Thursday, December 26, 2013

Captain Marvel/Shazam movie officially dead implies Peter Segal

It has been a long time since we heard anything about the Captain Marvel/Shazam movie.  Now it appears director Peter Segal has implied the film is officially dead, in an interview with

CS: Speaking of superheroes, you were developing a DC Comics property a few years and a film was being planned called "Billy Batson and the Legend of Shazam." Whatever happened to that?
Segal: The thing is, Shazam has always lived this tortured life going against Superman. This dates back to the 1930s. Because Captain Marvel had similar powers to Superman, the DC folks back then sued what was the most popular comic book on the stands at that time. Years later, they bought it and it became a DC property but, as long as Superman stays hot in the market place, there seems like a little bit of a crossover between the two characters. After Bryan Singer's "Superman Returns," it seemed like there was a moment in time where Shazam was going to see the light of day. That's when you heard those stories. Now that Superman is being invigorated and going up against Batman, I think it's difficult for DC to figure out how to launch this character in the wake of Superman's resurgence.

CS: It sounded like your approach was a bit more kid-friendly.
Segal: Well, it wasn't. I was working with Geoff Johns. At its core, it's a lot like Superman. There's this boy trapped inside of a superhero's body. He's still a boy inside, so there's this opportunity to play a lot of humor with the action. Originally, Stan Lee brought me "Fantastic Four" a number of years for that very reason. I always have the question when people bring me superhero properties, "Why me?" With Stan, he said, "It's because there's a sense of humor within all Marvel characters." These characters are flawed and, within those flaws, there is humor. When Toby Emmerich came to me with Shazam, it was because of those same reasons. To draw from that humor and to mix it with great action and pathos. I've always loved Shazam, but I don't know if it's going to see the light of day anytime soon.

This puts to rest a project that had been in development for over a decade. It seems the project's best chance at getting made was in 2003 through 2005, when attempts at reviving the Superman franchise were being shot down left and right, and it looked like DC may have lost the rights to the character in a lawsuit with the estates of Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.  But once all that got settled, and Superman Returns began filming, it seemed all was lost for the Big Red Cheese, even though the project continued to limp along for several more years, and Captain Marvel was getting more mainstream attention through animated projects like Batman: The Brave & The Bold, Superman/Shazam: The Return of Black Adam, and Young Justice.  Personally, I think the project will eventually get made, but not as a live action movie, but a Pixar style CGI animated film.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Review: Batman '66 #6

This issue changes thing up, with a new writer, Tom Peyer.  His script, featuring the Bookworm, is above average with some clever moments, such as the opening sequence where Robin is giving a lecture on literacy at the Gotham Chamber of Currency, chaired by millionaire Bruce Wayne.  The overall plot has to do with Bookworm compiling an Encyclopedia of Batman, in an attempt to deduce his secret identity. While Peyer's script is no masterpiece, the artwork by Ty Templeton certainly is.  He is clearly the best artist to work on this series.  His drawings perfectly capture the TV show likenesses while still embracing typical comic book grandness.  Only two critiques: his action panels are not quite as well laid out or as epic as Jonathan Case's, and he tends to give Batman a pronounced pot belly in some panels.

Jeff Parker is back writing the issue's second story, with art by Ted Naifeh.  As usual with most of these short second stories, its kind of a mess, reminiscent of bad third season episodes.  This one features Olga Queen of the Cossacks, in a lame plot to try to marry Batman, kind of a rehash of the TV show's Marsha Queen of Diamonds episode.  The art is OK but a little sloppy.  There is a non sequitur with Barbara Gordon hinting at a continuing storyline.  Overall the second story is weak.  Clearly, excellent short comic book stories can be done, as that was the norm of comics pre-1970, but today's creative talent can't seem to grasp it.  I'd rather see DC end the short second story, and have well done book length stories instead.  This issue earns a B, mostly due to Ty Templeton's excellent artwork.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Review: Batman '66 # 5

Issue 5 brings back second season one-shot villain Dr Somnambula aka The Sandman. The story, by Jeff Parker, is not bad, but not a stand out, either. The art by Ruben Procopio often veers into Mad Magazine territory, as this series occasionally does. Any old timers out there remember the Batman GAF View-Master set, and the artwork in the accompanying booklet?  It would be nice to get some art in that style.  In some panels, the art takes a "new-old-look" Irv Novick look, which I liked. Some nice touches are we learn Aunt Harriet's husband's name was Walt, and there is a shot of Gotham lifted directly from the animated opening credits of the series. The Sandman induced dream sequence takes on a trippy-psychedelic 1960s feel to it. On first reading, I did not catch any connection between this story, and Sandman's last panel cameo with Minerva in issue 2 and it seems doubtful that Minerva in that one panel was really supposed to be Sandman's African-American moll, Aurora, who appears in this issue.
The second story brings back the TV version of Batgirl, who takes on the Earth Kitt version of Catwoman. Again, Jeff Parker's script is average. He gives no reason as to why there are two Catwomen in Gotham. There is an elongated fight scene that seems like filler material. The artwork by Colleen Coover is very fluid and good, and has an "Archie"/Dan DeCarlo look to it. However, her take on Chief O'Hara is inexplicably as a youngish, strapping redhead.

Overall, issue 5, while not the best, isn't the worst either. It earns a B-.

Friday, November 8, 2013

movie review: THOR THE DARK WORLD

For some reason, my movie review of THOR is this blog's most viewed entry, even though reviews of other Marvel movies, like CAPTAIN AMERICA , THE AVENGERS , and AMAZING SPIDER-MAN  have significantly lower view counts.  So, it is my responsibility to review THOR THE DARK WORLD. 

Alan Taylor takes over the director's reigns from Kenneth Branagh, and there is a shift in the franchise.  The new movie has more CGI and bigger action, but it loses characterization and fun.  The plot is often convoluted, and deals with evil elves ( read that right- evil elves) who developed a supernatural weapon called the Aether.  This coincides with the nine realms converging, and Jane Foster gets infected with the Aether, which causes the few surviving elves to reclaim the weapon so they can destroy all nine realms.  Thor is forced to seek the help of his imprisoned brother Loki in order to save the worlds. 

The majority of the movie takes place on Asgard, in what seems like an attempt to tap into the Lord of the Rings/Hobbit fan base.  Idris Elba, who became a fan favorite as Heimdall, gets a lot more screen time. One of the things that sets the modern Marvel movies apart from the post-2000 DC movies, is that the Marvel films are infused with humor and fun to balance the action and drama.  But THOR THE DARK WORLD takes a hard left turn into DC territory by nearly reaching a level of Christopher Nolan/Zack Snyder humorless darkness.  Not including a few exceptions, the only humor in this movie is provided by Kat Dennings, and there is a funny cameo by Chris Evans as Captain America. 

Why can't they make Hemsworth wear the helmet?
Instead of the character development of the first movie, this time around we get a generic sci-fi action film. The finale when the elves invade  England is a little too similar to the alien invasion in THE AVENGERS, just on a smaller scale.  Chris Hemsworth, who put a lot of character in as Thor in the first movie and THE AVENGERS, kind of just phones his performance in this time. One of the things I really don't like about the movie version of Thor is that the film makers threw out the concept of Norse mythology, opting to go with Asgard as an alien world, essentially making Thor Marvel's take of the Kryptonian Superman concept. And Thor still doesn't wear his helmet. I mean, come on... the hammer and the helmet are Thor's two biggest gimmicks.  Why won't they let Thor wear the helmet in the movies?  And there were a few moments in the movie where Thor is separated from his hammer for a length of time, I was thinking, "wow, this would be a great, dramatic moment to have him transform into Donald Blake".  But, alas, the movies have omitted that aspect of the character. Although I wouldn't label THOR THE DARK WORLD a franchise killer, it is far less enjoyable than its predecessor.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Review: Batman '66 #4

Where as writer Jeff Parker seemed to get everything wrong with issue 3, he makes up for it by getting everything right in issue 4.  In the first story, Batman and Robin have to jet to London to prevent Jervis Tetch, The Mad Hatter, from stealing the crown jewels.  There are nice touches through out the story, like The Beatles on the same plane as Batman and Robin, and both get a fitting welcome.  We see a teenage girl throwing herself at Robin, which seems to be a running gag in this series. We see the British Batmobile, which is very cool (or should I say "gear"?).  As with Parker's script for issue 1, we get some high octane action sequences reminiscent of the 1968 Filmation cartoons.  The art in this story is by Jonathan Case.  It is the same high level as his work on issue 1.

The second story, also written by Parker, features The Clock King who is also in London, as Batman uses his great detective skills to deduce the Mad Hatter had a tech-savvy partner.  It is revealed the Clock King's real name is Morris Tetch, Jervis' brother.  The art on this story is by Sandy Jarrell and is a much better effort than his Egghead story last issue.  Jarrell captures the likenesses of the TV actors better than Case, and there is a moody, noir-ish quality to the art, even if the figures at times lack fluidity.  Not only does this issue redeem the bad taste left by last issue's Joker and Egghead tales, but this issue is also far superior to the lackluster "Londinium" three part episode from the third season.  Issue 3 earns a solid A.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Review: Batman '66 #3

The third issue of Batman '66 brings back the Joker.  In the lead story, writer Jeff Parker continues to mash up generic DC continuity with the continuity of the TV series, but this time around, it has more negative effects.  A different kind of take is used for the Red Hood, which involves Professer Overbeck, a character from the second season Mad Hatter episode (the one with the infamous pink cowl), but now he is the head of Arkham Asylum.  Harley Quinn is introduced, in her pre-crazy form as Dr Quinn (looking a bit like Sandy Duncan).  The Joker is established as insane (as are several other villains residing at Arkham), and is referred to as "Patient J".  On the TV show,  Romero had two different personalities for the Joker. In the first two stories, he was a joking, yet cunning, criminal mastermind, with just a faint hint of insanity (see the end of Batman Is Riled where a captured Joker laughs with a demented look in his eyes.... or He Meets His Match, The Grisly Ghoul where he attempts to murder his own moll, teenage Susie).  But by the third story, Romero's portrayal was reworked to make him more of a childish, brat like character, which it remained for the rest of the series run.  But in Batman '66 #3, we get essentially a generic crazy DC Joker who happens to look like Romero.  I think this is all needless, and seems to undermine the purpose of Batman '66 by making it more of a typical "Johnny DC" version of Batman.  As a result, I did not enjoy this issue as much.  The art, by Joe Quinones, was excellent, and he got Cesar Romero's Joker spot on, even with the hint of a mustache.  The coloring of Batman's costume was unique, as Maris Wicks gave it the purple hue of the TV show.

The shorter second story featuring Egghead, also written by Parker, was, like last issue's short Siren story: too much like a bad third season episode.  The art, by Sandy Jarrell, had a little Mad Magazine parody flavor to it.  Egghead looked nothing like Vincent Price (perhaps due to DC not getting the rights to use his likeness), and at the end we see Warden Crichton (played by David Lewis on the series), who has transformed into a black woman! Holy Political Correctness!  By issue 3, what started out as a great series, has suddenly sunk to a low.  I think DC may need to bring in some new writers rather than rely on Parker to do the entire series. I'd like to see bronze age writers like Steve Englehart, Mike W. Barr, and Gerry Conway, contribute some scripts. They need to stop trying to morph the TV show into standard DC continuity (and let me reiterate, I unquestionably do not want to see Dick Grayson become Nightwing), and need to capture the spirit, the style, and the storytelling of the best first season episodes.  Issue 3 earns a C.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Ben Affleck is the new Batman

Uh, yeah.... right.  I have no comment at this time.  But some other people do.



Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Review: Batman '66 #2

The second issue of this retro series continues the adventure and fun begun in the first issue.  Ty Templeton's art in the issue's first two stories is even better than Jonathan Case's artwork in issue 1.  The only critique is Templeton gives Batman a pot-belly in some panels (Adam West did have a bit of a paunch, but that's something that should be overlooked in the artwork).  The two-parter features a team up of Penguin and Mr Freeze.  A little dilemma here, as George Sanders' portrayal was the definitive version, but Templeton went with the look of Otto Preminger, which seems to mesh better with the current DC.  Thankfully Freeze isn't exclaiming "Wild!" every panel.  In fact it seems writer Jeff Parker is mashing up the TV series continuity with bits and pieces of DC Comics continuity.  All in all, the Penguin-Mr Freeze two-parter was excellent.  The third story features Chandell (played by Liberace in the series' highest rated episodes) and The Siren (third season villain played by Joan Collins).  Neither of the actors' likenesses were used, due to lack of permission.  This story also features Kathy Kane as Bruce's date, and Robin sits this one out. Parker's writing for this one is weaker, and seems more like a third season type mess.  Case is back on art, and while he does a good Siren, his art overall is weaker than Templeton's.  The final panel features one-shot villain The Sandman, and third season disaster Minerva (played by Zsa Zsa Gabor -whose likeness is used by Case- in the series' finale, and one of its weakest episodes)  hinting at a bigger plot line that may stretch over several issues.  This story just wasn't as good, being too close to the type of junk that was aired on the third season.  The creative team needs to stick closer to the first season episodes when crafting this book.  The third story knocks this issue's grade to a B+.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Young Dreams: A Look At Elvis' Movies

I thought I'd give brief thoughts and reviews to Elvis Presley's movies.  There are two Q and A articles by Sheila O'Mally on her blog that goes into great detail about Elvis' worth as an actor and his movies that are must reading.

Love Me Tender (20th Century Fox, 1956) - Elvis' debut was in a well done western about the real life Reno Brothers (just one year earlier, another movie about the Reno Brothers, Rage At Dawn, was released by RKO Pictures).  Elvis' first attempt at acting is a little wooden, but he showed charisma and screen presence. Beautiful Debra Paget was the leading lady, and Elvis sang four songs that were included on an Extended Play 45 RPM soundtrack.  One of three black and white Elvis movies, and one of only three to have Elvis with his natural hair color.
Overall, story: B+, songs: B,  Elvis' performance: B-.

Loving You
Loving You (Paramount-Hal Wallis, 1957) - Elvis' first starring feature was in color and premiered Elvis' jet black dyed hair.  Loosely based on Mary Agnes Thompson's short story A Call For Mitch Miller, this musical drama with some humor showcases the early Elvis concert performances.  Elvis' band, Scotty Moore, Bill Black, and DJ Fontana, and the Jordanaires, have roles in the movie, with Black even getting some dialogue, much to Col. Tom Parker's dismay, as he saw Bill Black's on stage antics as an attempt to upstage Elvis, though Elvis himself never felt that way, and quite enjoyed Black's comedic antics on stage.  The first of two movies to have future nun Delores Hart as leading lady.   Elvis' acting is still a little wooden, but his charisma and screen presence get stronger.  Elvis' parents can be seen in the audience near the end of the film. Elvis is said never to have watched this movie again after his mother died. Monkee connection: it is said a line of dialogue in this movie inspired the name of the Monkees. At one point Deke (Elvis), in a moment of rebellion, says to his over bearing manager, "a monkey in a zoo... that's what you're selling... that's what you want." The soundtrack album contained the film songs on side A, while side B had non-film songs.
Overall, story B+, songs: A+, Elvis' performance: B.

Jailhouse Rock
Jailhouse Rock (MGM, 1957) - Elvis' first MGM movie is perhaps his most popular.  Playing a jerk, Elvis hits his stride in acting, and although a drama, he shows signs of great comedic timing. Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller were given the task of composing the entire soundtrack, and Stoller appears in the film as the piano player, with Elvis' regular band of Scotty, Bill, and DJ.  While on set, Leiber and Stoller attempted to give career advice to Elvis, encouraging him to sign on to Walk On The Wild Side with director Elia Kazan.  This outraged Col. Parker who banned Leiber and Stoller from Elvis' inner circle.  The "Jailhouse Rock" sequence is considered perhaps the very first "music video" in Rock and Roll history. The second of three films in black and white, and Elvis seems to have curly or wavy hair in this one. The leading lady, Judy Tyler, tragically died in a car accident before the film was released.  Out of respect for her, Elvis did not go to the movie's premier, and is said never to have watched the completed movie in its entirety.  Mickey Shaughnesay, who played Elvis' cellmate Hunk, prior to being cast in the film, was said to have stinging criticisms of Elvis in his night club act.  The film had six songs, five of which were on an Extended Play 45 RPM soundtrack. 
Overall, story: A, songs: A+, Elvis' performance: A+.

King Creole with Walter Mathau and Vic Morrow
King Creole (Paramount-Hal Wallis, 1958) - This was Elvis' cinematic masterpiece. Directed by Michael Curtiz, who directed Angels With Dirty Faces, Casablanca, and many others, and featuring a top notch cast including Walter Matthau, Carolyn Jones, Delores Hart, Dean Jagger and Vic Morrow. This film, based on the Harold Robbins novel A Stone For Danny Fisher, was originally slated to star James Dean.  When Elvis stepped in after Dean's death, the story was reworked for the main character being a singer instead of a boxer.  Elvis, under Curtiz's direction, hits a home run. The first movie to have a full soundtrack album.  Originally slated to be in color, Curtiz made the artistic decision to film in black and white for a gritty, moody look.  Scotty, Bill, and DJ, and the Jordanaires can be seen as members of the band at the King Creole Club.
Overall, story: A+, songs: A,  Elvis' performance: A+.

G.I. Blues (Paramount-Hal Wallis, 1960) - Elvis' first movie after the army, and his first to be directed by Norman Taurog (who would ultimately direct nine Elvis movies). This is also his funniest Paramount movie.  Elvis has great comedic timing in this one, and even gets close to doing some slapstick.  A lot is said about Elvis' acting talent being wasted and how he could have been a great actor, but I think his real calling may have been comedy.  Juliet Prowse is the leading lady. Scotty and DJ make their final on screen appearance in an Elvis film, as musicians in a German club (Bill Black left Elvis by this time).
Overall, story: B, songs: B+, Elvis' performance: A.

Flaming Star (20th Century Fox, 1960) -  Decent western of a half-breed torn in an Indian-white man war, based on Clair Huffaker's novel Flaming Lance.  Marlon Brando was originally slated to star. Leading lady is Barbara Eden. Elvis only sings two songs early in the film.
Overall, story: B, songs: title song gets a B, Cane And A High Starched Collar gets a C, Elvis' performance: B+.

Wild In The Country (20th Century Fox, 1961) -  screenplay by Clifford Odets based on J.R. Salamanca's novel The Lost Country (later renamed Wild In The Country after the movie's release).  A fitting follow up to King Creole has Elvis easily handling a dramatic role of a troubled youth, and has great chemistry with leading lady Tuesday Weld. Batman connection: Alan Napier plays a college dean. This movie did not get a soundtrack LP or EP.
Overall, story: B, songs: B, Elvis' performance: B+.

Blue Hawaii (Paramount-Hal Wallis, 1961) - loose remake of Wallis' Bing Crosby movie Waikiki Wedding.  A fun and enjoyable lightweight film with lots of scenic shots. The light script takes a dark turn when teenage Elle attempts suicide. Perhaps Elvis' biggest hit at the box office, compared to the lesser success of  Flaming Star and Wild In The Country, which cemented his fate with formula pictures.
Overall, story: C+, songs: B-, Elvis' performance: A-.

Follow That Dream
Follow That Dream (United Artists, 1962) - based on Richard P. Powell's novel Pioneer Go Home! this was Elvis' funniest comedy.  Directed by Gordon Douglas, who directed many Our Gang Comedies in the mid to late 1930s. Second of three movies where Elvis has his natural hair color. Has an Extended Play 45RPM soundtrack.
Overall, story: A, songs: B+, Elvis' performance: A+.

Kid Galahad  (United Artists, 1962) - based on the Frances Wallace novel and a remake of a 1937 movie of the same name, starring Edward G Robinson, Bette Davis, and Humphrey Bogart, and directed by Michael Curtiz.  Elvis lobbied for Curtiz to direct the remake, but Phil Karlson was tapped.  Features Charles Bronsan.  Third of three movies where Elvis has his natural hair color. Batman connection: David Lewis has a small role. Has an Extended Play 45RPM soundtrack. Overall, story: B+, songs: B+, Elvis' performance: B+.

Girls! Girls! Girls! (Paramount-Hal Wallis, 1962) - the first of what could be called the "Elvis formula" movie.  Elvis is back to dyed black hair, and the first of two movies where his hair is literally shellacked.  Elvis lost weight and is very thin in this movie.  Filmed on location in Hawaii.
Overall, story: C, songs: Girls! Girls! Girls! and Return To Sender get a B+, while the rest of the soundtrack gets a C, Elvis' performance: B-.

It Happened At The World's Fair (MGM, 1963) Elvis' first MGM movie since Jailhouse Rock seems to be an effort to imitate the Hal Wallis-Paramount formula rather than following up their own punk classic. Never the less, actually an enjoyable film. Kurt Russell, who would play Elvis in the Dick Clark produced/John Carpenter directed TV bio-movie, has a small role.  Vickie Tiu who plays little Sue Lin, nearly steals the movie, and her scenes with Elvis are very sweet. Elvis looks good in his tailored suits and is very thin.  Second of two movies with his hair shellacked. Batman connection: first of two movies with Yvonne Craig, and ironically, Olan Soule (who was the voice of Batman in cartoons from 1968 thru 1986) plays her father.  Soule also did an episode of The Monkees.
Overall, story: C+, songs: B-, Elvis' performance: B.

Fun In Acapulco (Paramount-Hal Wallis, 1963) A decent script, with Elvis' character given some emotional heft, but the songs are very weak.
Overall, story: B, songs: Bossa Nova Baby gets a B, the rest C-, Elvis' performance: B+.

Kissin' Cousins (MGM, 1963) - An average movie. Elvis plays two roles, and one can only wonder if Col. Tom Parker negotiated two paychecks for Elvis.  The movie has some funny moments and a few good sight gags.  The plot is okay, the songs are average.  The directing and editing are sloppy when both Jodie and Josh are on screen together, there is little effort to hide the fact one of them is Elvis' stand-in.  The final musical number is likewise marred by bad jump cuts. Ironically, it also has two different songs titled "Kissin' Cousins".  This is the second and last Elvis film to feature future Batgirl Yvonne Craig. MGM and NBC attempted to spin this movie into a TV series, with Edd "Kookie" Byrnes in Elvis' role, but only a pilot episode was filmed.
Overall, story: C+, songs: Kissing Cousins and Smokey Mountain Boy get a B, the rest a C, Elvis' performance: B-.

Viva Las Vegas (MGM, 1964) - One of the better formula movies with a very good soundtrack.  Elvis is a race car driver who gets involved with a swimming instructor played by Ann Margaret. The two have great on screen chemistry. Features William Demarest (Uncle Charlie on My Three Sons). Although there were enough songs for a full soundtrack LP album, RCA originally released an Extended Play 45RPM record.
Overall, story: B, songs: A-, Elvis' performance: A.

Roustabout (Paramount-Hal Wallis, 1964) - A more serious movie, with Elvis, as in Jailhouse Rock, playing an angry jerk who has to take a job at a carnival when his motorcycle is wrecked. Co-stars Barbara Stanwyck.  Monkee connection: Richard Kiel.
Overall, story: B, songs: B-, Elvis' performance: B+.

Girl Happy first of 3 movies with Shelley Fabares
Girl Happy (MGM, 1965) - Despite the unacceptable tampering of a couple of the songs being sped up (the title tune- which if you listen to the recording session, in between takes, Elvis keeps saying the tempo should be faster - and Wolf Call), this is actually a fun movie.  Probably inspired by the success of the Beatles, Elvis is cast as member of a rock group quartet (Bing's son Gary Crosby, Jimmy Hawkins,  and Joby Baker), and they romp around Ft Lauderdale Florida during spring break in a pre-Monkees kind of way.  Coincidentally, a Monkees connection with Nita Talbot, who plays a stripper in Girl Happy, and a martian in Monkees Watch Their Feet.  The first of three movies with Shelley Fabares (and said to be Elvis' favorite leading lady). The Spring Fever sequence is a precursor to the Summer Nights sequence from Grease. 
Overall, story: B+, songs: B (despite the sped up tampering), Elvis' performance: B+. 

Tickle Me with Jocelyn Lane
Tickle Me (Allied Artists, 1965) - This was a very good movie, with some good comedy.  The script was written by Three Stooges and Bowery Boys alumni Edward Bernds and Elwood Ullman, and you can pick out many Stooges gags in the film.  Elvis shows some very good comedic timing. In some ways, this movie is almost like an episode of The Monkees with some surreal humor and an Old West fantasy romp.  Unlike all other Elvis movies, no songs were written for this film, but rather excellent tracks from prior non-soundtrack albums were used.  Unfortunately, string and horn overdubs were added to the mix. Director Norman Taurog did a great job, but one can't help but wonder how Monkees director James Frawley would have handled it. Leading lady Jocelyn Lane is perhaps the most stunning of all Elvis movie actresses.
Overall, story: B,  songs: A-,  Elvis' performance: A.

Harum Scarum (MGM, 1965) - I avoided watching this movie for many years, as it has a reputation of being the worst movie Elvis ever made. But when I finally did see it, I didn't think it was quite that bad. The title makes you believe the movie is a silly comedy, but on the contrary, it is actually the closest thing to an action film Elvis ever made. It has a rather dark plot.  Elvis plays Johnny Tyrone, a Hollywood actor who gets kidnapped by middle eastern rebels who intend on forcing him to kill a king.  The So Close Yet So Far  scene is filmed in a unique and atmospheric way. 
Overall, story: C, songs: Hey Little Girl and So Close Yet So Far get a B+, the rest C-,  Elvis' performance: B-.

Frankie And Johnny (United Artists, 1966) - Very enjoyable movie based on the classic blues tune, co-starring Donna Douglas (Beverly Hillbillies) and Harry Morgan (Dragnet and M*A*S*H ). Batman connection, Nancy Kovack. 
Overall, plot: B+, songs: B, Elvis' performance: A-.

Paradise Hawaiian Style (Paramount-Hal Wallis, 1966) - Elvis is a little overweight in this one. OK plot, awful songs. Much of the movie was filmed on Hollywood soundstages, which is why many scenes look more like Gilligan's Island rather than Blue Hawaii.
Overall, plot: C, songs: Datin'  and A Dog's Life get a C+, the rest a D,  Elvis' performance: C.

Easy Come Easy Go
Spinout (MGM, 1966) - For the second time, Elvis is cast as a member of a rock group quartet, once again with Jimmy Hawkins as one of the members. Shelley Fabares is also back from Girl Happy in her second Elvis movie. In addition to echoing Girl Happy, this one also reprises the race car concept from Viva Las Vegas. The songs are slightly stronger than Girl Happy due to no tampering with the speed, but the plot is weaker.  If the producers would have brought Gary Crosby back, and made it a full fledged Girl Happy sequel, it might have fared better.  Even so, still a fun and enjoyable film. Batman connection: Diane McBain. Overall, story: B-, songs: B, Elvis' performance: B.

Easy Come Easy Go (Paramount-Hal Wallis, 1967) - Elvis is a scuba diving treasure hunter. Elvis' final movie for Paramount-Wallis.  It also has the fewest songs of any of the Wallis films, getting an Extended Play 45RPM soundtrack.  Features Pat Harrington Jr. Batman connection: the hot rod in the movie would become the Joker-mobile.
Overall, story: C, songs: C, Elvis' performance: B-.

Double Trouble (MGM, 1967) - Average movie where Elvis gets involved with a British teenage heiress.  Set in Europe, but filmed in Hollywood. Originally, The Three Stooges were going to appear in the movie, but scheduling conflicts resulted in them dropping out and being replaced by The Weire Brothers. Monkees connection: Monty Landis and Chips Rafferty.
Overall, plot: C, songs: Long Legged Girl gets an A, the rest B-, Elvis' performance: B-.

Clambake (United Artists, 1967) - Third movie with Shelley Fabares, and the first with Bill Bixby. Good script based on the Prince and the Pauper story.  Monkees connection: Jack Good. 
Overall, plot: B, songs: B-, Elvis' performance: B.

Stay Away Joe (MGM, 1968) - Comedy with a lot of sight gags, based on the Dan Cushman novel of the same name. First movie to break the Elvis formula.  Batman connection: Burgess Meredith. No soundtrack album was released for this movie. Overall, plot: B-, songs: B-,  Elvis' performance: A-.

Speedway (MGM, 1968) - Another Viva Las Vegas style race car film, this time with Nancy Sinatra and Bill Bixby.  Monkee connection: Carl Ballantine.
Overall, plot: C, songs: Let Yourself Go gets an A, Your Time Hasn't Come Yet Baby and Your Groovy Self  get a B, the rest C,  Elvis' performance: B.

Live A Little Love A Little with Elvis' Great Dane Brutus as Albert
Live A Little Love A Little (MGM, 1968) - Funny comedy based on Dan Greenburg's novel Kiss My Firm But Pliant Lips, with Elvis, hilarious as a cranky grouch, doing great deadpan deliveries.  Albert the Great Dane was really Elvis' dog Brutus.  I wonder if Col Parker got him a bigger paycheck than Darren #2 Dick Sargent?  You know Elvis is having fun when he breaks into his old 1950s dance moves (as he also did in Spinout).  Leading lady: Michelle Carey. Director Norman Taurog's final movie. No soundtrack album was released for this movie.
Overall, plot: A-, songs: B-, Elvis' performance: A+.

Charro! (National General, 1969) - Elvis' third western, and only non-singing role, although he does perform the theme song over the opening credits.  Based on Harry Wittington's novel, which was published after the movie's release. Features Victor French (Little House On The Prairie).
Overall, plot: C, song: C+, Elvis' performance: B-.

The Trouble With Girls (MGM, 1969) - based on the novel Chautauqua by Day Keene and Dwight Babcock.  In development for nearly a decade, and originally slated to star Dick Van Dyke. Features future star Dabney Colman, John Carradine, Joyce Van Patten, and Family Affair's Anissa Jones, with Susan Olsen (The Brady Bunch) in an uncredited cameo.  Batman connection: Vincent Price. No soundtrack album was released for this movie. Overall, plot: C, songs: B, Elvis' performance: B+.

Change Of Habit
Change Of Habit (Universal, 1969) - Produced by Joe Connelly (who was Catholic) and Bob Mosher, the team that created Leave It To Beaver and The Munsters, Elvis' final acting performance is superb. Intentional or not, this movie gives us a glimpse of the chaotic years following the Second Vatican Council, when the Church seemingly lost her way, jettisoning all things spiritual and mystical while becoming utterly fixated on social justice.  This is underscored by Sister Barbara (Jane Elliot) who quits being a nun, feeling the Church is too restrictive, to become a full time social worker. Originally, this film was slated to be a starring vehicle for Mary Tyler Moore, and to air as a TV movie.  Once Elvis signed on, he got top billing, and the movie went into theatrical release (although it did air as a TV movie in some European countries). No soundtrack album was released for this movie.
Overall, plot, B+, songs, B-, Elvis' performance: A.

That's The Way It Is (MGM, 1970) - Great concert film/documentary that showcases Elvis' Vegas show.  The "special edition" version is even better than the documentary-heavy original theatrical version.

Elvis On Tour (MGM, 1972) - A slightly inferior sequel to That's The Way It Is that follows Elvis on a breakneck tour.  No soundtrack album was released for this movie.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Man Of Steel Sequel to co-star Batman

At the San Diego Comic Con, Man Of Steel director Zack Snyder confirmed there will be a sequel, even though the movie dropped drastically from first place at the box office to tenth in only four weeks.  Further more, it will feature Batman. Perhaps, by putting Batman in the sequel is Warner Brothers' insurance policy that the movie will have better legs and not dive bomb off the box office like Man Of Steel did.  Will the new movie be titled World's Finest ?

While I liked Man Of Steel when I first saw it, and wrote my review, upon thinking about the movie more, I found I began to like it less and less.  A good example is Jonathan Kent.  Originally I thought how he died was moving.  But after thinking about it, I realised how dumb it was. I disliked the whole X-Files approach to the character and feel a more meaningful death is like in the original Richard Donner movie, where he dies and there is nothing Clark, with all his powers, can do to prevent it.  Here, Clark is just being ordered by Jonathan to do nothing. Really stupid the more I think about it.  The whole movie is kind of like that. 

There is a big question as to how Batman will be portrayed.  We do know this will be a rebooted Batman, and not the version from the Christian Bale-Christopher Nolan movies.  It looks like Snyder will have some major creative control as to how Batman is rebooted for the screen. It also brings up the question, "who will be cast as Batman?"  Snyder, at the Comic Con, had an actor read a line from Frank Miller's Dark Knight Returns after making the announcement.  Snyder was once rumored to be interested in filming a live action version of the Miller graphic novel.  This could lead one to believe Snyder's rebooted Batman will be very much influenced by Frank Miller, emphasised by the fact the new Bat emblem shown for the Man Of Steel sequel/World's Finest movie looks just like Miller's artwork (thankfully the awful Crow like emblem from the Nolan movies is history)... hopefully the new Batman costume will be better, also, and the new actor won't speak like he has throat cancer. But the bad news is David Goyer once again will be back to co-write the script.  Really, this guy is way over rated, and he has too much influence over the DC movies.  It's past due to bring in some fresh blood on this. Snyder should bring in Frank Miller to co-write the script with, and drop Goyer. This could also lead to Miller taking over as director for the Batman franchise when it spins off from The World's Finest.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Review: Batman '66 #1

You might want to check the weather report, as there may be a snowstorm in Hell right now. DC has done what was unthinkable just a couple years ago.  They have published the first issue of a new, on-going Batman series based on the 1966 TV show.  Batman '66 is not, however, a pure adaption of the series. That's a good thing, since the series strictly followed a set formula with a sameness to the episodes which caused the show to fizzle out very quickly.  In many respects, this series is more like a hybrid of the TV show, the 1968 Filmation cartoon which, while based on the live-action show, had a lot more action and variety to the storytelling, and mid-1960s DC Batman comic books.  Indeed, the first story in issue 1 showcases The Riddler, in all his Frank Gorshin glory, but with an extended action piece that would be inconceivable by the TV show's budget and primitive special effects technology.  The second story is part 2 of the Riddler caper, and introduces us to Catwoman, while the third story concludes the adventure. The art, by Jonathan Case, also captures Adam West's likeness to a T, as well as Burt Ward and Julie Newmar.  However, due to legal restrictions by the estates, the likenesses of Neil Hamilton, Stafford Repp, and Madge Blake could not be used. The design for those characters look very much like the ones used for the early installments of the 1966 Batman newspaper comic strip, itself based on the TV series rather than the comics.  Speaking of which, I'd love to see DC publish a spin-off TPB collecting the first couple years of the newspaper strips.  While the TV show was on the air, the strips apparently had TV series style humor and special guests, like Jack Benny! And the new comic also follows suite by having a Bat-climb window cameo (by Count Dracula).  The script by Jeff Parker, keeps the characters in the TV show spirit, but, thankfully, doesn't reduce the Dynamic Duo to buffoons the way most second and third season episodes did. Parker seems to mix in the flavor of TV show head scriptwriter Lorenzo Semple Jr with a dash of Paul Dini of Batman The Animated Series.  Issue #1 is something a Batman comic has not been in too long a time: fun. I also finally get to see the real Dynamic Duo in action again, instead of Bruce with one of the multitude of inferior replacement Robins (and please, DC, do not, DO NOT, DO NOT have Dick Grayson become Nightwing in this continuity!!!!).  Word has it the digital first copy has sold very very well.  If the print edition also becomes a big hit, who knows, this may have a positive effect on the wretched DCnU continuity, and perhaps even the next Batman movie. Batman '66 #1 earns an A.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Review: Curse Of Shazam, part 13

The final chapter of Curse Of Shazam in JUSTICE LEAGUE #21 begins with the seven deadly sins finding their host: Mr Bryer.  They posses him and he turns into a giant satanic beast.  Sivana, meanwhile, is experiencing the effects of magic on his un-enchanted body, as he becomes more troll like in appearance.  Cut to Black Adam with Capt... er, Shazam and the other kids. Adam tells them the seven deadly sins will burn the city to cinders, and only he can save it, if Billy surrenders his magic to him.  Upon Adam threatening to kill Freddy, Mary and the others, Capt... er, Shazam agrees, but then Francesca, via a reflection in a puddle, reminds him of the Wizard's words. He yells "Shazam!", but instead of surrendering the power to Adam, he has enchanted the other kids, creating The Shazam Family. 

 All six tackle Adam, as he fights back.  Capt... er, Shazam, tells the others to evacuate the streets, while he will take care of Black Adam.  There is a showdown between the two, as the others evacuate the city.  Mary is able to take on Bryer in his demon form.  Back at the showdown, Tawny stalks Adam, but he swats the tiger away., Shazam reveals he has a kinship to the tiger, as visiting him at the zoo with his parents is one of his cherished memories, and considers Tawny family.  He quickly enchants Tawny, turning him into a battle cat, but he did the spell incorrectly, causing him and the other members of the Shazam Family to weaken as their enchantments fade.  Soon, the Family is back to their normal selves, as Adam and Capt... er, Shazam fight to a standstill.  He transforms back into Billy, and cons Adam into reverting back to his mortal self.  Within seconds, he ages hundreds of years, and dies.  Billy transforms back into his enchanted form, as the seven deadly sins leave Bryer, now able to roam free without a host upon Black Adam's death.  Bryer is humiliated one more time, as he stand naked in front of a crowd. Everyone cheers the new Champion of Magic.  It's Christmas morning, and Billy decides to stay with his new family at the Vasquez house.  Then a epilogue of Sivana, somewhere in New York, completely troll like in appearance, discovering  a talking worm who calls himself Mr Mind.

The final chapter was fairly good, much better than some of the previous chapters.  As predicted, the whole Shazam Family was brought in very quickly.  Not just Mary and Freddy, but the other three kids as well, which siphons the spotlight off  Capt... er, Shazam, and underscores he needs a team to defeat the enemy.  None of the Shazam Family's names were revealed, except for Freddy, who called himself "King Shazam". My guess his hair would turn black in the enchanted form, as a nod to Elvis, who had light brown hair naturally, and dyed it black when he became famous, did not happen.  Rather, King Shazam has long, Thor-like blond hair.  The epilogue is a certain lead in to an on going series, but none is planned at the moment.  Chapter 13 earns a B.

On the other hand, Curse Of Shazam in its entirety earns a C-.  It has some good moments, a couple good concepts, but often falls back on the same shtick that has prevented the DC version of the Captain Marvel character from soaring back to his Golden Age Fawcett greatness.  Many of the changes Johns made to the essentials of the characters are pointless, as they are not the problem.  The problem is keeping the character pigeon holed in a "Big in tights" mentality, albeit now with a slight Harry Potter twist to it.  Adding the three new kids only dilutes Billy even more.  Geoff Johns has a legion of fans who will blindly follow him wherever he leads.  They may insure the new "Shazam" is somewhat successful.  But to really get Captain Marvel back to his full glory, the only solution to me seems to be to bring in Alex Ross, perhaps with an assist by Mark Waid or Paul Dini, to give us the character as he was in the Justice miniseries.

Friday, June 14, 2013

movie review: MAN OF STEEL

Go big or go home.  Zack Snyder certainly did go big with Man Of Steel. The rebooted Superman movie, much like the 1978 original, is a three act play, and is probably the most sci-fi oriented telling of the character in its 75 year history.  Act One, as with the 1978 version, is Krypton. But unlike the Krypton of 1978, an albino desert with crystal architecture, this Krypton is a fully formed and thought out planet, futuristic yet rustic, punctuated by Jor-El (Russell Crow) hopping on a giant Kryptonian mosquito like an outer space cowboy (that's not the only Western theme in this movie, as you'll see later).  The movie starts on the birth of Kal-El, the first naturally born child in centuries on Krypton.  The Krypton sequence unfolds pretty much as expected, except a twist is that Zod (Michael Shannon, in a well delivered, wide-eyed mentally unstable performance) kills Jor-El right as the rocket with Kal-El launches.  Zod and his minions are rounded up and sentenced to the Phantom Zone, and Krypton explodes.

Act Two goes into a cut and paste of the Batman Begins script, but unlike that agonizingly boring movie, the inter cutting of flashbacks to tell young Clark Kent's history works much better here.  Clark is a nomad, travelling around, helping people when he can while keeping a low profile. At one point when Clark is hitch hiking, I half expected the old Incredible Hulk  TV show theme song to start playing.  The flashbacks to his childhood are well done, and in some cases heartbreaking. Like when Clark, upon told he is an alien and the answer to the question of life on other planets, begs Jonathan Kent (Kevin Costner, who gives the role a slightly cruel X Files spin) to continue to pretend he's his son, to which Jonathan embraces the boy saying he is his son.  Likewise a moment when a tornado is destructively tearing thru Smallville, and Jonathan runs into it to free the family dog. As Jonathan is about to meet certain doom, Clark is about to race to rescue his dad, only to have Jonathan decisively raise his hand for Clark to stop, so the witnesses will not see Clark use his powers, sacrificing his own life to keep Clark from revealing his alien nature.  We also get to see glimpses of familiar Smallville characters Pete Ross and Lana Lang, the latter played by an adorable Jadin Gould, who bears more than a passing resemblance to Kristin Kruek, the well loved Lana from the Smallville  TV series.

Lois Lane (the pretty but somewhat miscast Amy Adams) enters the scene as the military discover an alien craft in ice thousands of years old.  It turns out to be this movie's version of the Fortress of Solitude.  She meets Clark, and he saves her life when she trespasses into the Fortress setting off some security devices.  Back in Metropolis, she does some detective work and quickly learns the mysterious man of steel is Clark Kent from Smallville.  Clark, meanwhile, in the Fortress, enables a sort of computer program that has Jor-El's intellect, and it teaches Clark all about his history.

Act Three begins when Superman emerges from the Fortress, and starts pushing and experimenting with his powers, learning how to fly, perhaps the only moment in the film where Clark smiles (and I half expected the theme song from The Greatest American Hero to start playing).  Zod and his minions have located earth and warn the people to turn over Kal-El or there will be destruction.  After seeking guidance from a Catholic priest, Superman turns himself into the US military as a sign of good will in hopes to work together in reigning in Zod. The movie goes into full blown action-film mode at this point with one high octane action sequence after another, and lots of dizzying fight scenes, and so much collateral damage, you have to wonder if there is any spot in the US not destroyed by the end of the movie.  Once again a Western theme is highlighted in a High Noon type showdown between Superman and Faora (Antje Traue in a performance that schools Anne Hathaway on how to play a villainess), one of the all too few whimsical moments in the overly serious film.  After most of the Kryptonians are sent back to the Phantom Zone, and Superman is forced to take Zod's life in order to save several humans, as an after thought, we get to see Clark Kent, in glasses, getting a job at the Daily Planet, with a wink to Lois, who's in on the secret.

Man Of Steel is a definite improvement over the somewhat creepy Superman Returns, however what it lacked was one really great scene that would be the movie's crown jewel.  In Superman Returns it was unquestionably the plane and space shuttle rescue over the baseball field.  Man of Steel lacks such a moment,  or maybe in its third act, has so many of those moments, none can stand out.  Henry Cavill does a good job in the role with the material he's given.  He does not imitate Christopher Reeve, as Brandon Routh did.  But he doesn't quite make the role his own, either. There are some shots where I thought he looked too much like Tom Welling. He lacked some personality, as there is virtually no humor in the movie.  Superman can have some gloom and darkness, but he still has to have some hope, as the great new retro-Fleischer S shield is supposed to be the Kryponian symbol for. Ironically Cavill's performance and the movie in general have a bit of a "hopelessness" air to it.  The film would have benefited with some more humor and a little less of Clark crying or screaming. As mentioned, Amy Adams is somewhat miscast as Lois. She comes off as too sweet.  Lois is supposed to have a "hot bitch" quality to her that Adams just doesn't have.  Mila Kunis, who was in the running for the role, would have been a better choice.  Laurence Fishburne's Perry White, Rebecca Buller's Jenny Olsen (the gender changed Jimmy Olsen) and Michael Kelly's Steve Lombard all were fairly generic with no real characterizations.  The Daily Planet staff seem to be in the movie simply because they have to be.  In that regard, Superman Returns did a better job.  I always felt David Goyer was over rated, and with The Dark Knight Rises and Man Of Steel under his belt, it seems a lot of fans are starting to feel that way, also.  Hans Zimmer's score, as with his three Batman movies, is instantly forgettable.

All in all, despite getting some things wrong, I enjoyed Man Of Steel and thought it was a better movie than Superman Returns and Batman Begins and equal to or even slightly better than The Dark Knight Rises. However, it didn't surpass The Dark Knight, which is what DC and WB needed for Man Of Steel to be the tent pole of an entire DC Universe franchise of movies.  Can it still happen? Possibly.  Depends on how the final box office looks. After all, Superman Returns made a profit.  It just didn't make a super profit.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Review: Curse Of Shazam, part 12

The penultimate chapter of Curse Of Shazam in JUSTICE LEAGUE #20 starts where the previous chapter left off, with Black Adam holding Billy by the mouth.  Adam berates Billy a little, then through some magic lightning connecting their eyes, Billy gets to see the real origin of Black Adam. Both the boy Aman and his uncle are at the Council of Eternity at the Rock of Eternity.  It is revealed each member of the council chose a mortal to be their champion. The main wizard, who now reveals that his name is indeed Shazam, chose Aman, but the boy asks that the Wizard save his injured uncle.  Shazam tells them both to speak his name, and both will be his champions, as Aman sharing the power with his uncle saved him.  They do, and both go on to free their people from the evil of Ibac.  But then the uncle wants to become more aggressive in dealing with evil, but Aman refuses, saying how the Wizard wants this to be an era of mercy.  It is revealed the uncle's name is Adam, and the next time the two speak the magic word, at the moment of the transformation Adam kills his nephew, absorbing the full power for himself.  Billy now knows what kind of a man Black Adam is.  Now Adam wants to kill Billy and absorb his power as well, but the other four kids ram into Adam with a truck, knocking Billy free, allowing him to transform back into Capt... er, Shazam., Shazam snarls he will not run from Adam anymore, but Adam has Mary and Freddy by their throats, and is stepping on the other three.

The new twist on Adam's origin is part rehashing Captain Marvel Junior's classic origin and part setting a precedent for the Flashpoint concept of multiple people becoming the champion, which I bet will be part of the conclusion having all six kids unite to form a more powerful version of Capt... er Shazam in order to defeat Adam (also recalling the Wizard's comment to Billy that his family will be his greatest power).  We'll see if I'm right, as the conclusion to this story is next month.  Chapter 12 earns a C.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Review: Popeye #12

POPEYE #12 features the very first crossover between Popeye and Barney Google.  The story begins with Google, Toar, and Castor Oyl playing cards.  Castor wins Google's race horse and enlists Popeye to be the trainer.  Google gets Wimpy to find him another horse to race, but Wimpy ends up bringing him a cow.  At the big race, the hooded figure who sold Wimpy the cow, dumps marbles on the track, causing the cow and horse to slip and stumble, with Popeye and Google being tossed onto the other's steed.  Popeye, now on the cow and losing to Google, decides to jump off the cow, lift it up and run to the finish line.  However the judges disqualify Popeye, and announce Google the winner, when the hooded figure is revealed to be Google's ex-wife.  The second story is a sentimental filler of Popeye writing a letter to Swee'pea's real mother explaining how, when he took Swee'pea to a fair, Swee'pea wandered into a fight tent, and with some help from Popeye, beat Bersurka Mazurker to win the cash prize.

Written and drawn by Roger Langridge, the lead story casts Popeye is a supporting role, with Barney Google the focus of the story, playing opposite Wimpy and Castor.  Once again, Langridge is very light on humor and heavy on dialogue.  His art seems to favor Barney Google, while the Thimble Theatre characters are more crude.  The back up story could have been 3 or 4 pages, but is padded to 7. Overall, issue 12 earns a C.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Review: Curse Of Shazam, part 11

Chapter 11 of Curse Of Shazam in JUSTICE LEAGUE #19 opens with the six kids getting on the subway, which is deserted due to the city being evacuated.  The power goes out on the subway car as Billy tries to will it to take them to the Rock of Eternity.  Then the mysterious Francesca, from a few chapters back, appears to Billy through Eugene's ipad.  She tells Billy how he can get to the Rock: he can open a portal to it anywhere as long as he is underground and enchanted.  She then tells Billy the story of Black Adam.  She tells him they are linked to each other like family.  Oddly, Mary was able to hear the word "family", even though Billy is the only one who can see and hear Francesca.  As she recaps the origin of Black Adam, we learn his real name is Aman, and he was a boy, in ancient times in the country of Kandaq, when his parents were killed and he was dragged off by Ibac and his army to be a slave.  The boy is eventually found by his uncle, and they attempt an escape from Ibac, but the uncle is wounded, and a bolt of lightning then transports the boy Aman to the Rock of Eternity, where a council of seven wizards (including the last surviving wizard who gave Billy the power) await him.  Billy cuts Francesca off, realizing Black Adam is really a boy like him.  He runs off to talk to Black Adam, confident he now understands where Black Adam's coming from and he can reason with him.  Billy approaches Black Adam, telling him he is the new champion and he understands why Black Adam is lashing out at others, that he's only trying to hide how scared he really is.  Predictably, Black Adam grabs Billy by the mouth, and tells the stupid kid he doesn't know anything.  Looks like curtains for Billy.

This chapter seemed like a filler, its only purpose to recap the origin of Black Adam.  But there are significant changes. No more Teth-Adam, the inclusion of Ibac, and a council of wizards.  On a side note, the lead Justice League story deals with Superman and Wonder Woman invading Kandaq to free some hostages.  Johns uses this to give a brief history of the fictional country, and introduces a terrorist group named Sons of Adam.  Once Curse Of Shazam wraps up after two more chapters, Capt... er, Shazam, is expected to join the Justice League, so this is setting up the next story arc. Chapter 11 earns a C.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Review: Popeye #10 and 11

Two more issues of POPEYE to review this time.  First, issue number 10.  This issues features a boxing drama.  Toar is going to be deported, but in order to stay in the USA, he has to provide a skill no other American can provide.  Toar says he can beat Popeye in a fight.  So a boxing match is set up with Toar's citizenship on the line.  The script is typical Roger Langridge: heavy on action, light on humor, and an overabundance of dialogue.  The art is by Vince Musacchia, who turns in excellent work.  Faithful to Segar, and very fluid.  The issue also includes an entertaining Sappo/Watasnozzle back up feature by Langridge and Ken Wheaton.  Issue 10 earns a B-.

Issue number 11 features the return of Bluto, who comes to town as a magician with a vaudeville troupe.  He threatens to steal Olive Oyl, and in fact makes her disappear during his act.  Popeye rescues her as Wimpy and his ventriloquist dummy scares Bluto out of town. A top notch script by Langridge that turns up the humor.  In fact there are a couple laugh out loud moments, I think a first for the IDW series.  Musacchia returns to do the art, and its even better than the previous issue.  Issue 11 earns a strong A.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Review: Curse Of Shazam, part 10

Chapter 10 of Curse Of Shazam in JUSTICE LEAGUE #18, opens on Bryer, accompanied by police, confronting the Vasquezes about Billy's whereabouts and his totaled car.  Mary and the other kids are listening in, and Mary asks Freddy where Billy is.  As the confrontation between Bryer and Vasquez heats up, all are startled to see something in the sky.  A bus falls from the sky, crashing to earth in a fiery explosion.  Cut back to the city, as Black Adam is running amuck.  Back to the Vasquezes home, as Freddy watches a news bulletin of the incident.  Just as Black Adam makes a threat to kill Captain Mar... er, Shazam, the city loses all power.  Freddy then confesses to Mary and the other kids Billy is, Shazam.  They sneak out to find Billy, who is at the zoo talking to a tiger he calls Tawny.  They confront him (and yes, Darla is still quite annoying), but Billy refuses to turn back into Cap... er, Shazam.  Billy leads the kids to the subway in hopes of getting to the Rock of Eternity so the power can be given to someone else.  Cut back to the city, where Sivana and the seven sins meet up with Black Adam, who plan to end the world.

This is a decent chapter.  Gary Frank's art, as usual, is great.  The script is better this time, as we get to see more character drama and conflict. Billy questions himself and considers if it would be best for the power to go to someone more competent.  The only negative aspect is the presence of Darla, Pedro and Eugene.  It's kind of pointless for them to be there as they muddle the picture.  As they all descend the stairs to the subway station, I get the bad feeling we may either get the "Captain Planet" aspect of Flashpoint's "Captain Thunder" character, or we will get instant Shazam Family, with Freddy as Kid Shazam, Mary as Shazam Girl, and the other three as Lt. Shazams.  This chapter earns a B.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Habemus Papam: Pope Francis

Habemus Papam.  Jorge Cardinal Bergoglio of Argentina was elected Pope Francis.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The Modern Era Popes

While we wait for the new pope to be elected, we should also take some time to appreciate the past. I find papal history fascinating.  Some of my favorites are the early modern popes, from the time photography was invented.

Pius IX (reigned 1846 to 1878) was the first pope to be photographed. He also changed the United States' status from a missionary territory, creating American dioceses and archdioceses.

Leo XIII (reigned 1879 to 1903) was the first pope to be filmed with a motion picture camera, and the first pope to have his voice recorded. He is also the oldest pope so far, living to be 93 years old. It's a shame his cause for canonization has not been advanced yet.

Pius X (reigned 1903 to 1914) is the most recent pope to be declared a saint. He is also the most recent pope known to perform miracles while he was alive (there are several documented cases where he healed crippled and dying children).  A very holy man.  We could use another pope like Pius X.

Benedict XV (reigned 1914 to  1922) had a noble and regal look to him.

Pius XI (reigned 1922 - 1939) was pope while America was going from the silent movie era to the Golden Age of Hollywood.

Pius XII (reigned 1939 to 1958) has been, over the last couple decades, slanderously vilified for being a Nazi sympathizer.  This is false, revisionist history as the facts show Pius XII did all he could to save Jews from the Holocaust (certainly more than Franklin Roosevelt ever did), and many Jewish leaders of the day, such as Golda Meir, praised Pius XII.

John XXIII (reigned 1958 to 1963) had a short pontificate, but lasting effects to this day.

Paul VI (reigned 1963 to 1978), with his Grinch-like eyebrows, had perhaps the worst pontificate of the 20th Century.  Under him, the Vatican II council went from discussing how the Church should deal with the modern world, to the Church submitting to the modern world. The Missal of John XXIII was replaced only a few years after being promulgated, for the casual and humanist centered Novus Ordo.  Priestly vocations dropped dramatically, while a vast number of clergy renounced their ministries.  The clergy sex abuse scandal and alleged cover up hit its peak during his pontificate.  Jesus Christ promised the gates of hell will never prevail against the Church, but it came awfully close during Paul VI's pontificate. His cause for sainthood should be put on indefinite hold.

John Paul I (reigned 1978) had one of the shortest pontificates in history. However I have very vivid memories of him, as his pontificate happened when I was a child.  I remember being quite sad when he died because I really liked him.

John Paul II (reigned 1978 to 2005) was the superstar pope.  He had the tough task of beginning the process of undoing all the damage caused during Paul VI's reign, while building his own legacy as the pope who traveled to the people.

And of course Benedict XVI (reigned 2005 to 2013), who is considered to be the most brilliant theologian of the last 300 years.