Thursday, May 23, 2013
The boxed set of the "Thin Man" films contains an episode of the late '50s TV version with Peter Lawford and Phyllis Kirk playing Nick and Nora Charles. Based on that and the clips available on YouTube, here's some thoughts.
Too short: If we learned anything from Jessica Fletcher, it's that you need an hour to make a proper whodunnit. Columbo only had one suspect and his show was two hours! This show would have a half dozen suspects all crammed into 30 minutes. Let's get to know these people.
Phyllis Kirk: She wasn't playing Myrna Loy, she was playing Lucy Ricardo, and it sucked. In the book and films Nora didn't know about detective work, but no way was she stupid. She knew her way around men, the city and its bars. She was fascinated by Nick's past life as a detective and always wanted to know more. The TV show portrayed her as a half-wit accidentally handcuffing herself, or getting entangled in police tape, always reliant on Nick to bail her out. Dreadful!
Greenwich Village: Why in the world would this rich couple live in a tiny apartment in Greenwich Village? Their home base was San Francisco, among high society. This is what made the contrast with Nick's rough-and-tumble past so enjoyable.
Peter Lawford as Nick. He didn't take the subtle comic approach of William Powell, but he made up for it with cool. There's a scene in the episode in the box set where he's interviewing a suspect and half way through the interview he takes out, and lights up a cigarette. You could tell this wasn't in the script, Peter Lawford just needed a cigarette at that moment.
With Lawford's super cool and good looks, an hour length, a San Francisco setting, and a better Nora (Julie Newmar springs to mind), instead of being a forgotten footnote to Thin Man lore, this could have been a series that ran in reruns well into the 60s and 70s.
Sunday, May 12, 2013
A problem with writing superhero stories is sometimes, they're just too powerful. This is why they invented kryptonite. In most of the Star Trek films (and some episodes) the ship is somewhat disabled. (They make a joke of this in Star Trek: VI, where the ship is ordered to a destination the crew wants to delay, and to their dismay, the ship works fine.) And this is why through most of Iron Man 3, Tony Stark's Iron Man getup is only semi-functional. And not only that, but Tony Stark himself is suffering from crippling anxiety attacks. Part of me is thinking these are arbitrary hurdles, the other part thinks, well, you have to do it or the hero is just too powerful to be interesting.
He also spends a lot of time out of the gear, at one point when he and Don Cheadle are invading a villain's lair, it looks like a buddy cop movie.
That being said, it's a great summer movie, full of excitement and action. It might start off a little too slow for me. I kind of expected a James Bond-type thriller cold opening, so I was a little disappointed at that. I will say there's a jaw-dropping second act twist which should earn Ben Kingsley an Oscar. It won't, but it's worth it to see his performance.
Once again with the Marvel movies, there's a "cookie" surprise at the tail end of the credits. It was cute, but not worth sitting through the thousands of names in the credits.
A film geek note: If you read a review, this won't be a spoiler, but a nerd whom the hero dismisses at the beginning of the film, returns years later to be a villain. The Incredibles did the same thing.
Wednesday, May 8, 2013
After 20 years, it's all done and I'm pushing it out of the nest. If you enjoy my writing, here's your chance to read a big, funny chunk of it. $2.99, you can't go wrong. Leave me a nice review.
Tuesday, May 7, 2013
Seriously, I've been writing this novel off and on for almost 20 years. I kept it set in the mid-90s because only one person in the book owning a cell phone is a major plot point.
Anyway, a one0time film intern tries to track down stolen film footage from a movie he worked on in the 80s. Tracking down all his college friends who were also interns exposes a lot of skeletons. There's lots of 80s nostalgia, lots of tawdry sex, and one murder!
It should be available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble this week.
Wednesday, April 17, 2013
William Powell is a dashing rogue jewelry thief bent on seducing and abducting bored baroness Kay Francis. When she tells him over dinner in his luxurious hideout that she wants to be forced to do things, he picks her up and throws her in bed, and at that moment I thought: I get it, it's a Harlequinn Romance ... Mommy Porn!
And it is. Look at the titles of most of the Kindle/Nook self-published books: The Billionaire's Mistress, The Billionaire's Secret Lover, Stuck on an Island with a Billionaire. Forgetting for a moment that the economy is in such a bad way that housewives are no longer interested in being whisked away by a lowly millionaire, all these books and Harlequin romances have one thing in common: Seduction at the hands of a Dashing Rogue! Women being forced to do things that deep down, they want to do.
This pre-code film gets some points for being racy. Francis is married after all, and some of the clothes she and her best friend wear are cut very low. It's kind of wasted though because both the actresses are disturbingly flat chested. It's like watching 12 year old girls at a pre-teen beauty dress-up pageant.
There's also some limp comedy around some peripheral characters getting giddy from smoking pot.
We'll see this plot in cinema again and again, the most obvious example being Hitchcock's "To Catch a Thief." Hitchcock had the right idea though, money was spent! Instead of a fake French Riviera, Hitchcock went to the real one. Whereas this film's Vienna is as phony as they come.
I also kept thinking of "The Thomas Crown Affair."
It starts with a lot of exposition about how bored Kay Francis is. Things pick up considerably when William Powell shows up, some 15 minutes into the film. And of course he's amazing as the dashing rogue. It's all very short though, it needed a couple more heists perhaps, and a little more romance.
Friday, April 5, 2013
Another childhood idol gone. I saw him at a comic convention in Philly. He was signing his book. Why in the world did I not pick up the book and get him to sign mine?
He had an interesting career. He drew for DC in the '40s, '50s, '60s, mostly the golden age Flash and various JSA members, then the silver age Flash and Batman. By the '70s, DC made him publisher. He wasn't drawing as much, but I enjoyed his reprints in the 100 Page Super Spectaculars.
In the mid-70s DC gave him the boot and replaced him with some woman in her 20s with no comic book or artistic experience at all. Talk about adding insult to injury.
Anyway, imagine my surprise later on when I instantly recognized his work on the cover of Nova, a Marvel book. Holy cow! He also did the interiors and that was pretty much the only Marvel book I bought regularly. Then of course there was Star Wars and Spider-Woman.
Then the big surprise. He went back to DC for the Flash. Once again, for a comic geek like myself, this was nirvana. I spent hours comparing his '60s and '80s art. The style looser, but still dynamic. Characters seemed to jump off the page.
Pick up Justice League of America #200 for a real treat. Golden Age greats Infantino, Joe Kubert and Gil Kane return to draw the Flash, Elongated Man, Hawkman, Green Lantern and the Atom.
Thursday, March 28, 2013
Holy crap what a good read!
This is the exact opposite of everything I don't like about trade paperbacks:
It's a collection of (very clever or scary or funny) standalone stories, not a giant epic mess of retcon madness which is just a smaller part of a larger retcon madness.
The art is beautiful and consistent on every page, there's only one chapter that has more than one penciller.
A working knowledge of DC magic characters from the past helps the reader, but is not mandatory.
I would like to say no loose strings, but Brother Night pops up in the background, leading you to think he'll be there for the finish. He isn't, but it doesn't take away from the enjoyability of the book.
This collects Zatanna 7-16
The stories: Shades by Adam Beechen and Chad Hardin. Magicians' relics come alive to cause trouble. Cool idea, very good art.
Pupaphobia by Paul Dini and Cliff Chiang. A multi-part thriller about a marionette who may or may not be evil. Twists and turns and the art goes from very good to beautiful.
Symmetry by Matthew Sturges and Stephane Roux. How freaking clever. Everyone knows Zatanna and Zatara cast their spells by speaking backwards, but in the 75 years of this conceit, writer Sturges was the first to ask, "How does this apply to palindromes?" Brilliant! Once again some sexy, compelling art and great facial expressions.
Brace Yourself by Adam Beechen and Jama Ingle. Zatanna gets the Li'l Archie treatment. A story of Zatanna as an awkward tween. Really an homage to the great back-up stories from the 60s and 70s where a writer could take the heroes out of continuity and focus on character. I was thinking of The Private Life of Clark Kent stories from Superman and Action in the 70s, or the Elongated Man's mini-mysteries in the back of Detective. Great work by Igle.
The Cat with the Crystal Ball Eye by Dini and Igle. The book's lone non-standalone story. The Spectre, Brother Night, and Dale Colton all show up in a story that finishes somewhere, but not in this volume. Take this chapter out and run it in a volume with that story.
Wingman by Beechen and Igle and Travis Moore. Cute story about a night out with Zatanna and her irresponsible cousin Zachary. I'm not crazy about changing pencillers in midstream, but there's no change in quality, just style. Igle's work is traditional with some good facial expressions, Moore's work is reminiscent of Gene Colan's (faces in shadows, simply drawn) (in a good way).
Witch Hunt by Derek Fridolfs and Igle. A pack of witch hunters hunts down Zatanna. The action starts on page 2 and doesn't let up til the last page. And a clever resolution to boot.
The Sorceress' Apprentice by Beechen and Victor Ibanez. More great art in a book full of great art. (check out the library!). Zatanna chases an extra-dimensional imp. Not heavy, but a lot of fun.
And then there's the painted covers by Adam Hughes. This artist is of course amazing. His women just define pin-up sexuality. The covers alone are worth the price of admission.
Finally, it occurred to me about half-way through why I was enjoying this book as much as I was. It was like the 70s all over again and I was reading - no, not reading - getting sucked into a DC 100 Page Super-Spetacular. In all my posts in which I complain about DC today, the underlying complaint is they don't make them like the used to. This is how they used to make them.