Tuesday, September 26, 2017
I am going to be blunt with you people.
Since late college, I've liked Star Trek more in theory than in practice. The last Star Trek movie I remember enjoying on its own merits was The Undiscovered Country, and possibly First Contact.
Admittedly, my exposure to Deep Space 9 was deeply hampered by the fact it ran while I was in college in the 90's (and often cash-poor) so I had a lack of things like: television, cable, free time and Saturday afternoons, which is when I think the show aired in Austin. Voyager I tried on, but literally disliked everyone but Janeway - and a recent attempt to watch the series again bore that out. An attempt to watch Enterprise was hampered by a terrible theme song, pandering cat-suited Vulcans and a fairly bland kick-off that I never got into. But I liked Captain Archer, so, I dunno. By the time I looped back to try and watch it ("it got good!" people told me), it was canceled.
The new movies have only occasionally even remembered that they're Star Trek, failed to go on any missions, and while I genuinely liked the most recent one, the plot was weirdly inconsequential and could easily be forgotten if they skipped to a movie where they (a) actually went space exploring and (b) didn't destroy the Enterprise again.
Monday, August 7, 2017
We watched a lot of television this year, and in our reduced content mode, we haven't talked about the usual favorites - so just assume we enjoyed both Fargo and The Americans.*
Way back in high school I recall coming home one afternoon and somewhere between TaleSpin and The KareBear rolling into the driveway/ me starting homework, I was flipping channels when I stumbled upon an edition of Family Feud in which the new-ish World Championship Wrestling league was squaring off against a league I'd never heard of - G.L.O.W., or, Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling.
As colorful as the fellows from the WCW were, I was shocked to find out that there was an all-women's wrestling league and I had never heard of it.
I was never *that* into wrestling. As a very young kid I was part of the wave that saw Hulk Hogan and JYD and Jake "The Snake" Roberts rise to stardom on Saturday broadcasts, but I'd moved on fairly quickly, watching WWF only occasionally. But when I was 14, for some reason Steanso, his pal Lee and myself jumped in Lee's car and drove downtown and watched the show - and, man, live - wrestling is @#$%ing bonkers. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. The next year we also attended a taping of an episode or two of regular WWF and NBC's Saturday Night's "Main Event", which was neat just because we saw all the flagship wrestlers of the era. Yeah, I've seen Hulk Hogan from the 13th row.
But... that was kind of it.
Needless to say, by age 15 or so, the notion of lady wrestlers held some appeal. And, as I watched what turned out to be a week's worth of episodes, the ladies of GLOW seemed way (waaaaaaay) crazier (and, honestly, smarter) than their male counterparts over the the WCW.
But I don't think GLOW ever aired anywhere I lived, either when I'd just previously lived in Austin, or when I moved to Houston between 9th and 10th grades. Texas, especially before, say, 10 years ago, was a place where you find strip clubs the size of a warehouse, but there was also a church on every corner - the net result that TV stations probably decided it wasn't worth the letters and complaints from folks getting the vapors from witnessing ladies in high cut leotards jumping off turnstyles. Believe me, I would have watched the living hell out of that show. (edit: Steven has written in to tell me he recalls seeing GLOW air in Houston circa 1987. I was living in Austin at the time.)
Consequently, I've always had a deep-seeded curiosity about GLOW, but was unable to turn up much the few times I thought to Google it.
Of course, when Netflix announced it was putting out a show about GLOW featuring no less than Alison Brie, heck, yeah, I was in.
Monday, July 31, 2017
Like every other DC Comics nerd, I know Andrea Romano's name from watching my Batman, Superman and Justice league cartoons a little too closely. And, of course, the extras on the DVD sets.
It seems she's hanging up her... headset? microphone? and passing off her duties as she heads into well-earned retirement.
It's hard to say how one measures the skill of a voice director for cartoons, but here's a sample of shows she's worked on:
- Chip N' Dale Rescue Rangers
- Duck Tales
- Tiny Toon Adventures
- Batman: The Animated Series
- Batman Beyond
- Static Shock
- Justice League
- Teen Titans
- Batman: The Brave and the Bold
- Spongebob Squarepants
- The Boondocks
and a whole lot more
I know the folks 10 or 15 years younger than me will disagree because they've got nostalgia on their side, but I couldn't ever figure out what was wrong with the acting in the Marvel cartoons of the 1990's (or, heck, today). The voice acting always sounded rushed, like people just shouting lines into a mic. But DC's work always sounded natural, like a radio show or movie, just animated. Her characters were distinct, had their own cadences and personalities.
And when you think of shows like Animaniacs or Tiny Toons - those voices were so specific and as much a part of the characters as any cell animation - you can't really separate the two. Hell, the Warner Brothers (and the Warner Sister) still bounce around in my head in perfect pitch.
Yeah, that's because WB has a great stable of voice actors, but they've also been working under Romano for decades now. She brought in name talent like Clancy Brown for Superman, and she found a fellow by the name of Kevin Conroy and made him "the" Batman for two or three generations of fans, no matter who was putting on the cowl in the feature films.
Back when I was still buying DVDs and BluRays of DC movies and series, I'd always jump immediately to the extras and hope they'd have an interview with Romano, who was casual but a total pro every time she was on camera. Her feel for the characters and, really, how to work with actors was superb, and it played out in every story, in every series and movie and arc. And even though she's not associated with Justice League Action - which all of you should be watching - the show's production carries so much of her stamp, such is her legacy at at WB Animation.
I'm sad she's retiring, because it means less of her work, but it's important to say a big thanks to Ms. Romano, who has been such a huge part of so many hours of entertainment we've all been able to enjoy, and who's amazing abilities elevated an artform that many thought of hokey kid stuff.
Here's to you, ma'am.
Wednesday, July 19, 2017
I was always a little lukewarm on Black Lightning as a superhero character until, I guess around 2002 or so, someone came up with the idea that Jefferson Pierce was a little older and had daughters who were manifesting powers (and, of course, wanted to be heroes, too).
Not only did it mean Black Lightning was suddenly anchored a lot more as a character - no longer just "that black guy with lightning powers" which he'd become after the early appearances, it gave him a robust supporting cast.
Unfortunately, The New 52 wiped away the take on the Pierce family I'd come to like quite a bit, following the characters across a few DC books. Needless to say, I'm thrilled this is the angle they're taking on for a new DC show on the CW. Those writers do family well, and - when given the chance - also do people of multiple generations pretty well.
Looking forward to tuning in and seeing how they pull this off.
Saturday, July 15, 2017
note: Preacher, both TV series and the comics series upon which the show is based, contain graphic violence, deeply mature themes, deeply immature themes, sexual frankness and deviation and no small amount of content of a religious nature which many-a-good folks would reasonably find offensive. You can read this post, watch the TV show, or read the comics, but you've been forewarned, you're on your own, and your mileage will vary.
Last year, Preacher came to television via AMC - arriving as a sort of high octane dramedy and a loose adaptation of the original comics which ran from 1995-2000 under DC's Vertigo imprint. The second season is now underway, but I only made it fifteen minutes into the first episode of this year's offering before saying "You know, I'm good. Let's not watch this."
You can do well with a superhero comics adaptation so long as you remain basically true to the intention of the authors, or - in the case of serial comics - find that core to the characters and concepts that have brought readers back, year after year, outlasting almost all other forms of long-time serial publications in the states.
Saturday, June 10, 2017
This one hurts.
Adam West has passed at the age of 88.
Literally my earliest memories include watching Batman starring Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward as Robin. Steans-family lore states that my first words were "Batman" as I ran around our home with my security blanket around my neck.
The story is that I was toddler-ish and Jason was two years older, and my mom, The Karebear, had to make us dinner before my Dad got home from work (dude worked hard and late). In order to wrangle me, her ADD wunderkind, she figured out that I'd sit perfectly still for Batman, which happened to be on in syndication right when she needed to fire up the stove.
When the Michael Keaton-starring "serious" Batman was released, in 1989, when I was 14, the show came back on cable, and I totally got what they were up to. Somehow, inbetween, like many of my generation, there'd been some confusion about the show being a drama that was kind of stupid and something you grew out of. But, nope, the show had been winking to the older crowd all along.
Saturday, June 3, 2017
Like most kids of my generation, I grew up with Wonder Woman as the default "superhero for girls". Sure, DC had a wide array of female characters, but a lot of "team" concepts aimed at boys included 1 or maybe 2 girls on the team no matter how big the roster got (see: GI Joe). And on Super Friends, Wonder Woman was the all-purpose female character who was not Jayna of The Wonder Twins of Wendy of Super Marv and Wendy (ahhh, the 70's).
|but at least they gave WW two villains from her rogues gallery|
Monday, March 20, 2017
As I mentioned previously, as a TV series, Twin Peaks managed to limp along for most of the second half of the second season. You could feel the writers realizing they'd taken a bad turn and trying to right the ship in the final few episodes, but the good continues to be outweighed by the bad.
The drippy plotline of the Miss Twin Peaks pageant, and Robyn (Teen Witch) Lively doing her best with a dog of a plotline for her wildly inconsistent character, Lara Flynn Boyle being reduced to a background character, Audrey and Billy Zane going full in flagrante in a private jet right in front of Pete... and the tired plotline of Lucy choosing the father of her kid - something so worn out even the show winked at how nobody cared anymore by the time she made a decision...
Lost in all this was Harry and his plotline with Josie. And from what I can find online, Michael Ontkean who played Sheriff Harry Truman walked away from the show fairly bitter about the whole experience. And I can hardly blame him.
That said - the final episode of the show, directed by David Lynch with writing by Mark Frost, Robert Engels and Harley Peyton, returns the show to form. Doing such a good job and creating some of the most memorable moments of the entire series that it's easy to forget the meandering path we took to get there.
Monday, March 6, 2017
Turner Classic Movies host Robert Osborne has merged with The Infinite.
I was pretty much convinced that Robert Osborne was a robot. It didn't matter what time of day or night I switched on Turner Classic Movies, if a movie wasn't playing, he was providing an intro or outro in a smooth, polished, knowledgeable manner, like the best film prof you never had. In theory he was the prime-time host, but for several years in there, I literally remember no one else.
I mean, sure, it was just a few minutes per movie, but those need to be written, shot, etc... and it was clear he was pretty hands-on with all aspects. Including the phenomenal interviews he wrangled with innumerable Hollywood icons, and later as he'd co-host series with modern luminaries reflecting back on whatever run of movies they were about to show. And he always got to the nut of what made the film special both writ large and what made fans (these modern film stars) so passionate about the movie.
Tuesday, February 28, 2017
You'll hear a lot about how 90's comic books were all about Chromium covers, Rob Liefeld and . There's some truth to that. But that's like saying 90's music was all Garth Brooks and Hootie and the Blowfish. The 90's brought us Neil Gaiman, Grant Morrison, Garth Ennis, Warren Ellis, and a host of others who came to comics mostly via the guiding hand of Karen Berger and the Vertigo imprint.
Titles like Hellblazer, Kid Eternity and Invisibles kept me in comics when I was hitting that crucial point where I might have moved on. And, totally honestly, had I not stumbled across the "Ramadan" issue of Sandman during the final months of my senior year of high school, I suspect me and comics were headed for a bitter break-up.
Part of that break-up was what was happening in the X-Men titles, which had lost the guiding hand of Chris Claremont, whose writing I was ready to leave behind, I suspect, but who had created multi-dimensional characters in a way that, to this day, I cannot believe comics in general haven't learned from.
FX's new series, Legion, is going to confuse folks who head to the comic shop to find issues of the series, or a nice trade paperback. The character, David Haller, appeared briefly in a few runs of various X-books dating back to the mid-1980's, including his first appearances in the surprisingly weird New Mutants title, giving Chris Claremont's writing and the artistry of Bill Sienkiewicz (Elektra: Assassin, Stray Toasters, numerous other projects) co-creator status.
Sunday, February 26, 2017
Like all of you, we were saddened to hear of the unexpected passing of actor Bill Paxton.
Paxton became a favorite back in the mid-80's when we first saw Aliens in which he played Private First Class Hudson, the resident smart-ass of the squad of Colonial Marines sent in to investigate the situation on Acheron (aka LV-426). After that, we recognized him as Chet in Weird Science and the punk guy who maybe shouldn't have picked a fight with a naked Arnie in Terminator.
Paxton was always a welcome name to see show up in the credits of any film, and you always knew you were getting something memorable out of him. He didn't have many blockbuster starring roles outside of Twister, but he continued to provide outstanding performances in supporting roles and found a lead role that worked well for him in HBO's polygamy drama, Big Love.
We'll miss Paxton. To say he went too soon is a tremendous understatement, and I think all of us expected him to continue to appear on our screens for decades to come.
But let us never forget that he also directed and starred in the video for Barnes & Barnes classic "Fish Heads".
Saturday, February 25, 2017
If you've never seen the original series of Twin Peaks, my recommendation is to watch Season 1 and then Season 2 up through Episode 10 or 11 and then quit.
Over the years I've heard a lot of conflicting stories about what happened in Season 2 as the series went along, but for those of us who remember television in the 1980's and 1990's, who couldn't believe Twin Peaks was ever on a major network to begin with, it seems plain that the networks did what they always did back then - refused to leave well enough alone.
Around Episode 10 of Season 2 (of 22), David Lynch and Mark Frost seem to have moved on from Twin Peaks, abandoning one of TV's most singular visions behind, one must assume, to the suits. You still see Caleb Deschanel's name appear as a director, but Frost and Lynch's names are basically listed as "creators" by that point, and the series is handed off to folks whose names will mean nothing to you. A quick Google search will tell you that the network insisted that Frost and Lynch wrap up the mystery of who killed Laura Palmer, and after completing their mission in Episode 9, they made haste to distance themselves from the show.
Of course, that doesn't mean the first half of Season 2 of Twin Peaks continued to deliver the same visionary television that the first eight-episode season provided that made the show a small cultural phenomenon.
Friday, February 24, 2017
Saturday, January 28, 2017
It's been a long week at work and in the news. I was bemoaning one of these projects on twitter, and when I told CanadianSimon I'd quit watching the movie and two other things this week, he did point out - hey, it's been a weird week for Planet Earth.
Still, my patience was a bit raw, and that meant I didn't make it very far into a few things I'd been meaning to check out.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2
I didn't see this movie when it came out, mostly because I didn't really like much of anything about the first one. Highlights included the casting of Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy and Stan Lee's cameo, but I didn't really get where Peter Parker as mouthy, non-nerdy teen-ager was coming from, and I was super-annoyed that they were trying to go down the 1990's path of exploring Peter's parents' death as integral to his history (dude got bit by a radioactive spider. We don't need to heap 30 years of back story into it). To top it off, their Spidey was never actually *funny* when quipping from inside the mask. He came off a bit more like someone bragging while playing a video game against a hopelessly outclassed opponent.
Friday, January 27, 2017
This spring, Showtime will bring back Twin Peaks, the short-lived, much beloved show that ran on TV circa 1990-1991 and had one feature film release, Fire Walk With Me in 1992. Way, way back in the 1990's the show made headlines, and managed to capture the public imagination (sort of) during it's initial first season, which ran only 8 episodes. But in the 1990's - as I am sure is true in some ways now - success meant the network and studio boys wanted to get a piece of the pie and get involved, and the second season started strong only to wobble under the weight of 22 hour-long episodes, as was the standard of the era for network shows.
The bizarre turns to quirk turns to a self-parody in pretty short order. Time changes and a loss of the charm that marked the first dozen or so episodes plagued the show, and the show lost viewers. At least it went out quickly.
It's hard to explain how utterly weird it was that Twin Peaks ever happened. We were still basically in the era of three networks (with Fox just finding its footing) and a bunch of cable channels that were usually putting out original material of iffy quality. Shows on the major networks were scientifically designed to appeal to as wide an audience as possible, and so we wound up with a lot of what still shows on the networks today. Cops, lawyers, doctors, and family sitcoms. Some evening soaps with implied sex that came on between 9 and 10 in the Central time zone. Hell, ALF was quirky.* If you wanted a flavor of anything oddball, you were in deep cable or finding video stores with a "cult" section. I mean, David Lynch was hardly a household name in 1990.
Wednesday, January 25, 2017
Actor and producer Mary Tyler Moore has passed at the age of 80.
My first two memories of Mary Tyler Moore include realizing (a) that MTM tag at the end of shows was her production company and (b) thinking Rob Petrie married well the hell out of his league. I mean, I was like 7 or 8 and didn't watch enough TV to quite get how this works, but I was pretty sure Laura had settled or Rob was rich or something.
Years later she broke new ground with the Mary Tyler Moore Show, showing a divorced woman making it in the city as a reporter. The show was a hit and and Moore became a force in the entertainment world in her own right.
I'm not going to quite do her justice. She will be missed.
Thursday, January 19, 2017
We all have actors we may not seek out, necessarily, but it's a huge bonus when they show up in anything. Indeed, they make whatever they appear in at least five times better.
Since my mom dropped me off (way too young) to go see RoboCop, I've been a fan of actor Miguel Ferrer. I didn't know his actual name until college, he was "that guy from RoboCop, yeah, Bob Morton", but in the years since, and since Jamie has been around since college, she's heard the phrase "oh, hell, yeah. Miguel Ferrer" on innumerable occasions whenever I realize he is in a movie we're considering watching or his name pops up in the credits.
Fortunately for me, far as I know, Jamie shares my appreciation for Miguel Ferrer.
His mother and father (Rosemary Clooney and Jose Ferrer) were extraordinarily famous in their era, and not too many children of power couples manage to reach the levels of success Miguel Ferrer achieved. Or, you know, the place in the hearts of cinephiles and genre-geeks.
I straight up think he's a terrific actor, and while he wasn't often the leading man, he was a force on screen. I can only imagine what he was like in life.
Unfortunately, it seems Miguel Ferrer passed today after a battle with cancer. I had no idea he was ill, and I'm deeply sorry for his friends and family. He went far too soon.
Let's enjoy him as Bob Morton together, shall we?
Tuesday, January 10, 2017
|way more effort went into this graphic than I want to admit|
2016. It seems so far away now. Heck, Christmas was, like, two years ago at this point. But let us remember that all too vital part of all of our lives - TELEVISION.
Oh, you don't own a television? You haven't had cable in ten years? Well, la di dah, mister fancy pants. Some of us stay in touch with the people.
Between cable, internet streaming options and sports, it was certainly a year in which I watched a metric ton of TV. You couldn't not be told you had to watch this show or that show by your friends or co-workers. And some of them you didn't try, some of them you watched and didn't like and just prayed they'd never ask about whether you'd tried it or not, and some of it was maybe not the best thing but you still tuned in. And some of it you set your schedule around watching.
Here's a quick rundown of some of what we watched:
Saturday, December 10, 2016
Note: I'm going to talk about HBO's 2016 series, Westworld, as a whole. If you're avoiding spoilers, this is not the place for you.
There's a great deal to like about the 10 episodes of HBO's sci-fi series, Westworld. It's been interesting to find out how many people haven't seen the original Westworld film by Michael Crichton - a name which is pobably just an echo to Millennials but which was a hosuehold name through the 1990's. I'll cop to having not seen (or don't remember seeing) Futureworld (1976) or the TV series Beyond Westworld (1980).
I am sure the original 1973 film felt like futureshock at the time, or maybe sci-fi silliness to many. The first time I watched it back before high school, which would have been the late 1980's, 70's hair-stylings aside, it seemed to work very well as a thriller, even if it didn't seem to run deep with the complexities of Blade Runner or other AI films. Well into the 1980's, our relationship with technology and computers wasn't as everyday as it's become, and fiction treated computers a bit like the genie's lamp right up through the late 1990's.
What the movie does that still holds up is create an adult theme park that is both impossible, yet seems like something that people would be up for whether we want to admit it or not if the wild success of Las Vegas is any indication. It's a world of sex and violence with only the most minor of repercussions as one fulfills fantasies and indulges whims in a familiar place, but one separated enough from our own day-to-day that you'd lose your bearings. And steeped in the inherent violence of the filmic west, it's a world in which you'd be more likely to shoot first and question later.
Tuesday, December 6, 2016
Season 2 of Supergirl moved to The CW network, which was already home to DC's Arrow, The Flash, Legends of Tomorrow and iZombie, and the move has been nothing but good for the series, so far as I can tell. Whatever dictates Season 1 had upon it as a show on a major network, moving to the less-major CW Network has meant the show feels less like it's bucking TV formulas and now it's matching The Flash for melding DC lore with crafting it's own mythology and character arcs.
This season I've enjoyed the shake-up and escape from CatCo, especially if Cat Grant isn't even going to be around and the far more fulfilling role for Win. And, hey, Kara isn't being defined by which boy she'll pick, which is kind of remarkable on TV. While Alex's "coming out" storyline felt a bit rushed, crammed in there in-between cyborgs and fiery aliens, alien fight clubs and whatnot, it's interesting to see the show stake it's claim on big-tent "Supergirl is for everyone" and just move forward without turning the show into a melodrama we all have to slog through.
In fact, the CW shows are pretty remarkably good at not doing the things that TV has traditionally done that drove me crazy - namely: have have characters keep secrets from people they otherwise trust when keeping a secret makes literally no sense and drag it out over whole seasons of a show or until they just forget to resolve the storyline.