Monday, May 28, 2012

TPB Review: Supreme

I complain a lot that comic books today lack a sense of wonder, and worse, fun! Alan Moore thought the same thing when he was writing Supreme for Image. Supreme was Moore's homage to the Weisenger-era Superman. After starting the trend of gritty, realistic comics in the '80s, he was in the '90s almost apologizing. Making them fun again.

Each issue started with a modern-day story, then switched to a thematically linked flashback drawn in the style of the silver age, and for an added touch, printed on intentionally yellowed paper. How cool is that? For a half hour you were ten again reading from a big stack of silver-age comics. Then the modern story would wrap things up.

I loved they got 1960s Supergirl artist Jim Mooney to do the flashback Suprema story. I was in comic nerd heaven. If only they could have gotten Curt Swan to do an issue.

The books are available in trade paperback. Go! Pick them up!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

The funniest show you're not watching

I didn't intend for this blog to review children's entertainment, but having two monkeys, that's what I see mostly.

With that in mind, if you're not DVRing Phineas and Ferb, start! It's kind of a buried treasure on the Disney Channel. Your kids already watch this, but you should give it a try.

It's like the Simpsons in that you can watch it with your kids and you'll both be entertained for different reasons. Also like the Simpsons, its long runs allow running jokes and hilarious self-referencing. The more you watch, the funnier it gets.

Phineas and Ferb are two little boys who wile away the summer days completing colossal backyard projects. Making a beach (complete with ocean and calypso band), a ski lodge with slopes (with the aid of an icee maker), water parks, time machines, etc. Everything manages to self-destruct or get disassembled before mom comes home. Building the project usually involves a musical montage. Once I saw the Bollywood musical parody I was hooked.

It's all very silly and the humor is very subtle. While riding a roller coaster climbing skyscraper heights, Phineas tells his passengers, "In the event of an emergency, your seat cushion can be used as a tombstone."

There's a tattle-tail sister, a mad scientist and a pet platypus who is secretly a spy, but I don't want to confuse you. Check it out.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

When Great Directors Make Awful Movies

Here's the entirety of "Dr. T and the Women:"

Overprimped women in the waiting room of their gynecologist stomp their high-heels saying, "But I just have to see Dr. T now!"

Cut to Richard Gere in his office stressfully rubbing his temples.

That's the whole freaking movie.

Actually there is a little bit about his wife having adult onset Manic Pixie Dream Girl disease which is OK when you're 18, but tragic when you're 50.

And Helen Hunt is there. Of course she is. She spent the 1990s playing the girlfriend of men twice her age. Tom Hanks, Jack Nicholson, Woody Allen(!), Mel Gibson. If Sean Connery made one more movie, I'm certain she would have been the leading lady.

And in the end, Richard Gere's car gets sucked into a tornado and drops him off at an Indian reservation where he delivers a baby. See! He's going back to his roots! It's deep!

The Most Depressing Film of All Time

In Pennies From Heaven, Steve Martin plays a failing sheet music salesman in the Depression who squanders a loan from I think his wife's family, leaves the wife for a grade school teacher, gets the teacher pregnant and then leaves her. She gets fired and winds up being a prostitute and Martin ultimately gets hung for the murder of a blind girl he didn't commit.

Throughout this, the cast breaks out into 1930s-era gay song and dance numbers.

Get it? It's contrast! Every character is miserable, but when they fantasize, they're happy! Catnip for film critics.

Can you imagine the executive meeting for this movie? At some point, someone asked, "Sounds good, but who's going to play the heartless bastard?" And then someone else had to say, "I know, let's get the funniest man in America!"

Meanwhile the marketing executive was gaping in horror. There would be no way he could sell this film, and when it flopped, he'd get canned.

In one painful scene, Steve Martin's wife is trying to get him to stay. "I'm wearing lipstick!" she offers. Martin says "So what."

"On my nipples!" She then takes off her top, she has lipstick on her nipples and Steve Martin gets aroused...because, obviously this is his fetish, and no decent man would have this fetish...and he had obviously asked her to  do this, ..and ..and..the audience just squirms deeper into their seats.

I actually took a date to this movie. Afterward we decided it was best to break up because seeing each other again would just bring back painful memories of this film.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Actresses who deserved better

Spending my formative years watching entirely too much TV from the 1960s, I've been fascinated with that small pool of actresses who got that thankless job of being the hero's great love interest for one episode before getting killed by either rustlers, klingons, or an incurable disease...then...never being mentioned again!

Susan Oliver, Mariette Hartley, Diane Baker, France Nguyen. All beautiful, talented actresses, most with Broadway credentials, and all in this rotation to be Jim West's or Jim Kirk's or Little Joe's girlfriend. This pool of talent was so small, some of these actresses would show up two or three times in the same series playing different characters each time.

The tragedy is, they were always the girlfriend, when most could have been the lead in her own show. With the exception of Honey West, I don't think there were any shows with a female lead.  A woman as the lead doctor/lawyer/police detective/spaceship captain wouldn't happen until the 70s. (the 90s in the case of spaceship captain).

Anyway, this is a good site to go to for pictures of and comments on these actresses of the 60s and 70s. Search for "Yum"

Monday, May 7, 2012

Jennifer Love Hewitt plays Norma Shearer

I got sucked into a Norma Shearer silent film, "A Lady of Chance" last night. Norma's a con woman who does well until she falls in love with one of her marks. The obstacle to their love is when the con woman's past comes back. This would be the template for the Sigourney Weaver, Jennifer Love Hewitt film "Heartbreakers," with Hewitt playing Shearer's role, and a dozen other films just like it (including "Wedding Crashers") Or so I thought.

Then I read reviews on IMDB and they said this plot was old when this movie came out in 1928. No matter, Shearer is hilarious. In order for this kind of movie to work as a comedy, the marks have to be deserving, and though they could be more comical, (think Gene Hackman in "Hearbreakers") they're deserving enough so they don't get sympathy.

Shearer has some very funny reactions when faced with a family that's poor but has plenty of love. She can barely conceal her contempt. It's refreshing to see some cynicism to what was (and is) a hokey movie trope.

I won't give it away, but there's also a hilarious pre-code joke about rough sex.

It moves along quickly, maybe a little too quickly. The main couple meet, fall in love and get married the same night! When Shearer decides real love may not be a bad idea we wish the male lead had a little more depth to him to love. She just decides to stick with him, where in a modern rom-com, he would have had some endearing quirks or traits she would reflect on to make her decide to *not* hop on the train to leave him.

There is a great scene of subtlety where Shearer puts on a veil, mugs for the camera at the thought of marriage, then you can see the wheels turn in her head as her face turns serious, Maybe marriage isn't for (as they say in "Wedding Crashers,")  'hillbillies" after all.

Very funny, very quick, well worth catching it on TCM.

And speaking of reviews, the New York Times review from 1928 is all spoiler. That critic was a dick! He gives away the entire movie.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Comic review: World's Finest No. 1

Things are getting better and better. The Huntress is once again Batman's daughter. And Power Girl is definitely the cousin of an alternate dimension Superman. Things are right again in the DC Universe. Why was that so hard?

Things start with the women covering a lot of exposition. They're trapped on Earth 1 after being whisked from Earth 2, and they've spent the last five years setting up their identities. A flashback explains the circumstances of the whisking part. It's a nice touch that Helena is the one who saves Power Girl.

The bookend chapters are drawn by George Perez and the flashback is by Kevin Maguire. I usually complain about an issue having too many artists but these two are freaking icons who get better and better over the decades. It's an all-star team-up. Check out the page of Helena and Karen in their civilian clothes walking across the street. It sets up the contrast in their personalities. Tough girl Helena's in a leather jacket and jeans and the girly Karen is in this great dress which just shows curves without showing skin. Also look at Helena's face above. Just beautiful.

Writer Paul Levitz has a long history with these two characters and though I may never forgive him for they way he killed the Earth 2 Batman back in the 70s, his affection for these characters show. It's a lot of fun and am looking forward to more.

Back during the Crisis on Infinite Earths, there were a couple scenes of PG and Huntress commiserating about the ongoing drama, and I remember someone writing a letter to the editor saying that these two make a natural team, and he was right. They really belong in World's Finest.

My only complaint is PG's new costume. Give her the old one, close the Wally Wood window, and don't give her too many muscles!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Comic Review: Earth 2 No. 1

I've been asking DC for years to unchain the JSA from World War II and they've done it. Bless you DC. Now they no longer have to age while the rest of the DCU stayed the same age.

We have cameos by the young Alan Scott, Al Pratt and Jay (and Joan) Garrick, but the JSA isn't even in this issue, it's just laying groundwork for the future. The whole book features the Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman from this new Earth 2, and it's a little reminiscent in how the Earth 3 characters kicked off Crisis on Infinite Earths. I don't want to spoil it but if you read Crisis you'll see what I"m talking about.

It's a great twist that Batman Superman and Wonder Woman are the old guard and the JSA will be the new kids. This will probably preclude an Infinity Inc. return, but it might be worth it.

The future Power Girl and the Huntress hang around long enough to get blasted into Earth 1 in World's Finest No. 1 (a review on that tomorrow).

I'm a JSA purist and even though this is a total reboot, I was very happy with what they're doing here. The love of the characters and legend is there.

Great story by James Robinson, great art by Nicola Scott.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

DVD review - Tom and Jerry: A Nutcracker Tale

My children were given this as a Christmas present and I was a little wary. The Tom and Jerrys from the '40s were beautifully animated but colossally violent. The ones from the '70s were badly animated, and worse yet, in response to the complaints of violence, made Tom and Jerry extremely dull friends. I also vaguely remember Filmation licensing the characters in some pretty crappy Saturday morning fare. Films followed in the '80s in which the cat and mouse had voices! Sacrilege!

My expectations weren't set too high.

But, I was pleasantly surprised. The animation is good, great backgrounds. Tom and Jerry remain enemies. Tom gets beat up some, but not with cast iron skillets. The story isn't Citizen Kane, but it has its moments. And much of the comedy works. And, the whole thing is set to the score from the Nutcracker. How freaking ambitious. It's as if, inspired by Mickey Mouse's appearance in Fantasia, Hanna-Barbera convinced MGM to make a nearly feature length T&J classical music piece, and it sat in a vault for 70 years.

I haven't seen the other T&J direct-to-DVD movies, but this could very well be the best T&J cartoon ever. And quite possibly the best Hanna-Barbera production.

Also, for cartoon fanatics, don't miss the very beginning where they cleverly combine the Warner Bros. logo with the font and background of the '40s MGM cartoons.