Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Review: Superman '78 #5

This issue picks up with the excision of Metropolis by Brainiac.  In the bottle city of Kandor, Jor-El re-attunes Luthor's device so that Superman can return to his normal size.  Superman says good bye to his parents as Brainiac begins the miniaturization of Metropolis. (On page 6, could that be a cameo of Richard Pryor's Gus Gorman from Superman III?) Luthor takes off in a balloon, and Superman returns to stop Brainiac's machine.  The rest of the issue is a fight scene between Superman and Brainiac and his robots, ending on a cliffhanger.

What can I say that I haven't already said in my reviews of the previous issues.  This creative team gets it, and excels.  This issue earns another A.  Looks like it'll be a sweep of A's for this mini-series.  We'll find out with the final issue next time.

Sunday, December 19, 2021

review: SPIDER-MAN NO WAY HOME

 

Even though it was DC Comics that essentially made the concept of a multiverse a corner stone of superhero folk lore, the MCU beats them to the punch cinematicly before The Flash next year, with Spider-Man: No Way Home directed by Jon Watts and starring Tom Holland and Benedict Cumberbatch.

Picking up right where Far From Home left off, Peter and his friends deal with the world knowing Spider-Man's true identity.  With him being looked at by the public as both a celebrity and a menace, he turns to Dr. Strange to cast a spell to make everyone forget his secret identity. As Strange composes the spell, Peter keeps chiming in with exceptions he wants added to the spell, causing Strange to abandon the now corrupted spell. However, a ripple effect causes people from other parallel earths who know Spider-Man's true identity in their own timelines, to end up on the main MCU earth.  Showing up are villains Dr. Octopus, Green Goblin, Electro, Sandman, and the Lizard to cause chaos as they try to destroy this earth's Spider-Man. Peter and Strange hatch a plan to send them back to their own earths, but Peter has second thoughts when he learns he may be sending them to their deaths. To stall for time, he traps Strange in a mirror dimension, and works to figure out a way to spare the villains' lives.  The rogues betray Peter, and Aunt May dies as a consequence. Meanwhile, Ned Leeds discovers he can open portals, and uses that to try to find the grief stricken Peter, only to end up finding the two Parkers from the alternate timelines. Ultimately the three Peter Parkers bond like brothers, and unite to cure the villains of their powers which would, in theory, spare them from death when the spell casts them back to their own worlds. But this brings up all kind of other questions, like the events from the previous franchises are now changed?  Also, a complication caused by Green Goblin causes the multiverse to start to tear, and the only way to stop it is for Strange to add a spell that wipes Peter Parker out of everyone's memory.  Now totally forgotten by everyone who ever knew him, with his whole history seemingly erased from the main MCU timeline, Parker starts his life over, no longer with a Stark Industries tech-suit, but a home made costume.

The first half of the movie plays like a Marvel Team Up of Spider-Man and Dr. Strange, but the second half, when Strange is mostly absent due to being in the mirror dimension, is when the movie does a great job of incorporating the previous Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield franchises, folding them (and presumably all pre-MCU Marvel movies, like The Fantastic Four and X-Men franchises) into it's multiverse.  It's the villains from the older movies, all played by the original actors, who really get the most screen time, while Maguire and Garfield join in only for the last act.  But once they are there, the brotherly bond between the 3 Spider-Men is handled very well. Maguire, who has physically aged the most, comes off as the elder statesman (even a gag referring to him having a bad back, slyly referencing not only his age, but the controversy that almost had him prematurely leave the Spider-Man role).  Garfield plays like the middle brother with self-esteem issues (again slyly referencing that his movies were the least liked by fans), and ironically plays the role better here than he did in his own two Amazing Spider-Man movies. I dare say he almost outshines Maguire.  I wonder if there were efforts to do a scene with Nicholas Hammond. 

One complaint I have, is that if you read my reviews of the previous two MCU Spider-Man movies, Betty Brant, played by Angourie Rice, is my favorite character, but she only has a small cameo in this one.  As with Far From Home, there was a little too much Zendaya, but at least this one didn't have that Disney Channel sit-com tone.  There is a cameo by Matt Murdoch (Daredevil) as Peter's lawyer, and as established in the previous movie's last scene, J.K. Simmons returns as the MCU J. Jonah Jameson, who is more of a Keith Olbermann/Don Lemon type.  However, he does not reprise the version from the Maguire films.

All in all, this movie is a notch above Far From Home, and really excels in the nostalgia factor for the previous franchises, but as a DC guy, it is kind of frustrating to see the MCU again pull the rug from under DC. And don't even get me started on how DC squandered its Crisis on Infinite Earths IP as a poorly made, Greg Berlanti produced TV project.

Sunday, December 12, 2021

Michael Nesmith Tribute

With the tragic passing of Mike Nesmith, I thought I would share some of my favorite tracks and give some thoughts. I will not duplicate any of the songs I listed on my Best Monkees Songs You've Never Heard post, even though every one of the songs on that list that was either written or sung by Mike deserves to be here.

Different Drum  Of course we have to start with this song.  There have been several versions, including the first, 1966 folksy dirge version by the Greenbrair Boys, the 1967 pop classic by Linda Ronstadt and the Stone Poneys, and Mike's own mostly acoustic 1972 version.  However, my favorite version is the earlier, originally unreleased alternate take from 1970, with a Western Swing beat and some great steel guitar work from the amazing Red Rhodes.  This is my go-to version by Mike, and it rivals the Stone Poneys' version.

Get Out of My Life Woman  A previously unreleased funky, bluesy track from Mike's pre-Monkees "Michael Blessing" Colpix days.

Sunny Girlfriend  A Monkees song from the Headquarters album. A fun tune that at first seems like a typical teenage love song about a great girl, but the last line which says "she doesn't really care" changes the whole perspective to unrequited love. This history behind this song is The Monkees, in their earliest concerts, performed She's So Far Out, She's In, with Mike on lead vocals, and it was the first song they attempted at the Headquarters recording sessions. Coming to light recently is that Mike also recorded an unreleased version in 1965/66 as part of his pre-Monkees "Michael Blessing" Colpix deal. At some point, Mike decided to write his own version of the concept, while copying the intro to the Rolling Stones' It's All Over Now, and thus was created Sunny Girlfriend.

You Told Me  The lead track to Headquarters with a count in that was meant to parody the Beatles' Tax Man, and has what Peter Tork described as the most Rock 'n Roll use of a banjo.

Good Clean Fun  A song Mike wrote when a record exec told him he needs to write more songs that are good clean fun. This song has become something of an anthem for the final years of the Mike and Micky concerts.

Naked Persimmon  From The Monkees' 1969 TV Special, this song cleverly recaps the whole situation with Don Kirshner. The accompanying video is also great ("Wanted for Fraud").

Little Red Rider  Mike comes into his own post-Monkees with his First National Band.

Propinquity  Love song, Nesmith style.  Great lyric is "I've seen you make a look of love from just an icy stare".

I Fall To Pieces  Mike's cover of a Patsy Cline classic.

Thanx For The Ride  Apparently, this song was Mike's formal statement saying goodbye to his band mates in The Monkees. But if you listen to the lyrics, it works just as well as his final goodbye to all of us.

Hollywood  Similarly, this song was his lament on the California show biz culture he experienced while being a Monkee.

Some of Shelly's Blues  Other than Different Drum, this was perhaps his most covered song, with versions by Linda Ronstadt, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, The Continental Drifters and Earl Scruggs.

Wax Minute  Perhaps my favorite Mike song from his solo years.  Although it was written by Richard Stekol, it is very much in a Mike Nesmith style.

Mama Rocker  This Chuck Berry influenced song apparently was about Marrianne Faithful. 

I'll Go Somewhere and Cry  This is perhaps the most obscure song on the list.  It is actually the very first song Mike wrote to be professionally recorded and released (1964). The Elvis Presley style vocals are by Denny Ezba, with Mike on guitar and doing the whistling. This catchy tune is highlighted by the contrast of lyrics expressing a heartbroken guy wanting to go somewhere and cry juxtaposed with rather happy whistling. Speaking of Elvis, if there was only one question I could have asked Mike, it would have been "When you were on RCA Records in the early 1970s, being produced by Felton Jarvis, who was also Elvis' producer at the time, were there any efforts made to submit songs to Elvis?"  I think an Elvis-Nez collaboration in the  '70s would have been amazing.

Rio  The song that Mike essentially invented the modern music video for. Perhaps his most famous and popular solo track.

Magic  Another early trailblazing music video.  The retro 1950s sound makes it a favorite of mine.

Cruisin'  The third in the trilogy of groundbreaking music videos.  By the way, contrary to popular belief, that is not a young Hulk Hogan in the video, but a different pro-wrestler named Steve Strong.

Yellow Butterfly  A kind of dreamy song from his 1992 "comeback" album  ...tropical campfires...

Laugh Kills Lonesome  A song that celebrates the classic singing cowboys of the golden age of movies.

I Know What I Know  From the Monkees album Good Times. The lyrics and melody transcends rock 'n roll or pop music and goes to a whole new level, right up there with Cole Porter or Irving Berlin.

Friday, December 10, 2021

Michael Nesmith, R.I.P

Extremely sad news. Michael Nesmith has passed away at the age of 78. Mike has had some serious health issues in recent years.  During the 2018 Monkees tour, he had a serious heart problem.  During the concerts he needed to go back stage and take oxygen.  The tour was cut short so he could have quadruple bypass heart surgery. Although he seemed to bounce back from it initially, his health started to deteriorate slowly.  He did not let this stop him, though, as he heroically continued to tour with Micky Dolenz, to entertain his fans, until the very end.  


From Mike Nesmith's Videoranch website:
With Infinite Love we announce that Michael Nesmith has passed away this morning in his home, surrounded by family, peacefully and of natural causes.
We ask that you respect our privacy at this time and we thank you for the love and light that all of you have shown him and us.

- The Nesmith Family



Micky Dolenz issued a statement:
I’m heartbroken.
I’ve lost a dear friend and partner.
I’m so grateful that we could spend the last couple of months together doing what we loved best – singing, laughing, and doing shtick.
I’ll miss it all so much.  Especially the shtick.
Rest in peace, Nez.
All my love,
Micky



 

 

 

 

I can only offer up my prayers for Mike and his family.  You will be missed greatly, Pap Nez.

Eternal Rest grant unto him O Lord,
Let perpetual light shine upon him,
May he rest in peace.

Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Review: Batman '89 #4

This issue opens with a march where Drake Winston attacks the police in ways that are all too trendy. Then we cut to Bruce in the Batcave, where he set up the giant penny, and he gets some microfilm from Alfred that will explain Drake's history.  At the hospital, Dent, completely out of his mind with a split personality, escapes. Alfred picks up Drake to take to the Manor to meet with Bruce, as he reads the microfilm that Drake's ancestors started a car company that was then taken over by Bruce's ancestors.  When Drake gets to the Manor, he and Bruce have a very long conversion that ends with Drake knowing Bruce is Batman, Bruce knowing Drake is the poncho costumed vigilante, and writer Sam Hamm recycles the "Alfred with a gun" bit from the first draft of his Batman script (although now changed to a taser).  Selina shows up at Police HQ posing as a Shreck's Department Store geek squad tech to get into Barbara Gordon's computer.  Dent finds his way into an abandoned subway tunnel, where one side is destroyed and the other side is pristine. He decides to make this his hide out. Back at Wayne Manor, Bruce leads Drake into the Batcave and a partnership is born.

In the first two issues of Batman '89 not much happened other than setting up characters. Then last issue and this issue are too crammed with plot development. This series is paced very poorly. Then there is the continued pre-occupation with being "woke" as the top priority for this series.  It continues to be an unpleasant read.  This issue earns a C-.

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Review: Superman '78 #4

This issue opens with a brief exposition on Brainiac's past, then cuts right to Jor-El passing the leadership reins to Kal-El.  But Kal feels completely out of place, and decides he needs to find a way to get back to Earth.  Meanwhile Luthor, with Lois, are able to place a really long distance "phone call" to Superman, thanks to the little receiver he planted on him.  Brainiac notices the transmission, and heads back to Earth to confront Luthor.  Jor-El also notices the transmission, and says that this is the missing piece of technology he needs that could free Kal-El from the bottle city.  However Brainiac has begun to levitate the entire city of Metropolis.

Once again, Robert Vendetti turns in a great script that captures the magic of the movies, and delivers a lot of fun character asides, especially for Gene Hackman's version of Luthor.  Wilfredo Torres' art seems to get better with each issue. This issue earns yet another A.

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

Review: Superman '78 #3

This issue picks up right where the last issue left off, with Brainiac's robots accepting Superman's surrender. The citizens of Metropolis attempt to defend Superman, but he reasons with them not to invite danger. Superman hears Lois' heart racing, and bids her farewell.  Luthor congratulates Brainiac and pats Superman on the the back (perhaps slipping him something to help him escape later?).  On Brainiac's ship, Superman sees a collection of shrunken civilizations in bottles, including Thanagar with a cameo by Hawkman and Hawkgirl.  Brainiac shrinks Superman and he find himself face to face with his very much alive parents in Krypton's bottle.  Back in Metropolis, Lois writes the article of Superman leaving earth, and there is an Easter Egg of Bruce Wayne returning to Gotham and a mysterious Bat-Man terrorizing Gotham.  However, the magazine cover with Bruce looks nothing like Michael Keaton.  In the bottle city of Kandor, Kal-El hangs up his Superman costume and dons traditional Kryponian garb, and speaks with his mother, telling her- via Superman The Movie flashbacks- how he was raised by the Kents.  Then she tells him how Brainiac captured and shrunk Kandor just after they launched Kal-El's rocket.  Jor-El asks Kal-El to assume the leadership role he has held, and Kal-El agrees.  Back in Metropolis, Lois receives a message that someone knows where Superman is.  She finds out it is Luthor (that pat on the back must have been to plant a super-GPS), and Luthor is going to bring Superman back.

Once again, writer Robert Venditti and artist Wilfredo Torres deliver.  One can imagine the Salkinds delivering this movie with the return of Marlon Brando as Jor-El. Now, having Jor-El and Lara surviving Krypton's explosion messes with the comic book legend, but again, I can definitely see the Salkinds doing something like this to get Brando back for another film, had they had the opportunity.  Issue 3 keeps up the high standard of this series, and earns another A.