Friday, December 28, 2012

Review: Curse Of Shazam, part 8

Chapter 8 of Curse Of Shazam in JUSTICE LEAGUE #15 opens with Capt... er, Shazam, still in his Jethro topcoat, and Freddy on a bench eating hamburgers.  They realize they only have 75¢ left from their reward.  Not enough to buy beer.  They go to an ATM where Freddy tells Capt... er, Shazam, to put a spell on it to get money.  He speaks a childish incantation, ending with Shazam.  Lightning shoots out from his hands, and hits the ATM, which then starts spitting out all the money.  As they panic, for the money won't stop shooting out, they notice the bank is being robbed by other guys.  Capt... er, Shazam inadvertently stops the robbers.  A couple spectators ask who the figure in red is, and he replies, "uh... Shazam?"  Freddy and Shazam run off, only to stumble into another robbery, where the unlikely heroes are rewarded with all the junk food they can eat. Then they find themselves stopping a car theft.  Noticing how they seem to keep finding crimes being committed, an image of crystal named Francesca, whom only Shazam can see, confirms that he is being drawn to places where a champion is needed.  Francesca warns him Black Adam is looking for him as Shazam discovers he can fly.  As Freddy and Shazam enjoy the new power, Freddy decides perhaps its time for Shazam to turn back into Billy so they can go back home to the Vasquezes.  Shazam disagrees, intending to stay in his super powered form forever.  Freddy accuses Shazam of starting to act just like a grown up, and splits.  Suddenly, Black Adam finds Shazam, setting up a big fight in the next chapter.

This chapter has more of the Big Red Cheese acting like a goofy kid, and doing juvenile antics with Freddy (not cool, "Dead End Kids" style antics, just dumb kid antics) on their quest to buy beer.  One of the weaker aspects of the ever loathed Trials Of Shazam this new series clings to (besides the hooded cloak), is the idea the magic word does not trigger any transformation on its own, but rather the change must be willed.  Ultimately, this makes the magic word pointless.  Hopefully the big fight in the next issue will be an event, because so far, ever since Billy transformed into Capt... er, Shazam, the series has gone downhill.  Chapter 8 earns a C.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

2012 Loose Ends

As 2012 comes to an end, I thought I'd tie up some loose ends.

If you recall, I predicted the 9th volume of THREE STOOGES COLLECTION, Rare Treasures From The Columbia Vault, would be released individually by Christmas. I was off by a month. The announced release date is January 1, 2013.

There has been no formal announcement of the 1966 Batman TV series being released on DVD despite an agreement for merchandise based on the show, but the 1974 Shazam TV series has been released. It was great to see those shows again. Since it was an anthology show, it was kind of the precursor to the Bill Bixby Incredible Hulk series, which had a similar format. The show has some good moments, and indeed has a fair share of nods to both the comics (there are several references to Billy working at station WHIZ, and some moments between Billy and Mentor -who comes off as a slight variation of Uncle Dudley- have a Binder & Beck flavor to them) and the 1941 serial (the original Billy Batson, Frank Coghlan Jr, guest stars in an episode). Its weird, though, that the "morals" segments were done separately from the series, and the master tape lost, forcing WB Archive to use VHS copies. Thankfully, the episodes themselves are from the masters, and look great. Although, things definitely went down hill in the last 11 episodes where John Davey takes over the role of Fat Marv... er, Captain Marvel. Now if only WB Archive would release a DVD collecting all 13 of the 1980 Filmation Shazam cartoons, many of which written by Paul Dini.


The Monkees did a quick tour this winter. Watching some great clips on You Tube, Micky, Mike and Peter performed incredibly. As expected, the set list was Nez heavy and some of the show's highlights were rarely performed gems like Tapioca Tundra, Sweet Young Thing, and a hilarious version of Daily Nightly. I understand a concert was audio recorded for possible CD release, but unfortunately none of the concerts were professionally filmed for DVD release. However, The Monkees' current quasi-manager, Andrew Sandoval, hinted another tour may happen this summer. This quick winter tour was more or less a trial run, and bigger things may be planned for the future, as rumors circulate that Dolenz, Tork, and Nesmith were planning on forming an act without Jones for several months prior to Davy's death.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Reformed Roman Missal- One Year Later

Well, its been a whole year since the new English translation of the Roman Missal has been promulgated.  I can neither say it has been a success nor a failure. The rebellion against the translation the critics on the left were hoping for never happened.  The vast majority accepted the new English words with nary a kick or a scream.  Yet, there hasn't been a fundamental change in the way Mass is celebrated in the typical parish, either.  Despite the new words, there are still the stripped down sanctuaries, with tiny wood altars that look like dining room tables.  There is still the hand holding, the banal Broadway show tune Mass Settings and adult contemporary hymns that celebrate people while ignoring all things mystical and spiritual.  In the typical parish, mine included, Mass is still a liturgical Woodstock wannabe. I don't listen to Broadway show tunes.  Why in the world would I want to go to Church and hear Mass settings in a Broadway style? What I have come to realize is that the problem is in the rubrics, or more accurately the lack of rubrics, in the Ordinary Form (rubrics are the actions that go along with the words, such as kneeling, facing ad orientum, how often the priest makes the sign of the cross, etc... think of it as choreography).  The Ordinary Form, aka Novus Ordo, was fabricated by Annibale Bugnini, and was to be a simplified form.  It has so few rubrics, it allows priests to celebrate, or rather "preside" (as the Novus Ordo rubrics call it) Mass in their own individual styles, and sadly, many adopted a hippie social worker style that seems to be eternally stuck in the early 1970s.

I find myself agreeing with comedian Jimmy Fallon, who expressed his thoughts on the Catholic Mass in this interview with NPR.  On the traditional Mass, he said,
"I just, I loved the church. I loved the idea of it. I loved the smell of the incense. I loved the feeling you get when you left church. I loved like how this priest can make people feel this good. I just thought it was, I loved the whole idea of it. My grandfather was very religious, so I used to go to mass with him at like 6:45 in the morning serve mass and then you made money too if you did weddings and funerals. They'd give you, you'd get like five bucks. And so I go okay, I can make money too. I go this could be a good deal for me. I thought I had the calling. "

But on the way Mass has gone since the Novus Ordo was implemented, he said,
"I don't go to - I tried to go back. When I was out in L.A. and I was like kind of struggling for a bit I went to church for a while, but it's kind of, it's gotten gigantic now for me. It's like too, there's a band. There's a band there now and you got to, you have to hold hands with people through the whole mass now, and I don't like doing that. You know, I mean it used to be the shaking hands piece was the only time you touched each other. Now I'm holding, now I'm lifting people. Like Simba. I'm holding them, ha nah hey nah ho.  I'm doing too much. I don't want - there's Frisbees being thrown, there's beach balls going around, people waving lighters, and I go this is too much for me. I want the old way. I want to hang out with the, you know, with the nuns, you know, that was my favorite type of mass, and the Grotto and just like straight up, just mass-mass."

I find myself having similar thoughts.  My own parish has the casual, Broadway-Woodstock style Mass, that I find increasing difficult to sit through.  I want tradition.  I want to hear chant. I want some Latin. I want to hear bells and smell incense.  I want the priest to be a spiritual leader, leading us in prayer and sermonizing about faith and miracles, not a performer who tries to entertain us, while making social justice his only message.  There is another parish in my neighborhood that has a more traditional Mass, with bells, incense, chant, and even some Latin.  They even have the Extraordinary Form (aka Tridentine Latin Mass) every week.  Can I bring myself to quit my parish and join this other one?  In time, I may not have a choice, if going to Mass at my parish continues to be like a chore or a penance to suffer through.

If I had the Pope's ear, I would humbly suggest to him that the Order of the Mass for the Ordinary Form needs to be reformed.  The 1965 Order should be restored to the Ordinary Form Roman Missal, replacing the Annibale Bugnini fabricated Order.  The 1965 Order of the Mass was, essentially, a vernacular translation of the Tridentine Latin Order, slightly simplified in rubrics, with some repetition removed, thus making it fulfill Vatican II's requirements- - in fact, the 1965 Missal was heralded "The Mass Of Vatican II".

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Review: Popeye # 7

This issue is written and drawn by Roger Langridge.  His art is something of a cross between Bud Sagendorf and Bill Zaboly, if a bit more primitive.  The story is a western-action-mystery that brings back Olive's first boyfriend, Ham Gravy. He's now an ostrich rancher, and developed incredible strength through the Charles Adenoid exercise program.  Ham's ostriches have been disappearing, and they discover the culprit is the Desert Yeti (played by this issue's special guest star, Michelle Obama).  The story's centerpiece is a fistfight between Popeye and Ham. They then team up to take down the Yeti.  The story is amusing with an abundance of dialogue, but as typical of Langridge, no real bust out laughing moments.

This issue has a second story featuring Sappo and Watasnozzle that is likewise amusing and typical of the Sappo-Watasnozzle back up features.  This issue earns a C+.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Review: Curse Of Shazam, part 7

Two thumbs up, Cap? Not by a long shot.
Chapter 7 of Curse Of Shazam in JUSTICE LEAGUE #14 begins with Sivana and Black Adam atop the Empire State Building, looking down at New York City.  Sivana explains to Black Adam he needs him to bring magic back into the world in order to save Sivana's family. They witness workers striking against their company, which spurs Black Adam to kill their "Pharaoh", setting the "slaves" free.  The workers, instead, flee in terror at the sight of the murder, confusing Adam, who thinks he has saved them. Black Adam takes Sivana to the Rock of Eternity, where the powerful magic begins to have a whithering effect on Sivana's body, since he is not enchanted to channel it.  Black Adam cannot enter the Rock, but sees the Wizard's lifeless body on the ground, so he deduces the Wizard created a new champion.  Cut back to Freddy and Capt... er, Shazam.  Freddy buys a $10 trench coat at a second hand store to cover Capt... er, Shazam's costume, only to have him look like Jethro Bodine, with the coat too small.  Cut back to Black Adam and Sivana, who recruit Sloth, who has been imprisoned in human form, to take down the new champion, reclaim the Rock, and rebuild Earth.

This chapter is an improvement over the disappointing origin sequence.  However, for Freddy and Cap...er, Shazam's only brief scene, its still goofy dufus time.  As speculated, it looks like magic will be the cause of big, strong Sivana transforming into the short troll like character we all know.  Black Adam's murder of the business owner, and Adam's belief that he was saving the workers and setting them free was the highlight of this chapter.  It just a shame Johns can only seem to portray Cap... er, Shazam in such a goofy man-child way.  This chapter earns a C+.

Monday, November 5, 2012

WB releases Vitaphone Shemp shorts on DVD

On November 20, WB Archive will release The Vitaphone Comedy Collection Vol 1 which features all the Vitaphone two-reelers with Shemp Howard as a supporting player.  As a bonus, also included are the four solo Vitaphone shorts starring Fatty Arbuckle.  Presumably, Volume 2 will collect all of Shemp's starring Vitaphone shorts, and one can only hope for a bonus, it will also include the four surviving MGM shorts starring Ted Healy and the Three Stooges (currently under WB ownership).  If you would like to write or email WB Archive to thank them for releasing the Shemp shorts, or to encourage them to include the four MGM Healy and Stooges shorts on Volume 2,  the contact info is

Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.
4000 Warner Blvd.
Burbank, CA 91522
Phone: 818-954-6000
email:  http://www.warnerbros.com/help/customer-service.html

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Batman Movie Franchise Reboot

On the off chance Michael Uslan or the powers that be at Warner Brothers may be reading my blog, here is I would like to see when Warner Brothers reboots the Batman movie franchise in the next few years.

First, on the fast track to a 2015 release, I'd like to see "Batman Triumphant".  It would be the third chapter of the unfinished Burton-Keaton trilogy, heavily inspired by and based upon Frank Miller's Dark Knight Returns graphic novel.  The story needs to be streamlined to fit in a single two-hour movie and to better follow the continuity of Batman and Batman Returns. Tim Burton would return as director, from a script by Sam Hamm (with perhaps some tweaking or revisions by Wesley Strick).  Danny Elfman would return to compose the score.
Michael Keaton would return as The Batman,

Jack Nicholson as the Joker,

Michelle Pfeiffer as Selina Kyle,

and Billy Dee Williams as Harvey Dent.


The story should open on Alfred Pennyworth's funeral, with Bruce at the grave.  It would be revealed Bruce quit being Batman some fifteen years earlier when Commissioner Gordon was shot and killed, with Batman blaming himself.  The current Commissioner, Ellen Yindel, seems ineffective with the rising crime rate in Gotham.  From there we stick close to the graphic novel, with rising crime by punk gang members and muggers during a heat wave, Bruce becoming increasingly uneasy, resulting in him reemerging as The Batman.  As Batman battles the punk gang members and the "cured" Dent, Carrie should be brought in quicker, since Alfred and Gordon are gone, and Bruce needs someone to confide in (Selina's role most likely would also be made larger than it was in the graphic novel).  As in the graphic novel, the Joker emerges from his catatonic state when news reports of Batman appear.  Again, follow the graphic novel with the Joker's break for freedom and resulting crime wave, and Batman and Robin's attempt to stop him, as Yindel sends in forces to bring in Batman, while the media debates Batman's vigilantism. After the Joker's suicide, the cops' battle with Batman should be the film's finale (replacing the battle with Superman).  Likewise, since Christopher Nolan co-opted the "Bruce fakes his death" ending for The Dark Knight Rises, this version needs to come up with a new ending. What, I don't know... if I did, I'd write the script myself and get signed to a WB deal.


A few years later, in 2019, the 80th anniversary of Batman, and the 30th anniversary of the first Tim Burton film, the full reboot I call "Legend of The Batman", or perhaps simply "The Batman" should be slated for release.  This would be a completely new take, yet still embraces the best aspects of other versions, incorporating them into it.  From the Nolan movies, the only aspect I would want to see retained is the well planned and choreographed action sequences. Nolan did raise the bar in that regard in The Dark Knight, and the film makers need to strive reach that quality.

From the Tim Burton movies, I'd like to see the aspect of The Batman being a character shrouded in mystery return. No need to over explain every detail.  No need for Batman to give long monologues in a ridiculous frog voice or to have his own version of James Bond's Q.  Michael Keaton's portrayal of The Batman should be the foundation on which the new actor cast should build his interpretation on. Also from the Burton movies, I'd like to see Gotham City be more unique, and less of a doppelganger for Chicago. I'm not saying Anton Furst's Gotham should be recreated as it would be for the Batman Triumphant concept, but Gotham should be its own unique hellish city, not just generic Chicago or New York location shooting.  Stylistically dark.

I want to see a real Batmobile.  No more Tumbler.  It would be cool to see the classic 1950 Batmobile from the comics brought to life for the first time.  It kind of looks like a bat-themed hearse, which would be a great visual.

On the other hand, there is the standard that the Batmobile needs to be the ultimate muscle car, following in the tire tracks of the 1966 and 1989 models.  I'd be happy with either of those choices.

I want to see the Batcave.  Nolan's films had so little Batcave,  just the entrance with the waterfall.  That's all we ever saw it seems.  There's no need to go full blown into the comics with the giant penny and dinosaur, but it needs to be more defined and detailed than what we have seen in the recent movies.

I believe there are also some aspects of the Adam West TV series that can be utilized.  Well, at least from the pilot episode, Hi Diddle Riddle/Smack In The Middle.  The pilot episode had a sense of excitement, of fun, of daring adventure, and a photography style, that if divorced from camp and grafted onto a serious take of Batman, could really supercharge it.

That brings us to the plot.  I'd like to see the movie set a few weeks after Dick Grayson becomes Robin.  A pre-credits sequence could quickly recap Batman and Robins' origins.  The actor to be cast as the Boy Wonder should actually be a 14 or 15 year old kid. He should use as a foundation for his interpretation of the character the Douglas Croft version from the 1943 serial: a quick witted, wise cracking daredevil who is competent and resourceful. I'd like to see the Riddler be the main villain, with The Penguin as a secondary villain, portrayed as Gotham's top mob boss, perhaps incorporating the idea of him owning a popular night club as a front. Not a sewer dwelling mutant, this Penguin should be an aristocrat of crookery who knows how to live the good life. This movie should highlight Batman as a detective, something that has been ignored or only slightly touched on in every movie to date. With the Riddler as villain, it is the perfect opportunity for a great mystery and detective work.  The actor cast as Edward Nigma should echo Frank Gorshin's definitive performance, yet still bring some deadly menace to the role.  I'd also like to see some classic style deathtraps for Batman and Robin to escape from, reviving their titles of world's greatest escape artists, another aspect neglected in the recent movies.

For Batman's costume, I'm guessing the standard rubber suit will be retained, but I do not want to see all the padding and over done plates from the Nolan movies.  Go back to a simpler, less detailed design, like in Batman Returns or even the "panther suit" from Batman Forever, just minus the nipples. I'd also like to see the navy blue and gray color scheme return, along with mirrored lenses in the eye slits, thus removing the need for Batman to wear eye makeup.  The chest logo should be black and large, without the yellow oval. 

For Robin, stick close to the original design, albeit in rubber, and just extend the short sleeves and trunks to long sleeves and long pants.  Alter the gloves to black for contrast and to match the mask, and change the green elf shoes to black boots.


My pick would be for definitive Batman writer Steve Englehart to co-write the script with my choice for director.  To direct... okay, I know this will get a lot of jeers... Frank Miller.  I know a lot of "fans" have turned on him in recent years, but the fact remains he is the author of two of the most popular Batman arcs of all time, he redefined Batman in a way that is still being felt to this day, and he is actually a good, visual director.  The Spirit looked good, even if the script was crap.  But we would have Englehart to make sure the script is good.  Just imagine, a Batman movie done by two of the best Batman comic book creators, Miller and Englehart.

I do think it should be carved in stone that this franchise continue on and on, like the original James Bond franchise, before it rebooted with Casino Royal. The second film could move the Penguin into the spotlight as main villain. The third film could introduce the Joker.  At some point, there needs to be a Joker-Penguin team up, something we've been cheated out of in Batman movies so far.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Review: Popeye # 5 and 6

Popeye #5 sees the return of Bruce Ozella as artist.  His work in this issue is better and more polished than his turn in issue #1.  This issue spotlights Swee' Pea in a pair of stories.  The first one deals with Swee' Pea running away from home because Popeye scolds him for misspelling "cat".  Most of the humor in this story focuses on Popeye misspelling words, thinking he is correct and everyone else is wrong.  Swee' Pea hooks up with a gang of kids and punches out several dogs.  Kind of a weak script by Roger Langridge.  The second story has Popeye and friends making home made comic strips to entertain Swee' Pea. Its slightly better than the lead story, but feels like a filler.  This issue's variant cover is the great John Byrne cover originally planned for issue 4, but it would have been a better match for the next issue.  Issue #5 gets a C.

Popeye #6 features the return of Ken Wheaton as artist. Like Ozella, his art this time around is better and more polished than his first try in issue 2.  The story, by Langridge, is one of his better efforts.  Capturing the type of parody and satire that E.C. Segar excelled at, the plot deals with movie director Flash Meischer (a caricature of Max Fleischer) signing Popeye to a movie deal. Hot Hollywood types are cast in the leads, only to have Meischer suffer a breakdown.  Wimpy takes over as director, and decides to use the real people instead of actors, but then its revealed Bluto is the movie's main investor. There is a good homage to Popeye Meets Ali Baba's Forty Thieves, and a parody of product placement in movies crowds out Popeye's spinach.  The movie is saved when Wimpy inserts "reality" fight footage of Popeye into the final edit. Wheaton's art depicting the black and white film footage is stellar, and has a sense of fluidness in contrast with the stiffer panel compositions of the IDW house style for Popeye.  All in all, issue 6 ranks up there with the best issues of the IDW run, and earns an A.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Davy's Replacement on Monkees Tour

In a series of Facebook posts, Michael Nesmith voices his ideas of who should replace Davy on the tour. I'm reposting them here, not only because they are very funny, but many fans are taking this seriously, making the whole thing even funnier.

The first post:

"As I get relatively older the corporeal sense data set goes more and more non-linear. I’ve been watching Emmy Blotnick all morning and laughing hard, but I know somewhere deep down I am not laughing at the right thing.

"There is a kind of horror in finding oneself inapt, and yet, there is a certain joy to it – coming loose from the moorings, as it were.

"Emmy does this stand-up that is very funny to me – “I made you a sandwich” and I watched it two or three times just this morning – and something inside me wants to tell Emmy why I think it’s so funny.

"But I know better than to do that, so I am keeping my mouth shut and laughing with the rest of the people that think she is funny.

"The reason I was watching her is because she is a blogger for Jimmy Fallon.

"And I have been talking to Mick and Pete about how we are going to do Daydream Believer without David. We have some ideas – and clearly we have to do it – it’s one of the Monkees best songs – but how?

"Stay with me here.

"Mick and I are heavy into rehearsals and hanging out – and I have started privately nourishing this idea that – in New York and LA at least – I think Jimmy Fallon should come do Daydream Believer with us.

"First, he is a good singer and musician. And second, he seems pretty easy going. And finally, and perhaps most importantly, he is the only person I think that could actually do the Davy dance with the proper gravitas and respect it deserves.

"(Lord knows Axel Rose did his best – and it may be that Axel has even won the name wars for the dance – but to me it is, and always will be, the Davy dance and not the Axel Rose dance.)

"In any case -- I think Fallon could do it great, sing the song great, and I am thinking seriously about inviting him to come and do it with us – just a couple of nights. I am giving it a lot of careful thought.

"Careful, non-linear-wacked-out, goofy thought.

"So far I haven’t got this past Mick and Pete – I actually haven’t even asked them – but I am drifting that way because of Emmy Blotnick who has now (unwittingly)re-enforced the notion that Fallon could do it great – “birds of a feather” is more than enough validation for me. That’s the best I can explain it: Blotnick sandwich = Jimmy Fallon sings Daydream Believer and delivers his version of the Davy dance.

"So, Mick and Pete and I have the show covered, it will be fun and satisfying to the hardest core Monkees fan –but --

"There is this one last thing we absolutely have to work out and get right -- who will sing Daydream Believer?

"I’m starting with Jimmy Fallon – and if he won’t do it -- then I’ll just let the non-linear world take over and see where the ball lands next.

"It may land in the town we’re coming to."
 
The plot thickens with the second post:
 
"I am shocked!

"Shocked and dismayed. I just got a call from Jimmy Fallon and he was cackling with glee. (At least I think it was Jimmy. He swore to me it was really him) It's very unlike Jimmy to cackle. He is so sweet and kind on his show, and he treats his guests with respect and asks smart questions, so I was so surprised to listen as he delightedly told me that he had hacked my Facebook page!!

"He was unabashed. He said he tacked a post on to the one I wrote about Emmy Blotnick and her sandwich routine.

"Then, (and this is really weird) he begged me to let him sing Daydream Believer and I didn't know what to say -- I had no idea what he was talking about. How did he find out Mick and Peter and I were thinking about who should sing Daydream Believer with us? Its very important to us, of course, but we have been keeping the discussions very quiet and just between the three of us.

"What I did say was that "we haven't decided yet, Jimmy." Sheeez.

"I'm not sure what he posted on my Emmy Blotnick post. I haven't had a chance to read it yet , but he did a lot of damage here on the site, I can already tell. There is a whole thing of chocolates missing from my FB page. And half the bottle of cologne is gone. Vanished. It was that really good Axe cologne that makes women chase you around -- just like they show on TV.

"I'm sure he took them. Or had something to do with it. So unlike JF.

"I am heartbroken. I love Jimmy Fallon and his show and his whole zeitgeist thing he does. He is my favorite late night guy. I admit I'm not up that late that often. But I almost always watch the one from the night before while I have dinner at 4:30PM. That's my me time. But I am not going to watch now for a long time.

"Not after he broke into my FB page and posted stuff and takes valuable items. That just goes beyond the pale.

"And just for the record, no offense JF, but my choice is for Bono to sing it.

"I'm even thinking of asking Bono to join us for the whole tour just for that one song. Especially now, after Jimmy just trashed me.

"And I am sure it was Jimmy that called, I have the call back number on my cell, and sure enough it's from North Carolina, which is where JF's cell phone is registered.

"And besides, it sounded just like him."
 
Mike responds to fans threatening to boycott the upcoming Monkees tour if Kevin Spacey is not invited to sing Daydream Believer as a tribute to Davy Jones.

"OK now this is getting out of hand -- or maybe out of control -- or something.

“Apparently there is a fan group -- Monkees fans -- who have formed a large contingent to boycott the upcoming tour unless and until we invite Kevin Spacey to sing ‘Daydream Believer’ as a tribute to Davy.

“Now, I like Kevin. He is a close friend that calls all the time, at least he says he is Kevin Spacey, and we talk a lot, but there are too many things that are just plain wrong with this, if I may be so bold as to scold.

“First Micky and Peter and I are in rehearsals now and working very hard to put together a great show that includes a solution to what to do about ‘Daydream Believer.’ We have some very good ideas, and we think they will work out well.

“None of them include having Kevin sing, and as good a friend as he is -- he calls all the time, really, like at 3 a.m. and so forth -- I just can't agree to this.

“Yes, I think David would like the Bobby Darin connection, and, yes, Kevin is a good singer, a really fantastic impressionist, but he is waaay too old, and he cannot, as far as I know do the Davy dance. Not that he would ever need to, but I don't think he can do it.

“I mean, he limped a little in ‘Usual Suspects’ -- but that is a very long way from the Davy dance -- a really, very, very long way.

“And now these so-called ‘fans,’ as they call themselves, want to boycott this concert tour unless and until we invite Kevin to sing ‘Daydream Believer’ at the end of the show.

“I am beside myself with worry over this, and don't know what to do. To have such a revolution among people who should know better and who have never even talked to Kevin as I have, sometimes for hours and hours when he was thinking about maybe leaving show biz, just makes me so sad and confused.

“But for you ‘Spacey Cadets,’ as I will now call you disparagingly, Peter and Micky and I have got this whole Daydream Believer thing right at the top of our list of things to bring to the concert in the best and right way. It is important to us, and we don't intend to mess around with this. There are times when the Monkees just have to get serious and this is certainly one of them.

“So, pushing us around, and making the three of us have agonizing conversations in the rehearsal studio, and sometimes during meals, even, is just not helping at all.

“Please stop -- and please do not boycott the shows, and please do not poison anyone else into boycotting the shows. I am asking nicely because I just don't know what else to do.

“These shows are going to be so much fun, and will represent the whole Monkees part of our lives so well, that you just don't want to miss them. (Micky and Peter are sounding better than ever, BTW).”


Let me just add, Mike is the best.  Eventually, Micky Dolenz stepped in to set the record straight in an interview with Musicradar:

[Laughs] "That's a joke! It's a total joke. That was just, like, goofing. No, what has been discussed is having friends and people come on stage in select places and singing along with us. Ringo does that. U2 – Bono brings people up. In fact, Davy Jones joined U2 on stage once for 'Daydream Believer'. So that's what that was all about. We understand that Jimmy is a fan and likes the music, so maybe he will show up on stage somewhere as a guest. But he wouldn't be replacing Davy."

Micky also tells an interesting story about his unique right-handed, left footed drumming style:

"What happened was, I started taking lessons from my first teacher, John Carlos, a very famous drum teacher. But before that, when I was a kid, I had a leg-bone disease. Fortunately, it didn't turn out to be serious, but it made my right leg weak – it still is – and I'm right-handed. So this presented a problem.

"I sat down and started playing at a traditional kit, but my right leg got very tired playing the kick. I told this to John Carlos, and he said, 'Well, you're still learning. Just switch it around.' I started playing the kick with my left, which was fine, and I played the snare with my left hand and the hi-hat with my right leg. It became this sort of V-formation. That's how I learned, and it became kind of interesting. I think it contributed to some of the unique rhythms I've come up with because of that configuration."

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Review: Curse Of Shazam, part 6

Chapter 6 of Curse Of Shazam, from JUSTICE LEAGUE #0 (don't ask about the numbering), is where things start to go south.  We get a recap of Black Adam's return, from the Wizard's point of view, then we cut right to where the last chapter left off, with Billy at the Rock of Eternity.  Various statues and artifacts talk to Billy as he makes his way down the corridor.  He stops to play with the holographic statues of the Seven Deadly Enemies.  The Wizard (who apparently is no longer named "Shazam" himself and is the last of a council of wizards whom Black Adam killed before being banished) finds Billy to be unacceptable to be the champion.  Billy and the Wizard argue with each other, as Billy points out a good person with a pure heart simply doesn't exist.  Shazam is persuaded that what he needs to find is not a truly good person with a pure heart, but one who has the potential to become that (this DCnU Billy obviously has a future as a lawyer).  The wizard tells Billy to say the magic word.  Billy says "shazam"...  and nothing happens.  The Wizard orders Billy to say it with belief and good intentions, and he will be transformed into his greatest potential. Billy says it again and becomes Capt...er, Shazam.  And he asks, "did you make me old?"  And we are right back to the weakest part of the Jerry Ordway version.  Once Billy becomes Captain Marvel (or in this case Shazam), he suddenly starts acting more juvenile and bratty than before.  That's the "Big in tights" concept still in play, and it still does not work! There's a couple pages of Capt... er, Shazam acting like a goofy kid (I wonder if Geoff Johns is setting this up for Ashton Kutcher to be cast as the Big Red Cheese in the movie?), and the Wizard hints how the rest of the Marv... er, Shazam Family will come into play (his "secret spell... ultimate power").  Capt... er, Shazam returns to where Freddy has been hiding and the two of them start pulling super powered pranks.  He saves a lady from being mugged, and she tips him twenty bucks. Shazam and Freddy get the idea they can become rich performing super deeds (borrowing from the early genesis of Spider-Man).

As I said, the story has taken a turn for the worse.  Anything and everything good Johns has set up in the previous chapters has been flushed down the toilet with Shazam being portrayed, not just with Billy's personality, but an amplified version of that personality that makes him seem even more childish.  It doesn't make sense that Johns would go to the trouble of writing Billy as a semi-realistic troubled teen orphan, just to revert to the same old goofy little kid in an adult superhero body shtick. DC just won't let go of the "Big in tights" concept (Freddy's first suggestion: "let's buy some beer").  At the very least, why can't they go a more subtle route with it? Why does it have to be so over-the-top, and border line lampoonish?

I don't care for Shazam's costume.  He uses the hood as kind of a mask, so people won't recognize him as looking like Billy.  The boots look like he's wearing white gym socks with sandals.  The lightning emblem is lost in an inverted triangle.  Gary Frank has a unique take on the Wizard, making him more ethnic, in both his look and attire.  One of the biggest disappointments is there does not seem to be any more references to the six elders, Solomon, Hercules, Atlas, Zeus, Achilles, and Mercury. I give this disappointing origin chapter a D+.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Review: Popeye #4

The fourth issue of POPEYE takes a step back from issue 3 (the best issue to date).  First, the cover.  In issue 3, a preview of the cover was published. It was by John Byrne, and when I saw it, I thought he really got Popeye perfect, in the blend of Segar and Fleischer I feel should be the standard.  But issue 4 doesn't have that cover.  The standard cover is a simple Bruce Ozella job, and the variant is a Hanna-Barbera looking Popeye by Seymour Chwast.

Roger Langridge's script, a political drama featuring King Blozo, as usual, is a blend of Segar and Sagendorf.  Once again, it is heavy on action and adventure, but light on humor.  Once again, I need to stress he needs to pick up on the humor, work in some Fleischer style laughs. The issue also has an overabundance of dialogue, taking up over half of the space in many panels.  The artwork by Vince Muscacchia is slick and fluid, and based on early Bud Sagendorf, rather than Segar.

There is a back up feature of Sappo and OG Watasnozzle by Langridge and Tom Neely that is well done and has more humor than the Popeye story.  This issue gets a C+.

Also, IDW has published a reprint of Dell's POPEYE #1 from 1948. They plan to make this an ongoing series, so we will have two Popeye comics a month, new and reprints.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The DCnU- One Year Later

Since there is no chapter of Curse Of Shazam in JUSTICE LEAGUE #12, I thought I'd take this time to evaluate the DCnU one year after it debuted.

First, there is Captain Mar... er, Shazam.  While I am so far enjoying Curse Of Shazam, perhaps more than I thought I would, I still do not see it as the "definitive" take on Captain Marvel.  Too many changes to characters and plot to make it more trendy and cinematic.  For my money, outside the Fawcett originals, the "definitive" DC version is still a toss up between E. Nelson Bridwell's work in the late 1970s, and Alex Ross' version in Justice and Power Of Hope.

Then there is Batman.  The DCnU reboot has not been good to him at all.  DC pretty much continued Batman from the old continuity without rebooting him. So, we have a very convoluted version of the character that for the most part, is the same as the post-Zero Hour continuity, except for when its not.  Make sense? For my money, perhaps the most enjoyable run on Batman was in the 1980s, written by Gerry Conway, with art rotating between Gene Colan and Don Newton.  They had a serialized soap opera vibe going with a multitude of subplots, and still brought a lot of action and adventure, and was, in effect, a direct sequel to the all too brief, widely celebrated 1977-78 stint by Steve Englehart and Marshall Rogers. The DCnU Batman is just confusing, with all his various redundant sidekicks and replacement Robins and incoherent story lines.  I have really cut back on the number of Batman titles I buy since the DCnU began.  I am contemplating cutting back even more, or perhaps for the first time in my life, just stopping all together.

And then there is Superman.  Ironically, I am really liking the DCnU take on Superman. As with Captain...er, Shazam, I don't consider it to be the "definitive" take, but I like it for what it is.  Mostly due to Grant Morrison, who has taken aspects of the character's original 1938 run, and incorporated it into a new vision. ACTION COMICS has been really solid, while SUPERMAN has been more hit and miss.  I don't know if I will stick with it once Morrison leaves, but for now, I'm enjoying the ride.

Finally, there is the Justice League. This, too has been interesting, although Geoff Johns seems to be essentially ripping off the movie version of  The Avengers, by making Steve Trevor the DC version of Nick Fury.  Green Lantern's characterization mirrors the awful performance by Ryan Reynolds in the dud Green Lantern movie. Efforts are made to turn Aquaman from a punchline to a real heavy hitter, with mixed results. With Superman being cast as more of a brooding loner, Batman ends up being more of a level headed leader, which is a detriment to the Batman character overall. In JUSTICE LEAGUE #12, Superman and Wonder Woman become a couple.  It seems obvious, but except for some brief teasers by John Byrne back in the 1980s, it never happened in mainstream continuity. We'll see how it plays out.

Overall, I have to give the DCnU a failing grade. Despite some bright spots with Captain... er, Shazam and Superman, I am still buying fewer DC comics than ever before, and generally just do not like the direction the continuity has taken (don't even get me started on how awful the re imagination of the Golden Age Earth-2 is).  Hopefully the next reboot will be soon, and will use Alex Ross' Justice as a foundation.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Trio of Monkees to tour

Some big news from Micheal Nesmith via his facebook page . "So the big news from here is that I made the most amazing gazpacho tonight . . . miracle gazpacho. A miracle because I have no idea how I did it and could never do it again. But the really big news . . . astounding . . . is that I suddenly understand that it is the red bell pepper that makes the gazpacho red . . . not the tomato . . . which is what I always thought. Amazing. Another jaw dropper was that the only cracker I had left . . . a very nice garlic and chive flat bread cracker . . . fell out of the bag it was in because I was inadvertently holding it upside down and it fell on the floor and broke into dozens of pieces. So just as I was about to eat the miracle gazpacho the only cracker I had was useless in pieces on the floor. Talk about drama . . . man it’s just so hard sometimes. But that’s all the news from here. Nothing else much to report. I see they put a car on Mars . . . that was kind of amusing of course. And Micky and Peter and I are going to do twelve concerts in November here in the States. That’s really all I’ve got. Going to bed now. I’ll post pictures of the cracker and the gazpacho tomorrow, maybe. Maybe not.”

Gazpacho aside, Micky Dolenz, Peter Tork, and Michael Nesmith will reunite as The Monkees for a short U.S. tour in November and December.  This is the first time Mike has toured with the Monkees since the "Justus" UK tour in 1997, and his first US tour with the group since 1969! This is also the first time the Micky-Mike-Peter line up has performed together since the first season episode "Alias Micky Dolenz", which Davy didn't appear in due to him visiting family in England.

Please, Rhino Entertainment, don't be asleep at the wheel for this. If Rhino does not have the sense to professionally film these concerts (like they stupidly did not for the 1997 UK tour), then please Monkees fans who will be attending these shows, get your HD microcameras ready to do what Rhino won't.

Rolling Stone posted a Q&A with Mike about his return, saying "I never really left. It is a part of my youth that is always active in my thought and part of my overall work as an artist. It stays in a special place, but like things in the past it fades in and out in relevance to activities that are current. Getting together with old friends and acquaintances can be very stimulating and fun and even inspiring to me. We did some good work together and I am always interested in the right time and the right place to reconnect and play... We are focusing around Headquarters – our first real sojourn as a band – but the setlist will include all the Monkees fans expect. There are songs of mine and Peter's that have not been performed that we will play. The three of us will play the Headquarters material as we did in the studio – but the shows backing band for the other material will be the same as the last tours – with the exception of the inclusion of my son Christian on guitar... I feel this is the start of the ending for me here – or more precisely, as Churchill had it – the end of the beginning. Now is the time."

Now may also be the time to revisit my post The Best Monkees Songs You've Never Heard.

Monday, July 23, 2012

movie review: DARK KNIGHT RISES

The Dark Knight Rises is an excellent and suspenseful Christopher Nolan action film. But is it a "Batman movie"?  Not quite.   I can see why Nolan originally wanted to title his third movie Gotham before Warner execs demanded a title to closer link it to the Heath Ledger installment.  This movie is more about various characters in Gotham City than it is about Batman.  Of the three Nolan films, I'd say Batman gets the least amount of screen time in this one, even though in Batman Begins Batman doesn't even appear until the second half of the movie (of course I am treating "Batman" and "Bruce Wayne" as separate characters in this analysis).

The film opens (after a quick but effective glimpse of a Harvey Dent memorial) with a James Bond style sequence of Bane abducting a Russian scientist from an airborne plane.  Bane is a C-list villain in the comics, and in this movie, he is adequate.  But sorely missing is the charisma of an A-list villain like the Joker, played with the charisma of an actor like Heath Ledger.  Tom Hardy plays the character in a rather cardboard cutout way.  With his anesthetic mask on constantly, and an overdubbed Darth Vader voice, any stuntman really could have played the part.  Nolan could have brought back the pro-wrestler who played Bane in Batman & Robin, and just had Hardy dub in the voice.  It wouldn't have mattered.

From there we get caught up with what Bruce Wayne has been doing since the last movie.  Now partly crippled, he has become a Howard Hughs style recluse.  Selina Kyle (never called "Catwoman" in the film), poses as a maid at a charity event at Wayne Manor, and steals Martha Wayne's pearl necklace and Bruce's fingerprints.  Bruce confronts her, and she escapes.  Anne Hathaway as Selina is good but lacks that something special that made previous Catwomen like Julie Newmar, Lee Meriwether, and Michelle Pfeiffer iconic.

We are introduced to all the other characters in the Gotham ensemble piece, like Joseph Gordon Levitt's rookie cop John Blake, veteran cop Foley played by Matthew Modine,  the Animated Series' Dagget played by Ben Mendleson, a priest who runs an orphanage played by Chris Ellis, and Miranda Tate played by Marion Cottliard, who as expected, turns out to be Ra's al Ghul's daughter Talia.

Jim Gordon gets shot in an encounter with Bane, and Blake goes to Wayne Manor to reveal to Bruce he knows he's Batman. How he figured this out is kind of murky.  I think it had something to do with him recognizing the big boil on Bruce's right eye is the same as the one Batman has under his eye makeup.  Bruce, in a ski mask, visits Gordon in the hospital, who urges him to come back as Batman.

Selina robs more people, Bane continues his master plot, and lots of other stuff goes on.  Finally, Batman returns (funny how his crippled leg is cured with a simple leg brace) to stop one of Bane's terrorist acts.  This scene is very good and well done.  Some more stuff happens, including Alfred quitting, then Batman and Bane have another fight, which ends with Bruce having his back broken and being dumped into a pit on the other side of the world. After this, the movie starts to get a little boring.  Things pick up momentarily when Bane implements his terrorist act on a football stadium.  He gives a speech that sounds eerily like a Barack Obama speech, albeit in a Darth Vader voice.  Bruce watches this all from the pit (ain't cable great).

In a nod to real life events like the Occupy movement, the inmates take over the asylum, so to speak, as Bane threatens to destroy Gotham with a nuclear bomb. Cillian Murphy as Johnathan Crane conducts a court trial against citizens, making the Scarecrow the only villain to appear in all three Nolan movies. Bruce ultimately escapes the pit (miraculously healed of all his injuries without any hospitalization... who needs medical insurance!), becomes Batman again to lead a city wide riot of cops vs Occupiers in broad daylight.  Hey, wait... Batman's not supposed to appear in daylight.  Imagine the outcry if Tim Burton would have done that.  But Nolan gets a pass it seems. Bane is defeated by Catwoman shooting him with a gun on the Batcycle.  Hey, wait... Bane's not bullet proof.  This means, the state police or army could have had a sharpshooter take Bane out at any time. Major plot hole.  Batman uses the Batcopter (which several times in the movie the point is made it does not have an auto pilot) to fly the bomb over the ocean, sacrificing his own life, after tipping Gordon off to who he really is.  A memorial is held for Bruce, and a statue is erected to Batman. Then Lucius Fox realises the Batcopter did have an autopilot after all (considering it was edited to look like Batman piloted the Batcopter until the last moment, instead of ejecting as soon as the Batcopter got over water - which would be more logical - then for Batman to escape, the Batcopter must have had an escape pod, as well as an extra large can of nuclear neutralizing Bat-spray).  Bruce winks and nods to Alfred at an outdoor cafe, and Blake is summoned to the Batcave to either become the new Batman, or to become Robin.  Its left ambiguous.

Michael Caine sits most of this film out, as he quits Bruce early in. I never bought him as Alfred. When I think of Alfred, I think of a proper British butler, not the cockney commoner Caine.  Morgan Freeman is excellent as Lucius Fox, as was Gary Oldman as Gordon.  Joseph Gordon Levitt was fine as Blake, as he seemed to be the character Nolan was really emphasising. Then there's Christian Bale. His Bruce Wayne is acceptable, but his Batman never worked for me.  Between his frog voice and Hardy's muffled voice, some of the dialogue seriously needed subtitles.  I never cared for the bat costumes in this trilogy. Bale looks very awkward as Batman.  The mask face opening is far too narrow, and serves to emphasise how narrow Bale's jaw is.  In this movie, he seems to breathe through his mouth when in costume, giving Batman a bit of a short school bus passenger look, if you know what I mean. 

Nolan takes liberties with the characters.  Bane is severely altered from the comic books, although the comic book Bane wasn't much more than a C-list villain to begin with.  The John Blake character is a composite of Dick Grayson, Paul Valley, Tim Drake and Terry McGinnis.  Talia is unrecognizable as the comic book Talia. Selina is altered a little. Batman doesn't even get the final victory over Bane.  Selina does, and then rubs it in Batman's face by telling him how his "no guns" policy doesn't work. The finale where Batman apparently sacrifices his life is too similar to Captain America: The First Avenger.  Overall, this movie falls in the middle of the Nolan trilogy.  Not as good as The Dark Knight but not nearly as excruciatingly boring as Batman Begins.

Normally I am not for reboots, but this time I welcome it. The Nolan-Bale celebration of depression Batman is over.  May it rest it peace. At best, I consider it an "Elseworlds" version of Batman. Time to move on. Bring on a new take, a more fun take that is not obsessed with uber-realism. How about reuniting Tim Burton, Michael Keaton, Jack Nicholson, and Michelle Pfeiffer for a live action adaptation of Frank Miller's Dark Knight Returns?  Perhaps in the weeks ahead, I will post my own hopes for the reboot in detail.

And just in case there are some "in Nolan we trust" fanatics reading this, at the end of the day, this review is my opinion.  You have yours, I have mine.  No need to get upset over it.  Why so serious? It's just a movie.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Review: Popeye #3

The third issue of POPEYE has the strongest script of the three issues so far. Roger Langridge gets more humor in it, and tells a good story that combines aspects of Segar and Sagendorf.  Geezel tricks Wimpy into a fight where his opponent is...  well, I won't spoil it.   Popeye trains Wimpy for the fight.  Popeye ends up taking Wimpy's place in the match, and afterward, Wimpy develops a whole new relationship with his former opponent.  Ahem. 

The artwork for this issue is by Tom Neely.  Unlike last issue's Ken Wheaton, Neely does not draw in Bruce Ozella's style.  Instead Neely draws in a style reminiscent of Barbecue For Two, the pilot cartoon for the 1960 series of TV cartoons.  Neely's art is a little more polished than Ozella's, but there are panels where his art gets sloppy, as if he was getting fatigued at the end of a long day of drawing. I like that Neely, who also colored the issue, gets Popeye's hair red (a detail mostly forgotten after decades of the bald animated Popeye), but he has one major mistake:  he gave Popeye teeth.  In the Segar strips, and the pre-1940 Fleischer cartoons, Popeye has no teeth, only gums.

Overall, issue 3 is the best of the series so far, an A-.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Review: Curse Of Shazam, part 5

Chapter 5 of Curse of Shazam from JUSTICE LEAGUE #11 begins where chapter 4 left off, with Black Adam demanding to know where the Wizard is. Adam grabs both Sivana and his henchman, and kills the henchman with a bolt of lightning that emanates from his chest emblem.  Sivana assures Adam he will help him find the Wizard.

Cut to the Bryer house.  Billy and Freddy are trying to break into Bryer's car, so they can roll it down the hill.  The car alarm goes off, and the boys take off.  Freddy is moving too slow, so Billy pushes him into a bush, and tells him to hide there while he draws the Bryers away.  The Bryers chase Billy as he runs into a subway station, then hops onto a subway train, just as one of the Bryer boys punches Billy in the nose, warning him this isn't over.  Suddenly there is a bolt of lightning, and the subway train transforms into something more archaic.  Mysterious fog rolls in as the trains comes to a stop.  Billy exits, finding himself at the Rock of Eternity, and he exclaims, Holy... crap.

My thoughts:  Unfortunately, Billy and Freddy's prank was just a way to get Billy onto the subway train by leading the Bryers on a chase, and not a well crafted, entertaining "Dead End Kids" type antic.  Johns missed an opportunity. I still have doubts about the new costumes.  Don't care for the small Wonder Woman style wristbands, the Spectre style hoodie, and when we get a good look at the lightning emblem, it's actually a lightning emblem inside an inverted triangle.  Hmmm... an inverted triangle?  Kind of like the original 1938 Superman chest emblem.  Black Adam emanates lightning and electricity.  This would make for a good visual for a movie.  In fact, I wonder how much of Curse of Shazam is actually recycled from the rejected Geoff Johns-Bill Birch Shazam movie script.  Things like the emanating lightning, Billy's "holy crap", and the very way the whole story started with the random people being abducted seems very cinematic.  With Billy now at the Rock of Eternity (which looks nothing like the classic version, this is more Harry Potterish, for lack of a better term), business is about to pick up.  I give chapter 5 a B+.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Shazam! on DVD

While we are still waiting for the official announcement of the 1966 Batman TV series to be released on DVD, here's something that came out of left field and took me by surprise. The live action Filmation Shazam! TV series will be released on DVD thru the Warner Archive division (which means it will be on DVD-R, instead of mass produced dual layer DVDs) on September 18, 2012.  This is very good news.  I had expected the series to be released to coincide with the movie, but it seems we won't have to wait that long.  I hope they include the two episodes of Isis that guest starred Captain Marvel, and all 13 installments of the Filmation Shazam! cartoon (some of which written by a young Paul Dini) as bonus features.  I also wish they would have audio commentary by Michael Gray and Jackson Bostwick, but seeing as this will be on DVD-R, I don't know if that could be possible.  Still, very happy and I can't wait!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

movie review: AMAZING SPIDER-MAN

Going in to see The Amazing Spider-Man, I wanted to avoid comparing it to Sam Raimi's Spider-Man. But that is going to be hard to do, since the new movie is kind of like watching a rerun. After only a decade, we get to see the origin of Spider-Man again, but this time its on a somewhat smaller scale.  The Amazing Spider-Man lacks some of the epic nature of Raimi's version. The story takes place over a couple weeks, where the Raimi original covered a couple years.  The new movie veers off from the comic books, into a made-for-cinema direction, where Raimi was very loyal (with the exception of mechanical webshooters) to the comics, even taking great care to duplicate many classic Spidey poses into live action.  The new director, Marc Webb, only does this a couple times, most notably in the final slow motion shot of Spidey. The movie has some good moments, while also seeming a little redundant by retelling the origin.  There are some scenes of Peter's childhood and a background for his father as a trailblazer in human-animal mutation that slows the film down. You get the hint the plan may be to reveal in the sequel Peter's father experimented on an infant Peter with some mutant spider gene, which is why the spider bite activated Peter's spider powers. Marc Webb could have easily made a full-fledged Spider-Man 4 which would have made a much better film.  Especially when you consider Raimi introduced Gwen Stacy and set the stage for the Lizard in Spider-Man 3.

Andrew Garfield, who takes over the title role from Toby Maguire, turned out to be a very good choice.  Maguire was a little more likable as the character, and had the Spidey poses down better than Garfield, but Garfield conveys a gloominess Maguire did not have, and focuses his portrayal on Peter's intelligence (opposed to Maguire, who took more of a dorky nerd approach).  Garfield's Peter is more of a loner, missing the friendship of Harry Osborn. Unfortunately, Garfield also lacked Maguire's comedic timing. The attempts at humor in the new movie seem forced and fall flat.  The movie's only genuinely funny moment is Stan Lee's cameo. 

Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy (replacing Bryce Dallas Howard) is more likable in the role than Howard was, but in this movie, Gwen is supposed to be more intelligent than Peter (as she teases him for being second best).  But Stone exhibits too much of an airhead personality to make it believable Gwen is so intelligent.

Martin Sheen as Uncle Ben is all right, but phones his performance in. Literally, at the end of the movie, where Peter plays Uncle Ben's final voice mail, it sounds like Sheen is reading it cold from a script with no emotion or feeling at all. Sally Field is kind of forgettable as Aunt May.  Then there is Dennis Leary as Captain Stacy.  Imagine if washed up racist comedian Michael Richards was cast as Commissioner Gordon in the Batman movies.  While Leary isn't quite that bad, the role would have been better served by an actual actor rather than a smug stand up comic.

Rhys Ifans is good as Dr Curt Conners, but The Lizard suffers from looking a little fake.  OK, admittedly it would be very hard to do a character like The Lizard without looking a little fake. However, many aspects of this version of Conners/The Lizard seem to be a carbon copy of Alfred Molina's portrayal of Dr Octopus from Spider-Man 2.  Its the same dynamic, where he becomes a mentor of sorts to Peter, then becomes the villain, only to have a redemption in the end.

The action sequences are very good, but its the script that kind of drags the movie down.  Overall, if you are not a major Spidey fan and are debating whether to see this movie, I'd advise you just wait until it airs on cable.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Review: Popeye #2

In the second issue of POPEYE, writer Roger Langridge contributes the cover art.  While it would have been a nice variant, his drawing is a little weak to be the main cover.  Langridge's story, "The Worm Returns" is a domestic drama, dealing with Olive Oyl getting involved with an actor who is a con man. Like issue one, the story is light on humor.  Once again, I would urge Langridge to kick the humor up a notch or two.  The art by Ken Wheaton is... well, kind of confusing. In the Official Popeye Fan Club News Magazine, Ken Wheaton's artwork is very slick and polished.  A great hybrid of Segar and Fleischer.
Ken Wheaton's Fan Club art
But in POPEYE #2, Wheaton's art is much more stiff and crude.  It's like he was ordered to imitate the style of issue #1's Bruce Ozella.
Ken Wheaton's art from POPEYE #2
This issue also has a back up story featuring Professor O.G. Watasnozzle.  It was all right, but nothing special.  Overall, POPEYE #2 gets a C.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Review: Curse Of Shazam, part 4

The fourth chapter of Curse of Shazam from JUSTICE LEAGUE #10, begins with the Vasquezes at the kitchen table realising Billy isn't who they thought he was from the child services interview.  It is implied both Vasquezes were also orphans, which is why they became foster parents, and hints when Mary first came to live with them, she had similar troubles to Billy's.

Cut to the boys' bedroom.  Billy sneaks out of the house, and Freddy shadows him. Billy goes to the zoo to talk to a tiger he calls Tawny.  Freddy confronts him about this.  Freddy admits to stealing Billy's wallet, seeing the picture of Tawny in it, as well as a membership card to a family finders website.  Freddy tells Billy he and the others appreciate him decking the Bryer Brothers. Freddy says the Bryers pick on them almost every day.  Billy comments he wishes he could get back at them, and Freddy says he knows where they live.  Billy gets an evil smile as Tawny roars.

Cut to Baghdad.  Sivana, who can now "see" magic, goes to Black Adam's tomb. He is able to read Black Adam was imprisoned there until a being who can destroy him is found, but he can be released with one magic word.  Sivana says "Shazam", there is a massive bolt of lightning, and Black Adam emerges from the tomb demanding to know where the Wizard is.

My thoughts: Another well done chapter.  Gary Frank's art continues to be top notch. I like the interplay between Billy and Freddy, and I can't wait to see what they have planned for the Bryers. I hope it is something worthy of the classic "Dead End Kids", and not something dumb or commonplace (like egging the front door).  We get our first look at Black Adam.  Like the new Capt... er, Shazam, he has a Spectre-like hooded cloak.  His lightning bolt emblem seems to be much more diagonal than Capt... er, Shazam's.  Like Capt... er, Shazam, Black Adam has Wonder Woman style wristbands, a sci-fi style belt, and Greek Olympian type boots.  This is where I might start to worry.  Geoff Johns has a habit of giving the spotlight to  Black Adam, while Captain Marvel remains a background character.  Personally, I would have preferred if Black Adam did not appear in this first arc.  He could easily have been saved for a second or third year arc.  Back in the Fawcett Comics era, Black Adam was just a one-shot character.  It was Ibac who was the evil counterpart to Captain Marvel. It would have been very nice to go that route, just to be different from the Roy Thomas and Jerry Ordway reboots.  But we will see. I give chapter 4 a B-.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Sony responds

I received a response from Sony regarding "The Three Stooges - Rare Treasures from the Columbia Vault" DVD.

RE: The Three Stooges - Rare Treasures from the Columbia Vault
  
   
Thank you for your e-mail. We appreciate your interest in Sony Pictures Home Entertainment (SPHE) products.

We currently do not have a published release date for this title. Please stay tuned to http://www.sonypictures.com/ or the website http://www.imdb.com/ for additional information regarding upcoming Sony Pictures Home Entertainment releases.

Also, please check in regularly with your local retailers to see what's new in store!

Thank you for your continued patronage and for taking the time to contact us.

Regards,

Brian Valentine
SPHE Consumer Affairs Team


It's good news so far as he did not confirm "Rare Treasures" will never be released individually.  My guess is it will be released by winter, most likely in time for the Christmas season. We just need to wait it out.

And don't forget to continue to write in to Warner Brothers, as they have 30 or so Shemp Howard solo shorts produced by Vitaphone to release on DVD.  See the original post for details.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Sony releases Shemp Howard solo shorts with a catch

On June 5, Sony finally released the solo Columbia Shemp Howard shorts in a 3 disc set titled "The Three Stooges - Rare Treasures from the Columbia Vault", along with the solo Joe Besser and Joe DeRita shorts, and the Stooges starring feature film, Rockin' In The Rockies.  There is one huge catch though.  At the moment it is only available as part of a 20 disc box set that collects the individual "Three Stooges Collection" volumes.  I bought all the individual volumes when they were released, as I'm sure most Three Stooges fans have.  But I want those Shemp Howard shorts on DVD. So, are we to be punished for being loyal customers?  Will Sony release "The Three Stooges - Rare Treasures from the Columbia Vault" individually for those of us who already own the individual volumes, and do not want to rebuy them in a box set?

I sent an email to Sony:

Dear Sony,

I am a Three Stooges fan. I was thrilled when you released "The Three Stooges Collection". I have also been petitioning you to release the solo Shemp Howard Columbia shorts on DVD. I posted entries about it on my blog, www.shazamaholic.blogspot.com

 Now, you have as "The Three Stooges - Rare Treasures from the Columbia Vault" , but as part of a 20 disc set. I already bought the individual volumes of the Three Stooges Collection. I do not want to buy the 20 disc box set. I just want to buy "The Three Stooges - Rare Treasures from the Columbia Vault". Considering I am a loyal customer who purchased the entire Three Stooges Collection when they were released as individual volumes, I should not be punished by not making the Shemp Howard solo shorts available to me.

 I would appreciate it very much if you could reply to me, and let me know if and when The Three Stooges - Rare Treasures from the Columbia Vault will be sold individually.

I will be reporting about this on my blog.

Thank you very much for your time.

If you are a Stooges fan like me, who already purchased all the individual volumes, and just want to buy "The Three Stoogese -Rare Treasures From The Columbia Vault", you can email Sony at
consumer@SPHECustomerSupport.sony.com

I will keep you informed as to any response I get from Sony.

And don't forget to continue to write in to Warner Brothers, as they have 30 or so Shemp Howard solo shorts produced by Vitaphone to release on DVD. See the original post for details.

Friday, June 8, 2012

News on Batman '66 and Shazam movie

It's been a wild day for fans of the 1966-68 Batman TV series. Variety reports a deal has been made by Warner Brothers and 20th Century Fox regarding the classic show, where merchandise and memorabilia will now be produced using the images and likenesses from the series.  Speculation is that a deal has also been made to finally get the series on DVD, with an official announcement coming at this year's Comic Con.

In addition to the Bat-news, Variety also reports that the Shazam! movie is still alive and in development.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Review: Popeye #1

Popeye has finally returned to comic books, in the first issue of IDW's new series.  Written by Roger Langridge with art by Bruce Ozella, the first thing I noticed about the issue was the rather disappointing paper cover.  Instead of a slick, magazine style cover like most other comics, this one has a paper cover like the ones from those "Big Boy" comics you used to get for free at the restaurant (only POPEYE # 1 has a $3.99 price tag).  Other than that, however, the issue was great, but still with room for improvement.  Langridge is following the original Segar continuity.  Things such as Olive's brother Castor Oyl having a major role in the story... the fact that Bluto only appeared once during Segar's run making this his first encounter with Popeye after that... shows that Langridge is either a real fan, or did his homework very well.  However, I found the script to be, not only faithful to Segar, but also seemed to have a touch of early Bud Sagendorf.  The script was big on adventure but rather mild on humor. That's the first place some improvement could be made.  I would love to see the series embrace some of the wilder humor of the Max Fleischer Popeye cartoons.  Langridge has the adventure storytelling down pat, but he needs to work on getting funnier with the humor.

Ozella's art likewise echos Segar nicely, again with maybe a slight hint of early Sagendorf.  But I think it would be wiser to make the figures more fluid and slick like in the Fleischer cartoons (Stephen DeStefano is a master at that, and IDW really, really needs to tap him to do covers for the series).  Ozella needs to move beyond the stiffness and slight crudeness of the Segar/Sagendorf figures, and move to a more fluid and animated Fleischer style, blending the two as DeStefano, Ken Wheaton (whom I understand will draw issue 2), and Donnie Pitchford do.

IDW reports POPEYE #1 has sold out, and has gone to a second printing, which is also on the verge of selling out. It has also been confirmed that despite reports of POPEYE being a 4 issue miniseries, it is an on-going series.

So, my advice for the creative team would be to keep up the great work, but drop the slight Sagendorf influence, and go with a Fleischer influence to blend with the Segar style.  Final grade: for the effort and intent, issue 1 gets an A+, but for the actual final product, it gets a B+.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Review: Curse Of Shazam, part 3

Part 3 of Curse Of Shazam in JUSTICE LEAGUE #9, begins with an increasingly annoying Darla screaming "hooray", because Billy wakes up and she can eat breakfast.  Then its off to Billy's first day at Fawcett High (I guess that's a way to keep the name "Fawcett" in there since the story is set in Philadelphia).  We get see see just how much of a hustler Freddy is, as he explains to Billy he can get test scores, doctor's notes, and hall passes, offering Billy a family discount.  Billy snaps that they are not family.  Freddy says friends, then.  Billy snaps he doesn't need friends.  Cut to end of school.  The kids are walking home as moody brooder Billy goes off on his own, not wanting to walk with the other five kids.  Then two rich bullies named the Bryer Brothers confront Eugene for getting an A in class and blowing the curve.  Freddy steps in and insults them.  One brother pushes Freddy against the wall, warning him Freddy's crutches won't stop him from messing Freddy up, while the other brother twists Mary's arm, telling her to cry.  Suddenly, out of nowhere, Billy punches out both bullies.  He warns his foster-siblings it was no big deal, he just doesn't like bullies, but then a teacher busts Billy for fighting. Cut to the Principal's office where she unloads on Mr Vasquez she has seen Billy's horrible record. Then the brothers' father, Mr Bryer (who looks way too much like Lionel Luther from the Smallville TV series) enters and demands Billy doesn't fight his boys again.  On the way out, Billy confronts Bryer, threatening his sons if they continue to bully other kids.  Mr Bryer then physically threatens Billy, but Mr Vasquez breaks it up. The two adults exchange heated words and Billy and Vasquez head home.  Cut to Baghdad. Sivana is on an expedition where he finds the tomb of Black Adam.  He tries to open it, but lightning strikes Sivana, leaving him with a Harry Potter style scar over his right eye.  Sivana exclaims he can see magic.

My thoughts:  a nice chapter. We get to see more of Freddy's "Dead End Kids" style antics. There is evolution to Billy's character. Even though he is a brooding jerk, he won't hesitate to step in and fight someone who is bullying other kids. The introduction of the Bryer Bunch leads to think they will be adversaries of some kind to the Vasquez foster clan, with Mr Bryer perhaps becoming a villain at some point.  Johns needs to watch Darla's personality, as she is starting to remind me of Special Ed from Crank Yankers.  The postscript with Sivana hopefully signals the plot will now kick into high gear, for if this is to be a 12 issue arc, we really need to see Billy become Captain... er, Shazam before the half way mark.  I give chapter 3 a B.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

movie review: THE AVENGERS

The Avengers have done what previously seemed impossible. A movie that takes superheroes from their own franchises and have them team up.  DC-Warner Bros had several failed pre-production attempts at the Justice League of America, but Disney-Marvel was the one to pull it off.  In a way, all the previous Marvel movies are kind of like a serial, with The Avengers as the epic final chapter.

Director Joss Whedon pulls it off, mostly.  The plot is actually quite simple. Loki makes a deal with an alien race to lead them in an invasion of earth. Nick Fury has to get earth's mightiest heroes to team up and stop it.  That's the whole plot.

The first hour or so of the movie moves at a slightly slow pace. Its about getting the heroes together, and then getting them to stop quarreling with each other and get them focused on the greater threat.  A big portion is set on the SHIELD aircraft, giving the scenes an almost "kitchen sink drama" feel, which should have been avoided. This first part of the movie, with tighter editing and a quicker pace, could have been shortened by about 15 minutes, and would have made the movie better overall.

The second half of the movie is what we came to see. The Avengers taking on the invading aliens and kicking ass.  The special effects are excellent, as are the action sequences.  Now a break down to the main characters.

Captain America: Chris Evans does a great job in the role, and only hints at the fish out of water aspect (needless to say, that will play a much bigger role in Captain America II, so Whedon couldn't do too much with that here).  As expected, Steve Rogers ultimately becomes the de facto leader, figuring out the Avengers' strategy.

Iron Man: Robert Downey Jr once again plays the role with a comedic flair, giving the character far more personality than he ever had in the comics. You can tell he's probably having the most fun in the movie. If he hasn't already, Downey needs to get on his knees to Michael Keaton and thank him, because there is no way Downey ever would have even been given a second thought for the role of Iron Man if Keaton had not blazed the trail by playing The Batman.

Thor: Chris Hemsworth also picks the role up right where he left off from his solo movie.  Overall, Thor plays very well in this movie.  He gets some spectacular special effects calling down lightning, and his flying scenes are very real looking.  It may be because unlike Superman and Iron Man, all we get are glimpses of Thor flying, which makes the viewer want to see more.  My one complaint is he never wore his helmet. Loki got to wear his big antler helmet for a lot of the movie, but where's Thor's helmet?  Another complaint is it seems in post production, care was not taken to make the plastic parts of Thor's, and Captain America's costumes (including Thor's hammer) look like metal as they did in the solo films. Here, it does look like cheap plastic.

Hulk: it is in a movie like this where the character of the Hulk actually becomes interesting. In the two prior solo Hulk movies, with the big green goliath at the center of the plot, it gets kind of repetitive.  Here, where the Hulk is a supporting player, the character can shine much better than in a solo film. As for Mark Ruffalo taking over the Bruce Banner role, I think he falls in the middle.  Not as bad as Eric Bana, but not quite as good as Edward Norton.

Hawkeye and Black Widow:  In the original Avengers line up, it was Ant-Man and Wasp. Good call in using Hawkeye and Black Widow instead.  Hawkeye spends most of the movie under Loki's spell, and Scarlett Johansson does very well with her character.

Nick Fury: Samuel L Jackson plays the role that was tailored for him by the Marvel Ultimate Universe creators. But really, come on... we all know the only real Nick Fury is David Hasselhoff.
OK... I'm kidding on that one.


Loki: Tom Hiddleson really excels in the role, evolving the character from his appearance in Thor as being far more evil and cunning.  Plus the Hulk's treatment of Loki got the movie's biggest laughs and cheers.

Overall, The Avengers is an excellent film, despite being a little slow in the first half, and Disney-Marvel hit a home run they can be proud of.