Tuesday, January 29, 2019

movie review: STAN & OLLIE

This dramatized biographical film, directed by Jon S. Baird, stars Steve Coogan as Stan Laurel, and John C. Reilly as Oliver Hardy, telling the story of the famous comedy team's final bow on a tour of the United Kingdom in 1953.  The film opens in 1937, on the Hal Roach lot, of the team filming their movie Way Out West, to introduce the characters and set up the story. Roach has the duo signed to separate, staggered contracts, which limits their power of negotiating. In this scene I quickly noticed a mistake.  On the Roach lot, there is a poster of the Little Rascals.  The "Little Rascals" name did not exist at that time.  It was a title created for the films' TV syndication in the 1950s.  The series was originally titled Our Gang Comedies and the group of kids were billed as "Hal Roach's Rascals", although by the mid 1930s, both the series title and the group of kids were streamlined to simply "Our Gang".

We skip ahead to 1953, and the team, despite failing health, embark on a tour of the United Kingdom in hopes to get financing for one more movie. There is heart, humor, and a bit of drama.  Coogan and Reilly do a magnificent job portraying Mr. Laurel and Mr. Hardy, and one of the highlights of the film is to see these guys doing comedy bits off stage in "real" life, not so much for the entertainment of others, but for their own amusement. The film also portrays their wives, played by Shirley Henderson and Nina Arianda, as an entertaining comedy team in their own right. One thing I find unique about Laurel and Hardy is that they were not an "organic" comedy team, like The Marx Bothers, The Three Stooges, or Abbott and Costello.  Much like The Monkees are considered a "manufactured" band, Laurel and Hardy were a "manufactured" comedy team, put together by Hal Roach.  And like The Monkees, it was the right combination that resulted in magic.  This movie is well made, and it shows on the screen. This film is in limited release, but if you happen to have in playing in your town, be sure to see it.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Review: Shazam! #2

This issue opens with the Vasquezes suspicious about the man who claims to be Billy's father, continuing the final scene from the previous issue.  Cut to the kids in the Rock of Eternity, debating if they should explore the Magiclands. They decide to go to Funland, despite Mary's protests. We then cut to Dr Sivana, waiting to see a medical doctor, as he is infected with Mr Mind.  Back to the kids, on the train, they arrive at Funland and are met by a talking clown doll. Funland appears to be "Disneyland on steroids", and we get the very first "Holy Moley" from Billy in this continuity (prior to this, Johns attempted to make "badass" Billy's catchphrase during Curse of Shazam and his appearances in Justice League). The kids pair off to explore.  Back to Sivana in the doctor's office.  Mr Mind tells him to take the doctor's tongue for a magic spell.  Back to the kids, enjoying the amusement park.  Billy and Freddy observe a suspicious incident where an adult is running away from a child.  Then they meet King Kid, who looks like he stepped out of an old Sid & Marty Krofft production. 

Geoff Johns' script is kind of trite, and this issue reads almost like a filler. The art is by Marco Santucci, who, like Dale Eaglesham last issue, turns in a good yet generic job, although Santucci's art is a little more polished.  If I had my druthers, I would prefer Mayo "Sen" Naito be the series artist, as her artwork from last issue's back up story showed far more charm and character that would better embellish Johns' underwhelming scripts.  This issue earns a C-.