Thursday, March 28, 2013

Review: Zatanna Shades of the Past TPB

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.

Some details:

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.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Book review: Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?

I've never seen The Office, I saw only a few minutes of the Mindy Kaling Project, but I picked up the book after reading some good reviews, and the reviewers were on target. It's a funny, funny book. A critic said it was like chatting with a very chatty girlfriend and he/she was right.

Coming so close on the heels of Tina Fey's "Bossypants," there's going to be some comparisons. It's pretty much laid out the same way: stories of an awkward childhood, breaking into comedy small time, breaking into comedy big time. But whereas Fey's book had a few serious moments, Kaling keeps things light through the whole book.

Favorite lines: Some people say living well is the best revenge, I say it's acid in the face!

There has ceased to be a difference between my awake clothes and my asleep clothes.

Hilarious stuff.

Pick it up, it's a lot of fun.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Book review: Schulz

A cartoonist plays out his mid-life crises in his cartoons. Every fight Linus or Charlie Brown had with Lucy turns out to mirror whatever disagreement he was having with his wife.

And then came the girlfriends, and then the new, younger wife, who was married when they met.

The book seems to skip the 80s. We get the marriage turmoil and remarriage of the late 60s, early 70s, and  next thing we know, he's on his death bed.

The writer tells us a lot about the skating rink Schulz built with his millions, but it never mentions if it's still in operation. Is it?

Otherwise, a good read about a man who only on the surface seems uncomplicated.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Film review "The Lonely Wives"

This isn't so much  a review as some random comments.

Edward Everett Horton plays a womanizer. I'll stop right there. This is the actor who invented the gay best friend role, so this was unusual for him. I was struck by how handsome he was as a young man though.

Anyway, it's a pre-code bedroom farce in which EEH uses a double to fill in for him so he can chase skirts and the double can stay home with the mother-in-law. Then, the wife shows up unexpectedly!

Shakespeare used lookalikes all the time and I'm sure the conceit preceded him by a few thousand years. I was just surprised to see it done (so well) in a film from 1931. It's a trick as old as film itself, long before Hayley Mills and Patty Duke were doing it. I wonder though, in this age of digital effects which film was the *last* to do it through film trickery.

It's all very stagey and for good reason, it was based on a play. It opens with a lot of clunky exposition. Most of the action takes place in the main living room where there are several doors, like in any stage farce. I look at films like this and think if I were to direct the remake, I'd take a couple scenes outside.

I also wonder if the script for the 30s play even exists anymore. Film historians have made a lot of noise about films that have been lost forever through disintegration of film stock. But what about Broadway scripts? What happens to them? Is there a big warehouse, or museum with scripts from the 1930s, once big hits, now forgotten?

Bottom line: It didn't age all that well, and a lot of the comedy was forced. Early in the film he's hitting on a secretary in his house, all the while the mother-in-law being in the next room. Everyone else knows she's going to walk in, why doesn't EEH?

The best line, the Margaret DuMontish mother-in-law upon seeing the maid kiss EEH: "I knew she was French, but I made allowances!"

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Whom to cast in Westworld remake

Yul Bryner in "Magnificent Seven"
Yul Bryner in "Westworld"

When they made "Westworld" in the mid-70s, for the robot gunslinger they used Yul Bryner, who dressed like his character from "The Magnificent Seven." This would be shorthand casting, casting an iconic cowboy actor to play a cowboy robot. In the '70s, they had a few hundred cowboy actors to choose from. But, if they were to remake "Westworld" today, whom could they get to play the character? How many iconic Western actors do we have left?

Clint Eastwood springs to mind, but he might be getting a little old.
Kevin Coster has been in a couple westerns over the past 20 years.
Robert Duvall?
Kurt Russell and Val Kilmer?

Is that it?

It's amazing how a once-ubiquitous genre has all but disappeared.

There's always Arnold Schwarzenegger but that would be shorthand casting for a killer robot character.

Ghost Story Story

In 1981, they made "Ghost Story," a cool movie about four old men with a terrible secret. It was a horror movie but instead of teenagers getting killed it was old men. Think about it, there's never been a movie like it since. All horror movies are teenage driven.

But let's look at the casting. Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Fred Astaire, Melvyn Douglas and John Houseman.  All but Houseman were major movie stars from the 30s, some 50 years earlier.

Hollywood ultimately remakes everything. If it were to remake "Ghost Story" today, who would they get? Let's see. Fifty years ago was 1963. Which young movie stars from 1963 would they get?

It's easy to say Jack Nicholson and Clint Eastwood, but they're still  major movie stars. Astaire at the time was voicing TV holiday specials and Fairbanks was on the "Love Boat." Only Douglas was making major Hollywood motion pictures (see "Being There").

OK, so we want major movie stars from the 60s, who are not movie stars now (i.e. affordable). This rule would exclude Sean Connery.

Michael Caine
Roger Moore
George Hamilton
Christopher Plummer
Frank Langella
Albert Finney
Peter Fonda
Burt Reynolds

Who am I missing?

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Comedies with plots: A Fish Called Wanda

I've been bemoaning the lack of plots in modern comedies. This was spurred by "Bridesmaids," whose plot was "woman upset best friend is getting new best friend." And this was then padded with set pieces (Kristen Wiig drunk on an airplane, Kristen Wiig throws tantrum, everyone gets diarrhea.)

I was thinking today of "A Fish Called Wanda." A diamond caper goes hilariously off the rails. Great performances, characters with motivation, twists and turns, subplots! No padding, and, no diarrhea.

If you haven't seen it, do yourself a favor.