Monthly Archives: August 2009

Disney Acquires Marvel

The big news today both in business and entertainment is that Disney has purchased Marvel.

Folks in the know say that there will be no difference in the content of the types of entertainment Marvel produces. No mass firings, cancellations or anything else are currently on the horizon.

Apparently Marvel will continue to operate much the same way Pixar does in relation to Disney.

So does this mean Howard the Duck can finally take off his pants again?

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Stand Tall

Catching Up with the New Avengers

“More Answers” – my comic book review of New Avengers #43, by Brian Michael Bendis and Billy Tan, is now online at Avengers Forever.

Spider-Man, Ka-Zar and Shanna the She-Devil battle Skrulls in the Savage Land – all this and more – check out my review here:

http://www.avengersforever.org/reviews/default.asp?RID=616

…and…

“Loose” – my comic book review of New Avengers #48, by Brian Michael Bendis and Billy Tan, is also now online at Avengers Forever.

In the aftermath of the Secret Invasion, the new Captain America tries to reform what’s left of the New Avengers – all this and more – check out my review here:

http://www.avengersforever.org/reviews/default.asp?RID=618

…but that’s not all…

“The Fall of Luke Cage” – my comic book review of New Avengers #49, by Brian Michael Bendis and Billy Tan, is, yes, you guessed it, now online as well at Avengers Forever.

As Dark Reign begins, Luke Cage makes a deal with the devil and the New Avengers get their first look at the Dark Avengers – all this and more – check out my review here:

http://www.avengersforever.org/reviews/default.asp?RID=619

Enjoy!

If you want to discuss these reviews, these issues or anything Avengers, please check out the Avengers Forever Forum.

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French Fry Diary 38: Bottomless Birthday Fries

The Evils of Evel Knievel

As I turn forty-five today I’m thinking of a birthday exactly thirty-five years earlier, when all I wanted in the whole wide world was the Evel Knievel Stunt Cycle Set. I even remember that tongue-twister name to this day, probably from saying it so much in the weeks before my tenth birthday.

I think it was one of the few times as a kid that I was obsessed with a toy that much. Evel Knievel in the 1970s was a larger than life figure. I remember watching his jumps on ABC’s “Wide World of Sports,” and even listening to my AM transistor radio that Sunday afternoon for news of how his Snake River Canyon jump went. He was like a superhero, even dressed like one, but he was real. Maybe that’s where it came from.

The toy itself was pretty simple, a motorcycle, an action figure of Evel himself, and the ‘gyro-rev-booster’ that made the cycle go. It was magic in a box. The problem was, it was a ‘doll.’ And my father was dead set against me having ‘dolls.’ It was a dead stop point.

I had no dolls. Hell, I had no action figures, even though that term to my father meant doll, no matter what you called it. This was something that separated me from my friends. I couldn’t play equally with the other boys with their G.I. Joes, their Six Million Dollar Men, or ~ drool ~ their Mego Super-Heroes. It didn’t even matter that my cousin, who I was always being negatively compared to, had all those toys.

My father eventually gave in, and my tenth birthday was filled with an afternoon of enjoyment racing that stunt cycle up and down my front porch and making him jump the ramps from my SSP Demolition Derby Set. I was in heaven! My sister and her husband got me Evel’s Scramble Van that birthday, but as much as I loved them, it just wasn’t me. The van and its camping accessories were just a bit too much Barbie Dream House for me. So I guess my father really didn’t have that much to worry about.

Eventually the magic wore off. The handlebars of the stunt cycle broke off, and Evel’s hands broke off as well. Still, that was one of the best birthdays I ever had.

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Marvel Anime

Marvel Comics is expanding their characters to Japanese animation in 2010. Madhouse will be producing four animated features next year with Iron Man, Wolverine, Spider-Man and the Hulk.

Honestly I’m surprised this hasn’t been done before. Wolverine’s origins and best stories have always involved Japan – and Iron Man, come on, Iron Man just screams anime with all that tech. He’s practically a mecha. Looks good, can’t wait.

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Dominick Dunne 1925-2009

Bestselling author Dominick Dunne passed away yesterday in his home from complications of bladder cancer. He was 83.

An advocate for victims’ rights, a WWII veteran, a stage manager for the original Howdy Doody show, a movie producer and a correspondent for Vanity Fair magazine, Dunne was many things, but what he will be most of all, is missed. We’ve lost one of the good ones.

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8 Man

I’m giving away my age with this one. What the hell, I’ll come right out with it, I’ll be 45 next week. Yeah, I’m effing old. Anyway, when I was barely old enough to walk or read I also started watching television, thus beginning a destructive habit that lasts to this day.

There were certain cartoons that I vaguely remember, but recall as being good, but never saw again until decades later. There were “Gigantor,” “Kimba” and “Astro Boy,” both of which I had little memory of but when I saw them again decades later I found my initial reaction was fairly dead on. These were excellent anime that still hold up and are as entertaining to me now as they were then.

There was also another Japanese cartoon among them that I vaguely recalled, but never saw again. This was called “Tobor the Eighth Man,” but my foggy young brain remembered it as “8 Man,” which ironically was the actual Japanese name for the hero and the show. Legend (and fact) has it that the reason we’ve never seen this again in the States is that 8 Man gets his powers from smoking cigarettes. I’m unsure whose idea this was for a children’s TV show, even in 1963, but come on, really? And furthermore, why would a robot smoke?

I finally got to see a few episodes on a DVD called Cartoon Crazys: Comic Book Heroes, thank you, NetFlix. Sadly, it does not hold up as well as the others I mentioned. The tale of a police detective murdered by criminals whose mind is put into the body of a robot is intriguing yet done with the simplistic overtones of a standard American cartoon, rather than a Japanese anime.

Frequently 8 Man is referred to as the precursor to Robocop, and an original concept in itself. This is not necessarily true. It should be noted that in 1942 DC Comics published the adventures of Robotman, a robotic crimefighter with a human brain, created by Jerry Siegel of Superman fame. Either way, it’s still fun. Ralph Bakshi worked on these translations and his sly hand can be heard in lines like “Why is this sign in Japanese?” commenting on the kanji characters throughout the cartoon. Like I said, fun.

“Tobor, the Eighth Man” is worth a look, if for nothing other than nostalgic reasons. And remember, kids, don’t smoke!

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Inglourious Basterds

Inglourious Basterds ~ This may be just another bloody Quentin Tarantino flick or it may be his homage to World War II films and Spaghetti Westerns, but what it definitely is is a love letter from a movie lover to other movie lovers. Then again, most Tarantino films are that, but this is for real film lovers, not just grindhouse or martial arts movie lovers.

The cinematography, the scenery, the dialogue, the choreography, even and especially the music, touches the true movie lover in a way that the casual moviegoer just won’t appreciate. Everything is referential, from the character names, to the songs, to the conversations and set pieces. This is a brilliant film, if only for film buffs.

Regarding the spelling in the title, I think it’s just for copyright and trademark reasons. Perhaps it’s to differentiate it from the 1978 Italian film with Bo Svenson and Fred Williamson called Inglorious Bastards. Just for the record, this isn’t a remake or anything of the sort. The only thing these two flicks have in common, other than a similar title, is that they both take place behind enemy lines in WWII. Of the spelling, Tarantino says, “Here’s the thing. I’m never going to explain that. You do an artistic flourish like that, and to explain it would just take the piss out of it and invalidate the whole stroke in the first place.”

The plot, simple but presented in a complex way (this is a Tarantino film after all), revolves around the Basterds – Jewish-American soldiers killing Nazis in occupied France – blowing up a moviehouse in Paris where the Nazi High Command will be gathered for a very special movie premiere. And just for the record, don’t bring the kids. When I say killing I mean Tarantino-style killing. Not pretty.

Brad Pitt impressed me here and he doesn’t do that often. His southern accent and charm as Aldo Raine was haunting, almost as if he was channeling Andy Griffith in A Face in the Crowd. He’s just as charming and sociopathic as well. There’s just not enough of him in the film. Unfortunately Eli Roth channeling the Bowery Boys is as painful as Pitt is brilliant.

Other than Brad Pitt, the standout of the cast is Christoph Waltz as the villain Hans Landa. Both charismatic and chilling, he makes the most convincing and evil Nazi to make the screen since Ralph Fiennes’ Amon Goeth in Schindler’s List. He is a perfect villain. And Samuel L. Jackson’s brief narration was a fun surprise.

As many good things as I have to say about Inglourious Basterds, it’s not all good. Tarantino seems to be recycling jokes at some points, especially with the Little Man name bit that recalls Mr. Pink in Reservoir Dogs. His foot fetish also rears its ugly head but not as blatantly in previous films.

The inclusion of David Bowie’s “Cat People” (the film version) in a WWII movie seems intrusive, and perhaps not right any longer considering Quentin couldn’t get Nastassja Kinski for the role it references as he intended. Also Mike Myers’ cameo is bizarre. I really expected him to pull off his make-up and wig at any moment and yell, “Surprise! It’s me!”

Shosanna’s (played expertly by Melanie Laurent) story is much more compelling than that of the Basterds. It made me wonder if perhaps there should have been two different films here. There are certainly two different themes. If there were indeed problems with the length of the movie, as the rumors claim, maybe it should have been two films, much like Kill Bill.

All that said, I would definitely recommend Inglourious Basterds with the proviso that it’s a Qunetin Tarantino flick, so know what you’re going to see before you go. But do go.

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Avatar – Sneak Peek

Here’s the new trailer for James Cameron’s first new film since Titanic. Avatar opens December 16th, 2009.

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