Friday, May 22, 2015

Rant: Teen Titans Go


My 7 year old loves this show and I detest it. The Marv Wolfman, George Perez run on the comic book in the mid-80s was one of the best written, best drawn series of the 80s, and to watch it being turned into a hyperactive, fart-joke-laden anime really bothers me.

It would be like if they made an anime cartoon called "To Kill a Mockingbird Babies," with all the characters reduced to big-eyed hyperactive children making fart and burp jokes.

It's just pissing on Wolfman's and Perez's work (as well as the Nick Cardy-Bob Haney run). I really thought the idea of dumbing down comic books for TV was over. (Super-Friends, Adam West's "Batman.")

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Peeing on letterman parade

I'm sorry. Someone has to stand up and say, "y'know, Letterman hasn't been funny in 20 years" and no one else has done it, so it might as well be me.

I was a fan back in the day, I really was, but the last 20 years he's been coasting. He comes out, makes a reference to the pre-show warmup that the studio audience thinks is hilarious but none of the two million viewers at home do. Then he makes the "it was so cold in New York today, in Central Park I saw a squirrel warming his nuts" joke that he tells every night. Then he'll repeat the punchline again and again, substituting Tourette's for comedy.

Then he'll say, "Introducing a new segment on our show, 'Hillary Clinton drops a pencil," and they'll cut to a title card that says "Hillary Clinton drops a pencil," with generic music, then a two-second clip of Hillary Clinton accidentally dropping a pencil, then back to the title card and music, then cut back to Dave and the audience is laughing hysterically at .. what …?

Then he sits at his desk and clears his throat for ten minutes.

Serious, he'd sit at his desk and clear his throat for ten minutes, or just make more Tourette's sounds. Then he'd ask "does anyone have a lozenge?" And he'd repeat the word lozenge for ten minutes.

In all the tributes I've read they all say the same thing: "remember when Dave did that real funny thing 30 years ago?"

It's been unwatchable for about 20 years now.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Review: Avengers: The Age of Ultron


Another epic from Joss Whedon. This is what happens when you give the biggest comic book nerd in the world $200 million.  The CGI and love are all up there.

Tony Stark plays Dr. Frankenstein, trying to create a robot defense system that gets off the table and tries to kill him, the Avengers, and pretty much everyone else in the world.

There's some great Joss dialogue in scenes at work and play. He has a genuine love for the characters and it shows.

A centerpiece fight between Iron Man and Hulk is worth the price of admission. And the climax involves a plot to destroy the earth much more ambitious than any we'd ever seen before.

Its only shortcoming is Joss' trick to keep all these heroes busy with hundreds of faceless minions. It's exciting, but he did this in the climax of the last Avengers as well.

Either way, it's well-deserving of its summer blockbuster status. Believe the hype, it's that good.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Review: Other Space



Now that everyone has gotten into the original programming game, it's going to be easy for really good shows to get lost.

Give "Other Space" a shot, it's very funny.

It borrows the premise from "Red Dwarf," and half the cast of the pre-Mike seasons of "Mystery Science Theater," but y'know, it's stealing from the best of both.

And when I say it borrows from "Red Dwarf," I don't mean simply a space ship lost in space, "Other Space," takes "Red Dwarf's" warm approach to the characters.  They're knuckleheads, but not really far removed from people we know and love. They have hopes, dreams, desires, and they screw up big time, but they're trying. It's more about relationships than just rocket ships. And in that way it's more akin to "30 Rock," or "Kimmie Schmidt."

It's really just a workplace comedy with some very funny co-workers.


Friday, May 1, 2015

Convergence review: JSA, Shazam, Crime Syndicate


I picked up three of the Convergence books. I would have picked up more but I'm not a millionaire with unlimited time.

Convergence is of course DC Comics' all-title retcon in which characters live, characters die and the DC universe will never be the same. Until next year, when they erase everything again and start all over again, again.

I picked up three titles that grabbed my eye, JSA, since I'm a longtime fan, Shazam, always a favorite, and the Crime Syndicate, another favorite set of characters from the silver age who always had lots of potential.

All three books have the same set-up. Their home cities are under a dome and the characters are powerless until the end when the dome is lifted and they get their powers back, but they must battle gladiator-style with another city from another DC reality in its long history of DC realities. This was each individual writer's assignment: Write a story in these parameters.

Let's see how they did.

First the bad news. DC has always had nothing but contempt for its golden age characters and this continues in the first JSA Convergence issue. All it is are old JSA members, much much older than ever before, without their powers, moping about how old they are and whether or not their powers would even return if the shield came down.

That's all there is. Senior citizens complaining about how old they are. Psst. This isn't why people buy comics books.

On the last page they get their youth back … yet again … and you have to come back next month for anything resembling action.

Ripoff!

This has been a big problem with the JSA since Julie Schwartz and Gardner Fox brought them back in 1963. They had the idea that in the 12 years they were out of print, they aged 12 years. And they've been aging ever since. They're the only DC characters who age and every 10 years or so, a writer has to figure out a way to make them a little younger. In all the retcons it never occurred to anyone to remove them from World War II, and retcon their origins with the simple explainer, "The JSA formed 10 years ago."


The Crime Syndicate is a little better in that it has a story. The CSA'ers have to save Super Woman from her date with the electric chair. I have no idea why she was sentenced to death, that would have involved buying some 800 other Convergence titles. Once again, not a millionaire with unlimited time.

So they break into prison, and of course since the shield over their city has made them powerless, they're carrying machine guns.

Think about this: Superbeings carrying machine guns! Once again, not why people buy comic books. Maybe Punisher comic books, but not long-underwear type comic books.

The art is very good, Phil Winslade has a good eye for evoking Mike Sekowsky without actually using his style. (the variant cover is credited to Sekowsky and Gardner Fox, that really doesn't seem likely since Fox was a writer, unless they're giving him the credit for having the idea.).


The best of the three is the Shazam title.

There's an actual story going on, Billy Batson and his sister Mary are trying to solve a mystery, then get captured by a team of super villains. There are surprises, plot twists, a couple jokes and it's all very exciting. Stuff happens. I got an adventure for my $3.99.

I also got a writer and artist with a real love of the characters and their history.

When DC brought back Captain Marvel in the early 70s they decided to continue right where it left off some 20 years earlier. They had the same artists and writers pick up right where they left off. Then they threw that out the window by the end of the decade and had Don Newtown totally modernize all the characters. Artist Evan "Doc" Shaners treads that line between the 1940s look and the modern look perfectly. Look at the drawings of Billy and Mary on page 6, they look like a scene from a movie in the 40s. Great stuff.

And when the Marvels show up at the end and start punching villains, I wondered why the other writers didn't think of doing this. Telling an actual story.



Friday, April 17, 2015

Film review: Home


I'm seeing a bunch of children's movies and they all seem to have the same ingredients. Hollywood has this template and it's OK for kids who haven't seen enough movies, for the grownups though…

Home is enjoyable and has its laughs, but ultimately you feel manipulated by the tried and true buttons Hollywood presses: A mother and child are reunited, not a dry eye in the house; the screw-up becomes the hero; everyone thinks the hero is dead … but he comes back. there's a big party at the end; we've seen these tropes a million time. Hollywood hedging its bets.

Jim Parsons plays an alien, but is pretty much playing his same character on "Big Bang," as human emotions and subtleties have to be constantly explained to him. He's on  a road trip with Tip, a little girl (Rhianna) and I'm still trying to shake "Lilo and Stitch" from my head.

The alien is on the run from his fellow aliens and Tip is looking for her mother. Meanwhile an evil alien race is coming close to destroy the earth unless … well you can pretty much figure out pretty quickly what they're after.

Steve Martin does best as the cowardly leader of the aliens. Funny is funny.

Take your kids, there's some wonderful animation, and great music, and a couple laugh-out-loud funny lines, but the rest of it will bring a big sense of deja vu.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Legally Blonde notes



I just saw the Upper Moreland (Pa.) High School's production of "Legally Blonde," and though  I'm not going to review it (the girl who sang while jumping rope though should just get an honorary Tony), it made me think of a character point from the film that bothered me.

Why are we rooting for Elle? She's perfect. She's one of those beautiful, perfectly coiffed, perfect-in-every way, affluent sorority sisters who could have any guy or career she wants. We laughed when John Belushi spit mashed potatoes on this character in "Animal House," and now we're rooting for her. It's kind of like wishing Margaret Dumont gets the best of Groucho Marx.

My other problem was  the film's sequel, which, like Home Alone 2, was really just a remake. The part of the first film in which she's actually cracking a case was the best part. I thought the sequel would be more of that, some actual Perry-Mason-in-Prada courtroom theatrics, but no.