Showing posts with label television. Show all posts
Showing posts with label television. Show all posts

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Miguel Ferrer Merges With The Infinite



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

The 2016 Kryptos - Television

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

Okay. Time to talk a bit about "Westworld" - A non-definitive discussion.



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

Checking in on DCTV: Supergirl and The Flash



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.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Happy Birthday, Jimmy Olsen!

November 29th is, it seems, the birthday of one James Bartholomew Olsen, Superman's Pal.



It's nearly impossible to capture all the different interpretations of Jimmy, especially as he first appeared as a major character not so much in the comics - where he was an unnamed copyboy - but in radio.  In the 1950's, Jack Larson played Jimmy on The Adventures of Superman, and the character really took off.  National Comics responded by launching a comics which would run for almost two full decades, Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen.

I couldn't tell you exactly why I'm a fan of the character, but there's no question he's a fascinating character across a wide field of media.  And, yes, his comics are absolutely mind-bending as National tried to figure out what to do with the character in issues after issue.  Never underestimate the creative power of an unwinnable situation.

Even more so than Superman, Jimmy can change and bend to meet the needs of a story, so long as he's the youngest and most naive guy in the room.  And as a lead protagonist, the reader feels two steps ahead of our hero.  A lot of actors have had a lot of takes on Jimmy, and I have my favorites, but they've all brought something unique to the character.

Happy birthday, Jimmy.  I hope someone got you a cake.

Jimmy in "The Adventures of Superman"

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Non-Essential Viewing: Rocky Horror Picture Show (2016)



I don't know how to categorize this.  It was a two-hour television "event" on Thursday night, in prime time.  It's a sort of "TV movie", but it's in the manner of one of the live musicals the networks have been doing.  Only, it wasn't live.

It also wasn't... very good.

Look, no one has remade this movie to date because the original is lightning in a bottle.  It was a movie that's still relevant, but a lot of what was taboo or edgy in that film has lost it's subversion as elements have become or are becoming more mainstreamed.  Putting a play/ movie about themes that were still considered unmentionable in the 1970's and turning it into fodder for channel flippers on a Thursday night was going to be difficult - but I almost felt like, Laverne Cox aside, most of the cast didn't really know how this was supposed to work.  And, frankly, it didn't feel like the director or producers knew how to do this, either.

To maybe throw some context on this:  the show/ movie was directed by Kenny Ortega, a name that's not exactly household for me, but he was the brains behind High School Musical.  And, boy howdy, does that explain a lot when you're watching the thing.

Really what struck me while watching this was:  Hot Topic.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

TL;DR: Wonder Woman at 75, at the United Nation and 'Wonder Woman v.2 #170'



Yesterday was, apparently, the official 75th birthday of Wonder Woman.  As part of that event, Wonder Woman was made a Special Ambassador of the United Nations, an icon for new efforts within the UN to speak on behalf of gender equality.

I don't know how much of Wonder Woman's origins most people know, or how hung up they are on some of the more salacious details of creator William Moulton Marston's personal life, or how that played out on the comics page.  But I do know that Marston was sincere in his interest to create a strong female superhero, not just with whom little girls could identify, but for little boys to understand that women could do all the things that men can do.  They can leap into the fray and they stand as equals (although I'd argue Marston may have had a bit more of an ideal of a matriarchy in mind even more than than just an egalitarian ideal).

"Wonder Woman" TV star Lynda Carter was in attendance

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Super Watch: Supergirl Season 2, Episodes 1 & 2



When I started watching Supergirl last season, I spent a lot of time rolling my eyes and letting my disappointment in the formulaic, color-by-numbers approach take me to a dark place.  But then, probably earlier on than I'd admit, the show started doing something different from what I expected.  Rather than setting up petty jealousies between characters, rather than turning Calista Flockhart's Cat Grant character into a caricature, rather than turning Kara into a hapless dope that everyone loves only because that's what the show insists must happen despite the fact the character is an idiot ruining everyone's lives...  someone stepped in and started turning the show into something I quite liked.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Marvel Watch: Luke Cage (Season 1, 2016)



I want to say that I loved Luke Cage.  Because for a full 6 episodes, I was ready to stand up and say "this is the best Marvel TV series to date, even better than Jessica Jones or Season 1 of Agent Carter".  But, man, the back half of this series feels rough.  It's still watchable, but as early as the beginning of the seventh episode, the wheels start coming off, and it's only in fits and spurts that the show reclaims the excellence of those first six episodes, seems to remember its mission statement, and doesn't feel like it's a throwback to 1990's-era superhero movies.  I have a few hypotheses as to what may have occurred, but that doesn't save the overall project anymore than headcannons or fan theories (neither of which this blogger recommends you indulge in).  What matters is what winds up on the screen.

What does retain it's consistency, as surely as the cells in Luke Cage's body bounce back from a bad day, is the strong character put forth in Luke Cage, the grounded, human force of a man trying every day to do right.  In Luke Cage we get that rarest of characters which are slowly climbing their way back from two decades of think-pieces to the contrary, the good guy who doesn't need to be called an anti-hero to work in a modern context.  For Marvel, and maybe for the mass audiences, up to this point we've relied on our sepia-toned notions and the uncomplicated moral battle of the Allied fight against the Axis to gain access to the point of view of our upright hero in Steve Rogers - AKA: Captain America.  But in Luke Cage we get a modern man who has known the compromise all his life and despite what's past, he's moving forward in a world that broils and churns with moral compromise as the "smart" move, the only way to get things done.  And we have a hero who isn't living in a hypothetical world of cops and robbers, but in a world that reflects a lot of our own, with Trayvon Martins and the Black Lives Matter movement.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Star Trek 50th Quick Post

Tiny Spock is judging you


This here above is the culmination of my Star Trek collection.  You'll notice it's a little Gorn-centric.  When Diamond put out all the gear I'd wanted since I was 11, I went ahead and did that.  I've only made room for a model of NCC-1701, but I'd sure like an NCC-1701-A and NCC-1701-D sometime (if I knew where they'd go).

Tonight I celebrated Trek with my brother by getting pizza and enjoying some official Star Trek 50th Anniversary beer.



We watched the original series episodes "Arena" and "The Enterprise Incident".  I hadn't seen "The Enterprise Incident" since I was a kid, and it was really pretty darn good.  Funny what happens when you get your head around, uh, "relations" more than you did at age 13.  That D.C. Fontana is a heck of a writer.

After I got home, Jamie was watching the beginning of Star Trek: Generations but had to go to bed.  So, we've agreed we're going to sprint through the Next Generation films, which I haven't seen in forever.  And, hey, I'm a big fan of those characters.

Now I'm watching "The Naked Time" on BBC America.  Good day, all and all.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

50 Years of Star Trek



Here's to 50 years of Star Trek, in television, movies and beyond.

September 8th, 1966 saw the premier of Star Trek on network television.  The episode was "The Man Trap" (the Salt Monster one).  The show lasted for three seasons and blazed trails before spinning off into weirdly wild success in syndication.  Of course, Star Trek: The Next Generation cut out the middleman and went straight into syndication.

I am not a real Trekker, and I'm okay with that.  I never really watched much Deep Space Nine, Voyager or Enterprise.  Not the way I watched original series or Next Generation.  I like all the movies with the original cast for one reason or another, even if I mostly enjoy Star Trek V as camp.  I even liked Star Trek Beyond quite a bit  (Karl Urban was fantastic).

Where Star Wars broke me circa 1999, ending it's drought in 2015 with The Force Awakens, there's always been enough Trek to keep me invested, willing to go to bat and try another movie, TV show, episode, what-have-you.  But I've never felt fan enough to attend a Star Trek convention or the like.  Which is weird.  I guess I've just always been aware that I'm a fan, but I've seen the real fans, if you know what I mean (I do not know a single word of Klingon, for example).

The original show sparked my imagination when I became a regular viewer of episodes at 5:00 PM on the local UHF channel when I was about 10.  The idea of moving through space, of not just constantly fighting some antagonist over and over, but exploring, of discovery - that got my interest.  Also, Lieutenant Uhura.  But flying around in a ship I still haven't gotten over, not necessarily shooting or punching to solve the problem of the week, of trying to find a better tomorrow out on the edge of known space...?  Sign me up.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

TL;DR: "Stranger Things", "Suicide Squad" and Storytelling in the 21st Century

I had to have a picture, so... here you go, Barb-Heads


It's funny.  Way, way back when I was a young Signal Watch back in film school, one of my instructors proposed the idea that, in the very near future, story would not matter.  This was, of course, preposterous, but something that has come back to haunt me over and over again in the years that have followed.

It wasn't entirely clear what my instructors meant by "story will not matter", and so it became easy to dismiss, even as people lined up for Michael Bay movies and we were all vaguely aware that one does not show up for, say, a Kung-Fu movie specifically to see how events will unfold so much as to see Jet Li perform aerial stunts and kick people in the sternum for 90 minutes.  The change was blamed a bit on video games which, in the mid-90's, had yet to really evolve much past Doom or side-scrollers.  And, frankly, were thought of quite differently from movies in the zeitgeist - although that quickly changed (I guess) with games like Wing Commander (which I never played but people seemed to love) and certainly with the early 00's-era Grand Theft Auto.

Muddying the waters, "it lacks a story" was often the vague criticism of the tastemakers from the 70's through the 90's.  Nothing took the wind out of your sails quite like watching something you'd enjoyed only to have either a tweedy-type or someone whose opinion you cared about come along and say "well, it didn't have much story now, did it?" and you'd be considering "well, it had characters, a beginning, middle and an end.  There was an arc or two in there."  And, man, "lack of story" was a favorite dig at superhero faire at one point by folks with jobs at newspapers, and that was where I learned to more or less understand.  Because it often meant "it didn't have a story that resonated with me, a person who doesn't think a story about a mad scientist needing to be stopped by the swift right hook of justice is equal to a story about people very politely going through a divorce while wearing tweed coats and having a humiliating and/ or unlikely sexual encounter or two."

And that's okay.  It just means you need to look at "it doesn't have much of a story" as a criticism as sort of a smoke screen unless we're getting specific.

I can name many things which lack story that seem to nonetheless delight people, often earning a rabid, nigh-manic fanbase who is immune to your accusations of lack of story (hello, Dragonball Z fans!).  And there are lots of folks who are really, really into, say, Mario, despite the fact that his storyline is "plumber who does very, very little plumbing".  And that all feels to me a bit like getting really into, say, Tony the Tiger because every commercial has a fifteen second story arc where a kid masters a sport thanks to Tony and sugar.

But I digress.

In a very short window I watched both DC's third entry in their superhero universe, Suicide Squad, and Netflix's summer darling, Stranger Things.  In varying ways, both made me wonder if my instructor back in film school had a point.

Monday, August 22, 2016

More About Bees and the 1970's

So, Nathaniel asked me why I forgot to mention the giant, hallucinatory bees in 1978's The Swarm.   And, he's right to ask, because it's probably the most stunning/ least magical visual special effect in the movie.


What's most interesting is that the bees inject a venom into their victim that make them not just hallucinate, but hallucinate a very large bee.

Now, as a kid I saw an ad for The Swarm on TV as the Late Late Movie on local UHF, and they kept showing the clips of the hallucinations.  Unfortunately, at age 11 or so, I was not qualified to stay up for the midnight to four AM shift, so I missed the broadcast and never saw the movie I assumed was all about giant bees.  At some point when SimonUK suggested we watch this movie, like, two years ago, I eagerly said "you mean the movie about the giant bees?"
"No, the one with Michael Caine."
"Right!  With giant bees!"
"Well... no."

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Blogging Slow Down - The Olympics Are On



It's that time again.  Every two years I disappear for a bit as the Olympics come on and we slow our TV and movie watching to make time for sports we normally wouldn't watch if you paid us.  But not Beach Volleyball.  I always watch Beach Volleyball if its on.  We can make jokes about the uniforms being less than modest, but Kerri Walsh Jennings and new partner April Ross are amazing.  Tune in.

Jamie is also a fan of gymnastics, and if you don't like your athletes standing over 5'10", I have good news for you.

Simone Biles is a ninja

And these gymnasts did A-OK in the team competition, doing the U.S. proud


Also been enjoying Michael Phelps' return to swimming in top form, the amazing performance of Katie Ledecky, catching some sports I don't usually watch like handball, field hockey, etc...

And as Jamie long ago determined - after Beach Volleyball, I really, genuinely enjoy track and field coverage.  Which is weird, because UT has a great track and field program, but I never, ever go watch and we put people on the team every four years.  Go figure.

So, yeah.  Olympics!


Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Vertigo Watch: Preacher (TV series, 2016)



At the beginning of the 1990's, I almost bailed on comics.  If you want to know who kept me coming back I can throw a bunch of names at you of authors and artists, but the real force bringing me back to the funny book store was editor Karen Berger, the mastermind behind the 1993 launch of Vertigo comics.

A lot of people say a lot of negative things about the comics industry in the 1990's, and if you consider what was going on in many corners, they're not wrong.  I was avoiding shiny and holographic covers, watched unknown companies try to launch whole universes in one shot and avoided the Scarlet Spider stuff like the plague.  But Berger was the one who saw the potential for what comics could do, saw the potential in then little known writers, was flexible about what could appear in a floppy comic, and she may be the least risk-averse person to ever work at the Big 2.

After successes with Wonder Woman, Legion and other titles, she shepherded several cutting edge titles that eventually set up shop under the Vertigo imprint.  She gave Sandman, Swamp Thing and Hellblazer a home, nurtured and loved both the titles and creators, and resurrected dead IP at DC Comics (Kid Eternity, The Tattooed Man, Shade: The Changing Man) while also letting creators bring their own, fresh ideas to the Vertigo.  In an era embracing what had been counter culture  as we coined such terms as "Alternative Music" and put a groovy coffee shop on every corner, the company that put out Superman was also putting out The Extremist and Transmetropolitan.

Just imagine a young and hungry Neil Gaiman, Grant Morrison, Warren Ellis...  And, of course, Garth Ennis.  In many ways for which she will rarely be given the credit she deserves, Karen Berger gave us Preacher.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Supergirl's cousin is gonna show up on "Supergirl"


I pulled this image from Birth.Movies.Death.

As far as how this could have gone - I can't complain, really.  I have no idea what DC's deal is with the classic costume or how they think continually messing around with elements of the visual iconography of one of their most famous properties is somehow a good idea.  But, no one is asking me.  Red boots and cape.  Yellow in the "S".  No mandarin collar.

Sigh.  Look, I'm a red trunks guy, and the fact that DC can't seem to make the suit work correctly either here or in Man of Steel (piping and stippling is all just a bit much, especially with a useless belly-button belt-buckle) without an awkward red belt-to-nowhere is just maybe a sign we throw in the towel and go back to the red trunks look.

But, man, that dude ALSO looks like Superman, doesn't he?  You'll never hear me complain about Cavill, but so many folks have drawn Superman in so many ways over the years, and between Reeves, Reeve, Alyn, Cain and Cavill...  Well, I don't necessarily have a particular face I identify with Superman.  Just a certain presence, and I think this dude has it, just as Melissa Benoist doesn't look like Silver Age or Bronze Age Kara, but she sure has that same vibe.

I have never seen actor Tyler Hoechlin in anything, but so as long as he doesn't have a voice like Peter Lorre, I want to give him a shot.  So far so good with Supergirl defying expectations and beating the odds for what it seemed they'd do - and the energy the actors have brought to the show.

Look, I planned to hate-watch Supergirl, but I became a fan.  I am always excited to see what they'll try to do next with a character I have a little affection for.  Now we've got Superman, Martian Manhunter and Lynda Carter as POTUS.  I mean, OBVIOUSLY I'll be watching.

And if, you know, they want to one day do a Superman show or TV movie or ten, I won't complain.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Faux-80's Watch: Stranger Things (Season 1, 2016)



There's an argument to be made that Stranger Things, 2016 (8 episodes, Season 1 on Netflix) is a rip off and riff on popular and cult media of the 1980's and that we should be suspicious of it's desire to emulate the stylings, feel and sensibilities of the era.  The show trades in nostalgia for Gen-X'ers (and likely Millennials, whom, it seems, grew up on the media of Gen-X), from font type to musical selection to references to kid culture of the time to conspicuously placed posters of influential films of the era.*

That it does these things is unquestionable - this is not convergent evolution.  But with 1983 (the year the story takes place) now 30-odd years in the rear-view mirror, it's also a period piece (I'll just let that sink in, 40-somethings.) just as much as Grease was in the late 70's, or 90% of the output of Martin Scorsese.  That the Duffer Brothers, show runners who wrote and directed a huge portion of the 8 episodes, chose this period to mine is not a huge surprise.  We're still working our way through Star Wars sequels and Ghostbusters relaunches.  We can casually drop an E.T. or Poltergeist reference and expect to be understood.  In perhaps more self-selective circles, we can do same with The Thing or Evil Dead.

Anyway, something happened in the 1980's that was not entirely of the era, but it showed up like an open wound in our media of the era in a way that movies have forgotten how to do.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Noel Neill Merges With The Infinite



In an article appearing on The Superman Homepage a statement by her manager, biographer and friend, Larry Thomas Ward has informed us that, Noel Neill has passed at the age of 95.  The New York Times has also released an obituary.

I never took advantage of the opportunities to meet Noel Neill that were available when she was still doing comic conventions and The Superman Celebration in Metropolis, Illinois.  By the time I made it to Metropolis, she was 94 and no longer attending.

Monday, June 6, 2016

"Lady Dynamite" Season 1 on Netflix



Maria Bamford has been around the comedy scene, stand up and character performing, for some time.   I can remember stand-up clips of a very young Bamford on basic cable in the late 90's, and a general awareness of who she was despite the fact I'm not one of those folks who follows comedy the way some people follow music.  But, she had a unique voice (literally and metaphorically) from the time she came out of the gate.

In 2005 she appeared as part of the documentary, The Comedians of Comedy, which followed comedians Patton Oswalt, Brian Posehn, Zach Galifianakis and Maria Bamford as they toured the country playing, basically, rock clubs.   And I remember watching the film and being deeply concerned for Bamford during the entire movie.  They sort of tried to play it off as "Maria keeps to herself.  Maria's an introvert," but the movie basically gave up on trying to get her to participate, and so she became a kind of non-entity within the film.

In 2012, on the heels of Louis CK figuring out people would pay him directly for content and the rise of Kickstarter, Maria Bamford also had a special "The Special Special Special", which I paid to Ms. Bamford to download.  And if you've never seen The Special Special Special, it's kind of amazing.  She basically does an entirely new set for her parents from inside her living room.   And I guess it was while watching that show, or around that time, that I learned she'd had some sort of mental breakdown.  And, it seemed, doing this special was Phase 1 of her getting her feet back under her, professionally.

She appeared in the Netflix season of Arrested Development (as someone playing Sue Storm in a knock-off Fantastic Four),  and held her own with that cast, which is no mean feat.  And, as she has always done, she's toured relentlessly.  I see she's in Austin for the Moontower Comedy festival every year (going on now.  She was on local drive-time radio just this morning), and I think she's here more than that - but I haven't been to see stand-up since a semi-traumatic family outing when I was in college.*

But from the first few minutes of the first episode of Lady Dynamite (now streaming on Netflix), it feels like someone has finally properly placed the megaphone to Bamford's mouth and given her the proper stage where it's not just her freaking out the squares doing her stand-up or trying to fit into someone else's mold of how entertainment is supposed to work.  The show is Bamford's world, and it's - for once (and people say this a lot, but I think it's a safe bet it's true here) - a unique perspective.

Not many shows out there are a sitcom recounting the protagonist's real-life struggles with mental illness.  And making it understandable, sympathetic, and honest-to-god hilarious.