Saturday, March 26, 2011

For the record: "Battle of the Superheroes" on "Batman: Brave and the Bold" was the best half hour of TV I've seen in years

That's probably a bit of an exaggeration, but not much.

Look, I know you don't spend your spare time thinking about the statues of criminals and conquerors that Lex Luthor keeps in his secret layer, but as someone who does think about these things, the non-stop Superman fandom tribute that was this week's episode of Batman: Brave and the Bold was one of the most amazing things I've seen on TV in quite some time.

And, of course, whomever worked on the episode was apparently also a fan of the Silver-Age ancillary titles like Jimmy Olsen and Lois Lane, as the episode imitated classic covers and incidents from those issues.  The episode also paid tribute to the classic look of the cityscapes of the 1990's-era Superman: the Animated Series and through in the Batman armor from Dark Knight Returns for good measure.

And, the episode didn't just include Krypto, they totally got the point of DC's most underrated superhero.

All in all, the only disappointing part of the episode was that it was only half and hour and a single episode.  If DC Entertainment is looking to expand its offerings, I'd love to see the Brave and the Bold team come back with a solid hour Batman/ Superman.

Berkeley Breathed art on "Mars Needs Moms"

I am a fan of cartoonist Berkeley Breathed. His strip, Bloom County, was a favorite when I was hitting an age when I was scanning the page for more than just Slylock Fox, and I still enjoy the occasional Bloom County collection.

A while back, I picked up Breathed's children's book Mars Needs Moms, and it was a fun read, if a bit off-beat for a story aimed at kids. And then I heard it was being adapted to a feature film by Robert "I Sucked the Soul Out of The Polar Express" Zemeckis.

The thing is - Breathed's character style and sentiment is distinctly Breathed's. And, somewhat shockingly, unlike Polar Express, Zemeckis didn't seem to feel any attachment to Breathed's artistic style.

Its hard to really explain that Breathed's character design is part of the story, and so abandoning that design for the movie's humanoid, motion-capture friendly designs....  missing the point.

Look, Breathed's story may be a little scary for kids: its about a kid who sees his mom getting kidnapped by aliens after he's decided his mom is mean during a typical kid/ parent spat.  But the point of the story is to teach kids about sacrifice and explain to them exactly how much their parents love them.  Frankly, its not a bad thing to share with kids, and nobody is going to walk away scarred from either a picture book or movie about the depths of a parent's love.  Its called putting a conflict into a story.

Breathed's Mars Needs Moms is a slim picturebook, light on text and full of imaginative imagery.  Simply covering that scaffolding in typical "family movie" hoo-hah is going to do little but distract from and muddle a pretty straightforward story, and the only time I've seen it truly work was with Where the Wild Things Are.    Unfortunately we all know studios have a certainly saccharine version of reality they deal with when putting together family films, and it may be that adding spunky teenage Martians or whatever the hell the movie chose to do from the Hollywood Plot-o-Tron merely diluted the film to a nonsensical mess.

I'd guess Zemeckis and Co.'s insistence on the motion-capture technology took precedence over the exaggerated and intentionally absurd visual style that's been Breathed's trademark since his days on The Academia Waltz.  Trying to make the characters move and look "lifelike" was never the intention of Breathed's style, and its hard to imagine exactly why a decision was made to stray from what would have been a pretty unique and fun adaptation of Breathed's work.

I'm hoping to read Breathed's reaction in The Hollywood Reporter, even if I have my doubts that we'd get the full story or what it feels like to watch your much-loved book turned into something completely different on the screen and then watch that movie flop.  Or... we might.

I guess if there's any point to this post, its that a massive flop of a movie shouldn't reflect poorly on the source material, especially if the source is more or less ignored in favor of whatever the heck the producers feel is more fun to play around with.

Friday, March 25, 2011

The many references in a single clip from "Batman: Brave and the Bold"

00:05 - Armor from Dark Knight Returns
00:05 - I have to assume Krypto's presence is a reference, but I'm not sure to what. Hondo?
00:12 - King Superman from Action Comics 311 - that's the throne and Superman flag from the issue
00:17 - Metropolis inspired by the designs used in the Bruce Timm-era Superman: The Animated Series
00:24 - Lois and Jimmy's look is pure 1960's Weisinger dictated. Kurt Schaffenberger and Curt Swan style!
00:37 - This is the exact same move from JLU's final episode when Superman took on Darkseid (jump to 1:13 in the clip)

And I'm likely missing something here.

Superman and Batman go Classic on "Brave and the Bold"

found by @deantrippe

I can't tell you how giddy this made me. Right down to Lex piloting a Lex-version of the Supermobile.

Today is Jamie's Birthday

Today is the birthday of the lady who lives in my house, Jamie.

Over the years, I have grown especially fond of Jamie, and, I like to think, she of me. This year Jamie's gifts on her birthday shall be somewhat meager as her big gift is the iPhone she will receive when her contract is up at the end of April. She knows this. It will not come as a surprise.

After 15.5 years of togetherness and almost 11 years of marriage-ness, we do okay. She is my better half, by far. Smarter, kinder, more loving... all those things, but I suspect I can still beat her in a foot race or in any of the events in a strong man competition.

We all have our challenges, and those who know Jamie or know her story know that she has more challenges than most.  But I think its important for people to know that she isn't just a batch of symptoms, medical records and doctor's visits. Those things happen in a 1000:1 ratio to your life, perhaps, but they also aren't who Jamie is.

Jamie is the person who loves a good football game, finding a new band, forcing hugs upon Lucy when she's sleepy, getting phone calls from friends, cracking a new book, and who sees I bought her a light-up Green Lantern ring of her own and considers that equality within a marriage.  She is a genuinely good person, and in this world, that's a rarity.

I am lucky, and I know this. 

Happy Birthday, Jamie. You're still my favorite.

Tanks for the memories

Signal Watch Watches: Gun Crazy

I first watched Gun Crazy years ago as part of a DVD Film Noir set. Honestly, aside from a few themes and Peggy Cummins in her cowgirl outfit, I really didn't remember a whole lot about the movie thanks to a 102 fever and a tough case of the flu.

best.  flirting scene.  ever.
Basically, the movie is about mixing guns, desperation and sex into one big ball of wax, and its hard to argue with the results.  John Dall plays a hard-luck case (Bart Tare) who's been obsessed with guns since childhood, and who realizes early on that the only thing he's good at is shooting.  Out of Juvie and out of the army after a stint as a weapons specialist, Tare comes home, unemployed but optimistic.  At the fair, he meets Laurie Ann Starr, the carnival sharp shooter, and what commences is a peculiar if oft-imitated flirtation as Laurie and Bart one up one another with gun tricks.

Soon enough, Bart and Laurie are jungled up and out of money, and Laurie's peculiarly devious side emerges.  Insisting on a flashy, fast lifestyle, Laurie puts the screws to Bart to either join her in a hold-up spree or forego their quicky marriage (and we're to understand quite a bit in the way of bedroom antics).

Stick-up artists don't necessarily make good protagonists, but the writers insist that Bart has a thing about killing, and so the spree has a sort of romantic vibe, until he realizes its not his own worst impulses he has to worry about. 

You have to admire them for knowing exactly what they're selling
The movie predates the far more famous Bonnie and Clyde, but its hard to believe that the producers of that movie hadn't seen Gun Crazy, right down to Faye Dunaway's sassy little beanie emulating the one worn by Cummins in the first reel. 

Its like when they're slow bringing out Jamie's french toast
There's just a whole lot at play in the movie that, while unspoken, isn't exactly glossed over when it comes to the odd-ball romance of the pair.  The movie doesn't suggest that they aren't in love, but its a strange co-dependency of two people who never, ever should have found each other in this crazy, mixed up world.  Its romance that burns hottest when bullets ar flying, and that tends not end well for anybody.

Unlike the movie's grandchildren and great-grandchildren, even the protagonists of the movie acknowledge the cowardice of pulling a gun, and that's its own theme in the movie.  Certainly not something we'd see out of Mickey and Mallory by the time Natural Born Killers hit the screen.

The movie is obviously made on the cheap (neither Cummins nor Dall were superstars) but there's a lot of spirit, right down to some interesting camera work (a backseat single camera shot during a heist) and even the final shots of the movie are imaginative.  In a lot of ways, the movie manages to successfully pull off what I can never quite figure out how studios screw-up:  if you have a limited budget, shouldn't story and characters become a major focus?  And figuring out how to do a lot with what you've got?

Anyhow, I liked this the first time I watched it while sweating through the flu, and I liked it a whole lot more when I wasn't  hallucinating my way through the plot.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Before London, A Tragic Lack of Inspiration

Next week I board a plane for my first trip abroad in a few years and my first trip to London, England.

During this time, the blog will go dark, I believe. Should Verizon and providence guide me, perhaps I will post to twitter or Facebook from my fancy-assed new iPhone. But don't count on it.

I have no expectations for London as, well... I don't get out much, so I sort of walk into every new situation as a complete and total surprise. "What do you want to do when you're in this place you've never been before and is a global center?" you may ask. "Well," I would say, "I think I saw a picture of a dinosaur skeleton in a book, so that seems like a thing to do. Plus, see a Beefeater or two. Maybe see if I can go walk around the Tate or get up close to Parliament."

I'm not a foodie, but I am game for whatever new options are put in front of me. But I'm also always happy to just eat off a cart somewhere, too, if I'm walking around.

Our only pre-planned adventure is seeing a musical of Hitchcock's "39 Steps". I have been told this was not the correct choice. And this is sort of why I am loathe to discuss my plans, which mostly involve maybe going to one museum per day, if I can get Jason and The Admiral to agree to my choice of museum. Aside from that... its a massive city with all kinds of stuff going on. I am pretty sure we'll figure something to do 24 hours per day.

Let us hope that the Brits believe in coffee, because otherwise I shall spend the time nursing a headache, hoping for naps and cursing the tea industry.

I suppose I shall also go to Forbidden Planet, if my travelling partners will humor me.

Leading up to this adventure, I'm a little stumped for content, and I apologize for that. Normally I'd just not blog, but as I'm headed away, I can't help but think two weeks away may be too long to just disappear. But maybe that's the thing to do?

Captain America Trailer Hits

don't tell me this doesn't look like Cap, because this is more or less Cap as I understand him and for the past decade, this has been pretty much exactly Cap.

Still, its a little weird to see the Hydra stuff in the middle of a WWII movie.

Elizabeth Taylor Merges with the Infinite

Kids of my generation likely think of Elizabeth Taylor as the kooky lady from the White Diamonds commercials and a friend to Michael Jackson. Or, possibly, they know of her doomed romance with Richard Burton and her starring role in Cleopatra.

I suppose folks younger than myself really don't know much about her at all.

Frankly, I haven't seen a whole lot of Ms. Taylor's work (not even Lassie Come Home), but I'd hate to not mention the passing of a screen icon, entertainment royalty and a really good looking dame.

Seems like a good week to finally watch Giant.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

No Post Wednesday

Was in Waco today but came back. I bought a belt and socks, then had a lovely dinner with an old friend from days of yesteryear. He's doing fine.

I'm tired, and I don't know what I'd talk about if I had the energy.

Apropos of nothing, here is the lovely Myrna Loy: