Thursday, April 15, 2021

Shazam movie sequel news

There has been a flurry of activity and casting announcements over the last couple weeks regarding both the Shazam! sequel and the long gestating Black Adam movie. (Shouldn't that be ShazAdam movie?)

The highlights are Lucy Liu and Helen Mirren nabbed roles as the evil daughters of Atlas in Shazam 2: Fury of the Gods, which presumably could possibly be a musical, and Pierce Brosnan was cast as Dr. Fate in ShazAdam or Black Adam or whatever it's going to be titled.

But to be perfectly honest... I really don't care. You see, they screwed up Shazam! so bad that I really don't have any interest in the sequel, and frankly, I don't even care about Dwayne Johnson's Black Adam anymore, even if it does introduce the Justice Society of America.  But truthfully, it's not really the legendary JSA. It's more like Dr. Fate, Hawkman, and a few 3rd tier Infinity Inc. characters.

If both movies end up premiering on HBO Max, like all of Warner's 2021 films, I'll probably give them a peek, but I'm not planning on going to a theater to see either of these movies.

I think what sums it up is what David Sandberg posted: "Though I can confirm with ~90% certainty that Shazam will appear in Shazam 2. So if you’re a fan of that character you might enjoy Shazam 2." That's just it.  I am not a fan of New52 Shazam.  I'm a fan of the Original Captain Marvel.  So I guess I'm just out of luck until the reboot happens, and hopefully is done right.

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Review: The Three Stooges: Thru the Ages #1

American Mythology's latest one-shot of the Three Stooges, subtitled Through the Ages, presents three different line ups of the boys.  The first story, by the regular team of SA Check and Brendon and Brian Fraim, feature Moe, Larry and Shemp causing chaos as Zoo workers. The creative team turns in a solid entry, with special note going to the Fraim Brothers stellar artwork. 

Next up is a story by Todd Clarke and Diego Tapie that has Moe, Larry and Curly in a sport fighting tale reminiscent of their shorts Punch Drunks and Grips, Grunt, and Groans. Clarke's script is fun, and Tapie's art is cartoon-inspired and top notch.  

The third story is by Jordan Gershowitz and Jorge Pacheco, and has Moe, Larry and Curly-Joe DeRita as movie actors in a situation similar to the DeRita era where the boys were making watered down feature films aimed at children. 

Unfortunately there was no story featuring Joe Besser, who was superior to the lackluster DeRita, nor was there a story with the comedic genius who essentially created the Stooges, Ted Healy. Perhaps a future one-shot will give some time to Healy and perhaps even Besser (but I wouldn't mind if we don't see DeRita anymore). 

The issue concludes with a check list of the past five years of Stooges comics, and a fun interview with Larry's great-grandsons and Curly's grandson. This issue is a good and fun read, and I look forward to the next one.

Sunday, January 31, 2021

Sha Na Na

1950s Rock 'n Roll has always been my favorite type of music.  One of the most durable 1950s revival acts is Sha Na Na, who formed in the late 1960s, recorded several albums for Kama Sutra Records in the early to mid 1970s, then hit their height in popularity in the late 1970s and early 1980s after they were dropped by the record label, and signed on to do a weekly syndicated variety show, and appeared in the movie Grease.  I remember as a child, their TV series was must see TV.  While I was a big Elvis fan as far back as I can remember, and I was very aware of, and liked, Jerry Lee Lewis, Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly, Little Richard, and Bill Haley before I knew of Sha Na Na, it was thru their TV series I discovered doo-wop and many of the other 2nd and 3rd tier Rock 'n Roll songs and acts of the '50s. During the stay at home order, I rediscovered clips of the show on YouTube.  That led me down a rabbit hole to search out other live concert clips, and ultimately to buy BGO Records' 2014 remastered set of their original Kama Sutra albums.  Previous to this, I did own a CD greatest hits collection, Grease for Peace, and as a child, a vinyl record, The Best of Sha Na Na.  So, here are my brief thoughts and comments on the original albums.


Rock & Roll Is Here To Stay.  The group's debut album, from 1969.  For those most familiar with the classic line up from the TV series and Grease, this original line up is quite different with only Jocko Marcellino, Donny York, Denny Greene and Scott "Santini" Powell from the most popular line up present.  The album consists of well done covers of classic 1950s Rock 'n Roll tunes, mostly given a respectful treatment, although "Teen Angel" is clearly camped up for parody. Lots of energy and a spirit of fun to the tracks, with standouts being "Remember Then", "Come Go With Me", "Long Tall Sally" and "Heartbreak Hotel".  I can imagine in 1969, it may have been hard to collect the original versions of these songs...certainly much harder than it is today with the internet and mp3 files, so this record served a true public service purpose. Overall this album is a great tribute to first generation Rock 'n Roll, and a great debut album for Sha Na Na.


Sha Na Na.  The group's 1971 self-titled 2nd album is unique. Nearly half of the original members have left, and the classic line up is starting to take shape with Screamin' Scott Simon, Jon "Bowzer" Bowman, and Johnny "The Kid" Contardo coming in, plus Lennie Baker, who was the group's "ringer" having played with actual 1950s groups like Danny & The Juniors, albeit in the 1960s.  Side one is a live concert of Rock 'n Roll classics, which is really where Sha Na Na excelled as a live band.  Side two consists of studio cuts... not just studio cuts, but original material.  Unfortunately none of the cuts have any 1950s flavor, as I think the group may have been trying to expand their repertoire. All of the songs were written by Screamin' Scott, except for one by Jocko, and they all showcase a different genre. "Only One Song" is like a typical AM ballad from the 1970s. "Depression" is a hard rocker. "Canadian Money" is a Country twinged, humorous song about going to Canada to avoid the draft.   "Top Forty" is another Country style song critiquing top forty bands who live hedonist lifestyles.  "Ruin Me Blues" is a blues tune.  Jocko's "Just A Friend" is a mid-tempo pop tune.   These sides straddle a fine line between being straight forward and being subtle parodies.  Also around this time, the group recorded a non-album single, "Payday".  I wish BGO had included it as a bonus track on the reissue.  I heard it on YouTube, and let me say I love that song.  As far as Sha Na Na originals go, and there will be a lot more contrary to the group's image as strictly a cover band, "Payday" is in the top two or three.  Unlike the other originals on this album, it hits a perfect balance between a retro-1950s sound and a contemporary style.


The Night Is Still Young.  The 3rd album, from 1972, builds upon side 2 of their second album. Mostly originals, mostly contemporary (for 1972), mostly a mixed bag. This album was produced by Jeff Barry, with a lot of input from Andy Kim. The Barry-Kim duo was also primarily responsible for The Monkees' 9th album Changes from 1970... the one featuring only Micky and Davy, which is usually near the bottom of most Monkees fans' rankings. This record opens with another Screamin' Scott original "Sunday Morning Radio", which appears to question the sincerity of the then-current "Jesus Freak" movement.  Next up is the record's best track, a cover of the classic "Sea Cruise".  Up next are a couple of lackluster Barry-Kim originals, that quite possibly could have been left overs from their Monkees sessions.  Things pick up with Jocko's Rolling Stones inspired "It Ain't Love", followed by Screamin' Scott's "The Vote Song"...which would work very well today if you just substitute the word Nixon with Biden.  Original member Rich Joffe contributes the ballad "Sleepin' on a Song".  "Bless My Soul" and "So Fine" are a pair of good tracks, then it's Screamin' Scott's "Oh Lonesome Boy". At this point it seems as if Scott is to trying to be Sha Na Na's equivalent of Mike Nesmith.  The album concludes with another Barry original, a novelty track by Bowzer about "Glasses", and a cover of "In The Still of The Night".

 

The Golden Age of Rock 'n Roll. For their 4th album, from 1973, the group got back to what made them: 1950s music.  This became their best selling album, and it was a two record set.  Side 1, much like their debut album, was studio covers of classics, done very well.  Sides 2 thru 4 are a live concert, showcasing Sha Na Na at their best. It turns out, that first Sha Na Na record I owned as a kid, The Best of Sha Na Na, was an abridged 13 track version of the live concert sides, so I was quite familiar with this record without ever realizing it. To show what kind of impact this record had on me, every time I hear "Great Balls of Fire", whether its the Jerry Lee Lewis version or a cover, just before the instrumental break, in my mind I always hear "great balls of Vinnie Taylor".  I became a big fan of Dion DiMucci in part because of the cover of "Teenager in Love" on this album. Right up there with their debut album, this one is an essential classic.


From the Streets of New York. Their 5th album, from 1973, is unique. It consists of studio tracks covering more classic Rock 'n Roll songs, but intercut between each track is an excerpt from a live concert (perhaps left over from the recording of their previous concert album) where the group holds a dance contest with girls chosen from the audience paired up with Donny, Denny, and Santini, with Bowzer serving as the host.  This adds comedy to the album and make for a unique listen. In a way, this record is like a sneak preview of what their TV show will be like.  Speaking of which, this album includes the debut of David "Chico" Ryan on bass guitar, replacing Bruce "Bruno" Clarke. One negative for this record is it seems the mixing is weak (at least the BGO reissue that I have), with music tracks buried in the background, and vocals with a low-fidelity effect.  



Hot Sox. Their 6th album, from 1974, does what the single "Payday" did: strikes a perfect balance between a retro-1950s style and a contemporary sound. Hot Sox is arguably Sha Na Na's best album, at least in regards to original material. The album kicks off with "Maybe I'm Old Fashioned", which is right up there with "Payday" as one of Sha Na Na's best original songs. The album's title track "Hot Sox" is a great novelty number, written by Santini, with Bowzer on lead vocals. "Stroll All Night", "Too Chubby To Boogie", and "Dreams Come True" are the other original songs on the album, and all are great.  And as usual, they do a great job on the covers of classic songs. One tragic side note to this record is that it is lead guitarist Vinnie Taylor's final appearance, as he would tragically die after its completion. To replace him, "Dirty Dan" McBride was brought in, and the classic line up from the TV show era is complete.


Sha Na Now. Their final album on the Kama Sutra label repeats the formula from The Night Is Still Young. Mostly originals, mostly contemporary, which for 1975, is disco. Yes, Sha Na Now is a disco album.  Perhaps a better title would have been Sha Na Na Sell Out. This one was tough for me to get through. Without a doubt, their worst album. The best song on the album is the Jocko-penned "Chills In My Spine", which is the only track I would make an effort to listen to again.  No surprise, it sounds like it would have fit better on Hot Sox. The runner up for best song is "Party Lights", although it sounds derivative. "Basement Party", co-written by Chico, has potential, but is ruined by the disco backing track.  Likewise, I like the vocal arrangement for the cover of "Runaway", but the disco backing track ruins it. The cover of "Breaking Up Is Hard To Do" is all right, but frankly, the version by The Partridge Family from around the same time, is much better. I hope whatever record executive suggested they do a disco album was fired, after being tarred and feathered.

After this, they were dropped by Kama Sutra, but would soon have their own syndicated TV variety show, that would ensure their popularity among kids, while showcasing them at what they were best at: being a live band.  I sure wish a cable network like MeTV, FETV, UP TV, POP TV, or INSP would start airing reruns of Sha Na Na.

Sunday, December 27, 2020

review: WONDER WOMAN 1984

Wonder Woman 1984 is campy, corny, cheesy, and bloated, a major down grade from the 2017 film.  The script is weak, on the level of a CW network TV show. The acting doesn't fare much better. Some characters, like Diana Prince, Steve Trevor and most of the minor characters, are wooden and under-acted, while characters like Maxwell Lord and Barbara Minerva are over-acted. The CGI at times looks cartoonish, and Kristin Wiig's fully realized Cheetah is Cats laughable. About 30 to 35 minutes could have been (should have been) cut out, as the movie has too many slow paced moments that quicker editing could have helped eliminate.   Something else dragging this movie down is that it is set in 1984 for no apparent reason other than to showcase the '80s styles and trends in a fit of cheesy campiness. In the third act, the tone suddenly and abruptly switches to over-baked ham-fisted melodrama. 

It is the cinematography that elevates this movie slightly above a CW level of quality. There are some individual bits that are great, such as the creation of the invisible jet, and Wonder Woman swinging from lightning bolt to lightning bolt, but other things are real head scratchers, such as Wonder Woman dressing like Hawkgirl in the climax, or that Maxwell Lord as the main villain is essentially Impractical Joker's Joe Gatto from the genie punishment. 

The chemistry between Gal Gadot and Chris Pine, which really drove the first movie, is still there, but it's not enough to salvage this sequel.  For anyone who has seen the abysmal William Dozier Wonder Woman test reel from 1967, you will notice that a main aspect of it has been tweaked for the Steve Trevor character in this movie.  All in all, it is easy to see why Warners did not release this movie on its original date pre-pandemic, and once the pandemic started, decided not to ride it out for a Summer 2021 date, and rather dumped it on the HBO Max streaming service. Apparently Warners has already put Wonder Woman 3 on a fast track despite the mixed reviews for this movie. But these days, things change fast, so we'll see in time.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Review: Shazam! #15

The mercifully final issue sends this series out not with a bang but with a pathetic whimper.  The first part of the issue showcases what an idiot new52 Shazam is.  Then the plot switches to a substitute teacher in Billy and Freddy's class where she gives them (and us readers) a ham-fisted lecture (did Greg Berlanti have anything to do with this issue?).  Then new52 Shazam ponders what she said, and later rescues her from her burning building.  They then go on, what seems like a very awkward and potentially inappropriate "date", and the story ends with Billy back at class, getting in hot water again.  The best part of this issue was Brandon Peterson's artwork, which is still kind of generic, while Jeff Loveness' script read like a bad sit-com. The final issue earns a D-, and it's good riddance to this series, and hopefully good riddance to new52 Shazam.

If only DC would launch a title, World's Mightiest Mortal, which would be an on-going series of the original Captain Marvel, in a style and tone similar to the Thunderworld one-shot.

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Review: Shazam! #14

This issue starts with a needless recap of Curse of Shazam, which then goes into recap of the current story so far.  Can you say "filler"?  We get to the present, the big fight continued from last issue.  Superboy Prime shows up. Then we cut to Daddy Shazam's head, where Captain Shazam and Mr. Mind are battling it out. Inter-cut between this and the Shazam Family fighting the Monster Society, with lots and lots of dialogue in between punches. Then it finally dawns on Capt Shazam that Mr Mind is a worm who needs an amplifier to talk.  He crushes the speaker and Mr Mind's ability to cast spells is wiped away.  Normal size again, he is about to cast a spell to stop the worlds from merging and to send the Monster Society back to where they came from, when Superboy Prime attacks (and refers to Mary and Junior by their rightful Marvel names).  Suddenly Black Adam shows up to team up with Capt Shazam to vanquish Prime. Billy shares his power with Black Adam to prevent him from dying after they use their combined lightning bolts to knock Prime out. Captain Shazam casts the spell, and everything returns to normal.  CC Batson, now free from Mr Mind's control, awakes, but has no memory of anything that has happened, leaving Billy somewhat heart broken. There is a kind of sit-com style happy ending where most remaining loose ends are tied up with some narration and Black Adam becomes the missing seventh champion.  Well, thankfully, this story is finally over... at least until the gets regurgitated as a musical by the sequel Shazam Fury of the Gods... if that movie does get made (I say it's a 50-50 chance it will get cancelled due to COVID-19).  As for this issue, it earns a lackluster C-.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Review: Shazam! #13

With this issue, we are back to our regularly scheduled (?) arc, after last issue's fill-in. It begins with the Family looking over Black Adam's unconscious body, as Daddy Shazam, who is under the control of Mr. Mind, leads the Monster Society to take over the Magiclands. Capt. Shazam starts fighting Daddy Shazam, ordering Mr. Mind to leave his body, while the rest of the Family take on the Monster Society.  Capt. Shazam tries to reason with Daddy Shazam, but Mr. Mind tells him how he took control of C.C. Batson's body, revealing that C.C. has never given Billy a second thought in his life. Mr Mind then gives his demands: he wants to be the most most powerful magical being in all the realms.  Capt. Shazam unsuccessfully tries to take the power away from Daddy Shazam.  Mr. Tawny attempts to capture Sivana, but Daddy Shazam turns him into a kitten.  With the foster parents in Daddy Shazam's grip, Sivana conjures up the Book of Champions, and Daddy Shazam/Mr. Mind orders Capt. Shazam to read one of the spells, or else the foster parents will die.  Capt. Shazam does and the realms are merged together into a single earth.  Capt. Shazam then reads a spell that shrinks him, and he enters Daddy Shazam's ear to fight Mr. Mind one-on-one. To be continued.

Geoff Johns' script is basic.  One long fight scene with lots of introspective monologues between punches. Dale Eaglesham handles the art solo, and it's a bit better than his previous efforts. This issue earns a C+.