Thursday, July 30, 2015

Sadly, this is not a new Calvin and Hobbes strip

Calvin and Hobbes Comic Strip on

Can someone please confirm that this is all new?

edit:  In a month when we got back Bloom County and with Watterson ghosting some Pearls Before Swine last year, literally anything seemed possible. It is now apparent this is not new Calvin and Hobbes.  As you were.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

80's Watch: Stripes (1981)

I didn't see Stripes in 1981 when I was six.  I know I was in middle school, and I'm pretty sure I watched this one sometime after my dad figured out I could watch an rated-R movie with him without blowing our cover when it came to the content of whatever it was we were watching.  After all, both of us knew The KareBear could be a little sensitive about language, violence and nudity in movies, and Stripes provides a bit of all of the above.

The movie is from an era in Hollywood when they were trying out these SNL alums as movie comedians and releasing the Second City performers into the wild.  It was also the era when female nudity made its way into movies in a big way, with a seeming prerequisite for many a comedy to include unnecessary shower scenes.

So, hats off to us, Dad, for silently agreeing to not discuss the many topless scenes in this movie with Mom.

Noir Watch: Double Indemnity (1944)

I've talked about Double Indemnity (1944) before, but I finally purchased the movie on BluRay thanks to a recent release that had a lot of participation from TCM and a short doc with Eddie Muller, James Ellroy and others all talking about the film.  And, it cost less than what it would have cost to go to the theater to see the movie when Fathom Events played it when I was in Chicago and couldn't go.

As the commentary on the BluRay sort of barks at you, Double Indemnity set the standard for noir, a form I think of as really cementing maybe 3-5 years later.  The form has its origins in both pulp magazines and adaptations of those stories on the big screen like The Maltese Falcon from 1941, but in comparison to even the crime movies of the 1930's and pre-Hays Code, it's just... different.  Just as comics had to adapt with the Comics Code Authority in place, and that took them down whole new avenues, I tend to think of a lot of the subtlety of noir stemming from the constrictions of the Hays Code era trying to make sense of post-Depression/ post-WWII life.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Dead Watch: Army of Darkness (1992)

The first time I saw Army of Darkness (1992) it was mostly context free.  My brother had seen Evil Dead 2, liked it, and said "oh, that Army of Darkness movie is the sequel.  Cool."  And that was all I knew.  And with all the knowledge I had about Evil Dead 2 stemming from the cardboard VHS tape cover and the name, I had assumed it was yet another monster-horror-straight-to-VHS movie of the era, and those weren't my thing.

But then some family friends came into town with their daughter who was in, like, 8th grade, and I was a senior in high school and I was told "take Amanda to a movie" because the adults wanted to talk and pretty clearly Amanda and I had nothing to say to each other.  So we drove over to the cineplex to see what was showing.  I don't recall if she had any opinion as to what we should see, and it's not too likely I cared if she did or not (I was 17 or 18).  Thus, I bought tickets for Army of Darkness, because it was showing and the dude on the poster had a chainsaw and was fighting skeletons or something, which seemed a good sign to me, at least.

For the run time of the movie, I laughed like a lunatic in a half-full theater populated with people who seemed pretty sure I was watching the wrong movie.  They were there to see a serious action-horror movie, and that seemed to be how they were taking it until, I'm not sure - maybe the "tiny Ashes" scene?

I loved every last minute of it.  But I also knew - this was not going to be a movie for everyone.

Shortly afterward, I wound up in college.  On my new dorm floor, I ran into some fellows I'd known from my first high school (I moved from Austin to Houston summer before my sophomore year in high school, hi Mike and JAL!), and - given the relationship I'd had with these guys the first go-round, in about thirty seconds of conversation, we learned we'd all seen and loved Army of Darkness.   I don't even know how it then spread around my floor Freshmen year, but pretty quickly everyone had seen it.  And at Halloween, UT had a showing of Evil Dead 2, which, clever me, I brought a date to see.  I'm pretty sure my enthusiasm about the movie didn't help, but my follow up of making her watch The House on Haunted Hill (the original, Vincent Price version) more or less killed any chances there.  All for the best, as Jamie has been a fan of much of Raimi's work and quietly just ignores most of the rest of my vintage horror thing.

Anyway, I'm in no way objective about Army of Darkness.  I don't know how you could be.  In the way of a pre-internet things-that-worked-for-a-small-audience, the fans are quietly cultish but give knowing nods.  Some of my greatest pleasure in the first two Sam Raimi Spider-Man movies (two movies I still think do superheroing better than most of the last 15 years of superhero movies) is when you can see him deploy some of those same directing tricks you know from Evil Dead 2 and Army of Darkness (the Dr. Octopus' arms come alive scene is just classic Raimi).

And as much as I like the Three Stooges pastiches, the wicked good camera work and editing, the melding of horror, comedy and cheese...  Man.  Who can you not like Bruce Campbell?  The man is a national treasure.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

80's Watch: Weird Science (1985)

Ah. John Hughes.  What exactly happened to you in high school, man?

What's weirdest, Mr. Hughes, is that it's the filter through which you experienced your formative years, applied to a very small handful of films, either created or so reflected a vision so all-consuming that its seemed to rewrite reality for your audience, leading decades of suburban kids to believe your movies have something, anything, to do with reality, and rewriting how movies and TV would portray high school, and allow all of us to cast ourselves as the outcast and the geek.  Hell, we all knew we were Cameron, not Ferris.  And that was the point.

Pretty clearly, Mr. Hughes, your perspective is that of a highly privileged suburban Chicagoan, something that is both incredibly specific and still enough part of fly-over country and enough a part of the generic American public school experience that we can't help but recognize the surroundings and relate a little when we see a gym with kids in PE dress-out uniforms* or the lockers along the hallway.  Even if the same public missed the point during those test screenings of Pretty in Pink and insisted on the wrong happy ending (which I imagine must have killed you inside, Mr. Hughes).   

Maybe in middle-school we believed it, but even by high school, we knew it was never as simple as the jock, the nerd, the princess, the criminal and the freak.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Ape Watch: Every Which Way But Loose (1978)

It's been about 24 hours since I finished watching Every Which Way But Loose (1978), and I'm glad that I didn't have time nor energy to write much about it immediately after turning off the TV.  I don't want to give the movie too much credit, but as the credits rolled, I was left thinking what an odd product of its time the movie really was.  And the more I thought about it, the odder the movie seemed.

It's action star Clint Eastwood, well established in everything from the Spaghetti Westerns he'd conquer to the Dirty Harry movies to Where Eagles Dare and Kelly's Heroes.  And then he goes off and makes a movie where it seems the biggest draw is the inexplicable inclusion of an orangutan that doesn't seem to really drive the plot.

Eastwood plays Philo Beddoe, a tow-truck driver who seems to know his only real skill is with his fists.  So good is he, he both never backs down from a fight and he earns no small amount of side-money in illegal bare-knuckle matches in parking lots and on factory floors.  He's distinctly blue-collar, as is the movie (something that would fade within 10 years), all of the characters scraping by and living outside of polite society.  Philo meets a lovely young country star, Lynn, and for once he seems interested in something beyond the next moment.

Lynn seems to be in some trouble with an ex, and departs somewhat abruptly.  Philo grabs his Orangutan and decides to follow her.

Along the way, Philo and his buddy (his brother?  I wasn't clear) Orville stumble across the same ridiculous biker gang over and over, the biker gang losing bikes and fights along the way.  And Philo accidentally draws the attention of a cop who would just as soon throw his career away to find Philo for the humiliating beating he takes in a bar.

Deep down, I think this movie was trying to be something a bit more than a movie about a guy, an ape and punching out dopey bikers and cops.  And it sort of succeeds.  There's a certain lovely pointlessness to the movie, a sort of open-ended road-trip mentality that wants to embrace absurdity that never quite ever realizes that usually there's a sort of point to the pointlessness.  Yeah, we get that Philo relates better to the silent ape than people and it's through Clyde that he works out that he's even having feelings, but, I dunno.  There's just not a whole lot of payoff that seems so close to occurring.

I'm not sure the kids are aware that as big of a deal as disco may have been in the 70's, country music was a sort of omnipresent force as well. Hee-Haw was a thing which people happily watched. The movie does have some nice cameos, and does have a pretty good theme song:

Friday, July 24, 2015

Happy Birthday to Ms. Lynda Carter (she's a wonder!)

Today is the 64th Birthday of Lynda Carter, perhaps most famous for her role as Wonder Woman in the 1970's TV series.

We're big fans of Ms. Carter here at League HQ, and we hope she's twirling herself into a fantastic birthday.

In addition to still appearing on TV and in movies, of late, Lynda Carter has been lending her voice to a series of video games called The Elder Scrolls and has been singing in various venues across the country.

Shark Watch: Sharknado 3

I don't know how you people are wasting your life, but here's how I'm wasting mine:

Thursday evening saw the broadcast of Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No!, the third installment in the Sharknado franchise which seems like it started a million years ago, but, no, apparently began in 2013.

The first Sharknado movie I caught on the 10:00 PM rebroadcast after twitter blew up and piqued my curiosity.  I hadn't initially tuned in, as the matching of the SyFy Network, slumming actors and sharks was absolutely nothing new.  For good or ill, I can't tell you how many shark-related Asylum films I've seen on the network, but it's been way, way more than I should really be talking about if I want to retain any credibility, anywhere.

In the end, the combo of clearly-not-quite-recovered actress Tara Reid, world's best sport Ian Ziering, veteran actor John Heard, and a water spout full of sharks making its way across LA was, indeed, chicken soup for the soul.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Signal Watch Reads: Flashfire (a Parker Novel)

As much as the folks write the introductions in these books want to say otherwise, when Stark came back to Parker after decades of being away, it's pretty clear his worldview had changed a bit, what he could and wanted to do in a heist book had altered.  But, you know, you're talking about the 15th or so book of the Parker series, and, if you include the 4 Grofield novels, this is the 19th written under the nom de plume of Richard Stark rather than Donald Westlake.

It's an oddly silly Parker novel, a pretty far cry from The Seventh or The Sour Lemon Score, and after however many years of writing Dortmunder novels, I have to assume it all bleeds together for the writer.  Also, as in the return novels, a lot relies on coincidence and hoping the reader isn't thinking too hard about possible holes in the plot.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Marvel Watch: Ant-Man (2015)

I was never skeptical of an Ant-Man movie.  For folks who have long followed my ramblings, you know I have a very simple rule for why I'll give anything a go when it comes to sci-fi and superheroes:  there is no such thing as a bad idea, only bad execution.  Frankly, when people were predicting doom for Guardians of the Galaxy because (oh my goodness!) it wasn't a known quantity!  and it had a raccoon and tree-man! I was left scratching my head and saying: well, those aren't actually problems for a movie.   Those are just new or odd things.

Re: Ant-Man comics:  I have a pretty huge gap in my comics' knowledge regarding Hank Pym as Ant-Man from the classic Marvel U, and I was just left confused by Mark Millar's take on Pym in The Ultimates, that I sort of believe has taken Pym off the playing board for Marvel forever.  I'm totally unfamiliar with anything about Scott Lang other than that - he exists in the comics, I guess?  It seems like I saw him in a Marvel role-playing game supplement.  At some point I read one issue of something called Irredeemable Ant-Man, which didn't really work for me.

So, there you go.  I basically can't tell you anything about Ant-Man as a comics figure beyond the period in the 1980's when Hank Pym was adventuring with no mask and just growing and shrinking things and using the heroic name "Hank Pym" as part of West Coast Avengers.  But check in with me if you have questions about Super Turtle.  I have wisdom.

As per the movie?