Was Then, This Is Now" and "Anytime, Anyplace, Anywhere" .  If it gets radio airplay, it could be a big summer hit.  Micky is on lead vocals, Mike is on harmony vocals and acoustic guitar, and Peter is on banjo and background vocals.

Mike introduced the song on his Facebook page by commenting, "Welp. Here we go -- remember there are all kinds of immortality and this one looks pretty happy. :)" 

I can't add more than that. Enjoy.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Review: Batman '66 meets the Man from UNCLE #5

This issue opens with the mysterious Corvid being revealed to be Arkham's Dr Hugo, who turns out to be really Professor Hugo Strange. The C and D list villains seem to be a little peeved that they have been working for the doctor that has held them in Arkham, but Strange quickly talks them down by revealing his taking the position at Arkham was for the goal of recruiting THRUSH agents. Strange them leads his captives and reveals his plans to make the world a utopia via psychological manipulation. The heroes and UNCLE agents are gassed and Strange attempt to brainwash them to his side.  The first brainwashing session seems to have no impact and the captives attempt to escape only to fall into the clutches of a giant octopus. The script by Jeff Parker stays the course. His sequence of Strange attempting to brainwash Batman and the others seems to drift more into Batman The Animated Series territory than the 1966 TV series. David Hahn again turns in very good artwork.  This issue earns another B.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Monkees v Beatles: Dawn of a Perspective

With the Monkees' restored HD Blu Ray box set and new album, Good Times, about to be released on this 50th anniversary year, I thought I would offer this perspective.

First a disclaimer.  This is not a thoroughly researched doctor's thesis.  My doctor can research his own thesis. This is just my perspective from when I was growing up when the Monkees TV series was a staple of UHF stations, and their Greatest Hits album was in every neighborhood kid's record collection.

What I seem to recall is that us guys seemed to be bigger Monkees fans, while the girls seemed to prefer the Beatles.  The obvious reason for this could be the TV series.  Much like The Three Stooges, which is considered "a guy thing" that girls never got, the Monkees TV series, with it's fast paced comedy, drew the guys in while the girls shrugged at the whole notion.  But I think it went deeper than that.

After doing a quick analysis of both groups' songs, I came to this conclusion. The Beatles catalog, for the most part, was aimed at girls.  The majority of their songs, although there were certainly some exceptions, dealt with peace and love and happiness and romance.  The Beatles were a chick's group.

The Monkees, on the other hand, had the majority of their songs aimed to a guy's life experiences. In the Monkees' music continuity, girls were not the objects of happiness and romance to be adored and put on a pedestal like in the Beatles' world.  In the Monkees' world, girls were most often backstabbing heart-breakers ("She", "Mary Mary", "Stepping Stone", "Tomorrow's Gonna Be Another Day", "Gonna Buy Me A Dog", among others),  people not to be trusted ("The Girl I Knew Somewhere", "You Told Me", "Forget That Girl", "Cuddly Toy", "Words", among others), and selfish users ("Star Collector", "She Hangs Out").

While in the Beatles' world, the goal was to hold hands and have a relationship, in the Monkees' world, the goal was to be friends with benefits ("I Wanna Be Free"). 

I was listening to "Sunny Girlfriend", thinking it was a typical teenage love song.  The whole song is about saying how great this girl is.  But then the final line reveals the truth- no matter how wonderful you think this girl is, and how much you're in love with her, "she doesn't really care".  That kind of songwriting speaks to pre-teen and teenage guys.

Even in the Monkees' more traditional and optimistic love songs, the guy seems to be falling in love against his will, if you really listen to "I'm A Believer" and "Love Is Only Sleeping" and "Look Out Here Comes Tomorrow" and "What Am I Doing Hanging 'Round".

So, my unscientific conclusion as to why, when I was growing up in my Midwest neighborhood, the guys were Monkees fans while the girls were Beatles fans, is that the Beatles tailored their songs to girls, and the Monkees tailored their songs to boys.  Just don't ask me why then Monkees concerts are loaded with girls in the audience. But then, why should I speak, since I know nothing?

Monday, March 28, 2016

movie review: BATMAN v SUPERMAN

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is all at once grand and epic, yet a little bloated.  The latest Batman movie... and yes, this is definitely a Batman movie with ties to Man of Steel, and not a Superman movie that features Batman... has director Zach Snyder succeeding in bringing, perhaps the closest thing this generation will ever see to a live action adaptation of Frank Miller's Dark Knight Returns graphic novel. While all Batman movies made by Warner Brothers, since 1989, have had various degrees of inspiration and nods to the legendary graphic novel, this one has a record number of scenes and lines of dialogue directly lifted from the source material.  The film opens up with a flashback to the Wayne murders, inter-cut with the funeral where, young Bruce runs off and falls into the future Batcave (not unlike a similar scene in Batman Forever).  However this time, we see a swarm of bats literally levitating Bruce up out of the cave, setting the tone that this is a more fantasy-based take of Batman, after over 20 years of more or less realism-grounded interpretations (Burton and Nolan more, Schumacher less).   From there, we get the film's major plot line set up: the final fight between Superman and Zod from Man of Steel, from Bruce's point of view, fueling Wayne's rage over the kryptonian, and his perceived legacy to keep the world safe. The plot then splits off into many directions, dealing with the Government's concern over Superman, Lex Luthor's obsession with meta humans, the mysterious Diana Prince's search for a World War I photo.

We get the epic battle between the Dark Knight and the Man of Steel, like so much of Batman's part of this movie, lifted nearly verbatim from the graphic novel.  I was expecting a 10 second cameo by Carrie Kelly, suited up as Robin, to assist in this battle, by igniting one of Batman's kryptonite gas bombs on Superman.  Alas, no such scene.  If I may digress a bit, there is a Robin costume on display in the Batcave, as we've all seen in trailers.  We've also all seen the set photo of Dick Grayson's tomb. We've also heard rumors that Jason Todd is the deceased Robin, and Dick is referenced as Nightwing. The film itself, from what I have seen, gives no clarification who exactly this Robin was. This mystery is still unsettled.  More blatant is Jimmy Olsen introduced and killed off in a single scene, and the voice of the president sounds like Donald Trump. There are cameos of the other future Justice League members, most notably by The Flash, who is trying to give Bruce a message, but realizes he's "too early".   This scene would have had more impact if Grant Guston was playing the Flash.  I know, I know, no cross-continuity between DC TV and movies, but at this point, Grant Guston is The Flash, while Ezra Miller is still an unknown entity. The way the Batman v Superman fight ends, though, is one of the corniest spectacles put on film. Superman mumbles that Lex is going to kill Martha.  Ben Affleck then does a Razzies worthy rant, screaming like a madman, "why did you say Martha?", perhaps the movie's unintentionally funniest moment.  Batman realizes his mom and Superman's mom have the same first name. Suddenly, these guys are best friends. The film winds down with shoehorning Doomsday in, complete with the shocking end result of the comics its based on, with Snyder sneaking in out of left field the story line Warners has been attempting to do since 1995 on the big screen.

Ben Affleck takes on the role of Bruce Wayne and Batman, and frankly does better than I thought he would. He's not as good an actor as Micheal Keaton, who was able to disappear into the role, and he's not as unknown as Christian Bale was, so at times you don't see Bruce Wayne, you see Ben Affleck playing Bruce Wayne.  But he does have the potential to be a really good Batman.  The scene where Batman rescues Martha Kent is perhaps the greatest Batman fight-action scene ever captured on film... and again, much of the action and dialogue is lifted verbatim from a similar scene is the Miller graphic novel, and granted, Affleck probably had little to do with it, Batman being played by stuntmen and CGI for the scene.  His Batman costume is far superior to the motocross inspired outfit Bale wore, and his Batman voice is also far superior to Bale's "frog with throat cancer" voice, although some lines of dialogue sounded as if they were auto tuning Batman's voice, which is not a good thing. Jeremy Irons play Alfred, again, much better than I thought he would.  Early photos of him had me thinking he would be more suited as Jim Gordon, but he pulls off the Alfred role better than Michael Cain did.

Jesse Eisenberg's Lex Luther plays more like a Batman villain than a typical Superman villain. He has just enough touches of Jim Carrey's Edward Nygma, fleshed out with a sense of insanity that really pushes him into the Batman column for villains. The jury is still out as to whether this is good or bad.  Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman was another casting concern, but I think she pulled it splendidly considering her character was more of an enigma, with just enough screen time to keep both Bruce and us in the audience intrigued.

The weak point of the film may actually be the returning Superman characters. Henry Cavill is just kind of there as Superman. In Man of Steel  all he seemed to do is scream and cry. In this one, he doesn't even do that. In one scene, as Clark, he shows some passion trying to convince Perry White to let him do an article on Batman, and later in the movie he threatens Luthor when he's told he kidnapped Martha Kent. Otherwise Cavill is kind of like a mannequin.  His wooden acting and reciting of dialogue may be the reason, in contrast, why both Affleck and Gadot shined in their roles more than expected.  One other note regarding the kidnapping of Martha Kent. The fact Luthor knows Clark Kent is Superman is just presented in a matter of fact way with no real shock or amazement that Luthor figured out the secret identity.  Amy Adams fared better as Lois, but again, just seemed off, not to mention that she has no chemistry at all with Cavill. One wonders if it would have been better if she were cast as Rachel Dawes in the Nolan Batman trilogy (as she did the screen tests for it), and someone like Mila Kunis were cast as Lois in the Snyder movies.

As with the Nolan trilogy and Man of Steel, the musical score - or more accurately, instrumental sound effects - is instantly forgettable.  The one exception is the Wonder Woman theme.

The other thing that bogs this movie down is the running time. At two and a half hours, you start to feel that it should have been streamlined by about 30 minutes.  As cool as the desert Batman scene was, and the other Bruce and Clark fantasy scenes were, they weren't needed for the plot, and maybe should have been cut.  That reminds me of something else, something that bothered me a bit about this take on Batman.  Snyder made him a bit too cold blooded. By Frank Miller's sequel, Dark Knight Strikes Again, Miller had Batman killing people without flinching, and it seems like Snyder is taking Bruce down that same path.  Another flaw, in my opinion, is that Snyder took the whole project a little too seriously. There should have been a little more space for fun, for a sense of wonder. But on the whole, Batman v Superman delivered a decent.. or at least adequate, superhero epic.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Review: Batman '66 meets the Man from UNCLE # 4

This issue is a step up from last issue, which seemed like filler. The story picks up moments after the conclusion of the last issue where Batman revealed himself as Bruce Wayne. As he explains it, Batman already made plans with Wayne to masquerade as Wayne via a lifelike Bat-synthetic mask, to infiltrate the THRUSH agency. The Terrific Trio and UNCLE agents attend a party by the Royalty of Monaco, to discover the B, C, and D list Bat villains are now part of the cabinet, thanks to The Siren's manipulation of the prince. Wayne allows himself to be captured and the heroes trail him via the British Batmobile, and then a yellow Bat-submarine. At THRUSH's underwater HQ, the heroes invade, Wayne reveals he's really Batman in disguise, and after a fight, they discover the mysterious Corvid  leading this operation is.... I won't spoil it until the next review, but the reveal is a let down.  I thought it would be Penguin.  It's not.  As stated, Jeff Parker's script is an improvement over last issue's filler story, and David Hahn and Pasquale Qualano once again share art duties, each drawing half the issue. This issue brings the grade back up to the consistent B the series has been earning.